[Some people think] ...they are so good, that they scorn God's offer of mercy. Indeed these are often in the worst condition: these are they who think they need no repentance (Luke 15:7). Their morality undoes them. They make a "savior" of it, and so on this rock they suffer shipwreck. Morality shoots short of heaven. It is only nature refined. A moral man is but old Adam dressed in fine clothes. The king's image counterfeited and stamped upon brass will not go current. The moral person seems to have the image of God—but he is only brass metal, which will never pass for current. Morality is insufficient for salvation. Though the life is moralized, the lust may be unmortified. The heart may be full of pride and atheism. Under the fair leaves of a tree, there may be a worm. I am not saying, repent that you are moral—but that you are no more than moral. Satan entered into the house that had just been swept and garnished (Luke 11:26). This is the emblem of a moral man, who is swept by civility and garnished with common gifts—but is not washed by true repentance. The unclean spirit enters into such a one. If morality were sufficient to salvation, Christ need not have died. The moral man has a fair lamp—but it lacks the oil of grace." - Thomas Watson
Behind the Smile of Francis
Scriptural reflections on the Pope's visit to the United States this week...
2 Thess 2:1-17
Creation... the Fall... the Rescue... the Restoration
God’s love for the world was seen in the giving of His one and only Son so that all those who believe in Him would in no way perish but instead have everlasting life for sure.
Luther and the Tower
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (NIV)
Martin Luther was a man plagued in conscience because of his sin, knowing God had to be just in punishing him. Light broke through the dark, foreboding clouds when he came to understand Romans 1:17.
The message of the Gospel is so different from every man made attempt at religion that it is hard for even Christians to fully grasp its truth. Even for those who read their Bibles diligently there is a tendency to receive the inspired, inerrant, God breathed information through man centered filters, which means that we often fail to see the pristine beauty of a God who rescues us by His work alone. We tend to think ‘there must be something God demands us to bring to the table of redemption.’
Here’s what we know. There is a God and neither you nor I are Him. We therefore need to acknowledge Him as God, the way He has revealed Himself, both through nature and in Scripture, and approach Him on His terms. To act in any other way means that we create an idol and engage in idolatry.
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God is holy. In fact, saying these words is wholly inadequate. Accessing the immediate presence of God, the angelic host proclaim day and night without ceasing, He is “holy, holy, holy” (Isa 6). Not just “holy” but “holy, holy, holy.”
God is perfect in holiness and therefore His standards are likewise perfectly holy. He demands perfection. Christ said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:48)
What God demands from you is:
1. Perfect obedience to His law - Getting close is just not good enough. No best efforts are allowed.
2. Perfect repentance.
3. Perfect faith.
Do you see the problem here? No man is capable of any of this. Jesus said “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:20) This statement should rock our religious world to its very foundation. Jesus, the kind and Good Shepherd affirms the fact that just as a country’s leader might not negotiate with terrorists, God will never negotiate with sinners. The requirement for entry into God’s presence is perfect righteousness. His standards are perfect and He will never lower them. God is just and He will not violate His character in order to allow a sinful man into His presence.
Two Hours on Justification
As a guest host on the Dividing Line, I taught for two hours on what Martin Luther described as "the article upon which the Church stands or falls," the doctrine of justification by faith alone. - John Samson
Hour 1: Justification and the Three Transfers
Hour 2: The Active and Passive Obedience of Christ, how Paul and James compliment each other on the matter of justification and why Rome's 'gospel' cannot save.
The article upon which the Church stands or falls
Sola Fide: On today's Dividing Line broadcast I taught on the doctrine of justification by faith alone and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer's account, highlighting Romans chapters 1-4. - JS
Even if we or an angel from heaven...
In this excerpt from his message at the 2012 Ligonier West Coast Conference, Dr. R.C. Sproul explains why it’s imperative to hold fast to the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
If an angel comes in here and says, “Wait a minute. You can’t get to heaven by trusting Christ and Christ alone, and having the imputation of His merit. And the angel came here and said, “For you to really be justified you have to have inherent righteousness. You have to add works to faith, merit to grace, you to Christ.” If an angel from heaven came in here and said that this afternoon, I would take him by the seat of his celestial pants and kick him out of here!
Paul said that if anybody teaches you any other gospel, even if it’s an angel from heaven, let him be anathema. Let him be anathema; let him be damned.
If the Pope, the Bishop, the priest, your preacher, teaches any other gospel than that which you have received, let him be anathema; because there is no other gospel.
And now I’m interested, because I can remember when I got involved in this debate back at the time of ECT and was loosing friends faster than I could shake a stick at them, and people say you’re dividing the church, and all that—same kind of thing they said to John MacArthur.
And I was alone one night and I went in the church and I opened this passage in Galatians. And I had always stopped at verse 9, “As we said before so I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than that which you have received let him be accursed”—I would stop there. This time I went to verse 10.
“For do I now persuade men, or God? Do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a slave of Jesus Christ.”
Here’s where, when the gospel is at stake, as Luther said in His great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” in the last verse, Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. If we have to let go of our family, let go of our friends, let go of our church, let go of our lives, so be it. Otherwise, we seek to please men rather than to please God. And God has saved us with a gospel that is really a magnificent gospel, a marvelous gospel. And if I trade that in, or negotiate it, and say to people who affirm the council of Trent—this other gospel—that I have a unity of faith in the gospel with them, what have I done!
I’ll give up my relationship to any leader in Christendom over this doctrine; I’ll split my family over this doctrine; I’ll split the church over this doctrine. This is the gospel! If the Lord marks iniquity, who shall stand? Well, guess what? He does mark iniquity. And blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute sin.
From the Garden of Eden, the first way justification entered the world was how God saved Adam and Eve by covering their nakedness; by hiding their sin. The whole system of atonement in the Old Testament when the blood came into the holy of holies and was sprinkled on the mercy seat, it was to cover the sin of the people. That’s what the cloak of the righteousness of Christ does for all who put their trust in Him. His righteousness is my covering. And that’s how I can stand before a holy God.
Again, if I have to wait until, through the machinations of the church, and the sacraments, and all the rest, and purgatory, to make me pure before I can be justified, I’m going to sleep in tomorrow morning. Because without sola Fide, you’re without the gospel. And without the gospel, you’re without hope. But thanks be to God who gives us the glorious gospel of justification through trusting in the work of Jesus and the work of Jesus alone, who alone is not only able, but willing to save all who put their faith in Him.
The Five Solas
Today I once again had the privilege of hosting Dr. James White's "Dividing Line" broadcast while he is away ministering in Eastern Europe. Today's topic: "the Five Solas of the Reformation." - JS
The Trial (Tract)
THE CASE OF GOD THE FATHER AGAINST ______________________________ (FILL IN YOUR NAME)
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: SATAN (THE ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN - Zechariah 3:1)
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: THE LORD JESUS CHRIST (1 John 2:1)
JUDGE PRESIDING: GOD, THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE (Psalm 7:11)
IN ATTENDANCE: A VAST COMPANY OF ELECT ANGELS (1 Timothy 5:21)
“it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” – Hebrews 9:27
You now stand before God, the Righteous Judge, faced with the charge of great and terrible acts of high treason in the courtroom of heaven.
Gabriel, the high ranking angel addresses the court saying, “All rise! The Righteous Judge is coming into His chamber!”
The Judge declares His court to now be in session and asks for all to be seated.
Without any delay, Satan stands up and addresses the court. He states that the record will show that you have broken all ten of the Ten Commandments. On countless occasions you’ve lied, you’ve stolen, you’ve used God’s name in vain, you’ve hated (which Jesus said was murder of the heart) and you haven’t put God first, before anything else in your life, just to name a few. Satan will prove your guilt on all counts.
Also, there is indisputable video evidence as well as reliable witnesses to attest to the facts in this case. Even your thought life stands as testimony against you, for the Scripture says, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)
After the case is made against you, there is a hush in the court. The prosecuting attorney has shown that you have indeed committed acts of high treason against God. It seems inevitable that you will be found guilty.
Satan then addresses the Judge and says, “A good God must be a good Judge. The facts are clear. You must find this one guilty. Your own record in Proverbs 17:15 states, ‘He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.’ For you to acquit this one would mean that You are not righteous Yourself. You must find this one guilty as charged. I rest my case.”
The Judge then calls upon your Defense Attorney to address the court.
Eyes, Ears and Heart
"But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear." - Deut 29:4.
And yet, even after reading this, some still think they can have these things without God granting them. Perhaps if they try hard enough. Indeed, by nature people have a will ... and they can make a choice ... but they need regenerating grace to make the RIGHT choice. Without God giving them eyes, ears or a new heart (i.e. full regeneration) the choice is still driven by a spiritually dead man who loves darkness and hates the light (1 Cor 2:14; Eph 2:1; John 3:19, 20) but thanks be to God, while we were still dead God made us alive in Christ (Eph 2:5).
Notice in the very next passge in Deuteronomy God declares this very thing to the children of promise:
"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
We must relentlessly pray and repeat the truth of the sufficiency of grace in Christ to the church ... or it will be lost among the ceaseless babble of men as it largely was in the middle ages.
Correspondence with a Roman Catholic
Here is an excerpt from correspondence I had with a Roman Catholic named Steve today - I will put my words in bold so that it is easy to follow along - John S:
John S: Luther argued that the Bible is our sole ultimate authority.
Steve: I would say he (Martin Luther) argued that his interpretation of his particular version of the Bible was the ultimate authority.
John Samson: and I would strongly disagree with what you would argue for. I would argue for the perspecuity of Scripture - that in its essential message, it is clearly understood. The Scriptures on the subject of salvation are clear to anyone who will read the Bible.
2 Tim 3: "14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
I also do not need a so called infallible council to tell me that "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (Romans 3:28) actually means "a man is justified by faith along with works of the law."
Steve: James 2:24 (AKJV) Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
As St. Augustine said, "If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself."
John S: I do not pick and choose what I believe. I believe ALL of Scripture and seek to rightly interpret it by means of the context in which those verses occur...
"In Romans 3:28 Paul says, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." In James 2:24 we read, "You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone." If the word justify means the same thing in both cases, we have an irreconcilable contradiction between two biblical writers on an issue that concerns our eternal destinies. Luther called "justification by faith" the article upon which the church stands or falls. The meaning of justification and the question of how it takes place is no mere trifle. Yet Paul says it is by faith apart from works, and James says it is by works and not by faith alone. To make matters more difficult, Paul insists in Romans 4 that Abraham is justified when he believes the promise of God before he is circumcised. He has Abraham justified in Genesis 15. James says, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?" (James 2:21). James does not have Abraham justified until Genesis 22.
This question of justification is easily resolved if we examine the possible meanings of the term justify and apply them within the context of the respective passages. The term justify may mean (1) to restore to a state of reconciliation with God those who stand under the judgment of his law or (2) to demonstrate or vindicate.
Jesus says for example, "Wisdom is justified of all her children" (Lk 7:35 KJV). What does he mean? Does he mean that wisdom is restored to fellowship with God and saved from his wrath? Obviously not. The plain meaning of his words is that a wise act produces good fruit. The claim to wisdom is vindicated by the result. A wise decision is shown to be wise by its results. Jesus is speaking in practical terms, not theological terms, when he uses the word justified in this way.
How does Paul use the word in Romans 3? Here, there is no dispute. Paul is clearly speaking about justification in the ultimate theological sense.
What about James? If we examine the context of James, we will see that he is dealing with a different question from Paul. James says in 2:14, "What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?" James is raising a question of what kind of faith is necessary for salvation. He is saying that true faith brings forth works. A faith without works he calls a dead faith, a faith that is not genuine. The point is that people can say they have faith when in fact they have no faith. The claim to faith is vindicated or justified when it is manifested by the fruit of faith, namely works. Abraham is justified or vindicated in our sight by his fruit. In a sense, Abraham's claim to justification is justified by his works. The Reformers understood that when they stated the formula, "Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.""
R. C. Sproul - Knowing Scripture; InterVasity Press, p. 83, 84
Steve: Yes it may take a man of R. C. Sproul’s erudition to make sense of this mess and still remain in the reformed tradition. As for me, a mere uneducated, semi-literate reader, I can not make the mental leaps necessary to reconcile the citations of James and Paul via Luke. To me it seems that Paul is talking about works of the law. Paul is saying we are not justified by sacrificing crops or livestock. We are not justified by circumcision or observing holy days. After all Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles knew little of Jewish law. James, on the other hand is stating that if you don’t do good, you aren’t good. Do right and you must be right. In that we have the tempest in the teapot that Martin Luther had to make into a movement. At any rate, as Sproul says, “The claim to faith is vindicated or justified when it is manifested by the fruit of faith.” and you can’t manifest fruit without work for the work is the fruit. And since you need faith to manifest fruit, faith alone isn’t enough. So in spite of this easy explanation you want to make a big deal out of it and start your own religion? Oh wait, . . . yes you do, and Martin Luther did! I’ll stick with Christendom as it had been practiced.
By the way, did Martin Luther mention who won the farting contest he had with the devil?
John S: It was not a tempest in a tea pot when the very gospel of Christ was (and is) at stake. Paul and James spoke of justification in TWO DIFFERENT CONTEXTS. There is nothing hard to understand here. Luther did not start his own religion - justification by faith alone has always been the way of salvation and is contstantly affirmed by the early Church fathers. Please read this.
Also: taking a cheapshot at Luther is an ad hominem attack and evidence of a failed argument - it is like saying "you cannot be right because you have a big nose."
Steve: Mentioning that a man misunderstood the context of Paul and James,mentioning that a man wanted to eliminate the "straw gospel" of James because it disagreed with his feelings about justification by faith alone, and mentioning that he had mental delusions is not the same as saying a man has a big nose. It is merely pointing out that his reliability as a church authority should be questioned. Martin Luther was a man of great faith unto his own interpretations of the Bible and was able to start a movement of which you are an adherent. Was the man of sound mind? To me, his argument fails on its own merit. But when you fail to agree with me on the merit if is argument (and vice versa, I fail to agree with you on the merits of his argument), then the soundness of his mind is a secondary test. A test which he also fails to pass. In my opinion, of course.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones on Modern Man and the Gospel
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is interviewed by Joan Bakewell in December 1970:
Rightly Distinguishing Law and Gospel Changes Everything
One of the primary reasons for the division in the church over free grace vs. free will is the failure of one side to distinguish between law and gospel. Synergists erroneously reason (outside of Scripture) that if something is commanded in Scripture then man must have the moral ability to do it. Instead, after the fall, the Bible uses the holy commands as an instrument of God to strip man of all hope in himself and behold his own moral bankruptcy (Rom 3:19, 20).
"The commandments are not given inappropriately or pointlessly; but in order that through them the proud, blind man may learn the plague of his impotence, should he try to do as he is commanded." Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will, pg. 160
"By the law is the knowledge of sin' [Rom 3:20], so the word of grace comes only to those who are distressed by a sense of sin and tempted to despair." Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will, pg. 168
All the commands of our Lord were given to us to obey. We cannot twist Scripture to somehow ignore the weight of the responsibility this puts on each one of us. Grace does not somehow give us a trump card to ignore the commands. No, we appeal to grace, not in order to cancel out, avoid or do away with God's commands. On the contrary, we appeal to the grace of God in Christ in order that we might have the strength and power to do them. For apart from grace we can do nothing (John 15:5, 3:27, 6:63; 1 Cor. 4:7, 15:10; 2 Tim 2:25) If God commands us to love him with all our heart how do we do this? By grace. If God calls us to love our neighbor, how to we do this? By grace. If God summons us to believe the gospel, how do we do this? By grace. This is the message found on every page of the bible.
"Does it follow from: 'turn ye' that therefore you can turn? Does it follow from "'Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart' (Deut 6.5) that therefore you can love with all your heart? What do arguments of this kind prove, but the 'free-will' does not need the grace of God, but can do all things by its own power...But it does not follow from this that man is converted by his own power, nor do the words say so; they simply say: "if thou wilt turn, telling man what he should do. When he knows it, and sees that he cannot do it, he will ask whence he may find ability to do it..." Martin Luther, 164
The Moral and Immoral Both Alienated from God
Both moral and immoral people are alienated from God. God is offended by both. This may be counter-intuitive but moral people are lost because of their "goodness". Why? It is often the case that goodness keeps people from God. In fact many people avoid Jesus by avoiding sin because they are trying to become their own saviors ... attempting to justify themselves. But the gospel is neither moralism nor relativism so it is equally offensive to the moral and the irreligious. But Christ calls us to repent of both our good and bad works, for we have no righteousness of our own.
As an example of Jesus dislike of people who trusted in their own morality, Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains." (John 9:41) Those who think God will accept us based on goodness actually understand only part of the truth. Yes, God loves what is good. But since He also loves the truth, we must confess that, in light of God's holy law, we are not good and have woefully failed to do what is pleasing to God, replacing God with worthless self-pleasing idol substitutes, and so we justly deserve to be punished for it. Those who think they have done enough to please God have not understood or considered the seriousness of their condition. John Calvin once said, "Man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God's majesty." In light of the holiness of God all persons, even the best of us, would become undone. This was the case even with the holiest of the saints of the Bible. When it pleased God to reveal himself to them, they fell at his feet as though dead. God created us to enjoy and glorify Him, but humans voluntarily rebelled against God falling into the bondage of the self-centeredness of sin and cannot help themselves out of it.
For clarification, no one would here dare to somehow reason that because we cannot trust in morality that we thereby should be content to be immoral. Those who are regenerated by the Spirit of God will want to obey God and the commands are not burdensome because such persons have been born of God. (1 John 5:1-4). We obey because we are saved, not in order to be saved.
Are We Saved by Free Grace or Free Will?
There are many persons in the visible church who declare that we must meet a condition before God will extend His grace to us. But if there is a condition we must meet, then how can it still be considered grace? Grace is unmerited favor granted to sinners, not based on any condition the sinner must first meet, but based on God's unconditional love for those he came to save (Eph 1:4. 5). Indeed God does make us responsible to meet His condition(s), but thanks be to God, His love for His people is not based on meeting those condition(s). In fact the bible teaches us that His love is so great that God loved us while we were still sinners and showed this love to us by meeting the condition(s) for us in the Person of Jesus (Rom. 5:8). In Him God does for us what we are unable to do for ourselves ... living the life we should have lived and dying the death we justly deserved ... giving us everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe (Deut 29:4, 30:6; Ezek 36:26; John 6:63, 65, 37). Grace is not a reward for those who obey God's summons to believe, but the cause of our obedience to the summons (John 17:9, 12, 17, 20, 24).
THE CASE OF GOD THE FATHER AGAINST ______________________________ (fill in your own name)
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: SATAN (THE ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN)
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
JUDGE PRESIDING: GOD THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE
IN ATTENDANCE: The angelic hosts (righteous and fallen)
“ it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” – Heb. 9:27
You now stand in the dock, faced with the charge of great and terrible acts of high treason against the Most High God.
Gabriel, the high ranking angel addresses the court saying, “All rise! The Righteous Judge is coming into His chamber!”
The Judge declares His court to now be in session and asks for all to be seated.
Without any delay, Satan stands up and addresses the court. He states that the record will show that you have broken all 10 of the Ten Commandments, on multiple occasions. He will prove your guilt on all counts for He has the indisputable video evidence as well as reliable witnesses to attest to the facts in this case.
After the case is made against you and there is a hush in the court. The prosecuting attorney has shown that you have indeed committed acts of high treason against God. It seems inevitable that you will be found guilty.
Satan then addresses the Judge and says, “A good God must be a good Judge. The facts are clear. You must find this one guilty. Your own record in Proverbs 17:15 states, ‘He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.’ For you to acquit this one would mean that You are not righteous Yourself. You must find this one guilty as charged. I rest my case.”
The Judge then calls upon your defense attorney to address the court.
The Duty of Man is to Repent and Believe the Gospel
Imperatives (Commands) only demonstrate man's duty, not his ability. You might as well say that God's command to love him with all our heart is possible since God commands it... But the Bible teaches us something very different. Paul says after the fall the purpose of the commands is not to tell us our ability, but to to reveal our inability, our sin. "Through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Rom 3:19, 20)
Repent and believe the gospel is man's duty, his responsibility. He must believe in Jesus Christ to be justified. The weight of the command to believe must be impressed upon all men (Acts 17:30; 1 John 3:23). But again, the command to believe is no easier to do than the command to love God with all our heart. As Jesus himself declares, no one will believe APART FROM the grace of God in Jesus Christ, as we are united to Him by the Spirit (John 6:63, 65; 37).
But Doesn't Rome Also Believe in Salvation by Grace?
Visitor: Rome also believes in salvation by grace: See Trent CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema."
ANSWER: ... Indeed we fully acknowledge that they affirm salvation by grace .. this was never in dispute ...but they do not affirm salvation by GRACE ALONE ... Rome only believes in the NECESSITY of grace but does not affirm the SUFFICIENCY of grace.
- Trent also rejects the biblical teaching of "grace alone" through "faith alone" in "Christ alone" here in the same document:
CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.
CANON XII.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.
CANON IV. If any one shall affirm, that man’s freewill, moved and excited by God, does not, by consenting, cooperate with God, the mover and exciter, so as to prepare and dispose itself for the attainment of justification; if moreover, anyone shall say, that the human will cannot refuse complying, if it pleases, but that it is inactive, and merely passive; let such an one be accursed"!
CANON V.- If anyone shall affirm, that since the fall of Adam, man’s freewill is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing titular, yea a name, without a thing, and a fiction introduced by Satan into the Church; let such an one be accursed"
Ironically, these directly contradict many of the declarations of the early church by Augustine and the Council of Orange
We affirm salvation is by Christ alone - its all of grace. We reject anything beyond this for salvation: Good will, works, obedience and merit add nothing to our just standing before God (Rom 9:16; Gal 3:3; Eph 2:9). Neither these nor anything else can help us attain or maintain our just standing before God. It only as we are joined to Christ by the Holy Spirit that we have life and are declared righteous in His sight - and all our sins, both now and forever are forgiven on account of His name alone. AMEN
The Gospel and Changing Cultural Perceptions
Up until a few years ago the culture seemed to understand that Christians preached the gospel because they honestly cared about those to whom it was directed. Even if they rejected the truthfulness of the message and thought Christians might be deluded, they understood that Christians were giving a message of liberation in love. Even in a popular show like Seinfeld, Elaine, at one time, had a boyfriend who was a Christian and she asked him why he never warned her about hell, even though she did not believe she was going there. She said "if you cared about me you would warn me." Her boyfriend delivered the punch line, "well, you are the one going there, not me." In other words, Elaine may have rejected the truthfulness of the gospel, but at least she understood that its true motive was sincere and in love.
No more. For whatever purposes, the culture has turned good into evil. Especially when it comes to topics such as sexual orientation, Christians' motives are now often spun and bigoted, hateful and homophobic.
But let me use a film analogy as a response to this to expose the absurdity of it. Can you imagine if Neo were to go back into the Matrix to help liberate the people who were still in bondage there and yet decided to leave all the homosexuals there, while helping everyone else. Under any definition this would be called discrimination or hatred, yet this is what the current culture would have us do with the gospel. For millennia we have called all men to to forsake their self-righteousness and repent of their sins (whatever they are); some would resist and some, by the grace of God, would come to Christ... but now when we proclaim liberty to the captives, the culture is patient enough in most cases, but adamantly declares that homosexuals are out of bounds and it is must be due to hatred or bigotry that we do so...
No actually, it would be due to hatred if we didn't.
Do I have to know the date?
Pastor John, I was greatly troubled in a service recently when the preacher said that unless each person could identify the specific day that they prayed "the sinner's prayer" they were not converted. He then said that if in fact they were not sure of the date, they should walk forward in the service, pray the prayer and then sign the date and time in the front of their Bibles. I feel sure I am converted but this preacher has unsettled me enormously. What are your thoughts on this?
Thanks for your question. My opinion? What the preacher told you was pure, unadulterated hogwash! Both you, and those in attendance in the service were victims of gross error and a total misunderstanding of biblical conversion perpetuated by this preacher.
Nowhere in Scripture are we told to record the day we pray a prayer and if we should somehow forget the date, we are not truly saved. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest such a thing. Instead, we are told to simply examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith - in other words, to look for signs of spiritual life.
The Scripture says, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" - 2 Cor. 13:5
If you have ever seen the movie "Crocodile Dundee" (which is set in a backwater area of Australia, very much unaffected by urban culture) you might recall an incident where the leading figure, Mick Dundee, recounts the story of him asking his tribal elder when he (Dundee) was born. The answer from the elder was simple, "In the summer time."
Because that is all the information he received, Dundee went through life never quite sure of how old he was. Yet as frustrating as that may have been for him, it would be totally erroneous to conclude that Dundee was never born (just because he did not know the day or even year of his birth). It is obvious that Dundee had a birth by the very fact that he was alive, living and breathing, in the present day.
In the same way, spiritually speaking, there are many Christians who although are very much spiritually alive, can only speak in vague terms about the date of their conversion. Some can indeed identify the day and the hour of their conversion, as it happened in a very dramatic way. Others however might say "I was converted to Christ somewhere between my 5th and 8th birthday." Another might say "it was somewhere around the age of 14."
The fact is that the New Testament does not tell people to look back on a date when a prayer was prayed as a ground for assurance, but the presence of spiritual life in the here and now.
Just as when paramedics encounter a person at the scene of an accident and immediately check to see if there are signs of physical life (by checking for a pulse, etc.) we are to look for signs of spiritual life.
I realize that this task is a subjective one, and none of us at any given time, live a single day with an absolute love for Christ, love for His word, or love for the people of God; yet if we understand what the Bible teaches about the spiritual condition of unregenerate man, we know that none of these components exist in the heart of stone. Only a truly converted (regenerated) person has any discernible love for Christ and His gospel. The stony heart is incapable of such love.
If someone is spiritually alive now because they show signs of spiritual life (they have a love for the Biblical Christ, and believe and embrace the Gospel), it is evidence of the fact that a spiritual birth has taken place, even if the day and the time of this birth are facts known only by God Himself.
My advice to you is to forget what the preacher told you you and instead, simply do what the Bible says and examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. If you believe the gospel and have turned to Christ in repentance and faith, and if your heart looks to Him alone to save you, that would be sure evidence of true conversion. We are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and we know this based on the sure foundation of Scripture alone, all to the glory of God alone.
The Moment of Awakening
R.C. Sproul describes the moment of awakening Martin Luther had as he read Romans 1:17, "For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'"
He says, “Here in it,” in the gospel, “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘the just shall live by faith.’” A verse taken from the book of Habakkuk in the Old Testament that is cited three times in the New Testament. As Luther would stop short and say, “What does this mean, that there’s this righteousness that is by faith, and from faith to faith? What does it mean that the righteous shall live by faith?” Which again as I said was the thematic verse for the whole exposition of the gospel that Paul sets forth here in the book of Romans.
And so, the lights came on for Luther. And he began to understand that what Paul was speaking of here was a righteousness that God in His grace was making available to those who would receive it passively, not those who would achieve it actively, but that would receive it by faith, and by which a person could be reconciled to a holy and righteous God.
Now there was a linguistic trick that was going on here too. And it was this, that the Latin word for justification that was used at this time in church history was—and it’s the word from which we get the English word justification—the Latin word justificare. And it came from the Roman judicial system. And the term justificare is made up of the word justus, which is justice or righteousness, and the verb, the infinitive facare, which means to make. And so, the Latin fathers understood the doctrine of justification is what happens when God, through the sacraments of the church and elsewhere, makes unrighteous people righteous.
But Luther was looking now at the Greek word that was in the New Testament, not the Latin word. The word dikaios, dikaiosune, which didn’t mean to make righteous, but rather to regard as righteous, to count as righteous, to declare as righteous. And this was the moment of awakening for Luther. He said, “You mean, here Paul is not talking about the righteousness by which God Himself is righteous, but a righteousness that God gives freely by His grace to people who don’t have righteousness of their own.”
And so Luther said, “Woa, you mean the righteousness by which I will be saved, is not mine?” It’s what he called a justitia alienum, an alien righteousness; a righteousness that belongs properly to somebody else. It’s a righteousness that is extra nos, outside of us. Namely, the righteousness of Christ. And Luther said, “When I discovered that, I was born again of the Holy Ghost. And the doors of paradise swung open, and I walked through.”
Purgatory, Indulgences, the Treasury of Merit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ
As you may have heard in the news this week, the new Pope (Francis), wishing to make use of the new social media announced that indulgences would be granted not only to those who attend the upcoming Roman Catholic Youth Day celebration in Brazil (a week-long event which starts tomorrow, July 22), but also to those who follow the event online, and especially follow his tweets on twitter. Some people seem very surprised by this announcement and yet the only thing new about it is the twitter component. The doctrine of Indulgences remains a central teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
PURGATORY: (Latin: purgatorium; from purgare, “to purge”) - the condition, process, or place of purification. This is a place of PURGING or temporary punishment in which the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for heaven.
The doctrine of purgatory is an integral doctrine to the Roman Catholic understanding of redemption. It is the place where the vast majority of even professing Christians go upon their death.
As recently as the Roman Catholic Catechism, the Church declares that if a person dies with any spot or blemish or stain on their soul – any impurity – instead of going directly to heaven they must first go to this place of purging which is this intermediate state between earth and heaven. Rome makes clear that purgatory is not hell. It is not a place of the punitive wrath of God, but it is a place for the corrective wrath of God, as it were, where the sanctifying process is continued through the crucible of fire.
A person may be there for two weeks or they may be there for two hundred million years – as long as it takes for a person to become truly righteous – inherently righteous, and once that process is completed, they can be declared justified by God and released into heaven.
I’d now like to go through all the Bible verses that teach the doctrine of purgatory ________________________.
Ok.. well that did not take long, because there are none! That’s right, we do not find either the word or the concept of “purgatory” in the Bible. It is a tradition of the Roman Catholic Church that developed over a long period of time.
The Problem and the Cure
Two quotes from Dr. Rod Rosenbladt:
Now, look specifically at Romans 3, verses 19-20. I want to specifically focus on what it says about purpose of the law: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
This is the point to which the apostle has been relentlessly grinding forward. The idolatrous and immoral Gentiles are ‘without excuse’. The Jews equally ‘have no excuse’. The special status of the Jews does not exonerate them.
In fact, all the inhabitants of the whole world, without any exception, are inexcusable before God, because all have known something of God and of morality, but all have disregarded and even stifled their knowledge in order to go their own way. All are guilty and condemned before God and without excuse.
Paul states in Verse 19 the purpose of the law is that “every mouth be silenced”. The purpose of the law is to shut our mouths, stop us in mid-excuse and hold us accountable to God. When confronted with the law we will shut our mouths. All of the excuses we learned to use so early in life will immediately fail us. We won’t say a word. As the verse goes on to say, the whole world will be held accountable to God.
In the end, God will assign one of two grades, 0 or 100, he does not grade on the curve and he will not hear our excuses. Those who have perfectly lived the law in thought, word and deed will be counted as righteous. Others like myself will be utterly doomed, check mate. Of course, Paul said earlier that “there is no one righteous, not even one”. None of us can place our hope in the law.
Now what does it all mean?
You and I as Adam’s children not only are ungodly, not only infected from top to bottom with sin—we can’t fix ourselves. Now this is difficult to say in our postmodern American society. It’s counter-cultural. We believe we can fix anything, even ourselves: Positive thinking, a couple of self-help courses, and all will be fine. But the Bible, especially Romans 3 says we’re wrong. I stand guilty before God and there’s nothing I can do to change that. My sentence is a just one and it is death.
NOW THE CURE:
The Gospel According to Paul
Back in September 2011, Dr. John MacArthur hosted a Bible teaching Conference entitled "Truth Matters" focussing on the Gospel according to the Apostle Paul. If you missed any of his seven messages, I would highly recommend you taking the time to view them. Perhaps you can bookmark this page and return to view each of Dr. MacArthur's sessions:
(1) The Glorious Gospel:
(2) The Gospel Satisfies the Sinner’s Need:
(3) The Gospel Satisfies God’s Demands:
Galatians 1 - The Same Gospel
There are some hills that we as Christians must be prepared to die on. Such is the case with the Gospel. From a recent service in Hawaii, here is Dr. James White, preaching on the truth of the Gospel and its implications in our day:
Should Christians Support the New Pope?
The folk at Apologia Radio write:
Recently, the Roman Catholic communion installed their newest pope: Pope Francis. There have been a lot of recent positive statements of support for the Pope by popular evangelicals like Rick Warren, Luis Palau, and more. But, has Rome changed her position on the gospel? Has Rome lifted and repented of its condemnation of the gospel taught by Christians? Has Rome lifted the numerous anathemas it pronounced upon every Christian who believes in justification by faith alone in Christ alone? The answer is a resounding: No!
How should Christians relate to Rome? Should we kiss the ring and return to Papa? Should Christians abandon the Gospel clearly communicated in Scripture in the light of the new age of religious tolerance? Should we submit to the Pope in Rome considering that the communion has taught that their is no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic church and submission to the Pontiff?
Our position can be summarized by Dr. R.C. Sproul: “We must remember that it is not we who anathematized Rome, but Rome that anathematized the gospel and thereby anathematized itself. The issue is not even really the condemnation of Protestants (those wounds are easy to heal) but the anathema against the gospel. The evangelicals who remain authentic witnesses to the gospel of grace alone through faith alone, therefore, are carrying on the Catholic faith.”
Today's radio program where I was interviewed on this theme is now posted here. - JS
American Christianity Vs. Biblical Christianity
American Christianity: "God helps those who help themselves."
Biblical Christianity: "God helps the low, despised and spiritually bankrupt ... those who are unable to help themselves. But what is impossible for man (faith and repentance) is possible with God. “Flesh and blood” are never responsible for this insight, we can only give God the credit for that.
Visitor: I often ponder about man's responsibility after God has done what was impossible for man to do. I think the truth of what you said here sometimes mixes with the effort and action that the Bible calls us to in living a life of perseverance and holiness. I firmly believe that it is all God's work but I also see man's laziness (myself included) and struggle with living a spiritually disciplined life. How would you respond?
Response: firstly, the quote is focused in on the work of the Spirit in regeneration for which we play only a passive role. There is nothing we can do to become born again. We ACT ONLY BECAUSE we are born again. But the principle of regeneration or the new heart REMAINS in the renewed soul, from which springs all good things, including faith, good works, obedience and love to God and neighbor. The commands of God to believers should be frequently declared and we should strive to to obey them. We will WANT TO if we have a new heart, but we should always be reminded that we do so because God has been gracious to us, implanting in us a new heart which loves God and has adopted us as sons for Christ's sake. The quote above is to show us the good news that Christ has done for us what we were unable to do for ourselves with regard to salvation. It causes us to always be thankful to God. So we do not obey IN ORDER to gain God's favor. No. We have God's favor, therefore we obey. If we are saved our heart will rejoice when we hear the law of Christ.
Easy Believism and Semi-Pelagianism
J. I. Packer once rightly said, "sinners cannot obey the gospel, any more than the law, without renewal of heart."
So with that in mind the "easy believism" (no-lordship) folks have completely misunderstood the biblical concept of grace. They scoff at Lordship because they think it is regeneration by faith and works, all the while touting their self-generated faith. Fact is, if God has done a work of
grace in us, then faith and works (both equally impossible for man) will exist because it is God who is the author of both. Jesus is the "author and finisher of our faith."
"easy believism" is a doctrine that is pretty much a debate that came from certain groups of Dispensationalists who think that you could have prayed a prayer to accept Jesus 10 years ago and now have become a Buddhist monk ... but since you prayed that prayer, you are "once saved always saved" no matter what you are doing now. Reformed persons have ALWAYS believed in the biblical doctrine of the preservation of the saints, that is, that God will preserve his people and make them persevere to the end.
Second of all easy believism people embrace the false doctrine that faith is not a gift of God .. i.e. they reject the biblical teaching that faith springs from a renewed heart (John 6:63-65, 37). So easy believism actually ends up being a form of semi-pelagianism because they attribute their faith and repentance to their own wisdom, humility, sound judgment and good sense.
Also as John MacArthur has noted, "grace is not merely God's response to the sinner's initiative. Quite the opposite. Because He is gracious, God takes the initiative, drawing the sinner (John 6:44, 65), granting repentance (Acts 3:26; 5:31; 11:18), and awakening the heart to faith (Acts 13:48; 16:14). Every aspect of the believer's response--conviction, repentance, and faith--is the result of God's gracious work in the heart. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).
The easy believism folks reject the above idea of "grace-wrought faith" outright ... so it could not be further from what the Reformed tradition believes. Easy believism is a self-generated faith, apart form the grace of God, which makes it semi-pelagian at best.
The Bible declares that Belief (or faith) is not difficult but IMPOSSIBLE for the natural man. So the opposite of easy faith is not "difficult", but much more; an act that the natural man is utterly morally impotent to carry out. So those who think faith is "easy" or "difficult" are both wrong, according to the Bible. If someone thinks faith is "easy" or even possible, apart from grace, then they do not understand our condition as human beings or our real need of grace. Those who think faith is something easy are making the same mistake as those who think good works save. Both are trusting in some self-generated meritorious act, rather than Christ alone who provides everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe and obey.
The Mountain of God
In broad terms, one could summarize every religion under the sun (except one) as God being at the summit of the mountain, with man languishing at the bottom. Yet by means of following the tenets of the faith man seeks to climb the mountain to one day meet God, face to face.
Of course, the requirements differ from one religion to the next, but each action man takes, allows him to ascend further and further up the mountain.
The one exception to all this in our world is the Christian gospel, where God, on top of the mountain, by His own love initiative comes down to the valley below (in the Incarnation) and finds only dead corpses there, breathes the breath of life into many of these God hating rebels, giving them new hearts that would see and bask in His beauty, and He carries each one of them on His shoulders, safely up to the top of the mountain, that they may enjoy His vast riches for ever.
There are more details to be sure, not the least of which is the sinless life of the Son of God and His substitutionary death for sinners on the cross, as well as His triumphal resurrection. These gospel facts are center stage in the history of redemption. However, the basic analogy holds true.
The religions of the world tell their advocates that if they will adhere strictly to the tenets, they can climb the mountain of God. Christianity says, we could never make it up there, nor would we even wish to do so, for by nature, we hate the God on top of the mountain. Therefore, God came down, and by His own power, opened up our eyes and brought life out of death and raised us up to be with Him.
Here then we see the two basic types of religion in our world today; the religion of ascension (man climbing up) vs. the Gospel of descension (God climbed down); a religion of do, do, do vs. the Gospel of done, done, done!
Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
The Sovereign Gospel
I highly recommend these two teaching sessions on the relationship between Divine Sovereignty and human responsibility. Outstanding material. - JS
Dr. John MacArthur - An Introduction to the Sovereign Gospel:
Dr. John MacArthur - An Explanation of the Sovereign Gospel:
Two Quotes to Ponder
"Be careful of not making a Saviour of faith. There is a danger - and it cannot be too vigilantly guarded against - of substituting the work of the Spirit for the work of Christ; this mistake it is that leads so many of God's saints to look within, instead of without, themselves for the evidences of their calling and acceptance; and thus, too, so many are kept all their spiritual course walking in a state of bondage and fear, the great question never fully and fairly settled, or, in other words, never quite sure of their sonship. The work of Christ is a great and finished work; it is so glorious that it can admit of no comparison, so complete that it can allow of no addition, and so essential that it can give place to no substitution. Precious as is the work of the Holy Ghost in the heart, and essential as it is to the salvation of the soul, yet he who places it where the work of Jesus ought only to be, deranges the order of the covenant, closes up the legitimate source of evidence, and will assuredly bring distress and uncertainty into his soul. 'Righteousness, peace, and joy,' are the fruit of a full belief in the Lord Jesus Christ; and he who looks for them away from the cross, will meet with disappointment: but they are found in Jesus. He who looks away from himself, from his vileness, guiltiness, emptiness, and poverty, fully and believingly unto Jesus, shall know what the forgiveness of sin is, and shall experience the love of God shed abroad in his heart.
If, then, your faith is feeble and tried, be not cast down; faith does not save you. Though it be an instrument of salvation, and as such, is of vast importance, it is but the instrument; the finished work of Immanuel is the ground of your salvation, yea, it is your salvation itself. Then make not a Saviour of your faith; despise it not if it is feeble, exult not in it if it is strong, trample not on it if it is small, deify it not if it is great; such are the extremes to which every believer is exposed. If your faith is feeble and sharply tried, it is no evidence that you are not a believer; but the evidence of your acceptance in the Beloved, is to arise from Jesus alone; then let your constant motto be, 'looking unto Jesus'; looking to him just as you are; looking unto him when faith is feeble; looking unto him when faith is tried; looking unto him when faith is declining, yea, looking unto him when you fear you have no faith. Look up, tried and tempted soul! Jesus is the Author, the Sustainer, and he will become the Finisher of thy faith. All thou wantest is in him. One glimpse, dim though it be, of his cross, - one touch, trembling though it be, of his garment, - will lift thee from thy lowest depths, lighten thy heaviest burthen, gild thy darkest prospect, and when thou arrivest at Jordan's brink, will bear thee safely through its swellings, and land thee on the sunny and verdant shores of Canaan. Let this be your prayer, urged unceasingly at the throne of grace until it is answered - 'Lord, increase my faith'; and then, with holy Paul, you too shall be enabled with humble assurance to exclaim, 'I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day!'" - Octavius Winslow
"In order for [Jesus] to qualify as our Redeemer, it was not enough for Him simply to go to the cross and be crucified. If Jesus had only paid for our sins, He would have succeeded only in taking us back to square one. We would no longer be guilty, but we still would have absolutely no righteousness to bring before God."
We would be free of guilt before God, but we would have no righteousness. This is what Christ merited for us in his life.
"Our Redeemer needed not only to die, but also to live a life of perfect obedience. The righteousness that He manifested could then be transferred to all who put their trust in Him. Just as my sin is transferred to Him on the cross when I trust in Him, His righteousness is transferred to my account in the sight of God. So, when I stand before God on the judgment day, God is going to see Jesus and His righeousness, which will be my cover." - R. C. Sproul
Have you heard?
With so many surface level and man centered portrayals of the Gospel at large, how refreshing it is to hear the Good News presented the way the Bible proclaims it - starting with God and His holiness, and man's desperate condition, then Christ's effectual atonement, His triumphant resurrection and ascension, as Lord and King on His throne, at the right hand of His Father. Then to hear biblical repentance and faith properly outlined, the result of a true work of God in the soul which leads to an on-going trust and reliance on Christ and a desire for holiness.
I thought Paul Washer did a fabulous job in a short amount of time in this video, and my hope and prayer is not merely that God will use it to reach multitudes of lost people, but also re-evangelise the professing Church. - JS
Happy Reformation Day!
"The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God."
Martin Luther, Thesis 62
Praise God for 494 years of discovering the truth of this simple proposition, always fresh with each new generation!
Soli Deo Gloria
An Updated Niceno-Protestant Creed
I had the idea of updating the Nicene Creed with the doctrine of justification by faith alone, using wording from standard Reformed documents. What does everyone think? Good or bad idea? If good, what do you think of my chosen additions?
Interested in hearing feedback.
Thanks for the feedback, everyone. It's good to be able to bounce ideas off a diverse sounding board.
I've considered all the comments, and I think it has confirmed that the idea is overall a poor and unnecessary one. The Creed can (and should) stand alone, whether or not it is (and should be) supplemented by Reformation-era documents, from the creed-like five solas to the more detailed confessions and catechisms.
Thanks again, all.
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church, in which alone is the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head; who are all justified by an act of Godâ€™s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone; and who are all likewise sanctified by Godâ€™s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and one table at which we are nourished, two only sacraments which become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them. And I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Philippians 3: 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the fleshâ€” 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.."
I was converted to Christ more than three decades ago. In encountering the reality of the risen Christ, the entire course of my life was forever changed. Today, all these years later, I would have to say that the Lord is even more precious to me now, than the day I first encountered Him. Yet it would be equally as true to say that the more I glimpse the beauty of Christ, the more I am aware of my own dismal failures and short comings. Can you relate to this? The more I gain a sense of God's majesty and holiness, the more I see my own blemishes and the fact, that I am a scoundrel at heart, and am in desperate, radical need of His grace everyday. I see this more clearly than ever, even as I pursue the Lord. I am a wanderer at heart, a stranger to holiness. As the famous hymn says, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above." (Come Thou Font of Every Blessing)
Do you relate to this?
Paul realized this when he wrote, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh." (Rom 7:18) Though now a converted man, he understood that even though he could measure progress in his Christian life, he would NEVER find the righteousness he needed by looking inward. If that is true for the Apostle Paul, that is certainly true for all of us. We will not find righteousness by looking inside of ourselves. In fact, we'll not find anything good in that old fleshly nature. Settle that once and forever. Nothing good dwells in our flesh.
Now of course, as Christians, now converted, we make progress in holiness. We strive to be more like Christ. If that is not the case then we are not true Christians at all. The Scripture tells us, "without holiness, no one shall see the Lord." (Heb. 12:14) The genuine child of God has the Holy Spirit living inside him (Romans 8:9) and He is at work to make us more like Christ. But never for a moment think that the progress you are making is enough to give you a right standing with God. Only a perfect righteousness is good enough in God's sight and this side of the grave, not even the most devoted Christian has it.
What we need for a right standing with God is something outside of us. Its what Martin Luther called an "alien righteousness." That is not merely the truth at the beginning of our Christian lives, as we understand our sins were transfered to Christ and His righteousness to us. This is true now, in the heat of the battle for sanctification and holiness.
I very much appreciate the insight of Dr. Rod Rosenbladt in assessing the oft repeated (and little understood) words of Luther to Melanchthon in this regard:
The Gift of Faith
When we declare that God gives us faith as a gift, we do not mean that he passes on a substance called faith to us, it means that he opens our blind eyes, unplugs our deaf ears and grants us a new heart and spirit so we will believe. (Ezek 36:27; Matt 16:15-17; John 5:21, 6:63-65) Both faith and obedience are equally difficult apart from renewal of heart.
John MacArthur likewise declared that, "Because He is gracious, God takes the initiative, drawing the sinner (John 6:44, 65), granting repentance (Acts 3:26; 5:31; 11:18), and awakening the heart to faith (Acts 13:48; 16:14). Every aspect of the believer's response--conviction, repentance, and faith--is the result of God's gracious work in the heart....Scripture teaches that sanctification begins at conversion. The process of practical sanctification is launched by God's regenerating work, when He graciously gives the sinner a new heart and a new spirit of obedience (Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:26-27; 2 Corinthians 5:17)."
FREE EBOOK: "All of Grace" by C. H. Spurgeon
FREE EBOOK: For those of you who missed it yesterday, "All of Grace" by C. H. Spurgeon available FREE in both Kindle (.mobi) and ePub formats. The download is just above the "Description" on the following page. http://bit.ly/hh9FYX -- a sample chapter of the eBook on that page (a sample which happens to be a full length classic book.)
Stop Trying and Start Trusting?
I have heard it said, "stop trying and start trusting" but sinners cannot trust, any more than try, without renewal of heart. Both are equally difficult apart from regenerating grace. So it is perfectly fine to call people to both try and trust (as an imperative) if we keep in mind that they both spring from the grace of Christ.
What is the Gospel?
The gospel is not behavior modification, becoming a better person or learning to become more moral. it is not taking the life of Jesus as a model way to live or transforming/redeeming the secular realm. It is not living highly communal lives with others and sharing generously in communities who practice the way of Jesus in local culture.
These may all be good things, but they are not to be confused with the gospel. Did you notice the one characteristic of all of the above activities has nothing to do with what Christ has done for us, but all about what we do for him. The true gospel, rather, is news about what Christ the Saviour, has already done for us (in his life, death and resurrection) rather than instruction and advice about what you are to do for God. Christ's accomplishment, not ours, is the essence of the gospel. Above all the gospel of Christ brings good news, rather than instruction. The gospel of not about what we do, but our acts inevitably follow in thanksgiving because of what Christ has done for us. ... more>>>
I Got You Covered!
Four quotes from Martin Luther: "Justification by faith alone is the article of the standing or falling Church."
"This doctrine [justification by faith alone] is the head and the cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour. For no one who does not hold this article or, to use Paul's expression, this 'sound doctrine' (Titus 2:1) is able to teach aright in the church or successfully to resist any adversary . . . this is the heel of the Seed that opposes the old serpent and crushes its head. That is why Satan, in turn, cannot but persecute it."
"Whoever departs from the article of justification does not know God and is an idolater . . . For when this article has been taken away, nothing remains but error, hypocrisy, godlessness, and idolatry, although it may seem to be the height of truth, worship of God, holiness, etc. . . If the article of justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost at the same time."
"When the article of justification has fallen, everything has fallen. Therefore it is necessary constantly to inculcate and impress it, as Moses says of his Law (Deut. 6:7); for it cannot be inculcated and urged enough or too much. Indeed, even though we learn it well and hold to it, yet there is no one who apprehends it perfectly or believes it with a full affection and heart. So very trickish is our flesh, fighting as it does against the obedience of the spirit."
Justification by faith alone is the article upon which the church stands or falls, the main hinge on which religion turns. Yet as important as justification is, many Christians remain confused about it, and others actively blur its features. This is the case not merely with Christians in general but so called evangelical leaders also.
Over the last few months I have had private correspondence with a number of Christian leaders and ministers, both here in the USA and oversees, as I have challenged them to be clear on this issue, and sadly, I have not been successful at all. In many churches and ministries, the Gospel is often assumed but not proclaimed. That is a great scandal as well as a great tragedy.
What is true saving faith? What does it look like?
I was recently asked, "could you explain to me what true saving faith looks like? I think the New Testament shows us that there is a false kind of faith that can look like the real thing, but is a flawed and deceptive substitute. Am I right?" I attempt to answer that question here. - JS
Saved from what? A lack of purpose in life? A lack of fulfillment? From bad relationships? From emptiness and a feeling there's something missing? Saved from what? The Bible answer might surprise you. To be saved means to be saved by God, from God, for God. More here. - JS
The Power is Not in Josephâ€™s Pants
Luther's last sermon and its application for us today. Short article here. - JS
Justification According to the Roman Catholic Church - Its Complicated!
Below you will find a video clip I put together (lasting approximately 5 minutes, 34 seconds) based on a question and answer session involving Dr. R.C. Sproul at a Ligonier Conference in Pittsburg, PA, in the year 2000.
Dr. Michael Horton explains the significance of justification by faith alone as a new book is published in defense of the Protestant and Reformation understanding.
Who is Jesus Anyway?
I so appreciate someone like Pastor John MacArthur who takes the opportunities given to him and speaks boldly about Christ. Here he is doing so in the midst of the mass confusion around him on the Larry King show (from a few years back). - JS
Must You Hear the Gospel to Be Saved?
In our shrinking, pluralistic world, the belief that Jesus is the only way of salvation is increasingly called arrogant and even hateful. In the face of this criticism, many shrink back from affirming the global necessity of knowing and believing in Jesus. There has always been a price to pay to take the good news of Jesus to those who need it and don't want it. The difference today is that those voices are closer to us than everâ€”whether in the neighborhood or on the internet. Their nearness makes them seem more numerous (which they aren't), and feel more dangerous (which they are).
These are not days for the timorous to open their mouths. A thousand bloggers stand ready to echo or condemn your commendation of Christ to a Jew, or Muslim, or Hindu, or Buddhist, or anyone else. Once upon a time, there was a safe, private place to take your controversial stand for Jesus. No more. If you are going to stand, you will be shot atâ€”either figuratively or literally. As I write this, there is news across the web of fourteen Christians killed in rioting because the other religion believed their holy book had been desecrated. What if, in your town, the "other" religion defined desecration as the public statement that their holy book is not the infallible guide to God?
The Commercialized, Psychologized Temperament - If the evangelical church at large was ever too confrontational in its evangelism, those days are gone. The pendulum has swung, with a commercialized and psychologized temperament, in the other direction. The church today leans strongly toward offering Jesus as appealing or not offering him at all. And what's new about this temperament is that we are more inclined than we used to be to let the customer, or the person who is offended, define what is appealing. The commercialized mindset moves away from personal conviction toward pragmatic effectiveness.
It feels that if the consumer is unhappy with the presentation, there must be something wrong with it. When this feeling becomes overriding, it circles around and redefines the "truth" being presented so that the presentation can be made enjoyable. If the claim that Jesus is the only way of salvation offends people, the commercialized mindset will either not talk about it or stop believing it.
The psychologized mindset defines love as whatever the other person feels is loving. The effect is the same as with the commercialized mindset. If a person or group finds your summons to believe on Jesus for salvation to be arrogant instead of humble and loving, then, if you have the psychologized mindset, you will feel guilty and apologetic. It must be your fault. If this mindset becomes overriding, it too will circle around and change not only the presentation, but, if necessary, the thing presented, so that the other person will not feel unloved In this way, the unhappy consumer and the offended listener take on a power that once belonged only to the Bible. There is an epidemic fear of man behind these two mindsets. In the name of marketing savvy or sensitive communication, cowardice capitulates to the world, and we surrender the offensive truth of Christ's uniqueness and supremacy.
What Is at Stake My sense of urgency increases the more I think about what is at stake in surrendering the universal necessity of believing on Jesus in order to be saved.
Jesus: The Only Way to God, Now Available at Monergism Books
Rome v. The Gospel
At the Council of Trent in the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church placed its eternal and irrevocable curse on the Gospel, announcing it as actually heretical. I am certain that in the hearts and minds of the delegates at the Council, this was never intended - not even for a moment - but that is in fact what happened.
The most relevant Canons are the following:
Canon 9. If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone..., let him be anathema.
Canon 11. If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins,... let him be anathema.
Canon 12. If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy (supra, chapter 9), which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.
Canon 24. If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema.
Canon 30. If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.
Canon 32. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ...does not truly merit an increase of grace and eternal life... let him be anathema.
As Dr. Michael Horton rightly noted, "It was, therefore, not the evangelicals who were condemned in 1564, but the evangel itself. The 'good news,' which alone is 'the power of God unto salvation' was judged by Rome to be so erroneous that anyone who embraced it was to be regarded as condemned."
But the Council of Trent met a long time ago. Hasn't Rome since modified its position? In another place Dr. Horton wrote, "Has Rome's position changed? In fact it has not. The Vatican II documents as well as the new Catechism of the Catholic Church reinvoke the theological position of the Council of Trent, condemning the gospel of justification by an imputed righteousness." But knowing full well that Rome's full curse is on me for believing the following, I quote the Scripture and embrace the only true Gospel of my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Don't Mess With The Gospel
In this message from the Together for the Gospel Conference earlier this year, Dr. R. C. Sproul reflects on 50 years of ministry and all the philosophical changes that have taken place in the western world, none more earth shattering than the crumbling condition of the evangelical church due to its failure to grasp the biblical gospel. In the presentation below, at around the 29 minute, 9 second mark, Dr. Sproul outlines the clear differences between the biblical Gospel and the "gospel" of Rome. It is well worth viewing this passionate and clear call to the Church from one of God's choice servants. - JS
Do Calvinists Believe Faith is Meritorious?
Today I received the following question in my email box:
question: In saying that individuals putting their faith in Christ are doing something meritorious, are not Calvinists saying faith is a work? But the Bible contrasts them.
response: Hi and thanks for your email. The bible contrasts faith and works in the sense that faith always looks away from itself to Christ for salvation. It no longer has confidence in the flesh but can glory only in Christ Jesus. However, at the same time, the Bible also teaches that even the very humility to believe the gospel is a gift of grace. No one naturally submits to the humbling terms of the gospel. Jesus himself said that "no one can come to me unless God grants it." (John 6:65). So apart from the grace of the Holy Spirit no one comes to Christ in his own native resources. By nature he is hostile to God (Rom 8:7), loves darkness, hates the light and will not come into the light (John 3:19, 20). The man who is still in the flesh (without the Holy Spirit) does not submit to Christ, he does not, indeed, cannot understand spiritual truths and thinks they are foolish (1 Cor 2:14). Only the Holy Spirit can reveal spiritual truth. God must first open our spiritually blind eyes and unplug our deaf ears, and turn our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. (Ezek 36:26-28) No one can believe while their heart is still stone. I.e. it takes a miracle of grace to believe. Faith and obedience are both impossible apart from renewal of heart.
So my point is that while faith and works are indeed contrasted in Scripture, as you say, they were not meant to be contrasted in such a way that it would create another excuse for human boasting. We all too easily find ways of trying to make our own contributions to salvation and our flesh looks for loopholes. Those who claim they can believe apart from the work of the Holy Spirit end up having only themselves to thank for their faith. In reality, however, true Christians all thank God for conversion because we cannot attribute our believing the gospel to our own wisdom, sound judgment, or good sense. May God get all the praise for saving us, including giving us a new heart to believe. Once we somehow believe that faith is not something I can thank God for but my own contribution then I can boast over my neighbor who does not believe. I can wrongly thank God I am not like him because I made a good choice and he did not. No. We were saved by Christ alone. May the multi-faceted glory of Christ shine clear that all may see that our salvation is by grace alone. We conclude that faith is not a work BUT we make it into a work as soon as we view it as something we can autonomously come up with from our native resources, apart from any work of the Holy Spirit.
Hope this helps
"It is not faith that saves, but faith in Jesus Christ.... It is not, strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves, but Christ that saves through faith. The saving power resides exclusively, not int he act of faith or the attitude of faith or in the nature of faith, but in the object of faith." - B. B. Warfield
"Faith itself is man's act or work and is thereby excluded from being any part of his justifying righteousness. It is one thing to be justified by faith merely as an instrument by which man receives the righteousness of Christ, and another to be justified FOR faith as an act or work of the law. If a sinner, then, relies on his actings of faith or works of obedience to any of the commands of the law for a title to eternal life, he seeks to be justified by works of the law as much as if his works were perfect. If he depends either in whole or in part, on his faith and repentance for a right to any promised blessing, he thereby so annexes that promise to the commands to believe and repent as to form them for himself into a covenant of works. Building his confidence before God upon his faith, repentance and other acts of obedience, he places them in Christ's stead as his grounds of right to the promise and so he demonstrates himself to be of the works of the law and so be under the curse." Galatians 3:10 - John Colquhoun (A Treatise on Law and the Gospel)
"Let all the 'free-will' in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength." - Martin Luther
The Five Solas - Five Things Together That Stand Alone
New to the reformed faith, I remember taking a car journey with a fellow minister. I had a book in my hands outlining the five Solas of the Protestant Reformation. Seeing this, my preacher friend remarked, â€œI just donâ€™t get it? The word â€œSolaâ€ means alone, right?â€
â€œYesâ€ I replied.
He then said, â€œWell how is it in any way possible for five things together to be alone? Its utter hogwash.â€
Now I was not sure exactly what â€œhogwashâ€ was. Perhaps it is the water left behind in a tub after a pig has taken a bath. I wasnâ€™t sureâ€¦ but whatever it was, I could tell that it was not good in any way at all. My preacher friend thought the concept of the five Solas was intellectually untenable.
You are probably now waiting for me to finish this story by saying that in intellectual prowess and intestinal fortitude, I rose up (if that is possible in the passenger seat of a car) and put ignorance and unbelief to the sword, with a single blast of God given wisdom as the oracles of God thundered forth out of my mouth. Well, I could end the story that way, but I would be lying. The fact is, I did not really know how to answer him. I stumbled aroundâ€¦ I am sure I said something, and yet he and I both knew that I had no adequate answer that day.
Donâ€™t get me wrong. I knew there was an answer. I just was not sure what it was or how to articulate it.
Many years on, if I was asked that same question today I think I would seek to provide an answer by using a simple illustration. As with most illustrations (or parables) there is usually a limit as to how far one can go â€“ each image in the parable cannot usually be stretched too far, but the illustration can at least provide a window, an insight, that can help people understand concepts far better than before. The same is true in this case.
Assurance of Salvation
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. [Hebrews 11:1]
Assurance is, simply, faith that God's love for you overcomes any obstacle: not that his love merely has the potential to do so, but that it actually does. Sometimes you're very conscious of the fact that you've put a lot of obstacles between yourself and God. You see your sin, and the guilt and shame can make it hard to believe that God's love could surmount even this.Â Again. "Maybe he forgives others who are better at this faith-and-repentance thing, but surely he doesn't forgive me." That's called doubt. The bad news is, doubt is more than just unhelpful when it comes to feeling good about your relationship with God. Doubt is actually insulting to God. Sure, doubt might be genuine, honest, authentic on your part. But your doubt reflects on him, says something about him. How long will you let your doubts declare that God is not trustworthy, not gracious to save you from all your sins?
Applying the Gospel
You may be quite familiar with the concept that the Christian grows in true holiness only by faith in God's grace. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is more than "just" the entryway to the Christian life; it is also the regular means by which we make progress in the Christian life. As we grow in our faith in the Gospel, we grow in the ability to honor God with our obedience. Biblically speaking, there is no other way to pursue our sanctification.
Tabletalk - Responding to N. T. Wright
N. T. Wright is in many ways a highly respected and widely influential theologian. His work on the reliability of the New Testament and the resurrection of Christ is superb. However, in recent times, he has sparked a major storm of controversy suggesting that both the Roman Catholics and the Protestant Reformers have totaly misunderstood the Apostle Paul's teaching on the subject of justification. There is no doubt that Bishop Wright is the leading figure in what is called "The New Perspectives on Paul."
In February 2010, Ligonier Ministries' Tabletalk monthly magazine was devoted to the subject of justification by faith alone, responding to the specific objections/allegations of Bishop N. T. Wright. The main articles are now available to read in a new form by clicking here below:
"Salvation is a free gift, but an empty hand must receive it, and not a hand which still tightly grasps the world!" - A.W. Pink, http://bit.ly/drXWnO
Today's reading in "Voices from the Past" devotional read, "many souls do not only perish praying, repenting and believing after a sort, but they perish by their praying and repenting while they carnally trust in these. If we are to be saved, we must come naked to Christ in regard to our duties; we cannot flee to Christ in truth while trusting in them. Some are so locked into them, that they cannot come without them, and so in the day of temptation are trampled under the foot of God's wrath and Satan's fury." - Gurnall, Voices from the Past pg. 115
â€œThe Law is for the proud and the Gospel for the brokenhearted.â€ - Martin Luther
IN the preaching of the Law, the conviction brought by the Holy Spirit works in you inwardly to make you aware of your woeful state -- that you are utterly without a question undone and all that you need spiritually is beyond yourself, to be found in Christ alone (Gospel).
Does Your Web Site Preach the Gospel?
"A controversialist once said, â€œIf I thought God had a chosen people, I should not preach.â€ That is the very reason why I do preach. What would make him inactive is the mainspring of my earnestness. If the Lord had not a people to be saved, I should have little to cheer me in the ministry."" - C. H. Spurgeon
In Romans 10 we read, "How shall they hear without a preacher?" The answer to this rhetorical question is that they do not hear without a preacher. The preacher must preach for the people to hear. The elect come to Christ through the use of means - God uses the fervent prayer of others and the preaching of the Gospel to bring His elect home and His sheep will hear His voice and follow Him.
Many church web sites are technically advanced, aesthetically pleasing and provide a lot of information, but I find that very few make an attempt to actually present the Gospel. Those that do are often woeful in expressing the central components of the Gospel (leaving key ingredients out) or else it is packaged in such strange sounding religious jargon that the uninformed would find it very difficult to understand. With this in mind, I once asked myself these two questions:
1. If someone only had access to the material found on my website - if that was the only access to Christianity they ever had - would they have enough information to know what the Gospel is, and how to embrace Christ as Savior and Lord?
2. If I can answer yes to the first question, is the presentation clear enough for someone who has never picked up a Bible or been raised in a Church environment to follow?
If you have a Christian website, I wonder how would you answer these questions? Paul wrote, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Cor 9:26). Whatever else we do, if we cannot answer in the affirmative, I think we miss the mark badly.
I recently came across an excellent gospel presentation and recommend it highly. It is both clear and easy to understand. It is a multimedia presentation from Matthias Media entitled Two Ways to Live. On our own church web site we now provide a link to it and I encourage all with their own web sites to at least consider doing the same. You will find it here. - JS
The Gospel for Christians by Tim Keller
It is very common in Christian circles to assume that â€œthe gospelâ€ is something just for non-Christians. We presume that the gospel is a set of basic â€œA-B-Câ€ doctrines that Christians do not need to hear or study once they are converted. Rather, they should move beyond the gospel to more â€œadvancedâ€ doctrines. But the great declaration of the gospel of grace in Galatians was written to believers who did not see the implications of the gospel for life-issues confronting them. Paul solves the disunity and racial exclusivity not with a simple exhortation to â€œbe better Christians.â€ but by calling them to live out the implications of the gospel. So Christians need the gospel as much as non-Christians do. Their problems come because they tend to lose and forget the gospel. They make progress only as they continually grasp and apply the gospel in deeper ways.
The gospel shows us that our spiritual problem lies not only in failing to obey God, but also in relying on our obedience to make us fully acceptable to God, ourselves and others. Every kind of character flaw comes from this natural impulse to be our own savior through our performance and achievement. On the one hand, proud and disdainful personalities come from basing your identity on your performance and thinking you are succeeding. But on the other hand, discouraged and self-loathing personalities also come from basing your identity on your performance and thinking you are failing.
Belief in the gospel is not just the way to enter the kingdom of God; it is the way to address every obstacle and grow in every aspect. The gospel is not just the â€œABCsâ€ but the â€œA-to-Zâ€ of the Christian life. The gospel is the way that anything is renewed and transformed by Christ â€” whether a heart, a relationship, a church, or a community. All our problems come from a lack of orientation to the gospel. Put positively, the gospel transforms our hearts, our thinking and our approach to absolutely everything. The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in Godâ€™s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope â€” at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing Godâ€™s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of Godâ€™s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.
This also creates a radical new dynamic for discipline and obedience. First, the knowledge of our acceptance in Christ makes it easier to admit we are flawed because we know we wonâ€™t be cast off if we confess the true depths of our sinfulness. Second, it makes the law of God a thing of beauty instead of a burden. We can use it to delight and imitate the one who has saved us rather than to get his attention or procure his favor. We now run the race â€œfor the joy that is set before usâ€ rather than â€œfor the fear that comes behind us.â€
â€“Tim Keller, The Galatians study
The Defense and Confirmation of the Gospel â€” What I Have Learned in 50 years by Dr. R. C. Sproul
The Greatness of the Love of Christ
Just a quick note to let everyone know that my new book, The Greatness of the Love of Christ, the chapters of which I've been posting here regularly for the past few months, is now complete. Never before have I written upon a more wonderful theme, and never has my study and meditation had profounder effects for good in my everyday life, in the face of any kind of doubt or discouragement â€“ I hope the book may serve to remind others, also, of the one illimitable source of every good thing we could ever need or desire, the love of Christ for his Church! The electronic version may be downloaded for free, and copies may also be purchased in print, for the screen-reluctant, at my storefront here. If you find it useful, please tell others, whether by blog post, e-mail, word-of-mouth, etc. Here's the back-cover blurb, and then I'll be done:
"What is the most important thing you could pray for a Christian? Good health? Patience in trials? Success in the ministry? While all these are good requests, the apostle Paul has something else in mind when he lifts the Ephesian church up in prayer, at the end of one of the richest doctrinal passages in all the bible. To Paul, the one thing that these believers needed more than anything else was the strength to understand with all the saints what is the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of Christ, which exceeds all expectations and surpasses all knowledge.
The Greatness of the Love of Christ, a book-length meditation inspired by this prayer in Ephesians 3, seeks to explore the boundless dimensions of the all-surpassing love of Christ for his Church. Come, join the author as he journeys through the pages of the bible, tracing out the length and breadth and height and depth of the infinite love of Christ. â€œThis delightful labor belongs to all the saints for eternity,â€ he reminds us; and there is nothing more soul-stirring, worship-inducing, and practical for daily life than making a start on this heavenly occupation even while we continue here below."
Chapter Twelve: We Love Him Because He First Loved Us
When our great Savior ate with Simon the Pharisee, and a sinful woman washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, the Lord approved of her actions, assuring her of free and full pardon, and taught the proud Pharisee that all who have been forgiven much will love much in return, even as this woman had shown such love to him (Luke 7:36-50). For many pages now, we have been exploring the boundless dimensions of the surpassing love of Christ, and have glimpsed the staggering greatness of even the hinder parts of his free forgiveness and matchless grace. Everywhere we have turned, we have been dazzled by the further unfolding of new vistas of glory and grace in the love of the Savior, and if we have learned anything at all, it is only this, that an eternity will not suffice for us to discover all the riches we have treasured up for us. But having been so loved, dear Christian, and having received so free and immeasurable a pardon, how ought we to love in return? Will we not wet the beautiful, nail-scarred feet of the Lord with our own tears of wondering gratitude? If we have no tears for those feet of condescending love, which staggered to Golgotha bearing all our sin and shame, then we do not know the love of Christ. But all of us who have glimpsed such a love, let us cast ourselves down with our sister, this despised and sinful woman, and open up our own fountains of gratitude to bathe the feet of the Savior of the world!
Chapter Eleven: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in That Our Redemption Uniquely Declares His Divine Glory
God's great and final purpose in all of creation and redemption is to display his divine glory, the sight of which becomes the eternal and ever-increasing joy of his people (e.g. Isa. 43:7; Rom. 9:23; Eph. 2:7); but what is it, ultimately, that displays this glory and provides this joy? It is only the love of Christ. God is faithful, merciful, just, righteous, good, patient, pure â€“ and we may see all those attributes gloriously displayed in Christ's accomplishment of our redemption. But of no other attribute is it said, as it is of his loving us, that it is what God â€œisâ€. But God is love. And that he is love may be seen nowhere more clearly than his redemption of us in Christ Jesus. This is the unique and highest glory of the godhead; and this glory is displayed in us, as vessels of mercy (Rom. 9:23); it is shown in the heavenly places in God's everlasting kindness toward us in Christ (Eph. 2:7); it is seen in how the Name which the Son of God won in the accomplishment of our salvation became the Name which is above every names (Phil. 2:5-11). â€œHerein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as the propitiation for our sinsâ€ (John 4:12).
Monergism = Christ Alone
Recently a visitor seemed deeply troubled that we would equate our belief in Monergism with "Christ alone" -- that by doing so we were being tribal, because this communicates the idea that synergists do not affirm "Christ alone" and to make this claim is to stir up animosity between brothers. But our purpose is not to create bitter feuds, but to be faithful to Scripture on a foundational subject. For those of us who are persuaded of monergism didn't we all come to embrace monergistic regeneration because it best expresses the Biblical data regarding the extent of Christ's work in our salvation?
Doesn't he word "monergism" itself help us understand this concept? The word consists of two main parts: The prefix "mono" means "one", "single", or "alone" while "ergon" means "to work". Taken together it means "the work of one". That is, regeneration is the work of Jesus Christ alone (as applied by the Holy Spirit), not the cooperation of man and God and not the result of unregenerate man meeting a condition (like faith) before regeneration takes place. THE main difference between Monergism & Synergism, then, is that while synergistic theology affirms the necessity of Christ, yet they do not affirm the sufficiency of Christ. That is, synergists do not affirm that Christ provides everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe and understand the gospel. (1 Cor 2, John 6:63-65, 37, 44). Christ does most of what we need, but we still need to meet God's condition to be saved. If, as synergists may say, God grants grace to all men, then we must ask, why do some believe and not others? Did some make better use of Christ's grace than others? Does Christ make them to differ or something else (like our decision)? That 'something else' means that Christ may be necessary to them but not sufficient to provide all they need to be saved (including a renewed heart to believe). Thus 'Christ alone', as it was understood in the Reformation, is a monergistic distinctive. His cross is sufficient to provide all we need including the very faith required of us.
Is our faith, therefore, something we can thank God for, or is it the one thing we contribute to the price of our salvation? Is God's love for us conditioned upon whether we believe or not or does His love meet the condition for us in Christ, according to scripture? We affirm that God gives us this condition but Christ does for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. We are not, therefore, partly dependent on Christ for salvation but wholly dependent.
Example: Is God's love like a parent who sees his child run out into traffic and who merely calls out to him to get out of the way or is God's love like the parent who, at the risk of their life, runs out and scoops up the child to MAKE CERTAIN that his child is safe. We all know that true love gets the job done ... it doesn't merely sit on the sidelines when something so critical as ones life is at stake. God's love is unconditional for His people and He sends his Son to make certain His sheep are not lost.
Note: a large percentage of synergists who are Protestants would openly confess that there is no hope save in Christ alone - and for this we embrace them as our beloved brothers in Christ, but the debates come about when their theology blatantly contradicts this good confession, when they believe in Christ PLUS a condition we meet, apart from grace. When we deny the sufficiency of Christ to provide anything (for apart from Christ we can do nothing) then we are not faithfully giving witness to the Scriptural understanding of "Christ alone" .
Michael Haykin rightly said, "It is wrong to suppose that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, that storm center of the Reformation, was the crucial question in the minds of such theologians as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. This doctrine was important to the Reformers because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, more vital, question, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ's sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith."
Chapter Ten: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in His Causing That Very Love to Arise in Our Hearts, That We Might Have Fellowship with Him in Love
God loved us in Christ so deeply and fully that we, seeing his great love and being overwhelmed by it, could not help but love him and all those others for whom he died; and thus his love became reciprocal, and flourished among his people who had been full of hate and self-interest. We love â€“ both him and his Church â€“ because he first loved us (1 John 4:19-21). Because he loved us so greatly, he loved our love back to him, and he caused that love to him to arise in our hearts, and to ascend to him upon his throne, where he delights to dwell among the praises of his people. He loves to see us delight in him, and so he makes us delight in giving love back to him who gave all his love for us. Now, we are all one as the Persons of the Trinity are one, and we all share in the same fellowship of love (1 John 1:3). God the Father loves us with no other love but that by which he loves the Son (John 17:23); the Son loves us with the same love by which the Father loves him (John 15:9); the Spirit who loves to dwell with the Father and Son loves us and comes to dwell within us too, so that we all might be one. This love is unspeakably great.
The Emergent Church and the Gospel
A simple reading of the Bible will reveal that the gospel is not about what we have done for Jesus, but what Jesus has done for us (Rom 5:19, 2 Cor 5:21, Phil 2:8). The mystery of God has been made manifest in the Person and work of the Son, who frees prisoners, gives sight to the blind, breaks loose our chains and changes hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. At one time we were taken captive to do Satan's will and could not escape until Christ set us free. In other words, Christ did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He lived the perfect life that we should have lived and died the death we should have died, in order to free us so that we might then proclaim His excellencies, make known his gospel and spread justice and mercy to the poor.
But this is not what many of the the most notable characters in the Emerging church (e.g. McClaren, McManus, Bell) mean when they use the term â€œgospelâ€; for Christ, in their view, did not primarily come to us as a Savior, who delivers us from His just wrath, but rather, He came to make us "Christ followers". In other words, Jesus came as a moral example of how we might live, treat one another, and form communities. But as has been repeatedly shown throughout the testaments, this is a recipe for failure. In Romans 3:20 the Apostle teaches that the purpose of the law was not so much to show us how to live (although it was that too), but more importantly, to reveal our moral inability and hopeless bondage to sin in the face of God's holy majesty apart from the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Some major voices in the emergent church are saying they want a relationship with Jesus and not doctrines, but we must ask which Jesus do they want to have a relationship with? If words mean anything it appears they want a relationship with a moralistic Jesus of their own imagination. They want to believe that God is pleased with us because of what we do ... that He is pleased with us if we join Him in being active in crusades against social ills such as corporate greed, global warming, racism and poverty. That doing this is what the Gospel is all about. But as good as some of these things might be, God is not pleased with them if they do not come from faith in Jesus Christ as a Savior first, not as a mere example for us to follow. The background of the true gospel is that Jesus revealed His sinlessness and our moral impotence and bankruptcy in the face of his holiness. Thus our need for His mercy. But McLaren and many of the other emergent church leaders trumpet their belief that the gospel is more about ethics than the work of Christ on our behalf. They appeal to bettering the world around us as a task that is opposed to and more pressing than seeing our own rebellion and poverty, which prove our need for reconciliation to God through the life, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. This unbiblical bifurcation of orthopraxy and orthodoxy, and foundational preference for the former, is just plain contrary to the Christian gospel.
Ultimately, the emergent "gospel" is not about the grace of Jesus Christ who delivers people from the wrath of God and puts them into the kingdom of light, but rather about becoming a 'Jesus follower', about walking as Jesus walked and trying to live the life he exemplified. Apart from the fact that, according to Scripture, this is an impossible goal when drawing from our native resources, but it misses the whole point for which Jesus came. The gospels showed Jesus setting his face like flint toward Jerusalem for a reason. He did not come primarily to be a moral example for us, but to become a Savior who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. The emergent ideology, in other words, is appealing to the fallen will without the merciful act that God has done for us in Jesus. Since we woefully fall short of God's call to us to live this way, it offers no hope.
In his book, Why We're Not Emergent, Kevin DeYoung says, "I am convinced that a major problem with the emerging church is that they refuse to have their cake and eat it too. The whole movement seems to be built on reductionistic, even modernistic, either-or categories. They pit information versus transformation, believing versus belonging, and propositions about Christ versus the person of Christ. The emerging church will be a helpful corrective against real, and sometimes perceived, abuses in evangelicalism when they discover the genius of the "and," and stop forcing us to accept half-truths."
My fear, and I believe it is well founded, is that Emergent (and emerging) is just a newly cast form of the old Semi-Pelagian heresy of behavior modification, or to put it bluntly, moralism. The most tragic "either-or" category they have set up for themselves is this: faith in Christ as a Savior versus following Christ as an example. Many of its leading proponents assert that right living leads to right doctrine, thus reversing the Biblical priority of grace. But ethics are not what make Christianity to differ from other world religions. All world religions offer ethical programs that are remarkably similar to ours. But ethics/morals don't bring us into relationship with God unless you can perfectly keep them (James 2:10, Gal 3:10-12). In that case, you might need a helper, but you certainly don't need a Savior. What makes Christianity to differ is that it is the only way which acknowledges that its own adherents are rebels and without hope in themselves, that is, apart from the sovereign mercy of their Head, who procured salvation for them. All other religions rely on moral improvement and good works, but Christ has shown us that "there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." (Ecc 7:20) Trusting in Jesus as a moral example alone, trusting in our good works and the social justice we do, simply makes Jesus' Person and work of no effect, for we are ascribing the power to do those things to ourselves apart from His redeeming us. Thus it would appear that both the emergent and seeker sensitive churches are cut from the same moralistic cloth. If you are a young person considering either of these, remember that seeing Christ as merely an example and seeing church as a place to hear stories about how we are to live, apart from the new birth, is a man-centered and not a Christ-centered message and should be steered clear of as you would a poisonous viper.
Chapter Nine: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in the Purity of His Motivation
Among men, those who are beloved are often they who are able to make some return upon that love: we love the rich, because they can repay us by purchasing pleasant gifts for us, or the honorable, because we may obtain some greater dignity in the eyes of others by our association and friendship with them. Even in the case of truer love, there is often some lesser motivation mingled with it, as when a man truly loves a woman, and desires to please her and care for her, but he is also lonely, and wishes companionship for himself, or he longs for children, or desires the familiar intimacies of the married life, or many other such things.
But nowhere in all creation may be found a love so pure in its motivation as the love of Christ for his Church: he made all things and was by rights the heir of all creation; and even if he had never made anything, he was already fully satisfied, utterly self-sufficient, without need or want but entirely complacent and full of joy in the fellowship of the Trinity. Why then would he who was rich with every kind of possession and pleasure imaginable become poor for our sakes (2 Cor. 8:9)? Why would he leave his glorious dwelling place in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18), and become homeless, hungry, shivering, tired, poor, and wretched? What could he have to gain from us worms and wretches? It was only love, pure, divine, overwhelming love, that could have constrained him to lay aside the full expression of his divine glory for our salvation.
Chapter Eight: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in His Subjection of All Else to His Purpose of Redeeming Us.
When it comes to discerning the nature and degree of the loves and passions bound up in the souls of men, it is evident that, whenever any action they should perform is motivated by multiple desires or goals, any one of those goals or desires is lesser than it might have been. If, for example, I should drive into town to buy three or four different items, when no one of them alone would have been sufficient to motivate me to make the trip, I am showing that no one of those items is as important to me as another single item might be at another time, if that one item could compel me to make a trip just to acquire it alone. But still, there may be an object or goal more highly valued and desired than that one item alone for which I was willing to make a trip; and this may be shown by my willingness to devote a whole series of actions for the accomplishment of a single goal. I may value a high education, and perform many actions requisite to obtaining a degree from an acclaimed university. The number and quality of the actions and goods that I exchange for the accomplishment of this goal shows that it is very dear to me indeed. Or else, I may love a woman and make many trips and do many things with the single goal in mind of making her my wife. Because she is dearer to me than that one item I was willing to make a single trip for, I am therefore willing to make many trips in order to gain her. So then, if the goal or desire compelling my action is single, it evinces a greater love than if it is divided between various ends; and if that single goal or desire motivates many actions and sacrifices, it evinces a greater love than if it motivates one or two actions alone.
Chapter Seven: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in the Particularity with Which He Loved Us
When a man loves a woman deeply enough, he shows that love by taking her unto himself and solemnly vowing to have and to hold her alone, and to reject the advances and embraces of any other woman. If he proves unfaithful to his vows, and shares his love with other women, he has terribly offended the first woman of his love, and has wrought a great crime and offense. In a similar way, the greatness of the love of Christ is displayed in his willingness to take those alone whom the Father has given him and whom he knows by name, and to make them into his one, spotless bride, whom he loves with all his heart, and in favor of whom he will reject all others. He could have had any portion and inheritance in heaven or on the earth, but he has chosen his people as his portion, and in them he delights. From all eternity, he asked for this one people, and none other, to be his bride and inheritance (Psalm 2:8; 28:9; 33:12; 74:2; 78:71; 94:14); and he has never been unfaithful to this people in word or action or in the thoughts of his heart, but with a fierce and jealous persistence and particularity, he has wooed and pursued and won her as his glorious wife.
Chapter Six: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in the Constancy of His Affection
The unique and unrivaled greatness of the love of Christ for his Church may be seen very clearly in this, that of all husbands his love is the most faithful, constant, and unchanging. When men love, they may seem to have a love so great and passionate that it could never die, and they may love so deeply that they become sick and miserable whenever they are separated from their beloved, and feel as if they will die if they cannot look upon them. Amnon, the brother of Absalom, had such a love for his sister Tamar, but when his love had been consummated, it was immediately extinguished as a little spark separated from the fire, and he utterly loathed her instead (2 Sam. 13:1-19). How different is this love from the love of Christ! Even the best of human loves last but a lifetime, but his love was conceived before the world began, it was born with the dawning of human time, it grew to maturity with the climax of human history, and for all eternity, it will continue to increase in its infinite fullness, so that we might forever grow in our knowledge of its breadth and width and height and depth, and still never plumb the farthest reaches of his surpassing love for us. Truly has the beloved disciple proclaimed that Jesus, â€œhaving loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the endâ€ (John 13:1).
Chapter Five: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in the Manifold Riches He Has Given Us
Another consideration by which we may assure our hearts of the greatness of the love of Christ for us is this, that he has freely provided for us innumerable gospel blessings which are vast and rich beyond all measure. Even among men, we understand that love which is love indeed always seeks to give good and pleasing things to the beloved. If we say that we love our children, but when they need an egg or a piece of bread, we give them a scorpion instead, we have no true love for them at all (Luke 11:11-13). Love always seeks the good of the beloved, and the greater the proffered good, the greater the love must be which offers it. If this is the case, then how great beyond all understanding must the love of Christ be for us, for the riches he has given us in the gospel are immense, manifold, and precious beyond all understanding!
Chapter Four: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in the Extent to Which He Went in Making Us His Own
When we consider the love of men, we immediately realize that one thing in which the greatness of their love may be seen is the extent to which they are willing to go, and the labors they are ready to undertake, in order to win for themselves their beloved. It was a great love of Jacob for Rachel that he labored for her seven years, and they seemed but a few days (Gen. 29:18-20); but how much greater must the love of our Savior be for us, who for thirty-three years set his hand to unspeakably great and difficult labors and never looked back, until he had finally made us his own! But no, it was far longer than thirty-three years, even, that he undertook his immense labors to redeem us â€“ for from all eternity, before the worlds had been created, he solemnly undertook to make us his own, and for all of history he has been engaged in no other work but that.
Justification - is it a Process?
In this video below (which lasts approximately 31 minutes), Dr. James White responds to an audio presentation by Tim Staples who articulates the Roman Catholic view of justification, namely that it is a process. The Protestant and Roman Catholic views are clearly contrasted. - JS
Chapter Three: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in Our Unworthiness to be Loved
It is no strange thing when someone loves the beautiful and intelligent, the admirable and worthy. In fact, a man of great wisdom, courage, and charisma may even inspire many followers to give up their lives for his sake. But Christ's love is much greater than this, for when we were yet sinners, he died for us (Rom. 5:7-8). But consider more fully just how unworthy we are to be loved by the almighty Son of God: first, as mere creatures, we are infinitely below him in dignity by our very nature. We would think it an amazing thing if a powerful king or emperor paid any attention to us, or called us out from the crowds to enter into his private suites; but kings are our own kind, and have only a prominence of rank and position, not of essential nature. But Christ by his very nature is infinitely above us, and hence his love for us is far more amazing than any mere love of human to human could be. But not only are we by nature inferior to the Son of God, we are also sinful and disgusting in his sight; and not only have we sinned, which to Christ in his holiness is utterly loathsome (Psalm 119:104), but we have directed our sin personally against him (Psalm 51:4): we have rejected his kingly authority by violating his sovereign commands (1 Samuel 8:7); we have despised his infinite worth by forsaking the Fountain of living waters and hewing for ourselves broken cisterns (Jer. 2:12-13); we have perverted his glory and fashioned him into our own corrupt image (Rom. 1:21-23); and then, after flinging such great opprobrium at the most glorious Holy One, we have added insult to injury, by neither wanting nor seeking to be reconciled and forgiven (Rom. 3:11), and positively resisting the free advances of the Spirit, and the gracious and heartfelt cries of the Savior for our salvation (Mat. 23:37-39; Eph. 2:1-3). How great the love of the Savior must be, that he still loved us when we were so unworthy to be loved, and when we hated and despised him who alone deserves to be loved and worshiped!
The Thief on the Cross by Pastor John Samson
Luke 23: 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, â€œAre you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!â€ 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, â€œDo you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.â€ 42 And he said, â€œJesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.â€ 43 And he said to him, â€œTruly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.â€
I have often contemplated the potential scene in my mind as one by one, the proponents of all religions were given the opportunity of talking to the thief on the cross, and what they would say to him. This was a man who was a criminal, a notorious sinner, and definitely one whose so called "bad deeds' would outweigh the good ones. Being nailed to a cross negates any further opportunity for good works to be done. But it would be an interesting conversation, wouldn't it, to hear what each religionist might say to him? In every case (apart from perhaps universalism which teaches that all people will be saved regardless of their works) each religion would require the man to somehow come down from the cross to do something.
What would a spokeman for Islam say? How about a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness? What would a Buddhist say? or a New Age guru? How about a Roman Catholic? If each could speak to this man, what religious advice would or could they give to him for the purpose of being saved (however they even define what that means)? Some might say that all he could do would be to hope for mercy, but Christ, the biblical Christ gave him far more than just hope. In contrast to what all man made religious systems could give the man, Christ gave him full assurance of salvation - and not just eventual salvation after countless years in the fires of purgatory, but bliss and paradise that very day!
Certain religions would require baptism, others would require the man go through religious instruction and devotion of some sort, while others would ask him to do more good works before his death hoping that they might outweigh the bad ones. But here's my point, the man could never find salvation in those religious systems because he was stuck, pinned, nailed to a cross. His chance to help elderly people cross roads, or to give to charity or to live a life of service was gone. Nailed to a cross, works and service were no longer possible. His was a totally hopeless case.. except that crucified next to him was Someone who was able to save him by what He was doing, rather than what the man might do. Only the real biblical Jesus with the real biblical Gospel could announce to a criminal that before the day was over, he would be with Him in Paradise!
Chapter Two: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in the Unparalleled Broadness of its Essential Nature
The love of Christ is unique in that it is all the love of his infinite and divine nature; and it is also the tender and empathetic love of the true humanity he assumed for our sakes. There is no other love like this, nor could there ever be another such love from anyone, for there is no other god to love with infinite magnitude, and no other person of the triune godhead to take on flesh; and he, having assumed our nature, embraced it forever, with an incarnation that can never be repeated, but which will last for all eternity.
Chapter One: Paul's Prayer for the Church in Ephesians Three
This is the first chapter of my new book, The Greatness of the Love of Christ. I can think of no better theme about which to write than the theme of this book, and I am more excited about it than anything else I have written before. I hope God will use it to strengthen the faith and increase the joy of many of his saints. For the next few months, I plan to post chapters periodically.
1. An Explanation of the Prayer
At the beginning of the third chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul begins to formulate an intercessory prayer for the church in Ephesus, upon the basis of the rich truths of the gospel which he had just been revealing to them in the first two chapters; but before he is able to express his prayer, he is drawn aside again to the greatness of the gospel mystery, and exults in the message which he has been entrusted with bringing to the Gentiles. This message is the gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ, which in their depths and expansiveness had been hidden from the previous ages, but were finally being made known to all the world, viz., how all the nations of men, according to God's eternal purpose, were now being brought in to become full heirs of all the promises made to the saints, and how they had even more direct access to God the Father, and boldness to approach him such as even Abraham and Moses and other great men of God had never known. It is Paul's joy and passion to proclaim so great a gospel to every creature under heaven, not just so that many sinful men could come to know the free grace and boundless goodness of God, but so that, through this Church of redeemed sinners, the infinite and manifold wisdom of God might be displayed even before the highest angels and authorities in all creation.
Imagine that the most powerful emperor who ever lived had a wise, beautiful, noble, and well-beloved son, the very paragon of all that we could conceive of as royal glory; and imagine further that, in the filthiest slums of his poorest city, there lived a prostitute as lowly and destitute and unlovely and crippled as ever crawled about in the filth of squalor. Now, suppose this noble prince set his love on that lowly woman; and suppose that, fearful to terrify her by the greatness of his glory, he gave up all his riches and prestige, took upon himself rags, and wandered for years in the squalor surrounding her, living as she did, surviving on moldy crusts, sleeping in gutters, trembling in the frost; suppose that he pursued her in this way for many years, and when she despised him he bore with it all patiently, and he gave himself up to care for and provide for her so that he might win her love. And suppose that, in doing this, he degraded himself so utterly in the eyes of his kingdom that all who had trembled before him, and bowed down in terror when he walked by, now only laughed and mocked at him, they spat upon and beat and bruised him; and finally, when they set their evil hearts to abuse this woman whom he had loved, he set himself between them, and gave up his life protecting her â€“ supposing all that, do you think you have formed a fitting picture of the love of Christ for his Church? No, you have not even scratched the surface, for the descent of this great Prince is as nothing to the descent that Christ made from a glory which far exceeds all the light and momentary splendor of earthly kings, so that he might pursue and win and love us forever.
Caution: Make haste slowly...
The Manhattan Declaration - I do not feel I can sign it, sharing the sentiments of written statements of men like Dr. R. C. Sproul on the matter here and Dr. John MacArthur here. On the other hand, esteemed men like Dr. Al Mohler and Dr. Ligon Duncan are amongst the nearly 300,000 people who have signed it. The document, written to bring about a united purpose, can now possibly become a source of division, even within the ranks of those who have a firm grasp on the gospel. The question now is "how should we respond to precious brothers who take a different view on the matter (without throwing them under the bus)?" Dr. James White takes some time here to respond to this question. - JS
What must I do?
"What must I do to be saved!?"
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31)
"...Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?...
If you would enter life, keep the commandments." Matthew 19:15-17
Notice the to different answers. One asks about salvation ... which means he sees his own desperate need and spiritual bankruptcy. The second question asks about what to do to get something? Jesus answers with the requirement of perfect obedience to God's Law.
As Luther said, the law is for the proud and the gospel for the brokenhearted.
Casting the Gospel Seed Far and Wide
We are to cast the seed of the gospel far and wide, indiscriminately to all people. But the ground of people's hearts are naturally hardened. The gospel seed will fall on hard ground unless God plows up the fallow ground of our hearts... unless the Spirit unplugs our deaf ears to hear the gospel. So the Spirit and word work together. The word by itself is not enough. The Spirit must apply it to our hearts. Scripture proof: 1 Thess 1:4,5 says "He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction."
Roman Catholics, the Gospel, and Salvation
Questioner to Dr. R. C. Sproul "How do you feel about the Vatican and its doctrine? Can you believe in this and still be saved?"
RC Sproul: "If they are asking 'Can you be a member of the Roman Catholic Church and be saved?' I would say 'without question, yes.' If you understand fully the doctrines of the Vatican and embrace them, then I would say 'No you can't' - because to embrace the teaching of Rome, clearly understood, you would have to repudiate the gospel - particularly the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which contrary to the press releases of the accord with the Lutherans and all of that, the Roman Catholic Church has not changed its teaching from the Council of Trent one bit. The Council of Trent (the middle of the 16th Century) was where they set forth their condemnation of the Reformation view of justification and set forth the expression of their own doctrine of justification.
Questioner: "which is?"
RC Sproul: "well its complicated.. but real quickly, the doctrine of justification in Rome involves several elements. It begins with baptism (sacramentally) where in the sacrament of baptism, justifying grace is infused into the soul of the recipient (its called the righteousness of Christ). It is infused ex opere operato (through the working of the sacrament). That infusion of grace places the infant in a state of grace and two things have to happen: one, they must cooperate with that grace and assent to that grace to be justified, (coopere et assentara are the exact words of Trent) to such a point that righteousness inheres in the soul for them to be saved. Now as long as righteousness inheres in the soul, you are in a state of justification (you are in a state of grace) until or unless you commit mortal sin. Mortal sin is called mortal sin because it kills the grace of justification in your soul. Now here's also what is spelled out at Trent - you can commit mortal sin while you still have authentic faith - so you can have faith and not have justification - so faith alone will never suffice. They are not saying that you will be justified without faith because they require that you have faith and faith performs three functions. Faith is determined at Trent to be the fundamentum (the foundation), the initium (the initiation), and the rodex, the root of justification - so you've got to have faith, but faith alone will not do it. Now if you commit mortal sin, you don't get re-baptized, even though you have lost the grace of justification, you go to the second plank of justification which is the sacrament of penance, defined by Trent as the sacrament for those who have made shipwreck of their souls. In the sacrament of penance you have to make confession, you have to get priestly absolution, and then you have to do your works of satisfaction which are necessary to gain meritum de congruo (or congruous merit) - merit that does not oblige God to redeem you but makes it fitting for God to restore you to a state of grace... and as long as you stay then in that state of grace and you have inherent righteousness (righteousness that is in you) then you will be saved.. but if you die with any impurity on your soul, you go to purgatory (the purging place) until the impurity is removed.
The Protestant and I believe Biblical view is that the moment you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ all that He is and all that He has becomes yours in the sight of God, and that the righteousness by which we are justified is not our inherent righteousness but strictly and solely the righteousness that Luther said is extra nos (outside of us) a iustisium alienum, an alien righteousness, somebody else's righteousness, that's the gospel, that what saves me is not my inherent righteousness but the righteousness of Christ that was performed in His life, not in my life, in His life, and the moment I put my faith and trust in Him, I am redeemed forever. I don't have to worry about purgatory, I don't have to worry about works of congrous merit, I don't have to worry about inherent righteousness - I mean God is going to make me inherently righteous in heaven, but my justification does not rely upon that. It is not the gospel to go tell people, here, the grace of God will help you become inherently righteous, why don't you come and join our church and we will give you the sacrament of grace to help you. That's not the gospel."
Transcript from a Conference Question and Answer Session with Dr. R. C. Sproul - Pittsburgh, 2000
John Calvin on the Covenant of Works & Grace
The following is an excerpt from Calvin's concise summary of the Christian faith for ordinary people entitled Truth for all Time.
When he taught that the whole law is contained in two articles, our Lord Jesus Christ declared to us clearly enough what is the real purpose of all the commandments of the Law. The first article is that we should love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, with all our soul and all our strength. The second article is that we should love our neighbor as much as we love ourself. And he has taken this interpretation from the Law itself, for the first part is found in Deuteronomy 6:5, and we see the other in Leviticus 19:18. There, then, is the standard and pattern of a holy and righteous life, and even a most perfect picture of righteousness; so that if someone expresses the Law of God in his life, he will not lack before the Lord anything of what is required of perfection. To bear this out, the God promises to those who will have carried out his Law not only the great blessings of the present life which are referred to in Leviticus 26:3-13 and Deuteronomy 28:1-14, but also the reward of eternal life (Lev. 18:5).
On the other hand, God announces the retribution of eternal death for those who will not have accomplished by their deeds all that is commanded in this Law (Deuternomy 28:15-68). Also Moses, having made the Law known, takes heaven and earth to witness that he has just put before the people good and evil, life and death (Deut 30:19-20). But although the Law shows the path ot life, yet we have to see how it can benefit us. Of course, if our will were fully trained and disposed to obey God's will, just to know the Law would be more than enough to save us. As it is, however, our carnal and corrupt nature fights all the time, and in every way, against the Spiritual Law of God. The teaching of this Law does not improve our nature in any way at all. so it is that this same Law (which was given for salvation if it found hearers who were good and capable of keeping it) turns into something which results in sin and death. For since we are all convicted of being transgressors of the Law, the more clearly the Law reveals to us the righteousness of God, the more clearly, on the other hand, it uncovers our unrighteousness. Consequently, the more the Law catches us going further into transgression, the heavier will be the judgment of God of which it finds us guilty. The promise of eternal life being removed, all that remains for us is the curse which, by the Law, falls on us all.
The evidence given by the Law prooves the unrighteousness and transgression of all of us. Its purpose in this, however, it not that we might fall into despair nor, being totally discouraged, that we should founder in ruin. Admittedly, the Apostle testifies that we are all condemned by the Law's judgment, so that every mouth may be closed and the entire world be found guilty before God (Rom 3:19). However, he himself teaches elsewhere that God has imprisoned all men under the power of unbelief, not in order to ruin them or let them perish, but that he might have mercy on all (Rom 11:32). Having then used the Law to tell us of our weakness and impurity, the Lord comforts us through trust in his power and mercy. And it is in Christ, his Son, that he reveals himself as being benevolent and favourably disposed to us. In the Law God only appears as the rewarder of perfect righteousness - of which we are completely bereft - and, on the other hand, as the upright and strict Judge of sins, in Christ, his face is full of grace and gentleness, and shines on miserable, unworthy sinners. For this is the admirable display of his infinite love that he gave to us: he delivered up his own son for us and, in Him, opened to us all the treasures of his mercy and goodness.
Excerpt from Truth for all Time by John Calvin
The Covenant of Grace (Quote) by Thomas Boston
â€œAs a narrow vessel cannot contain the ocean, so neither can the finite creature comprehend the infinite good: but no measure shall be set to the enjoyment, but what ariseth from the capacity of the creature. So that, although there be degrees of glory, yet all shall be filled. . . God will be all in all to the saints: He will be their life, health, riches, honour, peace, and all good things. He will communicate Himself freely to them. . . There will be no veil between God and them, to be drawn aside; but His fulness shall ever stand open to them.â€
- Thomas Boston
A little less conversation, a little more action
One of the observations made about reformed people (from those on the other side of the aisle, so to speak) is that while they are busy about the task of getting out there with the Gospel, the reformed folk stay in their ivory towers teaching seminars on Divine election. Of course, there are wonderful exceptions to this, but I think in general, the criticism is valid - they have a point. Historically, of course, it was the truth of Divine election which propelled the entire missionary movement around the world because of the Scripture bourne conviction that Christ had "other sheep - not of this fold" in distant lands. Yet I believe in general, many modern day Reformed Christians and Churches could be quite accurately described as "guilty as charged." Thank God for accuracy, for hermeneutics and exegesis.. but what about Evangelism? There seems to be little passion or compassion for lost souls. Revive us oh Lord!
Where are the great Reformed Evangelists in our day, so prominent in former eras? Are we able to name even one? Where are choice servants of God - men like George Whitefield?
Sometimes it takes an Arminian Evangelist to wake us up to the task at hand, like the one I read this morning (unnamed):
"If we want New Testament revival we should study the New Testament pattern. If we take Acts as the true ideal, then Acts also reveals the formula. It is absolutely clear that it was by the preaching of the Gospel. That is clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 1:21. â€˜It has pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believeâ€™. They prayed, but they asked God to bless their evangelism --- not for Him to do what He had told them to do. People pray â€˜do it again, Lordâ€™. But WE should â€˜do againâ€™ what the first Christians did... They preached, witnessed and worked as if it all depended on them, and prayed as if it all depended on God...
Look at Acts 5:42 â€˜Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christâ€™. Paulâ€™s witness in Ephesus caused the whole city to riot. No wonder! He said â€˜I taught you publicly and from house to house. For three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tearsâ€™. Even slaves found ways to preach Christ.
Timothy is seen as a bishop today, but Paul told him to do the work of an evangelist, not just pray for revival. The early church was alive and lively, always in action. That is what passing from death to life meant for them. They lived! Quickened! Revived! ... We are â€œco-workers together with Christâ€ â€“ what glorious partnership."
Without doubt, God is Sovereign in the matter of election, and yet He has ordained that we Christians preach the Gospel to every creature. God has His ends (His elect coming to Christ - Romans 8 and 9), but He uses means to achieve them (the preaching of the good news - Romans 10). How shall they hear without a preacher? ...and how about you and me? How long has it been since you shared the Gospel with someone? Did you need to hear this today?
Mathetes to Diognetus
One of the earliest Christian letters in existence, likely written very shortly after the death of the last apostle, is anonymous, addressed to a certain Diognetus by one who simply calls himself, "Mathetes," that is, a "Disciple". Diognetus is an unbeliever, and hence the letter is primarily evangelistic. So what about the gospel would so early a Christian emphasize, in his endeavors to spread the good news to others? Nothing, of course, but the "Great Exchange"! Consider his following words:
"But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had clearly been shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great longsuffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on the burden of our iniquities, He gave His Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!"
So where are they who claim that justification only by an imputed, external righteousness is a doctrine new to the Protestant Reformation?
Is the Reformation Over?
"Rome has always taught that justification is based upon faith, on Christ, and on grace. The difference, however, is that Rome continues to deny that justification is based on Christ alone, received by faith alone, and given by grace alone. The difference between these two positions is the difference between salvation and its opposite." - see Dr. R. C. Sproul's article here.
The Necessity of the Work of the Holy Spirit to Man's Salvation by J.C. Ryle
I invite special attention to this part of the subject. Let it be a settled thing in our minds that the matter we are considering in this paper is no mere speculative question in religion, about which it signifies little what we believe. On the contrary, it lies at the very foundation of all saving Christianity. Wrong about the Holy Spirit and His officesâ€”and we are wrong to all eternity!
The necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit arises from the total corruption of human nature. We are all by nature "dead in sins." (Eph. 2:1.) However shrewd, and clever, and wise in the things of this world, we are all dead towards God. The eyes of our understanding are blinded. We see nothing aright. Our wills, affections, and inclinations are alienated from Him who made us. "The carnal mind is enmity against God." (Rom. 8:7.) We have naturally neither faith, nor fear, nor love, nor holiness. In short, left to ourselves, we would never be saved.
Gospel-Driven: Good News People in a Bad News World by Michael Horton
Gospel-Driven: Good News People in a Bad News World
by Michael Horton
Reformation Society of Oregon Spring Theology Conference!
Session #1: The Front-Page God
Session #2: The Promise-Driven Life
Session #3: Feasting in a Fast-Food World
Session #4: Question and Answer
Sola Gratia - Grace Alone
The religions of man often like to bring grace into the equation. Human works always play a role in obtaining salvation in these man made formulas. An appeal is often made that although works (human actions) must be involved before salvation can occur, it is still "grace alone" that saves because it is God alone who is the ultimate source of power for these works. They say that God (in the end) therefore gets the glory for the works we do to save ourselves.
While it is true that for the Christian, God's grace empowers us for Christian service (sanctification), the Bible makes it abundantly clear that the works we do play no role whatsoever in our salvation (justification) (Romans 4:4,5). In contrast, Rome confuses justification with sanctification for in their scheme, only when a man is fully sanctified will be be declared right with God (or justified). Yet Romans 5:1 declares that justification is a past tense event for the believing Christian - having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2 8, 9 also declares, "For by grace you have been saved ï»¿through faith. And this is not your own doing; ï»¿it is the gift of God, not a result of works, ï»¿so that no one may boast." According to the Bible, for grace to truly be grace, works cannot be mixed in. Romans 11:6 says, "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace."
In contrast with all man made concepts, the Protestant Reformers heralded the message of "Sola Gratia," or Grace Alone. There was no confusion as to the meaning of the term. Sola Gratia meant grace at the start, grace to the end, grace in the middle, grace without fail, grace without mixture, grace without addition, grace that allows no boasting, grace that precludes all glorying but in the Lord. All false concepts of grace would seek to eliminate at least one of these clauses, but the biblical Gospel stands firm. Unless Grace alone is understood in this manner, man will always have some room for boasting.
The Reformers understood that man's only contribution to the table of redemption is in fact his sin. Man's will is not a deciding factor (Romans 9:16) because it is inseparately linked with his heart which is desperately wicked and while still in the flesh, he cannot submit to God (Rom 8: 7,8). It takes a new heart - a regenerated or born again heart - to enter or even see the kingdom of God (John 3). As Martin Luther said, ""If any man ascribes salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knows nothing of grace, and he has not learnt Jesus Christ aright." Even though we are justified by simple faith, without any human works or human merit involved, even this faith is the gift of God and not a reason for which to boast, for any boasting of man robs God of His glory. The works we do are the fruit and not the root of our salvation. The fruit is necessary to affirm that the faith is genuine, but Jesus Christ is the Savior who saves through faith alone - plus nothing! Only when Sola Gratia is properly understood does Soli Deo Gloria (the fifth sola) maintain its integrity. The issue has never been the necessity of grace but the sufficiency of grace. All man made religion believes grace is necessary but cannot embrace grace's sufficiency, and because of this, stands in opporition to the only Gospel that saves.
Sola Gratia, Soli Deo Gloria. It is because saves us by His Grace Alone that all the glory for it goes to God alone. - JS
The American Captivity of the Church by Dr. Michael Horton
What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over a half century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia, all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, â€œYes, sirâ€ and â€œNo, maâ€™am,â€ and the churches would be full every Sunday . . . where Christ is not preached.
It is easy to become distracted from Christ as the only hope for sinners. Where everything is measured by our happiness ratherthan by Godâ€™s holiness, the sense of our being sinners becomes secondary, if not offensive. If we are good people who have lost our way but with the proper instructions and motivation can become a better person, we need only a life coach, not a redeemer. We can still give our assent to a high view of Christ and the centrality of his person and work, but in actual practice we are being distracted from â€œlooking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faithâ€ (Heb. 12:2). A lot of the things that distract us from Christ these days are even good things. In order to push us offpoint,all that Satan has to do is throw several spiritual fads,moral and political crusades, and other â€œrelevanceâ€ operations into our field of vision. Focusing the conversation on usâ€”our desires, needs, feelings, experience, activity, and aspirationsâ€”energizes us. At last, now weâ€™re talking about something practical and relevant.
God Receives Me on the Footing of His Perfection
Poor as my faith in this Substitute may be, it places me at once in the position of one to whom "God imputes righteousness without works." God is willing to receive me on the footing of his perfection; if I am willing to he thus received, in the perfection of another with whom God is well pleased, the whole transaction is completed. I am justified by his blood. "As he is, so am I (even) in this world" even now, with all my imperfections and evils.
To be entitled to use another's name when my own name is worthless, to be allowed to wear another's raiment because my own is torn and filthy, to appear before God in another's personâ€“â€“the person of the Beloved Sonâ€“â€“this is the summit of all blessing. The sin-bearer and I have exchanged names, robes, and persons! I am now represented by him, my own personality having disappeared. He now appears in the presence of God for me (Hebrews 9:24). All that makes him precious and dear to the Father has been transferred to me. His excellency and glory are seen as if they were mine. I receive the love and the fellowship and the glory as if I had earned them all. So entirely one am I with the sin bearer that God treats me not merely as if I had not done the evil that I have done, but as if I had done all the good which I have not done, but which my substitute has done. In one sense I am still the poor sinner, once under wrath; in another I am altogether righteous and shall be so forever because of the perfect one in whose perfection I appear before God. Nor is this a false pretense or a hollow fiction which carries no results or blessings with it. It is an exchange which has been provided by the Judge and sanctioned by law; an exchange of which any sinner upon earth may avail himself and be blest.
Excerpt from The Everlasting Righteousnessby Horatius Bonar
Defending Sola Fide - A Historical Overview
The youtube video below is an overview of the historic and present day attacks against the doctrine of sola fide (justification by faith alone). Lasting approx. 72 minutes, this presentation made on Saturday, February 7, 2009 by Dr. James White is excellent for both its clarity and insight and I recommend it highly. - JS
Our Ongoing Need of Redemption as Christians
â€œHis divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.â€ (2 Peter 1:3-8)
"Fear, lest, by forgetting what you are by nature, you also forget the need that you have of continual pardon, support, and supplies from the Spirit of grace, and so grow proud of your own abilities, or of what you have received from God, and fall into condemnation ... Fear, and that will make you little in your own eyes, keep you humble, put you upon crying to God for protection, and upon lying at his footstool for mercy; that will also make you have low thoughts of your own parts, your own doings and cause you to prefer your brother before yourself. And so you will walk in humiliation and be continually under the teachings of God, and under His conduct in your way, God will teach the humble. "The meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach His way." - Psalm 25:9 (John Bunyan - The Fear of God, page 96)
When the Lord opened my heart to the gospel in December of 1985, He set me on a radical new course, having delivered me from a wild life which was characterized by various anti-social behaviors, selfishness, drugs, crime, and the occult. Out of the most unlikely place, as I was reading the Scripture, the Lord revealed to me my lost condition: that I was without hope save in the mercy of Jesus Christ alone. In a moment, the Holy Spirit graciously united me to Christ, adopted me into Godâ€™s family, turning me from my idols to serve the Living and True God. I reflect back with awe as I consider that during the honeymoon period of my newly granted life in Christ, how the Lord actually poured out on me an extraordinary grace to overcome some of my previous bad habits and gave me a remarkable heart for prayer, especially for the lost. With zeal and great affection my greatest desire was to follow and obey the Lord. He stirred my heart to pray for a couple hours each morning as I arose, knowing that I must call down blessing from God if I was to have any power to live effectively during this age. And the result was much fruitfulness and effective personal and corporate ministry to the glory of God.
I Believe White is Right to say Wright is Wrong
2007 saw the release of a book by John Piper called "The Future of Justification - A Response to N. T. Wright." I found this to be a well researched, thoroughly biblical and very much convincing treatment of the subject. It would seem however, that the battle for the truth of justification is not about to disappear over the horizon any time soon. This should not surprise us. If sola fide (justification by faith alone) is the very heart of the biblical gospel (and I believe it is), then we would expect to hear its truth challenged in each generation as meddling demons and those who speak for them raise their voice in hostility and contempt against it. Indeed Martin Luther anticipated just this in his own day. In that both the truth of God and the depravity of man has not changed one iota since then, the long battle continues, yet the source of the attacks can be very surprising at times.
June 2009 sees the anticipated release of a new book by N. T. Wright, published by IVP, called "Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision" in which Wright attacks the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone, based on the imputed righteousness of Christ alone. This is certainly a time to saturate ourselves in the biblical Gospel - to know what we believe and why we believe it. Here is the heads up from Dr. James White on the issue.
Martin Luther - "This doctrine [justification by faith alone] is the head and the cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour. For no one who does not hold this article or, to use Paul's expression, this 'sound doctrine' (Titus 2:1) is able to teach aright in the church or successfully to resist any adversary . . . this is the heel of the Seed that opposes the old serpent and crushes its head. That is why Satan, in turn, cannot but persecute it."
"Whoever departs from the article of justification does not know God and is an idolater . . . For when this article has been taken away, nothing remains but error, hypocrisy, godlessness, and idolatry, although it may seem to be the height of truth, worship of God, holiness, etc. . . If the article of justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost at the same time."
"When the article of justification has fallen, everything has fallen. Therefore it is necessary constantly to inculcate and impress it, as Moses says of his Law (Deut. 6:7); for it cannot be inculcated and urged enough or too much. Indeed, even though we learn it well and hold to it, yet there is no one who apprehends it perfectly or believes it with a full affection and heart. So very trickish is our flesh, fighting as it does against the obedience of the spirit."
Bad News: Santa Claus is coming to town
Abandon Despair and Banish Your Laments
Man was created to glorify God & Enjoy Him forever
"Worthy are you, our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things." (Rev 4:11) "Do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31)
Man has failed to glorify God & is under His just condemnation
"For all have sinned..." (Rom 3:23) The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction" (2 Thes 1:9)
Jesus fully bore the wrath and suffered the punishment sinners deserve
Not wishing that sinners perish forever, God determined to save a people for Himself in the Eternal Son who became a man and lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve. God loves sinners and sent His Son to be the wrath absorbing sacrifice for their sin (1 John 4:10; John 6:37) he "...gave His life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45) & "rose again" from the dead (2 Cor 5:15) on their behalf.
All who, by the grace of God, turn to Jesus in submissive faith are forgiven
If you confess you are a sinner in need of Christ then God has begun to work in you a life-changing, eternally satisfying relationship with Himself! "Repent and believe the gospel (Mk 1:5) "In Your presnece is fullness of Joy (Ps 16:11). If your trust is in Jesus alone for your salvation (that is, you have no hope save for Christ's mercy) then you can be assured that your sins are forgiven and He has granted you eternal life.
Billy Graham - 50 years ago
Church History did not start with Billy Graham but as this video of a sermon on "the Great Judgment" 50 years ago shows, God certainly used him mightily both at home and abroad, as the simple Gospel thundered from his lips.
Steve Camp wrote on his blog: My father worked with Billy in the early days and helped launch his ministry in radio around the country. This is the evangelist/Bible preacher I so appreciate. My friend, the late Stephen Olford, told me once of his early encounter with Billy before the Lord granted him a wider audience to preach to. He said that Billy's preaching was average, his understanding of biblical truths ordinary, and the results almost nonexistent. But they embarked together on a journey spiritually over the next several weeks of confession of and repentance of sin; and a concentrated study of God's Word and long seasons of prayer.
I will never forget what Dr. Olford then said to me, "Steve, for reasons known only to heaven, the next time Billy preached the Holy Spirit was at work; people came and filled the churches; and before the end of the sermon could even be concluded, they were streaming down the aisles in repentance of their sins to receive and follow the Lord Jesus Christ."
How I treasured hearing this message this evening and I pray it will encourage your soul as well. Oh for THAT Dr. Graham to be duplicated once again in today's young men of God seeking to serve the Lord Jesus! There was never the mark in those crusades of the sooty ordure of the culturally driven preachers like there is today. On the contrary: the Word preached faithfully and the gospel presented clearly.
True biblical ministry is not defined by the times, but by the truth of God's Word. It was enough then... and it should be enough in ministry today as well.
Christ Alone Sufficient
Remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves theeâ€“it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves theeâ€“it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrumentâ€“it is Christâ€™s blood and merits; therefore, look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou doest that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee downâ€¦There is one thing which we all of us too much becloud in our preaching, though I believe we do it very unintentionallyâ€“namely, the great truth that it is not prayer, it is not faith, it is not our doings, it is not our feelings upon which we must rest, but upon Christ, and on Christ alone. We are apt to think that we are not in a right state, that we do not feel enough, instead of remembering that our business is not with self, but Christ. Let me beseech thee, look only to Christ; never expect delieverance from self, from ministers, or from any means of any kind apart from Christ; keep thine eye simply on Him; let his death, His agonies, His groans, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look for Him; when thou liest down at night look for Him. (The Forgotten Spugeon, Iain Murray, pg. 42.)
"...the gospel is news about what God has already been done for you, rather than instruction and advice about what you are to do for God. The primacy of his work, not our work, is part of the essence of faith. In other religions, God reveals to us how we can find or achieve salvation. In Christianity, God achieves salvation for us. The gospel brings news primarily, rather than instruction. " ...the gospel is all about historic events, and thus it has a public character. "It identifies Christian faith as news that has significance for all people, indeed for the whole world, not merely as esoteric understanding or insight." [Brownson, p. 46] ...if Jesus is not risen from the dead, Christianity does not "work". The gospel is that Jesus died and rose for us. If the historic events of his life did not happen, then Christianity does not "work" for the good news is that God has entered the human "now" (history) with the life of the world to come....the gospel is news about what God has done in history to save us, rather than advice about what we must do to reach God. The gospel is news that Jesus' life, death, and resurrection in history has achieved our salvation...Jesus does not just bring good news; he is the good news." - Tim Keller
Christâ€™s all-sufficiency means, by implication, that we are insufficient of ourselves. Indeed the Scripture says â€œNot that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.â€ 2 Corinthians 3:5
The truth of the gospel
This coming weekend, God willing, I will be preaching at the three weekend services at a large reformed Church in Tucson, Arizona called Faith Community Church. I normally would seek to exegete one main Bible passage but this time I will endeavor to preach a topical sermon on the theme of "the truth of the Gospel." It is the custom in this Church to provide extensive sermon notes for those in the pew so that they can follow along the pastor's/preacher's sermon outline and have it to take home with them. Because of this I have been asked to send these notes ahead of time in an e-mail so that they might make copies and have them ready for the people. It's after midnight now on Friday morning and I have finally finished writing out these notes. The thought ocurred to me that if I post these notes here, perhaps those who read them may be encouraged afresh to stand for gospel truth in our day. Please bear in mind that although these notes may seem full, this is still just a skeleton outline of the sermon. I am trusting God to provide meat on the bones, so to speak, as He feeds His people when the word of God is proclaimed. I would very much value your prayers in this regard. God bless you - Rev. John Samson
THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL
We live in a relativistic age when the very idea of truth and certainty is denied. We constantly hear â€œthere are no absolutes!!!â€ â€“ except of course that this itself is an absolute statement.. It is considered the height of arrogance and pride to say â€œI know the truthâ€ about something. It is far more palatable to modern tastes to suggest merely that truth is mysterious and that none amongst us can be certain of anything. This seems far more humble, at least on the surface anyway.. and on a human level, it certainly helps us all get along to say â€œyou have your truth, I have mine â€“ and what is true for you may not be true for me, but I certainly respect your truthâ€¦â€ But thereâ€™s a big problem with this when we consider that God Himself, Truth personified, has claimed to reveal Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ and in His Word, the Bible. This speaks of truth that is true, whether or not we believe it, or as Dr. Francis Schaefer called it, "true truth."
Is Jesus really the only way?
(thoughts and ideas on sharing the gospel from a Reformed perspective)
Is Jesus really the only way? In an environment of such plurality and diversity this really seems an implausible or even arrogant claim of Christians. When confronted with the exclusive claims of Christianity, the question on many people's minds is how can Christians be so narrow as to believe that all non-Christians will be excluded from heaven? There are plenty of good people who are not Christians. Do Christians think they are better than others? So the question often put to Christians is what about a person, a good person who has been good all their life ... will they go to heaven?
Actually, Jesus himself answered this question. When asked by a rich young ruler what must he do to gain eternal life, Jesus answered: "If you want to enter life, obey the commandments" (Matt 19:17). So Jesus himself makes it clear that a good person who obeys all of God's commands would merit or qualify for eternal life. This includes all good people of all time from all nations, peoples, races and languages. The point is that if anyone could obey all God's commandments, they will live (also see Rom 2:6-8). So in answer to the question, yes a good person who has done good all their life would merit eternal life. The Scripture declares, however, that there is no one on earth who fits that description (Rom 3:9-18). There is no one who does not sin when measured against the holiness and majesty of God. That means you ... and that means me ... yes, all of us have utterly failed to follow the law God has given us. Only Jesus Christ alone has obeyed all of God's commands and earned a place at the right hand of God (Hebrews 4:15). You see, it is always important to look at context, for after Jesus tells the rich young ruler, "If you want to enter life, obey the commandments", He then goes on to explain but "With man this is impossible..." (Matt 19:26) So it is very important to note that Jesus teaches that the first prerequisite of eternal life in God, is when by God's grace, we recognize our utter impotence to save ourselves by human effort due to our moral corruption. This slavery we have to our rebellion renders it impossible to obey God's commands. In fact Jesus saved his greatest criticism of people on earth for the Pharisees because they believed and trusted in their own righteousness and moral ability to please God.
Lord AND Savior: Just an Observation
As Christians we sometimes forget we are desperate sinners, thus fail to see that we need an ongoing Savior. In light of this, we must never see Jesus as Lord, and not at the same time, as Savior ... even after conversion. The converse is also true since Lord and Savior are inseparably intertwined and come as a package. Seeing Jesus only as Lord (emerging church) leads to moralism and so we judge ourselves by our morals and activism -- where we inevitably compare ourselves to others, and boasting or envy is usually the unintended consequence. Our personal virtue functionally becomes a savior. On ther other hand, if we only view Jesus as Savior (Grace Evangelical Society, Zane Hodges), when we come to faith it leads to antinomianism and a weak, once saved, always saved mentality prevails, which fails to see the necessity of obedience and good works to demonstrate the reality of the gospel at work in us.
Jesus Made a Wrath Absorbing Sacrifice for Sinners
Some points you may want to keep in mind when explaining the story of redemption to others.
Man was created to glorify God & Enjoy Him forever
"Worthy are you, our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things." (Rev 4:11) "Do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31)
Man has failed to glorify God & is under His just condemnation
"For all have sinned..." (Rom 3:23) The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction" (2 Thes 1:9)
Jesus Bore the wrath and suffered the punishment sinners deserve
Not wishing that sinners perish forever, God determined to save a people for Himself in the Eternal Son who became a man and lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve. God loves sinners and sent Son to the the wrath absorbing sacrifice for their sin (1 John 4:10; John 6:37) he "...gave His life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45) & "rose again" from the dead (2 Cor 5:15) on their behalf.
All who, by the grace of God, turn to Jesus in repent submissive faith are forgiven & begin a life-changing, eternally satisfying relationship with God!
"Repent and believe the gospel (Mk 1:5) "In Your presnece is fullness of Joy (Ps 16:11)
Mark Dever on Doctrinal Discernment and the Gospel
The Gospel is Historical
What does it mean when we say that the gospel is historical?
Dr. Tim Keller explains:
The gospel is historical . . . The word “gospel” shows up twice [1 Peter 1:1-12, 1:22-2:12]. Gospel actually means “good news.” You see it spelled out a little bit when it says “he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. Why do we say that the gospel is good news? Some years ago, I heard a tape series I am sure was never put into print by Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones. It was an evening sermon series on 1 Corinthians 15. He clarified how the Gospel is based on historical events in how the religion got its start. He said there was a big difference between advice and news. The Gospel, he would say, is good news, but not good advice. Here’s what he said about that: “Advice is counsel about something that hasn’t happened yet, but you can do something about it. News is a report about something that has happened which you can’t do anything about because it has been done for you and all you can do is to respond to it.”
So he says think this out: here’s a king, and he goes into a battle against an invading army to defend his land. If the king defeats the invading army, he sends back to the capital city messengers, envoys, very happy envoys. He sends back good newsers. And what they come back with is a report. They come back and they say: It’s been defeated and it’s been all done. Therefore respond with joy and now go about your lives in this peace which has been achieved for you. But if he doesn’t defeat the invading army, and the invading army breaks through, the king sends back military advisers and says . . . “Marksmen over here and the horseman over there, and we will have to fight for our lives.” Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones says that every other religion sends military advisers to people. Every other religion says that if you want to achieve salvation, you will have to fight for your life. Every other religion is sending advice saying “here are the rites, here are the rituals, here’s the transformation of the consciousness and here are the laws and the regulations. Marksmen over here and horsemen over there and we are going to fight for our lives.” We send heralds; we send messengers and not military advisers. Isn’t that clarifying? It’s just incredibly clarifying. And it’s not like there’s nothing to do about it, my goodness. Both the messenger and the military adviser get an enormous response. One is a response of joy and the other one is a response of fear. All other religions give advice and they drive everything you do with fear . . . as you know, when you hear the gospel, when you hear the message that it’s all been done for you, it’s a historical event that has happened, your salvation is accomplished for you, what do you want to do? You want obey the Ten Commandments, you want to pray, and you want to please the one that did this for you.
If, on the other hand, military advisers say you have to live a really good life if you want to get into heaven, what do you do? You want to pray and you want to obey the Ten Commandments. It looks the same, doesn’t it? But for two radically different reasons: One is joy and the other one is fear. In the short run, they look alike. But in the long run, over here we have burn out and self-righteousness and guilt and all sorts of problems. And that’s fascinating. But having said that, what’s the ministry implication? The ministry implication is this: the significance of preaching, of proclamation, of declarative preaching, is irreplaceably central in Gospel ministry. Declarative preaching is irreplaceably central.Why? If basically we are sending people “how to”, if we are saying here’s the “how to” to live the right way, if that’s the primary message, I am not sure words are necessarily the best thing to send. You want to send a model. If I was to teach an advanced seminar on preaching (and I never have) I would make everybody read CS Lewis’ Studies in Words. It’s amazing because we are wordsmiths and he shows you how important it is to craft your words properly. The last chapter is called “At the Fringe of Language” and he says language can’t do everything. He says that one of the things language cannot do is describe complex operations. On the other hand, when it comes to describing how, to explain to somebody that Joshua Chamberlain, without any ammunition, charged down Little Round Top in an incredible, risky adventure at the height of the Battle of Gettysburg, and as a result changed the course of history. You don’t show people that, you tell them that. It’s something that happened, you describe it. You tell them that. If you are going to give them how-tos, very often what you want is modeling and dialogue, action and reflection and so forth.
Therefore, if you believe the gospel is good news, declarative preaching (verbal proclaiming) will always be irreplaceably central to what we do. However, if you subscribe to the assertion that the gospel is simply good advice on how to live a life that changes people and connects to God . . . dialogue would be alright. Stories and modeling and reflection would be more important. In other words, you would believe what some people would quip: “proclaim the gospel, use words if necessary”. You’ve probably heard that. That shows, I think, that they don’t quite understand what the gospel is all about.
Jesus - the Powerful and Perfect Savior
Dr. James White's 10 minute closing statement in a debate with George Bryson on Calvinism.
Visitor: You still must someday deal with the achilles heal of your theology. How do you reconcile "For God so loved the world that He gave his only Begotten Son the WHOSOEVER believes in Him will have eternal life" with a theology that believes God creates the vast majority of creation for the singular purpose of eternally damning them and their doom is sealed by the nature they were born with?
"For God so loved the world that He gave his only Begotten Son the WHOSOEVER believes in Him will have eternal life."
Friend, this is a passage from Scripture itself and I believe it just as it is written. WHOSOEVER believes the gospel will be saved. Anyone who's faith is in Jesus Christ, their sins are forgiven and they have eternal life. The misunderstanding here, I believe, is that you have failed to read the passage in its context. The passage (John 3) goes on to say, but men loved darkness and hate the light and will not come into the light ... those who do show what has been done is wrought by God. And prior to this same text is reads "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:6) Which means that they "were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13). "so then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." (Rom 9:16)
The Emergent Church and the Gospel
The gospel is not about any merit I have on my own, but is based upon Jesus' merit alone. It is not what we have done for Jesus, but what Jesus has done for us (Rom 5:19, 2 Cor 5:21, Phil 2:8). In the covenant rainbow sign with Noah, God says He "remembers" never to flood the world this way again, so likewise in the covenant in Christ's blood, God "remembers" not to treat us as we justly deserve for our sins. The mystery of God has been made manifest in the Person and work of the Son, who frees the prisoners, gives sight to the blind, breaks loose the chains and changes hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. We were taken captive to do Satan's will and could not escape until Christ set us free. In other words, Christ, in His cross work, does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He lived the perfect life that we should have lived and died the death we should have died, in order to free us so that we might then proclaim His excellencies, make known his gospel and spread justice and mercy to the poor.
But this is not what many of the the most notable characters in the Emerging church (e.g. McClaren, McManus, Bell) mean when they use the term â€œgospelâ€; for Christ, in their view, did not come so much as a Savior, who delivers us from His just wrath, but rather, came to make us "Christ followers". Jesus came as a moral example of how we might live, treat one another, and form communities. But as has been repeatedly shown throughout the testaments, this is a recipe for failure. In Romans 3:20 the Apostle teaches that the purpose of the law was not so much to show us how to live (although it was that too), but more to reveal our moral inability and hopeless bondage to sin apart from the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Some major voices in the emergent church are saying they want a relationship with Jesus and not doctrines, but we must ask which Jesus do they want to have a relationship with? If words mean anything it appears they want a relationship with a moralistic Jesus of their own imagination. They want to believe that God is pleased with us because of what we do ... that He is pleased with us if we join HIm in being active in crusades against social ills such as corporate greed, global warming, racism and poverty. That doing this is what the Gospel is all about. But as good as some of these things might be, God is not pleased with them if they do not come from faith in Jesus Christ as a Savior first, not as a mere example for us to follow. For instance, Jesus revealed His sinlessness and our moral impotence in the face of it. and thus our need for His mercy. But McLaren and many of the other emergent church leaders trumpet their belief that the gospel is more about ethics than the work of Christ on our behalf. They appeal to bettering the world around us as a task that is opposed to and more pressing than seeing our own rebellion and poverty, which prove our need for reconciliation to God through the life, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. This unbiblical bifurcation of orthopraxy and orthodoxy, and foundational preference for the former, is just plain contrary to the Christian gospel.
Justification - The Reformation v. Rome
"For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." Romans 3:28
"Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness." Romans 4:4-5
I was going through some of my old study notes today and came across this short article by Dr. R. C. Sproul. In reading it through again, I was reminded about the magnitude of the issue as it relates to the very Gospel itself, and the vital differences that still remain between the two sides. Rome believes that justification is by grace, through faith and because of Christ. What Rome does not believe is that justification is by grace alone, or through faith alone, or by Christ alone. For Rome, justification is by grace plus merit, through faith plus works; by Christ plus the sinner's contribution of inherent righteousness. In contrast, the Reformers called the Church back to the one true Biblical Gospel: Salvation is by God's grace alone, received through faith alone, because of Christ alone, based on the Scriptures alone, to the Glory of God alone. Dr. Sproul's article (below) brings out the clear distinctions between the Reformers and Rome concerning justification - which as Martin Luther declared, is the article upon which the church stands or falls. - John Samson
Dr. Sproul writes:
At the heart of the controversy between Roman Catholic and Reformation or Protestant theology is the nature of justification itself. It is a debate not merely about how or when or by what means a person is justified, but about the very meaning of justification itself. Reformed theology insists that the biblical doctrine of justification is forensic in nature.
What does this mean?
The Old Gospel
The following is an extract from Dr. J. I. Packer's introductory essay to John Owen's "Death of Death" published by the Banner of Truth Trust.
The old gospel of Owen, first of all, contains no less full and free an offer of salvation than its modern counterpart. It presents ample grounds of faith (the sufficiency of Christ, and the promise of God), and cogent motives to faith (the sinner's need, and the Creator's command, which is also the Redeemer's invitation). The new gospel gains nothing here by asserting universal redemption. The old gospel, certainly, has no room for the cheap sentimentalising which turns God's free mercy to sinners into a constitutional softheartedness on His part which we can take for granted; nor will it countenance the degrading presentation of Christ as the baffled Saviour, balked in what he hoped to do by human unbelief; nor will it indulge in maudlin appeals to the unconverted to let Christ save them out of pity for His disappointment. The pitiable Saviour and the pathetic God of modern pulpits are unknown to the old gospel. The old gospel tells men that they need God, but not that God needs them (a modern falsehood); it does not exhort them to pity Christ, but announces that Christ has pitied them, though pity was the last thing they deserved. It never loses sight of the Divine majesty and sovereign power of the Christ whom it proclaims, but rejects flatly all representations of Him which would obscure His free omnipotence.
Does this mean, however, that the preacher of the old gospel is inhibited or confined in offering Christ to men and inviting them to receive Him? Not at all. In actual fact, just because he recognises that Divine mercy is sovereign and free, he is in a position to make far more of the offer of Christ in his preaching than is the expositor of the new gospel; for this offer is itself a far more wonderful thing on his principles than it can ever be in the eyes of those who regard love to all sinners as a necessity of God's nature, and therefore a matter of course. To think that the holy Creator, who never needed man for His happiness and might justly have banished our fallen race for ever without mercy, should actually have chosen to redeem some of them! and that His own Son was willing to undergo death and descend into hell to save them! and that now from His throne He should speak to ungodly men as He does in the words of the gospel, urging upon them the command to repent and believe in the form of a compassionate invitation to pity themselves and choose life! These thoughts are the focal points round which the preaching of the old gospel revolves. It is all wonderful, just because none of it can be taken for granted. But perhaps the most wonderful thing of all - the holiest spot in all the holy ground of gospel truth - is the free invitation which "the Lord Christ " (as Owen loves to call Him) issues repeatedly to guilty sinners to come to Him and find rest for their souls. It is the glory of these invitations that it is an omnipotent King who gives them, just as it is a chief part of the glory of the enthroned Christ that He condescends still to utter them. And it is the glory of the gospel ministry that the preacher goes to men as Christ's ambassador, charged to deliver the King's invitation personally to every sinner present and to summon them all to turn and live. Owen himself enlarges on this in a passage addressed to the unconverted.
Just so we are clear... by John Samson
Romans 5:8-9 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
The word "saved" is banded about all the time in our culture. We talk about a goalkeeper making a "save," but we do not mean by this that the goalkeeper provided atonement for the other players on his team. What we are refering to, of course, is simply that he "saved" the team from conceding a goal. In the same way, we say that a boxer was "saved" by the bell, but we do not mean that the boxer entered into heavenly bliss through his relationship with the bell. We mean that the bell which signified the end of the round, rang at the time when defeat looked inevitable, right at the moment the opponent was about to knock him out. The bell "saved" the boxer from certain defeat.
The point I am making is that when we use the term "saved," we are referring to the concept of being saved from someone or something - to be rescued from an impending calamity.
So what does the Bible mean when it says that Christ "saves" us. What does He save us from? A low self esteem? A boring life? Financial debt? Physical disease? It may be a surprise to discover that Christ made provision for all of man's needs through His death on the cross. The word "salvation" in both Hebrew and Greek means "wholeness, deliverance, healing, restoration, soundness and protection..." The main aspect of the salvation He provided is to be saved or delivered from the wrath of Almighty God.
It was Jesus who declared that the wrath of God abides on the unbeliever (John 3:36). Christ therefore came into the world to "save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15), and if a person will repent and believe the Gospel, Christ will save them from the Father's wrath. As the Scripture declares, "...Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:10), "for God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us..." (1 Thess. 5:9, 10)
The Parable of the Sailboat
Galatians 3:21-24 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
I was recently at a conference where Dr. Michael Horton was amongst the speakers. During a question and answer session he was asked to talk about justification and sanctification. In the course of his answer he gave an illustration of a sailboat that I thought was very illuminating. I share it with you here.. - Rev. John Samson
Sanctification is something that flows out of justification.... the justifying verdict that God announces in the gospel has its revurberations right into every nook and cranny of our lives transforming us from top to bottom and inside out.
Imagine you have a sailboat which has all the "bells and whistles" on it.. (a radio, fish finders, satellite, the most advanced mapping system imaginable.. so that it can literally steer you to your destination). You head out of the harbor under full sail.
After some time you find yourself in the middle of the ocean and there is a dead calm (there is no wind). Your radio tells you that there is a large storm coming.. it could be a very dangerous situation and you are now in trouble because right where you are, there is no wind at all and you are "dead in the water".. you do not have an engine, you depend on the wind.. so you start paddling..
Essays on the New Birth
The New Birth (.pdf) Essays by William Plumer, Octavius Winslow, Arthur W. Pink, John Gill, James Buchanan, J. C. Ryle, John Owen, Charles H. Spurgeon -- These are very helpful essays from the Free Grace Broadcaster's Winter 2007 edition. Very edifying and crucial to understand if one is to have a well-rounded ministry. John Owen said, "THE work of the Spirit of God in regenerating the souls of men is diligently to be inquired into by the preachers of the Gospel and all to whom the Word is dispensed. For the former sort, there is a peculiar reason for their attendance unto this duty, for they are used and employed in the work itself by the Spirit of God and are by Him made instrumental for the effecting of this new birth and life...Now, certainly it is the duty of ministers to understand the work about which they are employed, as far as they are able, that they may not work in the dark and fight uncertainly, as men beating the air. What the Scripture hath revealed concerning it, as to its nature and the manner of its operation, as to its causes, effects, fruits, evidences, they ought diligently to inquire into. To be spiritually skilled therein is one of the principal furnishments of any for the work of the ministry, without which they will never be able to divide the Word aright, nor show themselves workmen that need not be ashamed." We agree with Owen and believe that if you are not going to a church that preaches the kind of Christ-honoring principles in the following essays, then we are only getting a partial gospel at best. Set aside some time to read and linger over these Bible-saturated essays.
Buliding Bridges Conference: Southern Baptists and Calvinism
Streaming audio and/or MP3 podcasts of sessions from the Building Bridges: Southern Baptists and Calvinism conference, sponsored by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Founders Ministries. The conference, which takes place Nov. 26-28 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center, consists of sessions featuring speakers who address different perspectives of each of the topics listed below.
General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America Update: Federal Vision Study Report
NEWS FROM THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA
JUNE 14, 2007
35th PCA GA Approves Recommendations of Federal Vision Study Report
MEMPHIS, TENN â€“ The 35TH General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, meeting in Memphis, Tenn., on Wednesday, June 13, approved the recommendations of its Interim Committee on Federal Vision.
After the committee made its report, a motion was made to postpone taking action on the recommendations at this GA, to add two new members to the committee, and to direct the committee to include more exegesis of relevant biblical passages in its report. This motion failed. After further debate the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve the recommendations.
The recommendations included the following:
Secularism, Religion and Morality Vs. The Gospel
Secularism tends to make people selfish and individualistic. Religion and morality in general tend to make people tribal and self-righteous toward other groups (since their salvation has, they think, been earned by their achievement). But the gospel of grace, centered on a man dying for us while we were his enemies, removes self-righteousness and selfishness and turns its members to serve others both for the temporal flourishing of all people, especially the poor, and for their salvation. It moves us to serve others irrespective of their merits, just as Christ served us (Mark 10:45). - Gospel Coalition
No Hope Outside of Christ by Paul David Tripp
The following is an excerpt from Paul David Tripp's excellent book,
Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands
"The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15)
"This is what God has been working on. All of history has been moving toward this one moment." God had not forgotten or lost interest in humanity. Since that horrible fall into sin, he had been bringing the world to this day. What looked pointless and out of control was, in fact, the unfolding of God's wonderful story of redemption, which reached a crescendo with the coming of Christ...
The question is, "The time has come for what?" Jesus is announcing the nearness of the kingdom of God. It is a quiet way of saying, "I am the King of kings and I have brought the power of my kingdom with me."...
In our self-absorbed culture, we need to see the grandeur of this kingdom. We cannot shrink it to the size of our needs and desires. It takes us far beyond personal situations and relationships. The King came not to make our agenda possible, but to draw us into something more amazing, glorious, and wonderful than we could ever imagine. Perhaps the best way to understand the grand purpose is to eavesdrop on eternity. In Revelation 19:6-8, the great multitude of the redeemed stands before the throne and, like the roar of rapids, exclaims:
Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear."
Think about what they are singing. It is not, "I got my that job! My marriage was fantastic! I was surrounded by great friends and my kids turned out well." It is not, "I defeated depression and mastered my fears." Two things capture the hearts of the assembled throng:
Christ Died for the Ungodly By Horatius Bonar
â€œAnd God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continuallyâ€ (Genesis 6:5).
The divine testimony concerning man is, that he is a sinner. God bears witness against him, not for him; and testifies that â€œthere is none righteous, no, not oneâ€; that there is â€œnone that doeth goodâ€; none â€œthat understandethâ€; none that even seeks after God, and, still more, none that loves Him (Psa 14:1-3; Rom 3:10-12). God speaks of man kindly, but severely; as one yearning over a lost child, yet as one who will make no terms with sin, and will â€œby no means clear the guilty.â€
He declares man to be a lost one, a stray one, a rebel, a â€œhater of Godâ€ (Rom 1:30); not a sinner occasionally, but a sinner always; not a sinner in part, with many good things about him; but wholly a sinner, with no compensating goodness; evil in heart as well as life, â€œdead in trespasses and sinsâ€ (Eph 2:1); an evil doer, and therefore under condemnation; an enemy of God, and therefore â€œunder wrathâ€; a breaker of the righteous law, and therefore under â€œthe curse of the lawâ€ (Gal 3:10). The sinner not merely brings forth sin, but he carries it about with him, as his second self; he is a body or mass of sin (Rom 6:6), a â€œbody of deathâ€ (Rom 7:24), subject not to the law of God, but to â€œthe law of sinâ€ (Rom 7:23).
There is another and yet worse charge against him. He does not believe on the name of the Son of God, nor love the Christ of God. This is his sin of sins. That his heart is not right with God is the first charge against him. That his heart is not right with the Son of God is the second. And it is this second that is the crowning, crushing sin, carrying with it more terrible damnation than all other sins together.
Choice Quotes on Regeneration
"Regeneration is the fountain; sanctification is the river."
- J. Sidlow Baxter
"Faith does not proceed from ourselves, but is the fruit of spiritual regeneration."
- John Calvin
"When God designs to forgive us he changes our hearts and turns us to obedience by His Spirit."
- John Calvin
"Regeneration is a spiritual change; conversion is a spiritual motion."
- Stephen Charnock
"Regeneration is the communication of the divine nature to men by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the Word.
- A.J. Gordon
How Do I Know I am Saved?
If you claim Christ is your king and you His subject, how is it that He came to occupy the highest place of your affections, that throne atop your heart?
Prior to your redemption, the flesh and Satan quietly possessed your greatest affections, and like the rest, you were Satan's slave, his vassal. And since he thus reigned over your heart (and was much stronger than you) how did this transformation to Christ take place? There is no doubt that Satan would have never willingly relinquished his reign of power over you. And you, being under the bondage of your own corrupt nature and Satan's dominion over you, would not have been willing to simply renounce, nor able to resist the Devil's binding power, since he had taken you captive to do his will (2 Tim 2:26). For the flesh, the world and the Devil were enemies too powerful for you â€“ they were greater and had vast superiority over your base affections. You were their plaything and that, most willingly. You could not untangle yourself nor did you want to, for you loved darkness (John 3:19 ) and most willingly suppressed the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18 ). Mere exterior persuasion did not scratch the surface of your heart.
To Cut off the Sinner from All Hope in Himself
One of the most prevalent motifs that runs through the whole Bible is its constant reminder of the insufficiency of man. While this may seem all too obvious, we need constant reminding of this critical truth in our everyday lives. This goes for the non-Christian, because he has no hope apart from Christ's mercy, and for the Christian who has no hope, save in Christ and Christ alone. This is not only clear in those parts of the Scripture which are propositional but also are quite pervasive in the gospel narratives. If you look closely at many of the stories associated with Christ's earthly ministry, it becomes clear that deliverance occurred in individuals only when the they were so desperate that they came to an end of themselves and were reduced to begging, if you will. Grace works salvation in us, not as we are, but first humbles our pride revealing our natural brokenness, spiritual bankruptcy and impotence, which none of us naturally appear ready to admit. For our true condition before God is that we cannot even lift a finger toward our salvation and can bring nothing to God except that which He first gives us.
Word & Spirit by John Calvin
The following is an expression of the extraordinarily balanced understanding of John Calvin with regards to the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing persons to faith through the preaching of the gospel. Commenting on Acts, it shows the outworking of God's plan through the agency of men in casting forth the seed of the gospel, which, the Bible testifies, can only be responded to when germinated (so to speak) by the Holy Spirit. The Scripture is plain that that the word alone is not enough to enter and change the heart of natural man (who is hostile to God's word) but that the heart must be opened and the mind illumined by the concurrent work of the Spirit. An biblical example of this can be found in 1 Thes 1:4, 5. "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction..."
In the same spirit, here is John Calvin commenting on Acts 16:14-15, â€œ14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.â€1
Now when in fact only one hears attentively and effectively, could it not have appeared that the way was blocked for Christ to make an entry? But afterwards from that frail shoot a famous church sprang up, whose praises Paul sings in splendid terms. Yet it is possible that Lydia had some companions, of whom no mention is made, because she herself far surpassed them. Yet Luke does not attribute the cause for this one woman having shown herself docile, to the fact that she was sharperwitted than the others, or that she had some preparation by herself, but says that the Lord opened her heart, so that she gave heed to Paulâ€™s words. He had just praised her piety; and yet he shows that she could not understand the teaching of the Gospel without the illumination of the Spirit. Accordingly we see that not only faith, but also all understanding of spiritual things, is a special gift of God, and that ministers do not accomplish anything by speaking, unless the inward calling of God is added at the same time.
By the word heart Scripture sometimes means the mind, as when Moses says (Deut. 29:4), â€˜until now the Lord has not given you a heart to understand.â€™ So also in this verse Luke means not only that Lydia was moved by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to embrace the Gospel with a feeling of the heart, but that her mind was illuminated to understand. We may learn from this that such is the dullness, such the blindness of men, that in hearing they do not hear, or seeing they do not see, until God forms new ears and new eyes for them.
But we must note the expression that the heart of Lydia was opened so that she paid attention to the external voice of a teacher. For as preaching on its own is nothing else but a dead letter, so, on the other hand, we must beware lest a false imagination, or the semblance of secret illumination, leads us away from the Word upon which faith depends, and on which it rests. For in order to increase the grace of the Spirit, many invent for themselves vague inspirations so that no use is left for the external Word. But the Scripture does not allow such a separation to be made, for it unites the ministry of men with the secret inspiration of the Spirit. If the mind of Lydia had not been opened, the preaching of Paul would have been mere words; yet God inspires her not only with the mere revelations but with reverence for His Word, so that the voice of a man, which otherwise would have vanished into thin air, penetrates a mind that has received the gift of heavenly light.
Therefore let us hear no more of the fanatics who make the excuse of the Spirit to reject external teaching. For we must preserve the balance which Luke established here, that we obtain nothing from the hearing of the Word alone, without the grace of the Spirit, and that the Spirit is conferred on us not that He may produce contempt of the Word, but rather to instill confidence in it in our minds and write it on our hearts.
1 From Calvin, John. The Acts of the Apostles. 2 vols. Trans. by John W. Fraser and W.J.G. McDonald. Ed. by David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965.
The Gospel Truths of CHRISTMAS
Iâ€™m not a big fan of such things as books addressed to â€œdummiesâ€, nor theology that has to be proven relevant before being heard, nor am I a fan of education for the sake of merely getting a job, nor of little cutesy figurines with scripture slapped on them, nor of plastic lit up baby Jesus in someoneâ€™s front yard, nor of reality TV, and neither am I a fan of acrostics in order to communicate biblical truths.
With that said, I must say that sometimes one perhaps will look inside a book addressed to dummies for some quick info, try to work hard and make theology relevant to the theologically skeptical, go to some classes for a raise or a new position, receive and proudly display a cutesy figurine with a scripture from someone who loves us, reflect upon the meaning of the incarnation upon seeing a lit up baby Jesus, watch a reality show to see what all the hype is about, and someone may even use an acrostic to communicate some gospel truths.
I am about to be guilty of the last one of those things of which Iâ€™m not a big fan.
With that warning, and with the reminder that acrostics have limits, and can be simplistic if that is all that is all the understanding we have, I want to send your family an acrostic to reflect upon the gospel truths we learned together and summarizes the preaching and teaching this year at Ketoctin Covenant Presbyterian Church (www.aplacefortruth.org/ketoctin).
Using the letters from the word 'Christmas', we can reflect and be reminded of Christ's birth during the Advent Season, but let us also be constantly reminded of Christâ€™s accomplished work that he merited on our behalf.
We rejoice that the "LORD is come" at Christmas, but we should also rejoice and be reminded of what the "LORD has done" for those who love him!
The first letter of the word 'Christmas' is C...
Who is this Jesus? by Pastor John Samson
In a communist Russian dictionary, Jesus is described as "a mythical figure who never existed." Of course, no serious historian could hold to that position today. The evidence is overwhelming as to the fact that Jesus existed, not just from the Gospels and other Christian literature around the first century, but also from non-Christian sources.
Well respected historians of the day, including Tacitus (a Roman) speak of him, as well as the noted Jewish historian Josephus. He writes "Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him, both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians so named after him, are not extinct at this day." Josephus: Antiquities XVIII 63f
The Nature of Justifying Faith by Dr. John Gerstner
The following is taken from Dr. John Gerstner's Justification by Faith Alone: Affirming the Doctrine by Which The Church and the Individual Stands or Falls:
Eternal life depends on Christ alone â€” nothing, but nothing, else. Predestination will not bring it. Providence cannot produce it. It does not rest on foreknowledge, divine decrees, or even the atonement itself. Eternal life is Christ dwelling in His righteousness in the soul of the justified person. So eternal life is union with Jesus Christ. And the word for that union with Jesus Christ is faith. The sinner comes to Him, rests in Him, trusts in Him, is one with Him, abides in Him and this is life because it never, ever, ends. The united soul abides in the Vine eternally. Weakness, sin, proneness to sin never brings separation, but only the Fatherâ€™s pruning, which cements the union even and ever tighter. This is the heart of the Bible. This is the heart of the gospel. This is the heart of Christianity. This is the heart of the saint. This is the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those are the reasons it was the heart of the Reformation; and this is the reason the contemporary attempt of some Protestants to unite with those who do not even claim this heart of the life of Jesus Christ is to commit spiritual suicide. No lover of Jesus Christ can consent to this apostasy.
Thankful for the Biblical Gospel
From all of us at www.reformationtheology.com - A Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers!
This Thursday (November 23rd) marks the American holiday of Thanksgiving. It is a day marked off on our national calendar when we as citizens of this great nation, reflect on the many blessings we have received from God and return thanksgiving to Him for His merciful Providence towards us. As we do so this year, may each of us be especially thankful to God for the only gospel that saves, the one true biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ! With Scripture alone as our firm foundation we affirm that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, all to the glory of God alone.
Reformation Day Symposium
Today is Reformation Day, for it was October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany, sparking the Protestant Reformation.
In light of this, Tim Challies has invited the readers of his blog to submit articles on this theme. The result is a fine array of written material that many will enjoy reading, available here.
The Reformation - Has the Holy Spirit Moved On? by Pastor John Samson
I was recently involved in a friendly discussion with a fellow Christian minister. I was talking about the doctrines that sparked the Protestant Reformation, when out of nowhere, it seemed, my minister friend said, "The Holy Spirit is not stuck in the 16th Century. He has moved on. Why don't you?"
I was a little taken aback to hear this, especially from a minister, but I then realized that he is perhaps speaking for many when he wonders why people like myself are enamored with the Reformation almost five centuries on. Many wonder about the relevance of the Reformation, and see no obvious relationship between that time and our own.
So, is it the case that I am seeking to go back in time and live in the 16th Century? Was that an era that simply thrills my soul?
Reflecting on our Distinctives
Our recent move into new and larger facilities, with the addition of two new employees has, to some degree, hindered me from writing as much as I would like to. The move has been intense and stressful but it has also given me time to reflect again on what we think Monergism.com is all about.
The continued emphasis at Monergism.com surrounds a handful of distinctives: (1) the exclusive sufficiency of Jesus Christ, that is, a Christ-centered and grace-driven gospel; (2) faithfulness to the Text of Scripture; (3) a covenantal (or Reformed) understanding of redemption history; (4) a monergistic view of the Holy Spiritâ€™s work in effecting all salvific blessings â€“ regeneration, justification and sanctification â€“ flowing from the believerâ€™s union with Christ; and (5) equipping, training and disciplining the saints in the knowledge of the Person and work of Jesus Christ so our readership and their disciples might be prepared to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
The Gospel According to Galatians- Part 1 by C. R. Biggs
As Christians, we need to be constantly, moment-by-moment reminded of the good news or gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We all have a tendency of forgetting the truth and reality of our union with Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, we regularly seek to replace the righteousness of Christ that has been given to us with a substitution of our own making, one of our own works.
As sinners saved by grace, a constant temptation for us is to replace Christâ€™s righteousness with â€œanother gospelâ€ â€“ one of our own making! Instead of living out our union with Jesus Christ by knowing we have been declared righteous or justified all because of Godâ€™s grace given to us, we are tempted daily to replace his righteousness with our own. We just canâ€™t seem to get it through our heads that God loves us, that we are no longer slaves, and that we have been adopted as children of the living God!
â€œSons, not slaves! Sons, not slaves!â€
Righteous before God not based on anything we have done, or feel, but on what Christ has graciously done for us!
Robert Traill - Justification Vindicated (excerpt)
It is that doctrine only by which a convinced sinner can be dealt with effectually. When a man is awakened, and brought to that, that all must be brought to, or to worse: "What shall I do to be saved?" we have the apostolic answer to it, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house;" (Acts 16:30, 31). This answer is so old, that with many it seems out of date. But it is still, and will ever be, fresh, and new, and savoury, and the only resolution of this grand case of conscience, as long as conscience and the world lasts. No wit or art of man will ever find a crack or flaw in it, or devise another or a better answer; nor can any but this alone heal rightly the wound of an awakened conscience. Let us set this man to seek resolution in this case of some masters in our Israel. According to their principles, they must say to him, "Repent, and mourn for your known sins, and leave them and loathe them, and God will have mercy on you." "Alas! (saith the poor man) my heart is hard, and I cannot repent aright; yea, I find my heart more hard and vile than when l was secure in sin." If you speak to this man of qualifications for Christ, he knows nothing of them; if of sincere obedience, his answer is native and ready, "Obedience is the work of a living man, and sincerity is only in a renewed soul." Sincere obedience is therefore as impossible to a dead unrenewed sinner as perfect obedience is. Why should not the right answer be given, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved?"
Are We Basing Justification on Sanctification?
There were some Rabbis in the early first century who were teaching that if all of them (the Pharisees) would just obey the whole law for a single day it would usher in the Messianic Age. Resultantly you had certain quarters of Judaism who were intent on keeping every aspect of the law. Wouldn't it be ironic if Saul (Paul), in his zeal, in the persecution of the early 1st century church, was attempting to bring about the Messianic Age? What irony there would be if, in doing so, he was fighting against the very thing (Jesus) he was trying to bring about?
We must also take heed lest we take our eyes off of Christ in an attempt to fulfill God's purpose in some performance-based way. Or to put it theologically, trying to base your justification on your sanctification, to which the book of Galatians says, "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3) This solemn warning from Paul (who, since the Damascus road, now understood grace) that humans are in constant danger of exchanging God's grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ for merit-based Christianity. This is not only a problem with many 1st century Jews but is a human problem, something we are all prone to, for we really want to feel as if we are somehow contributing to the price of our redemption. We would never say it this way, but such feelings are innate, subtle and deadly. Thus the need to preach the gospel to ourselves, as Christians, every day, reminding ourselves that we are united to Christ, are to glory in Him and have no confidence in the flesh. All merit/performance/works based righteousness in inimical to the gospel of salvation. But thanks be to God, the gospel liberates us from all such moralism, that is, all attempts to attain our maintain our justification before God through self-effort.
"Save Yourselves" (Acts 2:40)
I am sorry to bother you again with another email. But, I was reading through Acts in my daily scripture readings and came across Acts 2:40 which quotes Jesus saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation (ESV)." I am not one who needs to be convinced of monergistic regeneration...I wholly submit to that scriptural understanding of conversion. However I think if any Calvinistic preacher ever used Jesus' command here they would immediately be accused of being a monergistic preacher, I guess this is my speculation. Yet, this is quoted from the mover of monergistic regeneration. Unless there is a debate on weather or not this should translated as indicative (be saved) as opposed to imperative (save yourselves)...but I am no greek scholar...So please lend me some help and answer these three questions: 1. Is this accurate to the greek text? 2. How can this be said while holding to monergistic presuppositions? 3. How might this influence our preaching today?
Thanks for your very important question. Lets first look at this whole passage in context where Peter is preaching in Acts 2:38: Peter replied, ""Brothers, what shall we do?" 38And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." 40And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." 41So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls...(vs 47) And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
So if read in context we immediately understand that Peter qualifies his statement with "...everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." How many people is everyone? It is a universal positive, excluding no one in the context of the sentence. This means that all persons, without exception. who are called by God will believe and be saved. This is again confirmed by the last sentence of the chapter which states that it is the Lord who "added to their number day by day those who were being saved. "
Bono the Covenant Theologian
Bono, the lead singer for the band U2, to my initial surprise, had some important things to say about grace. Not having previously read much else about Bono's theological views or personal life, I cannot comment about them, but I thought this particular quote showed his amazing insight into the heart and essence of grace from the perspective of the Covenant, no less.
Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physicsâ€”in physical lawsâ€”every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.
Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.
John Piper to Write Book in Response to N.T. Wright
NEWS: August 2, 2006. John Piper is writing a new book which he says, "is a response to N. T. Wright on the doctrine of justification. I have no immediate plan to publish it until I get the feedback from critical readers. My motivation in writing it is that I think his understanding of Paul is wrong and his view of justification is harmful to the church and to the human soul. Few things are more precious than the truth of justification by faith alone because of Christ alone. As a shepherd of a flock of Godâ€™s blood-bought church, I feel responsible to lead the sheep to life-giving pastures. That is not what the sheep find in Wrightâ€™s view of Paul on justification. He is an eloquent and influential writer and is, I believe, misleading many people on the doctrine of justification. I will keep you posted on what becomes of this manuscript." From this essay
Repenting of our Good Works
The first prerequisite of a sound conversion is to despair of any hope from oneself, that is, to have no hope save in Christ's mercy alone.
It is a common, but erroneous, belief that Christians think they are decent people, deserving of God's favor, and that this is why God will allow them entrance into His presence in heaven. But any Christian who reads the Scripture and catches a glimpse of God's majesty, knows they are dreadfully cracked about the head and desperately in need of mending. Those who don't think they need a physician and think their relative goodness will save them are, by definition, not Christians at all. And such persons are simply not prepared to hear the gospel ... that Christ is THE Savior, who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. In other words, in coming to Christ it is only truly evident that the Holy Spirit has done a work of grace in someone if they are fully convinced that they have been bad enough to need Jesus' help and are willing to repent of trusting in their good works. Of Course, those already Christians also must constantly, no daily, re-affirm their need of Christ, fleeing to Him alone for their righteousness. Any good we have or produce must be recognized as the result of grace, not the cause of it. "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven." (John 3:27)
What many may fail to understand is that God does not weigh our virtue and good intentions against our malice and corruptions and then let us into heaven based on whether we have more goodness than evil in our life. On the contrary even the slightest infraction against his holiness is sufficient to cast you away from his favor into an eternity of misery. You are guilty of active rebellion against Him, and if you don't think so, try loving your neighbor from your heart at all times. Once we get a view of who God is in the splendor of His holiness, it becaomes painfully apparent who we are, and it is not pretty. Any who think God too harsh, unjust or that God will simply wink His eye at our youthful indiscretions are still under the utmost deception. Every minor sin against His holy law makes us deserving of His just wrath. God demands that we live in the perfection of holiness at all times. One might counter this by saying, "but this is impossible" and that is exactly the point. His perfect law was given to us not with the express purpose of showing us our ability, but rather our inability. The Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans said exactly this: "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." In other words, a true Christian is one who recognizes their utter moral inability before God's holy law and can only turn and flee to Chirst for mercy. Any hope or trust in our own flesh, in ones own virtue or in our "good intent" is actually an act of rebellion and a damnable sin. This is because, in the face of God's perfect law, if we are not humbled to the dust, then we have not understood it. The regenerate, by definition, are spiritually bankrupt, have no confidence in the flesh, and glory in Christ Jesus alone for any and all standing before God.
The Grace of Faith
"The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts; and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word: by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened."
- Westminster Confession of Faith CHAP XIV
Under the terms of the covenant of grace, God "freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe."
- Westminster Confession of Faith CHAP. VII. - Of God's Covenant with Man III
Gospel Mystery of Sanctification
Over the weekend I read one of the finest, if not the finest, treatments on sanctification I have ever run across. The title of the book is The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness by Living in Union with Christ by Walter Marshall (written in 1692). Since the topic of sanctification has historically generated so many errors and convoluted ideas among Christians: acetecism, legalism, perfectionism, mysticism, higher life and antinomianism, there are actually very few books on sanctification worth recommending. But this rare exception places the gospel and union with Christ front and center as the key to true sanctification.
Sanctification is the process of conformity to the image of Jesus Christ, something all Christians are called to. Whether we are obligated to obey God's law and live in holiness is not really debatable. The question is - how do we actually do it?
Many schemes give a kind of lip service to grace and union with Christ but fail to put this into practice to empower holiness in the Christian life. Just as the gospel proclaims we must lose of all self-confidence if we are to be saved, so also dispairing of our own ability (and rather live in union with Christ) is key to growing in grace. Unfortunately many today are claiming that salvation by grace through faith alone leads to sinful living and so they tell us that we must maintain our justification through our own covenant faithfulness.
OPC Report on Justification
Report on Justification Presented to the Seventy-third General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church
With this report, the Committee on the Doctrine of Justification presents to the Seventy-third General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church the result of two years of study of the matters entrusted to it. We pray that our work may be helpful for the church and serve to equip and embolden her for the proclamation and defense of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of the challenges to that gospel in the present day. The Seventy-first General Assembly erected this Committee â€œto critique the teachings of the â€˜New Perspective on Paul,â€™ â€˜Federal Visionâ€™ and other like teachings concerning the doctrine of justification and other related doctrines, as they are related to the Word of God and our subordinate standards, with a view to giving a clear statement to the presbyteries, sessions and seminaries, and report back to the Seventy-second GAâ€¦.â€
The Report on Justification presented to the Seventy-third (2006) General Assembly is now available and may be accessed by clicking here. If the Greek and Hebrew fonts do not display on your computer they are available as a free download from BibleWorks. To download the fonts click here (the page includes instructions for installing the fonts on your computer).
A Tale of Two Mediators
A Tale of Two Mediators In MP3 or Streaming Audio.
Are we considered guilty for Adam's sin? What is the doctrine of original sin? Continuing their study of Romans 5, the hosts contrast the roles of two mediators, Adam and Christ, in order to better understand sin and grace. Tune in to this episode of the Romans Revolution on the White Horse Inn.
Please take the time to listen to this VERY HELPFUL conversation with Michael Horton and Kim Riddlebarger (and others). Also, be amazed at lack of persons at a National Evangelical Pastors Conference who actually believe in original sin at all. Most of them would be brought up on charges of rank heresy if any historic church councils made any difference. If imputation of guilt is unjust as many said, then would they believe that God imputing our guilt to Jesus is also unjust???
Jeremiah Burroughs on Preaching
"It may be a use of a great deal of encouragement to all the ministers of God to preach to people. It may be that sometimes even they are discouraged, and think to themselves, "Lord, how hard are the hearts of men, and how difficult it is to work upon the hearts of men! I have labored with all my might. I have studied and sought to invent all the arguments I possibly could, the most moving arguments that I could possibly imagine. When I have been in my study, I have thought to myself, 'Surely if the Lord is pleased to bless these truths that I am to deliver, they will work upon the hearts of people.'" And when it comes to the preaching of that sermon, perhaps the minister finds that they are not at all stirred one whit. "Why, Lord, what shall I do then? I cannot think ever to speak things that are more powerful than those that I have spoken, and those have done no good. Therefore I am afraid I shall never do good."
"Oh, no, do not say so and do not think so. The Lord is pleased sometimes to show us our vanity this way, and to rebuke us. Many times the Lord will not go along with the ministry of the Word when it comes with the greatest power and the strongest arguments and, yet, at another time, the Lord will be pleased to bless a word that you only speak in passing. It may do more than all the others. There is scarcely any one faithful minister in the world who observes the work of God upon his ministry who does not find this to be true. Yet this is no argument why a minister should not labor with all his might and come with the strongest arguments. He is bound to do his duty. Aye, be not discouraged. He may afterwards prevail, and God, I say, may bless many things that come from him. And therefore, I would exhort those who are to speak to such an audience with the words of Ecclesiastes 11:6: "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be a like good."
"Therefore, let ministers go on and sow their seed and preach still. That which they have spoken (perhaps they have been delivering arguments that they thought would have moved the heart of a devil) has been opening the miserable condition of men and opening the riches of Jesus Christ. Well, there must be no discouragement; go on and sow your seed in the morning, and in the evening withhold not your hand. Go on and preach again and again, and let the Word of God be presented before the hearts of the people. Though it has not wrought at one time, yet it may work at another time. Yea, though you should grow weaker and weaker, yet for all that the Lord may do good to you, even when you are at your weakest. In 2 Timothy 2:25 the apostle says to Timothy, "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God, peradventure will give them repentance." Peradventure this day a truth may be handed from God to a soul - peradventure this text, peradventure that text, and so the soul may be brought in."
from Jeremiah Burrough's "Gospel Fear" (pages 80,81)
Blind Until God Opens our Eyes
I recently read a very encouraging book called Flight Path, A Biography of Frank Barker Jr. There are a couple of paragraphs in chapter 17 that I thought appropriate to post here since they relate to important concepts that we speak of often here. The chapter is called "The Gift" and explains Barker's many years (even in seminary) having not understood salvation to be a gracious gift of God until a friend had given him a tract which explained it. What is striking about his experience was his previous inability to to hear that same truth even when plainly put before him.
He writes, "I wondered why no one had told me that salvation was a gift. Then I thought, Isn't it strange that Martin Luther didn't know that. The reason I thought about Martin Luther was that I had just read his commentary on Galatians for a course I was taking. If Luther had not known that salvation is a gift, he would have brought it out in the book! I wanted to see how he had missed it, so I pulled the commentary off the shelf and reread it. To my amazement, it was on every page!.
I thought, I must have been blind when I read this book! It dawned on me that God has to open a persons's spiritual eyes to understand the scripture. I had been trying to do it on my own. Why God used that tract instead of Luther's commentary is a mystery...
A Summary of the Gospel
Excerpts from Gospel Conversation by Jeremiah Burroughs
Of Burroughs it was said that... "it grieved his soul to see how, among professors of religion, holiness of life and circumspect walking is not attended to in this dissolute and dissolved age in which we live. What truths, therefore, served most to revive and renew that spirit and vigor of practical holiness which was breathing in them before these times, these he most insisted on and pressed upon the consciences of believers. And he who is conversant in his writings will readily discern that he judged the power of godliness not to consist in high-towering speculation (though he was of excellently-raised parts), but in holy conversation, which is peculiarly the subject of this treatise; therein following the direction of Paul to Titus exhorting believers in God to maintain good works, to go before others in good works, or to set before others good works, and the words imply.
While a Christian pursues this with all zealous fervency and intention, he must withal be acquainted with the root from whence all his holiness must spring. Good works are dangerous if they are made the foundation of the great point of justification by faith; but if they are used in the superstructure then they are very useful. We cannot have children from Christ until we are married to Christ. There are no works of sanctification before there is union with Christ. Many cry out for obedience and good works, yet are profane because they do not go to Christ for these. "You will not come unto me that you might have life," said our Savior. Unless we do all for and from Christ, our lusts will not be mortified, our duties will not be accepted, and our consciences will not be purified. We shall not be strengthened against crosses, neither shall we go on cheerfully or persevere.
The â€œActive Obedienceâ€ of Jesus Christ In The Justification of Sinners
The following is an excerpt from Brian Schwertly's book Auburn Avenue Theology: A Biblical Analysis
The doctrine that a perfect obedience or a positive righteousness is necessary is easily deduced from Scripture. Note the following observations.
The moral law of God is based on Godâ€™s own nature and character (Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:16). Therefore, the law of God (i.e., the moral law) can never be abrogated, set aside, annulled or circumvented as an eternal, unchangeable obligation upon all men. Jehovah would have to deny Himself in order to set aside the obligation of the moral law on the rational beings that He created. God cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). Therefore, the moral law as a rule of obedience will always be in force and enforced by the LORD. What does this eternal unchangeable law require? A perfect, perpetual obedience on the part of man in thought, word, and deed! The law prohibits any sin; it requires sinless perfection. How does this truth relate to the doctrine of justification? It means that God must justify sinners in a manner that is consistent with His own nature. In order for sinners to be justified the curse of the law (e.g., the guilt and liability to punishment) must be removed; but, Godâ€™s requirement of obedience which is founded upon His nature must also be fulfilled. If Jehovah simply eliminated the penalty without the fulfillment of the positive obligation then He would be setting aside a crucial aspect of His own moral law. Such a thought is a theological impossibility. The biblical doctrine of justification upholds Godâ€™s righteousness and His holy law in every possible manner.
I am a Debtor by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Taken from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 1. 'The Gospel of God', Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1985, (pp. 249-255)
Paul was a man who could stand without any fear and without any apology in Athens on Mars' Hill. There he is confronted by a congregation of Stoics and Epicureans, and he can speak to them with authority. Ah, but when the same man visits Galatia, where they belonged to a rather primitive type of culture and lacked this knowledge of philosophy and various other things, he is equally ready to preach the gospel; he is equally effective as a preacher, and his ministry is equally used. Paul would do as well in the slums of the great cities as he would do in centres of learning - the wise and the unwise. It does not matter where you put him. As long as he is preaching to men and women he not only has a message, he is able to impart it. You notice how he puts it: '. . . to them that are under the law, as under the law . . . To them that are without law, as without law. . . To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some' [I Corinthians 9: 20-22]. What a wonderful thing this is!
There are times when I begin to wonder whether we are equally clear about this at the present time. We tend to divide even in this matter of the preaching of the gospel, do we not, just as the world tends to do in a secular manner, and it is quite wrong. If a preacher cannot preach his gospel to everybody I take leave to doubt whether he can preach it to anybody. If a preacher must have a certain type of congregation, to that extent he is unlike the Apostle Paul. He is probably a philosopher. He is probably a purveyor of natural human learning which is using Christian terminology. A preacher does not need to presuppose anything in his congregation except their need of God and of Christ. I am raising this point and emphasizing it because you will hear a good deal today along these lines. We are told that students and others who are training for the ministry should be compelled to spend part of their time working in factories or similar places. You see the argument? It is said, 'How can a preacher preach to factory workers unless he knows their conditions and circumstances. He must go and spend three months, and perhaps more, working in a factory, and get to understand them and their outlook and their mentality, and then he will be able to preach to them'! Now that theory is not only being seriously advocated, it is even being put into practice. The argument is that unless we know the exact position and circumstances and make-up of people and their way of thinking, we cannot preach to them.
Hospitality in a Cold World
Be kindly affectionate to one another . . . , given to hospitality. â€”Romans 12:10,13
The word for hospitality in the Scripture means â€œa love of strangers.â€ Something that does not really come naturally to me. I know it is my own tendency to avoid taking the initiative to meet and befriend others. My heart naturally can be cold and unreceiving. But by prayer through the word of God, hospitality, I have witnessed, breaks down barriers and build bridges to other people. It can make strangers and stragglers feel welcome.
Inviting someone to your home is an ideal way to start serving in this way. I have appreciated it when people have done this for me in the past, especially when I was new to an area. And when you invite new friends into your home, use your culinary skill and eat with them (Acts 2:46, 20:11; 1 Cor 16:19) and then take the time to pray with them before they depart. They will appreciate it more than you know. Show appreciation to leaders, hurting families and teachers by inviting them into your home. There are many wandering, isolated persons who need this ministry of hospitality. Consider how much you appreciate it when, perhaps in those rare occassions, others have done this for you. I think human beings all appreciate this and it is a means God uses to minister the gospel through you. When living overseas, I was especially struck with the natural tendency of Chinese people to be hospitible to people. Many Christians could learn from them.
The Atonement by Tom Ferrell (MP3s)
The Atonement MP3 Lectures
Contemplating the Wondrous Redemptive Work of Christ
by Tom Ferrell - Arlington Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Five week study exploring and relishing the glories of the atonement. Focuses on the purpose for the Incarnation of Christ. More importantly, however, that all of life is answered by the gospel. So we preach Christ crucified. We preach the atonement. We preach the good news with unwavering confidence that the gospel alone will work an abiding gratitude and joy in your souls. The atonement is Christâ€™s satisfying divine justice by His sufferings and death in the place of sinners.
The Atonement: its necessity Matthew 5:20-48; James 2:10 MP3
the Atonement: its demand Luke 2:1-20; Galatians 4:4-5a MP3
the Atonement: its essence 2 Corinthians 5:21 MP3
the Atonement: its Benefit Matthew 11:28-29 MP3
the Atonement: its design Matthew 1:21 MP3
For .pdf Manuscripts of these sermons click here
Eros Spirituality Vs. Agape Faith by David F. Wells
The following are excerpts from David Wellsâ€™ excellent book,
Above All Earthly Powâ€™rs: Christ in a Postmodern World, (Pg. 158-175)
The casual embrace of what is postmodern has increasingly led to an embrace of its spiritual yearning without noticing that this embrace carries within it the seeds of destruction for evangelical faith. The contrast between biblical faith and this contemporary spirituality is that between two entirely different ways of looking at life and at God. Nygren, some years ago, used the Greek words for two different kinds of love, Eros and Agape, to characterize these worldviews, and his elucidation is still helpful. In one worldview, which he calls Eros, it is the self which is at the center. In the other, which he calls Agape, it is God who is at the centerâ€¦if [eros] is a preparation [for the gospel], it is one which carries within itself and understanding about God and salvation which is diametrically opposed to what we have in biblical faith. In this sense, it is less a preparation and more a wrong turn. Why is this so?
The movement of Eros spirituality is upward. Its essence, its drive, is the sinner finding God. The movement of Agape, by contrast, is downward. It is all about God finding the sinner. Eros spirituality is the kind of spirituality which arises from human nature and it builds on the presumption that it can forge its own salvation. Agape arises in God, was incarnate in Christ, and reaches us through the work of the Holy Spirit opening lives to receive the gospel of Christâ€™s saving death. In this understanding, salvation is given and never forged or manufactured. Eros is the projection of the human spirit into eternity, the immortalizing of its own impulses. Agape is the intrusion of eternity into life coming, not from below, but from above. Eros is human love. Agape is divine love. Human love of this kind, because it has need and want at its center, because it is always wanting to have its needs and wants satisfied, will always seek to control the object of its desires. That is why in these new spiritualities it is the spiritual person who makes up his or her beliefs and practices, mixing and matching and experimenting to see what works best, and assuming the prerogative to discard at will. The sacred is therefore loved for what can be had from loving it. The sacred is pursued because it has value to the pursuer and that value is measured in terms of the therapeutic payoff. There is, therefore, always a profit-and-loss mentality to these spiritualities.
Justification by Faith, Out of Date? by Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921)
The following short essay was originally published in the The Christian Irishman, Dublin, May 1911, p. 71. The electronic edition of this article was scanned and edited by Shane Rosenthal for Reformation Ink. It is in the public domain and may be freely copied and distributed.
Sometimes we are told that Justification by Faith is "out of date." That would be a pity, if it were true. What it would mean would be that the way of salvation was closed and "no thoroughfare" nailed up over the barriers. There is no justification for sinful men except by faith. The works of a sinful man will, of course, be as sinful as he is, and nothing but condemnation can be built on them. Where can he get works upon which he can found his hope of justification,, except from Another?
His hope of Justification, remember, is of being pronounced righteous by God. Can God pronounce him righteous except on the ground of works that are righteous?
Where can a sinful man get works that are righteous? Surely, not from himself; for, is he not a sinner, and all his works as sinful as he is? He must go out of himself, then, to find works which he can offer to God as righteous. And where will he find such works except in Christ? Or how will he make them his own except by faith in Christ?
Justification by Faith, we see, is not to be set in contradiction to justification by Works. It is set in contradiction only to justification by our Own Works. It is justification by Christ's Works.
Corporate Confession of Sin
Corporate worship, as our local church understands it, is a time of joyful covenantal renewal which includes confession of sin, responsive prayers, corporate song, the preaching of the gospel and the covenantal climax of communion in the Lord's Supper. To be frank, I never personally thought I would like liturgy in a church, but after experiencing it, I have found it to be a much more meaningful form of worship because of its connection to history, the corporate body and the depth of its ability to illumine the covenant. One of the most meaningful times of the worship service to me and my wife has been the practice of the corporate confession of sin at the beginning of a worship service. Many churches have put aside the corporate confession in favor of only music but the church has historically made the corporate confession central to worship. For most it makes the time of worship more authentic and joyful for it strikes a blow against self-righteousness and humbles us before God as we say what we know to be true of ourselves. It reminds us that we are not better than others and that it is only grace (an alien righteousness) which makes us what we are. God remembers, in the covenant in Christ's blood, not to treat us as our sins deserve. In it we pray for personal sin, for the sins of our local church, our local community, our nation and world.
But Corporate confession of sin would bring only despair were it not for our knowledge of Godâ€™s faithfulness to His covenant promise, His forgiveness and mercy. It is dangerous to dwell on ourselves and our sin if we do not also rememeber that God delights in forgiving us. So I personally deeply appreciate when after we have confessed the pastor says, "...but if your faith is in Jesus Christ this morning, then I can assure you, based on the sure promise of the Word, that your sins are forgiven....
The Necessity of the Use of Means in the Spirit's Work of Monergistic Regeneration
There are a few wise guys who are venting their theological frustrations in the ethersphere by misrepresenting the Reformed community on a rather broad scale. This is particularly true with regard to our teaching on the necessity of the use of means (preaching) in the Spirit's work of regeneration. Anyone who has spent any time on Monergism.com will know that for years we have gathered historical and contemporary essays from a wide array of Reformed Scholars and pastors from various denominations on the necessity of preaching the gospel to the lost so that the Spirit might quicken hearers through the Word. The Spirit quickens us, creating belief in the gospel, and cries 'Abba Father' in us, giving witness to the truth and excellency of the Word of Christ. Michael Horton affirms, with us, that while regeneration is necessary for faith, but that this life is brought forth. not in a void, but through the Word:
"...God alone is the cause of the New Birth, but he calls women and men to himself through the weakness of preaching. Nowhere in Scripture do we find a pattern of evangelism or revival in which individuals respond to the gospel by simply being â€œzappedâ€ by the Spirit. They are always responding to the preached Word. It may be one-on-one, or in an assembly, but it is the Word proclaimed that gives life to those spiritually dead. Furthermore, even after they are converted, believers do not grow in their walk, deepen in their Christian experience, or learn new truths by the direct activity of the Spirit apart from Godâ€™s ordained means... God has determined to bring that Good News through specific means, and to involve us in this drama... Paul picks up on this language in Romans 10, making the preached Word essential for the Spiritâ€™s work of regeneration: â€œHow, then, can they call on the one in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, â€˜How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!â€™â€(Rom. 10:14-15).
Some of the allegations that we do not believe this are simply preposterous so it is needful to make a few clarifying statements to silence some of the crazy misrepresentations out there. I have seen numerous posts which erroneously claim that the broad Reformed community (who embrace monergistic regeneration) does not believe in means (preaching) to bring about regeneration.
The Together for the Gospel Statement
We are brothers in Christ united in one great cause â€“ to stand together for the Gospel. We are convinced that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and marginalized in many churches and among many who claim the name of Christ. Compromise of the Gospel has led to the preaching of false gospels, the seduction of many minds and movements, and the weakening of the church's Gospel witness.
As in previous moments of theological and spiritual crisis in the church, we believe that the answer to this confusion and compromise lies in a comprehensive recovery and reaffirmation of the Gospel â€“ and in Christians banding together in Gospel churches that display God's glory in this fallen world.
We are also brothers united in deep concern for the church and the Gospel. This concern is specifically addressed to certain trends within the church today. We are concerned about the tendency of so many churches to substitute technique for truth, therapy for theology, and management for ministry.
Assenting to the Gospel through Our Natural Powers?
As we cast forth the seed of the Gospel, the fallow ground of the natural heart does not receive it. The Farmer must first come plow it up and give blessing if it is to grow (Micah 6:15; 1 Cor 3:6). The Word does not work by itself but requires the application of the Spirit who brings forth life through the Word (1 Thess 1:4, 5). When the Holy Spirit germinates that seed, He quickens the hearer to life, opening spirtitually blind eyes, unpluging deaf ears, convicting of sin, and turning hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. We affirm that this initial grace of the Holy Spirit working in us is independent of any human cooperation.
With the historic biblical church of all ages we confess that God does not await our unregenerate will to be cleansed from sin, since even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the effectual working of the Holy Spirit in uniting us to the Person and work of Christ (John 1:13; 6:63-65, 37; Rom 9:16). That even the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly comes to us through regeneration -- and this belongs to us NOT by nature but by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, for the Apostle Paul says, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). We confess that it is by the work and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we even have the faith, the will, or the strength to believe and obey as we ought. The assistance of grace does not depend on the humility or obedience of man but it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble. The Apostle Paul again says, "...What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).
We confess that due to the bondage of the natural man to a corruption of nature, we cannot assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination, inspiration and quickening of the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament communicates this when it speaks of circumcising and softening otherwise stubborn, unholy and hardened hearts (Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:26). It is spoken of as the act of Godâ€™s writing his law on the human heart (Jer. 31:33). In the New Testament, this work of the Holy Spirit is represented as making us a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), being brought from death to life (Rom. 6:13), being called out of darkness into Godâ€™s wonderful light (1 Pet. 2:9), or being born again (John 3:3).
The Divine Exchange by Pastor John Samson
Surely he has borne our griefs (lit. sicknesses) and carried our sorrows (lit. pains); yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. - Is. 53:4-6
The cross was no accident, but the center point of a plan devised by God before time began. The plan culminated in a divinely ordained exchange which would take place at Calvary. All the wrath and punishment due to us for our sinfulness was to come upon Jesus; and the good due to Jesus due to His sinless obedience was to come upon us. The innocent would bear the just punishment of the guilty, and the guilty would receive all the benefits due to the just.
I remember around two decades ago, hearing a sermon regarding this divine exchange. What I heard still affects me greatly today. For His glory, and out of His love for us, God met all of our needs at the cross: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, material, financial, temporal and eternal. As we think about these eight declarations concerning what Christ achieved for His people in His death, burial and resurrection, let us celebrate the perfect and finished work of the perfect Savior:
Three Common Objections to Election Addressed
Although it is certainly inexcusable, it is nevertheless to be expected that the world, lying in the power of Satan, should take offense at the doctrines of Godâ€™s free and sovereign grace in the gospel. But it is even less excusable, and certainly less understandable, that among professing evangelicals, the same sort of reaction is likely to occur. True, evangelical Christians dress up their objections in different ways, viewing them as a vindication of Godâ€™s character, or even as an adherence to biblical truths; but the plain fact of the matter is that anyone whose eyes have been opened by the Spirit to understand the scriptures, if he is honest in his pursuit of biblical teaching, must admit that such foundational gospel principles as election are shouted in the clearest of terms throughout the entire gamut of scripture. Hence, those Christians who are opposed to the doctrines (due to natural human ways of thinking), tend for the most part to skirt over exegetical and textual arguments, and immediately bring to bear certain logical arguments against the doctrines of Calvinism. This is not true of every non-Calvinistic Christian: but I think it is a fair observation for the bulk of Arminian Christianity in America. From this group in particular, I have innumerable times heard the following three arguments against the precious and biblical doctrine of election: (1) Godâ€™s choosing us makes him an arbitrary and unjust dictator; (2) Godâ€™s choosing us destroys personal responsibility; and (3) Godâ€™s choosing us eliminates the motivation to evangelize the lost. In this brief article, I hope to demonstrate that these objections are not logical â€“ and they are certainly not scriptural. My desire is that these simple thoughts may be used by God to convince some of our dear Arminian brothers that their view of God is not biblical, and hence to give them a more accurate glimpse of the Lord in his sovereign majesty. Because to see him for who he is is to love him more deeply and passionately.
Spiritual Discernment is for the Spiritual
"the things of the Spirit of God ... are spiritually discerned" ( 1Cor 2:14)
"he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24"45)
I would like to challenge each one of you to take a friend from work out to lunch; someone that you know is not a Christian. This person preferably is a someone with whom you developed some degree of a good relationship with. During the course of your meal, when it seem appropriate, you can lead the conversation toward the Gospel. Tell him or her that God Himself has truly entered into human history from the time of Israel through the time of Christ, and not only has made himself known to us in the Person of Jesus Christ but has redeemed us from our sin and rebellion against the Creator. He Himself fully endured the wrath we justly deserve for sin by His death on the cross. Living the life we should have lived and dying the death we deserve. Then, vindicating the truth of what He accomplished God raised him physically from the dead on the third day. There were over 500 witness to this historic event and different witness to the same event wrote down their testimony which now makes up the Holy Scripture.
Then when you are done explaining the unfolding drama of redemption in history ask him or her whether they acknowledge the truth of these factual claims. If he responds that these events are something less than historical, just a myth or a fairy tale, I challenge you to consider the question of why he rejects something that should be as plain as day. it is true is it not. It is not that he lacks sufficent data so one thing you can be assured of is that he/she is spiritually blind in some way and cannot see the plain truth as put before them. Their eyes are closed to the gospel, but why? If you have also shown them great love and patience and presented these facts with warmth and a genuine spirit with great eloquence and done so till you are blue in the face, your effort, while it may leave a seed, does not convince and will be of no avail if the Holy Spirit does not remove his blindness and give him new spiritual eyes to see the truths you presented him/her. All your exegesis, proclamation and logical persuasion will have no effect unless the Spirit remove the veil of darkness, clearing the way for them to believe the truth of the message you put before Him (John 6:63-65). This means if the Lord is to use us to win souls to Christ we must pray that the Holy Spirit disarm their innate hostility, overcome their lack of faith (heal their faithlessness), remove the barricades erected in their heart and enlighten the truths we herald from the Scripture. The reason they reject is, not simply because the evidence you provide is not strong enough, but because their affection remains set on the darkness (John 3:20).
The Historicity of the Resurrection
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." (Matthew 28:18)
As mentioned previously, as Easter approaches I hope to take a closer look at the historical and theological significance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Often as we consider the Gospel, many of us rightly focus in on the importance of Christ's substitutionary atonement. But as I re-read through the Gospels and Epistles of Paul I am struck by the fact that at the center of the gospel is the message of the resurrection. Both the atonement and the resurrection are inseparable and, by God's grace, I hope to shed some more light, beyond a mere apologetic, as to why the resurrection itself is significant to our salvation. Considering how infrequently we hear sermons on this, perhaps many of us have missed the fact that the message of the resurrection is the power of the Gospel to us. We may have also overlooked its historical significance ... but the early church heralded the resurrection as the central historical redemptive act in the Gospel. Next time I hope to begin talking about the theologial significance of the resurrection to our faith, but today, the historical factor is where we will start.
Prior to the time the Lord opened my heart to the gospel, some of you may know that I was deeply involved in a new age hodgepodge of religions that included the tenents of various aspects of most world religions. Some religions are based on nature, some on mythology, some on mysticism. As I reflect back on what I believed, I recognize that my most cherished presuppositions were utterly devoid of any historical grounding. In fact, at the time, I did not even think to ask how we knew what we believed was true. Instead I simply experienced it through meditation, mystical visions and what I thought to be higher consciousness. Mine was an Oceanic religion, meaning I was was the drop of water merging into the ocean, so to speak.
What is the Gospel? by C. J. Mahaney
The following was posted today by C. J. Mahaney (left in the photograph, along with Al Mohler, Mark Dever and Ligon Duncan, and pictured in the back row, C. H. Spurgeon) on the "Together for the Gospel" blog. I believe it deserves to be widely read, and so I post it here for our mutual edification.
- Pastor John Samson
Recently, someone on this blog asked two excellent questions:
(1) What is the gospel?
(2) What is the most serious threat to the gospel?
The following is my attempt to answer these important questions with the help of those much smarter than myself:
1) What is the gospel?
No question is more important, and biblical clarity in response to this question is critical. Sadly, confusion about the gospel is quite common among professing evangelicals today. I find Graeme Goldsworthyâ€™s comment all too relevant: â€œThe main message of the Bible about Jesus Christ can easily become mixed with all sorts of things that are related to it. We see this in the way people define or preach the gospel. But it is important to keep the gospel itself clearly distinct from our response to it or from the results of it in our lives and in the world.â€ So here is my attempt to heed the counsel of Dr. Goldsworthy and keep the gospel â€œclearly distinct.â€
The following definition of the gospel, provided by Jeff Purswell, the Dean of our Pastors College, seeks to capture the substance of the gospel: â€œThe gospel is the good news of Godâ€™s saving activity in the person and work of Christ. This includes his incarnation in which he took to himself full (yet sinless) human nature; his sinless life which fulfilled the perfect law of God; his substitutionary death which paid the penalty for manâ€™s sin and satisfied the righteous wrath of God; his resurrection demonstrating Godâ€™s satisfaction with his sacrifice; and his glorification and ascension to the right hand of the Father where he now reigns and intercedes for the church.
â€œSuch news is specific: there is a defined â€˜thatnessâ€™ to the gospel which sets forth the content of both our saving faith and our proclamation. It is objective, and not to be confused with our response. It is sufficient: we can add nothing to what Christ has accomplished for us--it falls to us simply to believe this news, turning from our sins and receiving by faith all that God has done for us in Christ.â€
Bottom Up Vs. Top Down Theology
"In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor 5:19).
Does not that one text of Scripture pretty much sum up the central truth of our faith? This is the heartbeat of the Christian religion for it speaks of the Divine act that takes place at the decisive climax in the unfolding drama of redemptive history. Good theology is about what God has done for us in Christ. We can only do theology at all because God, out of sheer grace, has chosen to unveil Himself (to make Himself known) through His acts and speech on the stage of the world. He does this through a series of acts and verbal communications, which He freely initiates, specifically in the events of the history of Israel and ultimately in the Person of Jesus Christ. The acts of God are all redemptive and they all ultimately point to Christ. After the series of redemptive events recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus Himself enters the drama as one of us in the culminating and decisive act of the Play so to speak. This covenantal focus of the Bible helps us to rightly understand that true religion consists in what God has done for us in Christ.
The Gospel is about God acting on and speaking to us onto the stage of world history. A truly orthodox evangelical theology affirms the priority of the Word and Acts of God in Christ (ultimate) over our response of faith, obedience and spiritual experiences (penultimate). The Divine Word revealed in Christ is supreme over all man-made religions which would speculatively formulate a 'bottom-up' theology of fallen human actions over Divine actions. What is most distressing is, although the most urgent task and function of the church is to make known the gospel to men and women in the world, there is still utter confusion in the world as to what the Gospel is. I am not someone who likes controversy and I have a burden for souls. But unfortunately the confusion about the gospel is not confined to people outside the church, but rather, has itself been produced by those within its walls. This means that the Word of the Gospel must be proclaimed as clearly to those in and outside the church. The re-evangelization of the church is, therefore, itself one of our greatest tasks, if not the greatest. Many Christians evangelize with a four-point presentation gospel, thinking the job is done when someone prays a prayer, but fail in the arena of continued discipleship to those who believe. It is little wonder why this has been so ineffective for creating long-term zealous Christians who are used of God to themselves reproduce.
How has the Gospel affected you today? by Pastor John Samson
Do you live in the good of the Gospel? If so, how exactly does the Gospel affect you each day? How does it affect your relationships? How does the Gospel affect the way you do business? How does the Gospel affect your finances or your emotional well being? Can people tell that the Gospel is shaping your conduct?
I recently had the privilege of hearing Pastor Mike Bullmore, of Crossway Community Church, Kenosha, Wisconsin teach on this theme at a seminar. He was making the observation that there if often times a huge gap between the Gospel itself and the way Christians live their daily lives. People don't see the relevance of the Gospel in their everyday affairs. In this regard, he said "a local church is healthy to the degree that: (1) its pastor-teachers are able to accurately, effectively, and broadly bring the gospel to bear in the real lives of their people; and (2) its people have a deep personal understanding of and appreciation for the gospel, so as to be able to live in the good of the gospel daily." That's a profound statement and one with which I wholeheartedly agree. The Gospel is not merely something we believe, but something that should affect our behavior.
Pastor Bullmore also gave this insightful illustration, which I'd like to share with you here on the blog today: "Imagine three concentric circles. In the center is the gospel itself, perhaps best represented by the words of 1 Cor. 15:3 â€“ â€œChrist died for our sins.â€ This simple phrase speaks of the reality of our sin, the necessity of divine punishment, and the wonderful provision of salvation from divine wrath by God in Christ. Paul speaks of this â€œgood newsâ€ as the matter of â€œfirst importanceâ€, and we know well the priority he gives this message in his preaching and writing. It is central. But in order for it to have a functional centrality it must be connected to areas where people live their lives."
Jesus Gives Botany Lessons
Reflection on Agricultural Metaphors by J.W Hendryx
"Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. (Matt 7:16-18)
"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. " (Matt 12:33- 35)
Does Jesus tell us these stories in order that we may learn more about plant life? Was He here to teach us about botany? If not, what is Jesus saying here in these stories? Jesus is not teaching us about botany, but is speaking rather plainly about us, about the human condition after the fall.
Is Faith a Work?
We confess with the Bible that our regeneration or new birth in Christ is monergistic (a work of God alone) and not synergistic (i.e. a cooperation of man and God in regeneration). Thus our faith in Christ arises out of a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to change and soften our natural hostile disposition toward God. We likewise affirm that only by upholding monergistic regeneration do we faithfullly herald the biblical doctrine of 'Sola Gratia', or salvation by grace alone. All other schemes in which unregenerate man either takes the initiative or cooperates to be regenerated (by a faith produced or drawn from their native ability), should be considered synergistic. Some may be unhappy with being called a 'synergist' because it implies that they believe man and God work together toward salvation which clearly is a form of semi-pelagianism. So to defend themselves many synergists may respond as follows:
"Why do you call our belief that faith precedes regeneration synergistic? How can this be, unless faith is understood to be a work? Faith is not a meritorious work, by definition. In essence, the two are mutually exclusive. Accepting a gift is not a work, therefore it can't be considered synergism. If salvation is by faith, then works are nowhere to be found in the process. Again, to argue that faith precedes regeneration is synergistic would only be valid if faith = works."
I might respond to this line of reasoning by saying something like the following:
The Parable of the Drowning Man
Perhaps you have run into an earnest Christian, that when opposing the biblical teaching of the "bondage of the will", "salvation by grace alone" and "election" will use the common salvation analogy which likens the unsaved to a helpless drowning man. That a loving God gives us free choice while drowning whether we will reach out and take His hand to be saved or not. That only an 'evil' God, they say, would leave or not attempt to save people who are drowning in a lake. "How could a loving God be so cruel just to leave them there drowning," they argue.
There are quite a number of things that might be said in response to this. First of all we must clarify that what distinguishes our tradition from freewillism is not that one God loves people and the other conception of God does not. No... the distinction is between an intensive and an extensive love, between an intensive love where God actually expresses His love by laying down His life to redeem His loved ones, and an extensive love that loves everyone in a generic sense but actually delivers no one in particular. Consider the parable of the drowning man again in light of these two perspectives:
(1) Your child is drowning off the edge of your boat. You are a great swimmer but the swells are high and it is risky. You call out to your child to use his willpower to swim back to the boat to save himself, yet he is entirely too weak to do so. You reach out your hand but it depends on whether your child is a good enough swimmer to get to you and has the strength in himself to reach out his arm. But you do nothing more than call for him to come and will only go as far as reaching out your hand since you wouldn't want to violate his free will to let him decide if he will swim back and reach for your help.
(2) Your child is drowning off the edge of your boat. You are a great swimmer but the swells are high and it is risky. But your love for your child outweighs all other considerations and without hesitation you leap into the water at the risk of your own life, due to the weather, and actually save your child from drowning. You drown in the process but your child is saved. In other words, you don't just wait to see if he is willing or has the strength. He doesn't. So you go in and save your child regardless of the cost to yourself.
Which of the two fathers is more loving I ask?
Pietistic Vs. Biblical Sanctification
How many of us try to clean ourselves up before approaching the Lord's Table, as if there were some degree or level of purity that we could reach that would make us acceptable to God? The command to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself should be sufficient to make you recognize your utter inability to do so. In all likelihood, the thinking that we have to make ourselves right and acceptable before God before he will accept us probably derives its origin from the influential but flawed theology of Pietism. For what man could ever clean himself up enough to make himself acceptable to God? And if he could clean himself up to that degree, then what further need would he have of a Savior or the nourishment of the Lord's Supper? He would be self-sufficient. The whole point of both the gospel and the Lord's Supper for Christians is to continually recognize our own spiritual bankruptcy and dependency on the grace and promises of Christ.
In his letter to the Galatians Paul asks Christians who were in danger of thinking they could add to Christ's work or make themselves acceptable by some other way, "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3). No, this is folly, because what God still wants from us as Christians is a broken Spirit, one which still recognizes its own moral and spiritual inability and complete need of God's grace to move on. One that says, "have mercy on me, I am insufficient for the task.". Anyone who thinks, therefore, that they can approach the Lord's table with a pure undefiled heart are really missing the point of the gospel.
Do This and Live by John Hendryx
"He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury." (Rom 2:6-8)
"If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." (Matt 19:17)
What are we to make of the above statements by Paul and Jesus? Both of these texts plainly state that eternal life will be granted those who obey God's commandments. Since we have been taught that salvation to be by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, how are we to interpret such passages? I take up this important issue because there were one or two questions regarding the legitimacy of the concept of "do this and live" in my essay "There May be More Than One Way to God".
It should be known that these law/gospel (two ways of salvation model) concepts I proposed in the essay are not my peculiar new invention but the classic understanding of salvation in Covenant Theology.
When we preach the law to a person we are, in effect, saying "do this and live". Scripture actually reveals two ways that one might be saved in the Bible. These two antithetical covenants can be filtered down to "Do this and live" (Leviticus 18:5; Romans 2:13; 10:5), and "The just shall live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 10:6; Galatians 3:11). These covenants are both based in the eternal covenant of redemption which was made in the eternal counsels of the Triune God (John 6:37-39). Both will come into play through the historical Christ. This first covenant was revealed in Eden as the original Adamic Covenant (or covenant of Works). In its most basic form it consisted of the command "Do not eat, or you will die." It is easy enough to see that if you restate P for ~P, you get "Do this and live." When Adam failed to live up to the terms of the covenant, he plummeted he and his posterity into the Curse of death. Now all who are "in Adam" are incapable of life through that original covenant. It should be noted that God also mentions, after the fall, that the way to the tree of life is blocked lest man eat and live. So there was a means by which Adam hypothetically could have avoided the fall, that is, by obedience to God for a period or perhaps by eating the tree of life.
The Subject of All Theology
Jesus Christ is the focus and subject of all theology. He is not only the author and perfector of our faith and salvation (Heb 12:2), but is the the author and perfector of all things excellent, for in Him all things are consummated (Col 1:16-20). All theology is, therefore, Christology, for what we can, and do, know about God is summed up in the person of Jesus Christ. All light concerning God is refracted only through the Christ who has worked and revealed HImself through redemptive history. This means that all attempts to try to understand God redemptively in any sense that is different than Christ is futile, for apart from Jesus Christ, He is unknowable. While reason and creation may give us an idea of God and His greatness, only in the revelation of Christ can we come to know Him. While in Romans 1:18, 21 it says that the unregenerate "know" God as well, but the text makes clear that they only know Him as an enemy. Only through Christ do we know Him as a friend.
Calvin once said, "...it is obvious, that in seeking God, the most direct path and the fittest method is, not to attempt with presumptuous curiosity to pry into his essence, which is rather to be adored than minutely discussed, but to contemplate him in his works, by which he draws near, becomes familiar, and in a manner communicates himself to us."(Institutes Book 1, Chapter 5, section 9) In other words, we should only attempt to know God as He has revealed Himself to us. Other attempts are vain speculation.
So why study theology? Because theology is an interpretation of God as He revealed Himself, a revelation which was fulfilled in the gospel-event of Christ which took place in space-time history. The gospel is a narrative of the story of Jesus as Godâ€™s historical act to which all revelation pointed. It narrates the history of Jesus as the history of redemption that culminates in Christ's physical death and resurrection. The gospel defines the God who has revealed Himself in Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of God. Incarnate to redeem His covenant people, He was executed on a cross, and was raised to life: this is the Christian definition of God which was fulfilled in His decisive act. "All the wisdom of believers", said Calvin, "is comprehended in the cross of Christ."
So it is an extremely urgent task in our era of religious chaos, that we use the word â€œGodâ€ only as describing the event that culminated in the history of Jesus Christ, God made flesh for His glory and our redemption. When we speak of the benefits of truths such as the doctrines of grace, they should never be spoken of as divorced from the Benefactor. And when we speak of God's various perfections, we do not simply speak in abstractions, but of a historic person who walked among us. God's love, glory, wrath, holiness are all seen to perfectly unite in the person of Jesus.
The Sin Problem
I recently received the following note from a brother:
"I am a relatively new believer (a little over a year, start: Oct. 2004), and while GRACE abounds, while CHRIST ATONED, while GOD CAN NOT BE ANYMORE PLEASED WITH HIS PEOPLE (IN CHRIST) THAN HE IS NOW, I am NOT comfortable with accepting that I will be a sinner until the Day of Glory. I can not cope with the fact that sin will be a part of my life until I die, and that this is somehow alright, because of CHRIST atonement, and the Father's wrath completely poured out on the SON. Everytime I sin, as a man, ESPECIALLY EVERY TIME I "SIN", I simply can not go to the Throne of Grace (Heb. 4), confess/repent, say Amen, and then have a heart that says, "alright, let's keep moving, can't stop, can't slow up, got to keep "Pressing Into the Kingdom (Edwards)." For me, its more like, "why keep fighting this foe, this foe you can't see, can't feel, can't touch, can't get a grasp on! Why keep fighting, to lose more times than you win! Why fight!"
I was wondering, if you might be able to recommend any specific articles on this site that deal with this. I know its a big task to ask for one, two, or three specific articles, but I am struggling here. I need to know, "how does the believer in CHRIST, accept his status of redeemed sinner, justified sinner, so that his hatred of his sin, does not result in his hatred of himself?" If you can help John, thanks. If not, then at minimum I praise GOD that you had a heart to listen to a stranger pour out his struggle, and did not reject him. Thanks again, Grace and Peace."
Awaiting our Lord's Coming: A Very Short thought on the 2nd Advent of Christ By Marco Gonzalez
The second advent of Christ has stretched out the minds of theologians since scripture was canonized. The interpretations of Christâ€™s return may vary but the declaration is truthful: Christ will trample his enemies and gather his church. When the son of man came incarnate, he was born of a virgin, both divine and human. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows; acquainted with grief. He had no form or beauty that we should look upon him and no majesty that we should desire him.
The Gospel of Prosperity Part 2: The Promise of Health & Wealth by Marco Gonzalez
Since the birth of 1st Century Christianity, the church, collectively, has been beleaguered with false preachers. Many of the written epistles to churches were written with the intention of warning believers of the impending crisis surrounding the gospel. Paul, who possessed an abundance of fellow ministers that preached along with him, was ultimately left alone in his endeavor as some of his closet companions fell away for the â€œpleasures of the world.â€ It comes as no surprise then, that in the 21st century, false preachers and teachers are widespread; TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) has proven to us the prevalence of this.
Are Our Churches Preaching the Gospel?
by John Hendryx
This year my wife and I traveled to Denver, Colorado to attend the worldâ€™s largest Christian publisherâ€™s conference and retail show. It was quite an experience and probably the most massive coming together of any industry people I have ever seen. Buyers came in the conference with carry on luggage so they could take away the truckloads of free materials given away. Everyone loaded up on single copies of new books given out (some good, some not so good) many of which the authors were signing on the spot. And since we got to meet and connect with many persons in the industry face to face our trip was a great success. Below are some thoughts that I had about our time in Denver.
Are Our Churches Preaching the Gospel?
The next morning after we arrived in Denver it was a Sunday so we went to a local conservative/evangelical Presbyterian church. I was impressed by the facility and doubly impressed that they had a massive book library available to members so they might check books out for free. It seemed like a very literate church and one which we could be confident understood the gospel. That day there was an important guest missionary preacher and so I was most interested in what he had to say given that missions was our personal vocation overseas for over ten years. I want to share a little about what he preached on that morning because it is important to see an obvious trend in both our churches and in the Christian publishing industry.
The Gospel of Prosperity Part 1 By Marco Gonzalez
When I first became a Christian, I was influenced heavily. Much of my doctrinal and theological stances were formed and shaped by the gospel of prosperity (or as many have labeled it â€œThe prosperity Gospel.â€) The prominent speakers: T.D Jakes, Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Copeland, and Kenneth Hagin all participated in creating my understanding of the gospel. The success of these individuals is well-known Even without the major influence of their broadcasts on TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network), many of the dominant speakers have gross revenues reaching a billion dollars a year. TBN is primarily the telecommunication used to project these individuals toward Christians. Iâ€™ve personally listened to well-over a thousand hours of broadcasting.
There's Good News and Bad News by Pastor John Samson
The book of Romans is the most comprehensive statement of the Gospel in the pages of Scripture. It starts with these words, "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God." (Rom. 1:1) Each word is significant, but one that is normally overlooked is the little word "of" in the phrase "the gospel of God." Here, the word does not mean "about" as in the gospel about God. The word "of" here speaks of possession. The gospel of God is the gospel belonging to God, or God's gospel.
This little word "of" then has tremendous implications. It speaks of the fact that God is not only the author of the gospel, but that He owns exclusive rights to it. The gospel is His Gospel, and we as proclaimers of that gospel have no right to alter it, modify it, or shave off its rough edges in an effort to make it more palatable.
According to almost all commentators on the book of Romans, in chapter 1:16, 17, Paul outlines the theme of the book when he writes, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, 'the righteous shall live by faith.'"
The book of Romans is the presentation of the gospel. The word "gospel" means good news. That always needs to be kept in mind. Yet the good news doesn't make too much sense without an understanding of the bad news.
The Gospel: Offer or Command?
John Samson showed me this piece on seperate blog entitled
"I don't want to be a hyper-Calvinist"
Here are a few of my comments on it:
The author of this piece is struggling with the following question: If the gospel is an offer how can it really be sincere since only the elect will be regenerated?
Response: According to the witness of Scripture itself, the summons to believe the gospel is nowhere clearly presented as merely an offer, but as a divine command. There is no clear indication from the Text anywhere that we are simply "offering" the gospel to people. We, rather, plead with people to obey the Divine command to believe in His Son.
To be clear, the gospel itself is not an imperative, but an indicative; not a condition to meet, but an announcement of what Christ has accomplished for sinners. However, the Divine summons to believe the gospel is an imperative (Acts 17:30, Matt 17:5, 6, 1 John 3:23) ... a command stony hearted men refuse to believe (John 3:19, 20) unless God mercifully turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh (Exek 36:26).
There is explicit Scriptural evidence that the Gospel summons is a command. Here are some key texts:
"Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent." -Acts 17:30
"And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ..." - 1 John 3:23
Not only do these texts explicitly affirm that the gospel is a command, but we should take note that the Gospel has every characteristic of a command. Just like commandments throughout the Bible, the command to believe the Gospel is accompanied by covenant blessings for obedience and covenant curses for disobedience. And like a biblical covenant it is accompanied by the shedding of blood. On the other hand, a gift held out as a mere offer does not usually threaten consequences for refusing it.
The other article also expressed concerns of the genuiness of an offer/command if we were unable to obey/receive it ourselves. But as we know, God gives us commands all the time that we are unable to carry out (Love God will all our hearts, obey the 10 commandments, believe in Jesus >John 6:65). The purpose of the Divine legislation is to reveal our sin and inability(Rom 3:19, 20), not our ability. "Through the Law comes knowledge of sin." In other words, the Law simply reveals our spiritual impotence. And this passage in Romans does not make us any less accountable to obey. What we "ought" to do does not equal the "ability" to do it. The purpose of the "ought" is actually to reveal our "inability".
Heralding the Gospel in Times of Crisis: Covenant Enforcement
Sometimes people wonder why such a large number of essays at Monergism.com target contemporary evangelicalism and its culture rather than the rampant sin among non-christians outside the church. Perhaps the main reason we do this is because it follows biblical precedent. The prophets, the apostles and Jesus spend very little time complaining about the sins of foreigners or the pantheon of Roman gods and culture. Instead, all of these persons spend the vast majority of their time criticizing the covenant people of God. If you take note of the prophets they are continually sounding the alarm to Israel of impending divine wrath and judgment upon them, whenever they fail to live in the covenant. They are highly critical of Israelâ€™s presuppositions, habits, assumptions, worldliness, lifestyle and Israelâ€™s worship of foreign gods like Baal. The brunt of Jesusâ€™ rebukes is saved for the Jewish religious establishment, not the Roman occupation. But there is an obvious reason for all of the in-house complaints: when Godâ€™s covenant people are faithful to the truth about who He is, and remember who they are (the redeemed people of God), then they fulfill their calling to be a light among the nations. People come to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit when Godâ€™s people are worshipping Him according to His blueprint, not our plans.