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

God's Sovereignty, the Nature of Man and the biblical Gospel

Good times: Got to hang out with my friends at Apologia Radio for a two hour show, talking about God's Sovereignty, the nature of man, and the biblical gospel. The show airs tomorrow (Saturday) in the Phoenix area but can be heard online at this link now. - JS

July 25, 2014  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Seven Hours of Dividing Lines

Throughout 2014, while Dr. James White has been away on various ministry trips, I have had the distinct honor and privilege of guest-hosting his "Dividing Line" broadcasts. This allowed me the opportunity of teaching on some major doctrines at the heart of the Christian faith. Here are the youtube videos (all in one place) - JS:

Hour 1. "Law and Gospel."

Hour 2. "The Five Solas of the Reformation."


Hour 3. The "T" in the TULIP, "Total Depravity.":


Hour 4. The "U" in the TULIP, "Unconditional Election."


Hour 5. The "L" in the TULIP, "Limited Atonement."


Hour 6. July, 2014: Continuing on from Dividing Line broadcasts earlier in the year, here is teaching on the "I" in the TULIP, "Irresistible Grace."


Hour 7. July, 2014: The conclusion of the TULIP series - the Perseverance (or Preservation) of the Saints:


July 09, 2014  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Saints Preserved!

Once again I had the privilege of guest hosting on Dr. James White's Dividing Line broadcast and concluded the TULIP series with the "P" - the Perseverance (or Preservation) of the Saints. I actually recorded the show last week but there were so many technical problems with the original recording that I came in to the studio for a complete redo today. Here is the program: - JS

July 09, 2014  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Simply Irresistible

Man will always resist the grace of God in the gospel until God decides to overcome his resistance. Today I had the privilege of once again guest-hosting one of Dr. James White's dividing line broadcasts and got to talk for an hour about the often misunderstood doctrine of "Irresistible Grace." I trust it will be a blessing to those who watch: - JS

July 01, 2014  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Election and Reprobation

I was interviewed this morning (April 15, 2014) on the “Knowing the Truth” radio broadcast with Kevin Boling as we talked about the doctrine of election, reprobation, Christ and the Cross, responding to a new book by Austin Fischer “Young, Restless and No Longer Reformed.” The 55 minute program is available to hear/download here. - John Samson

April 15, 2014  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

New Calvinism and Race Relations

On March 12, John Piper was the guest lecturer for the 7th annual Gaffin Lectures at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. The title of Dr. Piper's lecture is "The New Calvinism and the New Community: The Doctrines of Grace and the Meaning of Race."

The New Calvinism and the New Community from Westminster Theological Seminary on Vimeo.

March 14, 2014  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

5 Hours on the Dividing Line

JS - As you might already be aware, for the last couple of weeks I have had the distinct honor and privilege of hosting Dr. James White's "Dividing Line" broadcast while he was away on a ministry trip to Europe. For those of you would wish to have all five youtube videos at one internet link, here they are:

Hour 1. "Law and Gospel."

Hour 2. "The Five Solas of the Reformation."


Hour 3. The "T" in the TULIP, "Total Depravity:


Hour 4. The "U" in the TULIP, "Unconditional Election."


Hour 5. The "L" in the TULIP, "Limited Atonement."


February 27, 2014  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Limited Atonement on the Dividing Line

This afternoon I once again I had the privilege of hosting Dr. James White's Dividing Line broadcast. Today's topic was the "L" in the TULIP, "Limited Atonement." - JS

February 27, 2014  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

TULIP on the Dividing Line

2/20/2014

February 20, 2014  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

God's Sovereignty and Belief by Force?

Visitor: I believe God is sovereign. I also believe in free will, because the whole of Scripture does not seem to support God wanting robots. Is He the One who reveals to me His grace? Yes, the Holy Spirit precedes anyone who makes a decision to put their faith in Christ. Is He the One who sustains my belief? Yes, but I do not believe by force. Just as I would not want my girlfriend to love me because she did not have a choice, so the narrative of Scripture suggests that the Lord would not want people who only love Him because He predetermined they would love Him. Do I believe God knows who will and who will not receive His free gift of salvation? Absolutely! He is outside of time and can see both behind and beyond the present as we understand it. Do I believe He forces people to accept it? Hardly. Thank you for sharing regardless though Rachel. This is a theological issue that I wrestle with. Ultimately, whether it is predestination or free will (or as some have argued, BOTH!), the most important issue is whether people trust in Christ or not for their salvation. Whether or not someone upholds predestination or not is a secondary issue in comparison to primary (salvation) issues.

Response: Jesus teaches that He came to save us, not to help us save ourselves. He gives us everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe:

"The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing...No one can come to me unless the Father grants it" John 6:65

"All that the Father gives to me will come to me" John 6:37

Have you considered that you may be thinking about force in the wrong way. If your toddler ran out into the street into oncoming traffic (like we do into sin) then would you (as a parent) stand at the edge and simply tell him that you will only help him if he first meets your condition? No. If you are a loving parent you would run into traffic at the risk of your own life and make certain your child was safe, REGARDLESS of what your child's will was at the time because you know better than the child what is good for him. Likewise we are saved by mercy, not force. We do not deserve to be saved yet God, while we were still dead in sin, Christ made us alive in Christ (Eph 2:5) God's love for his own is unconditional. As soon as you add conditions then it is no longer grace. It would be like ascribing your repenting and believing to your own humility, wisdom, sound judgement or good sense and not to Christ alone. The Bible emphasizes effectual grace and predestination because it is safeguarding the gospel truth than salvation is by Christ alone. God does not love us because we meet his conditions. He loves us and grants us a heart to understand, eyes to see and ears to hear (Deut 29:4; 30:6) so that we may meet His condition to believe.

January 30, 2014  |  Comments (10)   |  Permalink

Response to the 'Foreknowledge' View of Election

A response to Dr. Gaines (1)

In a full program covering a number of issues, Dr. James White begins an examination of Dr. Steve Gaines' sermon on the sovereignty of God from back in September. It is a very useful response to what is known as the "foreknowledge view of election" (the idea that God chooses people in eternity past based on His knowledge of their future actions in time - looking through the corridors of time He sees certain people responding positively to the gospel and then elects them on that basis). Dr. White shows this to be a completely unbiblical position. The response to Dr. Gaines' sermon begins around the 1 hour mark of the show:

A response to Dr. Gaines (2)

As Dr. James White noted on his blog. "We continued our review of the September 8th sermon by Dr. Steve Gaines, examining whether his simple foreknowledge view can really withstand scrutiny, and also noting the disastrous results of refusing to recognize the difference between the prescriptive will of God and the decretive will of God."

Response (3)

Dr. White writes, "Continued our review of Pastor Steve Gaines’ sermon on election from 9/8/2013 today. Started off, though, with about 20 minutes on the will of God, the divine decree..."

Response (4)

James writes, "Had to start off with a little Caner news (specifically, materials from the police report of the criminal complaint Ergun Caner tried to use to stop us from giving our presentation in Lindale last year). The wave of documentation continues to grow and grow, and the shrill attacks of Caner and his defenders (Lumpkins, Rogers, Penn, et al) only show they well know the truth. But I got through that fairly quickly and managed to finish up my review of Pastor Steve Gaines’ sermon from September of 2013."

January 03, 2014  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

What About Lost Loved Ones?

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Let me address this question by telling you a story from history. In the 4th century, there was a very devout Christian lady named Monica. She was married to a prominent man who did not share her Christian faith. He was often very cruel to her, causing her physical abuse. Every day she would go to the church and pray for his conversion. Later on in his life, he did in fact become a Christian.

Yet the pain and anguish her husband caused her seemingly paled into insignificance compared to that which she suffered because of her oldest son. Her mother’s heart was broken, time after time, seeing the reckless life her son was leading. He not only did not share his mother’s faith but would join himself to anti-Christian groups, using his sharp mind to seek to convince others to follow him. He lived a very immoral life. He had a mistress but left her for another and had a son born out of wedlock, named Adeodatus. Monica was not personally able to convince her son of the truth claims of Christianity, but she determined never to stop praying that he would turn to the Lord.

For two decades this went on, with Monica persisting in prayer for her son, seemingly seeing no results. Her son was later to write about all this and tells us that she wept more for his spiritual death than most mothers weep for the bodily death of their children. Distraught, she went to see the well known Bishop Ambrose of Milan to speak about her plight. Knowing her anguish of soul he said, “Go your way and God will bless you, for it is not possible that the son of these tears should perish.” She accepted the answer as though it were a word from God Himself.

Monica’s prayers for her son were answered very suddenly. One day he was in a garden experiencing much agony of soul because of his sin. God the Holy Spirit was certainly working on him. In his own writings he recalled what happened next––suddenly he heard the voice of a boy or a girl, he was not sure which, coming from the neighboring house, chanting over and over again, “Tolle Lege, Tolle Lege” a Latin phrase that meant ‘Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it.’

Later, in his own writings, he recounted, "Immediately I ceased weeping and began most earnestly to think whether it was usual for children in some kind of game to sing such a song, but I could not remember ever having heard the like. So, damming the torrent of my tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon….

Continue reading "What About Lost Loved Ones?" »

December 05, 2013  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

A Response to Shawn McCraney

The folk at Apologia radio write, "We are saddened by Shawn McCraney’s attempts to abandon the biblical view of God’s grace by publicly teaching against ‘The Doctrines of Grace’. However, we love God’s Gospel and the incomprehensible nature of His grace enough to defend those truths whenever attacked: whether by cults (like Mormonism) or by professing brothers. Theology matters. Shawn McCraney’s attack on the biblical view of grace, the sovereignty of God, and the truths surrounding election have far reaching implications. The Gospel is at stake with issues related to grace, our condition before God, and our works. McCraney’s views are not helpful- they are not founded upon the Word of God."

John-Radio

In this two hour show I was asked to respond to Shawn's attack on Reformed theology. You can hear the program at this link. (The response to Shawn McCraney begins around the 23 minute mark) - John Samson

December 03, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Redemption Both Particular & Trinitarian

The work of redemption is both particular and it is Trinitarian. The Father elects a particular people for Himself (Eph 1: 4, 5); Christ dies for all those the Father has given Him (John 17:9, 19). and the Spirit applies the effectual work of Christ on the same (John 3:8; 6:63). However, those (amyraldians) who reject particular redemption introduce a conflict between the Divine Persons. The Triune God becomes disjoined from one other in their saving intent. In this case the Father elects particular individuals, but the Son, on the other hand, dies for all, and the Spirit again seals those the Father elected. Such theology would have us believe that the Son works in disharmony with the other two Members of the Trinity. But Christ is not the author of confusion but rather (the bible declares) came to save all those given to him by the Father (John 6:37,63,65; 17:9; 19, 24)

November 30, 2013  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

"You Always Resist the Holy Spirit"

One of the main arguments against the biblical doctrine of irresistible grace is an appeal to Acts 7:51 which declares “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you."

But it seems odd to me that the very text here cited by some to demonstrate that grace is resistible contains they very language that makes a decisive argument against their own position. Indeed it is true that these persons resist the Holy Spirit, but look closely... the Text declares that their heart and ears are "uncircumcised". In the Old Testament this is the main language used for regeneration (See Deut 29:4, 30:6 & Ezek 36:26) so being unregenerate, to resist every outward working of the Spirit, is simply acting in accordance with their nature.

People always resist the outward call of the gospel.. ALWAYS, untill God opens their eyes, ears and heart to the gospel. That is called circumcision of heart, the new birth or regeneration. The work of the Spirit is manifold, regeneration being only one aspect ... The Bible declares that He may convict the unregenerate of certain sin and do many things short of regenerating grace. Anything short of regeneration CAN be resisted.

November 27, 2013  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Is Faith a Work? (Revisited)

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

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

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

October 23, 2013  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

Is Assurance of Salvation Presumptuous?

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

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

October 22, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

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

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

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

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

October 17, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Parable of the Sailboat

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

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

You head out of the harbor under full sail.

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

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

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

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

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

We need them for different things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 13, 2013  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Calvin's Maladies and the Longing for Heaven

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Dr. Sam Storms writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of the article is found here.

October 12, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Distinction Between Law and Gospel

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

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

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

October 10, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Ministry in South Africa

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

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

You can download the messages at the link here.

October 09, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Common Exchange on Hell

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

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

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

October 06, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

God Regularly Interferes with Human Wills by Robert Bernecker

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

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

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

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

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

October 01, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Does God's will always infallibly come to pass?

Does God's will always infallibly come to pass? Well, His eternal will or decree always comes to pass infallibly (Ephesians 1:11) but his commands to men (which are also called "the will of God" - Heb. 10:35-38; Eph 6:5) do not. For example consider the following text:

"Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent." -Acts 17:30

If this statement could not be distinguished from God's decree then either 1) everyone would be saved, OR 2) God's eternal will could be thwarted since some men disobey this command. Since neither of these can be the case then, in fact, we distinguish God's eternal will (his decree) from his commands or preceptive will, which he gives to men.

God is not a God of contradiction. When he decrees something it is certain to come to pass. When he commands men to obey, they often do not... therefore His preceptive will is not the same as His's decree but is to be distinguished.

September 25, 2013  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Defending Calvinism

radiomic

Back in March of this year, I had the privilege of being interviewed on the Apologia Radio show and was asked a number of questions about Divine election. I continue to get good feedback from people who have listened to the broadcast.

Today someone wrote,

"Feeling incredibly blessed by this episode of Apologia Radio tonight. I've listened to it a total of at least 6 times since it's aired. Each time a) makes me want to dive in to Scripture for the next week without any sleep but b) brings me a whole new level of understanding. I really encourage everyone to challenge their traditions and listen with an open heart to what is being said."

If you have yet to hear the show online, perhaps it can be a blessing to you. It can be found at this link. - JS

September 24, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Atonement and Foreknowledge

No Christian can consistently declare that Christ exhaustively foreknew who would be saved and then teach that He was punished with the intent of saving every single person that ever lived. To declare that he died with the intent of saving those he foreknew would go to hell is a flat out contradiction. Either Christ is God and foreknows all things or He is not God and ignorant of what is to take place. you cannot have it both ways. (John 10:11, 26; 17:9, 19, 24)

September 20, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Particular Redemption and Solus Christus

The biblical doctrine of particular redemption establishes the fact that our salvation is by Christ ALONE. On the other hand, all unbiblical views of Christ and His work require us to meet some other condition in order to make His work effectual ... but the redemptive effectiveness of Christ does not depend on faith being added to His work; its redemptive power is such that our faith springs from it.

September 19, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Genuine Revival

“There were earnest longings that all God’s people might be clothed with humility and meekness, like the Lamb of God, and feel nothing in their hearts but love and compassion to all mankind; and great grief when anything to the contrary appeared in any of the children of God, as bitterness, fierceness of zeal, censoriousness, or reflecting uncharitably on others, or disputing with any appearance of heat of spirit.” - Jonathan Edwards, “Thoughts on the Revival,” in Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:377, recording the experience of his wife under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

At The Gospel Coalition National Conference at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, earlier this year, Tim Keller explored the theme of "A Biblical Theology of Revival." Here's a short clip where he makes note of the fact that genuine revivals are usually quiet affairs:

Revivals Make Churches Quiet from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Here's the full workshop address:

A Biblical Theology of Revival - Tim Keller (TGC13 Workshop) from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

September 13, 2013  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Unconditonal Election and Particular Redemption

preach-the-word

In recent months I have had the privilege of teaching a session, every six or seven weeks or so, at the Apologia Church in Tempe, Arizona. I was asked to speak on the theme of "The Doctrines of Grace." The last two sessions are now available to hear online.

The first teaching is on "Unconditional Election" and starts at the 35 minute, 28 second mark here.

The second teaching is on Limited Atonement (or perhaps better expressed as "Definite Atonement" or "Particular Redemption"). The teaching begins at the 36 minute, 25 second mark here.

- John Samson

September 02, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Apologetic Methodology and Particular Redemption

radiomic

Making a Defense of the Faith (Apologetic Methodology) and Christ's work on the cross (Particular Redemption) - These two themes are in view as I was interviewed by the great folks at Apologia Radio this week. You can hear the program online here: - JS

August 30, 2013  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The #1 Reason For Embracing Particular Redemption

questionmarkredstanding

Pastor John, I understand that you did not always hold to Reformed theology and to the doctrine of Particular Redemption (or 'Limited Atonement' as it is called in the acrostic TULIP). May I ask you, what was the number 1 reason you came to embrace it?

Thanks for your question. You are right in the fact that I have not always embraced the doctrines of grace. Concerning the specific matter of the atonement of Christ, in coming to see the clarity of the Scriptures on this issue, by far the most compelling argument in determining my change of view was this fact: The Arminian understanding of the atonement (which was my former view) undermines the mission, purpose and unity of the Godhead. That is strong language to be sure, so please allow me to explain:

In Arminian theology three different groups of people are in view:

1. The Father elects those whom He foresaw as believing in Christ (that's one group).
2. The Son dies for everyone in what we would call a universal atonement (that's a second group).
3. The Holy Spirit then seeks to woo/draw those who hear the Gospel (yet a third group). We should note that there are many who will never hear the Gospel of Christ.

Quite clearly, these are three entirely different groups of people.

Jesus made it very clear that His mission was to do the will of the Father. In John 6 we have His words recorded:

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

Jesus and the Father were never at odds for even a moment. Christ came to do the Father's will which involved losing none of the ones given to Him by the Father and raising that entire group up to eternal life. Jesus confirmed this unity of purpose in John 10:30 when He said, "I and the Father are one." Here we see the Father and the Son in perfect accord, united in will, purpose and mission. What is true of the Father and the Son is also true of the Holy Spirit. The entire Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united in purpose and have been from eternity.

In contrast with the fragmented view of Trinitarian redemption found in Arminian theology, I found the consistency of the Scripture revealed in the Reformed view of the cross. As C. H. Spurgeon once said, "Reformed theology is simply a nickname for biblical Christianity."

Here was the clincher for me. Only in the Reformed view is the unity of the Godhead maintained.

The Father planned redemption for those He chose to save; the Son accomplished redemption for them, and the Holy Spirit applies redemption to them in what we call irresistible grace. All three persons of the Trinity work in harmony to bring about the salvation of the elect.

So to answer your question, the number 1 argument that convinced me that "Particular Redemption" is the biblical doctrine of the atonement was this; the unity of the Godhead in the work of redemption.

- JS

August 25, 2013  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Effectual Grace is Among the Redemptive Benefits of Christ

Do you confess that effectual grace (John 6:63-65, 37) is among the redemptive benefits that Christ purchased on the cross? If you do then you cannot possibly be a four-point Calvinist since you would then affirm that Christ died in a way for the elect (a redemptive way) that he did not for the non-elect. If you do not believe effectual grace is a redemptive benefit of Christ's work, then you are left affirming that this is a benefit obtained APART from Christ - a Christless redemption that turn the doctrines of grace into a theological abstraction. This would go against the classical Christian confession that all of salvation ... the whole work is centered in the Person of Christ alone (Eph 1: 3-4). God the Father and the Holy Spirit do not redeem people apart from the work of Christ.

August 12, 2013  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

If People Do Not Have Free Will, How Do You Explain Adam?

I recently posted the following quote on the bondage of the will with a question from a visitor that follows:

"If the natural man has a free will to believe the gospel, then why does he need grace? If his will is naturally free then it would do away with the need for grace altogether...Therefore, to teach that the natural man has a free will overthrows the gospel ... it is precisely because man is in bondage to sin that he needs Christ to set him free." (John 8:34,36)

Question: How do you explain Adam then? God gave him a command not to each the fruit but he also gave him free will to choose. Hence why we fell into sin. If he didn't have free will he wouldn't have needed the command.

Response: Thank you. Your question shows that you may misunderstand the issue being discussed. Before the fall, Adam was "able to sin and able not to sin". At that time, his condition was not that of someone whose will was in bondage to sin. However, after the fall, God's holy standard did not change for us. He still required perfect holiness to his creatures in order for a restored relationship. But in his fallen state, man is "not able not to sin". That is why my post referred to this persons' condition as "natural man" which is the term the Bible uses to describe fallen man. In other words he is in bondage to sin - he cannot choose Christ apart from special grace. So when we discuss the idea of the bondage of the will, it is specifically speaking of what the Bible says our condition is AFTER THE FALL. i.e. Apart from special grace man has no free will to believe the gospel.

so again, it has already been established that the natural man has no free will. All Christians agree with this if they understand what the bible says and what I explained above. The question REALLY is, what is the nature of God special grace.

August 01, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Why are so many Christians hostile towards Reformed Theology?

A Panel at a Ligonier Conference (Dr. Steve Lawson, Dr. R. C. Sproul, and Dr. John MacArthur) answers (slight time delay between audio and video):

Here Dr. R. C. Sproul answers the question, "Why are the vast majority of Western Christians influenced by Arminian theology rather than Reformation theology?"

July 28, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

TULIP Summary

Sproul01

In a series of blog articles at ligonier.org entitled "TULIP and Reformed Theology," Dr. R. C. Sproul provided a brief summary of the five points of Calvinism (also known as the Doctrines of Grace) expressed in the acrostic TULIP:

INTRODUCTION
Just a few years before the Pilgrims landed on the shores of New England in the Mayflower, a controversy erupted in the Netherlands and spread throughout Europe and then around the world. It began within the theological faculty of a Dutch institution that was committed to Calvinistic teaching. Some of the professors there began to have second thoughts about issues relating to the doctrines of election and predestination. As this theological controversy spread across the country, it upset the church and theologians of the day. Finally, a synod was convened. Issues were squared away and the views of certain people were rejected, including those of a man by the name of Jacobus Arminius.

The group that led the movement against orthodox Reformed theology was called the Remonstrants. They were called the Remonstrants because they were remonstrating or protesting against certain doctrines within their own theological heritage. There were basically five doctrines that were the core of the controversy. As a result of this debate, these five core theological issues became known in subsequent generations as the “five points of Calvinism.” They are now known through the very popular acrostic TULIP, which is a clever way to sum up the five articles that were in dispute. The five points, as they are stated in order to form the acrostic TULIP, are: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.

I mention this historical event because it would be a serious mistake to understand the essence of Reformed theology simply in light of these five doctrines—the Reformed faith involves many other elements of theological and ecclesiastical confession. However, these are the five controversial points of Reformed theology, and they are the ones that are popularly seen as distinctive to this particular confession. Over the next five posts, we are going to spend some time looking at these five points of Calvinism as they are spelled out in the acrostic TULIP.

TOTAL DEPRAVITY
The doctrine of total depravity reflects the Reformed viewpoint of original sin. That term—original sin—is often misunderstood in the popular arena. Some people assume that the term original sin must refer to the first sin—the original transgression that we’ve all copied in many different ways in our own lives, that is, the first sin of Adam and Eve. But that’s not what original sin has referred to historically in the church. Rather, the doctrine of original sin defines the consequences to the human race because of that first sin.

Continue reading "TULIP Summary" »

July 19, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Is Faith Meritorious?

Visitor: The Bible never presents faith as something meritorious, and in fact distinguishes it from works or any trust in oneself (Romans 4:5).

Response: indeed faith is not meritorious UNLESS you make so by declaring that it is not the gift of God that springs from the renewal of our heart ... and in refusing to acknowledge faith as God's gift, by default, you thereby ascribe your repenting and believing to your own wisdom, humility, sound judgement and good sense and not to Christ alone. In other words you affirm the necessity of grace but deny the sufficiency of grace. That is, deny that Christ is sufficient to provide EVERYTHING we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe. When people reject faith as a grace, it means they have made faith into a work. The Scripture declares, "And because OF HIM you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

So even the very wisdom we have to believe is by God's grace.

July 02, 2013  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Mohler on Inerrancy

Over the past 40 years, the principle of biblical inerrancy has come under increasing fire from theological liberals. On Thursday morning, June 20, Dr. Ligon Duncan III, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Miss., hosted a discussion at the 41st General Assembly with Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on the history of antagonism to biblical inerrancy and why a firm belief in inerrancy—what Mohler calls “total truthfulness”—is just as crucial for modern Christians as any time in the past.

Mohler explained that he grew to theological adulthood as liberal theology was growing in popularity in U.S. seminaries, including Southern Baptist, his alma mater.

Mohler

"I remember one of the first things one of my professors said, ‘I don’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture,’ " Mohler recalls.

But Mohler diverged from his contemporaries, being influenced by Reformed thinkers such as D. James Kennedy, Francis Schaeffer, and R.C. Sproul. Under such teaching, Mohler became convinced that without a conviction of the total truthfulness of God’s Word, you don’t have anything.

“There is no safe place out of an unashamed biblical inerrancy,” Mohler said. He contends that those who waiver on inerrancy but still think they can hold orthodox theological positions about the Trinity, or God’s sovereignty, for example, don’t have solid ground to stand on. Mohler calls such in-between places “halfway houses”—positions that are ultimately transitory, in the direction of error.

“If you reject biblical inerrancy, you don’t necessarily become a heretic,” he said, adding, “but your children will.”

The only option, then, for modern Christians is to reaffirm what believers have held for centuries: “What Scripture says, God says.”

Ironically, he explains, the modern atheists—folks such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens—have accidentally assisted the argument for inerrancy. By posing arguments against the supposed “immorality” of Christianity and Christianity’s God, citing such examples as “genocide” in the Old Testament, such atheists have forced the theologically liberal to admit that their views are inconsistent, splicing and dicing the parts of Scripture that seem uncomfortable to them.

“You can’t just show up being ‘mildly genocidal,’ ” Mohler said, half in jest.

In his opinion there are just two options: either a person throws out the entire Bible or one takes the whole thing, troublesome parts and all, and reaffirms what Christianity has always affirmed—that the whole Bible presents God just as He says He is: perfectly loving and perfectly just.

The modern Christian must not shy away from this proclamation—not the 80-year-old nearing the end of her life nor the 18-year-old entering the college classroom subject to all the intellectual fury of his theologically progressive professor.

“We must be celebratory of this truth,” Mohler said, “not concessional of this truth.”

Because, when all perspectives have had their say, “You only have the Gospel if the Bible is the Word of God.”

June 21, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

No-Lordship Folk Still Misunderstand What "Grace Alone" Means

QUESTION from person who embraces a no-Lordship/easy believism position: Do you believe you are saved by faith alone or must you also turn from sin and commit some or all of your life to serving, BEFORE Christ will save you. Can we stay on the subject of salvation and how to receive it,and not jump to how we are going to live if we are truly saved.

RESPONSE: Neither ... Both faith AND a self-renouncing commitment to Christ are the result of the saving grace of Christ, not the cause of grace. So the answer to your second question is a resounding "No" you don't need to turn from sin and commit your life BEFORE Christ will save you. This is impossible supposition for an unregenerate man who will not believe or obey ... but we still command him to do so for in seeing his utter failure in the face of God's perfect law, he despairs of all hope in himself. God shows him his spiritual bankruptcy and then, by grace, saves him UNTO faith and obedience to the law. Therefore the Bible repudiates both easy belivism and any other semi-pelagian ideas such as these. The confusion comes, I believe, when one fails to differentiate regeneration and justification. Both are aspects of the work of Christ in salvation and he regenerates believers (i.e. saves them) i.e gives them a new new heart (regeneration) that believes (unto justification) and desires to obey Christ. Faith and obedience to the law are equally impossible to the unregenerate sinner apart from regenerating grace.

The no lordship position is a perfect example of evangelicals who, while they fully embrace justification by faith alone yet have jettisoned the sola gratia (grace alone) that under girds it.

June 05, 2013  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Particular Redemption, Evangelism and the Eternal Counsel of God

Here are two short articles (now put together here in one place) by Dan Phillips:

Part 1 - Particular redemption: some opening thoughts

Predictable but necessary clarifications

Absolutely 100% terrific brothers and sisters would not (yet) agree with what I'm about to explain. To me, that is zero barrier to fellowship or love. I am going to try to explain why I think this is an important doctrine, but it isn't an all-important doctrine. It has far-reaching implications, but not so as to define Christianity to the exclusion of all who don't agree. At our church, particular redemption is not spelled out in the statement of faith, and it is not required either that members or leaders precisely think as I do about it — nor would I ever want that to change.

Talking about the doctrine

This isn't really my main post on the subject, but the main post will need this one to come first. That doesn't mean this one doesn't count!

"Limited? Ew." To those unfamiliar with the concept, "particular redemption" is more commonly known as Limited atonement, being the "L" of the acronym "TULIP." I think almost no adherent really likes the term much, because everyone's first and most natural reaction would be indignantly to burst out with "What?! — limit Christ's atonement? I don't think so!" However, any change would alter the neat little acronym (— TUPIP? TUDIP?).

However, on cooler reflection one soon realizes that every Christian necessarily limits Christ's atonement in some manner. Only universalists do not, and it's debatable whether they should be regarded as Christian.

Think about it. Every Christian believes that some people — at least Judas (Jn. 17:12), and the Beast and the False Prophet (Rev. 19:20), will suffer the wrath of God for their sins, unforgiven and "unatoned," for all eternity. So then, every Christian would "limit" the atonement of Christ by saying that it will not save those who go to Hell. Their sins are still on them; Christ has not removed them. Otherwise we're left with the universe-obliterating absurdity of sinless people forever suffering God's wrath for no reason whatever.

The usual rejoinder is that oh yes, Christ paid for absolutely every last sin, but the beneficiaries have to believe, have to accept Him. But isn't unbelief a sin (cf. Rom. 14:23)? Isn't repentant faith a command (1 Jn. 3:23), and isn't refusal to believe a sin? So doesn't this position "limit" the atonement by saying, in effect, "Yeah, but not those sins"? And doesn't that add the conceivably-worse necessary corollary that I then must save myself by adding the one element that makes all the difference between Heaven and Hell for me, an element not provided by Christ's work on the Cross?

The question, then, isn't whether Christians "limit" Christ's atonement. All Christians do. The question is how it should be "limited," Biblically.

Rounding up. I commonly say that I am a 4.95-4.97 point Calvinist. When I say that, I mean that I think that anyone who believes in the Bible either affirms T, U, I and P, or he's fudging on core Biblical doctrine for some other reason. Those doctrines are not merely reasonable conclusions of what Scripture teaches — they simply are what Scripture teaches, straight-up and in so many words.

The point on which I measure .95-.97 is, of course, L. Now you'll observe correctly that 4.95 "rounds up" very nicely to 5, and so I'll sign on as a 5-point Calvinist without blushing. But the reason for the .03-.05 variation is simply that, unlike the other four points, there is no single verse that straight-up lays the doctrine down in so many words, and there are a couple of challenging verses.

However, the reason why the variation is only .03-.05 is because I think that the cumulative Biblical case for "L" is overwhelming, the "challenging" verses are at least equally challenging for other positions, and every alternative explanation I've ever heard very soon comes to very serious Biblical grief.

Talking the doctrine

What this position means is that I believe the Biblical teaching that the plan of redemption is an eternal plan that was laid and finalized before the first second ticked on the cosmos (cf. Eph. 1:4ff.; 3:11). I believe the Biblical teaching that, in that plan, the Father saw mankind as fallen, guilty, dead and hopeless — and of that mass He selected a subset for salvation (Eph. 1:4ff.), giving them to the Son that the Son should give them eternal life (Jn. 17:2). This number, while a subset, is nonetheless a vast and humanly-innumerable international crowd (Rev. 7:9).

I believe the Biblical teaching that the Son made absolutely full satisfaction for every one of those thus selected by the Father, laying down His life for them, satisfying God's justice and wrath for them, saving them, and guaranteeing their conversion, preservation and resurrection (Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45; Jn. 6:37, 44-45; 10:11, 15, 26-30; Rom 3:24-25; Eph. 5:25f.). He came into the world to save sinners (Mt. 1:21; 1 Tim. 1:15), not to try to save them, or to give them an opportunity to save themselves. He prays for them (Jn. 17); He does not even pray for the world (Jn. 17:9). All of the blessings He achieved for any one of them are given to every one of them (Rom. 8:29-39). If Christ died for you, you will surely be saved. It cannot be otherwise — unless you imagine that He can fail in achieving the eternal purpose of the God who succeeds in accomplishing all He sets out to accomplish (Ps. 115:3; Eph. 1:11).

This is why, as one sees in reading the small selection of Scriptures above, the Bible characteristically speaks of the atonement in particular terms. Christ dies for the sheep, for His friends, for the church, for us (believers), for you (believers). It is also why Scripture characteristically speaks of His saving design as effectual. That is, He redeems, He saves, He reconciles, He propitiates; He does not try to redeem, try to save, try to reconcile, try to propitiate; He does not characteristically make redemption available, make salvation available, make reconciliation available, make propitiation available.

The practical upshot

What difference does it make for me that I see this doctrine in Scripture? I'll be candid and specific. (Readers: No! Really?)

Continue reading "Particular Redemption, Evangelism and the Eternal Counsel of God" »

June 02, 2013  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Arminian Conundrum

Here is an Arminian conundrum:

1) Those Arminians who AFFIRM that a Christian can lose his salvation must believe (contrary to Gal 3:3) that the Christian must themselves maintain their own just standing before God. This is in clear violation of the biblical doctrine of salvation by Christ alone.

But

2) those Arminians who DENY that a person can lose his salvation must, in doing so, also give up their idea of libertarian free will. If God seals them in then they are "forced" to stay saved, even against their will ... OR the only other possibility it that God changes their will so they WANT to obey. In that case they can only choose according to their new natures, which is contrary to everything Arminians have taught about the nature of man to this point and would affirm the Calvinist view.

May 30, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Tornadoes and the Mystery of Suffering

Sam Storms, the pastor at Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in an article entitled "Tornadoes and the Mystery of Suffering and Sovereignty" wrote this yesterday:

I’m inclined to think the best way to respond to the tragedy that struck our community today is simply to say nothing. I have little patience for those who feel the need to theologize about such events, as if anyone possessed sufficient wisdom to discern God’s purpose. On the other hand, people will inevitably ask questions and are looking for encouragement and comfort. So how best do we love and pastor those who have suffered so terribly?

I’m not certain I have the answer to that question, and I write the following with considerable hesitation. I can only pray that what I say is grounded in God’s Word and is received in the spirit in which it is intended.


Justin Taylor outlined his seven observations this way:

(1) It will not accomplish anything good to deny what Scripture so clearly asserts, that God is absolutely sovereign over all of nature.

(2) God is sovereign, not Satan.

(3) Great natural disasters such as this tell us nothing about the comparative sinfulness of those who are its victims.

(4) Events such as this should remind us that no place on earth is safe and that we will all one day die (unless Jesus returns first).

(5) We should not look upon such events and conclude that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of history are at hand, but neither should we conclude that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of history are not at hand.

(6) We must learn to weep with those who weep.

(7) Pray that God will use such an event to open the hearts and eyes of a city and a state immersed in unbelief and idolatry (and I have in mind not merely Oklahoma, but also America as a whole), to see the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and turn in faith to him, lest something infinitely worse than a tornado befall them: Eternal condemnation. Eternal suffering.

You can read the whole short article by Sam Storms here. And pray.

May 21, 2013  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

An Inconsistency in Opposing Divine Election

Some within the visible church teach that it is unjust or unfair for God to choose some and not others unto salvation. But this assertion reveals an inconsistency in their view. Here's why. If you ask the same persons whether it would be just of God to save NO ONE, they would all answer in the affirmative since all Christians, without exception, affirm that fallen men all justly deserve the wrath of God. So, if it is true that God would be just if He saved no one, why then, ALL OF THE SUDDEN, would it be unjust if God saves some and not others?. Fact is we either get justice or mercy in this life, but no one gets injustice. If God leaves someone in their sins, they are receiving their just deserts, no? If in Christ He sovereignly grants mercy on some of these ill-deserving sinners, then by definition, they are not getting what they justly deserve. So it is wildly inconsistent to claim that any injustice is being done here. To do so reveals that somehow deep down these people still believe that we human beings DESERVE to be saved. This inconsistency exposes this is an invalid argument against the sovereignty of God in election.

April 18, 2013  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

Six What Abouts

Answering Objections to the Biblical Doctrine of Election - What about God's foreknowledge?, 1 Tim 4:10?, John 12:32?, reprobation? lost loved ones?, prayer and evangelism? Part 2 of my podcast interview at reformedcast.com - found here. - JS

March 18, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Apologia Radio

I want to commend to you a ministry here in the Phoenix area that I had no knowledge of until the last week or so. It is truly exciting to see God raising up young inspiring leaders with such a heart for the Lord and for sound theology, who are seeking to raise up young people who love God with their minds as well as their hearts. Please pray for Pastor Jeff and Pastor Luke and all those at the Apologia Radio ministry. It was my joy and privilege to meet them this week and be interviewed here at this link about the biblical doctrine of election. - John Samson

March 15, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

What is the Meaning of the Word "Monergism"

The meaning of Monergism: It is a theological term which means that the work of regeneration is the work of God ALONE and not the cooperation of man and God. The Holy Spirit must open our eyes, unplug our ears, and change our heart of stone to a heart of flesh before we will believe (Ezek 36:26; John 6:63, 65) It is in contrast to synergism, where man and God cooperate in salvation. "Salvation is of the Lord".

Related Resources
A Simple Explanation of Monergism by John Hendryx
But Spiritual Discernment is Wholly Lost Until we are Regenerated by John Calvin
Monergistic Regeneration - Part 1 (mp3) Arturo G. Azurdia III
Monergistic Regeneration - Part 2 (mp3) Arturo G. Azurdia III
The Necessity of the Use of Means in the Spirit's Work of Monergistic Regeneration by John Hendryx
Responsibility, Inability, Monergistic Grace by John Hendryx
Some Helpful References to Monergism from Church History historic Christians & monergistic regeneration
Jesus Teaches Monergistic Regeneration by John Hendryx
Free Will Synergism Vs. Free Grace Monergism by John Hendryx
Effectual Calling and Regeneration by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
A Defense of Monergistic Regeneration by Gannon Murphy

February 05, 2013  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Predestination & Free Will?

Visitor: You can not be dogmatic and say it's all election and predestination when there are specific verses that talk about mans response. I recommend you listen to John MacArthur's sermon on election and free will.

Response: Thank you for sharing your assertion. First, I want to assure you that I believe man is required to respond in faith to the gospel. But that does not mean that the natural man has a free will to believe in Jesus. I think the issue here is about definitions. It is important to define what we are talking about up front. When you say man has a free will, what do you mean? Free from what? Free from sin? Also let me say that if you think Dr. John MacArthur is arguing for free will then, I believe, you may have profoundly misunderstood him. He actually affirms exactly the same thing all other Reformed thinkers do about this issue. With him, we affirm that all men make voluntary choices and no one is coercing anyone against their will to make a choice. We always chose what we desire the most. But that is not the issue of the free will debate...

Problem is that the person without the Holy Spirit (the unregenerate) always desires that which is contrary to God. Nothing he does proceeds from a heart that loves God. The issue of free will (or not) is to ask this: left to themselves (as fallen human creatures who are in bondage to a corruption of nature), does anyone have a free will to believe in Jesus Christ? We all have a will, but we use it wrongly ...we do not have the will to believe in Christ, apart from grace. The need for grace does away with free will altogether because if man's will was naturally free he would not need grace at all. He could come to Christ on his own. But ask yourself, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit will anyone freely come to faith in Christ? If your answer is no, then you reject free will the same way I do. So to teach man has a free will in this sense, i.e. that the natural man has a free will overthrows the gospel ... it is precisely because man is in bondage that he needs Christ to set him free." (John 8:34, 36)

The discussion about free will has always historically been about the bondage of the will and affections. And that which is in bondage is not free. We are not talking about not being free to choose which toothpaste we are going to use tomorrow morning. We are talking about does a fallen person have the ability to make a good saving choice apart from the work of the Holy Spirit? The Bible seems pretty clear on this. Hope this helps clarify a bit.

Solus Christus
John W. Hendryx

January 29, 2013  |  Comments (16)   |  Permalink

Testing Traditions: The Love of God and the Will of Man

Many Christians reject the biblical doctrine of God's sovereignty in election because of traditions associated with the love of God and what amounts to a pagan concept of the human will, as I seek to explain in this 20 minute video teaching - JS:

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

January 29, 2013  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Do People, by Nature, Have a Free Will to Come to Christ?

Does any person, by nature, have a free will to come to faith in Jesus Christ? No. The Bible declares that we were all held captive by our corruptions, Satan and the world. That is why Paul prays for unbelievers, "…if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” Now if we were held captive to do someone else’s will then it is clear that our will was not free, and according to the above passage, freedom comes to an individual only when God grants it. Likewise when Jesus promises freedom to the captives to sin, He says, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) And again, in like manner Paul declares that "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' apart form the Holy Spirit." (1 Cor 12:3) We would only do ourselves harm if left to our own boasted free will.

Notice the word "perhaps" before praying for God to grant them repentance. This clearly reveals that in Paul's mind, God did not do so for everyone. This granting of repentance was only for those the Father has "given" the Son (John 6 & 17) Likewise Jesus does not say "when the Son sets you free" but rather "IF the Son sets you free..."

January 22, 2013  |  Comments (12)   |  Permalink

Would God be Just if He Saved No One?

God would be just if he saved no one. Do you believe this? of course you do if you are a Christian. So why then do you believe it unjust if God sovereignly determines to have mercy on some and not others? It is a contradiction for you to hold to one and not the other. Doesn't he have the right to do with his coin as he so chooses as the parable says? (Matt 20:15; Matt 11:25-27; Rom 9:15, 16)

Christ did not die for all redemptively. The redemptive benefits of his atonement were intended for the elect only. In John 10 he says he lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:15) ... to the others he says, "but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep."(John 10:26) Only the sheep hear his voice (v27)

To those who reject Christ's particular love for his own we must ask, "so you believe salvation is NOT by Christ alone but partly due to your own natural ability? Can you give thanks to God even for your faith? if not, you are advocating a salvation that is not by Christ ALONE. Do you ascribe your repenting and believing to your own wisdom, humility, sound judgment or good sense? and not to Christ? Where do you think the ability came from to believe? We are commanded to give thanks to Christ for everything we need for salvation, not just some things.

As Tristan Crotinger said, Holy Scripture must always supersede "feelings" and all scriptures together must make sense in a coherent manner. I find John 6, 8 and 10 and Romans 8 & 9 to fit into NO Arminian framework and those who have tried to explain it away had to stray from scripture to do it. This in no sense lessens the responsibility of the hearer of the Gospel to respond in faith and in no sense does it ever take anything from any of the attributes of God (all-loving, all-just, & all-good). It should always be understood that no person that goes to heaven hates Jesus and no person that loves Jesus will be in hell.

At some level all Christians are forced to wrestle with the inspired writings of Paul on the doctrines of grace and through my search of these scriptures I have discovered God to be infinitely more loving, glorious and worthy of praise than I ever could have imagined. Accepting this doctrine has personally increased my ability to trust in God for everything.

I should say that studying grace is not for the faint of heart and many Christians are perfectly content to never deal with these verses in depth. As a teacher of the Word I could not do that.

January 12, 2013  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism or Grace Alone

In semi-pelagianism man's will precedes God's grace. In Arminianism God's grace precedes man's will (but still ascribes faith and repentance to each man's personal wisdom, not to Christ ALONE). But in Divine monergism (grace alone) God mercifully gives man a new heart (Ezek. 36:26), renewing his will and affections, which makes his choice certain and effectual (Jn. 6:37).

It should be noted that Arminians are adamant that they teach salvation by "grace alone" and would take offense if someone were to say otherwise. While I acknowledge that this is what they universally declare, but we are countering this assertion by saying that their theology is not consistent with this declaration. What most Arminians really mean by "grace alone is "faith alone" which is a related concept, but not the same. The problem here is that they rightly affirm the biblical doctrine of salvation "through FAITH alone", but they do not differentiate this concept enough from the biblical doctrine of "GRACE alone", at least in any historical way the Bible or the Reformation speak of this issue. The phrase "grace alone" has always historically signified that Jesus or His grace is not merely necessary for our salvation, but sufficient to save us to the uttermost. Jesus provides everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe. In Arminian prevenient grace, on the other hand, Jesus provides no such thing, even by their own reckoning. It claims to lift the natural man out of his depravity, but that man remains unregenerate (has no new heart). In other words it places man (against his will) in some kind of semi-regenerate state, (which the Bible, of course, never speaks of). And then makes the sinner himself the ultimate determining factor in his salvation, which means he ascribes his repenting and believing to his own wisdom or humility and not to Christ alone. Consider, If two persons receive prevenient grace, and one person believes while the other rejects Christ, what makes them to differ that one had faith and not the other? Why did one believe and not the other? It was not grace since they both had grace, so obviously something other than grace made them to differ? Jesus declares another way. He said, "...all that the Father gives to me will come to me" (John 6:37). In other words He ensures that all persons the Father has given to Christ will believe the gospel. Jesus is declaring, in no uncertain terms, that salvation from beginning to end, as the author and finisher, is of the LORD alone, not a cooperation between man and God (Rom 9:15, 16, John 1:13)

January 03, 2013  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Exile to New Creation in John's Gospel (Part 1)

The gospel according to John is rightly a "beloved" book book of the Bible (pun intended). It's central message concerning Christ and his redemptive accomplishments are simple enough that even the "unlearned" can understand. Yet, it is also so richly profound that a lifetime can be spent mining the depths of its theology and the bottom is never reached. It is my intention in this multi-part series to look at one of the rich underlying theological themes of John's gospel. As the title bears out, the theme is exile to new creation. This first post will draw out some preliminary matters addressed in the first five verses of the Prologue. The theme of exile, return from exile, and new creation are hatched in these opening verses. Furthermore, I will address how these relate to the stated purpose of John's gospel. The Prologue is especially important in understanding the theology of John's gospel for Carson rightly states, "The Prologue is a foyer to the rest of the Fourth Gospel, simultaneously drawing the reader in and introducing the major themes" (Carson, 111). Furthermore, as I develop this theme I will draw primarily from the Old Testament book of Isaiah as there seems to be a correspondence and connection between the prophecy of Isaiah and the Gospel of John (see James Hamilton "The Influence of Isaiah on the Gospel of John," Perichoresis 5/2 (2007): 139-162).

Isaiah's prophecy looks to a time when God creates something that is new; a new heaven and a new earth. The terminology used in Isaiah mirrors that which is used in Genesis 1. The trajectory of the Bible points us to the fact that God will dwell amongst his people. Where God, in the original creation dwelt amongst them in the first garden temple so to in the final creation God would dwell in the midst of his people (Rev. 21:1ff). Israel was a type of what was to come as the Lord dwelt in her midst (Deut. 6:15). However, sin spoiled the original creation. Man was exiled from the garden temple of Eden (Gen. 3). Israel, which had the tabernacle and temple where God dwelt with his people, was exiled because of violation of the covenant stipulation given at Sinai. This exile of Israel was pictured by Isaiah as a time of darkness (see Isaiah 9) and return from exile is ultimately pictured as the light dawning in the darkness. The exile is more than just a physical relocation, it ultimately looks back upon the condition of all of humanity being in exile from the Lord because of both Adam's sin (corporate) and our own personal sins. Thus, the light dawning or shining in darkness is the redemptive work of God being made manifest in the Lord Jesus Christ who is the light who has come into the world.

How does this relate to the beginning of John? What is invoked is creation imagery. The Word who was both with God and was God is the one through whom "all things were made." Therefore, as we read John with Old Testament anticipation we ought to be clued in to the dawning of the new creation coming by means of the same "without him was not any thing made that was made." Furthermore, John melds together both creation and exilic return language "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." The very one whom the original creation was made is the one through whom the new creation comes. Isaiah 65 speaks of a new creation, which is marked by life, peace, blessing, and prosperity. The almighty God will bring about a new creation and it is through the agent of the original creation; the Lord Jesus.

In John 1:5 there is a contrast between light and darkness. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Darkness is the sphere of evil. It is where sin is carried out (John 3:19). Darkness is the sphere of sin and wickedness, but it is also more. It is the sphere of positive evil where people walk in darkness conducting themselves in manners of sinfulness and wickedness (Jn. 8:12). The one who walks in darkness is lost (Jn. 12:35). Darkness is something that people need delivered from (Jn. 12:46). Furthermore it is the realm of Satan who is a liar and a murderer. The light (Christ) has come into the realm of darkness; the realm of sin; the realm of evil; the realm of exile. Yet, the darkness does not prevail. Sin does not prevail. The light pierces the darkness or overcomes the darkness. The darkness never overcomes the light. Darkness only exists when there is no light.

The point that is made here is that when the almighty God came into the world as a man, he was triumphant in his mission. He overcame the darkness. Of course this begs a question? What did he overcome when he overcame the darkness and how did he overcome it?

Light and darkness are not equal forces. In many lines of thought light and darkness or good and evil are two equal forces that are locked in this cosmic battle of sorts. There is no sure outcome. It is a push/pull relationship. Sometimes good triumphs while other times darkness or evil triumphs. The picture is one of this cosmic tug of war. There is no assurance of any outcome. However, this is not the picture that is given in the Scriptures. Good and evil; light and darkness are not equal forces. The Lord God and Satan are not equal powers and the realm of darkness will never prevail over the kingdom of light. The darkness does not overcome the light. The light is triumphant. The light overcomes. The Lord Jesus is the triumphant God who overcomes darkness (Satan, sin, and wickedness).

Isaiah 9:2 "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined." John picks up this theme from Isaiah. Isaiah is speaking of the Lord Jesus (see also Matt. 4). Those who walk darkness on them the light has shined. It isn't that Jesus simply overcomes Satan, sin, and wickedness in the world; he overcomes it even in our own hearts. The darkness is the world estranged from God; spiritually ignorant and blind, fallen and sinful. This described us. But we have seen a great light; the Lord Jesus Christ who has shined upon us that we would have life.

How Jesus is triumphant? Or by what means is he triumphant? This speaks to Jesus' resurrection and his ultimate return.

The greatest day of darkness was Good Friday. The day on which the Lord of glory was crucified. It is recorded that when Jesus was crucified their was darkness over the land. However, on the third day, the light emerged from the tomb. He was triumphant over sin, Satan, and death. The light overcame the darkness. The reality is we must be firmly focused upon the Lord Jesus who emerged from the tomb triumphant. Sin is overcome. The exile is being brought to an end. The return from exile is becoming a reality.

How do we understand the fact that the Bible tells us that Jesus is triumphant, but we still see evil in the world; we still see death. Satan has been vanquished at the cross and resurrection and he is like a wounded animal now. He is in the death throws, but when the Lord returns, the triumph that was accomplished at the cross and resurrection will be finally brought to its consummation. The light will fully and finally triumph over the darkness and God will dwell with man.

How do these themes relate to the stated purpose of John's Gospel? John explicitly states that which he wrote was "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (20:31). In the overall scope of the of John's Gospel the realm of darkness is equated with sin, exile, and darkness. However, conversely, light is equated with the Lord, righteousness, and life. Therefore, those who "return from exile," so to speak, are those who identify with Christ and believe in his name. Consequently they are the ones who have life.

As Christ Jesus entered the world at his first advent, the light pierced the darkness and those who dwelt in darkness upon them a light has shined. The one who is the light is the source of life and he gives life and light to those who dwell in darkness that they would share in the new creation where God dwells with man in a garden temple that transcends the first one in that it fills the whole earth.

In our next segment we will look at another key section of the Prologue that further establishes who participates in exile to new creation.

December 27, 2012  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

All the Grapes Given to Me are Eaten by Me ...

Question: If all the grapes a friend gives to me are eaten by me, what percentage of the grapes that my friend gives me are eaten by me? Not a trick question, the answer should be obvious.

Likewise if all that the Father gives to [Jesus] will come to faith in him (John 6:37), what percentage of those who the Father gives the Son will come to faith in Him? Spiritual truths like this often remain unseen even though they are not hidden in the Text. If you answered 100% to the first question and not the second then I would encourage you to reevaluate your approach to Scripture and I pray the Lord would open you heart and eyes to this critical truth.

Sola Gratia.

December 23, 2012  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Sufficiency vs. Necessity

The central difference between Reformed and non-Reformed theology is that the former affirms that Jesus Christ is SUFFICIENT to save to the uttermost while later believes that while Jesus is NECESSARY, but He is NOT SUFFICIENT. The Reformers never charged Rome of believing one could be saved apart from grace. That wasn't the debate. The debate of the Reformation was never ever about the necessity of grace, it was about the sufficiency of grace. Reformed Theology emphasizes more than anything else, the sufficiency of Christ in salvation. There is nothing more essential to its position and this is what sets it apart from other all other theologies.

The word "sufficient", in this case, means that Jesus Christ meets all the conditions for us that are necessary for our salvation, not only some of the conditions. It further means what Jesus does for us on the cross meets all of God's requirements for us, including giving us the new heart which is needed to believe and obey (Ezekiel 36:26).

Evangelicalism broadly believes in an insufficient Jesus whose love is conditional, that is, that we must first meet a condition if He will help/love us. Can you imagine a parent who saw their toddler run out into traffic and first required them to meet a condition before the parent would run out to save them from oncoming traffic? No, no, no... parental love is unconditional and would run out at the risk of their life to save the child regardless of the child's will at the time because the parent loves his child and knows better than the child what is good for him/her. If this is true about love in everyday life, how much more is it true of God. No person would say that the parent who required the child to first meet a condition was more loving. That is why the argument about the necessity of free will to have true love is fallacious. In the Bible, God gives conditions, but in Jesus He meets all the conditions for us.

“God knows we have nothing of ourselves, therefore in the covenant of grace he requires no more than he gives, but gives what he requires, and accepts what he gives.”
― Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed

JWH

December 16, 2012  |  Comments (12)   |  Permalink

Profoundly Bad Theology Promoted with Such Certainty

In response to a recent short post called "You Always Resist the Holy Spirit" an visitor names James, who is skeptical of Reformed Theology, posted the following rant (with my response following):

Visitor

""no man can regenerate or resurrect himself""

I see many parallels with this type of fallacious reasoning with atheism.

Atheism boxes itself in with naturalism and leads them to fit absurdities into that box such as colliding particles give the illusion of freewill.

This dead body premise is just as ludicrous as the premise of naturalism. It causes you to have to twist the overwhelming majority of scripture into your tiny box.

This statement about not being able to resurrect yourself, or some from of it, is mentioned in just about every justification for Calvinism. That alone should allow you to see how weak your arguments are.

So people resist the Holy Spirit because the cant resurrect themselves? You dont, at all, see the resemblance to atheistic arguments on the internet every day by just completely hammering the obvious interpretation with your "dead body" analogy?

The atheist have their "naturalism" flash card that allows them to deny whats plain.
You should just make "dead body" flash cards and hold them up every time scripture clearly contradicts you.
Dont misunderstand though--Im not equating the 2 or saying Calvinist aren't christians but you both use the same tactics of using circular reasoning and faulty premises because your arguments cannot stand any other way.

I dont see how you'll ever be able to reason correctly on the subject until you drop the dead body premise--which seems almost how a child would read Pauls analogy

Response

James,

Tell me something. According to Scripture, can an unregenerate person, that is, the person without the Holy Spirit, believe in the gospel? Can an unbeliever turn to Jesus Christ apart from any help of the Holy Spirit? (1 Cor 2:14, John 6:63-65, 37). If not, what are you arguing about?

This is not the unaided human reasoning of the atheist, no. We are talking about the word of God. That the unspiritual person is unable to understand spiritual truth unless the Spirit opens his eyes and heart (Ezek 36:26, Acts 16:14). Honestly, all I saw from your response was human philosophy without one Scripture to give authority to your argument. Who is appealing to atheistic arguments now? From all appearances it would be you (unless you can prove me wrong), because it would seem you believe, in this case, your human reasoning trumps the Scripture. If I am wrong here, then please take the time to enlighten me and demonstrate it by answering the above question whether a person can come to faith in Jesus apart from the Holy Spirit? And please use Scripture as your authority in your answer.

The person who is without the Spirit may be alive to the world, but he is dead to Spiritual things. Apart from a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, natural man loves darkness and hates the light (John 3:19,20). According to your reasoning above, it would follow that a person can believe in Christ apart from the Spirit, which is a theology which has no connection with biblical Christianity or any form of historic Christianity at all. Such a view was condemned in the early church ... a heresy called Pelagianism... that a person can come to faith in Christ in his own native abilities, apart from any work of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is necessary, then why would that be the case given that the natural man is not dead to spiritual truth (as you claim)?

In light of these things in Scripture your argument simply cannot stand. How is it that you were willing to go out on such a limb, with such conviction, to promote these ignorant ideas to have them so easily demonstrated to be false. With respect, I would encourage you, in cases like these, to communicate with much more humility about your own reasoning, especially if you are not going to appeal to Scripture as your final authority.

"Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ." - Eph 2:5

John H.
Monergism.com

December 14, 2012  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

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.

J Hendryx

December 13, 2012  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Universal Redemption Must be Denied by Jonathan Edwards

Universal redemption must be denied in the very sense of Calvinists themselves, whether predestination is acknowledged or no, if we acknowledge that Christ knows all things. For if Christ certainly knows all things to come, he certainly knew, when he died, that there were such and such men that would never be the better for his death. And therefore, it was impossible that he should die with an intent to make them (particular persons) happy. For it is a right-down contradiction [to say that] he died with an intent to make them happy, when at the same time he knew they would not be happy-Predestination or no predestination, it is all one for that. This is all that Calvinists mean when they say that Christ did not die for all, that he did not die intending and designing that such and such particular persons should be the better for it; and that is evident to a demonstration. Now Arminians, when [they] say that Christ died for all, cannot mean, with any sense, that he died for all any otherwise than to give all an opportunity to be saved; and that, Calvinists themselves never denied. He did die for all in this sense; ’tis past all contradiction.

-Jonathan Edwards [1722], The “Miscellanies”: (Entry Nos. a–z, aa–zz, 1–500) (WJE Online Vol. 13) , Ed. Harry S. Stout, page 1 74

November 29, 2012  |  Comments (15)   |  Permalink

Predestination destroys legalism

Predestination destroys legalism. If salvation is by Christ alone, it leaves no room for boasting or trusting in ourselves, even a little. It strips us bare and forces us to abandon all hope in our efforts or rules ... man-made rules non-predestinarians tend to make to demonstrate they are more worthy than others of God's grace (an oxymoron). The Scripture declares: "It is because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:30-31)

This is not to say that Reformed people cannot be legalistic. Human beings find any way possible to do so, Reformed included. It means to say, rather, that if UNDERSTOOD CORRECTLY the doctrine of Grace ALONE in Christ ALONE will have the real effect of stripping us of legalism etc. Again only God's grace can do so. This likewise was not an attempt to show Reformed superiority but the effect of a true understanding of the Bible will have on someone who beholds the majesty of God and is struck down by the fact that God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.

----------------------

After I wrote this, I had the following discussion ensue which I believe worth posting

Continue reading "Predestination destroys legalism" »

November 09, 2012  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Misunderstanding Vatican II by R.C. Sproul

Misunderstanding Vatican II was originally published on the Ligonier Ministries Blog.

I think Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) and similar efforts to make common cause with Roman Catholics are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of where the Roman Catholic Church is theologically and what it actually teaches. There is no question that the Roman Catholic Church has changed since the sixteenth century. But the changes have not closed the gap between Rome and Protestantism. Indeed, the differences are greater now. For instance, the formally defined proclamation of the infallibility of the pope and all of the Mariology statements have come since the Reformation. Neither has Rome backed down from any of the positions it took in the sixteenth-century debate. In the updated Catechism of the Catholic Church, released in the mid-1990s, the treasury of merit, purgatory, indulgences, justification through the sacraments, and other doctrines were reaffirmed.

I think this misunderstanding has been driven primarily by confusion over the significance of Vatican Council II (1962–65). It was only the second ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church since Trent, the other being Vatican Council I (1869–70). So, these councils are rare events, and the church and the world were surprised when Pope John XXIII convened Vatican II.

The statements produced by Vatican I referred to Protestants as schismatics and heretics. In marked contrast, the rhetoric of Vatican II was kind, warm, and appeasing. Protestants were called “separated brethren.” John’s passion, which he set forth in a pastoral letter, was that the Lord’s sheepfold would be one. There should be unity under one shepherd, he said, with all Christians returning to Holy Mother Church under the Roman pontiff. John was seen as kind, avuncular, and warm, so people jumped to the conclusion that Rome had changed its theology. However, many overlooked the fact that John ruled out any debate about justification at Vatican II.

The New Theology?

In the same era as Vatican II, there was a major split within the Roman Catholic Church between the Western and Latin wings of the church. Much of the Western wing adopted what was called the nouvelle théologie, “the new theology,” which was much more compatible with historical Protestantism than the classical orthodox Latin Roman theology.

Incidentally, this rupture shows that the contemporary Roman Catholic communion is not as monolithic as it traditionally has been. Some see this rupture as almost as serious as the Reformation. We can find priests and even bishops who sound Protestant in their views. But it is important to remember that when we analyze the Roman Catholic Church, we are not talking about the American church, the Dutch church, the German church, or the Swiss church. We are talking about the Roman Catholic Church. The supreme pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church is not the bishop of New York or Los Angeles. He is not the bishop of Berlin, Heidelberg, or Vienna. He is the bishop of Rome. He is the one who, along with church councils, defines the belief system of the Roman Catholic Church.

Continue reading "Misunderstanding Vatican II by R.C. Sproul" »

October 25, 2012  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

No Compromise, Ever: Episode 1

Pastor Mike Abendroth interviews Dr. James White, Dr. Carl Trueman and Phil Johnson, asking them to respond to the events surrounding Elephant Room 2 and the T. D. Jakes controversy.

No Co Ever: Episode 1 from No Compromise Radio on Vimeo.

August 20, 2012  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Saved at the Cross?

Question: If Christ actually “saved” the elect on the cross, isn't it true to say that the elect are born already justified and there is no need to exercise faith?

This is an important issue and the fact that someone would ask this question is a clear indication that they have failed to grasp the full measure of what the Bible teaches concerning Divine election.

Jesus said, “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me” (John 6:37). Think about that for a moment, as a vital point is being made; namely this: THE EFFECTS OF GOD'S CHOICE IN ETERNITY (the Father's giving) ARE WORKED OUT IN TIME (the people's coming).

The elect are a love gift from the Father to the Son (in eternity past) but this does not negate the fact that these same people will (IN THE REALM OF TIME) come to the Son. It is not the coming to the Son that CAUSES the Father to give them to the Son. Just the opposite is true in fact. It is the Father’s giving (first) which results in the elect’s coming. All that the Father gives to the Son will come to the Son.

Christ was the Lamb slain BEFORE the foundation of the world (as the Scripture says in Revelation 13:8) yet this did not mean that Christ did not need to be slain in the realm of time. Christ was marked as the slain Lamb in eternity past, and yet Christ came into the space/time dimension with the purpose of dieing for the sins of His people. Likewise, it is also true to say that all the elect were purchased/redeemed at the cross, even though these elect would still need to come to the Son in time also.

It is not unregenerate man who authors the faith that saves. Jesus is the author and perfector of faith (Heb 12:3). Repentance and faith are GIFTS from God (2 Tim 2:25; Phil 1:29), given to the elect (in time). Jesus secured everything necessary for the salvation of the elect at the cross, including these precious gifts. Not all have faith. The elect will come to Christ in faith (John 6:37, Acts 13:48).

Was Christ the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world? Yes.

Were the elect saved in eternity past? Certainly, the Father's choice to save them took place in eternity past, yes.

Does this negate the need for events to be carried out in time? By no means. The choice in eternity past DETERMINED events that would undoubtedly take place in time.

Therefore the answer to the question is a resounding "No." No one is born justified. Since the Fall of Adam, all of us are born spiritually dead in need of regeneration and justification. Justification is by faith (Romans 5:1) not by election. Election merely explains who will come to Christ in faith (Acts 13:48). Christ redeemed His people by His blood, and secured their salvation there, even though the effects of His death would be carried out in time (past, present and future), as His people come to Him in saving faith – this being the gift of God, not as a result of works, lest no one should boast.

My own observation is that when people have an issue with Particular or definite atonement, when questions are asked and the issue is pressed, it is almost always due to the fact that they really have an issue with unconditonal election.

- JS

July 24, 2012  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Is There any Injustice in Divine Election?

If one person or group receives the grace of God and another group does not, is there any violation of justice in this? If God passes over some, do they receive anything they do not deserve? Fact is, one group receives mercy and the other group receives justice, and no group receives injustice. And Paul demolishes human will as the basis for God's sovereign election in Christ. (Rom 9:15, 16) It is based rather on God's sovereign good pleasure in Christ. This removes all merit from me and puts the attention back on the sovereign and merciful God....

Even the very wisdom to believe is a gift of God's grace. Such that we cannot attribute our repenting and believing to our own wisdom, humility or good sense. 1 Cor 1 says, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” In other words, those who ascribe their believing to their own wisdom, and not to Christ alone, are boasting.

July 17, 2012  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Hearts of Stone

Think about it:

Do people with hearts of stone ask God to give them a different kind of heart?

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

July 16, 2012  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

God's Sovereignty in Election

I was interviewed by Pastor Kevin Boling on the "Knowing the Truth" Broadcast about my book "Twelve What Abouts" early this morning on a radio station covering all of South Carolina and parts of neighboring states. Here's the link if you want to listen to the show. - John Samson

June 21, 2012  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The "Free Will" Song

The "Joy Quartet" at Pensacola Christian College teach us about the Arminian doctrine of free will. Actually, it may even be the Pelagian doctrine. I must say, my "free will" did not get me past the first 90 seconds!

Here is a short article I wrote on the subject of the will which is followed by a lively discussion in the comment section. - JS

HT: Justin Edwards

June 15, 2012  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Eternal Security

I don't really like the phrase "eternal security" or its popular counterpart "once saved always saved" because both tend to come with a huge amount of unscriptural theological baggage. For many people, "eternal security" means that if a person makes some sort of profession of faith and then lives a lifestyle totally at odds with that profession, even renouncing Christianity altogether, they are still "saved" because "once saved, always saved." I don't believe that to be a scriptural concept in any way at all.

While it is true that a genuinely regenerated Christian can be secure in their salvation for all eternity, this is not because of a one time profession of faith so much as the possession of faith. All those who possess true faith will of course profess it, but a mere claim to faith is not enough. As James chapter 2 makes clear, faith without works is dead and a dead faith never saves anyone.

The Bible makes it clear that there is a false faith that is in no way the genuine article. Faith of the real kind will produce fruit - evidence of the Holy Spirit's abiding presence in the person's life. That is why we are told to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5). Rather than simply being told to recall a time in our past when we made a profession we are exhorted instead to examine ourselves to see if there is present day evidence that we are truly His. As J. C. Ryle once remarked, "A tree will always be known by its fruit, and a true Christian will always be discovered by their habits, tastes and affections."

While I certainly do believe in the eternal security of the believer, I tend to avoid the two phrases mentioned above, preferring the theological term "perseverance of the saints" or even better "the preservation of the saints." Those who are justified will be glorified (Romans 8:30). True believers will continue in the faith because their faith is a supernatural gift from God and by its very nature, is something that endures. The Apostle John recognized this when he wrote: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us." (1 John 2:19). The true saint perseveres because God preserves him! The One who started the work will bring it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).

Yet there is a big picture concept that we need to see involving the work of the Trinity in salvation. From the archives at www.aomin.org, in an article entitled "Eternal Security: Based on the Tri-Unity of God" Dr. James White writes:

Continue reading "Eternal Security" »

June 02, 2012  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Why Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel Produce So Many Calvinists

"There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer - I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it." (C. H. Spurgeon, a Defense of Calvinism)

Why are so many Calvinists being produced in Calvary Chapel when Chuck Smith and Co. are openly against Calvinism?

Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries answers this question and more in this February 9, 2010 edition of The Dividing Line.


May 26, 2012  |  Comments (11)   |  Permalink

Penal Substitution a Sixteenth-Century Innovation?

I recently heard again the point of view that, while a substitutionary atonement may have roots in the early church, an explicitly penal substitution was the brain child of the Reformers, who tweaked Anselm's Satisfaction Theory. I've encountered this theory before; and even if it did have some historical basis, it could not overturn the countless scriptures which teach that Jesus suffered the penalty of sin, that is, God's just wrath and punishment, on our behalf – but if that teaching is so biblical, wouldn't it seem strange that no one ever mentioned it until Calvin came along? Frankly, I think these theories must come from people who don't read the Church fathers very much or very carefully; but somehow, they still persist. As I discovered, they're even on Wikipedia:

"In scholarly literature it has been generally recognised for some time that the penal substitution theory was not taught in the Early Church. The ransom theory of atonement in conjunction with the moral influence view was nearly universally accepted in this early period."

Again:

"It is widely held that the early Church Fathers, including Athanasius and Augustine, taught that through Christ's vicarious suffering in humanity's place, he overcame and liberated humanity from sin, death, and the devil. Thus, while the idea of substitutionary atonement is present in nearly all atonement theories, some argue that the specific idea of satisfaction and penal substitution are later developments in the western Catholic Church and in Calvinism."

Although the Wikipedia article acknowledges that some scholars see penal substitution in Augustine, they cite J. S. Romanides to assert that the Eastern fathers never accepted any form of Penal Substitution:

"J. S. Romanides...argues that they, like the Eastern Orthodox Church of today, understood humankind as separating themselves from God and placing themselves under the power of sin and death. The work of Christ is viewed, he says, not as a satisfaction of God's wrath or the satisfaction of justice which God was bound to by necessity, but as the work of rescuing us from death and its power. He argues that the notion of penal substitution was never contemplated until Augustine, and was never accepted in any form in the East."

Is this really the case? I am by no means a patristics scholar, I merely dabble; but a little dabbling is enough to uncover affirmations of an explicitly penal substitution from many fathers, both from the East and West. Chrysostom and Eusebius, both from the East, taught penal substitution as clearly as Calvin or Luther. I've gathered a few quotes below.

Eusebius

“And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down on Himself the apportioned curse, being made a curse for us. And what is that but the price of our souls? And so the oracle says in our person: “By his stripes we were healed,” and “The Lord delivered him for our sins,” with the result that uniting Himself to us and us to Himself, and appropriating our sufferings, He can say, “I said, Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.” - Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelica, X.1

Continue reading "Penal Substitution a Sixteenth-Century Innovation?" »

May 11, 2012  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

The Will is Not Free But In Bondage

"It is false that the will, left to itself, can do good as well as evil, for it is not free, but in bondage." - Martin Luther

Likewise it is false that the will, left to itself (apart from grace), can choose to come to Christ (John 6:65), for it is not free, but in bondage ... for "the devil has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Cor 4:4) ... and has "taken them captive to do his will."(2 Tim 2:26) ... and intrinsically "the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.(1 Cor 2:14) because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so. (Rom 8:7) So there is "no one understands; no one seeks for God.... no not one. ( Rom 3:11) "So then salvation "depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." (Rom 9:16)

May 10, 2012  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Fulfilled Prophecy

Dr. Steve Lawson with a brief excerpt concerning the Bible's fulfilled prophecy.

April 19, 2012  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The paradox of sin's captivity

"The will of man without grace is not free, but is enslaved, and that too with its own consent." - Martin Luther

Its called "stockholm syndrome", an apparently paradoxical phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them

March 24, 2012  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Saved by Grace Alone or Saved by Grace Plus Free Will?

You cannot consistently assert that we are saved by "grace alone" and then in the same breath declare that the natural man has a free will to come to Christ (John 6:65). Man needs salvation precisely because his will is in bondage to sin. And that which is in bondage is not free. For the need for grace does away with free will altogether. Its not Christ plus our good will that saves us but Christ alone who grants us everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe.

Visitor: What is salvation?

Response: The short answer is salvation is deliverance from God's wrath and salvation from sin....Saved from the just consequences of our rebellion against God, it was accomplished when God took those consequences upon Himself when Jesus was nailed to the cross.The wrath of God abides on all men apart from the grace of Jesus Christ, who alone lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve.

Visitor: Okay, what is free will?

Response: Free will is something that exists only in people's imagination. Fallen man does not have a free will. He is NOT able NOT to sin. All people except Jesus Christ have broken God's law and have sinned. Therefore none can save themselves or lift a finger toward their own salvation. God must intervene if man is to have any hope at all. And He has done it in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Visitor: How does a person know if they are saved then?

Response: By grace you look to Christ's Righteousness and not your own. The Scriptures indicate that we are saved if the Word of God has come in divine power into our soul such that our self-complacency is shattered and our self-righteousness is renounced. Second, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our woeful, guilty, and lost condition. Third, God reveals to us the sufficiency of Jesus Christ alone to meet our desperate case and by a divinely given faith causes us to lay hold of and rest upon Him as our only hope. Fourth, when the Spirit changes our heart He gives us a love for God, a love for His word and an appetite for spiritual things; a longing for holiness; a seeking after conformity to Christ. This does not mean that you are sinless, but that you desire to obey Christ and feel anguish when you disobey Him. (A.W. Pink)

Visitor: What if I've felt this my whole life?

Response: Then it is likely that the Holy Spirit opened your heart to the gospel at an early age.

Quotes:

"...he who in his soul believes that man does of his own free-will turn to God, cannot have been taught of God, for that is one of the first principles taught us when God begins with us, that we have neither will nor power, but that he gives both; that he is "Alpha and Omega" in the salvation of men. - C. H. Spurgeon (Free Will, a Slave)

"In vain people busy themselves with finding any good of man's own in his will. For any mixture of the power of free will that men strive to mingle with God's grace is nothing but a corruption of grace. It is just as if one were to dilute wine with muddy, bitter water. But even if there is something good in the will, it comes from the pure prompting of the Spirit." -John Calvin, Institutes


March 19, 2012  |  Comments (26)   |  Permalink

No Kicking and Screaming...

"The doctrine of ‘irresistible grace’... is simply the belief that when God chooses to move in the lives of His elect and bring them from spiritual death to spiritual life, no power in heaven or on earth can stop Him from so doing... It is simply the confession that when God chooses to raise His people to spiritual life, He does so without the fulfillment of any conditions on the part of the sinner. Just as Christ had the power and authority to raise Lazarus to life without obtaining his ‘permission’ to do so, He is able to raise His elect to spiritual life with just as certain a result.

God ordains the ends and the means. The ends is the salvation of God's elect. His decree renders their salvation a certainty... Just as God's grace is irresistible, so the result of that grace (regeneration, the imparting of a heart of flesh after taking out the heart of stone, etc.,) is just as certain. God changes the heart so that my act of faith toward Jesus Christ is the natural result of my changed nature.

I am a new creature, not because the old rebel decided to become something other, but because of the resurrection power of God by the Spirit. The very idea of someone kicking and screaming seems a bit ironic, in light of the Reformed insistence upon the deadness of man in sin. Surely the heart of stone contains no desire to be changed, but ignoring the impartation of resurrection life as the means by which a radical change in the will of the elect is effected again presents a fundamentally distorted view of the (Reformed) position..." - Dr. James White

The doctrines of grace are intricately related one to the other. It is easy to see in this case how "irresistible grace" relates also to the "perseverance of the saints." This is because the One who starts the work, finishes it. To quote John Newton's hymn Amazing Grace, "Twas grace that caused my heart to fear... and grace will lead me home."

"As grace led me to faith in the first place, so grace will keep me believing to the end. Faith, both in its origin and continuance, is a gift of grace." - J.I. Packer

- JS

March 03, 2012  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

"Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live?"

Question: How can you reject free will. Does not Moses say to the Israelites "Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live?" (Deut 30:19)

Response: Yes it is indeed true that God commands the Israelites to "choose life", But when read in the context of the whole chapter, Moses reveals that the power to obey this command comes from regenerating grace:

"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)

In other words, God commands people to obey, but he also supplies all the grace needed to do so. The command to believe does not itself contain the power to do so. God commanding obedience (what we ought to do) does not mean a person can do this apart from grace. God must set them free from innate love of sin and natural hostility to God, if they have any hope of moving toward Him. Left to ourselves we are too proud to let go of our self-complacency and self-righteousness and so we will never rightly understand our woeful, guilty, and lost condition, unless God grants it.

So why did not all Israel believe? Because not all were children of promise. Some God left to their own boasted free will, letting them do what they wanted. In Romans 9: 6-8 it says of Israel:

"For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring."

This means that spiritual circumcision was not given to all physical descendants of Abraham but to the children of promise in their midst. The rest were commanded but refused to obey. Some get mercy but the rest get justice.

In 2 Chronicles 30:6-12 we also are given a glimpse of what takes place behind the scenes of how it is that some people believe the gospel while others do not:

So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the Lord God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. 8 Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. 9 For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”

10 So the couriers went from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them. 11 However, some men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the Lord.

Why did some believe? According to this passage, it is because God had mercy on them and gave them a heart to follow God's command to repent. Notice that the rest scorned and mocked God's word.

May the Lord grant us all eyes to see this truth.

February 29, 2012  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

The Gospel, Election, Calling and Prayer (Q&A)

Visitor: won't all men eventually be called (John 12:32)? Do we even pray for the salvation of our loved ones? I understand evangelism but does prayer do anything for salvation if it's been preset?

Response: What we believe in is not fatalism but what the Bible calls election. There is a difference. Fatalism would mean people would be saved or lost no matter what we did. But in election, God uses means to accomplish His ends. Election, by itself, does not save anyone. Election is God's blueprint (so to speak) about what He will do in time by Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel. In other words we cast the seed of the gospel indiscriminately to all men, and it will fall on many types of soil. The fallow ground (heart) that God plows up and makes good is the heart that will receive the seed of the gospel and when the Holy Spirit "germinates" that seed, there will be faith and life. Consider, that a farmer can work his hardest but unless God blesses the ground with rain then the farmer's work will be in vain. In other words, no one will come to Christ apart from hearing the gospel. The seed is necessary. However water is also necessary. We must pray down blessing from heaven if that seed is to bear fruit. The gospel is necessary but not enough by itself. "We plant and water, but God causes the growth."

You see only if God is sovereign in salvation does prayer make sense. If God cannot change a persons heart when we pray for them, then what use is prayer? If God can do nothing to change a heart of stone to a heart of flesh then prayer does nothing to help a person. An Arminian prayer is useless if God cannot change the will but only pleads with them from the outside. That is no more than we do. But since God does the saving by granting eyes so we can see, ears so we can hear and a new heart that we might believe, we can be confident that those we pray for have hope. Their salvation may be ordained but it is ordained through the means of God's people's prayers and the preaching of the word, apart from which they cannot be saved (See Rom 10). God put you in the place you are in so that he can gather up his elect through your prayers and witness to them of the gospel. What is "preset" is that people will only be gathered if you pray for and preach to them. Again, God ordains the means and the end....(the prayers of his saints that his elect may be saved).

Look closely at this passage on God's calling....

In 1 Cor 20:21-25 it says,.

it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Notice there are two types of calling in this passage. 1) the outward preaching of the gospel to Jews and gentiles. It is a stumbling block and folly to them. and 2) the inward call of the Holy Spirit to those AMONG Jews and Gentiles who will be saved.

Next, you asked "won't all men eventually be called (John 12:32)?"

When reading The Gospel of John chapter 12 in context we see a passage in which Jesus is speaking to Gentiles. In this passage Jesus is not saying that all men without exception will hear the gospel (which obviously does not happen) but he is saying that he will draw all men without distinction, both Jews and Gentiles, to himself. Up to then God almost exclusively worked redemptively with Jews, but now that Christ has come, the way for Gentiles has been opened.

I did not pull this interpretation out of a hat. Not only does the context of Gentiles fit, but also notice that the same concept is used this way in other parts of the gospel of John. In John 11:50 “Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them,...You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. I. e. Jesus died not only for Jews but Gentiles as well. Not all without exception but for the scattered children of God in their midst.

Hope this helps
John

February 23, 2012  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Nor the Son: Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32

What does it mean that the Son does not know the day or the hour in Matthew 24:36? How does this relate to the doctrine of the Trinity?

Dr. James White discusses the text on the Dividing Line webcast.

February 23, 2012  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Libertarian Freedom Does Not Hold Up Under Scrutiny

Libertarian free will is the assertion that we all have the freedom to choose otherwise. It declares that we are able to perform some other action in place of the one that is actually done, and this is not predetermined by any prior circumstances, our desires or even our affections. In other words, our choices are free from the determination or the constraints of human nature.

Now this seems like a very odd belief given that it can be so easily overthrown even with the most simple observation:

The fact that no man can choose to live a sinless life is proof positive that he has no free will. He is held captive under the yoke of sin and thus he sins willingly and of necessity ... and he cannot do otherwise.

In the Bible, the word "freedom" is defined in relation to sin. But since fallen man sins of necessity, and cannot do otherwise, he is not free. In the Gospel of John 8:34-36 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." So if the natural man has a free will to believe the gospel, as libertarians claim, then why does he need grace? If his will is naturally free then it would do away with the need for grace altogether...To teach that the natural man has a free will actually overthrows the gospel ... it is precisely because man is in bondage that he needs Christ to set him free." (John 8:34, 36)

We must ask why can't we live a sinless life? What is stopping us? Answer: Because the will and affections of fallen man are in bondage to a corruption of nature. Our sin nature makes it so our "chooser" is broken, so to speak. In our fallen nature, we choose what we desire and love most, which is sin, such that we sin of necessity. And if by necessity then it is in bondage. Nothing an unbeliever does, even good works, springs from a heart that loves God. No one is coercing fallen man to sin ... he does so naturally and cannot do otherwise.

Libertarians teach that 'salvation depends on human will', but the Bible teaches (and I quote) that 'it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." (Rom 9:16) Libertarians teach that '...as many as believed were ordained to eternal life.' but The Bible teaches (and I quote) 'AND AS MANY AS WERE ORDAINED TO ETERNAL LIFE BELIEVED' (Acts 13:48). Grace is not a reward for faith, but the cause of it.

Is there anything we can do apart from grace?" (John 15:5). When your synergistic friend says "no" then show him his inconsistency. If all people have prevenient grace, (as Arminians assert) then why does one person believe the gospel and not another? Is it the grace of Christ which makes them to differ or not? Or do they attribute their repenting and believing to their own wisdom, humility and good sense, and NOT to the grace of Christ ALONE.

"...no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit." - 1 Corinthians 12:3

Related Essay
Eleven (11) Reasons to Reject Libertarian Free Will
A critique of "Why I am not a Calvinist" by Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell
by John W. Hendryx

February 19, 2012  |  Comments (20)   |  Permalink

All You Have to Do is Recognize Your Need. Really?

With regard to saving faith, have you ever heard a preacher say "all you have to do is recognize your need" as if this were the easiest thing in the world? You might as well tell a sinner "all you have to do is perfectly obey the ten commandments." The nature of proud fallen man is such that he can no more submit to the humbling terms of the gospel any more than he can obey the law, without the Lord removing the old heart of stone and granting him a new heart of flesh (Ezek 36:26)

Who is sufficient for these things? Grace is at the root of saving faith. This spirit-wrought faith is the hand by which the soul lays hold of Jesus Christ, is united to Him, and is redeemed. They who have true faith take hold of Christ's strength, courage and his victory over the world. The more faith you have the more useful will you be. Faith is like a seed planted by God and germinated by the Holy Spirit and grows up organically, by degrees, from faith to faith. That our faith would grow should be the daily prayer of all who love the Lord. Do you have faith? Always remember that it is not something that comes natural to men, but is a supernatural gift from on high...As John the Baptist said, "...a person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven." And when Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God, Jesus answered him that "flesh and blood had not revealed this to him but my Father who is in heaven."

The command to repent and believe the gospel is given indiscriminately to all. But, contrary to what many modern preachers would say, this is no easy command to obey. Men are tethered to the yoke of sin and are by nature hostile to God (Rom 8:7; 1 Cor 2:14) making them unable to rise above their own native resources to believe. Jesus does not come to fix our old house but says that the old house must be torn completely down to the ground. There is no coming to him in faith unless the Father grants it (John 6:65) The synergist, who still gives people hope they they are sufficient in themselves to meet God's condition, comes along as says, "All you need to do is humble yourself, recognize your need, believe the gospel..." which then puffs up the sinner, as if we only need to fix a few things in our old rotting house. But the true gospel gives a death blow to the root of our self-righteousness. The fallen man is proud and self-righteous by nature. He would do anything, even outwardly obey the commandments, rather than let go of his self-righteousness. But to give up self-righteousness is absolutely needful to salvation, and this humility, this letting go, is not a fruit that springs from nature. We cling to tightly and fiercely to ourselves. To confess that there is no good thing in us,that we have no merit or goodness of our own and must trust in the righteousness of another is the product of a new heart and so Jesus declares that it is a gift from on high that we owe to God's sovereign, particular grace in Jesus Christ ALONE with no mixture of glory to man.

How is it that so many preachers forget this obvious and pervasive truth in the Bible? It all arises out of ignorance and our desire to credit some portion, however small, of our salvation to ourselves. But once the light of the gospel shines in our hearts, and the Spirit disarms our hostility, the bondage of sin and self-righteousness is broken. Let us never "glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 1:15; Gal. 6:14.) not only for justification when we come to faith, but also for the quickening of the Spirit that brings us to faith. Both derive their power from the Person and Word of Jesus Christ. He provides everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe.

February 07, 2012  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

What Do you Think of the Free Grace Movement?

Visitor? Have you done much research into the Free Grace Movement (FGA, GES)? I have having much conflict with my senior pastor who is a member of the Free Grace Alliance and hold firmly to Free Grace Theology. It would be a great encouragement if you could give me your take on the whole movement.

Response: The free grace movement, if I have my movements correct, are the no-lordship people. We obviously do not share their beliefs. I find it most striking that the "free grace" movement likes to speak of grace when they don't even believe that a work of the Holy Spirit is necessary to believe the gospel. If my memory servers me correctly they are free-willers and erroneously think that faith is what man contributes, as if this were easier than obeying the law. However, it is clear from the Scripture that the nature of proud fallen man is such that he can no more submit to the humbling terms of the gospel any more than he can obey the law, without renewal of heart ... or without the Lord removing the old heart of stone and granting him a new heart of flesh (Ezek 36:26)

Visitor: Yes, you do have your movement correct. From my experience the whole Free Grace Movement exists more for what they are against then what they are for. They are anti-lordship and anti-calvinism. They seem to be strongly dispensational to the point that if you are not dispensational, then you don't know how to interpret the Scriptures. With your understanding do you think this is a theology that will continue to grow, or do you think it is on its last legs? I am a Youth Pastor, and like I said before, my Senior Pastor is really having a hard time with me not being on board with his theology. Thank you, John, for your reply!

Response: I think Dispensationalism itself is on its last legs but it will not die easily. It has influenced American evangelicalism significantly for the last 100 years, but Dallas Seminary, the mother ship of Dispensationalism, has recently changed their tune from Classic Dispensationalism to Progressive Dispensationalism, which is really, in many ways, closer to Covenant Theology than Dispensationalism.

The so-called free-grace movement is indeed anti-calvinism, and what this means practically is that they reject salvation by Christ alone. Why do I say this? Well, of course they believe in the necessity of Jesus Christ, but the reject the sufficiency of Jesus Christ ... Sufficiency meaning that Christ provides EVERYTHING we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe. Their free-will theology essentially makes them sneak in a frightening level of semi-pelagianism (even though they like to talk of grace). They are, in fact, not free grace. They believe grace is CONDITIONAL. That is, God only loves a person if they meet his condition, faith. Otherwise they are cast into hell. While we agree with them that God gives us a condition of faith, but since man is impotent to exercise faith apart from regenerating grace (John 6:63-65) Jesus Christ mercifully provides everything we need for salvation INCLUDING a new heart to believe. Their strange belief system asserts that Jesus died for all sins EXCEPT the sin of unbelief. Our belief somehow makes up for our sin. But I believe the Scripture declares that if faith does not spring from a new heart, which God works in us, then we can boast in our faith because we cannot thank God for it. We could easily pray "thank you Lord for providing all I need for salvation except for faith. That is the one thing I came up with on my own." Thus we would end up attributing our repenting and believing to our own wisdom, humility, prudence, sound judgment and good sense. What makes Christians to differ from non-Christians from would then not be Christ but something else in me. Such a teaching radically misrepresents the Scripture.imho. I have long known of this movement (form the 1980s) and think it is a sub-Christian understanding of the gospel. That is not to say that many are not saved, but rather that their system of belief is largely inconsistent with the Bible.

February 06, 2012  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Why Arminian Conditional Election Makes God a Respecter of Persons

I often hear the charge against those who hold to a Reformed understanding of unconditional election and effectual grace that it cannot be true because it makes God a respecter of persons.

I think it is important to face up to this charge to see if it has any validity. To do this we need to understand how the Bible uses the concept "respecter of persons" and then let it interpret itself as to what it actually means, and then determine whether or not God would be guilty of it if unconditional election were true. Below is a wide sampling of its occurrence in the Scripture:

"Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour." (Leviticus 19: 15 KJV)

"Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous." (Deuteronomy 16: 19 KJV)

"For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person: yet doth he devise means,
that his banished be not expelled from him." (II Samuel 14: 14 KJV)

"Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts." (II Chronicles 19: 7 KJV)

"These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment." (Proverbs 24: 23 KJV)

"To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress." (Proverbs 28: 21 KJV)

"And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear." (I Peter 1: 17 KJV)

"God is no respecter of persons." (Acts 10: 34)

"For there is no respect of persons with God." (Romans 2: 11)

"My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors." (James 2: 1-9 KJV)

Here we have multiple instances of this phrase in both the Old and New Testament. So what are these passages talking about? They are clearly warning the believer against showing favoritism or partiality, because they declare that God Himself does not show partiality or favoritism. And. most importantly, in each of these instances it means neither we nor God give special treatment to a person because of his position, merit, wealth, influence, social standing, authority or popularity. Thus 'respecter of persons' means we are not to favor one person over the other because of ANY superior personal trait in the one favored, and likewise we are not to show prejudice toward those who lack these characteristics.

So when God unconditionally elects a person in Christ does he first determine who he will choose based on their position, wealth, good looks, influence etc? No. By definition unconditional election means unconditional. It is not conditioned on ANYTHING in us or potentially in us. God does not stand to gain from currying anyone's favor ... even those who are in high positions ... because God gave them that position, wealth, authority or social standing to begin with. The Bible unambiguously teaches, therefore, that God is no respecter of persons in election. Those who are chosen are chosen "in Christ" not because God is thinking about what he has to gain by helping them over others.. God has no need for such things, so, by definition, his choosing us cannot be tainted with such a motive.

Continue reading "Why Arminian Conditional Election Makes God a Respecter of Persons" »

January 25, 2012  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Election Ensures the Concept of Salvation by Grace

“So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:5, 6

From an article entitled, “What Difference Does it Make? A Discussion of the Evangelical Utility of the Doctrines of Grace,” Mark Webb writes:

The most casual Bible student admits that scripture indeed employs the language of election when speaking of God’s eternal purposes. Yet most seek to dodge the implications of that language by fleeing to the refuge of “conditional” election (i.e. that God’s choice, or election, of certain men to salvation is “conditioned” by his foreseeing faith in those men). I’ll leave the task of showing that this “time tunnel” hypothesis will not fly to the many excellent works on the subject. Better yet, see it yourself by getting out your Bible and thoroughly studying the many references of scripture concerning this subject. I intend to deal not so much with the proof of the doctrine as with its ramifications.

If “conditional” election is true—if God’s choice of me is determined by my choice of Him—the practical effect of this teaching is no different than if there were no election at all! The proof of this assertion is seen in the fact that the groups who hold this view seldom, if ever, mention the subject. And why should they? To what purpose? Since it’s taught that God has done all He can do to save, and now it’s up to man, the will of man becomes the determining and dominant factor in salvation. Whenever you make God’s choice of men to salvation hinge upon what He foresees in man—be it his work, his faith, or his choice—you have effectively undermined the whole concept of salvation by grace alone! Either salvation depends upon God’s free choice and good pleasure, which is the principle of “grace,” or it depends upon something man himself produces, which is the principle of “works.” It really matters not whether this “thing” which God foresees is something tangible, seen outwardly in the man’s life, or something intangible, seen inwardly only by God. It matters not whether it’s a huge thing, or whether it’s a tiny thing. So long as man’s part is the critical, determinative part, you have a system based upon “works” not grace.

Let me illustrate. Suppose you came to me and said, “Mark, I have a $15,000 car here. If you’ll pay me $15,000, I’ll give you the car.” We’d all agree, that’s not “grace,” that’s “works.” But suppose you said, “Mark, I’ve a $15,000 car here, and I’ll simply give you the car.” We’d all agree, that’s “grace,” not “works.” But now let’s try to mix the two concepts. Suppose you said, “Mark, here’s a $15,000 car. I’ll be $14,999 gracious to you if you’ll simply pay me $1.” Have we succeeded in mixing “grace” and “works?” No! For what’s the practical difference between that last offer and you simply saying, “Mark, here’s a $15,000 car—I’ll sell it for $1?”

Do you see? You’re still coming to me on the basis of “selling,” not “giving.” You’ve not changed your principle, you’ve simply lowered your price! This is precisely Paul’s point in Romans 11:5-6. An “unconditional” election is the only concept of election consistent with salvation by free grace!

Election Excludes Man’s Boasting

Scripture tells us in passages like Rom. 3:27, I Cor. 1:26-31, and Eph. 2:8-10, that God intentionally designed salvation so that no man could boast of it. He didn’t merely arrange it so that boasting would be discouraged or kept to a minimum—He planned it so that boasting would be absolutely excluded! Election does precisely that.

January 02, 2012  |  Comments (15)   |  Permalink

The God who loves

Don Carson explains John 3:16-21. This is part 9 of the 14-part series "The God Who Is There."

The God Who Is There - Part 9. The God Who Loves from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

December 17, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

A Few Thoughts on Hyper-Calvinism

“Remember… while some Arminians are Armenians and some Armenians are Arminians, Armenians and Arminians are two very different groups. Second, while it’s true that some Calvinists can be a bit hyper, that doesn’t make them Hyper-Calvinists.” – Justin Taylor

Amongst the archives at www.aomin.org here I found this, written by my friend Dr. James White; a response to a man named Marc Carpenter.

It is rather lengthy but I think you will find it worthwhile. To allow for easy reading I will make James White's words appear in bold type. - JS

James writes:
The following exchange took place around the year 2000. If I am recalling correctly, an unsolicited e-mail arrived with a large "cc" list of people. As you will see, my initial response was very brief, because I learned long ago that these kinds of impromptu e-mail lists will suck the life right out of you if you let them. False teachers have, seemingly, unlimited time resources. In any case, when the reply came, I did invest a few moments to type out a few thoughts I have had on the subject of the demands of hyper-Calvinists. I hope they are useful to others as well.

Continue reading "A Few Thoughts on Hyper-Calvinism" »

December 15, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

The Essence of Reformed Theology

November 12, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

James White's review of Roger Olson's book "Against Calvinism" (Parts 1 and 2)

Parts 1 and 2

Note: A few days ago, I posted the first half of Dr. James White's review. He has now completed the second half so in this new post I thought it would be good to put the two videos together in one place so they might be easier to find reference wise at one link. - JS

Roger Olson doesn’t like to debate, and he doesn’t like to defend his assertions either, but that did not stop Dr. James White from reviewing his book “Against Calvinism.” A very troubling aspect of Olson’s book is that he admits that even if God revealed Himself to be and to act, as Calvinists say He does, Olson would refuse to worship Him. That’s an amazing thing for a professed Christian to say.

Here is the first half of Dr. White's review:

Here now is the second half (below):

Continue reading "James White's review of Roger Olson's book "Against Calvinism" (Parts 1 and 2)" »

November 10, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Dr. Roger Olson’s book “Against Calvinism” – A Review by Dr. James White

Dr. Roger Olson doesn't like to debate, and he doesn't like to defend his assertions, either, but that did not stop Dr. James White from reviewing his book "Against Calvinism."

A very troubling aspect of Olson's book is that he admits that even if God revealed Himself to be and to act, as Calvinists say He does, Olson would refuse to worship Him. That's an amazing thing for a professed Christian to say.

Here (below) is Dr. White's review.

Continue reading "Dr. Roger Olson’s book “Against Calvinism” – A Review by Dr. James White" »

November 05, 2011  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

The worst thing???

What is the worst false teaching confronting and infiltrating the body of Christ in our day?

Television preacher Andrew Wommack believes it is..

wait for it...

...the doctrine that God is in control of all things (or meticulous providence).

Continue reading "The worst thing???" »

November 03, 2011  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

Free Will or Free Grace?

If the natural man has a free will to believe the gospel, then why does he need grace? If his will is naturally free then it would do away with the need for grace altogether.To teach that the natural man has a free will overthrows the gospel ... it is precisely because man is in bondage that he needs Christ to set him free." (John 8:34, 36)

"All the passages in the Holy Scriptures that mention assistance are they that do away with "free-will", and these are countless ... For grace is needed, and the help of grace is given, because "free-will" can do nothing."
- Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will, pg. 270

My online friend Larry Cochran once said, "I don't believe in the free will idea. I believe that God's sovereignty is always at work and that we are free to choose as we are freed from the bondage of sin, but until then we are not free, only under the delusion that we are free. Sin is slavery and Christ is freedom."

October 28, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Eavesdropping on a Holy Conversation

Below is a transcript from a C. H. Spurgeon sermon where he describes the covenant of redemption and wonders what it would have been like to be to have heard this covenant being made.

“Now, in this covenant of grace, we must first of all observe the high contracting parties between whom it was made. The covenant of grace was made before the foundation of the world between God the Father, and God the Son; or to put it in a yet more scriptural light, it was made mutually between the three divine Persons of the adorable Trinity.”

“I cannot tell you it in the glorious celestial tongue in which it was written: I am fain to bring it down to the speech which suiteth to the ear of flesh, and to the heart of the mortal. Thus, I say, run the covenant, in ones like these:

"I, the Most High Jehovah, do hereby give unto My only begotten and well-beloved Son, a people, countless beyond the number of stars, who shall be by Him washed from sin, by Him preserved, and kept, and led, and by Him, at last, presented before My throne, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. I covenant by oath, and swear by Myself, because I can swear by no greater, that these whom I now give to Christ shall be for ever the objects of My eternal love. Them I will forgive through the merit of the blood. To these will I give a perfect righteousness; these will I adopt and make My sons and daughters, and these shall reign with Me through Christ eternally."

Thus run that glorious side of the covenant. The Holy Spirit also, as one of the high contracting parties on this side of the covenant, gave His declaration, "I hereby covenant," saith He, "that all whom the Father giveth to the Son, I will in due time quicken. I will show them their need of redemption; I will cut off from them all groundless hope, and destroy their refuges of lies. I will bring them to the blood of sprinkling; I will give them faith whereby this blood shall be applied to them, I will work in them every grace; I will keep their faith alive; I will cleanse them and drive out all depravity from them, and they shall be presented at last spotless and faultless."

This was the one side of the covenant, which is at this very day being fulfilled and scrupulously kept. As for the other side of the covenant this was the part of it, engaged and covenanted by Christ. He thus declared, and covenanted with his Father:

"My Father, on my part I covenant that in the fullness of time I will become man. I will take upon myself the form and nature of the fallen race. I will live in their wretched world, and for My people I will keep the law perfectly. I will work out a spotless righteousness, which shall be acceptable to the demands of Thy just and holy law. In due time I will bear the sins of all My people. Thou shalt exact their debts on Me; the chastisement of their peace I will endure, and by My stripes they shall be healed. My Father, I covenant and promise that I will be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. I will magnify Thy law, and make it honourable. I will suffer all they ought to have suffered. I will endure the curse of Thy law, and all the vials of Thy wrath shall be emptied and spent upon My head. I will then rise again; I will ascend into heaven; I will intercede for them at Thy right hand; and I will make Myself responsible for every one of them, that not one of those whom thou hast given me shall ever be lost, but I will bring all my sheep of whom, by My blood, thou hast constituted Me the Shepherd — I will bring every one safe to Thee at last."

October 19, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

John 1:1

Question: I am a Christian but have a Jehovah’s Witness friend who does not believe in the Divinity of Christ. He is seeking to convince me that my Bible is incorrectly translated at John 1:1. My Bible renders the final phrase “and the word was God” and his “New World Translation” says “and the word was a god.” He contends that the Greek phrase “kai theos en ho logos” lacks the definite article “ho” in front of the word theos and therefore the indefinite article “a” must be supplied. What do you say about this?

I seek to provide an answer here. - JS

October 11, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Does the Natural Man Have Free Will or Not?

Some reformed theologians say that man has a "free will" and other theologians say that he does not? Confused?

The ones who say the natural man has a "free will" mean by this that man is free to do what he wants according to his fallen nature. A voluntary choice that is not coerced. We can agree with their concept, but even these Reformed theologians who say man has a free will would openly acknowledge that man's will is free only to do evil, but his WILL is not free to do good -- and I say in response to this that if the will is not free to do good it is not free in the only thing that counts when discussing the subject. Because when you talk about free will it is almost always with regard to sin and salvation... not free will in some general sense. The question is whether the sinner is "free" to choose Christ or not? No, he is not. He is by nature hostile to God (Rom 8:7), loves darkness and hates the light (John 3:19, 20). This is the only thing we are discussing when the topic of free will comes up. no? Fallen men and women are not dragged unwillingly into sinning, but because their will is held captive under the yoke of sin they do evil of necessity.

The will is corrupt and therefore, of necessity, chooses evil. And if it is of necessity that they act this way and not another, then the will is not free. Freedom in the Bible is almost always referring to freedom from sin. For example... Jesus says, "everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.(John 8:34-36). The Bible never speaks positively about the will being bound to sin and always speaks positively about the will being bound to God, in fact it calls this kind of slavery "freedom" in a positive sense. Jesus never once refers to being free from God and a slave to the devil as a positive thing. The only freedom Jesus declared as good and something to hope for was freedom from bondage to sin and a slave to God.

While I understand what the some Reformed folks mean when they say man has a "free will" but I think, at worst, we may be using the phrase "free will" on our libertarian opponents terms or, at best, present a confused picture since with regard to Christ, sin and salvation, which is the Bible's core focus, we all believe man's will is not free. Even an Arminian would acknowledge that the very need to grace does away with free will altogether. For no man can come to Christ apart from grace (John 6:65)

September 03, 2011  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Born Dead

Men are born alive carnally (John 3:7), but born dead spiritually (Eph 2:1; 1 Cor 2:14), making it impossible to receive life apart from God’s radical intervention (John 6:65). Life comes through means of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (John 6::63) who joins the sinner to Christ by applying the culmination of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to the elect sinner (Gal. 2:20; Col. 2:20; Rom. 6:4; Eph. 2:5. Col. 3:1). There are no human efforts of any kind that can provide this life.

September 03, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

If People are Already Elect What Need is there for Evangelism?

Without election no one would be saved. But election is not what saves. By it God determines who will be saved in Christ, in time, through the gospel, by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Evangelism casts the seed of the gospel, which the Holy Spirit uses to germinate the elect unto life.

August 24, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Why I Love the Doctrines of Grace

Please allow me to introduce Christina Langella to you and her blog Heavenly Springs. Though we speak the same English language, being from Brooklyn, New York, her accent is about as far removed from mine as is humanly possible. Fugheddabout it! Her love for the Lord is both heart warming and contagious. She is also a very gifted communicator, as you will see (below).

So often we present truth with fervent zeal, but those we are seeking to minister to have not yet seen the reason why the truth we share is important, nor have they fathomed anything of the practical benefits of the teaching under discussion. In other words, they have not yet comprehended the reason why they should take the time to try to understand what is being communicated. I think Christina remedies that exceptionally well in the following article, which was part of a larger series on the internet. I believe you will be blessed to read this, just as I was. - John S

WHY I LOVE THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE
In the first post of this series, sister Norma discussed the importance of studying doctrine. Doctrine, she explained, is not just for the seminarian, the professor, the pastor, or the missionary. It is rather, the responsibility of every person who wears the name of Christ.

The title of our series, “Doctrines in the Kitchen” reminds us of the very practical nature of the Word of God. It confirms that our faith encompasses the whole of our being and affects every sphere of our life – both public and private.

A.W. Pink, in his book, Practical Christianity explains it nicely. “Some of us are single, others married; some are children, others parents; some are masters, others servants. Scripture supplies definite precepts and rules, motives and encouragement for each alike. It not only teaches us how we are to behave in the church and in the home, but equally so in the workshop and in the kitchen…”

As someone who embraces Reformed/Calvinistic Theology, I point to the doctrines of grace, also known as the five points of Calvinism, as the system of theology that has put me on the most solid theological footing ever.

Calvinism, in and of itself, is not the Gospel, however when these doctrines come together they provide the theological framework for what is the gospel. In the gospel God saves totally depraved sinners, He chooses them unconditionally, He draws them irresistibly, and He preserves them until the end. If you remove one of these pillars then you will have succeeded in diminishing the gospel.

Continue reading "Why I Love the Doctrines of Grace" »

August 04, 2011  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

The Holiness of God (Russian)

Dr. R. C. Sproul's landmark series "the holiness of God" can now be heard in the russian language here.

August 02, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Importance of Predestination

[This editorial is found in Peace and Truth, the magazine of the Sovereign Grace Union, written by John Brentnall - www.sgu.org.uk]

In an age when the fear of man threatens to 'dumb down' our testimony to God's truth, it is well worth while to remind ourselves that the foundation doctrine of predestination is to be publicly preached, whether men hear or forbear. On this point let us heed the Word of God and the witness of some of His choicest servants.

1. God forbids us to tamper with His revealed will in the slightest way. "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it." (Deut 4.2) "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life." (Rev 22.18-19) As the doctrine of predestination forms part of His revealed will, it is included in this prohibition. Comments Zanchius:
"An ambassador is to deliver the whole message with which he is charged. He is to omit no part of it, but must declare the mind of the sovereign he represents, fully and without reserve. . . Let the minister of Christ weigh this well."

2. The Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles all preached predestination, declaring to their hearers "all the counsel of God." (Luke 4.25-29; Acts 20.27; Rom 9-11; Eph 1; James 4; 1 Pet 1.18-21; Jude 4; 2 John 1-3.) "What shall we then do?" asks William Plumer. "If the doctrine so offends men, shall we give it up? Are we to make peace with human wickedness by observing a profound silence on this topic? Nay, let us rather imitate Christ, who often preached it."

3. Faithful men in the past all refused to suppress this doctrine, however unpalatable it is to the carnal mind. In his day, Augustine rebuked those who passed over the doctrine of predestination in silence; and when he was charged with preaching it too freely, he replied by saying that where Scripture leads, there we must follow, adding: "Both the grace of free election and predestination and also wholesome admonitions and doctrines are to be preached." Writes Luther: "In chapters nine, ten and eleven [of Romans] the apostle teaches about the eternal predestination of God. He tells how it originally comes about that a person will believe or not, will become rid of his sins or not. He does so in order that our becoming pious be taken entirely out of our own hands and placed into the hands of God. And indeed it is supremely necessary that this be done; for . . . if the matter depended on us, surely not a single person would be saved. Since, however. . . His predestination cannot fail and no one can defeat His purpose, our hope against sin remains."

Calvin says the same: those who try to overturn "that prime article of our faith . . . God's eternal predestination . . . demonstrate their malice no less than their ignorance." In view of his approaching death, he wrote: "I John Calvin, servant of the Word of God in the Church of Geneva . . . have no other hope or refuge than His predestination, on which my entire salvation is grounded."

4. All truth is interconnected; to preserve a full-orbed Biblical testimony, the doctrine of predestination is necessary. Comments Zanchius: "The whole circle of arts have a kind of mutual bond and connection, and by a sort of reciprocal relationship are held together and interwoven with each other. Much the same may be said of this important doctrine [predestination]; it is the bond which connects and keeps together the whole Christian system, which, without this, is like a system of sand, ever ready to fall to pieces. It is the cement which holds the fabric together; nay, it is the very soul which animates the whole frame. It is so blended and interwoven with the entire scheme of Gospel doctrine that when the former is excluded, the latter bleeds to death."

5. The truth of predestination should be preached for the comfort of believers. "The doctrine of sovereign Predestination . . . should be publicly taught and preached in order that true believers may know themselves to be special objects of God's love and mercy, and that they may be confirmed and strengthened in the assurance of their salvation . . . For the Christian this should be one of the most comforting doctrines in all the Scriptures." (Loraine Boettner) If we would be a means of comfort to the people of God, we must assure them, by showing them marks of God's grace, that He chose them in love before the foundation of the world, that Christ died for them in particular and that the Holy Spirit who regenerated them shall certainly convey them to heaven.

6. Lastly, this truth should be preached to encourage preachers themselves. Writes William Plumer: "That the doctrine of election is a ground of encouragement to pious preachers of the Gospel is certain. Thousands have told us so. It was so to Paul. 'Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: FOR I HAVE MUCH PEOPLE IN THIS CITY.' (Acts 18.9-10) The previous context shows that the Jews at Corinth 'opposed themselves and blasphemed.' In fact the work of founding a church there was just begun. Yet God says: 'I have much people in this city.' No man will say that God merely designed to inform Paul that Corinth was populous. He knew this already. The only fair logical meaning is that among the crowds of the ungodly in that city were many of God's elect, whom He purposed by Paul's ministry soon to bring to a saving knowledge of Christ. The doctrine of election, rightly understood, holds out the only ground of encouragement which we have for preaching the blessed Gospel. If God has no elect, we preach in vain."

So then, this doctrine has been expressly revealed to us to be believed and preached. The excuse that people will reject it, or that it is unjust, or that it will cause controversy, is irrelevant. Since God has commanded us to preach it, we disobey Him at our peril. One thing is certain: it makes wholly for His glory, brings comfort and hope to His elect, and leaves unbelievers without excuse. In doing this, it perfectly fulfils the purpose for which He has revealed it.

July 18, 2011  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Does God ever change His mind?

Pastor John, I have a theological question for you. What would you say to someone (who was an Arminian) if you were having a discussion with them about the sovereignty of God in salvation and they stated that God does in fact change His mind (Exodus 32:14 is an example)?

That is a very good question. Nowadays people like to have instant sound bite size answers to their questions, but that is not always possible. On this issue, it is important to lay the groundwork to provide a satisfactory, biblical answer and to do that necessitates serious study and application of the Scriptures. Let's take a look at this question from a few different angles.

Hermeneutics is the science of biblical interpretation. One amongst many sound principles of interpretation is that we should base our view of God on the didactic (teaching) portions of scripture rather than the narrative (story) or poetic portions. This is why although the Bible says we can hide under the shadow of the Most High and under His wing find refuge, no Bible scholar expects God the Father to be a winged bird in heaven. This is obvious picture language where God uses images to speak to us highlighting the fact that just as a young bird finds refuge in the warmth and comfort of its mother's wings, we believers can find refuge in the Lord. The Lord is our rock and fortress, but that does not mean God is a literal rock or castle; or that because the Lord is our Shepherd and the Psalmist wrote, "your rod and your staff, they comfort me" God the Father has a literal rod and shepherd's staff that He uses with regularity in heaven. No, it is obvious picture language to describe something very meaningful about His relationship with His people, even though it is not to be viewed in wooden, literal terms.

These expressions are what we call anthropomorphic language (taken from two Greek words, “anthropos” meaning human or man and “morphos” meaning form). God communicates with us in human words or form. When you think about it, that is all God has at his disposal when revealing His truth to us because as humans we can only understand human language. Birds speak a bird language to converse with each other and so too, human beings use a human form of communication.

Likewise, when God communicates with us, He uses terms and images that are easy for us to grasp, even though if He explained them in the way He understood them, the concepts would be so far and vastly above our ability to comprehend that they would appear meaningless to us. God is infinite in knowledge and we as His creatures are finite. God has to remedy this in some way when He communicates with us so that He might provide a bridge of understanding. Just as a father smiles and engages in “baby talk” as he stands over the cot of his new born child, so God stoops to communicate with us in “baby talk” using language we can understand. Everything He communicates is true and meaningful, but expressed in terms finite minds can fathom.

Continue reading "Does God ever change His mind?" »

July 04, 2011  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

"God's fulfills His Plan Without Ever Coercing Our Volition"? - Is this True?

Someone recently declared to me that "God's fulfills his plan without ever coercing our volition" - But is it an axiom that in order for there to be true love, God must never violate our so-called "free will?"

My response below:

First and foremost, it must be said that such an idea is nowhere to be found in the Bible. But in order to demonstrate that this idea does not even fly in everyday life, I have a simple story for you: Two parents see their disobedient toddlers run out into oncoming traffic. The first parent runs up to the curb to tell their toddler to use their will to get out of the way of traffic, but does NOTHING more because he does not want to interfere with the toddler's will. The SECOND parent sees the cars coming and runs out into the street at the risk of their life to SCOOP up the child to MAKE CERTAIN their child is safe. WHICH parent loved their child ? We would all view this second parent as having GREAT love for their child and GET THIS, he was not concerned AT ALL about the child's will because the parent knew better than the child what was good for him . AND How much more does God love his own? God's love for us is not conditional as you believe. He does not first see how we use OUR WILL to determine whether he loves us, as you seem to believe. He loves us too much to leave us in our own hands. No, God saves us in spite of our rebellious will. The synergist's idea of love then is flawed since they believe God's love for us is CONDITIONAL. Rather, "we love God BECAUSE he first loved us." Jesus does for us what we are unable and unwilling to do for ourselves.

Again, when you used the phrase "fulfilling God's plan without coercing their volition" -- this seems to be a "basic assumption" which is the driving force behind your theology. You guys have talked about this idea for so long that it has become axiomatic for you, even though it is nowhere found in the Bible. Your most precious doctrine, it seems, that drives everything else is, therefore, this false idea which is READ INTO the Scriptures. It is a logical deduction but, I would argue, is wrong.

Martin Luther once said, “I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want ‘free-will’ to be given me, nor anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavour after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground …; but because even were there no dangers … I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success … But now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. Furthermore, I have the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merciful favour promised to me; so that, if I work too little, or badly, He does not impute it to me, but with fatherly compassion pardons me and makes me better. This is the glorying of all the saints in their God” - Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1957), 313-314.

June 23, 2011  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

He either is morally able or he is not commanded?

from an ongoing conversation ...

Me: "...On the contrary, man is completely responsible to believe the gospel. To repent and believe is an imperative (a command) that man is completely responsible to obey. However, that does not mean he is morally able to do so."

Visitor: He either is morally able or he is not commanded. For the record, I am a raging Calvarminan.

Response: As an everyday example ... If you borrowed $100 million from a bank to establish a new venture but then squandered it an a week of wild living in Vegas, does your inability to repay the bank alleviate you of the responsibility to do so? No of course not. So if in an every day example this proves inability does not undo our responsibility, how much more so with God, to whom we have a debt we cannot repay. Therefore his commands to obey do not mean man is morally able. After the fall God does not change his standard simply because we are sinful.... but thanks be to God, in Christ Jesus He pays our debts in FULL.

The imperatives or commands of God were not given to show our ability, but our inability. In Rom 3:20 Paul says this very thing: "...through the law comes knowledge of sin." The law, in other words does not reveal ability but our impotence. ...the commandments are not given pointlessly; but FOR THE PURPOSE that through them the proud, blind man may learn the plague of his impotence, if he tries to do as he is commanded. Does it follow from the command: 'turn"' that therefore you CAN turn? Does it follow from "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart' (Deut 6.5) that therefore you can love with all your heart? it does not follow. ... ...

Just for the record, there is no such thing as a Calvarminan, you are EITHER a monergist or a synergist. There is no middle ground. Either you believe the work of regeneration is Christ alone (Monergism) or you believe it is Christ PLUS your UNREGNERATE will (synergism) . But the Bible declares that faith is not the product of our unregenerated human nature.

John 6:37 says >>"ALL THAT THE FATHER GIVES TO ME WILL COME TO ME". Let me ask ... according to this verse how many people will come to Jesus who the Father gives to Him? Some? No the Text unambiguously says "ALL" that the Father gives the Son will believe the gospel. ALL ... not some.

June 23, 2011  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

The Critical Difference Between Monergism and Synergism

This is the one point that monergism establishes and synergism in all its forms denies: namely, that sinners are impotent to lift a finger toward their own salvation, but that salvation, from first to last, whole and entire is of the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be all glory for ever; amen

Remember, divine election, by itself, has never saved anyone. It marks out certain individuals for salvation; it is God's "blueprint" of what he intends to do in time through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. God the Father elects, the Son redeems them, and the Spirit applies the work of Christ to the same. The Trinity works in harmony to bring about God's purposes of election... and He gathers them through the preaching of the gospel, the seed which the Spirit germinates and brings to life. Again, salvation is of the Lord.

Synergists teach that 'salvation depends on human will', but the Bible teaches that 'it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." (Rom 9:16) and that we "were born, not of...the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13)

June 11, 2011  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Four-Point Calvinism an Impossible Supposition

"Irresistible grace presupposes particular redemption. There is no such grace apart from Christ and His work. (Eph 1:3, 1 Pet. 1:3) Therefore, so-called four-point Calvinism is untenable."

May 24, 2011  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Only the Father knows...

Question: Matthew 24:36 says, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” This seems to be problematic, for if there is something the Son does not know, would this not indicate to us that he is not omniscient (all knowing)? God is all knowing and yet this tells us that there is something Christ did not know. How do we reconcile this verse with the Christian concept of the Deity of Christ?

I seek to provide an answer here. - JS

May 19, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Divine Election Explained

This is what happens when a gentleman with a sincere question about election approaches Paul Washer (unannounced) and someone else has a video camera standing by ready to record.

In spite of the sound quality issues (thankfully the entire conversation is readable in subtitles on the screen), I am sure the explanation given here can be helpful for many people. - JS

April 28, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

You have an "A"

Steve Brown tells a story about a time his daughter Robin found herself in a very difficult English Literature course that she desperately wanted to get out of.

She sat there on her first day and thought, “If I don’t transfer out of this class, I’m going to fail. The other people in this class are much smarter than me. I can’t do this.” She came home and with tears in her eyes begged her dad to help her get out of the class so she could take a regular English course. Steve said, “Of course.”

So the next day he took her down to the school and went to the head of the English department, who was a Jewish woman and a great teacher. Steve remembers the event in these words:

She (the head of the English department) looked up and saw me standing there by my daughter and could tell that Robin was about to cry. There were some students standing around and, because the teacher didn’t want Robin to be embarrassed, she dismissed the students saying, “I want to talk to these people alone.” As soon as the students left and the door was closed, Robin began to cry. I said, “I’m here to get my daughter out of that English class. It’s too difficult for her. The problem with my daughter is that she’s too conscientious. So, can you put her into a regular English class?” The teacher said, “Mr. Brown, I understand.” Then she looked at Robin and said, “Can I talk to Robin for a minute?” I said, “Sure.” She said, “Robin, I know how you feel. What if I promised you and A no matter what you did in the class? If I gave you an A before you even started, would you be willing to take the class?” My daughter is not dumb! She started sniffling and said, “Well, I think I could do that.” The teacher said, “I’m going to give you and A in the class. You already have an A, so you can go to class.”

Later the teacher explained to Steve what she had done. She explained how she took away the threat of a bad grade so that Robin could learn English. Robin ended up making straight A‘s on her own in that class.

That’s how God deals with us. Because we are, right now, under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ, Christians already have an A. The threat of failure, judgment, and condemnation has been removed. We’re in–forever! Nothing we do will make our grade better and nothing we do will make our grade worse. We’ve been set free.

Knowing that God’s love for you and approval of you will never be determined by your performance for Jesus but Jesus’ performance for you will actually make you perform more and better, not less and worse. In other words, grace mobilizes performance; performance does not mobilize grace.

If you don’t believe me, ask Robin!

HT: Tullian Tchividjian

April 26, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

What is the Nature of Saving Grace?

The fact that fallen man needs grace does away with free will altogether. Even classic Arminians readily acknowledge that apart from some kind of prevenient grace man's will is in bondage and cannot believe (and therefore not free). So the debate is not whether man has a free will or not. This has already been determined. The debate really centers around what the nature of God's grace is... whether sufficient and effectual in Christ alone who provides everything we need (including a new heart to believe) or insufficient and ineffectual apart from man's unregenerate will.

April 23, 2011  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Contemporary Reformation Theology Page

contemp[1].jpg

Welcome to the Contemporary Reformation Theology Page.
Essays in the Historic Christian Faith From a Classic Reformed/Evangelical Perspective

Major Update!!!

April 16, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Question on Limited Atonement

Question: I am studying the Atonement and am struggling with the concept of a limited atonement, and was wondering if you could assist me thru this:
what do we do with all the scriptures that speak of Christ dying for the sins of all men; for the sins of the world, etc....

Last night I read out of Berkhof's Summary of Christian doctrine, under the heading --Extent of the Atonement. That started to turn on a light...Then I started in on Grudem's sys theo under the same heading.

At issue is the Truth--there must be one.....God's not the author of confusion!! It's us; even His children):
Thanks and most sincerely-
Because Soli Deo Gloria!

Response:
Thank you for your email and your excellent inquiry. You are quite right in saying that God is not the author of confusion and, as such, the Trinity works in harmony in our salvation. The Father elects us in Christ, The Son redeems those the Father elects and the Holy Spirit applies the redemptive work of Christ to the same. To say that the Father elects a particular people and the Son dies for everyone and the the Spirit regenerates a particular people is confusion.

Let me ask you. The work of the Holy Spirit in effectual grace ... do you believe it? If so, is this grace from Jesus Christ or from elsewhere? i.e. some generic grace (apart from Christ)? No, regeneration is only possible because of the work of Christ. Therefore, Christ died for the elect in a way (a redemptive way) that he did not for the non-elect. That is to purchase their regeneration, which is a grace never given to the non-elect. This particular grace given only to the elect, proves beyond any doubt that Jesus had the intent of dying for his bride, the church, and not for everyone without distinction.

As for the verse in 1 John which says that Christ not only died for our sins but for the sins of the whole world ... remember this was a time of transition from exclusively Jewish to now also include Gentiles, so this passage is referring not to Christ dying for all people without exception but all people without distinction.. that is both for Jews and Gentiles. To give more evidence that this is clearly what it means, the same author John, in the bok of Revelation 5:9 says that with his blood Christ purchase men FROM every tribe, nation, tongue..." Jesus' blood purchased men OUT OF every tribe ... it does not say he purchased every person in every tribe. Likewise Caiaphas, who was high priest the year Jesus was Crucified, said to the Pharisees, "You know nothing at all,nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish." 51Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

Here the same author John quotes this Pharisee's prophesy which speaks of Jesus dying not only for Israel but for the children of God scattered abroad.... clearly a reference to all of God's people in the world .. not referring to every single person in the world ... which would be complete nonsense... for if Jesus died for all people without exception then why aren't they all saved.??? Because of unbelief one might say?

So in other words, then, Jesus died for all sins except the sin of unbelief? That is ludicrous. Grace is not a reward for faith but faith is the result of grace. Jesus says no one can have faith in me unless God grants it (John 6:65) So even faith is the gift of God, something Jesus purchased as part of our redemption. Also read the high Priestly prayer in John 17. This was given just before he went to the cross, just as a high priest goes to the temple prior to sacrifice. Jesus said, "I pray for them, I pray not for the world, but for those you have given me." Later in the the prayer he also describes those who believe in the apostles words as "those you have given me". In John 6:37 he says "All that the Father gives to me WILL come to me." ... so again the order is clear about God's grace in Christ preceding faith -- a grace given because of Christ's perfect life and sacrificial atonement on behalf of his people. Jesus lays does his life for the sheep.

Hope this helps
John Hendryx
Monergism.com

April 05, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Responding to Apostasy

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

Apostasy – how do we handle it? Christians view apostasy according to their understanding of the work of God in salvation. It is just here where we find a great divide of opinion between those embracing the reformed doctrines of grace, and those who do not. More here.


March 23, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Christ and the Gospel not Old Testament Themes at All? A Hyper-Troubling Conclusion of a Hyper-Dispensationalist

“But since I've spent almost all my study time in the OT during the last two months, it's almost as though I've left the Gospel Carnival behind. Kind of like going for a drive in the country, but better. It's been very refreshing, but the funny thing is that, despite the fact that I have been spending considerably more time than normal in my Bible for the past two months, I've read virtually nothing about Christ, the Cross, or the Gospel.
Now some of you are probably shaking your heads right now and saying, "This guy doesn't know how to read his Bible--it's ALL about Christ if you know how to successfully navigate between the lines!" And I'm not blind to the redemptive thread that winds through the Bible. But the thing is, when I stop reading between the lines and just start reading the lines, Christ and the Gospel do not emerge as major OT themes. In fact, they're not themes at all.
And so I'm musing here. If robust faith and rigid separatism could flourish in the OT without reference to the themes of Christ and the Gospel, is it really possible to jettison everything else today and base fellowship strictly or even primarily upon fidelity to the Gospel?” – Dr. Mark Snoeberger, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary[1]

The three paragraphs quoted above are frankly quite troubling on a number of levels. One is their source: Dr. Mark Snoeberger, a professor at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, which, although long noted for its adherence to revised Dispensationalism of the Ryrian sort, actually commands some sort of respect in certain Baptist circles as being a basically sound and academically qualified institution of higher learning. Now, not all Dispensationalists would say such extreme things as Dr. Snoeberger has been saying; but it is disconcerting to note that this is not coming from the lips of some wild-eyed radical on the fringe, but from one of the more influential of the fundamental Baptist seminaries that still adhere to Dispensationalism in the basic form it took at Ryrie's Dallas Theological Seminary, some decades ago.

Continue reading "Christ and the Gospel not Old Testament Themes at All? A Hyper-Troubling Conclusion of a Hyper-Dispensationalist" »

March 02, 2011  |  Comments (13)   |  Permalink

Free eBook: What the Bible Says About the DOCTRINES OF GRACE

wbsadog.jpgFree eBook: What the Bible Says About the DOCTRINES OF GRACE by Nathan Pitchford - Available in both Kindle .mobi and ePub formats

God has recently given us the opportunity to discuss some theological issues with other Christians who believe differently than we do on a number of points, most notably the doctrines of grace. In such a circumstance, given the overwhelming supply of scriptural evidence that comes to bear on the topic, it seemed to me that the best approach would be a simple categorized scripture list: the fact that the entire paper would be scriptures, with the exception of a few brief explanatory notes, would underscore the truth that this is God's own word and teaching; and the fact that it would be categorized would facilitate the ready comparison of scripture with scripture so as to lead one to a full-orbed understanding of the biblical teaching. Although I found a few good scripture lists of that nature available online, none of them was laid out in quite the progression that I was looking for, and so I developed my own. I'm posting it here with just the scripture references. Below, for your convenience I have provided a condensed version and a full version of the study. The study is also available in print from Monergism Books.

February 15, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

The Skeleton in the Closet

Many call Charles Finney "America’s greatest revivalist." Few are aware he rejected essential Christian truth. His influence is widespread in today's Church, but even more troubling is the pervasive Pelagianism that he taught.

Why is this such a problem?

Dr. Sproul explains here. - JS

February 15, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Free Will Synergism Vs. Free Grace Monergism

Synergists teach '... and as many as believed were ordained to eternal life.' but the Bible teaches 'And as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.' (Acts 13:48)

Synergists teach '...no one knows the Father except those who choose the Son.' But the Bible teaches that 'no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him' (Matt 11:27) They are the ones who 'choose' the Son.

Synergists teach that 'All can come to Christ of their own free will', but Jesus teaches that 'no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.' (John 6:65) and all whom He grants will come (John 6:37)

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

Synergists teach that 'the reason you are not of God is because you are unwilling to hear and believe God's words.' Jesus, on the other hand, taught, 'The reason why you do not hear [God's words] is that you are not of God." (John 8:47)

Synergists teach that 'salvation is so easy a cave man can do it" but the Bible teaches that “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)

In the Divine economy men are responsible to believe the gospel, but are morally impotent to do so from their own native resource. This inability (due to our intimate solidarity with Adam's sin) is something we are culpable for, like owing a debt we cannot repay. So God has every right to call us all to account to 'repay our debt', so to speak, even though we do not have the resources to do so. The Church is to call all men to repent and believe the gospel (an imperative) but no one believes. But God, in his great mercy, still has mercy on many, opening their hearts to the gospel that that might believe.

To this sometimes a synergist often quotes "whosoever will may come" to which we reply that this quote does not teach an indicative of what we are able to do, but rather, teaches what we 'ought' to do. As Martin Luther said, "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..." Luther BW,164

February 11, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Foreknowledge

Isn’t Divine election (God’s choice to save sinners) based upon the fact that He knows everything, even the end from the beginning, and therefore knows ahead of time what man will choose? Though it is a choice made in eternity past, God simply chooses (elects) those He sees ahead of time will choose Him. Correct?

Thanks for your question. God certainly does know everything, including all the future actions of man, but the quick answer is “no," election is not based on God’s foreknowledge of man’s choice. More here.

Continue reading "Foreknowledge" »

February 07, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Jesus Died For the Children of God who are Scattered Abroad.

John 11:49-52 (English Standard Version)

49But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all. 50Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." 51He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

Revelation 5:9 (English Standard Version)

9And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

FROM EVERY TRIBE & Jesus would die gather into one the children of God WHO are scattered abroad.

In other words, where the Scripture says Jesus died for the whole world, (also written by the apostle John) it interprets itself by showing that he means all people without distinction not all people without exception. Not Jews only, but Jews and Gentiles FROM every nation.

February 05, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Why Did Jesus Need to Be Baptized?

Question? My Christian brothers and sisters I have a question for you, why was Jesus baptized? I just want to see what you guys think. Thanks

Answer: "To fulfill all righteousness" - which is his own answer. In other words, while Jesus is eternal God in essence, he needed to fulfill the law from our side as a human being so as to fully represent us. Christ’s full obedience to all the prescriptions of the divine law made available a perfect righteousness before the law that is imputed or reckoned to those who put their trust in him. This is often called the active obedience of Christ. The passive obedience, on the other hand is His willing obedience in bearing all the sanctions imposed by that law against his people because of their transgression which is the ground of God’s justification of sinners (Rom. 5:9).

February 04, 2011  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

The Godhood of God

Part of the inheritance of every true child of God is the knowledge and sweet comfort of God's Sovereignty. See here. - JS

February 02, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Calvinism vs. Hyper Calvinism

“Remember… while some Arminians are Armenians and some Armenians are Arminians, Armenians and Arminians are two very different groups. Second, while it’s true that some Calvinists can be a bit hyper, that doesn’t make them Hyper-Calvinists.” – Justin Taylor

It is very important to know the vast chasm of difference between Calvinism and Hyper Calvinism. See this article here. - JS

January 19, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Cross - The Wisdom and Power of God

Why do some people reject the message of the cross? Here's why. - JS

January 07, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Tiptoe through the TULIP with me

Here's an invitation for you to join with me in discovering the doctrines of grace (if you have not already done so before, or even if you have). It should be a fun online journey. - JS

January 06, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Spiritual Warfare

There are two mistakes we often make when it comes to the devil. One is the make too much of our foe and attribute almost deity status to him. The devil is not omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all wise, all knowing) or omnipresent (everywhere present); so if he is bothering you, he cannot possibly be bothering me at the same time (though he does have many agents under his rule who work on his behalf). The other mistake though is to make too little of him, and not take his schemes against us seriously.

In the famous passage in Ephesians 6 which portrays the saints' spiritual warfare, notice two things. Firstly, the Apostle Paul likens the conflict to wrestling, which is the closest form of fighting. The original words could be translated "our wrestling match is not against persons with bodies..."

Secondly, although Paul could have used the word "against" just once to have easily made his point, he uses it over and over again - five times in all - illustrating the immensity and intensity of the battle each of us are engaged in. Like it or not, we are in a war.

“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Below is a short video of quotes by Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones. Very sobering. - JS

January 04, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Christmas Calvinists

Question: How do you know when someone is a Christmas Calvinist?

Answer: No "L"

(Noel! Noel!)

Yes, it is the missing "L" in the acrostic TULIP.

Joking aside though, all who are particularists (who believe that only some and not all of humanity will ultimately be saved) limit the atonement in some way. The Arminian limits its power (believing Christ's "atonement" was for everybody but only hypothetically as it does not actually atone or save anyone unless man adds his faith to it) and the Calvinist limits its scope (believing that by His death and resurrection He secured a real and effectual atonement and removed the wrath of God for His people - and that the faith that saves is actually God's gift). Here's the first of a series of articles on this important issue. - JS

December 22, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

God's Foreknowledge and Election

Is Divine election (God's choice to save sinners) based upon His knowing ahead of time what man will choose? Article here. - JS

December 09, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Five Big Myths About Calvinism

Does Calvinism destroy evangelism, appeal to man's pride, stunt personal holiness, make men robots and diminish the love of God? Not at all. But these are all myths that are believed by many in our day. I write a short article on it here. - JS

December 07, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Calvinism v. Arminianism

I just wrote a short article here concerning the parameters of the debate. - JS

December 05, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Total Depravity

Historically and biblically speaking, the term "total depravity" does not mean utter depravity (unregenerate man is not as bad as he possibly could be), but that every aspect of man has suffered a radical corruption in the Fall. Article here. - JS

December 04, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Natural Revelation, Special Revelation and NASA

Natural Revelation is a phrase used by theologians to describe what God has revealed about Himself through the natural world around us. There is enough revelation in nature for God to declare that mankind knows of His existence inherently so that to deny such leaves a person “without excuse.”

God does not believe in atheists! That is the claim of the Bible in Romans 1:20 where it tells us that God’s invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.

As spectacular as natural revelation is, it has its limitations. Nature does not tell us everything about God, or even all we need to know about God for salvation. Therefore, in addition to natural revelation, God has also given us Special Revelation, the God breathed Scriptures (the Bible). I write more about this in a short article here. - JS

December 02, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Ordo Salutis (The Order of Salvation)

I am sure at some point you have seen crash dummies in a car as it hits a wall, and from several different angles, cameras record the event to note precisely how the collision impacted both the vehicle and the dummies inside. The videos are slowed down dramatically and observations are made which reveal a great deal. As any new car is introduced into the car market, car companies (as well as outside agency safety inspectors) conduct these kind of tests as standard procedure to ascertain the level of safety for passengers.

With this idea in view, I want us to take a fresh look at salvation from several angles. We will note that although many of the things happen in an instant, if we could slow the camera down (so to speak) we will see that one thing occurred before the other, just as the car had to hit the wall before the dent in the car could be observed. In referring to a sequence with regards to time we also speak of logical and causal order, for the simple reason that although (in time) two things seemed to occur instantly, logically speaking, one thing had to happen before the other – one thing was the cause of the other thing.

Someone might ask what is the point of such a study. I would reply that the conclusions we come to on these issues have a profound impact on how one views God, the gospel, and the Bible as a whole.

Continue reading "Ordo Salutis (The Order of Salvation)" »

November 14, 2010  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Questions & Answers on Reformed Theology

Question and Answer sessions can be immensely helpful. I know this was true for me as I considered whether reformed theology is indeed biblical. This is one such session (below), and while only in audio, and from a good few years ago now, it is well worth hearing. Here, Dr James White exegetes a number of biblical texts which are often raised as being in opposition to reformed theology.

November 12, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

One Hour on Sola Gratia

I very much recommend this 1 hour recently recorded podcast where my friend, Dr. James White is interviewed on the vital subject of Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), one of the five main slogans of the Protestant Reformation, explaining what it is both historically and biblically. There is also some interesting discussion concerning some of the modern day counterfeits to the biblical teaching on God’s grace. The interview with Dr. White can be heard here. - JS

November 06, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Does God create people whom He knows will end up in hell?

There is no doubt that this is a highly charged emotional question, not just one of the intellect. So much so that it is hard for any of us to consider this question with any degree of objectivity, but I attempt to do that in a short article I wrote today here. - JS

November 05, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

How Can Regeneration Precede Faith in Light of Eph 1:13?

Visitor:

If regeneration precedes faith, how can we explain Ephesians 1:13? This verse lists hearing, believing and sealing with the Holy Spirit in that order. If being sealed with the Holy Spirit is the same thing as being indwelled by the Holy Spirit, or if this happens when the heart is changed (ie., with regeneration, as per Ezekiel 36:26-27), doesn't that mean that regeneration follows belief rather than precedes it?


Response:
Paul's main point of the first 12 verses in Ephesians is to show that all spiritual blessings we have are because of the sovereign grace of Jesus Christ ALONE, in Whom we are predestined and adopted as sons, thereby making the Spirit's work of grace, by definition, causally prior to our faith. But, if this were not enough, Jesus himself explicitly teaches that regeneration precedes faith in John 6:63-65 & 37. Take the time to meditate on that passage in context. Are you suggesting that Paul is teaching in Ephesians 1:13 that a person can come to faith in Jesus apart from the Holy Spirit? That he can simply rely on his own native resources apart from grace? That the spiritually blind do not need their eyes opened, that the deaf do not need their ears unplugged, that the hard-hearted can make their own heart of stone into a heart of flesh, without God's help? In other words, specifically related to you question about Eph 1:13, are you suggesting that because the Spirit comes to indwell the believer after he believes and is justified, that the Spirit does not also work in people prior to this? That the Spirit is dormant and is waiting for a graceless person to believe first? The Biblical evidence is so overwhelming that the Spirit also works prior to belief that this should not even be a debate in the church. The believer hears only because the Holy Spirit opens his ears. The sinner believes only because the Spirit has worked faith in Him. They "are born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13). That which is born of flesh is flesh, but that which is born of Spirit is Spirit (John 3:7). "The Spirit gives life the flesh counts for nothing." (6:65). The "flesh"means the person without the Spirit who can neither know nor understand spiritual truth, and faith, therefore is not born of man's will.

Why do you "thank" God for your conversion? It is because the Bible gives witness that God was entirely responsible for it. You thank God because you know your repenting and believing cannot be ascribed to your own wisdom, sound judgment, or good sense. Jesus Christ gets ALL the glory. Even the very humility you have to believe is a gift of grace, for what do you have that you did not receive.. Or would you rather tell God that you thank him for everything else, but that your faith is something you came up with on your own??? Jesus Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith. Why do some believe and not others? What makes us to differ? Jesus or something else?

October 20, 2010  |  Comments (18)   |  Permalink

Free will vs. blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Visitor:

Free will vs. blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Please help me to understand how it is possible to blasphem against the Holy Spirit if man does not have free-will. ESV by Crossway notes at Luke 12:10?????????????

Response:
Apart from God's grace in Christ, no one believes the gospel. That man needs God's grace to believe (John 6:6:63-65) is itself proof that man has no free will. Left to himself he remains in bondage to sin.... Is He not? Ask yourself a simple question: Does the Bible teach that a person can come to faith in Christ apart from any work of the Holy Spirit? No, in his native, fallen, unregenerate state man will always choose to reject Christ. No one is coercing him to reject Christ, he does so voluntarily because his heart is corrupt and loves darkness. (John 3:19, 20)

You may ask, how can he be responsible then? Answer. Consider if a man borrowed $1 billion from the bank to finance a new company. Instead the man squandered the money in a week of wild living in Las Vegas. Is he responsible to repay the debt to the bank? Of course. Is he able to repay? No, he is bankrupt. So his inability to repay the bank does not alleviate him of his responsibility. Likewise God commands men everywhere to perfectly obey His commandments. Do they? no. Are they responsible to obey? Yes. So again inability does not alleviate responsibility. God likewise commands us to repent and believe the gospel? Can we do so apart from His Holy Spirit and grace ? No? Are we responsible to believe nonetheless? Yes. Our inability to believe is because, in Adam, we are sinners by nature and we continue to choose to sin. Unless God renews our heart to understand spiritual things we would never believe the gospel. (1 Cor 2:14).

So regarding your question about blaspheming the Holy Spirit. All those who reject the gospel, in the end, have blasphemed the Holy Spirit. They are completely responsible for their rejection of Christ (Whom the Holy Spirit gives witness). Furthermore, God is not obligated to save anyone ... and the greatest judgment is to leave them to their own so-called "free-will. So anyone who is saved can give God the glory for it was purely a work of His mercy and grace, in spite of ourselves. Praise the Lord.

Hope this helps
John H.

October 12, 2010  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Justification by Christ Alone by Dr. John Gerstner

Witness the passion of the late Dr. John Gerstner as he explains the biblical doctrine of sola fide:

October 06, 2010  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

On Justification

STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS: Church History did not begin with the birth of Billy Graham!! Because the Bible has not changed through the centuries, what it teaches has not changed either. I have found that although those who were the titans of the faith in the past were never infallible (nor did they ever claim to be), it is arrogant in the extreme to think that we who live in the 21st century cannot learn anything from the gifted teachers God gave to His church in times past. The ascended Christ dispensed gifts to His church (Eph 4:8-12). These gifts were apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers; men of God, who often upon the threat of death, labored intensely to understand and proclaim the God breathed Scriptures in order to instruct, guide and nourish the people of God. Though now having departed the world's stage, these gifts of Christ can still bless us today through their writings! This quote (below) from the 1689 Westminister Confession of Faith is a rich and detailed summary of what the Bible teaches on the subject of justification, with every word crafted with care and precision. - JS

Chapter XI
I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies;[1] not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them,[2] they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.[3]

II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification:[4] yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.[5]

Continue reading "On Justification" »

September 27, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Westminster Confession of Faith

The Westminster Confession of Faith (.pdf) EPUB - Kindle
The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith, in the Calvinist theological tradition. Although drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly, largely of the Church of England, it became and remains the 'subordinate standard' of doctrine in the Church of Scotland, and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide. In 1643, the English Parliament called upon "learned, godly and judicious Divines", to meet at Westminster Abbey in order to provide advice on issues of worship, doctrine, government and discipline of the Church of England. Their meetings, over a period of five years, produced the confession of faith, as well as a Larger Catechism and a Shorter Catechism. For more than three centuries, various churches around the world have adopted the confession and the catechisms as their standards of doctrine, subordinate to the Bible.

September 21, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Reformed Man Says.. The Arminian Man Says

Have you ever been involved in (or witnessed) a conversation where a reformed person is talking with an Arminian and there are what we might call dueling Bible verses? It goes something like this. The reformed person quotes a verse such as John 6:44 to say that no one has the ability to come to Christ unless God draws them and this is an effectual drawing because all those drawn in this way will be raised up to eternal life. Then the Arminian quotes John 12:32 which talks of Christ being lifted up and drawing all men to Himself. The conversation never gets any deeper than that and any on-looker might just shrug his or her shoulders and come to a conclusion that these things are just mysteries that we cannot fathom now but we will all likely see these things clearly when we get to heaven, but not this side of the grave. These people might well quote 1 Cor. 13:12 which says, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." Their theological stance is to have both feet firmly planted in mid air!

I understand. I have been there. I do believe there are many mysteries in this life that await a heavenly explanation. I also think that there are some things that might always be mysterious to us. Though we will be in a glorified state, we will still only ever be a glorified humanity, and there is a limit as to what human beings can comprehend. However, I dont believe the issue concerning the reformed v. arminian controversy is meant to be forever mysterious to us. I believe there is a consistent biblical position that allows us to embrace all that Scripture teaches. Its taken me a long time to come to that conclusion but here's my basis for saying this.

We as Christians believe the Bible is the word of God, and because the Author is Divine, He at least is not confused on these issues, even if we are. We believe there is a consistent message in the Bible - that it does not contradict itself. And so what do we do? Well some throw up their hands in despair and never look into these matters, but if we love the Lord and His truth, that is not really an option for us. We are to study the Scriptures and seek to find the consistent message that is there. So the question is - does research into the Scriptures provide us with a solution on these matters?

Some people are not interested in an answer even if there is one. I find that attitude hard to comprehend but there are actually genuine Christians who just dont want to study these things. They are not interested. They see these things as the source of division and controversy (perhaps that has been their experience), but I believe God has revealed this to us because He had a good reason to. He put words like election and predestination in the Bible not because He wanted us to have controversy but because He wanted to show us the ground and basis of His work of grace in the lives of His people; He wanted us to be sure of His love for us; and for our hearts and minds to be captivated by the amazing grace and glory of God in salvation.

So back to the dueling verses mentioned above. How are we to deal with them?

Continue reading "The Reformed Man Says.. The Arminian Man Says" »

September 04, 2010  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

I am sorry Glenn but I cannot join you by Pastor John Samson

I really like Glenn Beck. Though I have never met him in person, I have often watched his television programs and thought it would be so nice to have that kind of a guy as a friend. I imagine that he is far too busy and way too inaccessible for that to become a reality, but I do genuinely like the man. He is insightful, articulate, funny, and seems to want some great things for his family and our nation. I do think that sometimes he has one or two conspiracy theories that may not be fully justified - we shall see - but all in all, Glenn seems to be a really nice guy.

I share many of the same goals as Glenn. I speak as one born in England but now very much a U.S. citizen. All my children were born here in these United States and I live and pray for America to become in all reality, "one nation under God." I love America. I sincerely believe Glenn does too.

But I do have a problem - not a problem with him as a person in any way at all, but when he asks me to join him in praying for the very same things I wish for my country, I just cannot. I can pray for these things privately, and with fellow Christians, of course, and I do. I just cannot stand with Glenn in a public setting and be comfortable while I know he is praying to a false god. How could I ever say "Amen" at the end of his prayer that people would turn back to the god he serves? I just cannot do it. That is because Glenn Beck is a Mormon. The "god" he prays to is not in any way the same God as mine.

Continue reading "I am sorry Glenn but I cannot join you by Pastor John Samson" »

August 30, 2010  |  Comments (43)   |  Permalink

Justification and Sanctification

We can make a distinction between the body and the head of a man and he suffers no loss, but if there is a separation, the man will be dead. The head and the body must stay together for life to continue. Similarly, though we can make a distinction between justification and sanctification, we must never separate the two.

JUSTIFICATION
Justification is a legal court room term defined as the act of God when He declares a person just or righteous in His sight. This takes place the moment a sinner places their trust in the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. For the sinner who has faith in Jesus, God pronounces the sentence “I find you not guilty! I reckon (I count, I declare) you righteous in My sight, and you and I are forever at peace with each other. All of your sins were transferred to your sin bearing Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ, who took the full brunt of My holy wrath for them, and what has been transferred to your account is the righteousness of My Son, who lived not only a sinless life, but a life fully pleasing to Me. This very real righteousness is yours now and forever.”

Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Christian is a justified person. God has declared him right in His sight because of Christ.

Continue reading "Justification and Sanctification" »

August 18, 2010  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Christian Beliefs DVD Course by Dr. Wayne Grudem

Wayne Grudem is Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. As well as being an international conference speaker, Dr. Grudem is the author of several books including the widely-used Systematic Theology. He served as General Editor for the ESV Study Bible, and is a past president of the Evangelical Theological Society. He has degrees from Harvard, Westminster Seminary, and the University of Cambridge.

Since writing his Systematic Theology book, he served the church further by distilling the essence of that book into a shorter one called "Christian Beliefs" covering 20 basic doctrines of the faith. Now this material is available in a DVD series as Professor Grudem, in his very engaging style, provides essential teaching for all Christians (at a time when the foundations of the faith are being eroded).

Each session lasts approximately 40 minutes with optional discussion breaks and a questions and answers section. It is suitable for both group or individual use. In the video below you will learn more about this 16 hour (20 session) DVD discipleship series answering these 20 questions:

Continue reading "Christian Beliefs DVD Course by Dr. Wayne Grudem" »

August 18, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Christian's Reasonable Service

The Christian's Reasonable Service by Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711)

The Christian's Reasonable Service, vol. 1 (,pdf)
The Christian's Reasonable Service, vol. 2 (.pdf)
The Christian's Reasonable Service, vol. 3 (.pdf)
The Christian's Reasonable Service, vol. 4 (.pdf)

The entire printed four-volume set of The Christian’s Reasonable Service can be purchased for a discount price at Monergism Books

August 05, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

8 Minutes in John Chapter 6 - Dr. James White

8 Minutes in John 6 from Nathan W. Bingham on Vimeo.

July 28, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Over-Realized Postmillenial Eschatology

In one of his classes on the gospel of John, Jim Dennison made some interesting comments on theological & political liberalism and eschatology. He said that the kind of eschatology in the New Testament is not a fully realized eschatology. A fully realized eschatology [on the other hand] would say that now the fullest realization of eschatological reality is accomplished. That eschatology NOW is completed - the present time is the eschatological era. Any future time has no eschatological significance. This is the eschatology of liberalism. Also the eschatology of all political and social utopianisms, whether they be fascist, socialist or communist. This is the Immanentization of the eschaton. All political utopians or liberals are Immanentizations of heaven on earth (Vogel). The bringing of heaven on earth now. Your liberal theologies, whether they be neo-orthodoxy, liberation theologies are now fully realized eschatological theologies. No future. Which means they de-eschatologize the future.

July 26, 2010  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Establishing One's Own Righteousness

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."

Christ alone is sufficient to save us to the uttermost. Righteousness is found in Him, and no where else. Not Christ "plus" the addition of something I contribute to the price of my redemption. Any addition to Christ is essentially an affirmation that Christ is not enough.

As Paul noted in the above quote, there are many people who do not know Christ yet are zealous to daily read their Bible, take the Eucharist and do good works, all good things in themselves, but not if they are not grounded in the gospel. They are trusting in these things to get them to where they want to go rather than in Christ alone. On Friday I encountered a very devout Roman Catholic who came into our office looking for books (not knowing the content of our books). She was extremely zealous and sincerely devoted to "Jesus" and the "Trinity" and to daily prayer. She asked what Monergism meant and became deeply upset about the implications of "Christ alone" and "Scripture alone" saying that her faith was much bigger than that. I asked, "bigger than Christ"? It was frankly gut-wrenching to stand there and explain that our differences were more than just secondary. But in the end I had to be open and tell her that while indeed Rome believes that Jesus is necessary, yet they do not believe He is sufficient, and therefore are opposed to the true gospel. The Roman Catholic Church essentially believes that Jesus takes our account to zero but then we need to complete where Christ is lacking in righteousness by adding our own merit to His. The doctrine of Purgatory attests to the fact that they do not believe Jesus Christ is enough to save them - but that they must contribute something to it. This clearly runs into the same violation that Paul warns of in Galatians: "Having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh?' (Gal 3:3).

Note: An interesting turn in the discussion, which I think worth mentioning, is the RCC who came by our office used the common liberal progressive argument that I was being "exclusionary" and not "inclusive" and so my heart was hardened. However, I pointed out the fact that this actually goes both ways. RCC likewise denies what I believe to be true so it is being no less inclusive. As long as I did not believe in Christianity the way she did I was being exclusive. Ironic. People forget very quickly that the Council of Trent anathematizes the gospel of Jesus Christ that we hold true. This inclusion/exclusion argument is really a form of self-deception by those who use it because it does not see itself rightly, that in the very act of speaking against exclusion, it is being exclusive.

Please pray that the many zealous people out there we meet daily (like the person in my encounter) would see they are trusting in their own righteousness and that God would graciously move by His Spirit upon them to turn their heart of stone to a heart of flesh so they would submit to God’s righteousness, found in Jesus Christ alone.

July 24, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

What is the Central Theme of the Bible?

Everyone is in covenant with God and the sanctions are according to which covenant you are in. Covenants are the architectural framework, the superstructure of the Bible. Covenant theology is just biblical theology because we find covenants everywhere in the Bible. Many scholars try to discover what is the center of the Bible ... the center of biblical theology? Some of the proposed centers for biblical theology are God, Israel, Covenant, creation, kingdom, salvation, new creation, and so forth. None of these are the center of the Bible though. They lose their meaning without Christ. If there is no Christ, there is no kingdom to talk about. The diversity of the Bible is unified in Christ. He is the center that holds all of the biblical data together. While the covenants night be the vehicle by which God relates to his people and the kingdom of God is certainly his pervasive rule over all people yet the fullest expression of God and His glory come in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and this is why covenants are important. They teach us about Him.
- Rev Dan McManigal, from his lecture series on Covenant Theology

July 22, 2010  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

A Few Thoughts on Federal Headship

To those who decry the fairness of the federal headship of Adam, (that we are in bondage to sin because of his rebellion), consider that we see every day examples of this principle all around us ... your country of birth was not by choice, but because of your where your parents lived when they gave you birth. In many countries children are born into poverty, have disease and die in infancy, solely because of who their parents were. Did not God decide our parents?

Adam's posterity are under a curse. We live in a world of sin and we all die because of his rebellion. Not Fair? Every time you sin you give your yea and AMEN to what he did. We have such solidarity with Adam as fallen creatures that he federally represented us - such that what he did, counts as what we did. Likewise the last Adam, Jesus Christ, federally represents us so that what he did for us also counts as what we did. You cannot reject this doctrine for Adam but have it for Christ.

Therefore, we should not complain. God does not make mistakes. He does everything He does for a reason. He ordained your country of birth and your parents and the length of your life.

July 15, 2010  |  Comments (14)   |  Permalink

Wesley and Regeneration

Recently I saw someone post the following quote by Paul Washer on Facebook with my response following:

"Calvinism is not the issue. I’ll tell you what the issue is. Regeneration. And that is why I can have fellowship with Wesley and Ravenhill and Tozer and all the rest because regardless of where they stood on the other issues they believed that salvation could not be manipulated by the preacher, that it was a magnificent work of the power of almighty God. And with them, therefore, I stand, that it was a work of God." -Paul Washer
Regeneration is actually the crux of where we differ with Wesley. Wesley wholeheartedly believed regeneration was synergistic, not monergistic. I agree with Washer's statement, that Calvinism is not the issue, regeneration is. But regeneration is precisely where Wesley went wrong.

You quote Washer saying "with them [Arminians], therefore, I stand, that it was a work of God."

Yes Arminians believed regeneration was a work of God but they rejected the idea that regeneration was a work of God ALONE. That is the main difference.

However, my willingness to have fellowship with Wesleyan Arminians is not based on this at all. It is based on the fact that perfect theology is not what saves, the Person, Work and applied grace of Jesus Christ is what saves. Any Wesleyan/Arminian would tell you that there is "no hope save in the Person and work of Jesus Christ" ... even though their theology makes them wildly inconsistent on this issue.

July 14, 2010  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Know your enemy

The devil is not some skinny guy in a red suit with horns, a tail and a pitch fork. In Medieval history, people in towns and villages sensing his presence in the community, dressed up that way to try to mock the devil, believing that if they could wound his pride (pride being the cause of his fall from heaven), the devil would leave them well alone. Later generations had no idea of the reason for the caricature and thought that the mock image was the real thing... but though evil in the extreme, he is dazzlingly beautiful, and even comes as an "angel of light" as he seeks to deceive people with his lies. Knowing your enemy and his mode of attack is a key to living a life free from his clutches. - JS

Here's Pastor Mark Driscoll explaining 9 names for the devil in Scripture:

July 13, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

A word of caution

Most Christians do not think enough, or study enough in order to pursue God with their minds as well as their hearts, but as Dr. John Piper reminds us, there is a ditch on the other side of the road - an intellectualism that pursues the study of God without relationship with God. In the short video below, he encourages Christians to value theology as a means for knowing God, without making theology God.

July 13, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

What is your view on limited atonement?

This is my quick response to Randy Alcorn's piece on Limited Atonement. Randy Alcorn is a four-point Calvinist who rejects particular redemption.

Brother Randy,

Jesus in his high priestly prayer in John 17, which is his prayer to the Father just prior to going to the cross, makes plain that his priestly prayer is "not for the world, but those the Father has given him." This passage seems to make plain that Jesus in his Priest-work has a particular people in mind for His atoning work. This is not drawn from some unaided logic. Likewise the idea presented in 1 John 2:2 as referring to all kinds of people is repeated later by the apostle John in Revelation 5:9 where he states that Jesus "purchased with his blood men FROM every tribe, nation, tongue ..." This gives a clear indication that this is what is on John's mind when he says "all"... not each and every person. Purchasing men OUT OF every nation.

Furthermore, If you affirm the truth of irresistible grace then you really already affirm limited atonement (without knowing it perhaps) because they are the same thing looked at from different perspectives. Where do you think irresistible grace came from? Did it come from Christ or is it some generic grace granted to the elect APART from the Person and work of Christ? Either you have a Christless irresistible grace, (which is impossible since all redemptive benefits have their source in Christ (Eph 1:4, 5) or an irresistible grace granted BY Christ. This error is very problematic, because 4-point Calvinists, IMHO, make the doctrines of grace into an impersonal abstraction. It is Particular Redemption in Christ that makes all the other particular graces possible. We are elect IN CHRIST, Irresistible grace is granted by the Spirit IN CHRIST, and it is Christ who preserves us to the end. Apart from Jesus these graces are abstract, Systematic theology --- ... but with Particular Redemption, Jesus dies for the elect in a way (a redemptive way) that he does not for the non-elect. That is, to procure irresistible grace (an all grace for that matter)

Mr. Alcorn, as much as you may embrace your four-point Calvinism, it is done away with Christ as the source of ALL GRACE.

June 24, 2010  |  Comments (24)   |  Permalink

Conversation with Synergist on Free Will continued


Texts in bold are comments made by the visitor.

You said, "I agree with you that the "natural person" cannot come to God on his own, without God's help."

So then, in your above statement we are finally agreed and have established that the natural man has no free will. The will and affections are in bondage to sin unless God does something. Apart from grace... Apart from the Holy Spirit, left to himself, man remains hopeless and cannot and will not come to Jesus Christ. "The sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2 Pet 2:22). So the real question is not whether the natural man has a free will or not, since that has already been established by what you affirmed above. Therefore, the real question which makes us differ is not really about the will at all, but about the nature of God's grace. Where we differ is that while you believe the grace of Jesus Christ is necessary, you do not believe that His grace is sufficient. That is, you do not affirm that Christ is sufficient to grant everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe. Instead you appear to believe that grace puts us in some kind of state in-between regeneracy and unregeneracy. Correct? Can you show me any Scripture which gives witness to this state which is not unregenerate but also not regenerate? I can see only two states of man after the fall in the Bible. Regenerate and unregenerate. I would be interested to see this third state you speak of. Grace is not a reward for faith, it is the result of it.

Next you said, "When I read the Bible, I find numerous scriptures that are best summarized by Paul's recognition in 1 Timothy 2:3-4 that, "God our Savior ... desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." I read of people who are urged to repent, to choose life, to accept Christ and to be saved. To the Greeks who worshiped many gods and didn't know the true God, the apostle Paul reasoned about the Creator God and told them how "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). Countless scriptures state or imply that God's invitation is to *everyone*.

With you, I affirm all of the above verses and emphasize them at least as much as you do when I proclaim the gospel to unbelievers. Indeed God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel. Just as God desires all men to wholeheartedly obey his other commandments, he likewise desires all men to obey the command to repent and believe the gospel. I wholeheartedly affirm this. As a missionary for 10 years I called my friends to repent and believe the gospel. I am not sure where you are going with this or how it supposedly contradicts anything I have said to you. It is wholly 100% our responsibility to obey God's command to believe. You are forgetting however, that even though we are responsible to do so it does not make we are morally able, apart from grace, which even you acknowledged above. Again we come back to where we really do differ - and that is in the nature of God's grace. Since we have established that man has no free will apart from some kind of grace, the real question comes down to what grace really does for us.

You said, Not everyone will be saved, and we wonder why that is so. The gospels present the reason for it (most of the time, admittedly) as people failing to make a right decision. "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3,5) is typical of many verses. Is there any point to warning people that they ought to repent, if they really can't?

Of course people are not saved because fail to make the right decision and turn to Jesus Christ. That is because, by nature, they are hostile to Christ (Rom 8:7). In answer to your above question I must ask you a question: is there a point to God commanding us to obey the Ten Commandments perfectly, if we really can't? Or what about the commandments to love our neighbor and be holy and God is holy? These are all imperatives and tell us what we ought to do. What we can do and do do are always spoken of in the indicative in the Scripture. The purpose is clear why God does this - By the commands of God we become conscious of sin (Rom 3:19, 20). That is what Paul himself says is the purpose of the divine legislation. In other words, the purpose is not to show our ability, but our inability. Why? Obviously it is so we recognize that we are wholly dependent on God. You already acknowledge that a person cannot come to Christ apart from grace so we are half way there. What is the nature of that grace then. In John 3 Jesus says men love darkness and hate the light and will not come into the light. In other words their choice to reject Him is a moral choice. They find Jesus morally repugnant. They find hate for Him in their heart. But Jesus also makes clear that but those who come into the light do so because it has been wrought by God. A man must first be born again if he is to see and enter the kingdom of God, my gospel says..."born not of blood or the will of man or the will of the flesh but born of God" (John 1:13). These concepts are rampant through the scripture on just about every page. You see, we need to embrace the whole counsel of Scripture on this matter. Your view does not take the multitude of texts that show it is God who choose us that we may choose him into account. You only accept one half of the Bible.

You said, God loves us all, unconditionally

If this is true then why are some people in hell? Unconditional love means unconditional. He makes certain those he loves will be in heaven. You believe God's condition is faith. If we don't have faith then he casts us into hell. I fail to see how you can actually claim God's loves all unconditionally when you add this condition. Its like saying God's love is unconditional and then telling me that but he will throw us out if we don't run a marathon.

To summarize, where we differ is that while you believe Jesus is necessary for salvation, you do not believe he is sufficient to save us to the uttermost. That is, he does not provide all we need for salivation including a new heart to believe. That part is ours to do, as you said above. Yes we are commanded to do it and it is our responsibility but we all fall short of it. Why one has faith and not the other to you is not Jesus but something else in your flesh. Jesus takes us 99% of the way but we must contribute the last bit to our salvation. So salvation is not all of Christ in your view, if you are consistent.

Next you likened the sinner to a drowning man reaching out his hand to God. Here are a couple of things I like to say in response to this:

If you liken the sinner to a drowning man reaching out his hand to God and claim that this needs no merit from which to boast, consider this: You appear to assume from this analogy that the drowning man (the sinner) believes he is drowning (believes he is a sinner) and is actually humble enough to recognize his own plight. But are there any sinners who are naturally willing to receive the humbling terms of the gospel? Isn't it grace itself that makes us humble? Isn't it grace that makes us recognize we need Christ to save us in the first place? So then, do you believe that some are saved and not others is because some are more humble by nature? They naturally recognize their wretched condition and need for Christ, apart from grace? If you say grace caused it in that person, then, I ask, why are not all saved?

Further, your "drowning man" analogy, it is problematic for the following reason. What kind of parent would merely reach out His hand to save someone who was drowning and not offer further help if the child could not reach out to him? What kind of love it that? Your parent analogy sees his child in trouble and will only save him on condition that he has the capacity to swim through the waves and reach out and take hold of the father. The father will not, however, risk his life to actually MAKE SURE that the son does not drown, if he is unable or unwilling to reach out. His love does not act so it is an ineffectual love. His love depends completely on how the son responds. This means his love is conditional. Frankly, most people understand that the true love of a parent would "violate" their sons will if it meant it would save a child from drowning - because the parent knows better than the child what is good for him. His love is not weak-willed or ineffectual but he loves his children with a resolute will that gets accomplishes what His love dictates by actually saving his child, even by forfeiting his own life in the process. Again, is a father who MERELY reaches out his hand and does nothing more a loving father in any sense of the word?

What about those people God did not save?, Jonathan Edwards once wisely said, "If damnation be justice, then mercy may choose its own object." By using "drowning in a lake" as an analogy, you are making it sound like our condition before God is innocuous. This logical fallacy is called an "appeal to pity" (ad misercordiam). Perhaps if our problem were only of a physical disability or of an innocent man drowning then of course we might be more inclined to make God out to be an ogre if He chose not to save him. But this is not how the Scripture describes the disposition of a sinner's heart. The Scripture says the unregenerate are rebels, hostile to God by nature (Rom 8:7). Realizing that analogies are imperfect, this drowning analogy still depends on pity for it to work at all but is actually imposing an alien presupposition on the Scripture that we were just helplessly, innocently in need and God is, therefore, obligated to reach out to save us, lest we drown. So according to this analogy the one condition we must meet if God is to love us is to reach out and take hold of His hand which He is also obligated to extend. Not only is this kind of love conditional but this love does nothing to help the helpless except call to him from afar. I hope you see the clear problem with this reasoning. God is in no way obligated to to cancel anyone's debt, but because He is loving and merciful He paid the debt for those He came to save and applied it to them according to His sovereign good pleasure (Eph 1:4, 5). To those who are his children, He will do whatever it takes to make sure they are delivered from the jaws of death.

June 19, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Free Will Revisited

Here are some ways to respond to persons who assert that the natural man has a free will to come to Christ or believe the gospel. Someone recently wrote to me "I believe our free will and power to choose is real and a God-given part of our nature."

Response: One could only conclude from your assertions that you affirm that a natural person can come to faith in Jesus, apart from grace. That 'free-will' does not need the grace of God, but can do all things by its own power For as soon as you acknowledge the necessity of grace and the Holy Spirit, you thereby affirm fallen man has no free will. All the passages in the Holy Scriptures that mention assistance or grace are they that do away with "free-will", and these are countless...For grace is needed, and the help of grace is given, because "free-will" can do nothing when left to itself.

Ask yourself, If man's will is free, what is it free from? Sin? If our will is free from sin what need is there at all for grace or the Holy Spirit? The very fact that we need the Holy Spirit proves once for all that man has no free will, if left to himself. In his natural state, apart from grace, he will not come to Christ. Rather his will and affections are in bondage to a corruption of nature. And that which is in bondage, by definition, is not free. We need Christ to set us free, or we have no hope. Are you really going to tell me that you can come to Christ with no help from grace? Our "chooser" is broken without grace. Free will is a concept completely foreign to the Holy Scripture. If you can find it there I will honestly change my position today, but it appears this is something you are bringing to the Text from the outside - your own presuppositions. Be honest with yourself and notice you provided no Scripture to back up your assertion, only declared it to be true because it only makes sense to you if we are created in God's image.

So lets be sure our conclusions are exegetical (biblical), not philosophical. If you can show me (or yourself) from the Scripture that a person can come to faith APART from the Holy Spirit, then I encourage you to continue believing what you do, but if you cannot find it in the Text, don't just agree to disagree with me, consider carefully that your presuppositions may just be wrong - inherited from whatever tradition you may have been involved with. Are there really parts of us that are unaffected by the Fall? After Adam and Eve fell, the Scripture declares that we are in a natural state called "the flesh" which does not have the Holy Spirit. Take the time to carefully read 1 Cor chapter 2 which makes this plain. Only the Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing (John 6:63)

We agree 100% that we are all responsible to obey the command to believe the gospel. But what I believe your mistake is to equate responsibility with moral ability. Consider this. We are responsible to perfectly obey the 10 commandments. God declares that we are to be holy as he is holy ... that if we disobey the law at one point it is as if we disobey the whole law. Now, the law is your responsibility to obey. Does that mean you are morally able???. No ... of course not - that is why we need the gospel. ... We are no no more able to obey than a homeless man can pay off a billion dollar debt. If he squandered the money in Vegas that he borrowed from the bank, his inability to repay does not alleviate his responsibility. He is still responsible to repay. Likewise we owe a debt in Adam we cannot repay. Thus the need for Christ.

June 17, 2010  |  Comments (21)   |  Permalink

Fruits, Flakes, Fakes and Nuts - And How To Deal With Them

Today I had interchange with someone on the internet (actually a good friend who shall remain anonymous) on the subject of how we are to deal with the fake christian people in our lives. I have provided the interchange here in hopes the discussion might be helpful to others:

First of all I wrote: "True faith endures!! The true child of God MUST endure to the end, and WILL endure to the end, because it is God who started and will finish the work in him. Those who abandon faith in Christ were never really His. "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for IF THEY HAD BEEN OF US, THEY WOULD HAVE CONTINUED WITH US. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us." - 1 Jn 2:19

Someone responded to this saying: "Amen!! There are a lot of flakes among us, but there are also a lot of FAKES, pretending to be one of us. Sometimes they are workers of the enemy, and their mission is to destroy us and our ministry. Something to think about."

My response: "Very true.. the way to avoid flakiness in our lives is to be grounded always in the practical application of Scripture and not moved about by experience that has no backing in the Word.. and may God deliver us from the fakes. Deceived people deceive people. "

The person responded by saying: "I thought we were supposed to avoid fakes."

Continue reading "Fruits, Flakes, Fakes and Nuts - And How To Deal With Them" »

June 05, 2010  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

The Christ Honoring Nature of Particular Redemption

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

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

Continue reading "The Christ Honoring Nature of Particular Redemption" »

June 04, 2010  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Grace and Faith

"We deny that grace is a reward for our faith ...rather, it is the cause of faith. Jesus provides everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe." - Monergism.com
Grace is that which has NOTHING to do with the receiver, and EVERYTHING to do with the Giver. - Tom Mor De Lasa
May 31, 2010  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Is Monergism Really a Form of Synergism?

Question: I appreciate the monergistic model of salvation since it appears to give God all the credit for the salvation of man. Many synergists believe that the Holy Spirit, thru a temporary working within a man, illuminates man to the truth of the gospel, leads him to a point of repentance, and that God gives the gift of faith for him to believe; yet something in the lost man has to believe in the gospel in order to be saved. God can’t believe for or have faith for the lost man. The monergists believe that the Holy Spirit, thru a permanent residing within a man via regeneration, illuminates man to the truth of the gospel, leads him to a point of repentance, and that God give the gift of faith for him to believe. I am not sure what part is regenerated, the spirit of man? His will? In any event, regeneration does not save that man because he has yet to believe in Christ. The remaining part of that man, something in the lost part of man still has to believe in the gospel in order to be saved. He may have a new spirit, a new will, a new heart of flesh, but he is still lost with the wrath of God abiding on him and destined to hell until he believes the gospel. It appears to me that monergism is still really synergistic since something in the remaining lost part of man has to agree with or believe in the gospel in order to be saved. Any thoughts?

Response: Thanks for your email. It is important that we first make some distinctions. Justification is not something God does in us. It is God's declaration that we are righteous for Jesus sake. It is in an alien righteousness counted toward us. Justification, therefore, is imputation. Justification is not something that changes us on the inside, it only declares what we are before God because of what we are in Christ. On the other hand, regeneration is impartation, which grants us a new nature. So to partly answer your question, there would be no remaining part of lost (unregenerate) man after regeneration. I would encourage you to further explore the difference between imputation and impartation.

I can see why you may have trouble here but perhaps you are thinking of the order of salvation temporally rather than in a causal manner:

In divine monergism, regeneration precedes faith (not temporally, but causally). So regeneration, faith and justification are not separate events in time yet are distinguished as to what they do. How can this be? Well consider that fire and heat, sight and seeing or having ears and hearing all occur simultaneously. But one must first have sight to see, or ears to hear or fire to have heat. Once your eyes are opened you see; once your ears are unplugged, you hear and once God grants us a new heart we are already believing. To think causally rather than temporally consider this: If a pool ball rolls on the table to strike another, both strike at exactly the same time, but only the ball that moves and strikes the other causes the other one to move. Likewise, the order of events in the Bible is always grace causally preceding action. For example Ezekiel 11:19-20

I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Notice that God placing a new heart within precedes following, obeying and the consummation of the covenant promise. No one believes while they have a heart of stone. That would be absurd. The heart must be softened to flesh prior to a desire for Christ. no?

Jesus likewise teaches this same idea of monergistic regeneration in the gospel of John chapter 6:

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." (vs. 6:63-65)
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (vs.37)

Notice several things in these passages.The Bible declares there are only two states of being: flesh and Spirit, and that it is only those who are born of the Spirit (Jn. 3:3, 6:63) who will come to Jesus (Jn. 6:65). The native resources of the flesh are, therefore, morally impotent to meet God's humbling requirement to believe the gospel. (1:13) But impartation of the Spirit causally precedes our action and imputation.

Also notice two universals in this passage. A universal negative "no one" and a universal positive "all".

Put these together and what to they say: no one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it through the quickening work of the Spirit, and all to whom God grants it will believe. The granting precedes the believing and it is effectual. In other words all those whom God grants will infallibly come to Jesus and He will indeed raise all of them up at the last day. None will be lost.

So regeneration causally precedes faith/justification. Both are benefits granted to us in Christ. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no new birth, no illumination, no understanding or affection for the gospel, and thus no faith -- in other words, no Christians. So there is no synergism here because the man is granted the new birth so that he might believe and be justified. These all occur simultaneously ... one simply causes the other from the outside. The Spirit works faith in us. No one says 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:3).

Hope this helps
John
Monergism.com

May 20, 2010  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Can anyone relate?

I read the following comment (online) and just wondered how many of us could relate to the sort of journey this person describes:

I grew up Baptist... and went to a non-denominational Christian university..., and basically considered myself Arminian, but I recognized that there were elements of Calvinism that were undeniably in Scripture.

Over the next five or six years after college I adopted each of the "five points" one at a time, in this order:

Total Depravity - It seemed pretty obvious to me that every part of us is affected by sin, not just superficially. This one really should have triggered all the rest, since they all progress out of it.

Continue reading "Can anyone relate?" »

April 21, 2010  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

TULIP: The Fairest flower in the Garden

The beauty of the TULIP is that it gives witness to the work of Jesus Christ alone in our salvation. How glorious it is to fellowship with him knowing that Christ is not only necessary but sufficient to save us to the uttermost. All of the blessings found in the TULIP do not exist apart from Christ's work on the cross. Consider the TULIP as a chiasm with the L at the top. Without the L, all the other benefits would not be possible. True biblical soteriology is Christocentric. So taking the "L" out" of the TULIP is like taking Solus Christus out of the Five Solas. It is an impossible supposition because it removes all benefits of the doctrines of grace from their source found only in the the work of Christ, who lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve.

Consider this: because of "T" (total depravity), man is unable to save himself. Therefore, in His great mercy, God the Father "U" unconditionally elects a particular people IN CHRIST, who comes to redeem them in history "L" and are then gathered up by the Holy Spirit who regenerates and unites them to CHRIST, who preserves them to the end "P". To put it simply: Unconditional election is done in Christ (Eph 1:3,4). Perseverance is IN CHRIST (1 Cor 1:30) and Irresistible grace is IN CHRIST (John 6:63-65). Anyone who removes the L, therefore, bifurcates the work of Christ from the grace of Christ. Such would have us believe that the graces of election, irresistible grace and preservation can be had apart from Christ. No, our salvation is Christocentric from first to last. The three persons of Trinity work in harmony to bring about every redemptive blessing.

April 15, 2010  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Is it accurate to say that God died on the cross? by Dr. R. C. Sproul

The famous hymn of the church “And Can it Be?” contains a line that asks a very poignant question : “How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” Is it accurate to say that God died on the cross?

This kind of expression is popular in hymnody and in grassroots conversation. So although I have this scruple about the hymn and it bothers me that the expression is there, I think I understand it, and there’s a way to give an indulgence for it.

We believe that Jesus Christ was God incarnate. We also believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross. If we say that God died on the cross, and if by that we mean that the divine nature perished, we have stepped over the edge into serious heresy. In fact, two such heresies related to this problem arose in the early centuries of the church: theopassianism and patripassianism. The first of these, theopassianism, teaches that God Himself suffered death on the cross. Patripassianism indicates that the Father suffered vicariously through the suffering of His Son. Both of these heresies were roundly rejected by the church for the very reason that they categorically deny the very character and nature of God, including His immutability. There is no change in the substantive nature or character of God at any time.

God not only created the universe, He sustains it by the very power of His being. As Paul said, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). If the being of God ceased for one second, the universe would disappear. It would pass out of existence, because nothing can exist apart from the sustaining power of God. If God dies, everything dies with Him. Obviously, then, God could not have perished on the cross.

Some say, “It was the second person of the Trinity Who died.” That would be a mutation within the very being of God, because when we look at the Trinity we say that the three are one in essence, and that though there are personal distinctions among the persons of the Godhead, those distinctions are not essential in the sense that they are differences in being. Death is something that would involve a change in one’s being.

We should shrink in horror from the idea that God actually died on the cross. The atonement was made by the human nature of Christ. Somehow people tend to think that this lessens the dignity or the value of the substitutionary act, as if we were somehow implicitly denying the deity of Christ. God forbid. It’s the God-man Who dies, but death is something that is experienced only by the human nature, because the divine nature isn’t capable of experiencing death.

April 14, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Martin Luther on the Will

"It is false that the will, left to itself, can do good as well as evil, for it is not free, but in bondage."

"For, if by the command 'to love,' the nature of the law only be shewn, and what we ought to do, but not the power of the will or what we can do, but rather, what we cannot do. The same is shewn by all the other scriptures of requirement. For it is well known, that even the schoolmen, except the Scotinians and moderns, assert,that man cannot love God with all his heart. Therefore, neither can he perform any one of the other precepts, for all the rest, according to the testimony of Christ, hang on this one. Hence, by the testimony even of doctors of the schools, THIS remains as a settled conclusion: that the words of the law do not prove the power of Free-will, but shew what we ought to do, and what we cannot do. "

Bondage of the Will was Luther's masterpiece ... the fire that kindled the Reformation. Powerfully effective Reformation Classic!

April 03, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

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."


-J.W. Hendryx

April 01, 2010  |  Comments (15)   |  Permalink

The Most Helpful Thing I Ever Learned As A Christian by Pastor John Samson

I wonder if you can relate to any of this. One of the first things God the Holy Spirit did for me after I had come to faith in Christ was to give me a deep settled assurance of salvation. Romans 8:16 tells us that "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God..." This inner witness brought me the sure knowledge that despite my many flaws and failures, I was in fact His – His for all eternity. As I read the Scriptures, the wonders of this great salvation become clear – God had saved me, I was His, and Christ did indeed love me and had given me eternal life. Heaven sent joy and peace flooded my soul. I knew I could say, “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine.”

But then, somewhere along the way this settled peace was disturbed. The wonders of His grace, wrought through Christ and His atoning work became obscured… not because I read some book countering Christianity and was swayed by the arguments, but because I came across Scriptures that at least at first glance, seemed to show that my salvation was a lot more flimsy and shaky than I first imagined. Perhaps you can identify with this.

Here’s what I mean: I read Scriptures such as “nothing can separate us from the love of God” (Rom 8: 39) but then read “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt 24:13)

I read, “…whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) and then read “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” (1 Cor 15:1,2)

I thought, “which is it God? If someone believes, You say that they have eternal life, but here it says that someone can “believe in vain.” How could both statements be true?”

Continue reading "The Most Helpful Thing I Ever Learned As A Christian by Pastor John Samson" »

March 30, 2010  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

"I'm not a Calvinist or an Arminian" <<< Have you ever heard this?

I recently saw this comment online and responded to it

Comment:
I'm not a Calvinist (or an Arminian), but the local church I am a member of, and many of the churches we have fellowship with, stand separate from and opposed to the 'Jesus is your buddy gospel' of modern evangelicalism. I'm grateful that these Christians [Calvinists] are taking the same stand, but am underwhelmed and a bit disappointed that it is the tenets of Calvinism which are being propagated. Nevertheless, may God use this to turn the tide according to His timing, and may this pervasive lack of reverence towards the holy, sovereign triune God be washed away.

Pro 9:10 - "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding."

Response:
Brother in Christ, Calvinism and Arminianism are usually just used as shorthand for Monergism & Synergism. Either you believe regeneration precedes faith or you do not? Either you affirm that Christ is sufficient to provide all you need for salvation (including a new heart to believe) or you affirm Christ is necessary but not sufficient i.e. provides only the opportunity but not the effectual grace. You either believe in the necessity of the effectual work of the Holy Spirit in salvation or you do not. If you ask yourself, "is faith also part of the gift of grace Christ purchases for his own" (John 6:63-65) OR "is faith the product of our unregenerated human nature?" The answer to these questions make it clear whether you believe salvation is by grace alone OR grace PLUS something you contribute. This is the essence of what people mean when they compare these two understandings of the Bible. You are either a monergist or synergist: Christ Alone or Christ PLUS. There is no third option.

Click Here for more resources on this topic.

March 29, 2010  |  Comments (25)   |  Permalink

Monergism (Calvinism) v. Synergism (Arminianism) Debate

This is highly recommended - an excellent exchange/debate between Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. James White which took place earlier today here. Over the course of the 90 minutes, three main texts are debated, namely John 6, Romans 8-9, and Ephesians 1.

March 25, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Can a true Christian fall from grace? Pastor John Samson

Can salvation be lost? New article posted here.

March 25, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Love of God and the Glory of God - How do they relate?

If you have time to watch this video (which lasts just over an hour) I believe you will find this to be well worth the investment. Here John Piper wrestles with exceedingly precious and profound doctrines from the Bible - as they relate to God's love for us and the pursuit of His own glory. - JS

"Love is doing whatever you have to do at whatever cost to yourself to help the one loved be enthralled fully and forever with what is most satisfying - namely, God." - John Piper

March 17, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Be killing sin or sin will be killing you

John Piper on the mortification of sin (approx. 62 minutes)

March 10, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Ezekiel 18 and the doctrine of Original Sin

An objection to the biblical doctrine of Original Sin is sometimes raised by citing Ezekiel 18:20, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him."

Here is an excellent short article on this subject dealing with the verse in its proper context. Once again we see the value of seeing a verse in its proper setting rather than in isolation.

March 08, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

I love the Trinity

Do you have a firm grasp of the doctrine of the Trinity? Can you defend it? Why even bother? Hear why the Trinity should matter to us from my friend Dr. James White as he explains this precious Bible doctrine on the 3/3/10 airdate (2nd hour) program here. The program lasts approximately 37 minutes, 30 seconds (commercials are already taken out). - JS

March 04, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

1 John 5:1 - Regeneration Precedes Faith

Being Born of God Precedes Saving Faith.

Is 1 John 5:1 relevant to the discussion of regeneration and faith? It surely is, even if many in evangelicalism today refuse to go deep enough into the text to discover that fact.

Dr. James White, in this video below, provides a study of 1 John 5:1, 1 John 2:29 and 1 John 4:7, in light of Calvary Chapel's Brian Brodersen's comments.

February 27, 2010  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Spurgeon on Monergistic Regeneration

"You must be born again."

Do not think Christians are made by education; they are made by creation. You may wash a corpse as long as you please, and that corpse could be clean, but you cannot wash life into it!

You may deck it in flowers, and robe it in scarlet and fine linen, but you cannot make it live! The vital spark must come from above! Regeneration is not of the will of man, nor of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but by the power and energy of the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God alone!

See then, the ruin of nature and the freeness of grace! Void and dark, a chaos given up to be covered withnblackness and darkness forever, and, while as yet it is unseeking God, the light arises, and the promise is fulfilled, "I am found of them that sought me not; I said, behold me! behold me! to a people that were not a people."

While we were lying in our blood, filthily polluted, defiled, he passed by, and he said in the sovereignty of his love, "Live!" and we do live. The whole must be traced to sovereign grace! From this sacred well of discriminating distinguishing grace we must draw water this morning, and we must pour it out, saying, "Oh Lord, I will praise your name, for the first origin of my light was your sovereign purpose, and nothing in me."

Excerpt from Spurgeon’s sermon,"Light, Natural and Spiritual" No. 660.

February 24, 2010  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Classic Newly Reformatted Uploaded Essays @Monergism

Cunningham, William - THE SOCINIAN CONTROVERSY
Dickson, David - THE SUM OF SAVING KNOWLEDGE
Hurrion, John - THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF PARTICULAR REDEMPTION
Warfield, B.B. - CALVIN'S DOCTRINE OF GOD
Warfield, B.B. - GOD-INSPIRED SCRIPTURE
Warfield, B.B. - "IT SAYS:" "SCRIPTURE SAYS:" "GOD SAYS"
Warfield, B.B. - THE REAL PROBLEM OF INSPIRATION
Warfield, B.B. - THE NEW TESTAMENT TERMINOLOGY OF "REDEMPTION

February 22, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Fall and its Consequences

Back in November 2005, I posted an article on the theme of the Fall and its effects. In re-reading it again today I was gripped by just how clearly Scripture speaks to the issue, and also how the various church councils brought clarity to the subject. At the end of the article itself an interesting discussion takes place and I encourage you to refresh yourself in what the Bible has to say on this very important topic here. - JS

February 22, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Augustine on Calling

God indeed calls many predestinated children of His, to make them members of His only predestinated Son,—not with that calling with which they were called who would not come to the marriage, since with that calling were called also the Jews, to whom Christ crucified is an offence, and the Gentiles, to whom Christ crucified is foolishness; but with that calling He calls the predestinated which the apostle distinguished when he said that he preached Christ, the wisdom of God and the power of God, to them that were called, Jews as well as Greeks. For thus he says “But unto them which are called,”3513 in order to show that there were some who were not called; knowing that there is a certain sure calling of those who are called according to God’s purpose, whom He has foreknown and predestinated before to be conformed to the image of His Son. And it was this calling he meant when he said, “Not of works, but of Him that calleth; it was said unto her, That the elder shall serve the younger.”3514 Did he say, “Not of works, but of him that believeth”? Rather, he actually took this away from man, that he might give the whole to God. Therefore he said, “But of Him that calleth,”—not with any sort of calling whatever, but with that calling wherewith a man is made a believer. (Rebuke and Grace 14).

February 17, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Sentimental Jesus of Tradition v. The Biblical Jesus

In the video below, Dr. James White responds to the recent accusation made by Brian Broderson of Calvary Chapel that Calvinism lacks the heart of Jesus:

Continue reading "The Sentimental Jesus of Tradition v. The Biblical Jesus" »

February 10, 2010  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Believing is the Evidence of the New Birth - Dr. John Piper

January 31, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Are You New To Reformed Theology?

Dr. R. C. Sproul (Ligonier Ministries) has made the following three teaching series available to watch and listen to free of charge:

1. What is Reformed theology? - "There is something healthy about returning to one’s roots. When it comes to evangelical Christianity, its roots are found in the soil of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. Just as the Reformers protested the corrupt teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, so today evangelicalism itself is in need of a modern reformation. In "What Is Reformed Theology?", Dr. R.C. Sproul offers a comprehensive introduction to Reformed theology. Simply put, it is the theology of the Protestant Reformers and the heart of historical evangelicalism. As C.H. Spurgeon once said, "Reformed theology is nothing other than biblical Christianity.""

2. The Making of the Protestant Reformation - "The division of the church that occurred during the Protestant Reformation was not something that the Reformers originally intended to happen. However, when it became clear that the church authorities would be unwilling to submit themselves to the teaching of sacred Scripture, Martin Luther knew that it was necessary to stand against them for the sake of the Gospel.

In this series, Dr. R.C. Sproul explores the historical background of the Protestant Reformation. He looks at the life of Martin Luther and the teachings of the medieval church in order to remind us of the truth of the biblical Gospel and the reasons why we must tenaciously cling to it."

3. Chosen by God - "Many people reject Reformed theology or Calvinism because they believe it teaches that God drags people kicking and screaming into the kingdom of God against their will. This, however, is a gross distortion of the biblical doctrine of election, which is grounded in God’s love for His people. In this series, Dr. Sproul carefully explains the meaning of God’s sovereignty in the work of redemption and shows how it relates to the will of man."

I have either watched or heard these series a number of times over the years and recommend them very highly. You will find them online here. - JS

January 27, 2010  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Free Online Books at Monergism.com

Two newly uploaded free e-books on Monergism.com.

The True Scripture Doctrine by Jonathan Dickenson and

The English Puritans by John Brown.

December 30, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Relationship Between Irresistible Grace and the Atonement

In a discussion relating to limited atonement I discussed how all redemptive blessings are found in Christ, including the blessing of irresistible grace.

A visitor responded:

John, Please help me understand your logic here. Irresistible grace is wrought through the atonement and not election? I am under the impression that God will have mercy on whom he wills. Whether the atonement is limited or not God has chosen his elect and they are atoned for. I am not seeing how by acknowledging that "irresistible grace is found only in Christ" we "acknowledge limited atonement by default". How are the two connected?

my response
Hello ______.

Election, by itself, has never saved anyone. It is God's blueprint, so to speak, of what he intends to do in time through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. God the Father elects, the Son redeems them, and the Spirit applies the work of Christ to the same. The Trinity, in other words, works in harmony, to bring about the redemption of the elect. God the Father does not do this alone, APART form the work of the other two Persons of the Trinity. All redemptive grace is found in Christ. Ephesians 1:3 explains it thus:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." (Eph 1:3-6)

Please note that all spiritual blessings are IN CHRIST, that the Father chose us IN CHRIST, that He predestined us to adoption as sons IN CHRIST. So yes, you are right, God elects according to his good pleasure but he gets the job done through Jesus Christ.

Limited Atonement is connected to irresistible grace in that, irresistible grace (all acknowledge) is given to the elect alone. It is not granted to the non-elect. And all spiritual blessing are in Christ... Therefore, Christ died in a way, a redemptive way to secure irresistible grace for the elect, that he did not for the non-elect. Irresistible grace was not purchased for the non-elect PERIOD. In other words, the redemptive blessing of irresistible grace is what Christ purchased on the cross to render certain the elect would respond positively to the outward gospel call. No redemptive grace is to be had outside of the work of Christ. All spiritual blessings are found in Christ and Christ alone. To claim otherwise is to deny Christ as our Savior and that his work is finished. At the very least, it denies that His work is sufficient to save completely. Those who deny limited atonement may well believe Christ's atonement was necessary, but it was not sufficient. Even Roman Catholics believe the grace of Christ was necessary, but it was not enough ... they must believe and persevere to the end and thus MAINTAIN their own just standing before God. We affirm that Christ work is complete ... it is totally sufficient to save. He is the author AND perfecter of our faith. There is nothing we can do to improve upon that. In 529 AD the Council of Orange worte the following;

if anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life... that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit ...he is led astray by a heretical spirit." The Council of Orange, CANON 7.(529 AD)

John Owen said, "To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect."

Consider: that whatever God requires of us also includes faith. We do not have the power to believe the gospel without the the Spirit uniting us to Jesus Christ.

In Ezekiel 36:25 God says, I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Notice that God first gives us a new heart so that we may keep his laws. Without the Holy Spirit, the word does not find a place in our heart. Jesus told his disciples that he must go to the Father so the the Spirit would come to the whole world. So again the Bible forces us to conclude that The Trinity works together to bring about his redemptive purposes.

Hope this helps
John
Monergism

December 16, 2009  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Question Concerning Man's Inability

Question from Visitor

Concerning man's inability to come to God on his own, which statement is true:

1. Man cannot come because he will not come.
OR
2. Man will not come because he cannot come.

I was reading and came across those statements. What is at the heart of man's inability to come to Christ? Is it his depraved will? Is it his spiritual blindness/deadness/bondage?

Kinda confused at what lies at the heart of man's inability.

---

Response

Hi and thanks. That is a great question.

The natural man is unspiritual, that is, he is not regenerated or indwelt by the Holy Spirit, so he acts in accordance with his own nature. Left to himself he both cannot and will not come to Christ. But let's be clear. God does not stop him from coming, nor coerce him in any way. His innate corruption means that he rejects Christ of necessity. Water does not rise above its source and a thorn bush does not produce figs, as it were.

Another way to consider this: If someone borrowed $100 million to fund a company and then immediately went and spent it all in a week of wild living in Las Vegas, his inability to repay the debt does not alleviate him of the responsibility to do so. So there is no contradiction between his responsibility and his inability. He created his own inability so he is responsible. Likewise Adam, our federal head, who represents the entire human race, fell and plunged all of us into a condition of debt which we cannot repay. Take note: this does not alleviate us of the responsibility to do so. We owe a debt we cannot repay. We are spiritually bankrupt and our heart needs to be renewed in the Holy Spirit who unites us the Christ. Only then do we have the mind and heart of Christ. ( See 1 Cor 2 ) Without the Spirit we are dead (even hostile) to spiritual things. But when the Spirit comes with the grace of regeneration, renewing our heart after the image of God, we both can and will come to Christ.

Hope this helps. Peace be with you
John
Monergism

December 11, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

The Five Theological Orations

Anyone interested in patristics or Church history will be pleased to know that Gregory Nazianzen's justly famous Theological Orations (the public domain translation of Charles Gordon Brown and James Edward Swallow) are now available in paperback. The Five Theological Orations, first delivered in AD 379 by Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the three “Cappadocian Fathers” of the early Church, were immediately recognized as a landmark defense of the orthodox doctrine of the holy Trinity. Their historical importance as a decisive blow against the various trinitarian heresies of the fourth century – one from which they would never really recover – is indisputable; but just as obvious is their abiding value for clear-headed thinking, devotional fervor, and reverent humility becoming a genuine man of God. This is edifying reading for all the saints, no less in our day than in Gregory Nazianzen's.

This edition also contains Gregory's "Oration on Pentecost," a fitting appendix to the fifth theological oration, in which the deity of the Holy Spirit is established. The electronic version is available for free download, and the paperback may be purchased for $7.95, here.

December 04, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism by John Girardeau

DURING the temporary occupation of the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church in this city, a few years ago, some of the young members of that church requested me to instruct a Bible-class, on Sabbath nights, in the distinctive doctrines of the Calvinistic faith. A large number were enrolled, and the understanding was that the members of the class would be entitled to a free interrogation of the instructor. Unexpectedly, from the very first, a large promiscuous congregation attended, and the liberty to ask questions was used by outsiders, the design appearing to be to start difficulties rather than to seek light, and to convert the exercise into a debate. To avoid this result, and to treat objections in a more logical and orderly manner than was possible in extemporized replies to the scattering fire of miscellaneous inquiries, resort ere-long was had to written lectures. Notwithstanding this change, the attendance and the interest suffered no abatement, but rather increased - a fact which seemed to militate against the common opinion that doctrinal discussions would prove dry and unacceptable to a popular audience. The lectures, which were prepared not without painstaking labor, suggested the production of a formal treatise on the subjects which had occupied all the available time-namely, Election and Reprobation, with special reference to the Evangelical Arminian theology. This was done, and a discussion of the doctrine of justification, in relation to that theology, was added. Read in its entirety...

November 25, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Justification

Jeff asks his good friend Roberta Charles a theological question.

This video was produced by John Samson - Adapted from a question and answer session with Dr. R. C. Sproul at a Ligonier Conference, Pittsburg, 2000

November 24, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Apart from the Holy Spirit

"He that will maintain that man's free will is able to do or work anything in spiritual cases, be they never so small, denies Christ." - Martin Luther, http://bit.ly/4CMuAD

Martin Luther hits the nail on the head. Apart from the Holy Spirit, man, when left to himself, cannot rise above what he is by nature, and will use his so-called 'free will' to suppress the truth of Christ. Anyone who thinks they can believe the gospel apart from the Spirit, therefore, denies his need for Christ, not only for justification, but also for the grace needed to be willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel.

November 24, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Monergistic Regeneration

Since faith is infinitely beyond all the power of our unregenerated human nature, it is only God who can give the spiritual ears to hear and eyes to see the beauty of Christ in the gospel. God alone disarms the hostility of the sinner turning his heart of stone to a heart of flesh. It is God, the Holy Spirit, alone who gives illumination and understanding of His word that we might believe; It is God who raises us from the death of sin, who circumcises the heart; unplugs our ears; It is God alone who can give us a new sense, a spiritual capacity to behold the beauty and unsurpassed excellency of Jesus Christ. The apostle John recorded Jesus saying to Nicodemus that we naturally love darkness, hate the light and WILL NOT come into the light (John 3:19, 20). And since our hardened resistance to God is thus seated in our affections, only God, by His grace, can lovingly change, overcome and pacify our rebellious disposition. The natural man, apart from the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, will not come to Christ on his own since he is at enmity with God and cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14). Shining a light into a blind man's eyes will not enable him to see, because eyesight first requires a set of healthy eyes. Likewise, reading or hearing the word of God alone cannot elicit saving faith in the reader (1 Thess 1:4, 5) unless God plows up the fallow ground of our hearts and the Spirit "germinates" the seed of the word, opening our eyes to see Christ's true beauty and excellency and uniting us to Him through a Spirit-wrought faith. So the problem of conversion is not with the Word or God's Law but with man's prideful heart. The humility required to submit to the gospel is, therefore, not prompted by man's will but by God's mercy (Rom 9:16) since no one can believe the gospel unless God grants it (John 6:63, 65). As an example of how the Spirit uses the means of the spoken word to disarm closed hearts, the Book of Acts records the work of the Holy Spirit during the preaching of the apostles and, in one instance, states that "the Lord opened her [Lydia's] heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul," (Acts 16:14). The Spirit must likewise give all His people spiritual life and understanding if their hearts are to be opened and thus respond to Christ in faith.

November 12, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Divine Repentance by R.C. Sproul

Does God Change His Mind? If God is immutable, if He does not change at all, does that mean He never changes His mind either? This is a very thorny problem. The Bible appears to say at times that God changed His mind. Consider, for example, the following episode that took place in the time of Moses:

Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: "LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, 'He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever." So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people. (Exod. 32:11-14)

God "relented"? Other translations render the words here, "changed His mind." This narrative seems to make it absolutely clear that God does, in fact, change His mind from time to time. Maybe His being doesn't change, but does His mind cast a shadow every once in awhile? The problem becomes more vexing when we read elsewhere in Scripture:

Continue reading "Divine Repentance by R.C. Sproul" »

November 12, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Election Vs. Self Sufficiency

For my part I cannot see how true humbleness of mind can be attained without a knowledge of [the doctrine of election]; and though I will not say, that every one who denies election is a bad man, yet I will say, with that sweet singer, Mr. Trail, it is a very bad sign: such a one, whoever he be, I think cannot truly know himself; for, if we deny election, we must, partly at least, glory in ourselves..-- George Whitfield

AMEN! Our election in Christ focuses much on God and the work of the Trinity in salvation, rather than on me, my autonomy, and my own spirituality. Viewed properly, the doctrine of election brings a strong sense of humility before God and man for it looks away from self to Christ for any and all redemptive blessings. Even faith itself must be seen as utterly beyond all the power of our nature and completely a work of God's grace. Prior to being a Christian I was deeply committed to the New Age movement but when faced with Romans 9:15, 16, God forced me to face up to the fact that He was God and I was not. Denying the biblical doctrine of election is a subtle way of maintaining a small enclave of self-sufficiency, for it denies that Christ is completely sufficient to save to the uttermost. Did Christ die for all sins, including our sin of unbelief and inability to persevere or did He die only for some sins, leaving us to make up for what He did not finish??? When viewed in this light, our natural arrogance is exposed and all glory should thus be given to Jesus Christ.

November 11, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Newly Formatted John Owen Works on Monergism

A special thanks to Lance Marshall for scanning and formatting:

The Nature of Apostasy
by John Owen


Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers
by John Owen


The Death of Death in the Death of Christ
by John Owen


A Display of Arminianism
by John Owen

November 10, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

AWAITING OUR BLESSED HOPE

AWAITING OUR BLESSED HOPE
A Biblical Look at the End Times
Reformation Society of Oregon Fall Theology Conference
Dr. Kim Riddlebarger
The audio from Dr. Kim Riddlebarger's recent eschatology conference is now available at Monergism here

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November 10, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Calvinist Distinctives

The Main Difference Between Calvinist and Non-Calvinist Views of Saving Grace

Recently I had am exchange on a message board regarding the particulars of Calvinism. Here is the conversation.

Also, check out the new long-sleeve Five Solas t-shirt from Monergism Books

5solas-longsleeve.jpg

November 02, 2009  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Hell is not a halloween prank

John Piper posted something at the desiring God site that I thought might be worthwhile for us to think through. So many people are abandoning "hell" as a sustainable doctrine in our day, borne, I believe, not because the Scripture is obscure on the subject - it isn't - but because of human philosophy and the feeling that a "good" God would never allow suffering in hell for eternity even for the worst of His enemies. Yet we hear more about the details of the punishment and suffering of those who will end up in hell from the lips of Jesus than anyone else in Scripture. I think that is by design. God entrusted the message of hell most to His dear Son perhaps because we might never have believed it if it only came through a Daniel, a Paul or a James. We would be very prone to say "oh that's just Paul. I don't accept what he says. Thank God Jesus the loving Savior never talked of such things." But this is something we cannot do because it is the One who taught us most about the Father's love, the Son of God Himself, who tells us most clearly about the realities of hell. Here's John Piper's short article below - JS

How Willingly Do People Go to Hell? Does Anyone Standing by the Lake of Fire Jump In?

C.S. Lewis is one of the top 5 dead people who have shaped the way I see and respond to the world. But he is not a reliable guide on a number of important theological matters. Hell is one of them. His stress is relentlessly that people are not “sent” to hell but become their own hell. His emphasis is that we should think of “a bad man’s perdition not as a sentence imposed on him but as the mere fact of being what he is.” (For all the relevant quotes, see Martindale and Root, The Quotable Lewis, 288-295.)

This inclines him to say, “All that are in hell choose it.” And this leads some who follow Lewis in this emphasis to say things like, “All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want.”

Continue reading "Hell is not a halloween prank" »

October 29, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

The Main Issue of The Reformation - The Necessity v. The Sufficiency of Grace

I posted the following article here on the blog back in December 2005... - JS

There is no doubt that the 16th century witnessed the greatest ever split in Church history. Some view the Reformation as a sad or even an evil episode. Others see it as a time when God restored the one true biblical Gospel back into the hands of the masses. But what exactly were the issues back then? And what are the issues in our own day? Was this a mere tempest in a tea cup?

I suggest that the issues then and now are exactly the same - who or what speaks for God, and what exactly is the Gospel?

In the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church believed (and still does today) that justification is by grace, through faith, because of Christ. What Rome does not believe is that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. According to Rome, justification is by grace plus merit, through faith plus works; because of Christ plus the sinner's contribution of inherent righteousness.

In contrast, Martin Luther and his Reformers had 5 main slogans, all using the word "sola," which is the Latin word for "alone." It was this word "alone" that designated the biblical Gospel and set it apart from all other pretenders. The cry of these Reformers was not simply "FAITH!," "GRACE!," "CHRIST!," "THE SCRIPTURE!," or "THE GLORY OF GOD!" All embracing a false Gospel could do that!

The cry was "FAITH ALONE!," "GRACE ALONE!," "CHRIST ALONE!," "SCRIPTURE ALONE!," "THE GLORY OF GOD ALONE!" With Scripture alone as the sure foundation, the Reformers affirmed that justification is by grace alone, received through faith alone because of Christ alone — to the glory of God alone.

Continue reading "The Main Issue of The Reformation - The Necessity v. The Sufficiency of Grace " »

October 25, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Providence of God (2 Messages)

The Church at large has tried to put man at the center of the Universe for so long in its sermons, books and articles that today, when we do hear a preacher talk about the Sovereignty or Providence of God, it actually seems very strange to our ears. We think "what new doctrine is this?" But the truth is that this is not a new concept at all, but in fact the classic, orthodox, Christian view of the God of the Bible.

Regarding the Sovereignty of God, Dr. R. C. Sproul makes the point that if there were one maverick molecule out there somewhere apart from the plan of God, we would have no reason to hope in God. That one maverick molecule could be the one detail that defeats God's eternal purpose. If God is not in Sovereign control, perhaps that one "maverick molecule" could have got into the lungs of Jesus as a young baby and God's eternal plan of salvation could well have been derailed with Jesus dieing in infancy. As the old saying goes, "For lack of the nail, the shoe was lost. For lack of the shoe, the horse was lost. For lack of the horse, the rider was lost. For lack of the rider, the battle was lost. For lack of the battle, the war was lost."

In contrast to this picture, our God is All-Powerful (Omnipotent), and all of history is merely the outworking of His eternal plan. God not merely created the world, but His eternal power sustains it and continues its existence by the sheer exertion of His will - were God to "blink," all would come to an end.

Here (below) Dr. James White teaches two sessions on "the providence of God." The second session refutes the "middle knowledge" doctrine that is becoming more and more prevalent in our day. Both of these messages are highly recommended - very much a worthwhile use of your time. - JS

Continue reading "The Providence of God (2 Messages)" »

October 24, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

What the Bible Says About Baptism

Just a note to let you know that my new categorized scripture list, What the Bible Says About Baptism which lays out the biblical case for Reformed paedo-baptism, is now available to purchase in print. The e-book may be downloaded for free, as well.

October 21, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Two Quick Apologetic Tips on the Trinity

Just came across this short article by Alan Kurschner at the www.aomin.org blogsite. I thought his illustrations were very helpful in terms of defending the concept of the Trinity. - JS

Alan Kurschner writes:

The two most frequent objections to the Trinity can be illuminated with two simple, but effective, illustrations. First, "How can there be three and one at the same time"? This question conflates two categories into one. But Christians understand that there are two categories involved. There is one "What" (Being/Deity) and three "Who's" (Persons/Father-Son-Holy Spirit).

Here is the best illustration that I think brings out this fundamental difference in these two categories that unbelievers can immediately relate to: There is only one humanity (Being) but many individuals (persons). Individuals share in the Being of humanity, and that does not mean that I am you, and you are me — we are different persons with the same single Being.

This illustration is not intended to exhaust or explain all the elements of the Trinity; instead, it serves to illustrate this single categorical difference between Being and persons. Someone may object by saying, "Does not this analogy support polytheism, since there are billions of individuals, there can be billions of Gods or divine persons?" Let me be clear: this illustration is intended to show a single distinction between two categories — Being and persons; the point is not intended to show how many persons there are. Only Scripture can provide us this latter truth.

Continue reading "Two Quick Apologetic Tips on the Trinity " »

October 07, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Recommended Links

I recently came across two very helpful websites. The first, Documenta Catholica Omnia, is a huge compendium of every extant writing of all the church fathers, extending well into the Medieval period. All the originals are included (mostly Latin and Greek, but occasionally in Syriac or some other minor language), and any available translation into English or other modern languages, when not protected by copyright laws, is also provided. A phenomenal way to become more acquainted with the theological growth of the early Church, and to realize just how great our debt is to those fathers who gave their lives for the clarification and explication of the one, holy, and catholic faith (and by "catholic" I don't mean any of the popery that grew up later as a cankerous plague!). The second is an online, searchable version of Liddell and Scott's classic and hugely helpful Greek-English lexicon. Searching by Latin transliteration makes it easy to use with a standard keyboard. For instance, if you want the Greek word for "faith," you would just type in the Latin transliteration "pistis," and the corresponding word would pop up in Greek characters. Enjoy!

October 05, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Jesus Christ as Denouement in the Theater of God - John Piper

Here is John Piper's message, from the Desiring God Conference, September 27, 2009 where his theme concerns how Jesus Christ relates to the ultimate purpose of God in creating the universe as the theater of God:

September 28, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Total Depravity & Man's Responsibility

John 6:44 - Jesus said "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day."

John 3:19-21 "And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

The Scripture teaches us clearly that man has an inability to come to Christ outside of God effectually drawing him (John 6:44) yet this does NOT remove man's responsibility to do so. How can this be the case? John Piper explains using a very helpful illustration in the short audio segment below:

September 18, 2009  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

What to say when Mormons say that Jesus said "I say you are gods" (follow all that?)

The chief reason for me being a Reformed Christian is not a heartfelt devotion to the Magisterial Reformers like Martin Luther or John Calvin. No, the main reason is that the Reformed message thunders out from the pages of Scripture when the principles of hermeneutics (the science of biblical interpretation) are applied. When the text is left to speak for itself, within its own context, the truth is clearly seen. Texts taken out of their setting can be made to support many erroneous views and heresies. Surely, a text out of context is a pretext for all false doctrine. However, error is exposed when individual texts are subjected to analysis such as identifying the background, use of words, context, syntax, etc.

Some people are very quick to say that "the Lord" showed them the meaning of a verse. Yet it is often the case that the context of the verse totally repudiates the interpretation given. To fail to study the text's context is not a mark of spirituality, but the exact opposite - a failure to honor the Holy Spirit who inspired the original words. We would never wish for our own words to be treated this way. How much more should this be the case when it is God the Holy Spirit who has inspired Scripture?

An old heresy, based upon a misinterpretation of John 10:34, suggests that men can become gods. This is the doctrine espoused by the LDS (Mormons) and other cult groups (many Word of Faith preachers teach this also). I will let an excerpt from Dr. James White's book "Is the Mormon my Brother?" show the context and true meaning of John 10:34.

Dr. White writes:

Continue reading "What to say when Mormons say that Jesus said "I say you are gods" (follow all that?)" »

September 16, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

An Overview of the Reformation by Dr. James White

September 14, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Assumptions, Traditions and a Biblical Filter

I recently succumbed to the internet phenomenon of Facebook and became a member of the online community. It has been fun to find people I knew from 20 years ago and more, even on the other side of the world. There's a feature of facebook that allows you to become a "fan" of a person or organization and what it means is that when they post something, it appears on your "wall" and you can see it and read it automatically, without having to go to their site to see it. Well, I have signed up with a number of ministries I enjoy and its been great to read their insights as they post them. However, I signed up to become a "fan" of a certain evangelist who shall be nameless (his name is not important for the sake of this article). The reason for signing up was that he is regularly stirring up the Body of Christ to get the Gospel out to people and I appreciate this so much and look forward to his comments in this regard. Today though, he shifted focus and talked about faith. Now I love the subject of faith and was interested in what he had to say. I read his words but realized quickly that we would not be seeing eye to eye when it came to this theme. That is because he assumes man's ability to believe the Gospel outside of regeneration. I think the best way to explain this is to quote his words below in italics and then add my own comments.

The elementary fact is that faith is in-built. We are born believers.

hmmm.. Isn't this an assumption rather than something Scripture teaches? Does not Scripture teach that we are born spiritually dead and need resurrection (Romans 5; Eph 2; 1 Cor 15)?

If you think you have no faith – try it! Try not believing in anything or anybody – your wife, husband, doctor, bank, boss, baker, or chef.

Certainly unregenerate man believes many things.. it is impossible NOT to believe something... but faith in Christ is impossible for natural man outside of God's activity. Jesus said, "NO ONE CAN COME TO ME UNLESS the Father who sent Me draws him and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44).

Continue reading "Assumptions, Traditions and a Biblical Filter" »

September 07, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Sovereign Grace

"How would you describe your conversion experience? Did God come looking for you, or was it the other way around? In your mind, is the accent on the initiative and intervention of God, or on your response of repentance and faith? First impressions are lasting impressions. There are serious consequences when we misinterpret our conversion experience. But there are wonderful, ongoing, life-transforming benefits when we rightly understand it." (from the Sovereign Grace Ministries website).

I am delighted to see C. J. Mahaney's two part message on "Sovereign Grace" become available in this form (on Vimeo video below) so that it might reach a wider audience. As a pastor, I have seen God use this teaching in the lives of many of the people I serve, who had, up until viewing this, very much struggled reconciling the lofty concepts of Divine Sovereign Election and human free will. Though mystery certainly remains, much can be gleaned and understood as we expose our hearts and minds to the word of God.

Thank you C.J. and thank you Sovereign Grace Ministries for making this message more readily available. It is a precious gift to the entire Body of Christ. It was recorded at the Sovereign Grace Small Group Leaders Conference East in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on November 14, 2002. The teaching is based on Ephesians 1:3-14 and is in two sessions, lasting a total of approximately 97 minutes. I recommend it very highly both for personal spiritual edification and as something to point people to who are new to the doctrines of grace. - Rev. John Samson, Pastor, King's Church, Phoenix

Continue reading "Sovereign Grace" »

September 07, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Short Response to so-called 4-Point Calvinists

This is a quick response I wrote to someone who claimed to be a four-pointer:

A 4-point calvinist is actuallly an impossible suppostion. Consider, if you affirm the doctrine of irresistible grace (as all 4-pointers claim to do), then you already believe in limited atonement, because irresistible grace comes from Christ and Christ alone, and this effectual grace is granted to the elect only. In other words, Christ died for the elect in a way (a redemptive way to procure irresistible grace) which he did not for the non-elect. Irresistible grace is not some generic grace to be had apart from Christ, for all redemptive blessings flow from Christ, including that one. For Jesus purchased with his blood, men from every tribe, nation, language (Rev 5:9). The doctrines of grace are, therefore, Christocentric, with Christ always at the top of the chiasm, making all other graces effectual and meaningful. In other words, to reject the "L" is to remove Christ from the equation and make the doctrines of grace into a theological abstraction. So ultimately 4-point Calvinism is no Calvinism at all for Christ is the center of all true Calvinism. More specifically 4-point Calvinism is simply being inconsistent with what they already know: Irresistible grace is not Christless.

Solus Christus
John

September 04, 2009  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

What the Bible Says About Baptism

Some of you may already be aware of my two categorized scripture lists available from Monergism Books: What the Bible Says About the Doctrines of Grace and What the Bible Says About the People of God. Well, I just completed another such list, laying out the various scripture passages touching upon baptism -- what it means, what it does, to whom it should be performed, etc. You can read the list here:

Full Text

What the Bible Says About Baptism (Google Docs)

What the Bible Says About Baptism (Scribd)

Reference Only

What the Bible Says About Baptism (Google Docs)

What the Bible Says About Baptism (Scribd)

September 02, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Omission of "Sanctified" in the Golden Chain

On the blog at desiring God, Dr. John Piper wrote of a reason for the omission of the word "sanctified" in the golden chain of redemption found in Romans 8:28-30. I agree with him completely but would like to add a second reason for the omission. Dr. Piper writes:

Have you ever wondered why “sanctification” is missing from this golden chain in Romans 8:29-30?

Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Foreknown, predestined, called, justified, __________, glorified. Shouldn’t “sanctified" fill in that blank space? Romans 6:22 says that believers receive “sanctification and its end, eternal life.” And 2 Thessalonians 2:13 says that we are “saved, through sanctification by the Spirit.”

The answer is, no, “sanctification” does not belong in space because it is included in “glorified.”

In Paul’s mind the process called sanctification in this life—the process of transformation from one degree of holiness to the next—is the first stage of glorification. He says,

We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The progressive change that happens in this life can be described in terms of holiness or glory—sanctification or glorification.

The age to come will be a place of great physical glory. But mainly it will be a place of infinite moral and spiritual glory. The main beauty will be the beauty of holiness.

Therefore be amazed and sobered that this life is not just a waiting period for that day. You are being changed now “from one degree of glory to the another.” You are being glorified. That is, you are being sanctified. That is, you are being made morally glorious for the age to come.

Dr. Piper brings out a very important point. It is something we need to hear. I think a second reason for the omission of "sanctified" in the list is that all the other 5 are things God does exclusively (monergistically). God foreknows, predestines, calls, justifies and glorifies. Though it is true to say that God sanctifies, we have a definite role to play in the process of sanctification. The whole point of the passage in the immediate and greater context is to provide assurance of salvation. If sanctification was included as a synergistic element in the chain, many would focus on this and allow themselves to be robbed of the future tense knowledge that they will be glorified in the presence of the Lord - because we would be the weak link in the chain (so to speak). I know my heart too well. If salvation depended on just how sanctified I am in my present day life, knowing my shortcomings all so well, the wonderful assurance I have (because God started the work and God will finish it) would be lost or at the very least blurred. I think this would be true for many of the saints I see struggle with a deep heart felt knowledge of assurance (as I pastor I see this all the time).

Continue reading "The Omission of "Sanctified" in the Golden Chain" »

August 31, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Arminianism's Depersonalization of the Gospel

Below, in a youtube video (lasting approximately 20 minutes), here is Dr. James White teaching a class from Romans 8:31ff, asking the question, who is being referred to as the "us" in this passage?... nameless faceless people? Is it everyone who lives or has ever lived? Is it a specific group? Is Paul referring to the same group all the way through the passage? What are the implications? Who is Christ interceding for? Is it a group that has people entering and leaving (gaining salvation and then losing it)? Is it "me" IF I fulfill certain conditions? Does Christ fail to save some of those He is interceding for? An interesting unveiling concerning the impersonal nature of Arminian theology and salvation showing the huge implications of a man centered theology and the great cost of losing the personal promises and the deep and abiding assurance this passage is meant to bring to the people of God:

Continue reading "Arminianism's Depersonalization of the Gospel" »

August 28, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Dr. James White - "Does Reformed Theology Matter?"

After a short introduction, Mr. Lane Chaplin interviews Dr. White from Dr. White's own office on the importance of Reformed theology. There's even a video clip from one of Dr. White's debates. Enjoy!

August 26, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Dr. Steven J. Lawson Defines the Doctrines of Grace

A brief excerpt (below) from the Iron Sharpens Iron radio program at www.sharpens.org as Chris Arnzen interviews Dr. Steve J. Lawson.
HT: Nathan W. Bingham

August 19, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Intention(s) of Christ in the Atonement

Christ died for the elect in a way that he did not for the non-elect. It could be argued that there are at least two intentions in Christ's work of the atonement. The first one is for the elect, in whom God has decreed that the atonement is certain and eventual, therefore it is necessary that it will be applied on His people at a time of the Spirit's choosing. The second is for the non-elect, who receive non-redemptive benefits. These may include not immediately receiving (a putting off of) God's just wrath, but the redemptive benefits of the atonement will only be heralded in the divine command but never actualized in the non-elect. This is why the Bible proclaims that we freely hold out the gospel to all unbelievers and tell them that Christ died, not for all men, but for all sinners who would believe (John 3:16). The redemptive benefits are only for believers. All who believe will have the benefits of the atonement applied to them and be justified, but since no one naturally fits this description, the only persons who come to Christ are those who are God's elect, regenerated by the Holy Spirit unto faith. This means that we are wholly dependent on the work of Christ for our redemption, which includes our ability to have faith in the Redeemer. Since we do not have the power in ourselves to do anything apart from the work of God's Son on the cross, He also gives, as one of its benefits, the Holy Spirit for our conversion (1 Pet 1:3). God "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). Our redemption in Christ is the wellspring out of which flows regeneration, faith, repentance, justification and sanctification. So although the atonement may have more than one intent, its central purpose is for the redemption of elect (Titus 2:14). In other words, Christ died in a way for the elect that he did not for the non-elect.

Those who say they believe the doctrines of grace, but not particular redemption, carve out the Person, heart and source of grace in these doctrines. For without the particularly of the death of Jesus Christ, all of the other doctrines of grace become mere impersonal abstractions. Jesus Christ must be at their center or not at all. What do I mean by this? For example, if one claims the the atonement is not particular, but that irresistible grace is, then where does the grace come from which makes irresistible grace particular? From Christ or from some generic grace apart from Christ? If from Christ, then you already affirm particular redemption and the impersonal abstraction of four-point calvinism is overthrown. If not from Christ, do you then believe there are redemptive benefits to be had apart from Christ? It is impossible, in other words, to believe in irresistible grace without acknowledging that all spiritual/redemptive blessings (including irresistible grace) flow from one source: Christ.

To show that this doctrine has biblical authority have a look at the following: The Jewish high priest in the Old Testament prayed for the Israelites on the Day of Atonement. He approached the Lord wearing the names of the twelve tribes when bringing the sacrifice. Likewise, before His death on the cross, Jesus also prays a "high priestly prayer" for His people in John 17. Notice that in verse 9, Jesus (as high priest) prays an exclusive prayer for certain people and not others: 'I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours." Then soon after in verse 19 when praying for the same persons the Father has "given" Jesus, He prays: "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth." So Jesus only sanctifies Himself for those the Father has given him, meaning these are the very ones He dies redemptively for. In short, Jesus prays for the same persons He dies redemptively for. Only those God has elected in Christ from eternity are given the grace of regeneration that they might believe. And this regeneration is among the redemptive benefits of Christ given to the elect alone - for he purchased with his blood people OUT OF every tribe, nation, tongue and people (Rev 5:9).

John Hendryx

August 14, 2009  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

You Need to Accept the Gift?

Have you ever encountered this particular scenario? A Christian says to his non-Christian friend, “Christ died for you so you need to accept the gift or it does you no good." In this situation faith is seen as something a person (a natural person) conjures up from his unregenerated human nature. This is unbiblical. The Scriptures argue that faith is a gift (John 6:63-65). Regeneration is produced in you by the preaching of the word as the Holy Spirit works 'germination' through it. You were dead in your sins and transgressions and God came to you first by His Spirit and Word to regenerate you and give you faith (Eph 2:5). J.I. Packer said, The saving power of the cross does not depend on faith being added to it; its saving power is such that faith flows from it"

So the gift is not like a piece of candy which we can accept or refuse but the gift can be likened to the gift of eyes or the reception of new life as a baby. We did not receive either of these things by choosing them, but God just granted them to us at our natural birth. Likewise we trust in Christ, not because we came to Jesus apart from the Holy Spirit in our natural state. Rather we trust Jesus because He removed our heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh which loves Christ. A heart without the Spirit is dead to God and needs the Spirit to make it alive so the person may believe. It was not our good will which caused our regeneration but our regeneration which caused our will to desire what is good. We "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 when we present the gospel we need to herald the new about what Jesus has accomplished and the command for all persons everywhere to repent and believe the gospel. Telling people the command of God is not the same as telling them the unbiblical and impossible supposition that they have the power to believe apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. (See Rom 3:19, 20).

Resources: Canons of Dort, Heads 3 & 4, Articles 14 & 15
Scripture Lesson: Ephesians 2:1-10, John 1:13, 6:63-65

August 07, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Question on The State of Man's Will Before the Fall

Visitor: Hello Sir, I would like to ask you a question that has picked my brain for a while now....
All of the human race was deemed guilty at the Fall, this I understand. Now not one single person can do anything good in the sight of God, because his nature is to do evil, and he can not determine his own nature, this I also understand. But what was mans nature before the Fall? If it was good, then how did he Fall? And if it was not good or bad, then....we arrive at the Arminian's argument for a supposed 'freewill.' If good tree produces good fruit, then how did Adam produce bad fruit if He was good?? I'm sorry if this is a question you cannot answer now, if you can't, then thank you for reading, but if so, I would greatly appreciate hearing your response to this.


Response: Hi, thanks for your inquiry regarding the question of free will. Up front we should clarify so we don't misrepresent anyone here, that both Classic Arminians and Calvinists believe in total depravity. That is, both positions affirm that fallen man is utterly impotent in his own strength to believe on the gospel. So neither of them believe in free will, apart from some kind of grace. Left to himself, man has no hope both would affirm. The difference becomes more apparent when we see that Arminians believe in a concept called "prevenient grace", which temporarily place humanity in a state above their depravity so they can choose to believe OR not. Of course this begs the question because if two people have the same grace then what makes them to differ? Jesus Christ or something else? The Calvinist/Augustinian/Monergist, on the other hand, believes that God grants a new heart to the sinner in regeneration effectually enabling him to believe and persevere to the end. This grace itself makes the will free ... i.e. it is no longer in bondage to sin but loves righteousness and believes the gospel.

So again, we see that for both parties, the natural man's will is in bondage to sin. So apart from grace he has no free will - he is impotent, unless God does something. We believe His Holy Spirit, in uniting us to Christ, must give us eyes to see and ears to hear.

Now that this is clarified, per your question regarding the state of man before the Fall ... we affirm that pre-fall man was not in bondage to sin. With Augustine we affirm that Adam was "able to sin, and able not to sin" (posse peccare, posse non peccare). His nature was inclined to good (thus making his sin all the more greivous), but as you can see, God did not create Adam and Eve sealed in righteousness, that is, like the unchangable state we will be when sealed in glory with Christ. So we could say that Adam and Eve were in a state that was free from the bondage to sin, but not free from its influences. They were being tested. In glory, of course, we will all be be completely free from sin's influences. The Westminster Confession, in Chapter 4 On Creation, says:

II. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness after his own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Besides this law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.

Reading Romans 6 and elsewhere we see that the Bible defines freedom, not as "free to do otherwise" as Arminians do, but freedom from sin. Christ sets us free, and we have a small taste of it now, but will drink it fully at the resurrection. Consider, God is the most free and yet He is unable to sin. His very nature makes it impossible because He is holy. Yet we still consider He and the gloried saints as the most free. They actually have less 'libertarian freedom' (as Arminians define it) than we do, since they can only choose good. They dont have the 'libertarian freedom' to choose evil because they are sealed in righteousness by nature. The point I am making is that Arminains we importing a philosophical idea of freedom rather than letting the text of Scripture speak for itself about what freedom is.

So lets return to your original question. if we ask, did pre-fall man have a free will? We must first ask, "free from what?" If you mean was the will free from the bondage to sin, the answer is uneqivocally yes. But, was it free from God's eternal decree? Obviously not. Consider chapters 2 & 4 of the Book of Acts. Both chapters say that the crucifixion was ordained by God.

"this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." Acts 2:23 "...truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." Acts 4:27, 28

Notice that God actually ordained the most evil event in history to certainly take place through lawless men, yet the lawless men are fully accountable for their actions. They will be judged for them. The point is that God ordains all things to come to pass (Eph 1:11) and yet men's sins are imputed to them. One could say, He ordains sin, sinlessly. So while Adam and Eve were free from the bondage to sin (pre-fall), God still ordained all things that came to pass. And the Fall certainly did not take God by surprise. In fact, He knew that the Fall would take place even before He created the world. If His forknowedge is certain then these events could not be otherwise, no?

Hope this helps
John
Monergism

July 29, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

What does the term “perseverance of the saints” mean, and does the bible teach it?

The term “perseverance of the saints” means that every true “saint,” or in other words, all who have actually been “sanctified by the offering up of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10), will certainly persevere in faith until the end, and so be finally saved. The term does not mean that true Christians will never have seasons of doubt, nor ever fall into sin, but rather that God will always cause their faith to triumph at the last, and will never allow them to remain in gross sin indefinitely, but will continue the work that he first began in them, bringing it to perfection in the Day of Jesus Christ (see Philippians 1:6). Neither does the term mean that no one who makes a profession of faith will finally fall away: on the contrary, there are many false professions, and there are different kinds of false faiths that flourish for awhile but then wither away (e.g. Matthew 7:21-23; 13:1-23); but all who have been granted true faith, which God alone can give (e.g. Joh 3:27; Phi 1:29; 2Pe 1:1; Act 16:14; 18:27; Eph 2:8-10; Act 5:31; 11:18; 2Ti 2:25-26; 1Co 4:7), will continue in the faith until they reach their blessed end in heaven.

The scriptures clearly teach certain truths which, when conflated, definitely confirm the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. The bible teaches that, what God begins (especially concerning his work of grace in the hearts of the saints), he will certainly finish (Psa 138:8; Ecc 3:14; Isa 46:4; Jer 32:40; Rom 11:29; Phi 1:6; 2Ti 4:18); that of all whom he has called and brought to Christ, none will be lost (Joh 6:39-40; 10:27-29; Rom 8:28-31, 35-39; Heb 7:25; 10:14); and that, while his preservation of the saints is not irrespective of their continuance in faith and holiness (1Co 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5; Heb 3:14; 6:4-6; 10:26-27; 12:14; Rev 21:7-8; 22:14-15), yet he himself is the one who sanctifies them, and causes them to persevere in true faith and godliness (Joh 15:16; 1Co 1:30-31; 6:11; 12:3; 15:10; Gal 3:1-6; Eph 2:10; Phi 2:12-13; 1Th 5:23-24; Heb 13:20-21; 1Jo 2:29; Jud 1:24-25).

A denial of the final perseverance of all true saints is a very serious error for a couple of reasons; first, it logically demands that we must continue by the works of the flesh what God has begun by his gift of the Spirit – a serious error Paul addresses in Galatians 3:1-6. If God saved us by his grace alone, which was given to us in Christ Jesus, then how can we say it is up to us to continue in the faith, or that his grace alone, which was sufficient to give us faith and the Spirit at the first, is not sufficient to keep us in the faith and preserve us by his Spirit? In other words, any position which denies that Christ will persevere Christians to the end is implicitly denying that Jesus' work on the cross is sufficient to save to the uttermost ... That we must somehow maintain our own just standing before God. No small error. And second, if the Holy Spirit does not preserve all whom the Father has elected and brought to Christ, then the persons of the Trinity are working in contradiction to each other, which is an impossibility given the precious unity of the Godhead.

For further study see Monergism Theology FAQs

July 08, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Mockery, Eisegesis and the Foreknowledge of God

What does the word "foreknew" mean in the New Testament?

To actually stop and research the matter to find the answer was a difficult process for me. That is because, quite frankly, I had assumed what the answer was for the first 20 years of my Christian life. Yet in taking the time to pray, study and research the matter, I finally came to see what was staring me in the face all along. My traditions had blinded me to it. The fact is, we all have traditions and as one man rightly said, those most blind to their traditions are those who do not think they have any.

Coming to understand the clear biblical message of foreknowledge and God's Sovereign grace in election has blessed my life immensely. I often meet people who share the exact same experience. Once blinded, now they can see the truth, and they find themselves seeing it on almost every page of the Bible.

I am not reformed because of allegiance to a theology, or because I seek to interpret the text through a man made theological system. No, I am reformed because of my allegiance to the biblical text. I believe reformed theology because I believe this is what the Bible teaches.

I was deeply grieved with the sarcasm and mockery expressed by a young opponent of reformed theology on the video below, but feel it is still worthwhile to post this because of the sheer weight of the answers given to the claims made against it. This is what comes through loud and clear. As Dr. James White explains, for the Arminian, the phrase "those whom He foreknew He predestined" (Rom. 8:29 is translated to mean "those whose actions of faith God foresaw - on the basis of those actions of faith, He predestined".... reading that boat-load of theology into that verb (foreknew) is a classic example of eisegesis. It is importing a huge concept that you are not deriving from the context in any way, shape or form. My challenge (to the Arminian) is to demonstrate where God ever foreknows actively, as an active verb, the actions of people in the future in this way." The fact is, it is impossible to do so. The correct meaning of the term is clear and it does not support the Arminian concept. - JS

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June 23, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

No Degrees of Deadness

The company is not doing well this quarter. Sales are down. Potential customers are not buying. The sales team manager needs to get things moving. Someone has to make a sale and quickly. What is the sales team leader to do? Well one thing he could do is to send his team down to the morgue and have his sales team get some sales amongst the dead, selling their nasal sprays, their foot massager machines and their electronic toothbrushes. But sadly, things don't go too well. The dead seem to have no interest in anything the sales team has to say, in spite of the positive smiles and highly developed and well rehearsed sales pitch.. Even at the morgue, no sales are made; for one simple reason, the dead are, how shall we say it? ... errr.. dead!

A silly scenario? Yes, of course! But lets think about this as it relates to man's condition outside of Christ. He is not vibrant and healthy; nor merely under the weather a little, and not just extremely sick about to breathe his last breath. God says that man is actually dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). The Greek word for dead here is necros, meaning dead like a corpse. There are no signs of spiritual life. It is a hopeless case.

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June 17, 2009  |  Comments (18)   |  Permalink

Satisfying the Law’s Demand's and Curses

lawgospel100.gifThe second Adam’s perfect holiness of human nature, and obedience of life to the precept of the law as a covenant, are as necessary to the justification of sinners as is His suffering of its penalty. The doctrine of justification by faith establishes the law, the whole law, the honor of the precept as well as that of the penal sanction. But this it could not do if it did not represent the righteousness of Jesus Christ as consisting in His active obedience as well as in His passive. Active obedience, strictly speaking, cannot be said to satisfy vindictive justice for sin. And, on the other hand, suffering for punishment gives right and title unto nothing, it only satisfies for something; nor does it deserve any reward, as John Owen mentions in his work on justification. Christ’s satisfaction for sin could not render His perfect obedience to the precept unnecessary; nor could His perfect obedience make His satisfaction for sin by suffering the penalty unnecessary, because it was not of the same kind. The one is that which answers the law’s demand of perfect obedience as the ground of title to eternal life; the other is that which answers its demand of complete satisfaction to divine justice for sin. The meritorious obedience of Christ to the precept could not satisfy the penal sanction; and the sufferings and death of Christ, could not satisfy the precept of the law. The commandment of the law as a covenant requires doing for life; the curse of that law demands dying as the punishment of sin. These, though they are never to be separated as grounds of justification, yet are carefully to be distinguished. The perfect obedience of Christ is as necessary to entitle believers to eternal life as His suffering of death is to secure them from eternal death. His satisfaction for sin, applied by faith, renders them innocent or guiltless of death; and His obedience makes them righteous or worthy of life (Romans 5:19). As the latter, then, is as necessary to complete their justification, according to the gospel, as the former, so it is as requisite as the former to establish the honor of the law.

Excerpt from A Treatise on the Law and Gospel by John Colquhoun

June 16, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Arminian Libertarians Who Believe in Eternal Security

As you may know, many Arminians believe that salvation can be lost, so they reject the perseverance of the saints. They affirm that one can be saved (regenerate and justified) and then through sinful choices can become unsaved (unregenerate & unjustified). However, I have found that this is not always the case ... not a hard and fast rule ....I have actually run into several persons who classify themselves as Classic Arminians (and libertarian free-will theists) who will tell you they believe or embrace eternal security (while rejecting the other four points of Calvinism) --- i.e. they affirm that those who are saved will actually persevere to the end. Next time you run into one, here are a couple of questions worth asking them to expose some real inconsistencies in their thinking:

1) Why do you affirm that conversion is a voluntary act (i.e. the result of a libertarian free choice), but perseverance to the end is an involuntary act (i.e. not the result of a libertarian choice)?

2) Why does the libertarian freedom to do otherwise apply to conversion, but not to perseverance?


Have a great weekend all.
JWH

June 05, 2009  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

The Mosaic Covenant: Works or Grace?

The Westminster Confession of Faith, speaking of the unity of the Covenant of Grace from the time immediately after the Fall and forever thereafter, states, “This covenant [of grace] was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the Gospel” (WCF 7:5). In this brief summation, we may observe two things about the Mosaic administration of the Covenant: first, it was fundamentally an expression of the Covenant of Grace, and thus held forth the gospel to the people of God “by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come”; (WCF 7:5); and second, it was nevertheless in a sense utterly distinct from the New Covenant, even on so central an issue as the gospel itself. It was, in fact, appropriately designated a covenant of “law,” not just as acts of obedience flowing from gratefulness for the gospel, but as contradistinct from the very “Gospel” itself. In other words, it was, in one sense, in full continuity with the gospel first proclaimed to Abraham and consummated in Christ; and in another sense, of an entirely different legal principle.

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May 30, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

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 offices—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.

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May 28, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

He Tried?

Rapper Shai Linne gives us a great lesson in Particular Redemption

Lyrics below

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May 26, 2009  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

Five Arguments Against Future Justification According to Works

rick.jpgThis year has witnessed a publishing event of real interest to many Christians: the publication of N.T. Wright's Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision. Wright is widely considered the most provocative writer on justification today and the arrival of this book has deservedly garnered much attention. My purpose in this article is not to review Wright's book as a whole or even to assess his overall teaching on justification. Rather, I intend to respond to that part of his teaching that proposes a future justification by works for believers in Jesus Christ.

Read more...

May 26, 2009  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

More Thoughts on Christ's Active Obedience and its Relation to The Imputation of Christ's Righteousness

Active obedience: “Christ’s full obedience to all the prescriptions of the divine law…[making] available a perfect righteousness before the law that is imputed or reckoned to those who put their trust in him.

Passive Obedience: “[Christ's] willing obedience in bearing all the sanctions imposed by that law against his people because of their transgression…[being] the ground of God’s justification of sinners (Rom. 5:9), by which divine act they are pardoned…” Dr. Robert L. Reymond

By taking on the covenant obligations of the law as our representative we are made righteous in Him by His obedience. Romans 5:19 states: "For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous."

Something important to consider related to this:

God desires obedience, not sacrifice. God through history is looking for a man who would obey Him. He is not looking for someone who merely makes a perfect score on the test, but a human who is unfailingly devoted to Him as an image bearer - someone who mirrors his love, holiness, justice and truth. This is a constantly repeated theme throughout Scripture. Psalm 40, which Hebrews 10 quotes is one example:

Psalm 40:6-8 (English Standard Version)

6 In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. 7Then I said, "Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: 8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart."

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May 18, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Doctrine of Republication (of the Covenant of Works)

thelawisnotoffaith-rt.jpgThe Law Is Not of Faith by Bryan D. Estelle, J.V. Fesko, and David VanDrunen (Editors)

[Hodge says] "God entered into a covenant with Adam", "the promise annexed to that covenant was life," "the condition was perfect obedience," and the penalty of this covenant was death." The covenant of works predicated on the command "This do and thou shalt live,"(Lev. 18:5) required perfect obedience by Adam and established a principle of strict justice or merit... The Work of Christ is a real satisfaction, of infinite merit, to the vindicatory justice of God; so that he saves people by doing for them, and in their stead, what they are unable to do for themselves, satisfying the demands of the law on their behalf, and bearing its penalty in their stead." -

...The law of Moses was, in the first place, a re-enactment of the covenant of works [but that is not its only function]. A covenant is simply a promise suspended upon a condition. The covenant of works, therefore, is nothing more than the promise of liffe suspended on the condition of perfect obedience.

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May 14, 2009  |  Comments (12)   |  Permalink

Is Purgatory a Biblical Doctrine?

Purgatory: the condition, process, or place of purification or temporary punishment in which, according to Roman Catholic belief, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for heaven. Purgatory (Latin: purgatorium; from purgare, “to purge”)

The claim of the Roman Catholic Church is that the doctrine of purgatory was something all early Christians believed and that it can be substantiated from the Bible, most notably, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. However, what the text actually says and what Rome claims that it says are two different things. As Dr. James White points out: "where do you get the idea that this "fire" is in any way related to something that could be called "satispassio," (Satispassio: Suffering of Atonement) as Rome does? Purgatory (according to Rome) is for those who are headed to heaven: they died in a state of grace. The fire of purgatory (whether taken literally over time, as Rome obviously indicated for centuries on end, or now metaphorically, as the kinder, gentler Rome seems to indicate) is meant to cleanse away the temporal punishments of sins. But this testing in the day of judgment is about the motivations of the works done by Christian leaders. There is nothing here about temporal punishments. Besides, there is only one result of the testing in purgatory: everyone ends up in heaven. But there are two results of this testing: there are those whose works remain, and they receive a reward. And there are those who works are burned up, but they are saved anyway. So could someone tell me how there is anyone in purgatory whose works, upon being tested, are shown to be gold, silver, and precious stones? Aren't those the godly, the righteous, who receive a reward? But purgatory is for those who have in fact been judged, but, they are judged to have more temporal punishment for sin upon their souls than they have positive merit, so they must be cleansed and prepared through purgatory. So how does one get from a fire that tests works of Christian leaders, demonstrating who did what they did in life for the glory of Christ, to the fire of purgatory that should only be applied to those having temporal punishments of sin? You sure don't get there by exegesis."

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (NASB) - 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Here is a very interesting interchange during the cross examination part of a publicly moderated debate between Dr. James White (the Protestant Christian apologist) and Father Stravinskas, a Roman Catholic apologist and priest. In this section, Dr. White is asking questions and Father Stravinskas is responding - JS:

May 14, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Panic Measures or Strategic Planning?

It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Luke 12:37 (NIV)

Your phone rings. You pick it up to hear a familar voice, a long established friend, who informs you that he has just arrived at the airport and that he is on the way from there to your home to spend the weekend with you. How would you react? Perhaps there would be excitement as well as a measure of panic as your home would need to be prepared for your unexpected but welcome guest.

Now lets change the scenario - the same friend calls you and says he is coming anytime over the next 10 years, 30 years or even 50 years (I know, it takes a great deal of imagination to make this kind of leap but stay with me for a moment.. think this through). I tend to think it would be a lot harder to keep things prepared and ready for your guest if the friend could come knock on your front door any moment over a very long time period than if you had a few minutes warning.

There is a recurring phrase that Jesus used in the parables to describe the timing of His return - that of it being "after a long time" or "a long while." In Matthew 25:14-30 in the Parable of the Talents, verse 19 says, "Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them." Similarly, in Luke 20:9, the scripture says, "And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while..."

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May 11, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Are Faith, Repentance and Sanctification Synergistic?

Visitor: I think that conversion and regeneration are mongergistic; but is repentance synergistic, and faith synergistic; is sanctification synergistic?

Response: In a manner of speaking yes. One could say that technically only regeneration is monergistic. This is because it is the only grace God gives us when we are utterly passive, or even hostile to Him. We do not cooperate with God to be regenerated. He regenerates us and, as a consequence of our new heart and the Spirit living in us, we most willingly cooperate. And, like you appear to conclude in your question, it is we, and not God, who actually exercise faith and repentance. Yet, I must admit that I am uncomfortable with the word "synergism" when applying it to faith, repentance and sanctification. This may perhaps be an improper word since these things effectually arise from a renewed heart. We are already redeemed so we are not working toward salvation, but rather, working from out of our salvation. We therefore no longer work in the sense that we are striving to earn anything redemptively. That is already a fait accompli. Our work is, rather, the inevitable outworking of our adoption as sons who are no longer slaves. We work from thankful hearts that spring forth from our new nature which God himself has given us. Having been regenerated, our own work never maintains our just standing before God. Christ has already proved sufficient for this and having joined us to Himself has given us rest from our work (read Heb 4).

Hope this helps
John

May 05, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Dennis and Greg discuss the Trinity

On the basis of Scripture itself, Christians throughout the centuries have professed belief in the Holy Trinity, affirming the fact that our one God is eternally existent in three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are co-equal, co-existent and co-eternal. This is because the following three things are very clearly taught in Scripture:

(1) There is only one God, who is eternal and immutable (unchanging). (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10; Mal. 3:6; Mark 12:29; John 17:3; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jam. 2:19)

(2) There are three eternal Persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These Persons are never identified with one another - that is, they are carefully differentiated as distinct Persons. The Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Holy Spirit, and nor is the Holy Spirit the Father. (Matt: 3:13-17; 28:19; Luke 10:22; John 1:1, 2; 3:16, 17; 15:26; 16:7; 17:1-26; 2 Cor. 13:14)

(3) The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, are each identified as being fully God - that is, the Bible teaches the Deity of the Father, the Deity of Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit. (Isa. 9:6; John 17:3; John 1:1, 18; 8:58; 20:28; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; Acts 5:3, 4; 2 Cor. 3:17, 18)

Here's a video I put together where Dennis (the Christian) is explaining to Greg (an Aussie Jehovah's Witness) why he believes in the Trinity. Enjoy! - JS


April 30, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

A Good Will Comes from God - Augustine

It is not enough simply to have choice of will, which is freely turned in this direction and that, and belongs among those natural gifts which a bad person may use badly. We must also have a good will, which belongs among those gifts which it is impossible to use badly. This impossibility is given to us by God; otherwise I do not know how to defend what Scripture says: ‘What do you have that you did not receive?’ (1 Cor.4:7) For if God gives us a free will, which may still be either good or bad, but a good will comes from ourselves, then what comes from ourselves is better than what comes from God! But it is the height of absurdity to say this. So the Pelagians ought to acknowledge that we obtain from God even a good will.

It would indeed be a strange thing if the will could stand in some no-man’s-land, where it was neither good nor bad. For we either love righteousness, and this is good; and if we love it more, this is better. If we love it less, this is less good; or if we do not love righteousness at all, it is not good. And who can hesitate to affirm that, when the will does not love righteousness in any way at all, it is not only a bad will, but even a totally depraved will? Since therefore the will is either good or bad, and since of course we do not derive the bad will from God, it remains that we derive from God a good will. Otherwise, since our justification proceeds from a good will, I do not know what other gift of God we ought to rejoice in. That, I suppose, is why it is written, ‘The will is prepared by the Lord’ (Prov.8:35, Septuagint). And in the Psalms, ‘The steps of a man will be rightly ordered by the Lord, and His way will be the choice of his will’ (Ps.37:23). And what the apostle says, ‘For it is God Who works in you both to will and to do of His own good pleasure’ (Phil.2:13).

Augustine, On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, 2:30

April 27, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Five Big Myths About Calvinism

I speak for many when I say that I have not always embraced the doctrines of grace or what is commonly called Calvinism. Its actually unfortunate that a man's name is associated with the doctrines that came out of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin was not the first to articulate these truths, but merely was the chief systematizer of such doctrines. There was actually nothing in Calvin that was not first seen in Luther, and much of Luther was first found in Augustine. Luther was an Augustinian monk, of course. We would also naturally affirm that there was nothing in any of these men that was not first found in Paul and Peter and John in the New Testament.

Even now, I have no desire to be a Calvinist in the Corinthian sense of the word - a follower of John Calvin, per say. Though I believe Calvin was a tremendous expositor of the Scriptures and had many great insights, I am not someone who believes he was in any way infallible. I am with Spurgeon who declared, "There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer - I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it." (C. H. Spurgeon, a Defense of Calvinism)

In coming to understand these doctrines that are now so precious to me, I now realize that there were fortresses built in my mind to defend against the idea of God being Sovereign in the matter of salvation. Such was my total depravity! These fortresses were not made of stone and brick but of man made ideas – concepts that I believed Scripture taught with clarity. These fortresses did not come down easily. In fact, I believe it is a work of Divine grace in the heart not only to regenerate His people, but also to open hearts and minds, even of His own people, to the truth of His Sovereignty in election.

There are many false concepts about Calvinism. Here are five that are very common:

Continue reading "Five Big Myths About Calvinism" »

April 24, 2009  |  Comments (13)   |  Permalink

Old Calvinism or Dispensationalism?

With regard to the recent article in Time magazine which notes that the New Calvinism is one of the top ten ideas changing the world right now Pastor Mark Driscoll made the following observations last week on his blog, where I think he must be confusing Calvinism with something else. He says:

1) Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.
2) Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into cities.
3) Old Calvinism was cessationistic and fearful of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. New Calvinism is continuationist and joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
4) Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them.

Comment: Pastor Dricoll is perhaps mistakenly viewing the fleeing the city, do not engage culture, mentality as belonging to the "Old Calvinism" although I am not certain who, in particular, he is referring to here. -- I speculate he may be referring to Dispensationalism of the 20th century some of which may have had an element calvinistic soteriology but was not Calvinism or Reformed Theology in the classic sense of the term. Some Reformed churches may have left the cities in the 20th century ... but it may be anachronistic of him to read the post-Reagan gentrification of the cities back into the 60s and 70s. Calvinists hardly existed in the 20th century and I think the Time essay may simply refer to its resurgence after a century of dormancy. The Old Calvinism ( see Kuyper, Calvin, the Puritans) were most-of-the-time culturally engaging, not fundamentalistic or foxhole in their mentality. Next, Driscoll's comment about the old Calvinism's treatment of the Holy Spirit is off in my estimation. Calvin was well-known as the theologian of the Holy Spirit and most of those he influenced put the Holy Spirit front and center in their ministry. There is no Calvinism or Reformed Theology without a robust understanding of regeneration and union with Christ. True that the Old Calvinism was cessationist with regard to spirital gifts, but so is a large number of the new Calvinists. No offense intended to Drisoll. Just thought the post was a bit inaccurate.

March 16, 2009  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Does Man Have a Free WIll? And Does Predestination Eliminate Our Will?

Visitor Comment: Words need to have meaning or all argument becomes nonsense. Either salvation is open to all or it is not. Either it is predestined who goes to heaven or it’s an individual’s choice to choose salvation through Christ. You can not have it both ways and be thinking logically and rationally. The bottom line, the predestination doctrine eliminates the role of an individual’s free will.

Response: Hi and thanks for your comment. However, the Bible does not teach anywhere that natural man has a free will ... but rather that his will is in bondage to sin (2 Timothy 2:26; Rom 6:17, 20; 1 Cor 2:14). and since I agree with you that words do mean something, last time I looked, that which is in bondage is not free. Ask yourself, in light of clear biblical teaching, can a person believe the gospel apart form the work of the Holy Spirit? If not, then you agree that, left to himself, man is morally powerless to come to Christ. (i.e. has no free will.) He can make voluntary choices but he sins by necessity. No one coerces him since he voluntarily chooses to sin and yet he cannot do otherwise until Christ set him free - so until we are joined to Christ by the Spirit we will ALWAYS reject the gospel. And this is exactly what Jesus teaches when he tells us that no one can believe the gospel unless God grants it (John 6:65).

Secondly, it is important to consider that God demands that you obey the ten commandments perfectly? Have you? No, none of us have. That is why we need a Savior ... who Himself was without sin having obeyed all God's commands. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. In the same way the command to believe the gospel cannot be obeyed apart from the Holy Spirit. HIs salvation includes delivering us from the bondage of the will. The Holy Spirit gives us a new heart, opens our blind eyes and unplugs our deaf ears ... without which we would never come to saving faith on our own. The scripture says no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' apart form the Holy Spirit. If someone owes a debt they cannot repay (like us) then the inability to repay the debt does not alleviate us of the responsibility to do so. The point is that you appear to have a lot of unbiblical assumptions in your statement. Back up what you say with Scripture, not just your unaided logic and then we have a place to start.

Please consider this question:. If many of us hear the gospel and some people end up believing and others do not, what makes these people to differ? Are some more natually inclined to the gospel? Are some more wise? No, it is Jesus that makes people to differ. Salvation is by the grace of Jesus Christ alone. If we believe the gospel then it is by grace we have believed. Only a new heart can love and trust Jesus. Faith does not come from an unregenerate heart. We did not come up with faith ourselves. Otherwise we could boast and thank ourself for not being like other men who did not make such a good choice. Our choice is real but requires regenerating grace or we would all perish.

Solus Christus
John

March 13, 2009  |  Comments (14)   |  Permalink

Regeneration

The new birth; that work of the Holy Spirit by which the soul, previously dead in sins, is created anew in Christ unto righteousness. It is expressed in Scripture by being born again and born from above, Joh 3:3-7; becoming a new creature, 2Co 5:17; being quickened to a new life of holiness, Eph 2:1; having Christ formed in the heart, Ga 4:19; and being made partaker of the divine nature, 2Pe 1:4.

The sole author of this change is the Holy Spirit, Joh 1:12,13 3:4 Eph 2:8-10; and he effects it ordinarily by the instrumentality of gospel truth, 1Co 4:15 Jas 1:18 1Pe 1:23. In this change the moral image of God is brought back into the soul, and the principle of supreme love to our neighbor is implanted. Regeneration, producing faith, is accompanied by justification, and by actual holiness of life, or sanctification begun, and completed when the "babe in Christ" reaches in heaven "the fulness of the stature of the perfect man" in Him. In Mt 19:28, regeneration means Christ’s making all things new. In Tit 3:5, "the washing of regeneration" denotes the purifying work of the Spirit in the new birth.

Bible Dictionary - American Tract Society

March 09, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Procession and Consumation of Salvation

Salvation proceeds from our election in Christ but is not consumated until regeneration. Election itself does not save but was the blueprint for Christ's historical work regarding those God has given Him from eternity (Eph 1:4, John 6:37, 65; 17:9) which Jesus redeems in time and joins to himself by the Holy Spirit when quickened. The foundation of this gracious election is solely God's good pleasure which implies that salvation is pure grace. The existence of faith in a person is the way to come to certainty that we have been elect of God. Since salvation is in God's hands and not ours we owe the entirely of it to Him alone who deserves all the glory. Our comfort and certainty rests in what Christ has accomplished for us and not anything we have done for Him.

It is through the means of grace that people come to saving faith, which refelects the work of the Holy Spirit. Faith is really the most important work of the Spirit because it does not originate in unregenerate man. It comes from the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit. This means that all men are unspiritual and cannot understand the gospel apart from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:14). So it is through the preaching of the word and the use of the sacraments that the Spirit germinates faith (Rom 10) and the continuing desire to obey Christ. These are the means by which the Holy Spirit joins us in communion with Christ. The word of God particularly is the instrument in which the Spirit illumines the understanding of believers. Some wonder why we would bother to preach the gospel if predestination is true. The reason is that God uses means (his word) to accomplish that end and nothing happens apart from it. Faith necessitates the Holy Spirit using the word to open our eyes, unplug our ears and turn our heart of strone to a heart of flesh. This is why there is a varied responses to the outward call of the gospel. Those who respond do not do so because they are smarter or generated better thoughts than their neighbor, it is because the Spirit worked faith in the heart of those who believed (John 6:63-65; Eph 2:5). Election thefore, becomes a reality through the calling of the Holy Spirit. The Father elects in Christ, the Son redeems and the Holy Spirit applies that redemption to those the Father chose and joins them to Christ, our only hope. The call of the gospel goes out to all people, but no one (not one) responds to the call apart from inward work of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul said, "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." May the Lord alone be glorified.

March 06, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Condemned by Adam's Sin or Our Own?

Those born between Adam and Moses, (and I think it holds true today), how were they condemned to Hell? Adams Sin? Or their own?

we not only choose sin but we inherit it (Rom 5:12, 18, 19). Human beings are either in Adam or in Christ. Our sin and Adams' sin are, in many ways, essentially one and the same. There is a passage which says that the Levitcal priesthood gave tithes to Melchizedek in the loins of Abraham (Hebrews 7:9-11). In the same sence, we were in Adam's loins (so to speak) so we were participating (no, cheering him on) in his sin. There is such a close identification for us in Adam that the Romans passage teaches that all of humanity experience death because of him. Likewise when we are united to Christ by grace through faith we are united to Him in his life, death and resurrection. We participatein what He accomplished for us. We are declared righteous in Christ and granted a new heart which loves Him and His law. Is this imputation of grace any more "fair" than the imputation of sin from Adam? Both sin (when we were born in Adam) and grace (when we are united to Christ) are imputed to us apart from what we may individually think we may deserve. Our moral bankruptcy and inability is not like a physical inability that we cannot help, no, it is like a debt we cannot repay. And, like a debt, our inability to repay it does not thereby alleviate our responsibility to do so. As for those born between Adam and Moses it is the same as those born in countries or situations where they will never hear the gospel. God will judge them based on thier sin in Adam and the sin against the light given them, and that will be enough to condemn them.

In individualized cultures such as ours such collective thinking about the human race is hard to grasp but the Bible is a federal (representative) document from start to finish. Consider that all people inherit many things (good and bad) from their parents or the countries they are born in and this occurs in many ways that may seem unfair to the (external) casual observer. But we all certainly get better than we deserve in this life. What really should amaze us is that God is merciful to us at all. We can rejoice greatly in that ... that He has set his affection on a people whom He has set aside for Himself, in spite of our rebellion (see Ezekiel 26:22 to the end of the chapter).

February 19, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

"I remember..." by Pastor John Samson

I have not always been reformed in my thinking as a Christian. I remember my own journey in coming to embrace the doctrines of grace, certain things impressed me. I was very much impressed that most of the great theologians of the church taught these doctrines of God's Sovereignty. While they certainly had their differences on some things, when it came to election, they were all in complete agreement.

None of these men individually, or even all of them collectively, could be in any way classed as infallible, yet because they all saw these issues in the same way, I remember thinking that this fact alone should cause me to pause and reflect a little. I realised that it would be the height of pride on my part to dismiss everything they have to say without giving them a fair hearing. God had used these men greatly as his champions in church history; entire nations were affected by their ministries, both in their day and on into our own, and humility would teach me to at least become somewhat familar with their words and works, and not just read what others might say about them with all the bias that usually goes with that.

However, it was not the greats of church history that carried the most weight with me. It was not their writings and commentaries, as good as they were. What convinced me was seeing the doctrines clearly taught in Scripture. Understanding what Paul taught in Romans 8 and 9 as well as Ephesians 1 and 2 (after dispensing with much of my human traditions in the process) had a huge effect on me. Yet what brought me all of the way over into seeing it, and much more than that, embracing it, and delighting in it, was seeing the doctrines taught through the words of my Master, the Lord Himself.

Continue reading ""I remember..." by Pastor John Samson" »

February 16, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

How Does God Regnerate Us by John Piper

009finallyalive.jpgOne of the unsettling things about the new birth, which Jesus says we all must experience in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3), is that we don’t control it. We don’t decide to make it happen any more than a baby decides to make his birth happen—or, more accurately, make his conception happen. Or even more accurately: We don’t decide to make it happen any more than dead men decide to give themselves life. The reason we need to be born again is that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. That’s why we need the new birth, and that’s why we can’t make it happen. This is one reason why we speak of the sovereign grace of God. Or better: This is one reason why we love the sovereign grace of God.

Our condition before the new birth is that we treasure sin and self-exaltation so much that that we cannot treasure Christ supremely. In other words, we are so rebellious at the root of our fallen human nature that we can’t find it in ourselves to humbly see and savor Jesus Christ above all things. And we are guilty for this. This is real evil in us. We are blameworthy for this spiritual hardness and deadness. Our consciences do not excuse us when we are so resistant to Christ we can’t see him as supremely attractive.

Fire and Heat Inseparable

Something has to happen to us. Jesus said we must be born again (John 3:3). The Holy Spirit has to work a miracle in our hearts and give us new spiritual life. We were dead, and we need to be made alive. We need ears that can hear truth as supremely desirable, and we need eyes than see Christ and his way of salvation as supremely beautiful. We need hearts that are soft and receptive to the word of God. In short, we need new life. We need to be born again.

The way this happens, as we have seen so far, is that the Spirit of God supernaturally gives us new spiritual life by connecting us with Jesus Christ through faith. The new spiritual life that we receive in the new birth is not separate from union with Jesus, and it is not separate from faith. When God in the riches of his mercy and the greatness of his love and the sovereignty of his grace chooses to regenerate us, he gives us new life by uniting us to Christ. “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). Our first experience of this is the faith in Jesus that this life brings. There is no separation of time here. When we are born gain, we believe. And when we believe, we know we have been born again. When there is fire, there is heat. When there is new birth, there ... More....

Excerpt from Chapter 6 of Finally Alive by John Piper

February 13, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated

Romans 9:10 And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad - in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call - 12 she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13 As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

One of the main reasons why some Christians reject the reformed (biblical) understanding of Divine election is because of traditions associated with the love of God. The strong reaction of some against the doctrine of God's Sovereignty in election is often times due to a desire to defend a concept that they have regarding the love of God. They feel that God's attribute of love is in question or under attack.

Great care is needed to point people to the biblical texts which can clarify the issue. Not everyone seems to be open to examine their assumptions because these traditions are so very strong. The tradition that God loves all people in the exact same way is a strong one. I have to say, for many years, this was exactly the case in my own life. Many see no need to examine the texts at all because in their minds, the concept they have of the love of God = what the Bible teaches. As Dr. James White rightly says, "those most enslaved to their traditions are those who do not believe they have any."

However we understand the phrase "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" in Romans 9, I think we would all have to agree that God's love for Jacob was certainly different or of a different kind than His love for Esau. I think we all have to say this or else the text is meaningless. But if this is indeed the case, then just this one verse would refute the idea that God loves everyone in the exact same way. There must be different dimensions of the love of God.

Continue reading "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" »

January 22, 2009  |  Comments (16)   |  Permalink

Reformed Theology: Utterly Unreconcilable to the Modernist Assertion of Human Autonomy by R. Scott Clark

The following is an excerpt from a helpful article by R. Scott Clark

This essay argues that, because of it's core convictions reflected in its doctrines of revelation, God, man, creation, sin, Christ, imputation (federalism), predestination, and the church, confessional Reformed theology is not only, in some sense, postmodern, but more precisely, it is consistently anti-modernist...

The emerging and emergent movements seek to be "postmodern." In fact, to the degree that they begin with human autonomy, with versions of rationalism (e.g., in their denial of the atonement), in subjectivism (e.g., in their hermeneutic and quest for the immediate encounter with God) they are not postmodern as much as they are, as Mike Horton likes to say, "most modern." To be truly postmodern would be to embrace the historic Reformed faith. It would be to become anti-modern, to repudiate the assertion of the sovereignty of human choice or of human experience or of human rationality in favor of the the sovereignty of the mysterious Triune God, of the two-Adams, of unconditional grace, faith, and the church instituted by Christ himself.

Read the whole article On Being Truly Postmodern by R. Scott Clark

January 14, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Is Mormonism Christian?

There should be absolutely no doubt on this issue - Mormonism and Christianity are not in any way compatible. Though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints use the same words as Christians, they use a completely different dictionary, hence the subtlety of the deception. Here's Dr. James White, author of the books "Is the Mormon my brother?" and "Letters to a Mormon Elder" with a 13 minute video on the subject:

January 03, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Responding to Common Objections to Calvinism

2 Timothy 2:24-26 says, "And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will."

Traditions - everyone has them and those most enslaved by them are those who don't think they have any. On this 20 minute video, Dr. James White responds to a number of questions from a gentleman who goes as far as to say that Calvinists are not even Christians. The false assumptions contained in the questions are abundantly clear to anyone who is in any way familiar with the issues. Some would say that the rhetoric in the questions would not be worthy of a response, but showing patience when seeking to provide answers may help a number of people who watch the video.

December 31, 2008  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Christ loved the Church and gave himelf up for her

(From the sermon - For Whom Did Jesus Taste Death? by John Piper)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. - Ephesians 5:25-27

"There is a precious and unfathomable covenant love between Christ and His Bride, that moved Him to die for her. The death of Jesus is for the bride of Christ in a different way than it is for those who perish. Here's the problem with saying Christ died for all the same way he died for his bride. If Christ died for the sins of those who are finally lost, the same way he died for the sins of those who are finally saved, then what are the lost being punished for? Were their sins covered and canceled by the blood of Jesus or not? We Christians say, "Christ died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3). And we mean that his death paid the debt those sins created. His death removed the wrath of God from me. His death lifted the curse of the law from me. His death purchased heaven for me. It really accomplished those things!"

"But what would it mean to say of an unbeliever in hell that Christ died for his sins? Would we mean that the debt for his sins was paid? If so, why is he paying again in hell? Would we mean that the wrath of God was removed? If so, why is the wrath of God being poured out on him in punishment for sins? Would we mean that the curse of the law was lifted? If so, why is he bearing his curse in the lake of fire?"

"One possible answer is this: one might say that the only reason people go to hell is because of the sin of rejecting Jesus, not because of all the other sins of their life. But that is not true. The Bible teaches that the wrath of God is coming on the world, not just because of its rejection of Jesus, but because of its many sins that are not forgiven. For example, in Colossians 3:5-6, Paul refers to "immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed," and then says, "On account of these things the wrath of God will come." So people who reject Jesus really will be punished for their specific sins, not just for rejecting Jesus."

"So, we go back to the problem: in what sense did Christ taste death for their sins? If they are still guilty for their sins and still suffer punishment for their sins, what happened on the cross for their sins? Perhaps someone would use an analogy. You might say, Christ purchased their ticket to heaven, and offered it to them freely, but they refused to take it, and that is why they went to hell. And you would be partly right: Christ does offer his forgiveness freely to all, and any who receives it as the treasure it is will be saved by the death of Jesus. But the problem with the analogy is that the purchase of the ticket to heaven is, in reality, the canceling of sins. But what we have seen is that those who refuse the ticket are punished for their sins, not just for refusing the ticket. And so what meaning does it have to say that their sins were canceled? Their sins are going to bring them to destruction and keep them from heaven; so their sins were not really canceled in the cross, and therefore the ticket was not purchased."

"The ticket for heaven which Jesus obtained for me by his blood is the wiping out of all my sins, covering them, bearing them in his own body, so that they can never bring me to ruin can never be brought up against me again - never! That's what happened when he died for me. Hebrews 10:14 says, "By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified." Perfected before God for all time, by the offering of his life! That's what it means that he died for me. Hebrews 9:28 says, "Christ also, [was] offered once to bear the sins of many." He bore my sins. He really bore them (See Isaiah 53:4-6). He really suffered for them. They cannot and they will not fall on my head in judgment."

"If you say to me then, that at the cross Christ only accomplished for me what he accomplished for those who will suffer hell for their sins, then you strip the death of Jesus of its actual effective accomplishment on my behalf, and leave me with what? An atonement that has lost its precious assuring power that my sins were really covered and the curse was really lifted and the wrath of God was really removed. That's a high price to pay in order to say that Christ tasted death for everyone in the same way."

December 30, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Why read Calvin's Institutes in 2009?

Dr. Ligon Duncan gives 10 reasons here. An eleventh reason is that the folk at www.reformation21org/blog/ - starting in January, will be blogging their way through what many believe to be the most important book of the last 500 years.

December 18, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

More on 1 Timothy 2:4

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, (2) for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (3) This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, (4) who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (5) For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (6) who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (7) For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle ( I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. ” - 1Tim 2:1-7

In addition to the youtube video posted immediately below this article, further discussion of this text and the verses that surround it by Alan Kurschner (including interaction with John Piper's comments on the text) can be found here.

December 10, 2008  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Upon what basis does God know the future?

All orthodox Christians affirm the fact that God has exhaustive knowledge of the future. However, many Christians have not thought through the issue as to how He knows future events.

Does God, from His vantage point merely passively observe the events of time (and the "free-will" acts of His creatures), taking in the data He sees? Or does God decree all the events of time so that they work to serve His purpose - a purpose ordained before any event in time ever occurred (what we call an "eternal decree")? Is God merely a cosmic spectator as He observes the events of time, or does He ordain whatever comes to pass as One who "works all things according to the counsel of His will"? (Eph. 1:11)

In this youtube video below you will find a very interesting interchange between Dr. James White and a gentleman named John calling in to the Dividing Line program. Starting off with 1 Timothy 2:4 and God's desire for the salvation of "all men" (and exactly what this might mean), the conversation develops into a rigorous (yet friendly) discussion about God's Sovereignty. (approximately 25 minutes)


December 10, 2008  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

When healing does not come...

"He forgives all ours sins and heals all our diseases." Psalm 103:3

I will let you in on a secret. I was nurtured in the faith at a church that believed it was always God's best purpose to heal. If healing did not occur, it was believed that the person in need or the one praying for them was not tapping into the power of God that was available - there was a "short-circuit" of God power in some way. Even Jesus could do no major miracles in Nazareth "because of their unbelief" it was claimed. How I inwardly wince even saying this and admitting to this now!

In an earlier part of my ministry, though I had compassion on sick people and often saw precious people healed by the Lord's power, (I have seen the Lord do some amazing things through the years), I still carried this unscriptural baggage with me into my ministry, and I feel sure I was not able to help certain people. Actually, its a lot worse that that because there were some under my pastoral care with terminal illnesses who although were given much encouragement to receive healing from the Lord, they were in no way prepared to meet their Lord if healing did not occur. I did not talk to them about the possibility of death and preparing themselves and their family for it. Why should I? My belief system did not allow for it. I believed that to talk about death would be a lack of faith that God was going to heal. I was walking in the light of what I knew, but what I knew was either not enough, or worse, a denial of God's sovereignty. I have asked God for forgiveness for this, and believe He has graciously done so, and trust that in His mercy He will protect His precious sheep. "Oh God, protect your lambs, even from the falsehoods that came from my lips!"

Of course, now I understand that I was believing an over-realised eschatology. Jesus, at the cross certainly did purchase salvation for every aspect of man, including his body, but ultimately He is Lord over exactly when the healing takes place. Healing can take place here on the earth, and often does, but if not, our resurection bodies will not be subject to sickness and disease. Our bodies will not be subject to the effects of the Fall, the curse will be forever removed. There will be no more pain - the former things will have passed away. Thank God! This is a blessing that was provided by Jesus and His redemptive work for us at the cross and it is a wonderful future certainty that heaven will not be full of sick people. There will be no need for wheelchairs, eye glasses, pace-makers, heart bypass surgery, breathing machines, radiation therapy or health insurance. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

I recently came across a very helpful article on the subject of healing by Dr. Sam Storms. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Storms for the first time in Tucson, Arizona during the summer. He is a wonderful brother and I encourage you to read his very balanced and concise overview concerning why healing sometimes does not occur (below). If you are interested in more teaching along this line, I would point you to an article concerning Mark 11:23 and what it actually teaches, found here. God bless. - John Samson

Why God Doesn't Always Heal (2 Corinthians 12:8-10) by Dr. Sam Storms

God loved the apostle Paul. Yet God sovereignly orchestrated his painful thorn in the flesh and then declined to remove it, notwithstanding Paul's passionate prayer that he be healed.

We are not apostles. Yet, as his children, no less so than Paul, God loves us too. We don't know the nature of Paul's thorn, but each of us has undoubtedly suffered in a similar way, and some considerably worse. We, like Paul, have prayed incessantly to be healed. Or perhaps knowing of a loved one's "thorn" we have prayed for them. And again, like Paul, God declined to remove it. Why?

Continue reading "When healing does not come..." »

December 08, 2008  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Ten Differences Between the Reformation and Rome

This article by Guy Davies appeared in the September/October issue of Protestant Truth. Guy is Joint-Pastor of Penknap Providence Church and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Wiltshire, England.

1. The Roman Catholic Church believes that its traditions and teaching are as authoritative as Scripture. The Reformed value tradition, but accept the Bible alone as their authority, and sole rule of faith and practice.

2. The Roman Catholic Church believes that the Pope, as successor of Peter and Bishop of Rome, is head of the visible Church. The Reformed believe that Christ alone is head of the Church and that no man may claim universal primacy over the people of God.

3. The Roman Catholic Church believes that the Bible cannot be properly understood apart from the official interpretation of Rome (the Magisterium). The Reformed believe that Christians have a responsibility to judge the truth of all teaching by the extent of its conformity to the teaching of the Bible as it has been commonly accepted with the help of responsible exegesis and the witness of the Spirit.

4. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that we are justified by baptism and that justification must be supplemented and improved by works. The Reformed hold that the Bible teaches that justification is God's declaration that a sinner is righteous in his sight, on the basis of faith in the finished work of Christ, apart from works. We are justified by faith alone. Baptism does not effect justification; it is the sign of it, as well as of the believer’s cleansing from sin and reception of new life in Christ.

5. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Lord's Supper is a re-offering of the sacrifice of Christ and that the bread and wine are actually changed into the body and blood of the Saviour. The Reformed hold that that in Scripture the Lord's Supper is a fellowship meal that is to be kept by believers in remembrance of the finished work of Christ. The bread and wine are significant symbols to believers of Christ's body and blood. At the Lord's Supper, they enjoy communion with the risen Christ, who is present at the Table by his Spirit.

Continue reading "Ten Differences Between the Reformation and Rome" »

December 04, 2008  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

Former Synergist Embraces Calvinism

This weekend I received the following encouraging email from a visitor which he has graciously allowed me to share with you

------------------

John,

I have always thought Calvinism was wrong, I could not see how it could make sense!

I have just read:
What Do Arminianism and Hyper-Calvinism Share in Common?
by John W. Hendryx

and
Is it God's Desire for All Men to Be Saved? by John Hendryx

I must repent in dust and ashes!!!

This FINALLY makes sense to me.

Thank You John.

Now I might have to find a reformed church, do you know any in southern Connecticut.

Peace
Rick

December 01, 2008  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

John 3:16 - "all the believing ones..."

The original text of the New Testament in John 3:16, the Greek phrase πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων (transliterated into English as Pas Ho Pisteuwn), means "all the believing ones" or "everyone believing," NOT "Every Single Person Can Believe."

Dr. Jerry Vines recently preached on John 3:16 at his own conference on the same topic. At one point in his message it seems he attempted to respond to the common objection to his views by asserting that pas ho pisteuwn means more than "everyone believing." Here is an examination and response from Dr. James White.

December 01, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

God has preserved His word

1 Peter 3:15 "but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.."

Does the figure of approximately 400,000 textual variants in the New Testament bother you? (that works out to be around 3 variants per word!) In the light of this seemingly staggering number, how do you defend your faith in the inspiration and accurate transmission of the word of God? Can you do it? Can you defend your faith or will you be unprepared and embarassed when the mockers and sceptics quote this figure? And if you are a shepherd of God's people, are you preparing the sheep under your care so that they are not open prey to the savage wolves seeking to devour them?

Actually the figure of 400,000 is VERY misleading, but unless a person knows some of the background issues involved in this field, they can be caught completely off guard by this in a conversation.

Just below you will find a very informative hour long youtube presentation by Dr. James White on the subject of the reliability of the New Testament (in the light of textual variants). This may at one time have been something only scholars needed to be familiar with, but this is no longer the case. Now that the critics have such a voice in our day, each of us as Bible believing Christians need to know something about this matter so that we can defend our faith in Holy Scripture. - John Samson

TEXTUAL VARIANTS AND THE RELIABILITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT with Dr. James White www.aomin.org

November 26, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Justification by Faith Alone (John Piper Interview)

Found on the internet here - John Piper interviewed by Mike Reeves in a 25 minute interview from the United Kingdom regarding the clarity and urgency of the doctrine of sola fide (justification by faith alone).

November 26, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

John's Letter to Timothy

... No, not that "John" or that "Timothy" - just an e-mail interchange between myself (John Samson) and a gentleman by the name of Timothy. I thought that perhaps this could be helpful to others who are seeking to understand the doctrines of grace and why we believe them to be biblical. My comments are in bold so that you can follow along and see which one of us is writing.

Timothy writes: John, Thank you for your response. It is rare these days to find a forum where people are actually willing to discuss these issues in a meaningful way.

My pleasure Timothy.

Could I raise a couple of further points? 1.) How would a calvinist approach praying for someone's salvation? Surely the big question to be resolved before doing so is: "is this person predestined to be saved". Of not, prayer, etc is a waste of time, surely? Isn't one always left wondering whether their witnessing / prayer is not in vain? Can one expect the Lord to reveal to us whom He has chosen so we don't waste our time (I think not)?

Continue reading "John's Letter to Timothy" »

November 21, 2008  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Mosaic Covenant: Works or Grace?

A Repetition of the Law of the Covenant of Works: “…in the ministry of Moses, there was a repetition of the doctrine concerning the law of the covenant of works.” The Mosaic Covenant, then, seems to be a sort of republication of the covenant of works. Of course it is not identical to the prelapsarian covenant, but there is that condition “by which formula, the righteousness, which is of the law, is described, Rom. x. 5. And the terror of the covenant of works is increased by repeated comminations; and that voice heard, ‘cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them,’ Deut. xxvii. 26… as the requirement of obedience was rigid under the ministry of Moses, the promises of spiritual and saving grace were more rare and obscure, the measure of the Spirit granted to the Israelites, scanty and short, Deut. xxix. 4. and on the contrary, the denunciation of the curse frequent and express; hence the ministry of Moses is called, ‘the ministration of death and condemnation,’ 2 Cor. iii. 7,9. doubtless because it mentioned the condemnation of the sinner, and obliged the Israelites to subscribe to it.”

Continue reading "The Mosaic Covenant: Works or Grace?" »

November 12, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Are Arminians Saved?

Question: If we are saved by grace alone (and we are) how can anyone be saved if they believe that you can lose your salvation? If one believes they can lose their salvation does not that faith then become a work, rather than a gift of God? If someone believes they can lose their salvation, do they really believe that it is the finished work of Christ, and not the "work" of faith, that saves them? If someone believes that they can lose their salvation, would it be true that their faith is no longer a free gift from God, but something the sinner needs to muster up daily to keep their salvation? So here is the hard question. In this matter, can we be saved in spite bad theology? If someone truly held to the five points of Arminianism, could they have "real" saving faith? Can you have real saving faith without understanding Grace Alone?

To Read Our Answer Click Here

November 04, 2008  |  Comments (17)   |  Permalink

Regeneration v. The Idolatry of Decisional "Evangelism" by Paul Washer

HT: Lanes' Blog

October 24, 2008  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Those Arminian texts?

"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." - John 12:32

I have not always been reformed in my thinking as a Christian. I remember well the long arduous transitional time when I came to understand the biblical teaching on the doctrines of grace. Slowly but surely and in all honesty, often with great reluctance, I began to reassess certain texts that seemed to teach Arminian doctrine. I had believed certain traditions for decades. It was a painful process at times to admit that many things I held dear to my heart could not be confirmed by serious study. Some of these things were just assumed - some things were obvious (I thought) and do not need study, simply because it was obvious these things were true. This is the very hallmark of tradition of course.

What happened? Well, after taking the time to look at well known verses in their biblical context, my traditions were revealed, unmasked before me. To say this was surprising would be a huge understatement. I had no idea that as a direct result of this study process, I would need to forsake certain traditions to remain intellectually honest regarding what scripture actually taught. Traditions are such very powerful things.

I remember the whole process well. I was convinced that there were verses in the Bible that taught reformed theology, but there seemed to be those "Arminian texts" that, for the life of me, I could not dismiss lightly. At least that was what I thought. As I looked at the scriptures, I would sometimes throw up my hands in frustration, believing it was impossible to reconcile all that the Bible taught in this area. I still believed the Bible was the inspired word of God and was convinced that one day we would all see things the right way (perhaps only in heaven), but I continued to wrestle with the scriptures, seeking to come to an understanding of their true meaning. On some issues, this remains the case. All of us see through a glass darkly on some issues (1 Cor. 13), but I have to say that now, years on, some things have become unmistakably clear.

I now believe that there are absolutely no "Arminian texts" in the Bible. To some people this may seem like a very obvious statement. To others, these will be shocking words and very hard to believe. I think many people feel that there are verses on both sides of the issue that are in conflict with each other and impossible to reconcile.

Of course, God is not confused on these things, even if we are. Though some things remain very mysterious, I also believe God has made His truth clear. The secret things belong to the Lord our God and the things revealed belong to us (Deut. 29:29). But is the doctrine of election and predestination one of these secret things? I suggest not, simply because God Himself has revealed so much about the issue in scripture.

In light of this, I would like to present the following short article regarding two scriptures I struggled with for some time and relate to the issue of whether God draws all men to Christ. I hope it is helpful to some who may be struggling with the issues of election and predestination. My advice is to "struggle on" for far too many Christians do not struggle enough. - John Samson

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

Continue reading "Those Arminian texts?" »

October 15, 2008  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Free Will in Philemon 1:14

Visitor Question:Hey John - my name is Paul - and I am a regular visitor of your websites - Monergism and Reformationtheology. I love your articles on regeneration - and I appreciate your ministry very much. Thank you for your faithfulness to truth. I do have a question though - about the ESV.

In Philemon 1:14 the translators wrote: "I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will."

For one who holds to Reformation Theology - how does one respond to this passage? If I encourage people to use the ESV, and yet affirm Reformation Theology - what do I say to those who read this passage, and come back to me with their questions? Do you think that this passage was traslated faithfully? If so - how do I explain myself?

Thank you for your time, Paul

-------------------
Hi Paul -- Thank you for your inquiry of the usage of "free will" in Philemon 1:14. First of all, it is important to remember that believers have been set free from the bondage to sin. Total Depravity is the condition of the unregenerate person. When Christ sets us free from the the bondage to sin in regeneration we freely (i.e. voluntarily") choose to folllow Christ because we have a new heart which desires to do so. It is because God has done a work of grace in us, turing our heart of stone to a heart of flesh that we gladly exercise our will to believe the gospel.

When non-Reformed people use the terms "free will' it is always good to define terms by asking, "Free from what?" Free from sin? Free from God's eternal decree? No. Of course not. Rather, what many of these persons mean by the phrase "free will" is that mankind is free from external coersion. On this we can all agree with other Christians. But just because we are free from coercion does not mean that we are free from other things such as sin. Consider the statement: we are free from coercion but not free of necessity. What do I mean by this? I mean we are free from anyone forcing (coercing) to make choices from the outside but not free of the corruption of our natures. By necessity does an unregenerate person feel hostile toward Christ. Apart form the work of the Holy Spirit people will always reject Christ and they cannot do otherwise. The Scripture says in no uncertain terms that "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit." But with the Holy Spirit giving me a new heart, my will is free from such bondage.

For this passage in particular, consider who the passage was written to in context?

"I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord." - Philemon 1:13-16
The passage is obviously spoken to a believer about making good choices. This just means 'voluntarily' and since it is directed toward believers who are already free from sins' bondage, of course they can 'freely' or voluntarily chose to do right. All people who already have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are free from the corruption of nature - so in Biblical terms (see Rom 6) they have already been set free. Freedom in the Bible is not defined as the freedom to do otherwise, but freedom from bondage to sin. God is the most free since He cannot sin. So in conclusion, this passage in Philemon is not referring to the innate spiritual ability of unregenerate persons, but of regenerate ones. Hope this helps John H.

Note: The newest version of the ESV has updated its translation of verse 14 as follows: "but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord."

October 13, 2008  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

If Divine Election is True then What Need is There to Preach the Gospel?

Visitor:

If your position is [on divine election] correct, then why the Great Commission "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" Matthew 28:19 and "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" Romans 10:9. These are just a few of the numerous verses that point to our responsibility. Does God call us to evangelism and discipleship as a practical joke? If already predestined, then what's the point? Free will exists because God allows it. God is in control and knows our every move, but the responsibility for belief and sin falls squarely on our shoulders. Without choice, it is impossible for love to exist.

Since a Calvinist believes salvation is wholly God's work without any partnership with man, he or she approaches evangelism nonaggressively. Calvinism teaches there is nothing whatsoever a person can do to become saved—we can't "decide for Christ" or "receive Christ" enabling a person to "become a Christian." To do this would give man a part in salvation. Calvinists believe salvation is from God and God alone. To make salvation hinge on an individual's "accepting Christ" or "receiving Christ" makes salvation partially a human endeavor. A true Calvinist believes that nothing whatsoever a person does or is contributes anything at all to salvation. Salvation is God's work alone and we play no part in it—not even receiving salvation counts.

Response: Well, first of all, the doctrine of predestination does not save anyone, Christ does. Furthermore, according to Calvinism, and more importantly, according to the Bible, a person must put their faith in Jesus Christ if they are to be saved.

I believe you may be confusing the concepts of justification with regeneration. All Calvinists have historically believed that it is vital that the gospel must be preached and received in order for a person to be saved. The Reformers called this the ministry of Word and Spirit. No one will ever be justified (or made right with God) without receiving Christ ... that is why I have personally been a committed missionary for 10 years.

The issue comes down to this: is anyone naturally willing to accept the humbling terms of the gospel (1 Cor 2:14; Rom 3:11, 12, 8;7). Any true gospel preaching is done "with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven" (1 Peter 1:12). Otherwise it comes to men only in word, with no saving effect at all. The Apostle Paul, when speaking to the elect at the church of the Thessalonians said, "for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Where the Holy Spirit is active, convicting men of sin, righteousness and judgment, the gospel is spoken with power. Illumination and regeneration alone can open the eyes of our spiritual understanding and raise us from spiritual death so that we might have a new desire and thus take heed to the gospel when preached. In other words, the word of God does not work "ex opere operato," (automatically) rather, it is the work of the Holy Spirit sovereignly dispensing grace (John 3:8), quickening the heart THROUGH THE WORD to bring forth life. So the written word is not the material of the spiritual new birth, but rather its means or medium. "The word is not the begetting principle itself, but only that by which it works: the vehicle of the mysterious germinating power". It is because the Spirit of God accompanies it that the word carries in it the germ of life. The life is in God, yet it is communicated to us through the word.

In light of this, consider: If man had a free will, as you claim, he would have no need of the Holy Spirit. He could simply come to Christ in his own natural powers. But all Christians acknowledge that no one can say Jesus is Lord apart from the Spirit. And as soon as any Christian admits that he cannot come to Christ apart from the Holy Spirit, he implicitly acknowledges that man has no free will, but that all are in bonage to the corruption of nature.

Continue reading "If Divine Election is True then What Need is There to Preach the Gospel?" »

October 06, 2008  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Regeneration: The Key to Believing the Truth

When Adam fell, the human race became, not stupid so that the truth was hard to understand, but inimical, to the acceptance of the truth. Men did not like to retain God in their knowledge and changed the truth of God into a lie, for the carnal mind is enmity against God. Hence the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, for the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned. In order to accept the Gospel, therefore, it is necessary to be born again. The abnormal, depraved intellect must be remade by the Holy Spirit; the enemy must be made a friend. This is the work of regeneration, and the heart of stone can be taken away and a heart of flesh can be given only by God himself. Resurrecting the man who is dead in sin and giving him a new life, far from being a human achievement, requires nothing less then almighty power.

It is therefore impossible by argument or preaching alone to cause anyone to believe the Bible. Only God can cause such belief. At the same time, this does not mean that argument is useless. Peter tells us, “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” This was the constant practice of the apostles. Stephen disputed with the Libertines; the Jerusalem council disputed; in Ephesus Paul disputed three months in the synagogue and then continued disputing in the school of Tyrannus. (Acts 6:9; 15:7; 19:8,9: compare Acts 17:2; 18:4, 19; 24:25). Anyone who is unwilling to argue, dispute, and reason is disloyal to his Christian duty.

Continue reading "Regeneration: The Key to Believing the Truth" »

September 25, 2008  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Very Dogmatic?

Here's an e-mail I received today concerning the dogmatic beliefs of reformed people. I provided a brief response and hopefully it will be edifying for others to read.. lets all renounce pride in any form, for it is both very ugly and very subtle, yet at the same time, let us humble ourselves before God's holy word and the truth He has made clear. (My response is in bold) - John Samson

My son and I go back and forth about reformed doctrine all the time. I try to gleen from both thoughts. The Reformed doctrine is very dogmatic and leaves no room for,"we could be wrong".

Well both sides cannot be right as they teach mutually exclusive things.. I was once on the other side, so to speak - and while pride and arrogance lurks all around and sadly can often pervade our hearts, where God has made His truth clear, it is not humility to deny this. I believe scripture is clear that human will is not the ultimate cause of our election but God's mercy (Romans 9:16).

The truth is we are all living in error. There is none righteous, no not one.

Of course.. but that does not mean we cannot be sure of some things when God has clearly revealed it. I recently wrote an article in which I stated, "It is considered the height of arrogance and pride to say “I know the truth” 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 “you have your truth, I have mine – and what is true for you may not be true for me, but I certainly respect your truth…” But there’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.""

What if you as a reformed believer get to the Gates of Heaven after serving God all your life, and the Lord says,"sorry your name is not in the Lambs book of life, you are not one of the elect".

Continue reading "Very Dogmatic?" »

September 24, 2008  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

"You Are From Below, I Am From Above"

From his blog at www.aomin.org Dr. James White writes:

I was reading John chapter 8 when I encountered these familiar words from Jesus' encounter with the Jews, "And He was saying to them, 'You are from below. I am from above. You are of (from) this world. I am not of (from) this world" (καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς· ὑμεῖς ἐκ τῶν κάτω ἐστέ, ἐγὼ ἐκ τῶν ἄνω εἰμί· ὑμεῖς ἐκ τούτου τοῦ κόσμου ἐστέ, ἐγὼ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου. John 8:23). I was struck once again by a theme I have pointed to many times in my preaching. We are so often used to hearing Jesus speak in the context of His divinity that we often do not "hear" how very strange His words would have sounded in their original context. We know Jesus is the Incarnate Lord, the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, and so these kinds of words do not amaze us. But we must put ourselves in the context of the Jews standing in the gazofulakion, the treasury room of the Temple. And I think what caused me to especially focus upon this text at this time is my upcoming debates with Muslims.

If you can, put yourself in the original context, and "hear" Jesus speaking. What do you hear? What strikes you? Is there not a clear, strong differentiation between the Lord's view of Himself, His self-understanding, and that of everyone around Him? Are these the words of a man who sees Himself as "one of us" in the sense of origination? Surely not. The "below/above" and "this world/not this world" couplets are meant to communicate Jesus' divine origin very strongly. Jesus is not merely saying, "I am in harmony with God, and hence have a heavenly connection, one that you could have as well, if you only chose to do so." He is not saying, "I am a prophet like many before me." No, He is about to say (v. 24) that His opponents will die in their sins: "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins, for unless you believe that ego eimi, (ἐγώ εἰμι) I am, you will die in your sins." One's eternal destiny, even one's forgiveness of sins, is tied to faith in Christ, and more to the point, faith in what He reveals about Himself. The "I am" saying here (note v. 28, 58, 13:19, 18:5-6) aside from going directly to Yahweh's self-identification in such texts as Isaiah 43:10, flows naturally from the assertion to be "from above" and to be "not of this world."

Isn't it just here that the enemy has been so insistent upon attacking the once-for-all-delivered-to-the-saints-faith? The list of falsehoods concerning the person of Christ propounded down through history (let alone today) is long indeed, but all the heresies of the past and present share this one consistency: they refuse to allow the Scriptures to speak fully in defining Him. The Jews rejected His self-identification in this text as well (8:58-59), and they are followed by the entire Muslim world today. The "Islamic Jesus," though a virgin born worker of miracles, is not divine, but is a "mere rasul, a mere prophet." But what "mere rasul" (إِلَّا رَسُولٌ) speaks to his fellow creatures and says "you are from below, I am from above"? What mere prophet has this kind of self-awareness? Obviously, no sinner can say the words Jesus said, and, of course, this is exactly why Muslims reject the testimony of John, for they, like the Jews of Jesus' day, have a particular traditional understanding of who Jesus can, and cannot, be.

If today you embrace faith in Christ, obey Him as your Lord, love Him as your Savior, and rejoice in the fact that He is the God-Man, let your heart be filled with thanksgiving that He, by His Spirit, has opened your heart to see the very "Lord of Glory" (1 Cor. 2:8).

August 15, 2008  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Dr. Norman Geisler's "Parable of the Farmer" - Refuted

Some years ago I read Dr. Norman Geisler's book "Chosen but Free" and followed it up with Dr. James' White's response in a book called "The Potter's Freedom." It became clear to me that one side wanted to exegete the texts of Scripture in detail, giving them the necessary respect, and quite honestly, one side seemingly did not. This whole process brought me from semi-confusion on some of these issues to becoming a convinced 5 point Calvinist. I am aware of others who have taken the very same journey as myself through reading the two books mentioned above. Even though James has Scottish blood running in his veins and I have Welsh and Irish (and grew up in England), in the course of time, Dr. White became a good friend of mine, and I am very grateful for the very positive impact he has, and continues to have in my life and ministry.

The reason I say all this is because it was fascinating for me today to watch a 28 minute video by Dr. White on youtube, responding once again to Dr. Geisler's "Parable of the Farmer." On this video you will hear Dr. Geisler in his own words, as well as Dr. White's response.

Continue reading "Dr. Norman Geisler's "Parable of the Farmer" - Refuted" »

July 30, 2008  |  Comments (10)   |  Permalink

Theology Matters - A Vital Teaching Series for the Church

Just this last week, Dr. James White was teaching a series of messages at a Church in the Houston area on a number of vital themes for our day, defending the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture, the Trinity, justification by faith alone and the doctrines of grace (responding to a recent sermon against Calvinism).

The series is now put together in a format that runs one message immediately after the other, but it is possible to go to any message in the series and begin watching. I have just finished watching the entire four part series and have been very blessed and encouraged, and commmend this series to you (available below). - John Samson

July 19, 2008  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Heavenly Trips

Someone wrote to me this week asking me for my take on the Christians who claim to have taken trips to heaven and have come back to tell of the experience. Here is my response...

Hi .... , (name withheld)

Thanks for your question. Although I cannot find a scripture that specifically addresses the issue of whether or not people can take trips to heaven in their lifetime (in our day) I certainly see no scriptural basis for a desire for it. We are never told to desire a trip to heaven, except when we go to be with the Lord or He comes for us.

Though I would hesitate to make a complete blanket statement to say that God cannot do such a thing with a believer today, I am very much alarmed at the casual nature in which these experiences are usually refered to.... I have heard the experience spoken of in just the same way as you or I would of a trip to Walmart.. the awe of God and of the heavenly realms is very noticeably absent. Contrast this with the biblical descriptions of people who went to heaven or at least were allowed to see it.. Isaiah was "undone" (Isaiah 6) and the Apostle John fell at the feet of an angel and had to be told to get up and worship only Christ (Rev. 19:10). The inspiring awe John felt is very obvious.. So the question of "awe" is one I would raise..

Also I would simply ask each individual who has claimed such an experience... Ok.. what happened? What exactly did you see? What exactly were you told? Why do you think God gave you this experience? How is your life different as a result? and.. are you willing to have this experience tested by the scripture?

Then....

Continue reading "Heavenly Trips" »

July 13, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Calvinism and Evangelism

I recently received an e-mail from a gentleman by the name of Abel who seemed to have severe mis-givings about Calvinism, especially regarding its practical ramifications in evangelism. I will not quote the entire e-mail discussion but I thought others might be interested in reading some of the exchange. It is cordial and friendly, even if we strongly disagree. My response to Abel is in bold so that it is more easy on the eye... - John Samson

Abel writes.... The purpose ... is to get directly to the practical applications of the doctrine of election as it is widely taught, and to illustrate how it determines what we really believe about the Bible and how we witness to the lost. This is an area most Calvinists rarely, if ever, discuss or even recognize.

I am not sure I would agree with this.. Ligonier ministries just had its National Conference on the theme of "Evangelism according to Jesus."

For example, did Jesus die for all mankind? This is a simple question that deserves a simple answer. This is what a lost person wants to know.

Sir, why do you start with a statement never made in scripture and hold it up as the standard for what is to be done in evangelism? Why is it so hard to just use biblical expressions rather than man made ones? The apostles certainly never used this phrase. Just because you do and many others do, does not make it a biblical expression.

They don't want some long -winded, drawn out explanation of how the Bible really doesn't mean what it says on the surface and that you really need to dig much, much deeper to get to the ‘hidden' information only the most skilled and educated can decipher. They want a simple yes or no.

:-))) Of course all want this... and many things in scripture are extremely clear and plain, but as the Apostle Peter noted about Paul's writings, some things are "hard to understand".

"just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction." - 2 Peter 3:15-16

Unstable and untaught people still distort the scriptures in our own day which is why we are called to study dilligently to show ourselves approved by God.

Continue reading "Calvinism and Evangelism" »

July 03, 2008  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Mark Dever on Doctrinal Discernment and the Gospel

June 10, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Covenant of Works by Wayne Grudem

Some have questioned whether it is appropriate to speak of a covenant of works that God had with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The actual word covenant is not used in the Genesis narratives. However, the essential parts of the covenant are all there—a clear definition of the parties involved, a legally binding set of provisions that stipulates the conditions of their relationship, the promise of blessings for obedience, and the condition for obtaining those blessings. Moreover, Hosea 6:7, in referring to the sins of Israel, says, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant”

Continue reading "The Covenant of Works by Wayne Grudem" »

June 06, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Some Helpful Links 06-05-08

Adversity by Terry johnson - This is an outstanding chapter from the book, When Grace Comes Home by Terry L. Johnson. Ephhasizes the practical implications of the doctrines of grace ... how an understanding of God's sovereign, effectual mercy in Christ towards sinners like us, can change lives in very practical ways.

Outlines of Theology by A.A. Hodge Now online! In reviewing A. A. Hodge's Outlines in Theology (1878) C.H. Spurgeon once stated: "We commend the Outlines of Theology to all who would be well instructed in the faith. It is the standard text-book of our college. We differ from its teachings upon baptism, but in almost everything else we endorse Hodge to the letter." [my emphasis] In agreement with Spurgeon's enthusiasm, we believe this book should be on every persons shelf. Outlines of Theology also available in print.

June 05, 2008  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

"WHOSOEVER"

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?

Response:
"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)

Continue reading ""WHOSOEVER"" »

May 16, 2008  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Comments on Two Cheers for the New Calvinism

Yesterday Justin Taylor posted an interesting guest spot on the “New Calvinism” by a Wesleyan-Arminian professor at Trinity Evangelical entitled "Two Cheers for the Resurgence of Calvinism in Evangelicalism: A Wesleyan-Arminian Perspective.” The first part was what the author saw as positive elements of the new Calvinism and the second part some criticisms of it. Both positive and negative are interesting and should be heeded but he makes one statement which is not entirely accurate that I felt worth mentioning. He said:

"But it seems quite obvious to me that there indeed is a central dogma to the New Calvinism: belief that God determines everything, and that he does so for his own glory, is taken to be necessary and sufficient."

While it is true that Calvinists affirm the meticulous sovereignty of God over all things and consider this to be of highly critical importance, yet if there is something else which is even more substantial and central than this to their dogma, it is that Christ is all in all. History and creation revolve around Him. Calvinists, in other words, have a Christocentric view of all things.

How is this a distinctive you ask?

The Father says, "This is my Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him." The Spirit has come to remind us of all that Jesus has done, to take from Him and give to us and ultimately to bring Christ, not Himself, glory. All are to honor the Son as they honor the Father. We preach Christ and Him crucified because it is He and He alone who is our hope. All that we have is from His hands…all spiritual benefits find their source in Him. In fact, what good things do we have that we did not receive from Christ? As this distinctive regards salvation, consider, what makes someone differ from another? Does Christ ALONE make you to differ from your neighbor, or is it Christ plus something else, such as your "good will" that generates a right thought? Is God's requirement of us, including the command to believe the gospel, something we have the power to do, or is it grace itself in Christ that we even have the desire, understading and faith to believe? It is only the gift of grace we have in Christ itself that we are obedient and humble. Humility is not something that springs from our unregenerate human nature. Only Christ can change that. It is only by grace alone in Christ alone that we have life, this is THE central difference between biblical Calvinism and all other synergistic forms of Christianity.

We believe that all erroneous and inconsistent views of the Bible come from not seeing the truth of Christ as the center of Scripture. See this essay for examples of some of these errors. Hopefully this will clear up exactly what Mccall gets wrong and what turns a lot of people off, the idea that God is sovereign is not the center of calvinism ... it's central but not THE center.

John Hendryx

April 30, 2008  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Where is Your Theology of the Resurrection?

Recently I have been pondering the question: why in traditional theological circles is there such a lack of emphasis on the theology of the resurrection yet so much stress on Christ's death? Not to de-emphasize his atoning death but this oversight is especialy curious in light of the fact that in the New Testament there appears to be a great importance placed on the resurrection, at least, it seems, equal in emphasis to Christ's death, but we don't talk about or theologize about it much ... why? I have to ask because the implications of Christ's resurrection is a critical part of Christ's redemptive work in and for us.

In light of the resurrection of Christ, 1 Corinthians 15 speaks of our present victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of the work of Christ in his resurrection Paul is able to say in verse 58, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." As we participate in his resurrection now and are seated with him at God's right hand, where He reigns over all his enemies, including the world, the flesh, the devil and death, then, in light of this, this should somehow translate to our living in the world now.

Continue reading "Where is Your Theology of the Resurrection?" »

April 24, 2008  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

No Time for Seminary?

Beginning Theology Curriculum for laypersons wanting to learn theology but don't have time for Seminary. This Theology at home bundle is a great place to start

1) Westminster Confession of Faith
2) A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson
3) The Ten Commandments by Thomas Watson
4) The Lord's Prayer (paperback) by Thomas Watson
5) Outlines of Theology by A. A. Hodge
6) An Old Testament Theology by Bruce K. Waltke

Read the books listed above in the following order: 1) Westminster Confession of Faith: a) the Shorter Catechism; b) the Larger Catechism; c) the Confession; 2) A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson; 3) The Ten Commandments by Thomas Watson; 4) The Lord's Prayer by Thomas Watson; 5) Outlines of Theology by A. A. Hodge; & 6) An Old Testament Theology by Bruce K. Waltke.

Theology at home bundle

For supplemental historical studies we also recommend 2000 YEARS OF CHRIST'S POWER 3 Volume set by N.R. Needham

April 21, 2008  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Christ-Centered Nature of the Doctrines of Grace

chiasm.gif
The TULIP can only be made sense of when we consider Christ and His work at its core ... the core from which all redemptive benefits spring. Four-point Calvinism (which rejects the "L") falls short since it inconsistently views whether or not Christ is the center and cause of all grace or redemptive blessings. It tends, rather, to see the TULIP as an abstraction. Here's why: Consider the TULIP as a chiasm with the "L" at the top of the pyramid. It is Jesus Christ which makes sense of all the doctrines of grace. Four-point Calvinists who reject Limited Atonement but embrace irresistible grace must consider this: Irresistible grace is not some abstract doctrine but must be seen in relation to Jesus Christ, specially in relation to the grace purchased by Christ upon the cross. The Spirit of Christ illuminates, regenerates and effectually brings to faith his elect. And this enabling, effectual grace is, from first to last, Christ-wrought. It does not come out of a void, nor from some hidden source of grace in God the Father. Therefore Christ must have died for the elect so as to purchase that grace in a way – a redemptive way – that he did not die for the non-elect. That is why we often call it particular redemption. Irresistible grace is one of the redemptive benefits purchased by Jesus Christ ... and it was never granted to the non-elect nor intended for them. I believe that until Jesus Christ is seen as central to the TULIP then four-pointers will continue to reject what is plain.

April 02, 2008  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

Obedience (7)

Obedience Is Beautiful

True Christian obedience is haunting, jolting the minds of our opponents. It is compelling, winning worshipers to our God. We convey godliness through our good works, pleasing the One who calls us to holiness. The Word of God is more desirable than gold, and sweeter than honey. This Word produces obedience in the lives of God's people by their faith. Surely that fruit is beautiful.

March 25, 2008  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Obedience (6)

Obedience Is Necessary

For the Christian to obey God is normal. It is no extraordinary thing to do what your Lord commands—even to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus… daily. But obedience is more than to-be-expected: it is inevitable. Someone who is saved by grace through living faith in Jesus Christ will certainly obey God. In fact, disobedience points to the absence of true and saving faith. So, although obedience is not a prerequisite for salvation, it is a necessary fruit of salvation.

March 24, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Obedience (5)

Obedience Is Supernatural

Only Christians can obey God rightly. Therefore, the merest potential for obedience comes from outside nature, since just being a Christian is supernatural. Not only that, but we obey the will of God by being filled with the Spirit, by walking in the Spirit. How, then, could the origin or empowerment of our obedience be anything but supernatural—unless you would reduce the Holy Spirit of God to the level of nature?

March 21, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Obedience (4)

Obedience Is Legal

le•gal: adj. of, based on, or concerned with the law. Christian obedience takes the form of law-keeping. What's that you say? Obedience has more to do with love than with law? What are the greatest precepts of the Law of God? "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… [and] you shall love your neighbor as yourself." That's right, love is a commandment, the fulfillment of the Law. If you're a Christian, you do what God tells you to do, which he has told you by way of the moral Law.

March 20, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Obedience (3)

Obedience Is Glad-Hearted

Good works drawn from a reluctant heart do not constitute God-honoring obedience. In fact, this is lip-service, performed for some reason other than a joyful response to grace—which is the same as disobedience in God's eyes. Only the heart made healthy and glad with salvation can be truly obedient. "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." If you truly love your Savior God, then he cannot ask too much of your allegiance.

March 19, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Obedience (2)

Obedience Is Covenantal

The Christian obeys God for reasons stipulated by God. The Ten Commandments are prefaced with these words: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." This creates the atmosphere in which obedience takes place. The Christian obeys God because God has shown favor to him—not so that God will show favor to him. In Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Covenant sacrificed himself to save his people from their sin and to redeem them for righteousness. This is the ultimate motivator to Christian obedience.

March 19, 2008  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Obedience (1)

Obedience Is Relational

This may seem obvious, but obedience requires two parties: the one obeying, and the one obeyed. The Christian obeys God. Christian obedience is not some sort of purity detached from relationship to God. We do not pursue a self-contained morality, as if virtue in itself meant something. "Getting better" at obedience (a.k.a. sanctification) is becoming submissive to God. Either we are righteous for God's sake, or righteous for the sake of self (self-righteous, which is to say unrighteous).

March 17, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Death and the Afterlife

If you're in the Portland area this Friday night, feel free to join me at the Lucky Lab Beer Hall (1945 NW Quimby) for a Table Talk (after the fashion of Martin Luther's olden days discussions). We'll talk about Death and the Afterlife. Here is a PDF of the handout.

March 04, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

How theology affects our view of "revival"

An excellent article by Iain H. Murray found here. It discusses the consequences of bad theology on the modern day church and the massive infuence of Charles G. Finney and his view of revival.

February 02, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Question Regarding the Ordo Salutis (the order of salvation)

Visitor: I have a question regarding the order of salvation. I realize that you have to be regenerated before you can believe, so the question I am asking is regeration the same as being born again? If so were does repentance fall into place? Before or after justification, then what about sanctification and so on? I have read some articals on the site and have probably missed it, so I will apreciate you taking the time to write me back.

Response: Thanks for your great question. Jesus Christ is the source of all redemptive blessings, including regeneration, justification, sanctification (1 Cor 1:30). Regeneration is the fountain, and sanctification the river. In other words, when one is united to Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, our hearts of stone are made flesh, our blind eyes now see and our deaf ears now hear. All things, obedience, repentance, faith spring forth from the regenerating work of the Spirit within us. They all happen simultaneously once God breathes new life into us.

I would suspect, however, that if we are to use logic, faith must come before repentance, for how can you repent if you don't know what you are repenting of. Yet these are all so close that it would be difficult to say. The Spirit, in working faith in us also reveals our spiritual bankruptcy and a repentance of all trust in our own self-sufficiency. In order to have genuine faith anyone who believe must recognize that we justly deserve the wrath of God save for Christ's mercy alone. We abandon all confidence in self and repent of all trust in our own works, good and bad. Neither are our savior. Christ alone is suffiicient to save. So ultimately you could say that genuine faith is a repentant faith. Hope this helps

Visitor: I just want to thank you for taking the time to wright to me and explaining the issue it has been very helpful to me.

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"We are initially united with Christ in regeneration." [next] "We appropriate and continue to live out of this union through faith."Third, "We are justified in union with Christ."Fourth, "We are sanctified through union with Christ."Fifth, "We persevere in the life of faith in union with Christ."Finally, "We shall be eternally glorified with Christ." - by Anthony Hoekema

January 31, 2008  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Two Lectures on Monergistic Regeneration (MP3s)

Last week we held our Reformation Society of Oregon meeting and Dr. Art Azurdia III gave two expositions/lectures on the subject monergistic regeneration. We have posted the MP3s for free download. IMHO, they are superb biblical exegesis and I highly recommend them for your personal edification.

Right-Click and save to your hard drive

Monergistic Regeneration - Part I by Dr. Art Azurdia III

Monergistic Regeneration - Part II by Dr. Art Azurdia III

January 25, 2008  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Repentance is necessary for MORAL people

Exerpt from Thomas Watson's, The Doctrine of Repentance

These [moral people] have no visible spots on them. They are free from gross sin, and one would think they had nothing to do with the business of repentance. 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.

January 16, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Knowing Ourselves

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? – Jeremiah 17:9

Introduction

When Plato expressed the ultimate purpose and great imperative of philosophy with this command, “know yourself,” he had struck upon a valuable insight. If we would know our purpose in life, how we should relate to the world and to others around us, what our goals and dreams and desires should consist of, how we should spend our time, then we must know who we are. We must know how we were made and for what purpose, and we must know whether or not we are fulfilling that purpose, and if not, how we might do so. If we desire to order our lives according to wise and reasonable principles, then first a thoroughgoing self-knowledge is indispensable.

However, this command is not so easy to put into practice. Who really knows what he is like, deep down inside? Who can say from what mysterious inner workings of our minds come bizarre dreams, unexpected, random thoughts that defy all reason, moments of insight and creativity, moments of foolishness and lapses of judgment? Do we really know how our minds function? Do we really know what we actually want or need? If so, then why is it that, when we have finally accomplished or acquired something that we thought we wanted, we suddenly feel so empty and let down? Who has not felt the deep and inexplicable yearning for something more, and not knowing quite what it was or how to pursue it, tried to bury the yearning in a busy pursuit of professional advancement or entertainment or any of those other things that have always let us down before? If we are ever to rise above this condition, we must know who we are, what we were made to do and enjoy, why we are not doing and enjoying what we were made for, and how to pursue a soul-deep change.

Continue reading "Knowing Ourselves" »

December 30, 2007  |  Comments (23)   |  Permalink

This is not your father's Mormonism (part 2)

What does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints mean when it states that Jesus is "the Son of God"? Is Jesus divine? Does the Mormon Church believe that God and Mary had physical sex to conceive Jesus? Are Jesus and Lucifer brothers? Does God the Father live on a planet circling a star named Kolob?

From Dr. James White's blog at aomin.org there are two articles showing how the Mormonism of a previous era is being gradually replaced by a much more nebulous, fuzzier version, seen here. Part two here.

December 28, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

This is not your father's Mormonism

Old and New Mormonism contrasted in an article by Dr. James White here.

December 19, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

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.

December 12, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Knowing Our God

Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD… Jeremiah 9:23-24

Introduction

Of all the possible pursuits, activities, or studies that are practically relevant and positively beneficial which we might spend our time pursuing, there is none, however profitable or necessary, that is as needful and uplifting and valuable as the subject matter of this study. As Christians, there is nothing more practical for us than to know our God. As created beings, there is nothing we need more than to understand our Creator. As desperate and wandering souls searching for significance, longing for something that is infinitely satisfying, seeking pleasure from finite things when God “has set eternity in [our] heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), there is nothing that can even begin to answer to the depths of our vast needs, desires, and longings, except for one thing. That one thing is knowing our God. And that one thing is what we are hoping by his grace to pursue in this study. I hope that all of us can resonate with the truth A. W. Pink once observed, that “a spiritual and saving knowledge of God is the greatest need of every human creature,” and furthermore, that “the foundation of all true knowledge of God must be a clear mental apprehension of His perfections as revealed in Holy Scripture.” As we turn to the scriptures, it is with the hope and prayer that God will ” shine in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6).

Continue reading "Knowing Our God" »

December 11, 2007  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Is God Angry at Sin?

"So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia." Revelation 14:19-20

"He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." Revelation 19:15-16

For those few of you not familiar with him, Rob Bell is one of the leading spokesmen of the emerging (t) church and was featured in a recent Time magazine article. He prides himself on teaching a God of love and not one of condemnation. But his recent “The Gods Are Not Angry” tour, as one blogger pointed out, sounded more like Oprah's god than any semblance of one which represented Christ. Unlike Oprah, whose followers are mostly women over 50, Bells' disciples are predominately young 20-something males.

One of the main messages that Bell is communicating to his audience, for which he gets standing ovations, is that 'God is not angry because God is love'. Does this sound familiar to anyone? It should because it is the vision of god which we hear from pop-culture every day. So from all appearances, Bell is essentially saying is that we should abandon the God of the Bible for a more user-friendly version. How is this different than the anti-doctrinal tactic already used by today's mega-churches? Well, not much except that it is dressed in postmodern garb. It avoids doctrine and goes straight for practice (not orthodoxy but orthopraxy). In other words, it is just 19th & 20th century liberalism refashioned for the current age. Jesus without content and thus Jesus without grace.

It is not Christianity. How do I know? Consider the following question:

Do you believe you justly deserve the wrath of God save for Christ's mercy alone?

Can someone even be a Christian if they cannot unhesitatingly affirm this?

Continue reading "Is God Angry at Sin?" »

December 10, 2007  |  Comments (13)   |  Permalink

What's my theology?

"No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian has a theology. The issue, then, is not, do we want to have a theology? That's a given. The real issue is, do we have a sound theology? Do we embrace true or false doctrine?" R. C. Sproul

I have a confession to make: I am a Calvinistic, charismatic, complementarian, Christian hedonist. Confused? Read more here. Having written this article (well I can't even say I wrote much of the article myself), I am now running for cover in the trenches while the bullets fly at me from all directions.. Merry Christmas everyone!!! :-)

- Rev. John Samson

December 09, 2007  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

Is Justification is the CAUSE of regeneration?

These are some excerpts from a recent conversation with a visitor.

Visitor: Justification is the CAUSE of regeneration, just as sin is the cause of death. Sproul and others are teaching that justification comes two steps AFTER regeneration in a literal temporal order. They teach that faith comes, not IN, but AFTER regeneration, and that only THEN are we justified. That means that we are united to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, but not YET justified. Our union with Christ doesn't justify us, it only "enables" us to do the work necessary to get ourselves justified. I hold that justification can't FOLLOW regeneration, because it is the CAUSE of regeneration. I also hold that we can't be united to Christ (by regeneration) if justification has not occurred and we are still in our sins. Even if you say that these events are "nearly" simultaneous, it would still mean that the body of Christ has sin that has not been dealt with, if only for the briefest time.

Response; I may have misunderstood, but from all appearances you are denying that the Spirit can work in any way on an unregenerate person to change their heart prior to belief (since regeneration cannot, by definition, precede faith in your book). But this is obviously not the case. Can you repent and believe in Christ by your own power? No, the Spirit works before, during and after salvation. Even though you [elsewhere] claim to be monergistic, if you deny that the Spirit acts in some way to bring forth belief, your challenge is essentially a denial of this aspect of the Spirit's work. Sproul is not and has never, taught a temporal order in the way you describe. You may have misunderstood him and others who use temporal language (in order to distinguish the benefits of salvation) to describe a non-temporal event. The purpose of this is to demonstrate the Spirit's monergistic working in the soul that is causally "prior" to any human response. To clarify perhaps we can consider the following text of Scripture and an example from the physical world:

In Acts it reads that when Paul was preaching "...the Lord opened her [Lydia's] heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul." Plainly, here the Spirit works a change in the heart of the person prior to their faith. Regeneration is a change of our heart of stone to a heart of flesh - the Spirit working grace and faith in their heart of the unregenerate prior to anything else. In other words, no one believes while their heart is still stone and something (regenerative grace) must occur before a change happens. The heart must first be made flesh. God does something to change the heart of people prior to ANY faith, though one is connected to, and springs from, the other. The Bible calls this work regeneration.

Continue reading "Is Justification is the CAUSE of regeneration?" »

December 07, 2007  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

From Packer's Intro to Luther's Bondage of the Will

J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, translators of Luther’s masterpiece Bondage of the Will from German and Latin to English, say in the Introduction:

Free will was no academic question to Luther; the whole Gospel of the grace of God, he held, was bound up with it, and stood or fell according to the way one decided it. . . . It is not the part of a true theologian, Luther holds, to be unconcerned, or to pretend to be unconcerned, when the Gospel is in danger. . . . [T]he doctrine of The Bondage of the Will in particular was the cornerstone of the Gospel and the foundation of faith (40-41, emphasis added).
In particular, the denial of free will was to Luther the foundation of the Biblical doctrine of grace, and a hearty endorsement of that denial was the first step for anyone who would understand the Gospel and come to faith in God. The man who has not yet practically and experimentally learned the bondage of his will in sin has not yet comprehended any part of the Gospel (44-45). Justification by faith alone is a truth that needs interpretation. The principle of sola fide [by faith alone] is not rightly understood till it is seen as anchored in the broader principle of sola gratia [by grace alone] . . . for to rely on oneself for faith is not different in principle from relying on oneself for works (59). The Bible teaches that faith itself is and has to be a gift of God, by grace, and not of self (Ephesians 2:8). It is safe to deduce that for Luther, any evangelist who advocates free will has not only "not yet comprehended any part of the Gospel," but also that he has not yet preached the Gospel at all; his is a counterfeit gospel.

Continue reading "From Packer's Intro to Luther's Bondage of the Will" »

November 30, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Clarifying the Love of God for His People in Christ

Although some may not think so, we really do work hard to accurately represent those whose positions differ from us in regards to the work of Christ in our salvation. Recently I gave an illustration which highlighted the differences between the Arminian traditions' view of God's love and the traditional Augustinian view, which at least one visitor said misrepresented both sides ...

The illustration has two parents whose children run out into the street when a car is coming. The first parent calls to his child to get out of the way but stays on the curb hoping he will obey, while the other parent sees the danger and runs out to scoop up the child to make certain he/she is safe. We believe this demonstrates two radically different conceptions of love. Synergists often challenge us that we put God's holiness over His love, but this illustration attempts to highlight that this is not the case, but rather, reveals a vastly different view of God's love and the message of salvation: one type of love is intensive and the other extensive. One loves makes certain that the job is done - that the child is safe, while the other love does not make this a certainly but sees love in the giving of a choice itself ... and consequently values more highly the will of the child as the final determiner of salvation.

To clarify this illustration so you can see how it explicitly explains the two positions:

First of all, both positions believe that Christ died for sinners .... but there are clear differences in what Christ's death actually accomplishes for His children:

1) The Arminian position believes that Christ does a great deal to bring salvation to His people, but His death does not actually secure that salvation. It is not sufficient of itself to save lost people. There is still a requirement that sinners themselves must meet if Christ's death is to be effectual ... in other words, what Christ does for sinners in the Arminian scheme is really conditioned upon man fulfilling another requirement that is in addition to Christ's death ... in this case, faith.

2) The Augustinian position, in contrast, believes that Christ's death and resurrection actually secures the salvation of His people. It is completely sufficient in itself to save sinners. God does require faith of His people but Christ's death even pays for the sin of our unbelief and thus He meets all the requirements necessary for our salvation ... requirements that we were morally impotent to meet ourselves. Thus, Jesus Christ gives His children everything necessary to secure salvation. This is an unconditional love ... salvation by grace alone in Christ alone. Christ plus nothing. Salvation is, therefore, not conditioned upon our prior faith but Christ actually even secures our faith. The finished work of Christ guarantees that none of his children will be lost and will all be raised up at the last day (John 6:37-39, 44)


November 30, 2007  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Understanding Free Will

from the archives - by John Samson...

Why are you reading this? Yes, this particular sentence? There are billions of sentences out there just waiting to be read, in many different languages, but right now, you are reading this one. Why?

Well, it could be that some reformed and crazed individual has put a gun to your head and told you that if you did not read this article he would shoot you. He would definitely be what I refer to as a "caged stage Calvinist," when after coming to understand the doctrines of grace, for a period of a couple of years or so, he needs to be locked up in a cage. That's the best thing for everybody concerned!! His zeal for reformational truth needs to be augmented with sanity in human relations! He sends books, tapes, CD's, DVD's, and e-mails to all unsuspecting victims, regardless of whether or not they have ever shown an interest in these things. Christmas is his favorite time of the year, for he's been eagerly waiting for this opportunity to send R. C. Sproul's book "Chosen by God" to everyone he knows. He's on a mission alright, but the best thing would be for him to cool down for a couple of years in a cage!

However, even with the crazed reformed nut with a gun scenario, you are still making the choice to read this blog article rather than face the contents of the gun. You prefer to read this rather than to feel the impact of the bullet. Even now, you are reading this because you want to - right now you do, anyway. In fact, because this is your strongest inclination, there is no possible way for you to be reading anything else at this moment.

Continue reading "Understanding Free Will" »

November 27, 2007  |  Comments (12)   |  Permalink

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.

Buliding Bridges Conference: Southern Baptists and Calvinism <

November 27, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

What Love is This?

"[Arminians] ... say that the Augustinian tradition subordinates the love of God to the will of God ... But this is not what distinguishes the Augustinian tradition from the Arminian tradition. The distinction is between intensive and extensive love, between an intensive love that saves its loved ones, and an extensive love that loves everyone in general and saves no one in particular. Or if you really wish to cast this in terms of willpower, it's the distinction between divine willpower and human willpower. Or, to put the two together, does God will the salvation of everyone with a weak-willed, ineffectual love, or does God love his loved ones with a resolute will that gets the job done? The God of Calvin is the good shepherd, who names and numbers his sheep, who saves the lost sheep and fends off the wolf. The God of Wesley is the hireling, who knows not the flock by name and number, who lets the sheep go astray and be eaten by the wolf. Which is more loving, I ask? - Steve Hays

An illustration that may further shed light on this is as follows:

Two parents see their child run out in the street. A car is coming. The first parent calls out to the child hoping he will get out of the way in time. In other words, he gives him a choice. The second parent on the other hand, due to his love for the child runs out at the risk of His own life, scoops up the child and MAKES CERTAIN his child is not run over.

Even on an earthly level we see that true parental love acts and gets the job done. This kind of intensive love does not stand on the sidelines worried about whether their child's will was violated or not. He cares too much for the child to make his will the deciding factor. Yes the child will believe and trust in his parent, but the parent loves the child first, not because of what he does (conditional acceptance) but because the parent loves the child. Therefore the Arminian tradition has a view of God whose love is conditional while those in the Augustinian tradition see HIs love for His people as unconditional.

To clarify the illustration so you can see how it explicitly explains the two positions:

First of all, both positions believe that Christ died for sinners .... but there are clear differences in what Christ's death actually accomplishes for His children:

1) The Arminian position believes that Christ does a great deal to bring salvation to His people, but His death does not actually secure that salvation. It is not sufficient of itself to save lost people. There is still a requirement that sinners themselves must meet if Christ's death is to be effectual ... in other words, what Christ does for sinners in the Arminian scheme is really conditioned upon man fulfilling another requirement that is in addition to Christ's death ... in this case, faith.

2) The Augustinian position, in contrast, believes that Christ's death and resurrection actually secures the salvation of His people. It is completely sufficient in itself to save sinners. God does require faith of His people but Christ's death even pays for the sin of our unbelief and thus He meets all the requirements necessary for our salvation ... requirements that we were morally impotent to meet ourselves. Thus, Jesus Christ gives His children everything necessary to secure salvation. This is an unconditional love ... salvation by grace alone in Christ alone. Christ pluys nothing. Salvation is not conditioned upon our prior faith but Christ actually secures our faith. The finished work of Christ guarantees that none of his children will be lost.

November 26, 2007  |  Comments (18)   |  Permalink

E-Sword Files

The .top files of my scripture lists on the Doctrines of Grace and the People of God (for use on e-Sword) are now available here. There are also files for similar lists on the Trinity, Knowing Our God, and Knowing Ourselves. If anyone would benefit from them, please feel free to download and use them!

November 21, 2007  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

Choosing to Believe and Luther's Bondage of the Will

Visitor:

Hi, I just came across your site, after trying to understand Luther and his ideologies, and something about these quotes confuses me: [after reading this article] If he is saying that accepting Christ as your savior is sufficient to receive God's grace, does he not discount the fact that CHOOSING to accept the sacrifice of Jesus is in and of itself, an action?

Response:

Hi Mike ... Yes, choosing Christ is an action but faith and choice do not spring from an unrenewed heart. God must renew the heart if we are to believe and obey the gospel. Apart from the Holy Spirit no one natually comes to faith in Christ.

The new birth is not a decision you make. Whoever you are, however you came to Jesus Christ, is because God has done a supernatural work of grace in your heart. That is why we pray for unbelievers because they would never come on their own.

Notice the order of grace in the following passage:
Ezekiel 36:25-27 says 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Likewise Jesus teaches that no one can believe in him unless first God grants it (John 6:65) and ALL that God grants will believe (John 6:37). Luther's wrote Bondage of the Will to point out that the Bible teaches that we are morally unable to obey any of God's commands, including the command to believe, apart from a supernatural work of grace in the heart of the unregenerate.

Hope this helps
J.W.H

November 06, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

What the Bible Says about Doctrines of Grace & People of God - Free PDFs

prayer350.jpg

What the Bible Says about THE PEOPLE OF GOD & What the Bible Says about THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE are two very popular items available at Monergism Books. Below we have the free pdf versions so you can get a taste of what content you are getting .... and then, when they least expect it, you can put it into the hands of your unsuspecting Arminian and Dispensationalist friends. Very persuasive!

Note: Unlike the print versions, these versions do not have the Table of Contents

What the Bible Says about THE PEOPLE OF GOD - Pdf Version Here

What the Bible Says about THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE - Pdf Version Here

October 26, 2007  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

The Unity of God's Covenant People

To understand the relationship between the Church and Ethnic Israel, I encourage you to first and foremost submit your thinking to the whole counsel of scripture and find your method of interpreting of the Bible from the Bible itself! Wisdom does not come on this issue from extra-biblical sources but rather we must ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Word, and, according to the Word, the meaning of the Law and Prophets are found and explained in Jesus Christ.

The Apostle said, "no matter how many promises God has made, they are "yes" in Christ" (2 Cor. 1:20), These very promises are the fulfillment of the covenant blessings promised to Abraham that all the people's of the earth would be blessed through Him. "He redeemed us in order that the blessing promised to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit" (Galatians 3:14). The kingdom of God is a kingdom only because Jesus is the King who reigns over it and so only those who are united to Christ are members of this kingdom.

Continue reading "The Unity of God's Covenant People" »

October 18, 2007  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Two New Books by Nathan Pitchford

The following are two valuable reference tools newly published by Monergism Books


What the Bible Says about THE PEOPLE OF GOD by Nathan Pitchford

According to historic Dispensational teaching, Israel and the Church are two distinct peoples of God with two distinct destinies. But is this view supported by the testimony of Scripture?

Designed as a reference tool, this booklet succinctly presents the major tenets of Dispensationalism followed by the key Scripture passages that address each tenet. With this simple format, Nathan Pitchford has created a valuable resource for evaluating the merits of Dispensationalism in the light of Scripture. This booklet is a great tool for guiding your own personal study or for engaging in fruitful dialogue with others.








What the Bible Says about THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE: A Categorized Scripture List by Nathan Pitchford

Designed as a reference tool, this booklet succinctly presents the five points of Calvinism followed by the key Scripture passages that support each point. With this simple format, Nathan Pitchford has created a valuable resource for understanding the biblical basis for the doctrines of grace. This booklet is a great tool for guiding your own personal study or for engaging in fruitful dialogue with others.

"Ever since the Serpent first tempted Eve in the garden by casting doubt on God's word and his character as he had revealed himself to her, mankind has always been engaged in the idolatrous pursuit of fashioning a god after his own imagination...There is no cure for this, but to cast off all our prior ideas of who we think God should be, or what we think he should mean when he speaks of his love, his grace, his justice, and his salvation, and to go to his word for all our answers." (from the Introduction)

October 08, 2007  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Monergism Books Launches Major Website Upgrade

We are excited to announce that the new and improved reformed Monergism Books Website is now here! Monergism Books has been completely redesigned, redeveloped, and reformed to provide you with even better service. Just as at Monergism.com, we at Monergism Books are committed to equipping you in the faith by making available the finest classic and contemporary books in the rich tradition of historic Christian orthodoxy.

We encourage you to visit MonergismBooks.com to check out these new and improved features:
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Please remember that every time you purchase something from Monergism Books, you help support the ministry of Monergism.com. In doing so, you enable us to continue to provide you with an ever-growing number of high quality resources for absolutely free.

October 05, 2007  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

When Does God Become 100% For Us? by Dr. John Piper

I have asked the question in public, “When does God become 100% for us?” And I have given an answer that rightly troubles thoughtful, biblical people. So this article is an effort to answer their question.

In my message to the Desiring God National Conference on Sunday, September 30, I answered the question like this:

What the Bible teaches is that God becomes 100% irrevocably for us at the moment of justification, that is, the moment when we see Christ as a beautiful Savior and receive him as our substitute punishment and our substitute perfection. All of God’s wrath, all of the condemnation we deserve, was poured out on Jesus. All of God’s demands for perfect righteousness were fulfilled by Christ. The moment we see (by grace!) this Treasure and receive him in this way his death counts as our death and his condemnation as our condemnation and his righteousness as our righteousness, and God becomes 100% irrevocably for us forever in that instant.

The question this leaves unanswered is, “Doesn’t the Bible teach that in eternity God set his favor on us in election?”

Continue reading "When Does God Become 100% For Us? by Dr. John Piper" »

October 03, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

I love the Trinity!

I love the Trinity. That's because I love God, and God is a Trinity.

Very few people have a firm grasp of the concept of the Trinity. It is important therefore to determine what we as Christians mean by the term. The doctrine of the Trinity, stated simply is that there is one eternal being of God, and this one being of God is shared by three co-equal, co-eternal persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is therefore one in essense and three in personality.

It is necessary here to distinguish between the terms "being" and "person." It would be a contradiction, obviously, to say that there are three beings within one being, or three persons within one person. There is no contradiction though because that is not what is being said at all. There is one eternal, infinite being of God, shared fully and completely by three persons, Father, Son and Spirit. One what and three who's.

Continue reading "I love the Trinity!" »

September 12, 2007  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Before you convert to Roman Catholicism... (Top Ten List)

At his blog at www.aomin.org, my friend, Dr. James White writes:

Last week I received the following e-mail, and I felt it would be best to share my response here on the blog.

Dear Mr. White, For someone considering converting to Catholicism, what questions would you put to them in order to discern whether or not they have examined their situation sufficiently? Say, a Top 10 list. Thanks.

When I posted this question in our chat channel a number of folks commented that it was in fact a great question, and we started to throw out some possible answers. Here is my "Top Ten List" in response to this fine inquiry.

10) Have you listened to both sides? That is, have you done more than read Rome Sweet Home and listen to a few emotion-tugging conversion stories? Have you actually taken the time to find sound, serious responses to Rome's claims, those offered by writers ever since the Reformation, such as Goode, Whitaker, Salmon, and modern writers? I specifically exclude from this list anything by Jack Chick and Dave Hunt.

9) Have you read an objective history of the early church? I refer to one that would explain the great diversity of viewpoints to be found in the writings of the first centuries, and that accurately explains the controversies, struggles, successes and failures of those early believers?

Continue reading "Before you convert to Roman Catholicism... (Top Ten List)" »

August 21, 2007  |  Comments (26)   |  Permalink

D.A. Carson on Piper's "The Future of Justification"

"The so-called 'New Perspective on Paul' (NPP) has stirred up enormous controversy, especially, but not exclusively, in the English-speaking world. The issues are so complex that it has taken time to mount a careful evaluation. During the last decade many have undertaken the task, often with helpful contributions. John Piper’s work may not be the last word on the subject, but it brings to Christian leaders everywhere five enormous strengths: (1) By focusing on N. T. Wright, by far the most influential writer of the NPP, Piper brings to bear a badly needed focus. (2) Despite the interlocking complexities of the debate—Tom Wright has an amazing capacity to move theological and exegetical pieces around, creating such a new tableau that words have shifted in meaning and theological notions their conceptual location—Piper has written with admirable clarity. (3) Better yet, John has engaged Tom with simultaneous depth and courtesy. That is a rare but wholly admirable combination. (4) Certain parts of John Piper’s book have quietly broken new ground—not least his handling of “righteousness” and “justification,” their connection with the “gospel,” and his careful insistence that making the words mean different things for the Judge in God’s law-court and for the defendant in that law-court really cannot be sustained in the light of Scripture. (5) John Piper sees the moral and spiritual implications of what he is seeking to explain. Are men and women saved, on the last day, on the basis of the whole life lived? But if not, what is the nature of the connection between justification and good works? The issues are not secondary, and, pastor that he is, John Piper will not allow believers to put their trust in anyone or anything other than the crucified and resurrected Savior."

D. A. Carson
Research Professor of New Testament
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL

From Justin Taylor's Blog, Between Two Worlds

August 20, 2007  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Regeneration T-Shirt


Our T-shirt design contest winner Jake Stutzman produced this cutting edge design for Monergism.com which closely reflects the purpose and mission of our Website. Many of you have written expressing a desire to get one as soon as it comes out. Wait no longer - it is here...

August 16, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

the god of our sentimentality

One thing that makes the Bible so believable is that is does not back down from facing the hard questions about God or human nature. Unfortunately, in order to maintain some sort of hope or dignity in ourselves, we often keep a safe distance from these hard questions. In our various church traditions we tend to avoid looking these uncomfortable questions directly in the eye. Our readings of the Bible are selective and we cherry pick portions that affirm to us what we want God to be like but circumvent the Texts which show characteristics that seem to contradict our imaginary deity. This makes us feel good until reality strikes in the real world and we suffer affliction. Shallow theology will not do in the face of suffering. We need, rather, to sink our roots deep down in the Scriptures as to be ready for any contingency. As it is, what do we do when we face difficulties? Unfortunately, more often than not, we complain ... so today I wish to wrestle with the concept of how we can change our thinking about our lot in life so that we would glorify God by being content in the conditions He has placed us in. We will cover the subject of complaining and murmuring along with God's fairness.

Continue reading "the god of our sentimentality" »

August 15, 2007  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Dispensationalism – Categorized Scripture List

Well, as my previous categorized scripture list on the Doctrines of Grace met with such a favorable reception, I decided to construct another such list, this one pertaining to Dispensationalism. After all, I think both topics are addressed and answered by an abundance of scriptural passages. As before, if any of you should find the complete list with scripture text helpful (and not just the abbreviated version posted here), feel free to comment or e-mail me with a request.

Continue reading "Dispensationalism – Categorized Scripture List" »

August 14, 2007  |  Comments (31)   |  Permalink

Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

Ask yourself, what makes you to differ from your unbelieving neighbor? Is it the grace of Christ alone that saves or is it grace plus your good will? Where did this faith come from? Does it naturally arise in some and not others? Or is your faith itself a working of God's grace to change your heart? Is it something that came forth from our unregenerated human nature? The witness of Scripture would affirm that sinners are, not partly but wholly helpless and impotent in their sin. The Reformers vehemently opposed the synergistic doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church by confessing that God redeems His people by a free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying us in Christ when we exercise faith, but also resurrecting us from spiritual death by His quickening Spirit in order to bring us to faith.

Grace is God's unmerited favor toward undeserving sinners like us. Being unmerited, people can do nothing to obtain it. In other words, grace is not conditioned upon anything God sees in us, like our merit or even our good will. But here is precisely where protests rise from Roman Catholics and even some modern Evangelicals. These complaints, unfortunately, are against one of the central components of the biblical doctrine of regeneration. Note that Evangelicals will, without exception, affirm that they are saved by grace, but many will actually hesitate when they are told that they are saved (regenerated) by "grace alone". It is more than many can bear and often even creates resentment. I know as I have often been the one bearing the brunt of the resentment. This anger arises, most likely, because sola gratia (or grace alone) means that God chooses to save His own prior to any movement of their own will (i.e. we contribute nothing to our salvation). It strips man of any and all hope from himself, including his faith. This is important because if God left men to their boasted will we would all perish, for no poison-filled well, like us, would freely use their polluted will to choose God, for the Scriptures affirm that the natural man hates the light and will not come into it (John 3:19, 20). Therefore, in His great mercy and, in spite of ourselves, God regenerates His people through the work of Christ's grace wrought in us. Exercising faith is our responsibility so, of course, we affirm that all men have a will and make voluntary choices, but since our will is broken and spiritually bankrupt, if we are ever to exercise faith in Jesus Christ it will mean that God must do a supernatural work of grace in our heart to disarm our natural hostility and restore our brokenness lest our hearts remain like stone, and we as a stiff necked people will refuse to come to Jesus Christ. We do not repair ourselves and then believe. Rather, we believe because God has repaired us, has illumined our mind that we might see and believe.

Continue reading "Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)" »

August 13, 2007  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

J.I. Packer Interview on Election

What is meant by the phrase "unconditional election"?
Why do we need an election?
Doesn't this detract from our responsibility to respond to the gospel?
If I'm one of the elect, God will save me, and if I'm not, I cannot be saved anyway, so why worry about it?
Isn't foreknowledge the basis of election? Didn't God choose us because he looked down into the future and foresaw that we would believe in him?
Wouldn't it be unfair for God to elect one person to heaven, but then not elect my next-door neighbor?
How essential is this doctrine to our understanding of salvation in general?
Is this something really practical for the Christian and not something that should be left in the seminary classroom for theological debate?
If this doctrine is true, is there any reason to believe that the gospel invitation is genuine?

Read Dr Packer's brief answers to these questions here.

August 12, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Five Points of Hyper Calvinism

"Remember, two cardinal rules to debating Calvinism: first, while some Arminians are Armenians and some Armenians are Arminians, Armenians and Arminians are two very different groups. Second, while it's true that some Calvinists can be a bit hyper, that doesn't make them Hyper-Calvinists." - Justin Taylor

According to Timothy George (from his book Amazing Grace: God’s Initiative–Our Response), a Hyper-Calvinist departs from orthodoxy on five key doctrines:

1. Hypers teach the doctrine of eternal justification, which effectively removes human responsibility to respond to the gospel.

2. Hypers deny the free moral agency and responsibility of sinners to repent and believe the gospel.

3. Hypers deny the free offer of the gospel to all people, regardless of whether a person is presumed to be elect or not.

4. Hypers teach that sinners have no warrant to believe in Christ until they feel the evidence of the Spirit’s moving in their hearts–in other words, a sinner needs to be convinced he is elect before he has a right to believe.

5. Hypers deny the universal love of God. Hypers claims that God hates sinners and has no meaningful love for the non-elect.

You will find a very interesting article on these issues by Nathan Finn found here.

August 08, 2007  |  Comments (26)   |  Permalink

Compatibilistic Determinism

Recently I received two questions which were similar in nature:

Question #1) Do compatibilists believe in free will, that is, do they believe we are free from God? I often hear the phrase "compatibilistic freedom".

Question #2) As I research more about the reformed position I come across the subject of determinism and compatibilism being mentioned frequently. I want to learn more about this subject. I tried searching but could not find any books specifically on these subjects. I’m not looking for anything technical, just something the lay person can understand. Please let me now if you are aware of any books that deal with these topics specifically.

I will try to answer both questions in this post....

Compatibilism is a form of determinism and it should be noted that this position is no less deterministic than hard determinism. It simply means that God's predetermination and meticulous providence is "compatible" with voluntary choice. Our choices are not coerced ...i.e. we do not choose against what we want or desire, yet we never make choices contrary to God's sovereign decree. What God determines will always come to pass (Eph 1:11)...

Continue reading "Compatibilistic Determinism" »

August 06, 2007  |  Comments (14)   |  Permalink

A Survey of the Usage of “Tsedek/Tsedekah” in the Hebrew Old Testament

Introduction

While the issue of authority no doubt underlay the Protestant Reformation, so that the basis upon which men began to question the corruption of Rome was only the “formal principle” of sola scriptura; and while the sole weapon which the Reformers ever wielded against their doctrinal foes was the grammatico-historical hermeneutic; it is no less certain that the one great battlefield upon which the war was waged was constituted of the biblical word groups for “righteousness”: in the Old Testament tsedek/tsedekah, and in the New Testament dikaiosis/dikaiosune. It is no accident that the question of justification, or how a sinner may be declared righteous before a holy God, is the question to which sola scriptura must ultimately give rise: for from the beginning of the scriptures, man’s plight is cast in the direst of terms, and the basic direness is the result of a lack of righteousness, and all the troubling effects to which that condition must succumb, when the righteous Judge appears upon the scene. In other words, the “formal principle” of the Reformation, namely sola scriptura, could not but give rise to its “material principle,” justification by grace alone through faith alone.

Continue reading "A Survey of the Usage of “Tsedek/Tsedekah” in the Hebrew Old Testament" »

July 29, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Clarifying Some Confusion About "Free Will"

Have you ever heard anyone ask something like "How do we reconcile the fact that God is sovereign but man has a free will"? We need to take a close look at the question itself because it has assumptions that may or may not be be in the Scripture.

First we must ask those who pose this question what they mean by the phrase "free will". We can reveal this simply by asking them, Free from what?... What is it that people are free from?" "Are people free from sin?", are they "Free from God's decree?" No ... in both cases people are not free. Natual people are not free from sin and there is nothing you do that takes God by surprise for He has ordained all things that come to pass (Eph 1:11) There are no maverick molecules which act independently from God, as R.C. Sproul says, where God might say "I did not know such and such would take place". Nor does anything happen by chance, as if chance were some other competing force in the universe that is outside God's control.

So what do you think people actually mean when they boldly assert man has a free will? Perhaps what persons mean to say is that man is free from external coersion. That his choices are voluntary. In this people of all sides of this issue can agree (even hard determinists), but just because someone is free in one sense (from coersion in this case) does not mean his will is free in another. He is not free from sin nor is He free to do other than what God has determined he will do. Yes, man voluntarily chooses what he will do, but this is compatible with God's sovereignty and meticulous providence (Gen 50:20; Acts 2:23).

Consider, if the natural man sins by NECESSITY (not coersion) then he also lacks freedom. The will or affections are not free from the bondage of sin. Also we must, above all, consider whether the Bible uses the expression 'freedom' to describe any fallen, unregenerate man. Since the Bible never uses this expression or even alludes to the concept that man has a free will (but actually teaches the opposite), the question originally posed has false assumptions which are alien to the text (our only authority in such matters). Here's why:

Continue reading "Clarifying Some Confusion About "Free Will"" »

July 27, 2007  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

A Thought on Penal Substitution

It is a tragedy of the highest degree that so many theologians today are emphasizing such models of the atoning work of the Savior as Christus Victor to the minimization of penal substitution. The tragedy is not that the reality of Christ's conquering Satan through his work on the cross is acknowledged or even emphasized, but rather that this idea is passed off to some degree as mutually exclusive of his bearing his people's sins, and undergoing the just wrath of the Father in their place. The Serpent's enmity against God has ever been waged in terms of tempting his children to sin, and thus barring them from his holy presence; and the final defeat of the enemy was won by a Substitute who found a way to reconcile them again to God, without compromising his righteousness. The weapon which destroyed the forces of darkness is only the spear which pierced Jesus' side as he hung upon the cross in the place of his people. Take that weapon away, and you may talk all you want to of how Jesus won a victory against Satan on the cross, but the victory becomes nothing but hollow words. I can't help but think that the Devil laughs at all those who make a great show of announcing his defeat, but forget the sin-bearing nature of the Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world by being lifted up as a curse. But mention Golgotha as the place where the Messiah bore the wrath of God, and in our place was lifted up to die, and he must flee in terror, acknowledging his final failure to accomplish his antagonistic designs. Jesus made an open show of the rulers of darkness, triumphing over them by his blood, when he took the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14-15). That is what we must ultimately emphasize, or we have cut away the very foundation of every other claim that we might make about what transpired on Calvary.

July 08, 2007  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Monergism Books: 3rd Annual Banner of Truth Mega Sale


Works Of John Owen-16 Vol Set ; The Works of Jonathan Edwards ; Works of Richard Sibbes:The Works of John Bunyan ;D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Romans 14 Volume Set:Works of Flavel ;Exposition of Hebrews by John Owen ;Works of Thomas Brooks;Puritan Paperback Bundle

June 26, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Divine Intention of the Cross by Pastor John Samson

What was God's intention in sending His Son to die on the cross? What did Jesus actually accomplish on the cross? Who did He accomplish it for? Updated article here.

May 31, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Doctrines of Grace – Categorized Scripture List

God has recently given us the opportunity to discuss some theological issues with other Christians who believe differently than we do on a number of points, most notably the doctrines of grace. In such a circumstance, given the overwhelming supply of scriptural evidence that comes to bear on the topic, it seemed to me that the best approach would be a simple categorized scripture list: the fact that the entire paper would be scriptures, with the exception of a few brief explanatory notes, would underscore the truth that this is God's own word and teaching; and the fact that it would be categorized would facilitate the ready comparison of scripture with scripture so as to lead one to a full-orbed understanding of the biblical teaching. Although I found a few good scripture lists of that nature available online, none of them was laid out in quite the progression that I was looking for, and so I developed my own. I'm posting it here with just the scripture references, but if anyone should find the list with the full text already printed out useful for a similar study, I would be glad to e-mail the file. Just leave a comment or contact me by e-mail.

Continue reading "Doctrines of Grace – Categorized Scripture List" »

May 27, 2007  |  Comments (46)   |  Permalink

Who is Israel?

Interesting article by Michael Horton found here.

May 22, 2007  |  Comments (10)   |  Permalink

The Sufficiency of Christ's Obedience in His Life and Death by John Piper

When we teach that our right standing with God is attained through the imputation of Christ’s obedience to our account (Romans 5:19; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:6, 11; 10:3), does this imply that the work of Christ on the cross—his final suffering and death—is insufficient for our justification?

Romans 3:24-25: “[They] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood.”

Romans 4:25: “[He] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Romans 5:9: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

Galatians 2:21: “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

To see the answer, we might ask a similar question concerning the forgiveness of sins. In other words, let us ask: Does the insistence upon Jesus’ sinless life imply that the work of Christ as the spotless Lamb of God on the cross is insufficient for the canceling of the debt of our sins? Our sins being cancelled and forgiven is connected most directly to the death of Christ. For example:

Continue reading "The Sufficiency of Christ's Obedience in His Life and Death by John Piper" »

May 22, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

JONATHAN EDWARDS' 'THE EXCELLENCY OF CHRIST'- Edited by Charles R. Biggs

Dear Beloved in Christ,

In my reading and study, I am oftentimes reminded of what C. S. Lewis said one time concerning the reading of old books. In essence, Lewis wrote that for every new book we read, we ought to read at least three old ones. What he wanted to communicated wisely to the Church was that the reading of old books takes us out of our culture and religious "present-tense" context and allows us to see a clearer and bigger picture of the teaching of Scripture without being hindered by the biases and narrowness of our present cultural milieu or context.

Recently, as I was studying and praying generally for the future of Christ's Church, and considering more specifically gaining wisdom with regard to how to pastor Christ's people, I came across a discourse, or study written by Jonathan Edwards in the early 18th century. Jonathan Edwards was a great and godly preacher of God's Word, and was perhaps the finest and most able theologian America has ever produced!

The discourse or study is entitled 'The Excellency of Christ'. The study struck me deeply in my heart and mind because it helped me to reflect on the glory of God in the incarnation, but perhaps even more practically, it helped me to think of how Christ builds and matures His Church in a way consistent with the incarnation, yet paradoxical with regards to the ways and methods of the world.

Continue reading "JONATHAN EDWARDS' 'THE EXCELLENCY OF CHRIST'- Edited by Charles R. Biggs" »

April 25, 2007  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

The Advance of the Kingdom

The following notes were taken from power point slides, which were used for a series of ten sermons delivered by Pastor Dave Hayton, at Martin Baptist Church. They give a brief overview of the basic message of the biblical story from Genesis to Revelation. I trust that they will be as helpful for many of you as they were for me, when I first heard them.

The Advance of the Kingdom
Seeing the Sequence and Significance of the Biblical Story
by Dave Hayton
“His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.”
Daniel 4:3b

Continue reading "The Advance of the Kingdom" »

April 25, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Whosoever Will May Come

On his blog, Vincent Cheung writes: The following is an edited email correspondence.

When I speak to my parents and pastor, it is typical for them to bring up the line "whosoever will may come" as the statement that somehow proves man's free will and refutes the idea that salvation comes from God alone.

One of the most frequent fallacies that people commit is the fallacy of irrelevance. Therefore, whenever we come across an argument or objection that supposedly refutes what Scripture teaches, sometimes it suffices to simply ask, "So what?"

Like many of the objections from Arminians, this one entirely misses the point. Perhaps they have in mind Revelation 22:17, which says, "whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (KJV). Since this is what God says, we readily agree with it, but then what? Who will actually come? It does not tell us. Or, to be more precise, why does anyone decide to come? What is the metaphysical and spiritual cause behind the person's decision and his change in disposition? That is the question. The statement from Revelation, or any other "whosoever" statement for that matter, tells us only about what is available to or what will happen to the person who comes. It does not tell us why anyone would come, or why a person comes when he does.

Here is something that I wrote in Born Again, my exposition of John 3:

I can say, "Whoever becomes a fish can breath under water." The statement is true, but it does not mean that a person can become a fish anytime he wishes. In fact, any inference about one's ability is strictly invalid, since the statement contains no information about ability except for the fish's ability to breath under water. Whether or not it is possible for a person to become a fish, one can infer nothing about it from the statement itself, but it only informs us as to what would happen to a person who turns into a fish.

Continue reading "Whosoever Will May Come" »

April 22, 2007  |  Comments (17)   |  Permalink

The Purity of New Covenant Membership as a Defense of Credo-Baptism

Some of you may wonder, "Why even post on such a controversial topic, when many godly men and qualified exegetes may be found on both sides of the question?" I agree that there are other more important issues on which we should expend the bulk of our energies; but baptism is a precious sign from God, and its importance should not be diminished, either. So when a Baptist friend of mine asked for some feedback on an article he had written defending credo-baptism (the link to his article is at the bottom of this post), I decided to post my response here, as well. I trust that any dialogue may be useful in helping all of us grow up to greater doctrinal maturity, and will be employed with love and an acknowledgement of our unity in the gospel.

Although many credo-baptists will base their argumentation on the fact that every clear New Testament example of baptism follows a confession of faith, there are some who recognize the problem with this argument, namely, that while it is helpful and gives clear exemplary warrant for the practice to be followed in like cases for the church today, it does not provide any example to be followed for the case in question: what do we do with the children of believers. If we had a clear New Testament example for this situation, the debate would be effectually over. But as it is, we are forced to bring other scriptural data to bear on a question which is not explicitly addressed in the bible. Recognizing this shortcoming of exemplary New Testament texts, these Baptist apologists have largely based their arguments on the prophesied difference between the Old and New Covenants, with respect to the purity of their respective membership. On a number of points, they are to be commended; for first, they have recognized the need for additional biblical evidence; and second they have sought this additional evidence in the right place – they have honed in on the true locus of the debate. The strands of evidence we must employ, in the pursuit of a biblical stance on the baptism issue, have ultimately to do with the nature of the New Covenant, and the quality of its members.

Continue reading "The Purity of New Covenant Membership as a Defense of Credo-Baptism" »

April 20, 2007  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Jesus Christ: The Interpretive Key to the Scripture

Jesus Christ: The Interpretive Key to the Scripture
With Four Examples of Doctrinal Errors that Arise When this Key is not Used.

"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." (John 5:39, 40)

"For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" - (1 Tim 2:5)

"The Scriptures should be read with the aim of finding Christ in them. Whoever turns aside from this object, even though he wears himself out all his life in learning, he will never reach the knowledge of the truth." - John Calvin

I have recently had the privilege of reading a phenomenal book that I highly recommend to all teachers of the Word. That book was Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics by Graeme Goldsworthy. Its thesis is simple: the Gospel (or, Jesus Christ) is the Key to all Christian Hermeneutics. During the course of reading, his focus got me to thinking about its antithesis which would be that almost all errors and inconsistencies in our understanding of Bible texts occur when our interpretation is less than Christ-centered. This is foundational. Unless our study, however diligent, leads us to see that all Scripture points to Jesus Christ, our study is in vain. The importance of the Bible (OT & NT) is that it testifies about Jesus Christ (John 1:43-45, Acts 3:18, Acts 17:2-3, 2 Tim 3:14-15,1 Pet 1:10-12, Rom 1:1-3, 16:25-27, Luke 24:25-27 & 44-46).

Continue reading "Jesus Christ: The Interpretive Key to the Scripture" »

March 27, 2007  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

When the perfect comes

O.K., to borrow a phrase that evokes a less than positive kind of imagery, this blog entry might "open up a can of worms" (By the way, can anyone tell me if this expression "can of worms" was born out of reference to the historical controversy stirred at Martin Luther's infamous "Diet of Worms" in Germany?)..

In quoting the following (below) from a sermon from Dr. John Piper, I seek only to address the issue Dr. Piper addresses, and that is what is being refered to as passing away "when the perfect comes" in the text of 1 Corinthians 13. As those who believe the Bible, here's what I know we agree on: we agree that prophecies will pass away when the perfect comes. We believe that for the simple reason that scripture says just that. Where there might be some disagreement concerns the question of when exactly this is.

I am very much prepared to believe that you as a reader here desire to follow what scripture says just as deeply as I do. Can we believe that about each other? Can we make this assumption? I truly hope so. I am John Samson. I write as a brother in Christ. I genuinely and wholeheartedly affirm all the reformation solas (including sola scriptura)... and I just happen to agree with Dr. John Piper when he states (in this lengthy quotation):

"In 1 Corinthians 13:8 Paul says, "Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away." So the question I want to try to answer today is: What time is referred to when Paul says, "Prophecies . . . will pass away." Has it already passed away or will it pass away at some future time?

The next two verses (9-10) give the reason for why prophecies and knowledge will pass away: "For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect (literally: For we know in part and we prophesy in part); but when the perfect (or: mature, complete) comes, the imperfect (or: partial) will pass away." So the reason prophecies will pass away is that a time is coming when the partiality and incompleteness of the gift of prophecy will be replaced by perfection and completeness and wholeness.

When is that time?

Continue reading "When the perfect comes" »

March 23, 2007  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

Helpful Links 03-22-07


Calvinism Vs. Arminianism Debate
Reclaiming the Mind Ministries is hosting a special Converse with Scholars during the next two weeks. I am very excited about this program as there will be two fine scholars on to represent their respecting positions. Tonight, March 22 at 10pm EST, Roger Olson will be joining the program to discuss the Arminian position. The following Thursday, March 29 at 10pm EST, Samuel Storms will be discussing the Calvinist position.

19 Free MP3 Downloadable Lectures on the Attributes (or Perfections) of God by J.I. Packer

The Morning I Heard the Voice of God by John Piper

Prayer List - J.W. Hendryx - making a list of things to pray for.

Vast Numbers of MP3s Available by Reformed Speakers

Book Review: Unless You Repent by Jonathan Edwards - by Tony Reinke

March 22, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Genuine Relationship or Machines

A visitor recently made a comment, one that is a common argument among Arminians and other synergists. Thought I would share with you the question and my response:

Assertion against Calvinism The Bible, from front to back, is about God desiring a genuine relationship with those he has made in his image. This relationship takes place through influence and response, not cause and effect (as in your system). Your system will always reduce men to mere machines that can only act when acted upon, or can only move when moved.

Response: This is quite an incorrect understanding of what we believe. God saves us by mercy alone, and there is nothing mechanical or automated about it. Here's why:

First it is important to note. God's law reveals to us, not our ability, but our inability ("though the law comes knowldge of sin" Rom 3:20) So Jesus, in mercy, does for us what we could not do for ourselves. Pays the debt we ourselves are unable to lift a finger to repay. The gospel says, "WHILE we were still HELPLESS, Christ died for us." And "while we were yet dead in sin, God quickened us." If He didn't act first to give us life, in mercy, we would not have been able to respond, even more importantly, would not. Our entire edifice was rotten to the core so if any were to have hope God would have to intervene to resurrect our spiritually dead souls. So it isn't about machines (or cause and effect), it is about God's mercy doing something for us that we could not do ourselves.

As an example to help express how this works, take a a friend who is drowning. Do you merely hold out your hand for him and ONLY help if he first helps himself by reaching to you? Is that what makes it personal and a relationship? What kind of love is that? No, you jump in the water to make certain he is saved from drowning. True love gets the job done. A relationship of love (a genuine relationship) is there EVEN when the friend is unable to respond and is in mortal danger. But the kind of love you appear to believe is that God loves everyone in a generic sense but really has a conditional love for these persons based on what they do. This is not unconditional love.

We would agree that God does indeed give us conditions. But it is Christ who fulfills them on our behalf. Yes we must pay our debts in full, but thanks be to God, Christ is our paymaster. Our response is only possible because of the grace we have in Christ, apart from which we would have no hope whatsoever. Unless you are willing to acknowledge that we have no hope save in Christ's mercy ALONE, then your understanding of the gospel, I would argue, is only partial.

"God knoweth we have nothing of ourselves, therefore in the covenant of grace he requireth no more than he giveth, and giveth what he requireth, and accepteth what he giveth." -Richard Sibbes: From The Bruised Reed

See My essay To Cut off the Sinner from All Hope in Himself

March 07, 2007  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Christ's Use of the Law to Promote Piety in the Christian

Read my new post at Monergism.com

Christ's Use of the Law to Promote Piety in the Christian
Joel Beeke on Calvin's three uses of the law with JWH comments following

March 02, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Love and Knowledge by Pastor John Samson

"Which commandment is the most important of all?"
Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' - Mark 12:28-30 ESV

If you love someone, you want to know all about them don't you? You want to learn of their likes and dislikes, their interests and hobbies, as well as their hopes and dreams.

How different this is from our culture's mindset. Love is portrayed as merely a feeling (which it certainly is, but it is far more than that). A pop song of a former era describes the essence of love in many people's minds today. The title, "Hello, I love you, won't you tell me your name?" says it all. But is that true? Can love exist without knowledge? I don't think so. Loving someone does not mean merely feeling something, but also knowing something. Could someone truly love another person yet have no interest in knowing more about them? I don't think so.

When it comes to God, Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We often hear sermons telling us to love Him with our hearts, and even our strength (having a passion to spread His Gospel through our life and testimony). But what of the soul, and what of the mind? We love God with our minds by consistently thinking right thoughts about Him; by finding out what He has revealed about Himself to us in His Word.

Continue reading "Love and Knowledge by Pastor John Samson" »

March 01, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Regeneration, Justification, Sanctification

Here is a question from a visitor out of our mailbag with my response following....

Hey John, I have read a lot of your website and I appreciate the tremendous effort you have put into something that you feel very strongly about. I have carefully examined Calvinism for several years now, and find it to be thoroughly unbiblical. I find Calvinist exegesis to be very strained and artificial. I have only found more of the same at your website. I do, however, want to make sure that I properly understand any Calvinist doctrine before criticizing it. So my question has to do with regeneration, justification, and sanctification. If these terms are defined in the way that theologians usually define them, then I think Calvinism has a serious difficulty to overcome. I have not seen any articles posted on your website that address this issue. So what am I talking about?

What is regeneration? It seems to me that regeneration in the Calvinists scheme refers to being freed from sin so that one can respond to the gospel message. It is the work of irresistible grace. It is being born again (given spiritual life). Calvinists also believe that we are justified by faith, but that regeneration precedes faith and justification. What I do not understand is how one can be given spiritual life, be “born again”, and not yet be justified. Are we then saved before we are justified? If we are already given new life (which is what regeneration means), then why the further need for faith or anything else? If Christ’s atoning satisfaction for our sins is not placed on our account until we are justified through faith, then how can one be regenerated before they are forgiven? How can one be given new life while they are still under the wrath of God? If sin is the cause of our spiritual death, how can we be freed from sins deadly influence before we have been forgiven?

What about sanctification? Is regeneration the beginning of God’s sanctifying work (most Calvinist authors that I have read would say it is), then again, how can one begin to be sanctified (made holy) before they are forgiven? I have yet to read a Calvinist deal with this problem. Perhaps you can help me understand.

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Hi __________

Thanks for your email. That is a fair question It appears you are thinking of these things in terms of a temporal order, while the Scripture does not really warrant such thinking. You must remember, regeneration (the new birth) is also a redemptive benefit of our union with Jesus Christ. All spiritual blessings have Jesus Christ as their fountain.

Continue reading "Regeneration, Justification, Sanctification" »

February 28, 2007  |  Comments (19)   |  Permalink

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

Continue reading "Choice Quotes on Regeneration" »

February 22, 2007  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Watch Sproul on The Holiness of God

R C Sproul's recent outstanding 3 message series on the Holiness of God, from the 2007 Desiring God Conference for Pastors (preached just last week), are now available to watch online at http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/

February 15, 2007  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

A Good Response

I loved reading Phil Johnson's recent response to a questioner at his Pyromaniacs blog site who asked...

Your identity as a "Baptist"; your endless quotations from Charles Spurgeon; your faithful devotion to John MacArthur; and especially your willingness to call yourself a "Calvinist" are all huge red flags that tell me something is seriously wrong with your theology. Why do you teach a system of doctrine that is named after a mere man? Why are you following human teachers instead of going to the Bible alone? After all, 1 John 2:27 says, "The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you." We ought to go to Scripture alone to establish our doctrine! The truth is in God's Holy word, not in any theological system or theology textbook developed by mere men. Isn't that principle what the Reformation was originally about? Sola Scriptura? Didn't even Calvin himself go to Scripture for the truth instead of reading other men? I believe that if Calvin himself wrote for this blog, he would point people to the truth in God's Holy word, not to a theology developed by some other man.

Phil's reply:
You have seriously misunderstood sola Sriptura if you really imagine that it rules out human teachers or eliminates systematic theology. The Reformers (including Calvin) often cited the works of Augustine, Tertullian, Jerome, Cyprian, Ambrose, and others-ranging from the early church fathers through Aquinas. They didn't follow any of them slavishly, of course, but they certainly took them seriously. Not one of the major Reformers would have tolerated the claim that because the Church Fathers were mere men they were therefore irrelevant or incapable of shedding any helpful light on tough theological questions.

Continue reading "A Good Response" »

January 24, 2007  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

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

Reviewed by Pastor Charles R. Biggs

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

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

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

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

January 23, 2007  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

The kind of faith that saves

In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul's entire theme is the Gospel. He makes it abundantly clear that no one comes to God by works, but through faith (see Romans 4:4, 5 as just one example of this). In contrast, James, in his epistle, is seeking to define the nature of true saving faith. Making a claim to genuine faith is not enough. It is not the mere profession of faith that saves but the possession of it. The kind of faith that saves is a faith that is alive and not dead, and will of necessity produce works. If the faith professed does not produce works, then the faith was not genuine, and therefore will not save. Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone.

Here's a lengthy quotation from James White's book "The God Who Justifies" pp. 333-336 (technically speaking, the blog format here does not seem to allow for Greek words to be written as such, so they have been written in English):

James 2:14 - What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? (NET)

Alternates:
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? (NIV)

Continue reading "The kind of faith that saves" »

January 18, 2007  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

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, “14 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.”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 Paul’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), ‘until now the Lord has not given you a heart to understand.’ 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.

January 16, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Important and Often Overlooked Fact

For clarity, when the majority of Synergists say that man has free will, what he really means is that causal determinism is false – not that the natural man has the moral ability to chose Christ. Secondly, when a Calvinist says that man does not have free will, what he means is the natural man is spiritually impotent (his affections are in bondage to a corruption of nature) and thus does not have the moral ability to chose Christ.

In this both both sides agree: the desires of the natural man (who do not have the Holy Spirit) are naturally inclined toward evil, thus all he does does not spring from a heart that loves God, even his so-called "good works" since they are not done in faith. And if your "good works" are not done from faith, that is, to please and glorify God, then they have no redemptive element. This inclination is the result of being born in Adam ... fallen, that is, born into a broken relationship with God, and a person (by nature) can be no other way unless he is set free by Christ so that the relationship is mended.

Unbeknownst to many, these are truths that every true follower of Christ knows, even if we do not mean the same thing when we use the phrase, “free will.” Thus, these truths form part of the common ground shared by all true followers of Christ. The question is whether the freedom granted to us in Christ is effectual or ineffectual? Whether we are quickened (regenerated) while we are still dead in transgressions or whether those without the Spirit can understand and love Christ apart from regeneration. The Scriptures answer: "Even, when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ..." (Eph 2:5). So, according to Scripture, while we were still unregenerate, Christ, through the Holy Spirit, quickened us by grace, making us alive in Him. Since a natural man cannot understand spiritual things unless God grants his Holy Spirit to renew our hearts, he will not come unless first quickened. Those dead spiritually (without the Holy Spirit), by definition, do not have faith. Faith is the result of a renewed heart, not the cause of it.

But with regards to the ideas of “free will” and determinism: the central issue has to do with whether things happen contingently or by necessity. Do our natures drive us to make choices by necessity or may we choose against what we are. "You do not believe because you are not of God," Jesus said to those Jews he was debating with. When set free when united to Christ, He gives us a new heart that willingly and voluntarily chooses Christ of necessity.

Libertarian free will and molinism simply do not square with what we believe to be true about God as plainly revealed in Scripture. Therein lies the main issue. (see John chapters 8 and 10).

January 08, 2007  |  Comments (18)   |  Permalink

The Active Obedience of Christ - No Hope Without It!

Shortly before he died (January 1, 1937), Dr. J. Gresham Machen sent a final telegram to his friend Professor John Murray. The words of the telegram were these: "I'm so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it." I'm convinced that in these short words, Dr. Machen was able to express the essence of the biblical Gospel. Let me explain:

Theologians talk of a double function of Christ as our Savior in saving us - His passive and active obedience. The passive obedience refers to His laying His life down for us His sheep. He died an atoning death paying the full penalty for sins. Yet, what is often missed is the function of His 33 years of life on earth perfectly fulfilling all the demands of the law. This righteousness, one that has fulfilled the entire law of God is what is credited to our account as believers in Christ. Christ is our righteousness!

Some time ago, I wrote the following:

CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS, AND LIVED FOR OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS - The Lord Jesus Christ not only died an atoning death for our sins, but He also lived a sinless life that perfectly fulfilled the righteous standards of the law. If all that was necessary for our justification was the death of Jesus on the cross, He could have come down to earth on a parachute on Good Friday, died on the cross for us, and three days later, risen again. But we all know that this is not what happened. Why? Because that would never have been enough.

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November 29, 2006  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

The Question of God's Foreknowledge by Pastor John Samson

Almost a year ago to the day (11/15/05), I posted an article here on this blog regarding God's foreknowledge. Since that time I've had some very encouraging feedback from people concerning the impact it had on them, with many saying that it caused them to examine very firmly held traditions in this area. I post it once again here in the hope that it might be helpful to those who may not be in the habit of regularly checking through the archives.

Question: In Romans 8:29, the text reads "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son..." Does this not therefore suggest that because foreknowledge comes before predestination in the text, then predestination is simply based on God's foreknowledge: because God foreknows or sees in advance (with full and complete knowledge) what a person will do, and who it is that will respond in faith to the Gospel, He simply predestinates those whom He knows ahead of time will believe?

Answer: Certainly this is how I understood this passage for many years and it is the way that many deal with the issue of predestination in our day. Previously, I also pointed to 1 Peter 1:1-2 which talks of those who are "chosen, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father..." and assumed that this verse would add weight to the idea that election and predestination is based on God knowing ahead of time what we will do - God merely chooses those whom He sees ahead of time will choose Him.

At first glance, it certainly seems to be a legitimate interpretation, yet the fact that foreknowledge comes before predestination should in no way surprize us. That's because God would need to foreknow a person He is going to predestinate to something. God does not predestinate unknown persons, but specific individuals whom He knows. So this not really an argument for either side in this debate. In both systems, Arminian and Reformed, foreknowing would need to come before predestination. The real question then is "what exactly does it mean for God to foreknow somebody?"

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November 11, 2006  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Book Review: The Lamb of God, by Robert L. Reymond

(Reviewed by Nathan Pitchford)
Synopsis: The Lamb of God, by Robert Reymond, is an admirable attempt, everywhere edifying, to trace, not the thread, but the “thick cable” which runs from Genesis to Revelation, and binds together all of scriptures in one unified story. Reymond’s well-supported conclusion is that the Lamb-work of Christ is that thick cable; and that the scriptures are nothing but an ever-increasing unveiling of this Lamb-work in all of its rich significance.

Our Bible opens with the prophecy of a Seed of the woman, who would destroy the Serpent (Genesis 3:15); it closes with a description of Jesus Christ, the woman’s seed, riding forth to destroy the devil (Revelation 19:11-20:15). These two parallel passages, the first promise and final accomplishment of one great event, bind together all of scriptures into one unified story of the suffering yet victorious Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Beginning with this basic premise, Reymond traces the theme of the Lamb-work of Christ throughout the scriptures. In the opening pages of the Bible, the Lamb is prophesied, symbolized, and typified; throughout the Prophets, the Lamb is depicted much more extensively as the personal and almighty Immanuel, at once the suffering servant and the eternal God. In the New Testament, the Lamb is identified, crucified, and raised victorious – and in the final book of our Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Lamb is displayed in all his glory.

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November 07, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Amyraldian View Undone

Have a look at the following defintion of Amyraldianism, and then I have a follow-up question at the end which should put to rest all arguments against limited atonement by the universalists once for all. At the end of the essay I will demonstrate why this is important and may help us become more consistent with the word of God, and recognize this not just a debate about semantics but about the work of Christ in our salvation:

What is Amyraldianism?
Amyraldism developed historically following the Synod of Dort as a compromise between Calvinism and the early Arminianism by giving up some aspects of Calvinism which some found hard to embrace. The Amyraldian view, named after French Theologian Moses Amyraut, 1569-1664, is associated with Calvinism because it retains a particularistic element by acknowledging God's distinguishing grace in the election of individuals.

Amyraldians, however, place divine election after the decree to provide an atonement. This makes the atonement universal in nature and the application of the atonement particular in nature through divine election. This view is sometimes referred to as Four-Point Calvinism since it gives up the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement in favor of a universal atonement. It is also known, perhaps more descriptively, as Hypothetical Redemptionism. Although Amyraldianism may be a recognizable form of Calvinism because it retains the principle of particularism in election, it is not necessarily a good form of Calvinism. According to B. B. Warfield, "it is a logically inconsistent and therefore unstable form of Calvinism. For another more important reason, it turns away from a substitutionary atonement, which is as precious to the Calvinist as his particularism," (Plan, p. 98).

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November 03, 2006  |  Comments (55)   |  Permalink

In what sense did Christ "empty" Himself?

In the midst of preparing a sermon on Philippians 2: 5-11, I began searching out what others have taught on this passage. I came across an outstanding article called "Beyond the Veil of Eternity" by my friend Dr. James White. He writes, "There are only a few times when God’s Word grants to us creatures the opportunity to peer back before creation itself and delve into the very relationship of Father, Son and Spirit. These passages have formed the core of a precious treasure, entrusted to the Church, wherein we find the very definition of what makes Christianity completely unique. Few passages, however, provide us with the breadth of revelation, the depth of theology, and the weight of importance, as the “Carmen Christi,” the “Hymn to Christ as God.” This section stands with John 1 and Colossians 1 as the pinnacle of Scriptural revelation on the eternal personality and deity of Jesus Christ and His relationship to the Father."

Many untrue things have been said and written about this passage as people have attempted to answer questions such as "what exactly did Christ empty Himself of?" or "Did Christ cease to be Divine?" or "Did Christ empty Himself of His Divine attributes?" Throughout the centuries, the cults have badly mangled and twisted the passage to their own destruction. But what is the correct interpretation of the passage? How are we to understand it?

So here's my recommendation... sit yourself down with a good cup of English tea (hey, I'm from England - its what we do, whatever the occasion) and read this article here. I believe it will prove to be a very worthwhile use of your time.

Enjoy! - Pastor John Samson

November 02, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Question on Perseverance & Revelation 22:19

Dear Mr. Hendryx,

I have read over some of the articles on your site would like to pose a question to you from the scriptures concerning the monergism/synergism debate. I have studied the cases of Calvinism, Arminianism, etc. for some time now, and soteriologically lean heavily towards Synergism. The question I ask is how do you reconcile your belief of perseverance of the saints with the warning given in Revelation 22:19? I have posed this question to quite a few Calvinist friends and authors, and the most intellectually sound answer I have gotten thus far is that God simply gives such warnings to keep His elect from falling away.The irony of that argument is that if God's purpose in issuing such a warning is that we 'take heed lest we fall,' then why am I in theological error for taking heed and believing that such a possibility could occur? In Christ,___________

----------

Response:
The main issue is the fact that God gives many commands in Scripture, all of which we have the inability to carry out apart from Christ. But, thanks be to God, Christ does for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. The purpose of the Law and warnings is not to show our natural ability but rather our inability (Rom 3:19, 20). "through the law we become conscious of sin", Which makes us flee to Christ. So when God commands us to persevere to the end, He is not telling us to look to our own resources to get there, but rather that we look to Christ, who alone is sufficient to fully save.

The error in question in Revelation 22:19 is to disbelieve the Scriptures by either adding to them or subtracting from them. That is, to disbelieve the very Christ who saves you. When we add or take away from the Scripture we are in effect saying that we do not like this particular God as He has revealed himself to me, so anyone who does this does not believe the Christ of Scripture to begin with. He believes in a false Christ. We should take heed for doing such a thing would reveal the true nature of our heart: unregenerate.

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October 26, 2006  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

The Importance of Predestination

[This editorial is found in Peace and Truth, the magazine of the Sovereign Grace Union, written by John Brentnall - www.sgu.org.uk]

In an age when the fear of man threatens to 'dumb down' our testimony to God's truth, it is well worth while to remind ourselves that the foundation doctrine of predestination is to be publicly preached, whether men hear or forbear. On this point let us heed the Word of God and the witness of some of His choicest servants.

1. God forbids us to tamper with His revealed will in the slightest way. "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it." (Deut 4.2) "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life." (Rev 22.18-19) As the doctrine of predestination forms part of His revealed will, it is included in this prohibition. Comments Zanchius:
"An ambassador is to deliver the whole message with which he is charged. He is to omit no part of it, but must declare the mind of the sovereign he represents, fully and without reserve. . . Let the minister of Christ weigh this well."

Continue reading "The Importance of Predestination" »

October 24, 2006  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Does clay form itself?

There is a very interesting discussion regarding election and reprobation over at Dr James White's blog here (see 10/21/06 entry). Is the the non-elect individual "fitted [by God] for destruction" or does he merely fit himself? Read this short article to see a challenge to even the great Spurgeon's remarks on Romans 9 on this subject.

October 22, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Temporal Sequence of the Benefits of Redemption?

DOCTRINAL QUESTION FROM VISITOR:
I found these “together with” words. Things that happen to us together with Christ. Reformed doctrine splits these up and puts them at different times, some before the foundation of the world, some at the cross, and some that God does at or after “their regeneration”. Why do you feel it is OK to split apart and re-order these “with Christ” events?

The Word The Strong’s #
“crucified with” (4957)
“dead with” (4880)
“buried with” (4916)
“quickened with” or “made alive with” (4806)
“raised up with” (4891)
“seated with” (4776)
“shall live with” (4800)
“united with” or “planted with” (4854)
“conformed” (4832) = ‘jointly formed’
“being made conformable” (4831a)
NT:4831 a
NT:4831 a summorphizomai (soom-mor-feed'-zo-mahee); derived from NT:4862 and NT:3445; causative; this word is only used in Christian writings: to be conformed to, to grant or invest with the same form, to share the likeness of, to take on the same form as (what Christ took on through his death, Phil 3:10).

So, when do these things happen to a person? Do you know what happens to a person in each step of this process?

Finding these words and looking up the contexts where they were used was like spotting a glimmer of gold in a mine. I had searched diligently through the whole New Testament, writing down individual verses on note cards that had to do with regeneration. After 6-9 months and stacks of cards I only had the possibility of only one verse: Gal. 3:26 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”. “If regeneration = new birth, then we were born again as a son of God by faith,” I reasoned. But, since the context was of adoption then I felt the doctrine might teach we are only a son by adoption, so it wasn’t strong enough. But when I found these “together with” words, charted their contexts, and studied them out, WOW, did I learn tons, and I just keep learning more.

Continue reading "Temporal Sequence of the Benefits of Redemption?" »

October 18, 2006  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Not Right Teaching, But Right Living

In our local newspaper on Sunday, there was a story about the emergent church, The title of the article is "Unchurched? Dechurched? Rechurched? Your prayers may be answered." Here is a quotable quote from Paul Metzger from Multnomah Bible Seminary: "These communities span the theological spectrum, drawing from ancient as well as contemporary sources of spirituality." He goes on to say, "For many of them, it's not about right-thinking or right-teaching, it's more about right-living."

Does that not strike you as an odd statement? How can you have right living without right teaching or right thinking? It is not as if orthodoxy and orthopraxy are mutually exclusive. Yet a close look at the Text of Scripture would have us be aware that orthopraxy (practice) is dependant upon orthodoxy. That is why Paul, in his epistles begins with several chapters of doctrine before He gets into how we should respond to it (See Eph 1-3, 4-6; Rom 1-12, 13+). If we do not know who Christ is, then He simply becomes a wax nose conforming to the latest fashion and our religion becomes indistinguishable from other world religions of human effort.

If the basis of our faith were orthopraxy more than orthodoxy then we could think wrong thoughts about Christ all day, as long as we remain well-behaved. This would amount to nothing more than a religion of behavior modification or moralism. The Scripture makes clear, however, that to the degree we think wrong thoughts about God, to that same degree we commit idolatry. If we reject what Christ taught about himself, in favor of only His teachings about how to behave and treat one another, then we strip the gospel of its substance and turn the grace of God into something about us. Our orthopraxy should, rather, arise our of what He has done for us. The new life in us animates our love for God.

Related Essays
"Reimagining Christianity": The Way Back to Rome by Richard Bennett

October 17, 2006  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart, or Did Pharaoh?

Colin Smith has written an interesting article (at Dr. James White's web site) regarding who it was who was responsible for the hardening of Pharoah's heart - found here.

October 14, 2006  |  Comments (12)   |  Permalink

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 Spirit’s work in effecting all salvific blessings – regeneration, justification and sanctification – flowing from the believer’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.

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October 13, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Jesus is 100% God, 100% man

It is vital to be precise when we talk of the Person of Jesus Christ. Heresy looms large on either side of the biblical road, and many a soul has fallen in to its hellishly hewned ditches. Getting it right about Christ is not merely a job for elite theologians. All of us are called upon to proclaim, herald and worship the biblical Christ. Only the biblical Christ is worthy of worship. Only the biblical Christ can save. That's because the biblical Christ is the only one who truly exists.

Jesus warned us that many false Christs would appear. This is the case in two ways: Firstly, there are false Christs who appear in human history to draw away disciples after themselves; secondly, there are false Christs erected in the minds of people, such as a Christ who is God but not man, or a man, but not God. Either kind is deadly to the soul.

So who exactly is the biblical Christ? The scriptures reveal very clearly that He is God and He is man. He is not a concocted blend of God and man, being perhaps 50% God and 50% man. He is full and undiminished deity and true humanity - in one Person. Exactly how can this be understood?

I came across a very helpful article on this theme today from Desiring God Ministries here . I recommend it highly. May the truths govern our thinking and guide our worship, as we do so in spirit and in truth. - Pastor John Samson

October 11, 2006  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

Wrestling with Predestination and Election

Question: I'm really wrestling with this whole idea of predestination and election. Isn't the idea of election just another word for fatalism?

Thank you for your question. First of all, you are not in any way the first person to wrestle with the weighty issues of Sovereign election over against free will. Many have walked this road before you. In fact, I too have not always believed what I now believe. You can be sure that much mental and emotional wrestling took place as I was in the process of learning what I believe to be the Biblical doctrine in this area. We all have traditions, and as a friend of mine, Dr. James White says so well, "the people most enslaved by their traditions are those who don't believe they have any."

When I first heard the message of Sovereign Grace and election taught, I have to admit that I resisted it. Though the teaching I heard was backed up with Scripture, I thought I had other Scriptures that would negate the ones I heard. Then I went to a question and answer session on the subject (the first of many, I might add). This proved to be invaluable for me, because many of the questions I had were raised, and, I had to admit, were answered from Scripture, in their proper Biblical context.

I was immediately alarmed by this, as I came to understand that this whole issue required a lot more research than I had previously thought. Knowing that I needed to believe what Scripture taught on the subject, I ordered much material, and began my research. It is never pleasant to examine firmly held traditions, and I felt that this was especially so in my position, when I had taught other things at various times in my ministry. No one wants to admit the possibility that they may in fact have been wrong.

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September 25, 2006  |  Comments (42)   |  Permalink

Three Views on Man's Condition

It is vital that each of us gains a biblical understanding of God and the Gospel. Unfortunately, the feedback I receive from people who are new to these issues is that they have an extremely difficult time following some of the discussions we have simply because they come across so many theological buzzwords, which are often left unexplained. (I believe the reformed faith could really be furthered if there was much more material available written for people without any theological foundation). These issues are extremely important ones and are things that every Christian needs to understand. Here then is a brief explanation of some of the terms you will come across as you study the issues:

1. PELAGIANISM - Salvation is all of man (human monergism - monergism means "one power working")

BELIEF: MAN IS WELL

Named after the British monk Pelagius (354 - 418 A.D.) Pelagius believed that Adam's sin affected no one but himself. Those born since Adam have been born into the same condition Adam was in before the Fall, neutral towards sin. Human beings are able to live free from sin if they want to.

This is a humanistic, man centered teaching and while it is very positive, it limits the nature and scope of sin and flatly denies the necessity of God's grace. This view was condemned as heresy by the Church, as it has no basis in Scripture.

2. SYNERGISM (through the actions of more than one - cooperation)

BELIEF: MAN IS SICK, EVEN MORTALLY SICK

Continue reading "Three Views on Man's Condition" »

September 15, 2006  |  Comments (21)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink

Sovereignty Revisited by Pastor John Samson

Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. - Psalm 135:6

God's Sovereignty can be defined as follows: God does what He wants, when He wants, the way He wants, without having to ask for permission.

Man in his hostile disposition against God rails against such an idea. Even Christians sometimes have a hard time accepting this very biblical concept. We don't mind God being Sovereign in the Universe, as long as it doesn't impact upon our personal freedom, it would seem.

Then there are the other Christians who define God's Sovereignty in terms of what they perceive as man's freedom. They say, "God Sovereignty extends to every area except the free will of the creature." I don't know if I ever said those exact words, but certainly, for many years, I would have believed them to be true. But if someone thinks clearly about this for just a few seconds, the idea can be shown to be quite ridiculous. If God is Sovereign but only in issues that are unrelated to human will, who then is ultimately Sovereign? Obviously the answer is man with his sovereign will.

The God of Scripture accomplishes everything He sets out to achieve, frustrating not mere individual plans, but the plans of entire nations. When King Nebuchadnezzar claimed glory for himself because of the illustrious empire he had built, God stepped in and as an act of judgment made him mad (see Daniel 4:28-37). In light of just this single incident in scripture (amongst many that could be given), I think we can safely say that the idea of God's Sovereignty being limited by human will is without warrant.

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September 11, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Free will vs. Free Agency

Visitor: What's the difference between freewill and free-agency?

Response: While descriptions may vary, I find the following explanation to be helpful. When it is said that people have no "free will" it does not mean that a person is coerced from the outside and must act against his will. Let that be clear up front. With this in mind, it is important that we learn to distinguish coersion vs. necessity. We are indeed free of external coersion but not free of necessity. Let me explain:

What we mean by denying a (fallen) person has free will is that he/she will act, by necessity, according to the corruption of his/her nature. They are in bondage to sin meaning the love of God and His law are not the unregenerate persons' deepest animating motive and principle (nor is it his motive at all), in anything he does. No one is coercing a sinner to act as they do. Man eagerly volunteers his submission to sin. This means, the unregenerate person will always choose according to who they are by nature, driven by their disposition. In other words, our choices are all voluntary, but we are not free to choose otherwise because we will not understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14) and indeed are hostile to them, according to Scripture. Men love darkness and hate the light and will not come into the light (John 3:19, 20) Without the Holy Spirit, man, by nature, is hostile to Christ. In other words, we are in bondage to sin until Christ sets us free. Jesus himself says that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, that a thornbush cannot bear figs. Jesus is teaching us that the nature of a thing determines BY NECESSITY (not coersion) the direction he/she will take.

Continue reading "Free will vs. Free Agency" »

September 09, 2006  |  Comments (27)   |  Permalink

The Goodness of God by Pastor John Samson

“You won’t catch me speaking about such things.” The statement came from a minister who had just heard me preach.

“What things?” I asked.

“Judgment, hell, wrath and the like” he said.

“Oh, so why is it that you will not speak of such things when the Bible clearly does?” I then asked.

I expected him to say something like, “well the Bible is a primitive book written in a primitive culture. People are more sophisticated in our day and need to hear a different kind of message – one that is affirming, and encouraging.” That's what I expected the minister to say. I expected him to ridicule me for believing and preaching the Bible in the 21st century, but this would be a wrong assumption on my part.

From his response to my question I could readily see that this man was in fact a Bible believing Christian… a Bible believing minister, no less. Here’s what he said:

“Well brother, Romans 2:4 says that it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance, so I believe if we want to see people repent, we have to preach on the goodness of God, not these other attributes.”

I was stunned! Completely stunned! The man was totally sincere, but I could hardly believe how the text he mentioned in Romans 2 could be so badly mistreated.

Continue reading "The Goodness of God by Pastor John Samson" »

September 04, 2006  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Monergism.com Web Traffic August 2006

August 2006

Unique Visitors: 81,689
Page Views: 522,014

Top 12 Pages @Monergism.com in Web Traffic
1) Sermon Manuscripts
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4) Online Books
5) John Piper (Hall of Contemporary Reformers)
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8) Bible Research/ Bibliology: Doctrine of the Written Word
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September 02, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

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.

Continue reading "Are We Basing Justification on Sanctification?" »

August 24, 2006  |  Comments (58)   |  Permalink

Is Penal Substitution Biblical?

In all of our zeal to contend for every doctrine of the bible (as commendable as such an attitude is), we would do well to remember that only a relatively few doctrines are so vital for the purity of the gospel that, to deny them is, in essence, to corrupt the good news of salvation in Christ. It is only fitting that, when we see these doctrines under attack, we give the primacy of our attention to defending them. And such a doctrine is the biblical conception of the atonement; that is, the conception that the atonement involves the substitution of Christ for us, by which, having taken upon himself our sins, he willingly undergoes the righteous wrath of the Father in our place. In other words, it is vital that we contend for an account of the atonement which views it as penal (that Christ satisfied the penalty of the law, as the righteousness of the Father demanded) substitution (that he underwent this penalty in our place). Any other model of the atonement will both fail the test of biblical witness, and leave us without an adequate plea for forgiveness and acceptance with God. So the question arises, “Is this biblical doctrine under attack today?”

Continue reading "Is Penal Substitution Biblical?" »

August 18, 2006  |  Comments (54)   |  Permalink

2006 Pacific Northwest Reformation Conference

Come join the Monergism crew for a conference in the Pacific Northwest:The Last Days: What Does the Bible Teach?
in Lynden Washington on September 15&16 2006 at Lynden United Reformed Church. if my memory serves me correctly the conference is free and it will most likely be standing room only! (Seating for about 500 people)

Speakers:
Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, President, Westminster Seminary California and Professor of Church History
Dr. Michael Scott Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics Westminster Seminary California, Host of White Horse Inn

Schedule:
Friday, Sept. 15 7:00 PM
Session 1- When Will These Things Be? Christian views of end times--Dr. Godfrey

Saturday, Sept. 16 Times TBD
Session 2- Jesus Our Prophet: Matthew 24--Dr. Godfrey
Session 3- Holy War, Holy Land--Dr. Horton
Session 4- Q&A with Dr. Godfrey and Dr. Horton
Session 5- Israel and the Church--Dr. Godfrey

Click here for more info...

August 17, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Love of Christ Is Rich and Free


1. The love of Christ is rich and free;
Fixed on His own eternally;
Nor earth, nor hell, can it remove;
Long as He lives, His own He’ll love.

2. His loving heart engaged to be
Their everlasting Surety;
’Twas love that took their cause in hand,
And love maintains it to the end.

Chorus: Love cannot from its post withdraw;
Nor death, nor hell, nor sin, nor law,
Can turn the Surety’s heart away;
He’ll love His own to endless day.

3. Love has redeemed His sheep with blood;
And love will bring them safe to God;
Love calls them all from death to life;
And love will finish all their strife.

4. He loves through every changing scene,
Nor aught from Him can Zion wean;
Not all the wanderings of her heart
Can make His love for her depart.
(Repeat chorus)

5. At death, beyond the grave, He’ll love;
In endless bliss, His own shall prove
The blazing glory of that love
Which never could from them remove.

Tag: Which never could from them remove.

William Gadsby
Music: Sandra McCracken

Demo MP3

Where to Find out More
Sandra McCracken - The Builder And The Architect
For All The Saints: Indelible Grace III

August 16, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

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 physics—in physical laws—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.

Continue reading "Bono the Covenant Theologian" »

August 14, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Don't Be Stingy

In his book "A Generous Orthodoxy", when speaking of the doctrine of unconditional election, Brian McLaren in an attempt to redefine TULIP, asserts that anyone who believes in a God who elects some and not others to eternal life (1 Peter 1:2) must be so self-absorbed in their standing before God that they view themselves as having what he calls “exclusive privilege” over others.

How McLaren could reach such a puzzling conclusion is a very interesting question, one which I hope to explore more in depth (along with a testimony of God's grace in my own conversion) below:

It can be demonstrated, on the contrary, that the divine intent of revealing the the doctrine of election to us in Scripture was actually to bring about the opposite effect. Understood rightly, our election in Christ safeguards the biblical axiom that our salvation is by the grace of Jesus Christ, and by that grace ALONE ... that salvation is wholly, not partly, procured by Jesus Christ and our being united to Him by His Holy Spirit. Paul thus defines a Christian as one who worships in the Spirit of God, glories in Christ Jesus and has no confidence in the flesh (Phil 3).

Continue reading "Don't Be Stingy" »

August 09, 2006  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

Lectures on "The History and Theology of Calvinism" (MP3s) by Dr. Curt Daniel

Dr. Curt Daniel of Faith Bible Church is a knowledgeable student and teacher of Reformed theology and history. His approach is to "leave no stone unturned" in pursuing the truth of Scripture. His breadth of knowledge enables him to easily glean from the theological giants that have gone before. Dr. Daniel attended Central Bible College (B.A.), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and the University of Edinburgh (Ph.D.). Dr. Daniel teaches, preaches and publishes theological works consistent with Scripture and Reformed Theology.

Daniel's series on the History and Theology of Calvinism can be heard here where he covers the following topics: What is Calvinism? ; Augustine and Pre-Calvinism ; The Reformation ; John Calvin ; The Spread of Calvinism ; The Synod of Dort ; The Puritans ; The Westminster Assembly ; Covenant Theology ; High Calvinism ; Amyraldism ; Calvinistic Antinomianism; Hyper-Calvinism ; Eighteenth Century Calvinism ; Jonathan Edwards and New England Calvinism ; The Princeton Theology ; 19th Century Calvinism - North-South & In the Confederacy ; Calvinistic Baptists ; Dutch Calvinism; Calvinistic Philosophy ; The Theonomy Movement ; Neo-Orthodoxy ; 20th Century British Calvinism
20th Century American Calvinism

Thanks to Radio Apologia and Faith Bible Church

July 31, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Importance of the Creeds by Pastor John Samson

"Doctrine divides!" That's the popular belief of our culture today, as its sails on the shifting sea of modern day relativism. Our generation shouts out, "It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere," yet the Bible portrays a very different message.

We have to admit that doctrine does in fact divide. It divides truth from error, the true prophet from the false prophet, and the real Christ from the counterfeit.

Some say "all I want is a relationship with God" not some dead creed or theology. I am all for knowing God intimately, but we need to know the difference between the real God and the many false ones. If someone wants to know Jesus, they first need to make clear which "Jesus" they are referring to: the "Jesus" of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) who is the spirit brother of Lucifer, the result of God the Father's sexual union with Mary?; or perhaps the "Jesus" of the Watchtower organization (Jehovah's Witnesses) who is a created though highly elevated god?; or perhaps the "Jesus" of Islam who was never the Son of God but merely a highly esteemed prophet, who was whisked away from the cross and never suffered death? Exactly which Jesus - for there are many out there?

Living in Arizona, close to the U.S. border with Mexico, I meet many people called "Jesus" amongst the Hispanic community... but on no occasion have I ever thought I was meeting the Savior of the world. I understand that "Jesus" is merely a popular name that Mexican parents choose for their boys.

Another vital question we need to ask is how exactly does God bring people into relationship with Himself.. by grace? By human works? By a mixture of the two? Or by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone?

Lets remember that the Judaizers in the Galatian church had many things right. They were probably very orthodox on a whole number of issues. They would no doubt affirm belief in the one true God, and that Jesus Christ was the long awaited Messiah. They wished to be included in the Christian assembly and I feel sure that they would have spoken about Christ with very affectionate terms. Yet, they added just ONE thing to the biblical Gospel (happened to be circumcision in their case) and the Apostle Paul pronounced the anathema (eternal curse) of God upon them (Galatians 1:6-9), calling them "false brothers" (Galatians 2:4) - not merely "brothers who have a different perspective with whom we agree to disagree" but in fact, people who looked and acted like brothers, but who were nothing of the kind.

Though all doctrine is important, some doctrines are more important than others. According to sacred scripture, there are such things as "damnable heresies" (2 Peter 2:1) - heresies that damn the soul. It is imperative then that we believe in and proclaim the one true God and His one true Gospel.

Many in our own day are able to speak favorably about God and about Christ, but exactly which god and which Christ? If they are not honoring the one true God, then they are honoring a false one, and the sad reality is that false gods cannot save for the simple reason that they do not actually exist.

Continue reading "The Importance of the Creeds by Pastor John Samson" »

July 29, 2006  |  Comments (16)   |  Permalink

Redemptve Blessings for the Elect Only?

This attempts to answer the question of a visitor as to the Scriptural witness regarding the doctrine of limited atonement: i.e. Does the Scripture teach that Christ died in a way for the elect that he did not for the non-elect (that is, redemptively)? Hopefully some of the following Scripture will shine a light on the subject to many in a way not previously considered.

Dear Mr. Hendryx:

Greetings. I endeavour to write you regarding a topic of utmost importance: The extent of Christ's atonement. In undertaking this subject, it is my desire not to confound this matter with theories of atonement, for that it is quite another undertaking. Neither do I wish to engage in metaphysical discussions on the freedom or bondage of the will, the irresistibility or efficacy of how God operates His grace, the inherent depravity and/or inability of man, the imputation of Adam's sin, supralapsarianism, sublapsarianism, infralapsarianism, double-predestination, conditional or unconditional election, the perserverance of the saints, etcetera. I desire only to discuss the extent of Christ's atonement.
The question is, "Is limited atonement Scriptural?" not "What did the Reformers say?" Seeing as this is the case, I enquire of you proofs for either of these two propositions: Affirmatively, show me one or more passages of Scripture that state Christ died only for the elect (those who are saved); or negatively, show me one or more passages of Scripture that state Christ did not die for the non-elect (those who perish). Thank you for your consideration in advance.

Some of the following texts demonstrate that Christ died in a way for the elect that he did not for the non-elect (that is, redemptively).

"Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant." (Heb 9:15)

In the above, the "called" and the "redeemed" are one and the same.

Heb. 10:14-18 - "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, 'THIS IS THE NEW COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,' He then says, 'AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.' Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin."

From these important Texts in Hebrews we see:

1) God grants people faith in Himself unto salvation, and
2) God forgave their sins once and forever through the blood of Christ.
But the quotation in the text of Jer. 31 in Heb. 8 puts it like this: 1) God grants people faith in Himself unto salvation, ***FOR*** 2) God forgave their sins once and forever through the blood of Christ. So it is clear that Christ's death purchases faith in the New Covenant, which means that those who believe do so because of a the atonement.

Continue reading "Redemptve Blessings for the Elect Only?" »

July 28, 2006  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

What is Calvinism? by B. B. Warfield

It is very odd how difficult it seems for some persons to understand just what Calvinism is. And yet the matter itself presents no difficulty whatever. It is capable of being put into a single sentence; and that, on level to every religious man's comprehension. For Calvinism is just religion in its purity. We have only, therefore, to conceive of religion in its purity, and that is Calvinism.

In what attitude of mind and heart does religion come most fully to its rights? Is it not in the attitude of prayer? When we kneel before God, not with the body merely, but with the mind and heart, we have assumed the attitude which above all others deserves the name of religious. And this religious attitude by way of eminence is obviously just the attitude of utter dependence and humble trust. He who comes to God in prayer, comes not in a spirit of self-assertion, but in a spirit of trustful dependence.

Continue reading "What is Calvinism? by B. B. Warfield" »

July 23, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

An Attempt to Argue Against Faith as A Gift

Recently a visitor responded to my recent post entitled, "Is Faith a Gift, What Does Jesus Say?" where I point out that Jesus says, "no one can come to me unless the Father grants it" ...In the post it shows that this passage is affirming nothing less than that no one can believe in Christ unless God grants it.. and when accompanied by v. 37 that all that the Father gives to me WILL come to me, and those who comes to me will not be cast out" Jesus is plainly saying that all who are given Him by the Father will believe in Him and He will not cast them out. The act of "giving" of the Father to the Son is prior to the faith of the same individual, and that these texts show that such faith is certain, not merely a possibility. All those whom He grants (v 65) and draws (v.44) will be raised up at the last day without exception the text affirms. So no one can believe on Jesus unless God grants it (vs 65) and all to whom God grants it will believe (vs 37). This is a univeral negative and a universal positive and forms a syllogism. This leaves no room for the idea that the passage somehow affirms that all given to Christ have the OPPORTUNITY or natural ability to believe, as the visitor attempts to assert but that grace alone is what saves.

Here is the visitors response in full, with my own critique of their response following:

Visitor:
IT IS NOT FAITH, BUT RATHER SALVATION THAT IS THE GIFT OF GOD

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

By grace through faith you are saved, NOT, by grace you can have faith and are saved.

Firstly, I’d like to offer a definition for the words grace and faith.


Grace is God’s unmerited favor - something that is done for us without our help and is neither deserved nor undeserved.

Continue reading "An Attempt to Argue Against Faith as A Gift" »

July 21, 2006  |  Comments (29)   |  Permalink

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 “to critique the teachings of the ‘New Perspective on Paul,’ ‘Federal Vision’ 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 GA….”

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).

July 21, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Is Faith the Gift of God? What Does Jesus Say?

This question has always been a controversial one, yet this is puzzling considering how plainly the answer to this question is granted to us in the Holy Scriptures. Some modern Evangelicals seem to think that faith is something that arises out of the fallen natures of some persons but not others ... and that this difference in response is not due to grace (for all had grace), but rather, some inherent difference in the persons themselves. But Jesus puts this kind of speculation to rest:

Jesus declares "no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father." (John 6:65) In the same passage Jesus declares: " all that the Father gives to Me will come to Me." (John 6:37) In both verses the phrase "come to Me" simply means "believe in Me" and so taken together Jesus is stating that no one can believe in Him unless God grants it, and all to whom God grants it will believe". According to this passage, then, God grants faith, a faith that will infallibly arise in the heart of those He has given His Son...

Continue reading "Is Faith the Gift of God? What Does Jesus Say?" »

July 19, 2006  |  Comments (31)   |  Permalink

Theology & Evangelism by J.I. Packer

"Evangelism and theology for the most part go separate ways, and the result is great loss for both. When theology is not held on course by the demands of evangelistic communcation, it grows abstract and speculative, wayward in method, theoretical in interest and irresponsible in stance. When evangelism is not fertilized, fed and controlled by theology, it becomes a stylized performance seeking its effect through manipulative skills rather than the power of vision and the force of truth. Both theology and evangelism are then, in one important sense, unreal, false to their own God-given nature; for all true theology has an evangelistic thrust, and all true evangelism is theology in action." - J.I. Packer
July 13, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Philosophy of (The Christian) Religion

Philosophy of (The Christian) Religion compiled by Paul Manata New Subsection @Monergism.com

Introduction: This is comparable to a book on the Philosophy of Religion. There are a few differences between this "book" and other books. You will notice that there are no (well, just one or two) arguments against the positions I've listed. This is because this "book" is also meant to substitute as an apologetics "book" for the Christian faith, hence the offensive nature. Furthermore, this "book" is intended to present the Philosophy of Christianity from a Reformed perspective and also a presupposition approach to answering many of these questions (or, what I feel is in the same “vein” as presuppositional-esk answers). I also included some dated (or, stated in a non-analytical way) statements of Omniscience and Omnipotence, the reason for this is because I feel that if one could just state the traditional reformed understandings of these doctrines one would avoid many of the so-called problems with these doctrines. I have also included "chapters" in this "book" that are not found in other Philosophy of Religion texts (e.g., Christian Theism and Abstracta). I hope this "book" serves to increase your understanding of the Reformed Faith (or, in other words, Christian Faith) as well as enables you to better defend it.

Enter Here

July 12, 2006  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

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...

Continue reading "Blind Until God Opens our Eyes" »

July 04, 2006  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Dr. Meredith G. Kline & B.B. Warfield

Here is a great resource for anyone doing research into Meredith G. Kline. (or Covenant theology) Dr. Meredith G. Kline Online - Website dedicated to his Books, articles and essays

For over half a century, Dr. Meredith G. Kline, an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, served as a professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary (in Philadelphia), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Seminary California. He received his B.D. and Th.M. degrees from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) and his Ph.D. degree in Assyriology and Egyptology from Dropsie College.

Here is another resource Website recently posted by Covenant OPC

Warfield's Apologetics
This website seeks to promote the apologetical approach of Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, B. B. Warfield, and J. Gresham Machen typically referred to as the "tradition of Old Princeton," or as "Old School Presbyterianism." many articles, links, and papers that promote Warfield's apologetical approach as time permits. Not all the links or articles will be from Warfield's rigorous Calvinism, which we equally share, but they will attempt to give a reasonable argument for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).

July 04, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Prayer of the Synergist Redux

The following is a response from a reader to my short post called " Prayer of the Consistent Synergist" which uses a hypothetical prayer to expose the false belief that we are saved only partially by grace and partially by the human will (i.e. not by grace alone ... or not by grace through faith but by grace plus faith). This was the original prayer I wrote showing the theological inconsistency of synergistic salvation, which he responds to ...

"God, I give you glory for everything else, but not my faith ... This is the one thing that is my very own that I produced of my fallen natural capacities. For this little bit the glory is mine. So I thank you Lord that I am not like other men who do not have faith. When you extended your grace to all men some did not make use of it, BUT I DID. While You deserve glory for all I have Lord, my faith was the one part that I contributed to the price of my redemption, apart from and independent of the work of Your Holy Spirit."

Here is Mike's letter with my response to his questions/comments following:

Mike wrote:
Please allow me to re-write that prayer for your readers:

"Lord God, you have created the earth and everything in it. You created man and put him in paradise. You commanded man not to eat of the evil fruit, but he disobeyed you, and because of that, he doomed man-kind to be underneath the reigns of sin. Everything about man was twisted. Every child who is born is a natural born sinner. Everybody deserves to be sent to hell for eternity because of his state. Yet, because you love ALL of man-kind so much, you gifted him to be able to accept your word. This way it gives ALL men a chance to receive your gospel. Lord God, I know that I am a sinner, yet I know that you came to this earth and you died- not only for my sin- but everybody's sin. You give everyone a chance to receive your Word, as long as it is presented to him, and God, I am so thankful that you presented your Word to me because otherwise, I would be lost in the dark."

We are commissioned to go and tell ALL the world the good news of the Gospel. So put yourself in this picture: You are literally telling the whole world the gospel. Everybody on this entire planet. What would you say to them? Would you say to them,

Continue reading "Prayer of the Synergist Redux" »

July 03, 2006  |  Comments (16)   |  Permalink

Augustine on the New Life in Christ

In his book The Triumph of Grace: Augustine's Writings on Salvation, Dr. N.R. Needham has done a great service to the Church in bringing together Augustine's quotes on topics related to salvation. Dr. Needham has given us his generous permission to post chapter five entitled "The New Life in Christ" in which he gives a short introductory essay on the new birth followed by a great number of helpful quotes from Augustine regarding this issue. Please take time to read the short essay and this excellent compilation of quotations. It shows a clear contrast between man-centered false views and the biblical view of grace.

CHAPTER 5.

THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST

‘Can we possibly, without utter absurdity, maintain that there first existed in anyone the good virtue of a good will, to entitle him to the removal of his heart of stone? How can we say this, when all the time this heart of stone itself signifies precisely a will of the hardest kind, a will that is absolutely inflexible against God? For if a good will comes first, there is obviously no longer a heart of stone.’

Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 29


‘For we are now speaking of the desire for goodness. If they want to say that this begins from ourselves and is then perfected by God, let them see how they can answer the apostle when he says, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5)’

Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, 2:18

Continue reading "Augustine on the New Life in Christ" »

June 28, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

PCA General Assembly Overture on FV, NPP Theology Adopted

The following may be of great interest to any persons in the PCA or anyone following the Federal Vision, Auburn Avenue controversy.

At the recent PCA General Assembly an overture concerning Federal Vision, New Perspective on Paul, Shepherdism and Auburn Avenue Theology was raised. Some of these viewpoints have brought confusion on theological definitions and concepts that appear to strike at the heart of the gospel and the vitals of religion...

Therefore, be it resolved that the Rocky Mountain Presbytery overtures the 34th PCA General Assembly to erect an ad interim committee (RAO 8-1) to study the above named viewpoints and their formulations, and other similar viewpoints which are deemed by the committee to pertain to the above named viewpoints. Further, to determine whether these viewpoints and formulations are in conformity with the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards, whether they are hostile to or strike at the vitals of religion, and to present a declaration or statement regarding the issues raised by these viewpoints in light of our Confessional Standards.

This Overture was brought to the committee. Bills and Overtures committee issued a majority report recommending we not form the study committee. There was a minority report in place of the B&O committee recommending we do form the study committee. The minority report prevailed in the assembly, so there will be a report at the next General Assembly on this matter. The GA voted on it and decided that a commission be established. It may take quite a white before there are any results. in other words ... this overture THAT A COMMISSION BE ESTABLISHED was adopted.

Read the entire document which includes much more...

PCA General Assembly to appoint formation of a study committee to study the matter and report back at a future General Assembly." OVERTURE 2 from Rocky Mountain Presbytery

This is another related overture: Declare Auburn Avenue Session Heterodox; Appoint Commission to Discipline Auburn Avenue Session; Appoint Commission to Discipline TE Steve Wilkins" (pdf)

Here is an official PCA GA page with a listing of overtures for this assembly listed: It is #2

June 24, 2006  |  Comments (20)   |  Permalink

Prayer of the Consistent Synergist

Synergism is one of the greatest errors run amok in modern evangelicalism. Erroneous, because it takes our eyes off of the fullness of salvation found in Christ alone and turns our hope partially onto ourselves, leaving room for boasting. While most, I believe, do not consciously think they are boasting, yet their theology gives space to that last bastion of pride, which is to believe that faith itself and the humility to believe, was not a gift. It asserts that we were the originators of our faith, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. But the full counsel of Scripture declares that a true work of grace has taken place when we come to an end of ourselves and recognize that we have nothing apart from God's mercy. We have faith, not because we were more spiritually sensitive than our neighbor, but because of God's mercy to us.

Here is a prayer that would be consistent with the synergist's theology if he really believed that faith is a product of our unregenerated human nature and not the result of grace alone:

"God, I give you glory for everything else, but not my faith ... This is the one thing that is my very own that I produced of my fallen natural capacities. For this little bit the glory is mine. So I thank you Lord that I am not like other men who do not have faith. When you extended your grace to all men some did not make use of it, BUT I DID. While You deserve glory for all I have Lord, my faith was the one part that I contributed to the price of my redemption, apart from and independent of the work of Your Holy Spirit."

Doing something independent from the Holy Spirit does not sound like synergism, does it? But this is what synergism amounts to in the end because when you ask them why one person believes the gospel and not the other, the answer is never, "it is grace that made the one to differ from the other", no, instead it always points to some virtue (humility perhaps) that one unregenerate person has and another does not. So technically, it is not synergism but human monergism. But because in synergism God gives the kind of grace that is not effectual, they call themselves synergists. But ultimately this theology looks to something one person does that another (the unbeliever) does not have the capacity to do. And thus the danger of synergistic theology.

While the prayer recited above no one would dare pray, but it is what a synergist would pray if he were consistent in his theology. But instead of glorying in yourself for you own faith ...give glory to God for all that you have.

"Who has ever given to God, ...........that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. ........To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Rom 11:35-36)

For "What do you have that you did not receive?" ...Believe the Scriptures when they say, "no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3)... and no one can believe the gospel unless God grants it (John 6:65) Won't you, then, also glorify God for the Holy Spirit who works faith in you as well?

June 22, 2006  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

If Divine Election is True then What Need is There to Preach the Gospel?

Someone recently asked:

"Since a Calvinist believes salvation is wholly God's work without any partnership with man, he or she approaches evangelism nonaggressively. Calvinism teaches there is nothing whatsoever a person can do to become saved—we can't "decide for Christ" or "receive Christ" enabling a person to "become a Christian." To do this would give man a part in salvation. Calvinists believe salvation is from God and God alone. To make salvation hinge on an individual's "accepting Christ" or "receiving Christ" makes salvation partially a human endeavor. A true Calvinist believes that nothing whatsoever a person does or is contributes anything at all to salvation. Salvation is God's work alone and we play no part in it—not even receiving salvation counts. If divine election is True then what need is there to preach the gospel?" Therefore most Calvinists are really practicing Arminians

Response: Hi, and thank you for your excellent question. Right off the bat, it may be that you may be confusing the concepts of justification with regeneration. All historic Calvinists have believed that the ministry of the Word is vital to the purposes of the gospel. It must be preached to the unregenerate sinner in order for him/her to be saved. The Reformers called this the ministry of Word and Spirit. No one will ever be justified or made right with God without receiving Christ, as preached from the Scripture. ... that is one of the reasons why I have personally spent time as a missionary for 10 years. The issue ultimately is whether or not anyone is naturally willing to accept the humbling terms of the gospel (1 Cor 2:14; Rom 3:11, 12, 8;7). All true gospel preaching is only effectual "with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven" (1 Peter 1:12). Otherwise it comes to men only in word, with no saving effect at all. The Apostle Paul, when speaking to the elect at the church of the Thessalonians said, "for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Where the Holy Spirit is active, convicting men of sin, righteousness and judgment, the gospel is spoken with power. Illumination and the regeneration alone can open the eyes of our spiritual understanding and raise us from spiritual death so that we might have spiritual desire and thus heed the gospel when preached. In other words, the word of God does not work "ex opere operato," (automatically) rather, it is the work of the Holy Spirit sovereignly dispensing grace (John 3:8), quickening the heart THROUGH THE WORD to bring forth life. So the written word is not the material of the spiritual new birth, but rather its means or medium. "The word is not the begetting principle itself, but only that by which it works: the vehicle of the mysterious germinating power". It is because the Spirit of God accompanies it that the word carries in it the germ of life. The life is in God, yet it is communicated to us through the word. In other words, election is God's blueprint and has no saving value in itself. Divine election is accomplished through the redemptive work of Christ applied to His people by the Spirit using means (prayer, preaching) to accomplish His end.

Continue reading "If Divine Election is True then What Need is There to Preach the Gospel?" »

June 14, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Letter from Visitor on Calvinism, Evil and God's Holiness

Today I received an email to my to Monergism.com account from a visitor named Shawn. He asked some important questions on on Calvinism, Evil and God's Holiness. I have reproduced his email in full with my response (with a couple paragraphs on Job that quote liberally from John Piper)

Dear Mr. Hendryx,

I've been reading your website with interest and find it to be one of the very best Calvinistic resources I've seen on the net. I am not a Calvinist, though I can't say I'm decisively against Calvinism either. I still have lingering questions which I hope you might be able to answer, or point me to ressources that would help.

Perhaps my main objection to accepting Calvinism involves the problem of evil. I've read several of the articles you have on the subject (by Piper, Bahnsen, [Cheung] and two others by authors whose names I can't recall), but none
seemed to offer any new or helpful answers to my objections/doubts/questions.

This is what I understand the Calvinistic claim to be: God is sovereign over everything, having decreed before the foundation of the world everything that will come to pass. This would include, I should think, all moral evil, whether realized in word, thought or deed, or merely imagined in man's heart. In other words, before there was a devil, man, or sin, God 'imagined' (for lack of a better word) all of the horrific, sinful and debased things that have ever and will ever come to pass, and then chose to actualize them. God was not coerced into allowing evil to exist as if it was outside of his power. Rather, God chose to actualize sin and evil where before there was none. Would that be an accurate conception so far?

If it is, then my first thought is that whether or not God uses the Devil or humans as 'secondy' causes of these evils seems to be a moot point at best. I can't help but think that sin, death, and the Devil are nothing more than God in disguise. When I ask some Calvinist friends about this they usually answer in one of two way. Either to say (1) reconciling a holy God with an evil decree is a mystery we should not even talk about; or (2) God is unquestionably the author of evil, but since God is God, and by definition all that he does is good, he can do whatever he likes.
And so we come to my two objection or concerns with Calvinism.

My first problem is fairly straightforward: I have one life to live - why should I spend it serving a God who admittedly is the author of all evil in the world, especially when there are other equally plausible Christian accounts of God that claim he is not the author of evil? Wouldn't making God the first cause of all evil be a reason to think that account is false?

Secondly, if God is the first cause/author of evil, it would seem that claims by Calvinists that God is good, just, or holy, are pretty hollow. At least I haven't read any that seem even remotely convincing. But I have a deep-seated conviction that God is holy, and could not be the inventer, creator or decree-er of evil, therefore its hard for me to accept that Calvinism is true. Rather than being holy or good, it seems to me that in Calvinism what is decisive is that God is all-powerful, where might makes right. He's holy because he says he's holy; He's good because he says he is good, even if he acts contrarily to what he has decreed to be good and holy. I'll leave what questions/comments/objections at that, and hope you might be able to point a way forward. Cheers, Shawn

Response

Shawn

Thanks for your email. It appears from your email that most all of your objections are moral rather than exegetical. You are, therefore, basing your considerations and thus your theological future on shakey ground...

Continue reading "Letter from Visitor on Calvinism, Evil and God's Holiness" »

June 07, 2006  |  Comments (48)   |  Permalink

The “Active Obedience” 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 God’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, God’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 God’s righteousness and His holy law in every possible manner.

Continue reading "The “Active Obedience” of Jesus Christ In The Justification of Sinners" »

June 07, 2006  |  Comments (11)   |  Permalink

Dispensationalism and the Eclipse of Christ (An Open Correspondence)

As many of you are no doubt aware, I was raised a Dispensationalist. When I first became convinced that the teachings of Dispensationalism are not supported by an honest assessment of scriptures, I determined to change my thinking on the topic, and so be done with the issue summarily. Such were my intentions, but I found, much to my surprise, that the roots of Dispensationalism are so deep, and they affect so profoundly one's way of thinking about virtually every theological issue, that the task of rejecting one's own Dispensationally-flavored way of viewing the Bible is no simple task. It is a monumental struggle that requires years of deep, intense, Spirit-reliant searching of the scriptures. As I embarked on this long process, I slowly became aware of a vast array of manners in which a thorough grounding in the Dispensational ideal tends to influence one's beliefs and emphases. This in itself was shocking to me; but what came as the severest shock of all was the reflection that virtually every one of these Dispensationally-derived misunderstandings tended in some way towards the eclipse of Christ as the sum and substance of every redemptive promise and reality, the One for whom, to whom, and by whom are all things, the One who sums up all of reality, brings all things under his feet, and is in himself all the fullness of the Godhead. Let me be clear here: I have no doubt that many, if not all Dispensationalists would affirm in theory the Christo-centrism of all reality; nevertheless, the fact remains that in practice they deny the explicit Christ-centeredness of many times, persons, and realities in history - and not just minor, inconsequential persons and things, but those that stand out as epoch-defining and historically-pivotal.

Continue reading "Dispensationalism and the Eclipse of Christ (An Open Correspondence)" »

June 03, 2006  |  Comments (56)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink

New & Noteworthy 05-26-06

Forsaking Our Mother? Returning to a Biblical Understanding of Christ's Church
by Rev. Charles Biggs Pre-Pub Online Book!

Social Justice & Mercy Ministry Updated Subsection at Monergism.com
(poverty, hunger, homelessness, racism and religious persecution)

Biblical Counseling from a Reformed perspective Compiled by Derek R. Iannelli-Smith -- Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: (2 Kings 10:30–31, 1 Kings 21:27,29, Phil. 1:15–16,18) yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; (Gen. 4:5, Heb. 11:4,6) nor are done in a right manner,according to the Word; (1 Cor. 13:3, Isa. 1:12) nor to a right end, the glory of God, (Matt. 6:2,5,16) they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: (Hag. 2:14, Tit. 1:15, Amos 5:21–22, Hosea 1:4, Rom. 9:16, Tit. 3:5) and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God. (Ps. 14:4, Ps. 36:3, Job 21:14–15, Matt. 25:41–43,45, Matt. 23:23)

The Unregenerate, Apostates and Unbelievers Updated Subsection @Monergism.com! -- "What the unregenerate person desperately needs in order to come to faith is regeneration. This is the necessary grace. It is the sine qua non of salvation. Unless God changes the disposition of my sinful heart, I will never choose to cooperate with grace or embrace Christ in faith. -R.C. Sproul

Truth & the Christian Worldview Updated Subsection @Monergism.com
To deem all beliefs equally true is sheer nonsense for the simple reason that to deny that statement would also, then, be true. But if denial of the statement is also true, then all religions are not true.
-- Ravi Zacharias "Jesus Among Other Gods"

Firefox Users Only Free Plug- in Allows you to search 'Monergism' in toolbar. Thanks to Ryan Wentzel.

How Was There Salvation During the Old Testament Period? by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Foreknowledge and the Free Will of Men by John Frame

C.H. Spurgeon Quotes on the Gospel collected by Ligon Duncan

The Man of Sin: Uncovering the Truth About the AntiChrist New Recommended Book 40% Discount

May 26, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Visible Vs. The Invisible Church

What do we mean when we make the distinction between the visible and invisible church? And what is the reason for this distinction? Starting around the 4th century - the expression "Visible Church" was refered to by theologians, not to a building, but to the members on the rolls of a local church. In other words, all persons who are members of a local church are considered to be a part of the visible church.

On the other hand, the invisible church refers to those persons who have actually been regenerated or quickened by the Holy Sprit, God's elect or true believers. Augustine referred to the church as a mixed body, a visible people, but this people has both tares and wheat, as described by Jesus. In other words, there is no such thing as a perfect church, and there will always people in the church there with bad motives or are there for the wrong reason. There will always be people who claim to love Christ but whose heart is far from Him. Many, Jesus says, will say on that day, did we not do this and that in your name? Jesus wil then say, "I never knew you". These are descriptions of some people now sitting in your local church and Jesus says of them that he "never knew them!!!" Some persons are in church for show, to be seen by men as pious, others perhaps for a social club or to show of their ability to wax eloquent when discussing theology. These persons hearts are completely invisible to us, but of course, they are not invisible to God and only He can know who is truly regenerate, so we must be generous in our judgements.

The following is a detailed description of the orthodox doctrine of the visible and invisible church as explained by Pastor Brian Schwertley. It is well worth reading and quite helpful:

Continue reading "The Visible Vs. The Invisible Church" »

May 24, 2006  |  Comments (16)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink

Three men at the tomb of Lazarus

Picture the scene in John 11. See the stone rolled away from the grave of Lazarus and three men there.

The first one is looking into the dark tomb and passionately pleading with the dead Lazarus inside. "Lazarus, if you will only give God a chance, He will give you life. If you just take the first step, then the Holy Spirit will make you come alive. God honestly wants to make you live, but its all up to you. Lazarus, this is a great deal that God is offering but your 'free will' must decide to take advantage of it. You must get up and take that first step in faith."

C. H. Spurgeon told the story about a Catholic saint whose head had been cut off. The man is supposed to have picked up his head, put it under his arm and walked 10,000 miles back to Rome. Spurgeon said, "I would have no trouble believing that to be true, if the man could take that first step!" If man's will can enable him to get up out of the tomb of death, then he surely does not need any help to keep on going.

Continue reading "Three men at the tomb of Lazarus" »

May 24, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

I Thank God for You!

The following is a excerpt from a very helpful essay by Mark Webb. He goes through some Scriptural references that thank God for the faith of the saints, a practice which acknowledges God to be the source of all faith, not our natural ability, desires, will or affections.

Paul's Patterns

Several patterns exhibit themselves in Paul's writings. One of these is his well-known practice of greeting the saints with a salutation of grace and peace , with the addition of mercy in some cases. Another pattern, not quite so common, but clearly established nonetheless, is what caught my attention. It is Paul's practice of thanking God for the saints. For instance, in Eph. 1:15-16 he states "Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers." In this statement, Paul does not directly state why he is thankful, though we might deduce that it must spring from the fact that the saints evidence faith and love. Neither does he state to whom he is thankful. However, the fact that his thankfulness is connected with his prayers makes it rather obvious that such is directed towards God.

A parallel example is found in Col. 1:3-4. Here Paul declares "We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints." Here Paul is more explicit. It is indeed God to Whom he is thankful, and, once again, his thankfulness springs from the fact that the Colossian saints are evidencing faith and love. Methinks I see a pattern developing here!

Can You Be More Explicit?

The fullest, clearest, and most precise expression of this pattern is seen in four of Paul's statements in the Thessalonian epistles. In I Thess. 1:2-4, Paul states "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." Here, again, Paul makes it clear that God is the One he thanks and that his thanks involves the recollection of their faith, love, and hope. It is a statement almost identical with those in Ephesians and Colossians.

Continue reading "I Thank God for You!" »

May 23, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

We Are Not Peddlers of God's Word

"Pelagianism is the natural heresy of zealous Christians who are not interested in theology." - J.I. Packer, "'Keswick' and the Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification."

Churches which preserve their cognitive identity and distinction from the culture will flourish: those who lose them in the interests of seeking success will disappear.

In our churches we may have made a deal with postmodern consumers but the hard reality is that Christianity cannot be bought. Purchase, in the world of consumption, leads to ownership but in the Church this cannot happen. It is never God who is owned. It is we who are owned in Christ. Christianity is not up for sale. Its price has already been fixed and that price is the complete and ongoing surrender to Christ of those who embrace him by faith. It can only be had on his own terms. It can only be had as a whole. It refuses to offer only selections of its teachings. Furthermore, the Church is not its retailing outlet. Its preachers are not its peddlers and those who are Christian are not its consumers. It cannot legitimately be had as a bargain though the marketplace is full of bargainhunters.

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's Word..." II Cor 2:17

No, let us think instead of the Church as its voice of proclamation, not its sales agent, its practitioner, not its marketing firm. And in that proclamation there is inevitable cultural confrontation. More precisely, there is the confrontation between Christ, in and through the biblical Word, and the rebellion of the human heart. This is confrontation of those whose face is that of a particular culture but whose heart is that of the fallen world. We cannot forget that.

David F. Wells, Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World, pg. 308-309

May 20, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Four States of Libertas Naturae

libertas naturae - (freedom of nature); "the liberty that is proper to a being given its particular nature." (Muller 176). The four states of libertas naturae are as follows:

a. libertas Adami - (freedom of Adam); "before the fall - this is the ability or power not to sin." (Muller 176).

b. libertas peccatorum - (freedom of sinners); a freedom that is proper to and confined within the limits of fallen nature and is therefore an absolute inability to do good or to act for the good with the sinner described as not able not to sin." (Muller 176).

c. libertas fidelium - (freedom of the faithful); "a freedom of those regenerated by the Holy Spirit that is proper to the regenerate nature and is characterized by the ability to sin and to do good." (Muller 176).

d. libertas gloriae - (freedom of glory); "a freedom proper to the fully redeemed nature of [the blessed in heaven], who, as residents of the heavenly kingdom are now characterized by the inability to sin." (Muller 176).

The four states of man in relation to sin enumerated by Augustine of Hippo: (a) able to sin, able not to sin (posse peccare, posse non peccare); (b) not able not to sin (non posse non peccare); (c) able not to sin (posse non peccare); and (d) unable to sin (non posse peccare). The first state corresponds to the state of man in innocency, before the Fall; the second the state of the natural man after the Fall; the third the state of the regenerate man; and the fourth the glorified man.

For more on this topic:
Human Nature in Its Fourfold State: Thoughts on Augustine's View on the Will.
Libertas Peccatorum - Man's State of Sin After the Fall by Robert J. Olson
The Fall and Imputation of Sin @monergism

May 16, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Can Revival be Engineered?

There's a very interesting article by Bob DeWaay in the Critical Issues Commentary concerning Recovering Reformation Theology. It begins:

"A key idea in the contemporary evangelical movement is that revival can be engineered. The Purpose Driven Web site says, “Peter Drucker called him [Warren] ‘the inventor of perpetual revival’ and Forbes magazine has written, ‘If Warren’s church was a business it would be compared with Dell, Google or Starbucks.’”1 The Purpose Driven movement can cite this business management guru approvingly only because they have a faulty theology of human ability. For example, Rick Warren says, “It is my deep conviction that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart. . . . It may take some time to identify it. But the most likely place to start is with the person’s felt needs.”2 If this were true one could use modern marketing principles to sell people on their need for Christian religion and convince them to convert in order to find satisfaction of their felt needs. But it is not true.

Furthermore, it might surprise many people that this idea is not new. Charles Finney first proposed it one hundred fifty years ago. Finney wrote, “A revival is not a miracle according to another definition of the term ‘miracle’ — something above the powers of nature. There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature. It consists entirely in the right exercise of the powers of nature. It is just that, and nothing else.”3 Finney wrote more: “A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means — as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means.”4 Finney’s position that there is some innate power in man that can be motivated by some discoverable process makes an engineered revival plausible.

Continue reading "Can Revival be Engineered?" »

May 11, 2006  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

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 Christ’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

May 10, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Can a True Christian Fall from Grace?

How heartening it is to read clear passages like John 3:16 which says that all who believe in Christ will "not perish but have eternal life." John 6:37-40 teaches that Christ will lose none of those given to Him by the Father but will raise all of them up to eternal life at the last day. Romans 8:28-30 declares, “these He justified; He also glorified” showing that no one who is truly justified by Christ falls through the cracks before full glorification takes place. These and other passages like John 10:26-30 are so clear. However, at least at first glance, some scriptures seem to undermine these precious truths. Because the Bible is the inspired word of God, it is consistent throughout. It never contradicts itself. To see an example of this, here's a question (based on Galatians 5:4) and an answer provided by Dr. James White on his blog at www.aomin.org.

Question: How do we explain Galatians 5:4 which talks of people falling from grace?

Answer: Gal 5:4... you have fallen from grace. - This shows that you can receive God's grace and then fall. Quite true: but what kind of grace, and in what context?

These words are addressed to a particular group, as the context shows:

Galatians 5: 2-4...

2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.
3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.
4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

So in what way had those seeking to be justified by law "fallen from grace"? The assumption that is usually made is that to fall from grace proves that you once received saving grace; evidently, the same assumption would follow that one who is severed from Christ was once joined to Him savingly.

Continue reading "Can a True Christian Fall from Grace?" »

May 09, 2006  |  Comments (23)   |  Permalink

Eros Spirituality Vs. Agape Faith by David F. Wells

The following are excerpts from David Wells’ excellent book,
Above All Earthly Pow’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 center…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 Christ’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.

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May 08, 2006  |  Comments (14)   |  Permalink

My One Concern about the T4G Statement by Pastor John Samson

I'm excited about the Together for the Gospel Conference's recent statement release. It will act as a dividing line of sorts, showing who is able to sign it and who is not, which will expose whether or not a person, ministry or church is concerned for the biblical Gospel in our day. That to me is a very good thing. We need to know who is with us as we stand together for and in the Gospel.

As Jason Robertson rightly points out in his blog, "The purpose of this document is defined in two sentences found in its introduction paragraphs: We are also brothers united in deep concern for the church and the Gospel. This concern is specically addressed to certain trends within the church today. Thus, it is clear that this document is not a doctrinal statement. There is no need for a new doctrinal statement or creed or confession in our generation. But having a list of specific affirmations and denials "concerning certain trends in within the church today" is very helpful."

I think the statement is very needed and have no hesitation signing my name to it. I do have one concern though. There was one sentence in the statement that bothered me... only one... but it was this one:

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May 06, 2006  |  Comments (14)   |  Permalink

Two Views on Foreknowledge by Pastor John Samson

"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son..." - Rom. 8:29

"chosen, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father..." 1 Peter 1: 1, 2

Assumptions and misunderstandings abound concerning the doctrine of God's foreknowledge. If we are to come to a biblical understanding of the subject, we need to apply dilligence as we allow for the Holy Spirit to lead us into His truth.

There are two main views held by Christians today regarding foreknowledge:

1. THE PRESCIENT VIEW - (Pre - before; science - knowledge; i.e. before knowledge)

The Prescient view teaches that the election and predestination of an individual is based on God knowing ahead of time what a person will do. God merely chooses those whom He sees ahead of time will choose Him. It certainly seems, at least at first glance, to be a fair system. Though a very popular view, and one that I held for many a year, I now believe it to be entirely unbiblical. Concerning this, Vincent Cheung writes:

"The false view of election first takes foreknowledge to mean a passive prescience. That is, they take it to mean that God passively discovers what his creatures would decide in the future apart from his sovereign control, and then he makes a decision regarding the status of these creatures on the basis of this awareness. But this means that his decision regarding the status of these creatures is in a real sense determined by these creatures themselves, and the difference between these creatures and other creatures are in the creatures themselves, apart from God's sovereign decision to make a distinction between them. It may be said that God is still the one who determines the principles by which men must be saved, but it is the men themselves who decide which ones would receive salvation. The problem with this view is that, even if we allow foreknowledge to mean a passive prescience, the argument remains incomplete and futile. This is because our opponents must establish something else as well, namely, that faith is not a gift from God, but that it is something generated by the creatures themselves. Otherwise, if faith is a sovereign gift from God as the Bible teaches, then for God to base election on foreseen faith would be just another way of saying that he bases election on what he himself will do in the future. That is, if God is the one who grants faith to whomever he chooses, and if men cannot generate faith in and by themselves, then whether foreknowledge refers to mere prescience does not make a pivotal difference for the doctrine of election. In this case, since God knows himself, since he knows his own plans and purposes, and since he knows his own decision regarding how and to whom he would distribute faith, it remains that election is based solely on God's own sovereign will, and not any foreseen condition in the creatures. Therefore, it is not enough for opponents of the biblical doctrine to assert that foreknowledge means mere foresight or prescience, but they must also establish that faith is not a gift from God, and that men is willing and able to generate in and by themselves faith in Jesus Christ, and that even in their depraved condition, they are still willing and able to choose that which is so spiritually good, that is so against sin and unbelief, and that which is the opposite of their spiritual disposition."

2. FOREKNOWING = FORELOVING. God, in Sovereign grace sets His love upon an individual and decides to do so without any consideration of foreseen faith or merit in the person.

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May 03, 2006  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

Faith: The Result of the New Birth by C.H. Spurgeon

The following are some excerpts from the Sermon "Faith and Regeneration" by C.H. Spurgeon

Inasmuch as the gospel command, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," is addressed by divine authority to every creature, it is the duty of every man so to do. What saith John: "This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ," and our Lord himself assures us, "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God." I know there are some who will deny this, and deny it upon the ground that man has not the spiritual ability to believe in Jesus, to which I reply that it is altogether an error to imagine that the measure of the sinners moral ability is the measure of his duty. There are many things which men ought to do which they have now lost the moral and spiritual, though not the physical, power to do. A man ought to be chaste, but if he has been so long immoral that he cannot restrain his passions, he is not thereby free from the obligation. It is the duty of a debtor to pay his debts, but if he has been such a spendthrift that he has brought himself into hopeless poverty, he is not exonerated from his debts thereby. Every man ought to believe that which is true, but if his mind has become so depraved that he loves a lie and will not receive the truth, is he thereby excused? If the law of God is to be lowered according to the moral condition of sinners, you would have a law graduated upon a sliding- scale to suit the degrees of human sinfulness; in fact, the worst man would be under the least law, and become consequently the least guilty. God's requirements would be a variable quantity, and, in truth, we should be under no rule at all. The command of Christ stands good however bad men may be, and when he commands all men everywhere to repent, they are bound to repent, whether their sinfulness renders it impossible for them to be willing to so or not. In every case it is man's duty to do what God bids him.

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May 01, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

John 6:44, 45 and Free Will

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. "It is written in the prophets, 'AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me." John 6:44, 45 (NASB)

Back in January, I posted a link to an article here by a friend of mine, Brian Bosse, on the logical conclusions of John 6:44. The article proved, I believe, that John 6:44 teaches either Calvinism or universalism (which is of course a concept the Bible negates very clearly elsewhere), but it does not allow for Arminianism.

So, how do those who boast that man's will is the determining factor in salvation get around the obvious implications of John 6:44. Well, they go to the next verse, v. 45, and read into the text a view of free will which is then used to dispel the logic of the previous verses. It is an illigitimate way to handle the text, as Dr. James White points out in a response to someone who had challenged him on his Reformed understanding of John 6:36-45. From the mail bag at www.aomin.org then, here's the interchange, starting with the person challenging Dr. White's reformed understanding of the passage:

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April 29, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Man's Responsibility, Inability & God's Enabling Grace by Pastor John Samson

As some of you know, I wrestled for quite some time with the doctrine of God's Sovereignty in election (a sure evidence of my total depravity). All Bible believing Christians have some doctrine of election. Of course, its a biblical word, found many times in the Bible. The question is not "should we have a doctrine of election?", but "what is the biblical doctrine of election?" Its a question we all have to answer.

In sorting through the issues in my mind, and wrestling with my own traditions on the subject, I first had to see what the traditions were, and what Scripture actually said. To do this can be an emotionally painful process. It is not an easy thing to allow for your thinking to be held up to the light of Scripture. Why? Because to do so may confirm your tradition as valid (biblically), but on the other hand, it may prove the exact opposite - it may show it to be unbiblical and therefore opposed to God.

As I minister, even more is at stake. The emotional stakes are raised to a whole new level when you might have to admit that some of the things you have taught over the years may have been error. That is not a comforting thought at all, and might explain why some ministers are not willing to look into these issues. However, it is far better to deal with the unscriptural traditions now rather than to go on for another 20 years or so believing and teaching falsehood, making matters a whole lot worse.

As I say, this process was not an easy or a short one for me. It took more than a year of indepth study. However, I began to find clarity when I sought to find out only what Scripture taught. I did this by asking myself this question, "what can you say that Scripture teaches on this subject with such clarity that you cannot deny it." Over time, I came to see three propositions which I found to be undeniable:

1. God holds man entirely responsible for the choices he makes
2. Man is unable to make the right choice (Christ and salvation) while in a spiritually dead condition
3. God, by an act of sheer grace, has to directly intervene to raise a person from spiritual death, giving him a new heart (regeneration), before he will ever come to Christ

I've put together a brief chart that displays these things visually here. I trust it will be helpful for those who are seeking clarity on these vital issues.

April 24, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Election and Fairness...One More Time!

I am thankful as a pastor to get theological questions daily from my congregation. Here is another question on election and the question of fairness that I submit to those who are still wrestling with what the Apostle Paul said they would wrestle with!

Pastor Biggs,

The other day my friends and I were discussing predestination and the elect and we started talking about essentially 'fairness'. The issue was brought up about how if everyone was given a chance for salvation, by Jesus dying on the cross for all of mankind, then how is it fair when tribes that are secluded from civilization never hear the word and yet are condemned to hell. I brought up that the Bible says the law is written on our hearts, meaning we know the difference between right and wrong, but I didn't know if that fully explained it. Another issue of babies and small children who don't have the capacity to understand the word was brought up. I really have no idea about that, but the argument was brought up that 'if God was just, He would save them.' In a broader sense, if God was just, why choose merely a few and not all.

I wanted to be able to answer these questions, but I had no verses to back them up so I was gonna get your input on the Bible's view of this. There's no hurry to respond, just at your earliest convenience. Thanks.

Dear Young Brother in Christ,

You have asked an excellent question (s), and these are questions that many Christians caringly have asked before in the history of the Church. In fact, these are the questions the Apostle Paul himself said WOULD be asked.

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April 21, 2006  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

A Recommendation for those new to these issues

"There is so much to learn. Where do I start?" I've heard this kind of comment many times when it comes to the doctrines of the Reformation. Many established Christians have never been exposed to these central issues in our day, and when they are, the whole experience can be more than a little overwhelming. Not only are highly technical theological phrases bandied about with great regularity but Latin ones at that! Sola Scriptura; Sola Gratia; Sola Fide; Solus Christus; Soli deo Gloria... simil iustus et peccator... err.. Excuse me? Your what hurts?

Hearing this new language without the aid of an interpreter can cause many folk to just give up on the whole thing... But wait! I believe with all my heart that these issues are not just for academic theologians. These are vital issues for all of us. One of the chief purposes of God in the Reformation was to get both Scripture and a true understanding of its teachings into the hands of ordinary people. So, before you give up or throw in the towel, my counsel would be, "hold on brother/sister... help is on the way!"

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April 20, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Evangelical: A Brief Definition

Visitor: I am after a brief biblical definition of the "Evangelical Christian" that would not be confusing to the average born again person.

Response: That is a great question and of late has been somewhat controversial. How do we define "Evangelical Christian" -- I will assume you are after the meaning of this in a traditional, rather than contemporary sense. Also the terms meaning in a positive rather than negative light. If so, then it has historically meant someone who believes and heralds the Gospel of Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Scripture and that there is no hope for them in the world save in being united to HIm in his life, death and resurrection. In the past this was the unifying factor for persons from a vast array of church traditions, but now the word has, unfortunately, come to mean many things.

The contemporary use of the word "Evangelical" often refers to an amorphous mass of people with different convictions, confessions and beliefs about the Gospel. Sometimes this even includes persons who do not believe in the authority of the Bible and, like liberal theology of old, believe in a theology based on consensus, modern psychology or worldly politics.

A Brief Definition:

To the reformers it was related to gospel recovery, that is, one who adhered to the Reformation's tenets, which means that historically, Evangelicals confessed a belief in the truth of the five solas:

Sola gratia, Sola fide, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria. In short, they confessed that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the Person and work of Christ alone as revealed in the Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. For further exploration of this subject I highly recommend that everyone study the short online document called The Cambridge Declaration. It is really quite helpful. But let's now move into some particulars:

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April 20, 2006  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Free Will, Election & Foreknowledge

Those who affirm the libertarian "free will" of man often teach the doctrine of ELECTION as follows: God, before He created the world, foreknew, from eternity, who would yield to the Spirit, and therefore elected to salvation all those whom He foresaw would do so. In other words, God looks down the corridors of time to see who will believe and then "predestines" them based on the exercise of their autonomous free will to choose Him. In this system of belief the absolute free will of the natural man is necessary to preserve human responsibility. But this concept of foreknowledge ironically ends up destroying itself. There is no person who believes in free will that can consistently believe this theory of foreknowledge, and still go around teaching his views as to God's salvation. Why so? Consider the following:

1. No Libertarian free will theist can consistently say that God foreknew who would be saved and then also teach that God is trying to save every man. Surely if God knows who will be saved and who won't be saved, then how could anyone argue that He is trying to save more? Certainly, it is foolish to assert that God is trying to do something which He knew never could be accomplished. Some embracing the free will or foreseen faith position charge Augustinians that preaching the gospel to the non-elect is mockery since God has not elected them. If there is any validity in that objection, then it equally applies to them as well who preach to those who God knows will never be saved. To the Augustinian, God commands that the Gospel be preached to all, because, when we indiscriminately cast forth the seed of the gospel, the Spirit germinates the seed of those He came to save (1 Thess 1:4, 5 John 6:63-65). People are not saved in a void but under the preaching of the Gospel and the Spirit brings forth life through the word of truth.

2. No Libertarian who embraces the foreseen faith position can consistently say that God foreknew which sinners would be lost and then say it is not within God's will to allow these sinners to be lost. Why did He create them? Let the libertarian freewill theist consider that question. God could have just as easily refrained from creating those that He knew would "freely" choose to go to Hell. He knew where they were going before He created them. Since He went ahead and created them with full knowledge that they would be lost, it is evidently within God's providence that some sinners actually be lost, even in the libertarian scheme. He, therefore, has some purpose in it which human beings cannot fully discern. The libertarian freewill theist can complain against the truth that God chose to allow some men a final destiny of Hell all they want, but it is as much a problem for them as for anyone. As a matter of fact, it is a problem which libertarians must face. If he faces it, he will have to admit either the error of his theology or deny foreknowledge all together. But he might say that God had to create those that perish, even against His will. This would make God subject to Fate.

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April 19, 2006  |  Comments (18)   |  Permalink

Isn't Divine Predestination and Election just Fatalism?

Question: I'm really wrestling with this whole idea of predestination and election. Isn't the idea of election just another word for fatalism?

Thank you for your question. Let me say first of all that you are not in any way the first person to wrestle with the weighty issues of Sovereign election over against free will. Many have walked this road before you. In fact, I too have not always believed what I now believe. You can be sure that much mental and emotional wrestling took place as I was in the process of learning what I believe to be the Biblical doctrine in this area. We all have traditions, and as a friend of mine, Dr. James White says so well, "the people most enslaved by their traditions are those who don't believe they have any." If you'll allow me, I'd like to share something of my story in this regard.

When I first heard the message of Sovereign Grace and election taught, I have to admit that I resisted it. Though the teaching I heard was backed up with Scripture, I thought I had other Scriptures that would negate the ones I heard. Then I went to a question and answer session on the subject (the first of many, I might add). This proved to be invaluable for me, because many of the questions I had were raised, and, I had to admit, were answered from Scripture, in their proper Biblical context.

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April 17, 2006  |  Comments (14)   |  Permalink

Another Meditation for Good Friday

Today we commemorate one of the most extraordinary events in the history of the cosmos—the crucifixion of the God-man, Jesus the Messiah. Extraordinary in part because it is at once among the WORST and GREATEST events ever to take place. WORST because it was the conspiracy of all humanity to kill the most righteous man, even God. GREATEST ("Good" Friday is also historically known as Holy Friday or Great Friday) because of the wonderful things Christ accomplished for his people in his death.

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April 14, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Christ loved the Church... (Quote) by Dr. John Piper

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. - Ephesians 5:25-27

"There is a precious and unfathomable covenant love between Christ and His Bride, that moved Him to die for her. The death of Jesus is for the bride of Christ in a different way than it is for those who perish. Here's the problem with saying Christ died for all the same way he died for his bride. If Christ died for the sins of those who are finally lost, the same way he died for the sins of those who are finally saved, then what are the lost being punished for? Were their sins covered and canceled by the blood of Jesus or not? We Christians say, "Christ died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3). And we mean that his death paid the debt those sins created. His death removed the wrath of God from me. His death lifted the curse of the law from me. His death purchased heaven for me. It really accomplished those things!"

"But what would it mean to say of an unbeliever in hell that Christ died for his sins? Would we mean that the debt for his sins was paid? If so, why is he paying again in hell? Would we mean that the wrath of God was removed? If so, why is the wrath of God being poured out on him in punishment for sins? Would we mean that the curse of the law was lifted? If so, why is he bearing his curse in the lake of fire?"

"One possible answer is this: one might say that the only reason people go to hell is because of the sin of rejecting Jesus, not because of all the other sins of their life. But that is not true. The Bible teaches that the wrath of God is coming on the world, not just because of its rejection of Jesus, but because of its many sins that are not forgiven. For example, in Colossians 3:5-6, Paul refers to "immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed," and then says, "On account of these things the wrath of God will come." So people who reject Jesus really will be punished for their specific sins, not just for rejecting Jesus."

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April 13, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Must Reading for your Theological Edification & Education

The following are considered among "great works of theology." This collection of books are must-have editions for your library: Highly recommended reading for your journey in the Christian life. This list is, of course, far from exhaustive (so don't get upset if I did not pick a favorite) but a good place to start if you have not read them. Once you read some of these you will wonder why you spent your precious time on lesser things. I assume you already have a Bible of your own so that is not on the list:

Augustine, Confessions, Anti-Pelagian Writings, On the Trinity

Anselm, Why God Became Man

Bonar, Horatius, The Everlasting Righteousness

Brown, John (of Edinburgh, 1784-1858) Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 3 volume

Charnock, Stephen. The Existence And Attributes Of God

Fairbairn, Patrick Typology of Scripture

Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, The Sermon on the Mount

Luther, Bondage of the Will

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

Edwards, Treatise on Religious Affections, Freedom of the Will

Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, What Is Faith?

Owen, John, Sin & Temptation, The Holy Spirit, Glory of Christ, Death of Death, Biblical Theology

Sibbes, Richard, The Bruised Reed

Spurgeon, Charles, Lectures to My Students

Turretin, Francis Institutes of Elenctic Theology 3 vol. set

Warfield, B.B, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield

Watson, Body of Divinity

Westminster Confession of Faith

April 12, 2006  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

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).

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April 10, 2006  |  Comments (18)   |  Permalink

Resurrection, Not Human Potential

Today, I wanted to begin a series on the Resurrection, and hoped others on the blog would also post some of their own thoughts on it since we are close to Easter. Originally I was going to start with a posting on the physical resurrection and its relation to history, and how this historic event itself sets Christianity apart from all other religions, who either speculate or believe in mysticism. But since I was having a discussion with a visitor about our spiritual resurrection (regeneration) I wanted to post some of the questions posed to me on free will, human potential, and the difference between monergistic and synergistic regeneration (i.e. spiritual resurrection).

In response to our belief that salvation is by "grace alone" a visitor who embraces synergism questioned me about how faith, then, related at all to salvation:

Visitor: What is faith to you? And what do you make of God’s repeated references to faith and belief in the context of salvation? And is your interpretation one which makes faith and belief meaningful? A word should
not be interpreted to be redundant or without meaning—I think this would apply especially when speaking of God’s inerrant and holy word.

I affirm with the Bible, together with those in the Reformation tradition, that God freely offers/commands unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit (who Jesus sends), to disarm their natural hostility, to open and soften their hearts to the gospel that they may be willing, and able to believe. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are effectually enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word. (WCF) The preacher casts forth the seed of the gospel and it falls on dormant soil. Our naturally hardened hearts will reject the gospel unless and until the Holy Spirit plows up the fallow ground, and germinates the seed of the gospel through regeneration. Faith is not produced by an unregenerate heart. Jesus says, "come to me", but he also says "...no one can come to me" How do we reconcile this? Because the next word is UNLESS God grants it. Spirit gives birth to spirit. (John 6:63-65)

Council of Orange CANON 6 in the sixth century said.

If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

Visitor: I suppose I have a higher view of human nature (and its potential in Christ) than you do. [the visitor asked this of me in the context of a discussion of their belief in a "free will"]:

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April 07, 2006  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

God is at the Center by Pastor John Samson

Rev. 4:11 “Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.”

The 16th Century was famous for at least two monumental events: The Protestant Reformation and the Copernican Revolution. No doubt, you have heard of the Reformation when men such as Martin Luther, were raised up by God to bring the one true biblical Gospel back to the Church. That's what this blog is all about. With the Reformers of old and with Scripture alone as our sure foundation, we affirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone — for the glory of God alone.

In 1543, Nicolas Copernicus published his treatise De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (The Revolution of Celestial Spheres) where a new view of the world was presented: the heliocentric (sun central) model. Before Copernicus, people believed that the earth was the very center of the Universe. But Copernicus was able to prove otherwise - that it is the sun (not the earth) that is central in the solar system. This discovery shook both the religious and the scientific world. The ramifications were extremely dramatic. Man's view of the world was forever changed!

Copernicus' theory was not at all popular initially. Even though the new treatise was dedicated to the Pope, it was considered heretical both by the standards of religion and science. Such was the outrage at such a thought (that the world was not the center of the Universe) that many scientists, and sadly, even many a theologian, would not even look through Copernicus’ telescope! The traditions of men, in the arenas of both science and religion, were that strong.

Yet Copernicus was right and his revolutionary idea was needed if forward progress was to be made. In the Church today, I believe a similar revolution is needed…

Continue reading "God is at the Center by Pastor John Samson" »

April 05, 2006  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

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.

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April 04, 2006  |  Comments (16)   |  Permalink

Response to the "Free Grace" Movement

[Recently this important essay was submitted to me for posting. It deals with the 'Lordship' issue and the teaching of Zane Hodges & Joseph Dillow who boldly claim we need not repent of good (and evil) works in order to be saved. The author and lay teacher, Phil Simpson, has a great deal of personal experience with the so-called 'free grace' teaching of the Grace Evangelical Society since he was himself under the teaching of a church which vigorously affirmed it. His essay comes with recommendations from two M.Div's in the OPC and one Calvinistic Baptist. Simpson himself has spent the last eight or nine years wrestling with the 'free grace' teaching (which is more radical than the run-of-the-mill "no-lordship" movement in its reinterpretation of the New Testament, its eschatology {teaching bizarre things such as the division of believers into two camps--the overcoming and the non-overcomining--in a millennial kingdom, with only the overcomers inheriting the kingdom, reigning with Christ, and partaking of the marriage supper of the Lamb}, its view of the validity of faith without works, and the denial that true believers will always continue in the faith -- in fact, they may even become atheists, yet remain saved! I post the essay here because I thought it might be of great interest to some who are familiar with the movement. It is long (about 30-40 typewritten pages) but it is thorough and the author obviously seriously thought through these issues].

A Biblical Response to the Teachings of Zane Hodges,
Joseph Dillow, and the Grace Evangelical Society
(Called the "Free Grace" Movement)

© Copyright by Phillip L. Simpson – 2006

The purpose of this paper is to provide a critical evaluation of what has been termed (by its proponents) the "Free Grace" movement. I should begin by stating at the outset that this is a paper I did not want to write. It is borne out of much sorrow and heaviness of heart. For twenty years, ever since I had become a Christian, I had attended a particular church. When John MacArthur wrote, "The Gospel According to Jesus" in 1988, a line was drawn in the sand regarding the doctrine that came to be known as the "lordship salvation" doctrine (a regrettable term, coined by its critics, but one which is now necessary to identify the doctrine). My church chose to side with the critics of "lordship salvation", with such stalwarts as Zane Hodges, Charles Ryrie, and many from Dallas Theological Seminary leading the way.

Personally, I was torn. On the one hand I had heroes such as Dr. MacArthur and R.C. Sproul defending the lordship position; on the other hand, other heroes, such as my pastor and Dr. Ryrie, were teaching against it.

I launched into a study, reading books and articles by men from both sides, including MacArthur, Sproul, Michael Horton, J. I. Packer, Ryrie, Michael Cocoris, Charles Bing, Earl Radmacher, and Zane Hodges. I did this to make sure I understood fully both positions. Since I felt both sides had convincing arguments, I began to study the Scriptures for myself regarding this matter. My study took nearly eight years. A breakthrough came when I decided to jot down all the relevant Scripture texts which speak to the debate. As I did this, I compiled a list of over 100 Scripture texts. Looking over the list, I realized that what I largely had was a list of verses which seemed to support the lordship viewpoint, which would need to be "explained away" by its critics (or reinterpreted so as to contradict the plain meaning of these texts-- over 100 of them!). It is from this list of Scripture texts that this article was formed.

Read the Entire Essay

March 29, 2006  |  Comments (21)   |  Permalink

E-mails to an Apologist

A few days ago (March 22) on the blog here, I posted a very short comment by Dr. James White concerning Revelation 5:8, 9. Although it was brief, I thought it was an edifying devotional. But I guess there's a big difference between posting the comment here in a (basically) friendly blog environment, and that of James White's web site at www.aomin.org. It passed without comment here. Not so over on Dr. White's blog. Read on and you'll see what I mean.
- Pastor John Samson

Dr. James White writes:
"Amazing" is the term that crosses my mind as I survey some of the articles I've seen appear in response to my posting of...a single paragraph regarding a memorization verse a week ago. First, amazing that so many people read this blog (many thanks!). But more amazing is the kinds of replies that have been offered to a single paragraph of devotional commentary. I wonder why my published works do not garner such replies? I mean, I've seen replies that were ten times the length of that single paragraph. And it seems that I do not have the luxury, at any time, of speaking to fellow believers outside of the context of the strictest standards of scholarship. For example, this was sent to me a couple of days ago. Note that the author inserts the kinds of "formal errors" found in my devotional commentary on a Scripture memorization verse:

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March 29, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Responding to Apostasy by Pastor John Samson

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

Apostasy - how do we handle it? Christians view apostasy according to their understanding of the work of God in salvation. It is just here where we find a great divide of opinion between those embracing the reformed doctrines of grace, and those who do not.

According to the Scriptures, Jesus does not ever lose a single one of His true sheep (John 10:28-30). All the Father gives to Jesus will come to Jesus, and the Father's will is that all those given to Him (Jesus) be raised up (to eternal life) on the last day (John 6:37-39). I can't for a moment see Jesus failing to fulfill the will of His Father. He always carries out His Father's will. So with great confidence we can say that all the ones given to Him, will indeed come to Him, and He will then raise all of these up to eternal life on the last day.

Elsewhere, Romans 8:28-30 presents the Golden Chain of Redemption where, in the five links of the chain forged by God Himself, amongst other things, all whom God calls are justified, and all whom God justifies, He glorifies. No truly justified person falls through the cracks and fails to be glorified. God speaks of their final glorification with such certainty that He does so in the past tense "these whom He justified, He glorified", yet we know that in time, this refers to something that will yet take place in the future. If we can see ourselves somewhere in this golden chain - namely as one who is justified - then all the other things mentioned in the chain, both backwards and forwards, hold true. If we are justified, we were first called, predestined and foreknown. Truly justified people have the utmost assurance regarding their eternal welfare... those whom He has justified, will be glorified, for He who began the good work in them will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).

With that said, how do we understand it when someone has professed faith in Christ for many a year, and was perhaps even a leader in a Church, and yet then renounces Christ? Were they ever truly united with Christ? Were they in all reality a "former" brother or sister in Christ as some would assert? Did Jesus' work of mediation work only for a time in their case? Did they possess a temporal form of eternal life and then lose it?

Here is something I found to be very helpful on the subject from my friend Dr. James White. He is responding to an anonymous person who used to sit in his class and certainly, at the time of the class, professed faith in Christ. However, this person is now apparantly an atheist. I think you'll find the discussion here illuminating. Its a little lengthy, but well worth reading. Please read on.

Continue reading "Responding to Apostasy by Pastor John Samson" »

March 24, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Martin Luther Page Update

"If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright." -Martin Luther

For all you Luther fans out there Monergism.com has just done a major update to its Martin Luther page. It is still under construction but at least there is a large improvement.

Martin Luther was born in 1483 into a strict German Catholic family. His parents intended him for a law career, but he became a monk and a theology professor instead. A sensitive soul, he struggled mightily with a guilty conscience and an intense fear of God and hell until he realized the doctrine of "justification by faith" while studying the book of Romans. This doctrine, his Augustinian understanding of the bondage of the will along with his conviction that the Bible should be the basis of religious life and available to all, became the theological foundation of Protestantism.

Enter Martin Luther Page Here

March 22, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

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:

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March 21, 2006  |  Comments (27)   |  Permalink

We're Pagans I tell you! by Pastor John Samson

Jesus said, "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." Matthew 10:29.

Whenever a sparrow falls to the ground, God the Father was involved in some way. That's a powerful statement, if ever I heard one. Why? Because the falling of a sparrow is an everyday occurrence. Each day, sparrows are born; and each day, sparrows die. Perhaps when a sparrow falls, someone might actually notice it; but then again, perhaps not. Perhaps the fall is caught on camera, or then again, perhaps not. Perhaps the sparrow falls amongst forest trees in the middle of the night with no camera or person around to record the incident. But the point Jesus makes here is that whatever the circumstance of a sparrow's fall - any sparrow's fall - it could not have done so unless God the Father had in some sense determined that it would.

In making this statement, Jesus was pointing to a great deal more than the plight of a sparrow. We can clearly understand that major events like the fall and the rise of nations are under God's providential rule and authority. But Jesus here made it quite clear that even when it comes to seemingly insignificant or trivial events (like a sparrow falling); they only occur because of the Father's will.

Even as Christians, I really don't think we get this. We have been so saturated and indoctrinated by the secular society around us that the world has affected our thinking far more than the Bible has. We live in a technological age unlike any other in human history. This is the generation of space travel, television, radio, the cell phone, high speed internet, the garage door opener, instant text messaging, microwave ovens and satellites. We're now very accustomed to seeing satellite pictures from space showing us up to the minute weather conditions around the world. There's nothing wrong with that, except that modern technology often gives us a very false impression. Because we can monitor the movement of a cloud formation or a hurricane from our living rooms, we tend to think that somehow what we are seeing in front of our eyes takes place outside of God's control. Because we can plot the movement of a hurricane, and even get a good idea about where and when it might hit land, we fail to see God's hand in it all.

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March 19, 2006  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Why Were the Israelites Ordered to Kill the Inhabitants of Canaan?

Question: Do you know why the Israelites were ordered to kill all the people in the promised land, right off the top of your head, the short answer? I was wondering [about this] after we had the study on Samson. How do you reconcile that with "Thou Shalt Not Kill."?

Response: That is a good question. Considering that God takes lives every day, since all human beings die, the command obviously does not apply to God Himself. Death, we must remember, is God's just judgment against sin and the penalty exacted for Adam's disobedience in the garden. We all must undergo death sooner or later, so whether the inhabitants of Canaan died "naturally" then or a few years later is one and the same and really makes little difference. Specifically God was judging the Canaanites at that time, the Scripture says, for their gross idolatry, divination, witchcraft, sorcery, and mediums, i.e. those who call up the dead. In fact God says these "detestable practices" are the very reason they were driven out, as the following text in Deuteronomy affirms:

"When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in [a] the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you . 13 You must be blameless before the LORD your God." (Deut 18:9-13)

But it is critical that we always remind ourselves that God did not select Israel (or us for that matter) because they were better or more numerous then these other peoples (Deut 7:7). He simply set them apart to redeem them because of the covenant he made with their forefathers out of his sheer grace as the Bible confirms:

Continue reading "Why Were the Israelites Ordered to Kill the Inhabitants of Canaan?" »

March 18, 2006  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

There are No Four-Point Calvinists

Within the Dispensational theological camp there are quite a number of so-called four-point Calvinists. This means that while they fully embrace most Calvinistic soteriology, such as the biblical doctrine of irresistible grace, yet they believe Christ died with the same universal intent for all humanity. To put it another way, unlike traditional full-orbed Calvinists, they do not believe Christ died (redemptively) for the elect only. With the notable exception of the MacArthur Dispensationalists who are five point Calvinists, most others in that camp (such as those influenced by Dallas Seminary) reject the doctrine of limited atonement. Well... what I would like to demonstrate today is that rather than giving reasons why they are wrong, I am more inclined simply to call them inconsistent, for I believe it can be easily demonstrated that most of them already believe in limited atonement without consciously knowing that they do. Here's why:

Four point Calvinists will all agree, along with us, that irresistible grace, faith and repentance are gifts of God granted only to the elect. But four-point Calvinists somehow fail to connect the dots because they have not apprehended that these benefits as part of the redemptive work of Christ. We must consider that God does not give us generic grace apart from the work of Christ but all spiritual and redemptive blessings derive their potency from Christ and Christ alone (Eph 1:3). Therefore any belief in a "Christless" irresistible grace or gift of faith is absurd. I am led to believe that perhaps many of them have simply never thought of this. The result is that it should be plain to all that Christ died in a way (redemptively - to procure irresistable grace) for the elect that He did not for the non-elect.

If only the elect receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who irresistibly draws His own people (John 6:63, 65, 37) that they might believe the gospel .... and the same Spirit is never given in such a way to the non-elect (which four-pointers will affirm), then the only conclusion one can reach is that there is a benefit in the death of Christ which was never intended for the non-elect. By maintaining four-point calvinism one must separate the benefits from the Benefactor. In other words, the only way to consistently believe in four-point Calvinism is to erroneously conclude that irresistible grace is a grace given to people apart from Jesus Christ; something I would bet that none of them are willing to do.

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March 16, 2006  |  Comments (27)   |  Permalink

The Parable of the Drowning Man

Dear Friends:

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?

Continue reading "The Parable of the Drowning Man" »

March 14, 2006  |  Comments (14)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink

Open Their Eyes by Pastor John Samson

This last weekend I watched the two messages on a new DVD which featured Dr. John Piper ministering at a recent Campus Crusade for Christ leadership conference. A number of things impressed me. Without using the usual jargon of the reformed faith, Dr. Piper brought a fully reformed and scriptural mandate to the conference, the effects of which, I believe, will be felt for many years to come. I am sure it was extremely eye opening for many who heard him, and it will have a profound effect on those who watch the DVD as well.

He used 2 Cor 4:4 as a key text, "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

Dr. Piper defined lostness as "being blind to glory." Its two days since I saw and heard this, but this statement is still affecting me deeply. How true this is! The lost need more than a guide with a flash light to show the way. They need a creative miracle - the ability to see. No amount of light shining will help them, unless God intervenes. They can't see the light - they can't see the glory.

The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ shines whenever the gospel is proclaimed. Light and glory radiate from us (even though we are jars of clay) whenever we speak it. But by itself, the presence of light and glory is not enough. Lost people are blind to glory and therefore need that creative act of God we call regeneration in order to see what is patently obvious to those who have new eyes. And that's exactly what we find in verse 6 - For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." What a miracle this is! Just as God created all things by just the power of His Word, He has effectively wrought a tremendous miracle in our hearts, so that we now see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In the second message, Dr. Piper talked about proclaiming the whole counsel of God. I found this second session to be enormously helpful. I don't recall hearing anyone seek to define what the whole counsel of God is before, but I think he succeeded in doing so. He stressed the importance of God’s whole counsel in spreading the gospel, explaining which elements of Christian doctrine are essential for the salvation of this lost and blind world.

The DVD is a powerful and stirring message regarding evangelism, which really pleased me. There's much more that could be said, but if I could recommend material to anyone new to the doctrines of the reformed faith, or even for those who want a refreshing look at such subjects as the gospel and conversion, this DVD would be high on my list. I enjoyed the two messages thoroughly. It is available here from Desiring God Ministries.

March 14, 2006  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

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.

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March 13, 2006  |  Comments (9)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink

The Heart of the Problem by Pastor John Samson

"The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? "I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind..." - Jeremiah 17:9-10

"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;" - Romans 7:18

"The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth." - Psalm 58:3

"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." - Psalm 51:5

Every child comes into the world with an alarming capacity for evil. Does that shock you? Did you think I was going to end the sentence differently? Scripture teaches us that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the heart. That's true of us even before we are born.

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March 11, 2006  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

Cryptic Emails by John Hendryx

Each day at Monergism.com, if you can imagine, we receive all kinds of email. These include a lot of sincere questions, encouragement, testimonies, challenges and the occasional cryptic messages. A couple of days ago I received one of the latter. The title of the email was:

"What must I DO to be saved?"

Then the body of the email only had the following Scriptural reference and no other text or explanation:

30And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

My first response to the text was "Amen!". What more could be said?

But as I thought it through I realized that perhaps the gentleman who wrote it (whom I had never had contact with before) was either offering some kind of proof against something he had read in the site and/or challenging me in some way. The first clue is the title of his email in which he CAPITALIZED the words "I DO" in "what must I DO to be saved?"

In other words, he is asserting that yes, there is something man must do in order to be saved ... proof against your websites' claim that salvation is by God's grace alone, a monergistic work of God's grace without any cooperation of man.

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March 06, 2006  |  Comments (17)   |  Permalink

I Lay Down My Life For The Sheep

"He (Jesus) had no need to suffer as the result of sin, nor yet that, by the discipline of suffering, He might be purged from its evil. There was no reason in Himself why He should ever know pain, or heave a sigh. His sufferings all had reference to His people. His object in suffering, bleeding, dying, was to secure the salvation of His chosen." C. H. Spurgeon

I came across this article (by Wayne Mack) here, and thought it might perhaps provoke some good discussion here on the blog. - Pastor John Samson

To God Be the Glory: A Popular Exposition of the Biblical Doctrine of Particular Redemption - by Wayne Mack

When Christ died, He died not simply to make redemption a possibility, but to make redemption a certainty. He did not simply die to make man redeemable, He died to redeem. He did not simply die to make man reconcilable, He died to reconcile. There was no limit to the potential sufficiency of the blood of Jesus Christ. It was ‘precious blood.’ There was no limit to the desperate need of man for the blood of Jesus Christ, for ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ There was no limit to the free offer of the gospel to all men. It is our responsibility to preach the gospel to every creature. And there is no limit to the efficacy of the blood of Jesus Christ to save all those whom God is pleased to save.

Rules for Understanding
If a passage of Scripture seems to militate against a definite or certain redemption, the arguments will usually disintegrate if you keep in mind three things.

First of all, we must pay attention to the context in which the verse of Scripture is found. Many of our problems in biblical interpretation come from lifting a verse out of its context. We accuse the Jehovah’s Witnesses of doing this. We accuse other cultists of doing this, yet I am afraid that sometimes we are guilty of doing this.

Secondly, we must let Scripture interpret Scripture. We must never come to the Word of God and read our ideas into the Scripture. We must never come to the Word of God with our own definitions. Take the Word of God, get a good concordance and compare Scripture with Scripture. The Bible says that we should compare Spiritual things with Spiritual things. We should line up passages of Scripture alongside of other passages of Scripture and let the Bible interpret itself.

Thirdly, we should interpret every passage of Scripture, every book of the New Testament or Old Testament in the light of its historical setting. We need to look at the Bible in terms of the culture, in terms of the customs, in terms of the historical setting in which it was written. One of the problems we have with some Bible passages is that we try to read the New Testament or the Old Testament in the light of the historical setting in which we live. But we need to find out what was true historically. We need to discover the specific problems with which each book was dealing. The book of Galatians was dealing with a specific problem. The book of Colossians was dealing with a specific problem. We need to understand the historical background of every book of the New Testament or Old Testament if we are to interpret them properly. If we give heed to these three rules of biblical interpretation, if we are willing to receive whatever the Holy Spirit would teach us, if we will apply ourselves to the study of the Word of God and search diligently through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit will reward our study with the knowledge of the truth.

Continue reading "I Lay Down My Life For The Sheep" »

March 04, 2006  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

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.

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March 01, 2006  |  Comments (19)   |  Permalink

The Message of the Cross by Pastor John Samson

"Is it true that everyone on earth is drawn to the cross?" Many assume so. They base this on John 12:32 which says, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." But as I explained here, I don't believe that this interpretation is a plausible one.

So what does the scripture specifically say about the message of the cross? 1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The cross is actually foolishness to Gentiles and a stumbling block to Jews. That's pretty clear isn't it?

Question: So who views the cross as something other than foolishness or a stumbling block?

Answer: "...those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) ..." who see Christ as the wisdom and power of God.

What is also clear from this passage in 1 Cor. 1:22-24 is that Paul knew what it was that the Jews and Greeks wanted. He knew that the Jews wanted miraculous signs and the Greeks wanted wisdom. Did he therefore adjust his message accordingly?

Hardly!

Knowing what it was that the two ethnic groups wanted, he wrote, "but we preach Christ crucified." In all reality, Christ was THE sign of all signs, and Christ is THE personification of all wisdom, but only the elect would ever understand that.

Paul did not go door to door around Corinth to ask what the people most wanted to see or hear about. He didn't need to. He already knew what the Corinthians wanted all along. However, Paul's ministry was not founded upon what the latest surveys indicated itching ears wanted to hear. He knew, before he ever opened his mouth, that his message, the message of the cross, would be completely offensive to everyone except the called. He went into Corinth preaching the message of the cross to all, but he knew ahead of time, that only the elect would enjoy hearing it! That's quite a thought isn't it?

Brothers and sisters, let Paul's words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, remind us that it is God who determines what it is we preach, not rebel sinners! Let us also trust the ministry of the Spirit to make the word of Christ come alive in the hearts and minds of Christ's sheep, and not worry so much about those who will be offended at the message we bring. Better that men be offended, than the One who has called us to preach Christ and Him crucified.

February 27, 2006  |  Comments (18)   |  Permalink

Free From What? by J.W. Hendryx

Hey John, how goes it? I enjoyed reading your article on "unregenerate will, self-determined but not free"

Question: I was wondering if you had anything else similar that you could recommend. I liked your illustrations and examples. I am still trying to find an article that has a good balance of depth, but is not over people's heads and covers the different types of wills, both mans and God's, in detail. Perhaps I wont be able to find everything I'm looking for in one article but I'm trying to put together something for a bible study class so I will be cutting and pasting stuff, hope that is ok?

Response: Thanks for your inquiry about the concept of free will. For clarity's sake, one important thing we must do when speaking to folks about this issue, I believe, is define the concept of "free will" up front. People come at this with different preconceptions so it is important to explain what you do and do not mean by the expression.

For example, if someone says they believe man has a free will, you may want to ask them, "free from what?" ... From sin? ... from God's eternal decree?

What the majority of people actually mean when they claim we have a free will is that they believe we are free from external coersion. This is a good place to start because it is a place that all can agree upon. But what most Reformed people actually mean when we explain that man has "no free will", is not that we are coerced by some outside force. (Coersion here meaning an outside force that would make us involuntarily choose something). No, rather, the Bible explains that the natural man, without the Spirit, is in bondage to a corruption of nature. The expression "bondage" to the natural man speaks of His lack of freedom. His nature is hostile to God and loves darkness (John 3:19, 20). In fact he is in bondage until Christ sets him free (Rom 6). We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness, the Bible tells us. So coersion is not the only form of bondage, there is also bondage because our poor choices are made by necessity due to a corruption of nature. Coersion and necessity are, therefore, both equally valid ways to express that a person lacks free will. Just because we are not coerced into making desisions does not mean the will is free. One may also sin of necessity, due to the natural man's innate hostility to God, by which he will always flee from God, apart from grace.

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February 27, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Justification by Faith, Out of Date? B. B. Warfield

The following short essay by Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851 - 1921) was originally published in 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.

Romans 4:4-5 - 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

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?

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February 27, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Can a Person Refuse Christ After Regeneration? and Must We Believe or is it Automatic?

Question from a visitor:

Mr. Hendryx,

First off, I thank you for your quick response the other week in regards to a question I had asked you (about 1 Tim. 2:1-4). I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions ... With that being said, I ask for your kindness again with regards to another question. Here it is. Is there not any point in time when man (any human being), after having his heart regenerated by the Holy Spirit, must himself renounce sin and believe in Jesus? Or does it automatically happen because of his regeneration? Is it possible for someone to be brought to the knowledge of the truth, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and still refuse to accept Jesus? I appreciate your help in understanding this. Thanks again and God bless.

Thanks for your great question. The Scriptures teach that faith is not merely a dry acknowledgement or ticking off of a list of facts. When we believe in Christ we do so because we see truth, beauty and excellency in Him. Our hearts, and not only our minds, are circumcized unto the Lord. Our heart of stone is made into a heart of flesh that we may believe and obey. God does not do the believing, repenting and obeying for us. We actively exercise faith and actively repent and obey the Lord willingly. But this is only because the Holy Spirit has given us a new disposition for spiritual things.

Example: If a man is blind from birth, no matter how much light you shine into his eyes, he will not see. But if you gave him a new set of eyes he would see. His using his visual ability is his own doing but it is because God gave him this gift that he even has the capacity to do so. It is his nature to want to see and it is he that wants to do the seeing, not God seeing for him. So you could say that faith and repentance is automatic but only because it springs from our new nature which we willingly exercise. Our nature is who we are.

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February 22, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

The Question of Inerrancy: A 20th Century Invention?

A United Methodist pastor recently wrote Norman Patterson, pastor of Covenant of Grace church in New Hartford, CT questioning his use of the term "inerrancy". He submitted the exchange to Monergism.com and I thought it might prove useful to those who may be wrestling with this issue.

Here is the exchange:

Norm: Thanks for the handouts. I noticed you use the word "inerrant." What do you mean by that? "Inerrancy" is a 20th century concept popular among Reformed scholars and goes beyond what the reformers: Luther, Wesley and Calvin taught. I believe the concept and word inerrancy gets us into literary gymnastics and fostering a dead literalism the Bible does not claim for itself. For instance and perhaps a silly example: When Jesus said the mustard seed is the smallest seed. In reality he was wrong. It isn't, but in that culture it was believed to be. Jesus also spoke in what is called: "oriental hyperbole." His words about cutting off one's arm or ripping out one's eye etc. As I look at the reformers, including the continental ones like Luther and Calvin and later Wesley, the only "infallibility" they claim is limited to salvation itrself. See Article of Religion V, VI, and The 1646 Westminster Confession Chapter one. What are your thoughts?

Hello ____

I hope you don’t mind a thorough reply. Your questions gave me an opportunity to articulate some thoughts that have going through my mind for some time.

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February 22, 2006  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Christ Lived For Our Righteousness by Pastor John Samson

"Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him.
But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?"
But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."
Then he permitted Him."
- Matthew 3:13-15

"But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." - 1 Corinthians 1:30-31

CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS, AND LIVED FOR OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS - The Lord Jesus Christ not only died an atoning death for our sins, but He also lived a sinless life that perfectly fulfilled the righteous standards of the law. If all that was necessary for our justification was the death of Jesus on the cross, He could have come down to earth on a parachute on Good Friday, died on the cross for us, and three days later, risen again. But we all know that this is not what happened. Why? Because that would never have been enough.

The good news of the Gospel is certainly that Christ died for our sins.. but it also includes the fact that He lived for our righteousness. For more than 33 years, Christ was tempted in every way like us, yet He was without sin (Heb. 4:15). Christ is the only One who can say that He loved His Father perfectly in life, with all His heart, soul, mind and strength.

At the cross then, all our sins were laid on Him (though of course, He remained the holy and spotless Lamb of God, in and of Himself) and as our sin bearer, He was punished in our place. As the angel declared to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, "you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."

"He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24).

Isa 53:5, 6 says, "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him."

But that is far from all of the story. There was a double imputation that took place on the cross. If Christ had merely paid the penalty for our sins, our debt to God would have been cancelled, and no punishment would be due to us, thank God! But that is not nearly enough to gain an entry into heaven. That would simply remove the outstanding debt we owed to God and bring us to zero... and zero is not enough. Jesus said, "Unless your righteousness (positive) exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall in no way enter the kingdom of God." (Matt. 5:20)

We as sinners not only need the removal of the negative (our sin) but the presence of the positive... full and complete righteousness to be able to stand before a holy God just in His sight. So not only were our sins imputed to Christ and He bore their full punishment for us on the cross, but positively, the righteousness of Christ was imputed to us. The punishment due to us because of our sin came upon Him, and the pleasure of God due to Jesus' complete obedience to every jot and tittle of the law, came upon us. The very righteousness of Jesus Christ is the righteousness imputed to us by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. This righteousness is one that has perfectly fulfilled the entire demands of the law of God.

The work of Christ is perfect in every respect, and perfect in every aspect. The righteousness now enjoyed by the believer is an alien one (one that comes from outside of himself) for it is the righteousness of Christ Himself. It comes to us as a gift, not something earned (Rom. 5:17), and is the cause of our rejoicing in the direct presence of the Lord. "For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin, to become sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Cor. 5:21. As believers in Christ, we've been made righteous with a righteousness that has never known sin, and has fully complied with all the righteous demands of the law. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

February 20, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Do Humans Have More Freedom Than God AND Does God Have a Libertarian Free Will? by J.W. Hendryx

One of the main objections of Arminians, Semi-pelagians and other synergists to divine election is based on moral rather than exegetical grounds. While debating these issues online over the years, I have heard many of them contend that the Augustinian view of God is morally repugnant since God could and would never force humans to do something against their will. And since God is holy, they reason, He could not ordain all things that come to pass, because this would make God the author of evil. Well, instead of this being an essay defending God's sovereignty and meticulous providence over all things (both good subjects in themselves but best left for another time) I wish to use their belief in God's inability to act contrary to His nature to make a point ... one that is fatal to their belief in libertarian free will.

We all know that the Arminians teach that man has a free will in the libertarian sense. What this means, simply is that they believe man has the ability to choose otherwise. That is, they affirm that human beings are free to choose between opposites ... to make choices uninfluenced any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. They believe the will, being neutral, can just as easily choose good or evil. On the surface this may seem reasonable but when you think about it for a moment it makes no sense because deep down we know, and the Scriptures affirm, that a person must always choose according to what he is by nature, otherwise how could the choice be rightfully said to be his own? Let us never forget that the nature of a person is not a thing he possesses. It is something he is. For example, When a person loves evil by nature, he will always make choices in line with what that nature desires most. Just as it is the nature of a dog to bark and a cat to meow so it is the nature of the unregenerate to be hostile to God and love darkness (John 3:19, 20).

The small but important point I wish to make in all this is simple, and I think it packs the most punch by asking a question. The question is, does God have a free will in the libertarian sense? i.e. Is God able to choose otherwise? (is He "free" to choose good or evil?) And if not does this mean human beings have more freedom then God does, since, to libertarians, human beings do have this freedom to choose good or evil?

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February 18, 2006  |  Comments (12)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink

Sola Scriptura (Continued) by Pastor John Samson

"In the empire of the church, the ruler is God's Word." - Martin Luther - Works, Vol. 41, p. 134.

"I have learned to ascribe the honor of infallibility only to those books that are accepted as canonical. I am profoundly convinced that none of these writers has erred. All other writers, however they may have distinguished themselves in holiness or in doctrine, I read in this way. I evaluate what they say, not on the basis that they themselves believe that a thing is true, but only insofar as they are able to convince me by the authority of the canonical books or by clear reason." - Martin Luther

"Since the church is Christ's Kingdom, and he reigns by his Word alone, will it not be clear to any man that those are lying words by which the Kingdom of Christ is imagined to exist apart from his scepter (that is, his most holy Word)?" - John Calvin, Institutes

"Let the pastors boldly dare all things by the word of God. . . Let them constrain all the power, glory, and excellence of the world to give place to and to obey the divine majesty of this word. Let them enjoin everyone by it, from the highest to the lowest. Let them edify the body of Christ. Let them devastate Satan's reign. Let them pasture the sheep, kill the wolves, instruct and exhort the rebellious. Let them bind and loose thunder and lightning, if necessary, but let them do all according to the word of God." - John Calvin, Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians, p. xii

THE COUNCIL OF TRENT 1545-1563

In my first article on this subject here I briefly described how the Protestant movement began. Of course, just because this Reformation swept like wildfire across most of Europe, it did not mean that the Roman Catholic Church gave up the fight and disbanded. Quite the opposite, in fact. Instead, Rome engaged in a rigorous Counter Reformation.

Rome took seriously the criticism of the moral scandals, and in reality, there was a widespread moral reform in the Church. However an Ecumenical Council, which was the Roman Catholic Church's official theological response to the Protestant Reformation, convened. This was called "The Council of Trent" and took place over an eighteen year period between 1545 and 1563. During this time, many issues were discussed in detail, not the least of which was the issue of sola fide (justification by faith alone). Rome placed its anathema (eternal curse) on the doctrine of sola fide, and on any who preached it - an anathema which has never been revoked.

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February 17, 2006  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Things that Irk J.W. Hendryx

"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God." - 1 John 5:1

There are few things that irk me more than bad or inconsistent theology. This is because it amounts to a misrepresentation of God and his message, and, as we know, all wrong thinking about God is a form of idolatry. No doubt we are all guilty of having wrong thoughts about God at some level and thus should humbly acknowledge God's grace for anything we have and not boast in our knowledge or anything else ... but when persons, who should know better, begin presenting God's grace as a cooperative effort of man and God, where unspiritual man is presented as possessing spiritual capacities, then contradictions abound. Unfortunately, this kind of synergism is perhaps the the most pervasive cause of error and confusion in the church today.

Charles Hodge said,""No more soul-destroying doctrine could well be devised than the doctrine that sinners can regenerate themselves, and repent and believe just when they please... As it is a truth both of Scripture and of experience that the unrenewed man can do nothing of himself to secure his salvation, it is essential that he should be brought to practical conviction of that truth. When thus convinced, and not before, he seeks help from the only source whence it can be obtained."

C.H. Spurgeon said, "Faith in the living God and his Son Jesus Christ is always the result of the new birth, and can never exist except in the regenerate. Whoever has faith is a saved man." (from His sermon Faith and Regeneration)

Just recently Pastor John Samson did a post reflecting on 1 John 5:1 where he briefly exegeted the passage as clearly teaching that faith is the immediate result of regeneration, not the cause of it. However, a reader took exception to this and said the following:

"All the ones going on believing (pisteuon, a present tense, continuous action) that Jesus is the Christ has been born (gennesanta, perfect tense - an action already complete with abiding effects) of God," simply does not prove that we were unable to believe prior regeneration. It only states that after regeneration we have been empowered to continue believing and thus our faith is sustained through the work of God in our lives. So, though this verse is a great verse for preservation, it simply does not support regeneration prior to faith - in fact, nothing in Scripture does. Every occurance of life and faith in any context in Scripture always logically places faith prior to life."

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February 16, 2006  |  Comments (27)   |  Permalink

When Does Justification Take Place?

Question: Mr. Hendryx, is justification predicated upon our confession? Do we have to do something before were justified? Can this not be misconstrued as a work of man that God condescends to? Where in the order of salvation does justification occur in relation to a person's confession. When does it take place in a person's life. I'm trying to teach the ordo salutis and I am kind of stuck on this. Does justification come before, during or after a profession of faith in Christ?

Answer: Outstanding question. Lets be clear, it is Christ who justifies, not our faith. We boast in His grace to save, not our faith. But yes, the Scripture does assert that when the Holy Spirit unites to to Christ we appropriate the redemptive blessings of Christ (the alien righteousness) through faith. The Spirit uniting us to Christ and our faith are concurrant, yet it is the Spirit who illumines our mind, regenerates and unites to Christ as that which spiritually enables us to exercise faith. The texts, Acts 17:30 & 1 John 3:23, teach that we are commanded to repent and put our trust in Jesus Christ if we are to receive forgiveness. This, of course, does not imply the moral ability of the natural man to believe, so faith is not itself the cause of justification, but rather the grace of Jesus Christ is. We are justified, the text says BY GRACE through faith (Eph 2:8). Faith only takes hold of (appropriates) Christ and what He has accomplished. Grace is, therefore, ultimate while faith is only penultimate. Clearly the Bible specifically affirms that justification occurs at the same time we exercise faith (see Rom 3:28, Rom 5:1; Gal 2:16; Gal 3:8). So to answer your question, I believe a very good case can be made that justification actually occurs, in a historical sense, during a persons' confession (or belief). Justification, therefore, does not precede our confession. Prior to our confession, the Scripture says we were "by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." (Eph 2:3) There is indeed an experimental aspect to what Christ has accomplished for all time. Col 2:11-14 says,

"In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.

But since faith itself is the gift of God (Eph 2:8, Phil 1:29, 2 Tim 2:25, John 6:65), and since man is by nature morally incapable to draw from his own resources to reach God, apart from the Spirit, then faith cannot possibly be misconstrued as a work of man. God must first disarm our natural hostility, that is ....work the grace of regeneration (the new birth) in us that we would see with new eyes and believe with a new heart .... so regeneration (which makes us spiritually aware) precedes faith (John 1:13; 1 John 5:1) and is actually what gives rise to faith and the desire to please God. Thus, faith is not something produced by the will of unregenerate man (Rom 9:16. John 1:13). As the Cambridge Declaration confesses, "faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature."

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February 10, 2006  |  Comments (26)   |  Permalink

Sola Scriptura (Part 1) by Pastor John Samson

"Sola scriptura, the formal principle of the Reformation, is essential to genuine Christianity. Yet this doctrine is under attack like never before. Christians who want to defend their faith must have a basic knowledge of this doctrine, know how to support it with Scripture proofs, and be able to discern the enemy's attacks against it." - Dr. John MacArthur

"Let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth." - Basil of Caesarea (c. 330 - 379 A.D.)

"We affirm that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ. We deny that such a confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and the church." - Chicago Statement of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy

"...have you not read what was spoken to you by God..." - Jesus Christ (Matt. 22:31)

There has been an unprecedented crisis in the Church in the last 200 years as to the question "Can we trust the Scriptures?" There has been a wholesale loss of the sense of authority.

To understand the issues involved in our day, I am convinced that we need to know something about the 16th Century Protestant Reformation. The central issue was Justification by faith alone (Latin: sola fide). Yet often overlooked is another controversy which was equally as serious for the life of the Church. Whilst the material issue of the Reformation concerned the debate over justification by faith alone, the formal issue (the structure in which the whole debate ensued) was the issue of final authority - who or what speaks for God?

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February 10, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

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 God’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 “God” 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.

-JWH

February 08, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Contending for the Trinity by Pastor John Samson

Some months ago I visited the newly developed web site of an independent minister friend of mine, whom I have known for more than two decades.

I was interested to see the improvements and enjoyed seeing the upgraded graphics and the easy to read text. However, curiosity got the better of me and I clicked on the Statement of Faith link (the statement of faith is the first thing I look at when assessing a Church or ministry). I thought I would enjoy reading what my friend had posted there. But in reading it, I became deeply troubled as I read the following sentence: "We believe there is one living and true God (manifested as Father, Son and Holy Spirit) infinitely perfect and eternal in existence."

The phrase "one God... manifested as Father, Son and Spirit" was far too vague for me, and if I was honest, could easily be interpreted as embracing one of the age old heresies of the past, Sabellianism, which says that there is one God who manifests Himself sometimes as Father, sometimes as the Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit. I was sufficiently concerned to contact my friend immediately by way of e-mail.

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February 06, 2006  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Biblical Reflections on Hebrews 6

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

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

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February 04, 2006  |  Comments (44)   |  Permalink

Which Came First? by Pastor John Samson

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Musings about this difficult and perplexing question has gone on for centuries. Thankfully though, the consequences for an incorrect answer are not particularly severe. Life goes on regardless.

But there's an area of study in Christian theology called soteriology (the study of what the Bible teaches regarding salvation), and within that context, how we answer the question as to "which came first?" has far more significant impact. I am speaking here of the order of salvation; namely does a person have faith and then is born again, or are they born again and then have faith? Is Divine election based upon God foreseeing us putting our faith in Christ or do we have faith in Christ because God first elected us?

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January 31, 2006  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Visitor Questions on the Fall & Evil

A visitor recently wrote to ask the following:

I have to say that I think you made a really good argument against the Amyraldistic point of view. But I have a question about the fall. If Adam and Eve were sinless and had an unstained "free-will" then why would they fall? If they had a "free-will" [i.e. free from bondage to sin] and then fell, it would only go against the Calvinistic teachings of "Perserverance of the Saints."

Not sure what "perseverance of the saints" has to do with this? But consider that Adam, when created, was not originally sealed in righteousness. He was given a trial period which would reveal how he would use his will and he failed as the federal head of us all. Theologians call this biblical concept of Adam's trial period the "covenant of works", which lingers with us to this day. Like Jesus said to the rich young ruler, "obey the commandments and live"...i.e. if anyone could obey the commandments perfectly they would not need a savior, correct?

God created Adam and gave him a time period to fulfil His Law. He did not create him already sealed in righteounsss. Jesus likewise, though in very nature God, as a human being he had to "fulfill all righteousness" and "fulfill the law" from our side in order to save us. His sinless "passive" death alone does not save us (though that is part of it) but we are redeemed also because he positively fulfilled God's covenant obligations toward us. Likewise we believe Adam had to fulfil a positive righteousness if he were to have gained life.

Next the visitor asked the following:

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January 28, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

God Is Not a Buffet Line of Options by Pastor John Samson

What is the Church's biggest need? I believe that what the Church needs more than anything else is GOD as He really is, and the GOSPEL as it really is. If one of these is distorted, then so is the other.

God has not changed in any way at all. Not recently. Not ever! God Himself says, "I am the Lord, I do not change." - Malachi 3:6. Yet in today's church, many of God’s characteristics or attributes have been deliberately obscured from view. The more popular attributes of God are still being displayed, such as His Love, His Grace and His Mercy. Yet there has been the obscuring of certain other attributes of God - His Holiness, Righteousness, Justice, Wrath and Sovereignty.

At a Buffet, we find no Buffet Police watching to see if we put every item on our plate, and holding us accountable for doing so. We are free to choose which type of food we will eat, and which we will leave to one side. We do so with impunity, for we face no legal action for passing by a certain meat or failing to put the apple pie on our plate.

But lets be clear, God’s attributes are not a buffet line of options. We are not invited to choose the attributes of God that we like best and leave the others. We have no right to say, “I’ll give Sovereignty a pass, but I’ll take the love." God doesn't allow us to put some of His attributes to one side. God is everything He says He is. To only believe in or to only emphasize certain of His characteristics is to invent our own god. There's a biblical name for that - idolatry! An idol can be fashioned and formed by the heart and mind just as much as by the hand. There is only one God and any god that is not the God who has revealed Himself in Scripture is a false one.

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January 25, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

The Apparent "Good" in Natural Man

If natural man's condition is Total Depravity, How do we account for the apparent "good" in the unregenerate?

Good question because the meaning of total depravity is often misunderstood. It should first be pointed out what "total depravity" does not mean. The doctrine does not refer to man being as evil a creature as he can be. All fallen, unregenerate human beings are endowed with many of God's common graces. God has blessed all men with a conscience and the capacity to promote virtue and civil righteousness. It is abundantly clear that many beautiful aspects of the world we live in have been brought forth by those which are unredeemed by God's regenerative grace. God has gifted natural men and women with the skill to create beautiful music, make profound works of art, to invent intricate machines and do countless things that are productive, excellent and praiseworthy. John Calvin said,

"Those men whom Scripture calls "natural men" were, indeed, sharp and penetrating in their investigation of inferior things. Let us, accordingly, learn by their example how many gifts the Lord left to human nature even after it was despoiled of its true good." (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 274-275).

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January 24, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

The Conjoining of the Spirit with Word and Sacrament

How is faith formed is us and how are we to nourish and continue that faith which the Holy Spirit effectually created in us?

The child who is conceived by his parents must also be nourished by them with food and then brought up in discipline lest his physical and mental growth be stunted. Likewise the faith which the Holy Spirit initially formed in us must also be nourished. Unless the life once quickened in us by the Holy Spirit is daily nourished by the means appointed by God, faith will wither and struggle, and not bear healthy fruit.

And just what are the appointed means God has given? The Word and the Sacraments. (1) The Preaching of the Word. We nourish the faith the Spirit begat in us first by assembling together with other Christians to hear the word of God preached to us. This is the ordinary means the Lord works faith in us, a means which He has promised to bless and bind Himself to. (2) The Administering and Receiving of the Sacraments which Jesus commanded us to partake of "till He come". The greater the frequency of being united to Christ through the sacrament of the Lord's Table the more our faith will receive nourishment. We should make it a habit to often come together, as did disciples, who "continued in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship and the breaking of bread and prayers" (Acts 2:42). This is the means they used to nourish and augment their faith that Christ had begun in them (Phil 1:6, 1:29).

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January 23, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Dead Men Walking by Pastor John Samson

Just how dead is dead? Exactly what can a dead person do?

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins... - Ephesians 2:1. The Greek word here for "dead" is the word nekros which means "dead like a corpse." As far as his relationship to God is concerned, man is a lifeless corpse, unable to respond or even make a single move toward God, unless God first brings this spiritually dead corpse to life. He is dead in trespasses and sins. It is a very strange kind of death because while dead, he is nevertheless up and about actively practicing sin. He is what horror stories call a zombie - dead but walking around. This is a fair description of what Paul says about human nature in its lost condition. He is biologically alive but spiritually dead.

The sinner actively practices evil. His will is enslaved (John 8:34) and he is also by nature an object of God's wrath (Eph. 2:3). He has a will, most definitely, but he has no desire to seek after God (Rom 3:11) or submit to Him, in fact he cannot do so (Rom 8:7, 8), without the direct and gracious intervention of God.

This is why without Sovereign election, evangelism would be the most futile activity imaginable. It would be much like a salesman trying to sell his products in a graveyard. The dead need to be raised to life before a salesman can make a sale! The dead have no interest in skin cream products, double glazed windows, hair loss prevention treatments, air purifiers or the latest and greatest vacuum cleaner. They are not moved by even the greatest of sales pitches! Why? Well that's pretty obvious, isn't it? Its because the dead are, in a word.... dead!

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January 19, 2006  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

The Arraignment of Error by Samuel Bolton

There have been several visitors to this blog who have asked at various times about how to determine which creed or which authority is right in interpreting the Bible. For an in depth study on this we recommend The Arraignment of Error by Samuel Bolton which may be of significant help in this regard. Here is the publishers' description:

It has perplexed many throughout the centuries why if there is one truth, it is so difficult to determine it. Protestants believe in an infallible Bible; but who interprets it with final authority? Roman Catholics believe in an infallible Bible, and an infallible church (their own) as the infallible interpreter of it.

How do we determine who is right? And why does God allow errors in His Church (though never in His Word)? Do we accept the opinions of learned men as right because of their academic acumen? Or do we simply acquiesce to the fact that more people believe this doctrine than don't, so that therefore it must be the truth?

These are exactly the questions that Dr. Samuel Bolton addresses in this rare book. In an irenic spirit typical of the English Puritans, Bolton tackles the tough issues in a gentle, but convincing manner. This book was last published in 1646, but it is as relevant for our day as it was for theirs.

The Arraignment of Error by Samuel Bolton

January 18, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Inconsistent Underlying Assumptions the Cause of Unsound Theology

There is a tremendous need for cogent thinking among our leaders and teachers in the church today. Theological literature and sermons brim over with unsound and invalid reasoning. We must, therefore, be extra discriminating in what we read and who we listen to from the pulpit. Even though many in the pews have not had formal education in logic, more and more people sense there is something wrong in what they hear even if they cannot put their finger exactly on what it is. When we hear preachers expound mutually exclusive propositions or contradictory assertions, while we may not have the communication skills to confront the preacher ourselves, yet we feel uneasy about it and this feeling lingers on.

It is important to note that consistency and logic (like omniscience, justice and mercy) are among the perfections of God. Lest you doubt the validity of this assertion, the Scripture itself teaches this. Jesus Himself said that He is "...the Truth" and later in the same gospel he states that God's Word is Truth (John 17:17). These statements, of course, would be utterly meaningless if it did not mean that Jesus was opposed to all falsehood. The conclusion we must, therefore, reach is simply that God's Word does not contradict itself. We should also note that the Scripture affirms that God is Holy. This assertion means nothing if His character in any way contradicts this. In other words, God cannot be unholy or cannot do what is contrary to His own nature. Likewise the Text affirms that God keeps his promises, does not lie, nor does God have the capacity to deny Himself. Since this means God cannot contradict Himself in what he says, does and believes, then He calls us to do likewise (Be truthful, holy, keep your promises, do not lie). God Himself, as revealed in Scripture, is the ultimate presupposition we have in being consistent and logical in everything we say and do, and this is especially true for those who would be teachers of God's word.

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January 16, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

A Word to Musicians

"An effective worship leader, aided and led by the Holy Spirit, skillfully combines biblical truth with music to magnify the worth of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, thereby motivating the gathered church to join him in proclaiming and cherishing the truth about God and seeking to live all of life for the glory of God." - Bob Kauflin

John Calvin lived and breathed to see the true worship of God take place in the life of the church. I think something of that same passion can be found in Bob Kauflin's blog articles, and I recommend them to you. Bob (pictured left) serves as director of worship development for Sovereign Grace Ministries, and as a pastor and worship leader at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He now also writes a blog at worshipmatters.com, which, as the name suggests, is specifically focused on matters of worship. I found his recent articles entitled "On Musicians and Reading Books" to be very helpful, as they show quite clearly, why having a sound theology is so vital. I've pointed these articles out to those on the music team at the church I pastor, and happily do so again here in this venue. For the sake of space, I've slightly edited his three articles into one... (I hope Bob doesn't mind).

ON MUSICIANS AND READING BOOKS by Bob Kauflin

I think I’ve interacted with enough Christian musicians over the past couple decades to make a general observation: Christian musicians rarely read theology books. Now, I know that’s a broad statement. There are non-musician Christians who don’t like to study theology, too, and some Christians musicians who actually love theology. You're the ones who took offense at my earlier comment. “What's he talking about? I’m ALWAYS reading theology books!” If so, you’re to be commended. But you’re the exception.

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January 12, 2006  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Jesus Christ Fount of Every Blessing

"Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (Jas. 1:17). And again, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven" (John 3:27). "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ." (Eph 1:3)

Since every good endowment and perfect gift is from above, Jesus leaves no room for nature to boast. This is no hyperbole but a plain expression of the Holy Spirit affirming that all our our abilities; moral, natural and otherwise are the merciful unconditional gift of our Lord Jesus Christ. These and many other passages use universal positives (All, Every) to describe the all-encompassing nature of Christ as the source of every excellence and spiritual blessing. The word "endowment" used in Jas 1:17 means talent, ability or quality which points to the fact that the grace and illumination we are given in Christ to apprehend His word are a necessary precursor to have the internal moral/spiritual quality that enable us to generate right thoughts about Christ. An unspiritual man cannot naturally generate the affections or faith necessary to appropriate salvation. No stream can rise above its source, so likewise, no good thought can rise to heaven unless its fountain source is in heaven. Redemptive thoughts are not derived from resources found below but must issue forth from the river of life whose fountainhead springs forth from the throne of God and of the Lamb. And it is from this same fountain that we must continually drink lest we dry up in the use our own natural resources.

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January 07, 2006  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

The Five Points of Calvinism by Pastor John Samson

The raging fire of the Protestant Reformation was sparked into flame by Martin Luther. A number of notable men opposed the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church before Luther did - men such as John Wycliffe (1329-1384), John Hus (1373-1415) and William Tyndale (c.1494 - 1536). Tyndale had a monumental role in translating the Bible for the English speaking world, and shared the same fate as Hus by being burnt at the stake. But certainly it was Luther who sparked the Reformation itself with his posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg on October 31, 1517.

Following on from Luther, God raised up a Frenchman by the name of John Calvin to lead the growing Protestant movement. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin opposed the errors of the Roman Catholic Church concerning salvation, directing people to the truth of the Bible. Though definitely in agreement with the doctrine of justification by faith alone; John Calvin (based in Geneva, Switzerland) through both his preaching and his writings, systematically applied the message of the Bible to every aspect of life. Calvin's Institutes became the handbook of all the Reformers. Like Luther before him, Calvin believed in the Sovereignty of God. Concerning the doctrines of election and predestination, there was nothing in Calvin's writings and sermons that were not first found in Luther's. Yet Calvin also wanted society, as well as the church, to view the world through the lens of the Bible, so that the laws of the land were established upon biblical principles.

These men were not only concerned with what the Scriptures taught, but that the common people had access to read the Bible in their own language. It would be a fair appraisal to see these men's earlier efforts (under God) as foundational to the sweeping changes throughout Europe that Luther and Calvin would bring. Wycliffe, Hus and Tyndale built the bonfire, so to speak, and Luther simply lit the match and held it to the wood! The result - most of Europe was set ablaze with the biblical doctrines of grace.

As time passed, controversy ensued as a man by the name of Jacob Arminius began to raise strong objections to the teachings accepted amongst the Reformers. Arminius studied under the Calvinist teacher Theodore Beza at Geneva and became a professor of theology at the University of Leyden in 1603. Over time, his objections became stronger and stronger until they became a prominent issue amongst all the Church in Holland. The followers of Arminius, known as the Arminians, drew up their creed in Five Articles and outlined them before the state authorities of Holland in the year of 1610 under the name Remonstrance, signed by forty-six ministers. (These Five Articles can be read in Philip Schaff's, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3, pp. 545-547.)

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January 05, 2006  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

Bibliology: Doctrine of the Written Word

Take the time to see the updated and most extensive resource of the Doctrine of the Bible on the Internet @ Monergism.com. A cornucopia of theologically sound essays.

“Since for unbelieving men religion seems to stand by opinion alone, they, in order not to believe anything foolishly or lightly, both wish and demand rational proof that Moses and the prophets spoke divinely. But I reply: the testimony of the Spirit is more excellent than all reason. For as God alone is a fit witness of himself in his Word, so also the Word will not find acceptance in men's hearts before it is sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit. The same Spirit, therefore, who has spoken through the mouths of the prophets must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us that they faithfully proclaimed what had been divinely commanded ... "
--John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 1.7.5.

Enter Here

January 05, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

True Saving Faith by Pastor John Samson

The Apostle Paul's main theme in the book of Romans is that of the Gospel itself, as he answers the question, "how can an unjust person ever be acceptable to a just and holy God?" In passages such as Chapter 3:20 - 4:8, he teaches that we are justified by faith alone and not by anything that we do (other passages where Paul states this are Titus 3:5; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8,9; Phil 3:9; to name just a few). A fuller treatment of the doctrine of justification by faith alone is available here.

Romans 3:28; 4:3-8 - "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin."

Having established the case biblically that we are justified by faith apart from works, we then need to ask the question, "what kind of faith is it that justifies?" In other words, what does true faith look like?

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January 02, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Justification - Getting it Right by Pastor John Samson

Justification is a legal word - a word from the courtroom. It is the legal act whereby God declares the sinner to be righteous in the sight of God. It is not that the sinner is now righteous in and of himself, but that he is "declared" righteous because of the work of Christ. Though fully deserving a guilty sentence, along with all of its eternal consequences, instead, the justified sinner is pronounced "not guilty," is reckoned righteous, and made the very righteousness of God in Christ. This declaration of righteousness is what it means to be justified before God.

But how exactly can God make this kind of pronouncement without negotiating His holiness and righteousness? If the sinner is in fact guilty of sin, how is it right for a holy and righteous judge to declare a sinner's innocence? In other words, how can God still be just and yet justify the sinner?

The Biblical answer is found in Romans 3:21-28, which reads as follows: But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. (NASB)

Dr. R. C. Sproul, in summing up the teaching of this passage wrote, "Paul declares a way of justification different from justification by deeds of the law. It is not a novelty, proclaimed for the first time in the New Testament. This way of justification is witnessed to by the Prophets and by the law itself. It is justification through faith in Jesus Christ. This justification is not given to everyone. It is provided to all and on all, who believe. It is based on the righteousness of God that is provided to and on the believer. It is given both freely and graciously by God through the redeeming work of Christ. This manner of justification demonstrates God himself to be both just and the justifier."

Sproul continues, "Again, the dilemma faced by the sinner summoned to the judgment seat of God is this: The sinner must appear before a divine Judge who is perfectly just. Yet the sinner is unjust. How can he possibly be unjust and justified? The answer to this question touches the eye of the Reformation tornado. For God to justify the impious (iustificatio impii) and himself remain just in the process, the sinner must somehow become actually just by a righteousness supplied him by another."

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December 31, 2005  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

HELL YES! by Pastor John Samson

Hell is under attack! Well perhaps not hell itself, but the doctrine of hell as a place of eternal punishment for the wicked is certainly under full frontal attack in our day. As Christians we should not be surprised that hell is not a particularly popular concept in the minds of the general public. But what should concern us greatly is that a great many professing Christians are increasingly hostile towards the idea.

Some preachers are launching their attacks against the concept of hell openly from the pulpit; yet others are just as zealous in the fight, but wage their war through the act of silence, as they pride themselves on never mentioning the word "hell" at all in their sermons.

Some speak of a second chance after death, violating the clear teaching of Hebrews 9:27 that states, "It is appointed for men to die once and after that face the judgment."

Still others would draw us towards a new concept of hell; that is, annihilation. Rather than joining the redeemed in heaven, the wicked will be destroyed. If you think about it, this would be wonderful news for the sinner... why, a man can sin all he wants to in life: he can steal and murder and lie at will, and there are no eternal consequences!

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December 23, 2005  |  Comments (0)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink

The "Justification" of Christmas

Dear Beloved in Christ,

At the heart of the Reformation was the returning to a biblical view of how a person can be righteous before a holy God. The theological doctrine that taught us how we can be righteous or just before God was justification by faith alone. At Christmas, we as Christians should be thankful to God for justification based solely on Christ's righteousness alone, and that this biblical doctrine was articulated and taught in the Reformation and by God's grace has been preserved for us to this day.

Yet sadly in many evangelical churches the doctrine or theological teaching of justification by faith alone is disregarded, unimportant, or misunderstood. Some have not been introduced to this biblical teaching, and some cannot understand why theology would be important anyway. But this is the article upon which the Church stands or fall (Luther), and the hinge on which the door of the Reformation swung open to reveal heaven for poor sinners (paraphrase of Calvin).

Do you know what justification by faith means? Can you articulate it to others? Are you able to seek to make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:3-10) by knowing that you understand how you are to be righteous before a holy God today, but especially at the Final Judgment Seat of Christ? Will you be telling Jesus all you have done for him, proudly wearing your WWJD bracelet, or will you be saying humbly: "God have mercy upon me a sinner, I have only the righteousness of Christ to claim before your holy throne an in your awesome presence"? Do you understand justification by faith alone? Does every member of your family? It is extremely important, literally a matter of eternal life and eternal death!

This Christmas, I offer to you the "justification" of Christmas. The following is an acrostic based on 'CHRISTMAS' that I hope will help you to know what justification means for yourself and for others you love!

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December 22, 2005  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Martin Luther on the Bondage of the Will

Many of the following quotes I found to be really delightful. They come from, what Luther saw as his most important work,"The Bondage of the Will".

For context, Luther, is responding to some of Erasmus' assertions in support of our natural moral ability to obey the gospel. Erasmus presupposed that all of God's commands to obey proved that we had the "free-will" to do so. Luther, with great wit and irony exposes why free will is an erroneous, unscriptural doctrine which, ultimately, undermines the gospel itself.

These quotes hit the crux of the issue: whether grace alone saves or whether salvation is a mixture of nature with little sprinkling of grace. This is still extremely relevant for today's Christian, for many of us carry the that unbiblical assumption that Erasmus held, which concludes any command from God to believe or obey the gospel, must somewhow imply the moral ability to to do so. Large numbers of evangelicals today make this same jump in logic and build a whole theology on it ...assuming God's commands somehow automatically implies moral ability (this belief includes, ironically, many Lutherans), but as Dr. Luther said to Erasmus, "when you are finished with all your commands and exhortations ... I’ll write Ro.3:20 over the top of it all" ("...through the law comes knowledge of sin."). In other words, the commands exist to show what we cannot do rather than what we can do and our inability to repay our debt to God does not take away our accountablity to do so.

This includes God's command of all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel, an impossible act of will apart from a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit uniting us to Christ. Only the quicking grace of Jesus Christ applied by the Spirit can illumine The Text in such a way (to open blind eyes and deaf ears) wherein we and able to see Christ's beauty and excellency. Those who are unregenerate cannot see Christ's excellency and thus have no capacity to love what is spiritual and so are not partly but wholly dependent on God to translate them from darkness to light. The following are some quotes from Dr. Luther to this end:

"For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?" Martin Luther BW pg. 149

"...'if thou art willing' is a verb in the subjunctive mood, which asserts nothing...a conditional statement asserts nothing indicatively." "if thou art willing", "if thou hear", "if thou do" declare, not man's ability, but his duty. pg 157

"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." pg. 160

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December 20, 2005  |  Comments (52)   |  Permalink

The Necessity v. The Sufficiency of Grace by Pastor John Samson

There is no doubt that the 16th century witnessed the greatest ever split in Church history. Some view the Reformation as a sad or even an evil episode. Others see it as a time when God restored the one true biblical Gospel back into the hands of the masses. But what exactly were the issues back then? And what are the issues in our own day? Was this a mere tempest in a tea cup?

I suggest that the issues then and now are exactly the same - who or what speaks for God, and what exactly is the Gospel?

In the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church believed (and still does today) that justification is by grace, through faith, because of Christ. What Rome does not believe is that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. According to Rome, justification is by grace plus merit, through faith plus works; because of Christ plus the sinner's contribution of inherent righteousness.

In contrast, Martin Luther and his Reformers had 5 main slogans, all using the word "sola," which is the Latin word for "alone." It was this word "alone" that designated the biblical Gospel and set it apart from all other pretenders. The cry of these Reformers was not simply "FAITH!," "GRACE!," "CHRIST!," "THE SCRIPTURE!," or "THE GLORY OF GOD!" All embracing a false Gospel could do that!

The cry was "FAITH ALONE!," "GRACE ALONE!," "CHRIST ALONE!," "SCRIPTURE ALONE!," "THE GLORY OF GOD ALONE!" With Scripture alone as the sure foundation, the Reformers affirmed that justification is by grace alone, received through faith alone because of Christ alone — for the glory of God alone.

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December 08, 2005  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Understanding Free Will by Pastor John Samson

Why are you reading this? Yes, this particular sentence. There are billions of sentences out there just waiting to be read, in many different languages, but right now, you are reading this one. Why?

Well, it could be that some reformed and crazed individual has put a gun to your head and told you that if you did not read this article he would shoot you. He would definitely be what I, and others refer to as a cage-stage Calvinist. When after coming to understand the doctrines of grace, for a period of a couple of years or so, some people need to be locked up in a cage. That would be the best thing for everyone! Zeal for reformational truth needs to be augmented with sanity in human relations! A cage-stage Calvinist sends books, tapes, CD's, DVD's, and e-mails to all unsuspecting victims, regardless of whether or not they have ever shown an interest in these things. Christmas is the favorite time of the year for someone in this condition for they've been eagerly waiting for this excuse/opportunity to send R. C. Sproul's book "Chosen by God" to everyone they know. They are on a mission alright, but the best thing would be for them to cool down for a couple of years in a cage!

However, even with the "crazed reformed nut with a gun" scenario, you are still making the choice to read this article rather than face the contents of the gun. You prefer to read this rather than to feel the impact of the bullet. You are reading this because you want to - right now you do, anyway. In fact, because this is your strongest inclination, it is impossible that you would be reading something other than this right now. This will continue to be the case until you have a stronger desire to do or to read something else.

So what exactly is free will? Do people have it? Does God have it? How free is God's will? Can He do what He wants? Can we do what we want?

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December 06, 2005  |  Comments (31)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink

The Fall & Its Consequences by Pastor John Samson

When Adam fell, how great was the fall? Did all mankind fall with him? How far? What can be done to remedy the spiritual problem? Does man just need a good moral pep talk? ...a good doctor? ...or is man on a gurney at the mortician's with a tag on the toe?

These are not merely isoteric questions reserved for elite theologians. What you and I believe about man's basic nature has radical effects regarding how we view the Gospel itself.

So are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners? In this brief article, I will seek to outline the basic views that are out there, ending with what I believe to be the biblical one:

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November 21, 2005  |  Comments (10)   |  Permalink

Foreknowledge by Pastor John Samson

Question: In Romans 8:29, the text reads "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son..." Does this not therefore suggest that because foreknowledge comes before predestination in the text, then predestination is simply based on God's foreknowledge: because God foreknows or sees in advance (with full and complete knowledge) what a person will do, and who it is that will respond in faith to the Gospel, He simply predestinates those whom He knows ahead of time will believe?

Certainly this is how I understood this passage for many years and it is the way that many deal with the issue of predestination in our day. Previously, I also pointed to 1 Peter 1:1-2 which talks of those who are "chosen, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father..." and assumed that this verse would add weight to the idea that election and predestination is based on God knowing ahead of time what we will do - God merely chooses those whom He sees ahead of time will choose Him.

At first glance, it certainly seems to be a legitimate interpretation, yet the fact that foreknowledge comes before predestination should in no way surprize us. That's because God would need to foreknow a person He is going to predestinate to something. God does not predestinate unknown persons, but specific individuals whom He knows. So this not really an argument for either side in this debate. In both systems, Arminian and Reformed, foreknowing would need to come before predestination. The real question then is "what exactly does it mean for God to foreknow somebody?"

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November 14, 2005  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Bible Logic Fallacies of Synergists

The following numbered items are common assumptions made by synergists in rejecting the bondage of the will and God's sovereign grace in salvation.

Fallacy #1. God would not command us to do what we cannot do.

God gave the Law to Moses, The Ten Commandments, to reveal what man cannot do, not what he can do.

A. Premise #1 is unscriptural. God gave the Law for two reasons: To expose sin and to increase it so man would have no excuse for declaring his own righteousness. Why? Because in the context, he does NO righteousness. As Martin Luther said to Erasmus, when you are finished with all your commands and exhortations from the Old Testament, I’ll write Ro.3:20 over the top of it all. Why use commands and exhortations from the O.T. to show free will when they were given to prove man’s sinfulness? They exist to show what we cannot do rather than what we can do. Yes, God gave commands to man which man cannot do. Therefore commandments and exhortations do not prove free will. Nowhere in scripture is there any hint that God gives commands to natural men to prove they are able to perform them.

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