Category: New Believers

Freed By Grace

Freed By Grace

Lately I have noticed that a number of my Calvinist friends are anathematizing Arminians for teaching something that they do not actually teach. Before I continue, I want to make clear that I am Calvinist, all five points but I am also a former adherent to Arminianism and I am currently a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians. Why would I, a self admitted Calvinist, be there? Discussion; it is hard to understand someone’s point of view if you will not talk to them and so I pursue friendships with Arminians of both stripes, Evangelical and Wesleyan. I digress…

Many of my brethren go off on tangents regarding things they think Arminians teach that are not actually to be found in Arminian doctrine. In this case, they claim that Arminians teach that man has a free will to choose Christ. This is not quite correct. As a point of reference, when I refer to Arminian Soteriology, I will be referencing the document, the FACTS of Salvation (http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-facts-of-salvation-a-summary-of-arminian-theologythe-biblical-doctrines-of-grace/) , by the excellent theologian Brian Abasciano. Permit me a rather large quote from Brian,

“We speak of the will of man being freed by grace to emphasize that people do not have a naturally free will when it comes to believing in Jesus, but that God must graciously take action to free our wills if we are going to be able to believe in his Son whom he sent for the salvation of all. When our wills are freed, we can either accept God’s saving grace in faith or reject it to our own ruin. In other words, God’s saving grace is resistible, which is to say that he dispenses his calling, drawing, and convicting grace (which would bring us to salvation if responded to with faith) in such a way that we may reject it. We become free to believe in Jesus and free to reject him. The resistibility of God’s saving grace is clearly shown in Scripture, as some of the passages already mentioned testify. Indeed, the Bible is sadly filled with examples of people spurning the grace of God offered to them. In Isaiah 5:1-7, God actually indicates that he could not have done anything more to get Israel to produce good fruit. But if irresistible grace is something that God dispenses, then he could have easily provided that and infallibly brought Israel to bear good fruit. Many passages in the Old Testament talk about how God extended his grace to Israel over and over again but they repeatedly resisted and rejected him (e.g., 2 Kgs 17:7-23; Jer 25:3-11; 26:1-9; 35:1-19). 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 mentions that God’s persistent reaching out to his people, which was rejected, was motivated by compassion for them. But this could only be if the grace he extended them enabled them to repent and avoid his judgment yet was resistible since they did indeed resist it and suffered God’s judgment. Nehemiah 9 presents a striking example of Old Testament testimony to God continually reaching out to Israel with his grace that was met with resistance and rejection. We do not have space to review the entire passage (but the reader is encouraged to do so), but will quote some key elements and draw attention to some important points. Nehemiah 9:20a says, “You [God] gave your good Spirit to instruct them [Israel]” and is followed by an extensive catalogue of gracious divine actions toward Israel in vv. 9:20b-25. Then 9:26-31 says,

26 Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. 27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. 29 And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey.30 Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

The text affirms that God gave his Spirit to instruct Israel (9:20a) and that God sent his prophets and warned Israel for the purpose of turning them back to him. God purposed his actions to turn Israel back to him/his Law, yet they rebelled. This shows God allowing his purpose to not come to pass because of allowing human beings a choice of whether to yield to his grace or not. Intriguingly, the word translated “bore” in Neh 9:30 uses a Hebrew word that usually means something like “draw, drag, pull” and gets translated in the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by the early church with the same word used in John 6:44a (“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”). A better translation of Neh 9:30 would be, “Many years you drew them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear.” The text speaks of a resistible divine drawing that seeks to bring people to the Lord in repentance. Stephen also furnished a good example of the resistibility of grace when he said to his fellow Jews, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it” (Acts 7:51-53). Luke 7:30 tells us that “the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves.” And Jesus, who spoke to people for the purpose of saving them (John 5:34), yet found that they refused to come to him to have life (John 5:40), and who came to turn every Jew from their sin (Acts 3:26; see the treatment of this text under “Atonement for All” above), yet clearly found that not every Jew believed in him, lamented over his people’s unwillingness to receive his grace, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34; see further Ezek 24:13; Matt 23:37; Rom 2:4-5; Zech 7:11-14; Heb 10:29; 12:15; Jude 4; 2 Cor 6:1-2; Ps 78:40-42).

Arminians differ among themselves about some of the details of how God’s prevenient grace works, probably because Scripture itself does not give a detailed description. Some Arminians believe that God continually enables all people to believe at all times as a benefit of the atonement. Others believe that God only bestows the ability to believe in Christ to people at select times according to his good pleasure and wisdom. Still others believe that prevenient grace generally accompanies any of God’s specific movements toward people, rendering them able to respond positively to such movements as God would have them. But all Arminians agree that people are incapable of believing in Jesus apart from the intervention of God’s grace and that God does bestow his grace that draws toward salvation on all morally responsible people. With respect to the gospel, seventeenth century Arminian Bishop, Laurence Womack, well said, “on all those to whom the word of faith is preached, the Holy Spirit bestows, or is ready to bestow, so much grace as is sufficient, in fitting degrees, to bring on their conversion.”

The concept of “freed will” raises a broader question of whether human beings have free will generally, apart from the realm of pleasing the Lord and doing spiritual good (again, people are not free in this area unless God empowers them). The Arminian answer is yes. People have free will in all sorts of things. By this we mean that when people are free with respect to an action, then they can at least either do the action or refrain from doing it. People often have genuine choices and are therefore correspondingly able to make choices. When free, the specific choice someone makes has not been efficiently predetermined or necessitated by anyone or anything other than the person himself. In fact, if the person’s action has been rendered necessary by someone else, and the person cannot avoid doing the action, then he has no choice in the matter and he is not free in it. And if he does not have a choice, then neither can it properly be said that he chooses. But Scripture very clearly indicates that people have choices and make choices about many things (e.g., Deut 23:16; 30:19; Josh 24:15; 2 Sam 24:12; 1 Kings 18:23, 25; 1 Chron 21:10; Acts 15:22, 25; Phil 1:22). Moreover, it explicitly speaks of human free will (Exod 35:29; 36:3; Lev 7:16; 22:18, 21, 23; 23:38; Num 15:3; 29:39; Deut 12:6, 17; 16:10; 2 Chron 31:14; 35:8; Ezra 1:4, 6; 3:5; 7:16; 8:28; Ps 119:108; Ezek 46:12; Amos 4:5; 2 Cor 8:3; Philemon 1:14; cf. 1 Cor 7:37) and attests to human beings violating God’s will, showing that he does not predetermine their will or actions in sin. Furthermore, the fact that God holds people accountable for their choices and actions implies that those choices and actions were free. Nevertheless, it is important to note that Arminians do not believe in unlimited free will. There are many things in which we are not free. We cannot choose to fly by flapping our arms for example. Nor do we deny that our free actions are influenced by all sorts of causes. But when we are free, those causes are resistible and we have a genuine choice in what we do and are not caused necessarily to act in a certain way by God or anyone or anything other than ourselves.

Finally, the concept of freed will also implies that God has ultimate and absolute free will. For it is God who supernaturally frees the will of sinners by his grace to believe in Christ, which is a matter of God’s own free will and sovereignty. God is omnipotent and sovereign, having the power and authority to do anything he wants and being unconstrained in his own actions and will by anything outside of himself and his own judgment (Gen 18:14; Exod 3:14; Job 41:11; Ps 50:10-12; Isaiah 40:13-14; Jer 32:17, 27; Matt 19:26; Luke 1:37; Acts 17:24-25; Rom 11:34-36; Eph 3:20; 2 Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8; 4:11). Nothing can happen unless he either does it or allows it. He is the Almighty Creator and God of the universe to whom we owe all love, worship, glory, honor, thanks, praise, and obedience. Therefore, it is good for us to remember that behind human freed will stands the One who frees the will, and that this is a matter of his glorious, free, and sovereign grace, totally unmerited on our part, and provided to us by the love and mercy of God. Praise his holy name!”

In candor, I do not find in needful to elaborate on what our learned commentator has written. Instead, I would like to summarize/paraphrase:

  • Both the Calvinist and the Arminian believe that man is under Total Depravity (T in TULIP and T in FACTS)
  • Both would believe that it is in act of God’s grace that allows man to come to Christ.
  • Our Arminian brethren believe that the Holy Spirit has freed the individual’s will to respond to the Gospel Call
  • We disagree on whether or not grace is resistible but we do not disagree that it is God who elects and the Holy Spirit who administers the act of grace.
  • Calvinists and Arminians agree that nothing can happen unless God either does it or allows it.
  • We agree that God is the Almighty Creator and God of the universe to whom we owe all love, worship, glory, honor, thanks, praise, and obedience.
  • Like Calvinists, all Arminians agree that people are incapable of believing in Jesus apart from the intervention of God’s grace and that God does bestow his grace that draws toward salvation on all morally responsible people

There are points of Arminian doctrine that I vehemently disagree with, perhaps even to the point of calling them heterodox but I am loath to call them heretical. The charge of heresy is the most serious charge that can be leveled because true heresy damns the soul eternally and I do not find that the Arminian position on salvation meets the level of damnable heresy, I just disagree with it.

 

At the end of the day, there will be Arminians in Heaven and I hope to get close enough to the Throne of Grace to meet Tozer and some of his brethren. If we forget that Arminians also have a place in Heaven, we insult the very One who died to redeem them unto Himself.

 

Until next time, grace to you.

A Brief Intro to Prevenient Grace

A Brief Intro to Prevenient Grace

In response to some things I have seen on social media lately, I want to address Prevenient Grace. We will deal with three primary questions: What is Prevenient Grace? Is Prevenient Grace a biblical idea? Is Prevenient Grace distinctly an Arminian doctrine?

Let’s begin with a definition of Prevenient Grace. We will quote the definition found at Theopedia.

“Prevenient grace refers to the grace of God in a person’s life that precedes conversion (or salvation). The word “prevenient,” considered an archaic term today, was common in the King James English and simply means to “go before” or “precede.” Likewise, it is sometimes called “preventing” grace (from prevenient) with the same meaning.

  • In Reformed Theology, it is the particular grace which precedes human decision — a salvific grace prior to, and without reference to, anything we have done.
  • In Arminianism and Wesleyanism, it is a grace that offsets the noetic effects of the Fall, restores man’s free will, and thus enables every person to choose to come to Christ or not. There are two forms of this view:
    • Universal prevenient grace — This grace is extended to every person.
    • Individualistic prevenient grace — This grace is only extended to those who come under the intelligent hearing of the gospel, and not to every person.

We can see, already, that Prevenient Grace is a doctrinal position of both Calvinists (Reformed Theology) and our Arminian brethren. Permit me to expand for a moment on the Calvinist side of things: Prevenient Grace is, literally, grace that is preceding, but preceding what? This is actually the grace that we refer to as being irresistible. God, in an act of preceding grace, elects, calls, and regenerates those whom He has chosen.”

 

In Arminian Soteriology, Prevenient Grace is referred to in the F of the F.A.C.T.S of salvation. The Arminian Theologian would say that we are freed by the Grace of God to respond with an act of our own volition and “choose” to respond to the Gospel call.

 

The sad irony is that most of my teaching brethren do not know their theology well enough to realize that the two perspectives are so closely related that they are most likely two halves of the same sandwich…

 

In both Calvinism and Arminianism, saving grace is 100% a choice and act of God. In both cases Prevenient Grace precedes regeneration and justification. The major question, and point of disagreement, is the effect of Prevenient Grace on the will i.e. does Prevenient Grace restore man’s free will and thus allow said grace to be resisted or is Prevenient Grace irresistible as the Calvinist teaches.

 

As a Calvinist, I do not believe grace can be resisted. Since it is antecedent to salvation and a corollary of election, Prevenient Grace cannot be resisted.

 

Prevenient Grace is entirely Biblical and it is not a distinctly Arminian doctrine. For further study, I would refer you to the Foundations of Doctrine Series.

Believer’s Baptism

Believer’s Baptism

We welcome Jordan Woods as a guest poster. Jordan will be sharing with us regarding Believer’s Baptism…

First we must start by defining what Believer’s Baptism is, Believer’s baptism (occasionally called credobaptism, from the Latin word credo meaning “I believe”) is the Christian practice of baptism as this is understood by many evangelical denominations, particularly those that descend from the Anabaptist and English Baptist tradition. According to their understanding, a person is baptized on the basis of his or her profession of faith in Jesus Christ and as admission into a local community of faith.

On the other side we have those that hold to infant baptism, otherwise known as paedobaptism. In this case parents of infants baptize their children as babies not on the basis of a confession of faith, but rather most paedobaptists see baptism as a sign of the new covenant and therefore baptize their infant children.

Why baptize? Well we see the first mention of baptism in the new testament in the case of John the Baptist and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when John says 11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:11-12 NASB

We get baptized as the first ordinance of two ordinances commanded and instituted in the Church by Christ Jesus Himself. (The other being the Lord’s Supper) Baptism itself is a symbolic act of us burying our old man and being raised new in Christ. Romans 6:4 brilliantly expresses this: “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” NASB

In Colossians 2:9-12 we see similar language again 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made [i]complete, and He is the head [j]over all rule and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” NASB

Common misconceptions can arise from the teaching of Believer’s Baptism such as does baptism save you? Do you have to continually be baptized? Does baptism forgive you of your sins? There are simple yet succinct answers to all of these questions, let’s tackle the first one.

Does the act of baptism save you? Absolutely not! Baptism is a symbolic act of burying our old self and being raised to new life in Christ but the actual act in and of itself has no saving power. As we are told in the Word of God “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB So we see salvation itself is not an act in which we can accomplish rather it is by grace through faith ALONE. Nothing that we can do in and of ourselves can save us from the wrath of God to come!

Baptism is an act that should be done once a person has a genuine confession of faith. We do not want to prolong a baptism of a believer though we do want to make sure that their confession is genuine and that they understand the seriousness of the ordinance itself. Baptism should also only he done once in a lifetime as the act itself is not a saving, rather it is a proclamation of the Believer’s faith in Christ and their desire (that God placed within them) to endure with Christ until the end.

The only way one can be saved is by repentance and belief as Romans 10 says in verses 9-11 “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; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” NAS

In summary, baptism is a sacred ordinance of the New Testament Church and is what a believer should seek to do once he or she has made a confession of faith and desires to serve and obey Christ. I will close this with our Savior’s words in Matthew 28 verses 18-20 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” NASB

Salvation and Dispensationalism

Salvation and Dispensationalism

We welcome, once again,  James D. Quiggle, ThM. who brings us an article correcting some misconceptions regarding salvation in Dispensational Theology. It is my hope that this article is helpful to you…

In the previous article, “Understanding Dispensationalism,” I promised to address the criticism that dispensationalism teaches different ways of salvation in each dispensation. This criticism comes from those following a view of Scripture known as Covenant Theology (CT). Covenant theology teaches that God interacts with human kind through various covenants, the most important of which are the covenant of works with Adam pre-sin, and the covenant of grace after Adam’s fall into sin. Understanding how dispensationalism and CT view the means of salvation, versus the basis of salvation, requires a little background information.

Both dispensationalism and CT believe in the apostolic and Reformation doctrine of salvation by God’s grace through the sinner’s faith in God’s testimony that Jesus Christ propitiated God for sin on the cross. Propitiation is a term that means Christ fully satisfied God for the crime of sin by suffering God’s wrath against sin while on the cross. Jesus suffered spiritually for sin (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) and he suffered physically for sin (“And bowing his head, he gave up his spirit”). His resurrection out of death demonstrated that he had fully paid the judicial debt for sin. Every person believing God’s testimony concerning the way (or means) to salvation is saved.

If, as is the case, both CT and dispensationalism believe Christ’s propitiation is the basis for salvation from Adam forward to the end of the ages, what is the difference between them regarding salvation? In the previous article I stated, “A dispensation is from God’s viewpoint an economy; from man’s, a responsibility.”[1] Those following Covenant theology believe the differing responsibilities in each dispensation are different ways of salvation. For example, the responsibility of the people in Noah’s time was “believe God’s warning of coming judgment and get in the ark to be saved.” This was not the same as Abraham’s responsibility (Genesis 12:1) or that of the Israelis under the law given through Moses (Exodus 19:8), nor in this New Testament dispensation (e.g., Acts 16:31).

Because the Dispensationalist teaches God changes the means in which he interacts with human kind, continuing some responsibilities, annulling others, and giving new responsibilities, CT believes dispensationalism teaches different ways of salvation. Covenant theology confuses the dispensational view of changes in man’s responsibilities toward God (changes God himself made) as teaching different ways of salvation. This is not what dispensationalism teaches (I will explain below). To understand we must first examine what CT does teach about salvation.

Covenant theology teaches that from Adam forward, salvation was “by grace through faith in Christ.”[2] What Covenant theology means by the phrase “faith in Christ” is that every person in Old Testament times, from Adam forward, was saved because they placed their faith in the yet-future coming Messiah. The covenant theologian believes “it was not mere trust or faith in God, or simple piety, which was required [for salvation] but faith in the promised redeemer, or faith in the promise of redemption through the Messiah.”[3] How did the Old Testament persons come to the conclusion that their salvation depended on belief in a yet-future coming Messiah? Not from the Old Testament Scriptures. Covenant theology says they had supplementary instruction from the prophets or divine illumination from God.[4] “Supplementary instruction” and “divine illumination” means “not written in the Scriptures.” These views, from Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology, were stated in 1873, but continue to describe Covenant theology’s view of salvation today.

The Covenant theologian cannot demonstrate his salvation theology from the scriptures. If pressed, CT will point to a few verses, e.g., John 8:56; Psalm 16:11; Job 19:25–26; Genesis 3:15. But, how much did the Old Testament peoples understand? Even a prominent CT (J. Barton Payne) admitted limitations in Old Testament understanding: “That, to satisfy God, God must die, that men might inherit God, to be with God, was incomprehensible under the Old Testament seminal knowledge of the Trinity, the incarnation, and the crucifixion followed by the resurrection.”[5] The CT pointing to Genesis 3:15, often cited as positive proof of belief in a coming messiah, has grave difficulties: the verse does not mention a coming messiah and is never used in the Old or New Testaments regarding Christ or salvation in Christ.

Dispensationalism has always taught one way of salvation. C. C. Ryrie, 1995: “the basis of salvation in every age is the death [propitiation] of Christ.”[6] C. I. Scofield, 1890: “God’s grace to man is always based on the work accomplished by Christ in His death [propitiation] on the cross.”[7] What Scofield taught in 1890 is exactly what Ryrie taught one hundred years later. Although dispensationalism is accused of teaching a different way of salvation in every dispensation, dispensationalists have always taught the basis for salvation from Adam to the end of the ages is the propitiation made by Christ. What does change with each dispensation is the “content of faith” given to each dispensation. Within each dispensation past, present, and yet-future (except the eternal state, in which every human being is saved and glorified prior to entry), God gives mankind a “content of faith” through which a sinner by grace through faith is able to access salvation and bring glory to God.

The content of faith for every dispensation is always defined by God’s testimony. In the dispensation concerning Noah’s generation, the content of faith was to believe universal judgment was coming and build an ark to save those of mankind who would believe God’s testimony. In the dispensation of the Mosaic Law the content of faith was not bring a sacrifice in order to be saved. The content of faith under the Mosaic Law was faith in God’s testimony that repentance of sin with confession of sin and a proper sacrifice for sin would result in forgiveness of sin. Mechanically bringing a sacrifice did not save. What saved was faith in God through his testimony, faith which was accepted by God’s grace, faith that was revealed by doing the things God said to do by faith. Near the end of the Tribulation period, when the voices of the saved are almost silenced by persecution and martyrdom, God will give human kind the simplest content of faith: Fear God, and give glory to him” (Revelation 14:7). But the basis of salvation will be the same it was for Adam and Eve, Abraham and Moses, Peter and Paul, and you and me: Christ’s propitiation on the cross.

Christ’s propitiation-resurrection created a new dispensation, the age of the New Testament church, with a new content of faith: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. For Hebrews and Gentiles practicing Judaism the content of faith changed from repentance, faith, and a proper animal sacrifice under the Mosaic Law, to saving faith in the one and only Savior Jesus the Christ. For the pagan Gentiles outside Judaism the content of faith changed from walk with and worship the God who created Adam and gave the Noahic covenant, to saving faith in the one and only Savior Jesus the Christ, e.g., Acts 16:30–31; 17:30–31. To be saved in the current New Testament church dispensation one must come to God with repentance and confession for sin with the proper sacrifice—Jesus crucified and resurrected—having faith in God’s testimony that Jesus is the only way to be saved in this New Testament church dispensation.

The dispensationalist’s changing “content of faith” approach to the sinner’s access to salvation is not a change in the basis of salvation. The basis of salvation in every dispensation from Adam forward is the propitiation of Christ, and nothing else. Although Christ’s propitiation for sin occurred at a particular historical moment, it was, is, and always will be the only efficient means of salvation. Ephesians 1:4 indicates that in eternity-past God decreed the Son’s propitiation to be the only means by which sinners can be saved, “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.” Therefore, because “God . . . calls the things not existing as though existing” (Romans 4:17), the historical act of Christ’s propitiation, which was decreed in eternity-past, is efficient for salvation from eternity-past through historical-present into eternity-future. By an eternal decree, the salvific benefits of Christ’s historical propitiation have been in effect from the moment God made the decree, which was before he created the universe. How those benefits are accessed is defined and described for the dispensationalist by the content of faith God gave sinners in each particular dispensation.

In the purpose of God the plan of salvation is the same in every dispensation: always by grace through faith in God’s testimony; always by application of Christ’s merit to the sinner’s spiritual need. The changing “content of faith” is a change in the processes by which salvation is accessed. But a change in the content of faith is not a change in God’s purpose and plans. The “content of faith” in each dispensation is always faith in God through his testimony, whatever that testimony might be for a particular dispensation. The plan of salvation has always been and will always be “God from the beginning chose you to salvation, by grace, in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth,” 2 Thessalonians 2:13, cf. Ephesians 2:8–9; 1 Peter 1:2. The truth through which sinners past, present, and future access the means of grace and the way of salvation was, is, and always will be God’s testimony concerning the particular content of faith given to them.

Looking to the one way in which God saves in every dispensation from Adam to the end of the ages, Ryrie has developed a dispensational definition of salvation:

The basis of salvation in every age is the death [propitiation] of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; the content of faith changes in the various dispensations.”[8]

Dispensationalism doesn’t depend on extra-biblical knowledge or unknown divine illumination to effect salvation in the Old Testament, as does covenant theology, but on faith in God through his testimony in the Scripture given to each dispensation. So, too, in the New Testament church dispensation and yet-future dispensations. There has been and will always be one basis of salvation: Christ; one requirement for salvation: faith, one object of faith: God.

 

[1] Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism  (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995, Rev. ed.), 30.

[2] [http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/reformed-theology-covenant-theology/]; [https://www.gotquestions.org/covenant-theology.html].

[3] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (1873, Reprinted, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), 2:372.

[4] Ibid., 2:367.

[5] Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 114 (emphasis original).

[6] Ibid., 115.

[7] C. I. Scofield, Bible Correspondence Course (1890, Reprinted, Chicago, IL:  The Moody Bible Institute, 1960), 5:1244.

[8] Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 115 (emphasis original).

Understanding Dispensationalism

Understanding Dispensationalism

Guest Post by James D. Quiggle, ThM.

The concepts that make up dispensationalism are found in Scripture, and the core theological ideas that comprise dispensationalism have been around since apostolic days. The modern revival of dispensationalism began life as a prophecy movement in the late 1800s. Then, through the works of men such as Arno C. Gaebelein, C. I. Scofield, and later C. C. Ryrie, dispensationalism became a means of understanding the world as a household run by God. Dispensationalism is an organizing principle that gives a certain structure to the scriptures, and dispensationalism is the theology (study of God and Scripture) that derives from that certain structure.

Dispensational theology recognizes that God has worked out his purpose in the world in different ways at different times in the history of the world. This is not an unfamiliar concept. Hebrews 1:1–2, “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son” (CSB[1]). So we see that God worked in many different ways to reveal himself in Old Testament days, and in these New Testament days he has revealed himself in his Son, Jesus Christ. So too has God used different ways at different times to work out his purpose in the world.

Dispensationalism identifies the different ways and times in which God is working in the world using the term dispensation. “A dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose.”[2] An “economy,” in the sense the Bible uses the word “dispensation,” corresponds to the more archaic use of the word, i.e., the management of household affairs. “Dispensationalism views the world as a household run by God. In His household God is dispensing or administering its affairs according to his own will and in various stages of revelation in the passage of time.”[3] Restated a little differently, “A dispensation is from God’s viewpoint an economy; from man’s, a responsibility.”[4]

The difference between the days of Adam, the days of Noah, and the days of Abraham provide an example of three dispensations. During the days of Adam, before his sin, human beings were responsible to worship God and obey his commandments (1:3–3:6). After his sin God gave humans new responsibilities (Genesis 3:7–8:14), to “walk with God,” Genesis 5:22. But as human beings turned away from God, 5:5, God began to work out his purpose through one person, Noah, and his family. The responsibility of human beings during the time of Noah before the flood was to believe God’s warning of coming judgment and get in the ark to be saved.

After the flood God gave human beings new responsibilities, Genesis 8:15–11:9. Then, as the world began to be repopulated, God began to manage the world through his relationship with Abraham (Genesis 11:10–Exodus 18:27); and then through Moses (Exodus 19:1–John 14:30), dividing the world’s peoples into two groups, Hebrews and non-Hebrews (i.e., Gentiles). The Gentiles would continue under the responsibilities of the post-flood covenant God made with humanity through Noah. The Hebrews would develop under the covenants with Abraham and Moses to the time of Jesus Christ, when both groups became responsible to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, Acts 3:38; 10:44–48; 16:31; 17:31.

So, a new dispensation begins when God takes action to change the way in which he runs his household by changing the responsibilities required of human beings. As another has said, “A new period (dispensation) always begins only when from the side of God a change is introduced in the composition of the principles valid up to that time; that is, when from the side of God three things concur:[5]

  1. A continuance of certain ordinances valid until then;
  2. An annulment of other regulations until then valid;
  3. A fresh introduction of new principles not before valid.

We see this, for example, by comparing the change in mans’ pre- and post-flood responsibilities; and the change in Israel’s responsibilities toward the Law of Moses before Christ came and after Christ was crucified, resurrected, and ascended. Today, in the current dispensation, both Jews and Gentiles are required to believe on Jesus Christ crucified, resurrected, and ascended for salvation from the penalty of due sin, and thereby receive eternal life.

There have been several dispensations in the history of the world since Adam was created. These are identified in various ways. I prefer to identify them by the prominent biblical person with which they began and ended. These are:[6]

Adam to Noah

Noah to Abraham

Abraham to Moses

Moses to Christ’s resurrection

Christ’s resurrection to rapture of the church

Rapture of the church to Christ’s second advent/Davidic-Messianic-Millennial reign

Christ’s Davidic-Messianic-Millennial reign to Christ the Judge at the Great White Throne Judgment (GWT)

The eternal state (God eternally face-to-face with saved mankind) following the GWT

Certain dispensations might also be defined in terms of the covenants God made with mankind’s representatives.

Adam to Noah (Adamic covenant)

Noah to Abraham, (Post-Flood Noahic covenant)

Abraham to Moses, (Abrahamic covenant)

Moses to Christ’s resurrection (Mosaic, Palestinian, Davidic, and New covenants)

Christ’s resurrection to rapture of the church (application of New covenant to individual Hebrews and Gentiles)

Christ’s Davidic-Messianic-Millennial reign (fulfillment of Abrahamic, Davidic, Palestinian, and New covenants toward national ethnic Israel)

Another way of identifying the dispensations looks like this:[7]

Name               Scripture                     Responsibilities                     Judgments

Innocency Genesis 1:3–3:6 Keep Garden

Do not eat one fruit

Fill, subdue earth

Fellowship with God

Curses, and physical and spiritual death
Conscience Genesis 3:7–8:14 Do good Flood
Civil Government Genesis 8:15–11:9 Fill earth

Capital punishment

Forced scattering by confusion of languages
Patriarchal Rule Genesis 11:10– Exodus 18:27 Stay in Promised Land

Believe and obey God

Egyptian bondage and wilderness wanderings
Mosaic Law Exodus 19:1–   John 14:30 Keep the law

Walk with God

Captivities
Grace Acts 2:1– Revelation 19:21 Believe on Christ

Walk with Christ

Death

Loss of rewards

Millennium Revelation 20:1–15 Believe and obey Christ and His government Death

Great White Throne Judgment

 

Most dispensationalists see seven dispensations, more or less as described in the table, above. The number of dispensations and the names are minor matters. Above the table I identified seven dispensations using the names of prominent Bible characters, and six using the covenants in Scripture. The number or names are not essential to dispensationalism.

What is essential to dispensationalism? Put another way, what is the sine qua non (a Latin phrase literally meaning “without which nothing”), what are the essential beliefs that identify dispensationalism from other theologies? Charles Ryrie has identified three essentials.[8]

  1. A dispensationalist keeps Israel and the church distinct.
  2. The distinction between Israel and the church is born out of a system of hermeneutics [method of interpretation] that is usually called literal interpretation, or historical-grammatical interpretation.
  3. The underlying purpose of God in the world is the glory of God.

The first principle of dispensationalism is to maintain the distinction between Israel and the New Testament church. By this principle the dispensationalist means God has a distinct purpose for national ethnic Israel and a distinct purpose for the New Testament church. Some theologies believe the New Testament church has replaced Israel in the plan of God, or superseded Israel in the plan of God, or that the New Testament church is “the continuation of Israel” in a new phase of its existence (the church is Israel).[9] While there is some overlap in God’s purpose for national ethnic Israel and the New Testament church—both, for example, will be present in the Davidic-Millennial Kingdom—each is a distinct entity and each has a distinct purpose in God’s plans.

 

Dispensationalism derives its view of Israel and the church by a method of interpretation usually known as the literal hermeneutic or the historical-grammatical hermeneutic. By these terms is meant the dispensationalist interprets the Bible according to the plain and normal sense of words and uses of language. For example, if I type “dog” or “cat,” the animal named appears in your mind’s eye. If I type “it is raining cats and dogs,” you do not picture dogs and cats raining down from the sky, but a rain so heavy no dog or cat would be caught outside—nor no sensible human. That is understanding words and language in the plain and normal sense. So, too, with Bible interpretation. Fire, for example, has a literal meaning, and it has a figurative (actually two figurative) meanings. Fire burns, consumes most things it burns, but may be also used to refine (smelt) metals. So the figurative meaning is judgment (consumes) or purification (refines). The literal hermeneutic is really an analysis of the historical circumstances of when the word was written and the people/culture it was written to, analysis of the grammar and syntax of the language, an analysis of the context of the passage in which the word is used, an analysis of the literary genre of the writing in which the word is used, a theological and doctrinal analysis of the passage, and comparing one’s result with other reliable commentators. The literal interpretation is really the “historical-cultural, contextual, lexical-syntactical, theological, and literary analysis” method.[10] But that is too long to say or write, so we will call it historical-grammatical interpretation, or, literal interpretation.

 

Dispensationalism views God’s purpose in the world as his own glory. God’s plan to save sinners is not God’s only program in the world, but only one means by which God will glorify himself. All the events of the created world are designed to reveal the glory of God. God has plans for the saved, sinners, holy angels, fallen angels, Israel, the church, those saved during the Tribulation, and those persons and angels entering the eternal age after the Great White Throne judgment (see Revelation 20–22). “The basic purpose of God in all His dealings with mankind is that of glorifying Himself through salvation and other purposes.”[11]

 

Some believe the dispensational arrangement of history teaches different ways of salvation in the several dispensational economies. I will address this criticism in a second article.

 

 

 

[1] Christian Standard Bible (Copyright, Lifeway Christian Resources, 2017).

[2] Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism  (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995, Rev. ed.), 28.

[3] Ibid., 29.

[4] Ibid., 30.

[5] Erich Sauer, The Dawn of World Redemption (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951), 194

[6] James D. Quiggle, Dispensational Eschatology, (CreateSpace, 2013), 3–4.

[7] Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 54.

[8] Ibid., 39–41.

[9] Samuel E. Waldron, MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto, A Friendly Response (Owensburg, KY: RBAP, 2008), 7.

[10] Henry A. Virkler, Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1981), 76

[11] Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 41.

Jesus: The Most Excellent Name and His Superlative Name

Jesus: The Most Excellent Name and His Superlative Name

Philippians 2:9-11

For this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I have heard this passage quoted countless times and rightfully so; the Name Jesus is worthy to be bowed down to, worthy to be adored, to be exalted in exuberant song. It is the very best name there is. Or is it? Does Jesus actually have a better name than Jesus? IF He does, what is that name and why will we bow to it?

As it happens, there is a different name that all men will bow down before. It is a name that has belonged to Jesus since before time began. It was His name before His incarnation; before He condescended to come to this earth and allow Himself to be sacrificed for our sins, this name crowned Him in glory and this name arrayed Jesus in every superlative of majesty that you could ever possibly imagine if you had 1000 lifetimes and no limitations to the capacity of your mind. This name, that Jesus has had for all eternity, is the one before whom every knee will bow and it is the name that will cause every tongue to confess; this name is YHWH (Jehovah). Dear children, it is not simply that every knee bows before Jesus, nor is it the confession of lordship that glorifies the Father but it is instead the confession of the Name that glorifies the Father. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, (don’t miss this) Jesus IS YHWH!

Isaiah 42:8 (ASV) “ I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise unto graven images.”

Isaiah 43:11 (ASV) “I, even I, am Jehovah; and besides me there is no saviour.”

YHWH (Jehovah) in the Old Testament declares that He will never share His glory and that He alone is the savior. But in Acts, the Apostle Peter tells us that it is the name Jesus that salvation is found in. Is there a contradiction here? Does Peter contradict Isaiah? Nope. The Greek Iesus is the same as the Hebrew Y’shua and it is in that name that salvation is found. You might ask how on earth I figure that Y’shua is the name in which salvation is found. Well, Y’shua is the shortened form of Yehoshu’a (Joshua) and Yehoshu’a literally means YHWH is Savior. Isn’t that beautiful?

 

It is YHWH which is Christ’s most glorious Name. The very God who was blasphemed by our sin has put aside the offense and has redeemed us unto Himself. Stop for a minute and think about what this means because it means so much more than you don’t have to go to hell for eternity and it means so much more than you get to go to heaven. You get to be with YHWH and you get to be like Him, unable to die, unable to be diminished. Your eternity with YHWH will be in perfect communion; you will behold the One who loved you more than life and gave His to redeem yours. Standing face to face you will see YHWH on His glorious throne. Eyes that have never seen will behold the Lamb, ears that have never heard will behold the majesty of heaven’s symphony of praise, lips that have never spoken will resound the anthem of Christ’s amazing grace, and feet that have never walked will dance before the throne with all their might just as David did in the Old Testament. In that moment, when all who have ever lived see Jesus in all of the resplendent majesty of His person, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is YHWH and the whole world will glorify YHWH, some in judgment and some from an undeserved spot in heaven but we will all give Him glory forever and ever.

Apostle’s Creed (Our Essential Creed)

Apostle’s Creed (Our Essential Creed)

Below, you will find the foundational statement of faith of all Reformed Christians. Officially codified in AD 390, this is a concise statement on the essentials of Christian Orthodoxy.

 

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

The third day he rose again from the dead:

He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

I believe in the Holy Ghost:

I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

The forgiveness of sins:

The resurrection of the body:

And the life everlasting. Amen.

104 Verses You Should Know

104 Verses You Should Know

Here are 104 verses, 52 basic and 52 advanced, that you should know. These are paired with the appropriate Bible concept for study.

Topic Basic Advanced Biblical Concept
1. God the Creator Genesis 1:1 John 1:1-5 God
2. Human Beings Genesis 1:26-28 Psalm 8 Humanity/Self
3. Sin Genesis 3:6-7 James 1:12-15 Rebellion and Sin
4. Sin’s Consequences Romans 6:23 John 8:34-35 Rebellion and Sin
5. Jesus Christ John 14:6 Matthew 1:21-23 Jesus
6. The Scriptures 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Romans 15:4 Revelation and Authority/Bible
7. God’s Revelation: Creation Romans 1:20 Psalm 19:1-6 Creation, Sovereignty, and Providence
8. God’s Revelation: Law Psalm 119:13-16 Psalm 19:7-14 Revelation and Authority/Bible
9. Scripture: Jesus’ View Matthew 5:17-20 Luke 24:44-45 Revelation and Authority/Bible
10. Abraham: Father of a Multitude Genesis 12:1-3 Genesis 15:1 Creation, Sovereignty, and Providence
11. God’s Grace to Jacob/Israel Genesis 28:14-15 Genesis 48:16 Creation, Sovereignty, and Providence
12. Joseph: Man of Character Genesis 50:19-21 Hebrews 11:22 Creation, Sovereignty, and Providence
13. Moses: Servant of Yahweh Exodus 3:14-15 Hebrews 11:22-26 God
14. Moses: Remember Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Deuteronomy 8:2-3 Discipleship and the Christian Life
15. Joshua’s Charge Joshua 1:6-9 Joshua 24:14-15 Discipleship and the Christian Life
16. Retreat to Idolatry Judges 1:11-13 Judges 21:25 Rebellion and Sin
17. Faithfulness: Human and Divine Ruth 1:16-17 Ruth 4:14-16 Family
18. Samuel: Israel’s Intercessor 1 Samuel 3:10 1 Samuel 12:23-25 Discipleship and the Christian Life
19. David’s Reign and Dynasty 2 Samuel 5:4-5 2 Samuel 7:12-13 Creation, Sovereignty, and Providence
20. Psalms of David Psalm 23 Psalm 32:1-2 Salvation
21. Solomon’s Prayer/God’s Answer 1 Kings 3:7-9 1 Kings 3:10-14 Reason and Faith
22. Wisdom’s Source Proverbs 1:7 Proverbs 3:1-12 Reason and Faith
23. Hollow Worship Isaiah 29:13-14 Isaiah 29:15-16 Rebellion and Sin
24. Eternal God Isaiah 40:6-8 Isaiah 40:27-31 God
25. Judgment John 3:19-21 Luke 16:15 Rebellion and Sin
26. A New Heart Ezekiel 36:26-27 Ezekiel 37:14 Salvation
27. God’s Gift Romans 3:23-26 1 Peter 3:18 Salvation
28. Jesus Christ: Our Substitute Isaiah 53:4-6 Hebrews 9:11-14 Jesus
29. New Birth John 3:5-8 John 3:14-17 Salvation
30. Peace Romans 5:1-5 Hebrews 13:20-21 Discipleship and the Christian Life
31. Repent Mark 1:15 Acts 17:30 Salvation
32. Baptism Acts 2:38-40 Romans 6:4-5 Discipleship and the Christian Life
33. The Comforter John 14:16 John 16:8-11 Holy Spirit
34. The Body of Christ Acts 2:41-43 Ephesians 4:15-16 Church and Kingdom
35. Serving Others James 2:15-17 Matthew 25:37-40 Church and Kingdom
36. Prayer Matthew 6:5-8 Romans 8:26-27 Discipleship and the Christian Life
37. Building Well Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 Matthew 7:24-27 Discipleship and the Christian Life
38. Anger Matthew 5:21-22 Proverbs 22:24 Ethics and Morality
39. Lust Matthew 5:27-30 Proverbs 5:18 Ethics and Morality
40. Enemies Matthew 5:43-48 Ephesians 6:10-18 Discipleship and the Christian Life
41. Jealousy Ecclesiastes 4:4 James 3:13-18 Reason and Faith
42. Sloth Proverbs 18:9 2 Thessalonians 3:10 Ethics and Morality
43. Greed Hebrews 13:5 Malachi 3:8-12 Discipleship and the Christian Life
44. Pride Ezekiel 16:49 Jeremiah 13:15-17 Rebellion and Sin
45. Depression Psalm 42:5 Isaiah 26:3 Discipleship and the Christian Life
46. Priorities Philippians 3:13-14 Matthew 6:33-34 Discipleship and the Christian Life
47. Influence Matthew 5:13-16 Matthew 18:6 Community and World
48. Witness Matthew 28:18-20 1 Peter 3:14-16 Discipleship and the Christian Life
49. Marriage: God’s Design Genesis 2:22-24 Song of Songs 8:6-7 Family
50. Husbands/Wives Ephesians 5:25-26 Ephesians 5:22-24 Family
51. Resurrection 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 Time and Eternity
52. Glory Revelation 21:1-4 Revelation 22:17-21 Time and Eternity

HCSB Study Bible.

Simple Steps To More Effective Bible Study

Simple Steps To More Effective Bible Study

Many Christians want to understand the Bible more but find it to be a daunting task. That is understandable. At its oldest (Job) the Bible is between 4,000 and 6,000 years old and it was originally written in other languages. So what can we do to be more effective in our Bible study?

  1. Gather the tools you need: A Bible (two is actually better, 1 word for word translation and 1 meaning based translation), A Bible Dictionary (I recommend Unger’s), a Concordance (I recommend Gruden’s or the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge) possibly a commentary (Wycliffe is excellent), a notebook, and a pen.
  2. Decide if you will study a topic or a book then begin at the appropriate point. By way of example, if you will study what the Bible says about worship you would look that up in your concordance and begin with the first passage listed.
  3. Pray for wisdom and understanding then read the selected passage; I always read in at least two English translations, NASB and NIV or NLT, and sometimes in all three. In this step read all the way through the passage without looking up any words or writing anything down.
  4. Read the passage again. This time write down any terms you might not be familiar with or that you want to know more about, such as predestination. Also write down any questions that you may have about the passage. Take note of any footnotes that are added at the bottom of the page. These will, very often, be most helpful to your understanding of the Bible text.
  5. Look up the unfamiliar terms in your Bible dictionary and make notes.
  6. Look up the passage in your commentary. Take note of any information that may answer your questions about the passage.
  7. Look for the answers to these questions: What is the Lord communicating to the original audience? What is the implication of the text for my life/what does the Lord require from me in this text?
  8. Look up any related passages. This will be done with the references in your Bible, most often these are in the center column. Make notes of how these passages all relate to each other. You may need to repeat steps 5-7 for the related passages.

After you complete step 8, discuss what you have learned (called the interpretation of the text) with either your pastor or a more mature Christian. Most importantly, realize that you have not mastered this text even though you have taken these steps. I have been studying for over 20 years and have not even scratched the surface of the Bible.

Until next time, may the Holy Spirt, Himself the Author of the Scripture, open your mind to behold wondrous things in the Scriptures.

Know Your Enemy: the Devil and his many names

Know Your Enemy: the Devil and his many names

Names Description Scripture Reference
Accuser Opposes believers before God Revelation 12:10
Adversary Against Believers 1 Peter 5:8
Beelzebul Lord of the Flies Matthew 12:24
Belial Worthless 2 Corinthians 6:15
Devil Slanderer Matthew 4:1
Dragon Destructive Revelation 12:3,7,9
Enemy Opponenet Matthew 13:28
Evil One Intrinsically Evil John 17:15
God of this World Influences the thinking of the world 2 Corinthians 4:4
Liar Perverts the truth John 8:44
Murderer Leads people to eternal death John 8:44
Prince Power of the Air Control of unbelievers Ephesians 2:2
Roaring Lion One who destroys 1 Peter 5:8
Ruler of Demons Leader of fallen angels Mark 3:22
Ruler of this World Rules the world system John 12:31
Satan Adversary 1 Timothy 5:15
Serpent of Old Deceiver in the garden Revelation 12:9, 20:2
Tempter Solicits people to sin 1 Thessalonians 3:5

 

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