Category: Soteriology

A Firm Foundation: Why you can build a life upon the Word.

A Firm Foundation: Why you can build a life upon the Word.

We come, at last, to the culmination of the Sermon on the Mount. For the last 5 months we have looked and learned as Jesus described, to us, the differences between saving faith and self righteous false religion. Now, at the culmination of the Sermon on the Mount we are admonished by Jesus to build our lives on a firm foundation, His teaching.

There is a group of people who call themselves “Red Letter Christians” and they emphasize only the “words in red” which are the words of Scripture that are attributed to Christ. They focus primarily on Jesus’ teachings about social issues. I find two problems with that.

  1. Social Justice is not the Gospel; Jesus did not come to earth, suffer and die, and rise again to correct social ills. He came to pay the bride price for His beloved, the Church, who has been betrothed to Him since the foundation of the world and who will, one day, join her beloved in glory.
  2. Since Jesus is God, all the words that are attributed to God, in both testaments are His. Jesus not only believes that God revealed everything we need to know to live a God pleasing life in the Scriptures, He is also certain that He is that very God who did so.

My point, after that brief digression, is that all the Bible is, in a sense, the teaching of Jesus and worthy of building a life upon. Remember, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not only contrasting self-righteous false religion, He is also explaining the Law.

Let’s consider our text, Matthew 7:24-29

 

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.

 

When I read these words, my mind automatically goes to the words of the old hymn, “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent word.” As Jesus is apt to do, He instructs us, again, with a metaphor: our life is a house where there are only two choices of a foundation, the Word of God or self and the rains are Divine Judgment. Note: Divine Judgment does not always indicate wrath; proving/testing character is, in fact, an element of judging. To put that another way:

 

“The adjectives sensible and foolish describe a person’s spiritual and moral state, not his intellect. Whether one is considered sensible or foolish is determined by his response to Jesus’ teaching. Since OT writers described God’s wrath using the image of a great storm (Isaiah 28:16-17; Ezekiel 13:10-13), the storm that destroys the house on the sand is a picture of divine judgment. Hence, the person who hears and acts on Jesus’ teaching is prepared for judgment. The one who hears but doesn’t act on Jesus’ words will be destroyed in the storm of judgment.” ~ HCSB Study Bible annotations.

 

We will all, every last one of us, at some point, face a proving of our faith. How do I know this? Both the Lord, Himself, and James point this out. In his epistle to the churches, James writes, “My brethren count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” (James 1:2) and the Lord tells us, in John’s Gospel (16:33), “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” A testing of our faith is assured. Let me give you the rest of James’ context before we get into our lesson:

 

“2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

We often refer to times of trials and testing as the “storms of life” and (now you know where we get the picture from) many times we are left to wonder why some people, and especially their faith, are able to stand, perhaps even come out stronger, and others seem to be destroyed. It comes down to a question of foundations; have you build your life and your faith on the rock of God’s Word or not? Those that have will stand while those that have not will eventually be destroyed.

 

The Bible is Inspired so we can rely on it

The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct. (2 Timothy 3:15-17, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Peter 1:21) The term used by Paul is theopnuestos, literally breathed out by God. It is no accident that this is the term used by Paul as in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit is called Ruach (breath) ha’Kodesh (the Holy One). Using that metaphor for the Holy Spirit, we can say that everything He inspired was breathed out by Him.

Verbal Plenary Inspiration:

“Verbal plenary inspiration means that every word found in the Bible is given to us by God (verbal), everything in the Bible is authoritative (plenary), and every word is also divinely directed (inspired). But, this does not mean that everything referenced in the Bible is also morally proper. For example, the Bible might record someone’s lie or a murder even though lying and murder are not approved of in Scripture. But the recording of the events is under the direction of God and is accurate.

The verbal plenary inspiration applies to the original manuscripts, also known as the autographs. It was the originals that were penned by the prophets and apostles that were given by God, authoritative, and divinely directed. Presently we have copies of the original manuscripts but the copies are not perfect, though close to it. So, we have copies of inspired documents and for all intents and purposes the copies are inspired.

  • “The older phrase “plenary inspiration” meant that all the words of Scripture are God’s words (the word plenary means “full”), a fact that I affirm in this chapter without using the phrase.”
  • “Inspiration, plenary The “full” (plenary) inspiration of the Scriptures, in the sense that the whole Bible is inspired, not simply portions of it.
  • “inspiration, verbal theory of The view that God through the Holy Spirit directly guided the exact words recorded by the biblical writers as they wrote the Scriptures.”

Verbal plenary inspiration stands in opposition to partial inspiration which limits the inspired quality of the Bible in various ways whether it be restricting inspiration to doctrinal matters, or one author was inspired where another was not, or there are mistakes in historical events and geographical locations but the main thoughts are correct.” ~CARM

 

The Bible is Authoritative, so we may build a life hidden in Christ upon it

Notice that Jesus spoke with authority, not as the scribes did. The scribes often quoted the Rabbis and Sages to establish their authority. On the other hand, since Jesus is Himself God, He has no higher authority to appeal to (Hebrews 6:13) and therefore His words are final. I read this in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary as I was preparing this lesson: It is important to note that both the wise and foolish builders hear the teaching of Jesus. It is his teaching, no longer that of Moses, that is the standard of judgment. But it is not enough to have heard the teaching of Jesus. Hearing and knowing the teaching of Jesus are worthwhile activities only when they result in application. The false prophets, whatever their appearance and words, are lawless. The wide gate, though attractive, leads to destruction. Eschatological judgment utterly destroys houses built on sand, but houses built on rock withstand it.
Cornerstone Biblical Commentary Volume 11: Matthew and Mark.

 

In the original manuscripts the Bible is both inerrant and infallible ” To confess that the bible is infallible is to confess that the Scriptures are incapable of teaching any error. Taken in itself, this is a term that strongly presents the perfection of Scripture. The prophets and apostles not only did not err—they could not err when writing Scripture.” ~ RC Sproul

 

“Inerrancy is a natural outflow of infallibility in the traditional, orthodox sense. Since the authors could not err when writing Scripture, the bible contains no affirmations of anything that is contrary to fact. Inerrancy is a quality of the original text of the bible. Translations may err, but the original manuscripts penned by the prophets and apostles do not.”~ RC Sproul

 

 

Many, if not most, people today have little idea, if any at all, what the truth is. To some nothing is truth and to others, truth is in the eye of the beholder. You might hear them say, “Well that’s your truth (emphasis added),” which is to imply that truth is subjective. We reject that entirely and echo the words of Jesus, “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Since that is the case, it is of utmost importance that we embrace the inerrancy of the Scripture if we are to build a life on it. Here is why:

 

The Bible itself claims to be perfect. “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6). “The law of the Lord is perfect” (Psalm 19:7). “Every word of God is pure” (Proverbs 30:5 KJV). These claims of purity and perfection are absolute statements. Note that it doesn’t say God’s Word is “mostly” pure or scripture is “nearly” perfect. The Bible argues for complete perfection, leaving no room for “partial perfection” theories.

The Bible stands or falls as a whole. If a major newspaper were routinely discovered to contain errors, it would be quickly discredited. It would make no difference to say, “All the errors are confined to page three.” For a paper to be reliable in any of its parts, it must be factual throughout. In the same way, if the Bible is inaccurate when it speaks of geology, why should its theology be trusted? It is either a trustworthy document, or it is not.

The Bible is a reflection of its Author. All books are. The Bible was written by God Himself as He worked through human authors in a process called “inspiration.” “All scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). See also 2 Peter 1:21 and Jeremiah 1:2.

We believe that the God who created the universe is capable of writing a book. And the God who is perfect is capable of writing a perfect book. The issue is not simply “Does the Bible have a mistake?” but “Can God make a mistake?” If the Bible contains factual errors, then God is not omniscient and is capable of making errors Himself. If the Bible contains misinformation, then God is not truthful but is instead a liar. If the Bible contains contradictions, then God is the author of confusion. In other words, if biblical inerrancy is not true, then God is not God.

The Bible judges us, not vice versa. “For the word of God…judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Notice the relationship between “the heart” and “the Word.” The Word examines; the heart is being examined. To discount parts of the Word for any reason is to reverse this process. We become the examiners, and the Word must submit to our “superior insight.” Yet God says, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?” (Romans 9:20).

The Bible’s message must be taken as a whole. It is not a mixture of doctrine that we are free to select from. Many people like the verses that say God loves them, but they dislike the verses that say God will judge sinners. But we simply cannot pick and choose what we like about the Bible and throw the rest away. If the Bible is wrong about hell, for example, then who is to say it is right about heaven—or about anything else? If the Bible cannot get the details right about creation, then maybe the details about salvation cannot be trusted either. If the story of Jonah is a myth, then perhaps so is the story of Jesus. On the contrary, God has said what He has said, and the Bible presents us a full picture of who God is. “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89).

The Bible is our only rule for faith and practice. If it is not reliable, then on what do we base our beliefs? Jesus asks for our trust, and that includes trust in what He says in His Word. John 6:67-69 is a beautiful passage. Jesus had just witnessed the departure of many who had claimed to follow Him. Then He turns to the twelve apostles and asks, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” At this, Peter speaks for the rest when he says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” May we have the same trust in the Lord and in His words of life. (Got Questions)

 

 

The Bible is Sufficient The sufficiency of Scripture can be simply defined as follows: In the Bible alone, God has given humankind all things that are necessary for the proper understanding of who God is, who we are, how God has acted in the past, and what God expects from us. The basic idea behind the sufficiency of Scripture is that nothing else needs to be revealed to humanity about God or his plan for the human race. In addition, through the various stages of history, God have His people sufficient information to believe in Him.

 

The answers to the basic problems that humanity faces, such as identity, purpose, and destiny, can be found in the pages of Scripture. Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day.

 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Here, Paul says that those who study the Scripture can be thoroughly equipped for “every good work.” Scripture is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. We need nothing else. The Bible, alone, has the answers we need for living a God pleasing life that is hidden in Christ. The sufficiency of Scripture means that the Bible contains what God thought that we should know on a number of different topics. His teaching on any subject is sufficient for us. We do not have to go elsewhere to find answers.

 

The Bible alone holds the key to salvation. Paul wrote to Timothy.

How from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15).

 

While the Scriptures contain everything humanity needs to know about God, it does not reveal everything that we want to know. Indeed, it cannot because then God would cease to be infinite. Most probably we will see new aspects of His person for 10,000 eons in Heaven. The truth that God has revealed is sufficient but not exhaustive.

 

We affirm the Priesthood of the Believer which is to say that we do not need some special person or authority to interpret the Scripture for us.  Some people, especially the Roman Catholic Church, argue that Scriptures are not clear in and of themselves and that believers need some type of external authority to properly interpret and understand it. However, the facts speak otherwise and it is unreasonable to assert that God would give humanity a revelation of Himself that could not be understood by every day Christians. The Bible is written in such a way that people in every age are able to understand it. Every believer is commanded to study the Scriptures for themselves because if God can be known, and He can, it is through the revelation of Scripture that we will know Him

 

 

 

Election and Predestination

Election and Predestination

(Guest Post by James Quiggle ThM)

Election.

There are three Greek words pertaining to election whose meaning is to choose or select. The first is eklégō. This word means to select, choose, and is translated choose, chose, chosen, elect. It involves preference and selection from among many choices. A relationship is established between the one choosing and the object chosen. This word is used twenty-two times. The second word is eklektós. This word means to choose, to select, and is translated chosen, elect. Same meaning as eklégō, as influenced by context. This word is used twenty-two times. The third word is eklogé. This word means choice, selection, and is translated chosen, election, elect. Same meaning as eklégō, as influenced by context. This word is used seven times.

The word eklégō means the selection of some out of many. The word eklektós indicates those who have been selected. The word eklogé refers to the act of selection. The selection of some out of many never indicates malice or prejudice toward those not selected. For example, Jesus chose twelve disciples out of many disciples to be his apostles. There is no indication of anything wrong with those not chosen, no indication of future prejudice or bias against those not chosen. Those not chosen continued to be disciples, even though they were not chosen to be apostles. Nor is there any indication of merit or special character in those chosen. In Acts 6:5 the Jerusalem church chose seven men to make the daily distribution to the needy. Obviously the many from whom the seven were selected was the male population of the church who met the qualifications set at 6:3. Many males met those qualifications; seven were chosen. Those not selected continued as they were.

In every use of these words, no reason is given as to why some were selected but not others. Acts 6:3–5 and 1:15–26 are not exceptions. The conditions set in these passages establishes who will be in the total number from which the selection is to be made. There is never any prejudice against those not chosen; they are left to continue as they were before the selection was made.

When we come to God’s choices in salvation these same conditions apply. God chose to save some. The qualification required to be among the group from which the selection was to be made was to be a sinner: the entire population of human beings from Adam forward to the eternal state. The reason why some sinners were chosen to salvation and others were not is never stated. There is no action, negative or positive, taken toward those not chosen; they are left to continue in their original state.

Statement of the doctrine. Election is the choice of a sovereign God, 1) to give the gift of grace-faith-salvation to some sinners to effect their salvation, and 2) to take no action, positive or negative, to either effect or deny the salvation of other sinners. The decree of election includes all means necessary to effect salvation. An illustration of the doctrine:

The river of sinful humanity is justly racing toward the waterfall of death emptying into the lake of eternal fire; God reaches into the river and saves many; he prevents no one from swimming to the safety of the heavenly shore; he will receive any person who comes to him by way of Christ. The saved are standing on the shore urging everyone in the river to come to Christ.

The illustration communicates the important aspects of the doctrine of election: 1) every human being is a sinner and thus is justly due eternal judgment in the lake of fire; 2) God takes direct action to save some sinners from eternal punishment; 3) God does not take any action which would prevent any sinner from coming to him to receive salvation; 4) God sends his saved people to evangelize the unsaved.

Predestination

There is one word translated “predestination.” That word is proorízō. This word means to determine or decree beforehand. The word is translated “determined before, predestined, ordained.” This word is used six times. In four out of six uses the word proorízō refers to God’s purposes regarding the believer. To wit, the believer is to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, be adopted as a Son of God, to be God’s heritage, and to receive an inheritance from God. Although the Reformers, and their spiritual heirs today, use proorízō in the sense of election, the Scripture testimony is that proorízō expresses God’s decrees affecting the believer after his or her salvation. The order in which predestination works out in the decrees of God is elected in eternity-past, saved in historical-present, and then the decree of predestination begins its sanctifying work.

Statement of the doctrine. Predestination is God’s decree to (1) to adopt the believer as his son and heir (Ephesians 1:5), (2) to conform the believer to be like Christ according to certain aspects of Christ’s spiritual character and physical form (Romans 8:29–30; 1 John 3:2), (3) to give the believer an inheritance, and (4) to make the believer God’s heritage (Ephesians 1:11).

Brief explanation: the Reformation theologians (and their spiritual heirs today) often used “predestined” in the sense of election, a case of naming the cause from one of its effects. However, it is clear from the scriptures that predestination is not synonymous with election, nor is it the cause of election. Predestination is the result of election. The prior election of those predestined is seen in (1) that the elect were “called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28, before they were predestined, v. 29, and (2) that the elect were chosen, Ephesians 1:4, before they were predestined, v. 5. Predestination is a decree affecting the future of the elect after their salvation.

Election is a decree of God by which he determined those whom he will take positive action to save, which (decree) includes all the means necessary to the redemption of those whom he has elected.

Predestination is a separate decree of God affecting the saved after their salvation, which (decree) includes all the means necessary to effect the adoption the believer as God’s son, heir, and heritage, and to conform the believer to be like Christ.

The Security of the Believer Pt. 3

The Security of the Believer Pt. 3

(Guest Post by James Quiggle ThM)
This post is the third of three on the eternal security of salvation and the personal assurance of salvation.
What is Persevering Faith?

The biblical principle of persevering faith is quite simple. Perseverance is a grace God gives the believer to overcome all spiritual and physical obstacles to faith, and persevering faith is the believer using the means of grace God has provided to continue in the faith. To persevere in the faith is to continue in the faith by faith all the way through life and death.
The doctrine of perseverance is derived from the several results of salvation.

– The believer has been given eternal life and will never lose that eternal life, John 10:28.

– The believer cannot come under condemnation, Romans 8:1, 33, and cannot be separated from the love of Christ, Romans 8:35.

– Sin no longer has dominion over the believer Romans 6:14.

– Believers are sons of God and led by the Holy Spirit, Romans 8:14, 16.

– God has predestined believers to be conformed to the image of his Son, Romans 8:29.

– God has reconciled the believer to himself, Romans 5:10.

– God loves those who are his own, John 13:1, and nothing is able to separate the believer from the love of God, Romans 8:39.

– God will complete the work begun in the believer from the day of his or her salvation, Philippians 1:6.

– Believers are kept by the power of God, 1 Peter 1:5.

The promises of God to the believer and God’s purposes for the believer must be fulfilled as decreed by the sovereign God. God, therefore, has obligated himself to preserve the believer’s salvation and cause the believer to persevere in the faith.

Bible passages that teach the necessity of striving and warn against falling away should not be used to reinterpret or contradict the clear, unambiguous verses, such as those above, that teach perseverance. Those exhortations and warnings indicate a believer is the one who abides in the Word (John 8:31) and uses the grace God gives to persevere in the faith by faith. The duty of the believer is to live a holy and righteous life. Believers are given grace and faith in order that by God’s grace and their faith they may overcome every obstacle to faith, and live the manner of life God requires, e.g., 1 John 2:6.

What we are speaking of, then, is the kind or quality of faith God gives which results in perseverance. Hebrews 10:36 speaks of the necessity of persevering faith and chapter 11 examples persevering faith at work. Chapter 11 begins with a particular definition of faith as (NKJV) the “substance (hupóstasis) of things hoped for (elpízō)” and “the evidence (élegchos) of things not seen.” The kind of faith God gives is the objective conviction that spiritual realities testified to in Scripture are genuine and are certain to be received.

Hebrews 11:1 uses three words to describe faith. The first is hupóstasis. This word means “substance” or “real presence.” Jesus is the real presence (hupóstasis) of God in the universe, Hebrews 1:3. In secular Greek hupóstasis was used to describe real property [Moulton and Milligan, “Vocabulary,” 659–660], thus, faith is the “title deed” of things hoped for. A title deed is the objective proof of legal possession. The faith God gives the believer is itself the title deed to God’s promises.

The second word in Hebrews 11:1 is elpízō. This word means hope. But not hope in the sense the world means hope. Worldly hope is anxiety: I hope this or that does, or does not, happen. Hope in Scripture is assurance. Biblical hope is certainty based on God’s Word. Faith is the absolute assurance, the unwavering certainty (elpízō), of receiving the promises. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And when I should go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you to myself” (John 14: 2, 3). The believer’s hope—his absolute assurance and certainty—is that Jesus is coming again for him or her. Enduring in the world by faith in the hope of Christ’s return is perseverance.

The third word is élegchos. This word can mean subjective proof (persuasion), or it can mean objective evidence (demonstration). In the context of the “real presence-title deed” and “assurance-certainty” of God’s promises, the meaning is objective evidence. The presence of God-given faith is in and of itself the objective demonstration that the believer will receive things God has promised.

Faith, then, is the real presence (hupóstasis) of the things of which we are assured (elpízō), and is the objective evidence (élegchos) of the things we do not yet see. The kind of faith God gives—the kind or quality of faith that results in perseverance—is itself the real presence and objective evidence of the promises God has given to his saved people. The objective certainty that God gives in the promises is itself the proof the believer possesses the promises, because that kind or quality of faith comes only from God.

The believer’s subjective faith— I know, I feel, therefore I act—comes from the objective faith given by God. The biblical truth is that the believer perseveres in faith, a subjective act, because he/she has been give an objective faith in the reality of the promises.

Because we are sensual, rational creatures, I will say this in a more familiar way: faith gives the perception of immediate presence to spiritual realities. Perseverance is knowing that God said it, that settles it, I’m going to believe it and do it.

God-given faith—a quality of faith only believers possess—is the kind of faith necessary to persevere and receive the promises. Genuine believers are given the faith and grace necessary to persevere, and genuine believers receive and use the grace of perseverance to persevere.

 

The Security of the Believer Pt. 2

The Security of the Believer Pt. 2

(Guest post by James Quiggle)

This post is the second of three on the eternal security of salvation and the personal assurance of salvation. These posts are from my book “Christian Living and Doctrine,” pp. 15–20, 45–46. The New Testament presents five witnesses testifying salvation is eternal. The first post presented 1) the foundation of eternal salvation and 2) the seal of eternal salvation. This post will present 3) the assurance of eternal salvation; 4) perseverance in eternal salvation; 5) the character of eternal salvation.

THE ASSURANCE OF ETERNAL SALVATION

A believer can know for certain that he/she is eternally saved. The apostle John stated “I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life,” 1 John 5:13. Jesus said he has given his saved people eternal life and 1) they shall never perish, and 2) no person or thing is able to take the believer out of Christ’s hand or the Father’s hand (John 10:27–29). The apostle Paul wrote that “there is no more condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1, and that no person and no thing “shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 8:31–39. Because the believer is no longer subject to condemnation, and because nothing can separate the believer from Christ, a believer in Christ as his/her Savior cannot lose their salvation.

PERSEVERANCE IN ETERNAL SALVATION

God gives every genuine believer the grace to continue in the faith by faith, and the believer uses that grace to continue in faith, righteousness, and holiness. Jesus said, John 10:28 “I give them [his saved people] eternal life, and they shall never perish.” Paul wrote, Philippians 1:6 “He [God] who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Peter wrote, 1 Peter 1:5, that believers are “kept by the power of God through faith.”

There are times when a Christian seems to fail, but the apostle John said that Christians have sin, 1 John 1:8, and Christians will occasionally commit acts of sinning, 1 John 1:10, but that God has made a remedy to restore the sinning Christian to fellowship with himself, 1 John 1:9. The scriptures do tell the Christian to strive to live holy and righteous lives, which some have interpreted to mean salvation can be lost if one’s life is not always holy and righteous. But the verses telling the believer to strive depend on the ability to strive and succeed, which is God’s grace of perseverance. God never commands what he does not also give. If the commandment is to strive, then God’s mighty power works in the believer so he/she can strive and succeed, Colossians 1:29. God gives the grace of perseverance and the genuine believer uses the grace of perseverance. Because every genuine believer possesses the grace of perseverance, he/she will always overcome sin and the world by the grace of perseverance. The salvation of the believer is eternal.

THE CHARACTER OF ETERNAL SALVATION

The life of the saved person demonstrates certain characteristics that an unsaved person’s life does not. The saved person habitually lives a godly life. The unsaved person habitually lives a life of sinning. The saved person may sin occasionally, but the unsaved person sins habitually. The apostle John wrote, 1 John 3:6, that every person habitually abiding in Christ is not habitually sinning, and that every person habitually sinning does not know Christ. The characteristics of daily living testify a genuine believer has eternal salvation.

The saved person is like Christ: he/she is godly. Godliness, that is, a godly life, is when the believer’s thoughts, decisions, and actions conform to the moral, holy, and righteous standard set by God’s own character. Positively, a genuine believer loves the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; he/she enjoys associating with and worshiping with others sharing the same faith in Christ; a believer has a hunger and thirst to learn the Word of God, to read the Word, study the Word, hear the Word preached and taught; the person who is genuinely saved loves to hear about Christ the Savior. The genuine believer recognizes the truth of Scripture, 1 John 2:21; but the unbeliever does not continue in the truth, 1 John 2:19.

Negatively, the person who is genuinely saved is bothered by sin and sinning. He/she is embarrassed by sinning because Christ has been disappointed. The believer takes no lasting pleasure in sin and sinning—there may be a moment of pleasure when an old sin habit is indulged, but in a short time the pleasure fades. The genuine believer is saddened when Christ is dishonored. The genuine believer is righteously angry when the Scripture is twisted to say what it does not mean. The genuine believer holds the world and the things of the world loosely, lightly, knowing he/she is to be in the world, but not of the world. Death is not a terror to the genuine believer, because physical death is merely the way Christ brings his saved people to heaven to be with him forever. The characteristics of a genuine salvation testify to an eternal salvation.

CONCLUSION

There are times of failure in the Christian life, and times of doubt. There are some verses that seem to say salvation may be lost. But the scriptures give a clear and unambiguous witness that salvation cannot be lost. So by the testimony of five things—Christ’s limitless merit; sealing by the Holy Spirit; the Scripture’s word of assurance; perseverance in the faith by faith; and the characteristics of a genuine Christian—the believer has assurance that salvation is permanent.

Of these five the first is the most important. Jesus paid the full and complete debt for sins, completely satisfying God’s holiness and justice, such that no other action, work, or sacrifice is required. A genuine believer cannot lose his or her salvation; a genuine believer is permanently sealed into salvation; a genuine believer perseveres in the faith by faith; a genuine believer knows from Scripture they have eternal life and can never perish; a genuine believer habitually practices genuine Christianity.

 

The Security of the Believer Pt. 1

The Security of the Believer Pt. 1

(Guest Post by James Quiggle ThM)

 

This post is the first of three on the eternal security of salvation and the personal assurance of salvation. These posts are from my book “Christian Living and Doctrine,” pp. 15–20, 45–46.

The New Testament presents five witnesses testifying salvation is eternal: 1) the foundation of eternal salvation; 2) the seal of eternal salvation; 3) the assurance of eternal salvation; 4) perseverance in eternal salvation; 5) the character of eternal salvation. This post presents witnesses 1 and 2.

 

THE FOUNDATION OF ETERNAL SALVATION

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of eternal salvation. At 1 John 2:2 the apostle John wrote, Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins.” John does not set any limitations. “Our sins” refers to every sin a believer has or may commit, past, present, and future. When “God chose us in Christ,” Ephesians 1:4, it was “before the foundation of the world,” so God had in view all sins a believer would commit. John said Jesus “is the propitiation.” The word “propitiate” has the same meaning as the Old Testament “atone,” and the English word “expiate.” A good synonym is “satisfied.” God imputed our sins to Jesus on the cross, 2 Corinthians 5:21, and through his suffering on the cross Jesus fully satisfied God for every sin—all the sins you and I have committed or might yet commit.

At 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul tells us God made Jesus Christ “to be sin for us.” God imputed the sins of the world to Jesus, 1 John 2:2, when Jesus was on the cross. Jesus suffered God’s wrath for our sins with the result Jesus made a full satisfaction to God for the crime of sin. The Bible names this satisfaction “propitiation,” Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10.

Propitiation is the complete satisfaction of God’s holiness and justice that Christ made to God by enduring spiritual and physical death on the cross for the crime of sin committed by human beings, suffering in their place and on their behalf. When by faith a sinner applies Christ’s propitiation to their sins, God is completely satisfied the debt for all his/her sins was paid, and forgives all those sins past, present, and future.

On the cross, to make the propitiation for sins, Christ endured the penalty for sin, which is spiritual and physical death. Christ endured spiritual death when he was separated from fellowship with God (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46), and physical death when he separated his soul from his body (“Bowing his head, he gave up his spirit,” John 19:30).

We can understand that Christ paid the full debt for sins in three actions.

One, before his death he cried out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” indicating he was no longer separated from God. He had paid in full the sin debt imputed to him.

Two, when the propitiation was completed Christ cried out “It is finished,” John 19:30. The word he used, teléō, was a cry of victory, in a verb tense (perfect) indicating his work of propitiation was brought to completion. No other work is needed to satisfy God for the crime of our sin.

Three, Christ resurrected from the dead. Each member of the Trinity participated in Christ’s resurrection (Romans 6:4; John 10:17; Romans 8:11), showing that Christ had made a complete satisfaction for sin. As Paul stated, 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile” (vain, empty).

Because the propitiation completely satisfied God for sins past, present, and future a believer’s salvation is eternally secure. “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus . . .  “Who is able to bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies . . .  it is Christ who died . . . and is risen . . . and makes intercession for us,” Romans 8:1, 33–34. The Writer of Hebrews said Jesus “offered one sacrifice for sins forever,” and then “sat down at the right hand of God.” The God-man sat down because his work was completed. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, there is never again a need for any sacrifice for sin, forever, Hebrews 10:12, 18.

The writer of Hebrews says Jesus established a new covenant with God, 8:6, and through his death offered one sacrifice for sins, forever, 10:12. The result is that God has made a commitment with every person saved through faith in Christ: “their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more,” 10:17.

At John 10:27–30 Jesus said he knew who his saved people were (his “sheep”); that he gives his saved people eternal life; that his saved people will never perish (because they have eternal life); that no person and no thing or event can remove a genuinely saved person from Christ’s hand or the Father’s hand; compare Paul at 8:38–39, Peter at 1 Peter 1:5, and John at 1 John 5:11–13.

What Christ did on the cross fully satisfied God for the sins of every person who believes on Christ as Savior. In an illustration, the finite demerit of the believer’s sins—past, present, future—are like a teardrop in the ocean of Christ’s limitless merit. Once a person is saved, he/she cannot lose their salvation, because the infinite, limitless merit of Christ secures salvation for every person who believes on him as Savior. There is no sin a believer might commit that would cause loss of salvation, because Jesus propitiated God for every sin.

THE SEAL OF ETERNAL SALVATION

Sealing the believer in salvation is an act of God the Holy Spirit occurring the moment a sinner believes on Christ as personal savior. The apostle Paul wrote at Ephesians 1:13, “having believed, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.” The “promise” is a reference to the advent and indwelling of the Holy Spirit prophesied in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 31:33; Joel 2:28–32), announced by Christ (John 14:16–18, 26; 16:7, 13–15; Acts 1:4–5, 8) and fulfilled after his ascension (Acts 2:17–18; 8:17; 10:44).

“Sealing” is an allusion to the method used to secure ancient documents. When a document was completed, it would be rolled up (a scroll), and a blob of wax was used to affix the end of the scroll to the rolled up body. A mark or image was impressed into the wax before it cooled. The purpose of the seal was to secure the document against damage or tampering. The purpose of the image impressed into the wax was to certify the authenticity of the document. In today’s terms, the seal was the mark of a notary, or a witness, authenticating the document and its contents. Thus, sealing indicates a completed act and means security, authenticity, genuineness, identification, and ownership.

The sealing accomplished by the Holy Spirit is God’s witness that the believer is genuinely and eternally saved. The seal of the Spirit keeps the believer secure in his or her salvation, for no one can break God’s seal. The seal is impressed with God’s mark—the image of Christ the Savior—indicating the believer is God’s property. Sealing confirms the believer’s faith from the moment of salvation forward into eternity future.

Shadows of Atonement and the Resurrection’s Seal of the Atonement

Shadows of Atonement and the Resurrection’s Seal of the Atonement

What is Penal Substitutionary Atonement and why is it the most important doctrine?

In the simplest possible terms, the biblical doctrine of penal substitution holds that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross takes the place of the punishment we ought to suffer for our sins. As a result, God’s justice is satisfied, and those who accept Christ can be forgiven and reconciled to God. Let me give you a succinct, one sentence explanation of Penal Substitutionary Atonement and then we will look at the doctrine in more detail:  Christ, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished in the place of sinners, thus satisfying the demands of justice so God can justly forgive the sins.

The word penal means “related to punishment for offenses,” and substitution means “the act of a person taking the place of another.” So, penal substitution is the act of a person taking the punishment for someone else’s offenses. In Christian theology, Jesus Christ is Substitute, and the punishment He took, at the cross, was ours, based on our sin (1 Peter 2:24). You may notice that this sounds very judicial and reflects the language of a courtroom and you would be correct in noticing that. Judicial terms are not foreign to the Christian; we speak of justification, reward, the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Great White Throne Judgment of the Wicked and others so it is sensible to speak of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

According to the doctrine of penal substitution, God’s perfect justice demands some form of atonement for sin. Humanity is depraved, to such an extent that we are spiritually dead and incapable of atoning for sin in any way (Ephesians 2:1). Penal substitution means Jesus’ death on the cross propitiated, or satisfied, God’s requirement for justice. God’s mercy allows Jesus to take the punishment we deserve for our sins. As a result, Jesus’ sacrifice serves as a substitute for anyone who accepts it. In a very direct sense, Jesus is exchanged for us as the recipient of sin’s penalty.

Objection: Penal Substitutionary Atonement is a Calvinist Doctrine. Answer: Of course it is. Penal Substitutionary Atonement follows, naturally, with the flow of the Doctrines of Grace. Total Depravity lays out the case against us as sinners and Particular Redemption identifies those for whom Christ was the substitute and the Perseverance of the Saints explains the efficacy and durability of the Atonement.

Objection: Penal Substitutionary Atonement is unbiblical.
Answer: (Quoting Got Questions Ministries) Penal substitution is clearly taught by the Bible. In fact, much of what God did prior to Jesus’ ministry was to foreshadow this concept and present it as the purpose of the Messiah. In Genesis 3:21, God uses animal skins to cover the naked Adam and Eve. This is the first reference to a death (in this case, an animal’s) being used to cover (atone for) sin. In Exodus 12:13, God’s Spirit “passes over” the homes that are covered (atoned) by the blood of the sacrifice. God requires blood for atonement in Exodus 29:41–42. The description of Messiah in Isaiah 53:4–6 says His suffering is meant to heal our wounds. The fact that the Messiah was to be “crushed for our iniquities” (verse 5) is a direct reference to penal substitution.
Word Wealth: Kaphar/To Make Atonement: Kaphar, literally, is to cover over or purge. Kaphar and expiate (offset/take away) are the two glorious halves of what happened on Good Friday. Christ, the suffering Lamb, covered over our sin with His precious blood and in so doing removed the filthiness of our sin from the sight of the Father.
During and after Jesus’ ministry, penal substitution is further clarified. Jesus claims to be the “good shepherd” who lays down His life for the sheep in John 10:10. Paul, in Romans 3:25–26, explains that we have the righteousness of Christ because of the sacrifice of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, he says that the sinless Christ took on our sins. Hebrews 9:26 says that our sins were removed by the sacrifice of Christ. First Peter 3:18 plainly teaches that the righteous was substituted for the unrighteous.

Penal substitution derives from the idea that divine forgiveness must satisfy divine justice, that is, that God is not willing or able to simply forgive sin without first requiring a satisfaction for it. It states that God gave himself in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer the death, punishment and curse due to fallen humanity as the penalty for our sin.

Important theological concepts about penal substitution depend on the doctrine of the Trinity. Those who believe that Jesus was himself God, in line with the doctrine of the Trinity, believe that God took the punishment upon himself rather than putting it on someone else. In other words, the doctrine of union with Christ affirms that by taking the punishment upon himself Jesus fulfils the demands of justice not for an unrelated third party but for those identified with him. If, in the penal substitution understanding of the atonement, the death of Christ deals with sin and injustice, his resurrection is the renewal and restoration of righteousness. Key biblical references upon which penal substitution is based include:

  • Isaiah53:4-6, 10, 11—”Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all … It was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin … By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities.” (RSV)
  • Romans3:23-26—”All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.” (NRSV)
  • 2 Corinthians5:21—”For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (RSV)
  • Galatians3:10, 13—”All who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them.’ … Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree.'” (RSV)
  • 1 Peter2:24—”He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”(RSV)
  • 1 Peter3:18—”For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” (RSV)

Now that we have explained what Penal Substitutionary Atonement is, let us look to some shadows of the Atonement in the Old Testament.

The Burnt Offering: A Shadow of the Cross

Leviticus 1:3-9 (HCSB)

Then the Lord summoned Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting: “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When any of you brings an offering to the Lord from the livestock, you may bring your offering from the herd or the flock. “If his gift is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to bring an unblemished male. He must bring it to the entrance to the tent of meeting so that he may be accepted by the Lord. He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering so it can be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He is to slaughter the bull before the Lord; Aaron’s sons the priests are to present the blood and sprinkle it on all sides of the altar that is at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then he must skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest will prepare a fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. Aaron’s sons the priests are to arrange the pieces, the head, and the suet on top of the burning wood on the altar. The offerer must wash its entrails and shanks with water. Then the priest will burn all of it on the altar as a burnt offering, a fire offering of a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”

The first thing we want to see is where the instruction took place. In Exodus, the Lord spoke from the burning mountain, which is a picture of His holiness and the fact that He is apart from the creation. The picture of a forbidding God speaking from a burning mountain also invokes the awe, reverence and fear that are due Him. Here, though, the Lord, Himself, calls Moses to the entrance of the Tabernacle (also called the Tent of Meeting in some translations). Before, the Lord was apart from His people, now He is in their midst; the giving of the Law was essentially, a marriage between God and the People of Israel. In Leviticus, God lays out the ground rules for the marriage; He lays out the obligations of the People as His bride and His role as the husband in this covenant marriage.

Let’s look at a few points in overview and then we will discuss, in earnest, what they mean and what they show is yet to come…

  • The Burnt Offering is a Freewill offering.
  • For those that can afford it, the animal sacrificed is to be from the herd or the flock (verse 2) and for those that cannot afford it, the animal must be a turtledove or young pigeon (verse 9)
  • The animal must be without blemish, i.e. no physical defects such as a limp, blindness, or the like.
  • The offerer will lay both hands on the head of the animal. In the Amplified Version it points out the fact that this symbolically transfers the guilt of the penitent onto the animal to be offered.
  • The penitent person kills the animal before the Lord (that is, in His Presence) Aaron and his sons, the priests will present the blood to the Lord and then dash it upon the altar.
  • The animal will be skinned and cut into pieces. (This particular passage does not prescribe a set number of pieces.)
  • The entire animal, minus the skin, is laid upon the altar and burned

The giving of a Burnt Offering can occur in one of two contexts, a sin context such as when Noah offered Burnt Offerings after the Flood (Genesis 8:20), or a praise context, such as in Psalm 66:3 when the Psalmist offered costly burnt offerings in gratitude for the Lord’s deliverance. Here, we are looking at the Burnt Offering as a covering (atonement) for sin.

Aaron and his sons do the burning of the offering because they are symbols of the Lord. The Lord so hates sin that he must utterly, completely, and totally destroy it and by doing the burning, they picture the Lord destroying the sin. I used three synonyms to demonstrate the superlative hatred that the Lord has for sin. The animal that is burned in its entirety, of course, symbolized the sin that was being destroyed. By bringing the offering the penitent person shows that he recognizes that sin must be destroyed and that he is appealing to the Lord’s mercy, which is what allows the animal to be destroyed in the place of the sinner.

So how, in the world, does this picture the cross? To answer that we need to be sure that we have a clear understanding of what happened at the cross.

  • Jesus, who knew no sin became sin; he took our sin upon Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • The Son of Man gave His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28)
  • The Lamb of God took away the sin of the world (John 1:29, John 1:36)
  • Christ was made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13)
  • Jesus became our High Priest, Himself purged our sins, and sat down at the Right Hand of Majesty on High (Hebrews 1:3, 2:9, 2:17)
  • The payment of our sin is FINAL (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12-15, 9:19-20, 9:24-28)

The Law was a shadow of things to come (Hebrews 10:1-20) and the destruction of sin that we see in the burnt offering was made complete on the cross. In the very instant that Jesus cried out that God had forsaken Him (Matthew 27:46) the destruction of sin was made complete through the suffering of Jesus in order that Jesus might bring many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10).

Because of His obedience and atoning sacrifice, YHWH, God the Father has restored unto Him the name at which every knee will bow and every tongue will acknowledge, Lord. (Notice Philippians 2:10 does not say at the name Jesus but at the name of Jesus, which means a different name and it is Lord.) Only a sinless life could satisfy the wrath of God and only God, having humbled Himself, and come as a man (Philippians 2:6) could live a sinless life and satisfy all that His holiness required.

The sinless animal stood in the place of the Son of Man until He came and when He did, the picture from the sacrifice became the reality of the cross…

The Sin Offering (from Got Questions)

“A sin offering was a sacrifice, made according to the Mosaic Law, which provided atonement for sin. The Hebrew phrase for “sin offering” literally means “fault offering.” The sin offering was made for sins committed in ignorance, or unintentional sins. The ritualistic method of the sin offering and the animal to be offered varied depending on the status of the sinner. For example, a high priest who sinned unintentionally would offer a young bull. A king or a prince would offer a young male goat. People in the private sector would sacrifice a young female goat or lamb, unless they were too poor, in which case they were only required to offer two turtledoves or pigeons. Full details of the sin offering and the requirements associated with it are enumerated in Leviticus 4 and Numbers 15.

Again, the sin offering was sacrificed when a person sinned unintentionally by breaking one of the Lord’s commandments and later realized his guilt (Leviticus 4:27). Sin offerings were also part of the ceremonies on the Day of Atonement, as the high priest made two sin offerings: a bull for himself and a young male goat for the congregation (Leviticus 16:11, 15). Unlike some other offerings, the sin offering was not eaten. The live animal was brought to the altar and the sinner was required to lay his hand on the head of the animal (Leviticus 4:29). Then the animal was killed, at which point the priest would take some of the blood and put it on the horns of the altar (verse 30). In some cases, some of the blood was also sprinkled inside the tabernacle (verses 6 and 17). Then all the rest of the blood was poured at the base of the altar (verse 34). The fat of the sin offering was removed and burned on the altar. But all the rest of the carcass was taken “outside the camp to a place ceremonially clean, where the ashes are thrown,” and there the carcass was burned “in a wood fire on the ash heap” (verse 12). “In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven” (verse 35).

The sin offering was a poignant picture of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. He was a “lamb without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19; cf. Leviticus 4:32) whose precious blood was spilled after being publicly slain. Jesus was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem, just as the sin offering was to be burnt outside the camp (Hebrews 13:12; cf. Leviticus 4:12). Just as the sacrificial lamb makes atonement for unintentional sins, Jesus’ blood made atonement for the sin of any person who realizes his guilt before God and asks for that atonement to be applied to him (John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7). “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).

Every person has broken the Law of God in one way or another, whether we realize it or not. Humanity is sinful, and we are all guilty before God (Romans 3:23). It must have been painful for sinners under the Mosaic Law to slaughter an innocent animal when they knew they were the ones who had done wrong. In the same way, it is painful for us to admit our guilt and to know that the innocent and holy Son of God took the punishment for our sin. But this salvation God has provided, and it is the only way. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Praise the Lord that sin offerings are no longer required, because we have been redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).”

Beloved, there is so much more we could discuss. Had we 20 lifetimes, we could not plumb all the riches of the Atonement. But this being Resurrection Sunday, we need to ask, “What does all of this have to do with the Resurrection?” Simple, the Resurrection is God’s seal of approval on the Atonement.

Did you notice that Jesus used a banking term when He cried out from the cross? Yes, tetelestai means “it is finished,” but in its cultural context, tetelestai was used in banking, specifically loans which gives it the connotation of being paid in full. And isn’t that amazing, that Christ Himself paid the wages of sin on our behalf? The wages of sin is death and you can be sure that those wages will be paid. They were either paid at the cross or they will be paid for all eternity. The Resurrection is our receipt, if you will, that our sin debt is paid in full. Just as nothing can ever keep Jesus in the grave, nothing can keep our sin debt from being satisfied by His atoning death and resurrection.

It is this, Beloved, that causes us to break forth in jubilant exultation at the Name, Jesus. All of our sin, everything that separates us from God was broken at the Cross and sin’s power forever destroyed by the Resurrection. If that doesn’t make you wanna shout nothing will.

Salt and Light: A Robust Faith

Salt and Light: A Robust Faith

Our text this morning is Matthew 5:13-16 where we see Jesus use the metaphor of Christians being both salt and light. I referred to these as being the fruits of a robust faith so let us think about that a little.

Salt:

The salt we would be most familiar with is iodized table salt. When you consider table salt there are some interesting things to note. It is coarse to the touch, has a distinct flavor profile, and performs a unique function. How is that a metaphor for the Christian faith? In short, to the world, we are coarse, we definitely have a unique function and profile.

A little background information:

In the ancient world, and even still today, salt was a preservative. During the time before refrigerators, salt was rubbed on meat to prevent putrification.  In biology, we notice that salt is an essential element for life (a critical electrolyte) and saltiness is one of the four taste sensations.

Have you ever heard that a person was “worth his salt?” That is because salt was such a valuable commodity that it became useful as a form of currency.

So what does any of this have to do with Christians and our faith? Well, a person full of the Holy Spirit and demonstrating the character traits in the Beatitudes will have a preserving influence on the world.

“Wherever there is a strong Christian emphasis and a strong Christian voice, that society is being preserved and maintained. But whenever the Christian voice begins to wane, that society begins to deteriorate and ultimately be destroyed.

And take a look at history and notice the preserving influence of Christianity, as long as it remained strong and a dynamic influence within the community, the community was strong and powerful. Look at the United States, we were formed on Christian principles. Tremendously heavy Christian influence in the forming of this nation and thus written into our very Constitution those safeguards to protect that religious freedom, freedom of worship and assembly in all because the Christian influence was strong and we weren’t afraid to say, “One nation under God”. But through the years, the Christian voice has been weakened in its influence upon our society. And we can see those rotting forces that are beginning to erode away the very foundations of our democracy, as we see children being exploited for sexual purposes, as we see child pornography being produced and purchased.” —Chuck Smith

  1. Campbell Morgan said, “Jesus, looking out over the multitudes of His day, saw the corruption, the disintegration of life at every point, its breakup, its spoliation; and, because of His love of the multitudes, He knew the thing that they needed most was salt in order that the corruption should be arrested. He saw them also wrapped in gloom, sitting in darkness, groping amid mists and fogs. He knew that they needed, above everything else…light” (The Gospel According to Matthew [New York: Revell, 1929], p. 46).

We are living in a world full of filthiness, though it is no small thing for the world to live in its filthiness; no the world celebrates its filth and puts its debauchery on display. They demand celebration of their filth; celebrate or be destroyed. Don’t believe me? Try reading a news story about Christian owned businesses that do not capitulate to the LGBT agenda. Each story is a testimony to the demands of the world, celebrate us or be destroyed.

Let’s look back to Genesis Chapter six. This is the account of the Noahic Flood and Covenant. Genesis 6:5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil”

I wish that I could say it was different today but it is not. Our society is consistently and totally evil.

In the OT salt is most often a purifying agent (Ex 30:35; Lv 2:13; 2Ki 2:21; Ezek 16:4). As the salt of the earth, Jesus’ disciples are to purify a corrupt world through their example of righteous living and their proclamation of the gospel.

Light.

In the Bible, darkness is a metaphor for sin. Let us take a look at the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus…

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 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. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 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. (John 3:17-21)

It’s safe to say that “living in darkness” general means “living in sin”. And while “sin” can be described in terms of actions, like murder or fornication, it ultimately means rebellion against or rejection of God. Christians are those people who no longer walk in darkness because they live with God as their king. Non-Christian people, even if they “live a good life,” continue to reject God and therefore remain in darkness.

How many people, upon being asked why they should be allowed into Heaven answer with, “I’m basically a good person?” Without going down a different road and travelling far into the Doctrines of Grace in Salvation, I want to assure you that, “I’m basically a good person” is nothing more than a fiction that we comfort ourselves with. It is written, there is none righteous or there is no one who seeks to do good. (ROMANS 3:10–12; PSALM 14:1–3; PSALM 53:1–3) Paul further points out that in the flesh dwells no good thing (Romans 7:8)

If being a “good person” is a fiction, why do so many people buy into this idea? The terrifying answer to that question is found in Isaiah 9:6 (I’m paraphrasing), “Hear but don’t understand. See but do not learn anything.” God has decreed that they will stay in darkness.

Being Light as a Christian

“Jesus also calls us to be light. You are the light of the world. Whereas salt is hidden, light is obvious. Salt works secretly, while light works openly. Salt works from within, light from without. Salt is more the indirect influence of the gospel, while light is more its direct communication. Salt works primarily through our living, while light works primarily through what we teach and preach. Salt is largely negative. It can retard corruption, but it cannot change corruption into incorruption. Light is more positive. It not only reveals what is wrong and false but helps produce what is righteous and true.” (John MacArthur)

2 Corinthians 4:6

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

What does this really mean when we say Christians are the light of the world?  It means that we are so full of the Holy Spirit, so steeped in Scripture, and so focused on Jesus that our actions overflow with his presence and the world sees and gives glory to God because of it. I do not want to set false expectations with you, most of the world will not glorify God even in the face of your acts of righteousness; nearly the whole of Revelation is filled with the tale of the obstinate wicked that demand any other god but YHWH, any other savior but Jesus. Be assured though, that some will see and some will hear and will be converted.

Some thoughts from Chuck Swindoll

“When you’re willing to be salt and light in the world, you cultivate in people an appetite for God.

First, live right and start praying. These two go together. Each of us lives in a neighborhood or a community. Each of us works or lives around people who are lost. Each of us is engaged in activities alongside lost people. Live right and start praying. When you pray, think outside the box. You’re not just praying for another person. You’re praying that you will have the opportunity to strike a match where there’s only darkness or to shake some salt on a life that has become bland.

Second, care about and reach out. Start simply by being friendly. You might practice smiling regularly. People are drawn to those who smile. It is amazing! I’ve had the most fantastic conversations in grocery stores that have started just because I’m smiling.

Third, be available and listen. Listen, for a change. Don’t do all the talking. When you’re available—when people know you will listen—they will tell you their needs, their worries, their concerns. They will share their hearts with you. Care enough to enter into where they are. Laugh with them, cry with them, sigh with them. Tell them you care. You may not have the answers and you may not be able to solve their problems, but you can do a lot for people just by being available and listening.

Fourth, share your faith openly and follow through. Be ready. When the opportunity is right, when you sense that the Spirit is guiding you to share your faith, don’t hold back. As Peter says, “If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (1 Pet. 3:15).

When you’re willing to be salt and light in the world, you cultivate in people an appetite for God—or at least a curiosity. You become a phenomenon to them because you live in the same world they do yet live with a totally different attitude. It makes them wonder what gives you that kind of joy. Trust me—people will ask, and they will listen. Be ready to tell them the answer: It’s the Good News about Jesus Christ.”

I called being salt and light the fruit of a robust faith and before we go, I want to develop that a little.

The Object of our Faith

For our faith to have any efficacy, at all, it must have a sure object. This is a total contrast to when people in the world tell you that you need to “have faith” or “keep the faith.” Aside from the fact that they are speaking nonsense based in ignorance, what they really mean is to stay positive. Not withstanding what Norman Vincent Peale or Robert Schuller may have told you, being positive does not have anywhere near the impact on our faith that the world would have you to believe it does.

Join me in Hebrews 11

We read the first verses this morning and I want to turn your attention to the last 8 verses:

32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

The Triune God is the object of our faith. This is the central truth that underscores all we will do here. We believe in God the Father and all the truth that He has revealed to us, we believe in God the Son (who is Jesus our Lord) and His atoning death and resurrection, we believe in the Holy Spirit who indwells us and empowers us to desire righteousness and to carry out that desire.

 

The Actions of our Faith

Being consumed with the Lord, we minister to others as ambassadors of the King. James, in his epistle, tells us exactly what the actions of our faith look like: James 1:27

27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

 

The Results of our Faith

“By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.”

Ultimately, the results of our faith will be that others are converted through our witness.

 

WAIT!!! If the salt loses its saltiness…that sounds like losing salvation! Don’t worry, that isn’t what Jesus means. If you “lose your saltiness” you are losing your influence. Cheap salts that were found near the dead sea were easily corrupted and lost their flavor. Continuing the metaphor, a Christian who falls into sin will lose their influence in the world.

You are secure in Christ so you will not lose your salvation, but influence? That can definitely be lost. Now you may hear references to a person who has “fallen from grace” but I want to tell you that this cannot happen. You cannot fall from grace. You absolutely can fall into sin and you can grieve the Holy Spirit which of necessity will bring chastisement but if you are a true Christian, the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is the embodiment of grace, does not leave you. To be sure, you will feel a difference in the relationship and this is part of His chastening but Jesus said, ” And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Be on your guard against sin, daily, but do not despair of losing your salvation. Jesus never lies and no one will ever pluck us from His.

There is a price to pay, while we walk on this earth when we sin. At the same time, we are pardoned, forever, from the eternal price of our sin. Sin has penalties and leaves scars on our lives. This is that “losing saltiness.” If you do fall into sin, or have fallen into sin, you can be restored; you will, most likely, not have the same influence on the world that you had before, but be assured that when you come for forgiveness and restoration, you will find it. You could say that God will give you a new light bulb so you can shine for Him again.

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.

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