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Category: Soteriology

What is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel?

The Gospel

 

God created the world and made us to be in loving relationship with him. Though created good, human nature became fatally flawed, and we are now all out of step with God. In Bible language, we are sinners, guilty before God and separated from him.

The good news of the Gospel is that God took loving action in Jesus Christ to save us from this dire situation. The key facts of this divine remedy are these: God the Father sent his eternal Son into this world to reconcile us to himself, to free us to love and serve him, and to prepare us to share his glory in the life to come. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit, lived a perfect life, died for our sins, and rose bodily from the dead to restore us to God. Given authority by his Father, Jesus now rules in heaven as King over all things, advancing God’s kingdom throughout the world. In the fullness of time, Jesus will return to establish his kingdom in its glory on earth, and all things will be renewed.

Reigning in heaven over all things, Jesus Christ continues to draw sinners to himself. He enables us by his Holy Spirit to turn wholeheartedly from our sinful and self-centered ways (repentance), and to entrust ourselves to him to live in union and communion with him (faith). In spiritual terms, sin is the way of death, and fellowship with Christ is the way of life.

Turning to Christ

Turning to Christ brings us into fellowship with God. Baptism, which is the rite of entry into the Church’s fellowship, marks the beginning of this new life in Christ. The apostle Peter, proclaiming the Gospel, said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Through faith, repentance, and Baptism we are spiritually united to Jesus and become children of God the Father. Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” ( John 14:6). As we come to the Father through Jesus Christ, God the Holy Spirit enlightens our minds and hearts to know him, and we are born again spiritu- ally to new life. To continue to live faithfully as Christians, we must rely upon the power and gifts which the Holy Spirit gives to God’s people.

When the disciple Thomas encountered the risen Jesus, he acknowledged him by saying, “My Lord and my God!” ( John 20:28). To be a Christian you must, like Thomas, wholeheartedly submit to the living Christ as your Lord and God. Knowing the Lord Jesus means personally believing in him, surrendering your life to him through repentance and Baptism, and living as one of his joyful followers.

A clear way to make this commitment of faith and repentance is to offer to God a prayer in which you

  • confess your sins to God, being as specific as possible, and repent by turning from them;
  • thank God for his mercy and forgiveness given to you in Jesus Christ;
  • promise to follow and obey Jesus as your Lord;
  • ask the Holy Spirit to help you be faithful to Jesus as yo grow into spiritual maturity.
    One example of such a prayer is the following:Almighty Father, I confess that I have sinned against you in my thoughts, words, and actions (especially __________). I am truly sorry and humbly repent. Thank you for forgiving my sins through the death of your Son, Jesus. I turn to you and give you my life. Fill and strengthen me with your Holy Spirit to love you, to follow Jesus as my Lord in the fellowship of his Church, and to become more like him each day. Amen. 
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Excerpted from “To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism”
Copyright © 2020 by The Anglican Church in North America
Published by Crossway
Why is Election Unconditional (Guest Post by the Rev. Lasaro Flores)

Why is Election Unconditional (Guest Post by the Rev. Lasaro Flores)

We welcome a new visiting professor in this article. The Reverend Lasaro Flores, a dear friend of Pastor Matt presents us with a biblical look at why God’s Election of Sinners to Salvation is and MUST be unconditional…

 

Of course, in this article I’m dealing with God’s Election of sinners for Salvation. Both doctrines are involved, and include, God’s Grace. In Romans 11:5 it is called “the election of grace.” It goes without saying that Salvation is “by grace” (Ephesians 2:5,8). As most Christians accept that “grace” has the meaning of ‘unmerited and undeserved favor;’ therefore, on connecting “grace” with Election and Salvation, it simply means that God “elects” and “saves” us FREELY by His Grace! Therefore, BOTH are UNCONDITIONAL!!! If this is not true, then, it would mean that our Election and Salvation would depend on us sinners doing something “conditionally” in order for God to Elect and to Save us! In that case, we would have to throw out God’s Grace (and I say this reverently), out the window!

FIRST, here I would like to deal with Why Is Salvation Unconditional? Well, simply because we sinners are saved by God’s Grace; and NOT by anything that we do as a “condition” by which God has to save us. Ephesians 2:5,8 makes it very clear that we are “saved by grace.” Therefore, we can say without any doubt whatsoever that “we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved” (Acts 15:11); “for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11); and here “has appeared to all men” simply means God’s “so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3) has ‘shine upon, that is, become (literally) visible or (figuratively) known’ to all human beings wherever the Gospel is proclaimed, and is heard by anyone. But we have to say that absolutely NOT every sinner in the world “hears” the Gospel; and therefore, they die “having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12); and without the Grace of God they remain in the same state into eternity. Furthermore, it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Note that our salvation is ALL of God’s doing, that is, God saving us because it pleases Him! HALLELUJAH!

Therefore, since God’s Grace means that He ‘freely saves us by doing us the favor of saving us even though we don’t deserve to be saved,’ it is UNCONDITIONAL from FIRST to LAST, in that God “who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9). How much more does this proves that our Salvation is UNCONDITIONAL in that we didn’t even exist when it was “given”to us; but it was “reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4) for that particular moment in which He would save us UNCONDITIONALLY “by His Grace!!!” Therefore,to deny that our Salvation IS NOT by God’s Grace ALONE through Faith ALONE in the Lord Jesus Christ ALONE, and His Redemption provided by Him, is to say that God CANNOT, or is UNABLE save the “first” of sinners; but has to depend on the sinner for God to save him!

SECONDLY, let us consider with Why Is Election Unconditional? Note that it is stated God “has chosen us in Him (i.e. in Christ) BEFORE the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him, in love having predestinated us into the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He has made us accepted in the Beloved, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:4-5). Here we see Election and Salvation connected together in Christ Jesus to ALL that are Unconditionally Chosen in Christ in that God does it ALL Unconditionally; in other words, there are no “conditions” for us to fulfill and accomplish, in that it is ALL done by “the God of ALL grace” (1 Peter 5:10) as He pleases!!! Amen.

THIRDLY, it folows then, that, we are to be grateful that God has chosen us to be saved. The apostle Paul reminds the believers of the church of Thessalonica that “we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning CHOSEN YOU TO SALVATION through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: into which He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). The word here “chosen” is different than the one on Ephesians 1:4, which means ‘to select.’ Here it is ‘to take one for oneself, that is, prefer.’ Oh, how that should humble us to know that God chose us to be saved because He DETERMINED to take us for Himself, that is, preferred to choose us for salvation simply because it pleased Him to do so UNCONDITIONALLY!

FOURTHLY, our Election to Salvation was NOT dependent on anything of ourselves, or from ourselves: IT WAS ALL IN CHRIST JESUS HIMSELF IN WHOM WE ARE CHOSEN TO BE SAVED!!! What does this mean? God didn’t look to us, or “depend” on us, in order to be Elected or Saved! In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ IS the Elect of God (Isaiah 42:1): “Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine Elect, in whom My soul delights; I have put My Spirit upon Him: He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles” (cp. 1 Peter 2:4,6). As the Lord Jesus Christ IS the Elect of God from Eternity, and so in Him God chose ALL of His Elect (Ephesians 1:4) to “be holy and without blame before Him” in that God has made ALL the Elect “in Christ Jesus,” to be “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Amen.

FIFTHLY, in closing let me say this: Election and Salvation IS NOT APART from “testifying the Gospel of the Grace of God” (Acts 20:24); and so the ALL of the Elect will be saved by the means of hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They have to hear that Christ Jesus died for sinners on the Cross and resurrected bodily from the Grave. They have to hear that is demanded “Repentance toward God, and Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21); as He Himself declares: “Repent you, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). So, in asking: “What must I do be saved?” (Acts 16:30); the Scriptural response will be: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and YOU shall be saved…” (v.31); and ALL by Grace ALONE through Faith ALONE in the Lord Jesus Christ ALONE: ALL to the Glory of God ALONE!!! HALLELUJAH!!! Amen.

A Look at the Ordo Salutis (Guest Post)

A Look at the Ordo Salutis (Guest Post)

Our favorite visiting professor, James Quiggle, has once again brought us a very thought-provoking and interesting lesson. Below he takes us on a look at the ordo salutis…

The phrase “Ordo Salutis” is Latin for “order of salvation.” The Ordo Salutis is a theological construct attempting to place the works of God in salvation into a rational sequence of events.

The Ordo Salutis as generally accepted has two variations.

Election — Calling — Regeneration — Salvation — Justification — Adoption — Sanctification — Perseverance — Glorification.

Election — Calling – Salvation — Regeneration — Justification — Adoption — Sanctification — Perseverance — Glorification.

The difference in the variation is just this: does regeneration precede salvation, or does salvation precede regeneration.

Salvation is the result of the exercise of faith. Regeneration is typically viewed as the changes in human nature caused by the Holy Spirit as a result of salvation. The regeneration of human nature might be defined as the attributes of human nature, which were jumbled and wrongly prioritized by the sin attribute, are normalized, which is to say, godliness is restored to human nature through the godly attributes of holiness, righteousness, love, mercy, etc. The believer is given new wants and new desires. His/her human nature is re-prioritized toward God.

The difference in the two Ordo Salutis above is an effort to answer the question, “What is the origin of saving faith?” Now, without question, the ultimate origin of saving faith is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8. But some believe saving faith is the result of regeneration, while others believe regeneration is the result of saving faith.

Let me set aside the finer details (the ongoing debate) of those two points of view, and say there is some truth in each. There is an undeniable, and unalterable, and therefore inevitable principle that both views acknowledge, but neither view specifically answers. That principle is expressed in several locations in the New Testament, but stated clearly at 1 Corinthians 2:14. The principle is: the unsaved person cannot understand spiritual things.

That being the case, how does the unsaved person come to a necessary understanding of sin, the Savior, and salvation? The gospel in its simplest form is, “I am a sinner, the risen Jesus Christ is my Savior”: my sin, Jesus the Savior, my salvation from sin. But those spiritual concepts are “foolishness” to the unsaved person. He/she is incapable of understanding. Yes, the Holy Spirit brings conviction of those three necessary concepts, but he does not work in a spiritual vacuum. The sinner is unable to understand. The thing needed is the ability to perceive spiritual things.

In the here and now of the mortal unsaved life, the penalty of unforgiven sin is separation from the spiritual life of God, which is to say, spiritually “dead.” Spiritually dead means the ability to perceive spiritual things is in the unsaved person grossly dulled, “dead” in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1. Of course, the unsaved soul is not spiritually unresponsive; that is not what spiritually dead means. To be spiritually dead is 1) to lack the ability to understand spiritual things, and therefore 2) unremitting rejection of spiritual things as foolishness. In the context of salvation, the unsaved person is unable to discern the things the Holy Spirit teaches as necessary to believe for salvation.

How may that understanding be gained? Through the ability to perceive (understand) spiritual things. I believe spiritual perception is a faculty of human nature, an ability designed into the human soul by God. Sin renders that faculty grossly dulled, unable to comprehend spiritual things; hence 1 Corinthians 2:14. In the unsaved sinner the soul’s faculty of spiritual perception is “dead.”

What, then, must take place so the sinner is able to understand? My answer is the soul’s faculty of spiritual perception must be made alive for there to be understanding of spiritual things. How is this done? We return to the Ordo Sautis.

I think the regeneration that precedes salvation is partial (not a particularly good word, but the best I can do). I believe the gift of God (Eph 2:8) enlivens the soul’s faculty of spiritual perception so the spiritual issues of sin, the Savior, and salvation may be understood, and saving faith exercised. Then after the exercise of saving faith, the entire human nature is regenerated.

With that understanding, I see the Ordo Salutis as:

— Election

— Calling (through the Gift of God which enlivens the soul’s faculty of spiritual perception)

— Salvation

— Positional Justification

— Positional Sanctification

— Regeneration (of the entire human nature)

— Adoption (as son and heir)

— Perseverance (Experiential Sanctification)

— Glorification.

I have put the elements of the Ordo Salutis in what I believe to be a more reasonable order. Regardless of the order of salvation, the believer is saved to be a new creation in Christ Jesus.

What is Election? (guest post)

What is Election? (guest post)

The following is provided by our dear friend, the eminent theologian and most learned scholar, James Quiggle…

Some may not know what election is, others many not understand, and many may have heard only a distorted view of election. Here is a brief explanation. First a definition.

Election. The choice of a sovereign God, 1) to give the gift of grace-faith-salvation to effect the salvation of some sinners, and 2) to take no action, positive or negative, to either effect or deny salvation to other sinners. The decree of election includes all means necessary to effectuate salvation in those elected. [Quiggle, “Dictionary of Doctrinal Words,” s. v. “Election (1)”]

The Greek word translated “he chose” in Ephesians 1:4 (most versions) is eklégō [Zodhiates, s. v. “1586”]. The word means “to select, to choose,” and is translated choose, chose, chosen, or elect in twenty-two verses. This word, as used by the Greeks and Romans, and as used by the New Testament writers, does not necessarily imply an adverse or negative action toward those not chosen. Nor, as used by the New Testament writers in regard to election to salvation, does this word imply something meritorious in those chosen, or something undesirable in those not chosen. When used with regard to salvation, eklégō simply means God made a choice. [Quiggle, “God’s Choices,” 17.]

God, before he created anything, saw all human beings as sinners. In the foreordaining acts of God to sovereignly make a universe according to his purpose in creating, God created a sinless human being, Adam. God chose to allow Adam to choose his path in life. The choices available to Adam were continued submission and obedience to God’s authority, Genesis 2:17, or rebellion against God. Adam chose rebellion, Genesis 3:6. The principle of rebellion against God is known as “sin.” Adam’s disobedience to God’s commandment added the principle of rebellion, sin, to his human nature, permanently changing Adam from sinless to sinner.

Adam was the seminal and legal representative of his descendants: his sin became their sin. Seminally his sin became their sin because Adam’s sin changed his human nature, adding the principle of rebellion against God. When Adam procreated, his sinful nature was inherited by his descendants, Genesis 5:3. Thus, Romans 5:12, sin entered the world through one man’s sin and spread to all human beings, so that all in Adam die, 1 Corinthians 15:22. Legally, Adam was the representative of his race, the legal head because the seminal head. The judicial guilt of Adam’s sin was imputed to his descendants. (Just as the righteousness of Christ is imputed to those who are his “descendants,” not physically, but those who believe on him for salvation.)

God, then, in the process of his foreordaining choices, saw all human beings—the descendants of Adam— as sinners because of Adam’s sin. God sovereignly chose to save some sinners, justly leaving the rest as he found them. God never says why he made an electing choice, nor the reasons for the choice, nor the reasons for his particular choices (which individuals he would elect). God, with all his attributes acting in union and harmony, chose to establish a covenant relationship with some sinners, and bring them into that covenant through salvation. God made a decision of his will, not an emotional decision. God’s decision toward the non-elect to leave them as he found them, in their sin, was also not an emotional decision, but a decision of his will that, like the decision to elect some, would fulfill his purpose in creating.

God’s love and mercy in election was his decision to seek the best good for some sinners, without expectation of recompense or reciprocity, and without consideration of their merit (they had none) or demerit, 1 John 4:10. He made this decision without favoritism toward the elect. Those God elected were chosen in love and mercy (Ephesians 1:4; 2:4) to be saved, sanctified, and adopted, to the praise of his glory. That same love does not prevent any non-elect from choosing to come to God through faith in God’s testimony concerning salvation to believe and be saved.

Because election does not prejudice God against the non-elect, God would, in fact, act savingly toward any non-elect if they did choose to seek him and come to him for salvation. But their desire for their sin persuades them to make the choice to reject God. Sin is an attribute of fallen human nature, a principle or attribute of evil that motivates human beings to rebel against God, disobey his commandments, and seek a path in life apart from God. Sin has authority (dominion, rule) over the sinner, not as some invincible overlord, but as an innate part of human nature constructively working with all the other attributes of human nature to persuasively incline the will to choose an act of sinning. The evil attribute sin influences every other attribute with the inclination to sin, and in that sense sin can be said to dominate the will. The sinner freely chooses sinning because his will is of itself always inclined to choose sinning, and as being rebellious and disobedient toward God never desires to change its inclination to choose sinning to rebel against God, disobey his commandments, and seek a path in life apart from God.

The propitiation (atonement) Christ made on the cross for sin completely satisfied God’s justice for the crime of sin, all sin, 1 John 2:2; Romans 3:25. Propitiation (atonement) powers redemption, but propitiation is not redemption. Propitiation is directed toward God to satisfy God’s justice for the crime of sin. God’s justice being satisfied, God could act righteously to redeem sinners according to his sovereign choices.

God, for reasons suitable to his purpose in creating, reasons known only to himself, acted sovereignly to choose to redeem some sinners (election, Ephesians 1:4) by applying the merit of Christ’s propitiation, through his gift of grace-faith-salvation (Ephesians 2:8) to their spiritual need, thereby regenerating their soul, leading to the sinner’s exercise of faith, and the forgiveness of sins. Election guarantees the salvation of the elect, but neither helps nor hinders the non-elect, who could be saved, if they would freely choose to be saved. But the desire of the non-elect for their sin is so powerful they do not choose to be saved. Thus the necessity of God’s gift of grace-faith-salvation to effect faith and salvation in the sinner.

An illustration of election. The river of sinful humankind 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 puts his saved people on the shore encouraging all to believe on Christ and be saved; he saves all that come to him by faith in his testimony of salvation.

A complete explanation of foreordination and election may be found in my book, “God’s Choices, the Doctrines of Foreordination, Election, and Predestination.”

Unlimited Propitiation, Limited Redemption (Guest Post)

Unlimited Propitiation, Limited Redemption (Guest Post)

Author and Theologian, James Quiggle has brought us another excellent post. This time on Propitiation and Redemption

 

God sent Christ to the cross to propitiate (fully satisfy) God for the judicial debt due the crime of man’s sins, 1 John 2:2; Romans 3:25. Propitiation: the satisfaction Christ made to God for sin by dying on the cross. Christ’s propitiation fully satisfied God’s holiness and justice for the crime of sin. Christ’s propitiation was of infinite merit, because his Person is of infinite worth, thereby being sufficient for all the sins of the all the world.

God himself specifically applies the infinite merit of Christ’s propitiation according to his decree of election, Ephesians 1:4, through his gift of grace-faith-salvation, Ephesians 2:8. Election: The choice of a sovereign God, 1) to give the gift of grace-faith-salvation to effect the salvation of some sinners, and 2) to take no action, positive or negative, to either effect or deny salvation to other sinners. The decree of election includes all means necessary to effectuate salvation in those elected.

The sum of these things is the unlimited merit of Christ’s propitiation, and the limited redemption that merit is used to accomplish. Put in terms of an ongoing controversy, Christ did not die only for the elect, he died to propitiate God for all sins. Not to redeem all sinners, but to propitiate God for all sins. In familiar terms this is known as Unlimited Atonement and Limited Redemption.

The unlimited merit of Christ’s propitiation is not universal salvation. That misguided belief confuses propitiation with redemption. Propitiation is God acting toward God to satisfy God for the crime of sin. Redemption is God acting toward man to effect the forgiveness of a person’s judicial debt for his or her sins.

Some Reformed theologians, from the time of the Synod of Dort (1619) have taken a shortcut through doctrine to say since the merit of the propitiation is applied only to the elect, then Christ died only for the elect. (The technical term is a metonymy (a substitution) of the effect for the cause.) But that shortcut undermines the truthfulness of the gospel call to every sinner (discussed below), and denies the clear statement of 1 John 2:2, not for our sins only but also for all the world. The careless distort doctrine and thereby create error.

The merit of propitiation (the older term is atonement) must be applied to effect redemption. Every Old Testament example of forgiveness of sin through sacrifice teaches the merit of the shed blood, the atonement, must be applied by faith to effect forgiveness of sins to accomplish redemption.

The redemption Christ’s propitiation accomplishes is limited and particular, because applied according to a specific purpose, through a specific means, to specific individuals. That specific purpose is God’s choice to save some not others: the decree of election, Ephesians 1:4. That specific means is God’s gift of grace-faith-salvation, Ephesians 2:8, given only to the elect. The specific individuals are those whom God has chosen to give his gift of grace-faith-salvation according to his decree of election.

God’s decree of election does not prevent any from coming and believing; thus the legitimacy of a gospel call to all sinners. In the 48 uses of the Greek words for choice, none of those uses ever says anything negative about the ones not chosen. Those words are eklégō (Strong’s 1586); eklektós (Strong’s 1588); eklektós (Strong’s 1589). Do the word study, see for yourself.

The gospel call is directed toward “whoever desires,” Revelation 22:17; whoever believes on him, John 3:16; Romans 10:11; 1 John 5:1; whoever calls on the name of the Lord, Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13. If, as some propose, Christ died only for the elect, then God is a liar when he states in the gospel that “whoever desires, whoever believes, whoever calls” on the name of the Lord will be saved.

That offer to “whoever” is why propitiation is not redemption, and why election does not prevent any from coming and believing. The infinite merit of Christ’s propitiation is available for any who “desire, believe, call upon” to be saved. The decree of election takes no action, positive or negative, to either effect or deny salvation to other sinners. The call to believe is a genuine offer to all, the moral responsibility to believe is genuine requirement for all, salvation is genuinely available to any “whoever” who might “desire, believe, call upon” the Lord to be saved.

Why, then, are only the elect saved? Because the unsaved sinner is unable to overcome his or her desire to remain a sinner. The evil attribute sin in human nature influences every other attribute with the inclination to sin, and in that sense sin can be said to dominate the will. The sinner freely chooses sinning because his will is of itself always inclined to choose sinning, and as being rebellious and disobedient toward God never desires to change its inclination to choose sinning to rebel against God, disobey his commandments, and seek a path in life apart from God.

Thus the necessity of God’s gift of grace-faith-salvation. The propitiation (atonement) is sufficient for all, but is efficient to redeem only the elect, because only the elect receive God’s gift of grace-faith-salvation. The sinner is unable to initiate saving faith because his will is of itself always inclined to choose sinning, and as being rebellious and disobedient toward God never desires to change its inclination to choose sinning.

The problem some in Reformed theology have is basic ignorance of the doctrines they profess to believe. Thus the unbiblical statement, Christ died only for the elect. No, Christ died for the purpose of fully satisfying—propitiating—God’s holiness and justice for the crime of sin. That is why the propitiation was, “not for our sins only, but also for all the world,” 1 John 2:2. And having been satisfied for all sins, God could act in justice and holiness to genuinely offer salvation to all, and act according to his sovereign will to apply that merit in truthfulness, justice, and holiness to those whom he has chosen to be his legacy out of the world (Ephesians 1:11).

None are prevented from “desiring, believing, coming,” because the gospel call is legitimately made to all. But the fact of sin is that only those whom God has given his gift will desire, believe, and come.

Therefore do not confuse atonement (propitiation) with redemption. The atonement (Christ’s propitiation) was directed toward God only, in order to satisfy God’s justice and holiness for the judicial debt of the crime of sin. Redemption is directed toward man by God through election, Eph 1:4, to redeem sinners through the applied merit of Christ’s propitiation, via the gift of grace-faith-salvation, Eph 2:8.

The definitive statement on biblical salvation was accomplished by the Synod of Dort, 1618–1619. Here are the portions applicable to this discussion, from the Canons of the Synod of Dort.

SECOND HEAD OF DOCTRINE, Of the Death of Christ and the Redemption of Men Thereby, Article 3, “The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.” In familiar terms Unlimited Atonement/Propitiation.

FIRST HEAD OF DOCTRINE, Of Divine Predestination, Article 6, “That some receive the gift of faith from God and others do not receive it proceeds from God’s eternal decree, for ‘known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world’ (Acts 15:18). ‘Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will’ (Eph. 1:11). According to which decree, He graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while He leaves the non-elect in His just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy.”

Article 7, “Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, He hath out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will, chosen, from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault from their primitive state of rectitude into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ.”

SECOND HEAD OF DOCTRINE, Of the Death of Christ and the Redemption of Men Thereby, Article 8, “For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation”

Or, as the summary states: “While the death of Christ is abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world, its saving efficacy is limited to the elect.” Unlimited Propitiation, Limited Redemption.”

Christ died on the cross to propitiate God for all sin, so God could act in justice, holiness and righteousness to save sinners. Salvation: The application of Christ’s infinite merit to overcome the demerit of sin and save a soul, specifically applied through God’s gift of grace-faith-salvation, according to God’s sovereign decree of election, then personally applied by each sinner through saving faith in Christ, in response to receiving God’s gift of grace-faith-salvation.

The 4-fold Gospel (A.B.Simpson)

The 4-fold Gospel (A.B.Simpson)

Perhaps one of my favorite articles by A.B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, is the 4-fold Gospel. This article looks at 4 ministries of Jesus found in the 4 Gospels: Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, Soon Coming King.

 

The link below is provided by permission of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. As with them, I pray it blesses you.

 

The 4-Fold Gospel PDF

Arminianism- The F.A.C.T.S.

Arminianism- The F.A.C.T.S.

Many of my Calivnist Brethren, in their zeal to defend Scriptural Truth, often  and unfortunately mischaracterize the soteriology of the Arminians.

 

While I do disagree with them, as a Calvinist my own self, I emphatically oppose characterizing Arminians as heretics. In the link below, Dr. Brian Abasciano lays out Arminian Soteriology on behalf of the Society of Evangelical Arminians.

 

The F.A.C.T.S.

1 John 2:2 and Calvinism

1 John 2:2 and Calvinism

While discussing Calvinism with a colleague, 1 John 2:2 came up.

Here is the text of the verse before we consider…

 “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

It has been said that this verse poses a problem for Calvinism but I disagree. The text clearly demonstrates that anyone who wants to can be saved. What it does not address is the question of who wants to be saved.

We tend to overthink matters and thereby complicate things. Does Scripture teach Divine Election?  Yes. Does the Scripture teach that man is responsible for his sin? Yes. Does the Scripture teach that only the Elect are saved? Yes. Does the Scripture teach us who comprises the Elect? NO!! Therein lies the problem with being too rigid in certain systems. God does not make a habit of revealing anything more than we need to know. Therefore we get in trouble if we go further than He has revealed and presume to know that which is not our business.

1 John 2:2 is not a problem for Calvinists any more than it is a proof of Arminianism. It is simply a fact laid out in Scripture. Here is the fact: The penal substitutionary atoning death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is absolutely sufficient for anyone that wants to be saved. This particular verse does not speak to who it is that would want to be saved and there need not be any controversy over the verse. In fact the only reason there is a controversy is that humand create one where one need not exist.

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.