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Regeneration and the New Birth

Regeneration and the New Birth

In Jn 3:1-8, Jesus discusses one of the foundational doctrines (i.e., teachings, foundational principles, basis of belief) of the Christian faith: regeneration (Tit 3:5), or spiritual birth. Without being “born again” in a spiritual sense, a person cannot become part of God’s kingdom. This means that a person’s life must be spiritually renewed in order to be spiritually saved and to receive God’s gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. The following are important facts about spiritual birth and renewal.

  1. Regeneration, or spiritual birth, is an inward re-creating of a person spiritually–a life transformation (total change or remaking of the person’s attitude, thinking, and actions) that occurs from the inside out (Ro 12:2; Eph 4:23-24). It is a work of the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:6; Tit 3:5; and through this work of transformation, God passes on his gift of eternal life. It marks the beginning of a new and personal relationship with God for those who yield their lives to Christ (Jn 3:16; 2Pe 1:4; 1Jn 5:11). Spiritual birth is the way a person becomes a child of God (Jn 1:12; Ro 8:16-17; Gal 3:26) and a “new creation” (2Co 5:17; Col 3:9-10). A person who is born again spiritually will no longer conform or live according to the character and influence of the ungodly beliefs, behaviors, and lifestyles of the world (Ro 12:2). Instead, he or she is “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24;

  2. Spiritual birth is necessary because all people, apart from Christ, are sinful by nature (i.e., separated from and in opposition to God) from birth. On our own, we are not capable of having a close personal relationship with God. Without the life-transforming power of his Holy Spirit, we could not continue to obey and please God (Ps 51:5; Jer 17:9; Ro 8:7-8; 1Co 2:14; Eph 2:3.

  1. Spiritual birth happens to those who repent of sin (i.e., admit their sin and turn from their own way), turn to God (Mt 3:2) and yield control of their lives to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord–the Forgiver of their sins and Leader of their lives (see Jn 1:12, note). The beginning of this experience of spiritual salvation involves “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Tit 3:5). Though spiritual birth is an immediate experience that takes place as soon as a person truly repents and accepts God’s forgiveness, God continually renews and transforms a Christian’s mind (Ro 12:2) and inner being (Eph 4:23). This spiritual renewal is an ongoing, “day-by-day” process (2Co 4:16;)

  1. Spiritual birth involves a transition, or complete change, from an old life of sin (i.e., going our own way, which is a path of rebellion against God) to a new life of obedience to Jesus Christ (2Co 5:17; Gal 6:15; Eph 4:23-24; Col 3:10). This means that there should be noticeable changes in a Christian’s attitude and lifestyle (see 1Pe 4:1-2). Those who are truly born again are set free from slavery to sin so they can fulfill God’s purpose for their lives (see Jn 8:36, note; Ro 6:14-23). They receive a renewed attitude and desire to obey God and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit (Ro 8:13-14). By depending on him, they do what is right by God’s standards (1Jn 2:29), they love others in words and actions (1Jn 4:7), they avoid things that defy and displease God (1Jn 3:9; 5:18) and they do not set their affections on temporary, worldly things (1Jn 2:15-16).

  2. Those who are born again spiritually cannot continue to sin (i.e., go their own way, ignore, or defy God’s commands and standards; see 1Jn 3:9, note). They cannot remain in a right personal relationship with God unless they earnestly pursue God’s purposes and carefully avoid evil (1Jn 1:5-7). This is possible only by relying on God’s grace (i.e., his undeserved favor, mercy, and empowerment; see 1Jn 2:3-11, 15-17, 24-29; 3:6-24; 4:7-8, 20; 5:1), by maintaining a strong and growing relationship with Christ (see Jn 15:4, note) and by depending on the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit (Ro 8:2-14). For further comments on the character traits that should be evident in a spiritually born-again person.

 NATURE AND THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT.

  1. It does not matter how spiritual a person may talk, seem or claim to be, if he or she lives by principles that are immoral and follows the ways of the world, the person’s conduct shows that there is no spiritual life within and that he or she is instead living like a child of the devil (1Jn 3:6-10).

  2. Just as a person can be “born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:8) by trusting God and receiving his gifts of forgiveness and eternal life, he or she can also forfeit, or lose, that life by making foolish, selfish and ungodly choices and by refusing to trust God. As a result, he or she will miss out on the life God offers and will die spiritually. God’s Word warns, “if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die” (Ro 8:13). Even as believers, if we continue the path of sin and refuse to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance (which he gives mainly through God’s Word and our conscience), we can put out the light of God’s life in our soul and lose our place in God’s kingdom (cf. Mt 12:31-32; 1Co 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Heb 6:4-6; 1Jn 5:16.

  3. The new birth that comes only through God’s Spirit cannot be compared equally with physical birth because God’s relationship with his followers is a spiritual matter rather than an act of the flesh or human effort (Jn 3:6). This also means that while the physical tie of a father and child can never be completely reversed or lost, the Father/child relationship that God desires with us is voluntary; and we can choose to walk away or deny it during our time on earth (see Ro 8:13, note). Our relationship with God and eternal life with him are conditional and depend on our ongoing faith in Christ that is shown by lives of obedience and genuine love for him (Ro 8:12-14; 2Ti 2:12).

     In summary, spiritual birth, or regeneration, brings: spiritual cleansing (Jn 3:5; Tit 3:5); the indwelling of God’s Spirit (Ro 8:9; 2Co 1:22); transformation into a “new creation” in Christ (2Co 5:17); adoption as God’s spiritual child (Jn 1:12-13; Ro 8:16; Gal 3:26; 4:4-6); the Holy Spirit’s guidance and understanding of spiritual things (Jn 16:13-15; 1Co 2:9-16; 1Jn 2:27); the ability to live right by God’s standards and to develop his character traits (Gal 5:16-23; 1Jn 2:29; 5:1-2); victory over sin (1Jn 3:9; 5:4, 18); and an eternal inheritance with Christ (Ro 8:17; Gal 4:7; 1Pe 1:3-4).

 

Excerpted from the Life in the Spirit Study Bible c. 2008 by Life Publishers International in association with Zondervan

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
Is Arminianism Heretical? (An analysis and guest post from James Quiggle)

Is Arminianism Heretical? (An analysis and guest post from James Quiggle)

Many Calvinsts are quick to damn those who hold to Arminianism as heretics, but are they really? In this fascinating essay, Visiting Professor James Quiggle, a frequent and beloved guest, here, endevors to answer this question with technical precision and Christian charity.

Is Arminianism Heretical?

I understand Calvinism and Arminian soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). I am qualified to render an opinion on Arminianism as to heretical or not. If the details of theology are not your thing, keep reading anyway. We also need to look at some history.

Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) developed his soteriological views in opposition to the supralapsarianism order of God’s decrees (respecting salvation) which were developed by John Calvin (1509–1564) and others, of what today is known as high Calvinism.

In the supralapsarian order of God’s decrees (respecting salvation) an election to both salvation and to reprobation is the first decree. The supra- order is: decree to elect to salvation and reprobation (damnation); decree to create; decree to permit the fall; decree to send Christ to redeem those elected to salvation; decree to send the Holy Spirit to effect salvation.

Here is the significance: in the supralapsarian order no human being was seen by God as a sinner when God elected some to be saved and some to be damned. The supralapsarian order is based solely on God’s sovereignty, at a time in the order of God’s decrees when no human being was seen by God as a sinner. The Arminian view of soteriology was developed to oppose the supralapsarian view that non-sinners were elected to reprobation (eternal damnation).

The “Five points of Arminianism” were developed a few years after Arminius’ death by his followers, as a means to systematically express their disagreement with the, at that time, prevailing supralapsarian view. The Synod of Dort and its Canons (doctrines) were a direct response to the Arminian five points. Is it important? The Synod thought so, they took seven months (Nov 1618 – May 1619), and 154 open-to-the-public sessions (and many side conferences), to discuss the issues.

The “Five Points of Calvinism” were developed *after* the Synod, based on their Canons. The ideas were in the Canons, but not stated in five points. Those five points *do not* express supralapsarianism, but express an order of God’s decrees that came to be known as infralapsarianism. (Both the Arminian five points and the Canons of the Synod of Dort are available online.) (BTW, the earliest known, documented use of the acronym TULIP was 1905.)

The word “lapsarian” means “after the lapse.” The “lapse” is the fall of humankind into sin. The word “supra” means “above, before.” “Supralapsarian” means “before the lapse, i.e., God elected some to salvation and others to damnation before the fall into sin. The word “infra” means “below, after.” Infralapsarian means “after the lapse,” i.e., God elected some to salvation after the fall into sin. There is no election to reprobation in infralapsarianism.

The infralapsarian order of God’s decrees is this: decree to create; decree to permit the fall; decree to elect some to salvation (no election to reprobation); decree to provide a redeemer for the elect; decree to send the Holy Spirit to effect salvation.

There is third order in Calvinistic soteriology, the sublapsarian order: decree to create; decree to permit the fall; decree to provide a redeemer; decree to elect some to salvation; decree to send the Holy Spirit to effect salvation.

Supra- sees no person as a sinner when God decreed his election. The significance of infra- and sub- is God saw all persons as sinners before he elected some to salvation, and left others are they were, as non-elect sinners. The difference between infra- and sub-, is when God decreed to provide a redeemer in relation to the decree of election. In infra- the redeemer is provided after election. In sub- the redeemer is provided before election.

Many Calvinists’ opposed the supra- election to reprobation, is why the infra- and sublapsarian views were developed. Is the difference between sub- and infra- important? Yes, in infra- the benefits of Christ’s propitiation of God for sin are directed only toward the elect. In sub- the benefits extend to all humankind: mercy and common grace to all human beings; salvation to the elect. As the Synod of Dort stated: Christ’s propitiation was sufficient for all, efficient to salvation for the elect.

Calvinistic ”Unconditional Election” is sometimes described as “God elected on the basis of his free grace.” No, “free grace,” aka, sovereign grace, is the consequence of election, not the basis of election. Here is genuinely biblical Unconditional Election: God chose some to salvation for no reason explained in the Scripture—we don’t know why.

The unconditional election of some to salvation but not others was not based on any merit or lack of merit in the person, thus not based on foresight of who would or who would not believe. God chose for reasons known only to God that suited his purpose in creating. The choice was neither arbitrary nor unjust: God viewed all persons as sinners before electing some to salvation, choosing to leave others as they were. Election does not prejudice God against the non-elect; they could be saved if they would come to God with faith in God and his testimony as to the way of salvation. They are not saved because they desire their sin more than a relationship with God.

The Arminian “Conditional Election” was not specifically written to oppose sovereign grace, but to oppose the supralapsarian election to reprobation. The Arminian view of election is known as “foresight election”: God foreknew who would believe and then elected those people to salvation. The Arminianism “Conditional Election,” naturally opposes supralapsarian election to salvation and election to reprobation. But Arminian “Conditional Election” also opposes the infralapsarian, sublapsarian, and biblical views of unconditional election.

Arminian soteriology does believe salvation is by God’s grace, but they differ from Calvinism in how that grace is applied. In Calvinistic salvation God’s prevenient grace (Ephesians 2:8) is applied to specific individuals whom God elected to receive that grace. That prevenient grace is efficacious to save: every sinner receiving God’s efficacious grace will infallibly believe.

In Arminian salvation, God’s prevenient grace (Ephesians 2:8) is applied indiscriminately to everyone. That prevenient grace makes it possible for anyone to choose to believe. In Calvinistic soteriology, prevenient grace is necessary because sin makes the sinner unable to believe to salvation. In Arminian soteriology, prevenient grace makes salvation possible for all, sin does not make the sinner unable to believe, so anyone can believe, or not believe, as he or she chooses.

With that historical and theological background, I can now accurately state the thing in common between any system of Calvinistic soteriology (supra-, infra-, sub-) and Arminian soteriology. In both Calvinism and Arminian views of salvation, Christ propitiated God for sin, God elected, and God must give prevenient grace (Ephesians 2:8) for a sinner to be saved. Thus both soteriologies agree sinners are able to be saved. But both differ significantly in the details of how a person is saved.

If, **which it is not**, the differences between Calvinism and Arminian soteriology were the only defining quality between heretical and not heretical, then the Arminian soteriology is not the biblical soteriology. But, and this is important, neither is the high Calvinism supralapsarianism. Both are wrong for different reasons. In Calvinistic supralapsarianism God is a monster who arbitrarily elects to damnation people who have not sinned. In Arminian soteriology God is not the sovereign God who initiates salvation but the helpless God who responds to the choices of his creature.

What is biblical soteriology?

Unsaved sinners have Total Inability to initiate their salvation, because the sin attribute dominates every aspect of human nature;

God, for reasons not stated in the Scripture, chose to give some sinners his gift of Prevenient Grace, Ephesians 2:8, thereby effecting the means to their salvation; there is no corresponding election to reprobation;

God’s gift of prevenient grace is Efficacious Grace: it infallibly accomplishes the end for which it was given, which is the salvation of the chosen sinner;

Christ’s all-sufficient Propitiation of God (aka: atonement) for all human sin has benefits to all humankind (mercy, common grace), but is efficient to salvation only toward those whom God chose to receive its merit by his Efficacious Grace, through the person’s faith in God and God’s testimony; this is known as Limited Redemption;

All those whom God has saved will Persevere in the faith by faith to the end of life and beyond, because each is and will be endlessly maintained by the merit of Christ’s propitiation through God’s Efficacious Grace.

Or: Free Will Dominated by Sin; Christ’s All-sufficient Propitiation; Limited Redemption by Election; Enlivened by Efficacious Grace; Faith that Receives Salvation; Perseverance in the Faith by the Faith to the End.

Is the Arminian view of salvation heretical? No, but just barely. Arminian soteriology teaches God elected some to salvation, that salvation occurs because Christ propitiated God for sin, and God gives prevenient grace to salvation. The Scripture opposes other aspects of Arminian soteriology. But any soteriology that teaches salvation of the sinner through the forgiveness of sins based on the propitiation of Christ, which Arminianism does, cannot be judged wholly heretical.

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.

Thoughts on Soteriology (Guest Post)

Thoughts on Soteriology (Guest Post)

Visiting Professor, James Quiggle has offered us another excellent and thought provoking article, this time an excerpt from one if his books…

A Doctrinal Statement on Soteriology

(From “My Doctrine as a Dispensationalist,”

(James D. Quiggle.)

Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). For human beings to be saved God must convict the sinner of his/her sin and give the sinner his gift of grace-faith-salvation, Eph. 2:8. For a person to be saved he/she must respond to God-given conviction of sin and believe God and God’s testimony as the means by which God’s grace in salvation is to be accessed. Every salvation is by grace through faith, without personal merit (works) but Christ’s merit alone, Eph. 2:8–9.

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. God’s decree of election ensures the salvation of the elect, but does not prevent any non-elect sinner from coming or willing to be saved. God will act savingly toward any who choose to seek him and come to him for salvation (Rom. 10:13; Eph. 1:4; Rev. 22:17).

Propitiation. Christ alone propitiated God for the crime of sin. Propitiation is 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 (unlimited atonement/propitiation). The application of Christ’s merit to overcome the demerit of sin and save a soul is applied through the election God decreed before he created the universe, and is personally applied by each sinner through saving faith in Christ in response to God’s gift of grace-faith-salvation (limited redemption). Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the saved sinner so that he/she eternally stands uncondemned before a holy God, Rom. 8:31.

Salvation is when God rescues a sinner out of the state of spiritual death and delivers him or her into a permanent state of spiritual life. Salvation is the remission of sin’s guilt and penalty by the application of Christ’s infinite merit, which is gained by receiving God’s gift of grace-faith-salvation through the means of personal faith in God’s revealed means (way) of salvation. In this New Testament age salvation occurs when a sinner repents of his or her sins and believes on Christ as their Savior: Acts 2:38; 3:19–20; 11:18; Rom. 3:22–26; 10:9–10, 13; Gal. 3:22; 1 Pet. 1:21; 1 John 3:23.

Justification. A believer is permanently positionally justified in Christ: declared not guilty in Christ, Rom. 8:1. In salvation the believer is freed from the penalty of sin, the dominion (power) of sin, the desire for and pleasure of committing sin, and at death (or rapture) from the presence of sin, for eternity. At the moment of salvation the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence in the believer’s soul, John 14:17; Acts 10:44–48; 1 Cor. 6:19, regenerating human nature. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the now-believing sinner, and a new principle of life, holiness, is added to the believer, Eph. 4:24, becoming the dominating principle in his/her human nature, 1 Thess. 4:7; 1 Cor. 3:17b; Col. 3:12; 1 Pet. 1:15–16. The believer has been empowered to say “No,” to temptation to sin, and enforce that choice.

Sanctification. A believer is permanently positionally sanctified in Christ: declared holy in Christ. A believer is called to experiential sanctification: personal holiness and righteousness of life and to perform and maintain good works which God has prepared beforehand (Eph. 1:4; 2:10; 2:21; 5:26; Rom. 12:1; Titus 2:14; 3:8). He/she is empowered to resist sin’s temptations, live a holy life, understand the Scripture, worship, obey, fellowship with, and serve God. God hears and answers his/her prayers, and he/she perseveres by faith in the faith to lead a holy life, looking toward resurrection and eternal life in God’s presence.

Predestination. God’s decree to conform the believer to be like Christ according to certain aspects of Christ’s spiritual character and physical form (Rom. 8:29–30; 1 John 3:2), and to place the believer in the legal position of God’s son and heir (Eph. 1:5, 11), so that the believer has an inheritance from God and is God’s heritage.

Perseverance. The saved are kept eternally saved by the merit of Christ in the covenant between the Father and the Son that formed the New Testament church, Heb. 2:11–13; 10:9, 14, 17–18. God gives the grace of perseverance to overcome all spiritual and physical obstacles to faith and thereby believers continue by faith in the faith all the way through the end of physical life and into eternity. Believers are those persons who receive and use the God-given grace of perseverance. Those who do not persevere in the faith by faith were never saved. (Heb. 10:12, 14; Eph. 2:8–9; John 10:9, 27–29; Rom. 4:22–25; 5:1, 10–11, 18–19; 8:1; Heb. 10:17–18.)

The unsaved. Sinners who reject Christ throughout their mortal life are eternally lost. (Rom. 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 2:14; Rev 20:15). Their location after physical death is hades, there to wait in constant torment until the Great White Throne judgment (Luke 16:23; Rev. 20:11–15).

Expositor’s Bible Commentary 2-volume Set

Expositor’s Bible Commentary 2-volume Set

In this review, we are looking at a very helpful tool for both teachers and students of the Holy Scripture, the 2-Volume Expositor’s Bible Commentary Abridged Set from Zondervan Academic. Zondervan provided a copy of this set free of charge in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to give positive feedback, just honest feedback; my opinions are my own.

 

 

additional photos

From the publisher:

Based on the critically acclaimed, Gold Medallion-winning Expositor’s Bible Commentary used by pastors, students, and scholars across the world, this two-volume abridged edition offers you the full, penetrating, verse-by-verse commentary of the 12-volume series while leaving out needless technical details. Marshalling the knowledge of fifty-two top biblical scholars, it brings tremendous insight to your Bible studies.

Covering the Old and New Testaments in separate volumes, this commentary features:

  • Verse-by-verse exposition of the entire Bible
  • 250 in-text charts, maps, tables, and pictures
  • Goodrick/Kohlenberger numbers for cross-referencing the Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordanceand other G/K-numbered resources

 

Translation Used

Naturally, this commentary set is based on the New International Version. Zondervan is the primary publisher of the NIV in the United States so it is a logical choice for Zondervan Academic to base its resources on the NIV.

Goodrick & Kohlenberger’s Numbers

If you are familiar with Strong’s Numbers, which are most often paired with the KJV, you will immediately be familiar with these numbers. These serve as a gateway to study of the NIV text for expository purposes.

You will find these numbers in the NIV Exhaustive Concordance, NIV Concise Concordance and, my personal favorite tool, the NIV Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible, along wth many other study resources. I would rate this as my favorite feature of this commentary set primarly because they link excellent commentary with a broad spectrum of tools to give a very well rounded understanding of the text of Holy Scripture.

Book Introductions

The Introductions are fairly similar to those in the NIV Study Bible. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you had this set along with the NIV Study Bible, you might well be able to forego the full 12-volume set. While there is no outline provided, the introductions are not lacking in any way because of that fact.When perusing the Book Introductions, you will find both historical and theological background information. Rather than approaching the Theological Background information from a Systematic Theology Standpoint, we actually look at theology from a Biblical Theology (more of a global theology) perspective.

There is also a treatment of author, intended audience, date/place/time of the book’s composition including, as I mentioned earlier, historical background information.

Though not in the introduction proper, there is also a section called the Old Testament in the New which displays the NT use of OT Passages. It is available for each book of the Bible and I would rate it as the second most important feature of the commentary set. Why? We can sometimes see Scripture in a disjointed manner and this section helps to bring the Bible into view as a unified cohesive unit.

The Commentary Itself

As I was working with this set, I noticed a very interesting feature: Though there is no outline provided, the commentary is laid out in the format of a detailed expository outline. This layout is very similar to what Dr. Wiersbe did with his Expository Outlines of the Old and New Testaments but in more detail.

It is a hybrid of a verse by verse and paragraph exposition. Following section headings found in the NIV, the commentary takes a section at a time and provides exposition on the text.

This is, absolutely, a seminary grade commentary but at the same time it is very approachable. It is conservative without being afraid to treat alternative viewpoints. It is geared primarily toward the pastor-teacher but will serve any student of the Bible very well.

Ancillary Tools

Maps, charts, tables, and photos all add to the explanation of the text. It is clear that, with these tools, Zondervan Academic has considered that a huge portion of our learning occurs with visual aids.

The Physical Book

Both volumes are hard cover with what is commonly called book paper. It is not overly thick but it is sufficiently opaque for marking in the text.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with NIV Tools

This commentary pairs very well with several NIV tools but I want to call out a few, here:

NIV Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible

I touched on this earlier, but the inclusion of the Goodrick/Kohlenberger Numbers, the HGK study Bible lends itself perfectly to exposition of the text

NIV Study Bible

Zondervan’s premier exegetical resource, the NIV Study Bible offers a gateway to expository commentaries. The materials in the two tools complement each other very well. There is information in the NIVSB that is not in the commentary and the commentary takes the expositional notes in the study Bible to a much deeper and, I think, more helpful level.

NIV Text or Reference Bible

This commentary set is sufficiently detailed that it can stand alone with a Bible that does not include exegetical study aids.

Final Thoghts

I am impressed with the amount of help that Zondervan included in this “abridged” commentary set. It does not feel abridged at all. In fact, had I never seen its 12 volume big sister, I would not find anything lacking in this set. Truth be told, I do not find anything lacking now. I would like a bit larger font and, perhaps, some lined notes pages with each book but those are matters of personal preference.

I would recommend this, first and foremost, for a Sunday School Teacher. Many churches do not realize the vital role that Sunday School plays in developing the members of the church and so Sunday School Teachers are, often, not very well equipped. In fact, this particular commentary is so helpful for teaching the Bible that I would recommend that each church have a copy in their library so that teachers with limited financial means are able to access the resources provided.

Five Point Calvinism?? An Answer and an Apologetic (Guest Post)

Five Point Calvinism?? An Answer and an Apologetic (Guest Post)

That which is referred to as Calvinism, generally, and “5-point Calvinism,” specifically, is much misunderstood and maligned even moreso by those who mean well but lack a proper understanding of what we believe. To help us with that we are, once again, blessed to have received instruction from that dear friend and eminent theologian, James Quiggle. What folllows is his instrucion…

Every now and then I am asked if I am a “5-point Calvinist,” or a “4-point Calvinist,” or “Just what kind of Calvinist are you?!?”

Those questions reflect a misapprehension about Calvinism, even among Calvinists. The misapprehension is that Calvinism is a neither more nor less than a system of soteriology (doctrine of salvation). That, of course, is not true.

Calvinism was a revival of Augustinianism (Augustine of Hippo, d. AD 430). You are affirming the Calvinistic system of doctrine if you believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures, saved by grace through faith, the sovereignty of God, the three offices of the Christ (prophet, priest, king), the deity of Jesus Christ, and the deity, personality, and ministries of the Holy Spirit (conviction, salvation, teacher, administrator of the NT church, etc.). Calvin is, in fact, the person who defined for the NT church the person and work of the Holy Spirit as we understand that doctrine today.

But I digress.

Unfortunately, the entire Calvinistic system of theology has become defined by an acronym, the TULIP (explained below), developed from the Cannons of the Synod of Dort to express a Calvinistic view of soteriology. The Synod of Dort was a year-long examination of the soteriology of Jacobus Arminius. Both Arminius (1560–1609) and Calvin (1509–1564) were dead by the time of the Synod (1618–1619), so the theological conflict was debated by the followers of both systems of theology using the Bible and their respective writings. The decision of the Synod was published in a document known as the Canons of the Synod of Dort (available at many web sites). The Arminian view of soteriology was declared false, the biblical arguments of Calvinism were declared the true understanding of biblical soteriology.

But the TULIP does not accurately reflect Calvinistic soteriology as defined by the Canons of the Synod of Dort. Let us first examine the TULIP, albeit briefly. These may not be the definitions you have heard or read.

T — Total Depravity. This means every aspect of human nature—physical, moral, spiritual—is negatively affected by the sin attribute in human nature, with the result an unsaved human being is always in rebellion against God. The effect of the sin attribute on the spiritual aspect of human nature is to make the soul’s faculty of spiritual perception grossly dulled, to the extent the sinner is unable to comprehend spiritual matters, but instead rejects them, and as a result is unable to initiate saving faith.

U — Unconditional Election. This means God chose (election, Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2), for reasons not stated and therefore unknown, to give some human beings his gift of grace-faith-salvation (Ephesians 2:8), in order to redeem them from their sinful state of existence. And it means God chose to take no action, positive or negative, toward human beings he had not elected. God’s choices were not based on any intrinsic or foreseen merit in those whom he chose to elect to salvation, for when the decree of election was given, God saw all human beings as sinners, all completely undeserving of redemption.

L — I will explain this below.

I — Irresistible Grace. This means the grace God gives to an individual sinner through his gift of grace-faith-salvation (Ephesians 2:8) will enliven the sinner’s faculty of spiritual perception, so that the sinner who has received God’s gift will comprehend the spiritual issues of sin, the Savior, and salvation, with the result the sinner willingly chooses to exercise saving faith in God’s testimony as to the way/means of salvation. God’s gift of grace and faith always results in salvation.

P — Perseverance of the Saved. This means the saved person will continue in the faith by faith all the way through life and death, when (after death) he/she will receive the grace of indefectibility. Perseverance is often mischaracterized by another acronym, OSAS, Once Saved Always Saved, resulting in silly hypothetical questions from skeptics. Perseverance is not OSAS. Perseverance is both the continuance of faith and the continued practice of the faith. God gives the grace of perseverance to the believer, and the believer uses the grace of perseverance to mold his/her life of faith to continue in the faith by means of faith all the way through life and death.

Looking now to the 5-point/4-point issue. The “L” in the TULIP represents “Limited Atonement.” This is where the TULIP strays from the Canons of Dort. Limited atonement refers to Christ’s act of propitiation on the cross and his subsequent resurrection. It will be helpful to define Christ’s atonement-propitiation.

Propitiation. The satisfaction Christ made to God for sin by dying on the cross as the sin-bearer, 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10, for the crime of sin committed by human beings, suffering in their place and on their behalf. 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. Christ accomplished the propitiation of God for sin by enduring spiritual and physical death on the cross. Christ endured spiritual death when he was separated from fellowship with God (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”), and physical death when he separated his soul from his body (“[B]owing his head, he gave up his spirit.”)

But in the TULIP acronym, Christ’s propitiation, the “L,” has different meaning: Christ’s death on the cross to redeem the elect. This is often stated in the question, “For whom, did Christ die?” The TULIP answer is, only for the elect. But that is a significant departure from the Canons of Dort on which the TULIP is based.

The divines of the Synod of Dort were of two camps on the issue of Christ’s propitiation. Some believed in limited efficacy (only the elect are redeemed) and some believed in unlimited sufficiency (all the sins of the whole word are paid for). The Synod resolved this issue, as they did with all the issues, biblically. Both sides recognized the Scripture teaches both views. The Synod therefore taught both the universal sufficiency of the propitiation (atonement) and the limited effectiveness of the propitiation to save only the elect.

The Synod stated, Second Head of Doctrine, Article III, “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.” Thus, the gospel is offered “to all persons promiscuously [indiscriminately] and without distinction” (Article V). That many die unsaved is not due to “any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves.” Thus, an Unlimited Atonement/Propitiation.

The Synod then stated, Second Head of Doctrine, Article VIII, “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: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.” Thus, a Limited Redemption, sometimes known as Particular Redemption.

The “L” in the TULIP should have been “Limited Redemption,” not “Limited Atonement. Why did those who created the TULIP (not the divines of Dort) distort the teachings of the Synod? Because of a peculiar habit of the Puritans, perpetuated by Reformed Theology.

The Puritans had a bad habit of replacing the cause with the effect. The difference between election and predestination gives an example. The Puritans, and Reformed theology, always name election as predestination. But these are different decrees of God with different effects. Definitions.

Election. The choice of a sovereign God (Ephesians 1:4), 1) to give the gift of grace-faith-salvation to effect the salvation of some sinners (Ephesians 2:8), and 2) to take no action, positive or negative, to either effect or deny salvation to other sinners (Romans 10:13; Revelation 22:17). The decree of election includes all means necessary to effectuate salvation in those elected.

Predestination. God’s decree 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), and to place the believer in the legal position of God’s son and heir (Ephesians 1:5, 11), so that the believer has an inheritance from God and is God’s heritage.

More simply, election is a decree concerning sinners, predestination is a decree concerning the saved. Election is the cause, predestination the effect. Election-salvation is the cause of the effect predestination: to be like Christ. But the Reformed theology goes straight to the effect and names election as predestination.

So too Christ’s propitiation and the sinner’s redemption. Christ’s propitiation completely satisfied God’s justice for the crime of human sin. Then, God’s justice having been satisfied, the infinite merit of the propitiation is applied by God according to his decree of election via his gift of grace-faith-salvation. Propitiation is the cause, redemption the effect. But the Reformed theology goes straight to the effect and names Christ’s propitiation/atonement as redemption. Thus the confusion caused by the TULIP, and Reformed soteriology.

When the Canons of Dort are faithfully expressed, then one’s soteriology must acknowledge unlimited atonement/propitiation and limited redemption. But because Reformed theology distorts the atonement/propitiation to be redemption, they reject unlimited atonement, calling it universal salvation.

Unlimited Atonement (propitiation), is not universal salvation, because the direct purpose of the atonement was not redemption but judicial satisfaction toward God for the crime of sin.

For an atonement (propitiation) to be redemptive it must be applied by faith to the sinner’s demerit (his or her sin). That is clear from every Old Testament sacrifice for sin. On the first Passover in Egypt, the merit of the lamb’s blood was sufficient for every household, but must be applied to each household to be effective for that particular household, Exodus 12:13. The blood of the sin offering, collected at the moment the animal was killed, was sufficient to atone for sin, but must be applied, Leviticus 5:5–7, to be efficient for forgiveness. The blood on the day of atonement was sufficient for all, but must be applied to the Ark of the Covenant to be efficient to forgive sins.

The direct purpose of Christ’s atonement-propitiation was toward God. The merit of Christ’s propitiation of God for the sins of the whole world, 1 John 2:2, is sufficient for all, so that the call of the gospel and the duty to believe may be legitimately offered to all and required of all.

The effect or result of the propitiation is the application of its merit toward sinners. That merit is specifically applied via God’s gift of grace-faith-salvation (the salvation principle, “saved by grace through faith”) as determined by God’s decree of election, in order to effect the redemption (salvation) of those whom God has chosen to salvation. Without application there is no redemption.

The unlimited merit of Christ’s propitiation could be applied save any non-elect person: “whoever believes,” as the Scripture states. God takes no action, pro or con, toward the non-elect, but leaves them in their sinful state. The non-elect are unable to initiate saving faith because unable without God’s gift to overcome the rebellion and disobedience engendered by the sin attribute in human nature. If they could believe, God would act savingly toward them, but they always choose to disbelieve, because that is the nature of the sinner.

Unlimited Atonement (Propitiation), Synod of Dort, Canon 2, Article 3, does not teach universal salvation: the merit of the propitiation must be individually applied through faith. Canon 2, Article 8, Limited Redemption, does not teach Christ died only for a particular group, but that the merit of his propitiation is applied only to the elect.

Thus: Unlimited Atonement/Propitiation, Limited (Particular) Redemption.

Returning now to the original question, “What is a 5-point Calvinist?” To be a five point Calvinist one must affirm all five points of the T, U, L, I, P. A four point Calvinist is someone who does not agree with Limited Atonement/Propitiation. A 4-pointer affirms T, U, I, P.

But, and it is a BIG objection, the 5-pointer, as discussed above, rejects the statement of the Canons of Dort concerning the unlimited sufficiency of the atonement, focusing only on the redemptive effect of the propitiation, not the limitless merit of the propitiation. This is, in part, due to Reformed theology’s definition of the purpose of God in the world: to redeem sinners. If God’s purpose in the world is redemption, then one must devise a theology that accounts for so many sinners not being redeemed. The Reformed theology solution is to limit the sufficiency of Christ’s propitiation to the redemption of the elect alone.

The 5-point Calvinist is a distortion of Scripture, and the 4-point Calvinist is a straw-man designed to support the untenable 5-point position. The dual perspective of Christ’s propitiation as “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” is the true Calvinist soteriology. This is the perspective of the Scripture. The dual perspective accounts for the universal call to believe, Romans 10:13, “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved,” and “Revelation 22:17, “Whoever desires let him take of the water of life freely.” The dual perspective accounts for the limited redemption effected by God’s choice. Ephesians 1:4, “God chose us in Christ before the creation of the universe,” and 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “God from the beginning chose you for salvation,” and 1 Peter 1:2, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

The “L” in the TULIP is too entrenched by centuries of false teaching to be changed. But if I could change it, that “L” would represent “Limited Redemption,” in agreement with the Canons of the Synod of Dort.

Doctrine of Adoption

Doctrine of Adoption

Adoption is the admission of a believer into the family of God, positionally, as sons and daughters. In the Ordo Salutis (“order of salvation”), adoption is the step immediately subsequent to justification. The following outline, with Scritpure References, is offered to help you to begin your study on the Doctrine of Adoption

 

I. We obtain sonshp through the Holy Spirit placing us into the family of God (Romans 8:14-15)

II.  Adoption is through faith in Christ (John 1:12, Galatians 3:26, Ephesians 1:5)

III. We become joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17)

IV. The Holy Spirit testifies to our adoption (Romans 8:16, Galatians 4:5-6)

V. Our Inheritance is incorruptible (1 Peter 1:4)

VI. Gentiles are also adopted through the Gospel (Ephesians 3:6)

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.

Elohim: the Author and Finisher of History (Revelation 4:2-6)

Elohim: the Author and Finisher of History (Revelation 4:2-6)

John is given a glimpse of the One who sits on Heaven’s Throne. In our overview of the chapter we saw that this view is an anthropomorphic presentation of God in His dazzling majesty so that we might begin to have a comprehension of His Person. We are about to see the Divine Judgment machine unleashed but before we do, it is helpful to see God in the stream of history… 

  1. Elohim: He that sits on the throne is the God who created

Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth.” In Hebrew it is Beresheet bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’aretz. Without trying to explain the complexities of Hebrew Grammar, I do want to point out that the Rabbis teach that this is actually out of order and, apart from Divine direction, it should read Elohim bara b’resheet. God did this on purpose; the emphasis is not on the who but is instead on the what and the when. Literally translated, this sentence should read, “At the beginning, God created…” When? At the start of all things. What happened? God created. We can logically infer that it is so obvious that no one else could create that God allowed the change in word order to emphasize the ordering of creation. Why would that matter, especially when studying the book of Revelation? Simply put, God is showing, and quite emphatically, that it is He who sets the times and seasons of all things. He caused it to be and He is the one who will cause it to end.

 

Rabbi Dr. David Stern, a Messianic Jew points out a couple items I want to bring to your mind. Quoting Dr. Stern on the name Elohim: “The root meaning of the word is unknown. The most probable theory is that it may be connected with the old Arabic verb alih (“to be perplexed, afraid”; “to seek refuge because of fear”). Eloah, Elohim, would therefore translate as “he who is the object of fear or reverence.” From this God makes clear that He is to be the object of our reverence or adoration. To a degree, there should be a fear and trembling, even among God’s special people, the Redeemed.

Dr. Stern also points out in his commenting on Genesis, that which we have already postulated, that God is placing emphasis on the what and when of creation, that God is showing us both the ordering and the giver of order.

Circling back to Revelation 4 and the description of the One who sits on the Throne…God is portrayed in His dazzling majesty. This is the fullest picture that we are given in Scripture to illuminate one of God’s titles, Melek ha’ Olam, King of All Things.

In Revelation 4 we are given a full orbed picture of Heaven’s Throne Room. Judgment is a about to begin (In chapter 5 the Judge is revealed) but God takes great care to put His Majesty, Splendor and Kingship on display. As it says later in the chapter, He is creator of all things and for His pleasure they were created. It is revealed, then that God who has created, now calls His courtiers into His presence to commence the Judgment.

Two other times, we see a foreshadowing of this moment. Isaiah and Ezekiel see the LORD. Daniel sees the Ancient of Days seated on His throne but does not give much detail. Meanwhile it is Isaiah and Ezekiel who give us a sneak preview. Let’s look…

Isaiah 6:1-4 (CSB)

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above him; they each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Armies;
his glory fills the whole earth.

 

The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke.

 

Ezekiel 1:4-28

I looked, and there was a whirlwind coming from the north, a huge cloud with fire flashing back and forth and brilliant light all around it. In the center of the fire, there was a gleam like amber. The likeness of four living creatures came from it, and this was their appearance: They looked something like a human, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the hooves of a calf, sparkling like the gleam of polished bronze. They had human hands under their wings on their four sides. All four of them had faces and wings. Their wings were touching. The creatures did not turn as they moved; each one went straight ahead. 10 Their faces looked something like the face of a human, and each of the four had the face of a lion on the right, the face of an ox on the left, and the face of an eagle. 11 That is what their faces were like. Their wings were spread upward; each had two wings touching that of another and two wings covering its body. 12 Each creature went straight ahead. Wherever the Spirit[a] wanted to go, they went without turning as they moved.

13 The likeness of the living creatures was like the appearance of blazing coals of fire or like torches. Fire was moving back and forth between the living creatures; it was bright, with lightning coming out of it. 14 The creatures were darting back and forth like flashes of lightning.

15 When I looked at the living creatures, there was one wheel on the ground beside each of the four-faced creatures. 16 The appearance of the wheels and their craftsmanship was like the gleam of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. Their appearance and craftsmanship was like a wheel within a wheel. 17 When they moved, they went in any of the four directions, without turning as they moved. 18 Their four rims were tall and awe-inspiring, completely covered with eyes.19 When the living creatures moved, the wheels moved beside them, and when the creatures rose from the earth, the wheels also rose. 20 Wherever the Spirit wanted to go, the creatures went in the direction the Spirit was moving. The wheels rose alongside them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. 21 When the creatures moved, the wheels moved; when the creatures stopped, the wheels stopped; and when the creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose alongside them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

22 Over the heads of the living creatures the likeness of an expanse was spread out. It gleamed like awe-inspiring crystal, 23 and under the expanse their wings extended one toward another. They each also had two wings covering their bodies. 24 When they moved, I heard the sound of their wings like the roar of a huge torrent, like the voice of the Almighty, and a sound of tumult like the noise of an army. When they stopped, they lowered their wings.

25 A voice came from above the expanse over their heads; when they stopped, they lowered their wings. 26 Something like a throne with the appearance of lapis lazuli was above the expanse over their heads. On the throne, high above, was someone who looked like a human. 27 From what seemed to be his waist up, I saw a gleam like amber, with what looked like fire enclosing it all around. From what seemed to be his waist down, I also saw what looked like fire. There was a brilliant light all around him. 28 The appearance of the brilliant light all around was like that of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day. This was the appearance of the likeness of the Lord’s glory. When I saw it, I fell facedown and heard a voice speaking.

I could spend half a dozen sermons, easily, on the Ezekiel passage but for this lesson we will leave it as an illustration.

 

  1. God responds to sin with the promise of a Redeemer

 

Genesis 3:1

Now the serpent was more subtil…

I wonder how often we miss the serpent’s subtle whisper tempting us to say God is not enough (exactly what sin is)

The serpent often tempts not with a full throated shout, no that would be too obvious. That temptation you could see coming and resist. It’s his whisper that traps us. But its been the same question for 6000 years, “yea hath God said…?” So often we fall into the trap of thinking “good question” instead of getting out the shovel and taking off the serpent’s head.

 

Before God metes out grace, He gives a curse to the serpent and then we have the Proto euangelion…

 

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, KJV)

 

Protevangelium is a compound word of two Greek words, protos meaning “first” and evangelion meaning “good news” or “gospel”. Thus the protevanglium in Genesis 3:15 is commonly referred to as the first mention of the good news of salvation in the Bible.

Strictly speaking, the protevangelium refers to the last part of Genesis 3:15, “it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel.” According to H. C. Leupold, this passage uses a zeugma in the word “bruise”, which may be translated “it shall crush thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

Because of the grave nature of the context, the fall of man, this passage describes more than just a man stepping on a snake’s head. The reference to the seed of the woman as Christ is believed to relate to the Virgin birth of the Messiah, as well as the Hypostatic union of the Divine nature with the Human nature of Christ.

Old Testament scholar Derek Kidner describes the Protevangelium as “the first glimmer of the gospel.” Several of the early Church fathers, such as Justin Martyr (160 AD) and Irenaeus (180 AD), regarded this verse “as the Protoevangelium, the first messianic prophecy in the Old Testament.


Exposition of Genesis, H. C. Leupold D.D, Online Bible edition, Gen 3:15

Jump up to: a b Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Eerdman’s 1996, page 294

^ Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, (IVP, 1967), p. 70.

^ Gordon J. Wenham, WBC: Genesis 1-15, (Thomas Nelson, 1987), pp. 80–81.

 

 

We then see the first blood atonement, grace’s response to sin.

In Genesis 3:21 the pattern of substitutionary atonement is set. God kills an animal or two (the Scripture does not directly say) and gave the man and the woman the skin as covering. Many believe this animal was a sheep/lamb thereby offering a prophecy of the messianic sacrifice of Jesus as the Lamb of God.  While this view is entirely speculative, it is reasonable. I cannot say for sure what animal God may have slain. The point is, the Lord God transferred the sin to the innocent animal along with its immediate consequence, instant death. It was grace that provides this atonement.

 

III. God the Son Redeems a People

This is best explained in what we refer to as the Romans Road to Salvation:

 

It starts out with our Problem from Romans 3:23:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

It then moves to our Peril in Romans 6:23:

            For the wages of sin is death . . .

And to God’s Provision in Romans 5:8:

            But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The Romans Road culminates in our Response in Romans 10:9:

 

  1. Elohim, the Majesty on High closes History with the Judgment

 

The Rapture having now come to pass, all of Heaven turns its attention to the Throne.

 

This is, of course, not a literal throne; it is a symbol of God’s power, majesty, and regal authority (1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 11:4; 103:19; Isaiah 6:1; 66:1; Ezekiel 1:26)

 

The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible has an incredible comment on this portion of the Scripture.

“The vision of the throne reveals that the King is (a) beautiful, rich, and valuable like precious stones ( jasper, sardine or red carnelian, and emerald ); (b) gracious to sinners and faithful to His covenants (rainbow; Gen. 9:12-17); (c) dwelling with His victorious old covenant and new covenant people (twelve plus twelve elders; 21:12,14) in His holy temple (lamps, sea, lion, and calf or young ox; 1 Kings 7:23-25,29,36,49,51); (d) judging according to His fearsome power and righteous law (lightnings and thunderings like Mt. Sinai; Ex. 19-20); (e) shining out in the witness of the churches by the Holy Spirit (seven lamps . . . seven Spirits; and (f) attended by servants representing all the powers (lion, calf, man, eagle) and wisdom (full of eyes) of heaven and earth (5:13; Ezek. 1:10). What a glorious King!”

 

I disagree with them on the symbolism of the 24 Elders but the rest of it, I find spot on.

 

Human monarchs are often arrayed in fine clothes and bedecked with jewels presenting a wondrous sight. However, the Holy Spirit shows John that God outshines them all. His glory is still veiled, here, so John is not incinerated by blazing holiness and yet we see that even Solomon in all his glory is but a beggar compared to the One who is Majesty on High.

 

All of history has led up to this moment. Regardless of your view on the fall-supralapsarian, infralapsarian, or sublapsarian in the order of God’s Decrees, there has never been a moment when God did not intend to be a Redeemer and now, in this moment, the Redeemed are in Heaven, ministering before the Throne. There are still some Redeemed to be gathered in during the Tribulation, but here, all the Redeemed of the Church Age stand before the Throne and we, along with the Four Living Creatures, lead the worship in Heaven.

 

Why do the Elders cast their crowns and the feet of the One on the Throne? It is an emphatic declaration. “You, our Lord and our God ARE our reward and our treasure.”  Any crown we are given, though glorious, will not compare to being face to face with the King. Why bother with feeble accoutrements when Majesty Himself is now with us and we with Him, never to again be separated.