Posts Tagged ‘salvation’
Posted by Job on October 12, 2014
Posted in Christianity, devotional | Tagged: Adrian Rogers, comfort, deliverance, doctrine, eschatology, heaven, hell, lake of fire, last things, preaching, salvation, sermon, teaching | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Job on March 22, 2013
In the past, I have vehemently criticized the doctrine that regeneration precedes faith. The reason for this was my ignorance. I took regeneration to be another word for conversion in that it had the exact same meaning.
However, regeneration only refers to passing from death to life. It is what happened in the natural sense when Lazarus and a number of unnamed characters were raised from the dead by those such as Jesus Christ, Elijah and Elisha. Those natural regenerations were types, or prefigurements, of the spiritual regeneration that happens when a sinner becomes a believer. We can include the resurrection of Jesus Christ as this sort of natural regeneration, as Jesus Christ’s physical existence went from being dead to alive. Obviously, being the sinless perfect and pre-existing God and Son of God, Jesus Christ needed no spiritual regeneration of any sort. This is in contrast with Lazarus, who not only experienced natural regeneration after being dead four days, but being one born into original sin and having sinned – as the soul that sinneth shall die as Lazarus did – he needed to receive spiritual regeneration also.
The subject of confusion: being regenerated, being born again, is only part of the salvation process. The actual conversion process happens after regeneration. Further, the effectual calling occurs before regeneration.
1. Effectual call: this is when God (the Holy Spirit) calls the sinner to salvation. It takes place when the sinner hears the gospel. (Note: the providence of God must place the sinner in position to hear the gospel first.)
2. Regeneration: this is when the Holy Spirit raises the sinner from the dead.
3. Conversion: this is when the sinner receives faith from the Holy Spirit, believes the gospel of Jesus Christ and hence fulfills John 3:16, Romans 10:8-9 etc.
The effectual calling cannot and will not happen unless one has first been chosen (elected by God the Father unto salvation from before the foundation of the world). The regeneration will not occur until one has been called. And salvation occurs after regeneration.
Why must regeneration precede faith? I am certain that you have heard that “dead men tell no tales.” Similarly, dead men cannot have faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). How can a dead man have assurance or conviction? A secular dictionary defines faith as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” How can a dead man have trust or confidence of any sort in anything, let alone a complete and total one in the unseen God? A dead man cannot even have wishy washy confidence in the casket that he is lying in. Why? Because he is dead. He doesn’t even know that he is in a casket. He has no feelings, thoughts or emotions.
This is not a contrivance of philosophy or idle speculation, but a truth clearly taught in scripture. Consider 1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.” Romans 8:7 “Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” But that is Paul’s doctrine, right? Well from the words of Jesus Christ in John 3:3: “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Now John 3:3 is key. Seeing the kingdom of God or entering the kingdom of God is always used by Jesus Christ to refer to salvation. Always. So, Jesus Christ explicitly states that one must be born again before that person can be saved. Again, when Jesus Christ said “except”, He was making a condition. So, the condition of being saved was being born again. Regeneration precedes conversion or salvation. And take a look at Ephesians 2:8, which says “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God.” Regeneration precedes salvation. Salvation comes by faith. Thus, regeneration precedes faith. It is clearly, explicitly taught in scripture.
The doctrine of regeneration precedes faith is considered to be a Calvinist distinctive. However, many non-Calvinists believe so also without acknowledging or admitting it. Many non-Calvinists believe that God makes a change in the sinner that allows the sinner to make a choice to accept or reject him. Of course, the acceptance is a decision made through faith, and the rejection is a decision made through a lack of faith according to this doctrine. The non-Calvinist does not refer to this as regeneration, of course, because he recognizes that regeneration must necessarily result in salvation. So the non-Calvinist regards this as God’s merely opening the sinner’s eyes and hearts for the purposes of allowing him a free choice.
Problems with this doctrine are many. The Bible makes it clear that unsaved people are spiritually dead. So the person goes from spiritually dead to “sort of dead”, akin to the woman who says that she is “sort of pregnant”? Just as you are either pregnant or not, you are either dead or not … there is no in-between! Second, how can the “sort of dead/alive” person choose to believe and accept God on this basis in the absence of faith? Simple: he cannot. He cannot accept the gospel and believe without faith. And if God gives him faith, he will inevitably believe. There is no such thing as conditional, decision-based faith that is only activated on choice. So, for the sinner to choose God once God makes this choice possible requires the sinner to already have faith present within himself. And if this faith is present, he never was a sinner to begin with, and he was never spiritually dead to begin with. The Bible states that without faith it is impossible to please God. The converse would mean that those who have faith are already acceptable to God, meaning that they were righteous, justified, regenerate and converted already. Instead of being in a condition of original sin, this person would have had to have been inherently righteous already without having heard the gospel and without need of Jesus Christ. Moreover, if such a righteous person were to confess and repent of his sinful condition and state his need for Christ to be his savior, that person would be a liar!
The doctrine of regeneration coming after faith – or truthfully that regeneration and conversion are the same – is due to people being determined to believe that God must offer a man a free choice to accept or reject Him in order to be just and righteous. However, accepting God cannot be made in the absence of faith! The Bible is clear on this. Thus, denying that regeneration precedes faith is nothing more than an absolute determination to believe a lie.
This also solves the problem of those who fall away and confirms the doctrine of perseverance of the saints, or “once saved always saved.” Be not deceived: faith is not mere belief. Faith only comes by the Holy Spirit after the Holy Spirit regenerates you. And after conversion, the Holy Spirit seals you and keeps you in the faith. The Bible is clear on this. The Bible is also clear with the parable of the sower that it is possible to believe the gospel at one point but later renounce that belief. The Bible further states clearly that it is possible to believe the gospel, retain this belief but not bear fruit. The Bible further still states that it is possible to believe the gospel, do good works and bear fruit but not be obedient. These are the teachings of Jesus Christ, and Christ makes it clear that those people (the ones who renounce the gospel after believing at one point, those who believe but do not bear fruit, and those who believe and bear fruit but are disobedient) will be cast into the lake of fire! Why is this so? Because these people believed without receiving faith, and they did not receive faith because they are still unregenerate. You cannot have faith and be spiritually dead, but you can certainly believe and be spiritually dead. Hence, rejecting the truth that regeneration precedes faith is one of the reasons why many Christian denominations (Methodists and many Pentecostals for example) believe that it is possible to lose your salvation. The regeneration precedes faith doctrine provides both absolute proof that those who fall away were never saved to begin with, and provides absolute assurance that those who are truly saved will bear fruit, attain obedience and endure trials and tribulations until the end, even unto death!
So God will accept anyone who comes to Him through His Son, because those who come to God are those that God has called to do so. Is God calling you today? If so, repent of your sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. If you wish for more information on how to do so:
Posted in Bible, Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: ancient of days, conversion, election, faith, God the Father, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, lose your salvation, once saved always saved, perseverance of the saints, Pneumatology, regeneration, salvation, soteriology, total depravity, typology | 4 Comments »
Posted by Job on March 19, 2013
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Some use passages like these to assert that those who believe in limited atonement (or particular redemption) instead of universal atonement deny that God loves everyone. The argument goes that if God loves everyone, then it means that Jesus Christ died for everyone and that those texts “prove” it and accuse men of twisting scripture in order to claim otherwise.. Well C.S. Lewis and other believers of religious pluralism and universalism use 1 Timothy 4:10 –“For to this end we labour and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe “ – and many other scriptures to justify it. Is it similarly twisting scripture to say that they are wrong also?
Of course not. Why? Because we know that 1 Timothy 4:10 is not the only thing that the Bible says about salvation. So, it is because that we put 1 Timothy 4:10 in the context of all the other things that the Bible says about how God saves – including John 14:6’s “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” – in order to deny that this text teaches that men above the age of accountability can be saved outside of personal faith in Jesus Christ.
Thus, the same is true of John 3:16. While that text is extremely popular, very well known and much beloved, that is no reason to make it the primary text on the issue of salvation through which all other texts must be judged, held subject to and viewed in light of. That is interpreting scripture according to human opinion and emotion – our tendency to grab hold upon and emphasize the things that please and comfort us while putting less emphasis on the things that disturb and challenge us – instead of letting scripture speak for itself.
It is all well and good to love John 3:16. But we cannot use John 3:16 to pretend that Proverb 16:4 “The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil ” isn’t in the Bible, especially since Romans 9:13-23 clearly uses Proverb 16:4 in order to explain the nature and purpose of God’s election as it applies to the Jews and the Gentiles? Now that is what requires the twisting of the Bible scriptures. Accepting those texts and putting them into the proper contexts is why the so-called 5 point Calvinists exist. The only alternative is to deny the meaning and application of those texts, which is what most theologians and other Bible students do … precisely what they accuse the believers of limited atonement of. Perhaps the best example of this is the common explanation of deniers of limited atonement that predestinate in Romans 8:29-30 doesn’t mean, well, predestinate, or the many others who claim that it really means “foreknowledge.” Similar explaining away is done with and who do the same with Ephesians 1:3-12 and also with the many “Calvinistic” texts that appear in the Gospel of John just as does John 3:16.
So, for example, using John 6:65’s “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” and John 10:26-29’s “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand.” to interpret John 3:16 is not imposing an artificial human framework on the Bible. Instead, claiming that John 6:37 is based on God’s foreknowledge – and doing so in the complete absence of textual evidence to support it and when so many texts like Romans 9:13-23 contradict it – is when the denying the plain meaning of scripture from its literal, contextual interpretation is being done.
Does this mean that God does not love the world — all people and not just the elect — with an unconditional love? That begs the question of whether unconditional love as our modern humanistic Enlightenment-driven society defines it is a Biblical concept to begin with. If it were, then that would necessarily mean universalism. You may ask whether “world” really mean world or does it mean only the elect and whether world can be both, meaning all people in general, but only or especially the elect in particular?
Many do precisely those types of interpretative gymnastics, but they are not necessary. The “world” of John 3:16 does mean the world. But understand this: God is perfectly capable of loving the world and saving only the elect. Again, making the case that God’s loving everyone obligates Him to save everyone can only lead to universalism. The non-Calvinist viewpoint deals with this problem by saying that God TRIED to save everyone but failed. Now if you limit this “failure” to those who made a free will decision to reject Jesus Christ then that “solves” the failure issue after a fashion. The problem is that “God tried to save everyone but His efforts were thwarted by the free will that He gave us to accept or reject Him” theology simply cannot be a sufficient answer for the fact that the overwhelming supermajority of humanity has never heard the name Jesus Christ, and moreover before His advent had never encountered Judaism or the pre-Judaic Yahwism.
Truthfully, the pluralism of types like C.S. Lewis and the Roman Catholics (purgatory) and contemporary religious moderates do a much better job of explaining this problem, which is so real and vast that it has been a source of great heartache for missionaries like Hudson Taylor, who knew that he could not possibly reach every person in the vastness of China with the gospel of Jesus Christ and fell victim to the slough of despond and the giant despair (see Pilgrim’s Progress) as a result. God rescued him from that fate with the instructions for Taylor to be satisfied with going to the people that that God sent Taylor to. (And incidentally Taylor was not a Calvinist).
And here is the real irony for those who reject the Biblical doctrine of limited atonement. Even if you do not believe in limited atonement, the requirement of faith in Jesus Christ for salvation serves as a practical limitation anyway. Again, the only way to avoid that practical limitation is to be a universalist or pluralist. How “general” is the atonement to the person who lives his entire life as a sincere, upstanding, devoted, honest moral adherent to the Hindu religion because he spent his entire life in India in the 1500s and Hinduism is all he ever knew? The only relevance of general atonement to that person is that even though that person had absolutely no possibility of ever being saved, Jesus Christ still died for him so that “proves” that God loved him. Christ’s death on the cross made this person’s salvation hypothetically, theoretically possible in the spiritual realm even though it was still impossible in the natural one. Which means that the true purpose of general atonement that it provides a comfortable, reassuring view of God to the people who hold it. The doctrine is of no use to the sinner whatsoever. Whether you hear the gospel and do not respond with faith and repentance or never hear the gospel at all, from the sinner’s perspective the extent of the atonement doesn’t matter because the fate of the sinner is still the same. The issue is all about whether serving a God who limits the atonement or serving a God who doesn’t IN THEORY but does IN PRACTICE “feels better.”
Still can’t look at John 3:16 and “see” limited atonement? Well, you may not see religious pluralism in 1 Timothy 4:10 either. But that is what C. S. Lewis saw when he looked at it … justification for the religious pluralism doctrines taught by the Roman Catholic Church – and Lewis fellowshipped with a lot of Catholics, including his friend J.R.R. Tolkien – and embraced by virtually all moderate (meaning neither evangelical or liberal) Christians and an increasing number of evangelicals like Rob Bell. So often we see what we want to see instead of what the Bible says, and that has to change.
Does limited atonement mean that God takes pleasure in the destruction of the wicked? Ezekiel 18:23 would tend to say otherwise with “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: [and] not that he should return from his ways, and live?.” But just as we being in the image of God often have to do things that give us no pleasure but are necessary, God’s justice requires that His wrath must be poured out on the wicked. The key to remember that merely because destroying the wicked does not give God pleasure does not require God to act in order to avoid displeasure. Claiming that it does is judging God by arbitrary standards created by our own emotionalism; our refusal to accept things that appear to us to be unjust. But why do they appear to be unjust to us? Because we feel that God owes us something. The truth of what the Bible says, which is that we are the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3) to do with as He pleases is denied because of our unwilling to countenance the idea that God is the measure of all things and not man; that the universe is God-centered and not man-centered.
It is curious: no Bible-based Christian (as opposed to the idolatrous animal rights activist) takes offense at the notion that man, a mere creature made in God’s image, has the right to breed sheep for the purpose of eating them even while they are juveniles (lamb chops, leg of lamb, rack of lamb etc.) Yet we are offended at the idea that God, who is worth more than the entirety of creation (meaning that the distance between man’s worth and a lamb’s worth is much smaller than the distance between man’s worth and God’s worth) has the right to do with us as He pleases or else be judged as unloving and unrighteous, so we stumble at Yes, the Bible does not say that God takes pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, but texts like “The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” and “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” as a result.To do this we must make God out to be worth less than He is or we make ourselves out to be worth more than we are at God’s expense. Either way it is man-centered heresy.
So if you are struggling with the question “how can I say that God loves you without knowing whether you are elect or not”, I emphasize again that this goes back to the fundamental question of whether God can love someone without electing them to salvation. This answer – yes – is most clearly given in Matthew 5:45 … “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Also, an excellent teaching on this topic can be found here: http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/a294/the-love-of-god-and-the-nonelect
This brings about the inevitable question: how will this affect my evangelism? Well you can certainly everyone that God loves them, and use this truth clearly taught in the Bible as the basis for your evangelism. The Bible does not say to use the fact that God did not elect everyone to hinder evangelism, because quite the contrary God said that many are called (in that they hear the gospel … note that it does not say that ALL are called because all do not hear the gospel) but few are chosen (meaning that of those who hear the gospel, few will be saved). And this truth was illustrated by several of Christ’s parables, such as the parable of the sower of Matthew 13:1-23 and the wedding parable of Matthew 22:1-14.
So John 3:16 does not have to be abandoned by the Christian who believes in limited atonement. It means that when sharing the gospel we can tell sinners that everyone who believes – whosoever believeth – will be saved.The key is to stop right there and not add anything to it. Don’t say “Jesus Christ died for all of you so that means all of you can be saved if all of you believe.” Why not? Because the Bible doesn’t say so. General atonement is nowhere in the Bible. If it were, I would believe it and so would you. So whether in mixed company, hostile company (all unbelievers like Paul at Mars Hill) or all believers like Jesus Christ at His high priestly prayer or the disciples in the upper room awaiting Pentecost, limiting yourself to what the Bible actually says is all that is necessary, sufficient and justifiable.
So evangelist, just say “Christ died so that all who believe will be saved” and you will be true to the Bible. And that is the true meaning of the John 3:16. Before it was written, there was no promise, assurance or guarantee that everyone who believed would be saved. Now we contemporary Christians presuppose that and take it for granted because we have always known it. But keep in mind that the apostle John was originally writing that gospel not to people with 2000 years of Christian tradition behind them like us. Rather, the first audience who received his gospel was made up of pagans with a very different view of salvation than we have, and also to Jews who believed in justification by the works of the law in addition to faith.
So for both the Gentile pagans and even the Jews, it was very possible to believe in God (or the gods for polytheistic pagans) and still not be saved. For the Jew, one could believe and still be condemned if you did not keep the law. As for the pagans, their gods were arbitrary, unpredictable, conferring – and withdrawing – their favor on whims. So the true purpose of John 3:16 is not to talk about the extent of the atonement, but to teach the doctrine of justification by faith alone, sola fide, to the Jews first and then the pagan Gentiles.
This is evident if you stop taking John 3:16 in isolation and instead look at the entire chapter of John 3. This chapter begins with the rabbi going to Jesus Christ to seek instruction on spiritual things because He recognized that as God was obviously with Christ due to Christ’s miracles, Christ would know such things to teach. Christ in response taught the rabbi about the need for, meaning and nature of regeneration, being born again. The context of Christ’s discussion with the rabbi was never who could be saved, but how people are saved.
John 3:3 – by being born again. John 3:5-8 – by a work of the Holy Spirit, not of man. John 3:11-17 – Christ stating that it is by and through Him that this salvation will be achieved because of His divine sonship. And John 3:18-21 – the fate of those who do not believe, with 3:18 being the inverse of 3:16. In that context, the true context and meaning – it is crystal clear that the text never intends to claim that God gave Christ so that all can theoretically be saved! Instead, it states that God gave Christ so that all who believed would be saved, and that all who did not believe would not be saved! This fact that we today take for granted today was in complete opposition to the religious mindset of Jews and pagans of the time and place of John’s gospel. It was a truly radical, revolutionary groundbreaking idea that was foolishness to the Gentiles and an offense to the Jews.
So as this is all the scripture ever meant and was intended for, why claim that it says or was intended to proclaim more? Anything more is adding to scripture, which should not be done, chiefly because it is a sin, but also because there is no reason to. The sinner needs no more information than that, and the only reason to add more information than that is for the benefit of the evangelist sharing the message. It reassures the evangelist and makes his job superficially (by that I mean according to the flesh) easier, but the Bible makes it clear that our jobs in service to the God of the Bible are not going to be easy or flesh-driven to begin with.
John 3:16 is 100% true and very powerful. But the Christian should not and cannot impose meanings on it that do not exist because it makes us feel better. We Christians should cast aside such works of the flesh and acknowledge to ourselves that the Bible says what it means. God gives the evangelist the responsibility to share the gospel with all. God gives the sinner the responsibility to respond to the gospel with repentance. But the only ones who will be saved are those that God supplies with faith. Everyone who receives faith from God will be saved. No one who does not receive faith from God will be. It is this way because with our salvation as with everything else, God alone shall be glorified. That is the point of John 3:16, the point of the entire canon of scripture, and the point of all of creation in the first place. And when viewed next to the glory of the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent perfect God, such notions that God only wants to be worshiped by those who choose to do so out of their free will – as if it is illegitimate for God to compel the sheep of His pasture to worship Him, and to train and condition us into doing so by conforming us into the image of His Son and providing His Spirit to live in us – must be rejected for the plain betrayals of the Bible and the picture of God that is revealed to us through His creation that they are.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36
“I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:6-7
If you are saved, walk in this truth. If you are unsaved, you are without excuse. Repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ today.
Posted in Bible, Christianity, evangelism, Jesus Christ | Tagged: ancient of days, atonement, Calvinism, extent of the atonement, general atonement, God the Father, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, Limited Atonement, reformed, salvation, soteriology | 4 Comments »
Posted by Job on February 1, 2012
Posted in Jesus Christ | Tagged: Calvinism, Charles Sermon, Christianity, doctrine, election, free will, human responsibility, Particular Baptist, preaching, predestination, Reformed Baptist, Romans 10, Romans 10:20-21, salvation, sermon, sovereign grace, video | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Job on February 1, 2012
Posted in Jesus Christ | Tagged: Baptist, Calvinism, charles spurgeon, Christianity, damnation, doctrine, endtimes, eschatology, eternal damnation, eternal punishment, final state, final status, heaven, hell, lake of fire, last things, new jerusalem, Particular Baptist, Reformed Baptist, saints, salvation, sermon, sinners, soul sleep, video | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Job on February 1, 2012
Posted in Jesus Christ | Tagged: Calvinism, charles spurgeon, Christianity, divinity of Jesus Christ, firstfruits, holy trinity, Jesus Christ, Particular Baptist, preaching, Reformed Baptist, resurrection, salvation, sermon, video | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Job on February 1, 2012
Posted in Jesus Christ | Tagged: assurance of salvation, Baptist, Calvinist, Christianity, endtimes, eschatology, eternal, eternal salvation, eternity, forever, once saved always saved, perseverance of the saints, preaching, reformed, salvation, sermon, video | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Job on January 27, 2012
Posted by Job on December 17, 2011
Posted by Job on October 26, 2011
In this sermon Paul talks about the misuse of Scripture in the understanding of salvation.
Regeneration vs Decisionism – DEEPER Conference 2008 Breakout Session (Living Waters & Way of the Master)
Posted in Bible, Christianity, discernment, election, evangelical, evangelical christian, evangelism, faith, false doctrine, false teaching, Holy Spirit, irresistible grace, Jesus Christ, Judaism, limited atonement, Reformed, religion, Ruach Hakadosh, salvation, salvation prayer, salvation through Jesus Christ, spiritual warfare, televangelism, testimony | Tagged: Baptist, Biblicism, Calvinism, decisional regeneration, doctrine, free will, God, infralapsarianism, Jesus Christ, paul washer, preaching, predestination, regeneration, salvation, sermon, soteriology, supralapsarianism, Theology, video | 4 Comments »
Posted by Job on March 2, 2011
In an incident recorded by all three of the synpotic gospels (Mark 10:17-18, Luke 18:18-19, Matthew 19:16-17) the unnamed rich young ruler says something to the effect of “Good Master, what good thing must I do to have/inherit eternal life?” Jesus Christ’s second and third answers to the man are well known: Christ first tells the man to follow the law – to which the man presumptuously proclaims that he has since his youth – and then Christ tells the wealthy man to sell all that he has and follow Him, at which the rich young ruler forbears.
While those responses of Jesus Christ – and the reactions from the rich young ruler that they provoked – are rightfully the focus of most of the emphasis, let us consider Jesus Christ’s first response, which unlike His second and third responses DID NOT provoke a reaction from the rich young ruler.
Jesus Christ stated “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, God.” Of course, this is one of the verses that the arrogant “Jesus Christ never claimed to be God and centuries later Christianity invented His deity” blasphemers latches upon. While it appears superficially that Jesus Christ with this response is denying to be God, instead what is going on is that Jesus Christ is challenging the rich young ruler.
Jesus Christ was challenging the rich young ruler as to what according to the perspective of the young ruler was the source of His authority. Jesus Christ was asking the rich young ruler to come out and plainly say “Why do you suppose me to be good” and more to the point what gives in your eyes gives me the right to provide any authoritative word, judgment, teaching or advice on who gets into heaven or not and how?
That is why Jesus Christ initially gave the rich young ruler boilerplate, formulaic rudimentary response: follow the law of Moses. Of course, everyone knew this already: they were Jews to whom these oracles of God had long been given. Jesus Christ Himself told the samaritan woman “You Samaritans do not know Who you worship, but we Jews know Who we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.” The rich young ruler was seeking more than that, some form of extra, added or secret knowledge from this great teacher.
And there is the rub. Contrast the woman caught in adultery with this (externally) righteous ruler who (according to him) as zealously kept the law. The woman who was caught in adultery called Jesus Christ “Lord.” The rich young ruler calls Him “Master”, which essentially means “teacher” or “rabbi.” While the rich young ruler recognized the great truths in the things that Jesus Christ said and did, to the rich young ruler, Jesus Christ was still merely a great, wise religious teacher, or at the very most a prophet. So, when Jesus Christ was asked this man “Why are you calling me good”, He was actually saying to the rich young ruler “Is that all you see me me as? Don’t you see me as being anything more?”
And that is why Jesus Christ’s statement “There is none God but good” was not a denial of His deity. Rather, it was a subtle AFFIRMATION of deity. Jesus Christ was confronting the rich young ruler to associate the attributes of God that He was putting out in open display before all – His teachings, His works, and His sinlessness – and giving the rich young ruler an opportunity to respond. He was inviting the rich young ruler to put two and two together. “If only God is good, and this rabbi is doing such good works, giving such good teachings, and living such a good life, then maybe this man is more than a rabbi!” In other words, Jesus Christ invited this rich young ruler to make an intelligent, free will decision concerning His Lordship.
Alas, the rich young ruler, despite his great knowledge of and lifetime dedication to the law of Moses, failed the test, the same test that woman caught in adultery and the thief on the cross passed. Why? Because of the rich young ruler’s sinful state. Because of the total depravity of man, Jesus Christ used the rich young ruler’s own words to challenge, invite and even draw the rich young ruler into acknowledging the deity of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ’s challenge went right over his head. Or should I say, Jesus Christ’s challenge failed to penetrate the rich young ruler’s cold, dead heart. Not intellect, not even emotion, can overpower the total depravity of man, and the rich young ruler demonstrates this fact.
Now while Jesus Christ did ask the rich young ruler implicitly “Who do you say that I am?”, He asked the same to His disciples explicitly in Mark 8:29 and Matthew 16:16. The difference is not that Jesus Christ asked the rich young ruler implicitly while asking His disciples explicitly. Quite the contrary, where Jesus Christ asked the apostles explicitly, it appears to have been on His own accord. Meanwhile, His challenge to the rich young ruler, though implicit, was in response to the rich young ruler’s own inquiry, and furthermore used the rich young ruler’s words in the challenge (thus convicting the rich young ruler with his own words … the rich young ruler called Jesus Christ good, the rich young ruler knew that only God was good, so either the rich young ruler was being a flattering liar in calling Jesus Christ good, or the rich young ruler had to acknowledge Jesus Christ’s deity based on the attribute that the rich young ruler himself identified).
Instead, rather than claiming that Jesus Christ gave His apostles a superior challenge – which is not the case – the issue is that Peter gave Jesus Christ a superior response. Peter said that Jesus Christ was not merely a rabbi, a moral/religious teacher, or a prophet but instead the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16). Please note that where Jesus Christ challenged the rich young ruler’s calling him “good”, attributing to Him the divine attribute of goodness, Jesus Christ did not challenge Peter’s calling Him the Son of God, which – as John 10:31-36 reminds us – makes Him equal to God and therefore God. Instead, Jesus Christ confirmed and affirmed it!
So, why was the rich young ruler’s lesser testimony – attributing to Jesus Christ a divine attribute based on what he knew of Jesus Christ – challenged while Peter’s greater testimony – an explicit declaration that Jesus Christ is God – embraced? Or consider the rich young ruler to be Cain and Peter to be Abel. Why did not Jesus Christ have respect for the lesser offering of Peter (Cain), but had respect for and accepted the greater offering of Peter (Abel)? The Bible tells us that through faith, Abel made a more acceptable offering (Hebrews 11:4), and that is why it was accepted. Well, faith does not come from man. Faith is not self-generated, the human product or fruit of a free will decision arrived at either by rationality or emotion. Instead, faith, believing faith, saving faith, the faith that is the mark of righteousness, comes from God. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
So, the words of Peter were accepted because they were not his own words, but rather the words of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ said so Himself in Matthew 16:17 – “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” The rich young ruler offered to Jesus Christ his own words, the product of his own free will, his own reasoning, and his own rationality.
Like Cain, the words of the rich young ruler were insufficient, for a sinful man cannot please God with the works of his own sinful hands and sinful heart. It was a faithless offering, and without faith it is impossible to please God. His words were true, but truth without faith is insufficient. God the Father does not accept man coming presumptuously of his own, but only those whom God the Holy Spirit makes acceptable through His presence. God cannot accept man because of man’s sin. But God does accept His sinless Holy Spirit and the works of the sinless Holy Spirit, and one of the works of the sinless Holy Spirit is to regenerate sinful man. God will not accept the work of a sinful man’s hand, but God will accept a regenerated man only because such a man is a work of the sinless Holy Spirit! God will not accept the work of your hands, but he will accept you as the work of the sinless Holy Spirit’s hands! Consider creation in Genesis 1:2, when the Holy Spirit moved upon the face of the waters! Recall that God accepted creation and said that it was “good” in verses appearing from Genesis 1:4 to Genesis 1:31.
In a similar fashion, consider the words of Thomas, the one who doubted. Thomas declared Jesus Christ “my Lord and my God!” and received no challenge, rebuke or correction. The reason is because in John 20:27, Jesus Christ instructed Thomas not to be faithless, not to continue to resist the Holy Spirit. So, in John 20:28, Thomas spoke the word of faith that came to him through the Holy Spirit. For it was not merely being confronted with the resurrected Jesus Christ that caused Thomas to bear witness of Jesus Christ’s deity.
The reason is that the chief priests knew that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, as did the Roman soldiers who stood at guard. While it is a common device of apologetics to use the resurrection of Jesus Christ as proof of His deity, the truth is that the Bible states in Matthew 28:17 that some of the people who witnessed the resurrection doubted! Moreover, the chief priests knew of the resurrection, as did the Roman soldiers who stood guard. These men, with first hand knowledge of the truth, had all that they needed to make an intelligent, free will decision to acknowledge the deity of Jesus Christ. Like the rich young ruler, they failed? Why? Because they did not have faith, because this faith was not given to them by the Holy Spirit. They could not speak the word of faith concerning Jesus Christ’s deity as did Peter and Thomas because as they were not so gifted by the Holy Spirit, neither word of faith or the object of faith was in them!
So, that is the difference between the rich young ruler and Peter. It is the same as the difference between Cain and Abel; between Isaac and Ishmael. Romans 9:13 says “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Blessed is the man that God bestows His favor of saving grace upon. It is those that have been chosen by God the Father from the foundation of the world that Jesus Christ died for, and it is those that the Holy Spirit give the gift of faith in this same Jesus Christ to. Based on the prerogative of the God the Father, this gift was not given to the rich young ruler. That is why when being asked of Jesus Christ “Why do you call me good when none is good but God?” the rich young ruler had no choice but to forbear and ultimately fall away upon being tried, because the rich young ruler was one in whom the Holy Spirit had not spoken the word of faith to concerning the identity of Jesus Christ.
The rich young ruler had all the information that he needed to make a free will decision to follow Jesus Christ. He knew that Jesus Christ was at minimum a great religious teacher, and he received a specific command from this good teacher: sell all that you have and follow me. But the rich young ruler did not choose Jesus Christ. Why? Because he could not. Such is total depravity. We do not choose God. Instead, God chooses us. Some of us, because of emotion or intellect or a Christian tradition in our family and culture, may choose to try to follow God for a time. But those are the people who, according to the parable of the sower, either do not have root in themselves and dry up in the sun, or get choked by the weeds.
They may know the truth intellectually. They may believe the truth earnestly out of sincere, deep emotions. They may live some form of the truth morally. But without the root in themselves that is only present when the Holy Spirit gives those chosen by God actual living faith, they will fall away. Those are the ones who do not endure until the end. They are the ones who are akin to the virgins who did not have oil in their lamps, and were hence left without when the bridegroom came. Oil is a common metaphor for the Holy Spirit in the Bible.
So yes, while it is useful to consider the second and third words of Jesus Christ to the rich young ruler, let us not forget that those words were only necessary because of the first. Or, it should be said, those subsequent words of Jesus Christ were because of the failed, fallen state of the rich young ruler as exposed by the first. It was “you do not even know who I am, and you cannot know who I am because the Holy Spirit has not told you.” And that is the opposite of what Jesus Christ told Peter, which is that you are ONLY able to know who I am BECAUSE the Holy Spirit tells you. This is because faith does not come from man. Revelation does not come from man.
No, the faith and the revelation required to know who Jesus Christ is comes from God, and without such faith and revelation, none can know who the Son is. And none can come to the Father except through the Son. God the Father chooses His sheep. The Holy Spirit reveals Jesus Christ to the sheep. Then Jesus Christ receives God the Father to the sheep. That is the plan of salvation laid down by God from before the creation of the universe, and the same plan of salvation is the one plainly and meticulously laid forth and explained in the Bible.
And make no mistake, it was no different in the Old Testament times. Consider not just the chosen versus the non-chosen with respect to Abel, Isaac and Jacob versus Abel, Ishmael and Esau. Also, consider Jesus Christ in His parable of Lazarus and the rich man. When the rich man stated asked if he could return to warn his brethren, he was told that his brethren had the law and the prophets, and that if they did not believe them, then they would not believe the testimony of their brother come back from the dead either. Either his brothers had faith given to them by the Holy Spirit or they did not. If they had faith given to them by the Holy Spirit, they would believe what was given to them already. If they lacked this faith, what had been given to them already plus more besides would be of no use. That reminds us of what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 13:12, “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”
This also recalls what Jesus Christ told His accusers in the Gospel of John: that if they truly believed in Moses and the prophets, they’d believe in Him to because He was the one whom Moses and the prophets wrote of. They did not believe in either Jesus Christ or in the law of Moses because though the covenants were different, the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit is the same. That Lazarus-rich man parable shows that even in the different covenants, one is saved by grace through faith according to the election and predestination of God the Father, and that therefore both the Old Testament saints and the New Testament church are redeemed by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, whose atonement is limited to this same elect.
So, in effect, Jesus Christ asked both Peter and the rich young ruler “Who do you say that I am?” Only one of them gave an acceptable answer, because only one answer was by faith and revelation provided by the Holy Spirit. So the question that I ask of you is this: what is your response? Who do you say that Jesus Christ is? I urge you to pray to God the Father for the revelation of His Son by the Holy Spirit so that your answer might be acceptable also.
Posted by Job on January 1, 2011
Posted in Bible, Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: audio, forgiveness, forgiveness of sin, gospel, grace, holiness, Iain Campbell, justification, preaching, salvation, sanctification, sermon, Sin | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Job on January 1, 2011
Posted in Bible, Christianity, evangelism, Jesus Christ | Tagged: audio, comfort, endtimes, eschatology, faith, hope, Iain Campbell, joy, peace, preaching, prophecy, salvation, sermon | Leave a Comment »