Jesus Christ Is Lord

That every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father!

Posts Tagged ‘soteriology’

Regeneration Does Precede Faith (I Was Wrong)

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:

Follow The Three Step Salvation Plan

Advertisements

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Putting John 3:16 In Its Place: The Meaning And Purpose Of This Text

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.

Follow The Three Step Salvation Plan

Posted in Bible, Christianity, evangelism, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Human Free Will Versus God’s Decree? 2 Chronicles 10:15 Endorses The Latter

Posted by Job on February 15, 2012

Background: despite being given everything imaginable by God and then some – including God personally visiting him twice – Solomon ceased living by faith and trusting in God, and instead began to put his faith in things of this world, including idolatry. Solomon chose to marry pagan women, for instance, because it was the common political practice of the day for kings to form treaties. If a king wished to form an economic, military or political alliance with another kingdom or tribe, you would marry a female relative – usually the daughter – of the king that he was conducting the business of state with. So, instead of trusting God to provide peace and prosperity for his people, Solomon chose political maneuvering. Solomon added to that faithless behavior by worshiping the devils of his pagan wives. Why? It is simple enough to presume that his desire to please his wives was no different from that of Adam when he chose to eat the forbidden fruit given to him by his wife Eve. One can extend that with the political mess that Solomon had gotten himself into by marrying these women in the first place: as these women were dedicated to the false deities of their own land, Solomon had to worship their gods to keep them happy. Otherwise, word would have certainly gotten back to the fathers – rival kings! – of these women that Solomon was mistreating their daughters, and there goes the peace treaty! The resulting situation: it would have been better for Solomon to have never used marriage for the purpose of political alliances at all than to do so and anger the daughter of a rival king or warlord! Such a king would ask “Why marry my daughter at all if you are going to mistreat her by refusing to worship her god?” Realize that no good answer exists to that question! One must consider the polytheistic pagan mindset of the era – in contrast to Yahwist monotheism – where adding another god to the list that you were worshiping was easier than buying a new pair of shoelaces. So, if Solomon worshiped the god of some of his wives (i.e. his Hebrew wives) and not others, from the flawed perspective of the pagan women that he married, there was no reason for him to do so other than not only preferring some of his wives over the rest, but going out of his way to do so in order to humiliate and spitefully mistreat her! And the children of the ill-favored wife of the king have an uncertain future … just an impossible situation that Solomon got himself into. Which, of course, is the case with all sinful disobedience to God’s command!

In any case, God punished Solomon for his sin by decreeing that rule of 9 of the 11 tribes and their territory (remember, the Levites were a special case) would be stripped from his lineage, and the house of David would be left with rule over only a small portion of the kingdom, which turned out to be the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. (Evidence that this was God’s doing: because of the enmity between the house of David of Judah and the house of Saul of Benjamin over the throne – a bloody conflict that continued until at least after the crowning of Solomon – the tribe of Benjamin SHOULD HAVE joined the rebellion, and used the opportunity to have one  of its members become king of the 9 tribes that broke away from the house of David based on a claim to the throne on Saul being the rightful, legitimate king, and the rebellion against Rehoboam being proof that David was a fraud and usurper. Instead, the tribe of Benjamin alone joined the tribe of Judah to form the southern kingdom despite the house of Saul having contested the house of David over the throne a mere few decades prior, and when casting their lot with the other 9 tribes and then going to war with the 1 remaining tribe seeming to be a rather good way of getting the monarchy – and rule over all 12 tribes – back to the tribe of Benjamin! How wonderful and amazing is God able to reveal His power and His mighty workings!)

The situation: early in the reign of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, a challenge to the reign of the young king – likely provoked by Jeroboam – arises. The twelve tribes have a choice: continue with the leadership anointed by God, or rebel. Nine tribes – Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Dan, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben and Gad – make a free will decision to reject membership in the earthly, visible, typological manifestation of God’s kingdom (God’s covenant nation Israel as ruled by the house of David, with Jerusalem as its capital and worship taking place in the temple which held the ark of the covenant) in favor of apostasy. Make no mistake: in rejecting the kingdom of David, these tribes chose apostasy. Jeroboam, the leader of the breakaway group, set up a rival religious system in Bethel. (Consider that as the Jerusalem temple and its religion pointed to Jesus Christ, Jeroboam’s system – which involved an altar with two golden calves similar to the calves of Baal made by Aaron at the demand of the rebellious children of Israel at Sinai! – was similarly anti-Christ.) The northern kingdom continued in this false worship – as well as with a line of evil, pagan kings – up until their destruction and scattering by the Assyrians in 722 BC. Yes, the southern kingdom, Judah, was taken by Babylon, but God suffered a remnant to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. No such provision for restoration was made concerning the northern 10 tribes, who remained estranged from the true religion until the gospel of Jesus Christ came to the Samaritans from the Messianic Jewish evangelists as recorded in Acts 8 (a missionary enterprise prefigured by Jesus Christ Himself in His dialogue with the Samaritan woman in John 4:4-42).

Evidence that the northern kingdom committed apostasy came from their own lips. 2 Chronicles 10:16 reads “And when all Israel saw that the king would not hearken unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? and we have none inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to your tents, O Israel: and now, David, see to thine own house. So all Israel went to their tents.” Now who does the Bible reveal as the Son of David (and David is the son of Jesse)? Jesus Christ. The people who took part in the Jeroboam rebellion removed themselves from the Davidic inheritance – from the blessings of Jesus Christ of whom David was a prefigure and a type – with their own words. How similar was this act to that of the Jews, who embraced the destruction of Jerusalem, temple, and nation and end of the Jewish age in 70 A.D. when they cried “His Blood be upon us and our children!” in Matthew 27:25 concerning Jesus Christ when Pontius Pilate attempted to release Christ? And note when the rebels stated: we will return to our tends, so David see to your own house. In essence, these were backsliders proclaiming that they were returning to the world and its ways – spiritually returning to Sodom and Egypt – and telling the believers to get on with their on church business of worshiping and serving God.

Now, it might have seemed that the Jews of the time of Jesus Christ made a free will decision to reject Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ Himself stated that their rejection of Him had to be done in order so that the scriptures could be fulfilled, and God’s decree as represented by the scriptures would come to pass. Well, the same is true of the forerunners of the Samaritans in the time of Rehoboam. It appeared that they made a free will decision to reject the Davidic monarchy – and again the Davidic monarchy was the earthly typological prefiguring of the rule of Jesus Christ – to instead follow the anti-Christological figure of Jeroboam. But the Bible itself tells us: things were not as they appear. When Rehoboam decided to go to war against the rebellious tribes to bring them back under the rule of the house of David, God spoke these words through Shemaiah the prophet in 2 Chronicles 11:2-4, which reads “But the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, Speak unto Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren: return every man to his house: for this thing is done of Me. And they obeyed the words of the LORD, and returned from going against Jeroboam.”

So make no mistake: the tribes that became the northern kingdom did not make a free will decision to reject Jesus Christ (through the proxy of rejecting the Davidic monarchy which in that time represented Christ … please make note that in our time there is no earthly institution that represents Jesus Christ, but rather the church is IN CHRIST and is the Body of Christ). Why? Because they had no power, no prerogative, no ability to make such a decision. In other words, they could not make a free will decision because their wills were not free. Instead, their apostasy only happened because God decreed it. This is what the Bible explicitly, specifically said. It was not a case – as the Arminians and similar claim – of predestined foreknowledge through which an omniscient omnipotent God “learns” of future events and reacts to them (the heresy of open theism embraced by the likes of Greg Boyd and Clark Pinnock as the result of taking Wesleyan free will soteriology to its logical conclusion). God did not “see” the rebellion of the northern tribes and adjust His salvation-historical plan accordingly. Instead, God DECREED the rebellion of the northern tribes because it was part of His salvation-historical plan that was set in place before the foundation of the world (Jhn 17:241Cr 2:7Eph 1:42Ti 1:91Pe 1:20).

Regarding this incident, the marginal notes for 2 Chronicles 10:5 the Geneva Bible state “God’s will imposeth such a necessity to the second causes, that nothing can be done but according to the same, and yet man’s will worketh as of itself, so that it cannot be excused in doing that it is God’s ordinance.” Now that marginal note refers to how the rash actions of King Rehoboam that provoked the northern tribes to rebel was caused by God (KJV translates nĕcibbah ‘elohiym more literally as “for the cause was of God” where the Geneva Bible makes the more interpretative “it was the ordinance of God”). Still: the action and the reaction were the result of God’s provident operation behind the scenes. It is impossible for the will of man to resist the will of God! Yet, as the Geneva Bible study notes tell us, as man’s will follows its own sinful nature unless God acts to withhold man from behaving according to his totally depraved original sin condition, God’s decree is no excuse for evil acts done by man. As Paul tells us in Romans 1:20, concerning our evil deeds, we are without excuse.

A natural impulse is to charge God with unfairness for decreeing such things, and then punishing man for his actions that are associated with the decree. But as God reminded Isaiah in verse 55:9, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. In other words, God cannot be tried, judged and convicted as evil according to man’s limited – and fallen – notions of right and wrong. For example, God is not obligated to save all mankind, or even to try. (Though the “or even to try” is misleading: for as God is omnipotent, were He to attempt to save all mankind, He would most certainly to succeed. Otherwise, He would not be omnipotent, and therefore by definition He would not be God in accordance with how God is revealed in the Holy Scriptures.) Instead, it is only by God’s grace that ANY are saved. And it is God’s prerogative to grant grace to whomever He chooses, and to withhold that same grace from whoever He chooses. Romans 9:13-23 reads “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? [Is there] unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? [What] if God, willing to shew [his] wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.”

Yes, this most certainly applies to salvation. Man certainly has his responsibility, to make an affirmative choice using his will to repent of his sins and believe in Jesus Christ upon being confronted with the fact of the gospel. But make no mistake: a man only fulfills this responsibility concerning his personal salvation through the exercise of his will in this fashion if it concurs with God’s eternal decree to save him! God only frees the will of those that He plans to save, and the sole purpose of this liberty is to choose Jesus Christ and thereby become born again and in Jesus Christ. Hence, the liberation of the will as provided by God to the elect is not to do whatever one pleases, but instead it is liberation from original sin, the grips of Satan that has deceived the whole world, and the spiritual deadness that results. Evidence of this: not everyone gets to make a choice. The vast majority of people to walk the face of this earth have never heard of God or His gospel, let alone had a chance to make a free will choice to accept or reject God. Instead, many – but not everyone – are called through the hearing of the gospel, but only the few that are chosen by God become saved from their sins and born again as a result.

Hence in truth there is no free will but only God’s decree except inasmuch as God uses man’s will to accomplish His decree. So then, is there any way to tell to whom the mystery of salvation has been divinely granted? The answer: we only know as a result of who truly responds to the gospel by faith. Faith is not an emotional reaction or an intellectual response, but instead is gift given by God the Holy Spirit to those that God intends to save. Though we are not saved by works, evidence of God-given faith is obedience to the commandments of God as recorded in the Holy Scriptures (John 14:15). This is what is meant by the text “make your calling and election sure) of 2 Peter 1:10. If you have not already, make your calling and election sure by:

Following The Three Step Salvation Plan

Posted in Bible, Christianity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Graceworx: The Anatomy of a True Salvation

Posted by Job on February 1, 2012


http://www.graceworx.com/podcast/video

Posted in Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Graceworx: The Role Of The Holy Trinity In Salvation

Posted by Job on December 17, 2011

Posted in Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Paul Washer: Regeneration Versus Decisionism

Posted by Job on October 26, 2011

In this sermon Paul talks about the misuse of Scripture in the understanding of salvation.
http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1021081230111
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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Contra C.S. Lewis: Why 1 Timothy 4:10 Does Not Endorse Religious Pluralism Heresy

Posted by Job on January 1, 2011

Recently, due to a confluence of circumstances, the kids and I had a block of time that had to be spent at a movie theatre. Due to my, er, conservative tastes, the only viable options were Megamind (part of the Hollywood campaign to promote subversive ideas by attacking concepts of virtue and decency in the minds of our young, but that’s a whole other story), Tron Legacy, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The little ones – and not so little ones – wanted to see Tron Legacy, but I chose the Narnia installment (which will be the last to be made into a film) because of its Christian elements and themes.

Result: much better than expected. The script was far from perfect, but the action and effects were great, and the Christian elements were far more frequent and explicit than expected, which made for a  rousing good time for all. In my exuberance, I was ready to immediately abandon my mixed feelings about C.S. Lewis and his Narnia works and borrow my neighbor’s volume set and begin reading at the first opportunity.

Now as God’s blessings had it, the first opportunity would have been the next morning. As a result, I decided to spend the evening before doing a little research on the Narnia series on Wikipedia for a preview. I am not one of those who fears “spoiling the ending by knowing what will happen in advance”, preferring instead to know what I am getting into when I undertake reading a novel or watching a movie. And in this case, boy did knowing what I was getting into paid off.

The reason is that at the end of the very last of the series of 7 books, “The Last Battle”, C.S. Lewis, the famed Christian apologist and scholar cherished and beloved by millions of Christians worldwide, and whose works are referenced and quoted by many prominent Christian pastors and leaders and used in a great many of the seminaries and Bible colleges that train future such leaders, uses the devout pagan false god worshiping character Emeth to make an aggressive endorsement of the “many paths to heaven” religious pluralism heresy popularized by those ranging from John Hick, Billy Graham, and the Vatican Council II (now of course my position is that Roman Catholicism is a wholly other and false religion to begin with, but thanks to a long line of people from John Wesley to Billy Graham, Roman Catholics are now accepted as Christians by most evangelicals, which means that their doctrines increasingly influence Protestant thinking). Aslan, the allegorical Jesus Christ figure in Narnia, gives Emeth entrance into heaven because he accepted Emeth’s loyal – indeed fervent – devotion to the demon Tash as service to him. Lewis promoted the popular modern heretical abomination that “good people” who faithfully worship false deities are actually worshiping the one true God whether they know it or not … that those who worship YHWH in ignorance through false religions will receive the same reward as those who worship God openly. This was even inconsistent with the contents of the Narnia books themselves, as the religion dedicated to this demon had corrupted Emeth’s entire culture, people and nation.

But wait. There’s more. Aslan also allows entrance into heaven those who did not worship him, but merely obeyed the laws of Narnia (as Narnia’s laws were based on knowledge of Aslan). So, in addition to “you can get to heaven by being a good demon worshiper”, Lewis basically endorsed the “all good people go to heaven regardless of worship or personal faith” doctrine, which is essentially an endorsement of both Roman Catholic doctrine (salvation is conferred by being a member in good standing with the church) and  modern state-church doctrine. May I remind you that C.S. Lewis was on extremely good terms with the Roman Catholic Church, and a member of the Church of England.

Basically, C.S. Lewis held the position that Jesus Christ’s atoning death on the cross is applied to all good people regardless of religious practice. Lewis, typical of pluralists and universalists, interprets “I am the way and none can come to the Father except through me” to mean that Jesus Christ alone was the One who secured salvation regardless of faith in Him, and not that salvation is only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Again, C.S. Lewis’ beliefs are not hidden in a corner. They are in the Narnia books, read by millions of Christians who profess conservative theological beliefs. And Narnia has defended his views as expressed in “The Last Battle” in a number of writings and media interviews. Naturally, these are not what the many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who love citing Lewis refer to, and it is not what the many evangelical and fundamentalist seminaries assign their students to read. That the folks who tread in these circles esteem C.S. Lewis merely because he is counted as a theological conservative on certain matters (i.e. inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible and the virgin birth, deity, atoning death, resurrection and literal return of Jesus Christ) and oppose theological liberals when they believe basically the same thing on the vital issue of who gets to go to heaven can be nothing other than an indictment of the scandalous condition of the church today … a church that many believe is on the precipice of the great falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3. What else can be said about a Christian climate that continues to revere  C.S. Lewis, Rick Warren and Billy Graham, sponsors such efforts as Evangelicals and Catholics Together, Mormon outreaches, and the Manhattan Declaration (signed by a number of prominent Christians including Al Mohler, which is no surprise as Mohler is on the board of James Dobson’s Focus On The Family).

The truth is that there isn’t that much difference between the beliefs of C.S. Lewis, who is treasured by so many conservative Christians, and the publicly stated beliefs of Barack HUSSEIN Obama. (Yes, Obama proclaims that he believes in the virgin birth, deity, atonement, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.) Yet one they embrace and the other they despise? Then again, since so many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians continued to support George W. Bush even after he stated that the Bible is not literally true but was merely good moral instructions (the position of the deist Thomas Jefferson), that Muslims and Christians worship the same god, and that this god (whoever he is) told him to invade Iraq, and that Billy Graham told him that some people are “born Christian” … well I guess it would have take finding out that C.S. Lewis supported the Democratic Party and Billy Graham becoming a Democrat for prominent Christians to turn on them! One must look at the church, look at the Bible and shudder at the judgments in store for the church of this generation!

Now the verse that C. S. Lewis used in his writings to defend his pluralist position was 1 Timothy 4:10, which reads “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” Lewis and his band of gospel-denying heretics interpret that to mean that God saves “good people” whether they believe or not. The problem: even if you are willing to discard everything else said in Biblical revelation in order to make that single verse the head of all scripture, that isn’t what the verse means. If God is the “Saviour of all” according to Lewis, then His salvation isn’t pluralism (all faithful adherents of their religious traditions get saved because all religions contain enough of God’s revelation to save) or works righteousness (all good people go to heaven) but universalism (everyone goes to heaven regardless of belief  or works). So, in addition to Lewis being internally inconsistent in his Narnia universe by claiming that it was possible to be good, faithful and moral by following a religion dedicated to a demon, and which religion had made the nation given over to worshiping it corrupt and evil, he was inconsistent with his interpretation of 1 Timothy 4:10 by claiming that “Saviour of all” means “Saviour of all good/religious people” instead of “Saviour of all” which is what it plainly says! So, we have a fellow who goes on record stating that a Bible verse doesn’t mean what it plainly says (even according to his own fashion) and he still gets to be regarded as one of the greatest Christian minds of the 20th century? Ok … fine … so who’s the second greatest? If this is what it takes to be regarded as a great Christian mind, what’s the point? What is the benefit? Where is the profit! It would be far better to be regarded a rube, simpleton and dullard by the likes of these people!

So, as 1 Timothy 4:10 plainly cannot be used to support pluralism, we can reject Lewis out of hand and move on to what the verse seems to endorse, which is the universalism of a long line of heretics dating back to at least Origen. Now I must admit: I was stumped. (No great shock or issue there, for after all I am an amateur, not a professional pastor or theologian!) And when I did an Internet search on the matter, I didn’t find much. I guess all the professional pastors and theologians out there had better things to do than properly exegete/interpret/explain a verse that is very commonly abused by universalism heretics! What are some of those things? Oh, I don’t know, how about praising C. S. Lewis and telling their congregations to go watch the Narnia movies and buy the books without bothering to warn them what Lewis really believes and his books really teach … about how it really is no better than Harry Potter? Research shows that most evangelicals believe that “all good people are going to heaven.” Oh, gee, I wonder why?

Fortunately, the excellent The Highway ministry was up to the challenge. A link to their presentation of why 1 Timothy 4:10 does not teach universalism is below:

An Exegetical Study of 1 Timothy 4:10

The main excerpt:

A. This is the correct interpretation. It is found by making a thorough study of the term “Saviour” (in both its noun and verb forms1) in the context of the chapter, the epistle, the New Testament and the Old Testament.2 The final phrase “specially of those that believe” clearly Indicates that the term is here given a twofold application. Of all men God is the Saviour, but of some men, namely, believers, He is the Saviour in a deeper, more glorious sense than He is of others.
This clearly implies that when He Is called the Saviour of all men, this cannot mean that He imparts to all everlasting life, as He does to believers. The term “Saviour,” then, must have a meaning which we today generally do not immediately attach to it. And that is exactly the cause of the difficulty. Often In the Old Testament, the term meant “to deliver — (verbal form) or deliverer (nominal form)” — both with reference to men and God (cf. Judg. 3:9; II Kings 13:5; Neh. 9:27; Ps. 25:5; 106:21). Also, in the New Testament, reference is made to the Old Testament where God delivered Israel from the oppression of Pharaoh for He had been the Saviour of all, but specially those who believed. With the latter, and with them alone, He was “well pleased” (I Cor. 10:5). All leave Egypt; not all enter Canaan.” POINT: In both the Old and New Testaments the term “Saviour” is often used to speak of God’s providential preservation or deliverance which extends to all men without exception. (Cf. Ps. 36:6; 145:9; Matt. 5:45; Luke 6:35; Acts 17:25, 28.) Moreover, God also causes His gospel of salvation to be earnestly proclaimed to all men without distinction; that is, to men from every race and nation (Matt. 28:19). Truly the kindness (providence or common grace) of God extends to all. But even the circle of those to whom the message of salvation is proclaimed is wider than those who receive it by a true saving faith.

B. Conclusion. A paraphrase of what Paul is teaching in I Timothy 4:10 is this: “We have our hope set on the living God, and in this hope we shall not be disappointed, for not only is He a kind God, hence the Saviour (i.e., preserver or deliverer in a providential, non-soteriological sense) of all men, showering blessings upon them, but He is, in a very special sense, the Saviour (in a soteriological sense) of those who by faith embrace Him and His promise, for to them He imparts salvation, everlasting life in all its fulness.

A similar conclusion is reached by Pastor John Sampson.

A great deal more could be said to substantiate this idea of a savior, but I think the above would make the point. God provides food (Psalm 104:27, 28), sunlight and rainfall (Matt. 5:45), as well as life and breath and all things (Acts 17:25), for “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). God preserves, delivers and supplies the needs of all who live in this world, and it is in this sense that He extends grace to them, saving them from destruction every day they live.

God is also gracious in allowing many to hear the proclamation of the Gospel.

All of these mercies are refered to as “common grace.” It is common only in the sense that every living person gets it. This grace should actually amaze us because God is under no obligation whatsoever to give it to anyone. It can never be demanded. God sustains the lives of His sworn enemies, often for many decades! However, as wonderful as it is, it is only a temporal grace because all unregenerate people eventually die and will face the judgment (Heb. 9:27).

I believe then that 1 Timothy 4:10 teaches that we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior (Soter – preserver, sustainer, deliverer) of all people (showing mercy to all, each and every day they live), especially of those who believe (who receive full salvation from His wrath and everlasting life).

For an alternative explanation, Pastor James White proposes that this verse should have been translated to read “who is the Savior of all people, that is, of those who believe” because “malista” should have never been translated as “especially” but instead “that is”. So, a more smooth rendering “who is the Savior of all people who believe” with the “malista” being for the purpose of placing emphasis on “those who believe”, or highlighting those who have saving grace, in a peculiar language convention of the day.

Primarily, however, Dr. White also states that this verse means that Jesus Christ is the only Savior, but that since only those who believe in Jesus Christ actually get saved, Jesus Christ is even more so the Savior for those. In other words, it is a “from general to specific” literary convention. To employ a comparison example:

“A car is a method of transportation, especially for those who own one.” The fact that you do not have access to a car does not negate the fact that a car is a method of transportation. But for those who actually have access to a car, that car is THEIR method of transportation, making it a method of transportation even more so for them, or making it especially a method of transportation.

Taking that back to Jesus Christ, it means that Jesus Christ is Savior whether a person is actually saved or not! Jesus Christ is Savior, especially for people who get saved! And Dr. White’s interpretation actually does fit 1 Peter 1:13-25. That passage is concerned with Jesus Christ’s being appointed as Savior by God before the foundation of the world. This declares Jesus Christ to be Savior not by virtue of His act of saving people, but rather appointing Him to the office of Savior in an official or general way. To go back to the car example, a car does not become a method of transportation only when and because people are riding in it. Instead, provided that the car is capable of operating properly, it is a method of transportation merely by being a car whether it is ever actually driven or not. More to the point, it is a method of transportation even if it is driven by someone else and you personally never get to ride in it. Why? Because it is a car. Further, it is a method of transportation for all people – in the sense that every human being on the planet could hypothetically ride in it … even if they never get a chance to ride in it, they could hypothetically or potentially do so … even though not everyone actually gets to ride in it!

Another example: a surgeon is a surgeon even if he isn’t operating on anyone, and even if he isn’t operating on you. Why? Because even if he never operates on you, his job, title, duty, is still surgeon. And he is still surgeon for all people in the sense that hypothetically he is able to operate on any individual. Despite the fact that he will only perform a few hundred surgeries in his career, he is still qualified, trained, and able to operate on any person who needs a surgeon. So, he is a surgeon “for all” in a general sense, and the surgeon for people that he actually operates on in a specific sense. From general to specific.

Now both The Highway and Dr. James White are correct. God does save by being provider and sustainer of all in a common grace sense, and God also holds the title, role, office etc. of Savior. However, because Dr. James White’s primary explanation seems to best fit the context and also addresses the soteriology component (and does so without relying on either a minor translation for malista that results in a very odd literary construction), that is the one preferred.

The bottom line is that as there are several ways to interpret 1 Timothy 4:10 in a manner that precludes universalism, the only reason to use it to assert that heretical doctrine (or to use it to assert pluralism in spite of the direct text) is a rebellious heart. Which, of course, is no surprise … while there are certainly exceptions (i.e. ignorance) people generally adhere to heretical doctrines because they are heretics. So, those who use 1 Timothy 4:10 in some attempt to deny or reject what the Bible clearly reveals are without excuse, and will receive the heretic’s reward when they stand before the very Jesus Christ whose atonement they so marginalized, distorted and slandered on judgment day.

Do not be counted among their lot, of those who remain hard hearted to God’s revelation. Rather, let them be a lesson, byword, proverb or warning to you. Let their example be something that helps cause you to turn from your own sins – which are no greater than theirs – and submit yourself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ who is Savior. Be one of those who believes, one of those that Jesus Christ is especially, specifically a Savior to. Do not delay. Do this immediately.

Follow The Three Step Salvation Plan Today!

Posted in Bible, Christianity, false doctrine, false religion, false teaching, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Predestination Is In The Bible. Predestined Foreknowledge Is Not!

Posted by Job on December 31, 2010

Many Christians acknowledge the clear Biblical evidence concerning predestination. However, in order to preserve their belief that God must humble Himself, bow before, and submit to man’s free will decisions, they have incorporated this Biblical evidence into a doctrine called “predestined foreknowledge.” It basically allows free will to coexist with the rest of Calvinism (as opposed to pure Wesleyanism, which rejects Calvinism completely) and is largely the position of most evangelical and fundamentalist churches. However, this position still falls short of making the best use of the Bible’s evidence.

The “predestined foreknowledge” doctrine is based on Romans 8:29, which reads “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Unfortunately the piece below, which otherwise addresses all the other issues adequately, does not properly deal with this verse, instead choosing to deal with other verses that more explicitly teach the predestination doctrine.

Instead, the problem is a translation issue. The word translated “foreknow”, proginōskō, should actually be translated as foreordain. As a matter of fact, proginōskō is translated as foreordain in 1 Peter 1:20. And of course, this text, by the Palestinian Jew Peter as opposed to the more Hellenized diaspora Jew Paul,  says “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you”. So, Romans 8:29 should read “”For whom he did foreordain, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” And that allows Romans 8:29 to be interpreted with 1 Peter  1:13-25. Not surprisingly, if you do that, they confirm each other in one coherent, unified doctrinal statement which relates election, predestination and salvation to sanctification, perfection and glorification in Christ Jesus.

The bottom line: Romans 8:29, especially when it is interpreted with 1 Peter 1:13-25 and being consistent with the translation of the same word (totally appropriate as they are used in the same context), clearly declares that God predestinates based on His choice, and not on His foreknowledge of our choice. Before you say “no fair, why can’t I just interpret proginōskō to be “foreknew” in 1 Peter 1:20″? Simple, because saying that God foreknew about the blood of Jesus Christ from the foundation of the world makes no sense whatsoever. God the Father didn’t just know that Jesus Christ would die for our sins. God PLANNED for Jesus Christ to die for our sins. How do we know this? The words of Jesus Christ Himself. John 3:16 – a favorite of free will Christians – does not say that for God so loved the world that He knew in advance that His only Son would come. Instead, John 3:16 says that for God so loved the world that He gave, He sent, His only Son. Jesus Christ bore witness in the gospels that it was God the Father’s plan, that it was God the Father who sent Him, and that He was being obedient to what God the Father ordained in advanced, not to what God knew would happen in advance and adjusted or adapted to. That is why even though “foreknew” is the preferred translation of proginosko (which is why the translators chose it for Romans 8:29), they had to use foreordain in 1 Peter 1:20 because there was no other viable option. For instance, the New Living Translation gives 1 Peter 1:20 to be “God chose Him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days”, meaning that they translated proginosko in that passage to mean “God chose Jesus Christ by foreordaining Him.” And that fits John 15:16, where Jesus Christ says to the church (through His apostles): “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”

Now that Romans 8:29 has been dealt with

Please read:

How are predestination and election connected with foreknowledge?

Then

Follow The Three Step Salvation Plan Today!

Posted in Bible, Christianity, evangelism, false doctrine, false teaching, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

Limited Atonement And Matthew 1:21

Posted by Job on December 25, 2010

The most controversial doctrine of Calvinism, more controversial than predestination, is that of limited atonement. I hold this position because most Christians opposed to predestination are simply unaware of limited atonement, and further most Calvinists – including many prominent evangelical leaders like John Stott, Mark Driscoll and Bill Bright – are actually “four pointers”  because of their rejection of limited atonement.

However, the doctrine of limited atonement is very Biblical. One of its supporting texts is Matthew 1:21. This is somewhat striking because it appears in the address of the angel of the Lord (often presumed to be Gabriel) to Joseph upon his pondering what to about what he rather understandably presumed to be a pregnancy caused by his fiancee’s infidelity. In this address, the angel tells Joseph that Mary’s child would be named Jesus (Yeshua), translated “God saves” or “Jehovah is salvation” because “He shall save his people from their sins.”

Yes, the address of the angel in Luke 2 did pronounce this to be good news, tidings of great joy to all people, pronouncing God’s peace on earth and good will towards men.  Now I do adhere to the text used by the King James Version in Luke 2:14 (“good will towards men”), and not the texts used by other versions that are more Calvinistic (i.e. the NIV’s “peace to men on whom his favor rests”), but that does not introduce a contradiction, for those who reject limited atonement also do not use the statement of the angels to the shepherds in a way that would imply universalism (universal salvation). Instead, that passage should be viewed in the same manner of Philippians 2:8-11 … every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, but certainly not everyone will be saved as a result of this confession. So, just as the universal confession of Jesus Christ’s Lordship in Philippians 2:8-11 is not related to salvation, the universal proclamation of good news and good will to the shepherds is not also.

Instead, the statement of the angel to Joseph, Jesus Christ’s earthly adopted father and descendant of  King David, DID deal with salvation, in contrast to the angelic statements to the shepherds and to Mary. While Mary and the shepherds were both told that Jesus would be Messiah and Savior (and keep in mind, at the time most Jews were expecting their Messiah to be a political-military leader and ruler, and to them salvation meant liberation from Roman rule) Joseph alone received an angelic message stating that through Jesus Christ, God would save people from their sins.

As a result, in contrast with the universal message delivered to the shepherds and the somewhat narrower but still wide message delivered to Mary, only Joseph, a legitimate heir to David, received the true message of how Jesus Christ would fulfill the purpose of the Davidic kingdom, and by extension of Israel itself with “He shall save his people from their sins.” This makes the elevation of and emphasis on (to the point of worship!) Mary and neglect of Joseph rather unjustified, doesn’t it? It also makes those who try to contort the message and role of Jesus Christ into being some false gospel of social or political liberation very foolish. So, small wonder that Joseph and his significance has been marginalized by history, for at this time Joseph alone received the truth in its fullness, and few people indeed have legitimate interest in the truth that Jesus Christ brought and is.

And make no mistake: the angel did not tell people that Jesus Christ would save everyone from their sins, or would save everyone who would come and accept or receive Him from their sins. Instead, the angel informed Joseph that Jesus Christ would save HIS PEOPLE from their sins. And we know from elsewhere in the Bible that the identity of HIS PEOPLE has been established from the foundation of the world. God knows His sheep, and God’s sheep respond to the call of God’s voice! And how did Jesus Christ save HIS PEOPLE from their sins in the manner that was foretold to Joseph by the angel? By dying on the cross. Based on the statement of the angel to Joseph, which limited Jesus Christ’s saving role to a certain set of people, to HIS PEOPLE, Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was for HIS PEOPLE, the elect. It WAS NOT universal after the manner of the angelic declaration to the shepherds, because that declaration was not soteriological in nature, but rather had to do with joy and praise, and again Philippians 2:8-11 reveals that there will be a universal confession of Jesus Christ’s Lordship by creation that will fulfill the message to the shepherds. And the message to the angel to Mary to do with Jesus Christ’s rule, which also indeed will be universal. But only the message to Joseph had to do with salvation, and that was the only message limited to a certain, specific set of people. And make no mistake, it was for these people that atonement is limited.

Now one of the common ways to get around what Matthew 1:21 states is the common argument that “Matthew is the gospel that was written for a Jewish audience; its intent was to evangelize Jews, so Matthew 1:21 has the purpose of revealing Jesus Christ as the Jewish Messiah.” The problem is that there isn’t a bit of internal evidence to justify this position. Quite the contrary, Matthew 12:21 states that Gentiles will trust in the Name of Jesus Christ. Also, the Great Commission, the mandate to evangelize and disciple members of all nations in the Name of Jesus Christ (and not just Jews) is contained within Matthew 28:29-30, and it is clearer and more explicit in the supposed “Jewish gospel” than in the others (including the Gospel of Luke, which was written by a Gentile). That interpretation also sets Matthew 1:21 at odds with the many other texts in the New Testament (in Romans, Galatians and other places) which stated that the atonement was efficacious not for national Israel, but rather spiritual Israel. Therefore, atonement was not universal, but limited to the elect, the church.

This is important because one of the main arguments used against Calvinism is that it is a man-made system, a product of systematic theology, of intermingling the Bible with the deterministic Greek philosophy of Augustine and Calvin, and superimposing pre-existing ideas and doctrines on the Biblical text and interpreting it through that framework. Well, the truth is that possessing this view requires ignoring not only  Matthew 1:21 but also  the significance that the message in Matthew 1:21 was given by angelic revelation to the heir of David! (King David was Mary’s ancestor also, but where Mary descended from David’s son Nathan, Joseph descended from Solomon and as a result was eligible for the throne by heredity.)

Now the so-called “Biblicist” view ignores Matthew 1:21 in favor of claims that John 3:16 declares a universal atonement. Even were this true, it would only mean that limited atonement and universal atonement are equally valid, Bible-based doctrines. The truth is, however, that Matthew 1:21 is in no way in variance with John 3:16. The universal atonement interpretation of “for God so loved the world” requires taking “the world” to be “all the people living on planet earth.” Granted, that is a possible meaning of “kosmos”, but it is a rarely used one. Instead, “kosmos” most often means “order” or “arrangement”, and in this context means “universe as it is currently arranged.” In other words, that phrase should read “For God so loved this creation …” and the verse in context provides the interpretation “God loved this current creation of His enough to send His Son to preserve some of it.”

Though this present creation of God fell into sin, God did not want to totally destroy it, eradicate all of it from existence. Instead, God loved His creation to preserve some of it for eternity. Jesus Christ’s death was only for the portion of creation, the kosmos, that God wished to save.

The irony: even “universal atonement” is limited because those who assert “universal atonement” limit the “kosmos” in John 3:16 to mean the people in the universe only. It is not as if they have a choice, for the book of Revelation tells us that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. “Universal atonement” limits John 3:16 from all the universe to all people, and “limited atonement” merely limits John 3:16 further from all people to some people.

Ultimately, universal atonement based on John 3:16 requires a forced reading of translations of that text. First, it requires you to translate “kosmos” to be “world” as opposed to “created order” (which is the first and the second definition given by Strong) or “universe” (which is the third definition), which is a translation preference for a far lesser usage of the word (and when much better words for “all men” or “all mankind”, such as anthrōpinos, were available for use). Second, it requires for “world” to mean “humankind” as opposed to “planet Earth” or even “all living things on planet Earth.” Now consider that God did indeed destroy all living things on planet Earth during the flood of Noah. (This ark, which was a type of Jesus Christ, only provided salvation for the few that God saved.) So, rather than limited atonement being a man-made doctrine that one arrives at by superimposing human ideas on the text, this instead should be said of universal atonement, which one needs to both contrive a very creative reading of John 3:16 and ignore Matthew 1:21 to arrive at.

I should mention that I grew up in a Wesleyan religious tradition, one that rejected TULIP (including perseverance of the saints). I adopted so-called Calvinism (for these were not Calvin’s doctrines, as Calvin himself was a second-generation reformer) because they they best represent the Biblical evidence. Just as a score of Bible texts confirm total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints, Matthew 1:21 most definitely supports limited atonement.

How do we know for whom Jesus Christ’s death on the cross provides atonement for? When those who hear the message of His death and resurrection repent of their sins and respond in faith. If you have not already, I sincerely urge you to do so now.

Follow The Three Step Salvation Plan Today!

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Does Calvinism Hinder Evangelism? Yes And No …

Posted by Job on July 18, 2010

Saw this Calvinism & Evangelism: A Baptist Conversation and regretted not being able to participate in the discussion like I wished, so I will address some points here. First off, it is not Calvinism that hinders evangelism. It is doctrinal error. For example, plenty of liberal or “moderate” free will/Arminian churches (i.e. Methodist, Baptist) have adopted a “many paths to heaven” pluralistic theology, and others have given themselves over to the social gospel. In the former camp, such people reject evangelism and especially missions, believing the former to be a bigoted example of asserting one religious tradition’s superiority to another, and the latter to be religious and cultural imperialism. Among the latter, they believe that evangelism diverts energies, resources and passions from helping the poor, fighting injustice and working towards a more equal society. Now free will Christians PRACTICALLY NEVER address the beam in their own eye by associating their soteriology with the anti-evangelism stances of, say, the liberal/social gospel Methodists like Hillary Clinton that take John Wesley’s zeal for evangelizing the lost and redirect it towards improving society. Instead, they focus on the mote in the eyes of Calvinists whose hearts are hardened towards the gospel because they believe the false implications, applications and conclusions that they draw from the Biblical doctrines of predestination, election and limited atonement. Now it is just as easy to draw distinctions between Calvinists who follow after error and legitimate, Bible-based Calvinism as it is to do the same between a strong, solid free will salvation preacher and the “Methodists” that are performing homosexual marriages. It is just that the anti-Calvinist crowd chooses to make those distinctions when it comes to those who share their soteriology while (in a most unprincipled fashion) refusing to distinguish between John Ryland, Sr. and William Carey.

Now most anti-Calvinists address the success of Calvinist evangelists like Carey with the dishonest claim that “they successfully spread the gospel in spite of Calvinism” and then go on to produce statements and writings from such people that purport to show them conflicted, grieved and double-minded over their love for the lost and their love for predestination/limited atonement doctrines, and attribute any evangelistic success on their part to the former love’s being greater than the latter. First, even if they were conflicted in this manner, it is to their CREDIT that they struggled to try to reconcile seemingly conflicting scriptural doctrines, as opposed to the practice of the Wesleyan of either pretending that the scriptures pertaining to, say, predestination either don’t exist or don’t mean what the words in them say that they do. Second, BIBLICAL Calvinists know that the same BIBLE which contains T.U.L.I.P. also contains the Great Commission. Thus, the duty is to believe both, keep both and let God work out the details. When one accepts the full implications of the doctrine that it is God Himself who converts people and not man, and that man’s role is to be the instrument that God wishes to use bring conversion about, then in practice (orthopraxy) it works out any contradictions in speculative theology. Men preach, God saves, and it is simple as that. So, any problems are due to the unwillingness to simply obey God and preach and not any existential philosophical conundrum conflicts over “if a preacher preaches and no one is converted because there are no objects of God’s predestination and limited atonement in the audience, then has he really preached?”

Further, the motivation for our preaching should not – or at least not solely – be so that God can save. Instead, the motivation for preaching should be that God told us to. If we don’t preach, witness, evangelize or do missions, we knowingly commit high-handed sin against God, which is bad enough in and of itself without the consideration that people aren’t getting saved. After all, which is worse … that God is being disobeyed and sinned against or that people aren’t getting saved? If you pick the latter, then your doctrine and practice is man-centered and hence flawed. But Calvinists pick the former. A God centered approach means that God is being obeyed and hence worshiped and glorified regardless of the results. So while the free will Christian grieves over people not being saved, the Calvinist grieves over God not being glorified. In the latter approach, God is glorified and the people follow. But with the former, the interests of people are being served, and God is expected or presumed to follow. Which is better?

Well by now you might be wondering “he said Yes AND No, but so far we have only heard the NO. What about the YES”? Well allow me to say that Calvinism DOES make evangelism HARDER. And as well it should. If the primary purpose of evangelism is to glorify and worship God rather than to save men and to suit the purposes of the evangelist, then that will place a premium on doing evangelism correctly, and by that I mean in a reverent, God-honoring fashion by God-honoring people. We are supposed to serve God – and this includes evangelism – in the way that we are to work out our own salvation, which is with fear and trembling. (Note that the free will Christian sees no contradiction between salvation through faith and salvation with some combination of faith and works in Philemon 2:12. The reason is that when that verse is properly interpreted, no such contradiction exists. The same is true of the contradictions that allegedly exist between the doctrine of limited atonement and John 3:16 … they don’t).  Hebrews 12:28 (and yes I do rely on BlueLetterBible.org, a free will site) commands us to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear”, and this applies to service to God through evangelism just like everything else.

The perspective whereby we must seek to honor, serve and glorify God first makes it harder to do self-serving, self-seeking, flesh-pleasing “evangelism” because we are driven by results (conversions, baptisms, church growth, church plants, numbers numbers numbers). It removes us from the capitalist, big business fast food approach to evangelism where we logically conclude that since we are securing human decisions for Jesus Christ, then if people don’t choose Jesus Christ, then the problem is either with the evangelist trying to make the sale or the packaging that the evangelist has adorned the gospel of Jesus Christ with. Instead, it accepts the idea that since a sovereign God is drawing people unto Himself USING evangelists, then playing the numbers game presumes to know God’s plan for a particular church, or the believers in a particular time and place. All the Great Commission promises is that the gospel will be preached in every nation, and that people from every tribe and tongue will be converted. The great commission does not promise that a particular church will always grow, or that a particular nation will have a certain percentage of its population as born-again believers. So, the “seeker-sensitive/emergent” efforts to “repackage the gospel”, to “rebrand the church” or even to “take back our country politically and legally and return it to its Christian heritage” is based on a set of assumptions that cannot be supported in scripture. For instance, even as we are mourning the declining numbers in conservative evangelical and fundamentalist churches in America and the west (and in the instance of the Southern Baptist Convention, scapegoating Calvinists for it!), church growth is booming in third world countries, which in some cases have gone from being evangelized by missionaries barely 100 years ago to sending out their own missionaries, including in some instances back to the west! (Yes, I am aware that most of this is due to free will missionaries. However, it is equally true that a lot of that is due to PENTECOSTAL missionaries. So I will begin to complain about the gospel being spread by free will Christians when the Baptists and Methodists start complaining about the gospel being spread by Pentecostals. My position is that God uses born-again people to preach the gospel, not people who adhere to a particular denomination or system of soteriology.) So if the sovereign God has decided that the time for the west’s dominance of Christianity has passed, and it is now time for Asia, Africa and Latin America to rise to the forefront, who are we to say otherwise? Especially as the church was born not in the west but in the near east to begin with? So it can and should be said that Calvinism DOES hinder BAD EVANGELISM DOCTRINES AND PRACTICES THAT DISHONOR GOD AND DENY HIS SOVEREIGNTY IN FAVOR OF APPEALING TO THE BASE INSTINCTS OF MAN’S FLESH THAT SHOULDN’T EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE, and that’s a good thing.

Also, we must wonder why this charge, that “Calvinism hinders evangelism” is so effective in the first place; why it wounds and hurts. To start, we must address why it is used to begin with. One should acknowledge that the Calvinism/free will debate is basically unwinnable by either side. Both sides have a good amount of scriptural evidence at their disposal, but no matter where one stands on the Calvin/Wesley divide it is impossible to in good conscience be dogmatic because scripture texts reasonably interpreted to support the other side do in fact exist and cannot be ignored. That being said, there is clearly, undeniably MORE EVIDENCE on the Calvinist side than on the free will side. Being faced with that reality, the “Calvinism hinders evangelism” charge is used to tip the scales. The person thinks “well, there is a lot in the Bible that supports Calvinism, but I don’t want to stand against winning the lost!” and makes what appears to be the safe, moral God honoring position out of a love for God’s lost sheep.

While that is admirable on the surface, allow me to point out two things. First, the charge is not that Calvinism STOPS evangelism, only that Calvinism HINDERS it. In addition to my modifier above, that Calvinism hinders GOD-DISHONORING evangelism, realize even apart from that context that there is a huge difference between HINDERING something and STOPPING IT ALTOGETHER. If it could be said that Calvinism STOPS evangelism, then again that would put Calvinism against God and His Commandments by causing its adherents to reject the Great Commission. As stated earlier, that only applies to so-called Christians in BOTH Calvinist AND free will traditions, who disobey God in that area. But hindering evangelism only means making it go slower, and perhaps less than certain people want it to or think that it should. And I have already mentioned that the presumption of perpetual church growth is a bad one. So then, why is it such a strong, effective charge?

The reason is that a lot of people have a distorted view of evangelism and its importance in Christian life. Some of this is due to emotionalism, but some of it is also due to the evangelistic fervor injected into Christianity first by Wesleyanism and then by premillennial dispensational fundamentalism. And they are actually somewhat related. Wesley, coming from the Church of England as he was, adhered to an amillennial background. Hence, it is not by accident that the liberal social gospel doctrines originated with Wesleyan Methodism. Wesley believed that by winning as many converts as quickly as possible, the church could first renew and transform society and then pave the way for and speed the return of Jesus Christ. The difference between Wesleyanism and the social gospel is that liberal theologians simply allegorize (deny) the literal return of Jesus Christ, claiming that the return of Jesus Christ and New Jerusalem are only metaphors for an ideal society where things such as poverty, hunger, disease and war have practically been eliminated thanks to the good works of Christians. (Again, Hillary Clinton adheres to this system, which is itself a forerunner to the even more secular and radical liberation theology.) Premillennial dispensational Christians for their part are driven to prioritize evangelism because of the beliefs that A) getting the gospel to every nation will speed the rapture and return of Jesus Christ and B) a desire to reduce the number of people who never hear the gospel and hence enter into eternity without ever being afforded the privilege of being able to make a free will decision for Jesus Christ.

Allow me to state that having an unbalanced view of any area of Christian life is harmful and can lead to error. For instance, emphasizing sanctification too much leads to legalism. Emphasizing ethics and good works too much leads to the social gospel. Emphasizing prophecy and eschatology too much harms our ability to live in the here and now. Emphasizing grace and eternal security too much leads to antinomianism. And even fundamentalists have questioned if their emphasis on evangelism has come at the expense of discipleship. Thus, if Calvinism’s hindering of evangelism means not making evangelism the head of Christian practice and the primary goal and reason for existence for every church, then again Calvinism is a good thing. If you have the idea that Christians must primarily be concerned about saving other people from the lake of fire because going to the lake of fire is such a terrible and horrible thing for people, then that is man-centered theology and practice rearing its ugly head again. But if you have the idea that Christians must be concerned about evangelism because it is one of the many things that Christians must do to serve, obey and glorify God, then evangelism can take a balanced, proper role in the life of every Christian assembly and individual believer.

Allow me to provide a metaphor, example, allegory, illustration or whatever: people who work in engineering or technology. Most such people want to do so because of their passion and aptitude for inventing and creating. So, they go about acquiring the education and training required to enter such fields and then obtain employment expecting to spend their days building better mousetraps. However, upon obtaining employment, they find that most of their time is dedicated to reading reports, writing documentation, giving presentations, meeting with clients, fixing things that break, and making slight improvements to things that already work. Opportunities to work on or create something that is wholly new are few and far between, and even when they come, it is usually not something spectacular like inventing the light bulb, airplane or telephone like Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers or Alexander Graham Bell (who themselves, incidentally needed to build upon other discoveries to make those) but rather something that appears to be mundane that anyone could have done. What adds to the frustration of the erstwhile Eli Whitneys and George Washington Carvers is that there are plenty of people who are actually terrible at engineering, science and technology but great at “the other stuff” who have no problem not only retaining employment, but getting high salaries and promotions. Meanwhile, people with great skills and ideas who lack the ability or desire to excel at analyzing reports or giving presentations find their careers stymied, even ended. However, over time, these people realize that meeting with clients (who have a real business need) and giving them mundane products (which meets their need and is all that they can afford) is what keeps the business going. If you keep the business going long enough and do a good job on the routine tasks, then eventually you will get the opportunity to work on something new and exciting! But if you despise the routine tasks, you get fired and as a result never get to work on what is near and dear to your heart. Instead, that opportunity goes to the lesser talented person who did the mundane stuff the best that he could because he appreciated his job and his opportunity. And if EVERYONE despises the routine tasks, then the company goes broke, everyone loses their job and NO ONE gets a chance to work in something exciting or special. Also, it is by working hard, reading reports, meeting clients, giving presentations etc. that you LEARN how to make something NEW that people actually WANT, NEED and CAN USE. There have been lots of fascinating inventions created by people who had great technical skills but no knowledge of people or markets, and such inventions usually wind up being things that no one needs, wants, knows how to use or care to learn. The reason is that the inventors were more motivated in satisfying their own desire to invent than they were to invent something that people want and need.

This example can apply to Christian life. Effective, God-honoring evangelism can only be consistently done – whether individually or corporately – by people who live and honor the whole counsel of God, by people who know all the things that Jesus Christ did and taught as it is recorded in the Bible. Basically, effective, God-honoring evangelism is best done by people who do everything else that God tells them to do also, because it is those people who know what God wants in an evangelist. What is it that God wants in an evangelist? Simply, someone who is aware of his own worthlessness, his own uselessness, his own limitations and therefore relies totally on God. It is the evangelists who prioritize evangelism above all else and declare themselves to be “great soul-winners” that ultimately wind up building human monuments and institutions to their own greatness. Well, those people have their rewards on earth, and what they build and create won’t last the test of time, because they are like the self-absorbed inventors who create things that have no practical use described earlier. Or, such people will be frustrated with not getting the opportunity to do what they want to do, what matters to them, and what in their opinion fits their great skills and talents and leave. But the people who recognize that they aren’t really that smart or brilliant, and the people who LIKE doing the difficult unglamorous things because they are glad simply to have a place in God’s kingdom and dwell in God’s presence are the ones that God will raise up to do His Will, whether it is evangelism or other tasks to His glory.

And as far as the “mundane things”? Well most evangelism simply is – or seems to be – mundane. Now we all may admire the great revivals and missions started by Wesley, Carey, Edwards etc. However, those events – great moves of God – are not routine but rare and spectacular that few people will ever even take part in, let alone lead. So, instead of the spectacular – and while we are waiting on the spectacular – then things like leading our children to Christ, leading our friends and neighbors to Christ, leading our relatives to Christ should not be despised. And yet, many of the very free will Christians who accuse Calvinists of hindering evangelism aren’t even doing that. Ironic, isn’t it?

Not really. The reason is that there are two principles involved that often get overlooked. The first is that God is sovereign. God controls not only who gets saved, but when. Consider Philip the Evangelist and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts. The narrative makes clear that the Holy Spirit had both Philip and the eunuch in the right place at the right time, and also had the hearts and minds of both prepared: Philip to give the gospel and the eunuch to receive it. Philip was among those driven from Jerusalem by persecution, and the eunuch was in the area to fulfill religious obligations, attempting to understand the meaning of a passage from Isaiah. Without God, it wouldn’t have happened. Without God, it couldn’t have happened.

And the persecution that caused Philip to meet the Ethiopian eunuch? It was caused by Paul, the same who was saved by God as he was heading to Damascus. God chose the time and place, not Paul.

Another thing: the Bible makes it clear that before God entrusts us with great things and many things, we must prove faithful in fewer, smaller things. So, how are we going to succeed in big evangelistic efforts like the Southern Baptist Convention’s Great Commission Resurgence if we are not doing door to door evangelism? And how can we do door to door evangelism of strangers if we aren’t telling our friends and neighbors about Jesus Christ? And how can we tell our friends and neighbors about Jesus Christ if we are not living balanced, obedient Christian lives that results from good discipleship and leads to spiritual maturity? If these were not the case, then it would turn the parable of the talents on its head. Again, consider Paul. He did not begin his missionary travels until YEARS after his conversion, and even then he was initially an UNDERSTUDY of Barnabas, who had been in the faith longer.

So, it is not Calvinism, dear Christian, that hinders evangelism. If anything hinders evangelism within a Christian, it is spiritual immaturity that results from either a lack of right belief (orthodoxy), or a failure to translate right belief into right practice (orthopraxy) and to do so consistently in all areas of Christian living, not just those which appeal to us and earn us the praise of men. Now if our free will/Arminian brothers and sisters in the faith wish to make the case that Calvinism causes spiritual immaturity, then go ahead, I am all ears. Otherwise, their false charge against Calvinism is based on false assumptions (i.e. that churches should always grow, instead of the historically proven fact that churches and movements spread, wax and wane) and presuppositions (that evangelism should be man-focused like consumer marketing instead of God-centered like true worship) and should be rejected as spurious.

Posted in Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Article On Eternal Justification

Posted by Job on October 27, 2009

Eternal Justification by Berkhopf

Posted in Christianity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Dangers Of Emotional Sentimental Christianity

Posted by Job on September 16, 2009

By Kevin Bauder on Sharper Iron.

The evangelical mixture from which Fundamentalism developed made serious concessions to populism. Charles Finney took those concessions to an extreme by patterning the inner ministry of the church after the worlds of commerce, politics, and entertainment. Finney made these adaptations at the precise moment when popular culture was coming into existence. The result was that the predecessors of Fundamentalism invested heavily in adapting their Christianity to popular culture. Fundamentalism inherited this link with popular culture and has perpetuated it rather consistently through the years.

Popular culture came into its own during the Victorian-Edwardian era.1 It provided a channel through which Victorian influences began to affect the lived Christianity of most American evangelicals, and consequently of the Fundamentalists who came after them. While Fundamentalists have not been alone in attempting to assimilate popular culture into Christianity, they have been among the foremost.

One of the main characteristics of Victorian popular culture was its sentimentalism. Victorians did not invent sentimentalism, but they made it a significant aspect of their mental and emotional furniture. As the predecessors of Fundamentalism absorbed Victorian popular culture, they imported its sentimentalism into their Christianity.2

Sentimentalism is more than simple overindulgence in emotion. It is a combination of two factors. First, it attaches the wrong degree or kind of emotion to an object. Second, it pursues emotion for the sake of the emotion itself.

Historically, Christians understood each object or activity to merit a certain emotional response (an ordinate affection). To feel more strongly toward a thing than it merited was considered sentimental; to feel less strongly was considered brutal. Alternatively, to direct toward one thing a feeling that rightly belonged to another was also either sentimental or brutal, depending upon the quality of the feeling and its harmony with the object.

Sentimental people mismatch feelings to objects by incorrectly perceiving the value of the objects themselves. They smooth out or eliminate the complicated nature of being and feeling. Consequently, the feelings themselves are sweetened or otherwise imbalanced.3

Dickens is a good illustration of sentimentalism. His characters tend to be one-dimensional stereotypes. Feelings aroused by those characters are clichéd and, from a later perspective, simply corny. For example, little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop is such an impossibly sweet character that it is ridiculous to think of her as human at all. She is more like a porcelain doll. When Nell dies, the reader is supposed to be overcome with pathos. A person who understands what real thirteen-year-olds are like, however, is more likely to be overcome with the humor of the situation. Dickens attempted to evoke a sense of sorrow that far outweighed the value of Nell’s character.4

Nell was one of Dickens’s most popular characters. Why? Because sentimentalism is more concerned with the experience of the emotion than with its object. Dickens’s readers really wanted to feel the kind of bathetic sadness that he tried to evoke. Their clichéd grief, however, was very different from the misery that one experiences at the grave of a real girl. It was a feeling that people could relish. They could and did wallow in it. Their faux sorrow existed for its own sake, not for the sake of the plastic character toward whom it was directed.

A sentimental person is more interested in the feeling than in the object. The feeling must be quickly aroused and predictable. The words stereotype and cliché really are applicable to the process that occurs.

Because sentimentalism exists for the sake of the emotion, the focus naturally turns toward the individual who feels the emotion. As sentimentalism develops, it focuses less and less upon the object of sentiment, and more and more upon the quality of the sentiment itself. A sentimental song cannot say why a boy loves a girl. All it can say is how very, very, very much he loves her. As people become more sentimental they become more and more occupied with their own inner states, eventually resulting in profound self-absorption.

The consequences of sentimentalism for Christianity were profound. For example, sentimentalism changed the very categories in which unconditional election and efficacious calling were debated. Previous generations had resorted mainly to arguments about the nature of freedom (this approach can be found as late as Finney). The new sentimentalism, however, completely changed the way that people saw God. God was no longer complicated. He was no longer terrible in His holiness. He was not a God who hid Himself or who left His children weeping in perplexity.5 Rather, His fundamental attribute became niceness. God was now thought to be the quintessence of fair-mindedness. Such a God would never barge into an unresponsive heart. Furthermore, His niceness and even-handedness required Him to do everything that He could possibly do for every single sinner. It was unthinkable that God might do more for some (call them the “elect”) than He might do for others.6

Salvation was also sentimentalized. The unsaved were no longer regarded as rebels, lawbreakers, and criminals. They were now seen as poor, lost, lonely wanderers who needed to be shown the way home. The problem with sin was no longer that it scandalized justice and offended moral sense, but that it left the sinner weary, empty, and sad. The question became, “Are you weary? Are you heavy-hearted?” The invitation to salvation was no longer to repent, but to “Come home, come home, ye who are weary come home.” And, of course, the response was, “I’ve wandered far away from God. Now I’m coming home.”

Eternity was sentimentalized. Christians used to think of heavenly places primarily as the throne of God and Christ: “The Prince is ever in them.” Faced with the wonder of their eternal home, the faithful had exclaimed, “Beneath thy contemplation sink heart and voice oppressed!” Such a complicated view of eternity had to be flattened out. Heaven was transformed into a kind of church picnic in which a big family reunion would take place. The redeemed could now express their expectation of a spiritual romp to the rollicking, “Oh that will be glory for me, glory for me, glory for me.”

Even the Lord Jesus was transformed by the sentimentalism of the age. No longer was He viewed primarily as the transcendent sovereign who was coming to judge the quick and the dead. He was now seen primarily as a friend (oh, such a friend).7 This shift probably grew from a desire to emphasize intimacy with Christ, but it resulted in two gross misapprehensions of spiritual closeness. On the one hand, Christ was envisioned more and more as buddy or chum, and spiritual intimacy gave way to mere familiarity. On the other hand, a growing body of expression began to envision Jesus as a kind of spiritual boyfriend and to speak of intimacy in terms of romantic love. People came to the garden alone while the dew was still on the roses in order to meet the Son of God in a parody of a lover’s tryst. From a later perspective, such expressions seem scandalously comical. At the time, however, there were plenty of people whose vision of spirituality was significantly shaped by such stereotyped clichés.8

Finally, under the influence of sentimentalism the role of the individual changed. Expressions of piety became more subjective and self-focused. The perfections of God and the splendor of His plan were pushed to the side as the emotional experience and expression of the worshipper assumed center stage.

These were the influences that Fundamentalism inherited.9 They are the same influences that continue to affect the movement. The shape of sentimentalism has changed, but Fundamentalists in general have either tried to adapt to its latest expressions or else to perpetuate the older expressions as if they were somehow the faith itself.

The past three essays have attempted to define the intellectual and cultural location of Fundamentalism. They have expounded three influences that shaped the evangelical movement out of which Fundamentalism emerged. Those influences were Common Sense Realism, populism, and sentimentalism. All three influences were detrimental, and all three continue to affect the Fundamentalist movement.

To understand Fundamentalism better, we next need to discuss the theological environment out of which it developed. Before that discussion can take place, however, a few loose ends need to be tied up. To do that, I want to go back and to answer certain nagging questions about the matters we have been discussing. In other words, it is time for a digression.


1 The Victorian era properly ends with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. Victorian sensibilities continued to remain influential throughout the Edwardian period, which is typically extended past the death of Edward VII to the end of the Great War. During the Edwardian period, however, a transition was taking place that would produce the Jazz Age following the World War.

2 Victorian sentimentalism is one of the commonplaces of literary and historical discussion. Recently, however, it has come in for a good bit of scholarly examination. One of the more influential recent volumes in Victorian sentimentalism is Fred Kaplan, Sacred Tears: Sentimentality in Victorian Literature (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987). Another influential discussion occurs in Murray Roston, Victorian Contexts: Literature and the Visual Arts (New York: New York University Press, 1996). Recent interaction with both of these authors is provided by Suzy Anger, Knowing the Past: Victorian Literature and Culture (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press).

3 A brief but helpful discussion of sentimentalism can be found under the heading “Sentimentality” in Karl Beckson and Arthur Ganz, Literary Terms: A Dictionary (New York: Farrar, Strous and Giroux, 1975), 228-229. See also Thomas Winter, “Sentimentality” in Bret E. Carroll, ed., American Masculinities: A Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Moschovitis Group, 2003), 414-416.

4 For a thorough treatment of Dickens, see George H. Ford, Dickens and His Readers (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1955) or, more recently, Mary Lenard, Preaching Pity: Dickens, Gaskell, and Sentimentalism in Victorian Culture (Studies in Nineteenth-Century British Literature, Vol. 11) (New York: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 1999).

5 Psalm 88.

6 My point is not to argue for either side in the debate. It is simply to note the shift in the kinds of arguments that seemed plausible to Christian people. Sentimental arguments about what God’s love or fairness obligate Him to do would have been met with incredulity from both sides a few generations earlier.

7 It is noteworthy that in Scripture, we are never told to address Jesus individually as a friend, though His enemies accused Him of being the friend of publicans and sinners. He names us as His friends, but that is a very different matter. The shift to “friend” language as a norm for defining one’s relationship with Christ represents a very marked downgrading of esteem for Him.

8 There is a legitimate use of marriage imagery to depict the relationship between God and the soul or Christ and the church. Also, Christians have sometimes employed sexual imagery to explain the simultaneous longing and self-forgetfulness of spiritual intimacy, together with the awful nakedness of the soul before God. All of this is miles away from the “Jesus is my boyfriend” sentimentalism of the Victorian period.

9 Daryl Hart, “When Is a Fundamentalist a Modernist? J. Gresham Machen, Cultural Modernism, and Conservative Protestantism,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 65:3 (Autumn 1997), 605-633.

The Recovery

Thomas Traherne (1636-1674)

Sin! wilt thou vanquish me?
And shall I yield the victory?
Shall all my joys be spoil’d,
And pleasures soil’d
By thee?
Shall I remain
As one that’s slain
And never more lift up the head?
Is not my Saviour dead?
His blood, thy bane, my balsam, bliss, joy, wine,
Shall thee destroy; heal, feed, make me divine.

This essay is by Dr. Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN).

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Jesus-Is-Savior.com Calls Paul Washer, Ray Comfort And John MacArthur False Preacher Heretics!

Posted by Job on August 28, 2009

Beware of Paul Washer

Paul Washer’s Washed-up Gospel

Paul Washer’s FALSE GOSPEL!

Apparently the Jesus-Is-Savior people disdain all the talk about true Biblical repentance. Looks like another Calvinist/Reformed versus fundamentalist Arminianism debate. The latter is true because in their article denouncing Washer, they endorse Harry Ironside. About this Ironside:

Ironside was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to John and Sophia (Stafford) Ironside, who were both active in the Plymouth Brethren. From a very early age, Ironside showed a strong interest in evangelical Christianity and was active in the Salvation Army as a teenager before later joining the “Grant” section of the Plymouth Brethren. in 1924, Ironside began preaching under the direction of the Moody Bible Institute. In 1926, he was invited to a full-time faculty position at the Dallas Theological Seminary, which he turned down, although he was frequently a visiting lecturer there from 1925 to 1943. After a series of sermons presented at the The Moody Church, in Chicago, he was invited to a one-year trial as head pastor there in 1929. Almost every Sunday that he preached there, the 4,000 seat church was filled to capacity. While there, he continued traveling to other US cities during the week for preaching engagements. In 1932, he expanded his travels internationally. Ironside preached at the 1935 funeral of Billy Sunday, at Moody Church. In 1930, Wheaton College presented Ironside with an honorary Doctorate of Letters degree, and in 1942-06-03 Bob Jones University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Along with others such as Cyrus Scofield, he was influential in popularizing dispensationalism among Protestants in North America.

This is just an American version of the age old Baptist-Wesleyan (Methodist) dispute of post-Reformation England. In America, the Methodists basically won the debate, with Baptists co-opting many of their doctrines, and premillennial dispensationalism apparently playing a large role in that. It has reached the point where prominent fundamentalists openly denounce historic Protestant doctrines as heretical, while Wesleyan doctrines on soteriology and sanctification are now called the “Biblicist” position, as if Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield, John Bunyan, and Augustus Strong were ignorant of scripture or something.

The dispensationals refer to the doctrines of Washer to be “Lordship salvation.” Another site directly compares the teachings of John MacArthur to dispensational pioneer and giant Charles Ryrie. On Lordship salvation: “Its basic premise, that Jesus cannot be one’s Savior without also being his Lord, has been taken by some to mean that salvation is attained by works rather than by God’s grace.” The “some” who take this position are falsely distorting Reformed Baptist soteriology, building a straw man and knowingly making a false accusation. “Those who reject lordship salvation (e.g., Ryrie), believe that someone may have genuine faith in Christ, but the fact that he continues in his sin demonstrates that he has not made Jesus his Lord, only his Savior. According to Ryrie, just because someone sins or acts in disobedience (even habitually) doesn’t mean he doesn’t have saving faith.” So, it is the dispensational Ryrie who rejects “faith without works is dead.”

Check out what Ryrie claims. “Second, there is a repentance that is unto eternal salvation. What kind of repentance saves? Not a sorrow for sins or even a sorrow that results in a cleaning up of one’s life. People who reform have repented; that is, they have changed their minds about their past lives, but that kind of repentance, albeit genuine, does not of itself save them. The only kind of repentance that saves is a change of mind about Jesus Christ. People can weep; people can resolve to turn from their past sins; but those things in themselves cannot save. The only kind of repentance that saves anyone, anywhere, anytime is a change of mind about Jesus Christ. The sense of sin and sorrow because of sin may stir up a person’s mind or conscience so that he or she realizes the need for a Savior, but if there is not change of mind about Jesus Christ there will be no salvation” (p. 94, SGS).

“The only kind of repentance that saves is a change of mind about Jesus Christ.” Intellectual regeneration, confessional regeneration, decisional regeneration. Not only that, but a truly radical form of this doctrine that combines both conversion and repentance, which the Bible and historic Protestant doctrine hold refer to two related but separate things, into the single act of decison. Their position – what can be called the modern Wesleyan one that is the basic position of American evangelical Christianity (whether Baptist, Pentecostal, or nondenominational)  is that the free will decision for Jesus Christ is the primary and controlling factor where salvation is concerned. Now in theory – i.e. for systematic doctrinal purposes – the free will decision is not the sole factor. But IN PRACTICE, the decisional regenerationists do not wish to countenance anything that would challenge the  idea that the person who has made a decision for Jesus Christ has to be considered born again.

Now this is the rub. Their objection to those like Washer and MacArthur is not in a SPIRITUAL or DOCTRINAL sense. Objecting in a spiritual sense, where humans can claim to profess with 100% certainty that someone is born again when the Bible says that God knows the heart, is not the sort of Roman Catholic thing that these people are after. And they are also not creating or defending any doctrine to the effect of “if a person accepts Jesus Christ AND REALLY MEANS IT then he is saved.” Instead, their objection is in a practical and ecclesiastical sense. As far as practice is concerned, well listen to enough sermons by Paul Washer, John MacArthur and their fellow travelers long enough and it will be difficult to continue relying on the sinner’s prayer and similar evangelism methods (even if Ray Comfort, who largely shares their beliefs, still does). And in an ecclesiastical sense, their doctrines make it extremely difficult to put someone on a church roll after a decision for Jesus Christ. Washer and MacArthur (if not necessarily Comfort) demand a little more effort, a little extra step out of their evangelism methods and before people are allowed as members of their church in good standing. And even after requiring a little more, Washer and MacArthur regularly and frequently acknowledge that many members of their own churches are not born again.

That is offensive to someone who really, truly believes in decisional regeneration, which quite honestly does teach that a person is regenerated by the Holy Spirit upon their heartfelt decision for Jesus Christ. People who make a decision for Jesus Christ and remain unsaved; their only recourse is to claim that the decision was false, insincere, made without adequate understanding, etc. Further, one cannot spend too much time thinking about just how often these “flawed decisions” (decisions for Jesus Christ that did not result in true conversion) because having to consider a large number of flawed decisions means working out how decisional regeneration works in practice (i.e. methods of producing decisions for Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit will always – or at least almost always – honor) and incorporating that practice into evangelism and ecclesiology.

Now in times past, meaning the earlier Wesleyan and fundamentalist movements who A) taught that one could lose his salvation and B) had a strong moral/ethical/works component, this was not a problem. In those cases, you were dealing with a person who had lost his salvation and needed to confess and apologize for his sins and make a new confession of faith, and further the emphasis on morals and ethics (called “legalism” by some) acted as a control on church culture that reduced the need to have to deal with this unpleasant situation. However, as the modern movements have adopted more Biblical positions concerning the preservation of the saints and on grace, they cannot simply deal with this tough issue by saying “Well he made a valid decision for Jesus Christ, lost his salvation, and needs to be saved anew.” Instead, the position has to either be “he was never saved in the first place because his decision for Jesus Christ was flawed or ineffective” or “he is saved based on his decision for Jesus Christ, but he still has problems with sin.” Now as stated earlier, choose the former and the “decision for Christ” doctrine and the church systems based on it have real problems. So, they have no choice but to choose the latter, even if it means explicitly embracing the idea that a decision for Jesus Christ results in Holy Spirit regeneration in even the absence of Biblical repentance (what the Bible means when it says being “pricked in the heart” in Acts 2:37 and similar) and/or rejecting the Lordship of Jesus Christ (despite the fact that it is plainly impossible to make a decision for Jesus Christ when you do not know the identity or nature of the Jesus Christ that you are making a decision for or what Jesus Christ requires of you; anything less is making a decision to a false Jesus Christ, which is a false god or idol that does not exist and is no god at all).

By making decisional regeneration – or more accurately decisional conversion – the agent that results in the Holy Spirit’s justifying and regenerating a sinner, it makes the human free will decision of Jesus Christ a sacrament, a human ritual or action that imparts God’s grace (or results in God’s deciding to impart grace by honoring the initiative and actions of man). This can be compared to the sacramentalism of the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church claims that by being the body of Christ indwelt by the Holy Spirit (yes, the Roman Catholic Church does teach that the very institution is the body of Jesus Christ and contains within it the power and sovereignty of Jesus Christ) it has vested within it the power and authority to perform rituals that confer grace through its appointed representatives. So, the Roman Catholics believe that rituals performed by their priests save people, because through the ritual the priest is dispensing the saving grace using the Holy Spirit that the indwells the church. In other words, the ritual performed by the Catholic church saves you because the Catholic church is the body of Christ, contains the Holy Spirit, and as a result has the authority and the ability to dispense saving grace through its sacraments just as Jesus Christ had the ability to tell the paralytic man “thy sins are forgiven” and tell the penitent thief on the cross “this day you shall be with me in paradise.” (Consider in the last case, Ryrie’s position is that the thief in question never had to repent of his sins – which he plainly did when he confessed them and stated that he deserved the punishment of death for them – or call Jesus Christ Lord and submit to Him on that basis, but rather that the thief only had to ask Jesus Christ to save Him.)

However, the decisional conversion-regeneration position states that a person acting on his own power and authority can make a decision that the Holy Spirit (indeed the Holy Trinity) is unconditionally bound to honor, and further that the Godhead must accept that person’s decision even if that person rejects repentance and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. So where the Roman Catholic position is that as the Body of Christ being indwelt by the Holy Spirit it has the sovereign prerogative and ability to confer grace and the regenerative workings of the Holy Spirit on a sinner (Catholic sacramentalism), decisional conversion-regeneration holds that a person outside fellowship with Jesus Christ (and indeed is at emnity with Jesus Christ, spiritually dead, no interest in spiritual things, and all the other things that the Bible says about his condition of original sin and totally depraved state – doctrines which again the original Wesleyans and Arminians somewhat denied but modern dispensationals have mostly adopted) can perform a sacrament that dispenses grace upon himself.

While I do not take the position that Wesleyan dispensationals are in a false and heretical apostate movement and hence cannot be considered Christians – which incidentally is the position that I take with Roman Catholics – allow me to say that at least Roman Catholicism have an explanation for how it is possible for their priests to perform sacraments that dispense grace to sinners: that the priests are acting as representatives of the body of Christ that is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and therefore have the necessary access to the Holy Spirit and its grace to give to sinners. (Please note: the Roman Catholic Church actually holds in theory that it institutionally has the right to deny salvation to sinners, but it is exceedingly rarely done in practice, especially in modern times. However, in times past there was this pope who excommunicated the king of Britain until the king caved to the pope’s political demands. The pope kept this king waiting outside begging in the snow for days before the pope decided to allow this king back into heaven. Again, do not mistake this for an endorsement of Roman Catholicism in any way.) However, decisional conversion-regeneration holds that a sinner unreconciled with God and thus not part of the Body of Christ (note that I capitalized “Body” with respect to Protestants and not Catholics, and yes it was by design) and hence is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit is able to impart saving grace upon himself – or to be more accurately compel the Holy Spirit that does not indwell him to impart its saving grace – through the “decision for Christ” sacrament. Now I am not going to say that the Catholic position is more Biblical or that it even makes more sense (especially when you consider that Catholic sacramentalism cannot be taken in isolation, but must be considered in the context of their other mystical, pagan doctrines) but at least the Catholics have an explanation for how a priest can save someone by sprinkling him or giving him a communion wafer. The modern Wesleyan evangelical has no explanation for how the decision of an unpenitent sinner who rejects the Lordship of Jesus Christ places the Holy Spirit under unconditional compulsion to save the sinner. The reason for this was stated earlier: deep consideration of the issue of salvation resulting entirely from human initiative, from human intellectual decision, can only result in serious problems for the entire doctrinal system. So, in order to prevent such examination from taking place, their only recourse is to call Paul Washer a heretic for insisting that Biblical repentance is a requirement for salvation, and that salvation results in a person becoming a new creation whose evidence is a changed moral character that reflects and communicates God’s holiness.

When boiled down to its core, the system of Ryrie, Ironside, and Jesus-Is-Savior.com holds that becoming a new creature simply means switching allegiances, changing minds. Then again, as this doctrine rejects Biblical repentance and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, becoming a new creation simply means deciding to allow Jesus Christ to save you. And since it is the sinner who decides to allow Jesus Christ to save him, then it is the sinner who performs the new birth, the new creation through the exercise of his free will, or the changing of his free will. Now of course, the people holding the doctrines similar to Ryrie and the folks at Jesus-Is-Savior.com are not in the business of admitting this fact to people. As a matter of fact, they haven’t even admitted this fact to themselves. (I am serious … they really, truly have not taken this doctrine to its logical conclusion, of thinking about what salvation based on the free will decision of a sinner who rejects repentance and the Lordship of Jesus Christ really means as opposed to what they desperately want it to mean.) So rather than come to grips with the horrible conclusion that their doctrines teach that the sinner accomplishes his own rebirth through the exercise of his intellect, they must accuse those whose preaching challenges their doctrines like Washer and MacArthur of teaching “works plus faith justification” and “legalism.”

The good news: in practice the free will evangelicals do preach that Biblical repentance and the Lordship of Jesus Christ are necessary for salvation. Lots of Reformed/Calvinistic types claim that they do not, but I have listened to far too many evangelical free will Baptist, Pentecostal, and nondenominational sermons. Also, the link which evaluates the statements of Ryrie acknowledges that Ryrie actually ultimately endorses the very positions of MacArthur that he wrote “So Great Salvation” to attack in the first place (and questioned the integrity of Ryrie for failing to admit it). The problem only occurs when people such as Washer and MacArthur repeatedly and directly challenge the “decision for Jesus Christ” doctrine. It is only when that happens that such people as Ryrie and the folks at Jesus-Is-Savior.com are forced to manifest a sort of double-mindedness (I will not use the humanistic psychological term “schizophrenia”) about what they actually believe concerning soteriology.

It is interesting that the “Lordship salvation” opponents use Ananias and Sapphira as well as the Corinthian man living in fornication as examples to demonstrate that the doctrines of Washer, Comfort, and MacArthur – where they demand Biblical repentance and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ – are false. First, scripture never states that Ananias, Sapphira, and the Corinthian fornicator did not repent and submit to Christ’s Lordship at the time that they were saved. It merely states that these people fell into sin after salvation. It is an argument from silence, true, but it is still completely consistent with what the apostle John writes about Christians who fall into sin in at least 3 of his epistles (1 John, 2 John, Revelation). Also, the people who reject “Lordship salvation” do not ACCURATELY deal with the issues raised by Simon Magus, Simon the magician! Why? Because Simon Magus made a decision for Jesus Christ without repenting of his sinful desire for power and wealth, and without submitting to the Lordship and sovereignty of God! Simon Magus was using sorcery to control people and make money before he made his decision for Jesus Christ, and not only did he want to continue doing those things after he made his decision for Jesus Christ, but he wanted to force the sovereign Holy Spirit to do his bidding! Correlating Ananias and Sapphira and the Corinthian in the sexual relationship with his father’s wife with the Johannine epistles – interpreting scripture with scripture – confirms what they call “Lordship salvation” rather than denying it. And further, the case of Simon Magus makes it explicitly clear that there is no other salvation but “Lordship salvation!” Otherwise, wow, it would be possible to go to heaven without your knee bowing and your tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11), and not only your Lord but Lord of all!

So, we must pray in the Name of Jesus Christ that the people who have adhered to and are disseminating false doctrines on this matter would open their hearts to the truth and begin teaching the truth instead of a lie. Jesus-Is-Savior.com, this means you, and you are by no means alone.

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 69 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: