The Reason for the Season

I know a person who always uses the slogan “Jesus is the reason for the season” this time of year.  I appreciate the sentiment, trying to draw attention back to the reason we celebrate Christmas and to get it away from all the sentimentality of “twas the night before Christmas,” etc., etc. Now that we’ve gotten past “Black Thursday” and “Black Friday,” and are preparing to enter “Black December,” with its incessant advertising and programming to get us into “the holiday spirit,” perhaps it’s time to look at the slogan again.

By the way, if Christmas is such a wonderful time, why is everybody always so glad when it’s over?  Forgive me if I sound like the Grinch, but I have no particular fondness for all that Christmas has become.  I was really upset to see the first Christmas advertising two weeks before Thanksgiving.  They used at least to wait for Thanksgiving to pass to start Christmas ads.  I rejoice in the Virgin Birth, but really dislike all the barnacles that have attached themselves to “the good ship Grace” about this and other things over the centuries.  (If you remember that phrase, then you’re giving away your age.)

Back to the slogan.

“Jesus is the reason for the season.”

That just brings up another question.  WHY is Jesus the reason, etc.?  Why did He come to this earth in the first place?

Galatians 4:4 (NKJV)  gives us the actual “reason for the season”:  But when the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who are under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  Another verse takes us even deeper into the divine counsel, that in the dispensation of the fulness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him, Ephesians 1:10.

You see, there has been a disruption in creation.  In the words of Romans 5:12, sin entered.  It’s no use trying to figure out the whys and the wherefores; the fact is that it happened and we see the results around us, and in us, every day.  The reason for the season is found in the mind of God.  He would “answer the sin problem.”  He would heal the disruption.  The manger was just the first step in that answer, that healing.

Mary wrapped the Infant in “swaddling clothes,” that is, with strips of cloth.  That’s how they took care of babies, and that’s how they prepared a body for burial.  Even in His birth, there was a foreshadowing of His death.

However you observe Christmas, please remember that He wasn’t born so we could give each other gifts, put up all kinds of decorations, get together and have fun.  These may be all well and good and have their place, but….

Jesus was born in order that He might live, and then that He might die….

“…nor were thankful…”

This excerpt occurs in the middle of that depressing section from Romans 1:18-32. Considering all that Paul says in those verses, this seems like a relatively “minor” offense.  Because of that, it’s one, I’m afraid, we give little thought to.

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US, perhaps it would be good if we spent a few minutes thinking about why Paul included it.  The “nor” connects it to what Paul just said, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…, v. 21. These go together.  If one doesn’t want to acknowledge God, one probably won’t be thankful for His blessings.

A question.  Who were these people?  Paul doesn’t really identify them, although since the creation of the world indicates it happened pretty early.  My own view is that it refers to that time before the call of Abraham in Genesis 12.  God gave these people what they wanted.  He let them go.  And called one man to begin the process of reclaiming the whole race.

Another question.  What does it mean when it says they knew God?  There’s a school of thought that believes that between the Fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 and the giving of the Law in Exodus 20 that men (and women) were left pretty much to the guiding of their own consciences.  This is “the Dispensation of Conscience.”  Is that accurate?

Though we have only incidental references to it, it seems to me that there was indeed a revelation of God of which we have no clear record.  For example, just in the life of Abraham, God said of him,  “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, my statutes, and My laws,” Genesis 26:5.  These seem to be references to a lot more than the record we have from Genesis 12 onward.

The Book of Job, thought to have been written before the time of Moses, is filled with references to God, righteousness and judgment.  There are also amazing references to things not clearly revealed otherwise (to us) until the NT.  See Job 14:14; 19:25-27.   Where did these come from? Certainly not from the consciences of fallen men.

It seems to me, therefore, that when Paul wrote that they knew God, it wasn’t just some general, unspecified awareness of a “Higher Power,” but men actually “knew” the God of Heaven.  That is, they were familiar with Him and His teachings and laws.

In spite of all this, they turned their backs on Him.  They weren’t thankful, either. Thankful for what?  Well, if nothing else, that God hadn’t destroyed the race completely, say, at the Flood.  Or that He hadn’t just let Adam and Eve go after they turned away from Him and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Or at the tower of Babel, just left people to the confusion and disarray of their new languages.

But He didn’t.

They didn’t care.

What about Thanksgiving Day, 2013?

Do we care?

Or is it just “Turkey Day”?

This nation seems to be well on its way to being another example of people who have been greatly blessed by God, but have turned their backs on Him, with the results we see both in Romans and in our society.

Well on our way to the trash heap of history.

Do I care?

Am I thankful?  Well, not for where we seem to headed as a nation, but for the blessings of God?  Are you?

I’m thankful for the freedom we still have.  Freedom to write this blog.  Freedom to believe as I understand the Scriptures to teach.  Freedom which still makes us one of the best places on earth to live.  We don’t build fences to keep people in.

I’m thankful for the Scripture.  It tells me that there is more to this life and this world than this life and this world.  It tells me of a Savior Who laid aside His own interests, as it were, and made mine His.  I’m thankful for the grace that brought salvation to mankind, and to me individually.  To others, as well.

Further, I’m thankful for the lady who has shared my life and my our home for the last 43 years.  My wife.  I’m thankful for the children God has given us, children whom we hope, the ones farther away, might surprise us tomorrow and be here.  Although with the snow coming down, they might be better off staying home.  I’m thankful for their children and the privilege of watching some of them grow from infancy.  It won’t be that long, Lord willing, before Sharon and I are great-grandparents, though I tremble at the thought of the world they will enter.

Thankful for friends, for health, for so many blessings, so often overlooked.

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!  His mercy endures forever, Psalm 107:6.

The Beautiful Snow

This is a re-posting. As I was reading Scripture this morning, the first really measurable snow was falling outside. It’s so beautiful as it floats down from the hand of God. I thought it a suitable time to bring this wonderful poem to your attention again. I’m not exactly sure how it’ll work out but there are some things I’d like to add to it. Just have to wait and see, I guess. A blessed Lord’s day to you all.

nightlightblogdotcom

     I remember this poem from a booklet published, I think, by John R. Rice back in the mid 1960s.    At least, that’s when I bought it.  [Actually, it was printed in 1952.]  I was just looking for that booklet in all my stuff – kind of like an archaeological dig – but couldn’t find it.  So I decided to try the Internet.  Wow.  (I remember thinking I really had something when I bought a new transistor radio for $8 as a teenager.  They had just come out.  Yeah, I know, “a ‘what’!?”  All you youngsters out there!)  Anyway, I was amazed at all the listings.

     There are several versions of who actually wrote the poem.  The main one seems to be that it was written by Joseph Warren (Whitaker?) Watson.  It’s found among his published poems.  Perhaps he did write it.  I really…

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The Thief on the Cross

We’ve all heard sermons about this man and his salvation.  He’s the classic example of one being saved who could do nothing at all to earn or merit it.  He was nailed to a cross.  Just hours away from death.  He was guilty by this world’s standards, let alone heaven’s standards.  Yet he was saved.  There’s hope for the least and the worst. There’s hope for you.  And me.

At the same time, there’s more to his conversion than might meet the eye at first reading.  It wasn’t just some simple “accept Jesus,” with no idea of what was really going on.  In fact, this “criminal” puts many of us to shame with his understanding of who this One next to him was.  Granted, he didn’t start there, but he finished there.  That’s what’s important.

Let’s look at what happened.

1.  Condemnation.  Matthew and Mark both tell us two criminals were crucified with our Lord. Matthew tells us that they were robbers.  And they joined in with the onlookers in reviling the Lord Jesus, Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32.

2.  Conviction.  Luke alone records this:  Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’  But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong,” Luke 23:40, 41.

What happened?  May we suggest several things.

We can’t even begin to visualize the scene.  I admit I haven’t seen The Passion of Christ or other movies attempting to portray this event, but I know beyond any doubt that they don’t even begin to “tell it like it is”.  They can’t; we’re too far removed from that mindset, with our emphasis on “criminal rights,” and making sure they get a “fair trial.” Such fantasies were a long ways beyond the savagery of that time.  “Special effects” may be realistic, but we know in the back of our minds that they aren’t “real.”  This was.

Executions were public, held out in the open.  We’ve no way of knowing  what kind of “crowds” they might have drawn.  There were people there, though.  Matthew 27:39, 40 even speaks of those who were simply passing by.  Then there were those who were “watching,” namely, the Roman soldiers, Matthew 27:36, though they were just doing their job.  There were many women, looking from far off, Matt. 27:55.  There was the apostle John, supporting Mary, the mother of our Lord, John 19:25.  Perhaps as the scene drew to its ugly end, the women came nearer the Cross, for John describes them as being close to it, John 19:25, 26.  And there were the chief priests, scribes and elders gloating over this One who had dared to question their authority and teaching, Matthew 27:41-43.  How they hated Him and His teaching.  Finally, they thought, they were done with Him.  How little they understood of what they were doing!

Through his own agony and despair, the thief saw all this.  Both thieves saw it.  They heard the derision of the crowds shouting their insults and blasphemies at the Man in the center.

“You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself!  If You are the Son of God, come down from the Cross!”

“He saved others others; Himself He cannot save.”

Devilish taunt expressing a truth far beyond those uttering it.

“If He is the King of Israel, let Him come down from the cross and we will believe Him.” 

He did come down from the Cross, and they still didn’t believe Him.

“He said He trusted in God, let’s see if God will have Him!”

Even the thieves yelled at Him.

“Hey, ‘King of Israel!’  Save yourselves and us!  Come on!  Get us down from here!”

As this went on, one of the thieves began to notice there was something different about this Man in the middle, something wrong.  He was hanging there naked, just like they were.  He had been condemned, just like they had.  He was suffering, just like they were.

Still.

There was something.

What was it….?

As the soldiers were driving in the spikes that would hold the Son of Man to the cross, the thief heard Him say, “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Forgive…?”  That certainly wasn’t what he’d said!

Then he saw, rather than heard, an exchange between an onlooker and this One.  After a few words from the Cross, the thief saw the man put his arm around a sobbing woman and gently lead her away….

Who was this, who was concerned about a mere woman in the midst of His own agony?  …who could forgive His tormentors?

Who WAS He?

As he came from his musing, he heard the other thief cursing and swearing.

“If you’re the Messiah, then do something!  Save Yourself and get us down from here!”

He felt a stirring in his soul.  Later men would call it “the quickening of the Spirit,” but he didn’t know anything about that.  He just knew that he was suddenly sick of it all.  It was too much.  He wanted to be done with it, even if it was too late.

“Stop it!” he exclaimed to the other man.  “Don’t you fear God at all!  You’re about to die, yourself.  We’re just getting what we deserve.  But this One,” he nodded his head toward Christ, “this One hasn’t done anything wrong.”

He was as sure of Jesus’ innocence as he was of his own guilt, more than even the Romans knew about.  He had seen Him show compassion, pray for forgiveness – for His executioners!

He couldn’t understand anything of what was going on.  He remembered what little he’d heard from the Rabbis and others as they talked about the coming kingdom.  How they expected Him to throw off the Roman yoke and free Israel.  Yet here was the King – he knew that – here was the King, hanging on a cross just like he was.  He didn’t understand it at all.  He just knew one thing –

“Lord…” 

Yes, He was Lord, the thief knew that, too, not just “Jesus of Nazareth,” not just another condemned man on a Cross.  He was Lord.

“Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Just remember me, that’s all I ask.  I don’t deserve even that, but “remember me” if you will.  He didn’t understand all the nuances of what he was asking or how the kingdom would come, with its King being executed in front of him….  He just knew, somehow, this wasn’t the end.  When that happened, he knew, just to be remembered by this One would be more than enough.

Jesus looked at him.

“Today….”

The two men looked at each other.

“Truly,” said Jesus, “today you will be with me in paradise.”

The robber would have been overjoyed to be “remembered”…”when.”  He was promised, “today.”  And not just “remembered,” but would be “with” Him in paradise.  Again, he didn’t understand all that was involved, but it was enough.

Men have looked at this in various ways.  Some have tried to change the meaning around altogether; they have Jesus saying, “Truly I say to you today, you will be with Me in paradise.”  But this same sentence structure occurs numerous times in the NT and even in their own translation, they have the comma before “today,” or whatever other word is there.  Only in this place do they change the meaning of what the Lord said to something completely different.

Another man, a Reformed pastor, quoted it, “Today you will be with Me in my kingdom.” That’s not what the Lord said.  It isn’t the purpose of this post to discuss what He meant, or the importance of what the Scripture actually says, as opposed to what our doctrine says it says. It’s enough that He gave the thief on the cross what he wanted, indeed, infinitely more than he wanted.  He does that, gives us way beyond what we can ask or even think, Ephesians 3:20, 21.

Before that day was over, the soldiers broke the legs of two thieves in order to make them die more quickly.  When the one thief got to the other side, Jesus was waiting there, to welcome him home.

 The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day,
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.

In Memorian

50 years ago, two men nicknamed “Jack” died just a few hours apart, though on different continents.  One was C. S. Lewis.  The other was President Kennedy.  I wonder which one had the more lasting influence, though Kennedy was a far better President than any from his party who have followed him into the White House since then.

Do you remember where you were 50 years ago this day?  I was walking down a hall in Berea Hall, which was a dorm at Baptist Bible College, when somebody came out and said that Kennedy had been shot.

Looking back, perhaps this was a major turning-point in modern American history – the turning away from what this country was – and what Kennedy embodied in his politics. Democrats today transported back into his era would consider him a right-wing extremist, a “tea-bagger.”

50 years ago, Obama would have had to ride in the back of the bus.  The civil rights movement was just beginning and Democrats fought it tooth-and-nail.  The Republicans were the ones who championed it, Martin Luther King among them.  Things were much different then – even with segregation.  White liberals got involved and messed things all up – and, no, I’m not in favor of segregation.  We’re all sinners in the eyes of God.  Our skin color has nothing to do with what kind of person we are.

– In memory of President John F. Kennedy, murdered 50 years ago today.

“Abraham Believed God,” Genesis 15; Romans 4

Some of you, well, one anyway, know that I am privileged to teach a Bible study on Saturday night, and wished that you could be here.  So do I.  The following, including the questions, is the latest study, edited slightly from having written it once already.  The blog and the lessons have worked together well, since we’re going through Genesis on our way, Lord willing, through the Bible.

In Bible study, there is something called “The Law of First Mention.”  This simply means, sometimes, that the “first mention” of a word in Scripture has special significance.  For example, the first mention of Satan, energizing and working through a snake, is first mentioned in Genesis 3, where we learn of the craftiness of the devil and that his main goal is to destroy faith in the Word of God and to turn people away from it.  The first mention of “peace” is in Genesis 15:15, and refers to Abraham going to his fathers, that is, dying, in peace.  People want to “live” in peace, and that’s certainly worthwhile, but it’s more important to die in peace.

Genesis 15:6 gives us the first mention of “righteousness,” a verse Paul quotes in Romans 4:3, where he teaches how righteousness is attributed to us.

Genesis 15.

The events in this chapter happen after Abraham’s victory over the 5 kings and after his rescue of Lot, recorded in Genesis 14.  He had had dealings with the king of Sodom, turning down a rich “reward” from him.  He had encountered the king of Salem. Melchizedek, the king of Salem [Jerusalem], had given him a tithe, and been blessed by him.  We probably should have said something about him, as he prefigures the priesthood of the Lord Jesus, Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:1-4, especially v. 3.

After all these happenings, perhaps a reaction set it.  We don’t know for certain, but, based on what God said, perhaps he began to be concerned about how the 5 kings might retaliate.  After all, he was only one man, with a very small army, trained though they might have been, 14:14.  Maybe he thought of the riches he had turned down, and, perhaps, a tinge of regret began to creep in?  We really don’t know, just surmise all this from God’s promise to him.

Anyway, God granted him a vision in which He said, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield [against the kings?], your exceeding great reward” [because of his turning down the king of Sodom?]

However, something else had been gnawing at Abraham, and it came bursting out:  “what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”  I don’t think this was unbelief, but frustration, or perhaps a feeling of futility.  He had no son to inherit, so whatever God might give him wouldn’t stay in the family; it would go to his steward, according to the law at that time.  Indeed, if Abraham died without a son, there would be no family.

God wasn’t caught off-guard; nor did He rebuke Abram for this outburst.  He just brought him outside.

The interpretation of this passage. 

It’s usually pictured as God leading Abraham outside, and Abraham looks up at the starry sky.  He thinks, “Whoa!  That’s a lot of stars!”  The trouble with this is that men HAD counted the stars, or so they thought.  Even as late as 1627, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler had catalogued only a little over a thousand stars.  That’s a few less even than the ancient Egyptians had listed centuries before.  Perhaps the difference may be explained by where Germany and Egypt are on the planet.  Still, that doesn’t seem to agree with God’s previous promise that Abraham’s seed would be like the dust of the earth, Genesis 13:16.  It wasn’t until the invention of the telescope, and its development into the powerful one we have today, that men discovered that the stars really are as innumerable as “the dust of the earth.”

So Abraham believed God in spite of what the “science” of the day might have said, like Noah before him had believed God saying a flood was coming when it hadn’t ever even rained.

A second difficulty with this interpretation is found in a couple of phrases elsewhere in the description of this event.  V. 12 says, Now when the sun was going down, and v. 17 says, when the sun went down and it was dark.  This would indicate that it was daylight when God told Abraham to count the stars.

There are several lessons to learn from all this.

The instruction in this passage. 

1.  Atheists and skeptics are always asking for “tangible, verifiable proof” of the existence of God, or Jesus, or of the truthfulness of Scripture.  However, Scripture tells us of things not seen, Hebrews 11:1.  True, Abraham had the “evidence” of God, because God was talking to him, nevertheless, the stars weren’t visible.  Even if they had been visible, he would still have had to believe God, because “science” said that there weren’t really all that many of them.

2.  Sometimes, it’s necessary to believe God in spite of the situation, or even what science insists is true.

3.  The world thinks all this is foolish and stupid, but Scripture says that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, 1 Corinthians 1:25.

4.  This is an unconditional promise.  It doesn’t depend on Abraham, which is a good thing, as Scripture demonstrates his weakness.  He was fallible and sinful, just like the rest of us.  To demonstrate this “unconditionality” even more, God performed what seems to be a bizarre ritual, though it was known later, Jeremiah 34:18.  He told Abraham to bring several animals and divide them into two, placing the parts in two rows on the ground.  Then a smoking oven and a burning torch passed between the pieces. Two people making a covenant or treaty would pass between the pieces.  This meant that they were calling down on themselves the curse of dismemberment, like the animals, if they violated the terms of the covenant or treaty.  However, only God passed through the pieces this time.  Only He is responsible for the fulfillment of the promise.  It is unconditional.

5.  Abraham was a shepherd and had spent a lot of nights under the stars.  However, God said, “Look now….”  Granted, some of the newer versions don’t include “now,” but the interpretation is valid.  So Abraham couldn’t go on past experience.  Further, no doubt he expected to spend more nights under the stars taking care of his flocks.  But God said, “Look now….”  He couldn’t rest on future expectations.  Likewise, we Christians can look back at many times God has blessed us, and, by His grace, look forward to an eternity of fellowship with Him and His people.  But sometimes…the “now” gets us.  Since the “now” is really all we have, may we learn from Abraham to trust God when it’s in the “in spite of…,” times, as well as when things seem to be going well.

Romans 4

Romans is an exposition of “the Gospel,” 1:11, 16.  In chs. 1-3, Paul shows the need for the Gospel because of the condemnation of all men, regardless of ethnicity, 3:19.  In 3:21, he begins his teaching of “justification,” and the righteousness of God apart from the law.  Romans is the answer to the age-old question posed by Job in Job 9:2, “…how can a man be righteous before God?”

In his explanation of the Gospel, Paul tells us what it’s all about.  In Romans 1:17, he writes, for in it [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed…. If modern Christians had written this verse, they probably would have written, “for in it the love of God is revealed….”  But the Gospel message isn’t about “love,” cf. 1 John 1:5; it’s about “righteousness,” that standard of holy living that God requires if we’re to stand in His presence uncondemned.  That’s why the early church never preached “the love of God.” Neither did the Lord Jesus.  John 3 records a private conversation, designed to counteract the narrow view of a Pharisee.

Apart from the Lord Jesus, no one has any claim on or participation in “the love of God,” John 3:36; 1 Timothy 1:14.  The Gospel isn’t about telling people how much God loves them, but about how much God has against them, and what’s to be done about it.

In Romans 3:11, Paul quotes Psalm 14:2, There is none righteous, no, not one.  The result of that is in 3:19, all the world may become guilty [accountable] before God.  In v. 21, Paul introduces the righteousness of God.  This really is nothing new, because the law and the prophets, that is, the Old Testament, foretold a time when God would intervene in man’s sorry state and do something about it.  To demonstrate this, he turns to Abraham.

The testimony of Scripture, vs. 1-8.

In this portion, Paul quotes two Scriptures, Genesis 15:6 and Psalm 32:1, 2. Genesis 15 has to do with Abraham’s believing God “in spite of,” as we’ve seen.  The Psalm has to do with David’s praise of God for His grace in forgiving sin and “covering” with the blood of OT sacrifices.  David learned something about “grace” in the aftermath of his own sin with Bathsheba.  There were no sacrifices for adultery and murders, both of which David was guilty of.  Yet, in 2 Samuel 12:13, the prophet Nathan said to David, “The LORD has also put away your sin; you shall not die.”  Neither Abraham nor David “earned” righteousness.  Nevertheless, there were severe consequences throughout the rest of David’s life.  You see, God may forgive sin without cancelling its temporal consequences.  

The time of Abraham’s justification, vs. 9-11.

The Jews made a big deal out of circumcision.  To them it had become almost an inviolable guarantee of God’s blessing.  No Jew, no matter how wicked, could ever be condemned for his sin.  No Gentile, no matter how “good,” could ever escape condemnation, except by becoming a Jew or at least a proselyte.  The early church had trouble with this, as well.  Paul, who had a great deal to do with the settling of this controversy in Acts 15, points out when Abraham was declared righteous.  It was before he was circumcised, v. 10.  Circumcision had nothing to do with it.

Like the Jews of Paul’s day, some today make a big deal out of this “sign of the covenant,” except that they say it’s been replaced by infant baptism.  Circumcision meant inclusion in the Abrahamic family.  In our day, infant baptism has pretty much come to mean salvation itself, if not explicitly, then implicitly.  That is, paedobaptists deny baptismal regeneration, yet their teaching about infant baptism almost certainly leads in that direction.  However, infant baptism is no more the means of being born into the family of God that circumcision was the means of a Jewish boy being born into the line of Abraham.  It was a sign that he had already been born.  Likewise, baptism is meant to signify that one has already been born again, or born spiritually.  There is no NT evidence of anyone being baptized apart from their own profession of faith.  There were males in the OT who were circumcised:  Ishmael, the sons of Keturah after the death of Sarah, Esau, to whom the rite meant nothing.  They weren’t part of the covenant because they had the wrong birth.  Likewise, baptism without the personal faith of the one being baptized is meaningless.

Besides all that, even circumcision had to do with “righteousness by faith.”  Paul writes that circumcision wasn’t just about the Abrahamic Promise itself, but it was really a seal of the righteousness of the faith which [Abraham] had while still uncircumcised, Romans 4:11, also v. 12 (emphasis added).  It was intended to be a continual visual reminder of blessing by faith, not by works, not by ritual, and certainly not a guarantee of continual blessing.  The Jews pretty much ignored this aspect of the rite.

The inclusiveness of justification, vs. 11, 12.

This doesn’t mean that everybody is justified, but rather that it’s available to everyone, not just Jews.  In v. 11, Abraham is called the father of all those who believe.  That’s us. Without going through the rite of circumcision, all who believe have righteousness imputed to them also.  It isn’t just limited to Jews.

In  v. 12, Abraham is also called the father of circumcision.  Note very carefully how Paul put it:  to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised (emphasis added).  See also v. 16.  These are ethnic Jews who also have faith like Abraham.  In other words, they are “spiritual Israel.”  I know that term is used of “believers” in general, but if anything, we’re “spiritual Isaac,” Galatians 4:28.  However, see also Galatians 3:26-29.  Ethnicity has nothing to do with it, naturally or spiritually.  Nor ritual.

The triumph of faith, vs. 13-25.

1.  with regard to Abraham’s posterity, vs. 13-18.  God’s promise wasn’t based on Abraham’s performance, nor on the works of the law, because the law brings wrath, v. 15.  If blessing were through the law, Paul wrote, then faith is made void, and the promise made of no effect.  In other words, if the Promise is conditional, then it’s effectively canceled.  We saw this in the Mosaic Covenant and Israel’s repeated failure to live up to its conditions.  It’s of faith, that it might be of grace.  In other words, it’s of God, not of man.  The result is that it’s certain to all the seed, v. 16.  This means something to us.  If we’re believers, we’re part of that “seed.”

2.  with regard to his person, vs. 19-22.  Indeed, there was nothing Abraham could do to bring this promise to pass.  Though Paul is here referring to Genesis 17 (17:5, where God changes Abram’s name to Abraham), it’s still true.  There was nothing Abraham could do.  Hebrews refers to him as being as good as dead, Hebrews 11:12.

3.  with regard to ourselves, vs. 23-25.  In Galatians 3:16, Paul uses a play on the word “seed,” which is singular.  Because of this, some people teach that “the seed” is only Christ, so that the Abrahamic Promise is “fulfilled in Jesus,” and so there’s nothing left to be fulfilled.  The OT is all done.  And truly, Christ is the Seed (or the descendant of Abraham) as our Representative, but what He did makes the Promise certain to all the seed.  Righteousness is imputed to those who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.  In other words, we believe in the same God that Abraham did.

Notice that Paul wrote that Jesus was raised because of our justification, v. 25 (emphasis added).  I used to have difficulty understanding what this meant, since I believed with most others that Jesus only died to “provide” salvation, not actually to secure it for those for whom He died.  Since we weren’t “justified” until we believe, how could Paul write what he did?  Paul could write this because in His eternal decree, God has already “justified” those whom He chose, and even “glorified” them.  I can look in the mirror and tell I’m not “glorified” yet, but in God’s mind and purpose, it’s as good as done.  The difficulty with justification is that we’re all sinners.  How can God call us “righteous”?  He can do this because Jesus was first of all delivered up because of our offenses (emphasis added).  His death paid the price for our sins and His life provided the righteousness God imputes to believers, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus, Romans 3:26.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I own.
Sin had left a crimson stain;
He washed it white as snow.

 Questions.

1.  What’s the significance of God’s telling Abram to “count the stars”?
2.  What was Abram’s main concern?
3.  What is “faith” about?
4.  What was significant about “now”?
5.  What is the Gospel about?
6.  Was Paul introducing something “new” into his teaching?  Why, or why not?
7.  What did circumcision have to do with Abram’s being declared “righteous?”  Why or why not?
8.  Beside the covenant itself, what was circumcision about?
9.  What is the “triumph of faith” with regard to Abraham?
10. What is it with regard to ourselves?
11. How can God declare sinners to be “righteous”?

Half A Christ

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…,” Acts 16:31.

What did Paul and Silas mean when they said this to the Philippian jailer and then probably later to his household?  Surprisingly, there’s quite a discussion about this, with widely varying views set forth by otherwise equally “Bible-believing” pastors and teachers.  The discussion centers around one particular idea, namely, does one have to “accept” Jesus as Lord as well as Savior, or can one just “get saved” and then later make Jesus his Lord?

This post is a response to an article by Charlie Bing, posted on 1024project.com.  It’s titled “Why Lordship Faith Misses the Mark For Salvation.”  His opening sentence says, “Lordship salvation has a very confused view of the gospel that results in very confused Christians who hold it.”  Then he goes on to make what he considers a detailed case against it.

The first thing he says about his viewpoint is an old joke told by George Burns about never joining a club that would have him.  Though he does tie it in later, I found it common among fundamentalists when I was among them that they seemed  to think mocking and making fun of those with whom they disagreed somehow bolstered their own position.

In his opening remarks, he objects to his view being called “easy believism.”  Further, he thinks it unfair that Lordship advocates have been allowed to frame the question in a way that favors them  He uses the example, “Have you quit beating your wife” to characterize Lordship questions.

In attempting to “frame the question” in a way favorable to his view, he asks his own question:  “Are their [Lordship] standards for salvation even attainable by people?”  Then he refers to an incident written about by Charles Prices in his book “Real Christians” in which a young man who attended an evangelistic meeting and responded to the message.  The tale ends with the evangelist giving the young man several reasons why the young man shouldn’t “become a Christian tonight.”  These included “the young man’s need to surrender his whole life, his future, his ambitions,” etc., etc., “…to God”  These were “the cost of being a Christian” and the young man was advised that only when he was willing to deal with all these things would he be ready to become a Christian.

I don’t know that I particularly agree with the evangelist’s method, but even the Lord Jesus told people to “count the cost” of becoming His disciple, Luke 14:25-33.  He used two illustrations:  of a man “counting the cost” of building something, and of a king deciding whether or not to fight a superior foe, or to seek conditions of peace.  Jesus’ conclusion, v. 33:  “So, likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (NKJV).  Did Jesus have a “confused view of the gospel”?  Or is being “saved” different from being a “disciple”?

Bing writes, “There’s a lot at stake in this whole debate about faith and its meaning. … But let’s not forget the main thing at stake is not theology, but the souls of people who can be misled.”  To this, I add a hearty “Amen!”  I agree completely.

In the article, Bing gives four objections to the idea of “Lordship Faith.”  They are:

1.  Lordship Faith Includes Works.
2.  Lordship Faith Grounds Assurance in Our Works.
3.  Lordship Faith Must Be Qualified.
4.  Lordship Faith Is Inaccessible to Most.

We’ll look at them, one at a time.

1.  Lordship Faith Includes Works. 

Bing quotes Kenneth Gentry, who says, “The Lordship view expressly states the necessity of acknowledging Christ as the Lord and Master of one’s life in the act of receiving Him as Savior.  These are not two different, sequential acts (or successive steps), but rather one act of pure trusting faith.” (“The Great Option: A Study of the Lordship Controversy,” Baptist Reformation Review 5 (Spring, 1976): 52.)

Bing objects to this idea because “Lordship Salvation disagrees with the Free Grace understanding of faith as being convinced and persuaded that something is true (emphasis added.)  Though we’ll deal with his view of “different” kinds of faith later, does his definition mean that “saving faith” is no different from and, in fact, is the same as, the “faith” which allows one to be “convinced and persuaded” that evolution is true?

Bing objects to the idea that Lordship salvation involves submission to Christ as Lord as well as Savior, and that it “also” involves “obedience.”  But doesn’t the idea of submission include obedience?  He maintains that Lordship salvation is wrong because it goes beyond trusting in Jesus as Savior, but requires also receiving Him as Lord as a “condition” for salvation.  However, faith is not a “condition” to being saved; it is the means of being saved.  The idea of a “condition” moves salvation from being gracious to being a matter of justice or “right.”  We are saved by faith, never because of.

Bing makes this interesting observation:  “We know that the Roman Catholics teach that we are saved by faith plus works.  Lordship salvation teaches that we are saved by faith that works.  But do not both definitions includes works as a condition for faith to be valid, …to be effectual?”  We don’t agree with the Catholic dogma that faith alone is insufficient, that works must be added to it, something not a part of faith, but in addition to it.  With regard to the other, has Bing never read Galatians 5:6, For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love? (emphasis added).

You see, the discussion isn’t about the “conditions” of faith, but about its character. What is saving faith?  Is “faith” simply believing something is true, whether salvation or evolution or The Great Pumpkin?  For that matter, what is “salvation,” a thought to which we’ll return.

Bing continues this section with the idea that “it confuses justification with sanctification.”  He defines justification correctly as the legal declaration [by God] that we are righteous before Him and sanctification as “the outworking of that righteousness in everyday practical living.”  Though this is a little incomplete, we can go with it.  He recognizes that they are related, but insists that we must keep them distinct, “lest we confuse the gospel and undo the Reformation.”

I wonder, does he think we can have one without the other?  That is, can we be justified without at the same time being sanctified?  I know there are a lot of different ideas about sanctification floating around, but just using his own definitions – is it possible to be “declared righteous” without there being some “outworking” of that in the life?  Ephesians 2:10 says, …we are His workmanship….  Is God such a workman that there will be no evidence of it in the life?  Or is a mere “profession of faith” enough?  Cf.John 2:23-25.  In John 8:30, 31, 50, some Jews who “believed in Him” wound up trying to stone Him to death.  Were they “saved”?

Bing quotes Romans 4:4-5, Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.  But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.  That is absolutely true.  Our justification rests on no work of our own.  We’re “ungodly” when God justifies us – and so are our “works”.  The question is, can we remain ungodly after God declares us righteous?  I’m not saying we can reach some state of “sinless perfection” in this life, but that becomes our goal and desire for it.

Bing implies that we’re sanctified by works, though not justified by them.  However, the Scripture quotes the Lord Jesus as saying that believers are sanctified by faith in Him, Acts 26:18.  The faith through which we’re justified is the same faith through which we’re sanctified: “faith working through love.”

Bing further looks to John 6 and the people who were following Jesus simply because He fed them.  Bing says “Jesus saw how earnestly they were seeking Him and they said to Him, ‘What shall we do that we may work the works of God?’ (John 6:28)”.

That isn’t exactly how it happened.  Crowds were “earnestly” following Jesus, to be sure.  However, He Himself recognized why.  He said to them, “…you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.  [This is a reference to the feeding of the five thousand men, or perhaps 15,000 or more in the crowd including women and children a day or so before, John 6:10.  The “signs” were the things He did which proved He was the Messiah.  The crowds weren’t following Him because He was the Messiah, but because He fed them.  We have a lot of their descendants today, following Jesus only for what they can get out of Him.]  Then Jesus continued, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, ….” John 6:26, 27.  Then they asked him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”

I don’t know that it had anything in particular to do with “the baggage that they had from the Pharisees made up of the minutia [sic] of laws,…and thousands upon thousands of man-made interpretations” as Bing claims.  Perhaps.

Regardless, the Lord uses their own question:  “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent,” John 6:29.  Not works, by which we merit or earn salvation, but “work,” that is, faith, through which we receive salvation: believe in Him….”.  Jesus goes on to explain what He meant, to receive Him by “eating His flesh” and “drinking His blood.”  John 6:54-56 summarizes this.  We’ll return to these thoughts in a moment.

Then Bing makes one of the most astonishing statements I’ve ever heard or read:  “It’s interesting that He would choose that kind of word picture to illustrate what faith is: a passive appropriation of something.  Not doing, not working, not an active work, but a passive appropriation of something.  That’s the essence of faith” (emphasis added).

I’ve been a Baptist all my life.  First, because that’s just how I was raised, then, later, because I believe that Baptist principles are the closest to the New Testament of any group.  And, yes, I know there are lots of different kinds of Baptists!  And, yes, there are good Christians in other groups.  The point is, Baptists like to eat.  I’ve been to a lot of fellowship dinners and I have yet to see Baptists sitting at the table, passively waiting for the food to jump into their mouths!  Nor, perhaps to be more accurate to Bing’s statement, passively being fed through an IV tube.  Other groups, as well.  Same thing.  I’m sorry, but eating and drinking are things we DO ACTIVELY, not something PASSIVE.  How does one “passively ‘appropriate'” anything, anyway?  The very idea of “appropriate” involves activity, not passivity.  This brings us back to John 6.

Jesus’ audience in John 6 was Jewish.  As such, they were very familiar with the sacrificial system and how it worked.  Some of the sacrifices were completely burned up; others were partly burnt, but part of them was for food for the priest and his family.  It’s how they lived.  Some of them, the one bringing the sacrifice ate part of it.  Jesus’ audience was familiar with all this, though they were greatly puzzled as to how Jesus applied it to Himself, John 6:52, 60.

Our Lord was very careful to explain what He meant.  He was not referring to an actual eating of His flesh and blood.  In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”  In John 6:47, He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.  It’s interesting He didn’t say, “He who believes in me receives everlasting life,” though that’s how it’s usually understood.  We receive through faith, “eat” and “drink,” the benefits of His death and resurrection and nourish ourselves spiritually, just as the Old Testament Israelite received physical nourishment through eating the OT sacrifice. Faith is the means of our salvation, not some ritual in which we are said to partake of His actual body, or in which His body is somehow involved.  Faith is that by which we actively “appropriate” Himself  – who He is and what He did for sinners.

Even when He instituted the Lord’s Supper and told the disciples that the bread was His body and the fruit of the vine His blood, He was careful afterward to refer to the cup as the fruit of the vine, Matthew 26:28,29; Mark 14:24, 25.  He meant in all cases that the elements of the Lord’s Supper, as well as what He said in John 6, were representative or symbolic.  We receive the benefits of His sacrifice, not through actual partaking of it as the OT saint did, but by faith in the finished work of our Lord.  No ritual, no symbol has anything to add to it.

But Bing isn’t done.  Quoting Ephesians 2:8, 9, he says that “to make works a necessary condition of faith confuses grace with merit.”  Again, we note that what is at stake here is the character of faith, not some condition required of it, or in addition to it.  He is absolutely right as to the obedience of Christ, not ours.  I can honestly say that I believe in works for salvation – just not mine!  (Don’t leave out those last three words!)  Christ obeyed the Law in all areas and suffered the consequences of breaking it, though He never did.  His obedience forms the righteousness believers are credited with through faith.  It’s an insult beyond words to say that something needs to be added to what He did to make it “work.”

2.  Lordship Salvation Grounds Assurance in Our Works.

In this section, Bing quotes MacArthur, “The fruit of one’s life reveals whether that person is a believer or not.  There is no middle ground.” (The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 178.)  I think the rest of MacArthur’s paragraph is worth including in the discussion:  “Merely knowing and affirming facts apart from obedience to the truth is not believing in the biblical sense.  Those who cling to the memory of a one-time decision of ‘faith’ but lack any evidence that faith has continued to operate in their lives had better heed the clear and solemn warning of Scripture:  ‘He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on Him’ (John 3:36”) [NASB]  Sounds like a critique of Bing’s own definition of faith:  “Being convinced and persuaded that something is true.”

Bing applies MacArthur’s thought to the idea of our becoming “fruit inspectors” examining other people’s lives to see if they “measure up” to some standard or other.  He wants to know who determines the standard, who writes the list, by which such judgments are made.

Though it’s been a long time since I read MacArthur’s book, I think Bing misses the point here.  It’s not about judging other people’s lives to see if they’re saved; it’s about judging our own.  James makes the same point, which is why Luther had so much trouble with him.  Coming out of a system which greatly emphasized “works” and in effect minimized or distorted or even really denied faith, and becoming convinced of the truth that “the just shall live by faith,” Luther was loathe to give “works” any place in salvation.  But James wasn’t contradicting Paul; he was simply making the same case that MacArthur makes: that the only “evidence” of faith is “works.”

James asks a pointed question, What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works?  Can faith save him?” James 2:14  That whole section of James 2:14-26 emphasizes the truth that faith can only be known by works.  Not “faith” and works”, that is, as works separate and distinct from faith, but, as Paul put it, “faith working through love,” that is, works flowing and resulting from faith.  James’ conclusion to his discussion? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also,” v. 26.

It’s not about judging others; it’s about judging our own spiritual condition, our own hope of heaven, our own eternal destiny.  It’s a matter of surpassing importance.  Some people treat it as if it’s no more important that deciding which outfit to wear today.  It’s about where I’ll spend eternity.  It ought to be considered important.  Our Lord thought it important:  “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire.” Matthew 7:17-19.  While this refers specifically to false prophets, I think it’s applicable in this case.

3.  Lordship Faith Must Be Qualified.

In this section, Bing refers to Lordship proponents’ habit of referring to “spurious faith,” “intellectual faith,” “emotional faith” or even “true faith,” “saving faith,” etc., etc. He objects that none of these designations is Scriptural.  He’s right, though he admits they can be convenient “to know what we’re talking about.”

He does make the excellent point that such distinctions tend to make us look at something other than the object of our faith, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ.  That is absolutely true.  Faith isn’t the savior.  He is.

At the same time, have you ever heard a preacher, in urging people to “get saved,” “God’s done all He can do and now it’s up to you”?  I have, numerous times.  The focus is put entirely on the individual, not on the Savior.  But, if God has done all He can do and we’re still not saved, either He’s not much of a God, and I tremble even to write that, or there’s no hope for any of us.

Bing says that such unhealthy emphasis on faith leads to an unhealthy introspection and questioning.  It de-emphasizes the object of our faith, which is the Lord Jesus.  “Genuine faith in a worthless object is useless,” he says, and tells a story of a lady who was given medicine with the belief that it would do her good, and it nearly killed her.  The object of faith is what saves us.

Bing denies that there are different kinds of faith.  If we believe this, he says, assurance is impossible.  He says, “There is only one kind of faith.”

Is there?

James deals with this problem in James 2:19:  You believe that there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe – and tremble.  According to James, demons “believe.”  Is their faith the same kind of faith as the faith of a believer?

It must be, if

“There’s only one kind of faith.”

4.  Lordship Faith Is Inaccessible to Most. 

Lordship proponents believe that faith is a gift of God.  And Bing admits that some who disagree with Lordship salvation also believe that faith is a gift of God.  Bing says he has “a little problem with that interpretation, though, when I understand what faith is.”  He says that to do so confuses grace with faith.  According to him, grace is “the efficient means of salvation” and faith is “the instrumental means of salvation.”  However, grace is the basis of salvation – without it, there wouldn’t be any.  Faith is the means through which we are saved.  I agree with him there.

He quotes Ephesians 2:8, 9, by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, and says that it refers to “the process” of salvation by grace through faith that Paul was writing about and not just about faith itself.  That doesn’t change anything.  If “faith” is part of a process that is a “gift of God”, then faith itself, as part of that process, is a gift of God, as well.

However, there’s more to Bing’s argument than that.  He disagrees with MacArthur that faith is a “supernatural ability to apprehend spiritual reality.”  He also objects to the idea, as we’ve already seen, that faith “includes obedience….  He gives it to us, so we automatically obey” (emphasis added).  This is a straw man.  Believers are not robots or puppets.  If that were so, most of the New Testament is unnecessary, because it is filled with instructions and exhortations about obedience.  If we obey “automatically,” why are we told to?  We do it already.

Bing says “if faith is a gift of God, it nullifies our human responsibility.”  He argues that if God requires us to believe, but has to give us the faith to do so, and then “condemns” us for not believing, “that is unjust and unfair.”  But we’re not condemned because we don’t believe; we’re condemned because we’re sinners in rebellion against God.  We’re already condemned before we ever hear the Gospel.  If we reject it, that just adds to our condemnation; it doesn’t “start” it.  We’re not just “neutral” or misguided in this matter of unbelief, just needing a little persuasion, a little nudge, to believe the Gospel is “true”.  Unbelievers are not just wayward sons straying away from the love of a doting Father, as seems to be the belief of much of Christendom – “we’re all the children of God” – but criminals, defiantly breaking the Law of God, and rebels against their Creator, committing treason against their King.

That’s true even of those who’ve never seen a Bible or heard a sermon.  Paul teaches in Romans 2:12-16 that even those who were never given the Law as a moral code still have a moral code in themselves.  Every person has some sense of “right” and “wrong.”  It may not agree with what God says is right or wrong, but it’s still there.  None of us even live up to our own understanding of right and wrong, let alone what God says about it.  We’re mostly not interested in what He thinks about it.  Because of that, every single person stands condemned in God’s sight, worthy only of judgment.  

Just a word about this idea of injustice and unfairness when it comes to God’s dealing with man.  If God were only “just” in dealing with us, we’d all be in Hell instead of reading [or writing] this post.  That’s what we “deserve.”  Nothing else, nothing more.  He’s not being “unfair” in giving something to one person who doesn’t deserve it and not giving it to another person who doesn’t deserve it.  Or do we “deserve” to be saved, or at least have that opportunity?  If we “deserve” it, for any reason, then salvation isn’t a matter of grace, at all.

That’s all of his four objections against Lordship salvation.

Conclusion

Bing concludes his post by saying that “salvation is not meant to be an exclusive club.”  I guess this is where George Burns came in.  Of course, it is.  Salvation is exclusive to those who believe.  No one else is saved.  It is available to all, but only those who believe are saved.

Continuing his thought, he says, “…anybody can come to Jesus.  Not everybody can keep the seven pillars.  Not everybody can do the five steps.  Not everybody can keep the law, or all the other systems that the religions of the world offer, but anybody can come to Jesus” (emphasis added).

“Not everybody can keep the law”??  Has anybody, except the Lord, ever kept the law? If he’s referring to the Mosaic Law, then he has a far higher view of human ability than the Scripture does.  The Law was given to show man his need of salvation, not how to get it.  It’s true that, if one kept it, then that one would be counted righteous, justified, because of his obedience, but Israel’s long and sad history demonstrates that’s it’s not possible.  If that were true, then when that person got to heaven, he could go up to the throne and say, “Move over, Jesus, now there’re two of us.”    There’ll not ever be a single person in heaven who will be able to say, “I did it!”  If it were, Jesus would never have had to live and die.

Actually, Bing does have a far higher view of man’s ability than the Scripture has.  He says, “…anybody can come to Jesus. … …even a child can believe. A man on his deathbed can believe.  A thief on a cross can believe (emphases added).  Our Lord said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day,” John 6:44 (emphasis added).  Was Jesus “confused” about the Gospel?  Who are we to believe – a man, or Jesus?

I find it ironic, considering the subject of these posts, that Bing mentioned the thief on the cross.  While there’s a lot more that could be said about it than space permits, let me just point out that the thief called Jesus, “Lord.”

Earlier in the post, Bing admitted that “God draws us to Himself….”  Is this the same thing as Jesus was talking about?  Since Bing doesn’t elaborate, we can’t know what he thinks about it. However, most Christians believe that, even if it may be true that God draws us, we can refuse to come.  Is that what Jesus was talking about?

Jesus had more to say on the subject.  He continued in v. 45, “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’  Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”

Jesus’ teachings in John 6 about His flesh and blood upset His audience.  Their reaction?  “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” v. 60.

Jesus’ response? Does this offend you? … It is the Spirit who give life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.”  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.  And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to me unless it have been granted [given] to him by My Father,” John 6:61-65.

Apparently our Lord taught that the ability to come to Him, so far from being something “anybody” can do, was only in those to whom the Father gives that ability.  Contrary to Bing, we do not have it naturally.  And we don’t deserve to have the Father give it to us.  That’s why it’s called “grace.  Since we come to Christ by faith, it stands to reason that “faith” is a gift of God, not something we have “naturally.”  “Saving faith” isn’t the same faith by which we go out in the morning, put the key in the ignition and believe the car will start, even if it’s “true.”

Mark well the words of our Lord.  All those whom the Father draws (teaches) will come to Jesus.  Without exception.

All this brings up the question, “What is salvation?”  Is it just some sort of eternal fire insurance?  A fire escape from Hell?  Can we just “accept” Jesus and the salvation He “offers,” and then never pay any attention to who He was, or what He says?  Can we get by with “half a Christ”?

I think not.  Others disagree.

What does the Scripture say?

Paul answered this question himself in Titus 2:11-14, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good  works (emphasis added.)

We’re not saved by works; we don’t have any apart from the Lord Jesus.  But can we be saved, and not have good works?  Even varying degrees of them, because we’re all different and still fallible?  Scripture seems to indicate otherwise.

You can’t cut the Lord Jesus into two.  He is Lord.  That’s how He saves people.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”