“The Kindness of God.” Part 10: “If you continue….”

The previous post looked at verses which teach that a true believer can never lose his salvation.  In this final post, we want to look at a couple of verses which are often used to teach, as a Boston Church of Christ elder once told me, one can be a child of God and still end up in Hell.

In the other post, we saw what might be called the believer’s reassurance.  This post deals with what might be called the believer’s responsibility.  In other words, contrary to what many opponents of eternal security believe it says, and even some who agree with it seem to teach, salvation isn’t just some sort of eternal “fire insurance,” which, once having, a person can put it into a safety deposit box with other papers and forget about it.

No, no, salvation is eternal life,  and life is to be lived.  We have a new grandson and his mom says that he’s big for his age.  Well, he is a chunk, but I joked to her that he didn’t read the same baby-development book.

You see, birth brings up expectations of growth, development and maturing.  So it is with the new birth.  There is to be growth, development and maturing.  We sometimes say that it’s a shame that a baby has to grow up because they’re so cute when they’re little.  We know, however, that we really don’t mean that; it would be a great sorrow if they didn’t grow up.

1.  John 8:30, 31, As He [Jesus] spoke these words, many believed in Him.  Then Jesus said to them, “If you abide in My word, then are you My disciples indeed.”

The KJV translated this verse, “If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed.”  This verse is taken to mean that a believer who doesn’t “continue” or “abide” in Christ becomes lost.  However, our Lord didn’t say that one who continues remains a disciple; He said that such a one is a disciple indeed, that is, truly.  Continuation in the faith is not a condition of salvation; it is an evidence of it.

It is here that much of fundamental or contemporary Christianity errs on eternal security.  The Scripture is clear about the certainty of salvation for those who have it, but that is the difficulty.  The Bible nowhere tells us to take “having it” for granted.  In the little saying, “once saved, always saved,” the emphasis is usually on “always saved.”  The Scripture places the emphasis on, “once saved.”

Just because I’ve “believed,” that is, given mental assent to some statement or confession of faith, or gone through some church ritual, or “done something,” whatever the “something” might be, doesn’t mean I’m truly saved.  Remember Nicodemus. There are multitudes in our churches who’ve gone through some ritual or ceremony, or have been manipulated into making a “profession of faith,” but like Nicodemus, need something else.

It’s important to see that the “believers” in v. 31 above wound up trying to kill Jesus before the chapter is over, v. 59!  They didn’t “abide” in His word at all, but rejected it.  There are many who begin in the Word, but some aspect of it offends them, some OT event or some NT teaching, and they turn aside.  It’s not up to us to say that such are lost, but it’s a serious matter to reject the Word, any part of it.

There’s a lot more we could say about this.  Cf. such verses as Acts 2:42; 11:23; 13:43 and 14:22.

2.  Hebrews 6:1-6, Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection [maturity], not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection from the dead, and of eternal judgment.  And this we will do, if God permits.  For it is impossible for those once enlightened, and having tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.

We’ve quoted such an extensive portion because most people never get away from four words in v. 6, if they fall away, and conclude, sometimes vehemently, that “eternal security” is a doctrine from the Pit.  Much of the discussion centers around whether or not the writer is thinking of true Christians.  Without going into great detail, let’s just say that the writer refers to those who have been renewed …unto repentance.  This isn’t a description of those who are still dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1.

There is no “if” in the original language.  The verses might be translated something like this:

“For [it is] impossible, those once enlightened, who tasted of the heavenly gift and became partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and works of [the] age to come, and fell away, again to renew [them] to repentance, crucifying for themselves the Son of God, and exposing [Him] publicly.”

For these people, the “falling away” is as real as anything said about them.  Does this mean, then, that it’s possible to lose your salvation?

Think very carefully before you answer.

If the text does indeed teach that you can lose your salvation, it also clearly teaches something else.  According to these verses, if it is possible to lose your salvation, it is not possible to get it back!  Read the verses again.  Yet, many claim to have been “saved” several times….  According to the text, that’s not possible.

There are at least two results of the idea that one can lose his salvation.  First, it results in a superficial view of sin and the innate sinfulness of human nature.  The logical result of this is “sinless perfection,” for anything less than this opens us up to losing our salvation.  After all, when it comes to sin, how much is “too much”?  Wasn’t it a little sin, as we would count it, that plunged our entire race into the miserable condition it’s in?

Second, this being saved and lost and saved, again and again, results in an even more superficial view of salvation than the one generally held today, in which salvation is little more than a fire escape from hell, or a key to “health and wealth,” or as a cure-all for the world’s social ills.  Seldom is one’s standing before a holy, righteous and just God even thought about.

Why is it impossible to be saved more than once?  It’s impossible to be saved more than once, according to the writer, because of what it takes to be saved at all!  The only way sinful men and women, and there isn’t any other kind, the only way they can be saved is through faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.  There is no other way! 

To lose your salvation would bring great dishonor to the Lord Jesus – “exposing [Him] publicly.”  The “effect” of all this on the Lord Jesus is never ever even considered.  It’s all about us, “coming and going,” as it were, at our pleasure.   It’s with good reason that Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame,…  He hung naked on a Roman cross for the salvation of His sheep.  To say that even one of them can lose their salvation is to say that all that dishonor and suffering was for nothing.

Furthermore, according to Hebrews 10:26, if we sin willfully after we receive the knowledge of the truth [if we “fall away”], there remains no longer a sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation….

If it were possible to lose salvation…, there would be no “second chance.”

Well, then, if the writer isn’t teaching loss of salvation, what is he teaching?

Remember, Hebrews 6 isn’t the beginning of the book.  Chapter 6 starts with the word, therefore, and brings us to the conclusion of 5:12-14,

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age [mature], that is, those who by reason of use [practice] have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

The writer has turned aside for a moment to apply his teaching about the preeminence of Christ to the lives of his readers, in order to remind them that Christianity isn’t just an academic exercise in certain doctrines or historical facts.  These facts and doctrines are intended to have a radical and permanent effect in the hearts and lives of men and women.  These facts and doctrines aren’t an end in themselves, but are meant to bring people from cursing to blessing – from being “foreigners” to being “family” – from being “sinners” to being “saints”.  He contrasts where his readers are with where they ought to be.  Instead of being leaders and teachers, helping others along their Christian walk, and themselves being able to digest the strong meat of the word – things hard to explain, 5:11 – they are still immature, still clinging to first principles.

In chapter 6, the writer encourages his readers to go on to maturity, that is, to advance, make progress.  To do this, they don’t have to go back to the beginning and “start over;” they don’t have to “get saved” again, or to “rededicate” their lives, but to go on from where they are.  They weren’t to lay again the foundation of repentance from dead works and faith toward God.  They weren’t to return to the ceremonial acts of washing of the OT, cf. 9:10, or the laying on of hands, that is, identifying with the OT sacrifices, cf. Leviticus 1:4.  These could never take away sin, could never prepare those who took part in them for the resurrection of the dead, and…eternal judgment.

Could there be another thought here, as well?  Could it be that “falling away” isn’t just committing some overt sin or turning aside into false doctrine?  To be sure, these are to be avoided at all cost, but there may be something else here, something much more serious, if you will, because multitudes of professing Christians are guilty of it, yet it’s never mentioned.

Could it be, from the writer’s view of expected progress and spiritual growth that “falling away” is simply “to stand still”?  To stagnate?  How many there are who have been church members for years, and yet have made no progress in the Christian life at all.  Indeed, they seem to think that having their name on a church roll is enough and they’re on their way to “a better place.”   Yet they never read the Bible, and have no real interest in it’s teachings.  They never pray, or if they do, it’s just some “form” prescribed by their church.  They’re indistinguishable from the world around them.

Would the writer consider this as – “falling away”?  It’s something to think about.

Or perhaps, they once were active in church.  I remember a lady showing me an award for 15 years of perfect Sunday School attendance.  Make no mistake.  That’s quite an accomplishment – 780 consecutive Sundays.  But now, she hadn’t been to church in several years.

Oh, it’s a dangerous thing to be a “once were” professor of faith in Christ, “once were” active and interested in the things of God, but now….  Can it be said that such persons have “continued,” that they have “persevered”?  Are they saved?  Are they lost?  Only God knows for sure.  There’s only been one Human Being Who infallibly and truly knows what is in man, John 2:25.

At the same time, remember what the Apostle Paul wrote to another immature group of believers: examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith, 2 Corinthians 13:5.  None of this pumping them up to feel good about themselves, as is the modern habit of some; Paul told them to examine themselves to see whether they were saved or not.  To yet another church, which had turned aside from his teaching, he wrote that he was afraid for them, and that he had doubts about them, Galatians 4:11, 20.

Perhaps there are some who will say, “Oh, now you’re teaching salvation by works,” and, for them, that will be the end of it.  However, remember that the inspired Apostle wrote, For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love, Galatians 5:6 (emphasis added).

This is how faith is manifested, not just in some “profession,” but in working, that is, being obedient to the Word, cf. Hebrews 11.  Here is how faith is motivated, not just in some ritual, or of necessity, or of “habit,” but through love   Not in drudgery, as in a task grudgingly performed, or in dread, because God will “get me” if I don’t do such and such, but things done in delight and devotion, because we’ve seen and experienced something of the greatness and goodness of God.  See also James 1:17, 20, 26.  “Dead” faith doesn’t come from the living God.

The Lord Jesus Himself described love toward Himself as being obedient to His Word, John 14:21, 23-24,  “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me….  If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word….  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” 

Read these words very carefully.  They are serious, indeed.  The only way faith is made evident, and the only way one can have Scriptural assurance of salvation, is through loving and willing obedience to the Word of God.  This isn’t “perfection,” it’s “perseverance.”

Some say that our Lord meant that we are to live only by the words of the Gospels, as if the other books somehow “don’t count.”  However, all the NT is His Word, not just its first four books.

Make no mistake about it.  Sinners are saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who He is and what He did for sinners.  However, there are different “kinds” of faith.  There is an “historical” faith, content with the bare facts of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord.  Then there is a “doctrinal” faith, which simply agrees with or repeats the beliefs of a particular church or denomination, whether those beliefs are Scriptural or not.  There is a “natural” faith, the kind often talked about in fundamentalist circles, which believes the car will start when you turn the key in the ignition.  There is even a “devilish” faith, James 1:19.  None of these is “saving” faith, which comes from God, and not from ourselves, Ephesians 2:8-10.

There are those who disagree with the assessment of the last paragraph.  They will argue that “faith” is “faith” – there is only one kind of faith.  I cannot agree.  I don’t believe that “saving faith,” and, say, “devilish faith” are the same “kind” of faith.

The Scripture teaches that no one who is truly saved can ever be lost, but in response to the question, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” even our Lord answered, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able,” Luke 13:23, 24.
__________

Conclusion.

Considering all that could be said, not only of this doctrine, but of all of them, this series has been a very narrow and incomplete look at them.   I hope at the very least that it has given you something to think about.  Still, the main thing isn’t, “What do you think of these doctrines?” though I do hope you agree with them.  The main thing is, “What do you think of the Lord Jesus?”

Questions

1.  In John 8:30, 31, what does our Lord say about true believers?

2.  Is “perseverance” a condition of salvation?

3.  What happened to the “believers” in John 8?

4.  What does Hebrews 6:1-6 teach about “losing salvation?”

5.  Is it possible to be “saved” multiple times?

6.  Why, or why not?

7.  What is an important consideration in salvation?

8.  What does Hebrews 10:26 say about being “saved again?”

9.  What does the writer of Hebrews expect of his readers?

10. What are the manifestation of and the motivation for faith?

11. What is “perseverance”?

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“The Kindness of God.” Part 9: “…they shall never perish.”

V.  The Certainty of Grace.

In this post, we’ve arrived at a another hotly-contested doctrine;  eternal security.  it’s known by various other names:  “once saved, always saved” (OSAS), “the preservation of the saints,” “the perseverance of the saints.”  Some who hold this last view believe that the saints will persevere.  Others who hold this view do not believe in eternal security, but  believe that the saints must persevere, and that a saint can be lost and saved…again, …and again, …and again….  There is a lot of confusion about this doctrine, and both sides look to the Scriptures to verify their beliefs.

So, are the saints “preserved,” or do they have to “persevere”?  What does the Scripture say?

In this post, we’ll look at some verses which teach saints can never be lost.

1.  John 10:22-31, Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.  And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.  Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do you keep us in doubt?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.  But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I told you.  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one.”

This records our Lord’s own words.  Every facet of the doctrine is touched on in this excerpt from His teaching.  Note carefully what Jesus said about His audience, His sheep, His Father and Himself, and His Father.

a.  His audience, vs. 25, 26.

He goes straight to the root of the problem:  the Jews in His audience refused to listen to Him because they were not His sheep.  He had already said this to others who were questioning Him: “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God,” John 8:47.  Cf. 8:39, 43.  Scripture plainly teaches that there are some who are “sheep,” and there are some who are not.

b.  His sheep, vs. 27-29.

1).  they hear, in contrast to those to whom the Lord was talking.
2).  He knows them, not just “about” them.  Remember the duet mentioned earlier, how Jesus died for us without knowing our names.  To the contrary, Jesus said He knows His sheep, all of them, each one of them.  They are His and He knows them individually and personally.
c).  they follow Him, “for they know His voice, yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers,” John 10:3, 4.  I was out with a group of young people one evening.  We had built a bonfire.  Some distance away, there was a group of young men, pretty much under the influence and acting like it.  In the darkness, one of them looked remarkably like one of the young men in our group.  Someone remarked on this, but his fiancee immediately replied that she didn’t have any trouble telling them apart!
She had spent a lot of time with him.  She knew him!  Ah, what a lesson there is for us.  There are many voices in the darkness of this world talking about Jesus.  How well do we distinguish between the false and the true?  Do we know Him?   His sheep follow HIM, not just some preacher or “personality”.

c.  Himself, v. 28.

1).  “I give them eternal life.”  There is some discussion about the significance of the word, “eternal.”  Some believe that, well, yes, the life is eternal, but its possession can be lost.  Our Lord refutes this in His next statement.
2).  “They shall never perish.”  How could He have said it any more clearly?  Yet He continues:
3).  “Neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”  Some have said to me, “Yes, but they can jump” (!)  This would merely show that the one “jumping” wasn’t a sheep, after all.  The verbs in vs. 27, 28 are present tense:  hearing, knowing, following, giving.  Salvation isn’t something that happened to us 30 years ago, and then nothing since.  Salvation, though indeed coming to us at a point in time, is a present reality.  It wasn’t just something which happened to us then; it is happening to us now.  But the Lord continues.

d.  The Father, v. 29.

“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  We are pointed back to eternity, where the Father chose us and gave us to Christ to redeem.  I can’t think of a stronger way for the Lord to have put it than the statement that His sheep will never perish, either by their own hand, by the hand of others, or by the hand of the Father.  But He’s not done!

e.  The Father and Himself, v. 30.

“I and the Father are one,” that is, they are one in purpose and will.  It has nothing to do with the Son supposedly saying that He is really the Father, as some take it.  No. No.  He’s saying that He and the Father are united in their determination to save the sheep!  Indeed, Jesus pictured this unity when He prayed that “they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us…,” John 17:21.
There are depths here into which no mere mortal can venture, but what the Lord is saying in effect is that only if the Trinity can be separated may one of the sheep be separated from Christ’s flock and be lost.  And His sheep don’t switch back and forth between being sheep and being goats!

2.  Romans 8:28-30, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom he justified, these He also glorified.

We’ve already looked at length at the idea that God merely chose those whom He foresaw would choose Him.  In these verses in Romans, Paul wrote of the completeness of the divine will.  It began with our election in eternity past, Ephesians 1:4.  It will end with our glorification, which is yet future.  John put it like this, Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2.
This “golden chain of redemption” stretches from eternity past to eternity future.  No link is weak.  No link will be missing.  No link can be broken.  Those foreknown by means of the purpose and predestination of God will be called, justified and glorified.
According to our text above, we are yet to be, and will be, conformed to the image of His Son.  “Not yet…but shall be.”

3.  Ephesians 1:13, 14, In Him [Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

In these posts, we’ve seen the divine unity and participation in the work of salvation.  It began in eternity past with the Father’s choosing sinners to be saved (again, who would otherwise be lost). It continued with the Son at Calvary, redeeming those chosen by the Father and given to the Son before the events of Genesis 1.  It continues with the Holy Spirit regenerating and calling these elect and redeemed sinners to repentance and faith, and “sealing” them until the entire process is complete.  The Holy Spirit “guarantees” our ultimate possession of our “inheritance.”  The KJV has it that the Spirit is the earnest, the “down payment” of our inheritance.  We don’t have it all now, by any means.  And we won’t get it all in this life, either.  The work has begun, to be sure, but it will take the ages to come, Ephesians 2:7, to show us the riches of that inheritance.

4.  Ephesians 2:10, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Philippians 1:6, Being confident of this very thing, that He Who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:13, For it is God Who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24, Now may the God of peace sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He Who calls you is faithful, Who will also do it.

These five verses all talk about the workmanship and faithfulness of God.  Most Christians believe that they are only partly God’s workmanship – they must still do “their” part.  Perhaps you’re tired of the emphasis on this, but there are multitudes who, week after week, and month after month, and year after year, sit under ministries where that very thing is taught –

“God has done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”

“God has no hands but our hands.”

“God had plan A for Adam, but when Adam fell, He had to go to plan B.”

“Oops!”

If yours is a “plan B” God, read the verses above again.  “Oops” isn’t in His vocabulary.  His pencils have no erasers.  I don’t know about you, but if God had to revise His plan every time I mess something up, He’d be way beyond “B”.  Although I suppose in this computer age, where things are “updated” every few minutes, it would be “Plan A.712” or something.  Same thing.  God trying to scratch and scramble to stay ahead of His wayward creation.  I can hardly write such blasphemy.  Certainly don’t believe it!

Even though the verses above are in the order of their NT appearance, they could almost be read as two sentences, with the first three together as one.  Try it.  Believers are God’s creation and workmanship.  Paul was certain that what God had begun, He would finish.

To those who are always saying, “Yes, but what about MY will?” there is Philippians 2:13:  God works, “is operative” in us, BOTH TO WILL and TO DO of His good pleasure (emphasis added).  I know that many find that impossible to believe, that God would, or even could, work like that, but that was why Paul was confident:  God is at work, He gets the job done, and He is faithful.

5.  John 3:14-17,  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

To this point, we’ve emphasized what might be called the divine side of salvation, that is, the purpose and work of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  But we can’t stop there.  God doesn’t need to be “saved,” we do.  So, what does all this mean to us, in the practical, everyday world in which we live?

John 3 is the classic teaching on this subject, although the rest of the NT says much more about the practical results and evidence of salvation.  The verses we quoted above show the certainty and result of “faith:” eternal life to whoever believes in Him.  This astounded Nicodemus, but it’s wonderful news to us.  There are no barriers, no hindrances, to our being saved that we don’t put up ourselves.  There’s nothing in Scripture to prevent the salvation of the worst sinner who ever lived.  Paul said that of himself.

Don’t be led astray by the words, “should,” and “might.”  They don’t express uncertainty, that is, that the believer should be saved, but might not be, after all.  Or that he should not perish, but that he might, anyway.  No, no, these words express purpose, God’s purpose, that those who believe will not perish, but will have eternal life.  (Once again, I wish WordPress supported underlining words.)

Because of our fallen condition, as well as our finite understanding, it’s sometimes difficult for us to have a complete view of Scriptural teaching.  On the one hand, some concentrate on those verses which speak of our believing, and so they emphasize “free will,” sometimes to the extent of denying or at least minimizing verses like Philippians 2:13.  Some even go so far as to assert that God can’t work in us at all without our permission and cooperation.

On the other hand, some so emphasize sovereignty that they minimize or in effect deny those verses requiring us to believe.  We’ve referred elsewhere to the brother who would only say, “I was caused to believe.”  A more Biblical statement would have been, “I was enabled to believe.”  Even that, though, is capable of being viewed as saying more than it really does.

God does not believe for us.  We must believe, as surely as we must live, though that life must come from and be sustained by God.  God doesn’t live for us.  In the same way, although faith comes from God, it isn’t exercised for us by God.  It isn’t enough simply to have the Savior “revealed” to us, though that is absolutely necessary.  Having thus “seen” Him, we must also “receive” Him, John 1:11, 12.  We believe, and we are saved, as John 3 tells us.

6.  John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides [remains] on him.”

There are several things in this verse.  The believer has everlasting life.  John doesn’t say that he receives life, though that is the common teaching.  He has life.  Faith is an evidence of spiritual life, not it’s entrance.  There are only two spiritual conditions:  life or under the wrath of God.  There is no third, “neutral,” condition.  If there is no faith, there is no life.  There is only the judgment and wrath of God.  We are by nature children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3.  Only in and through the Lord Jesus is there deliverance from sin, which is the cause of God’s wrath on us.  However, in Christ, that life is eternal, not temporary or sporadic.  Not “here today and gone tomorrow.”  It is life…eternal.

Questions

1.  What are the two viewpoints on this doctrine?

2.  What are the five things Jesus says in John 10:22-31?

3.  What assurance do we have that the “foreknown” will be glorified?

4.  What “part” does each member of the Trinity play in our salvation?

5.  Whose work is our salvation?

6.  Is “the work of God” all that is necessary to our salvation?

7.  What part does faith play in our salvation?

8.  Where does faith come from?

9.  Do we actually believe, or is it somehow just “the work of God” in us?

10. Is saving faith passive?

11. What is true of those without faith?

“The Kindness of God.” Part 8: “…those who are called.”

IV. Called by Grace.

So far, we’ve looked at the role of the Father in planning salvation; we’ve looked at the Son and His securing of it.  In this post, we want to look at the role of the Holy Spirit in one aspect of our salvation, namely, our entering into it.

There are whole movements which focus entirely on the Spirit, but our Lord said that the Spirit’s work isn’t to emphasize the Spirit or to give believers something to be proud of because they have a particular gift.  It’s to emphasize and glorify the Lord Jesus, John 16:4, and it’s emphatic, “Me [the Lord Jesus], He shall glorify….”  

There are some who focus almost entirely on the work of the Father.  Every message must be about or at least include a reference to the sovereignty of God.  Even in the midst of appeals for people to believe on Christ, they will have to insert, “if you’re one of the elect, you will be saved.”  I’ve had this happen.  That may be doctrinally true, but no lost person in Scripture was ever told that.  Jesus didn’t tell Nicodemus that he had to be one of the elect.

Without doubt, the Father and the Spirit are important to our salvation.  Indeed, they are essential to it!  Without them, there would be no salvation!  However, the focus of our faith is to be on the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus:  Who He was and what He did.  The Philippian jailer was told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

We’re told the same thing.

At the same time, we’ll never do that without the work of the Spirit.  There are more than 75 references to “calling” in Scripture.  Not all of these, of course, refer to the Spirit, but verses like John 6:44; 2 Timothy 1:9, 10; Titus 3:5, etc., are clear that “calling” is a work of the Spirit which infallibly brings an elect and redeemed sinner [the work of the Father and Son] to faith in Christ.

Another word used to describe the Spirit’s work is “efficacious.”  It is “effective,” that is, it gets the job done.

The word most commonly used is “irresistible,” because it fits the particular acronym which inadequately summarizes these doctrines,  This word is usually rejected as being something coercive:  God saving people against their will.  However, even in daily life, there are many instances of people being saved against their will.  People who are drowning sometimes struggle against their rescuers and have to be subdued before they can be rescued.  People trying to commit suicide are sometimes prevented from doing this, and some of them might never “forgive” their rescuers.  Still, such people are looked on as heroes.  It is only God, Who rescues from a far greater danger than anything this world knows about, Who is told that He can’t do that.  We must be “willing,” or He is helpless.

There is, however, another way of defining the word, “irresistible.”  It is food to someone who is starving.  It is water to someone who is dying of thirst,  Our Lord used both of these figures in His own teaching:  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Matthew 5:6.  See also John 4:10-14; 6:35, 48.  That’s the Spirit’s work – to make us hungry and thirsty.

In this post, we want to look at two men who experienced God’s call:  Nicodemus and Saul of Tarsus.  Two words broadly summarize our topic:  regeneration and reconciliation.  Nicodemus gives us great insight into the first and Saul into the second.

A.  Nicodemus:  You must be born again, John 3:7.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why Nicodemus?”  Why not the woman at the well, or any of the other people Jesus dealt with?  Why is Nicodemus the only one given that message?  It’s never mentioned in the Book of Acts, either.  If Jesus and the Apostles had been like some modern preachers, it would have been in every message.

1.  The man, Nicodemus.

Who was Nicodemus?  In the first place, he was a Jew, and as such already identified with the people of God.  This brought him and them great advantage:  Romans 3:1, 3; 9:4, 5.  Second, he himself was a leader of those people:  the teacher of Israel, John 3:10, perhaps signifying a unique place among his people.  This would have brought him great prestige, honor and wealth.  Third, he was a Pharisee, a bad thing in our day because of those who abused their position, but something highly respected in his own day.  Fourth, simply as a Jew, he would have believed that righteousness before God was something which he could accomplish himself.

Scripture seems to support that idea.  In Deuteronomy 6:25, Moses told Israel, “Then it shall be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.”  However, even Moses himself, and God, as well, recognized that Israel would never do that.  There isn’t a single verse in the Old Testament to indicate that they would actually be obedient, even though they twice agreed to do all that the Lord commanded.  Moses wasn’t even down from Sinai before the people had violated the first and seventh commandments in a wild orgy in front of the golden calf.

So, Nicodemus thought it was up to him.  As far as he knew, he was already “in”.  Our Lord’s message, as it were, blindsided him.

What was the message?

2.  The message to Nicodemus.

a.  He needed something he didn’t have.

For all that he had, he didn’t have the one thing necessary:  life.  That’s what “birth” is all about:  life.  Without getting into the abortion debate, birth is the evidence of life, not its beginning.  A “dead birth” is a contradiction in terms.  (If you, or someone you know, have suffered a “stillbirth,” I’m so sorry.  I don’t mean to add to or make light of that loss and grief.)

b.  He needed something he couldn’t do.

John 3 is the story of one very likely who thought that his heritage, his position, his keeping of the Law – who he was and what he did – were more than enough for him to “enter the kingdom”.  After all, he was a member of the family of Israel, God’s chosen nation.  However, our Lord said to him, “Nicodemus, that’s not enough.  You must be born into God’s family.”

In addition, Nicodemus was and had done this and this and this.  Yet the Lord in effect said, “Nicodemus, that’s not enough.  You need something you can’t do.  Even if you could return to your mother’s womb, it would do no good.  All that the flesh can produce is ‘flesh’.  You need something the flesh can’t do; you need a spiritual birth, a birth produced only and solely by the Spirit of God,”

Boiled down to one sentence, Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he, Nicodemus, needed God to do something for him that he himself couldn’t do.  He needed a second birth, a spiritual birth, something that was not, and could never be, the result of anything he could do.  He needed something that could not be done or started by “the flesh”.

Modern error has turned that exactly around.  Now we’re told that God needs us to do something for Him that He Himself cannot do:  “God’s done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”

That is not what the Lord told Nicodemus.

So many folks today are just like him, trusting in what they are or have done. They are quite content with their religion or church, or lack thereof, thank you. They have walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, had a few drops of water on their foreheads when they were infants.  Their father or mother or grandmother was a Christian.  They have been baptized.  Confirmed.  Seen a vision.  Do their best,  Pay their bills.  Take care of their family.  And on and on.

They are secure in their belief that God will welcome them into “a better place,” but have no understanding that they are under His condemnation because their sins have never been dealt with, and they have no righteousness He will accept.  They are dead in trespasses and sin, Ephesians 2:1, and need a life they can neither generate nor initiate.

The Lord rebuked Nicodemus because, as “the teacher in Israel,” he should have known the OT references to “a clean heart,” “circumcision of the heart,” etc., found in verses like Psalm 51:10; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 18:31; 36:36.  The promises made to Israel in the New Covenant go far beyond anything human nature or effort can produce.  Yet Nicodemus, like the rest of us apart from the grace of God, missed the message.  We “must be born again.”

Without regeneration, or the new birth, you and I are “in the flesh,” that is, we’re just ordinary human beings with a sinful nature and the corrupted faculties – mind, emotions, will – that go along with it.  Those who are the flesh cannot please God, Romans 8:8.  Repentance and faith in Christ are surely pleasing to God; yet things which are pleasing to God are impossible for the flesh to produce.  “Flesh” cannot produce “spirit,” nor can fleshly efforts have spiritual results.  One can “make his decision,” or do any of a multitude of other things men say will save them, every day for the rest of one’s life and not be saved, because that which is born of – that which comes from – the flesh is flesh.

The new birth is as impossible to mankind as the Virgin birth; both must be of God.

B.  Saul, called…out of darkness into His marvelous light, 1 Peter 2:9.

In 1 Timothy 1:16, Paul wrote, …for this cause I obtained mercy, that in my first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting (KJV).

Paul wrote that he was a “pattern,” a “schematic” for believers.  This doesn’t mean that we’re to travel our world starting churches, though some are called to do that.  Nor does it mean that we receive and write down new revelations from God.  Some have claimed that, some still claim that, and they are all wrong.  God calls no one to deliver further revelation – of any kind – from Him.

What Paul meant was that in himself we can see how God works in every believer, not exactly, of course, because we’re all different, but generally.  There are many ways we could develop this.

1.  The surprise of his conversion.

The last thing on Saul’s mind on the morning of that fateful trip to Damascus would have been that before he got there, he would be a disciple of the very One he was determined to destroy!

In John 6:44, 45, the Lord Jesus gave a capsule summary of the problem we all have. It is that not one of us, on our own, has the ability to come to God.  He must “draw” us before we will or even can come to Him.  Some make a great deal out of the fact that the word the Lord used in John 6 for “draw” is the same word used to describe Paul being “dragged” out of the city and left for dead in Acts 14:19.  They just simply cannot conceive of the idea that God would or could, for that matter, “drag” people into the kingdom.

However, in reading the Book of Acts, it seems to me that Paul was indeed “dragged” kicking and screaming to the very edge of salvation.  This leads us to  our second thought for this post.

2.  The “stages” of his conversion.

It seems to me that Paul passed through four stages, the first two not necessarily consecutive, in his journey from darkness to light.

a.  resistance, Acts 6:10 (KJV).  Though not specifically mentioned, we believe that Paul could well have been one of those from Cilicia, cf. Acts 22:3; 23:34, unable to resist the witness of Stephen, yet unwilling to receive it.  Cf. Acts 9:5; 26:14.

b. rebellion, cf. acts 26:9.  Paul was certainly present at the stoning of Stephen, Acts 7:58.  From that time, Paul did all he could do to stamp out what he considered blasphemous heresy, and at the same time drown out the conviction coming from the testimony of those whom he was persecuting, Acts 9:5 (KJV); 26:14.  Cf. Romans 1:18, of those who suppress the truth. 

He was breathing out threats and murder against Christians.  He wasn’t asking God to show him the right way; he thought he had it.  He was convinced that he was serving God.  Cf. John 16:2.  Jesus didn’t come to him and ask him if he’d like to be saved. The Holy Spirit didn’t try to “woo” him or in some way “cooperate” with Saul’s will, as is so often taught today that He must do with our wills.  Saul’s will was to kill Christians! That was his “decision.”

In his testimony before Agrippa, Acts 26:11, 12, he says that it was while he was thus occupied in persecuting and killing Christians, being exceedingly enraged against them(!), that the Lord appeared to Him.  Paul didn’t even know who this One was Whose brightness he saw.  This leads to our third point.

c.  realization.  Paul must have been shocked beyond belief to hear a voice from the brightness saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  He thought he had been persecuting blasphemers and heretics, thus being obedient to the OT teaching about such things – and thus to God.  Now, this “voice” from what must have been the Shekinah glory accuses him of persecuting its owner!  in effect, of persecuting God! The fourth point follows closely.

d.  reception.  We mentioned earlier that we believe Paul was indeed “dragged” kicking and screaming to the very edge of salvation.  However, when he found out what was involved, and who “Jesus of Nazareth” really is, he willingly walked over the border, as it were.  He asked, “What do you want me to do?” and then he went out and did it.
___________

We’ll deal more with this in our final post, Lord willing, but for now, there are multitudes of people just like Paul – and Nicodemus, firmly convinced of their standing before God. They’re members of the church, perhaps even active in it or leaders in it.  They’ve gone through the proper ceremonies or rituals, sprinkled as unknowing infants or walking an aisle or praying a prayer.  Why, they’re not heathen, they believe in God! They have their “docs” (doctrines) all in a row and can recite the Catechism from start to finish.  They’re thoroughly orthodox, and thoroughly lost, because they’ve never come to the point where they ask the Lord what He wants them to do.

For far too many others, “faith” is about God doing what they want Him to do.

Where are you in this progression?  Resistant to the truths of the Word, though perhaps you’ve heard them all your life?  Rebellious against them, wanting nothing to do with Christ, even though perhaps you come to church?  Realizing that you do need something only Christ can provide?  You’re a sinner justly under the condemnation of God and you know that only Christ can do something about it, having died for sinners.  Don’t stop there.  You must go through the last step:  receiving.  Coming to Him as your Lord and Savior, trusting Him to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. Believing on Him, resting in Him, relying of Him in every area of life.  Following His leadership.

There is another possibility.  Paul grew up with his beliefs.  So did Nicodemus. Perhaps this is the first time you’ve ever heard, or read, these things.  What will you do with them?  Now that you’ve heard them, where will you start on this progression?

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

Questions

1.  What does “efficacious grace” mean?

2.  What is another way of looking at the term “irresistible” beside “coercive”?

3.  Why is Nicodemus the only recorded person told about the new birth?

4.  What four things did Nicodemus have “going” for him?  Can you think of any others?

5.  What was the meaning of the message he was given?

6.  What was God’s purpose in saving Saul of Tarsus?

7.  Would Saul have “accepted” Jesus?  Why or why not?

8.  What is the significance of the first two “stages” of his conversion?

9.  What is the significance of the final two stages of his conversion?

10. At which stage are you?  You don’t have to write, just something to think about.

“The Kindness of God.” Part 7: “…the sin of the world.”

In the last two posts, we’ve looked at the death of Christ from the standpoint that it was a definite action, in agreement with the Father’s choice of some to be saved, a choice, just to emphasize what we wrote earlier, without which no one would be saved.  Christ died to pay for their sins, and theirs alone.  He died for “His sheep,” not for “goats.”

However, in spite of all we have said about the death of Christ and its particular, definite and successful purpose, there are those who will exclaim, “Well, I believe John 3:16!!”

We do, too.  In this post, therefore, we want to look at verses which refer to “the world,” “all,” and “every,” verses which are often used against what we’ve taught so far.  These verses are the reason many people who agree with what we’ve written otherwise simply cannot or will not agree with us on the death of Christ.  Do these verses contradict our view?  What does the Scripture say? 

C.  The Death of Christ with Reference to the World.

 1.  John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 

Those who use this verse often put a heavy emphasis on “the world,” and define it as “every single person who ever lived, is living, or will live.”  Christ died for all of them, without exception.

In order to understand this verse Biblically, we need to look at to whom Jesus was talking.  Nicodemus was a Jew, a Pharisee, a member of a group which believed that it was responsible to keep Israel  from being corrupted by outside influences, and to keep Israel faithful in following the Mosaic Law.  To this end, they believed that when Messiah came, He would destroy all Gentiles, no matter how “good,” and He would save all Jews, no matter how “bad.”  All that was necessary was to be a descendant of Abraham, cf. John 8:39-41.

Our Lord was correcting this too-narrow view:  “Nicodemus, you’ve got it all wrong.  God’s love and grace extend far beyond Israel.  Whoever believes in Me will not perish.”  He had already told Nicodemus that physical birth and lineage didn’t count for anything.   One needed to be “born again,” that is, from above.  Men and women need something Mom and Dad can’t give them; something they can’t do for themselves; something only God can give them and do for them.

On the other side, there are those who claim that “the world” in John 3:16 is really only “the world of the elect.”  I think they make the same mistake Nicodemus did, only in a different sense.  Nicodemus limited God’s love nationally, that is, He loves only Jews.  Those who believe God only loves the elect limit His love spiritually.

I once held the second view, but, with further thought, it seems to me from Scripture that God does have a redemptive love for mankind, considered as a whole, as a race, that is, humanity in general.   The Scripture clearly says that God desires all men to be saved, 1 Timothy 2:4.  While this verse doesn’t teach what those who believe Christ died for everyone say it teaches, (that is, that God is doing all He can to save everyone, but they won’t let Him,) it is in agreement with Ezekiel 33:11, which says that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his evil way, and live.  Had He not loved the race, He would never have chosen any of its members to be saved.  Had He not intervened in this way, we would all have certainly perished because we would never come to Him on our own.  As a result, the race would have perished.

However, let us be clear.  Even though we believe there is in God a great redemptive love for mankind, a love which moved Him to do incredible things to save it, individually we only experience that love through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Timothy 1:14; Romans 8:38, 39.  Otherwise, there is only “wrath,” John 3:17, 18.  This is why the apostolic church never preached “the love of God,” as we saw in an earlier post.  Apart from the Lord Jesus, it will not and cannot be experienced.

2.  1 John 2:2, And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

As with John 3:16, emphasis is placed on the whole world.  And again, “world” is defined as every single person.

However, even John twice used the phrase elsewhere in his writings in such a way that it can’t mean “every single person.”  In 1 John 5:19b, he wrote, the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.  That is, it’s under his control and subject to him. cf. Ephesians 2:2.  In the first part of v. 19, John wrote, we know we are of God.  There is a comparison between believers, who are of God, and unbelievers, who lie under the sway of the wicked one.  I believe the word “and” which separates the two clauses could be translated, “but,” to show the distinction even more clearly.

Then, in Revelation 12:9, John refers to that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.  Though a different word is used of “world,” the thought is the same.  The Devil is the god of this world, 2 Corinthians 4:4, and the whole world lies under his sway.

Since believers have been delivered out of the power of darkness and conveyed into the kingdom of the Son of His love, Colossians 1:13, the term “the whole world,” doesn’t and can’t automatically mean “every single person,” and we don’t believe that it does in 1 John 2:2.

In order to Biblically understand what John is saying, I think the word “propitiation” is key.  He didn’t use a word meaning, “redemption,” or “salvation.”  The word means, “appeasement.”  A poor example might be the bouquet of flowers a husband brings home to soothe an offended wife.  The death of Christ was an appeasement to the offended justice and wrath of God.

We believe that it’s the death of Christ that is the basis for the Great Commission.  His death appeased that wrath of God which had withdrawn grace in general from mankind, Romans 1:18-32, and had channeled it through one man, Abraham.  Even though Israel was to be a witness to the nations, Isaiah 43:10-12 (which has nothing to do with that group calling themselves “Jehovah’s Witnesses”), still there was no “Great Commission” in the OT.  Only in the NT after the death of Christ do we find such a thing.

3.  2 Peter 2:1, …there will be false teachers among you, …even denying the Lord that bought them.

This verse is often used  to teach that there are some whom the Lord “bought,” who will “deny” Him.

In the last verse of ch. 1, Peter wrote that holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, and continues in 2:1, BUT there were also false prophets among the people, EVEN AS there will be false teachers AMONG YOU….(emphasis added).  Peter is simply comparing the situation in OT Israel with the situation among the believers he’s writing.  There will be those who truly speak for God, but there will ALSO be false teachers present.  This is why John wrote in 1 John 4:1, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into this world.

John wrote that the test of false prophets would be what they taught about the Person of Christ, who He was.  Peter’s emphasis is on the work of Christ, what He did.  Both are important.  If He isn’t God manifest in the flesh, then what He did on the Cross is of no benefit.

These “false teachers” are known as Christians.  Nevertheless, in teaching false doctrine, they deny Him, all the while professing to believe in Him.

4.  2 Corinthians 5:14, 19, …One died for all….  God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their sins to them.

Actually, the whole section from v. 9-21 should be carefully read.  It seems to me that these verses present more “problems” to those who believe that Christ died for everyone than they do for those who don’t.

For example. some place heavy emphasis on the word, “all.”  However, consider what Paul says in the verse, …if One died for all, then all died.  In other words, the “all” for whom Christ died, also died.  Whatever effect His death had on those for whom He died, that effect happened when He died, not at some later time, like when they “accept” Him.

As to v. 19, pay close attention to what Paul wrote:  God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.  Can it really be said of every single person that their sins aren’t imputed to them?  Leaving aside the question of whether hell actually exists or what it is, will an unbeliever who dies suffer in Hell for his sins?  If they’re not imputed to him, having been imputed to the Lord Jesus, how can he be condemned for them?  Why is he in Hell?

It won’t do to say that he’s in Hell for his sins because he didn’t “accept the Lord.”  Are his sins paid for, or not?  Were they “purged” on the Cross, Hebrews 1:3, or not?   We occasionally hear a story about a certain man who was pardoned for some crime or other, but refused to accept it.  The court ruled that he couldn’t be forced to accept it.  So, it is said, we can refuse the death of Christ, and there’s nothing God can do about it.  However, we’re not talking about American jurisprudence or what some human court has decreed.

We’re talking about the justice of God having been satisfied in full.  If God punished Jesus for a person’s sins, on what basis can He also punish the sinner for those sins?  Unless we’re willing to say that Jesus didn’t actually pay for salvation on the Cross, thus denying the Scriptures which say that He did, then the only alternative is to say that God demands payment twice for the same sin, once from the Lord Jesus and once from the sinner, something even true human justice wouldn’t do.  God’s justice under that view is really injustice.

5.  Romans 5:19, For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience shall many be made righteous. 

The whole section of vs. 12-21 should be carefully studied to see Paul’s judicious and inspired use of “all” and “many.”  This section is about “the federal headship of Adam,” that is, that when he fell, he represented his descendants, that is, the whole human race, as well.  Paul teaches that the Lord Jesus was also a representative, as we’ve studied, but of a redeemed race – believers, or the elect.

Many people lean heavily on the word “all,” but don’t pay any attention to “many,” believing that it, too, refers to “all.”  However, this section isn’t about mere numbers, it’s about effect.  The “effect” of being in Christ, “being made righteous,” is as certain as the “effect” of being in Adam, “being made sinners.”  If, as many insist, they both do refer to “all,” as in every single person, then, according to Paul, those who believe in universal salvation are right.

6.  Hebrews 2:9,  that He by the grace of God should taste death for everyone.

The KJV translates this as “every man,” however, there is no word for “man” in the original.  So, for every “who” or “what” did Christ taste death?  V. 10 refers to many sons.  V.11 mentions brethren.  V. 13 says, “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”  So we are justified in saying that Christ tasted death for every “son,” for every “brother,” for every “child,” not haphazardly, but in accord with the will and purpose of the Father.

7.  John 12:47, “…for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”

We’ve already noted the Jews’ belief about the Messiah:  that He would destroy all Gentiles, or “the world.”  Jesus is refuting that belief.  Make no mistake, He said, there is coming a time of judgment, but now is the acceptable year of the Lord, Luke 4:19, or, as Paul put it, now is the day of salvation, 2 Corinthians 6:2.  Here, as well as in other places, Jesus emphasized that His mission extends to “the world,” that is, to men and women out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, Revelation 5:9.  This is the “world” for whom the Lord died.  See also John 4:42 and 6:63.

8.  John 1:29,  “…Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

This was John’s exclamation at the approach of Jesus after His baptism and testing in the wilderness.  Even he recognized the wider scope of the Lord’s ministry, something the Jews and the early church had difficulty accepting.

The question is, who is “the world”?  Is it every single person, as many believe?  Well, what is said of this world?  It is said that the Lord bears away their sin.   Can that be said of every single person?  That their sin has been taken away?  No, that can’t be said Scripturally, though many do say it.

Thus, a brief view of some of the verses used in contradiction to our view.  However, Scripture is never given merely to be academic or to defend one “school of thought” or another, so this brings us to our last section.

D.  Christ and the Individual.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will in no wise cast out,” John 6:37.

Actually, John 6:37-40 is a precious mingling of the truths of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.  The Lord never sought to “reconcile” these two truths, which to so many are irreconcilable, or to “explain” how they work together.  He just said they were both true.

Examples in multiplied instances of the divine will affecting and effecting the human will, the sovereignty of God in everything including salvation, and the activity of man in making and following his own thoughts and decisions, may be found in almost every book of the Bible without thought of contradiction, embarrassment or explanation.

As we said above, it’s never the intent of Scripture merely to be academic or to promote one school of thought over another.

Nor is Scripture preaching about the extent of the atonement, it’s always about the intent.  We’ve already seen that NT preachers never told people to believe on Jesus because He had died for them.  Our Lord Himself put it like this, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32.  NT preachers preached repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 20:21.  Never a word did they breath about God’s love.

On the other hand, there’s not a word about election in their preaching, either.  Some men can’t hardly preach without getting their doctrine in there, whether their text warrants it or not.

No, no.  NT preaching is about sin and a Savior of sinners.  After all, that’s how the elect become known – not because they believe the right doctrine, but because, by the grace of God they understand that, apart from the Lord Jesus, they stand condemned before God, and Jesus is the only One who can do anything about it.  They understand that they need to be saved from their sin and themselves.  They come to Christ, trust Christ, believe on Christ, to do this.  And to believe ON Christ is not the same thing as believing ABOUT Him.

When it comes right down to it, salvation is all about works.  Yours won’t get the job done and His can’t fail.

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

QUESTIONS

1.  Does the Scripture contradict itself?

2.  What was Jesus’ message to Nicodemus?

3.  What was Jesus’ message to the Jewish nation?

4.  Does “world” automatically or necessarily mean every single person?

5.  What is “propitiation”?

6.  Just because people belong to “church,” does that mean that Christ died for them?

7.  Did the death of Christ affect those for whom He died – at the time of His death?

8.  Can or will God punish the same sin twice, once in Christ and once in the sinner?

9.  What is the “effect” of being “in Adam”?  “…in Christ”?

10. What does the Lord Jesus mean to you?

“The Kindness of God.” Part 6: “…having obtained eternal redemption.”

In our last post, we began to look at the special responsibilities the Lord Jesus undertook on behalf of believers, or the elect.  We noted that He was their Representative and as such became their Substitute.  As their Substitute, satisfying all the requirements of God’s Law and justice by living a sinless life, and dying on a Roman cross, He also became their Redeemer.  We stopped last week after seeing that He satisfied the requirements for redemption

In this post, we want to look at the second aspect of His becoming Redeemer.

b.  He secured the reality of redemption.

I use the word “reality” deliberately.  Most Christians believe that He only secured the “possibility” of redemption, and that it’s up to us to make it “real”. It’s usually taught that Jesus only died to make men “salvable,” that is, able to be saved, but His death doesn’t actually “save” anyone until and unless they “accept” Him.  While we in no way deny man’s obligation to “repent and believe the Gospel,” the Scriptures teach that Jesus did far more on the Cross than the vague generalizations most people have of His death.

1).  Hebrews 1:3 says, …when he had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….  Hebrews 10:12 repeats this:  …this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sin forever, sat down at the right hand of God….

“Purge” means “to cleanse.”  He sat down to demonstrate that redemption had been accomplished, not just “attempted.”  This is significant.  No Old Testament priest could ever sit down because his work was never done.

For years I heard it said, and believed it myself, that there was no seat in the tabernacle.  This isn’t strictly true.  What did the High Priest do when he went that one day a year into the Holy of Holies?  He sprinkled blood on the Mercy Seat.  He would never have dared to sit on that seat because he had no right to it.  His work wasn’t done.  However, the Lord completed the work of redemption. Nothing could be added to it, and nothing needed to be added to it.  I won’t be dogmatic about it, but I believe that when He sat down in Heaven, in the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man, Hebrews 8:2, He sat down on the Mercy Set.  Not only was there blood on the Mercy Seat, but the One whose blood it was is there, as well.  Sin has been cleansed, and the One who did it sits on the Mercy Seat as proof.

2).  Hebrews 9:12, not with blood of bulls and goats, but with His own blood, He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Hebrews says that He obtained eternal redemption, He didn’t just make it “possible” for us to obtain.  Throughout the book, the writer demonstrates the superiority of the Lord Jesus in the areas of revelation and redemption over several OT persons or ceremonies, in that He fulfilled or finished the things which they themselves did or typified.

The Law had a shadow of good things to come, but the Lord Jesus came as the High Priest of those things, Hebrews 9:11.  The OT sacrifices could never take away sin, Hebrews 10:11: He has…put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26.  Because He died, sin has been paid for and “put away.”  The word translated “put away” means “to set aside,” “to annul,” “to reject.”  By His death, the Lord Jesus “set aside,” “rendered null and void,” “rejected” the sins of those for whom He died.  By “rejected” is meant that He got rid of them.  And in the words of Hebrews 1:3, He did this “by Himself.”  His payment for sin doesn’t require the “acceptance” of those for whom He died in order for it to be “effective.”  He…put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 

3). Romans 8:28-30, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He did foreknow, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son,…Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.

Romans 8:28-30 has been called, “The Golden Chain of Redemption.”  There used to be a TV show called, “The Weakest Link.”  There are no “weak links” in this chain.  It was planned in eternity past in the wisdom and purpose of God the Father; it was forged in the fires of Calvary by the grace and suffering of God the Son; it stretches from eternity past to eternity future , if we can refer to eternity like that, through the activity and power of God the Holy Spirit.  We’ve already looked at those who think that all this was simply the result of what God “foresaw” that we would do.  In contrast, the Bible talks about what God will do.

4). Romans 8:33, Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.

The words, “it is,” have been supplies by the translators.  I believe the verse could be framed as a question:  who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?  God who justifies [them]?  This verse ties together God’s election of some to be saved, as we saw in the last post, and Christ’s redemption of them in accordance with God’s will.  According to Paul, in His purpose, God has already “justified” His elect, Romans 8:30, but what does “justified” mean?  Basically, it means “to declare righteous.”  Sometimes a play on the word is used to say that it means, “just as if I’d never sinned.”  This is true as far as it goes, but there is so much more to it than that.  What it really means is, “just as if I’d always obeyed,” which to my mind is something far greater!  Since God has already, in His purpose, cleared us of wrong-doing, and credits us only with “right-doing,” who is successfully going to charge us with anything?  God has already accepted us as His righteous children in Christ.  Who is going to be able to nullify or question that decision?

5). Romans 8:34, Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

Again, translators have supplied words.  We could read the verse, Who is he who condemns?  Christ who died…?  In John 5:22, 27, Jesus said, “the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son, …and has given Him authority to execute judgment also….”

Paul’s question is, “Will Jesus condemn ones for whom He died?”  Most modern Christians would say, “Yes, because they didn’t accept Him as their Savior.”  We’ll have more to say about the importance of faith in a later post.  For now, let’s just say that such an answer would have been the farthest thing from Paul’s mind.  Christ didn’t just “die.”  Listen as Paul piles evidence upon evidence that those for whom Christ died cannot and will not be condemned:  Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us (emphases added).  Paul says four things about what Christ did and is doing for sinners.

a).  He died.  He did indeed die, but His death wasn’t random, or an accident or mistake, as some blasphemously assert.  It was a sacrifice, given as a ransom for many, Mark 10:35.  The idea of “ransom” implies a particular, personal transaction.  A “general ransom” is a contradiction in terms.

b).  He rose again.  Jesus was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification, Romans 4:25.

Jesus made certain claims while He was alive, most of which were rejected or ignored.   The Resurrection was God’s “Amen” to His Son.  It was also, if you will, the receipt for the payment Christ made on the Cross.  If He had not risen from the dead, we would have no way of knowing if His death did any good.  The Resurrection is our assurance that it did.

c.)  He was exalted.  Him God has exalted to His right hand to be a Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins, Acts 5:31.

Leaving aside the implications of the phrase, “to Israel,” note that the exaltation of Christ declared Him to be the Savior, Who gives repentance…and forgiveness of sins.  His death not only purchased the salvation of all for whom He died, but also the means of that salvation, namely, repentance and faith.

d).  He intercedes for us.

The only time in His earthly life that Jesus said, “I will,” to the Father was in regard to this very thing.  In John 17:24, He said, Father, I will that they, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am…[KJV].  It’s true that the NKJV and the ESV translate it, “I desire,” but it doesn’t matter.  Will the Father not give the Son the one thing He ever said He wanted?

Jesus finished His request by saying, “for you loved Me before the foundation of the world.”  The Father loved us “before the foundation of the world,” as well, gave us to His Son and sent Him to be our Redeemer and Savior.  That’s what He came to do, and that’s what He did.

Furthermore, in this very prayer, our Lord said, “I pray for them.  I do not pray for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours,” John 17:9.  It’s strange that He would die for “the world,” as some insist, but He wouldn’t pray for it.  If it be argued that He was praying for His disciples, vs. 6-8, that’s true, but in v. 20, He said, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.”   In v. 21, He clearly distinguishes between those for whom He is praying, and “the world.”

Someone might object, “Now, wait!  What about those verses which speak of Christ’s death for the world?”  Lord willing, we’ll look at them next time, and then finish up with a look at Christ and the individual.

Further references:  Matthew 1:21;  John 10:10, 11, 15-16: Acts 20:28; Romans 4:7, 8; 8:31-32; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:19, 20; 5:2, 25-27; Philippians 1:6, 29; Titus 1:2, 2:13, 14; Hebrews 2:17; 9:15; 10:10; 13:12.

Questions

1.  What is the first aspect of Christ as Redeemer?

2.  What is the second aspect of Christ as Redeemer?

3.  What is the significance of the phrase, “He sat down”?

4.  What kind of redemption did Jesus obtain by His death?

5.  What did Jesus do with sin?

6.  Does His death require the agreement of those for whom He died to be effective?

7.  What does “justification” mean?

8.  Can those for whom Christ died ultimately be condemned for their sin?

9.  What four things did Jesus do, or is He doing, for sinners?

10. Write out one of the verses in “further references.”  What does it say about the death of the Lord Jesus?

“The Kindness of God.” Part 5: “Christ Died for the Ungodly.”

In these next three posts, we’re going to look at the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Scripture has a great deal to say about it, yet I venture to say that what it says is hardly ever really looked at and taught.  I asked a fellow what the Lord did on the Cross, and beyond the fact that He died, the fellow had no idea what that death really involved.

III.  The Costliness of Grace.

Don’t mistake the title of this section.  It doesn’t mean that the grace of God is for sale!  In Matthew 16:26, our Lord asked, “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”  Even the Old Testament recognized this.  The Psalmist declared, Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them by any means can redeem his brother, nor give God a ransom for him – for the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever – that he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit, Psalm 49:6-9.

The Bible teaches that salvation is free, and yet the Psalmist says that redemption is costly.  There is no contradiction.  Grace is free, but it is not “cheap”!

The Gospel is often summarized as “the death, burial and resurrection” of Christ.  This is true, yet, according to 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4, this summary is incomplete.  You see, the Gospel is indeed good news, but it isn’t simply good news about “history”:  the mere facts of our Lord’s death and resurrection.  It is about Christ’s death for our sins, and it is about Christ’s death for our sins according to the Scriptures.

In these posts, therefore, we want to see what the Bible has to say about that death.  What it says involves four things.

1.  The death of Christ with reference to the Father.
2.  The death of Christ with reference to believers, whom Scripture also calls” the elect”.
3.  The death of Christ with reference to the world.
4.  The death of Christ with reference to the individual.

A.  The Death of Christ With Reference to the Father.

In the New Testament, there are at least 30 references to the Father in connection with the ministry of the Son.  Most of these occur in the Gospel of John.  We’ll look at only two things about this “connection”:

1.  The will of the Father for the Son.
2.  The work that the Father gave to the Son.

1.  The will of the Father for the Son.

In John 4:34, Jesus said, My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me, and to finish His work.”

There are more references to this part of the study than to the other three areas combined.  These clearly show that the Lord Jesus wasn’t just merely acting on His own or acting in an impromptu manner.  He didn’t “improvise” as He went along.  Ephesians 3:11 refers to the eternal purpose that the Father accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Even that terrible hour of which it was said that Pilate delivered Jesus to their will, Luke 23:25, was included.  Our Lord said to Pilate, “You could have no power [“jurisdiction”] at all against Me unless it were given you from above,” John 19:11.  The no is emphatic, underlining the rest of the sentence that God was as involved in the events of the Crucifixion as any of the others in that whole grim episode.  The Lord Jesus came to do His Father’s will.

Further references:  Matthew 20:23; Luke 4:43; John 5:30; 6:38, 39, 44; 7:28, 29, 33; 8:16, 18, 28-29, 42; 10:18, 36; 11:42; 12:44, 45; 14:31; 16:5; 17:8, 18-21, 25; 18:11; 20:21; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Galatians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 3:2; 13:20; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 4:9-10; Revelation 13:8.

2.  The work that the Father gave to the Son.

In John 4:34, the Lord said, “My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me, and to finish His work.”  In John 17:4, Jesus told the Father, “I have finished the work You gave Me to do.”

Throughout His life, our Lord was conscious of His Father.  Even as a mere lad of twelve, He must be about His Father’s business, Luke 2:49.  His mission included at least two things:

a.  John 1:18 says, No one has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.  The word translated “declared” is the word we get our word “exegesis” from.  An “exegesis” is a detailed explanation of a passage of Scripture.  The Greek word means, “to make known.”  So the Lord came to make God known, to “flesh out,” as it were, the God of the Bible, to reveal Him as a real Person, not just as some nebulous something or other floating “out there” somewhere.

This, however, isn’t the main reason our Lord came.

b.  In John 4:34, the Lord said that He had come to finish, that is, complete what the Father had begun when He chose sinners to be saved.  That “work” is the work of redemption.

For decades, “the love of God” has been so distorted in the churches that we have almost completely lost sight of what Paul called the severity of God in Romans 11:22.  A Bible class was studying the attributes of God.  Someone mentioned His “immeasurable love.”  The teacher wrote that down.  Someone else mentioned His “inflexible justice,” and the teacher immediately said, “Ooh, I don’t like that!”  He would only write “”justice” on the board.  In that teacher’s mind, who claimed to believe the doctrines in these posts, God’s justice is less severe than His love is great. The Scripture teaches otherwise.

In Numbers 15:32-36, we have the story of the man executed for picking up some sticks of the Sabbath.  Some find this unnecessarily harsh, forgetting that breaking even the least of God’s laws makes us guilty of breaking the whole thing, James 2:10.  God cannot and will not “overlook” sin.  After all, wasn’t it a relatively “minor” sin, as the world looks at it, that was committed in the Garden of Eden?  Sin must be, and will be, punished.

Further references:  Luke 4:43; John 4:34; 5:36; 6:39; 8:29; 9:4; 20:25, 37.

B.  The Death of Christ with Reference to Believers, or The Elect.

 A mother-daughter duet once sang a song in church to the effect that “when He died, He didn’t even know my name.” It was very lovely and well-sung. Beautiful harmony.  And absolutely wrong.  It may seem very wonderful and emotional that Jesus would die for people without knowing anything about them, but it isn’t Scriptural.  Cf Isaiah 53:11; John 18:4; 19:28.  If we’re ever privileged to join the blood-washed multitude of the redeemed in praise to Him Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever, Revelation 5:11, 12, it won’t be because He died for us without knowing our names.  It will be because He knows EVERYTHING about us…, and He died for us, anyway.

The last post mentioned that the Lord Jesus undertook special responsibility for His sheep.  Though it will take eternity for God to explain it, Ephesians 2:7, what He did may be summarized in two statements.

1.  He was their REPRESENTATIVE, Isaiah 53:11, 12; John 10:15; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:7.

The preposition translated “for” in the NT verses above doesn’t mean “for the benefit of,” but “instead of.”  The Just suffered “instead of” the unjust.  All the verses at the beginning of this section refer to blessings given to or actions done on behalf of believers, hereafter simply called “the elect.”  Though it’s common for preachers to preach these things to a mixed assembly of believers and nonbelievers, or to apply to unbelievers verses which were written to believers, there is no Scriptural support for it.  For example, no unbeliever was ever told that Christ had died for him, paid the penalty for his sins, or that God loved him, or her.  We’ll have more to say about this, later.

Another word for this is “substitute.”  Christ came to be the substitute for the elect.  This was taught even in the OT sacrifices.  When an Israelite brought an animal to the priest, he would lay his hand on the head of that animal, Leviticus 1:4, and it shall be accepted in behalf of him.  It became his substitute.  The animal died so that the Israelite could continue to live.  In the NT, however, it is God who brought the sacrifice, not the individual sinner.  This in spite of what a noted NT scholar claimed:  [Jesus] “was the lamb without blemish which humanity had chosen to offer to God.” (George M. Lamsa, “Gospel Light,” p. 313.)  Lamsa was known for his knowledge of Aramaic, the language of NT times.  In this, though, he was dead wrong.  As we saw in previous posts, humanity had nothing to do with it!  Wanted nothing to do with it.  Rejected the Lamb when He came.  Had God not intervened, we would have had no hope, no Savior and no salvation, as much as sinful men would like to believe otherwise.

I’ve already referred to the fellow who had no idea what Christ did on the Cross.  This brings us to our next section:  what DID Jesus do on the Cross?

2.  He was their REDEEMER.

a.  He satisfied the requirements for redemption.

 We’ve already seen that the elect are by nature the children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3. Therefore, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us, Galatians 3:13.  For Him to do this, three things were necessary.

1).  He obeyed the precepts of the Law.

He is the only one who could ever truly say, “I always do those things which please Him” [the Father], John  8:29.  Most people only seem to be aware of the “thou shalt nots” of the Law.  However, there are positive commands in there, as well.  It isn’t enough not to do the “nots,” we must also “do” the “does.”  We must not murder, for example, but we must also love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, Deuteronomy 6:5.  Only the Lord Jesus ever did that.

But, why was it necessary for Jesus to keep the Law?  Three reasons, at least.

a.)  According to Galatians 4:4, He was born of a woman, born under the Law.  That is, He was human, and He was a Jew.  On both counts, He Himself was accountable to God.  When the Scripture says that Jesus was tempted [or tested] in all points like we are, one area of testing was obedience.  In Heaven, He was equal with the Father; on earth, He laid aside that equality and came in the form of a bondservant, Philippians 2:7, a servant who was submissive to the will of the Father.

Hebrews 5:8 says, …though He were a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  Just in passing, if the Word, John 1:1, were only a created being, as certain cults claim, wouldn’t He have “learned obedience” before His incarnation?

b).  He must obey the Law so He wouldn’t incur its penalty and come under the wrath of God Himself.  Scripture is plain:  the soul that sins shall die, Ezekiel 18:20; the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23.

c.)  He must obey the Law so as to secure its righteousness.

What does this mean?  First of all, what is “righteousness”?  Simply put, it’s a right standing before God.   To “secure” means to “obtain, to get.”

Israel never kept the Law so as to do this, Romans 10:2, 3; Deuteronomy 6:25.  Now, they thought they had.  Like Paul before his conversion, they thought that concerning the law, they were blameless, Philippians 3:6.  After his conversion, Paul considered all such efforts as detestable and worthless, v. 8.  Paul had learned that the only righteousness God will accept is one that he couldn’t work out or earn and didn’t deserve, and it was only to be obtained by faith in the One whose righteousness it is.  It’s noteworthy that our Lord is called Jesus Christ the righteous in 1 John 2:2.  That’s because we have no righteousness of our own.  Only with His righteousness imputed to us by faith will we ever stand before God uncondemned.

In keeping the Law, Jesus “secured” a righteousness He didn’t need because He already was, and is, holy, harmless, undefiled [and] separate from sinners, Hebrews 7:26.  So it became “available” for others to use.  Multitudes look to the supposed “merits” of man-made saints to help them get to Heaven.  Beloved, there is only one Person who ever had any “merit” to begin with, let alone have some “left over” for others!

2).  He suffered the punishment due to breaking the Law.

Though sinless Himself, He was numbered with the transgressors, Isaiah 53:12.  He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26.  Though innocent, He was treated as guilty – even by the Father.  Though some question how Jesus could suffer an eternity of punishment in just a few hours, the truth is that He did.  The sufficiency of His death doesn’t depend on long [in time] He suffered, or even how many He died for.  The sufficiency of His death comes from the fact that HE died – God manifest in the flesh!  Everything about His death depended on that one fact – that God manifested in the flesh died on a Roman cross.  And He did die.  The soldiers, the centurion, even Pilate, gave witness to that fact.  He didn’t just “swoon” or some other Devil’s lie from hell.  Though fully God, He laid aside His power, position and prerogative as God and, though still God, He became fully human, apart from sin (which is not an essential to being human), and lived and died as every human being must.

However, unlike every other human death, His death actually took care of the reason why men all die:  all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Questions

1.  Write out Psalm 49:6-9.

2.  What does this Psalm say about the “costliness” of redemption?

3.  What did the Father have to do with what the Son did?

4.  What was Jesus’ “exegesis” of the Father?

5.  Is God’s love greater than His justice?

6.  Did Jesus know for whom He was dying?

7.  How, or why?

8.  What was Jesus’ first responsibility as far as His sheep were concerned?

9.  What does the preposition, “for,” mean?

10. What did Jesus do to satisfy God’s Law?

11. Can anyone else do that?  Why, or why not?

“The Kindness of God.” Part 4: “…whom He foreknew”

In our last post, we considered some misconceptions about the doctrine of election and then looked at what the Bible says about that much-controverted doctrine.  In this post, we want to look at the widely-held view that God chose those whom He knew would choose Him.  We’ll also study verses which are said to oppose our view and then, finally, some objections against the doctrine.

C.  Election and the Foreknowledge of God.

Sooner or later, in reading the Bible, one will come across verses which refer to election.  This may cause questions, especially among new believers.  Usually, an older Christian or a preacher or a book will point them to verses like Romans 8:29, which says, in part, whom He foreknew, He predestined…. (NKJV).  The one asking the question is assured that “…it’s really quite simple.  God looked down through the corridors of time and foresaw some who would choose to believe in Jesus.  These are the ones whom God chose to be His elect.”  I’ve heard it myself.  See also 1 Peter 1:2.  This explanation sounds plausible, it appeals to Scripture and it’s the almost universally accepted teaching about election.  Is it true?  Did God just choose those whom He knew would choose Him?

There are several things to say about this “choice” of God’s, which really isn’t HIS choice at all.

 1.  The Bible itself uses the picture of God looking down from heaven in Psalm 14:2 and 53:2.  Psalm 14:2 says, the LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. If the “looking down through history” view is correct, it seems to me that David would have made some comment which would support it.  However, he wrote in v. 3, They are all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.  Instead of seeing some who will “accept” Him, God sees only wholesale and total rejection of Himself.  Not even one person will turn to Him.  No, not one.  Paul refers to this verse in Romans 3:10, 11 in his teaching about the universal sinfulness of mankind.

2.  The Bible sometimes links together God’s purpose and His foreknowledge, and when it does, God’s purpose is mentioned first.  In Acts 2:23, Peter declared that the Lord Jesus was delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of  God. Surely, surely, no one would be so foolish as to believe that Christ’s death on the Cross was included in God’s purpose simply because God “foresaw” that it would happen!  Acts 4:28 clearly indicates otherwise:  to do whatever YOUR hand and YOUR PURPOSE determined before to be done (emphasis added).  God’s “foreknowledge” is based on His knowledge beforehand about what HE plans to do, and not at all on what He simply sees that others are going to do.

3.  Those who believe in conditional election, that is, that God only foresaw those who would believe, sometimes argue from the omniscience of God, that is, that He knows everything.  This is true.  God does know everything.  He knows everything intuitively, that is, He doesn’t learn by observation and experience, like we do.  Furthermore, He knows everything immediately.  He doesn’t have to search His memory for some fact or thought.  He knows everything all the time.  In addition, He knows what could happen, but won’t, Isaiah 48:18, 19, as well as what will actually come to pass.

The thing is, what makes the difference between an actual event and a possible event?  If we say that God knows something will come to pass simply as a matter of knowing it beforehand and not because He purposed it, aren’t we saying that there is something outside of God by which He is affected and to which He responds?  Does the Almighty God of Scripture just react to what is going on?  Though they may not realize it, this seems to me to be the actual view of most professing Christians.  In contrast, the Scripture teaches that God is proactive, Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11.

Our conclusion is that the Bible does not teach that God merely chose or elected those whom He foresaw would choose Him.  This unBiblical teaching strikes at the very heart of Christianity and denies or distorts its major teaching of salvation by grace through faith.

D. Scriptures Used to Contradict Our View.

1.  2 Peter 3:9, God is not willing that any should perish. 

Though that’s how it’s usually quoted, the whole verse actually says, The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us [some versions read, “you”], not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 

First, what is the “promise” to which Peter refers?  It’s the promise of His coming, 3:4.  Because it has been such a long time [in our thinking] since the promise was made, almost 2000 years now, many will scoff at and ridicule the idea of Christ’s return at all. This skeptical attitude brings out the question, “Why hasn’t He returned?”

Peter answers the question in v. 9: there are still some people to be saved.

Who are these people?  Are they, as modern Christians believe, people whom God is trying His best to save, but they won’t let Him?

Of, or to whom, is it said that God is longsuffering?  Well, who are the “us” or “you” to whom or about Peter is writing.  1 Peter was written to “the elect,” 1:2.  2 Peter was written to those whom Peter exhorts to make their calling and election sure, or certain, 1:10.  In other words, Peter himself defines what he means in 2 Peter 3:9:  God is longsuffering toward us – the elect.  A few verses later, he tells us to account that the longsuffering of the Lord is salvation, v. 15.

Perhaps Peter remembered what our Lord said in John 10:16, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring and there will be one flock and one shepherd.  The Lord hasn’t come back yet because all His sheep aren’t in the fold. In this year of our Lord, 2015, some of them may not even be born yet, though I don’t know that.  He may come back today.  If He had already come back, some of His sheep would be lost, because they are by nature the children of wrath, just as the others, Ephesians 2:3.

2.  1 Timothy 2:4, [God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

According to some, this verse means that God wants everyone to be saved.  Those who know the older KJV say, “It’s God’s will for everyone to be saved.”

In the language of the New Testament, there are two words translated “will”.  Though there is some discussion about this, one word is much stronger than the other.  It refers to something deliberate and settled, which will lead to action.  The second word refers more to an inclination or wish, which may or may not lead to action.

It is this second word that Paul used in writing to Timothy.  We might paraphrase the verse like this:  “God would not mind if all men were saved….”

Paul couldn’t have used the first word because, as we saw in Matthew 13:11, there are some men from whom the truth is hidden, and so they are unable to come to the knowledge of the truth, without which they can’t be saved.  And there are many who would have embraced the truth, but it was never sent to them.

Some try to say that the text refers to “all kinds of men,” but I see no reason for that.  God Himself says that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11.  God doesn’t rub His hands in glee at the prospect of the damnation of sinners, even though He is under no obligation to prevent it.

3.  1 John 4:8, God is love.

There are those who agree that there is nothing in us to draw God to us, and that we don’t deserve to be saved.  There is, however, according to them, something in God which draws Him to us.  That “something” is His love, which, they say, is His basic attribute.  They argue that because of this basic attribute, God must love every individual and cannot, therefore, choose to bless one and bypass another.

If this is so, then isn’t it interesting that the Lord Jesus never publicly proclaimed the love of God.  John 3 records a private conversation.  Furthermore, the early church never even mentioned it.  In the entire book of Acts, there is only one occurrence of any form of the various words translated, “love.”  It’s found in Acts 28:2, where, after the shipwreck of Paul and his companions and they were able to make it to shore, the natives showed them no little kindness.  Our word “philanthropy” comes from the Greek word translated “kindness.”

After His resurrection, our Lord clearly told the disciples what they were to preach.  It would be good exercise for you to read those six chapters – there are only six.  When you do, you’ll find that the disciples understood the command and preached only those things the Lord told them to.  The “love of God” wasn’t one of them.  Incidentally, “the love of God” isn’t “the message” in 1 John, either.

E.  Some Objections to the Doctrine of Election.

1.  “God is no respecter of persons.”

This is true.  However, without exception, when this impartiality of God is mentioned in Scripture, it’s always in connection with His justice, never His grace.  In the judgment of unbelievers, there is and will be no favoritism based on economic condition or ethnicity or political connection or anything else that is often the basis of human decision or action.  No one will be treated less fairly that anyone else.

The world has the cynical saying, “All people are equal.  Some are just more ‘equal’ than others.”  We all understand what that means:  the recognition that among men there is seldom the true impartiality there ought to be in matters requiring fairness or equity.  That is not the case with God, nor will it ever be.  No one will be judged less strictly or more severely that his or her sins warrant.  No one who stands before Him will have any cause to complain at His judgment.  Every unbeliever will get what they deserve, no more and no less.

2.  It makes God a hypocrite or liar.

After all, “whosoever will may come.”  If God has chosen some to be saved, this invitation isn’t true and God is making promises to people He hasn’t chosen to respond to them.

There are some things wrong with this objection.

a.  “Whosoever will may come.”  This is indisputably true.  There is nothing in Scripture that prevents or forbids anyone from coming to Christ.  What many deny or fail to realize is that, apart from the sovereign grace of God, we’re all “whosoever ‘won’ts’.”

b.  It ignores the crucial difference between “may” and “can.”  “May” gives permission; “can” assumes ability.  The Scriptures do not say, “Whosoever will can come.”  In fact. it was the Lord Himself who said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him,” John 6:44 (emphasis added).

c.  This objection goes just as much against the “foresight” argument, which admits that God knows just as infallibly who will and will not receive the Gospel.  Yet the proponents of this argument do not believe that God is hypocritically offering the Gospel to those He infallibly knows will reject it.

3.  Election is a divisive doctrine.

So it is, but that’s not the doctrine’s fault.  The reason it is “divisive” and calls forth such bitterness and anger is because of man.  The fact that God has sovereignly and graciously intervened to prevent the destruction of some sinners and not others calls forth the hostility and rebellion that lies at the root of all sin.  That God is sovereign in salvation, men hate because they wish to be God.  They want to call the shots, to make the rules.  That God is gracious in salvation, choosing some sinners to be saved for no reason to be found in themselves, sinful men hate because they will not let go of their hope of meriting or receiving the grace of God through some act or worthiness of their own.  They believe God somehow to be in their debt, instead of realizing or admitting their own spiritual bankruptcy, depravity and guilt.

 4.  Election is fatalism.

There is a huge difference between this doctrine and fatalism.  In fatalism, things happen without rhyme or reason, simply because they must happen.  There is no wise God to plan it, no omnipotence to bring it about, no love to temper it, no justice to make it fair.  It simply must happen.  The difference might be illustrated by the following story: a ship carrying both Muslims and Christians encountered a severe storm.  One of the sailors was swept overboard.  The Muslims said, “If it is written that he be saved, he will be saved.”  The Christians replied, “Perhaps it is written that we should save him,” and threw a rope and life-preserver to the struggling sailor.  The doctrine of election doesn’t deny or negate the use of means, but rather, it is through these means that election is fulfilled.  The only thing that “just happens” is “nothing.”

5.  Election discourages evangelism.

The only kind of evangelism that understanding the truth about election discourages is the kind that says, “God has done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”

I spent my first several years as a believer among fundamentalists who were very much into “soul-winning.”  But it was all about “method:” go through these four steps with a person and if he does these things, he’ll be saved.  In preaching, I don’t know how many times I heard a preacher say, after the message, “Now we come to the most important part of the service,” in which verse after verse after verse of “Just As I Am” was sung and the preacher would urge people to come forward to “the altar.”

Beloved, God only has one altar, and that’s the only place we’ll ever find salvation:  at the foot of that Cross stained by the blood of the Son of God, who died that sinners might be saved – not by or because of what they do, but because of who He is and what He did for such as us.  It’s not in the front of some building.  Or a piece of furniture which is part of some liturgy.  These are the invention of men.

I did an earlier post on “The Roman’s Road,” which explains a little more about this and my experiences as a Fundamentalist.  Just let me finish with this.  We’re all sinners and there’s only one way to be delivered from sin and only one Person who can do anything about it:  the Lord Jesus Christ.  Only in Him is there salvation.

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

Questions

1.  Did God just “look down the corridors of time” to see who would “accept” Him?

2.  According to Scripture, which comes first:  God’s foreknowledge or His purpose?

3.  How does God know all things that will happen?

4.  Does it really matter what one believes about God’s “foreknowledge”?

5.  Why hasn’t Jesus returned to this earth yet?

6.  Did God plan salvation so everyone could be saved?

7.  How could God NOT plan the salvation of everyone?

8.  What four things did the early church preach?  (Note: you’ll have to read the six chapters about the post-resurrection ministry of the Lord.  You could perhaps say there were only two things He told them to preach.  Nevertheless, what did He say?)

9.  Doesn’t this view make God a respecter of persons?

10. Doesn’t it make Him a hypocrite?

11. Isn’t it fatalism?

12. How are people saved?