Friday, December 31, 2010

Romans 5

I'm going to deal with Romans 5 in two sections: verses 1-11 first with some brief comments and verses 12-21 with some more in-depth comments.

I will be quoting from the English Standard Version.


Quote:
[5:1] Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [2] Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [3] More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, [4] and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, [5] and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
[6] For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— [8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
(Romans 5:1-11 ESV)

First some claim that this chapter is about sanctification. However that is simply not the case.

What do I think this section is talking about then:

Paul in this section is expounding the benefits and results of Justification by faith. That is why the "therefore" or "because" is there for.

Instead of the estrangement and enmity of 3:10-17, verse 1 tells us that there is peace with God.

Instead of falling short of God's glory through sin mention in 3:23, verse 2 says there is the hope of glory and access to God's presence.

Instead of suffering under judgment like in 2:5-6, verses 3 though 5 say there is joy in tribulation because of what God produces through it by his Spirit. Here is your reference to sanctification, but notice it is mentioned in passing as a result and benefit of Justification by faith. Paul's more full treatment of sanctification is chapter's 6 though 8.

Instead of fearful uncertainty like in Hebrews 10:27, in verses 6 through 8 there is assurance of God's love.

In verses 9 and 10 Paul argues from the greater to the lesser. If God has done for us the greater thing in the suffering and death of his Son, he will also give us the lesser thing, that is, he will give us final salvation.

So Paul ends this section in verse 11 by telling us one of the best benefits and results of Justification by faith, and that is joy in God.

Onward to the next section....


Quote:
[12] Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— [13] for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. [14] Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
[15] But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. [16] And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. [17] For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
[18] Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. [19] For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. [20] Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, [21] so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Romans 5:12-21 ESV)

What do I think this section is talking about:

In the second half of this chapter Paul expands upon the blessings, benefits, and results of Justification by faith by introducing the greatest blessing, benefit, and result of them all: the triumph of Christ's work over the inherited guilt of Adam's sin. Paul is trying to show how one person's death can provide salvation to so many. The proof for this claim is Adam. Adam proves that it is possible for one man's actions to affect many other people. We see here a comparison between Adam's disobedience and Christ's obedience.

In verse 12 Adam is portrayed as the federal head or representative of all those who are in the old creation. Christ is later presented as the federal head of all those who are in the new creation. A federal head is someone who acts on the behalf of all those who are under him, kind of like the president. Adam was the representative of humanity. As a result of his one sin, human death entered the world.

The context shows that Paul is not talking about actual sins that people commit every day of their lives, because the entire section is about the comparison between Adam and Christ. When Paul says "so" in "and so death spread to all men because all sinned", he is saying that through the sin of Adam "all men sinned". All men sinned in Adam. The word translated here as "so" is hutous and it means "thus, in this way", that is through Adam's sin. Adam was the federal head of the race and acted on behalf of us all. When Adam sinned everyone sinned. The text doesn't say "because all men sin", it says "because all men sinned". It's past tense, so when did all men sin? When Adam sinned. The idea is that "all men sinned" means that God thought of us all as having sinned when Adam disobeyed.

This is proven by verses 13 and 14. Here Paul shows us that from the time of Adam until the time of Moses, people did not have God's written laws. Although their sins were "not counted" as violation of the law, yet they still died. Although Adam violated a commandment specifically revealed to him by God, those who lived from Adam to Moses didn't sin that way because they didn't have that revelation. Yet they still died. There was no law, sin can't be imputed to them, but they still died. The fact that they died is very good proof that God counted people guilty on the basis of Adam's sin.

The idea that God counts us guilty because of Adam's sin is also proved in verses 18 and 19. Notice the key phrase in these verses: "For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners". Paul says explicitly here that through Adam's disobedience many were made sinners. The word for "made" is katestathesan. Here it is the aorist indicative. This means that it is a action completed in the past with results stretching into the future. As our representative Adam sinned, and God counted us guilty as well as Adam. He imputed Adam's guilt to us. Adam's guilt belongs to us.

If you say, "that is unfair", let me point something out to you. If you think that it's unfair for all of us to be represented by Adam, then we should also think that it is unfair for us to be represented by Christ. If you don't think it's fair to have Adam's guilt imputed to us, then it is also not fair to have Christ's righteousness imputed to us.

So notice that this section is all about the benefits, blessings, and results of Justification. Adam, the first man, was the God appointed representative head of the entire human race. His sin forfeited righteousness for all those he represented. In the same way, God made Christ the representative head of a new humanity so that his obedience to death might gain the justification of all who believe. The results is that salvation in Christ reverses the effects of Adam's fall and our inherited guilt. Notice the comparison in verses 15 to 19:

Look first at Adam:

Through one man's trespass:

Through one man's trespass many died.
Through one man's trespass judgment and condemnation followed for everyone.
Through one man's trespass death reigns on everyone.
Through one man's disobedience all are reckoned sinners.

Through the free gift:

Through the free gift grace abounded for many.
Through the free gift brought justification for many.
Through the free gift life reigns.
Through the free gift many are made righteous.

In verses 20 and 21 Paul says that the specific laws of Moses were added to increase sin in the lives of unbelievers. This gave God occasion to be even more gracious by forgiving sins, and he did this through the Jesus Christ. His atonement outweighs the sinfulness of both our actual sins and our inherited guilt from Adam.

What Paul teaches here has been called "Original Sin" and the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (Ch. 6 Sec. 3-4) along with similar wording in the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith (Both Puritan confessions) summarise Original Sin this way:


Quote:
The family of man is rooted in the first human pair. As Adam and Eve stood in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of their sin was reckoned by God's appointment to the account of all their posterity, who also from birth derived from them a polluted nature. Conceived in sin and by nature children subject to God's anger, the servants of sin and the subjects of death, all men are now given up to unspeakable miseries, spiritual, temporal and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus Christ sets them free.

The actual sins that men commit are the fruit of the corrupt nature transmitted to them by our first parents. By reason of this corruption, all men become wholly inclined to all evil; sin disables them. They are utterly indisposed to, and, indeed, rendered opposite to, all that is good.

Grace and peace,
Matt

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Enter the Narrow Gate

23 "Lord," someone asked Him, "are there few being saved?" He said to them, 24 "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won't be able 25 once the homeowner gets up and shuts the door. Then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, open up for us!' He will answer you, 'I don't know you or where you're from.' 26 Then you will say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets!' 27 But He will say, 'I tell you, I don't know you or where you're from. Get away from Me, all you workers of unrighteousness!' (Luke 13:23-27 HCSB)

Jesus' story here answered the question in verse 23 about why so few people were being saved.  There is an implication here, and that is we actually need to be saved. Jesus says that we are "workers of unrighteousness" before we enter the gate. Jesus' response to the question tells us what workers of unrighteousness should do to be “saved.” To be “saved,” one should make every effort to enter through the narrow door.

Now Jesus is clearly using a metaphor here and thus must be understood metaphorically. The metaphor is making every effort to enter through the narrow door. The narrow door is salvation. "Making every effort to enter" is how we are saved. In effect he is saying let your salvation be the grand business of your whole life. Entering the narrow door involves repentance. That is was verses 3 and 5 say in this same chapter. "No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well!" (Luke 13:3,5) This also involves faith. This is stated earlier in Luke as well. "The seeds along the path are those who have heard. Then the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved." (Luke 8:12 HCSB). It is because they were not entering by the narrow door (repentance from sin and faith in Jesus) while the Lord gave them opportunity (in this case, while Jesus was present, preaching the gospel).

Unbelievers may say that they knew Jesus socially (we ate and drank) or they knew his public ministry (You taught in our streets), but they don't know the Lord, they haven't embraced him as Savior.  This can be seen in Jesus response to them, "I don't know you or where you're from". Because they had not been justified (declared righteous) through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1), they were ultimately workers of unrighteousness.  Listening to Jesus' teachings and sharing social fellowship with his people is not going to save anyone. You can go to Church and hang out with Christians all you want but it won't save you.  Salvation only comes through personal trust in Christ.

Jesus says we must "enter through the narrow door" because "many will try to enter and won't be able." There will eventually be a time when the opportunity to trust in Christ will be taken away. Christ is now offered to you as Saviour and Redeemer.  However, a day is coming when he will sit on his throne and be Judge. So here we find the answer to the question in verse 23. Are there many going to be saved? Jesus doesn't answer directly, but says that many would try to enter after it was too late. As you read this post, it is not too late... "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." (Hebrews 3:15 HCSB) " In an acceptable time, I heard you, and in the day of salvation, I helped you. Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2 HCSB)  Repent of sin and turn to Christ, and he will forgive you.  Enter the narrow gate!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thoughts on Christmas....

Is Christmas a day Christians can celebrate with a good conscience, or is Christmas condemned in the Scriptures? Whilst I understand that there used to be a Pagan festival on Dec. 25th, and whilst I also understand that "Christmas" today is a really just a consumer driven, money grab, those are not the things that I want to remember and celebrate during "Christmas".

If I don't do the Santa thing or engage in the secular "Christmas" celebrations, which usually lead to some sort of debauchery, what in the world is wrong with me taking time out to remember the second most important event ever in the history of the entire human race?

The incarnation, the birth of Christ, is one of the most essentially parts of the Christian Gospel. "The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14 HCSB) This is something about which Paul says, "most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great: He was manifested in the flesh." (1 Timothy 3:16 HCSB) Why is it such a mystery? "For the entire fullness of God’s natures dwells bodily in Christ." (Colossians 2:9 HCSB)

This was such an important event that, "Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!'" (Luke 2:13-14 HCSB)

The hymn sung by the choir of angels (heavenly host) is well-known today as the "Gloria in Excelsis Deo," from the first words of verse 14 in the Latin Vulgate (glory to God in the highest).

If I want to spend this time with family and fellow believers, praising the wondrous glory of God, what's wrong with that? If I want to use this occasion to offer to others the peace of God that is available through faith in Jesus Christ, what is wrong with that?

You may not want to become engaged in a secular celebration. You may not want to celebrate the pagan Sol Invictus. Neither do I. I want to give glory to God for the birth and incarnation of my Lord Jesus. Without this birth nothing would have been possible in regards to our salvation and the age to come.

"One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind. Whoever observes the day, observes it to the Lord but whoever does not observe the day, it is to the Lord that he does not observe it." (Romans 14:5-6 HCSB)

Then Paul says a few verses later:

"But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God." (Romans 14:10 HCSB)

So if you choose not to celebrate Christmas, God bless you, may you do so to the glory of God. Don't judge others who do celebrate Christmas to the glory of God.

It seems that some have a bone to pick with Christmas. They don't like Santa? Neither do I. They don't like the consumerism? Neither do I.

However, there is nothing wrong with Christmas being instituted to counteract a very popular pagan/secular. Christmas can be a great alternative to secular/pagan nonsense. We cannot and should not stop the peoples of the world from celebrating. Therefore we should not be surprised that at this time of the year even non-Christians are celebrating "Christmas," that is, using many of the customs now called Christmas customs.

I am not condemning the "Christmas is pagan" crowd. And I certainly am not going obligate them to celebrate Christmas. That would be wrong. Christians have never been commanded to celebrate Christ's birth annually. But we have never been forbidden from doing so. Therefore we are free to do so or not do so. Many dear Christians have been falsely taught that celebrating Christmas is celebrating paganism, and they are wracked with guilt because of it. My message to them is: you are doing nothing wrong to celebrate the birth of God's Son; in fact, praising and thanking God for the gift of His Son is beautiful worship in the sight of God. There is also nothing wrong with using some of the winter customs, provided you keep them in perspective and don't allow them to bury the celebration of Christ's birth.

The Christmas that Christians celebrate is a feast in honor of the great mystery of the Incarnation. In that mystery the Word who was God, became man. In order to redeem us, God became one of us. He became part of His own creation. The Incarnation affirms the importance of both man and the whole of creation. “For God loved the world in this way...”

What am I advocating?

"I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David." (Luke 2:10-11 HCSB)

Messiah the Lord, was born for you. YOU dear sinner!! You have a Savior!! REJOICE MY FRIEND!! THIS IS GREAT NEWS. He gave up his glory to become a man for you!! Rejoice and SING ALOUD! Is this not reason to celebrate???!!! I certainly think so!!

Grace and peace to all,
Matt

Monday, November 22, 2010

Response to Steven Berg

My good friend Steve, being a "rabid Arminian", has responded to my blog post entitled "Predestination and Voluntary Choice".  The following is my response to him.

There is overwhelming biblical supporting the Providence of God.

An interesting quote from Easton's Bible Dictionary along these lines:

Providence is generally used to denote God's preserving and governing all things by means of second causes (Ps. 18:35; 63:8; Acts 17:28; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3). God's providence extends to the natural world (Ps. 104:14; 135:5-7; Acts 14:17), the brute creation (Ps. 104:21-29; Matt. 6:26; 10:29), and the affairs of men (1 Chr. 16: 31; Ps. 47:7; Prov. 21:1; Job 12:23; Dan.2:21; 4:25), and of individuals (1 Sam. 2:6; Ps. 18:30; Luke 1:53; James 4: 13-15). It extends also to the free actions of men (Ex. 12:36; 1 Sam. 24:9-15; Ps. 33:14, 15; Prov. 16:1; 19:21; 20:24; 21:1), and things sinful (2 Sam. 16:10; 24:1; Rom. 11:32; Acts 4:27, 28), as well as to their good actions (Phil. 2:13; 4:13; 2 Cor. 12:9, 10; Eph. 2:10; Gal. 5: 22-25). As regards sinful actions of men, they are represented as occurring by God's permission (Gen. 45:5; 50:20. Comp. 1 Sam. 6:6; Ex. 7:13; 14:17; Acts 2:3; 3:18; 4:27, 28), and as controlled (Ps. 76:10) and overruled for good (Gen. 50:20; Acts 3:13).

And a similar quote by John Piper:

God "works all things after the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11). This "all things" includes the fall of sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Psalm 44:11), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the failing of sight (Exodus 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Samuel 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Samuel 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Peter 4:19), the completion of travel plans (James 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Hebrews 12:4-7), the repentance of souls (2 Timothy 2:25), the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Philippians 3:12-13), the growth of believers (Hebrews 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Samuel 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27-28).

My problem with your response is two fold:

First it is a philosophical response, not an exegetical one. You have problems with God's Providence philosophically. This is to be expected, as you have a degree in philosophy. However, your objections do not disprove the doctrine of Providence at all.   When it comes right down to it, if this is what the text teaches, then to the gallows with philosophy.  I am not obligated to reconcile your philosophical problems, but to demonstrate what I am teaching from the text of Scripture.  Un-liked implications do not disprove me at all. If you have a philosophical or emotional problem with the doctrine of Providence, then your problem is ultimately with God and not with me.

That leads to my second problem with your response. I think it is implied that you are essentially demanding that God should act and conform to your idea of right, and do what seems proper to you! So you reject the idea that God can do what he wants and rule all creation, including the choices of men, according to his will, because you don't like some of the implications.  These implications make you reject God's Providence because they don't fit into your categories of what is right or wrong. But who are you to judge God in what he does?

"But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? 'Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, "Why did you make me like this?"'" (Romans 9:20 NIV)

"The LORD said to Job: 'Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!' Then Job answered the LORD: 'I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more.'" (Job 40:1-5 NIV)

God has a sovereign right to do whatsoever pleases Him, and because it pleases Him, it is by definition equitable and right. Right and wrong are determined by God, and not by us.  If it can be proven exegetically that God governs everything, including our choices, according to his will and purpose, then we have no right, as mere creatures, to stand in judgment of God. Judging God by our fallen human notions of justice is the height of arrogance. If God does it, it's right, despite what you may think about it. You may not be able to reconcile everything. Anything God does is going to be mysterious to us.  God's providence doubly so because that's part of what makes him God. What kind of God doesn't govern his creation? All we are to do is sit in awe of his incomprehensible majesty.  This is a faith issue.  Providence is not an acknowledgment that we can make sense of what God is doing; it is an acknowledgment that He can make sense of it and that is all that matters. We are not called upon to explain providence, but to trust the God of providence.

Martin Luther responded to Erasmus the same way.

This is the highest degree of faith -- to believe that He is merciful, who saves so few and damns so many; to believe Him just, who according to His own will, makes us necessarily damnable, that He may seem, as Erasmus says, to delight in the torments of the miserable, and to be an object of hatred rather than of love.' If, therefore, I could by any means comprehend how that same God can be merciful and just, who carries the appearance of so much wrath and iniquity, there would be no need of faith.

You asked for a definition of Concurrence and secondary causes. 

Concurrence is "[a]n aspect of God's providence whereby he cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do." (Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology).

What are secondary causes? God and his decree is the first or primary cause of all events. Nothing happens by chance, randomly, or outside the sphere of God's decree. But just as a king grants his ministers the honor of executing his commands, so too God employs what are called "secondary causes" to execute his plan. By his providence God controls whatever comes to pass, but secondary causes play their part in bringing them about, working as either fixed laws like the laws of nature, or freely like the will of the creature, or because other causes have caused them. An example of a secondary cause would be the water cycle. But notice what the scriptures say: "For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45 ESV) God "calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name" (Amos 5:8 ESV) (See also Psalm 135:7 and Acts 14:16-17). So what causes the rain, God or the water cycle? The fact that we have a natural explanation for rain in the form of the water cycle, doesn't mean that God doesn't send the rain. Calvin is right when he says, "It is certain that not a drop of rain falls without the express command of God." (Institutes 1:16:5) God is the primary cause, and he uses the water cycle as a secondary cause. 

Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae gives a good definition of secondary causes and concurrence:

"God has immediate providence over everything, because He has in His intellect the types of everything, even the smallest; and whatsoever causes He assigns to certain effects, He gives them the power to produce those effects [Thus,] there are certain intermediaries of God’s providence; for He governs things inferior by superior, not on account of any defect in His power, but by reason of the abundance of His goodness; so that the dignity of causality is imparted even to creatures. (ST I.22.3, respondeo)"

God governs the universe generally in a law-like way. Every single event within the universe is under His direct control. This does not take away the truth that secondary, natural causes also make things happen. It does not override or undermine the actions human beings undertake as a result of their own wills.

Aquinas says, “God’s immediate provision over everything does not exclude the action of secondary causes; which are the executors of His order” (ST I.22.3, rep. obj. 2). And again: “since the very act of free will is traced to God as a cause, it necessarily follows that everything happening from the exercise of free will is subject to divine providence. For human providence is included under the providence of God, as a particular under a universal cause” (ST I.22.2, rep. obj. 4).

God's providence and secondary causes are not in conflict but in concord. Natural events cause other natural events to happen, but not without God’s will concurring. God directs the wills and hearts of men, but not without their voluntary concurrence.

In other words, you get universal divine governance, providence over each particular event, providence even over the decisions of human beings – and you get it all without sacrificing secondary causes or making God the author of evil.

God does not directly cause or approve of sin, but only limits, restrains, overrules it for good. Foreordination renders certain an act to be performed by a person. Foreordination does not compel the person to perform the act. Men are at liberty to do what they desire. God does not coerce them. Man is a responsible agent who originates his own sinful acts. Sin is transgression of God’s law and is disobedience to the Lawgiver Himself. God does not influence men to sin against Him.  Humanity is primarily responsible for the sin in the world. But, God has a purpose he is working out. Because God sustains the universe's moment-by-moment existence, nothing comes about independently of his will. Nothing can happen unless God has willed it to be so. He governs all creatures and events so that they accomplish his own sovereign plan.  God's plan is accomplished either by their acting freely (like the will of the creature) or contingently (because other causes have caused them) or necessarily (as either fixed laws like the laws of nature).

By "freedom" and "freely", I do indeed understand that to mean, "we do what we want to do".  The source of what we want is our nature. "An evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." (Luke 6:45 NIV) Our heart is what determines our choices. But that we are not absolutely free, Jesus gives his plain and clear testimony: "Jesus replied, 'Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.'" (John 8:34 NIV) Despite being slaves of sin, this is actually what we want. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19 NIV) But it simply isn't a matter of changing what we love. It isn't a matter of willing something different. We are slaves and in bondage. A Zebra could sooner changes his stripes then a slave of sin free himself. Paul explains this slavery to sin further, "The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:7-8 NIV) Our choices stem from our heart. Our heart is enslaved to sin. Thus our will is not "free" but in bondage. This is abundantly clear and the plain meaning of Scripture.

As Luther says, "But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled, until he comes to know that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsel, endeavours, will, and works, and absolutely depending on the will, counsel, pleasure, and work of another, that is, of God alone. For if, as long as he has any persuasion that he can do even the least thing himself towards his own salvation, he retains a confidence in himself and do not utterly despair in himself, so long he is not humbled before God; but he proposes to himself some place, some time, or some work, whereby he may at length attain unto salvation. But he who hesitates not to depend wholly upon the good-will of God, he totally despairs in himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such an one, is the nearest unto grace, that he might be saved."

Thus God, in ways beyond our understanding, works in and through everything to bring about his good purposes.  It is important for us to see God’s hand in our trials, our pain and suffering, even our own decisions. God’s hand operates in everything that happens to me and in everything I do, right down to my own choices. But it is harder to see God’s hand in our own sinful or unwise decisions. God’s hand of providence is in these decisions also. Indeed, the relationship between God’s providence and human sin is mysterious. We should not thank God for sin, but we should thank him heartily for using even sin to further his good purposes.

As far as my quote of Deuteronomy, I was not appealing to a "two wills" idea in this verse.  I was appealing to the fact that it is abundantly obvious that God has not revealed everything about himself and how he operates and rules his creation.  There are some things that only God knows.  He has revealed somethings to us, and these we can search.  But we must avoid searching for answers in areas that God has seen fit to keep secret and not to reveal. As D. A. Carson wrote, "The mystery of providence defies our attempt to tame it by reason. I do not mean it is illogical; I mean that we do not know enough about it to be able to unpack it."

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?' 'Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?' For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." (Romans 11:33-36 NIV)

Grace to you,
Matt

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Predestination and Voluntary Choice

 FROM all eternity God decreed all that should happen in time, and this He did freely and unalterably, consulting only His own wise and holy will.  Yet in so doing He does not become in any sense the author of sin, nor does He share responsibility for sin with sinners.  Neither, by reason of His decree, is the will of any creature whom He has made violated; nor is the free working of second causes put aside; rather is it established.  In all these matters the divine wisdom appears, as also does God's power and faithfulness in effecting that which He has purposed. (1689 London Baptist Confession, 3.1)

Thus says the confession to which I and my church hold.  What this is saying is that God ordains future events in such a way that our freedom and the working of secondary causes (e.g., laws of nature, free choice) are preserved. Theologians call this “concurrence.” God’s sovereign will flows concurrently with our free choices in such a way that our free choices always result in the carrying out of God’s will (by 'free choices' I mean that our choices are not coerced by outside influences).

I thought that it would be good to illustrate my view by way of example, and not just talking about it in theory.

Consider for a moment the Crucifixion of our Lord.

Notice how the Apostles talk about this event in their prayer to God:

Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. (Acts 4:27-28 NIV)

And again in the Pentecost Sermon:

This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. (Acts 2:23 NIV)

Jesus is described as "the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world." (Revelation 13:8 NIV)

So with that in mind consider this:

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” (John 19:31-37 NIV)

The question then is raised:

Were the soldiers acting upon their voluntary decision? Was it their own "free will" choice to not break Jesus legs? Yes to both. It was their free, non-compulsory choice to not break Jesus bones. They were not forced to do it. It was a decision that they made freely to not break his bones.

At the exact same time, in Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20 God foretold that not one of Jesus bones would be broken. Indeed, as it says in Acts, Jesus legs not being broken was "by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge". Indeed this was something that God's "will had decided beforehand should happen." While the soldiers did not break his bones because of their own free choice, while they were not forced or compelled to do so save by their own desires, they were at the same time, fulfilling God's prearranged plan.

Put simply, it was God's prearranged plan that not one of his bones would be broken. God also planned the free choice actions of the soldiers involved. At the same time the soldiers acted freely, because of their own choice, and not because they were forced from without or under any compulsion. Both ideas are equally true and we should not sacrifice one for the other but hold onto both.

This is more then just God "foreseeing" the future.   The phrases that say that this event took place "by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge" and that God's "will had decided beforehand should happen" clearly preclude any mere and abstract foreknowledge and foretelling of the future.  What is in view here is clearly the predetermined plan of God coming to pass. "I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass" (Isaiah 48:3 NIV)  Prophecy isn't just God's ability to tell what's going to happen, but it is God foretelling what he has planned to happen, and what he is going to do in history.

So to the question at hand:

Does God predestine everything or is man free? My answer is, "YES".

If you ask me how that can be I will respond:

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever." (Deuteronomy 29:29 NIV)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Law and the Gospel Contrasted




LAW

GOSPEL

THE LAW DEMANDS WHAT WE MUST
DO
THE GOSPEL TELLS WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US IN
CHRIST

LAW COMMANDS US TO DO SOMETHING
GOSPEL PROMISES WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE

THE LAW IS BASED ON OUR PERFORMANCE
THE GOSPEL
IS BASED ON CHRIST'S PERFORMANCE ALONE


LAW KILLS
GOSPEL
GIVES LIFE

THE LAW DOES NOT SAVE
THE GOSPEL SAYS CHRIST IS THE ONLY WAY TO
SALVATION

LAW SEEKS CONTRITION IN THE HEART ON ACCOUNT
OF SIN
THE GOSPEL
SEEKS TO AWAKEN FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST

THE LAW PROMISES NOTHING BUT UPON OUR DOING...




. . . THE GOSPEL PROMISES NOTHING BUT UPON
CHRIST'S DOING.




THE LAW PROMISES LIFE IF WE OBEY IT IN OUR OWN
SELVES ...


. . . THE GOSPEL PROMISES LIFE THROUGH CHRIST'S
PERFECT OBEDIENCE IMPUTED TO US BY FAITH.



WHILE THE LAW DECLARES WHAT OBEDIENCE
REQUIRES ...


. . . THE GOSPEL PROVIDES THAT OBEDIENCE IN
CHRIST ALONE.



THE LAW IS THE MINISTRY OF WRATH,
CONDEMNATION AND DEATH ...


. . . THE GOSPEL IS THE MINISTRY OF GRACE,
JUSTIFICATION AND LIFE.



FUNCTION OF THE LAW: Serves to bring people under
conviction of sin (Rom. 3:20), make them conscious of
inability to keep the Law, and become the tutor to lead them
to Christ. (Gal. 3:24)


FUNCTION OF THE GOSPEL: It is a clear representation of the way of salvation revealed in Jesus Christ. It calls the
sinner to come to Christ in faith and repentance to receive all
the blessings of salvation in the present and in the future.



THE LAW BURDENS, THREATENS, AND PROMISES NO
FAVOR.


THE GOSPEL COMFORTS BY PROCLAIMING CHRIST
WAS SENT BY GOD TO PROCURE OUR ETERNAL LIFE.



WHERE WE FIND THE LAW: IN NATURE ". . . the
requirements of the law are written on their hearts" (Romans
2:15)


WHERE WE FIND THE GOSPEL: REVEALED ONLY
THROUGH CHRIST & IN HIS WORD (John 1:17)



THE LAW DOES NOT LEAD TO OUR SANCTIFICATION.


SANCTIFICATION MADE POSSIBLE BY CHRIST'S WORK
ALONE.



THE LAW IS OUR ATTEMPT TO OBTAIN GOD'S FAVOR
BY OUR ACHIEVEMENT.


THE GOSPEL IS CHRIST'S WORK TO OBTAIN FAVOR
FOR US THROUGH HIS ACHIEVEMENT.



THE LAW IS THE HEART OF MOST RELIGIONS AND
CULTURES.


THE GOSPEL IS FOUND NO WHERE BUT IN CHRIST.



THE LAW NEEDS HUMAN EXPERIENCE TO BE
FULFILLED.


THE GOSPEL DEPENDS ON CHRIST'S EXPERIENCE
AND NOT ON OURS.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Reprobation?

Martin Luther once wrote:
All things whatever arise from, and depend on, the divine appointment; whereby it was foreordained who should receive the word of life, and who should disbelieve it; who should be delivered from their sins, and who should be hardened in them; and who should be justified and who should be condemned.
What exactly is reprobation?  Wayne Grudem defines it as "The sovereign decision of God before creation to pass over some persons, in sorrow deciding not to save them, and to punish them for their sins, and thereby to manifest his justice. "

What is the Scriptural backing for such a view?
"What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?" (Romans 9:22 NIV)

"They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for." (1 Peter 2:8 NIV)

"For certain individuals who were marked out for condemnation long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 1:4 NIV)

And also any verse like this:

"For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 'He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.'" (John 12:39-40 NIV)

"When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48 NIV)

It is implied that those who were not appointed for eternal life didn't believe.

If God foresaw that in creating a certain person that that person would despise and reject the Saviour, and knowing this beforehand He brought that person into existence anyway, then it is clear He designed and ordained that that person should be eternally lost. 

Many Christians objection to this teachings is basically the same as the one Paul presents in Romans 9:

"One of you will say to me: 'Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?'" (Romans 9:19 NIV)

They demand that God should act according to their idea of right, and do what seems proper to them - or else that He should cease to be God! So they reject the idea that God can have mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he can harden whom he wants to harden. They say that this is unloving and unjust. In their view, God must be kept in order! God has to be given a list of rules, and He is not to condemn any but those who have deserved it by their own reckoning!

"But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? 'Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, "Why did you make me like this?"' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?" (Romans 9:20-22 NIV)

Paul's answer is simple: God does whatsoever pleases Him, and because it pleases Him, it is by definition equitable and right. We have no right, as mere creatures, to stand in judgment of God.

Luther makes the same point:

You may be worried that it is hard to defend the mercy and equity of God in damning the undeserving, that is, ungodly persons, who, being born in ungodliness, can by no means avoid being ungodly, and staying so, and being damned, but are compelled by natural necessity to sin and perish; as Paul says:'We were all the children of wrath, even as others' (Eph.2.3), created such by God Himself from a seed that had been corrupted by the sin of the one man, Adam. But here God must be reverenced and held in awe, as being most merciful to those whom He justifies and saves in their own utter unworthiness; and we must show some measure of deference to His Divine wisdom by believing Him just when to us He seems unjust.

The same reply should be given to those who ask: Why did God let Adam fall, and why did He create us all tainted with the same sin, when He might have kept Adam safe, and might have created us of other material, or of seed that had first been cleansed? God is He for Whose will no cause or ground may be laid down as its rule and standard; for nothing is on a level with it or above it, but it is itself the rule for all things. If any rule or standard, or cause or ground, existed for it, it could no longer be the will of God. What God wills is not right because He ought, or was bound, so to will; on the contrary, what takes place must be right, because He so wills it. Causes and grounds are laid down for the will of the creature, but not for the will of the Creator - unless you set another Creator over him!

Besides, the wicked condemned, and predestined to condemnation, not arbitrarily, but because of their own evil acts. Never can they point their finger at God, declaring, "God has forced me to do that which was contrary to your Law. It's all your fault God, not mine." The wicked reprobate consciously and willingly sin, and for that sin they shall surely receive eternal desolation. The fault is their own. They receive nothing but God's good justice for their crimes and offenses against Deity!

John Calvin also makes this same point:


The ground of discrimination that exists among the elect is the sovereign will of God and that alone; but the ground of damnation to which the reprobate are consigned is sin and sin alone.
Some may argue that a person cannot be punished for what he cannot help doing. If that is the case, then a Christian may not be rewarded for what his new nature compels him to do. Let us not forget that the nature of a person is not a thing he possesses. It is something he is. If that is the case, neither can we be justified by something someone else did in our behalf.

We shouldn't misrepresent the nature of divine grace, making grace and mercy something God is obliged to show equally to all people. How mercy and grace can be both gratuitous and obligatory at the same? It can't be. Otherwise it isn't grace.
Many say that God loves everyone the same way or that God is obligated to love everyone the same way! But God has the freedom to love as we love. You love your spouse more then any other person. The idea that God loves each person equally results in a denial of any particularity in God’s love, even in His redemptive love. God is free to love whom he wants how he wants and how much he wants. God’s love is the basis of His redemptive work in Jesus Christ. If you are a saved Christian, then you are part of the bride of Christ and were loved by God before the beginning of the world. Are you denying God a freedom that even we as humans have?

Besides, love doesn't and never overturns God's justice. As I have already stated, the unregenerate are condemned because they have sinned against God and violated his law and justice will be served. Love doesn't come into it. If a judge let a serial rapist go scott-free and said, "I'm a loving judge", I'd call him a liar. The loving thing to do would be lock the guy up forever.

While sometimes men may not understand fully the justice and righteousness of God's ways, God's ways are often mysterious to fallible and sinful men and we have no right to question God.

Martin Luther Wrote:
This question touches on the secrets of His Majesty, where 'His judgments are past finding out' (cf. Rom.11.33). It is not for us to inquire into these mysteries, but to adore them.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Holy Spirit and Obedience.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21 NIV)

Someone tried to use this verse to tell me that the person who will be saved and go to heaven has to "do the will" of God.  They denied justification by faith, and taught justification by works.  How do we respond to verses like this?

Yes, the one who "does the will" of God will enter into the kingdom. What does it mean to "do the will" of God?

What is this will of God? I let Jesus answer:

"For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day" (John 6:40 NIV)

It is not those who simply say, "Lord, Lord," but those who actually do the will of the Father, who are admitted into Heaven. In verse 21, Jesus seems to be making the same distinction that James makes in 2:14: "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?" Also, further in verse 18 "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds."

If it is claimed that we are not saved by faith alone, Jesus would be saying we are saved by legalism, by obeying the law. That interpretation of the phrase cannot be correct, because of what verse 22 says.

Verse 22: Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’

Notice, Jesus reports that many people will appear before him at the Judgment and will talk about their works, not their faith. These people-the ones who present works-will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. Far from teaching a message of works, Jesus warns us that anyone who comes before him at the Judgment and offers their works, their covenant faithfulness, or their life as his defense will be condemned. Far from teaching that our works are necessary for our salvation, Jesus here teaches that all our works contribute not one whit to our salvation.

Why will many people not be admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven? What is wrong with their defense? Jesus tells us plainly: They will plead their own lives and Christian works. Jesus tells us that many people at the Judgment will argue that they deserve Heaven, that they have a right to Heaven because they have done many wonderful works in the name of Jesus. They will not acknowledge their depravity, for they think they are good men. They will not acknowledge the Satisfaction and Atonement of Jesus, because they do not believe it. Their prayer will not be, God, be merciful to me a sinner, but, Jesus, I did many wonderful works in your name, and now you ought to reward me with Heaven.

It's quite clear obedience is the evidence of faith. If you lack obedience, you lack faith. "Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him" "does the will of" his Father. Romans 6 makes this point by saying you were once slaves to sin, now you're slaves to righteousness. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15). If you love Christ, if you believe in him, you will keep his commandments.

Notice the promise of the New Covenant:

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors[/b] when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NIV)

Notice the main difference between the Old and New Covenant is that members of the New Covenant have the law written on their heart. What does that mean? Well the contrast is between the Old Covenant which was broken. God's law written on the heart would make sure that the New Covenant would never be broken. Notice also that in the New Covenant "they all will know" the Lord. But those who are condemned in Matthew 7:23 are told, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!". They obviously were never part of the New Covenant, thus they never had the law written on their hearts and continued to not obey their Lord.

Notice also how Ezekiel describes this writing of the Law upon the heart:

"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezekiel 36:25-27 NIV)

God promises to those who are part of the New Covenant to put his Spirit in us. Jesus himself talks about the gift and promise of the Spirit. The Spirit will "move us to follow his decrees and be careful to keep his laws."

Jesus also says the same thing in Chapter 7 of Matthew:

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:7-12 NIV)

Luke puts it this way:

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13 NIV)

Notice how Paul describes the same thing:

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV)

Did you see how Paul describes us outside of Christ? But Jesus says in the same Sermon on the Mount: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48 NIV)

Are you perfect? Jesus commands your obedience to be perfect.

"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10 NIV)

Have you ever stumbled in just one point in everything that Jesus commanded you? Ever? I know you have. So you are already guilty of breaking it all!

"Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." (Galatians 3:10 and Deuteronomy 27:26)

Do you continue to do everything that Christ commanded you? All the time perfectly? No you haven't. Therefore you are cursed.

You can't keep the law. You can't obey Christ as you ought. You can't be perfect and Jesus commands you to be perfect. Obeying Christ perfectly is part of those things which Christ says you need to do for your house to be built on a rock and you can't do it. You lack the ability.

"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12 NIV)

You are not righteous. You don't understand. You don't seek God. You've turned away. You have become worthless. You have not done good.

"The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:7-8 NIV)

You are hostile to God. You don't submit to God's law, and you can't submit to it. You cannot please God.

In fact, Genesis tells us "that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time." (Genesis 6:5 NIV) God himself declared it to be thus, saying, "Every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood." (Genesis 8:21 NIV) That includes everyone. Every inclination of the thoughts of your heart is only evil all the time. It's been that way since you were a kid.


"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath." (Ephesians 2:1-3 NIV)

You are dead in your transgressions and sins. You follow the way of this world. The spirit of the Ruler of this world rules in your heart. You spend all your time gratifying the cravings of your flesh and following its desires and thoughts. You deserve wrath.

Have you ever even managed to keep one of the Ten Commandments perfectly? Those who teach that we are justified by what we do are placing upon people a burden of helplessness and hopelessness. You can never obey enough to satisfy what God demands and God demands perfection. Not only that, we are corrupt, and evil at heart. Humanity hates God and wants nothing to do with him. Not only do we stand condemned by our own evil deeds and thoughts, but we also stand condemned because of the transgression of Adam. There is no hope for us whatsoever through obedience.

Do you know what God thinks of your obedience? "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6 NIV)

If you teach that we are saved by obedience, then you are putting people under the Law. God placed humanity in a covenant with Adam as the representative for the human race. The terms of this covenant were perfect obedience to the Law. God promised life upon the fulfillment and threatened death upon the slightest infraction. Adam willfully broke that covenant and condemned us all by his transgression. He also passed on his own corrupt nature. God's covenant still stands. He commands perfect obedience and we can't give it to him. He still requires it and he will not lessen or lighten his standards. We can't give it to him because we don't want to.

Some might be thinking, "MAN. Matt, that was severe." I know. The law is severe. It brings death and the curse. But it also points to Christ because it points outside of ourselves for the answer:

God is merciful, and he has offered a New Covenant. The conditions of the first covenant were Man's obedience. The condition of the New Covenant is faith alone. The first covenant said "Obey and you will live". The New Covenant says "God has granted you life, therefore obey". In the first Covenant God commands you do it it and doesn't help you at all. In the New Covenant God gives what he commands through the Holy Spirit.

In the New Covenant God fulfills the terms of the first Covenant made with Adam by his Son, Christ Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life and was perfectly obedient. That perfect life and obedience is credited to our bankrupt account upon trusting in Christ. Christ then takes the obligation of our covenantal debt to God. He also grants believers the Holy Spirit, empowering them and motivating them to obey Christ. Where once they loved their sin now they hate the sin they love. They now desire to obey Christ because the Holy Spirit is living in them. Their obedience is not perfect, because the flesh still kicks around and needs to daily be put to death. It's a struggle and a battle. But because we are justified by faith upon the basis of the obedience of Christ, God can see our imperfect obedience as if it were Christs. We were disobedient because we followed the ways of this world and were under the influence and work of the spirit of disobedience. We gratified the cravings of our flesh. But now God has made us alive. The Holy Spirit now dwells inside of us. He will write the Law on our hearts. He will move us to follow God's decrees and help us to be careful to keep God's laws.

Why do we need this work of the Holy Spirit? Paul mentions it here in Ephesians 2, but he also mentions it else where:

"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12 NIV)

Notice what Paul says in Romans 8 about what we can't do, and notice what he says is the only way we are able to do it....

"Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you." (Romans 8:5-9 NIV)

But Jesus says in the same Sermon on the Mount: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48 NIV)

Paul says that we are not perfect, nor can perfect obedience be expected. But it is a daily battle:

"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:15-25 NIV)

Did you see Paul's only hope? It wasn't his good works, but Jesus Christ. The only reason God can accept our obedience and good works, which to him look like used menstrual rags (Isaiah 64:6), is because we have been Justified by faith and cleansed by the blood of Jesus.


If obedience is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit, and not what saves us, then what saves us?

"The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26 NIV)

This kinda says that it's not about obedience, but about faith. It also says that a person who has believed in Christ will live their Christian life not by works, but by believing in Christ.

What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” (Romans 4:3-8 NIV)

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29 NIV)

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:40 NIV)

We don't... do.... anything. Simply place our trust in Christ. That's it.

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5 NIV)


For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed beginning and ending in faith, as it is written, "The one who by faith is righteous shall live." (Romans 1:16-17 ESV)


Grace and peace,
Matt

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Found this nugget on the Founders Ministries Blog by Tom Ascol entitled, "Preach Christ crucified no matter what."

Why don't men preach Christ crucified? John Stott offers some profound insights on this question with his analysis of the offense of cross, from his commentary on Galatians. I am humbled and challenged by this reminder.
What is there about the cross of Christ which angers the world and stirs them up to persecute those who preach it? Just this: Christ died on the cross for us sinners, becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). So the cross tells us some very unpalatable truths about ourselves, namely that we are sinners under the righteous curse of God's law and we cannot save ourselves. Christ bore our sin and curse precisely because we could gain release from them in no other way. If we could have been forgiven by our own good works, by being circumcised and keeping the law, we may be quite sure that there would have been no cross. Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, 'I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.' Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size. And of course men do not like it. They resent the humiliation of seeing themselves as God sees them and as they really are. They prefer their comfortable illusions. So they steer clear of the cross. They construct a Christianity without the cross, which relies for salvation on their works and not on Jesus Christ's. They do not object to Christianity so long as it is not the faith of Christ crucified. But Christ crucified they detest. And if preachers preach Christ crucified, they are opposed, ridiculed, persecuted. Why? Because of the wounds which they inflict on men's pride.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Young former Witness comes to Christ.

I was at the "Witnesses Now for Jesus Convention" over the weekend.  I had a really blessed time.  I made many new life-long friends.

When it is posted on Youtube, I'll post my testimony and another lecture that I think will be beneficial.

But for now, here is the recording of the live stream of the Testimony of my new friend Brian Garcia.  Click on the link below to view it.

Hey has a very similar testimony to me and was well received at the convention.

I thoroughly enjoyed his testimony and give it a hearty "Amen!"



Here is his Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Newagegamer3018

Matt

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Resources for Witnessing to Witnesses

I have received a few emails and comments asking for resources and books on this subject of Jehovah's Witnesses.

As to resources I can recommend a few good books, which I have added links to Amazon.com where you can purchase them.  I have sectioned them off into topics.

Overall Guide on how to respond to Jehovah's Witnesses

Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah's Witnesses by Ron Rhodes.
http://www.amazon.com/Reasoning-Scriptures-Jehovahs-Witnesses-Rhodes/dp/0736924515/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1286285865&sr=8-1-spell

On how to share our faith

Tactics by Greg Koukl
http://www.amazon.com/Tactics-Game-Discussing-Christian-Convictions/dp/0310282926/ref=pd_sim_b_79

Deity of Christ and the Trinity

The Forgotten Trinity by James White
http://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Trinity-James-R-White/dp/1556617259/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_c

Putting Jesus in his Place, the Case for the Deity of Christ by Robert Bowman
http://www.amazon.com/Putting-Jesus-His-Place-Christ/dp/0825429838/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1286287250&sr=1-1

Hell

Sense and Nonsense about Heaven and Hell by Robert Bowman
http://www.amazon.com/Sense-Nonsense-about-Heaven-Hell/dp/0310254280/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1286287269&sr=1-1

On the Gospel and the New Birth

The God who Justifies by James White
http://www.amazon.com/God-Who-Justifies-James-White/dp/0764204815/ref=pd_sim_b_17

Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness?  by John Piper
http://www.amazon.com/Counted-Righteous-Christ-Imputation-Righteousness/dp/1581344473/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1286287160&sr=1-1

Finally Alive by John Piper
http://www.amazon.com/Finally-Alive-John-Piper/dp/1845504216/ref=pd_sim_b_8

The Church


Why we love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung
http://www.amazon.com/Why-Love-Church-Institutions-Organized/dp/0802458378/ref=pd_sim_b_79

By former leader Ray Franz

Crisis of Conscience by Raymond Franz
http://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Conscience-Raymond-Franz/dp/0914675230/ref=pd_sim_b_1

In Search of Christian Freedom by Raymond Franz
http://www.amazon.com/Search-Christian-Freedom-Raymond-Franz/dp/0914675176/ref=pd_sim_b_18

History


Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses by James Penton
http://www.amazon.com/Apocalypse-Delayed-Story-Jehovahs-Witnesses/dp/0802079733/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1286287320&sr=1-1

Websites:

http:\\www.carm.org
http://4witness.org/

http://www.4truth.net/jehovahs-witnesses/
http:\\www.gotquestions.org


I pray that some or all of these resources would be a benefit to you.  If I had to choose only one book, it would be the first one "Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah's Witnesses". 

Grace and peace to you,
Matthew

Friday, September 24, 2010

Witnessing to Witnesses Part 10

Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ
So we've looked at how the Watchtower distorts the gospel, now let's see how we can use this to present the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember, there are two primary ways the Watchtower distorts the Gospel. First is they limit it's blessings to 144000 and second is they teach that in order to be saved you have to earn it. 

You have a Witness at your door, and he finishes his presentation and is offering you literature, most likely a magazine. He has formulated his presentation based on the cover article of the magazine he is offering. So what do you do? Well, play the part of the inquisitive person. You could say, "You guys are Jehovah's Witnesses right? I actually have a serious question for you. Let's suppose that right now, I have a knife in my back. I only have three minutes to live. My blood and life are draining from me. I know I'm dying and no one can help me. How can you help me? How can I be saved? How can I enter the Kingdom? You have three minutes. GO!"

Don't be surprised if all you get a mumbled response or dead silence. There will be stuttering and stammering because you have just caught them off guard. They are prepared for many of our major objections to their religion. They carry a book called “Reasoning from the Scriptures”, which essentially gives them a prefabricated answer from headquarters to most of our main objection. Attacking their gospel is not something they are prepared for I have seen Witnesses floundering like fish out of water. This is an area of theology that the Watchtower confuses it's followers on. So as the time progresses and they flounder, say, "Come on guys. I'm dying. I have three minutes!"

Now it's time to exploit their weaknesses. They will respond by telling you one or all of their requirements of salvation, that you have to take in knowledge, and join their organization, live a moral life and obey God's law, and preach to other people. They've backed themselves into a corner and there is no way out. 

So, let's take the first. They tell you that in order to be saved you have to do a whole bunch of things. Your immediate response should be, "What about the thief on the cross? What knowledge did he get? What works could he do? How could he learn anything? He couldn't turn the pages of a book--he was nailed to a cross. Can't go to your meetings either--he was nailed to a cross. He wasn't a good person--he was nailed to a cross. But Jesus said to him, 'You will be with Me in Paradise.' Why? I ask you again, how can I be saved?"

When they go to a promise of salvation in the bible, you've got them there too. In their mind, the New Testament was not written for the Great Crowd, the second class Christians, but it was written for and to the 144000. They believe that everyone in the first century was part of the 144000. All of Paul's letters are written to the saints, which they interpret as the 144000. So you can easily say, “But wait, that is written to the 144000, the anointed. That's not applicable to you.”

There's also that old saying, “be careful what you wish for”. If they desire to receive salvation upon the basis of living a moral life in obedience to God's law, if they want to be justified by the law, well then let's show bring them to the law. So if they say or imply that one has to obey the law to be saved, simply go through some of the ten commandments with them. “Have you ever stolen? What do you call someone who steals? A thief, right? Have you ever lied? What do you call someone who lies? A liar right? Have you ever used God's name as a swear word? That makes you a blasphemer.” Then you can say, “If you have actually never been able to keep the Ten Commandments, upon what basis will God save you at all? If God is going to save you upon the basis of your obedience, you're in trouble because you have never been obedient.” If they say that God can forgive them, quote to them Proverbs 17:15 ESV “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” A good judge can't just forgive you. You've broken the law and justice must be satisfied. Imagine a murderer and rapist before a judge being let go because the judge forgave him. You'd be angry because justice wasn't done. 

There is also another method you could use.  Start off by asking them to define the Gospel, the Good News, for you.  They will respond with the typical future kingdom, paradise earth, millennium talk.  Once he is finished, ask him to repeat it.  After that, repeat it back to him, just to make sure you got it right.  You'll notice as he explains the Gospel, he will not mention the death, burial, or resurrection of Christ at all.  In fact, rarely will he mention Jesus.  So after he has repeated it once and you've repeated it back to him, ask him to go to 1 Corinthians 15.  This is a chapter where Paul clearly lays out the Gospel.

"Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles," (1 Corinthians 15:1-7 NIV)

Ask him now, "Why didn't you mention any of that?"  As he stumbles along and says, "Oh yeah we believe in that."  Take him next to Galatians chapter 1.

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! " (Galatians 1:6-9 NIV)

Ask, "Why should I accept anything you say?  I gave you three chances, and you have not given me the Biblical Gospel, and thus Paul says you are under God's curse."
The Gospel is so important. God, in love and mercy, sent His only Son, Jesus. He lived a perfect, holy and sinless life. He lived the life we should have lived. He died a brutal death on the cross. He died in the place of sinners. It was the death we should have died. He was buried and rose again, conquering Satan, sin, and death. He never broke the Law, but he died to fulfill the law we had broken, to pay its penalty, to bring salvation to all who, by His grace, turn and trust in Him. God credits or imputes, Christ's lifelong record of perfect obedience to the person who trusts in him. Those who are born again, repent of their sins and trust in Christ, thereby entering into a new life: an eternal fellowship with God.

"Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood; sealed my pardon with his blood. Hallelujah! What a Savior!"
There are three passages we are very familiar with that are your best friends when presenting the Gospel. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV) “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7 ESV) “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5 ESV)

That preaches better then anything the Watchtower preaches.  The Witnesses need to know they need to be reconciled with God. Reconciliation implies that God is angry at us because of our Sin. We can't know our sin without the Law.  They need to know that if they believe in Christ all their sins, past, present, and future, are paid for and forgiven.  Christ lived the good righteous life for us and God looks at us as if we had lived his life. 

Their immediate reaction, if they've understood the Gospel right should be, "Then are you saying we can live how we want because we are forgiven?"  NO! This is exactly the natural objection to the Gospel and Paul deals with this in Chapter 6 of Romans, "Shall we continue to sin so grace may abound? God forbid!" (6:1) 

Obviously we need to live authentic Christian lives.  But that is not the Gospel. The Gospel changes our lives us.  When you catch a sight of the Glory of Christ you see it's infinite value. There is nothing else in the universe that can compare to the beauty, worth, and majesty of , the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  When the sovereign power of God's grace opens your eyes to Behold the glory of Christ by faith, there is a complete transformation of your person. You are changed from the inside out."And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)  Good works are fruit, not root.

If you understand the thrust of those verses, you recognize that we are not saved by keeping the law, but by grace through faith in Christ. I finish this series off with two lines from two hymns that do a great job in this regard:
“Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to thy fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die."
"My faith is built on nothing less, then Jesus blood and righteousness. I will not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Witnessing to Witnesses Part 9

The Watchtower Gospel and it's Implications

Defending the biblical gospel is every Christian’s responsibility and privilege. The Witnesses have corrupted the gospel of grace in two ways: (1) they limit the benefits of the New Covenant and the Gospel to a measly 144,000 and (2) they have created a gospel that teaches a works based salvation.
The Witnesses are taught that there are two distinct classes of Christians in their organization. These two classes of Christians do not share a common relationship with God through Christ, nor do they share a common hope. Yet, according to their view, each group is fully Christian and fully acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. At the outset, it must be pointed out that this contradicts a basic Christian tenet, namely, that Christians are “called to the one hope that belongs to your call.” (Ephesians 4:4 ESV) All Christians share a common hope of future spiritual life.

Witnesses teach that from the days of Jesus to the end of the world there will only be 144,000 born-again Christians. These are said to have a heavenly hope and will reign with Christ as kings and priests in his kingdom. The second class, called the Great Crowd, is an unlimited number who are given an earthly hope of life. These millions believe that the world will soon end and they will pass alive into an earthly paradise created by Christ’s reign. There are only a few thousand Witnesses who claim to be one of the 144,000.

The Great Crowd, are said to have an earthly hope of life. They can't take communion and can't claim to be sons of God. They are not part of the seed of Abraham. They are not in the new covenant. They are not born again. Jesus is not their mediator. They are not the elect and cannot claim to be saints. No adoption, no justification, no union with Christ, no assurance. The Witness who is at your door will be in this group.

Once again a quote form Organization is apt. From "The Desire for Peace and Security Worldwide," 1986, p. 10

"Likewise, the Greater Moses, Jesus Christ, is not the Mediator between Jehovah God and all mankind. He is the Mediator between his heavenly Father, Jehovah God, and the nation of spiritual Israel, which is limited to only 144,000 members."

Please consider the impact of this. We know that in the epistle to the Romans, Paul clearly teaches that the only hope for fallen humanity to be at peace with God is through Justification by Faith. However, Romans is written, "to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints" (Romans 1:7 ESV). From the Witness standpoint this means that Paul is speaking only to those who make up the Church—the 144,000—they are the only saints. The letter of Romans (along with his other letters) were all written to those making up a part of the 144000. Forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ is only given to those who are part of the Israel of God which the WT Society says is limited to 144,000. To apply the promise of the Justification by faith to a group Paul is not addressing is to go beyond the biblical good news. The Watchtower Society tells the Witnesses that they are excluded from being "holy ones" because they are not part of the 144,000. The Society is telling literally 99.9 % of their membership that the gifts and promises of the Gospel do not apply to them!

An illustration may help here. You receive a beautiful, personal letter from your father confirming his love for you and explaining in great detail what he has done and will yet do to guarantee a rich inheritance for you as his beloved child. The letter is so delightful that you share its contents with a close friend. Your friend reads this letter and shares in your joy but understands the letter is not addressed to him. All the love and good things promised are addressed only to you. Your friend will not benefit. He is not your father’s son. That, in essence, is the situation with millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On one hand they are told that they are excluded from being a part of the New Covenant—one the other hand they are some how, convoluted, man-made way, promised eternal life.

So how are you saved according to the Watchtower? According to the Watchtower (Watchtower, Feb. 15, 1983, pages 12-13 & Watchtower, Jan. 15, 1997, pages 18-22), there are four requirements for salvation. First, you must take in Knowledge. This means learning the Watchtower system of theology. The second requirement is to conform one's life to the moral requirements set out in the Bible. You must obey all of God's laws for the rest of your life in order to be worthy of salvation. Unless you measure up to God's moral standards, you can't be saved. Third, you must be part of, serve in, and submit to, the Watchtower Organization. Outside of the Organization there is no salvation. Fourthly, you must proselytize regularly.

Notice a quote from the Watchtower, March 1, 1960, p. 134,
"When a person, on the basis of the Scriptural knowledge he has gained, has belief in Christ as the Savior whom God provided and shows that faith by his works, he can consider himself as being on the way to salvation. It would be a mistake for him to think that he is now saved and cannot fall. He must show by his endurance in the Christian faith that he is worthy of salvation. 'Let him that thinks he has a firm position beware that he does not fall.'1 Cor. 10:12... Salvation from death is a gift from God to those that obey him, not to those that disobey."

If you accomplish these four things during your life, you will be rewarded with salvation. If you are one of the chosen few, the 144000, at death you will be immediately rewarded by resurrection into heaven. If you are part of the vast number who get life on earth, you will be resurrected after Armageddon, and only then will Christ's death be applied to you to take away original sin. This is the uncertain result of following Watchtower's way to salvation.

It's like the Witnesses expect that God works like an employer. On the day of judgment they will get to stand before God and share with him their resume. They say in effect, “God, here's my life. I did a good job. I think I deserve to be justified and allowed into heaven.” It's like they're applying for a job. God has 144 000 management positions, and a multitude of employee positions available in his company and there are six billion applicants so you'd better make sure your resume is top notch. You'd better look better, be better, have more experience, make a better impression, if you expect to get the job. That's salvation according to the Watchtower.

Notice again, Watchtower, March 1, 1960, p. 134-135,

"For the select few that have been chosen to rule with Christ in the heavens salvation comes by resurrection from the condition of death. But for the great multitude of people of all kinds that anticipate eternal life on earth salvation will come during Christ's thousand-year reign. Christ will at that time apply toward them the benefits of his ransom sacrifice, that they may be released from Adamic sin, made free from death and lifted to human perfection in an earthly paradise. This is the certain result of following God's way to salvation."

It has been said often, but it deserves repetition: there are only two types of belief systems in the world, those that trust in their own works, and those that trust in the work of another, which is the Gospel. In fact, the bedrock and foundation of all false religion is the claim that the only way to be justified in God's eyes is to earn it by doing your best and obeying the rules. This is exactly the way the Watchtower expects it's members to be saved.

If that's not the Gospel, what is and how can we share it with the Witnesses.