Category Archives: Biblical Theology/Doctrine

Why Are Satan’s Lies So Convincing?

Code: B180212

Why is the unconverted world so easily enamored with Satan’s lies? Why do sinners eagerly and gullibly imbibe foolish notions about their own innate goodness and charitable judgments in the afterlife? And why do they embrace self-apparent nonsense about the relativity of truth while rejecting the absolute, unassailable truth of Scripture?

We recently asked John MacArthur to help us understand what makes Satan’s lies so enticing and convincing to the unsaved world. Here’s what he had to say:

In the days ahead, we’re going to look at ten of Satan’s primary lies that dominate the world. These lies drive the world’s philosophy, morality, and ideology. They shape the sinner’s worldview and snare him in the grip of Satan’s influence. And increasingly, these lies are infiltrating the church, corrupting the gospel and confusing God’s people.

As John MacArthur explained, the darkness of the unbelieving heart can only be penetrated by the light of the gospel. To that end, we want to expose these lies and give you the biblical tools to combat them in your interactions with unsaved friends and family. We want you to understand the gospel truth that contradicts Satan’s deceptions, and know how to stand faithfully for the truth in a world dominated by lies.


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180212
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God Is Just Judge and Merciful Justifier

Imagine you’re a judge. Your job is to uphold and execute the law. It’s the only standard you must adhere to, and you must do it unflinchingly. One day a man stands before you—a vile, wicked murderer. The evidence against him is ironclad. There’s no doubt about his guilt—he openly admits it. He confesses what he did and says he’s very sorry. Then he asks you to forgive him. And in spite of what the law says, in spite of your responsibility to dispatch justice, you grant him complete forgiveness and let him walk free. We’d certainly be horrified if human judges operated that way.

But that’s exactly what our Judge has done. In spite of the clear standard of His law, and in spite of the overwhelming evidence of our sin and corruption, He sweeps aside our crimes, washes away our guilt, and sets us free from the due penalty of our sin. How can He do that and uphold His own holy law?

Paul gives us the glorious answer in 2 Corinthians 5:21— just fifteen Greek words that sum up the entire gospel and encapsulate God’s ministry of reconciliation. Paul writes, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” That is the doctrine of substitution, and that’s how God can be both our just Judge and merciful justifier.

God “made Him who knew no sin”—which can only be a reference to Jesus Christ—“to be sin on our behalf.” As we’ve already seen, Scripture testifies over and over to Christ’s sinless perfection. The writer of Hebrews calls Him “holy, innocent, undefiled” (Heb. 7:26). Pontius Pilate—who had every incentive to find some flaw in the character and reputation of Jesus—said, “I find no guilt in Him” (John 19:6). The Father even spoke of the Son’s implicit sinlessness, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17). That same perfect, spotless, undefiled Son was “made. . . to be sin on our behalf ” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Don’t make the mistake, as some do, when it comes to understanding how God made Christ to “be sin.” Many preachers in the Word of Faith movement, for example, teach that Paul is telling us that Jesus actually became a sinner on the cross. They say His sin forced Him to go to hell for three days, and that after He had suffered sufficiently, He was released through the resurrection. That is a blasphemous, ludicrous heresy. Ephesians 5 tells us Christ surrendered Himself without spot or blemish (vv. 25–27). On the cross He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). If He was a sinner, He would not have had to ask why He was punished.

So what is Paul saying when he tells us that God made Christ “to be sin on our behalf”? It means God treated Him as if He were a sinner. More than that, actually—God poured out on Him the full fury of His wrath against all the sins of all the people who would ever believe, as if Christ had committed them Himself. As a righteous Judge, He had no other choice. The just God of the universe had to punish sin justly—He had to pour out the full penalty on His Son to grant forgiveness to His elect people. And His justice demands that every sin that has ever been committed, by every person who has ever lived, will be punished—either in the eternal torment of hell or on Christ at the cross.

It’s a humbling and profound thought that God treated Jesus on the cross as if He had lived my life and punished Him for every sin I have ever committed or ever will commit, to the full satisfaction of His justice. And for all who were included in the atonement—provided by the sacrifice of the Son by the glorious grace and mercy of God—the same is true.

All the judgment, all the torment, all the excruciating punishment was poured out on Christ as He died in our place. That’s a breathtaking reality, especially when you consider that Jesus was only on the cross for about three hours. In that brief window of time, Christ paid for all the sins of all those whom God would one day reconcile to Himself. In the span of a scant few hours, He was “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28). “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). First Peter 2:24 sums it up simply but powerfully: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Through His suffering, Christ purchased our forgiveness. Through His sacrifice, He cleared the way for our reconciliation to God. He is our Redeemer King, our Lord and Lamb.

Amazingly, some people don’t seem to think Christ’s sacrifice was enough. They attempt to extend the atonement Christ purchased on the cross to the whole of humanity, as if He died for the whole human race. In so doing, they make His atoning sacrifice merely potentially effective. It must be actualized by the believing sinner. According to that notion, the price has already been paid for all humans—it’s simply up to the sinner to cash it in. But a just God can’t punish sin twice. He wouldn’t lay the penalty for the sins of everyone on His Son only to later mete out that same punishment on those who didn’t believe. A righteous Judge doesn’t deliver double punishment. God did not punish His Son for our sins and then punish the unbelieving sinner for the same sins.

Furthermore, such a notion would mean that Jesus Christ did the same thing, in dying, for those in hell as He did for those in heaven. It would mean that He did not actually, really atone for anyone’s sins. He just offered a potential atonement that is converted to a real one by the willing sinner. Christ died for no one in particular if He died for everyone. As Christ Himself explained, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. . . . I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:11, 14–15). It’s clear there was no limit to the punishment Christ could endure on the cross, but there would be no sense in enduring God’s wrath if it didn’t purchase redemption for those He would one day reconcile to Himself. Put simply, Christ is not the Redeemer for those who will not be redeemed.

There’s more. Paul saves arguably the best news for last. Second Corinthians 5:21 concludes that God made Christ to be sin for us “so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Not only has God imputed our sins to Christ, He has imputed Christ’s righteousness to us. God treated Jesus as a sinner, though He was not, so that He could treat us as if we were righteous, though we are not. In the most personal terms, God treated Christ on the cross as if He had lived my life, so He could treat me as if I had lived His life. That’s the beautiful glory of the gospel. God sees us covered with the righteousness of His Son.

Many people—including some Bible scholars—wonder why Christ had to live through the humility of the incarnation for thirty-three years. Why didn’t God just send Him down for a weekend—to be crucified on Friday and return to heaven on Sunday? Why wouldn’t that suffice? Why did the Lord have to endure all the stages of life—most of them spent living in total obscurity?

The answer is the glorious truth we know as the doctrine of imputation. The writer of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Christ had to live a complete life, fulfilling all righteousness, so it could one day be credited to us. The comprehensive nature of God’s reconciliation is staggering. When God looked at the cross, He saw us; when He looks at us, He sees His Son. Our Lord did not just take on the punishment of our sins—He lived a holy, blameless life credited to us by faith. And we now stand before God fully reconciled to Him, cloaked in the righteousness of our blessed Redeemer.

This excerpt is adapted from Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ by John MacArthur.

Source: God Is Just Judge and Merciful Justifier

Spiritual Shipwreck

 

Most people have come to the point where they say, “Well I don’t need doctrine. I don’t need theology. I just love Jesus.  That is a foolish statement.  That is a foolish statement.
If we love Jesus as much as we profess to love Him, then don’t you think we would want to get to know Him? And the only way to get to know Him is by knowing Him in His Word. We’re to study the Word of God. And when our knowledge of God is deepened, our love for God is deepened.
Justin Peters
Spiritual Shipwreck of the Word-Faith Movement

Doctrine of Perseverance

 

The denial of the doctrine of perseverance virtually makes the salvation of man dependent on the human will rather than on the grace of God.
Louis Berkhof
Systematic Theology p. 549
Can people who are saved lose their salvation? If not, then how do we explain those people who have fallen away? In this message, Dr. Sproul thinks about these questions as he looks at “Perseverance of the Saints.”

Pleading with Sinners to Be Reconciled to God

The means of our reconciliation to God—the sacrificial death of Christ, the perfect forgiveness God applies to our sin—are divine works. But there is a human component that goes along with it. We bear some responsibility, too, if we are to be reconciled and redeemed. Paul hints at it in 2 Corinthians 5:20: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

In God’s divine design, He has given each of us the responsibility to respond to the gospel in the obedience of faith. He doesn’t pluck us out of this wicked world against our will— we’re not robots that He merely has to reprogram. God is the initiator; He’s the Savior. But it does not happen without a response.

The two little parables in Matthew 13 perfectly illustrate this point. Jesus said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matt. 13:44–46). Christ’s point in those two parables is that if you want salvation, it will cost you everything.

Reconciliation to God isn’t a little bump in the road of life—it’s a radical transformation and reorientation of your entire being. We become new creatures entirely. Paul had just made that very point in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” Being reconciled to God means dying to our old selves, our old lives, and our old interests. Christ repeatedly urged His disciples to count the cost of following Him. It’s why He told them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Responding in obedience to God’s call to be reconciled to Him can cost us everything—even our lives.

The rich young ruler understood that. It’s why he walked away from Christ in shame (Luke 18:18–30). When Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give everything to the poor, He wasn’t offering the young man salvation by works. The money itself wasn’t the point—it was a question of his willingness to do whatever the Lord told him to do. What would he give up for the sake of his eternal soul? It was a test of his obedience and what he valued most in his heart. And he failed miserably. Reconciliation to God doesn’t happen on our terms, according to our schedules, when it’s convenient for us. It’s a radical redemption and transformation, and it requires us to be penitent, submissive, and completely sold out for God’s purpose and work. Nothing less is acceptable. And because of that high cost, Paul says we have to “beg” sinners to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).

When I was in college, I played football, and I had a coach who meant a lot to me personally. Throughout high school and college, he was the best coach I ever had. His name was Jim Brownfield, and he was a legend in southern California. He coached at every level of football. He was innovative, he was creative, and I cared about him a great deal.

I remember sitting next to him on the plane as we were flying up to San Francisco for a game. I took that opportunity to communicate the gospel to him with all my heart, but he rejected it. Through the years, I had opportunities to be with him here and there, at golf tournaments or other functions. He knew about my church and the ministry God has called me to, and he watched my life from a distance. And every time I was with him, I tried to talk to him about the Lord. He’d say, “I respect that. I respect you. But I’m not interested.” I felt like I was always begging him, “Coach, this is the most important thing you’ll ever do.” But he was stubborn.

One day, I got a phone call. Coach was in the hospital. He had heart problems. Surgery hadn’t helped, and it looked like he was about to die. When I arrived at the hospital, the nurse said to me, “He hasn’t moved for three days. We haven’t seen any motion, so I can’t promise anything.” I walked in the room, took his hand, and said, “Hey, Coach, it’s Johnny Mac.” He opened his eyes and smiled. I said, “Coach, one more time, can I beg you to be reconciled to God? Coach, you are the thief on the cross. You have no future. This has to be your time. Will you open your heart to Christ?” His head went up and down. He grabbed my hand, started to squeeze it, and reached his other arm over and grabbed my other hand. I was locked in his grip. The nurse came in and scolded me, saying, “Sir, you’ll have to let go of him.” I said, “I’m not holding on to him. He is holding on to me.” With every last ounce of his strength, he was responding to the call of the gospel. For all those years, I had begged and pleaded with him—right down to the last hour. And as we prayed together in his hospital room, the Lord poured out his forgiveness and reconciled Coach Brownfield to Himself. I’m so glad I went to the hospital that day. I’m so thankful I had one more opportunity to beg him to be reconciled to God.

We ought to cling to the vital doctrine of God’s sovereignty. But don’t ever let your view of sovereignty overwhelm or obscure the fact that sinners have a responsibility to respond to God—and we have a responsibility to beg them to do so. God accomplishes His reconciling work through—not in spite of—the obedience of faith from those He calls to be reconciled.

This excerpt is adapted from Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ by John MacArthur.

Source: Pleading with Sinners to Be Reconciled to God

The Roman Catholic ‘Mother Mary’ Deception and The Destruction of Souls

(Soul Refuge) Do you remember the time when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray?

“And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. ”  (Luke 11:1-2)

Did the Lord tell his disciples to pray “Our Mother which art in Heaven” or did he tell them to pray “Our Father which art in Heaven”? Can you find the Lord Jesus Christ ever telling his followers to pray a “Hail Mary” prayer?  Can you ever find the Lord Jesus Christ encouraging his followers to build a shrine to his earthly mother Mary? Of course, you will not find any of this stuff in the scriptures, so why do people do these things? The bottom line is that they have accepted and believed the words of mere men (man-made tradition) over the scriptures (the Word of God). It is of the utmost importance that people search the scriptures for themselves, as the Bereans did so that they may know the truth that can set them free.

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  (Acts 17:10-11)

When you place the words of mere men (man-made tradition), above the word of God, you are setting yourself up for spiritual deception, and the ultimate destruction of your very soul. I am writing here as a former Roman Catholic who was delivered out of the system of Roman Catholicism, and if you are a Roman Catholic I encourage you to leave that system also. I prayed my Hail Mary prayers like any other Roman Catholic would until the time that I was saved and born again of the Spirit of God in 1989. Here is one of the first scriptures that I learned regarding how to pray and who to pray to:

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;”  (1 Timothy 2:5)

The scriptures make it clear that there is only ONE mediator between God and men, and that is the person of Jesus Christ. There are no other mediators whom God will hear because Jesus is the one whom the Father sent down from Heaven above. Jesus Christ had the audacity to do things that only God could do because he was equal to the Father above. Here is a record of the time when Jesus healed a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years, and one day Jesus told the guy to take up his bed and walk, and that is exactly what the man did. That absolutely infuriated the enemies of Christ, and they let him know that in no uncertain terms.

“Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”  (John 5:12-18)

Did you notice the part where it said that the enemies of Jesus Christ sought to kill him because he made himself equal with God? There was another time when Jesus healed a man who was paralyzed, and once again the religious Jewish leaders were absolutely infuriated by what he did.

“And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.”  (Luke 5:17-26)

Did you catch the part where the Jewish Pharisees became infuriated after Jesus Christ forgave the paralyzed man of his sins? They were correct in saying that only God could forgive sins, but they did not believe that Jesus Christ was equal to God, and that is why they were so angry at Christ. So what did Jesus do? Jesus basically told them that I am going to heal this man just to show you that I do have the power to forgive sins, (which only God can do) and that is exactly what he did! I say all of this so that I may point you to Jesus Christ alone. I want you to know that I have not prayed to Mary since the Lord saved my soul out of that gross and demonic deception. I am here to tell you that Jesus Christ is enough. If you are a Roman Catholic, you are reading this article by divine appointment and I encourage you to search the scriptures for yourself, to see if what I am preaching here today is true or not.   View article →

See our Research Paper of the Roman Catholic Church

Source: The Roman Catholic ‘Mother Mary’ Deception and The Destruction of Souls

Without brakes, the ‘Reformed Charismatic Movement’ could soon resemble the NAR

Wretched host Todd Friel has some concerns that some high profile leaders in the Reformed camp may be headed to a very bad place. Three such “cautious” leaders are John Piper, Wayne Grudem and Matt Chandler.

See Berean Research’s White Paper on the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)

source: Without brakes, the ‘Reformed Charismatic Movement’ could soon resemble the NAR

What Did Early Christians Believe About Hell?

As we seek to understand what the Bible teaches about Hell, it may be helpful to understand what the earliest believers believed and taught. The teachings of some of these believers has been preserved for us in the writings of ancient church leaders (known as the Early Church Fathers). While their writings are neither canonical nor authoritative, they do help us to understand what those closest to the apostles first believed about Hell. As we assemble the teachings of these first church leaders, several patterns emerge related to the nature of Hell. The Early Church Fathers, with very few exceptions, agree with traditional views descriptions of Hell as a place of eternal, conscious torment:

1. Hell is a place of judgment for those who have rejected God and denied Jesus as their Savior
2. Hell is a place of separation from God
3. Hell is a place of torment in which the rebellious are in anguish and pain
4. Hell is a place where the rebellious are tormented forever and are conscious of this torment for all eternity (In fact, the eternal duration of their torment is often compared to the eternal duration of the reward of the saved)

At the same time, the earliest Church Fathers are ambiguous on those areas where the Bible is ALSO ambiguous.

1. The exact nature of the torment of the rebellious is unknown
2. The manner in which the rebellious are kept alive in spite of ‘deathly’ anguish is also un-described

The Early Church Fathers simply reflected the clearest teachings of the Bible. Here is a very brief assessment of several quotes made by early Christians about the nature of Hell:

From “The Epistle of Barnabas” (70-130AD)
The author of the Epistle of Barnabas is unknown, but many consider him to simply be who he said he was, Barnabas, the associate of Paul who is mentioned in the Book of Acts. The letter was written to new converts to Christianity:

The way of darkness is crooked, and it is full of cursing. It is the way of eternal death with punishment. (“Epistle of Barnabas”)

From Ignatius of Antioch (110AD)
Ignatius was a student of the Apostle John, and succeeded the Apostle Peter as the Bishop of Antioch. He wrote a number of important letters to believers in churches in the area:

Corrupters of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. And if they who do these things according to the flesh suffer death. how much more if a man corrupt by evil reaching the faith of God. for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified? A man become so foul will depart into unquenchable fire: and so will anyone who listens to him. (Letter to the Ephesians 16:1-2)

From Clement of Rome (150AD)
Clement was Bishop of Rome from 88 to 98AD, and his teaching reflects the early traditions of the Church. “Second Clement” reportedly a recorded sermon, and Clement discusses the nature of Hell:

If we do the will of Christ, we shall obtain rest; but if not, if we neglect his commandments, nothing will rescue us from eternal punishment (“Second Clement” 5:5)

But when they see how those who have sinned and who have denied Jesus by their words or by their deeds are punished with terrible torture in unquenchable fire, the righteous, who have done good, and who have endured tortures and have hated the luxuries of life, will give glory to their God saying, ‘There shall be hope for him that has served God with all his heart!’ (“Second Clement” 17:7)

From “The Martyrdom of Polycarp” (155AD)
This work was written by an Early Church Father (unknown author) and is dated very early in the history of Christianity. It describes the death of Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, and also describes early teachings of the church:

Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire (“Martyrdom of Polycarp” 2:3)

From Tatian (160AD) 
Tatian was an early Assyrian believer who moved to Rome as a pagan and eventually became a Christian. Interestingly, he read the Jewish Scriptures and from these became convinced that other pagan ideas about the world were simply false. He was a student of Justin Martyr and wrote about the unreasonableness of paganism and the truth of Christianity:

 We who are now easily susceptible to death, will afterwards receive immortality with either enjoyment or with pain. (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1.71)

From Athenagoras of Athens (175AD)
Athenagoras was a philosopher and citizen of Athens who became a Christian (possibly from Platonism) and wrote two important apologetic works; “Apology” or “Embassy for the Christians”, and a “Treatise on the Resurrection”:

We are persuaded that when we are removed from the present life we will live another life, better than the present one…or, if they fall with the rest, they will endure a worse life, one in fire. For God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, who are mere by-products. For animals perish and are annihilated. On these grounds, it is not likely that we would wish to do evil. (“Apology”)

From Theophilus of Antioch (181AD)
Theophilus was the Patriarch of Antioch from 169 to 183AD. He was born a pagan and converted to Christianity after reading the scriptures. He was very zealous about protecting the orthodoxy of the earliest believers and he wrote a defense of the faith to a man named Autolycus:

Give studious attention to the prophetic writings [the Bible] and they will lead you on a clearer path to escape the eternal punishments and to obtain the eternal good things of God. . . . [God] will examine everything and will judge justly, granting recompense to each according to merit. To those who seek immortality by the patient exercise of good works, he will give everlasting life, joy, peace, rest, and all good things. . . . For the unbelievers and for the contemptuous, and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity, when they have been involved in adulteries, and fornications, and homosexualities, and avarice, and in lawless idolatries, there will be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish; and in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire (“To Autolycus” 1:14)

From Irenaeus (189AD)
Irenaeus was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (now Lyon, France) at the end of the second century. He was a disciple of Polycarp and a notable early apologist for the faith. He wrote several volumes defending the faith against Gnosticism and other early heresies of the Church, and he often compared eternal punishment to eternal reward, drawing the conclusion that one endured as long as the other:

…Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, ‘every knee should bow, of things in heaven,, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess’ to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send ‘spiritual wickednesses,’ and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning of their Christian course, and others from the date of their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory. (“Against Heresies” 1:10:10)

The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . [I]t is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire,’ they will be damned forever (“Against Heresies” 4:28:2)

From Clement of Alexandria (195AD)
Titus Flavius Clemens was the first significant and recorded Christian from the church of Alexandria, Egypt. His parents were Greek and he was raised with a solid, formal Greek education. While he had a tendency to blend Greek and Christian philosophies, his view on the issue of Hell was derived from the scriptures:

All souls are immortal, even those of the wicked. Yet, it would be better for them if they were not deathless. For they are punished with the endless vengeance of quenchless fire. Since they do not die, it is impossible for them to have an end put to their misery. (from a post-Nicene manuscript fragment)

From Tertullian (197AD)
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus was a Romanized African citizen who was born in Carthage (now Tunisia). He became a Christian and was a powerful and influential apologist for the faith, writing prolifically in defense of the doctrines of orthodoxy:

These have further set before us the proofs He has given of His majesty in judgments by floods and fires, the rules appointed by Him for securing His favor, as well as the retribution in store for the ignoring, forsaking and keeping them, as being about at the end of all to adjudge His worshippers to everlasting life, and the wicked to the doom of fire at once without ending and without break, raising up again all the dead from the beginning, reforming and renewing them with the object of awarding either recompense. (“Apology” 18:3)

Then will the entire race of men be restored to receive its just deserts according to what it has merited in this period of good and evil, and thereafter to have these paid out in an immeasurable and unending eternity. Then there will be neither death again nor resurrection again, but we shall be always the same as we are now, without changing. The worshipers of God shall always be with God, clothed in the proper substance of eternity. But the godless and those who have not turned wholly to God will be punished in fire equally unending, and they shall have from the very nature of this fire, divine as it were, a supply of incorruptibility (“Apology” 44:12–13)

Therefore after this there is neither death nor repeated resurrections, but we shall be the same that we are now, and still unchanged–the servants of God, ever with God, clothed upon with the proper substance of eternity; but the profane, and all who are not true worshippers of God, in like manner shall be consigned to the punishment of everlasting fire–that fire which, from its very nature indeed, directly ministers to their incorruptibility. (“Apology” 48:12)

From Hippolytus of Rome (212AD)
Hippolytus was one of the most prolific writers of the early Church, and he was often at theological odds with the early Popes and church leaders of his time. He appears to have been a student of Irenaeus, and wrote MANY volumes of history, apologetics and Biblical teaching:

Standing before [Christ’s] judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: ‘Just is your judgment!’ And the righteousness of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them (“Against the Greeks” 3)

From Felix Minucius (226AD)
Felix Marcus Minucius is perhaps the earliest known Latin apologist for the Christian faith. He wrote “Octavius”, a dialogue on Christianity between a non-believer named Caecilius Natalis and a Christian named Octavius Januarius (who was a lawyer, friend and student of Minucius Felix:

I am not ignorant of the fact that many, in the consciousness of what they deserve, would rather hope than actually believe that there is nothing for them after death. They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment… Nor is there either measure nor end to these torments. That clever fire burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them (“Octavius” 34:12–5:3)

From Cyprian of Carthage (252-253 AD)
Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus was bishop at Carthage. He had an excellent Greek education and wrote several key letters and treatises in which he discussed doctrines of the Church:

An ever-burning Gehenna and the punishment of being devoured by living flames will consume the condemned; nor will there be any way in which the tormented can ever have respite or be at an end. Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies… The grief at punishment will then be without the fruit of repentance; weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual. Too late will they believe in eternal punishment, who would not believe in eternal life (“To Demetrian” 24)

Oh,what and how great will that day be at its coming, beloved brethren, when the Lord shall begin to count up His people, and to recognize the deservings of each one by the inspection of His divine knowledge, to send the guilty to Gehenna, and to set on fire our persecutors with the perpetual burning of a penal fire, but to pay to us the reward of our faith and devotion! (“To Thibaris” 55:10)

From Lactantius (307AD)
Lucius Caelius Firmianus Lactantius was a Latin speaking native of North Africa. He was an expert in rhetoric and he taught the subject in the city of Nicomedia at the request of Emperor Diocletian. He also wrote several apologetic and doctrinal works:

But, however, the sacred writings inform us in what manner the wicked are to undergo punishment. For because they have committed sins in their bodies, they will again be clothed with flesh, that they may make atonement in their bodies; and yet it will not be that flesh with which God clothed man, like this our earthly body, but indestructible, and abiding forever, that it may be able to hold out against tortures and everlasting fire…The same divine fire, therefore, with one and the same force and power, will both burn the wicked and will form them again, and will replace as much as it shall consume of their bodies, and will supply itself with eternal nourishment …Then they whose piety shall have been approved of will receive the reward of immortality; but they whose sins and crimes shall have been brought to light will not rise again, but will be hidden in the same darkness with the wicked, being destined to certain punishment. (“Divine Institutes” 7:21)

From Cyril of Jerusalem (350AD)
Cyril was a well respected theologian of the early Church and a bishop of the church at Jerusalem. He wrote twenty three teaching lectures on the doctrines of the Church and delivered these lectures while he was a presbyter in Jerusalem:

We shall be raised therefore, all with our bodies eternal, but not all with bodies alike: for if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able worthily to hold converse with angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed… (“Catechetical Lectures” 18:19)

The real and true life then is the Father, who through the Son in the Holy Spirit pours forth as from a fountain His heavenly gifts to all; and through His love to man, the blessings of the life eternal are promised without fail to us men also. We must not disbelieve the possibility of this, but having an eye not to our own weakness but to His power, we must believe; for with God all things are possible. And that this is possible, and that we may look for eternal life, Daniel declares, And of the many righteous shall they shine as the stars forever and ever. And Paul says, And so shall we be ever with the Lord: for the being forever with the lord implies the life eternal. But most plainly of all the Savior Himself says in the Gospel, And these shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. (“Catechetical Lectures” 18:28)

While this survey of early teachings on the nature of Hell may seem a bit long and laborious, it does help us to understand what the first believers learned and taught about the nature of the eternal conscious torment of those who reject Christ. Over and over again, we see that the Early Church Fathers believed that those who enter Hell are NOT annihilated or destroyed. In summary, these early believers understood the Scriptures to teach that:

1. Souls live on after the grave. Even those who are assigned to Hell are “immortal”, “indestructible” and “abide forever” Those assigned to Hell will be “detained in everlasting fire” for a period of time that is as “equally perpetual and unending” as the eternal life of those who are in Heaven.

2. The rebellious will exist in Hell with an “eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins”. They will “burn eternally in fire” and they will never “be consumed” Those tormented in Hell will never “have respite” and their torment will never “be at an end”. “Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies”

3. Souls in Hell will NOT be allowed to die or cease to exist. “They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment”, but this is simply not the case. The fire of Hell is an “unquenchable fire”. It is “clever” and “burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them.”

4. The torment suffered by those in Hell will be incredibly unbearable. It will feel as though “a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body” will continually burst forth from the body “with unceasing pain”.

This description of eternal conscious torment in Hell is certainly horrifying. It is hard to believe and even harder to accept. It is not something that we would wish on our worst enemy, and it is not something that we, as believers, can ignore. The Church Fathers affirm the Biblical truth related to the orthodox doctrine of Hell. It is a place of eternal conscious torment and a place that should motivate us to reach others with the truth, even as it motivates us to live a life that is worthy of the God who created us. C.S. Lewis encouraged us to view Hell not only from the eyes of those who don’t believe, but also from our own concerned and cautious position as believers:

“In all discussions of hell we should keep steadily before our eyes the possible damnation, not of our enemies nor our friends… but of ourselves” (C.S. Lewis in “The Problem of Pain”)

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case DetectiveChristian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case ChristianityCold-Case Christianity for KidsGod’s Crime SceneGod’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.

Source: What Did Early Christians Believe About Hell?

Albert Mohler Blog: “Moralism is not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think It Is)

In this essay, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. discuss the problem of moralism in evangelical theology. Mohler writes:

“We sin against Christ and we misrepresent the Gospel when we suggest to sinners that what God demands of them is moral improvement in accordance with the Law. Moralism makes sense to sinners, for it is but an expansion of what we have been taught from our earliest days. But moralism is not the Gospel, and it will not save. The only gospel that saves is the Gospel of Christ. As Paul reminded the Galatians, ‘But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons’ [Gal. 4:4-5].”

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Must Christians Believe in the Virgin Birth?

With December 25 fast approaching, the secular media are sure to turn their interest once again to the virgin birth. Every Christmas, weekly news magazines and various editorialists engage in a collective gasp that so many Americans could believe such an unscientific, supernatural doctrine. For some, the belief that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin is nothing less than evidence of intellectual dimness. One writer for the New York Times put the lament plainly: “The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time.”

Does belief in the virgin birth make Christians “less intellectual?” Are we saddled with an untenable doctrine? Can a true Christian deny the virgin birth, or is the doctrine an essential component of the Gospel revealed to us in Scripture?

The doctrine of the virgin birth was among the first to be questioned and then rejected after the rise of historical criticism and the undermining of biblical authority that inevitably followed. Critics claimed that since the doctrine is taught in “only” two of the four Gospels, it must be optional. The apostle Paul, they argued, did not mention it in his sermons in Acts, so he must not have believed it. Besides, the critics argued, the doctrine is just so supernatural. Modern heretics like retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong argue the doctrine was just evidence of the early church’s over-claiming of Christ’s deity. It is, Spong tells us, the “entrance myth” to go with the resurrection, the “exit myth.” If only Spong were a myth.

Now, even some revisionist evangelicals claim that belief in the virgin birth is unnecessary. The meaning of the miracle is enduring, they argue, but the historical truth of the doctrine is not important.

Must one believe in the virgin birth to be a Christian? It is conceivable that someone might come to Christ and trust Christ as Savior without yet learning the Bible teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin. A new believer is not yet aware of the full structure of Christian truth. The real question is this: Can a Christian, once aware of the Bible’s teaching, reject the virgin birth? The answer must be no.

Matthew tells us that before Mary and Joseph “came together,” Mary “was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:18). This, Matthew explains, fulfilled what Isaiah promised: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name ‘Immanuel,’ which translated means ‘God with Us'” (Matt. 1:23, Isaiah 9:6-7).

Luke provides even greater detail, revealing Mary was visited by an angel who explained that she, though a virgin, would bear the divine child: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Even if the virgin birth was taught by only one biblical passage, that would be sufficient to obligate all Christians to the belief. We have no right to weigh the truthfulness of biblical teachings by their repetition in Scripture. We cannot claim to believe the Bible is the Word of God and then turn around and cast suspicion on its teaching.

Millard Erickson states this well: “If we do not hold to the virgin birth despite the fact that the Bible asserts it, then we have compromised the authority of the Bible and there is in principle no reason why we should hold to its other teachings. Thus, rejecting the virgin birth has implications reaching far beyond the doctrine itself.”

Implications, indeed. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, who was His father? There is no answer that will leave the Gospel intact. The virgin birth explains how Christ could be both God and man, how He was without sin, and that the entire work of salvation is God’s gracious act. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, He had a human father. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, the Bible teaches a lie.

Carl F. H. Henry, the dean of evangelical theologians, argues that the virgin birth is the “essential, historical indication of the Incarnation, bearing not only an analogy to the divine and human natures of the Incarnate, but also bringing out the nature, purpose, and bearing of this work of God to salvation.” Well said, and well believed.

The secularist editors of the nation’s news magazines and newspapers may find belief in the virgin birth to be evidence of intellectual backwardness among American Christians. But this is the faith of the church, established in God’s perfect Word, and cherished by the true church throughout the ages. Those who deny the virgin birth affirm other doctrines only by force of whim, for they have already surrendered the authority of Scripture. They have undermined Christ’s nature and nullified the incarnation.

Christians must face the fact that a denial of the virgin birth is a denial of Jesus as the Christ. The Savior who died for our sins was none other than the baby who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin. The virgin birth does not stand alone as a biblical doctrine, it is an irreducible part of the biblical revelation about the person and work of Jesus Christ. With it, the Gospel stands or falls.

This much we know: All those who find salvation will be saved by the atoning work of Jesus the Christ, the virgin-born Savior. Anything less than this is just not Christianity, whatever it may call itself. A Christian will not deny the virgin birth.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

Source:

A Concise Resource on Justification by Faith Alone from Romans 4:3-5

Any of the following types of theological confusion, such as 1) mingling justification with sanctification; 2) equating  justification with church membership; 3) describing saving faith in terms of a saving faithfulness; 4) teaching that faith or righteousness is conferred by a sacrament rather than that faith is sealed by a sacrament; or 5) claiming that faith is the basis for justifying righteousness rather than the instrument by which it is imputed are contrary to the teaching of this passage. Rather, the elect are justified by faith (the sole, God-granted instrument) in Christ alone as God definitively imputes to them forever the perfect righteousness of Christ even as their sins and the eternal judgment they deserved are transferred to Christ.

With the confusion that is often sown regarding the doctrine of justification by faith alone, I wanted to review and clarify in my own mind my understanding of this essential doctrine. Especially in light of just celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, writing down my thoughts is a good exercise in application. Yet I wanted to be sure this clarification came from a study of Scripture, not only just from reading what others have written about it.

Thus, I returned to the crystal clear teaching of Romans 4:3-5 on this subject. How refreshing it is! This text says, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (NASB).

I thought I would share my thoughts with you. To that end, I offer below why this subject continues to need to be treated, a concise exegetical treatment on how to understand this text, a short summary statement on justification from my study, and then a guard produced by others to protect the church against those who would try to teach contrary to this doctrine. I hope this is a handy resource here on Gentle Reformation.

Modern Confusion

For there is confusion. The last few decades have shown us that. Examples abound. Norman Shepherd stating that “The exclusive ground of the justification of the believer in the state of justification is the righteousness of Christ, but his obedience, which is simply the perseverance of the saints in the way of truth and righteousness, is necessary to his continuing in a state of justification” (Call of Grace). Pastor Steve Schlissel saying at the Auburn Avenue conference that “anyone who believes that the main message of the book of Romans or Galatians is justification by faith is a nutcase.” N.T Wright declaring that “justification…is not a matter of how someone enters the community of the true people of God, but of how you tell who belongs to that community” (What Saint Paul Really Said). Recently, Kyle wrote this post on yet the latest controversy surrounding this topic.

Remembering we need sola scriptura to uphold sola fide, let’s look then at this passage. We will consider first the context of the verses under study.

The Context of Romans 4:3-5

Contrary to the statements above, one of the main teachings of all of Scripture, and particularly the Book of Romans, is justification by faith. Looking back at the previous chapter, we read that we are justified “through faith” (dia pisteuo in the Greek of Romans 3:25), “by faith” (pistei in Romans 3:28 is an instrumental dative), and “from faith” (ek pisteuo in Romans 3:30), but never “on account of faith” (dia pistin) as indicated by some of the quotes above. Faith is the instrument of our justification, but not the meritorious grounds of it. Faith is expressed as trusting Christ for our salvation.

Coming to our immediate context, Paul makes clear that Abraham was not justified by works (Romans 4:1-2). The thrust of Paul’s argument in Romans 4 is that Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised, making him the father of all – Jew or Greek – who believe in Christ (Romans 4:9-12). Paul then speaks with undeniable clarity in our verses regarding this truth.

Studying Our Text

Paul’s chief statement regarding justification by faith is in Romans 4:3 where he quotes from Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” This quote comes from Abraham’s story where the LORD promised him that his seed would number as the stars. In the Hebrew Old Testament of Genesis 15:6, the word “believed” is a form of the Hebrew word “Amen,” which indicates ideas such as “certainly, truly, solemn ratification, hearty approval.”  In its verb form, the word means “to stand firm in, to trust in, to be certain in, to believe in,” and always has an object, which in this case is the Lord.  The Lord must provide the salvation and blessing he has promised, and this is what Abraham believes or says “Amen” to. Abraham could not have been justified by works anymore than he could have counted all the stars that the Lord showed to him.  Continue reading…

The post A Concise Resource on Justification by Faith Alone from Romans 4:3-5 appeared first on The Aquila Report.

What is Heresy? Is Arminianism Heresy, Part I

Pulpit & Pen examines what the meaning of heresy is. Included in this piece is a list of specified, defined heresies. Some of the examples given are: Antinomianism, Arianism, Modalism, Montanism, Pelagianism, Sabellianism, and the Galatian Heresy (works righteousness). All are prominent heresies.  Because the visible Church is infested with heresy, believers must do as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). We must read and study the scriptures to find out if someone’s teaching is true or if it is false.

P&P tells us what heresy is and what it is not — and what they consider damnable heresy:

  1. Random Internet Denizen: John MacArthur is a heretic! Us: Why? Random Internet Denizen: Because he said you could accept the Mark of the Beast and still be saved! Us: What heresy is that? Random Internet Denizen: What do you mean? Us: Heresies have names. What is the name of that heresy? Random Internet Denizen: I don’t know. Us: So John MacArthur is a heretic, but you don’t know what kind of heretic? Random Internet Denizen: [silence]

That’s pretty much how the majority of heresy discussions go. The term is often – but not always – misapplied in various ways. Unfortunately, the term has been misapplied so frequently that some have thrown out the term altogether, and choose not to use it at all. But, heresy is a fine word. There’s no reason to throw it out. Heretic is a fine title to give someone, and there’s no reason we should stop. We just need to make sure that we’re using it correctly.

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Source: What is Heresy? Is Arminianism Heresy, Part I