Category Archives: Biblical Theology/Doctrine

Will We Be Finally “Saved” By Faith Alone (Sola Fide)?

The Scriptures simply do not support the inference that there are two stages of salvation and that our putative “future salvation” is contingent upon sanctification. Saying that our future sanctification is “decisively” wrought by God does not alleviate the problem. The whole construct rests on the premise that so long as we assert divine sovereignty we may say, more or less, whatever we please. This is the theological corollary of the “God-of-the-gaps” science or occasionalism. We explain what we can and what we cannot we attribute to God. In his reliance on a “two-stage” construct we see the lingering influence of Daniel Fuller and in this sort of appeal to divine sovereignty we may see the influence of Jonathan Edwards. In any event, it remains unhelpful.

Summary
In a post dated March 2, 2018 one of the principal leaders of the self-described “Young, Restless, and Reformed” movement, John Piper, restates his view that there are two-stages of salvation, that our initial justification is by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ but that there is yet another stage, a final stage of salvation and to reach that stage faith is not enough. He argues that salvation and justification are distinct, that they should not be confused because salvation refers to a process but justification does not. Further, he reminds us that the Westminster Confession 11.2 says,

2. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

He quite rightly notes that the Confession alludes here to Galatians 5:6 and further that James 2:17 requires good works of believers, that such good works are necessary and that “without holiness” no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). He says that “[o]bedience and love are the necessary confirmations” of true faith and union with Christ. He concludes his summary by saying, “We are not justified through sanctification….But we are finally saved through sanctification.”

He rejects the inference that his formulation has made salvation contingent upon our obedience and thus destroyed assurance of faith. For Piper, because God is sovereignly working sanctification in us, because he is the “decisive worker,” we should speak of it as the instrument of final salvation. Our assurance, he concludes rests “on God’s past work by Christ” and “his future work by the Spirit in us.”

Responses
This is better than some things that he has written on this topic but his formulations remain problematic. I have addressed this topic at length and repeatedly and thus will not repeat all that material in this response but here is a resource page.

The first remaining problem is the tw0-stage structure of his soteriology (doctrine of salvation). He is right to say that salvation is a process but his doctrine of “future grace” or future salvation “through sanctification” is mistaken. One notes that he does not engage Ephesians 2:8–10. On this see the resource page. His doctrine of future salvation through sanctification cannot be squared with Ephesians 2. Further, it is at odds with the paradigmatic biblical image of salvation: the salvation of God’s helpless and hopeless people from Egypt. There were not two stages of salvation at the Red Sea—in Belgic Confession art. 34 the Reformed confess that the “Son of God is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, who is the devil, and to enter the spiritual land of Canaan.”

The Scriptures simply do not support the inference that there are two stages of salvation and that our putative “future salvation” is contingent upon sanctification. Saying that our future sanctification is “decisively” wrought by God does not alleviate the problem. The whole construct rests on the premise that so long as we assert divine sovereignty we may say, more or less, whatever we please. This is the theological corollary of the “God-of-the-gaps” science or occasionalism. We explain what we can and what we cannot we attribute to God. In his reliance on a “two-stage” construct we see the lingering influence of Daniel Fuller and in this sort of appeal to divine sovereignty we may see the influence of Jonathan Edwards. In any event, it remains unhelpful.

Any doctrine of a “two-stage” salvation necessarily negates his affirmation of justification (in this life) sola gratiaSola fide. It means that we only initially justified by grace alone, through faith alone, but ultimately, finally, saved “through sanctification.” This approach makes Christ, in the words of the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, but half a Savior. It reduces him to a facilitator of salvation. He has not actually accomplished and applied it.

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The post Will We Be Finally “Saved” By Faith Alone (Sola Fide)? appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Paul Washer Nails It on Young, Restless and Reformed

As you know, we at Pulpit & Pen are greatly concerned about the advance of New Calvinism, also known as the Young, Restless an Reformed (YRR). While most, but not all, writers at Pulpit & Pen are Reformed and Calvinistic Baptists, we are very cautious regarding the recent movement of young people to a type or kind of Calvinism that is rather new. I explained the difference between historic Reformed theology and New Calvinism at last year’s Judge Not Conference, and you can see my explanation of New Calvinism here.

Chiefly, New Calvinism is Continuationist in theology and Charismatic in practice, suffers from post-millennial, culture-conquering and social justice mission drift, and is overly concerned with fads and coolness. Finally, New Calvinism shuns piety and devalues personal holiness.

Eight years ago, Paul Washer was asked about the dangers of the YRR Movement (the concept then was still very much new) and he absolutely hit the nail on the head. You can watch the video below.

Eight Myths about Hell

“The reality of hell and eternal punishment is not a popular topic, even among Christians. Part of the problem is that the nature of hell has been horribly distorted in our culture and portrayed as an experience that is far from what we read in the NT.”

Read more: Eight Myths about Hell

Herescope: Another God Part 2

Read Part 1 
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” 
(Exodus 20:3)
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A Report by Barbara Wilhelm

THE TEACHINGS OF GOD CALLING 

THE BIBLE

What about the contents of God Calling? Since not only Sarah Young but many others have stated that they have been ministered to from reading it, how can these positive experiences be explained if there are Scriptural errors in it? Certainly many statements can be inspiring in a book, and Scripture can even be quoted, but note that Genesis 3:1, Matthew 4:6 and 2Corinthians 11:2-4,14 are but a few Bible verses mentioning Satan’s ability to quote Scripture for his purposes.

The following statement made by one of the two “listeners” of God Calling should cause a Christian reader great concern:

We were being taught, trained and encouraged day by day by HIM personally, when millions of souls, far worthier, had to be content with guidance from the Bible. (God Calling, Preface, with added emphasis in Bulle, God Wants You Rich and Other Enticing Doctrines]

The implications of this statement are that personal guidance is better than the Bible. Note that God Calling has more words of Jesus than the Bible itself. Repeatedly in Scripture God tells us of the excellence and pre-eminence of His Word: all of Psalm 119; Matthew 5:18, 24:35; 2Timothy 3:16-17; 2Peter 1:21; Deuteronomy 6:6, 11:18; Psalm 19:8; John 17:17, 20:31. I am certain that there are a great multitude of people who are indeed content with guidance from Bibles and have found guidance, moral absolutes and strong religious principles in the pages of that holy Book.

THE HOLY SPIRIT

To determine the trustworthiness of a book, it is wise to notice how it treats major Biblical topics like the Holy Spirit, for instance. Notice the comment in God Calling and the manner in which the Holy Spirit is referred:

All work here is accomplished by My Spirit and that can flow through the most humble and lowly. It simply needs an unblocked channel. (God Calling, p.70, also cited in Bulle, God Wants You Rich and Other Enticing Doctrines.) [Emphasis mine]

Would Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, ever refer to the Third Person of the Trinity as “that” or “it”? John 14:17 and 16:13 distinctly name the Holy Spirit as a Person:

John 14:17 New King James Version (NKJV)
17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Himnor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.[Emphasis mine]

John 16:13 New King James Version (NKJV)
13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. [Emphasis mine]

As is often true in God Calling, these words of Jesus Christ above from the Gospel of John are twisted out of their Scriptural context to violate the actual meaning of His words. John 16:13 indicates that in Christ’s absence further revelation of truth would come to the apostles through the Holy Spirit: “Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth.” [Emphasis mine] However, in God Calling this is what the “Living Christ” told the “two listeners”:

“Truly, I said to my disciples, ‘I have many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now.’ But to you, and those who gather to hear Me as you do, I can declare those things now, that then I left unsaid.” (God Calling, p. 69)

Therefore, while John 16:13 states that the Holy Spirit is the revealer of Truth, God Calling replaces one Person of the Trinity with another and states that Jesus is the revealer of Truth. Scripture is God’s Word. Both Revelation 22:18-19 and Deuteronomy 4:2 emphatically state penalties for adding to or subtracting from God’s Word. It is, at the least, dishonest to attribute the work of the Holy Spirit to Jesus for the simple reason that Scripture would call it a lie. Additionally, there are the statements like these attributed to the “Jesus” in God Calling that are not in Scripture:

  • “I need you more than you need Me” (p. 60)
  • “I await the commands of my children” (p. 63)
  • “Looking to Me all your thoughts are God-inspired. Act on them and you will be led on” (p. 104)
  • “See Me in the dull, the uninteresting, the sinful, the critical, the miserable” (p. 111)
  • “I do not delay My second coming. My followers delay it” (p. 177)

There is an additional problem in the following “message” from “Jesus”:

“But to you, and those who gather to hear Me as you do, I can declare those things now, that then I left unsaid” (God Calling, p. 69)

Notice the feeling of elitism that is appealed to in this quote. It seems that only to certain people can these special messages be given. This was the same problem – the same heresy – Paul encountered with the Colossians:

The Colossian church had been deeply infiltrated by teachings foreign to the Christian faith. As a result the Colossians added to Christian elements from non-Christian sources… such as Gnosticism. [One of the characteristics of this heresy] was an inordinate liking for knowledge and wisdom of a secret sort. As a result these practices and persuasions, the person and work of Jesus Christ were downgraded. These wrong customs in the [Colossian] church occasioned the writing of this letter by Paul, in which he set forth clearly and passionately the correct view of Jesus Christ and His preeminence. (Lindsell Bible Commentary)

This comment on Gnosticism holds true for both God Calling and Jesus Calling.

SPIRIT FORCES OF THE UNSEEN AND MEDIUMS

There are, however, many references in God Calling to “Spirit-World” and “Spirit-Kingdom,” both which have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. The October 23 entry reads: “Trust in the Spirit Forces of the Unseen not in those you see.” [Emphasis mine] Since the Bible (Deuteronomy 18:10) vehemently denounces associating with spirits, but soundly commands us to trust only in God (Proverbs 3:5-7), this is totally unscriptural and, therefore, could not have originated with God. Both Deuteronomy 18:20-22 and 2Timothy 3:16 clearly state one of the fundamental principles of discernment – anything that is wrong in part and presumes to say it is from God is wrong in the whole and is to be condemned.

This is not the only entry the “listeners” relate in this vein. The September 6 entry is even more extensive:

How often mortals rush to earthly friends who can serve them in so limited a way, when the friends who are freed from the limitations of humanity can serve them so much better, understand better, protect better, plan better, plead better their cause with Me…. You do well to remember your friends in the Unseen. Companying with them, the more you live in this Unseen world, the gentler will be your passing when it comes. (God Calling, p. 145) [Emphasis mine]

Does this sound like the God Who commanded His people to have no communication with the dead and decreed that those who did would be put to death (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27)? The prophet Isaiah spoke sharply to those who defied God in this manner: “When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” (Isaiah 8:19-20 NIV)

Satan is called subtle and crafty in Genesis 3, and the entries in this book are proof of that statement. Look at the craftiness of the following entry from God Calling:

February 17: “Psychic powers are not necessarily Spiritual Powers.” [Emphasis mine]

Looking at the verses in Deuteronomy 18:10, Exodus 22:18 and Leviticus 20:27, to name just a few, it is obvious that the Bible leaves no wiggle room at all for occult practices. When God calls a practice an abomination, He is using the strongest word He can use!! Here is another entry from God Calling:

March 13: “Spiritualism is wrong. No man should ever be a medium for any spirit, other than Mine.”

Let’s use a paraphrase analogy to help the reader understand the full intent of this entry: “Murder is wrong. But when I, the Lord, say to do it for My purposes, it’s okay.” Can you see a God in whom there is no darkness at all speaking out of both sides of His mouth like that?!

EASTERN RELIGION AND MYSTICAL INFLUENCES 

God Calling relates even more instances of communicating with unholy spirits. For example:

March 10: “Your five senses are your means of communication with the material world, the links between your Spirit-Life and the material manifestations around you, but you must sever all connection with them when you wish to hold Spirit-communication. They will hinder, not help.” (p. 52)

If you take this day’s entry and couple it with these two entries, the point is even clearer:

April 27: “I am beside you. Can you not feel My Presence? Contact with Me is not gained by the senses. Spirit-consciousness replaces sight.”

May 5: “Breathe in My very Spirit in pure air and fervent desire…. Empty your mind of all that limits.”

Think these thoughts through: if we were to “sever all connection” with our five senses we would either be dead, unconscious or in a mystical/meditative trance exactly like that in Eastern religions! And what sort of “Spirit-communication” is meant? Though God is Spirit, communication with Him is not mystical and ethereal. It was God Who said in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now and let us reason together.” [Emphasis mine] Eastern religions require that in order to relax, do yoga and attain a “higher level of consciousness” we must empty our minds and be in “spirit communication.” But the Bible forbids communicating with the kind of spirits you would come in contact with that way (Deuteronomy 18:10-13). [See the article “Altered States: A Different Gate” for a thorough discussion on this topic: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2011/04/altered-states-different-gate.html]

There are additional errors that can be listed to show the deceptions in God Calling, but the preceding should be sufficient to convince the diligent seeker of God’s truth that this book is not a Christian devotional. One need not question the sincerity of the “two listeners,” but the method of “guidance” they employ is not Scriptural.

True communication with the One True God would not contain these errors. He has no flaws and always acts in agreement with His Word. Therefore, my brethren, “touch ye not the unclean thing” and separate yourself from the dangers of this book and those like it for your own safety and so that “God may receive you as His sons and daughters.” 

To be continued. . . .

Source:

A Call to Thoughtful Vigilance

Evangelical churches today, however, are far less troubled by the serious doctrinal errors that divide them than they were in the 1920s. They are less vigilant than they were then. The church generally has not learned the lesson of confessionalism. Doctrinal knowledge, biblical understanding, and disciplined Christian living seem to have declined rather than advanced since the 1920s.

Paul warned the elders of the church in Ephesus about the critical need for them to be vigilant: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert…” (Acts 20:28–31). This apostolic warning was not just for the Ephesian church; it is a warning that is necessary for every church in every age.

Paul’s warning was taken very seriously by many churches and ministers in the controversy between fundamentalists and liberals in the 1920s. Fundamentalists seeing their churches and schools deserting historic Christianity viewed liberals as devious, deceptive, even demonic. Dr. J. Gresham Machen, in the most valuable and enduring critique of liberalism written in the 1920s, Christianity and Liberalism, concluded that Christianity was one religion and liberalism was quite another.

While Dr. Machen’s analysis was accurate and presented in a temperate manner, many in the churches of his day did not accept it. Why was that, and what can we learn in our day about being vigilant in defending and promoting biblical Christianity?

The Mind of Liberalism
In the first place, we should try to understand how the liberals saw themselves and how they communicated their convictions to others. Liberals insisted that they were evangelical Christians. They believed that they did hold to the essentials of the Christian faith. They insisted, affirming the language of the Auburn Affirmation of 1924, that they held to basic Christian doctrines and only rejected some of the theories that fundamentalists used to elaborate those doctrines. For instance, they believed that Jesus was God with them, but not in the virgin birth. The liberals sincerely believed that they alone would save Christianity in the modern world by making it more relevant. As such, they were active missionaries for their cause.

Dr. Machen was right when he stated of the liberals: “By the equivocal use of traditional phrases, by the representation of differences of opinion as though they were only differences about the interpretation of the Bible, entrance into the Church was secured for those who are hostile to the very foundations of the faith.” But the liberals denied such charges, and by using ambiguous language, they persuaded many that they were not as bad as their critics claimed.

The controversy between liberals and fundamentalists was not only about truth for Dr. Machen, it was about ethics. The liberals were not straightforward or honorable in making their beliefs clear. He wrote that “honesty is being relinquished in wholesale fashion by the liberal party in many ecclesiastical bodies today.” They had promised in their ordination vows to uphold doctrines that they did not believe.

The Conservative Mind
Dr. Machen believed that the majority of church members in his day were basically conservative. They did not want extensive changes in the doctrine or life of their churches. They were somewhat anxious about where the liberals wanted to take the church. However, they tended to be optimistic about the future and were concerned about criticism of liberalism that seemed too negative or strident.

The leadership of the conservative wing of the church did not present a united front. While the staunch conservatives like Dr. Machen were very alarmed and critical of the liberals, other moderate conservatives argued that too much negativity and divisiveness would undermine the mission of the church. Conservative church members often did not know whom to believe or follow.

The division of opinion among conservative leaders and the optimism of many conservatives disposed them to shy away from a fight. As early as 1915, Dr. Machen saw the potential danger of this situation: “The mass of the Church here is still conservative — but conservative in an ignorant, non-polemic, sweetness-and-light kind of way which is just meat for the wolves. I do not mean to use harsh phrases in a harsh way, and my language must be understood to be biblical.” As Paul had warned the Ephesian elders about wolves attacking the sheep of the church, so Dr. Machen worried that the sheep of the church in his day were very vulnerable to liberal wolves.

The Confessionalist Mind
While Dr. Machen was often seen as the greatest intellectual leader of the fundamentalist movement, he was not entirely comfortable with the fundamentalist movement. He did not believe that it was enough to defend just five fundamentals of the faith. He believed that fundamentalism was too individualistic, too reductionistic, and too unconcerned with history. For Machen, true Christianity was an historic community with a full and coherent theology. True Christianity, as Dr. Machen knew it in the Reformed tradition, came to doctrinal expression in a full confession of faith, such as the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Dr. Machen believed a confession expressed the mind of the church and showed church members what the church confessed as the great and necessary teachings of the Bible. The confession should serve as an antidote to doctrinal ignorance in the church as the church diligently teaches its confession to its members. The confession should show the church what doctrines it must fight to uphold. It should strengthen the church as the bulwark of the truth.

Today, evangelical churches face doctrinal challenges every bit as serious as those of the 1920s. Some evangelicals reject the inerrancy of the Bible. Some reject the historic doctrine of God for what they call “open theism.” Some reject the biblical doctrine of justification that was recovered by the Reformation for some form of moralism.

Evangelical churches today, however, are far less troubled by the serious doctrinal errors that divide them than they were in the 1920s. They are less vigilant than they were then. The church generally has not learned the lesson of confessionalism. Doctrinal knowledge, biblical understanding, and disciplined Christian living seem to have declined rather than advanced since the 1920s.

Paul’s call to thoughtful vigilance is needed more today than ever. Ministers, elders, and church members today must be renewed in the truth by a full and careful knowledge of doctrine contained for us in the great confessions of the churches. Then we will know where and when to fight, as well as the truth for which we fight. As Paul wrote to Timothy: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16).

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine. This article is used with permission.

The post A Call to Thoughtful Vigilance appeared first on The Aquila Report.

70 Prompts for Adoring God

I worship you, my God, because of who you are:

  1. Eternal, immortal, and invisible, you alone are God (Psalm 90:1-2; 1 Timothy 1:17; Isaiah 45:5).
  2. You are Spirit (John 4:24).
  3. You are living (Joshua 3:10).
  4. You are one able to create ex nihilo, or out of nothing (Hebrews 11:3), in six days, and resting on the seventh (Genesis 1).
  5. You are independent of all creation, and have life in and of yourself (John 5:24).
  6. You are known to all (Romans 1:19-20).
  7. As self-existent Yahweh, you are self-revealing to your people (Exodus 3:14-15).
  8. You are omnipresent, or everywhere, always (Psalm 139:7-12).
  9. You are omniscient, knowing everything (Proverbs 15:3).
  10. You are omnipotent, or all-powerful (Matthew 19:26; Hebrews 1:3).
  11. You are omnisapient, or all-wise (Romans 16:27).
  12. You are sovereign (Ephesians 1:11, 20-21).
  13. You are one God in three Persons (Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 8:6).
  14. Each Person of the Trinity is fully and equally God; in appearance and outworking, the Father begets the Son (John 1:18), and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (John 14:26; 16:7).
  15. Jesus Christ was preexistent before the incarnation (John 6:38; John 17:5).
  16. Jesus Christ humbled himself (Philippians 2:5-7).
  17. Jesus Christ became incarnate in the flesh (John 1:14), conceived by the Holy Spirit without a human father and born from a virgin (Matthew 1:18).
  18. Jesus Christ, with a human nature, experienced the weakness and growth that are a part of the human experience (Mark 2:15; 14:33; 15:34; Luke 2:40; 7:9).
  19. Jesus Christ was tempted and overcame (Luke 4:2); with a divine nature, he could not sin.
  20. Jesus Christ is God—the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and the one of whom deity is claimed (Luke 1:43; John 1:1; Matthew 22:44; Hebrews 1:10-12).
  21. Jesus Christ’s omnipotence is displayed through his miracles over nature (Matthew 8:26-27; Matthew 14:19; John 2:1-11).
  22. Jesus Christ’s eternality is known through self-revealing statements (John 8:58; Revelation 22:13).
  23. Jesus Christ’s omniscience is displayed through perceiving hidden thoughts (Mark 2:8; John 1:48), and in knowing all things as attested to by his disciples (John 16:30).
  24. Jesus Christ is omnipresent, as seen in his claim to be with the disciples always (Matthew 28:20).
  25. Jesus Christ is sovereign, as demonstrated in his authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7).
  26. Jesus Christ is worthy to be worshipped and adored (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 5:12).
  27. Though not relinquishing any divine attributes, Jesus Christ gave up the outward appearance and radiance of his glory in order to complete the mission of the Father (Philippians 2:7), using his divine attributes only as necessary for his mission and ministry, out of submission to the Father.
  28. Jesus Christ is one Person without separation, including two natures without confusion—human and divine—in hypostatic union (Hebrews 1:3).
  29. The Person of the Holy Spirit has intellect, emotions, and will. With intelligence, he knows the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-11); with emotions he can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), and according to his will, he distributes spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11).
  30. The Holy Spirit is deity with omniscience (1 Corinthians 1:11-12), omnipresence (Psalm 139:7), and involvement in creation (Psalm 104:30); blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is blasphemy against God (Matthew 12:31-32).
  31. Father, Son, and Spirit—one God—you are unity (Deuteronomy 6:4).
  32. You are Elohim, sovereign and transcendent over all the earth (Deuteronomy 2:30; 33; 3:22).
  33. As El-Shaddai, you are God Almighty, powerful and strong (Genesis 17:1).
  34. As El Elyon, you are God Most High who reigns supreme (Genesis 21:33).
  35. As El Olam, you are God Everlasting and changeless forever (Genesis 21:33).
  36. As Yahweh Jireh, you are “The Lord Will Provide” (Genesis 22:14).
  37. As Yahweh Nissi, you are “The Lord Our Banner,” the victorious (Exodus 17:15).
  38. As Yahweh Shalom, you are “The Lord is Peace” (Judges 6:24).
  39. As Yahweh Sabbaoth, you are “The Lord of Hosts,” the commander (1 Samuel 1:3).
  40. As Yahweh Maccaddeshcem, you are “The Lord Thy Sanctifier” (Exodus 31:13).
  41. As Yahweh Tsidkenu, you are “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6).
  42. The way you relate to your creation can be described by many images, like the image of Father (Matthew 6:26; 2 Corinthians 6:18; 1 John 3:1).
  43. The image of Mother (Isaiah 66:13; Isaiah 49:15; Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34).
  44. The image of Husband (Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 2:19; Revelation 21:1-7).
  45. The image of Friend (John 15:12-15).
  46. The image of Shepherd (Psalm 23; John 10:11)
  47. The image of Teacher (Psalm 32:8; Isaiah 48:17).
  48. The image of Ruler (Psalm 103:19; 1 Timothy 6:15).
  49. The image of Judge (Isaiah 33:22; 2 Timothy 4:8).
  50. The image of Deliverer (Exodus 6:6; Matthew 1:21).
  51. And the image of Justifier (Romans 3:26).
  52. You are a preserver of all you have made (Nehemiah 9:6; Colossians 1:17).
  53. You are one who gives decrees that are all-encompassing, or inclusive of all creation (Ephesians 1:11).
  54. Your decrees are for your own glory (Psalm 19:1), and they are based upon your sovereign contentment (Daniel 4:35).
  55. Your decrees are best because they are based upon your infinite wisdom (Psalm 147:5; Psalm 104:24).
  56. You are morally pure and set apart (Leviticus 11:44-45).
  57. You are holy (Revelation 4:8).
  58. You hate sin and are angered by it (Joshua 7:1).
  59. You are perfectly wrathful (Romans 1:18; Nahum 1:2).
  60. You are compassionate (Psalm 103:13-14).
  61. You are patient (Romans 2:4).
  62. You are love (1 John 4:8, 16).
  63. You are good (Psalm 25:8).
  64. You are just (Genesis 18:25).
  65. You are righteous and gracious (Psalm 145:17).
  66. You are rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4).
  67. You are immanent, near and active (Jeremiah 23:23-24; Acts 17:27-28).
  68. You are immutable, or unchangeable (Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17).
  69. You are true (Isaiah 65:16).
  70. You are the blessed and only King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15).

Help me to know you, to love you for who you are, and to value what you value, my God.

Amen.

[Photo Credit: Unsplash]

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Judgement: The Doctrine Lost to the Modern Pulpit

In John Bunyan’s book The Pilgrim’s Progress, the story begins with Christian discovering news which causes him great alarm. Clothed in rags and with a burden upon his back, he is distressed to learn from a book he has been reading that the city he lives in is soon to be destroyed by fire from heaven. He tells his wife and children of their terrible danger. They must immediately try to escape.

But the response of his family is to think he has gone mad! As night is coming on they hasten to put him to bed in the hope that he might recover his senses by morning. However, the next day find him even more troubled. He wanders alone in the fields, sighing and reading from the book in his hands. Occasionally he is heard to cry out: ‘What must I do to be saved?’

In days of great spiritual darkness those called by God to preach the gospel have a sobering task. Our present world is still as Bunyan saw it. It is the City of Destruction. Mankind lies under the same certainty of coming judgement from heaven. Yet tragically, the clear note of warning in preaching has all but disappeared. The truths of final judgement and hell have long been omitted from most modern preaching. Hell has become the forgotten doctrine of the twentieth century.

False Philosophy

This change can be traced back to the late 18th and 19th centuries and the so-called ‘age of enlightenment’. Attacks upon the inspiration of Scripture sprang from claims that human reason was above the Word of God. The outcome of this view was that anything in Scripture which seemed unreasonable or unpalatable to man’s natural mind began to be disputed and rejected.

While the Church from the beginning had taught the certainty of hell and eternal punishment view which denied this teaching began to creep in. Annihilation, conditional immortality and universalism are all deviations which fly in the face of Scripture. As J. I. Packer has pointed out, each it a variation of the theme that either ‘God is too good to damn men’, or that ‘men are too good to be damned’. Such views have made deep inroads into the Church, causing the virtual disappearance of the doctrine of hell in preaching. This omission is far more damaging than most writers realize.

Fiery Preachers

General William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, was most forthright in preaching the doctrine of hell. His sermons show how often he took up this theme and how lovingly he warned men and women to turn to the only Savior of mankind. Perhaps best known of all his sermons is ‘Who cares?’ (published in The War Cry of June 20, 1885) in which he graphically depicted his vision of a Rock in the midst of a raging sea where men, women and children were everywhere perishing.

Nearly twenty years later, when his life was nearly ended, Booth had not weakened in his preaching of this truth. In 1904 he urged his officers to:

Make people fell the truth as regards judgement, heaven and hell. All around you there is growing up a great peril of unbelief on these questions. You must fight it! … Men sleep on the verge of hell. You must fight to awaken them! You must startle them out of the fatal stupor in which they stand all unheeding on the brink of a burning hell!

Perhaps the most remarkable sermon on hell was preached by Jonathan Edwards at Enfield, North America, in 1741. The sermon was called ‘Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God’ and was based on the text: ‘Their foot shall slip in due time’ (Deut. 32:35). Using most dramatic language, Edwards pictured natural man held by life’s thin thread over the pit of hell. Although many have criticized Edwards for what they consider to be ‘exaggerated descriptions of hell’, his motivation was correct. Edwards recognized the eternal issues at stake. He concluded his sermon by saying:

This is an awful subject! May it be blessed for the awakening of unconverted souls to the conviction of their danger!… Let everyone who is out of Christ now awaken and flee from the wrath to come! The wrath of God is now undoubtedly hanging over this nation, or even over many in church congregations. Heed the angel’s message to Lot in Sodom:’Escape for your life! Do not look behind you. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.

Bunyan would have approved. Indeed, the one whose approval counts above all others was himself the most awesome preacher of this doctrine. The terrible warnings of hell given by Jesus in the gospels must be forgotten.

In this ‘enlightened age’, all who preach God’s Word are under pressure to adopt wrong attitudes towards the doctrine of final retribution. The fact that this doctrine is so rarely mentioned gives hearers the impression that hell is nothing more than a curious idea from earlier centuries now made irrelevant by modern sophistication. To most preachers, hell has become a subject of embarrassment rather than a terrible and certain reality.

This has led to the doctrine of hell being isolated from all other doctrines. Failure to recognize that Christian doctrine must be viewed as a complete and integrated unit, rather than individual, loosely-related truths, always has a debilitating effect upon preaching. Not to preach and teach the awful reality of hell progressively weakens the doctrines of sin, law, judgement, the wrath of God, and the atoning blood of Christ. Indeed, even the character of God is impugned. Does God not mean what he says?

When the doctrine of hell is omitted, it follows that the terms ‘saved’ and ‘salvation’ become meaningless. This is why modern man neither sees nor feels the slightest need to come to Christ. And why should he? He feels no danger. What has he to fear? Certainly nothing from the ‘God of love’ so blandly promised by many today. Hearers are too easily assured. Many now preach as if all in congregations are assumed to be saved, and emphasis has swung away from need for the powerful inner work of regeneration by God’s Spirit alone to calls for ‘re-dedication’.

On one occasion when George Whitefield was in America, he sat under the thorough preaching of Gilbert Tennant. Whitefield later said: ‘I never before heard such a searching sermon. Hypocrites must soon be converted or enraged at his preaching! I fear I have brought comfort too soon!’

All this is a far cry from much evangelism today. Nowadays the typical example of ‘a successful growing Community church’ boasts of worship styles described as ‘fun!’ Because the goal is numbers, those who attend must always leave feeling good about themselves. This requires that ‘negative words and concepts’, such as law, wrath, judgement and hell must be studiously avoided in the rush for success.

Not surprisingly, modern-day conversions too often lack evidence of deep heart-conviction or mourning over sin. Many now vaguely speak of being ‘saved from their sins’ or even of ‘what Jesus has added to their lifestyle’. Most have no consciousness at all of having been saved from judgement and the awesome finality of eternal hell. It never seems to enter their head. And little wonder, for who has bothered to tell them? If the doctrine of hell is no longer part of the gospel, then surely we must question what the term ‘salvation’ means.

Should God graciously permit true revival to come again in these last days there is one characteristic we may expect to find. It is that men, women and children will all receive a deep sense of the awe and greatness of God. In revival, men realize how dreadful is the nature of sin and how righteous is God. In revival, men begin to see how terrible it is to be eternally lost and how certain is divine judgement. A study of revivals show that ‘the fear of God’ is always present. That there is so little fear and awe of God in the churches today is sobering evidence against the claims of some who seem to confuse revival with noise and numbers.

Entertained by Violence

We should also recognize that our present world has de-sensitized itself against the terrors of hell by creating horrors of its own, both real and in the name of entertainment. Death and violence are shown on television and in films in such horrific ways as to become unreal, particularly to the young. Terrors must become even more shocking to have any impact at all. Those who live in the twentieth century are tending to become increasingly more blase and fearless towards all authority, law and order. In turn this breeds attitudes toward God of either total apathy or open rebellion.

This is not to suggest that we should ‘play the world at its own game’ and try to shock by drawing lurid word-pictures of what we may conceive hell to be like. Nothing less than the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit working through faithful preaching of his Word will shake men from their present false sense of security. Our preaching needs to regain a proper balance between God’s law, judgement and eternal retribution for sin with the loving offer of God’s gracious pardon through Jesus Christ to hell deserving sinners.

Just as the joys of heaven are quite beyond our present imagination, so hell must be infinitely worse then our minds can grasp. The images of fire, darkness, chains, separation from God, are all suggestive of terrible prospects. Who among us can begin to fathom what an eternity of conscious remorse for sin and refusing Christ must mean? Truly Jesus says: ‘There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matt. 13.50). He warns, ‘ What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ (Mark 8:37). In hell there is simply no respite. The occasional ‘glimpses’ we may catch of it are enough to convince us that this is a place of utter despair.

Thomas Boston, the 18th century Scottish divine, deals movingly with the awful tragedy of those who are still unregenerate, spiritually blind and hell-bent. In his book Human Nature in its Four-Fold State he writes:

If you knew your case, you would cry out: ‘Oh! darkness! darkness! darkness! The face covering is upon you already as condemned persons, so near are you to everlasting darkness. It is only Jesus Christ who can stop the execution, pull the napkin off the face of the condemned malefactor, and put a pardon in his hand.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne felt the urgency of this doctrine. On  one occasion when journeying on his pony he took shelter from the rain in an engine house of a quarry. He simply pointed to the fire of the furnace, and said: What does that remind you of?’ Some time later the man who had been tending the furnace came and told M’Cheyne how God had used that ‘word in season’ to his own salvation.

M’Cheyne would often visit dying parishioners on Saturday afternoons. He said that before preaching he ‘liked to look over the verge!’ He was like Richard Baxter of Kidderminster of whom it was said that ‘he preached as a dying man to dying men’. We need this urgency in preaching today!

A Message for Us Today

Yet what immense difficulties we confront. How may we preach this terrible truth to men? For a start, does the world we live in not seem remote from all this? Do not so many people around us today live in nice homes, wear fashionable clothes, hold educational qualifications and enjoy respectable positions in life? We may more easily envisage heaven. Are we therefore fools to feel concerned that hell is real and judgement will come?

We must remember that Jesus said: ‘As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away’ (Matt. 24:37-39). It is only faith that sees beyond this present world and only faith in God’s Word that holds us in the knowledge that these things are irresistibly certain and will come to pass in the end.

Of all truths we must first preach this to our own hearts. We need to feel and see the utter tragedy of countless multitudes who rush blindly on to perdition. Never will we preach it unless we first believe it ourselves.

But believe it we must, and preach it we must! Not as ranters, but earnestly, lovingly, persuasively, calling young and old alike to escape from God’s righteous anger against sin and to flee to Christ whose blood was spilled to save all who in faith will call upon his name. We must study how we may restore this note of warning into our regular evangelical preaching and to correct the distortion and imbalance brought upon the preaching of the gospel over this past century.

John Bunyan is still true to life in our day and age when he has the family and neighbors of Pilgrim mock his warnings to escape from the City of Destruction. ‘He is mad! Put him to bed’ is the only response they can make. We are likely to receive similar ridicule from many quarters today if we speak of hell.

Yet we should remember that we stand in the best of company — alongside Enoch and Noah, John the Baptist, the apostles — yes, and even in company with our Lord himself. May God raise up faithful preachers of his Word who will courageously and graciously declare this difficult but necessary truth to a careless, dying world.


This article first appeared in the January 1994 edition of the Banner of Truth Magazine.

 

The post Judgement: The Doctrine Lost to the Modern Pulpit appeared first on Banner of Truth USA.

The Many Face of Legalism


A number of years ago, I defined legalism as, “an attempt to win God’s favor apart from the finished and sufficient work of Christ on behalf of sinners.” This is a doctrinal legalism which undermines the gospel. There also exists a practical legalism that is often ignored or misunderstood—a legal root that is at the heart of every one of our sins (1 Corinthians 15:56). Legalism exists in every heart, and most of the time it’s a subtle way of talking about God and how He relates to His people. Doctrinal legalism distorts the gospel, and practical legalism stands in the way of our communion with God and with one another. Some forms of legalism are more obvious than others, but there are at least five types of legalism to note:

1. Legal-Works

The rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22) assumed he could “inherit eternal life” by law keeping, and even assumed that he had done so when Jesus presented him with the second table of the law. “Teacher,” he said, “all these I have kept from my youth” (10:20). The question of what he must do to inherit eternal life, albeit understandable, possesses, in his mind, a necessity to work for his salvation. He did not understand the free grace of God in Jesus Christ. If salvation is based upon work, each man will look to himself and determine that he’s good…

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No Repentance in the Grave

The Bible clearly teaches that what we are when we die, whether converted or unconverted, whether believers or unbelievers, whether godly or ungodly, so we will be when we rise again at the sound of the last trumpet. There is no repentance in the grave: there is no conversion after the last breath is drawn. Now is the time to believe in Christ, and to lay hold of eternal life. Now is the time to turn from darkness to light, and to make our calling and election sure. The night comes when no man can work. As the tree falls, there it will lie. If we leave this world refusing to repent and believe, we will rise in the same condition on resurrection morning, and find it would have been “better for us if we had never been born.”

– JC Ryle

Practical Religion – p.410

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
COPYRIGHT ©2018 Grace to You

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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].”

Click Here to Read More

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…

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