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Posts Tagged ‘Doctrine’

Bellow is an excerpt from the Heidelberg Catechism.  And I must say, it clearly describes what it means to be justified before God.  And without this view of justification, I don’t think we will ever understand the gospel. In fact, if one’s idea of the gospel doesn’t include the following, I don’t think it is the gospel at all. Without this understanding, every false gospel which presents itself to men’s ears, despite it’s many features and allurements, will allow for no sinner to have real peace with God (Rom 5:1).

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And how to we enter this blessed peace? This rest? Well the previous passage gives us the foundation, without which we have no hope.

“Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”” (Rom 4:4-8)

Perhaps a false-gospel may offer feigned peace, but no true rapture in the glory of the free grace of God in the face of Christ. Rather, every distorted gospel will ever keep human hearts in an endless mire of doubt, confusion, and fear. If not leading them into a legalistic form of works-righteousness, it will keep them in a laze fare, disinterested, agnostic, apathy regarding the whole issue.

To quote one of my beloved theologians:
“When the glow of justification is ascribed to another, and a snare is laid for the consciences of men, the Savior no longer occupies his place, and the doctrine of the gospel is utterly ruined.” – John Calvin

Read now the Heidelberg (w/scripture proofs)

60. How are you righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ:(1) that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them,(2) and am still prone always to all evil;(3) yet God, without any merit of mine,(4) of mere grace,(5) grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction,(6) righteousness, and holiness of Christ,(7) as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me;(8) if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.(9)

(1) Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Php 3:8-11; (2) Rom 3:9-10; (3) Rom 7:23; (4) Dt 9:6; Ezek 36:22; Tit 3:4-5; (5) Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8; (6) 1 Jn 2:2; (7) Rom 4:3-5; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1; (8) Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21; (9) Jn 3:18; Acts 16:30-31; Rom 3:22, 28, 10:10

To quote on of my other favorite pastors:

“Righteousness without works to the sinner, simply on his acceptance of the Divine message concerning Jesus and His sufficiency,–this has been the burden of our good news…It is one message, one gospel, one cross, one sacrifice, from which nothing can be taken and to which nothing can be added. This is the…beginning and the ending of our ministry.” – Horatius Bonar.

John Calvin elsewhere points out:

“When Satan does not venture openly to attack doctrine, his next stratagem is to diminish its influence by indirect attacks.” –John Calvin

This is so much the case I believe in the Church today.  Few may outright deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone, yet overall it seems not many care about it.

And furthermore, from another modern pastor of whom I am quite fond:

“The strength or weakness of our grasp of justification by faith and it’s domination of our hearts is bound to be the index and the measure of the liberty of God’s children that we enjoy.” – Sinclair Ferguson

More quotes:

“Failure to distinguish between the gospel and all the effects of the gospel tends, on the long haul, to replace the good news as to what God has done with a moralism that is finally without the power and the glory of Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning.” – D.A. Carson

Further Calvin quotes:

“The righteousness of God, therefore, shines in us in so far as He justifies us by faith in Christ, for Christ was given in vain for our righteousness, if there were no enjoyment of Him by faith.” – Calvin

“[God] deigns to embrace the sinner with his pure and freely given goodness, finding nothing in him except his miserable condition to prompt Him to mercy, since he sees man utterly void and bare of good works; and so he seeks in himself the reason to benefit man. Then God touches the sinner with a sense of his goodness in Read Moreorder that he, despairing of his own works, may ground the whole of his salvation in God’s mercy. This is the experience of faith through which the sinner comes into possession of his salvation when from the teaching of the gospel he acknowledges that he has been reconciled to God: that with Christ’s righteousness interceding and forgiveness of sins accomplished he is justified.” – Calvin

Lastly, since I believe this is such an central and imminent issue facing the church today, I will leave you with another quote from modern day preacher:

“Justifying faith is inseparable from the other graces of salvation, and yet faith is the alone instrument of justification. There is no other way, no other instrument whereby a sinner receives Christ for justification. Repentance does not justify. Our good works do not justify. Our obedience does not justify… God declares a sinner righteous by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. The church must gain a renewed appreciation and affection for this truth. For here is the heart of the gospel. If we lose it, or, worse, renounce it, then we will bring ruin to our churches and destruction to our own souls. May Christ grant us mercy to guard this truth against error, boldness to proclaim this truth in its fullness, and, most of all, grace for sinners to believe this truth unto justification and life.” -Stefan Lindblad ‘Justifying Faith and the Application of Salvation’ Banner of Truth issue 479-80, Aug-Sep. 2003, 20.

Soli Deo Gloria

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The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.

I’ve been continuing my readings through Romans, and got to chapter 7 today.  And I was struck by a few verses in particular. I’ve always found this passage (as well as much else of Romans) somewhat hard to grasp (and that’s putting it lightly).  But here, as perhaps everywhere else, Paul is really trying to make a point.  Imagine that.  He’s actually trying to say something, uh… important… like blow our mind-kind of important. He’s mounting an argument (like elsewhere throughout this mighty book of the Bible) and we’re entirely missing out on the amazing joy of understanding it if and when we don’t see it.

Christ tells us to “ask, seek, knock”.  What’s more, many of us don’t even believe that this amazing joy in the Gospel and knowledge of Christ is there to begin with. Or, if it is, that it’s not very great a deal… certainly not greater than the sin being preferred.  Our only hope is to ask the Holy Spirit to break these chains of sin and these bonds of blindness.

Now, Paul is saying more here than I can comprehend. So I’ll just touch on what struck me.

“But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. (Rom 7.8-10)

I don’t know, but that last phrase really stands out.  

The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. What does that mean? How do we read that?  Does that even make sense to us? Can we make any sense of it whatsoever?  I know it’s hard for me… Even now, the clarity I had half-an-hour ago is slipping so I need to finish up this post.

But what I think Paul is saying is that there is this thing called the law (i.e. commandment[s]).  And he tells us that “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (vs.12).  And yet it brought him death.  Even thought it “promised life” (“if you do this you shall live”) it “proved to be death to me.”

And so here we have it: I thought I was supposed to do good stuff… Aren’t we supposed to attempt to be as good as we can?  Aren’t we supposed to strive for morality? And aren’t we to be good in order to go to heaven? I mean, don’t good people go to heaven.

And here’s the solid answer: All attempts to gain life and righteousness and eternity through law keeping, or morality, or any other kind of good work will only bring death.  Why? Because people are sinners, and the law is perfect. The law is good, and my good works aren’t.  Even though they might seem good, they’re not good enough, because the law is perfect.  And I’m not.  This is why all men are lost and helpless.  We are all hopeless to improve ourselves and become good enough. We cannot save ourselves.  End of story.

Ok.  But the main point I wanted to touch upon regards us believers who already know and believe all this and yet still really get hung up on the law quite badly. Those who have believed in Jesus Christ as their savior, who have trusted him for their salvation, still seem perennially susceptible to return back to “law-keeping” as a way of “maintaining” their salvation.  Paul tells us right here that the “very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. It already promised life to him once, and it didn’t work!  It brought him death!  How is it that we will go back again and again to the law (i.e. commandments) thinking they still promises life to us, and that if we only obey it (keep the law now in our Christian life), only then will we indeed have life.  The fact is, we wont obey and we can’t save ourselves — Ever, either before believing or after.

Now, if we’d never sinned yet, and wanted to know what we had to do to inherit eternal life, than of course, we’d be on the right track. For example, we have the account of a lawyer coming to Jesus  with that question.

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He [Jesus] said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10.25r-28)

Do this and you will live. The problem is, we can’t do that.  When Christ’s disciples were starting to get a grasp of this terrible truth they asked “Who then can be saved” (Matt 19.25).  Christ responded;

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19.26)

Paul has already told us in Romans 3,

“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (vs. 19-20)

So I ask, why do we continually go back to the law? In another letter Paul tells us that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2nd Cor 3.6). So why do want to return the letter in an attempt to save ourselves/justify ourselves/make ourselves good enough or acceptable.  What foolishness!  Really, what lawlessness!  For our sinful attempts will always fall flat, and we’ll ever and again be proved law-breakers and utter failures.

So how is it then that, even as Christians, we are drawn back to the law?  Why are we attracted to the thought of “I can do it” with the expectation being “then I shall live”?

The answer is found in creation: God made us that way.

God created us “wired for Law” as Michael Horton puts us.  And contrarily, as Martin Luther said, the gospel comes from “outside of” ourselves.  So the law comes natural to us – according to our nature.  The gospel comes to us unnaturally — against our nature.  The law makes sense.  We get the law.  The gospel doesn’t make sense (even sometimes to us Christians who have heard it so many times).  The gospel always comes across as foolish to human minds. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom” (1 Cor 1.25).  And why does it seem foolish? Because it says “Stop trying to save yourselves, and believe and trust in Christ alone to save you.” By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

And now to tie all this back in with Romans 7.  Not only are we to stop trying to save ourselves through the law, but Paul now powerfully tells us that we have died to the law.  Died to the law. Ok again.  What at all does he mean by this?  Please someone tell me.  How can I possibly understand this?  Died to the law?  That doesn’t even make sense.

Let me tell you, dear fellow Christians; in as much as we don’t understand what Paul is saying here, I believe we won’t grasp the power and joy that are ours in the Gospel.  What mighty doctrines lie before our eyes and yet we see them not.  What wellsprings of hope and gladness in God’s sure salvation of our souls, yet we esteem them not.  What a mighty fount from which to be strengthened by God’s grace, and yet we look the other way.  What I bedrock to be grounded confidently in Christ’s finished work of redemption on our behalf, if only we’d looked unto the savior.

Thy works, not mine, O Christ, speak gladness to this heart;
They tell me all is done; they bid my fear depart.
– (Horatius Bonar)

For indeed, “It is finished” As our great God and Savior Jesus Christ has declared.

So how does this Romans passage help us see that? Well, we have “died to the law.”

“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” (Rom 7.4-6)

So, the law brought about death in us… (and likewise any attempts to bring about life through following the law are hopeless).  But now we are told we have “died to the law”.  So we can’t even try to save ourselves by it if we wanted to!  We’re dead… We’re really and totally dead to it.  The law has no more jurisdiction over us.  It can’t save us anymore… Any chance of being saved by works of the law is over.   Game over! Wait, who won? Let’s see… And here’s the best news of all.  In this whole exchange we find many things going on, but the greatest of these things is this:  WE’VE ALREADY BEEN SAVED!  Passed tense!   That’s why we’re released from the law.  That’s why it no longer has jurisdiction over us. That’s why it can’t save us anymore, Christ already has.  That’s why it’s utter folly to look to it in order to save our selves.   We’ve already been saved — and that by and in Jesus Christ and his work of redemption. And how did this happen? Paul says, “you also have died to the law through the body of Christ.  So when Christ died on the cross, it happened.  “Why?”, you might ask.  Is it so that we can now go on and live selfish, lawless lives?  No, quite the contrary. Paul says,  “[S]o that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.”

Fruit for God. So that’s the whole point; that we might actually do good works.  Since before, in our attempts to save ourselves by good works, they all proved futile and useless because they would never be good enough. But now that Christ has done his great work of redemption (which is good enough) we are free from condemnation (fits nicely into chapter 8 which I look forward to now) to do good works that we never could have done before.

So, in conclusion.  We were under law at one time… We couldn’t save ourselves then.  Being indeed slaves to sin, we were bound to sin, the law and death.  But now, in the perfect and finished work of Christ we’ve died to the law and sin and death — which means we’ve become alive to Christ and have eternal life.  This means it’s still impossible to save ourselves through law.  But now we don’t have to… We don’t and shouldn’t even be worried about it… The fact that we are, and do worry about it, shows that we don’t entirely believe the gospel nor trust God who has given us his precious promises in Jesus Christ.

The letter kills!  Why don’t we get that?  That’s why it’s such good news that we’ve died to the letter of the law.  For now there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Oh how that ought always to speak gladness to our hearts.

And since we have died to the law, let us never, ever, attempt to return to that which Christ has set us free, as if we could attain righteousness before him by our own efforts of godliness.  May we never despise his perfect work for us, playing in down, overlooking it, minimizing it, accepting it only half-hardheartedly — all-the-while thinking our own efforts are more interesting, important or, if nothing else, the determining factor in our salvation. If we feel or believe that we must wait until our sanctification is complete before we can glory in the cross of Christ, we are engaging in flat-out idolatry and unbelief.  Rather we are called to “glory in Christ Jesus and and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3.3) 

“[N]ow we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” In Christ we have been made alive in the Spirit and we will live different, sanctified, and fruit-bearing lives.  That’s a fact… And it’s because of Christ’s work, not our own.

We’ve died to the law, guys.  And that’s great news.  Now we get to live before God, alive in Christ Jesus.

Now having believed Him who has made the promises, let us not grow weak in the faith.  Though our bodies be as good as dead, let us glorify God in them, and rejoice in the hope of eternal life.  For as Spurgeon said, it is “all of grace.” Lest any man should boast, may to God alone be all the glory now and forever more. Amen.

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I’ve been thinking a bit lately about justification as well as other doctrines which I believe are at the heart of the Christian faith and gospel.  One of these is the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ unto the believer.  This is where Christ’s perfect righteousness, shown in his perfect obedience to God the Father during his life on earth, is given (gifted) to those who believe in him.  All of Christs good works, get credited to the sinner, who hasn’t done any good works, but merely looks to Christ alone in faith.

“And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” (Rom 4.5)

Now let me ask you. Do you find this idea and easy one?  Is it something you would just pass by and say “Yeah, I’ve heard that along time ago.  It’s no big deal”?  Or do you find that you’ve overlooked this concept, and that upon further investigation find it a bit out of the ordinary?  Extravagant maybe?  Amazing grace, maybe?

So let me ask you.

If the Son of God, who is beyond all things glorious and beautiful, who’s life alone is worth more to God then all the galaxies combined, who’s one drop of blood was enough to pay for the sins of the whole world, who’s works of righteousness deserve glorious rewards of riches in heaven along with eternal life; if he offered to you, with outstretched hand, all the merit of his righteousness (though you have done nothing for it, and in fact have done everything to deserve the opposite); if he offered it to you, all of this, would you take it?  Would you accept it?

Or would you wait until you had offered up enough good works of your own – your own obedience?

Well Let me tell you right now, if you attempt to work towards righteousness yourself, your efforts will prove futile though you live to be a thousand years old.  Your righteousness will never work. It will always fail.  You may try and try again.  But it will be useless.  Why?  Because you’re a sinner.  I’m a sinner.  We’re all sinners.  And what’s that got to do with anything, one may ask?  It means we’ve been infected with a disease which makes all our efforts contaminated and faulty.  What’s more, most of the time we don’t even want to do good things, let alone doing them for the right reasons. And it’s a fatal disease, with 100 percent mortality rate,  which we’ve all been infected with from birth.  So basically, (I know it sounds fatalistic) but we’re doomed.  We’re hopeless and helpless.  All going to die!

But this is where Christ’s work comes in.  In the same way that Adam’s disobedience (when he ate the forbidden fruit in garden of Eden) infected all his children with with sin and thereby brought death to them all, Christ’s OBEDIENCE has been imputed to all his children by grace and thereby brings life to them all!

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5.17)

“The free gift of righteousness.”  WOW!  That is just huge!

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5.18-19)

So let me ask you again?  If Christ were to offer to you his obedience (with all it’s worth) free of charge — all of grace — and all you would have to do is accept the gift — would you do it?  Would you open and outstretch your hands to receive this precious gift? Or would you deny him this generosity.  Would you believe the Son of God, when he says he has “given up his life as a ransom for many,” rr would you turn away in unbelief, thinking there may be another way.  Would you recognize God’s righteous declaration that you are a sinner deserving eternal death in hell and that your only hope for salvation is in the righteousness of another — namely Jesus Christ, or would you scorn this free offer of salvation. Let me put it to you as seriously and yet as lovingly and yet as truthfully as I can… Your life depends on it.

The Word of Christ tells us,

“[T]o the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,” (Rom 4.5)

Paul later tells us,

“It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Rom 4.24b-25)

But now to you who have believed in Christ, who have trusted in him alone for your righteousness and salvation, let me tell you take heart.  For just as surely as in your physical birth you inherited your sin nature (which I’m sure you are somewhat familiar) with all it’s debts which bring about death, so too in your spiritual birth (upon believing in Christ) you have now inherited the righteousness of Christ with all it’s merits which lead to eternal life.

This is the gospel!  And this is the grace of God to us in Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

“Let us rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” and in this way glorify Him who has done these things for us, and who alone deserves praise forevermore. Amen.

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“Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought;
Do I love the Lord, or no?
Am I his, or am I not?”

These are words I found from Charles Spurgeon mean to portray the difficulty many Christians face when thinking about their own salvation.  Is it by faith alone, or does it still depend on works?  Am I merely to believe in Christ, or ought I also to look at my obedience to determine whether or not I’m saved?  These questions are on the minds of many sincere Christians.

And yet, the gospel, when it is rightly preached, should allow for assurance of salvation — “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).  However, central to understanding this issue is the doctrine of regeneration

Regarding this doctrine, I’m just going to quote some Spurgeon for you guys.

“[W]herever there is faith there is eternal life; so run the words, “these things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” Our Lord himself, and his apostles, in several places have declared, “He that believeth on him hath everlasting life.” Do not tell me that a sinner who believes in Jesus is to make an advance before he can say he is saved, that a man who trusts Christ is only on his way to salvation, and must wait until he has used the ordinances, and has grown in grace, before he may know that he is saved. No, the moment that the sinner’s trust in placed on the finished work of Jesus he is saved. Heaven and earth may pass away, but that man shall never perish. If only one second ago I trusted the Saviour I am safe; just as safe as the man who has believed in Jesus fifty years, and who has all the while walked uprightly. I do not say that the new born convert is as happy, nor as useful, nor as holy, nor as ripe for heaven, but I do say that the words, “he that believeth on him hath everlasting life,” is a truth with general bearings, and relates as much to the babe in faith as does to the man who has attained to fullness of stature in Jesus Christ.”

“Faith in the living God and his Son Jesus Christ is always the result of the new birth, and can never exist except in the regenerate. Whoever has faith is a saved man.”

“Now, let me say a word or two in reply to certain questions. But must not a man repent as well as believe? Reply: No man ever believed but what he repented at the same time. Faith and repentance go together. they must. If I trust Christ to save me from sin, I am at the same time repenting of sin, and my mind is changed in relation to sin, and everything else that has to do with its state. All the fruits meet for repentance are contained in faith itself. You will never find that a man who trusts Christ remains an enemy of God, or a lover of sin. The fact that he accepts the atonement provided is proof positive that he loathes sin, and that his mind is thoroughly changed in reference to God. Moreover, as to all the graces which are produced in the Christian afterwards, are they not all to be found in embryo in faith? “Only believe, and you shall be save,” is the cry which many sneer at, and others misunderstand; but do you know what “only believe” means? Do you know what a world of meaning lies in that word?”

“Far are we from ascribing salvation to the profession of a mere creed, we loathe the idea; neither do we ascribe salvation to a fond persuasion, but we do ascribe salvation to Jesus Christ, and the obtaining of it to that simple, child like confidence which lovingly casts itself into the arms of him who gave both his hands to the nail and suffered to the death for the sins of his people. He who believes, then, is saved—rest assured of that. ‘Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God'”

“[F]aith never wears the crown, but brings all the glory to the dear Redeemer.”

Full artical found at: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/spurgeon_regfaith.html

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So the issue of Limited atonement has come up.  Some feel insisting Christ died on the cross only for an elect few (or just some) inherently twists and does violence to other scriptures where it apears that God would save all men without distinction.  Verses like John 3:16, or even 1 Timothy 2:3-6 which reads;

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,  who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (ESV)

Now I just want to address it in a few ways.

First, (as been has been duly noted by now) we must make distinction when we use universal terms like “all” or “the whole world.” This is done all the time.  In 1 Cor 15:27 we see even Paul does the same thing actually states that he is doing it.

“For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.”

(It is Namely God, who is excepted).

So here Paul is saying “everything” (similar to all, or all things) does not mean everything without exception and so he adds the caveat himself – Paul himself adds this caveat in the verse. He’s quoting Ps 8:6 and saying that even though it says “everything” it doesn’t mean absolutely “everything”.

Another passage: Joel 2:28a

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;”

Yet later in Acts 2, Peter cites this prophecy but interprets it as applying to those who had been filled with the Spirit at Pentecost, not just plain old everyone.

But now let’s get to the Timothy passage: I’m just going to quote some Robert Reymond for you – on 1 Timothy 2:3-6

“Paul’s statement “Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, must be interpreted in harmony with his earlier statement, “God our Savior, who will all men to be saved” (3-4). Paul’s earlier statement cannot possibly be construed to mean that God decretally wills the salvation of all men without exception, not only because such an interpretation would require the necessary implicate that all meant without exception will in fact then be saved, which is denied by such verses as Matt. 7:23, 25:46, but also because such an interpretation conflicts with several Pauline and other NT declarations to the effect that before the creation of the world God chose only some men to salvation (see Rom. 8.28-30; 9.11-23; 11.6-7; Eph. 1.4-5; 1 Tim. 1:9) . Nor is it likely that Paul means that God wishes or desires the salvation of all men without exception, for surely what God desires to come to pass, he would have decreed to come to pass. Therefore, Paul’s earlier statement is best understood t mean that God wills (that is , decrees) to save (some from) all categories of men but not all men without exception. This interpretation receives support both from the latter “all kinds of evil” in Tim 6:10 which we have already considered and from Paul’s earlier usage of “all men” in Tim 2:1, whish is also best taken this way. Not only would “prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” in behalf if “all” men without exception be positively evil, for such prayers would then need to be offered for the dead and also for the one who has committed the “sin unto death” which John does not encourage (1 John 5:16) but also Paul’s following phrase “for kings and all these who are in authority,” indicates that he was thinking in terms of categories of men–that is, all kinds of men—even kings and governors—because God has willed all classes of men—even kings and governors—to be saved. When Paul the declares in v5-6 that Christ “gave himself as a ransom for all,” he doubtless presumes that he will be understood, against the earlier contextual background, to mean that Christ died for particular men in all those categories of men whom God wills to save. Then later, when he describes the living God as the “Savior of all men, that is, believers” (1 Tim 4:10), he doubtless presumes again that he will be understood, against the earlier contextual background, to mean that God is the savior of believers, who are found among all categories of men. – Robert Reymond, The divine Design Behind the Cross Work of Christ from “A new Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith”

I hope this helps you. And don’t be afraid to dig deeper. For even though it seems certain problems arise all the time only to confuse things, don’t be deterred. For the enemy always wants to confuse us, and preach doubt into our hearts… Doubt about God’s love, his providence, his power.  Much of this kind of teaching stems from a latent inclination to retain at least some power and control over our own lives — our free wills, our autonomy.  But this is pride and false teaching always likes to make use of our pride.  But false teaching in the end you will find is false particularly because it didn’t have as strong of a hold nor understanding of the scriptures. And this is how many are led astray into so many errors.

I just want you to know, that Armenianism (or universalism) is just one of those errors. Don’t be discouraged. Look to the scriptures, read from those who you trust (not so much from those you don’t) and then ask God to lead you into all truth by his Spirit as he has promised.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” – John 16:13

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The doctrine of justification by faith alone is so beautiful it makes one stumble for words.  To say words cannot express or do not suffice hardly seems to help either.  But it’s the truth.  But why is it so beatiful?  In Romans 9 we find these words:

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

There’s the gospel right there!  As simple and yet as profound as that.

A “stone of stumbling.” Why do people stumble over it but because of their pride.  Do we often think of Christ causing people to stumble?  But why not? That’s the point the apostle is trying to make.

“A rock of offense.”  Do we often think of Christ as being offensive to people? Why not?  According to scripture the gospel is supposed to be offensive.  But offensive to whom? To what?  Nothing but our own pride.

“And whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” Here it is.  The pure simplicity of the gospel message.  Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). And oh how it is beautiful.

In Luke’s gospel, when we see Jesus rejoicing, this is the context

“In that same hour he [Jesus] rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

Below is a quite from a book I just read on justification by faith alone:

“When people hear the gospel, which at its heart is the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and think it is too good do be true, it is only then that they have begun to plumb the depths of God’s love for us in Christ.”- J.V. Fesko, What is Justification by Faith alone?

It is so true.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8).

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Overtime I’ve come to realize a certain phenomena — what I’ll call the “Presbyterian dilemma.”  It’s not that this phenomena is unique to Presbyterians or has anything in particular to do with Presbyterianism at all.   It would be true of other (reformed, fundamentalist, etc) circles as well.  However, this dilemma holds that wherever there is placed a premium  upon sound doctrine and the purest form of biblical teaching there invariably appears an equal inclination to inner division and internal schism.   It just seems be a rule; those who insist on doctrine just can’t seem to get their mind off where they disagree with their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Whether it’s over predestination, baptism, evangelism, styles of worship, or anything else, it seems disagreements always carry the day.

What is this? Why is this?  Why are those who seem to care most about truth and the bible also the most prone to divide the Church?  That can’t possibly be what Christianity is about.  Something must be missing here.  Is there a yet another ‘truth’ they’re overlooking?  Or is ‘truth’ really even the problem?  Have we in our day overemphasized and exaggerated the importance of truth while overlooking the more important things — like maybe love?

The question is then: Does doctrine divide?

If you know what I’m talking about, or are at all tracking with me, let me know.  Feel free to comment away.  I’d like that.  But, I want to invite you to think about these things and take a little journey with me into what I’ve dubbed the “Presbyterian Dilemma.”

church-steeple

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