I have been asked many times over the last few weeks about what is required to “know” in order to be saved vs. what is considered “growth”.
“He Is a Self-Made Man.” “Yes, And He Worships His Creator.”
Said historically of Horace Greeley, attributed to William Allen Butler and Benjamin Disraeli, this quote, no matter how it came about or whose voice from which it originated, it is surely a truth of men in our contemporary times. Conversing of our culture the main idea of self-worship as a Western invention birthed from liberty and myopic interest. The annals of history beg to differ. Even the narrative of the New Testament teaches that men have long loved the glory of their own interests and if we see the rulers and ‘success’ stories of yesterday, finding self-love is not far behind. As a matter of fact, it was self-worship, in a sense, that caused the fall of the first humans. Satan tempted them to “be like God” and this sounded grand in their ears and minds. To be powerful, to be successful, to be independent is the core of the heart of humanity and one could argue that it is the essence of sinfulness and depravity. The ancient connections of self-worship though are not the point of this writing.
The central essence of “self” is fired in the kiln of self-worth and self-glory. Man has always considered himself the central figure in his life and each person, at some time or another, has considered themselves the point of the world. At least the world in which they live. This is evident in calling, vocation, values, affections, material possessions, image, esteem, and a plethora of other areas and ideas. This type of attitude and delusion touches every wall, corner, floor and ceiling of life, even one’s own theology. Such is the case for self-willed, free-willed, soteriology.
FIGHTING AGAINST GRACE
“While I see the truth of what you’ve just preached, the Grace of God is the most offensive to my people and especially to my family, parents, and grandparents.” Said to me at First Newark after a sermon by a Messianic Jew speaking of his family. Logic shows man that grace is not earned, affected, or pursued by the recipient. By definition, grace is unmerited and unconditional. While others will argue these terms, let the fools be fools. Don’t put God’s grace on trial. The human mind hates the Lord of Heaven. And thus, he hates the work of God, the grace of God, and anything that God holds over his head without his permission, approval, or acceptance. This type of self-worship is damnable. Scripture teaches that a man who controls his life, goes his own way, rests in his own choices, sits in his own wisdom is a man who is utterly lost and condemned. One primary work of God’s grace is repentance of mind whereby the dead, blind man sees his inability, his need, his deadness and he hates it.
Fighting against grace, in essence, is fighting for one’s own rights. The right to be in control, the right to govern, the right to be right and in some small way, be like God. Arguments against such statements in reality actually prove them to be true, as only a self-righteous person would afford the time to measure the volition of man against the sovereignty of God. The freedom of the will is not on trial, for God has stated that all men are guilty before him and that no one is righteous, not even one. So, approaching the Lord’s mercy with autonomy is a stupid and damnable debate for which one will claim to see, claim to believe and claim to be right while they ease themselves into a satisfaction interrupted only by the bold and fierce fury of God’s holiness on the day of Judgment.
While much more could be said, this “self-made” theology of man must continually be uprooted and purged from our midst. It has no place on the table of the Christian landscape and especially has no place inside the assembly of God’s redeemed. We are to call out the attitude that seems to fight for one’s “right” to free grace or free will. Many seem to be fighting for God’s glory or proving His innocence when Scripture securely seals God’s holiness perfectly in all things. Isaiah 46 comes to mind. At the least some who argue this considers that “fairness” must be upheld, but we know according to Scripture that if God were fair, we wouldn’t be here to engage His mercy.
I leave this article unfinished… may the Lord have mercy.
While there are many who claim to understand this phrase, it only applies to the efforts of many evangelistic appeals that accompany a large majority of “evangelical” ministry. Easy believism as a term has been captured by some to mean simply believing the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in Scripture. For our conversation here, that is not what is meant. Easy believism is the realm of ‘quick’ and ‘fashioned’ methods or responses that supposedly secure faith. These methods are seen in the practices of the ‘altar call’, ‘sinner’s prayer’, ‘Jesus in the heart’, ‘making a decision for Jesus’, ‘checking the box’, ‘raising the hand’, ‘repeat after me’, and more other aspects of sealing the response to the Gospel command.
Without going into a 250-page history lesson on the Evangelical Church, I’ll just place a few highlights on the history of such practices:
- In the 19th century, Charles Finney had a very heretical view of man’s condition after the fall of Adam and Eve and supposed that preachers could overcome obstacles to faith in Christ. Finney is in gross error because scripture teaches that man is inherently depraved and sins because of his nature, sinner.
- He produced a series of revival tactics that included having people come forward to receive Christ while also employing multiple tactics like coercion through fear, sadness, music, stories, and mourners who would come forward with others to encourage them to “do something” in response to belief.
- Others copied and began to expand the practices of Finney which eventually changed the mission and message of preaching through manipulation and response, instead of the biblical teaching of “bold statement of the truth” and trusting in the Spirit to bring salvation.
- DL Moody was a successor of Finney who engaged in an ecumenical effort developing campaigns of ‘mulit-faith’ groups who would utilize music and celebrity appearance to bring hearers to the Finney style responses to a call, not to a clear Gospel message.
- The most prominent proponents of ‘decisionism’ is Billy Graham who started his ministry in 1950 and in the same year began a national radio show, “Hour of Decision.” This launched his revivalist efforts and Graham’s tactics and techniques have been normative for the majority of professions of faith for much of the 20th century.
- Evangelical churches continue to invest a great deal of time and energy in ‘decisions’ for Jesus while the church of America continually gets weaker and weaker in truth, commitment, sound doctrine, and power. The church answered this over the last 40 years by engaging more and more programs, training and assimilation strategies that further divide the simple and plain teaching of Scripture from the lives of people.
In brief, this type of belief is found in no place in scripture. Some may try to employ the Romans 10:9 card, but by doing so, they twist scripture for their own practices. Ultimately, the continued use of such things is a blatant disregard for the Lord and His word. It’s a refusal to listen to sound teaching and engage in useful and profitable dialog concerning the souls of men. Sadly, it appears that people really do love the glory that comes from men rather than God’s ultimate glory that is revealed in the ‘foolish’ gospel message of Scripture.
If you find yourself trusting in any of the aforementioned methods, I would encourage you to consider your hope and whether or not you really do have security in your eternal life. Maybe your hope really is in Christ Alone, and God pushed through the methods with the message of the cross to your ears. If not, then take a moment and write out your testimony. Describe your salvation, your hope, your security and your exultation in Christ. I will gladly and privately respond to walk you through the gospel of Christ and its absolute power over sin and death!
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation first to the Jew then the Gentile. Romans 1:16. Are you ashamed? Let’s pray not.
In closing, belief in Christ is easy. It is seeing and being persuaded of what God has said about His Son. What Jesus has accomplished in His life, death and resurrection constitute the good news, because, without it, every human being is justly condemned in his sins. Believe ‘simply’ on Christ Alone, if you really think about it, all this other stuff isn’t easy at all, but more and more works that condemn and have no object of hope.
For His Glory,
A few weeks ago we considered the biblical overview of The Gospel of Jesus Christ. And we’ve taken a glimpse at the assurance of salvation. Today I want to share what I believe are the consequences of false or ‘works based’ gospels and show that Scripture teaches that they are not really good news, but a prescription for death and false hope. Before I begin I want to answer the critic who says, “Why do we need to even hear about these ‘false’ gospels?” The reason that we need to hear about them is because they are being preached and shared by a majority of Evangelicals in our local community. This so-called gospel is being published on the television, in the newspapers, on the radio, and on the internet at a breathtaking rate and by a great number of people. Scripture teaches ONE gospel, ONE way to salvation, ONE means of Grace, and ONE savior who is Jesus Christ alone. Anything taught contrary to such things, especially when it interferes and invades the church, has to be called out and shown to be in error. So, I make no apology for doing what God has called us to do, and I implore each of you to be prepared to speak the truth in love when an error in doctrine arises in the lives of those around you. It is a gravely wicked thing to allow another human being to live in perpetual unbelief when we have the truth.
What False Gospel Are We Talking About?
While there are many obvious heretical teachings alive and well in our culture, the primary matter at hand is dealing with a weak and cheap grace or a grace plus works. There are people who believe that salvation is faith alone in Christ and then they will add obedience or baptism or church membership etc. to the pile of requirements for justification. And I will warn you, I am going to rant and chase a rabbit or two against the margins of this article.
The False Gospel of Man-Centered Faith can be heard from many Baptist pulpits. Christ is preached as the redeemer and savior, but afterward comes the list of do’s and don’ts. Don’t hear what I am not saying; God will produce good things in our lives, such as our love for each other, our desire to be in the word, our continued putting to death of our flesh, etc. But all of these things are results of God’s work in us and are a reflection of Christ’s righteousness, they are not a means to salvation and they surely do not offer a display of righteousness or guaranteed proof of one being born again. If we are honest, we have to admit that many unbelievers can pull off the same type of lifestyle. They can act the part, speak the part, do the right stuff, and seem like a genuine believer. But each day when they rest in their beds, their confidence in this gospel says, “I know I have eternal life because look at all I am now. I am living a pretty good life… Thanks, Jesus!” This gospel is not one that saves because one’s hope is what he has become, not what Christ has done for His redemption. We could call this a False Gospel of Fruitful Works. It rears its ugly head and causes a man work even harder after “faith” in order to be right with God when Jesus Christ has already done all the work required. Some folks even take great pride in their lifestyle that seems to be less sinful compared to so many others. This gospel of Piety and self-righteousness places them in the company of the Pharisee that Jesus says went home condemned.
A few more false gospels teach that the bible isn’t the rule of faith or the means to salvation in revelation. These people offer a relationship with Jesus Christ outside of Scripture and some of them even consider their own writing to be a new revelation. Others teach that man’s will determines his eternal destiny and that all he has to do is speak into being his salvation request to God and “poof” he’s saved. I call stuff like this having faith in one’s faith. This means that one knows he is right before God because he did the right thing or said the right prayer. Jesus Christ is the ONLY way a man can be righteous before God. Sinners do not make themselves available for purchase, God has bought them with the blood of Christ. This type of so-called gospel puts a greater emphasis on man’s decisions and determination rather than the infallible and effectual work of Jesus Christ the Righteous. The so-called gospel of sloppy grace is where someone claims to be saved by grace alone through faith and even has a right understanding of the gospel per se but they then take the grace of God and consider it a license for living in darkness and rebellion. This makes no sense. That would be like me saying that God has saved me eternally but has done nothing in my life or my heart right now. God gives His people a new heart and He puts His spirit in them. So, His work will produce His fruits: Kindness, gentleness, etc. (Gal 5:22). To say that Grace doesn’t transform a man is to say God is a liar. After all, anyone who claims the name of Jesus but walks in darkness is to be put out of fellowship in a public manner. This includes a false gospel, false testimony, false doctrine and false actions. But, we don’t put hope in the transformation, the transformation is evidence of the claim of faith in Jesus Christ and as we’ve stated above, we hold fast to Jesus, who is our righteousness, not the works. (James 2:15-25)
Saving faith and faith are two different things. Sadly, most people have the latter, just faith in something, but it is displaced. Jesus is the only true object of faith. Do you ‘believe’ on Jesus Christ? Are you believing now?
What about this Trauma?
The trauma comes when the object of hope is non-existent, or worse, existent but ineffectual. What happens when a believer sins? Does he run to the altar of repentance, work a few days in a row without sin and then feel OK with God again? What happens when the sin is not of the action or the affections of the flesh? What happens when a believer gets depressed? For years I clawed at the walls of my emotional depravity while I was being told that I just had to shake it off and enjoy life and ministry. I remember people giving me counsel that if I was neither happy nor having fun, then maybe I wasn’t called to ministry and should quit. If my hope were in my faithfulness to the Lord or the success of ministry or my joy, then I would have died or quit Christ many years ago. Sometimes our lives are joyless and even then we can have joy that cannot be expressed. (1 Peter 1) When someone is given an ineffectual object of faith, they will never live up the standard of that object. They will never be good enough or holy enough to feel adequate. And if they do, then they have bought into the false gospel of self-righteousness like we’ve mentioned above. If we gauge our salvation on the measure of our joy and our joy is not to be found, then what? Where is the anchor that holds the man to Christ? What anchors the faith of the believer to the Savior? Is it sinlessness? Is it sacrifice? Is it church work? Is it repentance? Is it preaching? Is it prayer? NO! It is only Christ. Christ keeps His people tethered to Him. There is no escape from His grasp. He is faithful, even when we are faithless. Praise the Lord Jesus!
When someone comes to believe in these false gospels they never have any true means of forgiveness. They never feel as if their salvation is effectual. They never experience the bold truths of Scripture that they are secure in God through Christ and that nothing can snatch them out of His hand. In turn, they hold to the work of their mind, their heart, and their hands while “saying” that Christ is their savior. They are sometimes cavalier and sometimes too broken and scared to know what to do. Christ alone has provided forgiveness through His blood, there is no other work that can be prepared. There is no other sacrifice for sin. Some may suggest, “what does it hurt to go the extra mile?” Well, beloved, the extra mile is a sentence of death. It is unbelief. It is taking a walk for the sake of salvation and righteousness that God does not prescribe. Paul said to the Galatians that they would forever be cut off from Christ if they began to adopt other means of grace. Grasping at these false hopes belittles the grace of Jesus Christ and produces a continual guilt or an opposing pride in the heart. These give birth to either a perpetual worthlessness, a fake righteousness, or a prideful arrogance that all end in the same place: spiritual death.
The false gospel of man keeps many from knowing and holding fast to the enormous truth of God’s everlasting love for us. I remember a time when I felt far removed from God because of my self-evaluation only to be driven to depression, hopelessness, and despair with nothing to do but throw myself at the mercy of God who lifts helpless sinners to glory. Where are you today? What has your faith? Is it you? Is it your church? Is it your religion? Is it your works? Is it your faith? OR is it the grand good news of Jesus Christ who took ALL OF YOUR SIN on Himself and was judged in your place? Trust in this Jesus. The God of the bible who loves you and gave Himself for you. Otherwise, you rest in vain.
Something to think about,
For many years the invitational system has been utilized by evangelicals to ‘secure’ the knowledge of salvation among men. Sadly, this new-age and dangerous invention created a great number of false conversions throughout history. Judgment will be lined with many who have placed their faith in their faith as well as in their actions toward faith in prayers, isles, and even public professions. The root of such behavior has a mixed historical record, initially, these actions were created by and employed by Charles Finney, who in response to the rejection of his ordination, decided he could perform great revival meetings without the measure of scripture as the rule of faith. A quick glimpse at his writing on theology and his writings on revival and revivalism (The New Measures) will quickly inform the reader of his abhorrent apostasy from the orthodox faith of Christianity. The Lord gave me great pause in 2003 during an evangelistic meeting that the request from the pulpit to the congregants did not sound biblical. While I am unsure as to the nature of that specific call, I was certain that if I were to look at the apostle’s record, I would find no such appeal and action in the text of the Bible.
Later in 2009, a dear brother in the Lord presented a few arguments that not only assisted me in seeing the complete error of the practice but in also seeing the unscriptural assurance that followed such things. In dialog through the years, no passionate hatred has foamed from the mouths of professing Christians as to when they were questioned to give testimony of their assurance of salvation only to find that the hope they held so tightly was indeed human responses, not divine affection. Let me share three of Brother downings observations.
Assurance of salvation is seen in the culmination of the conversion experience. It is inherently related to the very nature of saving faith itself. The believing sinner, in the context of God-given faith and repentance, through the comprehension of Divine truth, the witness of the Spirit of God, and the realization of the dynamic of Divine grace in the life, possesses a reasonable certainty that he is a new creation in Christ Jesus and rejoices in the same. He is made aware of Go’ds unreserved love, which is constantly vouchsafed to him by the holy Spirit. This elementary assurance is:
Inferential – one may infer from various Scriptures that he is saved- that he has put his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (John 3:16, John 5:24; Acts 16:31; Rom 10:9-10; 13, 17)
Evidential – one bears the marks of grace or exhibits the characteristics of a converted life. (Rom 5:5, Rom 6:1-18; 8:11-16; Gal 5:16-18, 22-23; 1 Thess 2:13; Heb 12:14; 1 Jn 2:3-5; 1 Jn 3:3-10, 14)
Internal or immediate – the witness of the Holy Spirit to the reality of one’s spiritual life. (Rom 5:5, 8:1-16; 2 Cor 3:17-18)
Scripture has never revealed that one’s salvation is based on an isolate, momentary religious experience or a decision. Saving faith is NOT a point in history but rather it is a present reality. There is hardly any worse doctrine of demons than that of telling a man he can repent and believe and thus save himself at his pleasure and will. There is no biblical mandate, expression, doctrine, or narrative that shows anything of the sorts and before the early 1820’s it had never been seen or practiced in any version in the entirety of the history of the cosmos. One can easily place faith in faith and faith in actions and words, but beloved, this faith is not a saving faith for there is no object of that faith nor subject of that faith that can offer salvation. Scripture repeatedly reveals man’s hostility toward God’s supremacy and rule and even in an attempt to escape the damnation set before him, man will grasp the simplest means through which he could still control his own destiny and that which sound ‘right’ in his own ears lest he has to give up and place himself firmly in the hands of another for salvation. Those who still trust in themselves have a love affair with their salvation experience, not the Savior. The evidence of such things produces a demonic song of resistance to the truth of Jesus Christ and they will argue rather than testify. The argument will ensue with hurt or feelings of personal attack where Scripture reveals that those who are born of God through the Spirit will sing the song of testimony. They will herald the truth that they were blind but now can see. That they were slaves to sin but are now slaves to righteousness. They will praise God for His glorious grace in saving them from certain and just condemnation as they plead with others to hear the truth and believe on the name of Jesus Christ.
Traditionalist (as they call themselves) are very much close to apostasy as they have renounced the very statement of belief that Scripture prescribes. Do you? Do you trust in the experience of your salvation? Do you have faith in your expression of faith? Are you secure in Jesus Christ because of what you did, said, or prayed? If so, I implore you to repent of these false assurances and fully TAKE HOLD OF Jesus Christ who accomplished salvation fully, with no effort from anyone. Trust in Christ Jesus Alone and stand secure in the promises of God who saves, transforms, sanctifies, and surely will glorify His people for His Glory.
The good news of Jesus Christ is surely good news. Do not ignore it. Do not ignore the good news that has come down from heaven to tell you of Himself. What is this gospel? He is Jesus Christ, our righteousness, our salvation, our wisdom, our hope, our King!
Immutability. While many do not know the word, it refers to the essence of God’s innate character from which all things expound, whereby He is never-changing in any aspect at any time. Scripture teaches that God is the same yesterday, today and forever and therein expressly defines immutability. Because God is never changing it stands to reason that His nature, mission, purpose, and decrees have also never changed. In a basic sense, this is true of all doctrine found in scripture, and while some things can be mysterious, eventually God has made known the mystery but has not changed the message. This is certainly true of God’s message of redemption that is found throughout the entirety of Scripture. This message of redemption is commonly known as The Gospel, which comes from the historical use of “God Speak.” Originally, the New Testament used the word “evangel” (transliterated) which means, good tidings, or good news. Combining this small argument produces the fact that God has a good message for His people and it has never changed. Why then does it seem as if there are many “gospels” continually before the sons of men?
BECAUSE OF MAN
Man’s nature has always been contrary to God. (Romans 3) Even in the best of days, humanity is looking for ways to make a good thing better and because the nature of mankind is that of a sinner, broken and fallen from the glory of God, he (man) is rightly condemned. So, the outcome of such things is that when a man is inclined to move nearer to God, he is always going to add to the gospel and in doing so, produce “another” gospel, which is no gospel at all. (Galatians 1) Another reason so many gospels are in fresh supply is that man’s will is corrupted because of the sinfulness of his nature. He is unable to divide truth rightly, so he creates his own truth and works diligently to make this new truth work for his purposes. Man also has a desire to be in charge of his life and to be the god of his choices and future. Unbeknownst to him, this exercise is a result of the delusion given by Satan, (2 Cor 4) who blinds the eyes of unbelievers in order to keep them from seeing the glory of God. The works of Satan then, are always prominent, not just in the obvious evils of the world, but also among God’s people and in sometimes within the context of the local church. Jesus was not taking a ‘stab’ at sarcasm when called the Pharisees the sons of Satan. He said it because it was true. He wasn’t sarcastic, and He wasn’t trying to be rude but he was, teaching an unyielding theological doctrine found throughout Scripture. That doctrine is that many men who are religious and pious, with great fervor, are often the tools of the devil. Just as the Pharisees had twisted the use and instruction of God’s word, so do some this present day. The root of this activity is Satan, who produces the fruit of unbelief. I often refer to this unbelief as a “low view” of Scripture.
The Holy Writ is the single court of mediation for all things Holy, Divine, Revealed, etc. In other words, the Bible has the final word relating to the knowledge of God. John 1 teaches that God is fully known in Jesus Christ, who is the living Word, and Hebrews 1 teaches that God speaks only through His Son. When the picture of Scripture convenes on this matter, one can easily see that Paul (2 Tim 3:16) is in agreement with Jesus (John 17:3-8), who clearly teaches that eternal life is knowing God and His Son, through the Word that gives life, who is Jesus, who has left His Word for us. (long sentence) Without the word of God, and when the Scriptures are viewed as non-essential, another gospel is always birthed. And even with the text of Scripture, it is easy to conceive any variation of Good News pretextually. That is why the Bible must be read and understood collectively and within its context. Eternal life is at stake and anyone who is to gain life in Jesus Christ must the gospel through the hearing of it. So, what is this Gospel? What is the true Gospel that is taught in Scripture?
ALL OF GOD, ALL OF CHRIST
What this article hopes to produce is a clear picture of how the gospel is taught through the lens of the Bible while partly revealing some small aspects of how easy it is to ‘reduce’ the gospel to one or ‘lesser’ parts of the whole. The gospel is not some opportunity for man to peek into or “try” to see if it fits his life or ideals. The gospel has nothing to do with what any person can do to merit or obtain salvation. If it were any combination of such things, it would not be good news at all because man is, as soon to be discussed, unable to merit escape from sin, death, and condemnation. Salvation and the good news therein, is certainly and emphatically, all of God through all of Christ. This means that the purposes of God found in Scripture flow from His eternal decrees that have been set forth before the foundations of the world, namely, that God created the Heavens, Earth, and all that is in them for His glory. In turn, God receives glory when He redeems sinners, for whom Christ died, and the word of God’s Spirit through His word makes salvation effectual in the lives of lost men when they hear and then through hearing, they believe.
Humanity is unable to be saved apart from Divine intervention and restoration. This idea is not just some human idea, scripture teaches clearly that it is impossible for man to be saved in himself. In Acts 16:30-31 the Apostles respond to the question of, “What must I do to be saved?” by saying, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…” Notice that belief isn’t the savior, Jesus is the savior. This glorious truth is good news because it eliminates pride and control when one is confronted with the reality that there is nothing he can do to merit or establish eternal life on his own. The GOOD NEWS is that God has done the work and has made it certain and sure. Because of the fall of Adam and Eve, all humanity is now guilty and condemned under God’s righteousness (Justice), and without a miracle of redemption, all humanity will remain under wrath. Think about the following truths:
- Romans 1:18 teaches that God will pour His wrath out on ALL ungodliness.
- If anyone does not believe on Jesus Christ for salvation from sin (John 3:36), the wrath of God abides or remains on him.
- Sin is worthy of such judgment. This is right. In the garden of Eden, God declared death was the penalty of sin and this truth is clearly confirmed throughout the narrative of Scripture and even more so, by the teaching of the Apostles. (Romans 6:23)
- Without a supernatural rescue, all mankind is doomed to just condemnation because they love the darkness of sin and the darkness of self-reliance. (John 3:17-20) Man’s dilemma is grave and inescapable.
THE LOVE AND GRACE OF GOD
So now it can be clearly seen that man is in a very bad position. He is utterly dead in his sin. Some could argue that God could just remove many from the place of guilt, but righteousness requires penalty against sin. It is right for God to bring justice against sinners because to sin against God is evil. Remember the thought about salvation being “all of God?” This is where the reality of God’s work for the sake of sinners is clearly revealed. God’s love and grace toward sinners are the effectual agents in redemption. His desire and decree to save lost souls is the birthplace of salvation. From this point, the Genesis of the purposes of Christ’s advent, life, death, and resurrection secure the purchase of His people which is their redemption.
The grace of God holds a divine efficacy that does more than enables salvation; it also fully secures salvation for dead sinners. Grace secures the believer from the wrath of God, the consequences of sin, that is death, and rescues him from certain and just condemnation while placing the believer squarely within the gaze of God as if he had never sinned. Jesus delivers us from the wrath of God completely, and no purpose under heaven will prevail against the work of Jesus Christ in redemption. God is mighty to save! (1 Thess 1:10). Romans 5:12 and Romans 6:23 both reveal that while all men are dead in sin through Adam, many are made alive only through Jesus Christ, which is a gift of God alone. (See also Romans 5:16, 18)
ALONE MEANS ALONE
For many seasons, the gospel has been wrongly preached and compounded resulting in a very distorted view of the good news of God. There are some who would preclude salvation without works and others who restrict the grace of God and make it vain. There are several clarifying points, taught in scripture, that are not mutually exclusive:
- One must believe on Christ Alone for salvation. There is no salvation apart from saving faith in Jesus Christ alone. One must believe on Christ, fully and willfully, in order to experience salvation. Salvation does not come through any other means than faith alone in Jesus Christ. There is no work, no effort, no right living and no action that captures the eyes of God and causes His gaze to justify a sinner. Believing in and on Jesus Christ results in the often common phrase of “repenting and believing” the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All men who are saved from sin are so because they have no longer loved sin, but loved Christ; which is the point of faith.
- All who believe in Jesus Christ alone will be saved. This is not up for discussion and yes, while Scripture shows there is such a thing as “false belief”, that is not the point. All of those who believe are saved and only those who believe in Christ are saved.
- Belief is the action of man. Those who believe, and likewise repent, are actually the ones doing the believing and repenting. God does not believe for humanity, Jesus has never repented of sin, nor will He do so for an unbeliever. Vicarious faith is a heresy, God is not the one who believes, man is the one who believes God for salvation. Any man who desires to be forgiven must believe in the final and finished work of Jesus Christ. He must believe on his own, not through his parents, teachers, friends or congregation. All condemned souls will remain condemned if they do not believe in Jesus Christ. (See John 3 & Romans 3)
- Man is unable to believe. Those who believe are unable to do so in the mire of their sin. No human being who ever lives on this Earth will ever have the capacity or desire to trust in Jesus Christ. While this seems contradictory to the previous sound and biblical statements, in like manner, scripture teaches all four of these things simultaneously. To deny either of them is to make a false premise and lead some to a false pretense of what the gospel teaches. Humanity is opposed to God, hates Him and is unable to comprehend His righteousness without a divine intervention. Unbelief is a willful act of the natural state of man. It is a desire that flows from the center of man’s heart and mind. He hates God and does not submit to Him. (John 3 & Romans 3)
See how desperately lost humanity needs the good news of God? In order to be saved, a sinner must do what he is unable to do. He must place faith in Jesus Christ alone and must be empowered, no, created to believe. Man CANNOT come to faith in Jesus Christ except the Lord bring Him to life. Consider these verses:
John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
1 Cor 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
Hearing the words of Christ is the vehicle through which the Spirit of God gives ears to hear and believe. (Romans 10:17) Jesus in John 3 makes it very clear that one cannot see or enter the kingdom unless that one is born again. “You must be born again.” How is this good news you may ask? It is good news because God has not only provided the ultimate end of salvation in His power, but He has also provided the means through His power. This is good news! When one hears the gospel, as the Spirit gives understanding, he is brought to life! He believes, he sees, he loves, he repents, he holds, he strives, he comes to Christ, he longs for prayer and fellowship… because God has made him alive! This is such a great salvation! God has never told a man to meet Him half way. God has never said, “I will come to you if you first come to me?” God has never provided a possible “good news” through Jesus Christ, the possible savior. No, God the Son is the author and finisher of “our” faith. He started it and He will finish it. Crying out to God for eternal life is a manifestation of the glorious work of God from eternity past and it will be sealed until the day of the Lord Jesus for all eternity future.
Believing and repenting and all that comes from trusting in Christ, including the faith, is a work of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 reveals this very explicitly. You are saved by grace, through faith and this (faith/grace) is not of your own doing. If it were, one could boast, but here all boasting is in Christ. So often many stand argumentatively on these things as they stand their ground to defend their pleasure and pride in knowing they did what is right in the eyes of the Lord by believing. Beloved, be very careful. FEW if ANY of these who would stand against the word of God and place their faith in the traditions of men are in Christ, and if God does not do a work in them, they never will be.
Historically, this truth has always been part of the protestant faith. Of course, Jesus and Paul passionately teach this as “THE GOSPEL” of God, but so have countless many. The Baptist faith from antiquity to date continue to hold such truths as foundations of the gospel:
- A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour. (BFM2000, Article IV. Salvation subsection A. Regeneration.
- Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, He is pleased in His appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving to them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.Although the gospel be the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace, and is, as such, abundantly sufficient thereunto; yet that men who are dead in trespasses may be born again, quickened or regenerated, there is moreover necessary an effectual insuperable work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul, for the producing in them a new spiritual life;8 without which no other means will effect their conversion unto God.9
8 Ps. 110:3; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 1:19,20
9 John 6:44; 2 Cor. 4:4,6 (SLBC1689)
FAITH NOT ALONE
The grand gesture of God’s sovereign grace produces that which He has decreed before the foundations of the world. Namely, the salvation of a lost people for whom Christ died and all the works that flow from such gracious affection. These occasionally are called good works, or evidences of regeneration. As John writes his gospel, he points the apex of his pen toward the proclamation that “these things were written” in order that you would “believe” and so believing, “have eternal life.” (John 20:31) His first epistle (1 John 1) reveals the work of God (John 3, Ephesians 2:10) as the fruits of the light of Jesus Christ in the life of those who profess faith in Him. Faith is never to be believed ‘in’. Faith can never be the object of faith nor can the fruit of faith be a guarantee of salvation. Jesus Christ alone is the guarantee of salvation and He alone will produce the fruits of His work in His people. (Galatians 5:22)
If there is a BETTER news that this, it would be difficult to establish such a claim. God is sovereign and omnipotent! Be glad that He has saved you in His way and through His means: through the life, holiness, death, resurrection and glory of Jesus Christ the Lord!
What a savior.
Social change is everyone’s dream. Well, most people desire to see a better community, fairness, affection and unity in all areas of life. OK, let’s be honest, ‘some’ people do. The question then is how can social change be found? A dear brother in the faith has been tasked with the burden to have this conversation specifically on racial tensions, racially divided fairness etc. Gladly, he is a marvelous man of God and has the heart to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and for that I am thankful. The conversation is also necessary, but what is the actual change agent? I pray this little-bulleted article will help keep all who desire such a dialog on task without creative polarizing generalizations that sweep vital parts under the rug, or worse, out of the door.
The Body is Manifold
God has built His church and has placed the parts of the body as He sees fit. (1 Cor 12:18) All parts of the body are important for the building up of the body, so, there is no one person in the church of Jesus Christ who is not there by the will of God for the purpose of each other. This is vital in order to have a right understanding of the matter of racism. The body of Christ is not comprised of white Christians and black Christians etc., it is made up of believers only, whose identity is not in culture or color, but Christ. While some Christians are blind to the problems of hate, racism isn’t like all other sins in that when it is allowed to breed among the people of God, it voids the power of Christ and His cross.
Change Happens Only in Christ
Throughout the ages of our country (the United States) civil liberty and equality as been on the lips of men. Even during the expansion of colonies, white men stood side by side with black men to cry out about the injustice of slavery. The reason God does this is because when someone is birthed by God into the Kingdom, they are wide awake and no longer slumber on issues of hatred, especially among the church. Jesus says that all the laws of the prophets are hinged on two: the love of God with all of one’s heart, mind and soul and the love of each other in like manner, as one loves himself. Therefore, to turn a blind eye to blatant sin in the church is an egregious sin. So how does the church affect change? By preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ who saves through the hearing of His word (Romans 10:17) and then by making sure people are held accountable to living out the gospel. (1 John 3) Only then we will see actual change in the community of faith. Whether we see change in the world will be determined by the overarching reach of the gospel within the hearts of men.
The Issue isn’t the Issue
Racism is not the issue. Sin is the issue. Bishop Clark in Oakland said very plainly during our talks on this matter in 2009, “Racism isn’t a skin issue, it’s a sin issue.” That resonated greatly. But the question then is what is the issue? Well, the church has failed. It has failed in many ways, let’s name a few:
- Failed to uphold Scripture as the final authority over the church.
- Failed to exercise church discipline when sin is found within the church.
- Failed to keep to the task of submitting all things related to the new life to God but relegating such efforts to the human will, and by doing so, puts the burden back on men to do what they cannot do apart from God.
- Failed by turning a blind eye to racism as if it doesn’t exist.
- Failed by having a quick answer instead of actually listening to others who are the body (remember point one)
- Failed by being segregated in the first place due to cultural distinctions. (This breeds racial division).
- Failed to honor the Lord with their hearts by loving their neighbor.
- Failed to make disciples and teach the nations to obey Christ.
- ….. this list could keep going.
- Failed to preach the power of God unto salvation!
The issue with sin is that all men are slaves to sin. Even those well-meaning pious groups of pale folks back in early history who preached a gospel while living a lie and owning slaves. But God was eventually gracious to “some” of them, who renounced such things and came to know and to believe that all men in Christ Jesus are one body.
Saying, ________ isn’t the Answer
There are many things that are said that are not “the” answer. Sadly, our emotions and hearts are destined to become fleshly when we are passionate about being heard. Here are a few things that need to just disappear from our language because they don’t even work to open the issue to the eyes of people, they just place the Church in more division:
- White men are ignorant and shallow.
- Black men are ignorant and shallow.
- White men have greater access to Christ.
- Just preach the gospel.
- If you don’t believe what I’m saying, you’re racist.
- You can’t see my pain because you’re privileged.
- You can’t understand my argument because you’re uneducated.
These statements have been said in the last month in my presence and in my inbox. They are not working toward a solution but rather create more division. The quickest way to make someone ignore what is said is to create a strawman that they are not willing to try and put back together. Those who are in Christ must be willing to have engaging conversations that are not fixed to 140 characters or quick statements. Food for thought must be given in such a way that it is actually engaging within the reality of empiricism, not ambiguity. To say (or think) that any person is grounded in a certain set of beliefs because of their experiences is bearing false witness about their heart and defaming the grace of God. Stating what scripture says is good, but making a dogma out of one’s own experiences is wicked. The example is this. If I want you to know my heart, it is best I say to you, “I feel like there are many that just don’t see the wickedness of hatred and racism. For instance _____, _____, _____.” Because if I say, “Anyone who doesn’t see my hurt or this sin is an idiot”, well, I’ve just sinned against you, violated scripture, exposed my heart as fleshly and spoken not out of the Spirit.
The difference comes when there are actual statements by actual people who need to be corrected and called out. For instance, if I say, “just preach the gospel” and it isn’t actually a thought out, faith-based response, then someone should call me out for clarity. If I stand on the fact that it means a dialog on racism shouldn’t happen or doesn’t matter, then I must be brought to the table of correction. If I say such things because I hate people without my skin tone, then I must be removed from the life of all those who claim Christ. But if I mean it to say what Paul meant it to say in 1 Corinthians 1, that there was no other purpose in life than to preach the Gospel of Jesus and to do something else would cause the cross to lose its power, then I am right. The implications of the Gospel of God are far and deep. So let’s stop just using simple cliches and start teaching, learning and living as Christ enables us to live.
Living the Gospel Mission
Living in the light includes not only loving each other, our brothers and our enemies of all skin tones. It also includes the continued discipleship of those who profess to be in Christ and those who don’t. Making disciples of those who are not yet walking in Christ is called Evangelism. It is long overdue for the Christians of the land to be known for their supernatural affection and obedience to Christ. It is time for believers to speak out against sin at all costs. Not so that people will change, we’ll cover that later, but so that it will be clearly seen what is tolerable and what is not. December 19, 2016 I spoke at a Unity Conference hosted by the MLK Observance Committee in Evans County. During this message I gave several applications that must take place if the church is to see hearts change in our culture:
- WE must be in unity. Same faith, same Christ, same message, same mission.
- We must be intimate. I can love you, but if I continually am divided in my life, I am not a true friend.
- We must be prayerful. We know that there is no way anything will happen for good if God does not do it, so we pray for that to happen WHILE we work and labor toward it.
- We must be missional. In doing so, we need to recognize that unity is not the point, it’s the glory of God.
- We must be real. This means that we must be willing to accept the fact that those who hate Jesus Christ will hate each other. Back to #1
- We must be accountable. If we are to be the LIGHT in darkness, then we have to be accountable as commanded in scripture. First in our own hearts, second in our homes, then with our congregation and finally with each other. This applies that when someone promotes racism and hate, I am supposed to rebuke and correct it; every time!
- We must continue the conversation. WE can’t just meet four times a year and say, “Look, we love each other.” No, are we serving our fellow siblings? Are we being served by them?
- WE must stop calling those who look like us, “our people.” This is not true. Only those who are born of God are my people, everyone else is unified as objects of wrath.
When we live, it is not us who lives but Christ who lives within us. (Galatians 2:20-21) So we hold fast to Him because He has held fast to us!
The Church is the Agent
The Civil Rights movement did little to blend racial harmony, but it did a great thing to open the eyes of the country to the truth of the matter. Those living in the MidWest had little experience with the bigotry that plagued the SouthEast, and the movement made it all clearer. But now 53 years later, the unity and love for humanity are still absent. While laws have protected basic civility, the overarching bigotry is still perpetuated by the very people who are supposed to stand against it. No matter how much work is done in the culture, without the church being a LIVING LIGHT and LASTING SALT, there is no hope.
Considering some of the application previously mentioned. We must hold a light to darkness and we must hold it accountable while remembering that it is all for God’s glory! I am often disturbed by the vast number of agencies and groups, including Christian conferences that operate outside the local church. It’s like a rally, everyone agrees, but there is no lasting intimacy. We have intimacy with our churches (I pray) and we have the opportunity for intimacy in our communities. So, the local bodies all over the nation are the central connection points for such a task. This little article will in no way even rightly touch on everything, but it is a reminder of things we should not forget. Most importantly, let’s stop looking at other Christians as our enemies and rejoice that God has put some of us together for this grand task of giving Him glory through His gospel that transforms the lives of some people.
Church Discipline is the Key
That transformation is indeed supernatural and it is accountable to the local assembly. When there is racism found in the church it should be approached and corrected just as any sin would. If someone cheats on their spouse, the church responds with warnings, rebuke, encouragement, and discipline. If the sin continues, the entire body, widely in an area are to be warned of the sins of such a person so they do not contaminate other congregations. The same is true with racism. The problem though is its sometimes hard to see it. Maybe we could consider the following:
- Are people often offended by the discussion of racial tension and the call to unity?
- Does their social media presence appear to be in favor of racially divisive and hateful things?
- Does their speech exude bigotry?
- Does their life exemplify segregation?
- Is it you?
What if we find it? What if we find it, call it out, and the person wasn’t even aware? This could be the case. But, if we have approached them sinfully like I mentioned before, then we have lost the opportunity to be a change agent and a disciple maker. But repentance brings forgiveness and God is honored in restored relationships. Let’s rejoice in the Lord when someone sees and let’s rejoice in the Lord when we see what He has shown us in our own hearts.
Division will Birth from Righteousness
One final application I left until now is that when God’s people stand united and intimate in Christ against any darkness, it will cause great division. Some who were thought to be brethren will depart. Others who we thought to be bigots will join the praise. In the end, standing for righteousness has always created division with the world. Be forewarned.
A Final Thought About “My People”
We were not a people but now we are a people because God has chosen to call us His own and has made us alive in Jesus Christ. Let us rejoice in that and endure until the end. As we part the sea of iniquity in our own hearts by the Grace of God, be ever mindful that even those who seem to be in this conversation may not like it when “others” who are not “their people” begin to talk. This is a sad reality and reveals an even bigger bigotry than is usually displayed. It says, “Our people want to stay our people and have nothing of ‘you people’ involved in it…” Sometimes it is because we cannot fathom that anyone could understand our position. But God gave Paul, from the tribe of Benjamin, the heart to understand a pagan life that he had never even witnessed. Beloved, we are the people of God and in Him, we are able to move mountains!
For His Glory by His Grace,
Pastor Tippins serves as Pastor of GraceTruth Baptist Church. More information about GraceTruth and more teaching can be found at GraceTruth.org
I have a problem. Every time I think (which is all day long), I feel compelled to bring every thought to a final point and exhaust all arguments. Because of this, I am often very verbose, and lack the discipline to say things in part due to the fear that I may misapply by redaction, and lead someone to “hear what I have not said.” So, this post, by the Lord’s grace, will be a beginning of the end of such things. I have for months been peeling through my thoughts about saving faith and what that means for the joy and peace of the believer. So, those of you who read this and say I’ve missed so much, you are right. Add your voice to the conversation and as the Lord wills, I will do the same.
Faith is Real
Faith for many people appears to be a mythological or mystical experience. While some facets of faith may impose such things, faith is a very tangible thing. It is a constant hoping, striving, longing, and holding for and toward something that is not currently seen, but is certain and true. Faith is an ongoing reality and it always has an object. For someone to say, “I have faith” and have no object of faith, have a blind faith. Blind faith is to believe in something but not know what that something is. Real faith is a constant believing in Jesus Christ and all that He is and has done. Jesus Christ is the object of saving faith, in all ways.
Faith is Alive
The writing of James and Paul have been at odds among higher critics and theologians throughout history. While the ‘astute’ reader sees no conflict, the teaching of both Romans and James is true. Faith alone gives life and Faith is not alone as a dead single experience. Faith is a living reality. As people hold to a point in history when they did something, they mistake that doing with believing, while mistaking cognitive affirmation as faith. While all of that embroils faith and belief, the faith of the believer is a living faith, not a historical point or logical affirmation. This means that faith is always at work, it doesn’t get put aside, but rather is exercised during doubt, temptation, unbelief, fear, hopelessness, good days, bad days and every season in between. The faith of Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Peter, John, and Paul all reveal that all of life is lived by faith. To live otherwise is sin. A believer who lives a life of faith is one who trusts and rests in the LIFE of the faithful one, Jesus Christ the Righteous. The believer’s life is lived in Christ who is the centrifugal power and author of all good things.
Faith is a Gift
One has to realize that faith in itself is a gift of God, given only through Jesus Christ. Faith is not something that the natural man, one who is still dead in sin, can accomplish. Jesus teaches in John 3 that those born in the flesh is flesh. Paul reveals faith as the gift of God in Romans 3, giving all glory to God as the one who is the “justifier” of all who believe. If God is the one making the declaration of justification as an act of mercy, then the work and fruit of faith is also His. Paul teaches this in Ephesians 2 explicitly, that faith is a gift of God so that no one can boast. In like manner, Jesus (John 3) tells Nicodemus that salvation is the work of God, and that faith (part of good works) is carried out by God. While some hate this truth, those who are saved love this truth because it no longer puts our rest in our ability, but allows the beloved to rest in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Alone.
Faith is the Security
This sufficiency is the point of faith. Jesus Christ has done all that is required for salvation, righteousness, and satisfying the judgment of God. He has secured salvation apart from man’s will and ability and God has granted faith to those who have been born of Him by His Spirit. (John 1) Faith IN the person of Jesus Christ brings security in all things which also reveals a peace that “surpasses all understanding.”
This security is the security of LIFE. Knowing that eternity is secure in Jesus Christ is a grand reality! Peace comes when one has faith that Christ has secured this peace. It is known experientially when life seems to constantly remind us of our sin and separation and in these moments, when we hold fast, pleading and praising the Lord for “His glorious grace”, we see the glorious power of Jesus, who is OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Eph 1) This security of life is the birthplace of joy! JOY in Jesus Christ is the power of God that wipes the fear away and the horror of uncertainty, and brings HOPE in times of hopelessness. So often Christians are distraught concerning their salvation, or they are dull, hoping in their own actions and responses, rather than hoping in Jesus Christ alone. There is no joy where there is no hope, and there is no hope where there is no joy of certainty. Confidence at its root means “with faith.” So, confidence in Christ is wrapped up with HIS giving security of life, joy, hope and ENDURANCE.
Do you see the place now where I desire to preach/write for hours on these glorious and beautiful things! May the Lord place in us the desire to get into His word and seek these truths for our growth and for His glory! Faith is ALL OF CHRIST, and none of man. While we exercise faith, it is clearly a gift from God and most assuredly, we have the peace that comes from faith in that the object of our faith is immovable, eternal, and omnipotent. Jesus in all His glorious power is able to do all that is required to keep us in Himself. I have recently been learning the song, “He will hold me fast” to be sung during our assembly. The truths of this sing to my soul, and my soul is at peace and “it is well.” This truth is taught by Jesus Christ in John 6, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” Until we talk again, let’s keep working out our faith by the power of God, which is trusting in ALL OF CHRIST, all the time, for all of eternity.
“When I fear my faith will fail Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold Through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold He must hold me fast”
Those He saves are His delight Christ will hold me fast
Precious in His holy sight He will hold me fast
He’ll not let my soul be lost His promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost He will hold me fast
For my life He bled and died Christ will hold me fast
Justice has been satisfied He will hold me fast
Raised with Him to endless life He will hold me fast
Till our faith is turned to sight When he comes at last
He will hold us fast beloved. HE WILL!
As another Christmas comes to a close, the effects of the flesh and fallenness of humanity are very visible. The very idea that the Christmas holiday centers on the advent of Jesus Christ into this world is a bit offputting for those who read his word often and are amazed by his glory, beauty, and grace. Laying all that aside, let’s suppose for a moment that we did indeed celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as a culture. What is it that we are celebrating? What is it that we believe happened some 2000 years ago? Who is this Jesus? And why does it matter?
I could create a list of numerous ways that Christmas reveals a disregard for the teachings of the New Testament. The way the holiday is exercised and celebrated in our culture promotes materialism, breeds covetousness, expresses entitlement, harbors resentment, purveys a compulsion of reciprocation even when one has no resources to do so, and is often a reflection of one’s stewardship, affection, drive, and heart. A better use of a Christian’s time and resources would be to honor Christ by helping each other, sharing the gospel, and living with a divine purpose and power that could only come from Christ. For those who are in Christ Jesus, the celebration of his Advent includes the celebration of his living righteously before God. The life of Jesus Christ in obedience to the holy commands of Scripture is what gives his sacrifice the value of atonement. Jesus Christ can redeem his people because his death held power and value and worth that pleases God the Father and appeases his righteous wrath.
Jesus Christ was sent to earth so that he might save sinners. So, if Jesus is to save sinners, how he was conceived and born is just as essential as how he lived and died. Jesus birth is of the gravest importance because if he was not born sinless, he could not die sinless. If Jesus the Christ did not die pure, he was raised from the grave for nothing except to ascend into heaven only to face the judgment of God. While many people would say that the virgin birth is a given, there are pastors, even this weekend who have refuted the validity and the importance of Jesus being born of a virgin and conceived of the spirit. Consider these few thoughts and do not seek a “medicine” for your religion by simply glazing over deep things of God that are plain in the Holy Writ.
When the Things taught in Scripture are invalidated by those who stand in pulpits, what they do not realize is that they are undermining the very authority of God who speaks through Scripture. By doing this, they allow a listener to come to terms with whatever doctrine they do not like by dismissing it as myth. While things in Scripture can be difficult to believe because of their mystery, they are not up for consideration without calling into question every aspect of the Scriptures which include salvation. The very nature of God as revealed through his word becomes fair game, and a reader can now discern, based on his intellect, as to whether or not God’s revelation is through Scripture. God promised the “seed of a woman” would crush the head of the serpent and He who is able, not conditioned toward sin, is Jesus Christ. Dismissing the validity of the virgin birth creates havoc against ALL the promises found in scripture and eliminates all hope for the elect of God by argument.
The atonement is necessary because of the sinfulness of humanity. 1 John 1:7 teaches that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all unrighteousness. This cleansing is not a “mending” or a “betterment,” but it is a grand security that one who was once born of the flesh in Adam, dead in his trespasses and sins, has been made alive through Jesus Christ and are now At One with the Father. Man in the natural flesh cannot take away his brother’s sins. It is impossible. This idea is the heresy of absolution perpetrated by the Roman church for centuries. God promised the Messiah, who would be the victor of His people through the sufficient sacrifice. A part of such atoning worth is that Jesus Christ propitiated for us, that is He satisfied the wrath of God’s righteousness for us in full. If Christ was not born of God but had an Earthly Father, He could not satisfy God’s judgment, and He could not bring us to the Father.
TITLE OF JESUS
Jesus is His name, Christ is His title, Lord is His office! He is Jesus, the Holy Anointed One of God who is the Ruler of all things! If Jesus is a mere man infused with Spiritual power, then He is not the Christ, for He did not come from God. If He is just a man conceived in adultery, then He is worthy of damnation like the rest of humanity and is subject to the Law of God as a guilty person; thus He could not be the Lord of the Law. (Jesus said He was the Lord of the Sabbath) So the very name of Jesus, His very title is embroiled into the essence of His birth.
So just in a review of the Scripture, the Atoning power of Christ’s death and the name and title of Jesus we can see that the virgin birth is of grave importance. Think deeply how the teaching of the Bible would be moot if Jesus conception were not divine. Consider your justification. How can God declare us justified if there is no worthy sacrifice for sin? How are we to be made and matured to the “likeness of Christ” if He is just an excellent and highly moral man? What reconciliation is in effect toward God if Jesus needed His debt to paid as a sinner? (Hebrews 7:26-27) How can we be adopted as sons and daughters in Christ Jesus if Jesus is a brother in the lineage of Adam? How then can we have a High Priest who continues the work of advocacy if Jesus is just like all the other priests of man? How is God not a liar if He promised “Emmanuel” (God with us) through the Son and He sent a man to do the work of perfection? What about John’s gospel that says, “These things are written that you may believe on the Son and have life in His name” if Jesus is not the Word of God made flesh?
People calmly and passively accept anything they hear with no discrimination (discernment), and it is the time to hope not with our eyes and ears. Jesus is the God of Heaven who created all the cosmos and who came to Earth through the womb HE created and took human form while remaining sinless. Jesus had no sin, but He became sin by taking on the guilt of all who believe so that God would be JUST in forgiving them. So, as Satan acts out this grand play of deception in your presence as the scene downplays the necessity of the virgin birth, scream BLASPHEMY and with tears plead with those around you to hear the truth. Who might purvey such a damnable lie? Many who sit in the most famous pulpits of our nation. 1 John 4:1-3 teaches that anyone who denies the truth of Christ deity and humanity is anti-christ. So those who preach such things are to avoided and rebuked as publicly as they spew such treacherous heresy. Lord have mercy.
Jesus is GOD, evidenced by Scripture and vindicated by His resurrection. Jesus is also MAN, evidenced by His birth, and His crucifixion. Know Him, Love Him, Worship Him… He is God become man so we might be made worthy of the presence of Father blameless.
…Pondering the ineffable glory until I see Him face to face!
It absolutely amazes me the number of individuals who argue that works of faith and good deeds justify them before God. While I have 1000 points that can be argued to the biblical teaching of justification, I stand befuddled that so many people actually believe that they live a life so pleasing to God that He takes note and “credits their obedience” as justification.
Peeling through my resources I came across Dr. Edward’s short to-the-point essay on the matter of good works… so enjoy.
That those who are God’s workmanship are created in Christ Jesus to good works; or, in plainer terms, all those who belong to God, and are created anew by His Spirit, are enabled by virtue of that new creation to perform good works. In pursuance of this proposition, I will show —
1. What good works are.
2. What are the qualifications of them.
3. Why they must be done.
4. Apply all.
I. That we may understand WHAT IS MEANT BY GOOD WORKS, we must know that there are habits of grace, and there are acts and exertments of grace; and these two are different from one another, because these acts flow from those habits. These acts are two-fold, either inward or outward. The inward are such as these — a fear and reverence of the Almighty, a love of God and all goodness, and a love of our neighbours (which is called the work and labour of love, Hebrews 6:10), which, though they be not outwardly acted, yet are properly the works of the soul, for the not producing them into outward action hinders not their being works. For the mind of man may as properly be said to work as the body; yea, if we consider the true nature of things, we may rightly assert that the soul is the principal worker in man, and that all the outward exertments of virtue in the body flow from the mind of man, and take thence their denomination. These outward acts of grace which are exerted by the members of the body, and are apparent in the practices of holy men, are the good works generally spoken of in the Scripture. They are no other than visible exertments and actual discoveries of the inward graces before mentioned. Thus our reverencing of God is discovered by our solemn worshipping Him, and that in the most decent and humble manner. Our faith in Him, and love to Him, are showed by our readiness to do His will and obey all His commands. It is true good works in general comprehend all works morally good, whether they be adjusted to the law of nature or the revealed law; but I shall chiefly and principally consider good works as they are conformable to the revealed rule of the gospel. And so I proceed to the —
II. Thing I undertook, viz., to show WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS OF THESE GOOD WORKS, that is, what is absolutely required in these works to make them good. I shall speak only of those qualifications which are requisite in evangelical good works, namely, such as are necessary to eternal salvation.
1. In a good work it is requisite that the person who doth it be good. By which I mean not only that he be inwardly good and righteous, according to that of our Saviour, make the tree good and his fruit good (Matthew 12:33); but I understand this also, that the person who performs good works be one that is reconciled to God; for if the person be not accepted, the work cannot be good. It is said, “The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering” (Genesis 4:4). First unto Abel, and then to his offering. The sacrificer must be accepted before the sacrifice.
2. As the works are good because of the person, so both the person and works are good because of the righteousness of Christ, in whom God is well pleased. “He hath made us acceptable to the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). What we do is favourably received as we are considered in Christ. By virtue of our relation to Him, who is our Righteousness, our performances are accounted righteous. This qualification of a good work the devout Mr. Herbert assigns, saying, “It is a good work if it be sprinkled with the blood of Christ.”
3. A good work in the gospel sense and meaning is a work done by the grace of God and the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
4. It must be done in faith, for the apostle tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), and, consequently, as he adds in another place, “what is not of faith is sin.”
5. In all actions that are really good there must be lawful and right means used. Acts of justice and honesty must be clone by ways that are lawful and good. We must not be just among ourselves by being unjust to others. I must not steal that I may be charitable to the poor. I must not promote the best cause either by persecution or by rebellion. Though it be God’s cause, it ought not to be fought with the devil’s weapons.
6. Good works must be adjusted to a right rule; they must be according to the will and commandment of God. They must not be after our own inventions, but according to this Divine command (Micah 6:8). That is good which God requires.
7. Every good work must proceed from a right principle; and by a right principle I mean these following things —
(1) That our works proceed from sufficient knowledge. No action done ignorantly is good. He that acts without knowledge cannot be said to act morally, much less Christianly. We must first know that what we do is our real duty, and we must also understand why it is so. Religion must not be blind; reason must always go first, and carry the light before all our actions, for the heart and life cannot be good if the head be not enlightened. The understanding must make way for the will. Which brings me to the next particular.
(2) Good works must proceed from a free and voluntary principle. As he that acts ignorantly, so he that acts unwillingly cannot be said to act well. To the will is to be imputed whatsoever is ill or well done by us. There is nothing good or bad but what is matter of choice and consultation.
(3) With the understanding and will must be joined the affections. And this includes in it these following things —
(a) Integrity of heart. As servants are bid to discharge their duty in singleness of heart (Colossians 3:22).
(b) An entire love of God is required in every good work. All our actions must flew from this principle, for if we love not God, we cannot do the works of God.
(c) There must be an entire love, not only of God, but of goodness itself, and the intrinsic excellency and perfection that is in it. There must be a delight and pleasure in the ways of God, and in all those good and virtuous actions which we do, and that for their own sakes.
(d) Not only a love of God, but a fear of Him, must be a principle from whence all our holy actions are to proceed, a fear of acting contrary to the purity of God’s nature, a fear of displeasing and offending Him. Joseph acted out of this excellent principle when he cried out, “How shall I do this wickedness and sin against God?”(e) Humility is another principle from whence we must act. Every good and righteous man lays his foundation low; he begins his works with a submissive and self-denying spirit; he proceeds with lowliness of mind, and a mean opinion of himself, and of all he can do.
(f) Alacrity, joy, and cheerfulness, and so likewise a due warmth, zeal, and ardency, are other principles from whence our good works should spring. We must with gladness undertake and perform them, and we must serve the Lord with a fervency of spirit (Romans 12:11).
8. This is another indispensable qualification of a good work, that it be done for a good end. As there are fountains or principles of actions, so there are ends or designs belonging to them all. You must necessarily distinguish between principles and ends if you would speak properly and significantly. Fountains and springs of actions are those from whence the actions flow; ends and aims are those to which the actions tend. There is a vast difference between these. I have told you what the former are; now I will set before you the latter. The right ends which ought to be in all evangelical actions (for of such I intend chiefly to speak) are these three — our own salvation, the good of others, and in pursuance of both God’s glory. This was it which spoiled and blasted the most solemn and religious duties of the Pharisees. When they did their alms, they sounded a trumpet before them, that they might have glory of men (Matthew 6:2). Whey they prayed, they did it standing in the corners of the streets, that they might be seen of men (Matthew 5:5). Likewise when they fasted, they disfigured their faces, that they might appear unto men to fast (Matthew 5:16). Yea, all their works they did to be seen of men (Matthew 23:5). All was to gain esteem and reputation, all was for applause and vainglory. This wrong end and intention made all they did sinful. When I say all our works are to be done for the ends above named, I do not by this wholly exclude all other ends. As two of the great aims of our actions, namely, our own happiness and that of others, are subordinate to the third, God’s glory, so there are other lesser and inferior ends which are subordinate to all these. He evidences this by such ways as these — He never lets these temporal things stand in competition with, much less in opposition to, those which are greater and higher. He never so seeks his own as not to seek the things which are Jesus Christ’s. He doth not one with the neglect of the other.
9. To comprehend all, a good work is that which is done in a right manner. Good actions are such as have good circumstances and qualities, and evil actions are such as have undue and evil ones.
III. Having instructed you in the nature of good works, I am to show you, in the next place, HOW REASONABLE A THING IT IS THAT WE SHOULD TAKE CARE TO DO THESE GOOD WORKS. I will present you with those arguments and motives which I apprehend are most powerful to incite you to this. First, I might mention the reason in the text, where first we are said to be created unto good works, that we might walk in them. This is the very design of the spiritual creation or new birth, that we should exert all these acts of piety and religion which I have before mentioned. It is the purpose of heaven in regenerating us that we should walk in the ways of holiness, and conscientiously perform all the parts of our duty towards God, towards men, and towards ourselves. Again, it is said, we are said to be created in Christ Jesus to this. This is the end of Christ’s undertakings. “He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Moreover, it is added that God hath before ordained these works. This was the good will and pleasure of the blessed Trinity in their eternal consults before man was made. Why then should we, as much as in us lieth, frustrate the purpose and decree of heaven concerning us I Further, this (as the apostle saith of sanctification) is the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3). This is that which is commended to us by the example of the saints; they have all been zealous practisers of good works. This is the grand evidence of the truth of our inward graces. This is that whereby you show your thankfulness to God for your election and redemption. I add, this is that which is the great ornament and lustre of our Christian profession; this will set forth and commend our religion to the world. But there are these two arguments yet behind which I will more amply insist upon — good works are necessary to salvation; good works glorify God.
1. Though our good works are conditions of salvation, yet they are not conditions as to God’s election, for He decreed from eternity out of His free will and mercy to save lost man, without any consideration of their good works. Predestination to life and glory is the result of free grace, and therefore the provision of works must be excluded. The decree runs not thus, I choose thee to life and blessedness on supposal or condition of thy believing and repenting; but thus, I freely choose thee unto eternal life, and that thou mayest attain to it, I decree that thou shalt believe and repent.
2. Though faith and obedience be conditions of happiness, yet the performance of them is by the special help and assistance of a Divine and supernatural power. God, who decrees persons to good works, enables them to exert them.
3. Nor are they conditions in this sense that they succeed in the place of perfect obedience to the law which the covenant of works required. I am convinced that no such conditions as these are consistent with the new covenant, the covenant of grace. Works, if they be considered as a way leading to eternal life, are indeed necessary to salvation; they are necessary by way of qualification, for no unclean thing shall enter into heaven. Graces and good works fit us for that place and state; they dispose us for glory. We are not capable of happiness without holiness. It may be some will not approve of saying, We are saved by good works, but this they must needs acknowledge that we cannot be saved without them; yea, we cannot be saved but with them. Some are converted and saved at the last hour, at their going out of the world; but even then good works are not wanting, for hearty confession of sin, and an entire hatred of it, sincere and earnest prayers, hope and trust in God, desire of grace, unfeigned love, and zealous purposes and resolves, all these are good works, and none can be saved without them. In the next place, good works are for God’s glory, therefore they must be done by us. As I have showed before that it is a necessary qualification of good works that they be done out of an intention to glorify God, so now it will appear that this is one great reason why we are obliged to perform them, viz., because thereby God is glorified. “Let your light so shine before men,” saith our Saviour, “that others seeing your works may glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The light of our works came from God, and it must be reflected to him again.
(1) Because of the wicked, that you may stop their mouths, and take away all occasion of speaking evil against you. Again, for the sake of good men, we are obliged to be very careful how we walk; we are concerned to do all the good we can, that they may not be scandalized and hurt by our evil examples, and consequently that God’s name may not be dishonoured thereby. By our holy and exemplary lives, we may be serviceable to stir up the hearts of the godly to praise God on our behalf. “They glorified God in me,” saith the apostle, of those Christian Jews who took notice of his miraculous conversion, and of his extraordinary zeal in preaching the faith (Galatians 1:24).
IV. By way of inference, from what hath been said of good works, we may correct the error of the Antinomians, we may confute the falsehood of the Roman Church, we may make a discovery of other false apprehensions of men concerning good works; we are hence also obliged to examine whether our works be good; and lastly, if we find them to be such, we must continue in the practice of them.
1. What I have delivered on this subject is a sufficient check to the Antinomian error, viz., that because Christ hath satisfied for us, therefore there is no need of good works; Christ’s obedience serves for ours. What need we do anything since He hath done all? And all this is conformable to the doctrine of our blessed Lord and Saviour, who tells us that He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it, and make it more complete and perfect. By His doctrine and practice He taught the world that the moral law obligeth the faithful under the evangelical dispensation, and that obedience to the former is not opposite to the grace of the latter. He constantly promoted good works and holy living, and bid His disciples show their love to Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). You see then how fondly they discourse who say that, because Christ hath done and suffered all things for man’s redemption, therefore there is nothing left for us to do. Indeed, we have nothing to do that can further our salvation by way of merit, but we have something to do whereby we may show our thankfulness for Christ’s undertakings; we have a great deal to do whereby we may discover our obedience to the Divine commands and injunctions. Though good works and obedience are not conditions of justification, yet they are of salvation; they are requisite in the person who is justified, although they are wholly excluded from justification itself. Or we may say, though they do not justify meritoriously, yet they do it declaratively, they show that we are really of the number of those who God accounteth just and righteous.
2. The falsehood of the Romanists is hence confuted. They cry out against us, as those who utterly dislike, both in doctrine and practice, all good works. They brand us with the name of Solifidians, as if faith monopolized all our religion. Indeed, all that profess the reformed religion affirm that faith is the root of all graces, that Divine virtue is the basis and foundation of all good works; this they maintain, and have good reason to do so; but still they hold that good and holy works are indispensably requisite in Christianity, and that no man can be excused from performing them, and that those whose lives are utterly devoid of them have no right faith and no true religion. This is our unanimous belief, profession, and doctrine, and the Papists are maliciously reproachful when they accuse us Of the contrary.
3. From what hath been said, we may discover the wrong notions and apprehensions which most men have of good works. I will instance more particularly in charity, which is eminently called a good work, but there is a great and common mistake about it. And so as to other good works, all understanding men agree that they ought to be done, but they greatly mistake what good works are. They think if they do the outward acts of religion they do very well; if they fast and pray, and hear God’s Word, and receive the eucharist; if they perform the external acts of justice and charity, their doings cannot but be good and acceptable, and they need look after no more. They never consider whether their fasting and praying and other exercises of devotion and piety proceed from God’s grace and Holy Spirit in them, whether they be accompanied with faith, and be the result of good and holy principles, and be done for good ends, and in a good manner. Alas! these and the like things are not thought of. This discovers the gross mistakes in the world.
4. Then you are really concerned to examine your lives and actions, and to see whether you be not of the number of the mistaken persons.
5. When you have examined the true nature of good works, then urge upon yourselves that you are indispensably obliged to do them. Being thoroughly persuaded of the necessity of them, press the practice of them on yourselves and on others.That you may successfully do so, observe these four plain and brief directions —
1. Beg the assistance of the Spirit. These are no mean and common works which I have set before you as that duty. They require great strength and power to exert them.
2. Study the Scriptures. There, and there only, you will find instructions for the performing of works acceptable to God.
3. Set before you the example of the saints, for by viewing of them you will not only learn what to do, but you will be taught not to be weary in well doing.
4. Redeem and improve the time. Fix it on your thoughts that you have a good deal of work to do, but your time to do it in is short and soon expiring.
(J. Edwards, D. D.)