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The second commandment is something that many people have questions about often. I wrote an article last year in relation to the question, “Can a Christian Violate the Second Commandment with Pictures of Jesus?” Here is a podcast on that answer.

Everywhere we look we see the idea of studying the Bible. Well maybe not everywhere, but in every Circle of Christianity it seems that there’s always someone talking about studying the Bible.  As a matter of fact, most likely every religion in the world has some writing that requires being studied. From study comes knowledge, and from knowledge comes belief. While every truth claim cannot be true. For the Christian, we believe that the Bible is truth. Jesus says in John 17 when he prays that eternal life is knowing the one true God and knowing the son whom he has sent.  So in this line of thinking, studying the Bible is actually the study of God which is actually the knowledge of God which is actually salvation.

 For many churchgoers, however, the study of God’s word has been relegated to just mere pragmatism or topical investigation. Sadly, this type of study that we find very normative in our culture, is not sufficient for salvation. Neither is it sufficient for a right understanding of the gospel of grace. And because the right study of God’s word is waning in our present economy of faith, many pastors and teachers have gone the way of teaching moralism and humanism and calling it Christianity.  All of this type of teaching results in a different type of learning. So that the believer or the professing Christian if I can, have no idea what they’re talking about because they are listening to the wrong information. Now we could go on and on and discuss types of interpretation and different ideas related to what the Scripture is actually teaching. But if we are honest, the simplest syntax of the holy writ is very easy to understand. So when I ask the question, “are you. listening?”,  I am asking if you are truly listening to the word of God.

 Let’s all be very honest, every day we hear thousands and thousands of words. We see hundreds and hundreds of images that teach us something. We are inundated in our society by information overload. Some of which we go and seek and others that are just imposed upon us without our knowledge or permission. Because this is true, many people have developed a worldview that is so foreign in comparison to Scripture, that it’s no wonder that so many congregations do not look like the people of God any longer. The remedy to this is not more teaching about how to be or how to look like God’s people from a humanistic point of view but is direct and simple teaching straight from the Bible.

If many pastors were to poll their congregations they would find very few congregants actually read their Bible every day. Now many people may do a small devotion or read a short paragraph related to some scriptural teaching. And these things are not bad in and of themselves, but they are not sufficient for the knowledge of truth. So often when I make a statement like this, people will say,  “I’m not a theologian.” To which I respond, well you should be. A Christian that is not learning is a Christian that is not growing. In the Christian that is not growing, is a Christian that is not living.

There’s much to be said about this particular dilemma and there is plenty inside the Bible that give us a clear picture that Scripture is necessary for the health and joy of every Christian and in turn every congregation.  So as we consider this idea today let us take a moment and hear the word of the Lord written by the apostle Paul to Timothy.

2 Timothy 3:14–17

[14] But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it [15] and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV)

This text shows us that the Bible is enough for a successful Christian life and it’s also sufficient for the knowledge of the truth. No one needs extra-biblical revelation or extra-biblical instruction in order to rightly live for the glory of God. And Sadly, those who look to other sources find themselves in a very precarious position. Either weak and immature in their faith or at worst, totally unregenerate. But we’ll talk about that in future discussions. From this point let me encourage you to pick up your Bible and read it.  It is through Scripture where you will find peace in the midst of frustration and it is there that you will find intimacy with Jesus Christ, the eternal God of Heaven, the creator and savior. So guard your heart and mind to the power of the Holy Bible.  And you will begin to experience what Scripture teaches as the peace that surpasses all understanding.

 If you would like more information about how to study the Bible or if you have questions related to Bible passages or theological issues, please  contact us  and we will be more than happy to help you.  We look forward to hearing from you. soon and until then rest well in the gospel and grace of Jesus Christ who lived a life of obedience and died a substitutionary death for the glory of God the father in the redemption of his people.

There is never a short supply of opinions. If the US Treasury could tax them, the country would be trillions in the black. These pesky little opinions are ever so frisky and they have a tendency to move about and change rapidly causing frustration, confusion, and sometimes anger. Theological discussions are not immune to such fodder and in fact, if anyone is ever in short supply of a sack of opinions, let them come down to the nearest social hangout, denominational office, men’s breakfast or their own household and it is assured they will find the plethora of mixed thoughts and logic drowning the passers-by. To the point: while there is always room for us all to have our feelings and thoughts about matters, we cannot think in contradiction to the sound truth taught in Scripture. There is no room for the thoughts, freedom, will and wisdom of human beings to stand in contradiction and question God or His actions.

While I’m not naming names or pointing out labels, consider the fact that each person in the realm of theology/biblical studies carries a label and each of those labels exists to define their position on some section or ‘point’ of doctrine. These labels can be helpful, for example, being a baptist identifies someone who holds to the belief that baptism is supposed to be for those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as well as to the belief that the proper mode is to be submerged under the water. Now, Baptist doctrinal statements have changed through the years, but that particular matter has stayed unscathed. In contrast, Presbyterians consider baptism more a sign of a covenant than the outer sign of profession. Therefore, they baptize their children as a sign of covenant and those that hold to this position are well suited for the Presbyterian doctrine of baptism. Now back to opinions. When it comes to whether the mode or expression of baptism, people can hold differentiating opinions and in good conscience, still be considered brothers in the Lord through faith alone in Jesus Christ. However, when the opinion becomes a matter of biblical contradiction, there is a problem. Some people hold to the teaching that without water baptism, one will remain in a state of condemnation. We call that contradiction a matter of urgency because it directly relates to the biblical teaching of salvation or soteriology. When opinions become biblical contradictions they are called heresies and when heresies undermine the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are damnable.

No matter how many people have held to such belief, it doesn’t change the error to truth. Paul teaches the Christians of Galatia that if they were to adopt the idea that circumcision would better secure their salvation they would forever be cut off from Christ. How? Because to believe in Jesus Christ Alone, plus something else is “no gospel” according to the Bible. In our example, if one believes baptism is a requirement in addition to grace and faith, then it is “no gospel”. This is problematic. Because the one trusting by faith in something that they do in order to secure or merit salvation is condemned like Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3. They are condemned because they are not believing in Jesus Christ and His work, but their own. Jesus called this type of thing, “darkness.” Now let’s move to the theological circles of other doctrines. Such as a works salvation.

Works, good works, obedience, sinless perfection, and all sorts of things related to humanity’s ability to cognitively decide and follow after Christ, are in the realm of being “another gospel” and as such, a damnable heresy. There are two matters though that need to be clarified. Some people are born of God and believe on Jesus Christ while later taught that they better work hard to persevere and then they get confused and disturbed, like the Galatians who were called “saints” and “brothers” by Paul. Other people just love the false gospel of working their salvation into existence. They love the ability to stand before God and declare, “I did it! I made the choice, I’ve followed the rules, I am obeying you!” While it may not seem strange, these words are demonic expressions akin to the words of Satan when he said, “I will, I will, I will…” and then God condemned him and threw him out of Heaven. In like manner, Jesus Christ will throw those who stand before Him and say, “Didn’t I do this and do that and say this?”, into the lake of fire. Make no mistake, those who trust in the freedom of their choice to choose and believe are dead in their sins. I pray that many who seem to fight for their ‘fair rights’ in the economy of grace DO NOT FIND them. Because the fair right of all people is to be damned by a loving and gracious and holy God.

God, being gracious and loving, has given life through Jesus Christ alone to be received by grace through faith. Let’s not continue to jump into labels that contradict this. Philosophy has no place in the study of God and when the mind of men get tangled into the ineffable glories of God, well, man just finds himself turned over to reprobation, confused, lost and alone. So what label do you like to wear? Is that label honoring to the Lord? Does it fit well with the sound synergistic and supernatural revelation of Scripture? If not, I would consider removing it you as quickly and as far as possible. Because in the end, we could all be wrong, but we cannot all be right and those who are wrong are condemned already and God’s justice and wrath remain. Let us see the light of the good news in the face of Jesus Christ and settle our opinions at the cross where Jesus took our sin after living our obedience so that we are now the righteousness of God! Amen.

Pastor James

“Once Saved Always Saved” echoes in the halls of many churches, and while the statement has ‘some’ truth, the language and meaning behind words dictate a false sense of security surrounding so many ‘actions’ or ‘beliefs’ regarding salvation. Scripture does teach a guarantee of hope and a sealing by God the Holy Spirit, but the contemporary doctrine of “eternal security” is far from the biblical doctrine of perseverance. The security of the believer rests fully in the work of Christ which affords a sure grasp of the faithfulness of God. God’s faithfulness, not man’s, is the objective and subjective adherence to the Lord’s grace. God purposes and prepares a people for His glory in a certain and definite way.

Recent history has relegated salvation to an experience or response rather than a work of God’s mercy and grace and eternal security has become a “pointing” to those actions or experiences. In like manner, the hope of salvation is found in what man does, rather than God’s divine actions, which of course, is a grave mistake. Proclaiming a man saved from the wrath of God while he clearly has not believed in the work of God is no less than a Demonic. It has always been the activity of the Devil to distort the truth toward the natural palate of humanity in order that God is robbed of Glory. Man’s greatest god is himself and one’s self-love gives any false gospels teeth for the unregenerate, who find solace in perpetuating humanistic theology. Man can find salvation only in Jesus Christ who is the good news of God by faith alone.

Security, then, must be found in the right place, or Person; Jesus Christ the Righteous. Because one’s eternal sealing is the work of God, not the work of man, a few quick thoughts should be secured. Faith Alone is the operative platform on which the believer stands, security, likewise, in the mind of the Christian, must proceed from faith in Christ. That is, believing that Christ has secured the believer is surely secure. Security is not found in the works of obedience, works of love, or works that proceed from grace. Yes, God works mightily in His people good works, but many lost people can also illustrate right living and yet have no security. So many think security is found in the following of the command to “put to death” the flesh and its members. While this is rightly found and grounded in the ability of the Christian because of Christ, it is never going to be perfected and it cannot be the blanket of hope in which the doubting believer wraps himself for warmth. The attitude of hope lies in the essence of God’s regenerative power through the Spirit whereby one cries “Have mercy on me, a sinner…” not, “Thank you God for my goodness.”  Salvation doesn’t make one good in person, it imputes the goodness of the only true Good Son, Jesus, to the believer.

Likewise, a disciplined man with all the moral compass of a saint cannot guide the seal of his salvation by his route of discipline. He would be utterly lost, even walking in the right way, if he places security in the path of goodness. Jesus Christ walked the path of Goodness. He secured the hope of the believer because He obeyed in His humanity to the fullest particle of glory: holiness! While the point is not to carry on this Unchained glory by defining terms, consider the teaching of our present day regarding “justification”, “sanctification”, obedience, holiness, progression, etc. The terms themselves according to Scripture are bound to the finished work of Jesus Christ, His ministry, His cross, and His resurrection. The atonement provided the certain salvation of a people and it is by the decree of God that this came to pass a certain and true expiation and propitiation. There is security beloved. No man in Christ is getting more and more holy or becoming more “like” Jesus. While we as believers do mature and are called to follow a pattern of life, as is all the population of the world, that growth can be undone in a minute and even then, it is not counted as righteousness just because we begin to fall in line.

There is no being MORE HOLY or MORE SANCTIFIED because Scripture teaches that our security in holiness relies on the grace of God, not our works. (I am not being antinomian, and if that’s what you read in hearing what Scripture clearly teaches, then just move on. Thanks.)

It is a matter of MATURING and GROWING in Love which produces all sorts of growth indicators. But these are not sufficient as evidence of eternal life for even the pagan can consume himself with right living. In like manner, the soul that is afire with the Spirit of God and sure of the redemption that is in Jesus Christ has a central divine affection for the Lord Jesus and love purposes its good works. (Gal 2:20, Romans 12:1-2) We must look carefully at these points and recognize that the law (works) and grace (faith alone), are mutually exclusive means to redemption. If the works of Jesus’ life were not sufficient to warrant our righteousness, then why did He die and to what end? If all He had to do was die it would have been sufficient for Herrod to have found and beheaded the Christ child early on. No, it was Christ’s obedience in His humanity that satisfied God’s command and expectation of perfection. It was this righteousness that enabled the God Man to take on the penalty of sin for sinners. It was His divine essence that empowered Him to live again and rescue His people from deserved death.

Sometime later we can visit the ideas of apostasy. But for today, let’s focus on the security of our beloved faith that is rooted and affixed forever in Jesus Christ!

Rest well,

Pastor James Tippins

 

Unity, unity, unity….. 

These words are spilled out of the hearts of many well-purposed individuals who desperately desire to see people “get along” and “love” each other as Christ loves. What does it mean to love each other as Christ loves? The world has been fed a lie and many who are in the proximity of the local assembly of believers (the church) have bought this lie. Beloved, hear this. Jesus Christ did not come to bring unity and peace among fallen human beings. He did not come to stamp out hatred and remove obstacles so that this life would be a pleasant Mecca of good and glorious harmony. The very nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ prohibits such a claim. Jesus came to bring peace by bringing division.

Jesus Taught It

Jesus says, [34] “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. [36] And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. [37] Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. [38] And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [39] Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)

When Jesus arrives on the Earth it brought Peace “to” Earth, therefore Peace (Jesus) was on Earth. But peace was far from the result of Jesus’ birth. Herrod desired to have the child killed and a massive hunt and massacre of infants far and wide ensued. What did people think of this child? Did He really bring peace to their lives as they soldiers burst through the doors and cut their children in half? I can only imagine the animosity that arose from the existence of one infant/toddler in the face of tens of thousands. Why couldn’t this family just come forward and give up their son for the sake of others? Little did the world know that is exactly what Jesus would do.

Likewise, Jesus first public teaching in Luke 4 reveals a very divisive outcome. Jesus enters the synagogue and He is handed the scroll of Isaiah and after reading He says, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” They marveled at His graciousness! But not for long, because as soon as they esteemed the grace of the Lord’s proclamation was for them, Jesus stated otherwise and said that it was for them in judgment. The masses sneered at Him and the Scripture says they “were filled with wrath.” This surely does not sound like the unity and peace that most people claim Jesus wanted. The matter was so polarizing that the hearers grabbed hold of Jesus and took Him to the edge of a cliff, but miraculously, Jesus escaped.

The public teaching of Jesus continually revealed a very divisive result. In all of John’s gospel, it is clearly seen that everything Jesus taught was contrary to the understanding of the most pious and religious of His day. They hated Jesus for it and schemed to destroy Him and those who followed Him because they could not bear to hear His teaching as it conflicted with their idolatrous and self-glorifying traditions. This reminds me of many church members of this present age.

Peace Comes through Division

True peace surely comes through Christ. But in order to have peace in one area, it is at the cost of the peace that was once known. True peace is found when a sinner is reconciled with Christ. The peace that follows is peace with God whereby the sinner is no longer in fear of the justice of God’s wrath. Peace then also naturally flows to those who are in Christ; as they are now unified in the bonds of love, the love of God, the sealing of the Spirit, etc. So in order to have peace with God, humans will be enemies with the world, which is comprised of sinners who hate the authority of God’s word and the peace that costs them their lives. They would rather gain the world they know, and lose their souls, than to gain peace with God, and lose their lives in this world.

Jesus Christ is our peace. He has come to snatch us out of “the domain of darkness” and has made peace with God through His flesh on the cross. To say that peace is a unilateral harmony amongst all peoples is not just coy and childish, it is overly asinine and stupid. Now before everyone takes offense at that statement, I surely desire to be known for the foolish and stupid message of the cross. It’s how the world views it and it is the foolish things that God uses to bring down the wise. Who, by the way, think they are wise when they are actually fools. (Romans 1) I think that every professing believer needs to consider what he believes and in what his trust has been placed. We have enough people of the world on a fool’s errand of trying to be together with darkness. And most of that darkness is parading around as light when indeed it is dead darkness.

The point: When we have peace with God by Faith Alone in Jesus Christ, we will be at WAR with the world, sin, darkness and everything else. Only those who have intimacy with Jesus Christ (through His Word) are unified and at peace with each other. Disunity among so-called Christians is proof of God’s decree of reprobation at times. He causes them to believe the lie that they are safe in their religion, church membership, professions of faith, and the like. He makes them believe what is untrue, so they will suffer destruction. Don’t take my word for it, just read it in Scripture. (2 Thess 2:10-12)

The Word Divides and is Authoritative

Many who hear preaching and read words like these often take it personally. And for that, I am sorry. My writing is not to any person, but to anyone who cares to know the truth. In the end, ONLY those who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ will have eternal life. Those will learn and grow into an understanding of truth and they will not sit in what they “knew” a year ago but they will always be learning and growing. I find many people in the buildings called churches who have no clue of the gospel. They do not know Jesus Christ, even by the statements of the word of God, much less by faith. They take great offense and yell, “division, division… you’re causing division!”  You better believe it brother. Jesus Christ, when He is proclaimed, will divide ALL people against Him if they are not with Him. Scripture is our authority, not the leaders of churches, nor the Baptist heads of state, Jesus Christ as He teaches through His Word is the FINAL court of arbitration, despite what any pastor or denominational leader may say.

Those who do not hold the Scripture as the highest authority can be certain of one thing: they will be destroyed in Judgment. Because without Scripture, one cannot be saved. Without salvation, one has no peace. Many hold to a lesser view of Scripture by saying, “Well, I believe the bible, but there are some things in there that need to be considered ‘out of date’ or ‘lacking’.” Goodness, that statement alone is the very practice of Satan in the Garden of Eden as well as his tactics to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. The devil uses the word of God every moment and God purposes his use of Scripture in order to bring deception. In the end, many who use a bible will be found in the end to belong to Satan, whose rule will be the dominant world-view until the Day of the Lord.

[12] Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, [13] while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. [14] But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it [15] and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:12-17 ESV)

The word of God divides humanity. It separates those who are still in the world and pulls some out of the darkness into the light. It is the source of peace and points to the one who is our peace and righteousness. When we stand with the Word, despite who may say they love us, if they are not in Christ, they will hate us. We will be persecuted, not for living in morality, for there will always be moral circles, but for standing on the rock of salvation, the gospel of Christ!

Paul continues to teach Timothy of the power of God’s word and charges him, and all pastors, to preach, even when the season is gone. Beloved, the seasons of preaching the true peace of God has long gone in America! Let us herald that truth that He may be glorified in saving souls!

2 Timothy 4:1-5

[1] I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: [2] preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [3] For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. [5] As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (ESV)

Two Groups of People

At the end of time, there are only going to be TWO unified people: Those with a false peace and those with true peace. Unbelievers, self-righteous ones, churchmen, and the wicked will all be unified in their destruction. But for the saints of God, there is eternal peace as we stand in the presence of our Lord, redeemed, beloved, sanctified, glorified, worshipping from a pure heart and exulting with all the saints, the glorious grace of God who is Jesus Christ! God has sent His Son to stand in the place of sinners. Jesus stood in the place of sinners in His life by obeying ALL THAT IS REQUIRED OF MEN. Jesus stood in the place of sinners in His death by receiving ALL THAT IS DUE SINFUL MEN. This great exchange continues in that the good news is this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us, the ungodly, and we are the righteousness of God because He gave us all the obedience of Christ which is something we could never receive.

Peace comes through Jesus Christ and it is not found in the world. Jesus comes to bring division, the Sword of His mouth, His word, divides us from the darkness, divides our flesh from its wages, and sets us as sons and daugthers of God!

Ephesians 2:11-22

[11] Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—[12] remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. [13] But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. [14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility [15] by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. [17] And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. [18] For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. [19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, [20] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21] in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. [22] In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)

Amen

Pastor James

Some of the most engaging fodder of man center on what Scripture has not revealed.  My entire life I have always been a philosopher, thinking more than anything else I do. I remember vividly daydreaming as a boy where my mind would contemplate deep things while becoming lost in the plethora of endless introspections. Many people today, while they may not expressly waste countless hours as I have in thought, do spend a great deal of time placing faith and hope in theological thinking instead of biblical teaching.

There is always room for thinking. We are required to think, to hold every thought captive, to meditate on the Word of the Lord, and to have wisdom and discernment. This isn’t the point of my premise. The point is that often times we land our theological plane on the runway that isn’t paved and quite honestly, doesn’t exist within the pages of Holy Writ. For example, many of us have a humanistic view of Lucifer, the Devil. He’s often thought of in caricatures of the ghastly and demonic (as portrayed by literature and film) when in reality, he is the angel of light and his beauty is grand. He is a deciever, so he purposes to disguise himself to be “like God.” Hell is another area of grand extra-biblical thought. Some people feel that the Devil is in hell and runs the place, when Scripture teaches that God has exiled Satan to the Earth and at the Day of Judgement, Satan will be assigned to hell.

What causes these types of controversies? Or worse, what causes this type of teaching. It’s one thing to posit, it’s a whole other conversation when what is not clearly taught in scripture is presented as fact. Well, several things are at play here.

  • Oral Tradition – Many people hold to unbiblical views on matters because their view has just been handed down for ages. It’s what they’ve always thought and heard and therefore, they have never really questioned it.
  • Obtuse Teaching – To think that pastors and bible teachers are exempt from their own presupposed traditions would be an error in judgment. Many who teach just restate what they think and have heard. While some of these matters are not grievous heresies, this type of teaching – lazy and thick-headedness – produces a vast ignorance among the church.
  • Organic Thinking – Our minds actually come up with really creative ideas. Some of the things that I have pondered, while not found in scripture, are absolutely worthy of a screen play! Well, maybe not, but they are at least within the confines of human imagination. And often times, they are very logical. Our minds come to the table with many “what if it is like this?” To which we have to answer, “What does Scripture teach?”
  • Obstinate Toughness – This is just being hard headed. We just do not like to be wrong and when we see something different that what we ‘know’, we tend to refuse it. The good thing is that God can overcome the hardest of hearts through the blood of the lamb. This unwillingness to learn is a bad sign because it reveals a refusal to know the truth of Scripture, which is to know the One True God.

We should be like the Bereans who inquired the Scriptures when they heard Paul teach. We should be students of the word and study to show ourselves an approved worker. Imagine learning something from someone who never learned what they were teaching, but rather they just repeated what they had heard. Are they a student? Are they qualified to teach?  Being that we worship God from how He is revealed in Scripture, it is vital that we know Him rightly. We should test every idea that comes into our heads and our ears. And when what we ‘know’ conflicts with what God teaches, we should rest in what we see from the Bible. We know that God is always good. We can rest securely in everything that is taught in Scripture and better, we can rest securely in those things that are not explicitly taught, knowing that these things are settled as the mysteries of God.

Rest well beloved,

Pastor James

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!

While the discussion is certainly found in many forms, Boettner had a grand ability to produce clarity in his writing. See how he tackles the matter of depravity according to the Scriptures.

Total Depravity

BY LORAINE BOETTNER

1. STATEMENT OF THE DOCTRINE

IN the Westminster Confession the doctrine of Total Inability is stated as follows: — “Man, by his fall Into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.”l

Paul, Augustine, and Calvin have as their starting point the fact that all mankind sinned in Adam and that all men are “without excuse,” Rom. 2:1. Time and again Paul tells us that we are dead in trespasses and sins, estranged from God, and helpless. In writing to the Ephesian Christians he reminded them that before they received the Gospel they were “separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world,” 2:12. There we notice the five-fold emphasis as he piles phrase on top of phrase to stress this truth.

2. THE EXTENT AND EFFECTS OF ORIGINAL SIN

This doctrine of Total Inability, which declares that men are dead in sin, does not mean that all men are equally bad, nor that any man is as bad as he could be, nor that any one is entirely destitute of virtue, nor that human nature is evil in itself, nor that man‘s spirit is inactive, and much less does it mean that the body Is dead. What it does mean is that since the fail man rests under the curse of sin, that he is actuated by wrong principles, and that he is wholly unable to love God or to do anything meriting salvation. His corruption is extensive but not necessarily intensive.

It is in this sense that man since the fall “is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil.” He possesses a fixed bias of the will against God, and instinctively and willingly turns to evil. He is an alien by birth, and a sinner by choice. The inability under which he labors is not an inability to exercise volitions, but an inability to be willing to exercise holy volitions. And it is this phase of it which led Luther to declare that “Free-will is an empty term, whose reality is lost. And a lost liberty, according to my grammar, is no liberty at all.”2 In matters pertaining to his salvation, the unregenerate man is not at liberty to choose between good and evil, but only to choose between greater and lesser evil, which is not properly free will. The fact that fallen man still has ability to do certain acts morally good in themselves does not prove that he can do acts meriting salvation, for his motives may be wholly wrong.

Man is a free agent but he cannot originate the love of God in his heart. His will is free in the sense that it is not controlled by any force outside of himself. As the bird with a broken wing is “free” to fly but not able, so the natural man is free to come to God but not able. How can he repent of his sin when he loves it? How can he come to God when he hates Him? This is the inability of the will under which man labors. Jesus said, “And this is the judgment, that light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil,” John 3:19; and again, “Ye will not come to me, that ye may have life,” John 5:40. Man‘s ruin lies mainly in his own perverse will. He cannot come because he will not. Help enough is provided if he were only willing to accept it. Paul tells us, “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. So they that are in the flesh cannot please God,” Rom. 8:7.

To assume that because man has ability to love he therefore has ability to love God, is about as wise as to assume that since water has the ability to flow, it therefore has the ability to flow up hill; or to reason that because a man has power to cast himself from the top of a precipice to the bottom, he therefore has equal power to transport himself from the bottom to the top.

Fallen man sees nothing desirable in “the One who is altogether lovely, the fairest among ten thousand.” He may admire Jesus as a man, but he wants nothing to do with Him as God, and he resists the outward holy influences of the Spirit with all his power. Sin, and not righteousness, has become his natural element so that he has no desire for salvation.

Man‘s fallen nature gives rise to a most obdurate blindness, stupidity, and opposition concerning the things of God. His will is under the control of a darkened understanding. which puts sweet for bitter, and bitter for sweet, good for evil, and evil for good. So far as his relations with God are concerned, he wills only that which is evil, although he wills it freely. Spontaneity and enslavement actually exist together.

In other words, fallen man is so morally blind that he uniformly prefers and chooses evil instead of good, as do the fallen angels or demons. When the Christian is completely sanctified he reaches a state in which he uniformly prefers and chooses good, as do the holy angels. Both of these states are consistent with freedom and responsibility of moral agents.

Yet while fallen man acts thus uniformly he is never compelled to sin, but does it freely and delights in it. His dispositions and desires are so inclined, and he acts knowingly and willingly from the spontaneous motion of the heart. This natural bias or appetite for that which is evil is characteristic of man‘s fallen and corrupt nature, so that, as Job says, he “drinketh iniquity like water,” 15:16.

We read that “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned,” I Cor. 2:14. We are at a loss to understand how any one can take a plain common sense view of this passage of Scripture and yet contend for the doctrine of human ability. Man in his natural state cannot even see the kingdom of God; much less can he get into it. An uncultured person may see a beautiful work of art as an object of vision, but he has no appreciation of its excellence. He may see the figures of a complex mathematical equation, but they have no meaning for him. Horses and cattle may see the same beautiful sunset or other phenomenon in nature that men see, but they are blind to all of the artistic beauty. So it is when the Gospel of the cross is presented to the unregenerate man. He may have an intellectual knowledge of the facts and doctrines of the Bible, but he lacks all spiritual discernment of their excellence, and finds no delight in them. The same Christ is to one man without form or comeliness that he should desire Him; to another He is the Prince of life and the Savior of the world, God manifest in the flesh, whom it is impossible not to adore, love and obey.

This total inability, however, arises not merely from a perverted moral nature, but also from ignorance. Paul wrote that the Gentiles “walk in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart,” Eph. 4:17, 18. And again, “The word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God,” I Cor. 1:18. When he wrote of “Things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, And which entered not into the heart of man, Whatsoever things God hath prepared for them that love Him,” he had reference, not to the glories of the heavenly state as is commonly supposed, but to the spiritual realities in this life which cannot be seen by the unregenerate mind, as is made plain by the words of the following verse: “But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit,” I Cor. 2:9, 10. On one occasion Jesus said, “No one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him,” Matt. 11:27. Here we are plainly told that man in his unregenerate, unenlightened nature does not know God in any sense worthy the name, and that the Son is sovereign in choosing who shall come into this saving knowledge of God.

Fallen man then lacks the power of spiritual discernment. His reason or understanding is blinded, and the taste and feelings are perverted. And since this state of mind is innate, as a condition of man‘s nature, it is beyond the power of the will to change it. Rather it controls both the affections and volitions. The effect of regeneration is clearly taught in the divine commission which Paul received at his conversion when he was told that he was to be sent to the Gentiles “to open their eyes, that they might turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God,” Acts 26:18.

Jesus taught the same truth under a different figure when He said to the Pharisees, “Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do,” John 8:43, 44. They could not understand, nor even hear His words in any intelligible way. To them His words were only foolishness, madness; and they accused Him of being demon possessed (vss. 48, 52). Only His disciples could know the truth (vss. 31, 32); the Pharisees were children of the Devil (vss. 42, 44), and bondservants of sin (vs. 34), although they thought themselves free (vs. 33).

At another time Jesus taught that a good tree could not bring forth evil fruit, nor an evil tree good fruit. And since in this similitude the good and evil trees represent good and evil men, what does it mean but that one class of men is governed by one set of basic principles, while the other class is governed by another set of basic principles? The fruits of these two trees are acts, words, thoughts, which if good proceed from a good nature, and if evil proceed from an evil nature. It is impossible, then, for one and the same root to bring forth fruit of different kinds. Hence we deny the existence in man of a power which may act either way, on the logical ground that both virtue and vice cannot come out of the same moral condition of the agent. And we affirm that human actions which relate to God proceed either out of a moral condition which necessarily produces good actions or out of a moral condition which necessarily produces evil actions.

“In the Epistle to the Ephesians Paul declares that prior to the quickening of the Spirit of God each individual soul lies dead in trespasses and sins. Now it will surely be admitted that to be dead, and to be dead in sin, is clear and positive evidence that there is neither aptitude nor power remaining for the performance of any spiritual action. If a man were dead, in a natural and physical sense, it would at once be readily granted that there is no further possibility of that man being able to perform any physical actions. A corpse cannot act in any way whatever, and that man would be reckoned to have taken leave of his senses who asserted that it could. If a man is dead spiritually, therefore, it is surely equally as evident that he is unable to perform any spiritual actions, and thus the doctrine of man‘s moral inability rests upon strong Scriptural evidence.”3

“On the principle that no clean thing can come out of what is unclean (Job 14:4), all that are horn of woman are declared ‘abominable and corrupt,‘ to whose nature iniquity alone is attractive (Job 15:1446). Accordingly, to become sinful, men do not wait until the age of accountable action arrives. Rather, they are apostates from the womb, and as soon as they are born go astray, speaking lies (Ps. 58:3); they are even shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin (Ps. 51:5). The propensity of their heart is evil from their youth (Gen. 8:21), and it is out of the heart that all the issues of life proceed (Prov. 4:23; 20:11). Acts of sin are therefore but the expression of the natural heart, which is deceitful above all things and exceedingly corrupt (Jer. 17:9).”5

Ezekiel presents this same truth in graphic language and gives us the picture of the helpless infant which was cast out in its blood and left to die, but which the Lord graciously found and cared for (Ch. 16).

This doctrine of original sin supposes that fallen men have the same kind and degree of liberty in sinning under the influence of a corrupt nature as have the Devil and the demons, or that the saints in glory and the holy angels have in acting rightly under the influence of a holy nature. That is, men and angels act according to their natures. As the saints and angels are confirmed in holiness, — that is, possessed of a nature which is wholly inclined to righteousness and adverse to sin, — so the nature of fallen men and of demons is such that they cannot perform a single act with right motives toward God. Hence the necessity that God shall sovereignly change the person‘s character in regeneration.

The Old Testament ceremonies of circumcision of the new-born child, and of purification of the mother, were designed to teach that man comes into the world sinful, that since the fall human nature is corrupt in its very origin.

Paul stated this truth in another and, if possible, even stronger way in II Cor. 4:3, 4: “And if our Gospel is veiled it is veiled to them that perish; in whom the god of this world (by which he means the Devil) hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them.” In a word, then, fallen men without the operations of the Spirit of God are under the rule of Satan. They are led captive by him at his will, II Tim. 2:26. So long as this “strong man fully armed” is not molested by the “stronger than he,” he keeps his kingdom in peace and his captives willingly do his bidding. But the “stronger than he” has overcome him, has taken his armor from him, and has liberated a part of his captives (Luke 11:21, 22). God now exercises the right of releasing whom He will; and all born-again Christians are ransomed sinners from that kingdom.

The Scriptures declare that fallen man is a captive, a willing slave to sin, and entirely unable to deliver himself from its bondage and corruption. He is incapable of understanding, and much less of doing, the things of God. There is what we might term “the freedom of slavery,” — a state in which the subject is free only to do the will of his master, which in this case is sin. It was this to which Jesus referred when He said, “Every one that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin,” John 8:34.

And such being the depth of man‘s corruption, it is wholly beyond his own power to cleanse himself. His only hope of an amendment of life lies accordingly in a change of heart, which change is brought about by the sovereign recreative power of the Holy Spirit who works when and where and how He pleases. As well might one attempt to pump a leaking ship while the leak is still unmended, as to reform the unregenerate without this inward change. Or as well might the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots, as he who is accustomed to do evil correct his ways. This transfer from spiritual death to spiritual life we call “regeneration.” It is referred to in Scripture by various terms: “regeneration,” a “making alive,” a “calling out of darkness into light,” a “quickening,” a “renewing,” a taking away of the heart of stone and giving the heart of flesh, etc., which work is exclusively that of the Holy Spirit. As a result of this change a man comes to see the truth and gladly accepts it. His very instincts and intimate impulses are transferred to the side of law, obedience to which becomes but the spontaneous expression of his nature. Regeneration is said to be wrought by that same supernatural power which God wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead (Eph. 1:18-20). Man does not possess the power of self-regeneration, and until this inward change takes place, he cannot be convinced of the truth of the Gospel by any amount of external testimony. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rise from the dead.”

3. THE DEFECTS IN MAN‘S COMMON VIRTUES

The unregenerate man can, through common grace, love his family and he may be a good citizen. He may give a million dollars to build a hospital, but he cannot give even a cup of cold water to a disciple in the name of Jesus. If a drunkard, he may abstain from drink for utilitarian purposes, but he cannot do it out of love for God. All of his common virtues or good works have a fatal defect in that his motives which prompt them are not to glorify God, — a defect so vital that it throws any element of goodness as to man wholly into the shade. It matters not how good the works may be in themselves, for so long as the doer of them is out of harmony with God, none of his works are spiritually acceptable. Furthermore, the good works of the unregenerate have no stable foundation, for his nature is still unchanged; and as naturally and as certainly as the washed sow returns to her wallowing in the mire, so he sooner or later returns to his evil ways.

In the realm of morals it is a rule that the morality of the man must precede the morality of the action. One may speak with the tongues of men and of angels; yet if he is lacking that inward principle of love toward God, he is become as sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. He may give all his goods to feed the poor, and may give his body to be burned; yet if he lacks that inward principle, it profits him nothing. As human beings we know that an act of service rendered to us (by whatever utilitarian motives prompted) by someone who is at heart our enemy, does not merit our love and approbation. The Scripture statement that “Without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto God,” finds its explanation in this, that faith is the foundation of all the other virtues, and nothing is acceptable to God which does not flow from right feelings.

A moral act is to be judged by the standard of love to God, which love is, as it were, the soul of all other virtue, and which is bestowed upon us only through grace. Augustine did not deny the existence of natural virtues, such as moderation, honesty, generosity, which constitute a certain merit among men; but he drew a broad line of distinction between these and the specific Christian graces (faith, love and gratitude to God, etc.), which alone are good in the strict sense of the word, and which alone have value before God.

This distinction is very plainly illustrated in an example given by W D. Smith. Says he:

In a gang of pirates we may find many things that are good in themselves. Though they are in wicked rebellion against the laws of the government, they have their own laws and regulations, which they obey strictly. We find among them courage and fidelity, with many other things that will recommend them as pirates They may do many things, too, which the laws of the government require, but they are not done because the government has so required, but in obedience to their own regulations. For instance, the government requires honesty and they may be strictly honest, one with another, in their transactions, and the division of all their spoil. Yet, as respects the government, and the general principle, their whole life is one of the most wicked dishonesty. Now, it is plain, that while they continue in their rebellion they can do nothing to recommend them to the government as citizens. Their first step must be to give up their rebellion, acknowledge their allegiance to the government, and sue for mercy. So all men, in their natural state, are rebels against God; and though they may do many things which the law of God requires, and which will recommend them as men, yet nothing is done with reference to God and His law. Instead, the regulations of society, respect for public opinion, self-interest, their own character in the sight of the world, or some other worldly or wicked motive, reigns supremely; and God, to whom they owe their heart and lives, is forgotten; or, if thought of at all, His claims are wickedly rejected, His counsels spurned, and the heart, in obstinate rebellion, refuses obedience. Now it is plain that while the heart continues in this state the man is a rebel against God, and can do nothing to recommend him to His favor. The first step is to give up his rebellion, repent of his sins, turn to God, and sue for pardon and reconciliation through the Savior. This he is unwilling to do, until he is made willing. He loves his sins, and will continue to love them, until his heart is changed.

Smith continues,

The good actions of unregenerate men, are not positively sinful in themselves, but sinful from defect. They lack the principle which alone can make them righteous in the sight of God. In the case of the pirates it is easy to see that all their actions are sin against the government. While they continue pirates, their sailing, mending, or rigging the vessel, and even their eating and drinking, are all sins in the eyes of the government, as they are only so many expedients to enable them to continue their piratical career, and are parts of their life of rebellion. So with sinners. While the heart is wrong, it vitiates everything in the sight of God, even their most ordinary occupations; for the plain, unequivocal language of God is, ‘Even the lamp of the wicked, is sin,‘ Prov. 21:4.”5

It is this inability which the Scriptures teach when they declare that “They that are in the flesh cannot please God,” Rom. 8:8; “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” Rom. 14:23; and “Without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing to Him,” Heb. 11:6. Hence even the virtues of the unregenerate man are but as plucked and fading flowers. It was because of this that Jesus said to His disciples, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And because those virtues are of this nature, they are only temporary. The one who possesses them is like the seed which falls on the stony soil, which perhaps springs up with promise of fruitage, but soon withers in the sun because it has no root in itself.

It follows also from what has been said that salvation is ABSOLUTELY AND SOLELY OF GRACE, — that God is free, in consistency with the infinite perfections of His nature, to save none, few, many, or all, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His will. It also follows that salvation is not based on any merits in the creature, and that it depends on God, and not on men, who are, and who are not, to be made partakers of eternal life. God acts as a sovereign in saving some and passing by others who are left to the just recompense of their sins. Sinners are compared to dead men, or even to dry bones in their entire helplessness. In this they are all alike. The choice of some to eternal life is as sovereign as if Christ were to pass through a graveyard and bid one here and another there to come forth, the reason for restoring one to life and leaving another in his grave could be found only in His good pleasure, and not in the dead themselves. Hence the statement that we are foreordained according to the good pleasure of His will, and not after the good inclinations of our own; and in order that we might be holy, not because we were holy (Eph. 1:4, 5). “Since all men alike deserved only God‘s wrath and curse, the gift of His only begotten Son to die in the stead of malefactors, as the only possible method of expiating their guilt, is the most stupendous exhibition of undeserved favor and personal love that the universe has ever witnessed.”6

4. THE FALL OF MAN

The fall of the human race into a state of sin and misery is the basis and foundation of the system of redemption which is set forth in the Scriptures, as it is the basis and foundation of the system which we teach. Only Calvinists seem to take the doctrine of the fall very seriously. Yet the Bible from beginning to end declares that man is ruined — totally ruined — that he is in a state of guilt and depravity from which he is utterly unable to deliver himself, and that God might in justice have left him to perish. In the Old Testament the narrative concerning the fall is found in the third chapter of Genesis; and in the New Testament direct references are made to it in Romans 5:12-21; I Cor. 15:22; II Cor. 11:3; I Tim. 2:13, 14, etc., although the New Testament emphasizes not the historic fact that man fell, but the ethical fact that he is fallen. The New Testament writers interpreted it literally and based their theology upon it. To Paul Adam was as real as Christ, the fall as real as the atonement. It may be maintained that the apostles were in error, but that this was their position cannot be denied.

Dr. A. A. Hodge has given us a very good statement of the doctrine of the fall which we shall take the privilege of quoting: —

As a fair probation could not, in the nature of the case, be given to every new member in person as it comes into existence an undeveloped infant, God, as guardian of the race and for its best interests, gave all its members a trial in the person of Adam under the most favorable circumstances making him for that end the representative and personal substitute of each one of his natural descendants. He formed with him a covenant of works and of life; i.e., He gave to him for himself, and in behalf of all whom he represented, a promise of eternal life, conditioned upon perfect obedience, — that is, upon works. The obedience demanded was a specific test for a temporary period, which period of trial must necessarily be closed either by the reward consequent upon obedience, or the death consequent upon disobedience. The ‘reward‘ promised was eternal life, which was a grace including far more than was originally bestowed upon Adam at his creation, the grant of which would have elevated the race into a condition of indefeasible holiness and happiness for ever. The ‘penalty‘ threatened and executed was death: ‘The day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.‘ The nature of the death threatened can be determined only from a consideration of all that was involved in the curse actually inflicted. This we know to have included the instant withdrawal of the divine favor and spiritual intercommunion upon which man‘s life depended. Hence the alienation and curse of God; the sense of guilt and corruption of nature; consequent actual transgressions, the miseries of life, the dissolution of the body, the pains of hell.7

The consequences of Adam‘s sin are all comprehended under the term death, in its widest sense. Paul gives us the summary statement that “The wages of sin is death.” The full import of the death which was threatened to Adam can only be seen by considering all the evil consequences which have since befallen man. It was primarily spiritual death, or eternal separation from God, which was threatened; and physical death, or the death of the body, is but one of the first fruits and relatively unimportant consequences of that greater penalty. Adam did not die physically for 930 years after the fall, but he did die spiritually the very moment he fell into sin. He died just as really as the fish dies when taken from the water, or as the plant dies when taken from the soil.

In general we cherish a very wrong idea as to how Adam fell. . . . Adam was not tempted by Satan in a direct way. . . . Eve was tempted by Satan, and Eve fell, being deceived. But we have inspired evidence to prove that Adam was not deceived (I Tim. 2:14). He was caught by no wiles of Satan, but that which he did, he did wilfully and deliberately. And in the full consciousness of what he was doing, and with a perfect realization of the solemn consequences which were involved, he deliberately chose to follow his wife in her act of sinful disobedience. It was this deliberate wilfulness of man‘s sin which constituted its heinous character. Had he been attacked by Satan, and forced to yield through some overwhelming power being brought against him, we might have tried to find some excuse for his fall. But when, with eyes wide open, and with mind perfectly conscious and fully aware of the awful nature of his act, he used his free will to respond to the claims of the creature in defiance of the Creator, no excuse can be found for his fall. His act, in reality, was wilful, defiant rebellion, and by it he openly transferred his allegiance from God to Satan.8

And has there not been a fall — a fearful fall? The more we see of human nature as it is manifested in the world about us, the easier it is to believe in this great doctrine of original sin. Consider the world as a whole, filled as it is with murders, robberies, drunkenness, wars, broken homes, and crimes of all kinds. The thousand ingenious forms which crime and vice have assumed in the hands of regular practitioners are all tokens telling a fearful tale. A large portion of the human race today, as in all past ages, is left to live and die in the darkness of heathenism, hopelessly astray from God. Modernism and denial of every kind is rampant even in the Church. Even the religious press, so called, is strongly tinged with unbelief. Observe the general disinclination to pray, or to study the Bible, or to speak of spiritual things. Is not man now, as his progenitor Adam, fleeing from the presence of God, not wanting communion with Him, and with enmity in his heart for his Creator? Surely man‘s nature is radically wrong. The daily newspaper accounts of events, even in such an enlightened land as America, show that man is sinful, lost from God, and actuated by unholy principles. And the only adequate explanation of all this is that the penalty of death, which was threatened on man before the fall, now rests on the human race.

We live in a lost world, a world which if left to itself would fester in its corruption from eternity to eternity, — a world reeking with iniquity and blasphemy. The effects of the fall are such that man‘s will in itself tends only downward to acts of sin and folly. As a matter of fact God does not permit the race to become as corrupt as it naturally would if left to itself. He exercises restraining influences, inciting men to love one another, to be honest, philanthropic, and considerate of each other‘s welfare. Unless God exercised these influences, wicked men would become worse and worse, overlapping conventions and social barriers, until the very zenith of lawlessness would soon be reached, and the earth would become so utterly corrupt that the elect could not live on it.

5. THE REPRESENTATIVE PRINCIPLE

It is easy for us to understand how a person may act through a representative. The people of a state act in and through their representatives in the Legislature. If a country has a good president or king, all of the people share the good results; if a bad president or king, all suffer the consequences. In a very real sense parents stand representative for, and to a large extent decide the destinies of, their children. If the parents are wise, virtuous, thrifty, the children reap the blessings; but if they are indolent and immoral the children suffer. In a thousand ways the well-being of individuals is conditioned by the acts of others, so inwrought is this representative principle into our human life. Hence in the Scripture doctrine that Adam stood as the official head and representative of his people we have only the application of a principle which we see at work all about us.

Dr. Charles Hodge has very ably treated this subject in the following section: —

This representative principle pervades the whole Scriptures. The imputation of Adam‘s sin to his posterity is not an isolated fact. It is only an illustration of a general principle which characterizes the dispensations of God from the beginning of the world. God declared Himself to Moses as one who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children‘s children unto the third and to the fourth generation, Ex. 34:6, 7. . . . The curse pronounced on Canaan fell on his posterity. Esau‘s selling his birthright, shut out his descendants from the covenant of promise. The children of Moab and Ammon were excluded from the congregation of the Lord forever, because their ancestors opposed the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. In the case of Dathan and Abiram, as in that of Achan, ‘their wives, and their sons, and their little children‘ perished for the sins of their parents. God said to Eli, that the iniquity of his house should not be purged with sacrifice and offering for ever. To David it was said, ‘The sword shall never depart from thy house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.‘ To the disobedient Gehazi it was said: ‘The leprosy of Naaman shall cleave unto thee and unto thy seed forever.‘ The sin of Jeroboam and of the men of his generation determined the destiny of the ten tribes for all time. The imprecation of the Jews, when they demanded the crucifixion of Christ, ‘His blood be on us and on our children,‘ still weighs down the scattered people of Israel. . . . This principle runs through the whole Scriptures. When God entered into covenant with Abraham, it was not for himself only but also for his posterity. They were bound by all the stipulations of the covenant. They shared its promises and its threatenings, and in hundreds of cases the penalty of disobedience came upon those who bad no personal part in the transgressions. Children suffered equally with adults in the judgments, whether famine, pestilence, or war, which came upon the people for their sins.

And the Jews to this day are suffering the penalty of the sins of their fathers for their rejection of Him of whom Moses and the prophets spoke. The whole plan of redemption rests on this same principle. Christ is the representative of His people, and on this ground their sins are imputed to Him and His righteousness to them. . . . No man who believes the Bible can shut his eyes to the fact that it everywhere recognizes the representative character of parents, and that the dispensations of God have from the beginning been founded on the principle that the children bear the iniquities of their fathers. This is one of the reasons which infidels assign for rejecting the divine origin of the Scriptures. But infidelity furnishes no relief. History is as full of this doctrine as the Bible is. The punishment of the felon involves his family in his disgrace and misery. The spend-thrift and drunkard entail poverty and wretchedness upon all connected with them. There is no nation now existing on the face of the earth, whose condition for weal or woe is not largely determined by the character and conduct of their ancestors . . . The idea of the transfer of guilt or of vicarious punishment lies at the foundation of all the expiatory offerings under the Old Testament, and of the great atonement under the new dispensation. To bear sin, is in Scriptural language to bear the penalty of sin. The victim bore the sin of the offerer. Hands were imposed upon the head of the animal about to be slaughtered, to express the transfer of guilt. That animal must be free from all defect or blemish to make it the more apparent that its blood was shed not for its own deficiencies but for the sin of another. All this was symbolical and typical. . . . And this is what the Scriptures teach concerning the Atonement of Christ. He bore our sins; He was made a curse for us; He suffered the penalty of the law in our stead. All this proceeds on the ground that the sins of one man can be justly, on some adequate ground, imputed to another.9

The Scriptures tell us that, “By one man‘s disobedience the many were made sinners,” Rom. 5:19. “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned,” Rom. 5:12. “Through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation” Rom. 5:18. It is as if God had said: If sin is to enter, let it enter by one man, so that righteousness also may enter by one man.

Adam was made not only the father but also the representative of the whole human race. And if we fully understood the closeness of the relation between him and them we would fully realize the justice of the transmission of his sin to them. Adam‘s sin is imputed to his descendants in the same way that Christ‘s righteousness is imputed to those who believe in Him. Adam‘s descendants are, of course, no more personally guilty of his sin than Christ‘s redeemed are personally meritorious of His righteousness.

Suffering and death are declared to be the consequence of sin; and the reason that all die is that “all sinned.” Now we know that many suffer and die in infancy, before they have committed any sin themselves. It follows that either God is unjust in punishing the innocent, or that those infants are in some way guilty creatures. And if guilty, how have they sinned? It is impossible to explain it on any other supposition than that they sinned in Adam (I Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5:12, 18); and they could not have sinned in him in any other way than by representation.

But while we are not personally guilty of Adam‘s sin, we are, nevertheless, liable to punishment for it. “The guilt of Adam‘s public sin,” says Dr. A. A. Hodge,

is by a judicial act of God immediately charged to the account of each and every one of his descendants from the moment he begins to exist, and antecedently to any act of his own. Hence all men come into existence deprived of all those influences of the Holy Spirit upon which their moral and spiritual life depends. . . . and with an antecedent prevailing tendency in their natures to sin; which tendency in them is itself of the nature of sin, and worthy of punishment. Human nature since the fall retains its constitutional faculties of reason, conscience and free agency, and hence man continues to be a responsible moral agent. Yet he is spiritually dead, and totally averse to and incapable of the discharge of any of these duties which spring out of his relation to God, and entirely unable to change his own evil dispositions or innate moral tendencies, or to dispose himself to such a change, or to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in effecting such a change.10

And to the same general effect, Dr. R. L. Dabney, the outstanding theologian of the southern Presbyterian Church, says:

The explanation presented by the doctrine of imputation is demanded by all except Pelagians and Socinians, Man‘s is a spiritually dead and a condemned race. See Eph. 2:1-5, et passim. He is obviously under a curse for something, from the beginning of his life. Witness the native depravity of infants, and their inheritance of woe and death. Now, either man was tried and fell in Adam, or he has been condemned without trial. He is either under the curse (as it rests on him at the beginning of his existence) for Adam‘s guilt, or for no guilt at all. Judge which is most honorable to God, a doctrine which, although a profound mystery, represents Him as giving man an equitable and most favored probation in his federal head; or that which makes God condemn him untried, and even before he exists.”11

6. THE GOODNESS AND SEVERITY OF GOD

A survey of the fall and its extent is humiliating work. It proves to man that all his claims of goodness are unfounded, and it shows him that his only hope is in the sovereign grace of Almighty God. The “graciously restored ability” of which the Arminian talks is not consistent with the facts. The Scriptures, history, and Christian experience by no means warrant such a favorable view of the natural moral condition of man as the Arminian system teaches. On the contrary each of these gives us a very gloomy picture of a fearful corruption and universal inclination to evil, which can only be overcome by the intervention of divine grace. The Calvinistic system teaches a far deeper fall into sin and a far more glorious manifestation of redeeming grace. From these depths the Christian is led to despair of himself, to throw himself unconditionally into the arms of God, and to lay hold on unmerited grace, which alone can save him.

We should see God‘s mercy and also His severity in the spiritual and physical realms. Life is full of hard facts which, unpleasant though they may be, must simply be faced and admitted. Throughout the Scriptures, and especially in the words of Christ Himself, the final torments of the wicked are described in such ways as to show us that they are indescribably awful. In the gospel of Matthew alone see 5:29, 30; 7:19; 10:28; 11:21-24; 13:30, 41, 42, 49, 50; 18:8, 9, 34; 21:41; 22:14; 24:51; 25:12, 30, 41; and 26:24. Surely a doctrine which received such emphasis from the lips of Christ Himself cannot be passed over in silence, distasteful though it may be. In the next world the wicked, with all restraint removed, will go headlong into sin, blaspheming and cursing God, growing worse and worse as they sink deeper and deeper into the bottomless pit. Endless punishment is the penalty of ENDLESS sinning. Furthermore, it is as much the glory of God that He punishes the wicked as that He rewards the righteous. Much of the easy-going indifference toward Christianity in our day is due to the failure of Christian ministers to emphasize these doctrines which Christ taught so repeatedly.

In the physical realm we see God‘s severity in wars, famines, floods, disasters, diseases, sufferings, deaths, and crimes of all kind which come upon the just and the unjust alike. All of these exist in a world which is under the complete control of a God who is infinite in His perfections.

“Behold then the goodness and severity of God,” Rom. 11:22. Naturalism does justice to neither of these. Arminianism magnifies the first but neglects the second. Calvinism is the only system which does justice to both. It alone adequately sets forth the facts in regard to the eternal and infinite love of God which caused Him to provide redemption for His people, even at the great cost of sending His only-begotten Son to die on the cross; and also in regard to the awful abyss which exists between sinful man and the holy God. It is true that “God is love,” but along with this must be placed the other statement that “our God is a consuming fire,” Heb. 12:29. Any system which omits or under-emphasizes either of these truths will be a mutilated system, no matter how plausible it may sound to men.

This doctrine of the Total Inability of man is terribly stern, severe, forbidding. But it is to be remembered that we are not at liberty to develop a new system suited to our liking. We must take the facts as we find them. Such exhibitions of the true state of mankind are, of course, offensive to unregenerate men generally; and many have tried to find out a system of doctrines more palatable to the popular mind. The state of fallen man is such that he readily listens to any theory which makes him even partly independent of God; he wishes to be the master of his fate and the captain of his soul. The lost, ruined, and helpless state of the sinner needs to be constantly set before him; for until he is brought to feel it, he will never seek help where alone it is to be found. Poor man! truly carnal and sold under sin, not only without power but without inclination to move toward God; and what is more awful still, an actual rebel, a presumptuous, blasphemous rival of the Great Jehovah.

This doctrine of Total Inability, or Original Sin, has been treated at some length in order to set forth the fundamental basis upon which the doctrine of Predestination rests. This side of the picture is dark, very dark indeed; but its supplement is the glory of God in redemption. Each of these truths must be seen in its true light before the other can be adequately appreciated.

7. SCRIPTURE PROOF

I Cor. 2:14: The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged.
Gen. 2:17: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Rom. 5:12: Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned.
II Cor. 1:9: Yea, we ourselves had the sentence of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead.
Eph. 2:1-3: And you did He make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; among whom ye also all once lived in the lusts of your flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
Eph. 2:12: Ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Jer. 13:23: Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
Ps. 51:5: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me.
John 3:3: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Rom. 3:10-12: As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one;
There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God;
They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable;
There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one.
Job 14:4: Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.
I Cor. 1:18: For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.
Acts 13:41: Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish; For I work a work in your days, A work which ye shall in no wise believe, if one declare it unto you.
Prov. 30:12: There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes,
And yet are not washed from their filthiness.
John 5:21: For as the Father raiseth the dead and giveth them life, even so the Son also giveth life to whom He will.
John 6:53: Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, ye have not life in yourselves.
John 8:19: They said therefore unto Him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye know neither me, nor my Father; if ye knew me, ye would know my Father also.
Matt. 11:25: I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes.
II Cor. 5:17: if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. John 14:16: (And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may be with you forever,) even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; ye know Him; for He abideth with you, and shall be in you.
John 3:19: And this is the judgment, that light is come unto the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.

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!

Pastor James