Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Psalm 118: A Thanksgiving Psalm

The text of Psalm 118 is as follows [from the NIV 1984]:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
Let Israel say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say:
    “His love endures forever.”
In my anguish I cried to the Lord,
    and he answered by setting me free.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can man do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I will look in triumph on my enemies.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.
10 All the nations surrounded me,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them off.
11 They surrounded me on every side,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them off.
12 They swarmed around me like bees,
    but they died out as quickly as burning thorns;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off.
13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
    but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.
15 Shouts of joy and victory
    resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
16     The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
    the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”
17 I will not die but live,
    and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
18 The Lord has chastened me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness;
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord
    through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.
22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the capstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Lord, save us;
    Lord, grant us success.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
    From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light shine upon us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
    you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
A few of notes re: this Psalm:

I love how this Psalm is bracketed by thanksgiving to God. The Psalm begins and ends with the same words of thanksgiving (vv. 1, 29). In the middle of the Psalm, there is the repetition of thanksgiving concerning "The LORD's right hand" (vv. 15-16). There are several other modes of expression in the Psalm, such as supplication (v. 25), or a poetic recounting of historical events (vv. 10-12), but these are all within a Psalm of thanksgiving. This reminds us, that however we address God and others, our lives must be characterized by constant thanksgiving (1 Thess 5:18).

But this thanksgiving is not just an individual action. The psalmist is calling upon his hearers/readers to thank God with him. This is a reminder that we are to be concerned with bearing witness concerning the goodness of the LORD, that all nations would praise Him.

And why does the psalmist give thanks to God? First and foremost, because of Who He Is. God is good; He is the one with an ever-enduring love. I fear that many of us, even if we do mention the things we are thankful for on Thanksgiving Day, tend to focus overmuch on the things rather than the Giver of those things.

The psalmist does not give thanks to God on the basis of God giving him a charmed, trouble-free life. The psalmist does not feel that he must pretend that his life is trouble-free. Instead, the psalmist writes: "In my anguish I cried to the LORD" (v. 5). On Thanksgiving Day, many are feeling anguish: especially those who are separated from loved ones due to death or distance. It is a comfort that we can still cry out to the LORD in our anguish, and that-by faith-we can be assured of His help.

The psalmist points to the gospel in his praise. The psalmist writes of the righteous man, who is rejected by unjust authorities, and who is vindicated by God (vv. 22-23). The Apostle Peter interprets this image of a rejected then exalted "stone" as fulfilled by Christ (Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7), who was put to death by the religious and governmental authorities of His day, but who rose again, showing that He had conquered sin, death, and Hell on behalf of all who believe in Him.

There are many other points that could be made about this Psalm. Contemporary songs have been written, which draw upon its various verses. But allow me to leave you with this: on this Thanksgiving, it is good to meditate upon the Word of the LORD and truly give Him praise.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Thanksgiving Reflection

Often I will see my wife and children in the living room of our house and will feel awash with an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God for the blessing that they are to me. Our Heavenly Father is truly the Giver of all good things. I am aware, at least to some degree, of how selfish that I can be, and I in no way deserve Abby's love; without God's grace in my life, I could choose to isolate myself and follow sinful desires, tearing my family apart and robbing us all of the happiness that we have together: a mistake that I've seen some of my friends make. This Thanksgiving, I pray God's protection on my household and pray that He grant us wisdom to continually thank Him as we seek to serve Christ.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Song for the Thanksgiving Season: Give Thanks

Give thanks with
a grateful heart.
Give thanks to the
Holy One.
Give thanks, because
He's given Jesus Christ,
His Son.

And now, let the weak
say, "I am strong."
Let the poor
say, "I am rich,"
Because of what the
Lord has done for us.

Give thanks.

-by Henry Smith, 1978
(Matt. 5:3; Jn. 3:16; II Cor. 12:10; Phil. 4:6-7)

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Monday, November 21, 2016

A song for this Thanksgiving season: The Love of God, by Frederick M. Lehman

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Refrain.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Refrain.

[From the cyberhymnal page HERE.]

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Response to the Election Result: Prayer

The following post is adapted from what I wrote back in 2008, just after that year's presidential election. Only the conclusion is updated to apply to the current moment.

Five Biblical Examples

1. In Genesis 12, God promised Abram that he would bless him, making him a great nation with many descendants. Later in this chapter Abram and his wife Sarai go down into Egypt. Abram is fearful that the Egyptians will kill him to steal his beautiful wife, so he tells Sarai to claim she is his sister (this shows how fear can lead to making crazy decisions). Sarai is then taken into Pharaoh's harem. Pharaoh planned to keep Sarai for a wife, but the Lord sent plagues upon Pharaoh and all his house. Apparently, in inquiring why calamity was coming upon him, Pharaoh learned Sarai was Abram's sister, and he returned Sarai to Abram and made sure that they were able to safely leave his land.

2. In Genesis 20 an almost identical situation occurred involving Abraham, Sarah, and King Abimelech; this time, after Abimelech took Sarah from Abraham, but before he could take her for a wife, the Lord came to him in a dream and warned him that he would be killed if he had relations with her. Thus, Sarah is once again returned to Abraham by divine intervention.

3. In Exodus 7-12 Pharaoh repeatedly denied liberty to the people of Israel, intending to keep them as a weakened slave-race, subjected to the Egyptians. But God sent severe plagues upon the Egyptians, culminating in the death of all firstborn people and animals in unbelieving households, including the death of Pharaoh's own child. Thus, Pharaoh's will was broken, and he commanded the people of Israel to leave Egypt.

4. In Daniel 4 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was bragging on his own majesty and accomplishments. Presumably, he was very pleased with his state in life and planned to continue reigning, uninterrupted, as a glorious king upon the earth, commanding others to worship him as he worshiped himself. Quite suddenly, God struck Nebuchadnezzar with madness and he lost everything; he was reduced to living as a beast in the field. After an appointed time had passed, God restored his senses to him, and King Nebuchadnezzar worshiped God, rather than himself.

5. In Acts 9 Saul had been granted executive authority to capture and imprison Christians, for the purpose of having them sentenced to death. While Saul was "yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1 KJV), the Lord appeared to him, knocked him to the ground and informed him that he was now an Christian apostle, instead of a persecutor of Christians (cf. Acts 26:12-18).

Biblical Principle

Throughout Scripture we see kings and other governmental authorities who express one intention, and yet, when he chooses, God over-rides the intentions of kings and rulers so that they end up making decisions contrary to their original intention. God rules in this way for the purpose of maginifying His glory.

Conclusion

As Denny Burk noted, Donald Trump displayed a character that was outside the normal bounds of acceptability for a presidential candidate. If someone read the "Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials" from the Southern Baptist Convention, without knowing that it was adopted in 1998 (in light of the scandals of President Bill Clinton), it would be easy to assume that the resolution was crafted with Mr. Trump in mind. What was true in 1998 under Bill Clinton is true in 2016 under Donald Trump. Yet Mr. Trump (who is in print and on tape as repeatedly bragging about marital infidelity) infamously claimed in 2015 that he rarely, if ever, asks God for forgiveness, saying: "I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't."

For both political and moral reasons, many Christians are seriously concerned about what a Donald Trump presidency may hold. But God can change Donald Trump's mind and his character, and Christians should faithfully pray to this end.

True hope is not in presidents or in voters, but in God, the sovereign Lord over creation.
The king's heart is like channels of water in the hands of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes. (Proverbs 21:1 NASB)

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Saturday, November 05, 2016

Evan McMullin: An Explanation of Reluctantly Voting for Romney, Part 2

As Denny Burk articulates well, in the current presidential election, both of the major party candidates are entirely unacceptable. For this reason, I have been planning to vote third-party (or for an independent candidate). I like the Constitution Party platform, and had planned to vote for the Constitution Party candidate, Darrell Castle. However, Castle is not listed on the ballot in Kentucky, and I am receiving conflicting information as to whether he is an approved write-in candidate.

The best option that I have on the Kentucky ballot appears to be Evan McMullin. According to his website, McMullin is pro-life and a constitutional conservative. Though it's, admittedly, rather a long-shot, there is a possibility of McMullin winning the presidency (probably through the contingent election process).

The realities of this election season leave many evangelicals, like me, with the unsavory choice of casting a vote for a Mormon. I [and many of my fellow evangelicals] deem this choice "unsavory" because Mormonism promotes an anti-Christian view of both the content and the source of true belief in God.

In thinking through this matter, I'm reminded of my reasoning in voting for Mitt Romney against Barack Obama in the 2012 election. Though reluctant to vote for Romney, I found Obama to be entirely unacceptable due to his radically pro-abortion agenda. The following is what I wrote concerning Mitt Romney in 2012, which also applies to voting for McMullin this Tuesday.

Many of my evangelical friends are, understandably, concerned that electing Mitt Romney will promote Mormonism: that Mormon missionaries, both in the U.S. and throughout the world, will find greater ease in winning people to their false gospel if they can trumpet their religion as the religion of the President.


But to what extent is this a valid concern?

Note that some within the Mormon organization itself do not believe that Mitt Romney as President will help their cause. For example, see the following excerpt of a letter from a Mormon missionary, as heard on NPR's Talk of the Nation yesterday:

"My fear is that if Mitt Romney's elected President, it will be more difficult for LDS missionaries abroad to distinguish themselves from the United States in countries where many may not love Americans. I worry any 'wrongs' made by Mitt Romney would reflect poorly upon the [Mormon] Church, not only abroad, but here in the States."

It is unlikely that Mormon missionaries will be able to use Mr. Romney as much of an example if they have to: 1) constantly distance themselves from the notion that Mormonism = Americanism [especially when they are in other nations]; 2) constantly explain why the Mormon Church's positions on issues are somewhat different that Mr. Romney's positions.

Finally, I would encourage my fellow evangelicals to consider the following: when Bill Clinton was elected President, and throughout his presidency, he was a member "in good standing" of a Southern Baptist affiliated church in Arkansas. Does anyone really believe that having Mr. Clinton in office (even before the Lewinsky scandal came to light) was any help at all for Southern Baptist evangelists and missionaries? I can testify that during the Clinton administration I was involved in door-to-door evangelism with my Dad and other members of my church; I can honestly say that it never crossed our minds to mention Bill Clinton. If having a member of one's denomination as President is not a help for a true expression Christian belief, then why should we assume that a Mormon as President would help that false expression of faith in God?

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dr. Albert Mohler on the Abstract of Principles' Origin

In this blogpost, I highlight three quotes from Dr. Albert Mohler. These quotes are all from early in Dr. Mohler's career as President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary [SBTS]. When these quotes were given, Dr. Mohler was engaging in the struggle of reformation at SBTS, returning the institution to biblical fidelity, as expressed in its confessional basis: the Abstract of Principles. I highlight both the historical origin of the Abstract and the history of reformation at SBTS with three prayers in mind: 1) that the Southern Baptist Convention [SBC] can experience unity in truth, while engaging in gospel-focused theological education and missions; 2) that the churches in cooperation with the SBC will experience continued reformation, hearing the doctrines of God's sovereign grace ever more clearly proclaimed from our pulpits; 3) that SBC-affiliated churches could find increasing opportunities for cooperation with [other] Reformed Baptist churches outside the SBC.

On April 8, 1993, when he was president-elect of the seminary, Dr. Mohler participated in a question-and-answer forum at SBTS chapel. [You can view the entire forum HERE.] In this forum, he said the following about the Abstract of Principles:
"The Abstract of Principles is the confessional document of this institution, and it is (in fact) a contractual document. Every elected member of the faculty has affixed her name or his name to that document, going all the way back to the founders in 1859. As a part of my election as President, and the search process, all of the finalists were asked to present to the Search Committee, and then to the Board of Trustees, an interpretation (a very brief interpretation) of the Abstract... [the Abstract] is the bedrock of this institution. When Basil Manly Sr., who was the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees of this institution, wrote to James Petigru Boyce [the first SBTS president] anticipating the founding of this school, he told Boyce, 'There must be a confession; you must state what you believe and what you will teach.' ... All of us who are assigned responsibility and submit ourselves to the Abstract agree to teach 'in accordance with, and not contrary to' that document... The Abstract is a very straight-forward document. It was written very carefully, based upon the Second London Confession, the Philadelphia Confession, and later recensions that came into Southern Baptist life directly. It was written so that it would be straightforward, and without great ambiguity."
Upon his convocation, on August 31, 1993, Dr. Mohler delivered the famous address, "Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!" setting forth a vision for reformation at Southern Seminary, according to the institution's confessional basis, the Abstract of Principles. Concerning the origin of the Abstract, Dr. Mohler said:
"The most critical role in bringing the Abstract of Principles to final form was served by Basil Manly, Jr., another of the four founding faculty... At Princeton, both Manly and Boyce had studied under the imposing figure of Samuel Miller, a stalwart defender of Presbyterian theological and ecclesiastical standards, who argued the 'The necessity and importance of creeds and confessions appears from the consideration that one great design of establishing a Church in our world was that she might be, in all ages, a depository, a guardian, and a witness of the truth.' 
"That same conviction drove Boyce, both Manlys, John A. Broadus, and those who deliberated with them, to propose an Abstract of Principles based upon the Second London Confession, which was itself a Baptist revision of the Westminster Confession. The Second London Confession had been adopted in slightly revised form by the Baptist associations in Philadelphia and Charleston, and had thus greatly influenced Baptists of both the North and the South."
In 1995 the Founders Journal released a special issue, commemorating the sesquicentennial of the SBC. This issue was handed out to messengers of the 1995 annual meeting of the SBC. In this issue, Dr. Mohler, who was still in the heat of the controversy regarding the reformation of SBTS, wrote an article titled, "To Train the Minister Whom God Has Called: James Petigru Boyce and Southern Baptist Theological Education." In that article, Dr. Mohler wrote:
"The Abstract of Principles came primarily from the editorial pen of Basil Manly, Jr., who had been assigned the task of drafting the confession. Manly drew from the very finest and most faithful Baptist tradition by turning to the Charleston Confession and its Reformed Baptist orthodoxy. The Abstract of Principles stands as a brilliant summary of biblical and Baptist conviction. It is solidly based within the confessional tradition of the Baptists and was, as acknowledged by those who set it in place, a faithful repetition of the central truths found within the Westminster Confession. 
"Thus the great truths of the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace were incorporated within the heart of Southern Baptists’ first theological institution. Here was to be found no lack of doctrinal clarity and no ambiguity on the great doctrines which had united Baptists to this date. Sincere and earnest Southern Baptist who wish to understand the true substance of our theological heritage need look no further than the Abstract of Principles for a clear outline of the doctrines once most certainly held among us. Let there be no doubt that in the years to come Southern Seminary will be unashamedly and unhesitantly committed to these same doctrinal convictions as set forth in this incomparable document."

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Teaching a Text: Focus and Feeling

Yesterday, at Kosmosdale Baptist Church, Pastor Mitch Chase preached from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5. The text involves the Day of the Lord, a topic which carries themes of judgment and destruction for those who are opposed to the Truth. Mitch did an excellent job exploring these themes and urging the congregation to consider the coming judgment. In light of this, you might think that the sermon would be so focused on the threat of Hell and the call for repentance as to be oppressive to its hearers. However, this was not the case at all; instead, I found Mitch's preaching from this text to be deeply encouraging.

In expositional preaching (that is, preaching from the Scripture passage-by-passage, taking the points of the sermon directly from the passage), it is crucial that the preacher explain the meaning of the words in the text, giving the grammatical meaning and historical context. The preacher must also apply the text to the congregation's current situation. With a burden for people's eternal state, the preacher must always call his listeners to consider whether they have repented and are trusting Christ. While engaging the congregation with this kind of teaching, the preacher must also make sure to retain the tone and the overall intended purpose of any given text. Yesterday, I was once again impressed with how well Mitch models this kind of preaching.

The "Day of the Lord" passage from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 certainly calls for serious self-reflection. On the other hand, these five verses begin and end with encouraging words. These verses indicate that when the Lord comes, bringing judgment, those who trust in Him will be found safe. If we are able to stand firm in the Day of the Lord, how much more should we consider ourselves fully equipped to withstand the (comparatively) lesser trials that we face in this life.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Re: Newt Gingrich

I posted the following on 11/29/11 during the Republican Primary leading into the 2012 presidential election.
 
As I write this, it appears that Newt Gingrich [?!] is the non-Romney frontrunner in the GOP Primary. But I won't be voting for him either. Because usually I wouldn't quote Ann Coultier (although if her political positions were put on a checklist, I might agree with a good number of them) because she regularly presents her points of view in a rude, uncharitable, fear-mongering manner, but in the following quote re: Newt Gingrich (given via Dan Phillips), I have to admit that she sums up conservative objections to Gingrich nicely:
In addition to having an affair in the middle of Clinton's impeachment; apologizing to Jesse Jackson on behalf of J.C. Watts - one of two black Republicans then in Congress –- for having criticized 'poverty pimps,' and then inviting Jackson to a State of the Union address; cutting a global warming commercial with Nancy Pelosi; supporting George Soros' candidate Dede Scozzafava in a congressional special election; appearing in public with the Rev. Al Sharpton to promote nonspecific education reform; and calling Paul Ryan's plan to save Social Security 'right-wing social engineering,' we found out this week that Gingrich was a recipient of Freddie Mac political money.
The "affair" mentioned above led to Gingrich divorcing his second wife and marrying the younger woman, just as he had divorced his first wife after having an affair with a younger woman. Gingrich's third wife convinced him to convert to Roman Catholicism (Newt had been a lifelong Southern Baptist). Gingrich's marital and religious infidelity - his unfaithfulness to the most sacred of relationships - seem to mark him out as a fundamentally untrustworthy individual.

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Monday, October 03, 2016

The Case for the Preservation of the Saints

(The following blogpost was originally a series of posts that I published here beginning on 1/7/06. I re-published part of this material after an evangelistic conversation that I had on 9/25/13. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been involved in a couple of discussions where this topic has come up again.)

Can a person who has truly come to faith in Christ- who has been justified in the sight of God and has been brought into a state of salvation- can such a person ever fall away from the faith and thus lose their salvation?

Christians have asked this question for centuries: some ask it for academic reasons, others because they realize the frailty of their own hearts and are concerned that they may one day lose their salvation, and some because they know of some one (perhaps a friend or loved one) who once claimed to be a believer and later rejected the Christian faith.

In answering the question of whether someone can ever lose their salvation, Christians must turn- as in all things- to God’s Holy Word, the Bible, for,

The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, (The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith).

It is my belief that the Bible teaches that a person who truly comes to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will never, in fact, lose their salvation. In the words of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith:

Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon; notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity. (John 10:28,29; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 2:19; Psalms 89:31,32; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Malachi 3:6)

This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father, upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ and union with him, the oath of God, the abiding of his Spirit, and the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof. (Romans 8:30; Romans 9:11,16; Romans 5:9,10; John 14:19; Hebrews 6:17,18; 1 John 3:9; Jeremiah 32:40)

And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God's displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end. (Matthew 26:70,72,74; Isaiah 64:5,9; Ephesians 4:30; Psalms 51:10,12; Psalms 32:3,4; 2 Samuel 12:14; Luke 22:32,61,62)

The Teachings of Christ

In the clearest terms possible, our Lord Himself has taught that all who come to faith in Him will, in fact, persevere in their faith, saying,

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, `AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. (John 6:44-47 NASB)

In this passage, the Lord Jesus gives two doctrines that directly support the idea that a person who is “saved” cannot be “unsaved:”

1. Jesus teaches that He will raise up (resurrect) all who come to faith in Him. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day." As He teaches elsewhere:

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (John 11:25b NKJV)

Jesus said, “I will raise him up on the last day” and “he shall live.” The certain connection of a person’s coming to faith to their eventual resurrection- based upon the drawing of the Father- ensures that a person who comes to true faith in Christ will never lose their salvation.

2. Jesus teaches that those who believe are given eternal life at the time of their belief. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life." As He teaches elsewhere:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 KJV)

That the life we possess when we come to Jesus in faith is everlasting- or eternal- should indicate to us that we cannot lose it. If we could lose eternal life, then it would not really be eternal.

An Objection Raised

But someone will point to a “problem passage” such as Hebrews 6:4-8, which reads:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. (NKJV)

Does this teaching contradict that of Jesus in John 6:44-47? Not at all. For the Word of God here declares the glory of Christ’s atonement of sinners by introducing a hypothetical situation- the texts says “if they fall away.” By this statement we cannot then automatically infer that this is something that in fact ever does happen. As the Word makes clear in the verse following the passage mentioned above:

But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. (Hebrews 6:9-20 NKJV)

By this verse, the author of Hebrews tells us that he was speaking in a peculiar manner, and that he was confident of those things which actually accompany salvation in the lives of his believing readers. This phrase, “though we speak in this manner,” at the end of this passage along with the word “if” at the beginning of the problematic portion indicate to me that the Bible is, in fact, utilizing a hypothetical situation contrary to that which ever actually occurs in order to make a significant point: that of teaching gratitude. As Charles Spurgeon illustrated in his sermon, Final Perseverance:

The chemist tells us, that if there were no oxygen mixed with the air, animals would die. Do you suppose that there will be no oxygen, and therefore we shall die? No, he only teaches you the great wisdom of God, in having mixed the gases in their proper proportions. Says one of the old astronomers, "There is great wisdom in God, that he has put the sun exactly at a right distance—not so far away that we should be frozen to death, and not so near that we should be scorched." He says, "If the sun were a million miles nearer to us we should be scorched to death." Does the man suppose that the sun will be a million miles nearer, and, therefore, we shall be scorched to death? He says, "If the sun were a million miles farther off we should be frozen to death." Does he mean that the sun will be a million miles farther off, and therefore we shall be frozen to death? Not at all. Yet it is quite a rational way of speaking, to show us how grateful we should be to God. So says the Apostle. Christian! if thou shouldst fall away, thou couldst never be renewed unto repentance. Thank thy Lord, then, that he keeps thee. [Emphasis added.]

So in Hebrews chapter 6, when it is written "if they fall away" in verse 6, a hypothetical situation is being presented that- in fact, by God's grace- never actually occurs. In other words, no one who has truly become a partaker of the Holy Spirit (cf. Heb. 6:4)- whose indwelling in our lives guarantees that we will remain sealed in Christ (cf. I Cor. 1:21-22)- not one of these will ever actually "crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame" (Heb. 6:6b).

What of Those Who Do Seem to "Fall Away?"

But someone will point to an experience that they have had that seems to contradict the teaching that no one who has been granted eternal life will ever truly "fall away." For many of us sadly know someone who professed faith in Christ, and who even seemed to take great joy in the things of God, and yet later came to repudiate his or her belief.

But the Scripture specifically addresses the subject of how we should understand our experience of seeing people who claimed to be Christians yet later turn to skepticism or other various forms of unbelief. For I John 2:19 declares,

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (NIV)

In this verse, the fact that someone turns their back on the Church is taken as proof that they had never really come to belong in the Church- by faith- to begin with. And it is easy for someone to come into the Church without faith, for when someone hears about the peace, love and forgiveness found in the gospel- if the benefits of the gospel are presented well- then it is only natural that that person would want to profit from these benefits. But when the harsher reality of the life of faith becomes evident- namely, that "all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (II Tim. 3:12 HCSB)- then many are shown to have no true, enduring faith in the Lord.

And this is the reality that Jesus indicated in His parable of the soils, when He spoke of the seed that fell on the rocky ground:

And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, immediately they receive it with joy. But they have no root in themselves; they are short-lived. And when affliction or persecution comes because of the word, they stumble immediately.(Mark 4:16-17 HCSB)

These 'rocky-ground hearers' receive the preaching of the Word with joy, but since "they have no root in themselves"- they have no true faith- they end up fruitless and dead. These 'rocky-ground hearers' may deceive others for a time and they may even be self-deceived for, as the prophet Jeremiah declared,

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV)

What is even more frightening is the fact that since the 'rocky-ground hearers' do NOT really "want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus," they may avoid persecution for their entire lives- and even do great, seemingly spiritual works- and then face judgment before Christ as self-deceived unbelievers. As Jesus warned,

Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)

And so it becomes clear why James, the brother of our Lord, can confidently instruct us to

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2-3 NIV)

Trials or persecutions that come into our lives reveal who we really are. For those who are making a show of faith, but have no real heart for God, persecutions reveal unbelief. But for those with true faith in Christ, trials test our faith and develop perseverance. There is no chance that trials will cause the faithful to lose our faith- and thus our eternal security- otherwise the command to consider trials to be pure joy would be nonsense and the promise that "the testing of [our] faith develops perseverance" would be in doubt.

But praise be to God that we, like the Apostle Paul, can be "confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in [us] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6 NKJV).

Preservation: A Trinitarian Work

In conclusion, we should examine the underlying theology behind the teaching that all who are brought into a state of saving grace will be preserved in that state eternally (again: the doctrine of Eternal Security is necessitated by the phrase eternal life itself).

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NASB)

For salvation is entirely the work of God, depending in no way upon sinful Man.

So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (Romans 9:16 NASB)

And our salvation, both in coming to Christ in faith and in being preserved in Christ eternally, is based wholly upon the character of God. And each Person of the Trinity works to ensure that all persons chosen by God for salvation will be saved eternally.

The topic of the work of the Trinity in our salvation has been examined masterfully by Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega ministries- a ministry devoted to Christian apologetics and theology- in his article, "Eternal Security: Based in the Tri-Unity of God."

In this article, Dr. White examines the words of Jesus recorded in John chaper 6, verses 37-39:

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. (NASB)

Concerning these verses, White makes the following exegetical comments:

Jesus presents the complete sovereignty of God in salvation. All that the Father gives to Jesus - everyone - will come to Him. The operative factor in answering the question of why some come and others, presented with the same opportunity, do not, is simply the nature of the Father’s choice. The Father "gives" persons to the Son - a gift of love, to be sure. When the Father gives to the Son a person, that person will come to Christ (as the one avenue to the Father). There is no question that if a person is so given to Christ (or, to use the terminology of verse 44, is so "drawn" by the Father) that he/she will come to Christ. This is the "Godward" side of salvation - absolute certainty and security. Yet, He says that they will "come to Me” which speaks of the human response - not that the human can change the decision of God - but that the response is there all the same. Man is not pictured simply as a “thing” that is bounced around like a ball, but rather a vastly important person who comes to Christ for salvation, all as the result of the gracious working of God in his/her life.

Jesus continues by stating that when one is so given to Him by the Father, and comes to Him, that one is secure in their relationship with Him He will never cast them out, The aorist subjunctive of strong denial makes it clear that rejection of one who seeks refuge in Christ is a complete and total impossibility. What words to a sinners heart! Those who come to Christ will find Him a loving Lord who will never cast out those who trust in Him!

Why will the Lord never cast out those who come to Him? Verse 38 continues the thought with the explanation - the Son has come to do the will of the Father. And what is the will of the Father? That “of all which He has given Me from Him I lose nothing hut raise it up at the last day.” Can we doubt that Christ will do what He promises? Will the Lord Jesus ever fail to do the Father’s will? Here is eternal security beyond dispute. But note that again all is pre-eminently balanced - the security of the person is based on two things - the will of the Father that none he lost, and secondly, the fact that those who are not lost are those who are given to the Son by the Father Himself. So, in reality, there is security in the Father (He gives us to Christ) and security in the Son (He always does the Father’s will).

The realization of the co-operation and interaction of the Father and the Son in the salvation of each individual Christian is an awesome thing! It is self-evident why so many soteriological systems cannot deal with eternal security - it is based on the understanding that salvation is completely the work of God! Man is the object of salvation, the object of God’s sovereign grace. The gospel is the message of grace, and grace is something given totally on the basis of God’s desire to give it. Such is terribly damaging to man’s “self-esteem” and to any concept of our being able to save ourselves or even to “help God along” in our being made righteous. We must realize that we come to God wholly unworthy of His love and grace, totally incapable of effecting even the beginning of His work in our hearts.

Once we rest ourselves in God’s provision of salvation, however, we see that our position in Him is one that is based upon the sovereign act of the Father in giving us to the Son, and in the eternal obedience of the Son to the Father in effecting our salvation! Can we possibly picture a more secure situation than this? I think not! But wait, there is more...

Dr. White next turns to examine the role of the Holy Spirit in securing the preservation of the saints, appealing to the text of Ephesians chapter 1, verses 13-14:

In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation--in Him when you believed--were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory. (HCSB)

Of this passage, White notes:

We find the fact that the Holy Spirit is described in two important ways relevant to our eternal security. First, we are said to he “sealed” by the Holy Spirit of promise. This term was used in secular documents to refer to the act of placing a seal upon one’s possessions to mark them as one’s own. In this case, the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is God’s way of sealing that person as His own. The believer is shown to he God’s “own property” - His possession.

Paralleled with this is the phrase “who is the down-payment of our inheritance." Both phrases speak of the same fact. Here the Spirit is described by the Greek term arrabon- a term used in secular documents to refer to guarantee money. The giving of an arrabon contracted the giver to finish the process of payment. In our context, this would refer to the fact that the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life is the guarantee on the part of God the Father of completing the work which He has begun in that life (Philippians 1:6). Both phrases are then tied together by the paralleling of “promise" and “inheritance.” These terms are used by Paul of the completion of God’s work of salvation in our lives in the end time.

Hence, we see that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is God’s way of “this person is mine - I have begun of salvation in his/her life, and by placing My Spirit in this life. I am telling all that this person belongs to Me, and I will finish the work I have begun!”

We learn from other discussions of the role of the Spirit in the believer’s life (e.g., Romans 8) that the Spirit empowers and sanctifies the believer as well. So it is clear that each of the Divine Persons is vitally involved in the work of salvation. The Father sovereignly and unilaterally chooses us for salvation. He gives us to the Son, who, in obedience to the Father’s will, saves those who are joined to Him by the Father, and raises us up to eternal life. The Spirit of God is placed in our lives to empower and seal us as God’s own possession. Salvation, then, is of God - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Since salvation is of God, and is God’s work, its eternal character is simply the reflection of the nature of its author - God Himself.

Dr. White closes out his article with the following sentence, which I would also like to use as the conclusion for this post:

Each of the three Persons [of the Trinity] is intimately involved in bringing about the salvation of the elect, and that salvation is eternal and secure.

Glory to God alone!

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