Tag Archive | salvation

FOR WHOM DID CHRIST DIE?

salvation 2

 

If I were to ask any Christian the question: For whom did Christ die? I believe a simple answer to this question is “for the sinner”. In a broad sense that’s absolutely true. Yet, there’s more to it if we delve a bit further. In fact, it’s a question that has set theologians to task for years. I’m not about to claim that I can even scratch the surface, but I’d like open up the dialogue because I find the theology behind the question very interesting.  It can be viewed in three scenarios:

  1. Christ’s intent in dying on the cross was to save all men without exception. That is, everyone who has ever lived will immediately or eventually be saved.
  2. Christ’s intent in dying on the cross was to offer a potential salvation to anyone who would believe in Him. In other words, His death could potentially save, but it would depend upon whether the sinner choses to accept Him as Savior or not.
  3. Christ’s intent in dying on the cross was to offer an actual and secure salvation for those He had chosen before the foundation of the world. (Eph. 1:4).

Let’s look at each of these:

Did Christ die so that all may be saved without exception?

This view holds that Christ died to save all men; therefore, all men will be saved. Known as Universalism, it states that everyone is eventually going to heaven. The issue here is that it is in direct opposition to scripture, which is clear that faith in Christ, and Christ alone is required for salvation (John 14:6).  False religions deny Christ, and evil is rampant in this world. Therefore, from a Christian perspective, it is clear that all cannot be saved. The Bible also states that there is a hell for the unrepentant (Rev. 21:8). If all are saved, then why is there a hell?

Did Christ die for those who would potentially come to Him?

Some would hold the view that although Christ died on the cross, His death does not become effectual until an individual “decides for” Christ and is thereby saved. If this is so, then His death only had the potential to save. It could potentially save everyone or it could potentially save no one, depending on who would (or would not) respond to it. First let me say that this view is held by many Christians that I love and respect, and it sounds good on the surface, but it brings up many questions, especially when we consider the broken, sinful nature of man in light of a high and holy God:

  • Did God cross His fingers and hope that someone would heed Christ’s sacrifice?
  • Why would Christ die for those He knew would not accept Him?
  • Did God leave it up to sinners to decide whether or not Christ’s work will be effective?
  • If so, how then, can the sinner make the right choice for Christ in the first place, if he is dead in trespasses and sins and is unable to appraise spiritual things, as Ephesians 2:1 tells us?
  • Does it make sense to say that God was satisfied to punish His Son, (even for those who reject Him), only for them to be punished again in hell? (Romans 3:26)
  • If Christ died for all without exception, and some chose to accept his sacrifice while others do not, is it possible for God to fail?

Did Christ die to secure an actual and sure salvation for those He chose “before the foundation of the world”?

This last view states that Christ died positively and effectually to save a certain number of hell-deserving sinners, that is, those “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

It views the atonement as a secure and actual transaction, not just that which merely makes salvation possible.

The point is, if God already knew and predestined those who would come to him, (Eph. 1:4), if He gave them the ability to reach up to Him in the first place (Eph. 2:1), then it follows that Christ’s intention was to render a complete and sure satisfaction of  the Father’s will to those individuals.

That is: For whom, (and only whom) the Father would chose is to whom (and only whom) the Son would sacrifice His life. The purpose of God is the mission of the Son, as Christ stated in John 6:37-38:

“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 last view, I believe, does justice to the purpose of Christ’s death. It was the extension of God’s love set upon those he has chosen from the beginning. It accomplished that which is according to His sovereignty, that which is successful.

Even so, we as Christians are called to heed the great commission to “go into the world and make disciples of all nations”, (Matt. 28:19).

This sounds contrary to the doctrine of election. “What’s the point?”, you might ask, “If God has already ordained His own?” The response, I believe, is that God does not ordain the end (salvation), without also ordaining the means to the end, (evangelism). He gives His children the privilege of being the means to accomplish His will.

Do you trust in Jesus for your salvation? Do you know Him as Lord and Savior? If you hear this call to salvation, do not turn a deaf ear. Come to Him today!

“Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21)

Comments welcome!

CAN WE CHOOSE GOD, OR DOES HE CHOOSE US?

salvation 2

Dear Friends,

What will you say to God on judgement day if He asks, “Why did you believe on my Son while others didn’t?”

Would you say “Because I was smarter”? “Because I had the good sense”?

Of course you wouldn’t. I would bet that we would all be so overwhelmed with God’s glory and our own unworthiness that it may be hard to put two words together much less put any attention upon ourselves.

From a reading of Colossians 2:13, if we have been saved, it is because God has raised us from spiritual death.

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins”.

Logic would then tell us that for those who have not been “made alive”, it is because God has not raised them.

The doctrine of unconditional election (salvation brought about by God’s sovereign choice, not according to any action, merit, or condition met by the believer) is probably one of the most analyzed and debated subjects in Christendom. God’s choosing of some and not others does not fit into our natural and limited ideas of what is right or fair.

To this objection, I refer now to Nathan Pitchford and John Hendryx at the Christian Publication Research Foundation who make an eloquent and biblical response:

In Romans 9, when Paul is speaking very clearly of God’s unconditional election of some, and not others, to eternal salvation, a hypothetical objector to this doctrine raises that very question:

“If it is as you say, Paul, and God loved Jacob and hated Esau before they were born, or had done anything good or bad, just so that his own purposes might stand in election, does that not mean he is arbitrary and unjust?” (see Rom. 9:14). Paul’s response to this is a resounding, “Of course not! May it never be!” God is not arbitrary or unjust – but he does elect individuals to mercy and hardens others as he sees fit, and for no good will or exertion that he sees in anyone (Rom. 9:15-16). He hardened Pharaoh according to his purpose of displaying his glory in all the earth, and he sovereignly chooses to have mercy on whomever he will, to display the glory of his grace (Rom. 9:17; cf. Rom. 9:22-24). In sum, “Therefore, he has mercy on whom he will and he hardens whom he will” (Rom. 9:18).

Just because God chooses to have mercy upon some does not make him unjust or arbitrary for giving to others their just deserts. It is his free, undeserved mercy and grace that he holds forth in salvation, and he may do with it as he will. We may not fathom the deep and mysterious ways of God (Rom. 11:33-36); but woe to that one who foolishly says, “I see no reason for why God chooses some and not others, so he must be arbitrary and unjust”. On the contrary, O foolish man, you would do well to say with Job, “Behold, I am of little worth; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand upon my mouth” (Job 40:4).

We would challenge you to wrestle with the following verses. Paul encountered this very same argument against election in Romans 9:18-23; that it would make God unjust and arbitrary:

18  So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19  You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”20  On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?21Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same  lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

Paul is saying that God has the sovereign right to do with us whatever He wants.  Will you deny Him this right? This points to an even greater truth: that there is no higher principle in the universe than God Himself. God is the ultimate Truth and therefore, if He determines something it is, by definition, not arbitrary. In other words, there is no better reason for anything than the fact that God determines it. We should draw no comfort from the theology that promotes a god who must yield to something greater than Himself.

In His counsels and works no cause is apparent, it is yet hidden with Him, so that He has decreed nothing except justly and wisely according to His good pleasure founded on His gracious love towards us.” (Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics) Just because we don’t know His internal reason for choosing some to faith and not others is not reason enough to reject it.  The “foreseen faith” people are, in effect, saying that they cannot trust God in making this choice and prefer it to be left up to the fallen individual, as if he would make a better choice than God. This would also make God’s love toward us conditional and based on some inherent talent, wisdom or strength found in the individual rather than in God Himself.”

What I have come to love about the doctrine of unconditional election is that it elevates a rightful, high and glorious view of God and keeps me humble. What great security we have in knowing that our salvation starts and ends with Him! Jesus prayed, saying that “all that the Father gives me will come to me”.

Friend, if you have come to profess Christ, and trust in Him as Lord and Savior, then you are of the elect! If you have not, how do you know that you are not? Come to Him this day. He will NOT forsake you!

Comments welcome 🙂

SOMETHING TO PONDER

salvation 2

Dear Friends,

One of the statements I hear most often from Christians is that God is in sovereign, that He is above all creation and governs all things as He sees fit. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “sovereign” (adj). as “having supreme rank, power or authority”. The Bible testifies this of our great God:

“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psalm 135:6).

He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).

“From Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36).

So here’s my question:

If we truly believe that God is sovereign, wouldn’t that mean that we believe He is sovereign over everything?

If there is any area of which God is not in control, wouldn’t that make Him less than God?

If you answered “yes” to either question, wouldn’t God’s sovereignty also include His sovereignty over matters of salvation?

Yet, when referring to predestination, many people (among whom are godly leaders I respect, I might add) have made a statement that goes something like this:

Let’s say God, from eternity past, was able to look into the future and see that someone will want to be saved upon hearing the gospel. Then based on this foreknowledge, God decides to save him or her.

Upon first reading, this seems very reasonable, until you consider the perspective a little more closely.

If I can say that I am saved because I had anything to do with my own salvation, including the choice to follow Him, wouldn’t that be a salvation based on my own merit? After all, in this scenario, I wouldn’t be saved unless I FIRST decided to follow Him.

Who is the one reacting to the other in this scenario? Is it God or man?

What’s more, if I were left in my natural state, without the Holy Spirit, I would have never chosen God, nor ever will:

“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corin. 2:14).

I don’t deny the theological discussion that could arise from these questions. Many could point to scriptures that seem to put the responsibility of salvation squarely on man’s shoulders, such as the numerous passages that call the sinner to repent and be saved. The irony is that although it is God’s initiative to save, He nevertheless uses the earthly means to do so. He uses the preaching of the gospel and call to repentance to woo the sinner, to stir his heart, and to open his ears to respond. I’m not writing today to contemplate the mystery of predestination vs. free will, but simply to challenge two areas of our thinking: our view of God, and our view of man.

Of God, again, is he sovereign over all? Can man, at any point ultimately override what God will or won’t do?

What of man? What do we really believe his natural condition to be? Do we believe he is inherently evil or do we think there is a glimmer of goodness in him, (even if a tiny bit), to FIRST reach up to God for salvation?

A reading of Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience”

The word for “dead” in the Greek translation of this passage is the word “Netros”, which means “a corpse. (Strong’s concordance, P. 49, Greek Dictionary)

If “dead” means “dead”, (not swooning, or kinda weak, or even trying real hard to be alive), then the consequent questions we must then ask would be:

Can the dead raise themselves?

Can the dead recognize abundance of life?

Can the dead, who are blind, give themselves sight?

Can the dead, who are deaf, give themselves hearing?

I’m gonna take a stab at this and say, um… no.

But let’s say we did have a tiny bit of (spiritual) life within us, just enough to raise a cold, perishing hand to God for salvation.

Wouldn’t you still have to ask who put that spark within us?

*********

Comments welcome!

 

OF MANKIND AND BAD APPLES

Here’s something you never want to see… There, in the middle of a what you thought was a delicious, shiny apple is a worm, creeping out as if to defy you to take another bite. Um, no thank you, I’ll pass!

But how does it get inside the apple to start with? We may think it burrows its way from the outside, but the opposite is actually true. A fruit fly inserts a small, hollow tube from her body into a young apple. Then she releases her egg through the tube.  Soon afterwards, the egg hatches into a tiny white worm in the heart of the apple. *

 Apple 2

You may think I’m exaggerating with what I’m about to say, but I believe that bad apples and mankind have one thing in common – we’re both rotten to the core.

This is explained when you study the doctrine of Total Depravity as it refers to the inward condition of man. The Bible says that the heart of man is “deceitful and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), born dead in transgression and sin (Psalm 51:5Psalm 58:3Ephesians 2:1-5).  This is not to say that an individual is as bad as he could possibly be, but that every part of him is tainted by his sin, that there is nothing within him that naturally wants to seek God. (Romans 3:10-11). To think that we are anything more is a delusion of pride.

In fact, the thought that we are all inherently evil may be downright offensive in this day and age, when “feeling good about yourself” is the chief goal of self-help books and even some Christian books. I’m not promoting an unbalanced, guilt-ridden view of man. What I am trying to do is shine a light on the fact that the Bible never says anything about having a “high SELF-esteem. When it states anything about the value of man, it’s always in light of what Christ has done for us. The thinking that we are polished and pleasing in ourselves alone is as deceptive as a beautiful apple that is really rotten inside.

Which is easier? To be selfish and greedy or to give to others? To lie or to suffer under the truth? The answer is easy. With no constraints, it’s much easier to seek ourselves and our own gain above anything else. To borrow a popular phrase, (and quite accurately in this case), we’re born that way. Think about it. Have you ever met a baby that doesn’t demand its own way? They have no concept of how their actions effect others. They make their needs known no matter what time of the day or night it might be. We don’t have to teach them how to be self-centered. However, they do have to be taught morals, selflessness, kindness or any other trait we hold valuable.

King David referred to this sin nature. He said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Elsewhere, He states, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies” (Psalm 58:3).

Like the worm in the apple, sin didn’t originate outside of ourselves, we inherited it within ourselves from our first earthly father, Adam. Genesis 3:1-7 describes the first sin of man, which was Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. From that point on, human nature was tainted and passed down from generation to generation. Think of it this way: Nothing holy can come from what is unholy, like a bad seed cannot produce good fruit.

Romans 5:1 say it in a nutshell:

Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”

We were condemned through one man, Adam, but we are justified (made right), through Christ (the second man mentioned, uppercase).

You see, Jesus Christ was never stained by original sin. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (born of a virgin) and not of man. (Matthew 1:18, Isaiah 7:14). This means that He bypassed the sin nature of Adam. Equally important, He alone lived a perfect and holy life; He was the only One suitable to take on the condemnation we deserve, making the way possible for us  to stand blameless  before a holy God.

So if it is clear that no man naturally seeks God, how can anyone be saved? The answer is that God must overcome man’s depravity and open his eyes to his spiritual state, the condition of his core being. To understand that man cannot save himself may shatter the false hope of striving to be “good enough” for God. Yet it rightfully puts the high and exalted view of God as Sovereign, glorious, and our only hope.

To God be the Glory.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6, ESV).

*http://superbeefy.com/how-do-worms-get-into-apples/

THE STORY OF A BLIND MAN ON A CLIFF

Blind man

Once upon a time, there was a blind man walking along the trail of a steep canyon. He was used to living on his own and was confident he could hike to the other side. However, as he began to tire, he became careless and started to zigzag along the trail.

Soon he began to walk much closer to the drop-off of a thirty foot cliff. Even though the brittle ledge began to crumble beneath him, he didn’t realize how dangerously close he was to the edge.

“I see you’re having trouble walking this trail”, a passing hiker said. He stopped and pulled some headphones out of his backpack. “Here’s some soothing choir music to comfort you. Peace along the way, my friend”.

So he continued, kicking up loose gravel and billows of dust with each step. His foot nearly slipped off a time or two, but he kept on, enthralled by the music.

A little while later, he came upon another hiker.

“You have so much potential,” he said. “Don’t ever criticize yourself.” He put a hand on his shoulder and smiled broadly. “Tell yourself that you are smart, that you are able, that you are loved. That’ll give you a shot in the arm, right buddy?” He stuck his hand out for a firm handshake and was on his way.

Shortly thereafter, he came across another hiker. “What you need to do”, this one insisted, “is realize that God wants you to succeed and prosper!” The blind man gave him a confused look, but he continued on, “You must boldly declare words of victory to reach your dreams of success and achievement!” With that, he gave him a pat on the back so hard that the blind man almost fell over. “Be a winner, not a whiner!” he added, yelling over his shoulder as he passed the blind man.

The blind man continued on, perilously close to the edge. Just before he was to take a step over the cliff that would be his last, a man came up from behind him and tackled him, rolling him towards the opposite wall of rock.

“Dude, are you okay?” he asked, dusting off his jeans. “You could have fallen over the cliff!”

“Man, what are you talking about?” the blind man replied, picking up his stick. “I’m fine, no thanks to you!”

“No, really, man, look…”

Frustrated, the hiker stops in mid-sentence when he realized the man couldn’t see.

“Umm….listen,” he states, as he picked up rocks and threw them over the cliff. “Hear that?”

“Hear how long it took for those rocks to hit the ground?”

Seeing the look of disbelief on the blind man’s face, he continues.

“HELLO!” he yells, putting a hand up to his ear.

….. “HELLO …Hello …hello”  the canyon echoed back.

“See what I mean?” he asked.

The blind man began to shake. He got down on his hands and knees, and crawled ever so slowly towards the edge. He ran his hand along the rim, and backed off again.

Horrified, he quickly scooted back to the canyon wall.

“My God, you’re right!”

“Yes, buddy,” He replies, “I’m just glad it wasn’t too late.”*

*******

 Dear Friends,

The blind man in this story desperately needed one thing—a strong warning–not soothing music or a pep talk.

Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? And yet, I believe that many of our pulpits today shy away from an equally dire warning, which is the warning of the seriousness and consequences of sin.

In an effort to stay popular and not scare anyone away, the teaching and proclamation of the whole gospel is avoided and traded in for a more “relevant” and “less offensive” message.

I wonder how often we hear the word Repent.

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19)

True repentance isn’t merely a passing remorse out of a shallow fear of punishment; it is a heartfelt conviction, an attitude of humility and gratitude for God’s forgiveness. It is turning away, in both the mind and heart, from the self to God. It comes out of an honest look at the reality of sin and the need for God’s grace.

Just like the last hiker in the story who warned the blind man of the danger of the ledge, we as believers are told to show the same diligence and urgency about sin. We are to “save others with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” (Jude 23)

Lest anyone think that Christianity is nothing but “hell, fire, and brimstone”, it isn’t a denial of God’s judgment either…and when I say judgment, I mean that we will all stand before God one day. However, as surely as I say this, I can also say that those who know Christ as Lord and Savior will be overwhelmed by His great love, a love that allowed His Son to the cross to pay for our sin.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)

My hope is that you do attend a church that is dedicated to teaching the pure and simple gospel message, and that you have come to know Christ as a result of repentance of sin. If you have not, I urgently plead to you to make that decision today. Your eternal destiny depends on trusting Christ as the only one who can and has taken that awful penalty away.

Consider the church you attend. Do you hear the full gospel story, both the bad news as well as the good news? Is the fact that we are all sinners in dire need of God’s mercy clearly communicated? Does your church adhere to preach the reality of hell to those who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior?

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” – John 5:24

* Original story, inspired by a metaphor by Kirk Cameron, “The Way of the Master”

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT IF THE WORDS I SPEAK WERE WRITTEN ON MY SKIN?

Words on hand

Why do I suddenly feel the need to cover up? And when I say “cover up” I mean head-to-toe cover up. I wouldn’t mind adding a second layer, and a cap, and a pair of tall boots.

Maybe that’s because there would be many words I wouldn’t want anyone to read.

Words that spew out in anger at people who least deserve it.
Words that I add for shock effect just to see the reaction and bring attention to myself
Or what about that one extra thought that crossed the line the minute it came out of my mouth,
but I said it anyway.

Not to try to make anyone feel worse, but the words we speak are just as obvious to God as if they were written on our skin.

And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by our words you shall be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36).

I’m going to have to give an account for every word I speak (or write for that matter). It says in this scripture that I’m going to be justified or condemned by my words, so it seems to be saying that God judges our salvation based solely on what we say. It seems to support a works mentality, a doctrine that says that our salvation is based on what we do or don’t do.

However, if you read over both the Old and the New Testament, you’ll see a consistent message that we are saved by grace through faith. (Eph. 2:8, John 3:16, 2 Corin. 5:21, Romans 3:28, Psalm 32:1-2). Therefore, we cannot be saved or condemned on the basis of our deeds or words; instead, they are evidence of salvation.

Words (and deeds) are not a means to an end, (salvation), but a manifestation of our spiritual condition, an accurate gauge of what’s in the heart. What’s more, no matter how hard we try, they will give us away:

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. (James 3:8-12)

When we are full of our angry, mean selves, it comes out, but this passage isn’t just talking about words spoken in passion. The Greek transliteration for the word “careless” is “Argos”, meaning “useless, barren, unproductive, inappropriate.” 1 It also refers simply to words that reflect the idleness and the pride of life.

Lord knows there’s plenty of that. It reminds me of a phrase my dad used to use when we were kids. He would say “Callam fodi”, which is literally translated from Arabic to mean “Empty words”. It was no surprise that we would hear that phrase almost any time the TV was on because of all of its useless, wasteful material. A question to ask ourselves: how much of it are we pumping into our hearts and minds on a daily basis?

Thank God that although our words are exposed to Him, He offers His righteousness as the best cover-up to those who believe in Him. Better than a cover-up. They are washed away.

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

What were your conversations about today? Can you say that they were life-giving and encouraging or useless and wasteful, even angry?

Why do you suppose it’s so hard to tame the tongue?

1)      The McArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 8 – 15, P. 319