Monday, October 26, 2009
FOR WHOM DID CHRIST DIE?
In this verse the human race is described as a sick man, whose disease is so far advanced that he is altogether without strength: no power remains in his system to throw off his mortal malady, nor does he desire to do so; he could not save himself from his disease if he would, and would not if he could. I have no doubt that the apostle had in his eye the description of the helpless infant given by the prophet Ezekiel; it was an infant---an infant newly born-an infant deserted by its mother before the necessary offices of tenderness had been performed; left unwashed, unclothed, unfed, a prey to certain death under the most painful circumstances, forlorn, abandoned, hope-less. Our race is like the nation of Israel, its whole head is sick, and its whole heart faint. Such, unconverted men, are you! Only there is this darker shade in your picture, that your condition is not only your calamity, but your fault. In other diseases men are grieved at their sickness, but this is the worst feature in your case, that you love the evil which is destroying you. In addition to the pity which your case demands, no little blame must be measured out to you: you are without will for that which is good, your "cannot " means " will not," your inability is not physical but moral, not that of the blind who cannot see for want of eyes, but of the willingly ignorant who refuse to look.
While man is in this condition Jesus interposes for his salvation. "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly;" "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," according to "his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins." The pith of my sermon will be an endeavor to declare that the reason of Christ's dying for us did not lie in our excellence; but where sin abounded grace did much more abound, for the persons for whom Jesus died were viewed by him as the reverse or good, and he came into the world to save those who are guilty before God, or, in the words of our text, "Christ died for the ungodly."
Now to our business. We shall dwell first upon the fact-" Christ died for the ungodly;" then we shall consider the fair inferences therefrom; and, thirdly, proceed to think and speak of the proclamation of this simple but wondrous truth.
I. First, here is THE FACT-"Christ died for the ungodly." Never did the human ear listen to a more astounding and yet cheering truth. Angels desire to look into it, and if men were wise they would ponder it night and day. Jesus, the Son of God, himself God over all, the infinitely glorious One, Creator of heaven and earth, out of love to men stooped to become a man and die. Christ, the thrice holy God, the pure-hearted man, in whom there was no sin and could be none, espoused the cause of the wicked. Jesus, whose doctrine makes deadly war on sin, whose Spirit is the destroyer of evil, whose whole self abhors iniquity, whose second advent will prove his indignation against transgression, yet undertook the cause of the impious, and even unto death pursued their salvation. The Christ of God, though he had no part or lot in the fall and the sin which has arisen out of it, has died to redeem us from its penalty, and, like the psalmist, he can cry,
Then I restored that which I took not away." Let all holy beings judge whether this is not the miracle of miracles!
Christ, the name given to our Lord, is an expressive word; it means Anointed One," and indicates that he was sent upon a divine errand, commissioned by supreme authority. The Lord Jehovah said of old, "I have laid help upon one that is mighty, I have exalted one chosen out of the people ;" and again, "I have given him as a covenant to the people, a leader and commander to the people." Jesus was both set apart to this work, and qualified for it by the anointing of the Holy Ghost. He is no unauthorized savior, no amateur deliverer, but an ambassador clothed with unbounded power from the great King, a Redeemer with full credentials from the Father. It is this ordained and appointed Savior who has "died for the ungodly." Remember this, ye ungodly! Consider well who it was that came to lay down his life for such as you are.
The text says Christ died. He did a great deal besides dying, but the crowning act of his career of love for the ungodly, and that which rendered all the rest available to them, was his death for them. lie actually gave up the ghost, not in fiction, but in fact. He laid down his life for us, breathing out his soul, even as other men do when they expire. That it might be indisputably clear that he was really dead, his heart was pierced with the soldier's spear, and forthwith came there cut blood and water. The Roman governor would not have allowed the body to be removed from the cross had he not been duly certified that Jesus was indeed dead. His relatives and friends who wrapped him in linen and laid him in Joseph's tomb, were sorrowfully sure that all that lay before them was a corpse. The Christ really died, and in saying that, we mean that he suffered all the pangs incident to death only he endured much more and worse, for his was a death of peculiar pain and shame, and was not only attended by the forsaking of man, but by the departure of his God. That cry, "My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" was the innermost blackness of the thick darkness of death.
Our lord's death was penal, inflicted upon him by divine justice: and rightly so, for on him lay our iniquities, and therefore on him must lay the suffering. "It pleased the Father to bruise him; he hath put him to grief." He died under circumstances which made his death most terrible. Condemned to a felon's gibbet, he was crucified amid a mob of jesters, with few sympathizing eyes to gaze upon him ; he bore the gaze of malice and the glance of scorn; he was hooted and jeered by a ribald throng, who were cruelly inventive in their taunts and blasphemies. There he hung, bleeding from many wounds, exposed to the sun, burning with fever, and devoured with thirst, under every circumstance of contumely, pain, and utter wretchedness ; his death was of all deaths the most deadly death, and emphatically "Christ died."
But the pith of the text comes here, that "Christ died for the ungodly not for the righteous, not for the reverent and devout, but for the ungodly Look at the original word, and you will find that it has the meaning of "impious, irreligious, and wicked." Our translation is by no means too strong, but scarcely expressive enough. To be ungodly, or godless, is to be in a dreadful state, but as use has softened the expression, perhaps you will see the sense more clearly if I read it, Christ died for the impious" for those who have no reverence for God. Christ died for the godless, who, having cast off God, cast off with him all love for that which is right. I do not know a word that could more fitly describe the most irreligious of mankind than the original word in this place, and I believe it is used on purpose by the Spirit of God to convey to us the truth, which we are always slow to receive, that Christ did not die because men were good, or would be good, but died for them as ungodly-or, in other words, "he came to seek and to save that which was lost."
Observe, then, that when the Son of God determined to die for men, he viewed them as ungodly, and far from God by wicked works. In casting his eye over our race he did not say, " Here and there I see spirits of nobler mould, pure, truthful, truth-seeking, brave, disinterested, and just; and therefore, because of these choice ones, I will die for this fallen race." No; but looking on them all, he whose judgment is infallible returned this verdict, " They are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Putting them down at that estimate, and nothing better, Christ died for them. He did not please himself with some rosy dream of a superior race yet to come, when the age of iron should give place to the age of gold,-some halcyon period of human development, in which civilization would banish crime, and wisdom would conduct man back to God. Full well he knew that, left to itself; the world would grow worse and worse, and that by its very wisdom it would darken its own eyes. It was not because a golden age would come by natural progress, but just because such a thing was impossible, unless he died to procure it, that Jesus died for a race which, apart from him, could only develop into deeper damnation. Jesus viewed us as we really were, not as our pride fancies us to be : he saw us to be without God, enemies to our own Creator, dead in trespasses and sins, corrupt, and set on mischief; and even in our occasional cry for good, searching for it with blinded judgment and prejudiced heart, so that we put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. He saw that in us was no good thing, but every possible evil, so that we were lost,-utterly, helplessly, hopelessly lost apart from him: yet viewing us as in that graceless and Godless plight and condition, he died for us.
I would have you remember that the view under which Jesus beheld us was not only the true one, but, for us, the kindly one; because had it been written that Christ died for the better sort, then each troubled spirit would have inferred "he died not for me." Had the merit of his death been the perquisite of honesty, where would have been the dying thief? If of chastity, where the woman that loved much? If of courageous fidelity, how would it have fared with the apostles, for they all forsook him and fled? There are times when the bravest man trembles lest he should be found a coward, the most disinterested frets about the selfishness of his heart, and the most pure is staggered by his own impurity; where, then, would have been hope for one of us, if the gospel had been only another form of law, and the benefits of the cross had been reserved as the rewards of virtue? The gospel does not come to us as a premium for virtue, but it presents us with forgiveness for sin. It is not a reward for health, but a medicine for sickness. Therefore, to meet all cases, it puts us down at our worst, and, like the good Samaritan with the wounded traveler, it comes to us where we are. "Christ died for the impious" is a great net which takes in even the leviathan sinner; and of all the creeping sinners innumerable which swarm the sea of sin, there is not one kind which this great net does not encompass.
Let us note well that in this condition lay the need of our race that Christ should die. I do not see how it could have been written, "Christ died for the good." To what end for the good? Why need they his death? If men are perfect, does God need to be reconciled to them? Was he ever opposed to holy beings? Impossible! On the other hand, were the good ever the enemies of God? If such there be are they not of necessity his friends? If man be by nature just with God, to what end should the Savior die? "The just for the unjust" I can understand; but the "just dying for the just" were a double injustice-an injustice that the just should be punished at all, and another injustice that the just should be punished for them. Oh no! If Christ died, it must be because there was a penalty to be paid for sin committed, hence he must have died for those who had committed the sin. If Christ died, it must have been because "a fountain filled with blood" was necessary for the cleansing away of heinous stains; hence, it must have been for those who are defiled. Suppose there should be found anywhere in this world an unfallen man-perfectly innocent of all actual sin, and free from any tendency to it, there would be a superfluity of cruelty in the crucifixion of the innocent Christ for such an individual. What need has he that Christ should die for him, when he has in his own innocence the right to live? If there be found beneath the copes of heaven an individual who, notwithstanding some former slips and flaws, can yet, by future diligence, completely justify himself before God, then it is clear that there is no need for Christ to die for him. I would not insult him by telling him that Christ died for him, for he would reply to me, "Why should he? Cannot I make myself just without him ? " In the very nature of things it must be so, that if Christ Jesus dies He must die for the ungodly. Such agonies as his would not have been endured had there not been a cause, and what cause could there have been but sin?
Some have said that Jesus died as our example ; but that is not altogether true. Christ's death is not absolutely an example for men, it was a march into a region of which he said, "Ye cannot follow me now." his life was our example, but not his death in all respects, for we are by no means bound to surrender ourselves voluntarily to our enemies as he did, but when persecuted in one city we are bidden to flee to another. To be willing to die for the truth is a most Christly thing, and in that Jesus is our example; but into the winepress which he trod it is not ours to enter, the voluntary element which was peculiar to his death renders it inimitable. He said, "I lay down my life of myself; no man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself." One word of his would have delivered him from his foes; he had but to say "Be gone'." and the Roman guards must have fled like chaff before the wind. He died because he willed to do 50; of his own accord he yielded up his spirit to the Father. It must have been as an atonement for the guilty; it could not have been as an example, for no man is bound voluntarily to die. Both the dictates of nature, and the command of the law, require us to preserve our lives. "Thou shalt not kill" means "Thou shalt not voluntarily give up thine own life any more than take the life of another." Jesus stood in a special position, and therefore he died; but his example would have been complete enough without his death, had it not been for the peculiar office which he had undertaken. We may fairly conclude that Christ died for men who needed such a death; and, as the good did not need it for an example-and in fact it is not an example to them-he must have died for the ungodly
The sum of our text is this-all the benefits resulting from the Redeemer's passion, and from all the works that followed upon it, are for those who by nature are ungodly. His gospel is that sinners believing in him are saved. His sacrifice has put away sin from all who trust him, and, therefore, it was offered for those who had sin upon them before. "lie rose again for our justification," but certainly not for the justification of those who can be justified by their own works. He ascended on high, and we are told that he "received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also." He lives to intercede, and Isaiah tells us that "He made intercession for the transgressors." The aim of his death, resurrection, ascension, and eternal life, is towards the sinful sons of men. His death has brought pardon, but it cannot be pardon for those who have no sin, pardon is only for the guilty. He is exalted on high "to give repentance," but surely not to give repentance to those who have never sinned, and have nothing to repent of. Repentance and remission both imply previous guilt in those who receive them : unless, then, these gifts of the exalted Savior are mere shams and superfluities, they must be meant for the really guilty. From his side there flowed out water as well as Mood-the water is intended to cleanse polluted nature, then certainly not the nature of the sinless, but the nature of the impure; and so both blood and water flowed for sinners who need the double purification. To-day the Holy Spirit regenerates men as the result of the Redeemer's death; and who can be regenerated but those who need a new heart and a right spirit? To regenerate the already pure and innocent were ridiculous; regeneration is a work which creates life where there was formerly death, gives a heart of flesh to those whose hearts were originally stone, and implants the love of holiness where sin once had sole dominion. Conversion is also another gift, which comes through his death, but does he turn those whose faces are already in the right direction? It cannot be. He converts the sinner from the error of his ways, he turns the disobedient into the right way he leads back the stray sheep to the fold. Adoption is another gift which comes to us by the cross. Does the Lord adopt those who are already his sons by nature? If children already, what room is there for adoption? No; but the grand act of divine love is that which takes those who are "children of wrath even as others," and by sovereign grace puts them among the children, and makes them "heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ."
To-day I see the Good Shepherd in all the energy of his mighty love, going forth into the dreadful wilderness. For whom is he gone forth? For the ninety and nine who feed at home? No, but into the desert his love sends him, over hill and dale, to seek the one lost sheep which has gone astray. Behold, I see him arousing his church, like a good housewife, to cleanse her house. With the besom of the law she sweeps, and with the candle of the word she searches, and what for? For those bright new coined pieces fresh from the mint, which glitter safely in her purse? Assuredly not, but for that lost piece which has rolled away into the dust, and lies hidden in the dark corner. And lo! grandest of all visions ! I see the Eternal Father, himself; in the infinity of his love, going forth in haste to meet a returning child. And whom does he go to meet? The elder brother returning from the field, bringing his sheaves with him? An Esan, who has brought him savory meat such as his soul loveth? A Joseph whose godly life has made him lord over all Egypt? Nay, the Father leaves his home to meet a returning prodigal, who has companied with harlots, and groveled among swine, who comes back to him in disgraceful rags, and disgusting filthiness! It is on a sinner's neck that the Father weeps ; it is on a guilty cheek that he sets his kisses; it is for an unworthy one that the fatted calf is killed, and the best robe is worn, and the house is made merry with music and with dancing. Yes, tell it, and let it ring round earth and heaven, Christ died for the ungodly. Mercy seeks the guilty, grace has to do with the impious, the irreligious and the wicked. The physician has not come to heal the healthy, but to heal the sick. The great philanthropist has not come to bless the rich and the great, but the captive and the prisoner. He puts down the mighty from their seats, for he is a stern leveler, but he has come to lift the beggar from the dunghill, and to set him among princes, even the princes of his people. Sing ye, then, with the holy Virgin, and let your song be loud and sweet,-"He hath filled the hungry with good things, but the rich he hath sent empty away." "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." "He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." 0 ye guilty ones, believe in him and live.
II. Let us now consider THE PLAIN INFERENCES FROM THIS FACT. Let me have your hearts as well as your ears, especially those of you who are not yet saved, for I desire you to be blessed by the truths uttered; and oh, may the Spirit of God cause it to be so. It is clew that those of you who are ungodly-and if you are unconverted you are that-are in great danger. Jesus would not interpose his life and bear the bloody sweat and crown of thorns, and nails, and spear, and scorn unmitigated, and death itself; if there were not solemn need and imminent peril. There is danger, solemn danger, for you. You are under the wrath of God already, and you will soon die, and then, as surely as you live, you will be lost, and lost for ever; as certain as the righteous will enter into everlasting life, you will be driven into everlasting punishment. The cross is the danger signal to you, it warns you that if God spared not his only Son, he will not spare you. It is the lighthouse set on the rocks of sin to warn you that swift and sure destruction awaits you if you continue to rebel against the Lord. Hell is an awful place, or Jesus had not needed to suffer such infinite agonies to save us from it.
It is also fairly to be inferred that out of this danger only Christ can deliver the ungodly, and he only through his death. If a less price than that of the life of the Son of God could have redeemed men, he would have been spared. When a country is at war, and you see a mother give up her only boy to fight her country's battles-her only well-beloved, blameless son-you know that the battle must be raging very fiercely, and that the country is in stern danger: for, if she could find a substitute for him, though she gave all her wealth, she would lavish it freely to spare her darling. If she were certain that in his heart a bullet would find its target, she must have strong love for her country, and her country must be in dire necessity ere she would bid him go. lt; then, "God spared not his Son, but freely delivered him up for us all," there must have been a dread necessity for it. It must have stood thus: die he, or the sinner must, or justice must; and since justice could not, and the Father desired that the sinner should not, then Christ must; and so he did. Oh, miracle of love! I tell you, sinners, you cannot help yourselves, nor can all the priests of Rome or Oxford help you, let them perform their antics as they may; Jesus alone can save, and that only by his death. There on the bloody tree hangs all man's hope; if you enter heaven it must be by force of the incarnate God's bleeding out his life for you. You are in such peril that only the pierced hand can lift you out of it. Look to him, at once, I pray you, ere the proud waters go over your soul.
Then let it be noticed-and this is the point I want constantly to keep before your view-that Jesus died out of pure pity. He must have died out of the most gratuitous benevolence to the undeserving, be-Cause the character of those for whom he died could not have attracted him, but must have been repulsive to his holy soul. The impious, the godless-can Christ love these for their character? No, he loved them notwithstanding their offenses, loved them as creatures fallen and miserable, loved them according to the multitude of his loving-kindnesses and tender mercies, from pity, and not from admiration. Viewing them as ungodly, yet he loved them. This is extraordinary love ! I do not wonder that some persons are loved by others, for they wear a potent charm in their countenances, their ways are winsome, and their characters charm you into affection; "but God commendeth his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." He looked at us, and there was not a solitary beauty spot upon Us: we were covered with "wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores," distortions, defilements, and pollutions ; and yet, for all that, Jesus loved us. He loved us because he would love us; because his heart was full of pity, and he could not let us perish. Pity moved him to seek the most needy objects that his love might display its utmost ability in lifting men from the lowest degradation, and putting them in the highest position of holiness and honour.
Observe another inference. If Christ died for the ungodly,(his fact leaves the ungodly no excuse if they do not come to him, and believe in him unto salvation. Had it been otherwise they might have pleaded, "We are not fit to come." But you are ungodly, and Christ died for the ungodly, why not for you? I hear the reply," But I have been so very vile." Yes, you have been impious, but your sin is not worse than this word ungodly will compass. Christ died for those who were wicked, thoroughly wicked. The Greek word is so expressive that it must take in your case, however wrongly you have acted. "But I cannot believe that Christ died for such as I am," says one. Then, sir, mark ! I hold you to your words, and charge you with contradicting the Eternal God to his teeth, and making him a liar. Your statement gives God the lie. The Lord declares that " Christ died for the ungodly," and you say he did not, what is that but to make God a liar? How can you expect mercy if you persist in such proud unbelief? Believe the divine revelation. Close in at once with the gospel. Forsake your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall surely live. The fact that Christ died for the ungodly renders self-righteousness a folly. Why need a man pretend that he is good if " Christ died for the ungodly"? We have an orphanage, and the qualification for our orphanage is that the child for whom admission is sought shall be utterly destitute. I will suppose a widow trying to show to me and my fellow trustees that her boy is a fitting object for the charity; will she tell us that her child has a rich uncle? Will she enlarge upon her own capacities for earning a living? Why, this would be to argue against herself, and she is much too wise for that, I warrant you, for she knows that any such statements would damage rather than serve her cause. So, sinner, do not pretend to be righteous, do not dream that you are better than others, for that is to argue against yourself. Prove that you are not by nature ungodly, and you prove yourself to be one for whom Jesus did riot die. Jesus comes to make the ungodly godly, and the sinful holy, but the raw material upon which he works is described in the text not by its goodness but by its badness it is for the ungodly that Jesus died. "Oh, but if I felt" Felt what ? Felt something which would make you better ? Then you would not so clearly come under the description here given. If you are destitute of good feelings, and thoughts, and hopes, and emotions, you are ungodly, and "Christ died for the ungodly." Believe in him and you shall be saved from that ungodliness.
"Well," cries out some Pharisaic moralist, " this is dangerous doctrine." How so? Would it be dangerous doctrine to say that physicians exercise their skill to cure sick people and not healthy ones ? Would that encourage sickness? Would that discourage health? You know better; you know that to inform the sick of a physician who can heal them is one of the best means for promoting their cure. If ungodly and impious men would take heart and run to the Savior, and by him become cured of impiety and ungodliness, would not that be a good thing? Jesus has come to make the ungodly godly, the impious pious, the wicked obedient, and the dishonest upright. He has not come to save them in their sins, but from their sins and this is the best of news for those who are diseased with sin. Self-righteousness is a folly, and despair is a crime, since Christ died for the ungodly. None are excluded hence hut those who do themselves exclude; this great gate is set so wide open that the very worst of men may enter, and you, dear hearer, may enter now.
I think it is also very evident from our text that when they are saved, the converted find no ground of toasting; for when their hearts are renewed and made to love God they cannot say, "See how good I am," because they were not so by nature; they were ungodly, and, as such, Christ died for them. Whatever goodness there may he in them after conversion they ascribe it to the grace of God, since by nature they were alienated from God, and far removed from righteousness. If the truth of natural depravity be but known and felt, free grace must be believed in, and then all glorying is at an end.
This will also keep the saved ones from thinking lightly of sin. If God had forgiven sinners without an atonement they might have thought little of transgression, but now that pardon comes to them through the bitter griefs of their Redeemer they cannot but see it to be an exceeding great evil. When we look to Jesus dying on the cross we end our dalliance with sin, and utterly abhor the cause of so great suffering to so dear a Savior. Every wound of Jesus is an argument against sin. We never know the full evil of our iniquities till we see what it cost the Redeemer to put them away.
Salvation by the death of Christ is the strongest conceivable promoter of all the things which are pure, honest, lovely, and of good report. It makes sin so loathsome that the saved one cannot take up even its name without dread. "I will take away the name of Baali out of thy month." He looks upon it as we should regard a knife rusted with gore, wherewith some villain had killed our mother, our wife, or child. Could we play with it? Could we bear it about our persons or endure it in our sight? No, accursed thing! stained with the heart's blood of my beloved, I would fain fling thee into the bottomless abyss! Sin is that dagger which stabbed the Savior's heart, and henceforth it must be the abomination of every man who has been redeemed by the atoning sacrifice.
To close this point. Christ's death for the ungodly is the grandest argument to make the ungodly love him when they are saved. To love Christ is the mainspring of obedience in men-how shall men be led to love him? If you would grow love, you must sow love. Go, then; and let men know the lore of Christ to sinners, and they will, by grace, be moved to love him in return. No doubt all of us require to know the threatenings of the wrath of God; but that which soonest touches my heart is Christ's free love to an unworthy one like myself. When my sins seem blackest to me, and yet I know that through Christ's death I am forgiven, this blest assurance melts me down
And lightnings flash, to blast my soul.
I still had stubborn been;
But mercy has my heart subdued,
A bleeding Savior I have view'd,
And now I hate my sin."
I have heard of a soldier who had been put in prison for drunkenness and insubordination several times, and he had been also flogged, but nothing improved him. At last he was taken in the commission of another offense, and brought before the commanding officer, who said to him, "My man, I have tried everything in the martial code with you, except shooting you; you have been imprisoned arid whipped, but nothing has changed you. I am determined to try something else with you. You have caused us a great deal of trouble and anxiety, and you seem resolved to do so still ; I shall, therefore, change my plans with you, and I shall neither fine you, flog you, nor imprison you; I will see what kindness will do, and therefore I fully and freely forgive you." The man burst into tears, for he reckoned on a round number of lashes, and had steeled himself to bear them, but when he found he was to be forgiven, and set free, he said, "Sir, you shall not have to find fault with me again." Mercy won his heart. Now, sinner, in that fashion God is dealing with you. Great sinners! Ungodly sinners! God says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways. I have threatened you, and you hardened your hearts against me. Therefore, come now, and let us reason together : though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." "Well," says one, "I am afraid if you talk to sinners so they will go and sin more and more." Yes, there are brutes everywhere, who can be so unnatural as to sin because grace abounds, but I bless God there is such a thing as the influence of love, and I am rejoiced that many feel the force of it, and yield to the conquering arms of amazing grace. The Spirit of God wins the day by such arguments as these; love is the great battering-ram which opens gates of brass. When the Lord says, "I have blotted out thy transgressions like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thine iniquities," then the man is moved to repentance.
I can tell you hundreds and thousands of cases in which this infinite love has done all the good that morality itself could ask to have done; it has changed the heart and turned the entire current of the man's nature from sin to righteousness. The sinner has believed, repented, turned from his evil ways, and become zealous for holiness. Looking to Jesus he has felt his sin forgiven, and he has started up a new man to lead a new life. God grant it may be so this morning, and he shall have all the glory of it.
III. So now we must close-and this is the last point-THE PROCLAMATION OF THIS FACT, that "Christ died for the ungodly." I would not mind if I were condemned to live fifty years more, and never to be allowed to speak but these five words, if I might be allowed to utter them in the ear of every man, and woman, and child who lives. "CHRIST DIED FOR THE UNGODLY" is the best message that even angels could bring to men. In the proclamation of this the whole church ought to take its share. Those of us who can address thousands should be diligent to cry aloud-"Christ died for the ungodly"; but those of you who can only speak to one, or write a letter to one, must keep on at this-"Christ died for the ungodly." Shout it out, or whisper it out ; print it in capitals, or write it in a lady's hand-Christ died for the ungodly." Speak it solemnly, it is not a thing for jest. Speak it joyfully; it is not a theme for sorrow, but for joy. Speak it firmly; it is an indisputable fact. Facts of science, as they call them, are always questioned: this is unquestionable. Speak it earnestly; for if there be any truth which ought to arouse all a man's soul it is this: "Christ died for the ungodly." Speak it where the ungodly live, and that is at your own house. Speak it also down in the dark corners of the city, in the haunts of debauchery, in the home of the thief, in the den of the depraved. Tell it in the gaol; and sit down at the dying bed and read in a tender whisper-"Christ died for the ungodly." When you pass the harlot in the street, do not give a toss with that proud head of yours, but remember that "Christ died for the ungodly;" and when you recollect those that injured you, say no bitter word, but hold your tongue, and remember "Christ died for the ungodly." Make this henceforth the message of your life-" Christ died for the ungodly."
And, oh, dear friends, you that are not saved, take care that you receive this message. Believe it. Go to God with this on your tongue-"Lord save me, for Christ died for the ungodly, and I am of them." Fling yourself right on to this as a man commits himself to his life-belt amid the surging billows. "But I do not feel," says one. Trust not your feelings if you do; but with no feelings and no hopes of your own, cling desperately to this, "Christ died for the ungodly. "The transforming, elevating, spiritualizing, moralizing, sanctifying power of this great fact you shall soon know and be no more ungodly; but first, as ungodly, rest you on this, "Christ died for the ungodly." Accept this truth, my dear hearer, and you are saved. I do not mean merely that you will be pardoned, I do not mean that you will enter heaven, I mean much more; I mean that you will have a new heart; you will be saved from the love of sin, saved from drunkenness, saved from uncleanness, saved from blasphemy, saved from dishonesty. "Christ died for the ungodly"-if that be really known and trusted in, it will open in your soul new springs of living water which will cleanse the Augean stable of your nature, and make a temple of God of that which was before & den of thieves. Trust in the mercy of God through the death of Jesus Christ, and a new era in your life's history will at once commence.
Having put this as plainly as I know how, and having guarded my speech to prevent there being anything like a flowery sentence in it, having tried to put this as dearly as daylight itself,-that "Christ died for the ungodly, "if your ears refuse the precious boons that come through the dying Christ, your blood be on your own heads, for there is no other way of salvation for any one among you. Whether you reject or accept this, I am clear. But oh! do not reject it, for it is your life. If the Son of God dies for sinners, and sinners reject his blood, they have committed the most heinous offense possible. I will not venture to affirm, but I do suggest that the devils in hell are not capable of so great a stretch of criminality as is involved in the rejection of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Here lies the highest love. The incarnate God bleeds to death to save men, and men hate God so much that they will not even have him as he dies to save them. They will not be reconciled to their Creator, though he stoops from his loftiness to the depths of woe in the person of his Son on their behalf. This is depravity indeed, and desperateness of rebellion. God grant you may not be guilty of it. There can be no fiercer flame of wrath than that which will break forth from love that has been trampled upon, when men have put from them eternal life, and done despite to the Lamb of God. "Oh," says one, " would God I could believe !" "Sir, what difficulty is there in it? Is it hard to believe the truth? barest thou belie thy God? Art thou steeling thy heart to such desperateness that thou wilt call thy God a liar?" "No; I believe Christ died for the ungodly," says one, "but I want to know how to get the merit of that death applied to my own soul." Thou mayest, then, for here it is-" He that believeth in him," that is, he that trusts in him, "is not condemned." Here is the gospel and the whole of it-" He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: he that believeth not shall be damned."
I am but a poor weak man like yourselves, but my gospel is not weak; and it would be no stronger if one of "the mailed cherubim, or sworded seraphim" could take the platform and stand here instead of me. He could tell to you no better news. God, in condescension to your weakness, has chosen one of your fellow mortals to bear to you this message of infinite affection. Do not reject it! By your souls' value, by their immortality, by the hope of heaven and by the dread of hell, lay hold upon eternal life; and by the fear that this may be your last day on earth, yea, and this evening your last hour, I do beseech you now, "steal away to Jesus." There is life in a look at the crucified one; there is life at this moment for you. Look to him now and live. Amen.
From a letter entitled, "Spiritual Blindness"
..."Regeneration, or that great change without which a man cannot see the kingdom of God, is the effect of the Almighty power. Neither education, endeavors, nor arguments can open the eyes of the blind. It is God alone, who at first caused light to shine out of darkness, who can shine into our hearts, " to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." People may attain some natural ideas of spiritual truths by reading books, or hearing sermons, and may thereby become wise in their own conceits; they may learn to imitate the language of an experienced Christian; but they know not what they say, nor whereof they affirm, and are as distant from the true meaning of the terms, as a blind man, who pronounces the wordsblue or red, is from the ideas which those words raise in the mind of the person who can distinguish colors by his sight. And from hence, we may infer the sovereignty, as well as the efficacy, of grace; since it is evident, not only that the objective light, the word of God, is not afforded universally to all men; but that those who enjoy the same outward means, have not all the same perceptions. There are many who stumble in the noon day, not for want of light, but for the want of eyes; and they who now see were once blind, even as others, and had neither power nor will to enlighten their own minds. It is a mercy, however, when people are so far sensible of their own blindness, as to be willing to wait for the manifestation of the Lord's power, in the ordinances of His appointment. He came into the world, and sends forth His Gospel, that those who see not, may see; and when there is a desire in the heart for spiritual sight, it shall in due time be answered."
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
(Permission granted from Narrow Gate Ministries)
"Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
-JESUS CHRIST, The Word of God, Luke 13:24
DO YOU THINK YOU KNOW GOD?
Do you know the only true God? Not the God of your imagination but the God who is described in the Bible? Do you know Him with an intimate knowledge so that you love, obey and serve Him? These are very important questions. The Bible tells you that eternal life is obtained only by knowing God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus says, And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God,and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3). If you are to have eternal life and live with God forever in heaven, you must know God and His Son, Jesus Christ, like the Bible says you must.
Carefully consider the following.
Who God Is
The Bible teaches that God is very great and glorious. He is the Most High God. The Lord is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high, who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth (Psalm 113:4-6)?God is so great that no one is like Him. There is no one or thing in all the world that can be compared to God. God is three persons in one divine being: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is infinite, self-sufficient, unchangeable, and sovereign. He has infinite power, knows everything, andis present everywhere. The God of heaven and earth is the only holy, righteous,and just God and can only do good. He is full of love, grace, and truth. He is so great that His glory is above all nations and even above the heavens.You are nothing in comparison to Him. All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless (Isaiah 40:17).
God's greatness can be seen in the wonderful works which He performs.The Bible says that God is the Creator of all things.Genesis 1:1 says In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.The universe did not come into being by some kind of process of evolution.It was created by God in six days. God merely spoke His all-powerful word and the world came into being. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast (Psalm 33:6,9). God is so powerful that He made the world out of nothing. The Bible teaches that every person, including you, owes his existence to God.
God is not only the Creator of the world, but He is also the Sustainer of the world. He upholds the world so that it continues to exist. You, even You, are Lord alone; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is herein, and You preserve them all . . . (Nehemiah 9:6). Without the preserving power of God the whole world would cease to exist. The universe cannot stand by itself. It was created by God and therefore needs God forits very existence. You can be nothing and you can do nothing without the upholding power of God. God gives to all life and breath and all things . . . for in Him we live and move and exist . . .(Acts 17:25, 28). You cannot even move one inch without the sustaining power of God.
The greatness of God is shown not only by His creating and sustaining the world, but by His control over the world. God is the ultimate Ruler of the world. The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all (Psalm 103:19). God is the only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15).He is not a weak God whose will is frustrated by people like you. He is the eternal King who rules over all things, including you. He so controls all the things of the world that He brings about what He has eternally planned for the world and everyone in it. He works all things after the counsel of His own will . . . (Ephesians 1:11).Whether you believe it or not, God is your Ruler and King.
Thus, neither you nor anyone in all the world is independent of God.You need God. You owe your very life to God. The air that you are breathing right now is from God. Moreover, God created you for His own glory.The Bible says of God, . . . for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed and were created (Revelation4:11). You were not created for your own pleasure. You were not created simply so that you would exist. Rather, you were brought into being for the pleasure and glory of God.
Since God is the great and glorious Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of the world, He is worthy of your praise, honor, and worship. Read in the Bible, Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things . . . (Revelation 4:11). In all the works which He performs God shows Himself to be so wonderful and so great that you should stand in awe before Him. God requires that you fear and reverence Him. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him (Psalm 33:8). This is not an option.It is the commandment of God. You are obligated to worship your God and Creator.
The reverence which God requires of you is to be expressed in worship, thanksgiving, and service. As a creation of God, you are to worship Him. Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker (Psalm 95:6). God calls you to acknowledge Him as your Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler by bowing down before Him in worship. Your worship should be an expression of your thanksgiving for all that your Creator has done for you. The Bible even calls you to sing praises to Him. Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth . . . . Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name (Psalm 100:1,4). Your whole life is to be set apart for God's service. All your talents, time, and resources must be used for His glory. Jesus says you shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only (Luke4:8).
Worship, thanksgiving, and service are expressed in obedience to God's commandments. The Bible says, .. . fear God and keep His commandments, for this applies to every person(Ecclesiastes 12:13). Your whole duty to God has been given to you in the Bible where He tells you what He requires of you. Part of God's requirement is found in the first seventeen verses of Exodus chapter twenty.
First, you need to know your specific duty toward God.
1) You are to have only one God, the God of the Bible. He alone is to be the object of your love and worship. All other gods are false gods.In fact, anything more important to you than the God of the Bible is a god to you. The gods of other religions and the gods of pleasure, money, and power are all to be rejected.
2) You are not to represent God by any kind of image, nor are you to worship Him through any image. You are to worship God by hearing and obeying His Word.
3) God forbids you to take His name in vain by cursing, swearing, and using His name in a meaningless way. You must always be careful to fear and reverence His holy name.
Next, God not only requires that you behave a certain way toward Him, but that you act a certain way toward others.
4) You are to honor your father and mother. This honor is expressed in respect, submission, and obedience according to God's Word.
5) God forbids you to murder, hate, or harm any person, including yourself. God abhors your envy, hatred, anger, and your desires for revenge. You are even to love your enemies.
6) You are not to have sex with anyone who is not your lawful husbandor wife. God also forbids adultery of the heart--lustful thoughts and desires.
7) You are not to steal anything. You are to gain your possessions by your own honest labor.
8) You are not to be a false witness against anyone by slander, backbiting, or spreading rumors. All lying is forbidden.
9) You are not to covet (desire in your heart) anything that belongs to someone else.
It should be evident to you that God requires not only external obedience, but obedience of the heart.
Your heart must hate all that God forbids and delight in all righteousness. Jesus teaches us that God's law may be summed up in one word--love.He says, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40). God requires nothing less than perfect love. You are to love Him with your whole being. Love is tobe the basis of all your reverence, worship, thanksgiving, and service. It cannot be merely an external show for God and others.
If you know that God is your Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler who requires that you love, worship, and serve Him alone, you should also know something very basic about yourself. You are a sinner who fails to fulfill your obligations to God. You do not love, worship,and serve Him as the Bible says you should. You do not always keep the commandments God has given you. Although you may not outwardly disobey some of these commandments, you constantly break every one of them in your heart. You do not love God with all of your heart, soul, and strength. Your whole life is not devoted to the worship and service of God. The Bible says that you are wicked and that you must say, Against You [God], You only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight. . . (Psalm 51:4). How many are my iniquities and sins?. . . . Behold,I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand over my mouth(Job 13:23; 40:4). If you deny that you are a sinner, you are lying to yourself and God. The Bible says, If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us(1 John 1:8).
Apart from the grace of God, you cannot do anything that is good or pleasing to God. You are like people everywhere on Earth. You area sinner. All people are alike in that all are sinners. Thereis none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one (Romans 3:10-12).There are no exceptions. Not even you who read this can sneak yoursin past God. Everyone fails to fulfill his duty before God. Even those deeds which seem to be very good to you or others are not good enoughfor God. It is not the quantity of your deeds, it is the quality. Without faith in Christ it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). The Biblesays all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment. . . (Isaiah 64:6). God requires perfection, but you know thatyou are far from God's perfect standard.
Your inability to fulfill your duty before God is not to be attributed to God. God created man righteous and able to do all that He required. But your first father, Adam, rebelled against God. He disobeyed God and fell from his state of righteousness into sin. As a result of that fall into sin, Adam's spiritual nature became wicked. Rather than loving andserving God, he loved and served sin and the devil. That corrupt spiritual nature of Adam is passed on to all his offspring. Because you are adescendant of Adam, you too have inherited his corrupted nature. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned . . . (Romans 5:12).
The Bible calls that spiritual corruptiondeath—spiritual death. You sin because your spiritual nature is wicked. You are spiritually dead. The Bible speaks of the wicked nature of man when it says, The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah17:9). And to make matters worse, you currently love your sin.
Moreover, your inability to fulfill your duty does not change God's requirement. It remains the same. God has not changed. He is stillthe Holy God. God doesn't lower His standards for you. The angels cryout before Him, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts . . . (Isaiah 6:3). As the Holy One, God is thoroughly perfect. He cannot sin Himself and He will not tolerate sin in others. God hates all sinfulness. The Bible says of God, For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who speak falsely; the Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit (Psalm 5:4-6). God is also a jealous God. He says, For you shall not worship any other god; for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14). You were created in God's image. He created you, therefore He commands you not to act like you have another creator. The Jealous God demands that you love, worship, and serve Him alone.
Since there are always consequences to your actions, and because you do not fulfill your duty before God, you deserve God's condemnation and eternal destruction. You deserve eternal punishment in hell. God is so jealous and holy that He must punish sinners for their sin.
A jealous and avenging God is the Lord; the Lord is avenging and wrathful. The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished (Nahum 1:2-3).
At the end of the world God will send to eternal torments in hell all those who are not saved by His grace and who, therefore, remain in their sin. Jesus says, So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:49-50). Apart from God's grace, you cannot escape the eternal punishment of God's avenging wrath.
Your Only Hope
Does your situation seem hopeless? How can you escape the wrath of God and eternal destruction in hell? How can you, a sinner, ever come to know God intimately and be at peace with Him? How can you,a sinner, make yourself holy? It is impossible! Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one! (Job 14:4). But what is impossible for you is not impossible for God. The glorious Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of the world is also the Savior, who delivers from sin, death, and hell. God says, I, even I, am the Lord; and there is no savior besides Me (Isaiah 43:11). God is not only a holy and just God who must punish sinners, but He is also a God of love and grace who shows mercy. In His grace and love, He hassent Jesus Christ to accomplish salvation. God, in Jesus Christ, is the only Savior. If you are ever rescued, it will only be by the person and work of the Lord Jesus.
Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God who came to earth and tookupon Himself a human nature. He is God, but He came as a real man.In Christ, God was revealed in the flesh . . . (1Timothy 3:16). His name [is] Immanuel, which translated means, "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. After He had grown to adulthood, He preached the good news of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He told people about God, His truth, and salvation. By healing the sick and even raising the dead to life again, He displayed the power of God. This is the same power which saves sinners like you. Throughout all of His life, He loved, served, and obeyed God perfectly. At the end of His life He was taken by wickedmen, led to a hill called Calvary, and nailed to a cross where He suffered and died, just as God had eternally planned (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28). After three days in the grave He arose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God ruling the world until He returns to judge the living and the dead.
By His sacrificial death Christ accomplished salvation. When He suffered and died on the cross, He bore in His own body the sins of all those whom God chose to save. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God . . . (1 Peter 3:18). Their sins were counted as Christ's and God punished Christ in their place. Christ paid the debt for them that they owed to God so that they could have their sinsforgiven. In whom [Christ] we have redemption,the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14). Moreover, all of Christ's righteousness is counted to be their righteousness; as if they perfectly love, worship, serve, and obey God. Christ has met the requirement of God in their place. For as through one man's disobedience[Adam's] the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One [Christ's] the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19). The death of Christ saves sinners from the wrath and condemnation of God. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans8:1).
Christ not only secured salvation by His death on the cross, but He also applies it to the lives of all those whom God has chosen to save. Christ raises them from their spiritual death to spiritual lifeby giving them a new spiritual nature which loves Him. Thus God said, "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you . . . . And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances (Ezekiel 36:26-27).Out of that new heart Christ gives faith and repentance so that the new child of God turns from his sins and by faith worships and servesthe only God, even though imperfectly. He comes to know God as his Lord and Savior in an intimate and personal way. God loves him and guides him,and he obeys God so that they are at peace with each other. Andwe know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, inorder that we may know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true,in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life (1 John5:20). Christ brings believers into fellowship with the trueand living God.
You cannot think, say, or do anything to save yourself. It is the work of God alone. The Bible says God has saved us,and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus . . .(2 Timothy 1:9). God saves by His grace alone. Salvation is not something you deserve. It is a gift that is freely given through Jesus Christ. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). No man can ever boast that he contributed something to his own salvation—not even you! Salvation does not depend on the man who wills,or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy (Romans 9:16).
Since God saves by giving faith to the sinner, salvation is impossible without faith. No one is a true child of God without faith. And without faith it is impossible to please [God]Him . . . (Hebrews 11:6). He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:36). Do you want to escape the wrath of God and everlasting destruction in hell? Are you burdened with the load of your sins and are you seeking forgiveness? Do you desire to know God and His Son Jesus Christ and thus enjoy the blessing of eternal life? Jesus says, Have faith in God (Mark11:22). A man once asked, What must I do to be saved?He was answered, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved . . . (Acts 16:30-31).
God calls you to believe! Right now! This very second!
What is biblical faith? What does it mean to "believe"?
Faith or belief contains three things:
1) It is the knowledge of what the Bible says about God, Christ, man, and salvation.
2) It is the recognition that those facts are true.
3) It is trusting in God and His Son Jesus Christ alone to save you.(Stop trying to do things to save yourself!)
What must you believe?
1) You must believe that God is the glorious and holy Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of the world. You are dependent upon Him for everything.
2) You must believe that it is your duty to love, worship, serve, and obey God. The great and glorious God is worthy of your reverence and honor.
3) You must believe that you are a sinner who cannot fulfill your duty to God. You deserve eternal torment in hell.
4) You must believe that God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ,to save sinners like you. Christ accomplished salvation by dying on the cross and shedding His precious blood. Three days later He rose from the dead as the victorious Savior. There is no salvation apart from Him.
5) You must believe that God in Christ Jesus is your only Saviorwho delivers you from your sins and God's wrath and gives you eternal life.
True faith is always accompanied by repentance from sins. You cannot say that you believe in God and Jesus Christ if you continue inall your sins. Jesus commands you, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17).
Your true repentance contains three things:
1) You must acknowledge the fact that you are indeed a sinner who needs to be saved by God. You must stop trying to save youself.
2) You must have a godly sorrow over your sin. You do not merely mourn the bad consequences of your sin. You grieve over the fact that you have sinned against a holy God, your Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler.
3) You must turn away from your sins and abandon them. You must not seek to live a sinful and selfish life, but you must seek after God and His righteousness.
True faith fills the believer's heart with thanksgiving so thathe longs to obey God. It causes him to see how merciful God is in saving him from his sins. He loves God and wants to do all that God commands him. Even though he cannot obey God perfectly, his desire is to keep all His commandments. Jesus says, If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (John 14:15).
The true believer shows his love for God by faithfully fellowshipping with other believers and serving them and attending church worship services where he hears the preaching of God's Word, the Bible. He reads and studies the Bible continually. He goes to his God in prayer throughout each day. He seeks to know his God more and more, for he knows that he has only a childlike understanding of the knowledge of God. The rest of His life will be devoted to learning more about God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
The person who has true faith does not think that his faith, repentance, love, and obedience are his own work. He does not think that they are his part in salvation as if he helps God along. He knows and believes that all these things are a part of the salvation which God gives as a free gift. He could have no faith,repentance, love, and obedience without the grace of God working thosethings in his heart and life. Jesus says, . . . apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). Nor does he think that byhis faith, repentance, love, and obedience he fulfills God's requirement himself. He believes that his salvation is based solely upon the person, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If not, God commands that you believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ . . . (1 John 3:23). Jesus prayed, And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3).~~~~~~~~~~~~
Will Calvinism Kill Evangelism?
Ernest C. Reisinger
From: The Founders Journal
Will Calvinism Kill Evangelism?
The answer to the question is yes and no. Yes, it will kill unbiblical man-centered evangelism and some of the carnal unbiblical methods employed in man-centered evangelism.
No, it will not kill God-centered evangelism where biblical methods are employed in the great work of carrying out our Lord's clearest command.
Before discussing evangelism and Calvinism, it may be wise and helpful to make a few general comments in respect to some misconceptions about Calvinism. The subject is one that immediately arouses diverse feelings. There are bigots both for Calvinism and against Calvinism. The subject is also one that poses some vitally important questions that are very relevant at the present time in the SBC. I hear many sincere voices of inquiry, especially among seminary students and young pastors.
There is no doubt that the founders and faculty of our first seminary as well as the majority of early Southern Baptist ministers, were committed, experiential Calvinists.
Calvinists are not followers of John Calvin
The root principles of the two great systems of theology are to be found embedded either in Calvinism or in Arminianism. However, these systems were in existence eleven hundred years before John Calvin was born. Then, these two systems were called Augustinianism and Pelagianism, so named after the two men of the fifth century who defined them. Yes, we call it Calvinism. We could, with justice, call it Augustinianism which would not mean we are following Augustine into the Roman Catholic Church but rather that we are following the principles of theology that Augustine taught. Indeed, John A. Broadus, a great Southern Baptist of the last century, was right when he said that this system goes back to the Apostle Paul. Hence, Broadus called Calvinism "that exalted system of Pauline truth."
John Calvin may well have been the man who first formulated those doctrinal principles into a formal system, but as I have said, the doctrinal principles did not originate with John Calvin or Augustine but with the apostle Paul. Therefore, Calvinists are not followers of John Calvin, but rather, we hold to the doctrinal principles that he formulated into a system of Christian doctrine. (The same thing is true of the Apostles' Creed. The Apostles did not write the Apostles' Creed; the biblical truths of the creed were systematized many years after the Apostles were gone to their reward.) Therefore it is a serious mistake to say or imply that that we are followers of John Calvin. We do not baptize infants or have anything to do with burning heretics. We can safely say Pelagianism is the ancestor of Arminianism, so Paulinism and Augustinianism are the ancestors of Calvinism.
The Doctrinal Foundation Upon Which Calvinism Rests Is Not Predestination
Moreover, the foundation principle upon which the whole doctrinal system of Calvinism rests is not predestination. No, the primary teaching of Calvinism rests on a much broader basis and one which, it is not too much to say, touches the very nature and character of God. The one rock upon which Calvinism builds is that of the absolute and unlimited sovereignty of God. It is, indeed, this doctrine of divine sovereignty that is held and emphasized by Calvinism, and which forms the source from which every other principle of Calvinistic teaching is founded.
It is important that we understand that Calvinism does not center primarily on its doctrine of predestination separately considered. Predestination is simply the outworking or application of God's divine sovereignty to salvation. Calvinism asserts that the sovereignty of God is supreme in salvation as in everything else.
Our Calvinist Baptist Heritage
In looking back to the rock from which we are hewn we cannot overlook some of our great Southern Baptist Convention fathers and leaders who were committed, articulate Calvinists.
Take Basil Manly, Sr. for example. One historian said of Manly that he played the part of a concertmaster in orchestrating the events that resulted in the call for a conservative convention of Baptists. Manly produced a strongly worded six-point resolution which led to the separation of Northern Baptists and Southern Baptists. This resolution was "passed standing and unanimously." Basil Manly was a Calvinist of the first order.
In one sermon entitled "Divine Efficiency Consistent with Human Activity," Manly told a group of ministers:
Let us not then give up either the doctrine of human activity and responsibility, or that of the divine sovereignty and efficiency. Why should they be thought inconsistent? Or why should those who cling to one be disposed to doubt, or disbelieve, or explain away the other?
The greatest reason . . . why the Christian family is divided on one or the other side rejecting one or the other of these great doctrines is that the doctrine of dependence on the Divine being, throws us constantly into the hands, and on the mercy of God. Proud man does not like it; [he] prefers to look at the other side of the subject; becomes blind, in part, by gazing at one view of the truth, alone; and forgets the Maker, in whom he lives and moves and has his being.
Consider James P. Boyce. the principal founder of our first seminary (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). Long after Boyce's death, one of his former students, Dr. David Ramsey, gave a Founders Day address on January 11, 1924, entitled James Petigru Boyce: God's Gentleman." A few lines from Dr. Ramsey's address will tell the story that Boyce was a committed Calvinist and that, at the same time, he loved the souls of men.
My contention is that no other theology than that of an overwhelming and soul consuming love for men will account for James P. Boyce and his career. This passionate love was the motif that directed his thinking in those early conferences and in the preparation of those papers which led to the establishment of the seminary. This purpose to help his fellow men ran through all his plans, through his conversation, his writings and his preaching and teaching as the scarlet thread that runs through every foot of cable of the English Navy. This zeal for souls called out the finest of his being as the morning sun causes the dew-laden flowers and plants to bend toward the god of day.
His love for his fellow man was such that, after Boyce died, Rabbi Moses of Louisville said about him,
Before I came to Louisville, I knew Christianity only in books, and it was through such men as Boyce that I learned to know it as a living force. In that man I learned not only to comprehend, but to respect and reverence the spiritual power called Christianity.
Boyce not only loved men, but he loved God. Ramsey said, concerning this point:
"Let the thought embrace both the subjective and objective love; man's love for God and God's love for man." Boyce's close friend and fellow founder of the seminary, John A. Broadus, expressed his own feelings about the theology of Boyce which we call Calvinism: "It was a great privilege to be directed and upborne by such a teacher in studying that exalted system of Pauline truth which is technically called Calvinism, which compels an earnest student to profound thinking, and when pursued with a combination of systematic thought and fervent experience, makes him at home among the most inspiring and ennobling views of God and the universe He has made."
Boyce's legacy to us and to our posterity is the biblical theology expressed in the Abstract of Systematic Theology, which is nothing other than his classroom teaching. It is pure Calvinism.
In defense of Boyce's Calvinism, William A. Mueller, author of A History of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said,
As a theologian, Dr. Boyce is not afraid to be found ‘in the old paths. He is conservative, and eminently scriptural. He treats with great fairness those whose views upon various points discussed, he declines to accept, yet in his own teaching is decidedly Calvinistic, after the model of ‘the old divines. Difficulties as connected with such doctrines as the federal headship of Adam, election and the atonement he aims to meet, not so as to silence the controversialist, but so as to help the honest inquirer.
Rev. E. E. Folk, in the Baptist Reflector commented on Boyce's abilities and fruits as a teacher of theology:
You had to know your systematic theology, or you could not recite it to Dr. Boyce. And though the young men were generally rank Arminians when they came to the seminary, few went through this course under him without being converted to his strong Calvinistic views.
Boyce and Manly were strong Calvinists. But they were not alone. Their theology was no anomaly in early Southern Baptist life. W. B. Johnson, first President of the SBC, was a Calvinist. R. B. C. Howell, second President of the SBC, was a Calvinist. Richard Fuller, third President of the SBC, was a Calvinist. Charles Dutton Mallary, first recording secretary of the SBC Foreign Mission Board, was a Calvinist. So was B. H. Carroll, founder of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Patrick Hues Mell, President of the SBC for seventeen years, longer than any other man, was a polemic defender of Calvinism.
Mrs. D. B. Fitzgerald, a member of Mell's Antioch Church in Oglethorpe, Georgia and a resident in Mell's home for a number of years, recalls Mell's initial efforts at the church:
When first called to take charge of the church, Dr. Mell found it in a sad state of confusion. He said a number of members were drifting off into Arminianism. He loved the truth too well to blow hot and cold with the same breath. It was a Baptist church and it must have doctrines peculiar to that denomination preached to it. And with that boldness, clearness, and vigor of speech that marked him, he preached to them the doctrines of predestination, election, free-grace, etc. He said it was always his business to preach the truth as he found it in God's Word, and leave the matter there, feeling that God would take care of the results.
I could go on and on giving names and biographical sketches of our Founding Fathers who were equally committed Calvinists and strong on evangelism, but I will just name one more. Dr. John A. Broadus, a great preacher and one of the founders of our mother seminary said,
The people who sneer at what is called Calvinism might as well sneer at Mont Blanc. We are not bound in the least to defend all of Calvin's opinions or actions, but I do not see how anyone who really understands the Greek of the Apostle Paul, or the Latin of Calvin or Turretin, can fail to see that these latter did but interpret and formulate substantially what the former teachers taught.
Let me summarize by pointing out five things that Calvinism is not.
1. Calvinism is not anti-missionary, but gives the biblical foundation for missions. (John 6:37; 17:20, 21; 2 Tim. 2:10; Isa. 55:11; 2 Pet. 3:9, 15).
2. Calvinism does not destroy the responsibility of man. Men are responsible for whatever light they have, be it conscience (Rom. 2:15), nature (Rom.1:19, 20), written law (Rom. 2:17—27), or the gospel (Mark 16:15, 16). Man's inability to do righteousness no more frees from responsibility than does Satan's inability to do righteousness.
3. Calvinism does not make God unjust. His blessing of a great number of unworthy sinners with salvation is no injustice to the rest of the unworthy sinners. If a governor pardons one convict, is it an injustice to the rest? (1 Thess. 5:9).
4. Calvinism does not discourage convicted sinners, but welcomes them to Christ. "Let him that is athirst come" (Rev. 17:17). The God who convicts is the God who saves. The God who saves is the God who has elected men unto salvation. He is the same God who invites.
5. Calvinism does not discourage prayer. To the contrary, it drives us to God, for He it is who alone can save. True prayer is at the Spirit's prompting; and thus will be in harmony with God's will (Rom. 8:16).
Calvinism is authentically, historically Baptist. Unlike the liberal movement, the Charismatic movement, the Dispensational or the Keswick movements, Calvinism is the only one that can claim to be endemic to our Baptist history, heritage, and teaching. Until this last century with its pragmatism, Southern Baptists and their progenitors have always been Calvinists. The present day resurgence of Calvinism is simply an effort to restore our theological past, which will have a profound effect on our evangelism.
What About Calvinism and Evangelism?
First, what is evangelism? Evangelism is the communication of a divinely inspired message that we call the gospel. It is a message that is definable in words, but must be communicated in word and power. "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance..." (1 Thess. 1:5). That message begins with information and includes explanation, application and invitation.
The information is how God, our Creator and Judge, in mercy, made His Son a perfect, able and willing Savior of sinners. The invitation is God's summons to mankind to come to that Savior in faith and repentance, and find forgiveness, life and peace.
"And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment" (1 John 3:23). "Jesus answered and said unto them, this is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29).
One definition of evangelize is as follows: "To present Jesus Christ to sinful men, in order that they may come to put their trust in God, through Him to receive Him as their Savior and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church." You will notice that this definition includes the church. Our Lord gave the commission to the church.
Evangelism Must Have a Doctrinal Foundation
The doctrinal foundation for biblical evangelism is as important to the work of evangelism as the skeleton is to the human body. Doctrine gives unity and stability. It is the doctrinal foundation that produces the spiritual strength that enables evangelism to endure the storms of opposition, hardship and persecution that so often accompanies true evangelism and missions. Therefore, the church that neglects the true doctrinal foundation for biblical evangelism will soon find its efforts weakened and spurious conversions will be produced. The lack of a doctrinal foundation will work against unity and will invite error and instability in all evangelistic efforts. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of a sound biblical foundation for true God-centered evangelism.
Doctrine shapes our destiny, and we are presently reaping the fruits of unbiblical evangelism. The great apostle, instructing a young minister to do the work of an evangelist, tells him that doctrine is the first purpose of Scripture. 2 Tim. 3:16 "All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for DOCTRINE." Evangelism without a doctrinal foundation is building on the sand (cf. Matt. 7:24—26). It is like cut flowers stuck in the ground without doctrinal roots; they will wither and die. Calvinists have a doctrinal foundation for evangelism.
The doctrinal foundation of God-centered evangelism guarantees its success. First, because God the Father has some chosen ones:
•John 1:18 "I know whom I have chosen"
•John 15:16 "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you."
•Eph. 1:4 "Even as He chose us in Him."
•1 Thess. 2:13 "God chose you from the beginning unto salvation."
•John 6:37, 39, 44, 64, 65: "All that which the Father gives me shall come to me... this is the will of him that sent me, that of all that which he has given me I should lose nothing... No man can come to me except the Father which sent me draw him..."
That sounds to me like a guarantee of success!
The second guarantee of success is found in the fact that God the Father gave his Son, the Great Shepherd, some sheep and the Great Shepherd made atonement for the sheep that the Father gave Him.
The atonement that we are considering is a planned atonement—the cross was not an accident. God planned it. He was not sleeping or caught off guard at the cross. He had an unchangeable, immutable plan, and it was being carried out. The apostle Peter preached this as part of his first message:
"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).
The apostles not only preached it; they prayed it. Hear their prayer in Acts 4:27—29:
"For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done."
God was the master of ceremonies at the cross.
Jesus also taught that God the Father had an unchangeable, immutable plan and power to execute it:
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me. And this is the Father s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day (John 6:38, 39).
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep (John 10: 11).
I know my sheep. (John 10:14-15)
Jesus makes clear why some do not believe on Him. Have you ever wondered why some do not believe? Well, Jesus answers that question here:
But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you (John 10:26).
He describes two characteristics of His sheep:
My sheep hear my voice [a disposition to know His will], and they follow me [a disposition to do His will] (John 10:27).
This truth, that the atonement was for the sheep, is underscored by our Lord s prayer found in John 17. Hear His prayer:
"As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him" (John 17:2). "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine" (John 17:9). "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24).
This view of the extent of the atonement makes the cross a place of victory, because what the Father planned, the Son purchased, and these He prays for. This is consistent with that great declaration in that messianic prophesy of His coming: "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities" (Isa. 53:11).
Jesus teaches the same thing in John 6:37:
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me..." Not, maybe they will come, or, it would be nice if they came, or, if they decide they will come, but rather, "shall come." This, then, is an important element of the message of the cross, the message of evangelism. This means that Christ s death was not in vain, but rather, everyone for whom He savingly died, will come. It is interesting to note that when the angel announced His birth to Joseph, the angel was straight on this point: "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).
Please note the text says, "save his people," not every single individual, but His people—the sheep.
God used the fact that He had some people, some sheep, to encourage the evangelizing of that wicked city of Corinth. The great apostle was afraid to go to Corinth, and God encouraged him by saying, ". . .be not afraid... for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city" (Acts 18:9, 10).
1. His coming was for His people (Matt. 1:21): "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins."
2. His purchase on the Cross was for the sheep—His people (John 10:11, 14, 15): "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep... I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep."
3. His prayer was for all that the Father gave Him (John 17:2, 9): "As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him... I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine."
Is this the message of the cross that you have heard? A Christ whose death is not in vain and will not fail to accomplish all that was intended? Or, have you heard the message of a poor, impotent, pathetic, and sometimes, effeminate Jesus who died just to make salvation possible and who is standing impotently by, waiting to see what these mighty, powerful sinners are going to do with Him?
This is not just a different emphasis. It is a different content of the message of evangelism. The biblical gospel is God-centered, God-honoring, and good to sinners. God-centered evangelism has a doctrinal foundation, and this foundation guarantees its success. If your concept of Calvinism kills evangelism, I suggest that you examine your understanding and study J. I. Packer's book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, Walter Chantry's Today's Gospel and my book, Today's Evangelism, Its Message and Methods. These books can be obtained fromChristian Gospel Book Service, Cape Coral, FL.
1 J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove: InterVaristy Press). This book is highly recommended.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thursday, October 1, 2009
God's Part and Man's Part in Salvation
By John G. Reisinger
(This article clears up much confusion and misunderstanding concerning the
doctrines of grace, also known as Calvinism)
Also see... "There Are Only Two Religions in the Whole World!" by the same author!
God and man must both do something before a man can be saved. Hyper-Calvinism denies the necessity of human action, and Arminianism denies the true nature of the Divine action. The Bible clearly sets forth both the divine and human as essential in God's plan of salvation. This is not to say, as Arminianism does, God's part is to freely provide salvation for all men, and man's part is to become willing to accept it. This is not what we said above, nor is it what the Bible teaches. In order to understand what God's Word really says and to try to answer some "straw dummy" objections, we shall establish the subject one point at a time.
ONE: A man must repent and believe in order to be saved. No one was ever forgiven and made a child of God who did not willingly turn from sin to Christ. Nowhere does the Bible even hint that men can be saved without repentance and faith, but to the contrary, the Word always states these things are essential before a person can be saved. The one and only Bible answer to the question "What must I do to be saved?" is "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."
TWO: Every one who repents and believes the gospel will be saved. Every soul, without any exception, who answers the gospel command to come to Christ will be received and forgiven by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Philip Bliss put the truth to music when he said, "Whosoever will, forever must endure...
If we can be absolutely certain about anything, we can be sure that Christ will never void His promise to receive "all who come to Him." As old John Bunyan said, "Come and welcome" is the Savior's eternal word to all sinners.
THREE: Repentance and faith are not vicarious but are the free acts of men. Men, with their own mind, heart, and will must renounce sin and receive Christ. God doesn't repent and believe for us~we repent and believe. Turning from sin and reaching out in faith to Christ are the acts of man, and every man who so responds to the gospel call does so because he honestly desires to do so. He wants to be forgiven and he can only be forgiven by repenting and believing. No one, including God, can turn from sin for us, we must do it. No one can trust Christ "in our place," we must personally, knowingly, and willingly trust Him in order to be saved.
Now someone may be thinking, "But isn't that what the Arminian teaches?" My friend, that is what the Bible teaches-and teaches it clearly and dogmatically. "But don't Calvinists deny all three of those points?" I am not talking about, or trying to defend, "Calvinists" since they come in a hundred 'varieties. If you know anyone that denies the above facts, then that person, regardless of what he labels himself, is denying the clear message of the Bible. I can only speak for myself, and I will not deny what God's Word so plainly teaches. "But haven't you established the doctrine of free-will and disposed of election if you assent man must repent and believe and it is his own act?" No, we have neither proven freewill nor disproved election . since it is impossible to do either. We have merely stated exactly what the Bible says a man must do in order to be saved. Let us now look at what the Scripture says a sinner is able to do and what he is not able to do.
FOUR: The same Bible that states man must repent and believe in order to be saved, also emphatically states that man, because of his sinful nature, is totally unable to repent and believe. All of man's three faculties of mind, heart, and will, which must be receptive to gospel truth, have neither the ability to receive such truth nor even the desire to have such ability. In fact the exact opposite is true. Man's total being is not only unable to either come, or want to come, to Christ, but every part of his nature is actively opposed to Christ and truth. Rejecting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is not a passive "non-action," but a deliberate volitional choice. It is deliberately choosing to say "no" to Christ and "yes" to self and sin. No one is "neutral" in respect to God and His authority. Unbelief is just as much a deliberate act of mind, heart, and will as is faith. This is what Jesus meant in John 5:40 when He said, "You will (you are deliberately making a choice) not to come to me." Yes, unbelief is an act of the will. In fact unbelief is active faith, but unfortunately it is faith in myself.
To believe and preach points One, Two, and Three, without also preaching number Four is to grossly misrepresent the gospel of God's grace. It is to give a totally false picture of the sinner and his true need. It shows only half of the man's sin. It misses the most crucial point of a lost man's need, namely, his lack of power or ability to overcome his sinful nature and its effects. The "gospel" which is concocted out of this view is only a half gospel. It is at this point that modern evangelism so miserably fails. It confuses man's responsibility with his ability, and falsely assumes that a sinner has the moral ability to perform all that God has commanded. The "cannot" texts of scripture are either totally ignored or badly twisted by this perversion of the true gospel of God's saving grace.
Please note a few texts of Scripture that dogmatically state some things that a lost man cannot do:
Man cannot see-until he first be born again. (John 3:3)
Man cannot understand-until he first be given a new nature. (I Cor. 2:14)
Man cannot come-until he first be effectually called by the Holy Spirit. (John 6:44-45)
We do not have space to go into all the "cannots," but these three are sufficient to show that a sinner absolutely cannot (notice it is not "will" not) come to Christ until God first does something in that sinner's nature. That "something" is what the Bible calls regeneration, or the new birth, and it is the exclusive work of God the Holy Spirit. Man has no part whatever in regeneration.
FIVE: The new birth, or regeneration, is God giving us the spiritual life that enables us to do what we must do (repent and believe), but CANNOT DO because of our bondage to sin. When the Bible says man is dead in sin, it means that man's mind, heart, and will are all spiritually dead in sin. When the Bible speaks of our being in "bondage to sin," it means that our entire being, including our will, is under the bondage and power of sin. We indeed need Christ to die and pay the penalty of our sin, but we just as desperately need the Holy Spirit to give us a new nature in regeneration. The Son of God frees us legally from the penalty of sin, but only the Holy Spirit can free us from the power and death of our depravity in sin. We need forgiveness in order to be saved, and Christ provides complete forgiveness and righteousness for us in His death. However, we also need spiritual life and ability, and the Holy Spirit provides it for us in regeneration. It is the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration that enables us to savingly receive the atoning work of Christ in true faith.
God is a triune God, and no person can understand His 'so great salvation" until he sees each blessed Person of the Godhead playing a distinct and necessary part in that salvation. No man can declare the "glorious gospel of grace" and leave out the Father's sovereign electing love and the Holy Spirit's regenerating power as essential parts of God's work in saving sinners. To speak of "God's part" in salvation as only being one of "providing" forgiveness and man's part as "being willing" to accept it is to ignore both the Father's work of election and the Spirit's work of regeneration. This not only makes man a full "partner" with God in the work of salvation, it credits man with playing the decisive roll in the deal. How dreadful, and ridiculous, to give Christ the glory for His work on the cross, and then give sinners the credit for the Father's work in eternity (election) and the Spirit's work in our hearts (regeneration). It does great dishonor to the Sovereign Spirit to say, "The Holy Spirit will perform His miraculous work of quickening you unto life as soon as you give Him your permission." That's like standing in a graveyard saying to the dead people, "I will give you life and raise you up from the grave if you will only take the first step of faith and ask me to do it." What a denial of the sinner's total spiritual inability. Amazing!
The root error of the Arminian's gospel of freewill is its failure to see that man's part, repentance and faith, are the fruits and effects of God's work and not the essential ingredient's supplied by the sinner as "man's part of the deal." Every man who turns to Christ does so willingly, but that willingness is a direct result of the Father's election and the Holy Spirit's effectual calling. To say, "If you will believe, God will answer your faith with the New Birth," is to misunderstand man's true need and misrepresent God's essential work.
SIX: The Scriptures clearly show that faith and repentance are the evidences and not the cause of regeneration. Suppose a man who had been dead for twenty years greeted you on the street one day. Would you conclude that the man had gotten tired of being dead and "decided' to ask a great doctor to perform a miracle and give him life? I'm sure you would instead, exclaim in amazement, "Man what happened to you? Who brought you back to life?" You would see he was alive because he was walking and breathing, but you would know these were evidences of a miracle having been performed on him from without and not the results of his own power of will. Just so when a spiritually dead man begins to perform spiritual acts such as repentance and faith-these spiritual "fruits" show that the miracle of the new birth has taken place.
Let me illustrate this with a Biblical example. Acts 16:14 is a clear proof of the above. By the way, as far as I know, this is the only place in the New Testament that uses the phrase "opened heart," and the Bible gives the whole credit for this "opening" to God's power and not to man's will. Modern evangelism does the exact opposite and credits the opening of the heart to the power of man's "free will." Remember that we are not discussing whether man must be willing to open his heart. We settled that under points One, Two, and Three. We are looking now for the source of power that enabled man to perform that spiritual act. Arminianism insists that man's free will must furnish the willingness or power, and the Bible says that the Holy Spirit of God furnishes that power or ability in the new birth. Let us examine the one text in Scripture that uses the phrase "opened heart" and see if it agrees with our previous points:
"And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." (Acts 16:14) The NIV says: "The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message." First of all we note that Lydia did indeed "attend" or listen to the words of Paul. She gladly heard and willingly believed his message. As we have already shown, she had to do this in order to benefit from the gospel and be saved. Lydia's attending," or hearing and believing, illustrates points One, Two, and Three above, and refutes hyper-Calvinism, (which says the elect will be saved regardless of whether they hear and believe the gospel or not). Lydia did choose to believe, and she herself did it only because she wholeheartedly wanted to. She did not do it "unwillingly" nor did God hear and believe for her. It was her own response and it was a most willing response. Next, we notice exactly what God did. We see here demonstrated what God must do before Lydia can be saved. (1) He provided a salvation of "by grace through faith" that could be preached. Obviously "the things spoken" by Paul were the gospel facts concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and surely this Lamb is God's gracious provision. (2) God also brought the message of His provision to Lydia. He sent a preacher to tell her about this great plan of salvation. God went to a lot of trouble to provide such a gospel-He gave His only begotten Son up to death. He went to great ends to provide such a preacher as Paul-read about it in Paul's testimony in Acts 22. It is at this point that Arminianism departs from the Bible and proceeds to apply human logic to the above truths. They tragically fail to look at the rest of the Biblical text and see that God must do something else. (3) God must open Lydia's heart (or give her spiritual life) so she will be able to believe. Her natural mind is blind, her natural heart is averse to God, and her will is in bondage to sin and spiritual death. Only the power of God can free her from this graveyard of spiritual depravity. The giving of this life and power is solely the work of God. Notice that the Bible explicitly gives God alone the credit for Lydia's heart being opened. It is impossible not see that in this text unless you simply refuse to accept what God clearly says. Look at the words carefully: . . whose heart the LORD OPENED... Notice also how clearly the Holy Spirit teaches us the relationship between the cause and the effect in the conversion of Lydia. God was the One Who opened Lydia's heart, that is the cause, and He did so in order that she might be able to attend to the truths that Paul preached, that is the effect. Now that is what the Word of God says! Do not bluster about "dead theology" or throw Calvin's name around in derision, just read the words themselves in the Bible. If you try to deny that the one single reason that Lydia understood and believed the gospel was because God deliberately opened her heart and enabled her to believe, you are fighting God's Word. If you try to get man's "free will" as the one determining factor into this text, you are consciously corrupting the Word of God. God's grace not only provides salvation, but His power also gives us the ability to both desire and receive it He works in us "both to will and to do." His working in us to "will" is the new birth, and, I say again, this work of regeneration (new birth) is totally the work of the Holy Spirit. The moment we lose sight of this distinction between being "saved by faith" (the act of man) and being "born again by the Holy Spirit" (the act of God), we are heading for confusion and trouble. We will be convinced that man is able to do what the Bible emphatically states he is unable to do.The necessity of the Holy Spirit's work being thus theologically denied, it will not be long before it is ignored in actual practice. This is the plight of modern day evangelism. Since the evangelists are convinced that the new birth is within the power and ability of man's will, their man made "me theology" has become far more important than the theology of the Bible, and organization and advertising are absolute essentials to success while the necessary work of the Holy Ghost is all but forgotten. It is true that lip service is given to the need to "Pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance," and cards asking people to "promise to pray every day" are always sent out months in advance of the big campaign. However, some people are not sure if the promise to pray or the other pledge (to give money) which is always included ( "only your gifts can make this great campaign possible") is the most important to the success of the campaign. But that's another subject for another day....