Engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Posts tagged “grace

Doubting the Surely

Psalm 73 (read it here http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2073&version=NASB ), is a great help to me. I go through times where I struggle with my faith in The LORD and this is one of the passages in which God strengthens my heart.

The psalmit begins with an affirmation “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart!” It’s good that he starts with this for what follows lines up with the experience of the doubter. The author of this psalm lets us know that he doubted also, but has come through those doubts and states the surety of a truth before walking us through the dark valley he traversed. He affirms the light at the end of the tunnel before taking us through it.
“But as for me, my feet had come close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped.” He describes has he had almost completely fallen away from the truth he initially stated. He was weighed down with doubt and attributes it to being consumed with the appearance of the wicked stating “As I saw the prosperity of the wicked…” This is problem. This is when the cares of this world are at their strongest – when we’re staring at them. Whether it be financial prosperity that lures us, intellectual respect, the belief system of the majority, peace and enjoyment among friends, etc; when we get our eyes off of Jehovah and see things through the temporal or naturalistic lens, we loose heart. We begin to entertain thoughts like those of the psalmist, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence…” These thoughts may sound more like this to us, “The God you were taught as a kid is not real, look at the majority of scientist and even the average Joe – they don’t even believe in Him!”, “How could God be real and this bad thing still happen to me? Maybe I’ve just been fooling myself.” Or “Where is God anyway, is He there? My world seems like it’s falling apart!”
The sure-fire way to stay in this situation is to continue to do what started it. This is the lot of those Jesus spoke of in His parable of the soils. Those who’s sprouts are choked out by the cares of the world. But by God’s grace, He will not let His children stay here long. (Why He designs our trials like these is for another day.) He will turn our eyes and hearts back to Him. Just as the Psalmist tells us, “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight, until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. ” He goes on to describe the certain destruction of those who do not fear Almighty God, and then describes himself through all this. “When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.” Looking back on his doubts and struggles he professes himself to have been senseless. This is interesting for it’s while going through these doubts he thought himself to had been foolish for believing in Jehovah; he had doubted the wisdom in not living as the ungodly. Now, having seen God afresh, he professes his doubtful time to be marked by ignorance and his mindset as that of a brute beast. Yet even in his ignorance and weakness he sees God’s grace through it all – “Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory.” Through it all, God had the psalmist. Through it all God was holding on to this doubting, weak creature, guiding him and will in time bring him to be with HIM.
The psalmist closes up with praise to the God he doubted initially. He declares that there is no one in heaven beside God, and nothing on earth he would rather have than Jehovah. He knows his own strength will fail him, but God is his Sustainer. It is good for him to be close to God, so he has made God his refuge. We come full circle now and see why he says as his opening statement “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart!”

As I read this psalm, I am strengthened; for the world has it’s wise, it’s rich, it’s successful; and they look wise, rich, and successful. The cares can grip tightly, and there are times where I feel I am being strangled by these worldly cares. My steps are slipping, and I feel like I’m almost gone. It seems the wicked are wiser than me, it seems they have their act together, and I’m over here by myself living in a delusional world or I’m not having as much fun as they are. But God in His grace, revives me. He Who is able to keep me from falling holds my hand and guides me. There is a reason Scripture speaks of those who persevere to the end as His people. It is most definitely a fight, and by His grace, His people do fight. We are weak, but our God is strong and watches over us. We are foolish and ignorant, we are unstable and doubt the God Who created us and reveals Himself to us. We are quick to forget His mighty acts, for we easily are caught up by what we see now. Like Thomas, we are quick to believe only that which we can see; but God opens our eyes to the reality of Him. Soli Deo Gloria!


A Parable:

The Arminian kingdom of heaven is like an architect who lived during the boom of the American economy. He was extremely good at his job. Josh, the architect, had an enemy who was massively cruel. Every building Josh would erect, Stan ( his opponent) would attempt to destroy. Josh decided to build the peak of His architectural feats. He was going to build the world’s largest residential complex. It would house all the known population of New York city. In this complex, one could commute to work, live, swim, spend time at a park, etc all without ever leaving the building. There was no pollution, no disease, and one wouldn’t even feel as if he were indoors when playing in the indoor parks, or pools, or whatever. On top of that electricity was half the cost than power outside of the complex. This was the utopia of New York City.
Josh knew Stan well though. He knew Stan would try to wreak havoc on not only the structure itself, but on the residents who would live in it. He knew Stan so well that he knew exactly how Stan would go about attempting to destroy the building and the people in it. Knowing this Josh took an extra precaution. He made a way in which the people could get out of the building – a trap door that Stan didn’t know about.
As a matter of fact, hardly anyone knew about it. The handful of people that did know didn’t tell everybody about it either. So when Stan detonated the bombs, and set fire to the edifice, many perished because they didn’t know about the trap door. Some knew about it, but just figured the little rumble they heard from the 100+ floors below was just thunder and there was no need to panic. Others jumped out the windows because they heard the bombs but didn’t believe the trap door was really their way of escape. And others chose to walk through the door, some really believing what they were told and others just trying it hoping it would work, not really believing at all but having no other viable option.

Now questions:
1. Was Josh really their savior or did he just make a way for them to save themselves if they chose to?
2. If Josh did the same thing for every resident in the building, and some of them weren’t saved by what Josh did – was it Josh that made the difference between life and death for them?
3. Was it possible, based on the effectiveness of Josh’s work; for no one to have been saved and all die in the burning building had they chose to. In other words, could Josh actually make sure his escape plan was effective?
4. If Josh couldn’t guarantee that the residents be saved, and Stan couldn’t guarantee all the residents perish, but it was up to the residents themselves – who has the power to determine the success of the antagonist and protagonist schemes?

Pervert Hating Perverts

(Note: The Random House Dictionary give a definition of a pervert as “a person who has been perverted, esp. to a religious belief regarded as erroneous.” It is this definition I am using in this post, not one of sexual perversion.)

I was told a story of an elderly woman who was raised in a denomination that taught one could lose their salvation if they did not keep certain rules. She began attending a church where the pastor taught a biblical eternal security that was not based upon our works, but Christ’s work. The woman sat under the teaching for a while, examining it in light of Scripture. In time, she came to the pastor, and checking behind her as if she thought she may be followed or was being watch by some spy, whispered to the pastor “I believe what you’re teaching is true.” Then she added, “But don’t you think it’s dangerous?”

She’s correct! This is a real danger. There are some who realize this danger – they realize that people are prone to take a teaching, no matter how true it may be, and pervert it. To remedy this problem, they decide to pervert the truth in the other direction. An example is on the biblical doctrine of grace. Realizing that some could hear what Paul is really saying about grace and conclude that we can live however we want as long as we have confessed Jesus Christ, they attach a works based foundation to the “real Christian” life. They tell people that they must perform certain actions in order to be a good Christian. This is done to keep others out of immorality, or some other sin, that they may be prone to fall into if they twisted what Paul said about not being under the law but under grace. Rather than proclaim truth, as Paul did, and deal with those who would pervert it, they pervert it in order to beat the opposing pervert to the punch. This is the primary method that I have observed in legalism. Men will stand in the pulpit and use fear to control people, and get them to submit to their yoke of legalism. These men use fear as that is what motivate them. They are afraid that people will twist truth, so they pass this fear down to those who are under them. People are told they have to draw the line somewhere or their children will go wild. They’re not satisfied with the biblical lines, as they fear the children will cross them so they set extra-biblical laws in the name of protection and pass them off as biblical. If the Scripture says, “Don’t play in the road.”; they would say, “If you play in the front yard, you’re disobeying God!” These leaders have a fear that people may not read their Bible as they should, so they tell them a “5 star” Christian does that daily, and if they want to be a top notch Christian then they should do the same. The list is endless, anything from style of dress, to forms of entertainment, to “brand” of Bible. I’m not saying that these men do not have good intentions; but to quote something one of them told me “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

My question is this: If one man perverts truth in order to keep another man from perverting the truth, who is a pervert?

The devil is in the details:

I was looking at some reviews of the “Iron Man 2” movie. The Christian based website I was on rightly attempted to give parents a resource for turning movie viewing time into an opportunity to teach the children. This is very biblical, and as a parent I must confess that I fail many times in turning every moment into a teaching moment. But not only is seizing that moment vital, but what you teach in that moment is vital. Here is their recommendation:

“A single man or woman can help change the world. Read about some who did with faith and God’s help…
Jesus Christ, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David”

Now I’m not knocking the website and saying it is trash. I think the site has some helpful things to offer. I want to use this to point out something concerning synergism. Synergism is the idea of two parties working together to accomplish a goal. This isn’t the same as a carpenter using a hammer to drive a nail. In synergism, both parties are active and dependent upon the other. In the carpenter instance, the tool is passive and the carpenter could just have easily completed the job through some other chosen means – AKA nail gun.
This “God needs me” mentality is prevalent in society as it is what comes naturally to us. We tend to think of ourselves more highly than we out to think. Even among believers, this mentality oozes out. Let me show you the difference:
Synergism – “Joseph changed the world with God’s help.”
Monergism – “God used Joseph to change the world.”

It may seem subtle, but they say the devil is in the details.
Look again:

Synergism – “God voted for you, Satan voted against you, and it’s up to you to cast the deciding vote!”
Monergism – “But God…even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)”.

What are we teaching our children?

That was then… this is Now:

A young seminary student was shown a passage in the Old Testament that depicted an characteristic of God that he could not reconcile with his preconceived, man-centered notions of how God relates to men. He explained the passage away by saying that the passage was written under law, while we (meaning every human being) are now under grace. His point was that God acted one way towards men in the Old Testament, but now is different. He doesn’t hate workers of iniquity as He use to. God’s has somehow changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Yet if God is immutable (as this young man would attest) then He must be the same yesterday, today, and forever – so what He hates in the OT (Old Testament), He also hates in the NT (New Testament).

A young, aspiring college student is confronted by a brother in Christ concerning some activity that he should not be involved in. His concerned brother shows him some passages from the OT where caution should be taken when being around the opposite sex, and there are certain boundaries we are not to cross. The bible college student looks his friend in the eye and says, “They were under law, we are under grace. Those rules don’t apply to me.”

A layman was questioned concerning the way of salvation of those in the OT and those in the NT. His response was that those in the OT were saved by keeping the law and those in the NT are saved by grace. His reasoning was “we are no longer under the law, but under grace”.

The main characters in each of these examples are all guilty of the same error – misunderstanding law and grace. They have an extreme “That was then…this is now” mentality. If their interpretation were to be biblical, then we have a God who changes His moral standards, Christians who can live however they want and God doesn’t care, and some men who are saved by their own works which means Jesus wasn’t really needed. Due to their inconsistency, most of those who ascribe to this view would deny that they believe the things I just mentioned. But a Christian should strive to be biblically consistent. Paul uses biblically consistent argumentation all through his epistles to show the church where they are in danger of embracing erroneous beliefs.

So what exactly does Paul mean when he says in Romans 6:14 “you are not under law but under grace”?

Whatever he is saying by not being under law but under grace, he directly relates it to the reason he emphatically knows that sin will no longer have the dominion over them. So when sin did have dominion over them, they were under law, not grace. He is not contrasting the Mosaic Law with grace as he is not speaking to only Jews (those who were raised under the mosaic covenant). The Roman believers were primarily Gentiles and were never under the Mosaic Law to begin with. So to attempt to tell them that they are not under the Mosaic Law anymore as to the reason for their being freed from the dominion of sin makes no sense at all. Paul is not contrasting a supposed way of salvation in the OT with that of the NT. He is telling these gentile believers that at one point in their life they were under the law, and thus sin reigned; but now they are under grace and sins dominion is no more over them. So what law is it if not the Mosaic Law? It is the law that is written in every man’s heart, the law every man is under. Paul made the case earlier that death reined from Adam to Moses (before the Mosaic Law). Men were still guilty of sin as they had the work of the law written in their hearts (Romans 2:14-16). The freedom from the law Paul is speaking about is that they are no longer under law in order to earn their salvation by perfection (no one could ever do that as the law only serves to make the transgression abound). They are now freed by grace to keep the law unto God – not in order to earn any merit at all, but out of a repentant heart. Those who are not in Christ are still under law. Paul does not make the statement that since Jesus has died every single human being is no longer under law but grace. Jesus Christ has perfectly kept the law for transgressors. It is by God’s grace through faith that we are in Jesus and no longer under the law; but until we are brought to faith in Christ we are under the law and sin does have dominion over us.

A good article on the topic at hand:


Where Else Could We Go?

A good friend sent me an article written by David Orrison, concerning the damaging results of legalism. I thought it was written in a biblical spirit, as well as very insightful. This is reproduced in total with David Orrison’s permission. You can also avail yourself to more resources he provides @  http://www.gracefortheheart.org/

May God bless.


Where Else Could We Go?

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

John 6:66-69 (NKJV)

A young lady whose blog I read has wondered where she stands in her faith now that she has left the legalistic environment of her upbringing. A mother’s entry on another blog states that she has abandoned the Christian faith in spite of being strong and active in years past. A former pastor wrote on a discussion group that he has left the ministry and the faith because of all the “unfulfilled promises.” He had worked hard and believed that his faithfulness entitled him to something more than the disappointment and frustration he received. These and many others have rejected the performance spirituality that kept them afraid and frustrated, but they have never learned the real message of Jesus for their hearts.

When the Christian faith is defined, whether openly or covertly, by the various sets of rules and standards provided by teachers and organizations, there is little or nothing left for those who leave that definition. They have been taught, from the time of their infancy, that God is real and the Bible is true. They have also been taught that God is usually disappointed or angry because of their disobedience. If they want God to be happy with them, they are told, they must follow the rules.

It is not natural for us to draw near to someone who is angry with us. In fact, we have learned through our lives that angry people can hurt us. An angry God is in a position to hurt us in very serious ways. He can condemn us to hell if He does not approve of us. He can send disease or financial struggle or any number of tragic circumstances into our lives. If nothing else, He can withhold His protection, under which we all live, and the natural troubles of life can more easily find their ways to us. So we would do well to walk carefully in His presence.

Those who live in the shadow of an angry God find it difficult to relate to Him in any way other than fear. Of course, the teachers have told them that fear is the “beginning of wisdom” and that their fear is not only normal but good. They spend their days concerned about how they have offended God, knowingly or unknowingly. They are taught that any negative circumstance is the result of their sin and, if they cannot readily think of which sin, they should search their hearts and lives to find what they have overlooked. It is not difficult for them to find something, of course: a harsh word, an immoral thought, or neglected gratitude for some kindness. Once they discover the offense, they are told to confess and repent and go their way. They go, however, wondering what it will be next time.

This is the Christian life for many people. Their relationship with God is stiff and formal, distant and anxious. They pray to a God whom, they hope, remains at a distance. They apologize for what they have done and ask for help to overcome their sin. Their experience of forgiveness and acceptance is based on the sincerity of their prayer. They read the Bible because they are supposed to. In it they read of their own failures and unworthiness. They read of how the angry God has dealt and will deal with those who sin. They are taught to see the sins of others and to seek in Scripture even the smallest mentions of new requirements and standards. They attend worship because doing so is spiritual gain. In the presence of other believers they learn how to quantify spirituality. “Some may think certain activities are acceptable, but we do not,” they are told. They learn that styles and actions are the things that measure believers. They learn that it is all about performance.

Then something happens. The pain of remaining in a system that only condemns, that never allows for real growth, that offers no hope for acceptance; becomes so great that separation is necessary. When they leave the system, those who remain tell them that they are no longer acceptable. But it is a vain assessment because they never felt acceptable. No matter what they did, how hard they worked, it wasn’t enough and it would never be enough. They leave empty and broken and afraid—victorious, perhaps—but confused. What is left?

Knowing no other definition of the Christian faith, many turn to other faiths to seek their answers. After all, that one didn’t work. Some leave faith behind altogether and just try to survive by their own sense of right and wrong. But some feel a loss of some undefined presence, something that ought to have been comforting and loving. It was there, but it was never there. Like a miscarried child, that which was lost was barely a part of their experience. Yet the sadness looms and the loss is real.

Was it all a lie? All? Was there nothing of value, nothing of reality? Did the teachers and the preachers and the parents and the elders and the church members and the group leaders all manipulate and use and hurt for their own gain? Or were they just wrong, mistaken about the Christian life?

And what about Jesus? Jesus, who forgave the woman taken in adultery. Jesus, who loved the sinners. Jesus, who looked the other way when His disciples bent the rules. Jesus, who accepted the unacceptable. Jesus, who came to reveal the heart of God to those who were lost. What about Him?

The teachers didn’t talk much about Him. They taught the Law and the wrath and the unworthiness of the heart. They didn’t teach about Jesus who accepted people in their sin, who came and died simply because no one was able to compensate for their sin or redeem themselves. The whole point of His coming was to show that God’s love was greater than our sin. They didn’t talk much about that. They might have said that our only hope was in Him, but they didn’t tell us that He was enough. We were supposed to add to what He did. But we had nothing to add and felt unacceptable.

What if the Christian life is not something for us to work toward? What if the Christian life is something for us to enjoy? Jesus said He came to give us life, as a gift, not as a wage for good service. He came to give us what we did not have. The Law certainly did its work. It condemned us and we died. We knew that we were dead. What we didn’t know, and the teachers didn’t tell us, is that life is found in Jesus.

The Christian life is life in relationship with Jesus. It does not depend on rules and standards, it depends on love. The most consistent message of the Scriptures is the message of the great love of God. He loved us before the foundation of the world. He accepted us when we were unacceptable. He saved us when we were sinners. He stays with us even when we wander from Him. It’s not about our performance; it’s about His love.

Those who have left the legalism and pain of performance spirituality may never have known the truth about the Christian life. Or they may have forgotten under the load of rules and standards. We grieve for those who leave without knowing the truth. We see them walking away from something they never knew, rejecting the truth that would set them free and give them joy forever because a lie was substituted for the reality. Our prayer is that those who still feel the confusion and loss would find their way to the joy of Jesus. He has never ceased to be real and He has never stopped loving them.

Among the several aspects of the ministry of Grace for the Heart is a special desire to reach out to those who have suffered under the lie of performance spirituality. Some have struggled in legalistic churches or organizations or even families. Some are pastors, missionaries, or teachers who have reached the end of their ability to pretend to be spiritual and happy. We seek to gently share the true message of the love of God and the sufficiency of Jesus Christ, through emails, blog comments, articles, and more. It has been a wonderful blessing to hear of those who have heard the message and have found the way to Jesus. We are humbled to learn of lives that have been transformed by His love.

Copyright David Orrison 2010


All of grace, or do we just say that? Part 3

I Thess. 1:1-5

“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”

I Thess. 2:13

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”
Q: Does God choose based on forseen faith or does the choosing of God result in faith
A: vs 5. “We know that He has chosen you because…” and goes on to say that the gospel they heard came with power and conviction. That their reception of it bears witness that God has elected them.

Q: Who is responsible for our belief? If God only gives man the opportunity to believe, but doesn’t secure that faith then man is the responsible party to which gratitude should be given. True that God should be thanked to the opportunity, but man is the one who seized it. BUT –  If God secures the faith that He requires then God is to be praised for man’s belief.
A:  vs. 13 – Here Paul says that He thanks God for the fact that they received God’s Word as God’s Word. Paul thanks God for their faith.

All of Grace, or do we just say that?

I have dear loved ones who say that God must graciously call us, but we are the final determiners on whether God saves us or not. These same people wish to say that they are saved by God’s grace, but it’s not Grace alone that sets them apart from the unbeliever, it is their response to this grace that sets them apart.

It seems, from speaking with these people, that the Scriptures very clearly teach that the hinge of salvation is our free-will decision they just can’t exegetically show where, or that there isn’t enough Scriptural support for the doctrine that men are saved totally by the grace of God and that our faith is even a result of His grace so that we can not boast at all.

I have taken this challenge  to go to Scripture and demonstrate that the idea that God calls but we must decide whether His call accomplishes it’s intended purpose or not is a philosophical addition by man; and that Scripture is abundantly clear that men are saved {from start to finish} by the gracious work of God and God alone.

Let’s begin with I Corinthians 1:18-30

“18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, [2] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being [3] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him [4] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  ”

Things to note:

1.  vs 18The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.  We are all perishing as we are born wicked and God-hating. (Romans 3) So  how is it that the cross changes from foolishness to wisdom?

2.  vs 21. It pleases God to save those who believe. How is it that some believe and others don’t? Is God pleased to save those who, of their own free-will, meet His condition of faith? Or is God pleased to save a group of men and that group manifests itself as believers?

3. vs 22. Again Paul tells us that Christ is unbelievable to both Jews and Gentiles ,so no man will believe in Him. so why do some men believe?

Answers found in the text to the questions begged by the text.

1. vs. 24  Concerning why some Jews and Gentiles find Christ the wisdom of God while the rest of the world sees Him as foolish – “but to those who are called…” It is the calling of God that differs between believing Jews and Gentiles and the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles.

2. To the question of why do men believe (even though we have seen it is the call of God that makes men differ in their response) we are told again by Paul in verse 30 “Because of Him [that is God] you are in Christ”. It is by faith that we are in Christ, and Paul here tells us that even that is to be attributed to God.

3.  As to why Christ is seen as wisdom to some and not to others, Paul gives us the same answer as before. See verse 26. We are told to consider the calling they have by God. How that God has chosen and it is in this that makes the difference.

All this brief overview begs a question: Why is this so important? Why does it matter whether we think We are saved by God’s grace alone or by a cooperation on our part with God’s grace?

A: vs. 31 “Let the one who boasts, boast in The LORD”.


I grew up in church, and I thank God for that. Due to this fact, I heard phrases such as “But for the grace of God there goes (insert name of speaker).” “I’m saved by the grace of God.” “I’d like to thank The LORD for saving me.” Etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these phrases – they are all 100% biblical. And these statements resound in the heart of a true child of God with an undeniable “YES!”. But I have discovered that there was an unstated assumption in the mind of those who said those things. I developed the same assumption along with them. What was meant was this: “Had I not taken hold of the grace of God there goes Daniel.” Or “I’m saved by availing myself to the grace of God.” Or “I’d like to thank The LORD for saving me when I availed myself to His offer.”  The difference is vast. It is the difference between salvation being ALL OF GOD, or salvation being part of man and part of God. In case you have missed it, let me state the assumption for you a bit more clearly: “I am saved because I chose, of my own free-will, to believe the gospel. Because I performed the act of faith, God gives me eternal life in return. I met God’s requirements and He graciously granted me eternal life. Faith is what I bring to the table, forgiveness is what He brings.” This is called “synergism”, meaning the individual and God work together in the salvation of the individual. Now, the question is this – is this the teaching of Scripture? If so, then we should embrace this unashamedly, if not then we should reject this stance.

Where does faith come from? What does God tell us is the reason men believe the gospel? Is it self-generated, or given to them? Does every man have it and it is up to him to exercise it in the right object to gain salvation? Many would answer these questions in the affirmative, but before for we align ourselves for or against it, let’s see what Scripture says about it.

We are told in I John 5:1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” The same phraseology is used in I John 2:29 “everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” No Christian would say that John is teaching in the later verse that righteous works make us born again, but rather his point is to show that righteous works are a result of being born again. So it is in chapter 5. But not only is this evident by the context, the original language also points to this. The word “believes” is literally “is believing” it is in the present. The verb “is born” is a perfect imperative showing an action that has been completed in the past that has effects (believing) in the present. It is literally translated “has been born”. Here John shows us that faith is the cause of being born of God, rather than something that lies dormant within us awaiting our activiation.

John 3:3, 5-7 “Jesus answered him, Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again.” Here we have Christ addressing the issue of how one enters the kingdom. He says there is a prerequisite to entering in, or even seeing it – that of being born again. The statement at the end of verse seven “You must be born again” is not a command telling Nicodemus something he must do, but rather something that must be done to him if he is to enter in. He did not just tell him “all you have to do is believe”. Christ took him to the root. Nicodemus needed to be re-born. He poses a question to him in verse 12 “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” Christ struck at the heart of Nicodemus’ problem. He could not believe unless given a new nature.

John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws. And I will raise him up on the last day.” Christ reiterates in the same chapter, verse 64, “But there are some of you who do not believe,… this is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Here we have Christ, after inviting men to come to Him, stating that no one can come/believe unless given that ability by the Father. So we have Christ stating again that faith, or belief, is not something we can contribute to our salvation. Christ states this truth again in John 10:25-26 “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” He explicitly states again that belief in Him is not what makes us one of His, but rather being one of His is the cause of our faith.

Luke tells us in Acts 18:27 “When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed.” Here we get a glimpse of how we believe in Christ – through grace. Had it not been for grace they would not have believed. He also tells us in Acts 16:14 “… The LORD opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” God has sovereignly opened Lydia’s heart to cause her to heed what Paul said concerning Christ.

Paul tells us in Philippians 1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” Faith is a gift that is given to men on behalf of the work Christ accomplished through His life, death, and resurrection. Again we are told, almost as in passing, that faith is a gift from God.

Paul tells us on another instance (Romans 6:17) that he attributes the sinners obedience of the gospel to God when he says, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,” This is an unmistakable attributing the saving faith of men wholly to God. Paul did not say, “I thank God that he freed you from sin AFTER you obeyed the gospel” but rather he thanks God that slaves of sin have obeyed from the heart the gospel. Paul blames God for their faith.

Peter tells us in II Peter 1:1 that faith is given to us when he writes “to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Paul tells us plainly in II Thess. 3:2 “…not all have faith.” Paul doesn’t say “not all men have exercised their faith” he said they don’t have it. This aligns with the words of Christ in John 6 when He said, “no man can come unless it is granted him”.

I Corinthians 2:14 says “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Here we see the echo of Christ’s words to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” Paul says the natural man doesn’t believe the things of the Spirit of God, he sees them as foolish and is incapable of understanding them. He will not believe them, as it goes against his very nature. He must be born of the Spirit if he is to ever understand the things of the Spirit.

In I Corinthians 12:3. Paul says there is something he wants the Corinthians believers to understand and that is “… no one can say ‘ Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” We know that men can say things they don’t mean, as that happens daily, but Paul is not speaking about someones inability to just meaninglessly utter the phrase “Jesus is Lord”. Paul is speaking of one confessing that with their mouth from a heart-belief. The same utterance he speaks of in Romans 10:14 “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?…” Heart belief must precede verbal utterance if it is to be meant, and no one can have this deep rooted conviction of truth apart from the Holy Spirit.

One more I would like to share with you which will lead me into another question that must be asked – I Corinthians 1:30-31 “And because of Him you are in Christ… so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the LORD.” Again we have Paul placing 100% of the reason a person is in Christ on God. None is shared by the savee, but all by the Savior!

There are more passages, but I do believe this will suffice to show that Scripture plainly teaches. we have heard from the apostle John, Peter, and Paul that faith is a gift from God. Even more, we have seen this very truth taught from the lips of our LORD Jesus Christ.

Lets pick back up with the verse we left off at: I Corinthians 1:30-31 “And because of Him you are in Christ… so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the LORD.” How does the philosophy that faith is something I bring to the table, or atleast a force that lies dormant within me until I decide to arouse it Godward, how does this line up with what Scripture says about God saving men in such a way that all boasting is excluded? That is one of the results of grace – it shuts the mouth of the one receiving it to even the smallest amount of boasting. Paul, in our current verse, explicitly states that the one who is in Christ is in Christ wholly because of God’s doing, nothing of himself. He goes on to emphasis that it is this way so that no one can boast save in The LORD alone.

Paul teaches elsewhere in Romans 9 that the mercy of God is shown to men, not based off of any quality found in themselves. verses 15-16 ” ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Paul seems to be redundant here in saying God will do what God will do according to what God will do; and it’s not according to what man may do but wholly upon what God will do. this is to emphasis a point that God is sovereign in his dispensing of mercy, not promiscuous to any who will of their own choose to meet a condition. Now I do not intend to get into election at this point, although I know this passage deals with that as well. I simply reference it here to show that God so works salvation so as to exclude any way for man to boast in it. God is jealous and He says He will not give His glory to another – Isaiah 42:8. (We also see in Isaiah 48:12 that God acts for His Own Name’s sake, not for the sake of men. God’s glory is something precious to Him and He does all He does in light of that.)

A verse that could have also been listed in the previous heading is I Corinthians 4:7 “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” Here we see how faith being a gift (as already established previously) excludes boasting. We can’t boast in something that was granted to us. Just as i can’t boast in my physical sight, or ability to breath as I received these things from my Creator, so I can’t boast in my faith, for He gave me that as well.

Allow me to close with Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved though faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” the “it” is neuter in the original language. The nouns (grace and faith) are feminine. In greek, pronouns agree with the nouns they refer to in gender. Thus rather than referring exclusively to “faith” or exclusively to “grace” (which would be redundant as grace, by definition, is a gift) it seems to refer to the entire salvation. Paul states emphatically that it is  not a result of works so that no one may boast. If salvation is the result of you and God working together, then you do have a share in some of the credit. But salvation is not this way. God has so designed salvation so that none of it is our own doing, not even the faith, so we are excluded from any boasting.

This is nowhere near exhaustive, as volumes have been written on what I have attempted to summarize, but let me conclude by answering a question you may possibly be entertaining. “So what’s the big deal? Why all the hype about whether I believe of my own or of God?” In the words of the reformers “Soli Deo Gloria!” (Glory to God alone!). This is it. Christ prayed in John 17, before going to the cross, that the Father would glorify Him for the purpose that He would glorify the Father. The glory of God is paramount. We are told in Romans 9:23 as well as in Ephesians 2:7 (just to name two places) that we are saved for His glory. When God opens our hearts to this truth, our salvation becomes all the more precious, we worship God more accurately, and we exclaim along with Jonah, and the host of Old and New Testament saints: “Salvation is of The LORD!”.

Soli Deo Gloria!!!!

Thomas: “I will never believe”

(this is copied from desiringgod.org. It was their newsletter for April 2009.) My heart lept for joy as I opened my mail and saw this article. I have been dealing with skeptics at work, and oh! how sweet it was to be reminded of the biblical account of how Christ makes believers out of skeptics!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thomas: “I Will Never Believe”

April 2009

Believing what we cannot see is hard. All of us are skeptics to some degree, and some more than others. But there is often more going on inside a skeptic than meets the eye. And Jesus knows how to reach them. That’s one reason I love Thomas’ story.1

Jesus’ death had been difficult and confusing for everyone. Having been welcomed into Jerusalem like a king, he was dead before the week was over. And when the shepherd was struck, the sheep scattered. But they regathered in a secret hideout in Jerusalem.

On Sunday things took a weird twist. It began with Mary Magdalene insisting that she had seen Jesus alive in the morning. True, Jesus’ body disappearing was admittedly strange. But still, everyone knew Jesus had really died. No one could believe Mary’s claim, except maybe John.

Then later in the day Peter announced that he also had seen Jesus alive. This troubled Thomas. But he figured he could cut Peter some slack. After denying Jesus publicly, no one could blame Peter for wishing everything was okay. He just needed time.

But then Cleopas burst into the house Sunday night claiming that he had walked—walked!—with Jesus to Emmaus that afternoon. What Thomas found particularly hard to believe was that Cleopas and his friend hadn’t recognized Jesus the entire time until dinner when poof! he just disappeared.

Well, this excited everyone else, but Thomas only felt agitated. He desperately missed Jesus too, but he wasn’t going to let grief make him believe bizarre things. Jesus was dead.

Yet he didn’t feel like dousing everyone’s unreal hope with a wet blanket of reality. They weren’t ready to hear it anyway. Thomas decided he needed to clear his head with a walk. By himself.

So after whispering a discreet excuse to Nathaniel, he managed to slip outside without much notice. After being very careful not to betray the hideout, he started down an empty street.

The quiet was refreshing. But the walk wasn’t as helpful as he had hoped. The Jesus sightings were disturbing, especially because the witnesses were credible.

Then a rush of memories from the past three years flowed through Thomas’ mind. So many things he had seen would have been unbelievable if he hadn’t seen them. Most haunting now was Lazarus. And Jesus had seemed to know that he was going to die in Jerusalem.

Suddenly Thomas realized he was arguing with himself. His agitation really wasn’t over his friends’ failure to face the facts. The facts, in fact, were now ambiguous. He was agitated because part of him actually believed Jesus was alive. And this frustrated the skeptic in him who took pride in being a man of common sense. A resurrection just seemed too incredible to be true.

The more he thought, the less sure he became. No one knew where Jesus’ body was. Those who claimed to have seen him were people he trusted. It would make sense of certain prophesies. Could it be?

Show me the body! his skeptic side shouted. At least Lazarus could be seen and touched in Bethany by any doubter. So if Jesus really was alive, why this “hide and seek” game? Wouldn’t he just show himself to them all?

He’d believe Jesus was alive when he saw him alive.

When Thomas returned to the house, four of his friends pounced on him, “We have seen the Lord, Thomas! It’s all true! He was just with us! Where were you?”

Thomas instantly felt a surge of shock, unbelief, isolation, regret for having left, and self-pity over feeling left out.

Feeling angry he blurted out with more conviction than he felt, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Most of his friends were dismayed. But Peter just watched him, smiling slightly.

The following eight days were long and lonely for Thomas. His friends were gracious. No one debated him. It was, in fact, their calm confidence in Jesus’ resurrection that aggravated Thomas’ growing conviction that he was wrong. Outside he tried to maintain a façade of resolute intellectual skepticism, but inside he was wrestling and melting and wanting more than anything to see Jesus too.

And then it happened. Thomas was staring at the floor, pondering again the possibility that his unbelief had disqualified him. Had Jesus rejected him? If so, he knew he deserved it. Then someone gasped. He looked up and his heart leaped into his throat! Jesus was standing across the room looking back at him. “Peace be with you.”

Thomas could hardly breathe. Jesus spoke to him, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

All objections and resistance in Thomas evaporated. And in tears of repentance, relief, and worship Thomas dropped on his knees before Jesus and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.”

Be patient and gracious with the skeptics in your life. We shouldn’t assume their outward confidence accurately reflects their inward condition. Keep praying for them and share what seems helpful. Keep confidently and humbly following Jesus. And trust his timing. He knows best how and when to reveal himself to them.

Trusting the God of Thomas with you,

Jon Bloom
Executive Director

P.S. A message you might consider forwarding to a skeptic isChrist and Those in Him Will Never Die Again. In it John Piper offers some sound reasons why skeptics should consider the claims of the resurrection. As always, it’s free online. Our free online outreach is supported by folks like you who contribute to our work. More information can be found on our Support DGpage.

1 Thomas’ skepticism over Jesus’ resurrection is recorded in John 20:24-29, but the chronology of events are drawn from a combination of all the gospels’ accounts of the days following the crucifixion.