Engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Posts tagged “Regeneration

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.

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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”.


Faith:

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!!!!




Synergism : God + Me = Mission Accomplished. Is that Biblical?!

“Let us consider the following analogy to illustrate synergism. Developers purchase some undeveloped land to create a new housing subdivision. They hire contractors to build houses on the land. The contractors hire electricians to wire each house for electricity. The power company is hired to bring electric power to the subdivision and hook each house up to the power. The houses are sold and occupied. If one drove through the subdivision at 11:30 p.m., and noticed that the lights were on in some houses but not others, who would they consider responsible for that fact? Since every house was equally wired with power and occupied by a person capable of turning on a switch, the only reason the lights would be on in some houses but not others is that in some cases the occupants turned them on. The occupants are the responsible parties.

We could imagine many other analogies for synergism, but they all lead to the same conclusion. Whether it’s called the “prevenient inspiration of the Holy Spirit” as it is in Trent, or something else, synergists claim that God has already made it possible for every person to be saved. God has done his part, like the power company that wired the houses. Turning on the switch is up to the individual. The person with the lit house may say, “Thank God for the power,” but they were ones who decided to turn it on. If it is on for them while their neighbors sit in the dark, the difference is only attributable to human actions, not to anything the power company did.

Likewise, the synergist must admit that the reason he or she is saved and someone else is not is found only in themselves, not in God. Why? Because in their system, (a cooperative effort between God and man), God ALWAYS continually does His part. Some synergists claim that fairness requires that God MUST do everything He can to save everyone. Since they assume this as an a priori belief, they will not accept any Biblical evidence to the contrary. But a logical corollary to their belief is that if God is indeed always doing everything He can to save everyone, and yet some are saved and some are not, then the reason some are saved has to be found in them, not God.

Synergists may say that salvation is 99 percent from God and 1 percent from man, but the 1 percent part that is man’s doing determines who is saved and who is not 100 percent of the time. Back to the analogy—God wires the entire human race to the Holy Spirit power source and humans either turn on the spiritual light through a free will choice, or they do not. That is the essence of a synergistic system of salvation.” (quoted from Bob Dewaay’s article “Recovering Reformation Theology“)

 

This is a telling illustration of exactly how most are taught to believe. 

Brother/Sister in Christ, why did the light shine in your heart?

II Corinthians 4:3-6

light


Sola Gratia:

I know I post my “message of the week” on the page of that name, but this must be shared!

As more and more people ask me questions about the doctrines of grace, The LORD has shown me that it is not in answering all their quesitons that will help them. They need God to show them biblical GRACE. We have drained grace of it’s meaning. We sing “Amazing Grace” and it means nothing to us – partly because we are so familiar with the words, but primarily because we have no concept of God’s sovereign grace (although this very song teaches us what that is).

May The LORD use this message to encourage you and cause you to praise Him for His glorious grace in your life.

“Grace Alone”


Inability to Repent – Ephesians 2:1-3

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
(Ephesians 2:1-3)

My wife told me that she saw a segment on tv about a little girl who could not feel pain, like Roberto in the clip above. The parents were speaking of how they had to watch her every move, as she could touch a hot stove and literally watch her flesh burn off her hand and fell nothing – that there is not a single sensation that tells her she should pull her hand back; nothing to tell her that she is damaging herself! She has the capacity to kill herself and enjoy the entire process!

By now the spiritual, and even more dreadful, parallel should be apparent.  God’s Word tells us that we are dead in sin,  just as  Roberto is dead to pain.  He has no capacity to feel pain. The damage is there, and  is actually being done, yet he has no impetus to cause him to repent from his course of self destruction. He is actually missing the pain receptors, so there is a communication breakdown from his hand, or any body part, to his brain .  Even so the natural, or unregenerate man, cannot understand the things of God as he thinks them foolish, nor does he have the ability to understand them. (I Cor. 2:14)

Roberto could play with a broken leg, and not even slow down. We have a world full of men who have the wrath of God on them, and they don’t even slow their play. They continue in their God-hating sin, enjoying  the sinful pleasures of this world, yet heaping up wrath. They have spiritual CIPA (it’s even congenital as they were born in sin). They are commanded to repent, yet they are not able to, for there is no repentance in them.

Such were some of you!

Praise The LORD that there is a verse 4, and following, in Ephesians 2!

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
(Ephesians 2:4-7)
May The LORD use Roberto’s situation to glorify Himself! May He cause the truth of our depravity to be ever increasingly beautiful as we see the ever increasing depths of it!

Titus 3:5


God’s Part and Man’s Part in Salvation:

As opposed to me stumbling through this topic trying to express it, permit me to direct you to an article that is well written and very definitive on the subject.

It is a bit lengthy for a quick blog read, but I assure you it is well worth it.

http://www.soundofgrace.com/jgr/index005.htm

This article is by John Reisinger. I have a link to his site here on my blog (Sound of Grace), yet I want to direct your attention to this as I find it extremely helpful.

May The LORD guide you by His Spirit.


Salvation is of The LORD.

I don’t intend for this blog to be nothing more than links to other blogs and such; but when you find something good, you just have to share it.

There is something in the biblical doctrine of regeneration that causes my heart to leap for joy and give all praise to The Savior!

Read this post by John Piper titled “Through the Washing of Regeneration”.

May The LORD use it to exalt His Name and bless your soul.

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/2008/2590_Through_the_Washing_of_Regeneration/