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Tag Archives: salvation
A “Church of Christ” Member “asked” or rather stated: Does the Church have a name….what is it? I would be a shamed to say I was of any other Church, then the COC. Why? If you are in Christ, you have eternal life. Good Night!! Christ said, he was going to build his Church, did he……….Is it His Church? What name is it? On the day of Pentecost when Peter got up with the twelve, and the same day there were added unto them three thousand souls…..who’s Church were these people added to.
Where in the bible does it name the church as the “Church of Christ”. It doesn’t. Rom 16:16 says “Churches (plural) of Christ” being demonstrative of the differing congregations through out the biblical area. And Paul mentioned this also.
1Co 1:12-13ow this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
Paul said there was unity among those “churches (plural) of Christ” in that they are not of Paul, Apollo, or Cephas. No they where “IN” Jesus. Paul the notes that his Christ given mission is not to baptize but to preach the gospel least the cross be made un effective.
If you will listen to what Universalist Rodger says, he says,, “Even though I was and am trusting for my salvation in what Jesus accomplished by His death and resurrection, through the power in the blood of His cross, I was, and still am unable to love a god who would let anyone suffer forever.”
I could not find the quote but he also says that anyone who does not believe “as he does for pardon of sins” is of the hook anyway. So how can he trust in Jesus for his sins and dedicate his life, as he has, to telling others not to do the same because it matters not? He does not realize that when a person steps into the realm of biblical teaching he should so with great discernment because of the higher level of accountability and yes judgment for all teachers of religious or God’s truth.
These questions where asked in a forum I visit. WHAT ABOUT SUICIDE? Can it be forgiven? Is it not written that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, is the only unpardonable sin? The questionnaire has yet to answer the questions himself, but his questions prompted this response and I would like to share it so that other may share it freely if they so wish. The questionaire advocates salvation by works.
It always saddens me to see those that advocate “self salvation” to bring up suicide. It is always served with a generous portion of apathy and contempt for those who do commit suicide, and even those who are depressed to the point of considering it. There will always be someone that defines suicide as murder and try to state that murderers cannot be forgiven and end up in God’s heaven. The reasoning goes if you can save yourself you can likewise condemn your self. But the bible says that “all” are condemned already. From that we must be rescued.
But what does the bible say about murderers? It says they shall not have a place in God’s heaven. But when the Spirit of the new law of Christ says that we are ALL murders if we get angry at our brothers for no reason, it kind of levels the playing field huh? Like it or not we are all murderers! Have you not heard that if you break one of Gods laws you have broken them all?
The aberrant pseudo-Christian cults are united against grace and faith alone for justification/salvation.
Spend some time in a Christian debate or discussion community for awhile and you will learn a few things. First and foremost is that there are so many different ways that people believe and teach about certain biblical topics. For those who are NOT well studied and versed on what is and what is not orthodox Christianity can get confused easily. There are only two groups of Christians. Those who adhere to orthodox teachings and those that hold heterodox or aberrant heretical teachings. The difference is that between true Christianity and Pseudo-Christian cults.
While the vast and flagrant differences of the cults on various doctrines and teachings is the first and most obvious thing that a participant or a lurker in those type forums will learn, the most prominent theme and common denominator among them is their united assault against salvation by grace alone, through faith alone. While most cults claim to be the only true church and the only ecclesiastic outlet of salvation, all cults stand united in denying that salvation is by grace apart from works.
1. So “what is justification?”
Wikipedia states: A Reductio ad Absurdum (Reduction to Absurdity) is used to demonstrate that a statement is false by showing that a false, untenable, or absurd result follows from its acceptance
All ideas have inherent consequential inferences and necessary logical extensions whether they are stated or not. Have you ever talked to a baptismal regenerationsist and they said lets talk about Mark 16:16 or Acts 2: 38 and you thought, lets not, again. They will ignore part b of Mark 16:16 and try to wish it away. They will try to say baptism is for (not because of) remission of sins when Acts clearly states in later chapters that remission of sin come from belief in Jesus shed blood.
In case you have not noticed I would like to point out to you that universalism is not Christian at all. But rather the one world religion of the coming anti-Christ/pantheist and new age system of religion. And universalism as with all the above stated, is really anti Christian. No matter how much someone may tout tolerance to and for all.
Pantheism is a religious belief in MONISM and the divinity of all things. It seeks to absorb all other religious systems besides biblical Christianity because the two are incompatible. The new age is really a revival of pantheistic paganism from way back to Egypt and Babylon. The NWO is a religious, political and financial system that is currently in place to offer it’s power thrones to the antichrist when he gets here. ( Spare me any debate on the antichrist right now to make this point). They all have the same conclusions and the only real difference is that the one world order religion will replace all these absorbed into universalism and replace it with a luciferian religion of luciferian worship and sacrifice towards the unholy one.. Do yourself a favor and Google “David Spangler, luciferian initiation” and see for yourself that ALL of our governments all the way up to the qausi government of the United nations has waiting for all humans and for us biblical Christians who will not take such and initiation or oath.
A cinematic video of a Father’s love, who is faced with an unfathomable cirucumstance and choice: This is the best portrayal of the sacrifice that was made on Calvary for all us, today and forever.
“The Bridge – How Far Would You Go?” <<– original video site
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Forty Things God Provides Every Believer at Salvation
Compiled by Lewis Sperry Chafer
Revised by R. B. Thieme, Jr.
The Thirtynine Irrevocable Assets
1. The Christian resides in the eternal plan of God, sharing the destiny of Christ.
o Foreknown by God—Acts 2:23; Romans 8:29; I Peter 1:2
o Elected—Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; I Thessalonians 1:4; Titus 1:1; I Peter 1:2
o Predestined in Christ—Romans 8:29-30 ; Ephesians 1:5, 11
o Chosen—Matthew 22:14; I Peter 2:4
o Called—I Thessalonians 5:24
2. The Christian is reconciled by God to God. The sin barrier that separates man from God is removed.
o By God—II Corinthians 5:1819 ; Colossians 1:20
o To God—Romans 5:10; II Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 2:1417
3. The Christian is redeemed (purchased from the slave market of sin). Romans 3:24; Colossians 1:14; I Peter 1:18
4. The Christian’s condemnation (eternal judgment) is removed. John 3:18; 5:24; Romans 8:1
5. All sins are judged by the substitutionary spiritual death of Christ on the Cross. Romans 4:25; Ephesians 1:7; I Peter 2:24
6. Under grace, every Christian receives propitiation for sins instead of judgment. God is satisfied with the death of His Son on the Cross. Romans 3:2526; I John 2:2; 4:10
7. The Christian is dead to the old life (Old Sin Nature) but alive to God (retroactive positional truth). He is
o Crucified with Christ—Romans 6:8;Galatians 2:20
o Dead with Christ—Romans 6:8; Colossians 3:3; I Peter 2:24
o Buried with Christ—Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12
o Raised with Christ—Romans 6:4; 7:4; Colossians 2:12; 3:1
8. The Christian is free from the Mosaic Law. He is
o Dead to the Law—Romans 7:4
o Delivered—Romans 6:14; 7:6; II Corinthians 3:6−11; Galatians 3:25
9. The Christian is regenerated. John 12:10; I Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5
o Born again—John 3:7; I Peter 1:23
o A child of God—Romans 8:16; Galatians 3:26
o A son of God—John 1:12; II Corinthians 6:18; I John 3:2
o A new creation—II Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:10
10. The Christian is adopted by God (placed as an adult son through positional truth). Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5
11. The Christian is made acceptable to God. Ephesians 1:6; I Peter 2:5.
o Made righteous (imputation)—Romans 3:22; I Corinthians 1:30; II Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9
o Sanctified positionally—I Corinthians 1:30, 6:11
o Perfected forever—Hebrews 10:14
o Qualified for inheritance—Colossians 1:12
12. The Christian is justified (vindicated, declared righteous). Romans 3:24, 5:1; 8:30; I Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:7
13. The Christian receives the unique availability of divine power. II Peter 1:3
14. The Christian is guaranteed heavenly citizenship based on reconciliation. Luke 10:20; Ephesians 2:14−19; Philippians 3:20
15. The Christian is delivered from the kingdom of Satan. Colossians 1:13a; 2:15
16. The Christian is transferred into God’s kingdom. Colossians 1:13b
17. The Christian is placed on a secure foundation. I Corinthians 3:11; 10:4; Ephesians 2:20
18. Every Christian is a gift from God the Father to Christ. John 10:29; 17:2, 6, 9, 1112,24
19. The Christian is positionally delivered from the power of the Old Sin Nature. Romans 8:2; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11
20.Every Christian is appointed a priest unto God. He is
o A holy priesthood—I Peter 2:5, 9
o A royal priesthood—I Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6
21. The Christian receives eternal security.
John 10:28−29; Romans 8:32, 3839 ; Galatians 3:26; II Timothy 2:13
22. The Christian is given access to God. Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 4:16; 10:1920
23. The Christian is within the “much more” grace care of God. Romans 5:910. He is the
o Object of His love—Ephesians 2:4; 5:2
o Object of His grace
o For salvation—Ephesians 2:89
o For keeping—Romans 5:2; I Peter 1:5
o For service—John 17:18; Ephesians 4:7
o For instruction—Titus 2:12
o Object of His power—Ephesians 1:19; Philippians 2:13
o Object of His faithfulness—Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 13:5b
o Object of His peace—John 14:27
o Object of His consolation—II Thessalonians 2:16
o Object of His intercession—Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 9:24
24. The Christian is beneficiary of an inheritance as heirs of God and jointheirs with Christ. Romans 8:17; Ephesians 1:14, 18; Colossians 3:24; Hebrews 9:15; I Peter 1:4
25. The Christian has a new position in Christ. Ephesians 2:6. He is
o Partner with Christ in life—Colossians 3:4
o Partner with Christ in service—I Corinthians 1:9
o Worker together with God—I Corinthians 3:9; II Corinthians 6:1
o Servant of the New Covenant—
II Corinthians 3:6
o Ambassador—II Corinthians 5:20
o Living epistle—II Corinthians 3:3
o Servant of God—II Corinthians 6:4
26. The Christian is the recipient of eternal life. John 3:15; 10:28; 20:31; I John 5:1112
27. The Christian is created a new spiritual species. II Corinthians 5:17
28.The Christian is a light in the Lord (part of the angelic conflict). Ephesians 5:8; I Thessalonians. 5:45
29. The Christian is united with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is
o In God—I Thessalonians 1:1 (cf. “God in you,”Ephesians 4:6)
o In Christ—John 14:20 (cf. “Christ in you,”Colossians 1:27)
o A member of His Body—I Corinthians 12:13
o A branch in the Vine—John 15:5
o A stone in the Building—Ephesians 2:2122 ;I Peter 2:5
o A sheep in the Flock—John 10:2729
o A portion of His Bride—Ephesians 5:2527 ; Revelation 19:68, 21:9
o A priest of the kingdom of priests—I Peter 2:9
o A new spiritual species—II Corinthians 5:17
o In the Holy Spirit—Romans 8:9 (“The Spirit in you”)
30.The Christian is the recipient of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. He is
o Born of the Spirit—John 3:58
o Baptized with the Spirit—Acts 1:5; I Corinthians 12:13
o Indwelt by the Spirit—John 7:39; Romans 5:5; 8:9; I Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; Galatians 4:6; I John 3:24
o Sealed by the Spirit—II Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30
o Given spiritual gifts by the Spirit— I Corinthians 12:11, 2731
31. The Christian is glorified. Romans 8:30
32. The Christian is complete in Christ. Colossians 2:12
33. The Christian is the possessor of every spiritual blessing granted in eternity past. Ephesians 1:3
34. The Christian receives a human spirit (an integral component of Operation Z, along with the Holy Spirit). I Thessalonians 5:23
35. The Christian has all sins and transgressions blotted out. Isaiah 43:25, 44:22
36. The Christian is the recipient of efficacious grace. Ephesians 1:13
37. The Christian is guaranteed a resurrection body forever. I Corinthians 15:4054
38.The Christian is the beneficiary of unlimited atonement. II Corinthians 5:14, 15, 19; I Timothy 2:6; 4:10; Titus 2:11; Hebrews 2:9; II Peter 2:1;
I John 2:2
39. The Christian has equal privilege and equal opportunity under election and predestination. Romans 12:3; Ephesians 3:1619
The One Revocable Asset
40.The Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. Galatians 3:3.
The filling of the Holy Spirit received at salvation is revoked when the Christian sins. The filling of the Holy Spirit is recovered when the Christian rebounds by acknowledging his sins to God.
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Five Things You Need To Know About Salvation
(Acts 4:10, 12) Posted by Bro. Jeff Ray
We as Christians need to be so thankful for our salvation in Jesus Christ and you say I know plenty about salvation and have heard so many sermons on it that you could teach it. Well, we need to be reminded so that we can keep a thankful heart and renew the joy of our salvation in our hearts. We need to hear it again so that we can tell others about salvation found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So, today we are going to look at five things we need to know about salvation.
I. Salvation and the Two-fold Implication
First we need to define salvation. Salvation means to fully deliver someone from out of danger, harm, or destruction. Now does that have any implications for us? It definitely does. We can get two implications from this.
The first implication is that someone needs to be saved and cannot save themselves. Well I can imply that to myself, in light of what scripture says about mankind ability to save themselves I understand this truth, I am lost and condemned in my sinfulness and I cannot save myself.
The second implication of salvation is this, there is someone who is able to save and is willing to save us. In reading the scriptures we can come to this truth, only Jesus can save us and was willing to save us. From this we have two unchangeable truths, our inability to save ourselves and the one who can save us (Jesus) who is more than willing to save us.
God chose to save us and went to the tremendous task to save us through the sacrifice of the eternal Son of God. The awesome love and grace and mercy poured out on a mere creation. In all rights He could have and should have destroyed us but He did not. What love and kindness and tender mercies He has shown sinful and disobedient mankind (Ps. 69:14-16 says, “Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the water flood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.).
The subject of the Bible and the object of God’s love is the redemption of man made possible through Jesus Christ, God the Son.
II. Man is Lost
Rom. 3:9,10 – “What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.”
If you ever read the book of Romans in just the first 3 chapters we come to these important truths about the nature of man: man is lost in his sins, it is his nature to sin, and that all people are sinful and in need of a savior. The sinfulness of man is called the depravity of mankind. That simply means we are morally and sinfully corrupt and that is our nature.
Every human being ever born or will be born in this world will be born with a sin nature, Rom. 3:23 – “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”, we see it doesn’t say some or most but all. All people are equal in this that we are sinful and separated from God (Is. 59:2 – “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you). We can’t let pride say, “I’m not as bad as somebody else”, we are all sinful and in the same spiritual condition without Christ.
III. Man cannot save himself.
Man cannot save himself because he is sinful and cannot come into the presence of a holy God. Because of our inability, we can only fall upon God’s grace to save us. Salvation is by God’s grace and not by any works we do (Eph. 2:8, 9- For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.).
Man-made religions, cults, and philosophies trust in a false hope that somehow good deeds, religious devotion, or self-effort will make us good enough to be accepted by God into His Heaven. The prevalent philosophy is that if one does enough good things that it will outweigh the bad. That is far from the truth, the parable of Jesus about judgment day in Matt. 7, in verses 22 & 23, we see them say to Jesus, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Those in that day that relied on good works and religious rituals but never had a personal relationship with Christ and found themselves deceived and facing the judgment of God. Prov. 14:12 says “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death”.
Salvation is not earned by church membership, good deeds, baptism, or by keeping the 10 Commandments. It is by putting your faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, recognizing He is the only way of salvation, because mankind cannot save themselves.
IV. What is Salvation?
A. Reconciliation- Salvation is reconciliation with God. Rom 5:10, 11 (NIV) – For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. The suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ, He has reconciled us back in right relationship with the God.
B. Redemption- Gal. 3:13- Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law. The term redemption in Greek was used of one purchasing a servants at a slave market that gives us the understanding that Christ paid the price to purchase our salvation from the slavery of sin. The redemption price was His blood which was sufficient to purchase everyone sold under sin. The words used to show redemption also mean to purchase and take home, no longer for sale in the slave market, to purchase and give freedom. Christ redeemed us from the slave block of sin and forever given freedom in Christ.
C. Adoption (Gal. 4:4,5- But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.) – we are adopted as sons and daughters of God by and through the person and work of Jesus Christ. We have full rights as children of God through Jesus Christ.
D. Imputation- Christ’s salvation took the penalty for our sin on Himself Is. 53:5- “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” And because He was the substitute for us, He could give vicariously or impute to us His righteousness. So we could be accepted by the Father.
E. Justification (Rom. 3:24,25 – Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.)- Justification is the forgiveness of sin (past, present, and future) and God declaring us righteous through Christ’s righteousness imputed to us and the removal of His judgment.
V. Cost of Salvation – the cross; the suffering, shed blood, and death of Christ on the Cross. Is. 53:4,5 -Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Healed, cleansed, forgiven, and set free from our sins by the mighty work of Jesus Christ. With great love He gave Himself for the salvation of our souls. With great love we need to confess and believe by faith in Christ to be our Lord and Savior. And after He becomes our Lord we need to serve Him and live for Him and witness about Him to all of those who are still lost and blind in their sins.
The Doctrine of Autonomous Self: A Hidden Idolatry
By A. Sutono
Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!
how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:
I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:11-15)
In this text, Isaiah describes the fall of Lucifer, as well as the cause and effect of it. We learn the cause of him being eternally condemned by God from v.13 and 14 is that he is so filled with pride and self-adoration that he declares himself to be worthy to ascend into heaven and be exalted above the stars of God. He considers himself to be as equally valuable, as equally worthy, if not more valuable and more worthy than God himself that he should be like the Most High. In response, God removed him from his original state and declares that his splendor be nullified and brought down to shame, and he himself be brought down to hell, to a place of eternal torment which is the lake of fire (Rev 20:10) forever as his eternal destiny. When Lucifer was removed from heaven, his name became Satan, and was cast to the earth. In the account of the Fall in Gen 3, after which God offered the promise of deliverance through the atoning work of the LORD Jesus Christ on the cross implied in v. 15, we may observe the correlation between Satan’s sinful ambition to what he tempted Adam and Eve with, which eventually led the couple to sin against God and caused the entire humanity to be totally and hopelessly depraved and under the same condemnation that Lucifer has as a result. The correlation is clearly seen in Gen 3:5, when Satan, disguised as a serpent, said to Eve, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Here are the double lies being offered to Eve springing out of the same principle behind his botched coup attempt; first, that she would be like gods, and thus independent, able to rule over herself apart from God, and secondly, there is not one God, but many gods; each is sovereign over himself or herself.
From here, I would like to state the thesis of this article before expounding further:
1. That the doctrine of autonomous-self, or often referred to as “free-will”, whether it be “Christian” or non-Christian one, though may not appear explicitly, originates from the same spirit by which Lucifer rebelled against God, that is, the spirit of self-idolatry.
2. That the doctrine of autonomous-self is indeed a non-Christian doctrine because there is nowhere in the Bible that teaches such a doctrine and therefore, should be rejected by all true Christians.
I would like to first define what an autonomous self is. I would then attempt, by the use of the first thesis, refute the free-will Arminian argument to defend this false doctrine, particularly in regard to the Fall, salvation, and all the affairs of the world. Finally, I would close with the Biblical basis of my refutation with the exhortation given in the second thesis.
II. Definition of Autonomous Self
Throughout history, there are many who teach the doctrine of autonomous self, among whom is Pelagius. I would now quote from John Owen  on what Pelagianism teaches about the autonomous self:
“According to Pelagianism, God gives grace to all who hear the law and the gospel preached. Those who do this are persuaded to repent and believe by the promises of the gospel and the threatenings of the law. The things taught and commanded in the law and gospel are seen to be not only good in themselves, but so utterly reasonable that anyone would gladly receive them if they were not so prejudiced ( i.e., men can themselves respond favorably to the gospel preached by believing in the message without any regenerating work of the Holy Spirit), or deliberately chose to continue with their sinful life. Man has only to consider these promises of the gospel and threatenings of the law to remove these prejudices and so reform himself. When man believes the gospel and obeys it of his own free will and choice (again, no external divine influence at work to convince him of the truth of the gospel, on the contrary, this conviction comes out within himself), then he receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, enters into all the privileges of the New Testament, and has a right and title to all the promises concerning both the present and the future life. So say the Pelagians. Thus man converts himself, and the grace of our LORD Jesus Christ and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit are both excluded. All that is needed is the ability to persuade him to repent of his sin and believe and obey the gospel.”
In other words, the doctrine of autonomous self teaches that men in both unregenerate and regenerate states is completely independent and capable of self-determination of what is good and bad for him (hence the term autonomous) and from which make decision without any external divine influence or swaying to a particular direction.
To understand what autonomous-self is more clearly, let us look at Sproul’s definition of autonomy :
“To be autonomous means to be a law unto oneself. An autonomous creature would be answerable to no one. He would have no governor, least of all a sovereign governor. It is logically impossible to have a sovereign God existing at the same time as an autonomous creature. The two concepts are utterly incompatible. To think of their coexistence would be like imagining the meeting of an immovable object and an irresistible force. What would happen? If the object moved, then it could no longer be considered immovable. If it failed to move, then the irresistible force would no longer be irresistible.”
Then for the definition of autonomous self, I would borrow from David Wells , defining the autonomy generation as:
“…those who belonged in this outlook saw themselves as being at the center of life, as being responsible only to themselves, as having the sole hand in deciding what beliefs to hold and what behaviors to follow.”
And therefore, continuing to quote Wells :
“… the self becomes the main form of reality and the pursuit of its rights and unique intuitions, even in the face of others, is what life is about.”
My comment to Prof. Well’s definition is this. Isn’t the autonomous-self then the essence of prosperity gospel, where Christ has been reduced to a lackey or a genie to serve us to accomplish our agenda whether that be family, or money, or career, or, self-healing, self-improvement or anything other than Christ himself? Some may say they don’t believe in prosperity gospel but believe in free-will in the autonomous sense. This, in my view, is an implicit endorsement of the prosperity gospel.
II. Refutation of the Arminian Argument of Autonomous Self
Now I desire to refute biblically a familiar argument in regard to God’s sovereignty in salvation and all events throughout the course of history. In addition, I would also attempt to show the spirit behind all these arguments tends to resemble that of Lucifer as written in Isaiah 14:13-14. Before I go on doing so, however, I would like to point out ‘the goal of the commandment is love’. I can understand new Christians who believe in autonomous self, because I was like that. I tend to think it is natural for new Christians to have such an understanding of how salvation and all the affairs in the world work. I acknowledge I need the humility to understand those who are slow to grasp the truth in the sovereignty of God over all things. The fact is the LORD had mercy on me to reveal what I consider a precious biblical truth of his sovereignty that I have come to love, embrace, and desire to defend with hopefully a holy zeal, holy motive, yet with humility as well in this article. And may the LORD grant the grace to change and transform hearts and minds into ones that acknowledge and submit joyfully under his supremacy over all things (Col 1:18).
The argument that I would like to refute (though there has been many more qualified pastors and theologians than me, past and present who have done this, but I would try to do it from hopefully a different point of view), is a common free-will Arminian / Pelagian argument which was the first Arminian article in their remonstrance brought by Johannes Uitenbogaard and Simon Episcopious in 1610, which was refuted by the Calvinists’ Counter Remonstrance at the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619, in regard to how salvation works as follows. This first article stated the following: “God’s foreknowledge, that is, divine election was conditiond on foreseen or foreknown faith”. In other words, it says “faith is the cause of election” the basis of which is for example in Rom 8:29, refers to God knowing in advance of who is going to believe by their own free will and who is not, and from there God elects them to be saved. Thus man’s faith existing apart from God’s will but from the man himself is the cause of God’s election. In other words, it all starts with man’s free will to choose to be saved. Men are the Alpha, the beginning, not God. Then based on each independent isolated individual’s decision to believe or to desire to be saved where God has nothing to do with because this comes out completely and independently from man and not God, God is obliged to save them because they have faith to believe. Here men call God to account and demand that because they initiated to believe the Gospel, God is required to save them. So God’s sovereignty consists in submitting himself to and making sure the wills of men are carried out. God is not free in ordaining anything because He is subject to the will of men that he values very much even more important and above himself. Here is the worst kind, the most blatant, the most arrogant, and the most blasphemous of man-centered doctrine that is nowhere taught in the Bible, and an example how the Scripture like Rom 8:29 is distorted to serve man’s needs or if I may borrow John Piper’s quote, the gospel has been abused for ‘psychological form of mind control’. I regard this Arminian stand on the free agency of man and God as the most self-centered among man-centered doctrines, even more man-centered than opentheism.
Opentheism at least admits the future is unknown, even God has no control over it and anybody could change it. The Arminian doctrine in regard to the free-will of men as we have discussed is worse than open-theism because it teaches the future is already known, at least in regard to salvation, who is saved and who is not, and who makes this decision before the foundations of the world is men. Then God responds to each individual decision either by saving or condemning. Here is the kind of abomination that I dread has been prevailing in the minds of many Christians, because this is how they were taught by man-centered, world-loving, money-loving preachers. Those who teach this doctrine usually insist that God is still sovereign and omnipotent. But I sense this is simply a futile attempt to cover up their self-centeredness and thus, self-idolatry. God, despite his omnipotence, has been domesticated to serve man’s needs. His omnipotence has become subordinate to man’s will and it is his to use for his benefit. Man makes the call first independently out of his own self-determination of good and bad. Then it is God’s turn to follow up on man’s actions and decisions, whether to clean them up if they are sinful, or to bless them if they are good.
As Mark Talbot says  (he explains it in the context of opentheism, but I believe it is applicable here as well) that the doctrine of autonomous self teaches that God values man’s free will so much that he is willing to pay any price. God is really good in cleaning things up to the point that the alternative plan B that he executes looks even better, more perfect than the botched plan A that man has frustrated. So in a way, the doctrine of autonomous self treats God like a lackey or a genie in a bottle whom man can stir as he pleases and wills. Everything God does is for the benefits of man, and here is man, the center of the universe and God’s idol. Therefore, men are not only the Alpha, the beginning, but also the Omega, the end of everything God does and the whole entire universe work for. This, I fear, may God forbid, is the desire behind those who embrace the doctrine of autonomous self which is nothing but the very ambition of Lucifer to be exalted above God (Isa 14:13-14) because the resemblance between the two is striking. It is all about desire for control, as Dave Wells pointed out behind autonomous self :
“This preoccupation with the future is really about control. At least, it is about our attempts at controlling the future as it crests into the present by being able to position ourselves to avoid what is disagreeable and to capitalize on what is advantageous. Indeed, we even go further. We imagine that the future begins in our minds and we can actually create it.”
At this point, I would point to Scripture texts (that I also included somewhere else ) that I hope the LORD uses to show the fallacy of the doctrine of autonomous-self, to humble its proponents and exhort them to embrace the doctrine of absolute sovereignty of God over all things. While these texts tend to be self-explanatory in themselves but I shall attempt to expound a little on each:
– “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13). John says the decisive power to become the sons of God ( v.12), i.e., to be saved, does not come from man’s will power, but God’s (v.13). Therefore, contrary to what the first remonstrance article says that faith is the cause of election, John says election is the cause of faith. God initiates salvation, not men. Men are dead in their trepasses (Eph 2:1). Physically dead people do not and can not have any desire (inclination) and ability to eat, drink, work, because they are dead, their brain is dead, their heart is dead, their digestive system is dead, and there is no way for them to revive themselves. So also dead Lazarus was unable to revive himself until Jesus called him and infused life to his body to revive him. (John 11). Lazarus did not revive himself. Jesus did. And thus Lazarus couldn’t brag he was alive because of his free will to be alive. Likewise, it is impossible for spiritually dead people to have any desire for God. Their heart is ‘desperately’ or ‘hopelessly’ wicked as Jer 17:9 says. St. Paul affirms the total depravity of humanity apart unless God changes this heart of stone with the heart of flesh (Ez 36:26-27) because “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law. Nor can it do so.” (Rom 8:7). Notice the last part that says “Nor can it do so.” So let us not brag that we have the free will to be christians or we in our sovereignty “decided” to be christians. Let us not think of ourselves more highly than we should (Rom 12:3) but with sober judgment, I’d say, of who we were, and what we are now, and who God is. Do not rob God of something He did and claim we did it. The faith, the willingness to believe, to embrace Christ as our treasure, our LORD does not come from our self-determination, but He purchased it on the cross.
– “All the plans of the LORD stands firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:11). God has written down the course of history from the beginning to the end. All his plans will happen, stand firm forever. Everything originates from Christ and returning to Christ, and the details for everything on its way returning to him is fixed and unchangeable (see also Heb 1:2-3, Rom 11:36). God does not make mistakes. God is not a God who is good in cleaning up mess created by men and coming up with plan B. Nobody can frustrate nor thwart nor prevent God from doing anything he wants, Dan 4:35, “All the people of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand, or say to him, ‘What have you done?'”
– “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16) God has written down not only the entire course of history before the foundations of the world, but also the scenario of each individual who ever lives, past present and future. This is good for believers for two reasons (but may cause free-willers to feel dejected because they don’t desire God to make the call for them, they desire to make the call themselves). First, it teaches humility that you and I are creatures and God is God. We have absolutely no right over ourselves because we don’t own ourselves, God does. Secondly, this is good news because God knows you and me better than we know ourselves. Therefore whatever plans he has for us can be guaranteed to be the most absolute best for our good and the magnifying his name first and most importantly (see Rom 8:28).
– “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isa 46:10-11). God is free to do anything he wants according to the pleasure of his will. His decision making is not constrained by anything, not by the will of men, not by the wills of angels, not by the will of the devil. He is absolutely free in making any calls. Isn’t this what it means to be God? If God has to submit beforehand in his foreknowledge to men’s decision to be saved or not to be saved, then men are gods, and God is their lackey.
A question then arises, “How, despite crystal clear words from the apostle that believers are slaves of Christ (e.g., Rom 6:18,22), can there be such an arrogant doctrine as the autonomous self in Christian churches?” The answer is because the LORD Jesus Christ is an infinitely good, gracious, merciful, patient, loving Master. He is not a hard Master at all. Men, seizing this opportunity arising from their deep-rooted corruption inherited from the Fall, reinforced by the temptation of the old serpent, abuse the kindness of Christ for their own glory. Men, out of their odious mind resulting from the stench infected to them from the Fall, distort the grace of the Savior to serve their own vanity, and so distort the message of the gospel, that is the pursue of God’s (not men’s) glory in salvation through Christ. Since Christ is so patient, then it is their opportunity to question him, to hold him accountable to them, and thus, what John Piper pointed out , that men placing themselves on the bench and putting God in the dock, instead of the other way around (he actually quoted this from C.S. Lewis). I sense free-willers would feel uncomfortable in hearing what God’s goal is in everything he does in Eph 1:5-6, “… he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasures and will, to the praise of his glorious grace.” that God saves men not because he makes so much of them, but for the praise of his glorious grace, that his name may be magnified, cherished, worshipped for his great mercy upon mankind, “…that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” (Rom 15:9). The only way to cure this discomfort is to acknowledge and repent of the pride and the self-idolatrous spirit behind the doctrine of autonomous self, renounce it, and embrace the doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of God who causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him, and who have been called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called, those he called he also justified, and those he justified, he also glorified. Amen.
1. J. Owen, “The Holy Spirit,” The Banner of Truth Trust, 1998, p. 76-77.
2. R.C. Sproul, “Chosen by God,” Tyndale House Publishers, October 1986, Ch. 3, p.?
3. D. F. Wells, “Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World,” Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006, p. 234, 153.
4. J. Piper, “Woe to Those who Trample the Son of God,” Desiring God Ministries (audio), April 13, 1997, http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceL…he_Son_of_God/
5. M. Talbot, “All the Good that is Ours in Christ: Seeing God’s Gracious Hand in the Hurts Others Do Us,” Desiring God National Conference, Minneapolis, MN, October 7-9, 2005.
6. D. F. Wells, “Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World,” Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006, p. 239.
7. A. Sutono, “The Defense for the Sovereignty of God in the Fall of Man,” Nov 25, 2006.
8. J. Piper, “Pastoral Thoughts on the Doctrine of Election,” Desiring God Ministries, Nov 30, 2003, ttp://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceL…e_of_Election/
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Healing the economy means going beyond ‘What’s in it for me?’
By Douglas Todd 01-10-2009
Healing the battered economy means going beyond the ‘self’; ‘What’s in it for me?’ is not an attitude that will work in the times we face
Many Pentecostal Christians have been among the hardest-hit victims of the economic meltdown in North America.
“Victims” might not be the best word to describe their fate, though. Followers of the popular “Prosperity gospel” suffered because of their own desperation, naivete and uncontrolled desire.
Prosperity gospel adherents have put too much stock in certain Pentecostal leaders in the United States and Canada who preach that God will provide worldly wealth if you just give your soul to Jesus Christ and your donation to the church.
The most prominent proponent of this theology of cars, boats and houses is Joel Osteen, author of Your Best Life Now.
With virtually no assets, many financially struggling Christians attracted to the Prosperity gospel of Osteen and others were eager to jump at the subprime loans offered by sleazy brokers.
Prominent Pentecostals have admitted that many followers believed God was miraculously answering their prayers when a bank gave them a loan they couldn’t afford. However, it’s not only adherents of the Prosperity gospel who have spiritual and moral lessons to draw from the financial collapse. After all, they haven’t been alone in their struggles.
The larger spiritual themes behind this financial meltdown are those of too much blind optimism about the financial system, too much faith in leaders and too much unacknowledged self-interest.
Which brings us to greed.
There can be benefits from modest amounts of each of the Seven Deadly Sins: anger, lust, envy, sloth, pride, gluttony and greed.
While there is something to be said for moderate self-interest fuelling our lives and the economy, greed has careened beyond control on many economic fronts. In the movie Wall Street, Gordon Gekko was not much of an exaggeration of a real-life financier when he baldly preached, “Greed is good!”
Rebecca Blank, senior economic analyst for the Brookings Institute and co-author of Is the Market Moral?, recently said: “Greed is good to most economists. It’s greed that makes people work harder, be more productive, and helps the economy grow. Greed has certain economic advantages. It’s hard for an economist not to say that.
“But greed is clearly partially responsible for where we are right now. There’s a level beyond which greed can go too far, and . . . being greedy for more goods and to make another buck can make me stop paying attention to the effects of my action on you. That is when greed clearly becomes sinful — even, I think, in economics.”
Moral concerns about our over-avaricious attitudes have even been expressed recently by high-profile evangelical Christian leaders such as Chuck Colson (Richard Nixon’s former right-hand man), who has made a career of praising Jesus Christ in the same breath as free enterprise. Like theologian Michael Novak, Colson believes western democratic capitalism is like a three-legged stool, resting on political freedom, economic freedom and moral restraint. “Take away moral restraint and the stool collapses.”
But Colson’s solution — simply to talk more about morality in churches and elsewhere and to wish for greater moral behaviour — won’t make the economic system more stable or fair. That is what was uncovered through a revealing investigation of the moral behaviour of evangelical leaders by scholar Michael Lindsay, author of Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite.
Lindsay found precious few evangelical executives were “distinguishing themselves from their secular peers” by taking salaries capped, for instance, at a ratio between the highest- and lowest-paid employees of 20:1. Most tried to justify astonishingly luxurious salaries.
Just as the Communist Soviet Union fell apart because it wasn’t realistic to expect everyone to embrace the principle of equality, the western capitalist system cannot sustain itself just by hoping everyone will embrace justice.
Without regulations to enforce society’s moral ideals, the scoundrels prevail. Now nearly all of us are suffering because we were drawn, knowingly and unknowingly, into their unrestricted avarice.
As Aristotle said, “At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.”
Spiritual insight into the economic collapse comes from Martin Marty, of the University of Chicago Divinity School, one of the most distinguished religious historians in North America.
Marty believes the economic meltdown grew out of a growing global obsession with the “self.” He points to the way many economists talk about how the “spreading disease” in the global economy will “self-heal.” But Marty believes the modern free world is fixated on terms such as “self-generating,” “self-developing” and “self-correcting.” It’s the kind of thinking that has led many to over-optimistically advocate for an “unfettered” and “unregulated” market that never impinges on the supremacy of the “self.”
But there are crucial limits to the “self.”
Marty suggests Americans (and, I’d add, many Canadians) haven’t been willing to face the dark, shadow aspects of an economic system and foreign policy that focused on serving only the “self” (including that of the nation).
Just as the Iraq war has proved disastrous on human and financial fronts, Marty says the battered economy is making us look at all aspects of what happens when “the self” is glorified as absolute.
“We are well aware of our own virtue, knowledge, power and security, and these are real enough to be celebrated,” he writes.
“But we did not recognize their undersides: vice, ignorance, weakness and insecurity, which overtook us.”
As a Lutheran, Marty responds to the financial crisis with a secular translation of the “body of Christ” theme, which teaches us to reflect on how “we are members one of another.”
Instead of “self-healing,” he wisely suggests the western economic system needs “mutual” healing.
To use the language of other traditions, a Buddhist might say we need economic solutions that recognize we are all interconnected.
In secular terms, the late American political philosopher John Rawls would teach that we need economic policies beneficial to us all, no matter where we find ourselves on the financial ladder.
The simplest way to put one of the spiritual lessons of the economic collapse, however, is simply to make it clear that creating a healthy society has to go much further than asking, “What’s in it for me?”
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Does God Want You To Be Rich?
A growing number of Protestant evangelists raise a joyful Yes! But the idea is poison to other, more mainstream pastors. By DAVID VAN BIEMA, JEFF CHU Posted Sunday, Sep. 10, 2006
When George Adams lost his job at an Ohio tile factory last October, the most practical thing he did, he thinks, was go to a new church, even though he had to move his wife and four preteen boys to Conroe, a suburb of Houston, to do it. Conroe, you see, is not far from Lakewood, the home church of megapastor and best-selling author Joel Osteen.
Osteen’s relentlessly upbeat television sermons had helped Adams, 49, get through the hard times, and now Adams was expecting the smiling, Texas-twanged 43-year-old to help boost him back toward success. And Osteen did. Inspired by the preacher’s insistence that one of God’s top priorities is to shower blessings on Christians in this lifetime–and by the corollary assumption that one of the worst things a person can do is to expect anything less–Adams marched into Gullo Ford in Conroe looking for work. He didn’t have entry-level aspirations: “God has showed me that he doesn’t want me to be a run-of-the-mill person,” he explains. He demanded to know what the dealership’s top salesmen made–and got the job. Banishing all doubt–“You can’t sell a $40,000-to-$50,000 car with menial thoughts”–Adams took four days to retail his first vehicle, a Ford F-150 Lariat with leather interior. He knew that many fellow salesmen don’t notch their first score until their second week. “Right now, I’m above average!” he exclaims. “It’s a new day God has given me! I’m on my way to a six-figure income!” The sales commission will help with this month’s rent, but Adams hates renting. Once that six-figure income has been rolling in for a while, he will buy his dream house: “Twenty-five acres,” he says. “And three bedrooms. We’re going to have a schoolhouse (his children are home schooled). We want horses and ponies for the boys, so a horse barn. And a pond. And maybe some cattle.”
“I’m dreaming big–because all of heaven is dreaming big,” Adams continues. “Jesus died for our sins. That was the best gift God could give us,” he says. “But we have something else. Because I want to follow Jesus and do what he ordained, God wants to support us. It’s Joel Osteen’s ministry that told me. Why would an awesome and mighty God want anything less for his children?”
In three of the Gospels, Jesus warns that each of his disciples may have to “deny himself” and even “take up his Cross.” In support of this alarming prediction, he forcefully contrasts the fleeting pleasures of today with the promise of eternity: “For what profit is it to a man,” he asks, “if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” It is one of the New Testament’s hardest teachings, yet generations of churchgoers have understood that being Christian, on some level, means being ready to sacrifice–money, autonomy or even their lives.
But for a growing number of Christians like George Adams, the question is better restated, “Why not gain the whole world plus my soul?” For several decades, a philosophy has been percolating in the 10 million–strong Pentecostal wing of Christianity that seems to turn the Gospels’ passage on its head: certainly, it allows, Christians should keep one eye on heaven. But the new good news is that God doesn’t want us to wait. Known (or vilified) under a variety of names–Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, Name It and Claim It, Prosperity Theology–its emphasis is on God’s promised generosity in this life and the ability of believers to claim it for themselves. In a nutshell, it suggests that a God who loves you does not want you to be broke. Its signature verse could be John 10: 10: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” In a TIME poll, 17% of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, while a full 61% believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31%–a far higher percentage than there are Pentecostals in America–agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money.
“Prosperity” first blazed to public attention as the driveshaft in the moneymaking machine that was 1980s televangelism and faded from mainstream view with the Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart scandals. But now, after some key modifications (which have inspired some to redub it Prosperity Lite), it has not only recovered but is booming. Of the four biggest megachurches in the country, three–Osteen’s Lakewood in Houston; T.D. Jakes’ Potter’s House in south Dallas; and Creflo Dollar’s World Changers near Atlanta–are Prosperity or Prosperity Lite pulpits (although Jakes’ ministry has many more facets). While they don’t exclusively teach that God’s riches want to be in believers’ wallets, it is a key part of their doctrine. And propelled by Osteen’s 4 million–selling book, Your Best Life Now, the belief has swept beyond its Pentecostal base into more buttoned-down evangelical churches, and even into congregations in the more liberal Mainline. It is taught in hundreds of non-Pentecostal Bible studies. One Pennsylvania Lutheran pastor even made it the basis for a sermon series for Lent, when Christians usually meditate on why Jesus was having His Worst Life Then. Says the Rev. Chappell Temple, a Methodist minister with the dubious distinction of pastoring Houston’s other Lakewood Church (Lakewood United Methodist), an hour north of Osteen’s: “Prosperity Lite is everywhere in Christian culture. Go into any Christian bookstore, and see what they’re offering.”
The movement’s renaissance has infuriated a number of prominent pastors, theologians and commentators. Fellow megapastor Rick Warren, whose book The Purpose Driven Life has outsold Osteen’s by a ratio of 7 to 1, finds the very basis of Prosperity laughable. “This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?”, he snorts. “There is a word for that: baloney. It’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn’t everyone in the church a millionaire?”
The brickbats–both theological and practical (who really gets rich from this?)–come especially thick from Evangelicals like Warren. Evangelicalism is more prominent and influential than ever before. Yet the movement, which has never had a robust theology of money, finds an aggressive philosophy advancing within its ranks that many of its leaders regard as simplistic, possibly heretical and certainly embarrassing.
Prosperity’s defenders claim to be able to match their critics chapter and verse. They caution against broad-brushing a wide spectrum that ranges from pastors who crassly solicit sky’s-the-limit financial offerings from their congregations to those whose services tend more toward God-fueled self-help. Advocates note Prosperity’s racial diversity–a welcome exception to the American norm–and point out that some Prosperity churches engage in significant charity. And they see in it a happy corrective for Christians who are more used to being chastened for their sins than celebrated as God’s children. “Who would want to get in on something where you’re miserable, poor, broke and ugly and you just have to muddle through until you get to heaven?” asks Joyce Meyer, a popular television preacher and author often lumped in the Prosperity Lite camp. “I believe God wants to give us nice things.” If nothing else, Meyer and other new-breed preachers broach a neglected topic that should really be a staple of Sunday messages: Does God want you to be rich?
As with almost any important religious question, the first response of most Christians (especially Protestants) is to ask how Scripture treats the topic. But Scripture is not definitive when it comes to faith and income. Deuteronomy commands believers to “remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth”, and the rest of the Old Testament is dotted with celebrations of God’s bestowal of the good life. On at least one occasion–the so-called parable of the talents (a type of coin)–Jesus holds up savvy business practice (investing rather than saving) as a metaphor for spiritual practice. Yet he spent far more time among the poor than the rich, and a majority of scholars quote two of his most direct comments on wealth: the passage in the Sermon on the Mount in which he warns, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth … but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven”; and his encounter with the “rich young ruler” who cannot bring himself to part with his money, after which Jesus famously comments, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Both statements can be read as more nuanced than they at first may seem. In each case it is not wealth itself that disqualifies but the inability to understand its relative worthlessness compared with the riches of heaven. The same thing applies to Paul’s famous line, “Money is the root of all evil,” in his first letter to Timothy. The actual quote is, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
So the Bible leaves plenty of room for a discussion on the role, positive or negative, that money should play in the lives of believers. But it’s not a discussion that many pastors are willing to have. “Jesus’ words about money don’t make us very comfortable, and people don’t want to hear about it,” notes Collin Hansen, an editor at the evangelical monthly Christianity Today. Pastors are happy to discuss from the pulpit hot-button topics like sex and even politics. But the relative absence of sermons about money–which the Bible mentions several thousand times–is one of the more stunning omissions in American religion, especially among its white middle-class precincts. Princeton University sociologist Robert Wuthnow says much of the U.S. church “talks about giving but does not talk about the broader financial concerns people have, or the pressures at work. There has long been a taboo on talking candidly about money.”
In addition to personal finances, a lot of evangelical churches have also avoided any pulpit talk about social inequality. When conservative Christianity split from the Mainline in the early 20th century, the latter pursued their commitment to the “social gospel” by working on poverty and other causes such as civil rights and the Vietnam-era peace movement. Evangelicals went the other way: they largely concentrated on issues of individual piety. “We took on personal salvation–we need our sins redeemed, and we need our Saviour,” says Warren. But “some people tended to go too individualistic, and justice and righteousness issues were overlooked.”
A recent Sunday at Lakewood gives some idea of the emphasis on worldly gain that disturbs Warren. Several hundred stage lights flash on, and Osteen, his gigawatt smile matching them, strides onto the stage of what used to be the Compaq Center sports arena but is now his church. “Let’s just celebrate the goodness of the Lord!” Osteen yells. His wife Victoria says, “Our Daddy God is the strongest! He’s the mightiest!”
And so it goes, before 14,000 attendees, a nonstop declaration of God’s love and his intent to show it in the here and now, sometimes verging on the language of an annual report. During prayer, Osteen thanks God for “your unprecedented favor. We believe that 2006 will be our best year so far. We declare it by faith.” Today’s sermon is about how gratitude can “save a marriage, save your job [and] get you a promotion.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever preached a sermon about money,” he says a few hours later. He and Victoria meet with TIME in their pastoral suite, once the Houston Rockets’ locker and shower area but now a zone of overstuffed sofas and imposing oak bookcases. “Does God want us to be rich?” he asks. “When I hear that word rich, I think people say, ‘Well, he’s preaching that everybody’s going to be a millionaire.’ I don’t think that’s it.” Rather, he explains, “I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. To me, you need to have money to pay your bills. I think God wants us to send our kids to college. I think he wants us to be a blessing to other people. But I don’t think I’d say God wants us to be rich. It’s all relative, isn’t it?” The room’s warm lamplight reflects softly off his crocodile shoes.
Osteen is a second-generation Prosperity teacher. His father John Osteen started out Baptist but in 1959 withdrew from that fellowship to found a church in one of Houston’s poorer neighborhoods and explore a new philosophy developing among Pentecostals. If the rest of Protestantism ignored finances, Prosperity placed them center stage, marrying Pentecostalism’s ebullient notion of God’s gifts with an older tradition that stressed the power of positive thinking. Practically, it emphasized hard work and good home economics. But the real heat was in its spiritual premise: that if a believer could establish, through word and deed (usually donation), that he or she was “in Jesus Christ,” then Jesus’ father would respond with paternal gifts of health and wealth in this life. A favorite verse is from Malachi: “‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse … and try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘If I will not for you open the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.'” (See boxes.)
It is a peculiarly American theology but turbocharged. If Puritanism valued wealth and Benjamin Franklin wrote about doing well by doing good, hard-core Prosperity doctrine, still extremely popular in the hands of pastors like Atlanta megachurch minister Creflo Dollar, reads those Bible verses as a spiritual contract. God will pay back a multiple (often a hundredfold) on offerings by the congregation. “Poor people like Prosperity,” says Stephen Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University. “They hear it as aspirant. They hear, ‘You can make it too–buy a car, get a job, get wealthy.’ It can function as a form of liberation.” It can also be exploitative. Outsiders, observes Milmon Harrison of the University of California at Davis, author of the book Righteous Riches, often see it as “another form of the church abusing people so ministers could make money.”
In the past decade, however, the new generation of preachers, like Osteen, Meyer and Houston’s Methodist megapastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, who gave the benediction at both of George W. Bush’s Inaugurals, have repackaged the doctrine. Gone are the divine profit-to-earnings ratios, the requests for offerings far above a normal 10% tithe (although many of the new breed continue to insist that congregants tithe on their pretax rather than their net income). What remains is a materialism framed in a kind of Tony Robbins positivism. No one exemplifies this better than Osteen, who ran his father’s television-production department until John died in 1999. “Joel has learned from his dad, but he has toned it back and tapped into basic, everyday folks’ ways of talking,” says Ben Phillips, a theology professor at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. That language is reflected in Your Best Life Now, an extraordinarily accessible exhortation to this-world empowerment through God. “To live your best life now,” it opens, to see “your business taking off. See your marriage restored. See your family prospering. See your dreams come to pass …” you must “start looking at life through eyes of faith.” Jesus is front and center but not his Crucifixion, Resurrection or Atonement. There are chapters on overcoming trauma and a late chapter on emulating God’s generosity. (And indeed, Osteen’s church gave more than $1 million in relief money after Hurricane Katrina.) But there are many more illustrations of how the Prosperity doctrine has produced personal gain, most memorably, perhaps, for the Osteen family: how Victoria’s “speaking words of faith and victory” eventually brought the couple their dream house; how Joel discerned God’s favor in being bumped from economy to business class.
Confronting such stories, certain more doctrinally traditional Christians go ballistic. Last March, Ben Witherington, an influential evangelical theologian at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, thundered that “we need to renounce the false gospel of wealth and health–it is a disease of our American culture; it is not a solution or answer to life’s problems.” Respected blogger Michael Spencer–known as the Internet Monk–asked, “How many young people are going to be pointed to Osteen as a true shepherd of Jesus Christ? He’s not. He’s not one of us.” Osteen is an irresistible target for experts from right to left on the Christian spectrum who–beyond worrying that he is living too high or inflating the hopes of people with real money problems–think he is dragging people down with a heavy interlocked chain of theological and ethical errors that could amount to heresy.
Most start out by saying that Osteen and his ilk have it “half right”: that God’s goodness is biblical, as is the idea that he means us to enjoy the material world. But while Prosperity claims to be celebrating that goodness, the critics see it as treating God as a celestial ATM. “God becomes a means to an end, not the end in himself,” says Southwestern Baptist’s Phillips. Others are more upset about what it de-emphasizes. “[Prosperity] wants the positive but not the negative,” says another Southern Baptist, Alan Branch of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. “Problem is, we live on this side of Eden. We’re fallen.” That is, Prosperity soft-pedals the consequences of Adam’s fall–sin, pain and death–and their New Testament antidote: Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and the importance of repentance. And social liberals express a related frustration that preachers like Osteen show little interest in battling the ills of society at large. Perhaps appropriately so, since, as Prosperity scholar Harrison explains, “philosophically, their main way of helping the poor is encouraging people not to be one of them.”
Most unnerving for Osteen’s critics is the suspicion that they are fighting not just one idiosyncratic misreading of the gospel but something more daunting: the latest lurch in Protestantism’s ongoing descent into full-blown American materialism. After the eclipse of Calvinist Puritanism, whose respect for money was counterbalanced by a horror of worldliness, much of Protestantism quietly adopted the idea that “you don’t have to give up the American Dream. You just see it as a sign of God’s blessing,” says Edith Blumhofer, director of Wheaton College’s Center for the Study of American Evangelicals. Indeed, a last-gasp resistance to this embrace of wealth and comfort can be observed in the current evangelical brawl over whether comfortable megachurches (like Osteen’s and Warren’s) with pumped-up day-care centers and high-tech amenities represent a slide from glorifying an all-powerful God to asking what custom color you would prefer he paint your pews. “The tragedy is that Christianity has become a yes-man for the culture,” says Boston University’s Prothero.
Non-prosperity parties from both conservative and more progressive evangelical camps recently have been trying to reverse the trend. Eastern University professor Ron Sider’s book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, a fringe classic after its publication in 1977, is selling far more copies now, and some young people are even acting on its rather radical prescriptions: a sprinkling of Protestant groups known loosely as the New Monastics is experimenting with the kind of communal living among the poor that had previously been the province of Catholic orders. Jim Wallis, longtime leader of one such community in Washington and the editor of Sojourners magazine, has achieved immense exposure lately with his pleas that Evangelicals engage in more political activism on behalf of the poor.
And then there is Warren himself, who by virtue of his energy, hypereloquence and example (he’s working in Rwanda with government, business and church sectors) has become a spokesman for church activism. “The church is the largest network in the world,” he says. “If you have 2.3 billion people who claim to be followers of Christ, that’s bigger than China.”
And despite Warren’s disdain for Prosperity’s theological claims, some Prosperity churches have become players in the very faith-based antipoverty world he inhabits, even while maintaining their distinctive theology. Kirbyjon Caldwell, who pastors Windsor Village, the largest (15,000) United Methodist church in the country, can sound as Prosperity as the next pastor: “Jesus did not die and get up off the Cross so we could live lives full of despair and disappointment,” he says. He quotes the “abundant life” verse with all earnestness, even giving it a real estate gloss: “It is unscriptural not to own land,” he announces. But he’s doing more than talk about it. He recently oversaw the building of Corinthian Pointe, a 452-unit affordable-housing project that he claims is the largest residential subdivision ever built by a nonprofit. Most of its inhabitants, he says, are not members of his church.
Caldwell knows that prosperity is a loaded term in evangelical circles. But he insists that “it depends on how you define prosperity. I am not a proponent of saying the Lord’s name three times, clicking your heels and then you get what you ask for. But you cannot give what you do not have. We are fighting what we call the social demons. If I am going to help someone, I am going to have to have something with which to help.”
Caldwell knows that the theology behind this preacherly rhetoric will never be acceptable to Warren or Sider or Witherington. But the man they all follow said, “By their fruits you will know them,” and for some, Corinthian Pointe is a very convincing sort of fruit. Hard-line Prosperity theology may always seem alien to those with enough money to imagine making more without engaging God in a kind of spiritual quid pro quo. And Osteen’s version, while it abandons part of that magical thinking, may strike some as self-centered rather than God centered. But American Protestantism is a dynamic faith. Caldwell’s version reminds us that there is no reason a giving God could not invest even an awkward and needy creed with a mature and generous heart. If God does want us to be rich in this life, no doubt it’s this richness in spirit that he is most eager for us to acquire.
Did The Prosperity Gospel Play A Role In Suprime Crisis?
Oct.03, 2008 in Commentary, Economy
According to this author, the answer is “Yes”.
Has the so-called Prosperity Gospel turned its followers into some of the most willing participants — and hence, victims — of the current financial crisis? That’s what a scholar of the fast-growing brand of pentecostal Christianity believes. While researching a book on black televangelism, says Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California Riverside, he realized that Prosperity’s central promise — that God would “make a way” for poor people to enjoy the better things in life — had developed an additional, toxic expression during sub-prime boom. Walton says that this encouraged congregants who got dicey mortgages to believe “God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house.” The results, he says, “were disastrous, because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers.”
Others think he may be right. Says Anthea Butler, an expert in pentecostalism at the University of Rochester in New York state, “The pastor’s not gonna say ‘go down to Wachovia and get a loan’ but I have heard, ‘even if you have a poor credit rating God can still bless you — if you put some faith out there [that is, make a big donation to the church], you’ll get that house, or that car or that apartment.’” (more…)
When I read the title of this article, admittedly I dismissed it as far-reaching speculation. But after reading it and taking the time to reflect upon my own experiences in the church, I think the author is on to something.
For starters, I think that there is enough blame to go around–STARTING ON MAIN STREET.
My Atlanta Experience
I remember how pastors would tell folks about how the Lord wanted them to move into home ownership–all while steering them to certain brokers and banks. I remember saying to myself “folks are getting broke off over this and the Lord has nothing to do with it. This is just a plain ol’ hustle.” Brokers would be publicly acknowledged in front of the congregation as they would convince the church that all of this was just his/her way of “giving back to the Lord”. No! He was giving back to the pastor as a way of thanking him for sending the business. Again, the Lord had NUTTIN to do with this arrangement. I saw all of this during the early stages of the housing boom.
My wife and I were part of a megachurch where the pastor made it a priority to move all the renters in his congregation into home ownership. He tied the whole thing into how God moved Israel into the promise land. While I agreed with the pastor that far too many of us have been renting too long, the huge influx of moving folks with bad credit into McMansions had me a bit nervous. This took place right at the time we were preparing to move out of state.
All of a sudden, getting approved for a loan with bad credit was seen as a miracle from God–all because of those generous faith offerings folks were told to give earlier.
“I told the Lawd ‘but my credit is too messed up to get a house’. Then I heard pastor preach about taking a step of faith last Sunday. Don’t you know I applied for the loan and now I am the proud owner of a 5 bedroom house…”.
These types of ‘testimonies’ were common in the churches I attended back when the market was getting hot.
I am of the opinion that any pastor who encouraged parishioners to commit to predatory-type loans while cloaking the whole thing as “God’s will for their lives” should be thrown out of office. Part of me is telling me to name names of pastors who I know engaged in this practice. I’ll chill with that idea for now.
Again, I must stress that churches that participated in peddling these loans do share A PART of the blame.
Prosperity Gospel on Skid Row
Difficulties of high-profile pastors may reorient movement—or reinforce it.
Bobby Ross Jr. | posted 1/15/2009 09:40AM
Some of the high-flying icons of the prosperity gospel—the belief that God rewards signs of faith with wealth, health, and happiness—have run into financial turbulence.
Not all of their troubles can be blamed on the nation’s economic crisis, say critics of the name-it-and-claim-it theology found in some charismatic churches.
“I believe the charismatic movement, of which I am a part, is in the midst of a dramatic overhaul,” said J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine. “God is shaking us.” Grady predicts the movement will look much different in a few years as it refocuses on evangelism and overcoming what he calls the distraction of “materialism, flashy self-promotion, and foolish carnality.” But Scott Thumma, a Hartford Seminary sociologist who studies megachurches, is not so certain.
“Most clergy who preach a prosperity gospel would interpret for their congregation any conflict, scrutiny, or questioning as an attack of the Devil and proof that they are following God,” he said.
Among recent developments:
• In Fort Worth, Texas, a review board ruled December 7 that Kenneth Copeland Ministries’ $3.6 million jet did not have tax-exempt status. The ruling came after the ministry, whose 1,500-acre campus includes a $6 million church-owned lakefront mansion, refused to release the salaries of Copeland, his wife, and others.
• In suburban Atlanta, Georgia, a sheriff’s deputy served an eviction notice November 14 at Bishop Thomas Weeks III’s Global Destiny Church. Court documents indicate the bishop, the ex-husband of televangelist Juanita Bynum, owed half a million dollars in back rent. The church has lost roughly half of its 3,400 members since Weeks and Bynum’s 2007 fight in a hotel parking lot, in which Weeks was accused of pushing, choking, and beating his then-wife.
• In Tampa, Florida, Without Walls International Church—which once attracted 23,000 worshipers—has shrunk drastically after co-pastors Randy and Paula White announced in 2007 they were divorcing. The church faces an uncertain future after the Evangelical Christian Credit Union began foreclosure proceedings November 4 and demanded repayment of a $12 million loan on the church’s property.
• In suburban Minneapolis on November 18, Living Word Christian Center pastor Mac Hammond won the first stage of a court battle with the Internal Revenue Service to keep his salary private. Yet in 2008, he was forced to put his private jet up for sale and cut Living Word’s hour-long television show in half to save money amid falling contributions.
Meanwhile, Copeland and the Whites are among six televangelists whose large organizations have been targeted in a Senate Finance Committee investigation into allegations of questionable spending and lax financial accountability. All six preach some form of the prosperity gospel.
Could followers of the prosperity gospel—encouraged by pastors to “sow a seed” of faith by spending money, often in the form of a donation to the pastors’ ministries—be turned off by the recent turmoil?
Craig Blomberg, author of a 2001 study of prosperity theology, said he expects the movement to “take a small hit among those who recognize that it can’t deliver on what it promises.”
But many followers could view the financial difficulties as consequences for sin and personal failings—from Weeks’s assault conviction to the Whites’ divorce—and determine to try that much harder to please God and prosper themselves, he suggested.
“Some may well interpret this as judgment on the leaders who have abused their positions or proved immoral in other respects,” said Blomberg, a New Testament professor at Denver Seminary. “And many may simply assume this is the time to call others and themselves to an even truer faith so that the ‘system will work’ as it is supposed to in their minds.”
In Grady’s view, the notion that “God blesses us so we can be a blessing” is biblical. What is needed, he believes, is a shift to a more selfless movement where people “realize that God wants to bless us so that we can feed the poor, lift up the broken, and transform society.
“We need that kind of prosperity,” he said, “and I think that is where things are going.”
Spiritual Abuse Survey: Is YOUR church a safe place?
Take the survey from wickedshepherds.com and see!
Here is a questionnaire to determine just how healthy your church really is. To find out how well it ranks, answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:
•Does your church tightly control the flow of information within its ranks?
•Does the head of your church, along with the other “leaders”, use public shaming as a method to gain the compliance of followers?
•Does the head of your church and his “fellow elders” appear to be intolerant or consider it evil persecution when criticized or questioned?
•Are you discouraged to associate with former members, being warned that they are “evil” or “defiling”; a “danger to your spiritual welfare”?
•Is leaving your church to join another church that “is not approved by the elders” equal to leaving God?
•Do you fear being rebuked, shunned, or ignored for expressing a different opinion?
•At church, is there a sense of control, rather than support?
•Is there a relentless obsession of reminding the sheep of “who’s in authority”?
•Are you told not to ask questions as to why others have left? Are you told to accept the statements that the “elders” give you?
•Are books, tapes and CD’s, speakers, music, etc., carefully controlled to keep only the belief structure of your church before your mind?
•Is there is a relentless campaign to keep you around the activities of your church, expecting you to be at all the stated meetings, except if providentially hindered? And if you are absent, is your spirituality and dedication sometimes questioned?
•Is the concept ever so subtly present that, “when you please the “pastor”, God is pleased and when your “pastor” is not pleased with you, God is not pleased with you?
•Is there present, the breaking of even the closest family ties, to “guard” the flock?
•Is there the constant using of guilt and shame as tools of control?
•Is there present at your church the encouragement of the members to spy and report on each other, lest sin be found in the midst?
•Is there present at your church the dominant climate of fear in the group – fear of failing to keep one of the rules, and fear of being held up to public humiliation and rejection?
•At church, are the normal lines between what is private and what is public knowledge broken, and members confess the most personal, and the most minor sins, as the conscience is being surrendered to the “leadership”?
•Are many (if not all) of the results from voting at “congregational business meetings” announced as….. “it is unanimous!”?
•Is questioning condemned as “whispering, back- biting, vicious slander, gossip, nit picking, signs of a proud rebellious spirit, being disaffected and divisive?
•Are those who dissent publicly punished? Are their reputations murdered by veiled, or not so veiled “revelations” of “sins”; past and present, as confidentiality is broken for the benefit of the leaders?
•Is there a misplaced loyalty from Jesus and God onto the leadership, which is idolatry?
•Is there harsh preaching and full of condemnation for your failures and are you deliberately being kept wounded and off balance by the haranguing and condemnation from the pulpit?
•Is “Persevere or be damned” and “listen to YOUR elders; obey YOUR elders”; “submit to YOUR elders” preached over and over again?
•Is paranoia the “very air you breathe”? Paranoia of falling from grace; thinking for yourselves; breaking the many unspoken rules as well as the clearly spelled out expectations of the leader?
•Are you becoming paranoid – carefully watching your every word and even gesture, lest someone report your faults?
•Does a code of silence reign at your church? Is no one to divulge the business of the church, or the faults of the leadership?
•Do the spiritual leaders at your church seem to give you the impression that either covertly or overtly, they have the right to tell you how you should manage your own family; presuming that they know your own family better than you know yourself?
If you answered “no” to all of the above questions, your church is relatively healthy. If you answered “yes” to a quarter or more, your church is showing signs of being unhealthy. If you answered “yes” to half or more, your church is very, very unhealthy. If you answered “yes” to three-quarters or more, your church is an authoritarian cult.
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Is Baptism Essential For Salvation ? Representatives of Classic Christianity Debate withDr. James Bjornstad & Rev. David Kingdon affirm that: Remission of sins is obtained by Faith Alone before and apart from Baptism.
Church of Christ Representatives : A Penitent believer must be baptized in order to receive remission of his sins.
Church of Christ
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Church of Christ may refer to:
- one of several New Testament designations for a local band of people following the teachings of Jesus, whom they believed to be the Christ; only the plural form is found in the NT (e.g., Romans 16:16)
- the entire body of Christians throughout the world, regardless of denomination or tradition
- a body of Christians who continue to use only the New Testament as the source for Christian doctrine and practice and who consider themselves to be part of the original church (in contrast to Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant churches)
- the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic churches (primarily used by members of these churches)
- a number of Restorationist churches:
Church bodies influenced by the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement:
Churches of Christ
Churches of Christ in Australia
Fellowship of Churches of Christ based in the United Kingdom
Associated Churches of Christ in New Zealand
Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ
International Churches of Christ, an offshoot of the Churches of Christ
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The churches of Christ (non-institutional)
Denominations with a shared heritage in the Latter Day Saint movement, which include:
Church of Christ (Latter Day Saints), the original name of the first Latter Day Saint church, founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr.
Church of Christ (Temple Lot), a Latter Day Saint denomination based in Independence, Missouri
Church of Christ with the Elijah Message, which broke away from the Temple Lot church in 1929
Church of Christ (Whitmerite), an extinct Latter Day Saint denomination
Church of Christ (Brewsterite), an extinct Latter Day Saint denomination
Church of Christ (Parrishite), an extinct Latter Day Saint denomination
Latter Day Church of Christ, a Mormon fundamentalist denomination based in Utah
Latter Day Church of Christ with Signs and Wonders, a Mormon fundamentalist denomination based in Indiana
And other denominations called the Church of Jesus Christ
United Church of Christ, a mainline Protestant denomination in the United States formed in 1957
United Church of Christ – Congregational in the Marshall Islands, the largest religious group in the Marshall Islands
Church of Christ, Scientist, also known as Christian Science
Church of Christ in Congo, the administrative and spiritual union of denominations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Iglesia ni Cristo (Filipino translation for “Church of Christ”), a denomination originating in the Philippines
Church of Christ, Instrumental, also known as the Kelleyites, a Baptist denomination in Arkansas
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The Only Way to God
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” (1 Timothy 2:5)
Perhaps you have heard someone say “there are many ways to God”. This is a very popular claim but it is simply false. There is only one way to God, and that one way is through Jesus Christ, God’s Son. All other ways will lead you to judgment by God for your sins, followed by punishment in the eternal Lake of Fire.
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)
You have broken many of God’s laws. You have lied. You have stolen things that did not belong to you. You have dishonored your father. You have had lust in your heart. You have committed many wicked sins. The breaking of God’s law is called sin. God is Holy. God is righteous. God must therefore judge you for your sins when you die. God will read your sins out of His books at the Great White Throne Judgment. You will then be cast into Hell to burn there forever as punishment by God for your sins.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Jesus died on a cross to pay for your sins with His blood. What Jesus did on the cross for you 2,000 years ago is just as effective today as it was then. If you trust Jesus to pay for your sins, then you will not have to pay for your sins yourself in the Lake of Fire when you die. Instead, Jesus will forgive your sins and give you Eternal Life in Heaven with Him when you die.
“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (1 John 5:11-12)
Jesus died for your sins, was buried, rose again from the dead, and then ascended up into Heaven where He is now seated at the right hand of God The Father. The “Good News” or “Gospel”, is that salvation from the penalty for your sins is now available to you through Jesus Christ. Jesus loves you and wants you to go to Heaven to be with Him when you die. Trust Jesus to pay for your sins, because Jesus is the only way to be forgiven for your sins by a Righteous and Holy God.
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Debate Topic: Is water baptism necessary for salvation?
On Tuesday, May 13, 2008 I debated a Mr. Roger Perkins on “Is water baptism necessary for salvation?”. Mr. Perkins is a oneness believer and an ex-pastor in the oneness movement. Mr. Perkins holds the position that water baptism is necessary for salvation. I deny that assertion and maintain that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Mr. Perkins opened with a 15 minute speech. I followed with the text below, which I read word for word – except in a few places where I ventured away from the text for a brief moment.
The topic tonight is “Is water baptism necessary for salvation?”. Notice that when we say “necessary” we mean that there is no exception to the requirement – otherwise the word “necessary” is inappropriate. So, if there is an exception, if someone can be saved without baptism, then water baptism is not necessary.
Has as Mr. Perkins that it water baptism is an absolute necessity? No. He can certainly cite examples of people being baptized after they believe, but citing examples does not prove that water baptism is necessary in order to be saved.
If we can find anyone who is saved without being baptized then we have proved that baptism is not necessary for salvation. This is very easy to do because we find the Old Testament saints who died in the faith and the expectation of the Messiah who were not baptized in water, yet they were saved. Paul brings the Old Testament context into the new. In Romans 4:3, he says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Paul refers to Abraham to say that his faith was reckoned as righteousness. Since only the saved are righteous in God’s site, Abraham’s salvation (though ultimately future as it waited for the sacrifice of Christ) was received by faith – before any rituals were instituted, including the ritual of circumcision.
Two verses later in Romans 4:5, Paul speaks to us today by saying, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.” Notice that the same phrases used: Faith is reckoned as righteousness. Again in Rom. 5:1, he says “therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, faith is reckoned as righteousness back in Abraham’s time as well as ours today. Abraham was saved without a ritual and so are we. This is why we are justified by faith. It is not faith in the ritual of water baptism that results in righteousness nor is it faith and water baptism that brings us justification; otherwise, we are not justified by faith but by faith and water baptism, by faith and a ritual.
The ritual of circumcision is condemned by Paul in Galatians 5 as having no part of salvation. He condemns the Judaizers for their desire to participate in a ritual and add it to their faith in Christ.
A ritual is a ceremony that is done by one or more persons. Circumcision involves two parties: the one performing the action and the one receiving the action. Likewise, baptism involves two parties: the one performing the action and the one receiving the action. Both are rituals. Both are religious procedures. Both are religious ceremonies. My opponent is requiring a ritual, a ceremony in order to be saved.
I’ve proven that baptism is not necessary for salvation by citing Abraham. But Mr. Perkins might say that my approach is misguided and that the Old Testament saints were under a different “dispensation” or “requirement” than we are today and that we could not require that they be held to Christian baptism since Christian baptism had not yet been instituted. If that is so, then water baptism is not necessary for salvation. It is simple logic.
Nevertheless, for the sake of continuing our debate, let’s limit our discussion to whether or not water baptism is necessary for us now. Do we need to be baptized in water in order to be justified by faith?
The answer is no because if it were necessary then it would violate the Scriptures’ clear teaching that justification is by grace through faith. It is never said that we are justified by faith and something whether it be law, ceremony, or sincerity of heart.
Now, my opponent has turned to Scripture and quoted various verses about water baptism and said the Scriptures teach it is necessary. But this has not been established. He has inferred that it is necessary by citing the pattern of baptism after belief. In fact, there is no scripture that says “baptism is necessary for salvation”. We see no verses that say we are condemned if we don’t get baptized, but we do see scripture that says we are condemned if we don’t believe. Mark 16:16 says “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” John 3:18 says, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already.” If baptism is necessary for salvation then we should find verses that say “and he who is not baptized will be condemned.” But no such verse exists.
Now Paul preached the gospel and he said in 1 Cor. 1:15-17, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 that no man should say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel….” If baptism is necessary for salvation, why is Paul saying he came to preach the gospel and not to baptize? Why is Paul saying he’s glad he did not baptize except a very few people? Paul is too smart to make the mistake of not baptizing people if people are erringly claiming to be baptized into his name. It would be like me saying, “I’m not going to preach salvation in Christ by faith because someone might say they received it in the name of Matt Slick.” I am obligated to preach the gospel that saves regardless of whether or not someone mistakenly points to me or to God in the process. I’ll point to God. I’ll point to justification by faith alone in Christ alone… not to justification by faith and water baptism, not to justification by faith and circumcision, not to justification by faith and going to church, not to justification by faith and any other human ritual that would add to the finished work of Christ and, thereby, insult the cross.
Again, Paul said he came to preach the gospel not to baptize. In fact, Paul tells us that it is the gospel that saves, and baptism is excluded from what he says the gospel is. He says in 1 Cor. 15:1-4, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel … by which also you are saved…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Baptism is not mentioned as part of that which saves us.
In Acts 16:27-34 when the jailer had been awakened by an earthquake and he saw that the prisoners under his charge did not escape he asked Paul “what must I do to be saved?” The answer was simple, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” He was then immediately baptized. Notice that Paul did not say that you must believe the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptized in order to be saved. He left baptism out. He said believe. If baptism is necessary for salvation, then why did Paul exclude it?
In Acts 10:44-47 it says, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”. These people were saved. The gift of the Holy Spirit was on the Gentiles and they were speaking in tongues. Tongues is a gift given to the members of the Christian Church, as 1 Cor. 14:1-5 shows us. Also, unbelievers don’t praise God. They can’t because praise to the true God is a deep spiritual matter that is foreign to the unsaved. 1 Cor. 2:14 says the unbeliever does not receive or understand spiritual things and Rom. 3:10-12 says the unbeliever does not seek for God and is a hater of God. Therefore, the ones in Acts 10:44-47 who are speaking in tongues and praising God are definitely saved and they are saved before they are baptized. This simply isn’t an exception. It is a reality.
Another way of dealing with the baptism issue is with a brief discussion about someone on her deathbed in a hospital. And let me tell you, I have spoken with at least two to hospital chaplains who told me that this happens.
Let’s say there is a person who is dying and the Chaplain comes in and gives him the gospel. Then under the conviction of the Holy Spirit which is in accordance with John 16:8, the person believes that Jesus died for his sins, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Scriptures. This person confesses with his mouth that Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:9-10), prays to Christ (1 Cor. 1:2; John 14:14), and receives Christ (John 1:12), by faith but dies before water baptism is administered, is that person saved or damned?
If water baptism is necessary, then that person is damned to hell even though he trusted in Christ, even though he trusted in the sacrifice of Christ, even though he by faith receive Christ. He would be damned to hell because he did not participate in the human ritual. He would be damned to hell because, he would not be justified by faith, but by faith and the ritual of water baptism.
If Mr. Perkins says he does not know if the person goes to heaven or hell, and water baptism is not necessary because if it were, he would be in hell.
Paul tells us in Romans 4:5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,” and again in Romans 5:1, “therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We are justified by faith, not by faith and baptism, not by faith and a ritual. Christ’s work is sufficient in itself for his complete and finished and there is nothing we could add to it. This is why we receive our salvation by faith. This is why we are justified by faith, this is why baptism is not necessary for salvation, because otherwise, it is not justification by faith.
Baptism Verses with responses
On May 13, 2008 I was in a formal debate with a oneness believer who said baptism was necessary for salvation. Following are my notes I prepared for that debate. I put htem here as an additional help to readers.
If you would like to read the opening paper I read at the debate, please see Matt Slick’s Opening Statement on Baptism.
- Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
- This verse does not to say that baptism is necessary for salvation. It says that baptism is part of making disciples.
- If baptism is necessary for salvation then it must also be true that teaching disciples to observe all that Jesus commanded is necessary as well. But this would be salvation by works. Instead, Jesus is explicitly declaring how to make disciples – by baptizing them and teaching them to observe what Christ and commanded.
- Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
- I could easily say that he who believes and goes to church will be saved. That is true. But it is belief that saves, not belief and going to church. Likewise, if you believe and read your Bible, you’ll be saved. But it isn’t reading your Bible that saves you.
- Likewise, those who believe and are baptized will be saved. But the emphasis is on faith not on baptism. Notice that Mark 16:16 says that he does not believe will be condemned. It does not say that he who is not baptized will not be condemned. If baptism is necessary for salvation, then we should find somewhere in Scripture where it says something to the effect of if you’re not baptized, you’re not saved. But we find no such statement.
- Luke 7:30, “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.”
- This is not a Christian baptism that is referenced here. It is the baptism of John so this cannot be used to demonstrate baptism is necessary for salvation.
- John 3:1-5, “Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Him by night, and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
- Christian baptism had not yet been instituted when Jesus spoke these words. So how could it be Christian baptism that was being referred to? Nicodemus most probably would have been thinking of John’s baptism of repentance, and certainly not Christian baptism since it had not yet been instituted by Christ.
I would like to point out that when Jesus says we must be born again, what it actually says in the Greek is we must be born from above. The words “born again” are not there. The words are “born from above.”
- There are five different Interpretations to these verses.
- The water refers to the natural birth.
- The first option looks to the context of Jesus’ words dealing with being born “again” (3:3). Nicodemus responds by mentioning the experience of being born from the womb (v. 4). Jesus then speaks of water and the Spirit and then says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:6). The implication is that the first birth is the natural birth and the second birth is the spiritual birth. In other words, the water refers to the water of the womb — the first birth. This seems to have support in the understanding of Nicodemus about entering into the womb to be born a second time. However, this view is not the most commonly held view.
- The water refers to the Word of God.
- The verses that seem to suggest this are Eph. 5:26 says, “that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” Some believe that the washing of water is done by means of the Word of God.
- John 7:37-38, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’”
- The water refers to the Holy Spirit.
- The third view says that the water refers to the Holy Spirit. Perhaps Nicodemus was reminded of Ezek. 36:25-27, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26″Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27″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.” Certainly, Jesus’ own words are applicable here when He says in John 7:37-39, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38″He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'” 39But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
- The water refers to the ministry of John the Baptist.
- This view says the water is in reference to the water baptism of repentance taught by John the Baptist. Matt. 3:1-6 describes John’s ministry in the desert, his teaching about repentance, and baptizing people into that repentance. Contextually, the first chapter of John mentions John the Baptist in verses 6-8 and 19-36. If John’s ministry is in view here, then Jesus would have been speaking of the “baptism” (the initiatory ordinance) of repentance preached by John the Baptist.
- The water refers to the water of baptism as a requirement for salvation.
- But this would mean we were not justified by faith.
- It would be adding a ritualistic requirement to salvation.
- The water refers to the natural birth.
- Christian baptism had not yet been instituted when Jesus spoke these words. So how could it be Christian baptism that was being referred to? Nicodemus most probably would have been thinking of John’s baptism of repentance, and certainly not Christian baptism since it had not yet been instituted by Christ.
- John 19:34, “but one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water.”
- This has nothing to do with water baptism. When someone dies from crucifixion, the heart ruptures, the elements of the blood separate, and water seeps into the chest cavity. This is why the soldier pierced his side because when one looks like water comes out, it means death has occurred.
- Acts 2:38, “And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
- What is going on here is that repentance and forgiveness of sins are connected. In the Greek, “repent” is in the plural and so is “your” of “your sins.” They are meant to be understood as being related to each other. It is like saying, “All of you repent, each of you get baptized, and all of you will receive forgiveness.” It isn’t baptism that gets forgiveness of sins, but repentance. You see, repentance is a mark of salvation because it is granted by God (2 Tim. 2:25) and is given to believers only. In this context, only the regenerated, repentant person is to be baptized. Baptism is the manifestation of the repentance, that gift from God that is the sign of the circumcised heart. That is why it says, repent and get baptized.
- The Oneness argument says that the word “for” means that you are getting baptized in order to receive forgiveness of sins. Again, if this is what is meant, then we are not receiving the forgiveness of sins when we believe, but after we have performed a ritual. There’s no way around this. Is a ritual also required for our salvation? Is there a work we must perform in order to be saved?
- Biblically, a work is a ritual, a law that must be followed. Circumcision was just such a ritual, a ceremony. Paul condemns the Judaizers for adding that ritual, that ceremony to the grace of God. He condemns them because they added a ceremonial requirement to salvation. This is heresy and Paul rightly condemned it.
- Baptism is a ritual. It is a ceremony. If it is necessary for salvation, then a ritual must be observed in order to obtain Christ’s forgiveness. This is salvation by grace and ritual, not salvation by grace through faith.
- Faith occurs when you believe. You are justified by faith when you believe, otherwise you’re not justified by faith. So, this verse cannot mean that we have to be baptized in water in order to have our sins forgiven.
- It means that we are baptized to indentify with the forgiveness of sins.
- Mark 1:4, “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
- Also, if we are to understand this verse to mean that baptism is necessary for salvation, then we must also understand that repentance is necessary. But this is a problem because it would require that we be good in order to be saved – but this amounts to justification by works. Of course, we are supposed to repent of our sins, but it is not the repentance of sins that brings us salvation; rather, it is salvation that brings us repentance because unbelievers don’t turn from their sins, only believers do only the saved seek to honor God.
- Acts 8:35-38, “And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
- There’s nothing in these verses to show that baptism is necessary for salvation. It only says that the Eunuch was baptized after he believed. It shows that a person should be baptized right away after receiving believing in Christ.
- Acts 22:16, ‘And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’
- What washes away their sins not water, but calling on the name of Jesus.
- The verse does not say be baptized washing away your sins. It says be baptized and wash away your sins calling on his name. What washes away our sins is calling on his name — which would mean we are saved by grace through faith, not grace through faith in water.
- Rom. 6:3-5, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.”
- The phrase “baptized into” means here “to identify with.” It cannot mean that baptism is the means by which we enter into union with Christ. This would be ritualistic communion and Paul in no way ever talked in you ritual was necessary in order to be saved.
- Instead, Paul taught that baptism represented identification with Christ. Consider 1 Cor. 10:1-4, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” Therefore we can see it to be baptized into his refrained identification not the means by which were saved.
- 1 Cor. 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
- Which baptism is this speaking of, the baptism of water or the baptism of the Spirit.
- Eph. 4:5 tells us that there is “one faith, one Lord, one baptism.”
- If this means that we get into the church by being baptized in water, and no one is in the Christian church unless he or she has gone through the ritual. This would mean that salvation is not by grace through faith, but by faith and ritual.
- The very verse here tells us about being made to drink of the one Spirit. This is an obvious figurative usage but it tells us two things. First, it alludes to the baptism of the spirit, not of water. Second, if we must require that the baptism spoken of here means water, but why not require the literalness also of drinking the Spirit? It it makes no sense composes upon the text. Therefore, this verse is not dealing with water baptism but Spirit baptism.
- Acts 11:16, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
- John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’ 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
- Gal. 3:27, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
- A. Water baptism is not mentioned here. This is probably a reference to baptism of the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 12:13 says, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
- Paul taught that baptism represented identification with Christ. Consider 1 Cor. 10:1-4, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” Therefore we can see it to be baptized into his refrained identification not the means by which were saved.
- This might be a reference to the Roman garment of the full-grown man, assumed when ceasing to be a child.
- Baptism is the identification with Christ, signifying having come to the faith, having died to sin, and risen with the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Eph. 5:25-26, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”
- There is no mention and baptism at all. Paul associates the washing of water with the word.
- If this is referring to water baptism, then it must mean that Christ is the one actually performing the act of baptism on the entire church because it says “just as Christ also loved the church and gave him self up for her that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water…” which would mean baptism.
- The reality is that when I lead my wife in devotions with the word, I’m washing her in the word of God. That is how I love her and wash her.
- Col. 2:12, “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
- This verse does not show the necessity of being baptized in order to be saved. It simply speaks about our identification with Christ and are baptism. And nowhere here says baptism is necessary for salvation.
- If anything, this verse in its context equates baptism and circumcision: Col. 2:11-12, “in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Paul is relating the ritual of circumcision with the ritual of baptism, both are covenant signs.
- Still, this verse in no way says that water baptism is necessary for salvation. But it does equate circumcision and baptism together. We must be reminded of how Paul condemned the Judaizers for requiring the ritual of circumcision to be saved. We can make a strong case here at requiring the ritual of baptism would likewise be condemned.
- Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,”
- This verse is telling us that regeneration is the washing, not the regeneration of baptism. There is no mention of water baptism here and there certainly is no mention of water baptism being necessary for salvation.
- Heb. 10:22, “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
- Heb. 9:14, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
- 1 Peter 1:2, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood…” This is all reference to the Old Testament ceremonies of sprinkling blood in order to cleanse the temple (Heb. 9). This is what the high priest did and Jesus, who is our high priest according to the order of Melchizedek, likewise cleanses us with his blood. This is how our hearts are cleaned, but the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, not by our bodies getting dunked in water.
- 1 Pet. 3:21, “And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”
- This verse negates water baptism by saying the baptism that saves is not the kind that deals with the removal of dirt in the flesh. That is, it is not the issue of water which washes the body, but that baptism of the heart which is an appeal for a good conscience to God.
- Some think that the baptism corresponds to the Ark because it was the Ark that saved them, not the floodwaters. this is a possibility but one of the problems with it is that this interpretation does not seem to stand grammatically since the antecedent of Baptism is most probably in reference to the water, not the Ark. But, water did not save Noah. This is why Peter excludes the issue of water baptism being the thing that saves us because he says, “not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God”. Peter says that is not the application of water that saves us but a pledge of the good conscience. Therefore, baptism here most probably represents the breaking away of the old sinful life and entrance into the new life the same way that the flood waters in Noah’s time was the destruction of the sinful way and once through it known entered into his new life.
- Peter’s explanatory comment shows us that the act of physical baptism is not what saves, but the “baptism of appeal to God.” This appeal to God is by faith the same as Noah’s faith in God led him to build the Ark, enter it, and remain in it.
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SALVATION EXPOSED TO THE LIGHT OF BIBLE
LDS teaching on salvation is that Christ’s atonement only covers universal resurrection, which amounts to damnation. They go on to say that the right to forgiveness of personal sins has to be earned by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the LDS organization, plus virtuous living. Furthermore, salvation is available through their church alone, and then only if you have accepted Joseph Smith as God’s true prophet:
Those who gain only this general or unconditional salvation will still be judged according to their works and receive their places in a terrestrial or telestial kingdom. They will therefore be damned. (LDS Apostle McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, page 669). (Author’s italics)
There is no salvation outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, page 670).
There is no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet of God, (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, page 188.)
The first effect [of the atonement] is to secure to all mankind alike, exemption from the penalty of the fall, thus providing a plan of General Salvation. The second effect is to open a way for Individual Salvation whereby mankind may secure remission of personal sins. As these sins are the result of individual acts, it is just that forgiveness for them should be conditioned on individual compliance with prescribed requirements, obedience to the laws and ordinances of the [LDS] Gospel. (LDS Apostle James Talmage, Articles of Faith, page 87). (Author’s italics)
None of the above teachings will be found anywhere in the Bible. They are exclusive to Mormonism and actually contradict what the Bible teaches. Regardless of this fact, the LDS consistently uses biblical terminology when referring to their teachings, including their teachings on salvation. But in order to fit these biblical terms in with their unbiblical doctrines, they have had to give them completely different meanings (which will not be found in any dictionary). For instance, they call universal resurrection, which they say does not cover forgiveness of sins and amounts to damnation, “salvation by grace.”
A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF BIBLICAL SALVATION
“Salvation” as a biblical term means being rescued or saved from both the penalty of sin and its power over us. So it covers the forgiveness of all our sins. And because our sins form an effective barrier between ourselves and a holy God, salvation from sin also has the effect of reconciling us to God, through Christ the Saviour.
Biblical salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone. In other words we don’t have to earn the right to forgiveness of sins. Christ earned the right to our forgiveness on our behalf, by taking the punishment we deserve on Himself in His atonement on the cross at Calvary. The following are just some of the very many verses in the Bible that teach salvation from personal sin by grace through faith in Christ:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, KJV)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV)
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us ….. (Titus 3:5, KJV)
In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (Colossians 1:14 KJV)
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3, KJV)
God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them ….. (2 Corinthians 5:19, KJV).
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross (Colossians 2:13-14, KJV). (Italics inserted by writer.)
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12, KJV)
As will be seen, the above scriptures invalidate the following LDS claims regarding salvation:
That we have to earn the right to forgiveness of our personal sins; That we have to believe that Joseph Smith is the true prophet of God; That we have to obey the laws and ordinances of the LDS Church; and That salvation is only available through the LDS Church.
SALVATION THROUGH A SUBSTITUTIONARY SACRIFICE
The Bible is a fascinating book. Concepts that aren’t always all that easy to understand are explained by the use of types and “pictures.” One such concept is salvation from sin through a substitutionary sacrifice.
Nowhere in the Bible has God ever told mankind that they would have to earn the right to forgiveness of their sins. Instead, in the Old Testament He instituted the substitutionary sacrifice. The sinner was required to take an unblemished animal to the altar. Then he had to place his hand upon its head to indicate that it was to be his substitute and would die in his place, to cover his sin (Leviticus 1:4, 4:29,33). This was a picture of the coming, promised Messiah who would sacrifice His life to pay the full penalty for the sins of those who indicate by faith, that He is their substitute sin bearer.
Scattered throughout the Old Testament, starting in Genesis, God gave His people a series of ongoing messianic prophecies. And in fulfillment of those prophecies, in the fullness of time the Lord Jesus Christ came down to earth to give Himself as the final, once-for-all substitutionary offering for sin. He selflessly and heroically took our place on the cross at Calvary and bore the shame, the disgrace and the punishment that we rightly deserve, because of our sins. As Eugene Peterson so aptly puts it in ‘The Message,’ “God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. (Acts 10:43, KJV)
[John the baptist, who was God’s prophet] seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29, KJV)
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21, KJV)
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree ….. (1 Peter 2:24, KJV)
BAPTISM PORTRAYS SUBSTITUTIONARY SACRIFICE
Besides being a public testimony of the believer’s faith in Christ, Christian baptism is also a symbolic rite that portrays Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice as it applies to the believer. For this reason it was the norm in the primitive church for believers to be baptized immediately after they had come to faith in Christ, and had been spiritually regenerated (Acts 2:41, 8:12, 16:15, 16:33, 18:18, 19:5.)
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4, KJV)
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses. (Colossians 2:12-13, KJV)
As a believer, in undergoing baptism by immersion I symbolically re-enact Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s my way of publicly acknowledging that Christ is my Saviour. To free me from the condemnation of my sin, He became my substitute and took the punishment due to me on Himself, on my behalf. So when He died, it was the same as if I had died — He represented me, so “in Him” I died too. As I go under the waters of baptism, it portrays my death “in Him” to the penalty of the Law, as well as to the sinful fleshly life. When He arose from the grave, He arose as my substitute: It was the same as if I had arisen. So as I rise up out of the water, it portrays my resurrection “in Christ,” to a new life, “in Him.” This is what is known as the exchanged life. Paul describes it as follows:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galations 2:20, KJV)
From the moment of his salvation (i.e. his regeneration or new birth), the life of the believer is intrinsically intertwined with that of His beloved Savior.
THE REASON FOR THE OLD AND THE NEW COVENANTS
Had they fully kept all God’s laws and ordinances provided under the Old Covenant, the Israelites would have led a lifestyle that fulfilled God’s requirements for righteousness. But the sad fact was that they were unable to do this. In spite of having God’s laws, as well as His guidance and protection, they still kept falling into sin. The continuous pall of smoke arising from the sacrificial altar where they burned their sin offerings bore mute testimony to this fact.
The problem was not with God’s laws, but with mankind. His laws are good, but we are a fallen people. And try as we may, we cannot live up to His standards of righteousness. Not for long, anyway. No matter how hard man has tried he has never ever been able to overcome his tendency to sin in thought, word and deed.
Reformation, education and social upliftment don’t do the trick either, because the problem is not our environment, lack of opportunities or education; it is our fallen “selves.” Pogo hit the nail on the head when he said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” And as Dr. McGee so aptly put it, “You can take the man out of the slum, but you can’t take the slum out of the man.” It is a sad fact of life that countries enjoying a high standard of living, low unemployment, and excellent educational opportunities, still have overflowing prison cells.
The apostle Paul described his frustrations at one stage with his own personal battle to live a holy life, complaining that he kept doing the things he knew he shouldn’t do and really didn’t want himself to do. And that although in his mind he knew that God’s ways were good and right, he kept straying from them. (Romans 7:7-25).
The Bible makes it clear that because of our fallen natures we do not have it within ourselves to live according to God’s standards of righteousness. In order to bring mankind to the realization of the gravity of his situation and the dilemma he faces, God put into effect the Old Covenant of Law. And as we have seen, even although the Israelites were God’s chosen nation and enjoyed all the privileges and advantages that this entailed, they still failed miserably in their attempts to keep the His righteous laws fully.
That was because Laws and Ordinances didn’t have the power to save anyone. They merely declared the holiness of God and revealed the depravity of mankind. But then they were never intended to save. The epistle of Galations explains that God merely used the Old Covenant of Law as a teacher, to show fallen mankind his utter inability to live according to His standards of righteousness. This in turn revealed his desperate need for a Saviour:
Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. (Galations 3:21-25, KJV)
As Lehman Strauss says in his ‘Doctrine of Salvation,’ “The idea of attaining salvation through self-effort and good works is a fundamental characteristic of human nature. But try as hard as one will, he cannot remove the guilt and penalty of his own sins.”
For this reason, in His wisdom and mercy, God has provided a way of salvation through Christ, under the New Covenant of Grace, that was tailor-made for the fallenness of man and caters for every eventuality and possibility. Solely because of God’s undeserved mercy towards us, whosoever trusts in Christ will receive forgiveness of sins, freedom from guilt and reconciliation with God.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:1, KJV)
THE CONSEQUENCES OF MORMON SALVATION
In spite of the clear and consistent teachings in the Bible on the forgiveness of our sins through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, the LDS Church has deliberately led their membership away from the way of salvation that God Himself has laid down for us, and has decreed that Mormons must earn the right to their own salvation. They insist that this is far better than the way of grace that God Himself has provided. And in spite of the fact that God has proved conclusively that man couldn’t keep the Laws and Ordinances that they already had, the LDS has added more of their own.
Mormons need to ask themselves where their teaching came from, because it directly contradicts everything that God has taught us about salvation throughout the entire Bible. So it couldn’t have come from Him.
Just as the apostle Paul knew, Mormons also know deep down in their hearts that their lives don’t come up to God’s holy standards. But they placate themselves with the knowledge that going to the second degree of glory after they die won’t be so bad. After all, they have been taught that even the lowest degree of glory is more beautiful than anything they could ever imagine.
However, the LDS story of the three degrees of glory is not the way it’s going to be. They are the deceptions of a false prophet. God never ever gives His prophets revelations that contradict what He has already revealed to us. He is not a God of confusion. His Word is truth, and the main ingredient in truth is its consistency. It never ever changes. Nor is it contradictory. And God’s Word, the Bible very clearly teaches that there are only two final destinations after we die. We will either go to the place where Christ and God are, which is called heaven, or else we will be consigned to eternal separation from both the presence and the influence of God in a place called hell.
Heaven will consist only of folk who have elected to follow God’s ways, including His way of salvation from sin. Those in hell will be folk who would rather do things their own way. And God will allow them this right, eternally, but not in His kingdom of heaven. After all, if those who insisted on doing things their own way instead of God’s way were allowed into heaven, it would eventually become more like hell, wouldn’t it?
It’s not God’s desire that anyone should be end up in hell. But if we choose to spurn His way of salvation in preference to our own ideas, then we will we will end up facing His judgment.
Mormons need to give serious thought to the unlikelihood of their being able to earn the right to the forgiveness of their own sins, in the light of what the Bible reveals; as well as to the eternal ramifications of their choice; bearing in mind that the Bible clearly teaches only two destinations after death — heaven or hell.
The following articles explain the basics of the biblical way of salvation and the error in the LDS teaching on the three degrees of glory:
You are welcome to contact the writer at the following email address:
Copyright 2008 by Mormonism and Biblical Truth. All rights reserved.
Is Universalism Biblical?
Universalism states that sooner or later all people will be saved. This position holds that the concepts of hell and punishment are inconsistent with a loving God. The older form of universalism, originating in the second century, taught that salvation would come after a temporary period of punishment. The newer form of universalism declares that all men are now saved, though all do not realize it. Therefore the job of the preacher and the missionary is to tell people they are already saved. Certain passages – John 12:32, Philippians 2:11, and 1 Timothy 2:4 – are typically twisted out of context in support of universalism.
Such passages, interpreted properly, do not support universalism:
- John 12:32 says that Christ’s work on the cross makes possible the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles. Notice, however, that the Lord – in the same passage – warned of judgment of those who reject Christ (v. 48).
- Philippians 2:10-11 assures us that someday all people will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, but not necessarily as Savior. (Even those in hell will have to acknowledge Christ’s Lordship.)
- First Timothy 2:4 expresses God’s desire that all be saved, but does not promise that all will be. This divine desire is only realized in those who exercise faith in Christ.
The Scriptures consistently categorize people into one of two classes (saved/unsaved, also called believers/unbelievers), and portray the final destiny of every person as being one of two realities (heaven or hell).
- In Matthew 13:30 Jesus in a parable said, “Let both [tares and wheat] grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.” Here unbelievers and believers are spoken of as tares and wheat. Two classes!
- In Matthew 13:49 Jesus said, “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous.” Again, two classes are mentioned – unbelievers and believers spoken of as the wicked and the righteous.
- In Matthew 25:32 Jesus said that following His second coming, “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Here believers and unbelievers are differentiated by the terms “sheep” and “goats.” The sheep will enter into God’s kingdom (vs. 34) and inherit eternal life (vs. 46). The goats go into eternal punishment (vs. 46).
- In Luke 16:26 we find Abraham in the afterlife telling the unsaved rich man: “Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” Hades apparently had two compartments: “paradise” for the saved, and “torments” for the unsaved – and these compartments were separated by a great chasm or gulf.
Clearly, then, the Scriptures speak of two classes of people (the saved and the unsaved) and two possible destinies (heaven for the saved; hell for the unsaved). And each respective person ends up in one of these places based upon whether or not he or she placed saving faith in Christ during his or her time on earth (Acts 16:31).
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I found this list of JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE verses and pasted most of them to a page in this blogs information site How2BecomeAChristian.info
This verse list goes along real good with this study I did. What is Justification? Is Justification Salvation? By Damon Whitsell
There are approximately 160 verses in the NT that clearly state that salvation is solely based upon a person’s faith, trust, or belief in Jesus Christ as Savior (without any moral reform or repentance). Christians are created unto good works not BY good works.
Luke 7:48-50; 8:12; 18:42 John 1:7, 12; 2:23; 3:15, 16, 18, 36; 4:39; 4:41, 42; 5:24, 45-47; 6:29, 35, 40, 47; 7:38, 39; 8:24, 29, 30; 9:35-38; 10:24-26; 11:15, 25, 26, 41, 42; 12:36, 46; 13:19; 14:1-6, 17:20, 21; 19:35; 20:29, 31 Acts 3:16; 4:4, 32; 8:12, 37; 9:42; 10:43, 45; 11:17, 21; 13:21, 39; 14:1, 23, 27; 15:7, 9; 16:31; 17:4, 5, 11, 12; 18:8, 27; 19:4; 20:21; 21:25; 26:18 Romans 1:16, 17; 3:22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30; 4:3, 5, 9, 11, 13, 16, 23, 24; 5:1, 2; 9:30, 32, 33; 10:4, 6, 9, 10; 11:20, 30-32; 15:13 1 Corinthians 1:21 2 Corinthians 4:4 Galatians 2:16, 20; 3:2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 14, 22, 24, 26; 5:5 Ephesians 1:13, 19; 2:8; 3:17 Philippians 1:29; 3:9 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2:10; 4:14 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:12, 13; 3:2 1 Timothy 1:16; 3:16; 4:3, 10 2 Timothy 1:12; 3:15 Hebrews 4:2, 3; 6:12; 10:39; 11:6, 7, 31 James 2:23 1 Peter 1:21; 2:6, 7 1 John 5:1, 5, 10, 13 Jude 5
Most of the pasted verses are,
Luk 7:48-50 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
Luk 8:12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
Luk 18:42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.
Joh 1:7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
Joh 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Joh 2:23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
Joh 3:15-18 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Joh 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
Joh 4:39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
Joh 4:42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.
Joh 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
Joh 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
Joh 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
Joh 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
Joh 6:47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
Joh 7:38,39 He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Joh 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
Joh 8:29,30 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. As he spake these words, many believed on him.
Joh 9:35-38 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshiped him.
Joh 10:24-26 Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
Joh 11:15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.
Joh 11:25-26 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
Joh 11:41-42 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
Joh 12:36-37 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:
Joh 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
Joh 13:19 Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.
Joh 14:1-6 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Joh 17:20,21 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
Joh 19:35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
Joh 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. Joh 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ,
Act 3:16 And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
Act 4:4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
Act 4:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
Act 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Act 8:37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Act 9:42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.
Act 10:43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
Act 10:45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Act 11:16-17 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
Act 11:21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
Act 13:39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Act 14:1 And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.
Act 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
Act 14:27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
Act 15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
Act 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Act 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Act 17:4-5 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.
Act 17:11-12 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
Act 18:8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.
Act 18:27 And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:
Act 19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
Act 20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Act 21:25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
Act 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
Rom 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written. The just shall live by faith.
Rom 3:22-30 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
ALL OF ROMANS CHAPTER 4
Rom 5:1-2 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Rom 9:30-33 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offense: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
Rom 10:4-17 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Rom 11:20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
Rom 11:29-32 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
Rom 15:13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
1Co 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
2Co 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Gal 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
ALL OF GALATIONS CHAPTER 3
Gal 5:5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
Eph 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,
Eph 1:19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
Eph 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Eph 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
Phi 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
Phi 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
1Th 1:7 So that ye were examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
1Th 2:10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblamably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
1Th 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
2Th 1:10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
2Th 2:12, 13 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
2Th 3:2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
1Ti 1:16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
1Ti 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
1Ti 4:3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth
1Ti 4:10 For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those that believe.
2Ti 1:12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
2Ti 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Heb 4:2,3 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
Heb 6:12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Heb 10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
Heb 11:6,7 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
Heb 11:31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
Jam 2:23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
1Pe 1:21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
1Pe 2:6,7 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
1Jo 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
1Jo 5:5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God
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Vodpod videos no longer available. Semon #233
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 9th, 1859, by the
REV. C. H. SPURGEON
At the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
“Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.” – Ezekiel 36:32.
There are two sins of man that are bred in the bone, and that continually come out in the flesh. One is self-dependence and the other is self-exaltation. It is very hard, even for the best of men, to keep themselves from the first error. The holiest of Christians, and those who understand best the gospel of Christ, find in themselves a constant inclination to look to the power of the creature, instead of looking to the power of God and the power of God alone. Over and over again, Holy Scripture has to remind us of that which we never ought to forget, that salvation is God’s work from first to last, and is not of man, neither by man. But so it is, this old error – that we are to save ourselves, or that we are to do something in the matter of salvation – always rises up, and we find ourselves continually tempted by it to step aside from the simplicity of our faith in the power of the Lord our God. Why, even Abraham himself was not free from the great error of relying upon his own strength. God had promised to him that He would give him a son – Isaac, the child of promise. Abraham believed it, but at last, weary with waiting, he adopted the carnal expedient of taking to himself Hagar, to wife, and he fancied that Ishmael would most certainly be the fulfillment of God’s promise; but instead of Ishmael’s helping to fulfill the promise, he brought sorrow unto Abraham’s heart, for God would not have it that Ishmael should dwell with Isaac. “Cast out,” said the Scripture, “the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.” Now we, in the matter of salvation, are apt to think that God is tarrying long in the fulfillment of His promise, and we set to work ourselves to do something, and what do we do?sink ourselves deeper in the mire and pile up for ourselves a store of future troubles and trials. Do we not read that it grieved Abraham’s heart to send Ishmael away? Ah! and many a Christian has been grieved by those works of nature which he accomplished with the design of helping the God of grace. Oh, beloved, we shall find ourselves very frequently attempting the foolish task of assisting Omnipotence and teaching the Omniscient One.
Instead of looking to grace alone to sanctify us, we find ourselves adopting Philosophic rules and principles which we think will effect the Divine work. We shall but mar it; we shall bring grief into our own spirits. But if, instead thereof, we in every work look up to the God of our salvation for help, and strength, and grace, and succor, then our work will proceed to our own joy and comfort, and to God’s glory. That error, then, I say is in our bone, and will always dwell with us, and hence it is that the words of the text are put as an antidote against that error. It is distinctly stated in our text that salvation is of God. “Not for your sakes do I this.” He says nothing about what we have done or can do. All the preceding and all the succeeding verses speak of what God does. “I will take you from among the heathen.” “I will sprinkle clean water upon you.” “I will give you a new heart.” “I will put my Spirit within you.” It is all of God: therefore, again recall to our recollection this doctrine, and give up all dependence upon our own strength and power.
The other error to which man is very prone, is that of relying upon his own merit. Though there is no righteousness in any man, yet in every man there is a proneness to truth in some fancied merit. Strange that it should be so, but the most reprobate characters have yet some virtue as they imagine, upon which they rely. You will find the most abandoned drunkard pride himself that he is not a swearer. You will find the blaspheming drunkard pride himself that at least he is honest. You will find men with no other virtue in the world, exalt what they imagine to be a virtue – the fact that they do not profess to have any; and they think themselves to be extremely excellent, because they have honesty or rather impudence enough to confess that they are utterly vile. Somehow the human mind clings to human merit; it always will hold to it, and when you take away everything upon which you think it could rely, in less than a moment it fashions some other ground for confidence out of itself. Human nature with regard to its own merit, is like the spider, it bears its support in its own bowels, and it seems as if it would keep spinning on to all eternity. You may brush down one web, but it soon forms another, you may take the thread from one place, and you will find it clinging to your finger, and when you seek to brush it down with one hand you find it clinging to the other. It is hard to get rid of; it is ever ready to spin its web and bind itself to some false ground of trust. It is against all human merit that I am this morning going to speak, and I feel that I shall offend a great many people here. I am about to preach a doctrine that is gall and vinegar to flesh and blood, one that will make righteous moralists gnash their teeth, and make others go away and declare that I am an Antinomian, and perhaps scarcely fit to live. However, that consequence is one which I shall not greatly deplore, if connected with it there should be in other hearts a yielding to this glorious truth, and a giving up to the power and grace of God, who will never save us, unless we are prepared to let Him have all the glory.
First, I shall endeavor to expound at large the doctrine contained in this text; in the next place I shall endeavour to show its force and truthfulness; and then in the third place I shall seek God’s Holy Spirit to apply the useful, practical lessons which are to be drawn from it.
I. I shall endeavour to EXPOUND THIS TEXT. “Not for your sakes do I this saith the Lord God.” The motive for the salvation of the human race is to be found in the breast of God, and not in the character or condition of man. Two races have revolted against God – the one angelic, the other human. When a part of this angelic race revolted against the Most High, justice speedily overtook them; they were swept from their starry seats in Heaven, and henceforth they have been reserved in darkness unto the great day of the wrath of God. No mercy was ever presented to them, no sacrifice ever offered for them; but they were without hope and mercy, forever consigned to the pit of eternal torment. The human race, far inferior in order of intelligence, sinned as atrociously; at any rate, if the sins of manhood that we have heard of be put together and rightly weighed, I can scarcely understand how even the sins of devils could be much blacker than the sin of mankind. However, the God who in His infinite justice passed over angels, and suffered them forever to expiate their offences in the fires of hell, was pleased to look down on man. Here was election on a grand scale; the election of manhood, and the reprobation of fallen angelhood. What was the reason for it? The reason was in God’s mind, an inscrutable reason which we do not know, and which if we knew probably we could not understand. Had you and I been put upon the choice of which should have been spared, I do think it probable we should have chosen that fallen angels should have been saved. Are they not the brightest? Have they not the greatest mental strength? If they had been redeemed, would it not have glorified God more, as we judge, than the salvation of worms like ourselves? Those bright beings – Lucifer, son of the morning, and those stars that walked in his train – if they had been washed in His redeeming blood, if they had been saved by sovereign mercy, what a song would they have lifted up to the Most High and everlasting God! But God, who doeth as He wills with His own, and giveth no account of His matters, but who deals with His creatures as the potter deals with his clay, took not upon Him the nature of angels, but took upon Him the seed of Abraham, and chose men to be the vessels of His mercy. This fact we know, but where is its reason? certainly not in man. “Not for your sakes do I this. O house of Israel, be ashamed and be confounded for your own ways.”
Here, very few men object. We notice that if we talk about the election of men and the non-election of fallen angels, there is not a cavil for a moment. Every man approves of Calvinism till he feels that he is the loser by it; but when it begins to touch his own bone and his own flesh then he kicks against it. Come, then, we must go further. The only reason why one man is saved, and not another, lies not, in any sense, in the man saved, but in God’s bosom. The reason why this day the gospel is preached to you and not the heathen far away, is not because, as a race, we are superior to the heathen; it is not because we deserve more at God’s hands; His choice of Britain, in the election of outward privilege, is not caused by the excellency of the British nation, but entirely because of His own mercy and His own love. There is not reason in us why we should have the gospel preached to us more than any other nation. Today, some of us have received the gospel, and have been changed by it, and have become the heirs of light and immorality, whereas others are left still to be the heirs of wrath. But there is no reason in us why we should have been taken and others left.
“There was nothing in us to merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight.
‘Twas ‘Even so, Father!’ we ever must sing,
Because it seem’d good in thy sight.”
And now, let us review this doctrine at length. We are taught in Holy Scripture that, long before this world was made, God foreknew and foresaw all the creatures He intended to fashion; and there and then foreseeing that the human race would fall into sin, and deserve His anger, determined, in His own sovereign mind, that an immense portion of the human race should be His children, and should be brought to Heaven. As to the rest, He left them to their own deserts. to sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, to scatter crime and inherit punishment. Now, in the great decree of election, the only reason why God selected the vessels of mercy must have been because He would do it. There was nothing in any one of them which caused God to choose them. We all were alike, all lost, all ruined by the fall; all without the slightest claim upon His mercy; all, in fact, deserving His utmost vengeance. His choice of any one, and His choice of all His people, are causeless, so far as anything in them was concerned. It was the effect of His sovereign will, and of nothing which they did, could do, or even would do; for thus saith the text: “Not for your sakes do I this, O house of Israel!”
As for the fruit of our election, in due time Christ came into this world, and purchased with His blood all those whom the Father hath chosen. Now come ye to the cross of Christ; bring this doctrine with you, and remember that the only reason why Christ gave up His life to be a ransom for His sheep was because He loved His people, but there was nothing in His people that made Him die for them. I was thinking as I came here this morning, if any man should imagine that the love of God to us was caused by anything in us, it would be as if a man should look into a well to find the springs of the ocean, or dig into an anthill to find an Alp. The love of God is so immense, so boundless and so infinite, that you cannot conceive for a moment that it could have been caused by anything in us. The little good that is in us – the no good that is in us – for there is none, could not have caused the boundless, bottomless, shoreless, summitless love which God manifests to His people. Stand at the foot of the cross, ye merit-mongers, ye that delight in your own works; and answer this question: Do you think that the Lord of life and glory could have been brought down from Heaven, could have been fashioned like a man, and have been led to die through any merit of yours? Shall these sacred veins be opened with any lancet less sharp than His own infinite love? Do you conceive that your poor merits, such as they are, could be so efficacious as to nail the Redeemer to the tree, and make Him bend His shoulders beneath the enormous load of the world’s guilt? You cannot imagine it. The consequence is so great, compared with what you suppose to be the case, that your logic fails in a moment. You may conceive that a coral insect rears a rock by its multitude, and by its many years of working; but you cannot conceive that all the accumulated merits of manhood, if there were such things, could have brought the Eternal from the throne of His majesty, and bowed Him to the death of the cross: that is a thing as clearly impossible to any thoughtful mind, as impossibility can be. No; from the cross comes the cry – “Not for your sakes do I this, O house of Israel.”
After Christ’s death, there comes, in the next place, the work of the Holy Spirit. Those whom the Father hath chosen, and whom the Son has redeemed, in due time the Holy Spirit calls “out of darkness into marvelous light.” Now, the calling of the Holy Spirit is without any regard to any, merit in us. If this day the Holy Spirit shall call out of this congregation a hundred men, and bring them out of their estate of sin into a state of righteousness, you shall bring these hundred men, and let them march in review, and if you could read their hearts, you would be compelled to say, “I see no reason why the Spirit of God should have operated upon these. I see nothing whatever that could have merited such grace as this – nothing that could have caused the operations and motions of the Spirit to work in these men.” For, look ye here. By nature, men are said to be dead in sin. If the Holy Spirit quickens, it cannot be because of any power in the dead men, or any merit in them, for they are dead, corrupt and rotten in the grave of their sin. If then, the Holy Spirit says, “Come forth and live,” it is not because of anything in the dry bones, it must be for some reason in His own mind, but not in us. Therefore, know ye this, men and brethren, that we all stand upon a level. We have none of us anything that can recommend us to God; and if the Spirit shall choose to operate in our hearts unto salvation, He must be moved to do it by His own supreme love, for He cannot be moved to do it by any good will, good desire, or good deed, that dwells in us by nature.
To go a little further: this truth, which holds good so far, holds good all the way. God’s people, after they are called by grace, are preserved in Christ Jesus; they are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation;” they are not suffered to sin away their eternal inheritance, but as temptations arise they have strength given with which to encounter them, and as sin blackens them they are washed afresh, and again cleansed. But mark, the reason why God keeps His people is the same as that which made them His people – His own free sovereign grace. If, my brother, you have been delivered in the hour of temptation, pause and remember that you were not delivered for your own sake. There was nothing in you that deserved the deliverance. If you have been fed and supplied in your hour of need, it is not because you have been a faithful servant of God, nor because you have been a prayerful Christian; it is simply and only because of God’s mercy. He is not moved to anything He does for you by anything .that you do for Him; His motive for blessing you lies wholly and entirely in the depths of His own bosom. Blessed be God, His people shall be kept.
“Nor death, nor Hell shall e’er remove
His favourites from His breast;
In the dear bosom of His love
They must forever rest.”
But why? Because they are holy? Because they are sanctified? Because they serve God with good works? No, but because he in his sovereign grace has loved them, does love them, and will love them, even to the end.
And to conclude my exposition of this text. This shall hold good in Heaven itself. The day is coming when every blood-bought, blood-washed child of God shall walk the golden streets arrayed in white. Our hands shall soon bear the palm; our ears shall be delighted with celestial melodies, and our eyes filled with the transporting visions of God’s glory. But mark, the only reason why God shall bring us to Heaven shall be His own love, and not because we deserved it. We must fight the fight, but we do not win the victory because we fight it; we must labour, but the wage at the days’ end shall be a wage of grace, and not a debt. We must honour God here, looking for the recompense of the reward; but that recompense will not be given on a legal ground, because we merited it, but given to us entirely because God had loved us, for no reason that was in us. When you and I and each of us shall enter Heaven, our song shall be, “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the glory;” and that shall be true, it shall not be a mere exaggeration of gratitude. It shall be true; we shall be compelled to sing it, because we could not sing anything else. We shall feel that we did nothing, and that we were nothing, but that God did it all – that we had nothing in us to be the motive of his doing it, but that His motive lay in Himself; therefore unto Him shall be every particle of the honour forever and ever.
Now, this, I take it, is the meaning of the text; distasteful it is to the great majority, even of professing Christians in this age. It is a doctrine that requires a great deal of salt, or else few people will receive it. It is very unsavory to them. However, there It stands. “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” His truth we must preach, and this we must proclaim. Salvation is “not of men, neither by man; not of the will of the flesh, nor of blood,” nor of birth, but of the sovereign will of God, and God alone.
II. And now, in the second place, I have to ILLUSTRATE AND ENFORCE THIS TEXT.
Consider a moment man’s character. It will humble us, and it will tend to confirm this truth in our minds. Let me take an illustration. I will consider man as a criminal. He certainly is such in the sight of God, and I shall not slander him. Suppose now that some great criminal is at last overtaken in his sin, and shut up in Newgate. He has committed high treason, murder, rebellion, and every possible iniquity. He has broken all the laws of the realm – every one of them. The public cry is everywhere – “This man must die; the laws cannot be maintained unless he shall be made an example of their rigour. He who beareth not the sword in vain must this time let the sword taste blood. The man must die; he richly deserves it.” You look through his character: you cannot see one solitary redeeming trait. He is an old offender; he has so long persevered in his iniquity that you are compelled to say, “The case is hopeless with this man; his crimes have such aggravation we cannot make an apology for him, even should we try. Not jesuitical cunning itself could devise any pretence of excuse, or any hope of a plea for this abandoned wretch; let him die!” Now, if her Majesty the Queen, having in her hands the sovereign power of life and death, chooses that this man shall not die, but that he shall be spared, do you not see as plain as daylight, that the only reason that can move her to spare that man, must be her own love, her own compassion? For, as I have supposed already that there is nothing in that man’s character that can be a plea for mercy, but that, contrariwise, his whole character cries aloud for vengeance against his sin. Whether we like it or not, this is just the truth concerning ourselves. This is just our character and position before God. Ah! my hearer, you may turn upon your heel, disgusted and offended; but there are some here who feel it to be solemnly true in their own experience, and they will therefore drink in the doctrine, for it is the only way whereby they can be saved. My hearer, your conscience perhaps is telling you this morning that you have sinned so heinously that there is not an inlet for a solitary ray of hope in your character. You have added to your sins this great one, that you have rebelled against the Most High wantonly and wickedly. If you have not committed all the sins in the calendar of crime, It has been because providence has stayed your hand, Your heart has been black enough for it all. You feel that the vileness of your imagination and desires has achieved the consummation of human guilt, and further you could not go. Your sins have prevailed against you, and have gone over your head. Now, man, the only ground upon which God can save you is His own love. He cannot save you because you deserve it, for you do not deserve it, because there is no excuse that might be made for your sin. No, you are without any excuse, and you feel it. Oh! bless His dear name, that He has devised this way, whereby He can save you upon the basis of His own sovereign love and unbounded grace, without anything in you. I want you to go back to Newgate again to this criminal. We suppose now that this criminal is visited by her Majesty in person. She goes to him, and she says to him, “Rebel, traitor, murderer, I have in my heart compassion for you; you deserve it not; but I am come this day to you, to tell you that if you repent you shall have mercy at my hands.” Suppose this man, springing up, should curse her – curse this angel of mercy to her face, spit upon her, and utter blasphemies, and imprecate curses upon her head. She retires; she is gone; but so great is her compassion, that the next day she sends a messenger, and days, and weeks, and months, and years, she continually sends messengers, and these go to him, and they say, “If you will repent of your transgressions you shall have mercy; not because you deserve it, but because her Majesty is compassionate, and out of her gracious soul she desires your salvation. Will you repent?” Suppose this man should curse at the messenger, stop his ears against the message, spit upon him, tell him he does not care for him at all. Or to suppose a better case – suppose he turns upon his seat and says, “I don’t care whether I am hanged or not; I’ll take my chance along with other people; I shall take no notice of you.” And suppose more than that, rising from his seat, he indulges again in all the crimes for which he has already been condemned, and plunges headlong afresh into the very sins which have brought his neck under the rope of the gallows. Now, if her Majesty would spare such a man as that, on what terms can she do it? You say, “Why, she cannot, unless she does it out of love; she cannot because of any merit in him, because such a beast as that ought to die.” And now what are you and I by nature but like this? And my unconverted hearer, what is this but a picture of you? Has not God Himself visited your conscience? and has He not said to you, “Sinner! come now, let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as wool.” And what have you done? Stopped your ear against the voice of conscience – cursed and swore at God, blasphemed His holy name, despised His Word, and railed against His ministers. And this day, again, with tears in his eyes, a servant of God is come to you, and his message is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved; as I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but had rather that he should turn unto me and live.” And what will you do. Why, if left to yourselves you will laugh at the message – despise it. It will glance off from you like an arrow from a man that is girt about with mail, and you will go away to despise God again, as you have done before. Do you not see, then, that if God ever shall save you, it cannot be for your sakes; but must be from His own infinite love; it cannot be from any other reason, since you have rejected Christ, despised His gospel, trodden under foot the blood of Jesus, and have refused to be saved. If He saves you, it must be free grace, and free grace alone.
But now picture a little more about this criminal at Newgate. Not content with having added sin to sin, and having rejected mercy for himself, this wretch industriously employs himself in going round to all the cells where others are confined, and hardening their hearts also against the mercy of the Queen. He can scarce see a person but he begins to taint him with the blasphemy of his own heart; he utters injurious things against the majesty that spares him, and endeavours to make others as vile as himself. Now, what does justice say? If this man ought not to die on his own account, yet he ought to die for the sake of others; and if he be spared, is it not as plain as a pike – staff that he cannot be spared because of any reason in him? It must be because of the unconquerable compassion of the Sovereign. And now look you here: is not this the case of some here present? Not only do you sin yourselves, but lead others into sin? I know this was one of my plagues and torments, when first God brought me to Himself, that I have led others into temptation. Are there not men here that have taught others to swear? Are there not fathers here that have helped to destroy their own children’s souls? Are there not some of you that are like the deadly Upas tree? You stretch out your branches, and from every leaf there drops poison upon those who come beneath its deadly range. Are there not some here who have seduced the virtuous, that have misled those who were seemingly pious, and that are perhaps so hardened that they even glory in it? Not content with being damned yourselves, you are seeking to lead others to the pit also. Thinking it not enough yourselves to be at enmity with God, you want to imitate Satan by dragging others with you. O my hearer, is not this thy case? Does not thy heart confess it? And does not the tear flow down thy cheek? Remember, then, this must be true: if God shall save thee, it must be because He will do it. It cannot be because there is anything good in thee, for thou deservedst now to die, and if He spare thee it must be sovereign love and sovereign grace.
I will just use one other illustration, and then, I think I shall have made the text clear enough. There is not so much difference between black and a darker shade of black as there is between pure white and black. Every one can see that. Then there is not so much difference between man and the devil as there is between God and man. God is perfection; we are black with sin. The devil is only a darker shade of black; and great as may be the difference between our sin and the sin of Satan, yet it is not so great as the difference between the perfection of God and the imperfection of man. Now, imagine for a minute that somewhere in Africa there should be a tribe of devils living, that you and I had it in our power to save these devils from some threatened wrath which must overtake them. If you or I should go there and die to save those devils, what could be our motive? From what we know of the character of a devil, the only motive that could make us do that must be love. There could not be any other. It must be simply because we had such big hearts that we could even embrace fiends within them. Well, now, there is not so much difference between man and the devil as between God and man. If, then, the only motive that could make men save a devil must be man’s love, does it not follow with irresistible force, that the only motive that could lead God to save men must be God’s own love. At any rate, if that reason be not cogent the fact is indisputable – “Not for your sakes do I this, O house of Israel.” God sees us, abandoned, evil, wicked, and deserving His wrath; if He saves us, it is His boundless, fathomless love that leads Him to do it – nothing whatever in us.
III. And now, having thus preached this doctrine, and enforced it, I come to a very solemn PRACTICAL APPLICATION. And here may God the Holy Spirit help me labour with your hearts!
First, since this doctrine is true, how humble a Christian man ought to be. If thou be saved, thou hast had nought to do with it; God has done it. If thou be saved, thou hast not deserved it. It is mercy undeserved which thou hast received. I have sometimes been delighted when I have seen the gratitude of abandoned characters to any who have assisted them. I remember visiting a house of refuge. There was a poor girl there who had fallen into sin long, and when she found herself kindly addressed and recognized by society, and saw a Christian minister longing after her soul’s good, it broke her heart. What should a man of God care about her? she was so vile. How could it be that a Christian should speak to her? Ah! but how much more should that feeling rise in our hearts? My God! I have rebelled against thee, and yet thou hast loved me, unworthy me! How can it be? I cannot lift myself up with pride, I must bow down before Thee in speechless gratitude. Remember, my dear brethren, that not only is the mercy which you and I have received undeserved, but it was unasked. It is true you prayed, but not till free grace made you pray. You would have been, to this day, hardened in heart, without God, and without Christ, had not free grace saved you. Can you be proud then? – proud of mercy which, if I may use the term, has been forced upon you? – proud of grace which has been given you against your will, until your will was changed by sovereign grace? And think again. All the mercy you have you once refused, Christ sups with you; be not proud of His company. Remember, there was a day when He knocked, and you refused – when He came to the door and said, “My head is wet with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night; open to me, my beloved;” and you barred it in His face and would not let Him enter. Be not proud, then, of what thou hast, when thou rememberest that thou didst once reject Him. Does God embrace Thee in His arms of love? Remember, once thou liftedst up thine hand of rebellion against Him. Is thy name written in His book? Ah! there was a time when, if it had been in thy power, thou wouldst have erased the sacred lines that contained thine own salvation. Can we, dare we, lift up our wicked head with pride, when all these things should make us hang our heads down in the deepest humility? That is one lesson: let us learn another.
This doctrine is true, and therefore it should be a subject of the greatest gratitude. When meditating upon this text yesterday, the effect it had upon me was one of transport and joy. Oh! I thought, upon what other condition could I have been saved? And I looked back upon my past estate; I saw myself piously trained and educated, but revolting against all that. I saw a mother’s tears shed over me in vain, and a father’s admonition lost upon me, and yet I found myself saved by grace, and I could only say, “Lord, I bless Thee that it is by grace, for if it had been by merit I had never been saved. If thou hadst waited till there was something good in me, thou wouldst have waited till I sank into the hopeless perdition of hell, for good in man there never would have been, unless thou hadst first put it there.” And then I thought immediately, “Oh! how I could go and preach that to the poor sinner!” Ah! let me try if I cannot. O sinner! you say you dare not come to Christ because you have nothing to recommend you. He does not want anything to recommend you; He will not save you, if you have anything to recommend you, for His says, “Not for you sake do I this.” Go to Christ with earrings in your ears, and jewels upon you; wash your face, and array yourself with gold and silver, and go before Him and say, “Lord, save me; I have washed myself and clothed myself; save me!” “Get you gone! Not for your sakes will I do this.” Go to Him again, and say, “Lord, I have put a rope about my neck, and sackcloth about my loins; see how repentant I am, see how I feel my need; now save me!” “No,” saith He, “I would not save you on account of your flaunting robes, and now I will not save you because of your rags; I will save you for nothing about you; if I do save you, it will be from something in my heart, not from anything you feel. Get ye gone!” But if today you go to Christ and say, “Lord Jesus, there is no reason in the world why I should be saved – there is one in Heaven; Lord, I cannot urge any plea, I deserve to be lost, I have no excuse to make for all my sins, no apology to offer; Lord, I deserve it, and there is nothing in me why I should be saved, for if thou wouldst save me I should make but a poor Christian, after all; I fear that my future works will be no honour to Thee – I wish they could be, but thy grace must make them good, else they will still be bad. But, Lord, thou I have nothing to bring, and nothing to say for myself, I do say this: I have heard that thou hast come into the world to save sinners – O Lord, save me!
‘I the chief of sinners am.’
I confess I do not feel this as I ought, I do not mourn it as I ought; I have no repentance to recommend me; nay, Lord, I have no faith to recommend me either, for I do not believe thy promise as I ought; but oh! I cling to this text. Lord, thou hast said thou wilt not do it for my sake. I thank Thee thou hast said that. Thou couldst not do it for my sake, for I have no reason why thou shouldst. Lord, I claim thy gracious promise. ‘Be merciful to me, a sinner.”‘ Ah! you good people, this doctrine does not suit some of you; it is too humbling, is it not? You that have kept your churches regularly, and been to meetings so piously, you that never broke the Sabbath, or never swore an oath, or did anything wrong, this does not suit you. You say it will do very well to preach to harlots, and drunkards, and swearers, but it will not suit such good people as we are. Ah! well, this is your text – “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” You are “whole” – you are; you “need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Go your way. Christ came to save such as you are. You think you can save yourselves. Do it, and perish in the doing of it. But I feel that the same gospel that suits a harlot suits me, and that that free grace which saved Saul of Tarsus must save me, else I am never saved. Come, let us all go together. We are all guilty – some more, some less, but all hopelessly guilty. Let us go together to the footstool of His mercy, and though we dare not look up, let us lie there in the dust, and sigh out again, “Lord have mercy upon us for whom Jesus died.”
“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
Sinner, come now; come now, I beseech thee; I entreat thee, come now. O Spirit of the living God, draw them now! Let these feeble weak words be the means of drawing souls to Christ. Will you reject my Master again? Will you go out of this house hardened once more? You may never again have such feelings as those which are aroused in your soul. Come, now, receive His mercy; now bend your willing necks to His yoke; and then I know you shall go away to taste His faithful love, and at last to sing in Heaven the song of the redeemed – “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, unto him be glory forever. Amen.”
“O thou great eternal Jesus,
High and mighty Prince of Peace,
How Thy wonders shine resplendent,
In the wonders of Thy grace:
Thy rich gospel scorns conditions,
Breathes salvation free as air;
Only breathes triumphant mercy,
Baffling guilt, and all despair.
“O the grandeur of the gospel,
How it sounds the cleansing blood;
Shows the bowels of a Saviour,
Shows the tender heart of God.
Only treats of love eternal,
Swells the all-abounding grace,
Nothing knows but life and pardon,
Full redemption, endless peace.”
Sermons from the New Park Street Pulpit (1855-1860) by Charles Spurgeon.
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“THE GRACE OF GOD”
“…by grace are ye saved through faith; and that
not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. ”
CONSIDER AFRESH the often asked question on the above text: “What is referred to by the last phrase, “it is the gift of God?” Does the apostle teach that grace is the gift of God, or does he say it is salvation, or perhaps that faith is the gift of God?
Look first at the word ‘grace.’ Aside from the Apostle James’ reference to a flower’s vanished glory, both ‘grace’ and ‘favor’ in the New Testament King James Version are always a translation of the same Greek word, charis (khar’ece, Strong #5485). Its first definition in Strong’s Greek Lexicon is “graciousness,…of manner or act.” And it is of interest to note that Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary puts as its first definition of grace, “unmerited divine assistance given man for his regeneration or sanctification.” So grace is favor, “unmerited favor.”
Salvation by Grace
Grace is, therefore, God’s unmerited favor – His goodness toward those who have no claim on, nor reason to expect, divine favor. The principal manifestation of God’s grace has heen in the form of a gift. We think the apostle meant that salvation is “the gift of God,” or, as emphatically put in the Greek, “of God is it the gift.” Salvation is not our achievement, but it is a gift from God. That truth is made stronger by contrast. It is ‘not of ourselves’ and “not of works.” Salvation is indeed the most extraordinary expression of God’s grace.
Salvation is of divine origin. But it is not anything that God was bound to arrange by the necessity of His nature. It is the result of His gracious will. Had it not been for His good pleasure, salvation would never have come. “By grace are ye saved.” The Greek grammar denotes not the act of being saved, but the fact of having been saved. God’s grace rather than human merit is the source of the whole arrangement. We are saved gratuitously. Salvation is a gift; it is not earned.
But what about faith? We inquire into this because, other than the clearly stated gift of miraculously-conferred faith (1 Cor. 12:9), some suggest that it is faith which “is the gift of God.” Certainly faith is a received quality. It is among blessings which answer to Paul’s rhetorical question, “what has thou that thou didst not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7) But the elements of character which please God, among which is faith, as well as the temporal possessions and necessities held by Jesus’ disciples, are generally attained through conscious effort. They are ‘received’ through our cooperation amidst God’s overruling providences.
Faith, wherever present, exists in the mind, and it is generated by the holy spirit’s influence of light and peace. Faith, in common with every other Christian virtue, exists in the heart that has responded to spiritual influences. Paul wrote that “all [men] have not faith.” (2 Thes. 3:2) That does not suggest, however, that those who have faith received it as “the gift of God” as though an answer to our question. It is one’s own mind and being that believes. It is not possible for God to believe for man, and convey that belief as a gift. The apostle wrote, rather, that “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. “-Rom. 10:17
Paul understood that faith is built and constructed; it grows and enlarges. He encouraged believers to increase in faith: “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth.” (2 Thes. 1:3) ‘Soundness of faith’ comes through hearing, thinking, learning and trusting, and sometimes by victory following rebuke.-Titus 1:13
Salvation through Faith
Salvation is not of ourselves (as seen foregoing). We are saved by grace. The salvation comes through faith in God’s revealed purpose in His Son who died for all. Nothing aside from faith would enable our receiving of the gift of salvation. We of the human family were justly condemned to death for sin and disobedience. Those who break God’s righteous law have no standing before Him in their own righteousness. Inasmuch as “there is none righteous, no, not one,” all need God’s grace and favor.
None in the human family has a vantage point or place of approach from which to require or demand God’s blessing. God Himself needed to make the first move in the rescue of man. And He did. After the first human pair entered the broad road leading into death, the LORD God made a promise intimating the eventual recovery of mankind from Satan’s influence. And God is specially pleased with those who believe, even though few respond to His promises. Those who do respond to God’s revealed will are greatly blessed. One of those was Noah. The word ‘grace’ is first used in Scripture in regard to him. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (Gen. 6:8) The faith of Noah in God’s promises saved him and his family from death in the flood.
But now that Jesus has laid down his human life in sacrifice as an atonement for sin, those who follow on in faith in the steps of their heaven-sent Redeemer receive eternal-life salvation. Such faith makes all things new: those far off are brought nigh, they pass from death to life, from disobedience to sonship, from evil conduct to good works, from fleshly desires to spiritual fellowship, from children of wrath to sitting in the heavenlies. Those improved relationships are described by the Apostle Paul:
‘And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince ofthe power of the air, ofthe spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, 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, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches in His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh,…were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers in the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. “-Eph. 2:1-13 NASB
The Way of Salvation
Sin, death, and accompanying sorrows have through the ages, as today, prompted many to inquire into God’s saving grace. Our recognition of God’s blessing leads to confession of sins and shortcomings, and true heart belief. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. ” (Acts 16:31) That answer of Paul to the fearful prison keeper is still true. None need fear to put trust in Jesus. He purchased all mankind with His own precious blood. He has received all power in heaven and in earth. Salvation is free to all who trust in Him and continue following on in faith. All devoted believers have authority to speak on behalf of Christ. We say in Christ’s stead to the sincere and honest hearted, “be ye reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20) Our commission is to direct the sin-weary and heavy-laden to the Savior of all men!
Jesus clearly taught that salvation comes through faith. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life.” (John 5:24 NASB) Faith is taking God at His word, as Paul wrote: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. “-Rom. 10:17 NASB
This is truth beyond doubting! We are saved by grace, through faith, through believing the Word of truth. The gospel promises salvation, full and free. God’s loving mercy is the “good news” message to the sin-sick and weary-salvation offered freely to all, without money and without price.-Isa. 55:1-3
A living and active love for God expands with one’s enlarging appreciation of His unmerited favor in the great salvation. “We love Him, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) And when we come to love God and our Lord Jesus, we come to love those who are of the same mind. We grow in loving sympathy for our brethren in their fight of faith. And we come to love all mankind, so loved by God as to send His only begotten Son to suffer cruel death, the price of human redemption.
Gifts from God
Jesus was sent to “save his people from their sins. ” (Mat. 1:21) He came to save from death, which is caused by sin. The saved thus have eternal life. “And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life and this life is in his Son. He that hath [belief in] the Son hath life; and he that hath not [belief in] the Son of God hath not life.” (1 John 5:11,12) By God’s grace, salvation life is free as a gift through faith.
Again and again Gods gift was affirmed. By Jesus to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3 16
Again by Jesus to the woman: “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” – John 4:14
By Paul to the Corinthians: “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable [indescribable NASB] gift.” – 2 Cor 9:15
Again by Paul to the Romans: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Rom.6.23
“The Grace of God”
What a nice expression – “the grace of God.” It prompts pleasant and peaceful thoughts about our Father, the great Creator But Paul’s use of “the grace of God” phrase in Titus 2:11 appears to be with a specific purpose There the expression refers to the Savior of mankind. That four word phrase “the grace of God is a synonym for Jesus: “For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men.” (RSV) How beautiful! The sequence of phrases puts in good perspective the reality of His manifestation. He is the gift of God’s grace by which all men may be saved. How wonderful to know it! “The grace of God has appeared!”
Paul wrote a similarly-identifying phrase. Its words are specific too – “the goodness and loving kindness of God.” The context shows that those words refer to Jesus. “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared [“God our Savior” – a reference to the Father, of which more to be said later], he [God] saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the holy spirit which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savio.” (Titus 3:4-6 RSV) “The goodness and loving kindness of God” another synonym for Jesus, a companion phrase to that in Titus 2:11 – “the grace of God.”
The Apostle in Hebrews 2:9 attributes salvation from death to God’s grace: “…we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death… that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” The thought is that Jesus experienced death so that every man who dies need not stay dead for ever. Indeed what grace…from “the God of all grace.” -1 Pet. 5:10
Paul also shows that “the grace of that one man Jesus Christ” in conjunction with or united with “the grace of God” provided the free gift. This in Rom. 5:15,16 (RSV): “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.” The twin thoughts which attach to the words “the free gift” relate as cause and effect. The first thought is of Jesus – given in death as man’s ransom. The second thought is the benefit of that ransom conferred upon all who really believe on Jesus – justification with its accompanying salvation.
“God Our Savior”
It is generally acknowledged by commentators that the words “God our Savior” noted above in “the kindness of God our Savior” refer to God himself, not to His Son Jesus. The same three-word phrase was spoken in prayer by Mary of the almighty God and heavenly Father (Luke 1:46-48), and written by Jude in verse 25 of his epistle, and three times by Paul (Titus 2:10, 3:4, 1 Tim: 1:1, 2:3). Aware that God is the architect and all-wise planner of salvation and its process, they all acknowledge the Father as “God our Savior.” He is the one God Who has been from everlasting and Who shall be unto everlasting, and Who enlisted the faithful service of His beloved Son.
Grace for Grace
Jesus’ disciples perceived that He who walked among them was indeed “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) He always reflected God’s favor. Fellowship with His Father was never interrupted. Being now perfected in the heavenlies, completed by the things which he suffered, having demonstrated faultless obedience despite temptation and accusations of blasphemy, Jesus sends forth of His fulness as His blessing upon believers.
The Apostle John affirmed himself as one of those so greatly blessed.
“For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” – John 1:16,17, NASB
“Grace for grace”(KJV)…just what does that mean? Surely not that the grace of the old covenant is replaced by that of the new administration. Grace interchanging with grace is meant; grace replaced by fuller grace; greater depths to our spiritual relationship and fellowship; greater measures of spiritual understanding, sustenance and strength; continual impressions of received favor, new grace coming upon and superseding that formerly received. This becomes true in our individual experience. Grace is enjoyed in proportion to our growth in appreciation for God’s favor channeled through our Redeemer. And that all comes because of and out of His fulness.
“For out of His fulness (abundance) we all received – all had a share and we were all supplied with – one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped! upon gift. For while the Law was given through Moses, grace – unearned, undeserved favor and spiritual bless- ing – and truth came through Jesus Christ. ” – John 1:16,17, Amplified Version
It is God’s richness in grace which provided the plan for deliverance from disobedience, sin and death. Paul gave that truth prominent place in Ephesians for our close consideration.
‘He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His [God’s] grace. ” – Eph. 1:5-7 NASB
Without God’s grace, death would mean extinction for all members of the condemned intelligent creation. God has freely wrought His grace to our forgiveness and to our inheritance of eternal life. It was all in view from early time. God predestined sonship for all repentant trespassers who will avail themselves of His gracious provision of salvation.
Paul emphasized again to the Ephesians God’s promised riches of grace to the redeemed. “In order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches ofHis grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” – Eph. 2:7 NASB
Paul also used the delightful phrase, “the grace of God” early in Colossians. And again it seems to be another direct reference to Jesus. “You previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth.” – Col. 1:5,6 NASB
There was a time with each of us, as with the Colossians, when we did not know “the grace of God in truth.” They, perhaps as we, may have only heard of Jesus, knowing little about Him, His origin, His purpose, and the hope of the life that centers in Him. But a time came when we did know about God’s great grace. Such was the happy experience of those Colossians. Paul took their minds back to the time – when they heard, knew, and believed as truth the words about “the grace of God.” “In the word of truth, the gospel” … “since the day ye heard, and knew the grace of God in truth.” He mixed, merged and repeated words that pertain to salvation…truth, gospel, the grace of God, hearing. Again Paul intentionally put in focus the important aspects of salvation which are supplied through God’s riches by Christ Jesus our Lord, the living example of divine grace.
Quotations from King James Version except as indicated
RSV – Revised Standard Version
NASB-New American Standard Bible
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What Grace Is
The true grace of God is God’s work in His Son Jesus Christ. We have an indication of this in John 1:17.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
This does not mean that there was no grace under Moses, or that there was no truth under Moses. Nor does it mean that there is no law under Jesus Christ. We have already seen that grace is not license.
Paul says that he was not without law to God, but under the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21).
Yet in some way, John is contrasting law — as characteristic of the Old system — to grace — as characteristic of Jesus Christ. What is God’s true grace? It came by Jesus Christ. In some sense, it is peculiar to Jesus Christ and his work. Grace will be found in relation to the Son of God himself –the Son who became flesh and dwelt among us. He was full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
Peter says that it was prophesied in advance that Christ would bring this grace to mankind, and that this grace would be our salvation.
As to this SALVATION, the PROPHETS who prophesied of THE GRACE THAT WOULD COME TO YOU made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow (1 Pet. 1:10-11).
God’s true grace would come by Jesus Christ. The prophets had an inkling of this, but they did not see it clearly. John says that grace did come by Jesus Christ, who was God in human flesh. Peter says that the Spirit of Christ testified to the prophets of someone, at some time, who would bring grace to God’s people — grace that would result in their salvation, or right standing with God. We know, looking back, that they spoke of Christ. They did not know the details but “made careful search and inquiry” as to who this Savior was and when he would come.
Jesus Became A Man
How did God’s grace involve Christ? What was involved in God’s grace? It visibly began when God became incarnate to become a man in Jesus Christ. Paul says:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9) .
Grace began when Jesus left heaven — with all its riches — to become a man. He became poor FOR OUR SAKE, that we might become RICH. Grace means, in the first place, that God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ. He became one of us. Jesus came for the purpose of keeping God’s will perfectly in a human body — that is why he was given a body in the first place.
Therefore, when he comes into the world, he says, “Sacrifice and offering thou hadst not desired, but a body thou hast prepared for me. In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast taken no pleasure. Then I said [putting these words in the mouth of Jesus], `Behold I have come’ (in the roll of the book it is written of me), `to DO THY WILL, O GOD'” (Heb. 10:5-7).
God had never wanted animal sacrifices or sin offerings above all else. He had simply wanted people to carry out his will! But even the most pious and faithful Jew had always failed to do God’s will (because that is what we have seen to be the universal state of fallen humans), and had to offer sacrifices for sin instead. Jesus did not come to offer more animal sacrifices. He came to do what God had always wanted but what no person had ever yet done: TO DO THE WILL OF GOD! As a MAN, He would do what NO OTHER had done. God gave Jesus a body for that purpose. He came to do the will of God. Not only that, He DID the will of God perfectly in his human body. Jesus then offered that body for OUR sins.
We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. . . . For by one offering he has perfected for all time [or completely] those who are sanctified (Heb. 10:10, 14).
The grace of God means — first — that Jesus became a man. He was one of us. As a man he kept God’s will perfectly. Then he offered his body to God — he presented to God what God had always wanted — a human life perfectly in accord with his will for man. Grace means, in the second place, that Jesus died for sins — though he himself had none.
Jesus Swapped Places With Us
In dying when he personally had never sinned, Jesus paid the price for OUR sins — and those of every person who will finally be saved throughout all the world! Remember our two eternal principles: God demands death for sin; fallen humans always sin. Here we see how the two truths are reconciled for our salvation. Jesus died for our sins! HE TOOK OUR PLACE. God does not overlook sin — a monumental price is paid for it — the perfect life of the Son of God! The only man who ever did what God wanted died for those who never had. Here is the grace of God! It is not a cheap grace — it cost the life of the Son of God. He died in our place.
Paul tells us this same thing in Second Corinthians, chapter five:
God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed to us the word of reconciliation. . . . He made him who knew no sin [Jesus Christ] to BE SIN ON OUR BEHALF, that we might become THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD in him. And working together with him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 5:19-6:1).
This story becomes more wondrous all the time! Jesus not only took OUR place; He gives us HIS. He was made SIN for us, that we might be made THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD in him. The grace of God is that Jesus became a man — a representative man who took our place. In a human body, Jesus lived a perfect life which God counts for us, then died the death which, for our sins, we deserved to die.
Peter tells us this in other words:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by his wounds you were healed (1 Pet. 2:24).
Jesus did not stay in the grave. God raised him from the dead — and that, too, was for our sake!
Now not for [Abraham’s] sake only was it written, that “[his faith] was reckoned to him [for righteousness],” but for our sake also, to whom [faith] will be reckoned, as those who believe in him that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, him who was delivered up because of OUR transgressions, and was raised because of OUR justification. Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into THIS GRACE IN WHICH WE STAND; and we exult in hope of the glory of God (Rom. 4:23-5:2).
Jesus died for our sins. If God did not have to deal with our sins, Jesus would not have died. If we ever wonder whether we are sinners, we need look only at the cross of Jesus Christ and we see that we are. He was on that cross “because of our transgressions.”
But Jesus was raised again “because of our justification.” His resurrection demonstrated to the entire watching universe that God loves sinners and that, in Jesus, he has saved those who do not reject his grace, those of every nation and time and place in whom God sees the faith of Abraham. If we ever wonder whether we are forgiven, we need look only by faith at that empty tomb where Jesus was once buried. If we think of Jesus’ death as the payment for our sins, we may also think of Jesus’ resurrection as God’s guaranteed and irrevocable receipt.
Here is the grace of God! It is a great swap-out! It comes through Jesus Christ. In Jesus of Nazareth, the God of the universe became man — made in the likeness of man — came to be like sinful flesh. He was actually and really one of us, though he was still deity. But, unlike us, Jesus did not sin.
Instead he did the will of God perfectly in his human body. Then the only sinless man who ever lived died a cruel death for sinners like you and me who will never deserve anything else than death.
Here is the grace of God. And here is why JESUS CHRIST is the very heart and soul, the center and circumference, of the New Testament. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the alpha and the omega. He is the beginning and the end. He is the first and the last. He is our peace, our justification, our holiness. We owe everything to Him.
Grace Is Received By True Faith
Paul says in Romans, chapter five, that we are justified by faith (v. 1). Faith means trusting God to love us, because of what he did in Jesus Christ, and entrusting ourselves wholeheartedly to that divine love. Salvation is by grace — we do not deserve God’s favor toward us and we can never earn it. We access this grace by faith, which means that we must always look outside ourselves for our salvation (2 Tim. 1:12).
We cannot perform the work which results in our salvation, for Jesus has already done that, once for all time. We cannot add to that finished work, or improve on it. We can only trust God to be gracious to us as he promises in Christ. If we picture grace as the room of God’s favor, we may think of faith as the door into that room (Rom. 5:1-2).
God accepts us because of Christ’s work on our behalf. We enjoy that grace by accepting it as fact, trusting it as sufficient, and throwing ourselves on it in total and eternal abandon, to become servants of righteousness and true holiness in Christ. We do not earn God’s favor. We can not ever please Him enough to be given His blessings. We certainly could never pay for our own sins and be saved. But in Christ God has brought together the justice that is his nature and the weakness that is ours: Christ became a man and took our place.
God’s grace deals with the weakness of our flesh because salvation does not depend on our weak flesh — Jesus has earned it for us already! It also takes into account God’s holiness, because sin is punished — by the death of God’s sinless Son! And so Paul can say to the Ephesian Christians:
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 (Eph. 2:8-9).
License perverts grace, and does not satisfy God’s requirement of perfect obedience to his will. Legalism thwarts and frustrates God’s grace, and does not provide for the weakness of fallen humankind. Salvation by grace — true grace in Jesus Christ — reckons with God’s holiness and with our sinfulness and weakness. The perfect, finished work of Jesus Christ satisfies God’s holiness and provides for our sinfulness. In Jesus Christ, the holy God accepts and forgives his sinful human creatures (Eph. 1:7).
One With Christ
We are saved because we are one with Christ — and he has both offered a perfect life and died for our sins. We are one with Christ on the basis of faith, in the beginning and throughout life. True faith will seek to please him. Yet it is not legalism. There is a vast difference between law-keeping and law-depending. We will want to do God’s will, yet we never will trust in our own performance for our salvation. We glory only in the cross of Christ.
Any system, any concept of Christianity, any “ism,” any movement, which makes salvation dependent on our own ability to please God destroys and invalidates the work of Christ. If we could have been saved because of our own performance then Christ died in vain. If people could be saved by keeping the rules, Christ could have stayed in heaven — God’s people had possessed perfect rules for centuries. The weakness of the Old Testament was the weakness of man. That is the same weakness of any system which depends on us.
It is one thing to seek God’s will in a matter because we love him and want to please him. It is another thing altogether to approach that same matter with the idea that our salvation depends on our own good performance or merit. This attitude is legalism, and it will always lead to pride (insofar as we are successful) or to despair and hopelessness (insofar as we fail).
It is right and proper to seek to please God as thoroughly and exactly and precisely as possible. Any true believer will want to do that, and anyone who does not want to do that is not a true believer. But it is a far different matter to create a system, to formulate a creed, or to devise an elaborate set of rules, and then DEPEND ON OUR OWN KEEPING OF THOSE THINGS FOR OUR SALVATION.
Let us seek to please God. That is what true faith will always do. Let us ask God for forgiveness when we fall. That is what true faith will always do. Let us rejoice in the work of Christ on our behalf. Let us glory in the cross of Christ. Let us say — first, last, and always — “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” And — in Christ — we know that he always will!
I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that THIS IS THE TRUE GRACE OF GOD. Stand firm in it! . . . Peace be to you all who are in Christ (1 Pet. 5:12, 14).
A Personal Question
Are YOU standing in God’s true grace? Are you enjoying peace with God by trusting in his saving kindness shown in Jesus Christ? If you do believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son; if you do trust His perfect life and atoning death for your salvation; if you do rely on Him and intend to please Him as long as you live and as best you are able in all things — then do not delay acting on that faith!
Express with your mouth and your action the faith that is in your heart.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved (Rom. 10:9)
Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on [Jesus’] name (Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-5; Gal. 3:26-27).
Of [Jesus] all the prophets bear witness that through his name every one who believes in him has received forgiveness of sins. . . . And [Peter] ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:43, 47).
And then, as long as you live, continue to walk by the same faith –trusting, relying and obeying — living in the TRUE GRACE OF GOD!
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Twisting 1 Corinthians 15:29 – Mormonism’s Baptism for the Dead by James K. Walker
A unique teaching of Mormonism is the practice of baptizing on behalf of the dead. This is a very important belief of Mormons today. Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie taught: “…the Lord has ordained baptism for the dead as the means whereby all his worthy children of all ages can become heirs of salvation in his kingdom,” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 73).
In every active Mormon Temple proxy baptisms for the dead take place in which living Mormons temporarily assume the names of dead people to perform baptisms on their behalf. Mormon leaders teach that this activity was practiced by the first century Christian churches and quote 1 Corinthians 15:29 as proof (Ibid).
1 Corinthians 15:29
“Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?”
Historically, this passage has been the source of much speculation and some confusion. One second century sect, the Cataphrygians (Montanists), seem to have developed the practice of baptizing actual corpses based on a misunderstanding of this verse (see Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell, p. 119).
In order to understand this or any other Biblical passage, it is important to examine the context to understand what is being talked about.
The entire fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians deals with the resurrection. False teachers had infiltrated the church at Corinth, teaching “that there is no resurrection of the dead,” (vs. 13).
Paul had stated that the heart of the gospel was Christ’s resurrection (vs. 1-14). Christ died on the cross for man’s sins, was buried, and that he rose again the third day.
To be saved one must turn from their sins and trust in, or “keep in memory” Christ’s work on their behalf. Christ’s historical death, burial and resurrection is the gospel.
But there were cultic leaders at Corinth that believed and taught that there was no resurrection. The whole chapter is devoted to reasons why this is a false teaching.
Reason #1: There were eye witnesses of Christ’s resurrection (15:5-7);
Reason #2: If there is no resurrection, Christ has not risen (15:13, 16);
Reason #3: If there is no resurrection, Paul’s preaching is in vain (15:14);
Reason #4: If there is no resurrection, their faith was in vain (15:14);
Reason #5: If there is no resurrection, Paul and the other apostles were false witnesses (15:15);
Reason #6: If there is no resurrection, the Corinthian Christians were still lost in their sins (15:17);
Reason #7: If there is no resurrection, all who have died trusting Christ have perished (15:18).
In verses 20-28, Paul explains that Christ has been raised. He is the “firstfruits” of all that will be raised and that all “enemies” including death have been subjected and conquered by Christ.
Then in verse 29, Paul points out a further reason that the resurrection is real. He says: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” The apostle is pointing out an inconsistency in the practice of these false teachers. Apparently, they did not believe that the dead would rise (15:12), but they practiced proxy baptism for the dead. If the dead do not rise, why did they baptize them after death? It was a contradiction.
By carefully noticing the pronouns, one can see who was actually practicing baptism for the dead. Paul says, “…what shall they do which are baptized for the dead… why are they then baptized for the dead?” Paul did not say, “Why are you (Corinthian Christians) then baptized for the dead?” He did not say, “Why are we (the followers of Christ) then baptized for the dead?” He did not say, “Why then am I (Paul himself) then baptized for the dead?” He was asking, in effect, why these false teachers, who did not even believe in the resurrection, would want to baptize for the dead if the dead do not rise at all.
As pointed out in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, edited by Colin Brown: “The practice (baptism for the dead) could hardly be reconciled with the Pauline proclamation, and was cited by Paul as part of the polemic: people who deny the resurrection for the dead ought not to get baptized for the dead!” (Vol. 1, p. 147).
Baptism for the Dead and the Book of Mormon
A further problem arises with the doctrine of baptism for the dead when the Book of Mormon is examined.
The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that the Book of Mormon contains: “…the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also,” (Section 20:9) It also teaches that “…this most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel (is) namely the baptism for the dead,” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:17).
Although baptism for the dead is “the most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel,” and the Book of Mormon contains the “fullness of the gospel,” baptism for the dead cannot be found in the Book of Mormon.
Another problem with baptism for the dead teaching is that the theology taught in the Book of Mormon does not allow for this doctrine. In Alma 34:34, 35, the Book of Mormon teaches that:
“Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis (death), that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.
“For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked,” (emphasis mine).
Finally, a vital companion doctrine to baptism for the dead is the practice of genealogy, or tracing one’s “roots” to determine the names of dead relatives. This is practiced in Mormonism so that those dead ancestors can have temple works performed by proxy (see Mormon Doctrine, p. 308).
The Bible soundly condemns the practice of genealogy for religious purposes (1 Timothy 1:4 and Titus 3:9). The Bible teaches that there are no opportunities for salvation after death. Any doctrine that teaches otherwise is both false and dangerous. As Hebrews 9:27 proclaims: “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”