Archive for July, 2012

31
Jul
12

Throughout Christian history there have been issues that have divided the people of God. Some of those issues concerned questions that had little impact on the integrity of the gospel or the practical life of the Church. Others have been issues of such grave importance that even a seemingly insignificant departure from Apostolic instruction has led to a radical departure from the biblical gospel.
One issue about which we cannot afford the slightest error is the design and extent of the redeeming work of Christ. Sadly, in many if not most of our modern, evangelical pulpits the biblical idea of substitution, in the sense that Jesus actually took the place of and bore God’s wrath for certain favored sinners so that he actually “sealed their pardon” on the cross, is never heard. In place of that message, well-meaning but misguided preachers feel constrained to inform their hearers indiscriminately that Jesus died for their sins on the cross. Now, if they will only open their hearts and let Jesus come in, God will save them. The sad tragedy is that such a message is not the biblical gospel. One will search the New Testament Scriptures in vain looking for such language in the proclamations of gospel preachers. Never is a crowd of sinners told “Jesus died for you.” Why should we forsake the biblical pattern for gospel preaching? Additionally, we never find them saying to anyone they need to open their hearts and let Jesus come in. Instead, these biblical evangelists told their hearers Jesus died for sinners. He actually took the place of and bore the penalty that was due to vile, guilty sinners who would believe and repent.
I have often heard the charge that Calvinists would rather fly across the country to debate an Arminian than to walk across the street to witness the gospel to the unconverted. Though I am sure there are some Calvinists, just as there are some Arminians, who are only theoretical and academic in their approach biblical truth, the great majority of Calvinists are, as they have been throughout Christian history, deeply concerned about spreading the gospel. Our overwhelming concern as we engage in this debate is to guard and preserve the purity of the gospel. It makes no difference whether we walk across the street or travel around the world to witness to the lost, the message we give them must be God’s message, not ours. If we should give the impression the sinner’s decision to receive Jesus Christ forms any part of the basis for his right standing before God, we have mutilated the gospel and changed it into another gospel that is not God’s good news at all.

Years ago I read a passage in Robert Haldane’s Commentary that I found very helpful. I have modernized it slightly and present it here for your edification. Haldane wrote,

Many seem to believe if they are going to proclaim the gospel they must tell every sinner Christ died for him. Additionally, they believe that if Jesus did not die to take away the sins of every individual, they cannot preach the gospel. This is very erroneous. The gospel declared that Christ died for the guilty and that the most guilty who believe shall be saved.. ‘It is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,’ even the chief of sinners. The gospel does not tell every individual to whom we addressed it that Christ died for him. Instead, it simply tells him that if he believes, he will be saved. On this basis, we can proclaim the gospel to every sinner. It is only after a person has believed the gospel that he can know Christ died for him individually. Since the Bible reveals that whoever believes shall be saved, it is quite consistent to proclaim the gospel to all sinners and declare that they will be saved if they believe. If the most guilt person in the human race should believe, it is an absolute certainty that he would be saved. If anyone feels he cannot proclaim the gospel freely and has difficulty calling everyone to faith unless he can say, “Jesus died for every member of the human race,” he does not clearly understand what the gospel is. It is the good news that Christ died for the most guilty who believe, not that he died for every individual whether he should believe or not. To the truth that every person who believes shall be saved there is no exception. The only sins that will not find God’s forgiveness are those that belong to sinners who refuse to believe the gospel; if they believe, they will be saved. . . .
Some would have a problem calling sinners to believe in Christ if His redeeming work was not intended for every sinner. This is no different from the difficulty some experience when they feel restrained in calling on sinners indiscriminately to believe the gospel because they know God will never save those he has not chosen for eternal life. Here is where they go wrong. According to the commandment of the everlasting God, we are to make the gospel known to all nations for the obedience of faith. It is certain those whom God has not graciously chosen and for whom Christ did not die will never believe. These are secret things that belong to God alone. They will be made known at the proper time. . . .We are not to inquire first, either for ourselves or others, about the identity of the chosen ones or the redeemed before we determine to whom we should preach the gospel. We must preach it to all, assured that whoever believes it shall receive forgiveness. When we believe the gospel, we come to understand for ourselves that Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree. We learn that, from the beginning, God has chosen us to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
The work of Christ is of unlimited value. The reason all are not saved by it has nothing to do with insufficient value but simply because it was not intended to redeem all. In itself it was valuable enough to take away all the sins of mankind, had that been God’s intention. If Christ’s sacrifice had not been sufficient for all, it would not have been sufficient for anyone. Every sinner who will be saved needed a redemptive act of unlimited value; no more could be required to redeem every individual. We proclaim the all-sufficiency of Christ’s redemptive work to all who hear the gospel. We invite all to rely on it for pardon and acceptance. We address them as freely as if we knew God had designed it for them from all eternity. All who rely on it in saving faith shall surely experience its power and unlimited value.

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31
Jul
12

Participation in Adam’s Sin–Real or Representative?

The Southern Baptist document we have been discussing states, “Each person’s sin alone [emphasis mine] brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him etc.” This statement effectively denies the doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s first transgression to all humanity. It is consistent with “the Baptist Faith and Message” which states, “Now all men inherit a life and background willing to sin. As a result, as soon as they are able to make right decisions and actions, they become sinners.” [italics mine] This statement would seem to deny not only that sinners are born with Adam’s guilt but also that we are born without his nature. To me, “willing to sin,” seems much weaker than bent on sinning. In contrast to this statement, the Psalmist wrote, “The wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3). The difference between these two views is illustrated by the revealing question, “Are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners?” The above statement appears to affirm the former and deny the latter.

I have no way of knowing whether the framers of the statement we are discussing thought deeply enough to consider the issue of the headship of Adam, but that discussion is certainly important to this issue. Without getting too far into the theological weeds, I want to comment a bit on the issue of Seminal Headship [or the realistic view] vs. Federal Headship [or the representative view]. The Seminal Headship view proposes that when Adam sinned, he WAS then entire race so that the entire race actually and consciously sinned when he sinned. It was not so much that he represented us, as it was that we actively participated in his first transgression. In reality, according to this view, there is no “imputation” of Adam’s transgression and guilt to his posterity. We are all actually guilty of that sin because we committed it with him.

The representative view is that God sovereignly appointed Adam the representative head of the entire race. If Adam remained in his original integrity, all his offspring would stand in him. If, Adam failed to obey God and fell from his original righteousness, all his offspring would bear his guilt and condemnation.

In my view, the greatest obstacle to the “realistic view” is that it fails to match the analogy Paul sets forth in Romans 5: 12-19. Consider that passage with me briefly. The first question one should ask and seek to answer in regard to that passage concerns its place in the overall context of Romans. What was the Apostle’s purpose in introducing the doctrine of original sin at this point? This question is especially difficult to answer if we should take the view that all sinners actively participated in Adam’s sin, since this would seem to militate against the doctrine Paul has been teaching, namely, justification through faith alone, based on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness alone.

The Context of the Passage

First, let’s consider the context of the passage and how it fits into the apostle’s overall argument. The general theme of this epistle is Paul’s justification of his Gentile mission. The good news he proclaims is God’s power for the salvation of sinners from every nation. To the Jew first, but also to the Gentiles. He is anxious to proclaim the gospel to all nations because all are equally guilty before God. In the first two and a half chapters, he labors to show the universal need of sinners for a declaration of righteousness before God. Then, in chapter three he begins to proclaim the good news that God declares sinners righteous in his sight apart from any righteousness or goodness of their own, solely based on the propitiatory sacrifice and imputed righteousness of Christ. He argues there is but one way of justification before God for Jews and Gentiles.

In chapter four he illustrates God’s method of justification and the nature of saving faith from the life and faith of the Patriarch Abraham. Then he concludes his treatment of justification by stating that just as righteousness was imputed to Abraham through faith, so God will impute righteousness to all who, like Abraham, believe his promise.

Chapter five begins an entirely new section in the epistle that continues to the end of the eighth chapter. His central theme in this section is the certainty of glorification for all who have been justified. He introduces this idea with the words “. . .and rejoice in hope [the confident and positive assurance] of the glory of God.”

In verses one through eleven, he argues that glorification is certain because the justified have a new relationship with God. No longer are we God’s enemies; we now have peace with God. If he loved us and gave his Son for us when we were enemies, “Much More” can we have confidence that he will preserve us now that we have been reconciled to him through Christ. Beginning in 5:12, he argues that we are certain of glorification because we have a new representative before God. As we shall see, his basic argument is that just as the actions of our first representative, Adam, rendered our condemnation certain as long as we continued in him, so the actions of our new representative, Christ, renders our justification and glorification certain since we are in union with him.

The argument is interrupted in chapters six and seven by Paul’s response to a series of objections to his teaching re: the freeness of justification. In chapter eight, he resumes his argument and concludes by informing his readers that in Christ there is no condemnation for the believer, there is no frustration of God’s eternal purpose, there are no successful accusations against God’s chosen ones, and separation from God’s everlasting love.

If we should take the seminal headship view, Paul’s teaching in verses 12-19 would not only appear gratuitous [Why would he introduce the doctrine of original sin at this point?], but antithetical to the argument he is persuing.

The Structure of the Passage

The structure of this passage is governed by a comparison interrupted by a parenthesis. The important structural words are “As” or “Just as” and “Even so. Paul begins the comparison in verse 12, then, before completing it he interrupts himself with a proof that people die, not because of personal transgression but because of Adam’s transgression. Even though between Adam and Moses there was no codified law and therefore no imputation of personal transgression, people still died. Obviously, they died, not because of their personal transgressions since there were none before the giving of the Law, but because of Adam’s transgression [I am not saying that sin did not exist during that period but that transgressions of a clearly revealed boundary did not exist, as in the case of Adam and those under the Law. It is codified law that gives sin the character of transgression].

I believe the phrase “whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam” v. 14, is an important one. If the realists are correct, the sinning of those between Adam and Moses was exactly like that of Adam since, according to their view, they actually and personally sinned when Adam sinned.

After stating that Adam was a “type” of Christ, he explains in verses 15 through 17 the ways in which Christ does not correspond to Adam. Then, in verse 18, he repeats the first phrase of the comparison, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men” and completes it with the words, “even so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” The words “the one” and “the many” in verse 19 are clearly words that indicate representative headship, the one acting for the many, not the many acting with the one. When Paul uses the words “all men” and “the many” in this context, he refers to all who are represented by their respective heads. In reference to Adam, “all men” refers to all he represented, all in Adam. In reference to Christ, he refers to all he represents, all in Christ. Consider also Paul’s words in 1 Cor 15 where he uses similar language. He writes, “. . .even so, in Christ, shall all be made alive.” He, then, explains what he means by “all,” when he writes, “Christ the first fruits, afterward, THOSE WHO ARE CHRIST’S at his coming.” I.e., the “all” refers to those he represents.

The Typical Correspondence Between Adam and Christ.

Biblical Types all have certain characteristics. If you are interested in studying types further, I would refer you to Appendix B of my book In These Last Days. You will find it in PDF format at http://www.new-covenant-theology.org. One characteristic of types is a necessary, theological correspondence between the type and its fulfillment. In reality, there is more dissimilarity between Adam and Christ than there is correspondence. But, there is one essential likeness that moved the apostle to write that Adam was a “type” or “figure” of the coming one. We see that correspondence in their representative characters. It is “the one” acting for “the many.”

The Apostle’s Conclusion Based on this Typical Correspondence

Paul’s conclusion, based on this typical correspondence, is that just as Adam’s one act of transgression brought certain guilt and condemnation to all in him by divine constitution, so Christ’s life and death under the law–His obedience–brings certain justification and life to all in him by divine constitution.

Douglas Moo was certainly right when he commented on verse 18,

. . .it is doubtful if eis can be taken to indicate an offer made to all people; certainly in the parallel in the first part of the verse, the condemnation actually embraces all people. But perhaps the biggest objection to this view [that what Paul is talking about is not actual justification but the basis for justification] is that it misses the point for which Paul is arguing in this passage. This point is that there can be an assurance of justification and life, on one side, that is just as strong and certain as the assurance of condemnation on the other. Paul wants to show, not how Christ has made available righteousness and life for all, but how Christ has secured the benefits of that righteousness for all who belong to him (Moo, Romans, p. 356).

If Christ secured a righteous standing for all in him by his act alone apart from any personal actions on their part, the corresponding thought would have to be that Adam secured the guilt of all his posterity by his one act alone, apart from any personal sin on their part. Conversely, if we should take the other view and if the correspondence holds, we must believe that we are justified, not by the obedience and righteousness of Christ alone, but by our participation with him in his obedience and righteousness. Of course, this would be impossible since there is no physical union between Christ and his people as in the case of Adam.

It seems to me we can only reasonably conclude that not only is Adam’s nature imparted to us, but his guilt is imputed to us as well.

31
Jul
12

Points of disagreement with “A southern baptist understanding of God’s plan of Salvation.”

Yesterday, I identified areas in which I would agree with the Southern Baptists who wrote the statement about SB’s understanding of God’s plan of salvation. Now, I want to identify those points on which there can be no agreement.

The first major area in which we disagree concerns Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man. Though I would affirm everything they affirm apart from the word “alone.” Their denial that Adam’s guilt is imputed to all his posterity is absolutely contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture. I would like to follow this up with an exposition of Romans 5:12 ff, but for now, suffice it to say that if the good news that Christ’s righteousness is put to our account is to stand, we must embrace the truth that God has imputed Adam’s guilt to all who are in him.

The second area of irreconcilable difference concerns the design of Christ’s death. Their statement is “We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.” My question would be, What did Christ intend to accomplish by his death for those who will perish for eternity? If he died to redeem them, why aren’t they redeemed? If he died to make all people savable, why would he do so if it was never the purpose of the Father to apply his death to them? Was his death sufficient to save the entire race if that had been the purpose of the Father? Absolutely! Did he intend to save people who were already perishing when he died? Did he intend to save people he knew would never believe? That would seem to imply that God is out of touch with reality.

The third area of disagreement concerns the nature of God’s work of grace in the human soul. I suspect that part of the problem here is the unfortunate phrasing that has been applied to effectual calling. The term “irresistible grace” may give the impression that sinners never resist the gospel or the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Acts 7:51 is the lone proof-text used to show that grace is not irresistible. What that text proves is that, by nature, sinners ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit. The question is, if sinners ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit, how is it that anyone ever comes to believe the gospel? The verse says nothing about the ability of God’s grace to overcome the sinner’s natural aversion to God and the gospel. It says volumes about the sinner’s rebellion against God and his recalcitrant refusal to submit to the demands of the gospel. Only effectual grace can overcome the natural depravity of the sinner’s heart.

A fourth area of disagreement is the order of regeneration and faith. Are we regenerated because we believe, or do we believe because we have been regenerated? This discussion leads us to the issue of depravity. Is it total, i.e., affecting the sinner in every part of his personality, or partial, affecting only certain aspects of the sinner’s personality but leaving his will unaffected?
Arminians have historically believed that sinners are totally depraved, but that God has granted
“Prevenient [or preceding] grace” to every person, thus restoring the ability to choose Christ and the gospel. The problem for them is that there is not a shred of biblical evidence for such a doctrine. We believe sinners cannot believe the gospel unless and until God gives us a new spirit, a heart of flesh, and puts his Spirit in us. In close connection with this issue is the issue of calling. Are these guys right when they state that there is no such thing as “effectual calling” and that “calling” in Scripture always refers to the outward preaching of the gospel? If they truly believe that, they must also believe that everyone who hears the gospel call is justified. The apostle Paul wrote, “. . .whom he called, them he also justified. . . .”

A fifth area of disagreement, if disagreement it can be called is the framer’s complete failure to deal with the many clear statements of Scripture that use the terms, “election,” “elect,” “chosen,” etc. They don’t even suggest, as do real Arminians, that God’s choice was based on what he foresaw the sinner would choose. They just seem to ignore the concept altogether. These terms have a meaning. When the Bible declares that God has chosen us believers it can’t just mean God chose a plan. The Bible says God chose people. These guys need to deal with that.

Finally, we need to discuss what we mean by “free will.” Do we mean by that term that sinners are able to choose something to which they are totally and absolutely averse? Perhaps we can come to agreement concerning this term if all we mean by it is that human beings have the ability to make choices and that we are responsible for the choices we make. This is what we mean by “free agency.” God does not force us to make the decisions we make; we make them freely and are completely responsible for them. The issue concerns whether the sinner possesses the ability to choose that which is contrary to the deepest desire of his heart and soul.

In the posts that follow, I want to consider these differences in greater detail and set forth the biblical teaching on these issues. Please feel free to comment.

31
Jul
12

Points of agreement with “the Southern Baptist understanding of god’s plan of salvation.”

Yesterday, I posted an article about a recent statement by a group of Southern Baptists concerning God’s plan of salvation. You can find this statement at http://sbctoday.com/2012/05/30/an-introduction-to-“a-statement-of-the-traditional-southern-baptist-understanding-of-god’s-plan-of-salvation”

I want to make it clear I have nothing against these men personally nor do I doubt their sincerity. I truly think they believe what they have written. I am truly sorry that I cannot say with Dr. Mohler that I have respect for them, but the reality is, I just don’t. I am of course assuming these men have been seminary trained. If they are merely a group of theologically untrained men, I can cut them a bit more slack. If, on the other hand, they are seminary trained, or worse yet, trainers of aspiring pastors and theologians, their statement is inexcusable. Before they wrote, they should have at least acquainted themselves with the real issues that divide “free grace believers” from “free will believers.” Unfortunately, they seem to be no better acquainted with the issues than they are with the Scriptures.

I purpose to write a series of brief articles about each of their “Affirmations and Denials” over the next few days. But, first I thought it would be helpful to point out the areas in their statement with which we agree. When I say “we” I am speaking of those who believe God is in absolute control in the matter of the sinner’s salvation. I don’t profess to speak for all in this group. Some of them will, no doubt, disagree with some of my statements. The one matter on which we are all in agreement is that “Salvation is of the Lord.”

1. Regarding Article One: The Gospel–We agree that the gospel is for any person who wishes to be right with God in God’s way not in his way. The same Bible that informs us that God has a chosen people whom he infallibly intends to save, also informs us that “whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” There are no limitations to the free offer of the gospel.

We also deny with them that “only a select few are capable of responding to the gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.” We deny this on at least three grounds: 1. We don’t believe any in a state of sinful nature are capable of responding to the gospel, few or otherwise, 2. We believe those whom God enables to respond favorably to the gospel are a multitude that no man can number. Where did any Calvinist ever write that the elect of God are few in number? 3. Though some Calvinists believe God decreed to elect and reprobate before he decreed to create, that is not necessary to the Calvinistic position. The reality is, God does not consign anyone to an eternity in hell who does not freely choose to reject God’s revelation of himself, wherever he finds that revelation. There will be no one in heaven who deserves to be there, and there will be no one in hell who doesn’t deserve to be there. If anyone finds himself in hell for eternity, you can be certain he is there, not because God has predestined to send him there contrary to what he otherwise would have chosen, but because he has persisted in his wicked rebellion against the Sovereign who rules heaven and earth.

2. Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

We, of course, affirm with them that “because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin.”

With them, we also deny that “ While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing [we would substitute “the Father’s drawing” since the Father is the one who is said to call or draw] through the Gospel.”

Article Three: The Atonement of Christ

We would affirm with them that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person. The issue is not the availability of Christ’s penal substitution. The reality is that if every sinner believed the gospel, every sinner would be saved by Christ death. This issue is God’s design in sending his Son to die as a penal substitute. Is he a real substitute or only an available substitute?

We deny with them that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith.

Article Four: The Grace of God

We affirm with them [though we would add a great deal more] that grace is God’s generous decision to take all the initiative in providing atonement, in free offering the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.

We deny with them that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith. We also deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.

Article Five: The Regeneration of the Sinner

We affirm with them that the moment a sinner believes is the moment he enters into eternal life.

Article Six: The Election to Salvation

Lamentably, I can agree with almost nothing they have written here. Election does not refer to a plan but to people. God has indeed planned to have a people but he has assured the realization of that plan by choosing for himself certain favored sinners whom he intended to give to Christ that he might redeem them and call effectually, according to his purpose (see– Romans 8:28).

Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God

Although I can affirm with them what they have affirmed, I don’t believe, in the light of their other statements, they can truly affirm the following statement. “God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.” That is precisely the issue on which we disagree. Is man and his free will decision sovereign in the matter of salvation or is God sovereign. In other words, who is in control. We affirm that God is in control. Ultimately, they affirm that the matter depends on the sinner’s “free will.”

We deny with them that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ. If God is a holy sovereign, the only consideration that can “require” him to do anything is his holy character. Additionally, God never needs to “cause” any person’s rejection of faith in Christ. Sinners reject Christ by nature.

Article Eight: The free will of man

We can discuss whether sinners are free agents and responsible before God or not, but we cannot discuss a concept that is alien to the Scriptures. Do sinners have the ability to make responsible choices? Of course they do. Do they have the ability to choose what they have absolutely no desire for? Not in a million years. That is the issue.

We would, however, deny with them that “the decision of faith is an act of God, rather than a response of the person.” It is not God who believes but the sinner. We have never denied that when sinners come to Christ, we do so freely and willingly. Faith is the sinner’s response to God’s work of regeneration. God opens our hearts; we believe the gospel.

Article Nine: The Security of the Believer

Though we would affirm all they affirm and deny all they deny under this head, they have missed the issue that usually divides Southern Baptist from those who believe the Bible. What they really seem to believe is if a person walks the aisle and registers his decision, it doesn’t make any difference how he lives from then on, the possibility of apostasy does not exist. The biblical doctrine is that all God’s elect, redeemed and called people are more than conquerors through him who love us. That is, all God’s true people will persevere in faith and obedience to the end. In other words, we not only believe in the preservation of the saints, we believe in the perseverance of the saints.

Article Ten: The Great Commission

We affirm and deny everything they affirm and deny under this point.

I hope this has been helpful in defining the debate. There are still formidable issues to be discussed, but perhaps if we can lay these “straw man” issues to rest, we can make greater progress in discussing issues that divide us. In my next post, intend to identify those issues in this statement that cannot be reconciled in any universe. The reality is that they are tenets of two different religions. One is monergistic, i.e., God acts alone in saving sinners. the other is synergistic, sinners cooperate with God in obtaining their salvation. God provides the grace and they provide the faith. Please feel free to comment.

29
Jul
12

Southern Baptist “understanding” of God’s salvation plan

I recently read “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.”

http://sbctoday.com/2012/05/30/an-introduction-to-“a-statement-of-the-traditional-southern-baptist-understanding-of-god’s-plan-of-salvation”/

Though I was surprised by a couple of statements that I will discuss below, I found most of it quite accurate. Most Southern Baptists are ignorant of the Bible’s teachings and of theology. This statement generally contains the same anti-biblical drivel that one usually finds from most Southern Baptists on this subject. The truth is, their “Understanding” of God’s plan doesn’t exist. They are generally clueless. The only statements they make in this document that are accurate are those over which Calvinists and Arminians have no argument. They speak as if it is some grand, earth shattering revelation that we should proclaim the gospel to all people and that all are responsible to believe it.

Though I found this statement banal and hardly worth reading, I probably found greater problem with Al Mohler’s response to this statement (http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/06/06/southern-baptists-and-salvation-its-time-to-talk/) than I did with the statement itself. I certainly agreed with his suggestion that this presents an opportunity to open a discussion about these issues. What I wondered was if he was a good friend to these people, had a relationship of mutual respect with them, walked arm in arm with them and all that stuff, why haven’t they been discussing these matters all along. Now if they have discussed these matters, it appears their discussions have been totally unfruitful, so why waste time playing nice with them? Just agree to disagree and join a group that truly believes the teachings of Scripture. Oh, sorry! I forgot that being Southern Baptist is more important than any other consideration in the world. Silly me. These people obviously know nothing of biblical exegesis or they would never make the outlandish statements they make.

What I found a huge problem with was the lack of care Dr. Mohler showed in responding to some of their statements. One would have thought a leader among Southern Baptists would have been more careful about his statements. For example, he wrote, “It is certainly correct in denying that any person is regenerated ‘apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.’” Just to give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he means it is impossible to be regenerated without responding in faith and repentance. If, on the other hand, he agreeing with this statement in full, Dr. Mohler is denying the plain statement of the Baptist Faith and Message [not to mention denying the clear teaching of the Scriptures] which states. “Regeneration. . . is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” The full statement of these typical Southern Baptists is a follows, “We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.”

Either sinners are regenerated in response to their faith or they respond to God’s work of regeneration by believing and repenting. It can’t be both ways. That is, we either believe because we are regenerated or we are regenerated because we believe. Neither Dr. Mohler nor the framers of this statement can both believe the above statement and subscribe to the Baptist Faith and Message at the same time. These statements absolutely contradict one another.

Dr. Mohler also wrote,

Fifth, we must recognize and affirm together that we have already stated where Southern Baptists stand on the great doctrines of our faith. The Baptist Faith & Message is our confession of faith, and it binds us all together on common ground. The BF&M does not state doctrines comprehensively, but it defines our necessary consensus. Every Southern Baptist is free to believe more than the confession affirms, but never less.

My friend, they cannot honestly affirm what the BF&.M states because they don’t believe it. They clearly believe less than it affirms. As insipid and vague as it may be, it still affirms Calvinistic not Arminian doctrine.

The truth is, there is little common ground between what these men have written and the Baptist Faith and Message. Granted, the BF&M is so ambiguous in places as to be without significance. Still, there are statements that if properly understood, clearly contradict what these men have written. The BF&M does not “define our necessary consensus.”

The very language of the BF&M is in keeping with the Calvinist’s position. For example, the statement these men have written makes it clear they believe Jesus died equally for all sinners. They could not rightly affirm that he died to obtain the salvation of any sinner in particular. According to their view, his death, in and of itself, no more obtained salvation for believers than it than it obtained salvation for those who will perish for eternity. Yet, the BF&M states, “. . .Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by his own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.” If Jesus’ death did no more for the believer than it did for those who will perish, his death did not OBTAIN redemption for anyone.

Additionally, they could not agree with the above statement on regeneration. According to their statement, God must wait for the sinner’s “free will” decision before he can regenerate anyone. That clearly contradicts the BF&M.
The BF& M also states that election is the “gracious” purpose of God according to which he regenerates etc. then states that “it is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness. . . .” These men simply cannot, in good conscience, subscribe to the BF&M if they have any understanding of what words mean. When it states that election is the “gracious” purpose of God, it does not merely mean that God was being nice and kind when he formed his purpose to save anyone who would make a free will decision. It means God’s choice of certain sinners was not based on anything God foresaw in them but was based on his grace, i.e., his unmerited favor toward those who have merited his wrath and curse. These men have neglected even to deal with the fact that the words translated, “election,” “elect,” “chosen” etc. have a meaning. The Scriptures do not teach that God chose a plan, but that God chose people. Where is the consensus here based on the BF&M? The writers of the BF&M were no doubt thinking about verses like Romans 11:5-6 where Paul wrote, “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it [i.e., election] is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be by grace.”

It is interesting that the BF&M speaks about “free agency” but this new statement speaks of “free will.” One we affirm, the other we explicitly deny. It is true, sinners have free agency in that God does not constrain us outwardly in the decisions we make. When we act, we act freely according to our natures and are completely responsible for our decisions. What we deny is that sinners are able to act contrary to our sinful natures. By sinful nature, we do not seek God out. If we should argue that the Holy Spirit gives preceding grace to all sinners alike, we are still left with the question, “Who makes you do differ from another” (1 Cor. 4:7). Someone must ultimately make one sinner differ from another; if it is the sinner who makes the ultimate difference, does he not then have a ground for boasting before God? The apostle Paul tells us it is God’s doing that we are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30).

I must confess I was surprised that anyone who claims to believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures could deny the doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin to all his posterity, a doctrine that is so clearly set forth in Romans 5:12ff. The reality is that since Paul, in that passage, calls Adam a “type” of the coming one, in denying the imputation of Adam’s guilt to all who are in him, they have also effectively denied the imputation of Christ’s obedience and righteousness to those in him. That is the very heart of the apostle’s argument in that passage. Without that, we have no gospel to preach. Just as the actions of our first representative head, Adam, were the ground of our condemnation, so the actions of our second representative head, Jesus, are the ground of our justification and provide the assurance of our final glorification. There is a necessary parallel between these two representatives. If we should argue that we are not condemned because Adam’s guilt is imputed to us but because since his nature is imparted to us, we have acted in ways that cause God to condemn us, the parallel would destroy the gospel. The corresponding thought would be that we are justified before God because Christ’s nature has been infused to us enabling us to obey in a manner that would cause God to declare us righteous. This is Roman Catholicism pure and simple. Paul’s argument is that just as we are condemned because of Adam’s guilt, even apart from any actions of our own proceeding from the impartation of Adam’s fallen nature, even so, we are justified through faith, based on the imputation of the obedience of our new representative head, Jesus Christ.

This isn’t a matter of minor disagreement among people who believe the gospel. Rather, the purity of the gospel depends on it. Apart from imputation, there is no good news.

One could have expected such a statement from an ignorant Southern Baptist pew-dweller [admittedly, that is probably a prodigious redundancy], but it is unconscionable that those who are leaders should display such biblical and theological ignorance.

Dr. Mohler needs to stop trying to prevent a split in the SBC and just be honest. The truth is, this statement is a huge pile of manure.

29
Jul
12

John Piper’s teaching on “Progressive Justification” doesn’t exist

I wrote earlier today about a guy named Paul Dohse who opines on a page called “Paul’s Passing Thoughts.” The first question that passes through ones mind when listening to one of Paul’s videos is whether a thought could actually exist in his head for very long. I am profoundly grateful when listening to him that I don’t have to listen to him often. Anyway, this guy is convinced that John Piper is teaching “progressive justification” based on the following statement, “If you try to make the fruit of justification part of the root of justification, the fruit itself is destroyed.” Now, how anyone could get “progressive justification” out of that statement is probably beyond me. Still, I suspect the reason is Paul’s lack of instruction concerning the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Due to a great deal of false teaching that occurred during the Twentieth Century, people have come to equate the idea of the eternal security of the believer with the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Just to clarify this issue in our minds, let me pose the following question: Which of the following statements is/are true?

1. All those who make a public profession of faith in Christ are eternally secure no matter what they do.

2. All true believers in Christ are eternally secure even if they should fall into grievous sin.

3. None who make a profession of faith in Christ will ever stop believing and following him.

4. All who truly trust in Christ alone for justification will persevere to the end in trusting Christ alone for justification, whatever obstacles they may encounter.

If you answered 1 and 3, you are in line with a great deal of “evangelical” teaching in our day.

If you answered 2 and 4, you are in line with the teaching of the Scripture.

The Bible teaches that everyone who has faith will continue in faith and those who forsake the faith never had faith in the first place.

Piper isn’t teaching “progressive justification.” He is teaching that those who begin to trust in Christ alone for justification before God will continue to trust in Christ alone for justification. A person who trusts in the fruits of justification or in the evidences of saving faith instead of continuing to trust in Christ alone demonstrates that he has never truly trusted Christ or been truly justified.

Those of you who still remember when we used to sing hymns in church will remember a line that goes like this, “I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.” The writer is simply saying we must not even trust our sweet frames of mind. If we trust our evidences of saving faith or our sweet frames of mind instead of trusting Christ, we have never come to believe in the first place. Those who have been once justified will never be any more justified than we are. Those who trust in the fruits of justification instead of trusting in Christ alone for justification have never been declared righteous in God’s sight.

28
Jul
12

Justified By an Alien Righteousness

It seems to become more and more obvious with each passing day that the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ is under attack as never before. Of course, as has always been the case, the most severe and biting attacks come not from pagans outside, but from professed Christians. Under the guise of combating “the Heresy of New Calvinism,” some are denying truths that have been held by true believers for centuries. The chief Guru over at “Paul’s Passing Thoughts” (a blog I would never recommend) seems hung up on an idea that was emphasized years ago by a group called “the Australian Forum.” That concept is that the emphasis of the gospel is not on what God is doing in our hearts, but on what he has accomplished objectively in Christ. Additionally, they emphasized the idea that the basis or ground of the believer’s justification before God is not grace (or enablement) that he imparts or infuses to the believer as a result of Christ’s redeeming work, but an alien righteousness that he imputes to (legally puts to the account of) believers. The believer’s justification was objectively accomplished by the redemptive work of Christ.

I was probably in my early twenties before I heard a clear sermon on the doctrine of justification through faith alone, based on the redemptive work of Christ alone. The “gospel” I had heard was “Jesus died for you; if you will just let him come into your heart, he will forgive.” I challenge anyone to find a biblical writer or preacher either telling an unconverted audience “Jesus died for you,” or “If you let Jesus come into your heart, he will save you.” I can save you a bit of time. Don’t bother looking for it, because it isn’t there.

This does not mean God does nothing in the believer; of course, he does. It does mean what he does in the believer in the work of sanctification (an ongoing and internal work of God in which he makes us holy) forms no part of the basis of the believer’s justification(an instantaneous legal declaration in which God declares believers righteous in his sight). The ground of a believer’s justification has nothing at all to do with what God does in the believer.

Another way of stating this truth is to say justification is not through sanctification, instead, sanctification is through justification. This does not mean believers are not required to be obedient because Christ’s obedience and righteousness have been imputed to them. What it means is that believers now have free access to enter God’s presence boldly. People with a guilty conscience don’t worship or obey God. We need to be forgiven before we can be obedient. God’s method of putting sinners right with himself sets believers free from all guilt. No longer must we struggle to be acceptable to God. Everything we do post-conversion that pleases God, we do because we have already been accepted in the Beloved.

How important is this distinction? A person’s eternal destiny depends on it. If you believe even the slightest part of the basis of your right legal standing before God is an internal righteousness you possess personally, that is, by your own obedience, even if you believe that righteousness and obedience has been brought about by grace God has infused to you as a result of Jesus’ death, you are lost and doomed to eternal destruction.

If you have questions about what I have written here, Let’s discuss it. Don’t just make assumptions and then accuse me of heresy