Archive for July, 2013


Rabid Anti-Calvinists

I have been strolling around the blogosphere this morning reading the comments of rabid anti-Calvinists and would like to make a few observations.

Firstly, it appears to me these people are really angry at God. They are people who don’t love God. They clearly have a deep-seated love for the god they have created in their own image, but they don’t love the God who has revealed himself in the Scriptures. They unabashedly state they could not love a God who would choose some to be saved and pass over others, leaving them in their sins. If God is going to be a God they can love and worship, he must love everyone equally and in the same way. He must do his best to save everyone. A god who does his best and fails isn’t worth worshipping. Our God is in the heavens, and he has done whatsoever he has pleased.

Secondly, these people almost never refer to the Scriptures apart from a few proof-text they have taken out of context. They will tell us what the Bible doesn’t say and in some cases are correct. For example, they will tell us John 3:16 does not say “For God so loved the elect.” I, for one, never though it did. John’s point in that verse is that the love of God is not confined to his covenant people, Israel; he loves vile sinners of every nation. The original Arminians seemed to be much more biblical. Still. even they quoted verses that did not prove their point. For some unknown reason they thought Acts 7:51 “you do always resist the Holy Spirit” disproves the doctrine of irresistible grace. No Calvinist argues that sinners are unable to resist the Holy Spirit. We argue the same fact the Scriptures argue—sinners in a state of nature ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit.

Thirdly, these people almost never grapple with real issues. Their arguments are almost always against “straw men.” Sometimes they simply tell outright lies. For example, “Calvinists don’t believe in eternal security.” That came as quite a shock to me. Of course, Calvinists believe in the eternal security of true believers. What we deny is the eternal security of everyone who walks an aisle, signs a card, prays a prayer, punches a code into his iphone etc. Interestingly, our position happens to coincide with quite a number of Scriptures on this issue. For example, John 10:28 clearly tells us that Jesus gives his sheep eternal life and they shall never perish, but we must also consider how he describes his sheep in verse 27—“my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.” There is no indication that those who refuse to hear his voice and follow him are eternally secure. God’s people are kept by the power of God, but we are not saved apart from divinely produced persevering faith.

Fourthly, because they don’t have the exegetical ability to answer bona fide arguments, they resort to name calling. [Please note that referring to someone as an Arminian or as a Semi-Pelagian is not name calling. These are theological designations for those who believe in synergistic as opposed to monergistic salvation. That they are logically inconsistent concerning the doctrine of eternal security does not affect the issue one way or the other. If a person who believes in hypothetical universalism wishes to call himself a “four point Calvinist,” why should we not refer to these people as “four point Arminians?] The saddest part is they have resorted to calling God nasty names like “cruel bully.”

Fifthly, they deal falsely by not posting comments that make it clear they don’t know what they are talking about. This is blatantly dishonest. I will post any comment made here that follows the blog rules I have posted. If I refuse to post your comments, it is because you have not followed the rules, not because I disagree with your comment.

Let’s talk. I am ready to discuss the Scriptures with you people. Let’s have a real discussion of biblical texts in their contexts. Name a topic and let’s discuss what the Scriptures have to say about it.


The Basis of Final Judgment

Michael F. Bird has written on “the Progressive Reformed View of Justification” in a book published by I.V.P. titled “Justification: Five Views.”

His concern as well as the concern of others is that the gospel of justification through faith alone does not seem to be producing what the Bible describes as genuine Christians. He writes, “The pew-sitting couch potatoes of our churches need to hear Romans 8:1-3 as well as Romans 8: 4-5. . .Otherwise it is irresponsible to give a sense of assurance to people who have no right to have it.”
Additionally he writes, “The protestant paranoia against reminding our communities of judgment according to works, lest we become Catholic, misrepresents the biblical witness.”

I would agree that members of the evangelical community need to be reminded that salvation is more than justification. Evangelicals have preached a cheap, man-centered message for decades, and we are reaping the results in our largely unconverted “churches.” Still, I could not disagree more strongly with the idea that the remedy to our “churches” being peopled with the unconverted is to give people the impression that though we are initially justified through faith in Christ, we will be declared righteous in the last day, not based on what Jesus has accomplished, but based on our genuine, though imperfect, works of obedience in the process of sanctification. Not only does this sound like Catholicism, it is Catholicism.

There can be no doubt that in the final judgment our works will be called to testify to the reality of our faith, but to suggest that those works form any part of the basis of our justification before God is contrary to the clear testimony of the New Testament Scriptures. The idea that we should pursue obedience to God because we know that in the last day, we will be judged and either justified or condemned based on our obedience, is a false gospel that lies under God’s curse. If this had been Paul’s doctrine, the objection he raises and answers in Romans 6:1-14 would make no sense at all. In that case his answer would have been that though grace may have more than overflowed to forgive our overflowing sin so that we have been initially justified by the free grace of God alone, based on the redemption that is in Christ alone and through faith alone, from here on until the judgment, we are on our own since the final judgment will be based on our divinely produced obedience. There is not even the slightest suggestion that the apostle believed such a doctrine. He does not say “Of course we cannot continue in sin because our justification in the last day depends on our obedience.” Instead, he argues that it is impossible for those who are truly united to Christ to continue in sin since we have died to sin’s dominion.

The view that we can be motivated to godly living by our fear and guilt in regard to what will happen in the judgment if we fail to obey is the precise opposite of the New Testament teaching. The impetus for all Christian living is that, in Christ, believers have been set free from the law with all its condemning power. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “I through the law, died to the law, THAT I MIGHT LIVE TO GOD.”

Since the law is God’s standard of righteousness, anyone who must stand before God in the last day based on that standard that requires perfect, continual and inward obedience has not died to the law and is not free from the law. If my final justification before God depends on my obedience [Please note I am not denying that the believer’s works will be a consideration in the final judgment. I am denying that those works of obedience will form the basis of my justification.], I will be lost forever.

The remedy for the pew-sitting, couch potatoes in our churches is not an altered view of justification, but an understanding of the work God performs in bringing about the faith through which he justifies believers. If faith is a mere free will decision on the sinner’s part, regeneration in the Reformed sense of that term is not really necessary. Many in the evangelical community view “faith” as a one-time decision that obligates God to justify the believer [the assumption these theological dimwits even know the term “justify” may be gratuitous] no matter what occurs after the deal is sealed. The reality is that not only does God enable one to believe initially, but he also continues to sustain that faith which in turn manifests itself in obedience. A “faith” that does not continue, a faith that does not work through love, is not justifying faith.

To believe this, it is not necessary to conflate justification and sanctification as Bird and others seem to do. We must merely understand that the same redemptive work of Christ that secured our justification also secured our sanctification. If sanctification is not occurring in one’s life, there is no evidence justification has occurred. This in no way requires that the believer’s obedience form any part of the basis of his right judicial standing before God.

It is for this reason Calvinistic teachers often state that though justification and sanctification are distinct from one another, they cannot be separated. Some have charged this represents “cognitive dissonance” on the part of those who make such a statement. According to them, this must mean a confusion or a conflation of justification and sanctification.

Perhaps it would be helpful to state our position in a slightly different way. The difficulty seems to be that opponents of this position seem to think we are talking about these two works of God being inseparable in that they are directly joined in the application of redemption. The point of intersection between these two divine acts is not direct. That is, they are distinct in the application of redemption. The only point of similarity between these two works of God in the application is that both occur through faith. Even then, the promises believed are different. In justification, the sinner trusts God’s promise that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. In sanctification, the believer accounts God to be faithful in his declaration that he is, through the body of Christ, dead indeed to the reign of sin and alive to God. Thus, justification and sanctification are always separate and distinct in their application. What occurs in sanctification can neither affect nor effect justification.

We say they cannot be separated because they are joined in their accomplishment. Both result from the same death of Christ. Jesus accomplished both for the same people. If he died for a person, that person also died with him. The point of contact between justification and sanctification [and every other spiritual blessing] is in the believer’s union with Christ.

It is impossible to effect sanctification in the lives of God’s people by telling them the basis of their final justification will be their obedience to the law. This will do nothing but bring about guilt and fear. Fearful and guilt-ridden people will not worship and obey God. This would be to conflate justification and sanctification in the application rather than recognizing that God has united them in the accomplishment.



When I was a young pastor, it was my privilege to know Ernie Reisinger and to hear him proclaim the gospel of God’s grace. Of all the Reformed Baptist I was ever associated with, he was likely my favorite. Though he and I were on opposite sides in the “law/grace” controversy, I have always held him in high regard and believe he had a deep and sincere love for God’s truth and Christ’s church. I would not presume to guess what he would think of the “neo-Calvinist” movement that seems to have taken some of its impetus from his efforts in spreading good literature, but I suspect he would think more needs to be done in the area of solid hymnology and expository preaching etc. In my view, many who are involved in this movement need to take seriously Paul’s words to the Corinthians when he wrote, “the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. . . .” Some of these folks seem, in spite of their professed acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God in the sinner’s salvation, to believe the success of the battle depends on the cleverness of our methodology.

I believe the following excerpt from one of Brother Reisinger’s most despised booklets is just as relevant today as it was when he first penned it. I commend it to you for your careful consideration.

Chapter II

Consider the kind of men God has used in reformation. What kind of men were they? What weapons did they employ? What were their methods? We can be sure that if there is no reformation in the pulpit there will be no reformation in the pews.

By a careful look at reformations in the history of God’s people we can learn the kind of men God uses, the weapons they employed and the methods of approach. We ask, on the human side, whence comes their success? There are always men involved. There will be no life in a church where there is no life in the pulpit.

First there is always a dead seriousness about God’s Word and God’s Work. There must be a felt responsibility as stewards of the mysteries of God.

When we examine churches that have come alive there has always been some men who lived, labored and preached like men who were in earnest about eternity, and eternity bound souls. Men who were grave, that is, serious. Men who had their eyes lifted to heaven. Everything they did and said was marked by earnestness. Not just religious excitement. They were genuine and earnest men who knew that necessity was laid upon them. They felt the urgency and weight of the cause of the gospel that was entrusted to them. They threw their whole soul into the conflict. There was earnestness, not indifference. Not religious politicians seeking to climb the denominational ladder.

The second thing, that always precedes, or accompanies, true reformation is, there are always some men who are bent on success. When a man enters Christ’s Army, or the ministry, he must be bent on success. If men are not bent on success they are traitors to Christ and to His cause. I said, success, not statistics, there is a difference. There may be spiritual success with or without great statistics. if we would see our churches come alive, and stay alive, we must be warriors who have set our hearts on victory and fight with believing anticipation of victory under the guidance of our great Captain. As shepherds we cannot sit on the mountain side in the ease of the breeze, heedless to the straying, perishing, bleating flock; but rather, there must be a watching, guiding, guarding and feeding of the sheep committed to our care.

If we would see reformation in the church there must be some men of faith. There must be plowing and sowing of the right kind of seed (the gospel of the grace of God), plowing and sowing in hope. The word of truth must be on their lips.

There must be some going forth weeping, bearing precious seed, knowing that in due season there will be reaping if we faint not, knowing that our labour in the Lord is not in vain, knowing that we will return, bringing our sheaves with us. There must be some pleading with God for men and some pleading with men for God. Fix your eves on God’s promises and plead with the psalmist; “Remember thy word unto thy servant, whereunto thou hast caused me to hope” (Psalm 119:49).

They must have confidence in the Saviour whose commission they bear. They must have confidence in the Holy Spirit’s mighty power. They must have faith in His power to take the wax of this world from the ears of poor, deaf sinners–faith in His power to open the eyes that are blinded by the dust of this world–faith in the power of the Word of God, that is, in the message, the gospel, knowing it will not return void (Isa. 55:11). The gospel is “…the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). If we would see a church come alive we must be going forth with faith in the power of the gospel.

There must be men who labour. The ministry is infested with preachers who encumber the ground. There must be some bearing of the burden and the heat of the day. There must be some unwearied toil of body and soul (time, strength, substance). This is what the New Testament and church history reveals. There must be some of what the great apostle speaks, “in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger, and thirst, in fasting often, in cold, and nakedness.” No time for levity, sloth, or pleasure. There must be a laboring for eternity. There are a lot of fruitless preachers who do not labor for eternity. These men must have their backs to the world and their eyes on the goal. They must not entangle themselves with the affairs of this world, that they may please Him who has called them to be laborers in His vineyard.

There must be much patience in the work of reforming a church. There must be a willingness to labor long without seeing all the fruit that you desire. Sow–sow–sow–day after day. Teach-teach-teach-week after week. We cannot be soon weary in well doing. We must keep that passage in mind that says, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” James 5:7-8 (NKJ). Many a good plan has been aborted by impatience. Many a good day of toil has been thrown away by impatience. Men cannot force reformation, or force a church to life. Yes, there must be intense longing for success, but much patience must be joined to that intense longing.

William Carey laboured seven years before he baptized his first convert. Adoniram Judson toiled in Burma seven years before he harvested one soul. Morrison sowed seven years in China before he baptized one Chinese. Moffet declared he waited seven years to see the first evident moving of the Spirit in Africa. Henry Richards spent seven long years in the Congo before he saw his first convert. What were they all doing for seven years? They were laying foundations, sowing heavenly seeds thinking of future generations. They were patiently laying a foundation. We live in a church age where the foundations have been re- moved. God is interested in foundations and future generations.

God began by laying a foundation. The psalmist said, “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth” (Psa. 102:25). God said, through the evangelical prophet, “My hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth…” (Isa. 48:13).

When Solomon built the temple–where did he begin? The Bible answers that question. Solomon began where every true builder begins–laying a foundation. I Kings 5:17–“And the King commanded and they brought great stones and hewed stones TO LAY THE FOUNDATION…” How long did it take? I Kings 6:37–“In the fourth year was the foundation of the house of the Lord laid…” Four years! It takes patience to lay foundations!

It was also a costly foundation. “And the foundation was of costly stones even great stones…” (I Kings 7:10). Notice, it says costly, and even a cursory glance at any reformation you will see that it costs to lay a foundation. Most churches do not have enough doctrinal foundation for sound biblical evangelism. We live and labour in what I call pre-evangelistic days. True worship and true witness will be a certain and sure result of reformation. But laying a foundation is very, very costly.

And concerning the rebuilding of the temple after the Babylonian captivity, Ezra shows it was costly in that it was through much tribulation and suffering that the foundation was laid and temple built to the glory of the Lord. Yet they were enabled to sing and praise God for it! “And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth forever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy” (Ezra 3:11-12).

We live in a day of cheap, quick, slick and frothy foundations, and our churches are reaping the sad, pitiful, painful, pathetic results. Carnal men do not want to be in the foundation business. They are not concerned for future generations. The only men who are interested in a true foundation are those who have their eyes fixed on eternity. It is costly. It is painful. It is laborious. It is not showy. Who wants to see concrete poured in a footing? Hard, dirty work. I know, I was in construction for over twenty-five years.

The great apostle was a Master-Builder of churches. Where did he begin? “…as a wise Master-Builder I have laid the foundation…” A foundation on truth. And if you want to know how he did it–read the Book of Acts. It has the answer: Prayer– preaching-teaching-tears . Missing in our generation are prayer and tears.

Let us look at just one example as to how the great apostle did it. Acts 20:19,31. “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the

lying in wait of the Jews: Therefore, watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” If there were more tears there would be less splits and more souls won.

Paul wrote with tears. II Cor.2:4: “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.”

Hear him writing to the church at Philippi. Phi1.3:18: “For many walk, of whom I have told you often and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.”

We have so many facilities. We have comfort, equipment, literature, and church machinery; communications for promoting the gospel is at an all time high. The church has never been better, as far as machinery and mechanics. But where are the Bible tears shed in laying foundations. Where are the Christ-like tears? Where are the tears of St. Paul? Where are men who are laying foundations with tears?

Oh, may God deliver us from being like the church at Laodicea that said of herself: “I am rich and have gotten riches and have need of nothing.” But Jesus said of her, that she was wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. No substance. No foundation, just frothy, carnal superstructure.

Joel, the Old Testament prophet, who prophesied of the Holy Spirit’s out-pouring at Pentecost (Joel 2), in the same chapter said, “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning…Rend your heart and not your garments, Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.”

Let us try tears. What am I talking about? Something that is produced in the soul rather than from physical pain. Tears that indicate distress of spirit, agony of a broken heart. I am talking about a disposition of heart, not necessarily drops of water rolling down your cheeks.

The first time the word tears is found in the English Bible is II Kings 20:5. It is the occasion of God telling Hezekiah that he would die very soon. This drove him to prayer and tears. The king became so desperate that the attention of God was turned not only to his prayers but to his tears. II Kings 20:5-‘I have seen thy tears.”

If the law of first mention means anything here it may indicate that God does not come to our rescue until He sees our tears. That distress of spirit–that agony of a broken heart.

Paul’s teaching was watered with tears.

Jeremiah knew something about tears. Jer. 3:21,22–“A voice was heard on the desolate heights, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel; for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the Lord their God. Return, you backsliding children, and I will hear your backslidings” (NKJ). Jer. 9:1,18– “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! Let them make haste and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run with tears, and our eyelids gush with water” (NKJ). Jer. 1 3:18—“–“But if you will not hear it, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive” (NKJ).

Jesus wept over a lost city. He knew something of what I am saying. In Luke 19:41,42 we see the Redeemer’s tears. “And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it. Saying. If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.” What do we see in this passage? We see the Redeemer’s deep interest in the state of man. We see the Saviour’s compassion to the chief of sinners.

To reform a church you must be willing to lay some foundations, and do some demolition work. And you do that by prayer and preaching–teaching and tears. Put these four things together and you will soon see some reformation. You will also see some dust from the exodus. It is painful to see people leave the church, but some will leave. In genuine reformation of a church three things will always happen; some will leave, some will want to get rid of the preacher, and thank God, some will get right with
God. There will be results–not always saving results. In John 6 Jesus preached the crowd away–there were results!

Study Paul’s epistles and you will find he laid a doctrinal foundation. I believe we are in a reformation period of history where many will be called upon by God to lay some foundations. In many cases the foundations have been removed. Churches–large churches with no doctrinal foundation.

If a church is to be reformed and come alive there must be a doctrinal foundation. This principle is easily discerned in Paul’s letters to the Romans, the Galatians and the Ephesians.

We are all rejoicing that the conservative cause is looking up, but that in itself will not do the job. It is fundamental, but it has not dealt with the doctrinal foundation–Bible doctrine-Baptist doctrine–the doctrines of our Southern Baptist fathers. These doctrines were true in the days of J. P. Boyce, John A. Broadus, Basil Manly, W. B. Johnson (the first president of the Convention), R. B. C. Howell (second president), Richard Fuller (third president), John L. Dagg (the first Southern Baptist writing theologian), B. H. Carroll. These men stood on a doctrinal foundation. The Bible has not changed. The God of the Bible has not changed. Therefore if their doctrine was true in their day it is still true today because neither God nor the Bible has changed. Again, we rejoice in the conservative victories but I want to assure you that even if conservatives had a complete takeover–if we do not get on the biblical, doctrinal foundation of our Fathers, in 30 years we will be right back where we are today. Question! ! What good is an infallible Bible if its doctrinal content is ignored, or disregarded? Yes, and often perverted. It is not just a book with a black cover–what does it say? What does it mean and how does it apply to life and death? It is the content of the Bible–what does it say about God? About His law? His Son? About man and his condition? What does it say about God’s infallible, immutable plan of redemption? Read Dr. Nettles’ book By His Grace and For His Glory, for an honest history of Baptist life and Baptist doctrine. (Someone asked me what I thought about it. I said, well I bought 2000 copies–that should answer your question.)

The superficial man will think only of the big show. He is not too concerned how it comes about. He is only concerned with the super-structure. His concern is: Does it work? Not, Is it true? And back of that, is usually not so much the concern for results as concern for the result of results, that is, the results that accrue to the man.

God is concerned about Foundations and Future Generations. To underscore the importance of future generations let me direct your attention to Psa. 78:4-6–“We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generations to come might know them, even, the children which would be born; who should arise and declare them to their children.”

Psa. 145:” “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.”

This will be a test for many men right now. It will cost! It cost the apostles and early Christians. It cost the Reformers and Puritans. It cost some who had to separate from apostasy. It is costing some of you right now!

Another essential in reforming a church is: there must be men with some boldness and determination. Timidity shuts many a door of usefulness and loses many precious opportunities. It wins no friends, while it strengthens every enemy.

Perhaps there never was an age where wickedness assumed a bolder front and attitude. Therefore, Christian boldness and courage is more required in reforming a church. Men must be “strong and of good courage” Acts 4:13,29,31. Whitefield, when the Vicar closed the church door preached in the church yard.

Joshua l:9–“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

They must be “steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58). This has been one of the greatest secrets of ministerial success.

Another essential I would point out in reforming a church is prayer. Many labour much–study much–but they do not

We often hear requests to “Pray for the work.” Oh, my friend, I am convinced PRAYER IS THE WORK!

We all agree what we need is the work of the Spirit. Well, how does that come about? Luke 1 1:13-‘If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

Luke 11 has the answer. The best prayers are pleading for the promises of God. Well, Luke 11:13 is a promise.

Where churches have been reformed there have always been some men with solemn deportment, no levity, but deep spirituality of soul. The man God uses must fight against laziness, looseness, levity and lethargy. No frivolity, no flippancy, no gaiety. None of this must mar the work we are seeking to accomplish.

How is a church reformed–revived? How do churches come alive? Always with human instruments who are dead serious about the work of God and the Word of God. Men who are bent on success. Men who plow and sow in faith, hope and love. Men who labour and bear the burden and the heat of the day. Men who have much patience-who wait for the precious fruit of the earth and have long patience. Men who lay solid foundations for future generations with an eye fixed on eternity. Men with some Holy Ghost boldness and determination. Men of prayer. Prayer is work–fervent prayer. Men of solemn deportment-no frivolity, no gaiety, sober minded men.

Do you want to know what it looks like in the making? You will see a faithful minister of Christ, surrounded by a small band of praying ones, leading in the battle against the power of darkness. You will see not a lot of pomp, no display, no carnal attractions. You will see not a platform artist, a master gimmick maker, or a manipulator of crowds. These things sure make a show but they will not bring a church alive.

Oh, for some men with a deep yearning for God and for souls. John Knox, in his old age, was helped into the pulpit by friends, but when he arose to preach, the Spirit of God’s love burned in his heart in such a fashion that an attendant said, “So mighty was he in his yearning that I thought he would break the pulpit in bits.”

One of the purposes of this pamphlet is to encourage the reformation of churches. Encourage preachers to lay biblical foundations. To encourage them to count the cost. It is the duty of all true men to labor and pray for reformation, and the privilege to hope for and expect reformation. It has already begun. It is going on right now.
If men in every reformation were abused, misunderstood, misrepresented, reviled, persecuted, ostracized, and excommunicated from organized religion, suffered mental and physical agony, and many times death, how can we expect to see reformation without cost (Luke, chapters 9 and 14)?

What will it cost young Pastors?

1. Denominational popularity and public approval. The work of reformation is not the way to climb the denominational ladder.
2. They will, at times, be in that awful task of tearing down some false super-structure that has been built without a doctrinal foundation. This super-structure was built by cheap, shallow,
man-centered evangelism.
3. They may have to suffer at the hands of a large, unregenerate church membership, and especially, from unregenerate and religiously ignorant deacons and leaders.
4. They may also have to suffer the pain of being misunderstood by the church leaders, fellow ministers, and more painful still, sometimes by their own loved ones (wives who do not
understand their husband’s position).
5. Sacrifice financially, especially in some cases where carnal and ignorant church leaders will use money as a threat to drive preachers from the pulpit.

But along with these and other costs there comes the joy of a conscience void of offence before God and man. What is that worth?


What Must I Do To Be Saved?

The question, “What must I do to be saved?” though short and simple, is far more profound than many realize. We cannot even be absolutely certain the jailor who asked it even understood the implications of his inquiry. It is possible he had heard the Psalms Paul and Silas had been singing and been deeply convicted of his lost and desperate condition before God. Perhaps he had had some prior instruction about the character of God and the awful plight of sinners in a state of alienation from him. The reality is, we simply do not know the background of his question.

What we do know is that this question elicited a profound statement of gospel truth. Paul’s answer was “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. . . .” (Acts 16:31). Since Luke tells us in the very next verse “they spoke the Word to him and to all who were in his house” it is likely he did not immediately understand the implications of this short answer.

I want to explore with you some of the issues I believe this answer raises and discuss the Bible’s responses to those issues. The following are some of those issues:

1. What does the Bible mean when I talks about being “saved?” From what do we need to be saved?
2. What does it mean to believe?
3. What must a person believe if he/she is to be saved?

Let’s consider these questions one by one.

1. There are several places in both the Old and New Testaments where the term “saved” occurs. Additionally, the Scriptures refer both to God, the Father, and Jesus, the Son, as “Savior.” Here are a few examples. In Isaiah 45:21-22 we read “. . .And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior: there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other.” The apostle Paul states in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” He also wrote in Titus 3:5 “he [God, our Savior] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

We could translate the word “saved” by the word “delivered.” It is used a person being delivered from his blindness (Luke 18:42), of sailors being delivered from drowning in stormy seas (Acts 27:31), of God delivering Noah and his family from the flood (1 Peter 3:20), Israelites being delivered from slavery in Egypt (Jude 5), etc.
In terms of spiritual deliverance, there are at least three senses in which the biblical writers speak of being “saved” from sin. Believers are:

Saved from God’s wrath. We are saved from sin’s penalty. [I have read some strange statements from self-proclaimed “Evangelicals” and “Biblicists” of late regarding Jesus’ death in relation to the wrath of God. It seems they are rejecting the idea that Jesus’ death has delivered us from God’s wrath. This is a blatant denial of the biblical doctrine of propitiation not to mention a whole host of biblical texts that speak of the wrath of God and the believer’s deliverance from it, e.g., John 3:36; Romans 1:18; 2:8; 5:9; Ephesians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9].

Saved from the bondage of sin.
We are saved from our willful, autonomous, rebellion against God. We are saved from sin’s power.

Saved from all the ill effects of sin in the future. We will be saved from sin’s presence.

Notice, none of these issues has anything to do with delivering us from our poor self-image, a feeling of loneliness, financial instability, a bad marriage, a negative attitude about life, etc. Some of these benefits may result as God brings us into conformity with his revealed will, but none of them is promised in the gospel.

The Bible tells us Jesus came to save sinners from our sins (See Matt. 1:21). A person who does not want to be saved from his sins does not want to be saved at all. The issue the gospel is intended to deal with goes beyond having our sins forgiven so that we may go to heaven when we die. In fact, there is not a single verse in the Bible that mentions believing the gospel so that we can go to heaven when we die. God’s work of delivering his people from their sins is more about living than it is about dying. Consider just a couple of verses from the New Testament Scriptures that concern the purpose of God in saving sinners:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned [since the verb translated “returned” is in the passive voice, it would be better to translate it accordingly, i.e., “were returned” instead of “have returned.” The sheep are not the actors; they are acted on] to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:24-25).

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).

Note the stated purpose for which Jesus bore the sins of his sheep on the tree—IN ORDER THAT we might die to sin and live unto righteousness. The sheep are not forgiven and left to wander in their sins.

2. What does it mean to believe?

To believe means more than merely to know the facts of the gospel and give mental assent to those facts. Of course, assent to certain gospel propositions is necessary, but faith involves more. James tells us that even the demons are orthodox in their assent to certain biblical propositions and even tremble because of what they know to be true. True and saving faith must go beyond the faith of demons.

Biblical faith or belief is crediting God with faithfulness and placing our confidence in him. It is believing against all odds that God can and will do all he has promised.

In John 3:36, faith is set over against disobedience. “The one who is believing in the Son has everlasting life, but the one who disobeys the Son shall not see life. . . .” For this reason, we believe true faith must involve a submission to Christ’s authority.

The nature of faith is such that it always looks away from itself. They true believer has no confidence in faith itself, since he knows that faith is not the Savior. Instead, faith, having considered the hopelessness of the sinner’s plight in sin and the impossibility of self-redemption, looks away from self to the Savior. Faith does not dwell on how bad I am but instead fixes its gaze on how good Christ is.

3. What must a person believe if he/she is to be saved?

The New Testament definition of the gospel is that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures, and that he was seen by witnesses to his resurrection (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). It is important for us to remember that these words were written to those who had professed faith in Christ and not to a group of unconverted people. As a result, this definition of the gospel message is somewhat different from the apostolic pattern we observe in the New Testament Scriptures. I believe it is important to examine the pattern of apostolic proclamation as we seek to answer questions about proper methods and message of evangelism. For example, do we have any example in the New Testament literature of a gospel preacher telling a group of unconverted people “Christ died for our sins?” or “Jesus died for you?” Did they ever tell sinners they needed to repeat a prayer or walk an aisle or open their hearts to Jesus? For that matter, was any sinner ever invited to come to the foot of the cross to receive Jesus?

In proclaiming the gospel, based on the apostolic pattern, must we tell sinners indiscriminately that Jesus died for them? Must a person understand and believe that Jesus died for him in particular before he can have confidence that Jesus will save him? Is it not sufficient to trust his promise to save sinners who believe and repent? I have paraphrased an excellent comment Robert Haldane wrote in his Commentary on Romans as follows,

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 address 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. . . . (Haldane, Romans, p. 203).

The reality is, the pattern of apostolic preaching indicates it is to the throne we must send sinners, not to the cross. I am not at all suggesting there would be any gospel apart from the crucifixion, but we do not preach a Savior on a cross. We, following the example of the apostle Paul preach “Christ crucified,” i.e., Christ who has been crucified with the results of that crucifixion continuing into the present (This understanding is based Paul’s use of the perfect passive participle of the verb in 1 Cor.1:23. “It refers primarily to the exalted Lord who, in his exaltation remains the crucified One” (E.E. Ellis, “Christ Crucified,” Reconciliation and Hope, 70). The apostolic message was about the resurrected and exalted Jesus who was dead but is alive forevermore, and who has the keys of death and hades. Consider Paul’s teaching in Romans 10.

But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'”(that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'”(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:6-9).

There were two cardinal truths Paul’s Jewish audience regularly rejected. One was the incarnation of the Messiah, the other was his resurrection. Paul’s point in these verses was that there is no need to ascend into heaven to bring the Christ down since he had already been incarnated in the person of Jesus, thus “Jesus is Lord.” There is no need to descend into the abyss to bring Christ up from the dead since “God has raised him from the dead.” God has accomplished all that is necessary for the salvation of bankrupt and helpless sinners. All sinners must do is look and live. The promise of the gospel is “whosoever shall call on the Lord’s name will be saved.”


Context–A Case Study

There is probably no factor more important for understanding any life situation or any body of literature than context. Taken out of context, a situation or a statement can be made to mean anything a person wishes it to mean.

This morning, Paul Dohse reposted a post from last year about the difference between John Calvin’s and J.C. Ryle’s views of justification and sanctification. By this post he demonstrated that if he can do nothing else well, he is a master of deceit. To his credit, he did cite the source of his quotations, but I suspect he thought no one would check out the original source. His contention is that Calvin conflated justification and sanctification so that he believed in “progressive justification.” In case you are unfamiliar with that term, it refers to the Roman Catholic doctrine that God infuses grace to the faithful, enabling them to obey more and more so that they are progressively more righteous which righteousness forms the ground of their justification. Of course, he was also trying to show that J.C. Ryle disagreed with Calvin because he stated that we should not “mingle or confuse” justification and sanctification. In reality, both Calvin’s and Ryle’s statements are taken out of context and forced to mean something completely different from what they truly believed. The following is a copy of Paul’s repost:

Paul’s Passing Thoughts
JC Ryle Verses John Calvin on the Separation of Justification and Sanctification

Posted in Uncategorized by paulspassingthoughts on April 20, 2012

“Christ cannot be torn into parts, so these two which we perceive in him together and conjointly are inseparable—namely, righteousness and sanctification. Whomever, therefore, God receives into grace, on them he at the same time bestows the spirit of adoption [Romans 8:15], by whose power he remakes them to his own image. . . Yet Scripture, even though it joins them, still lists them separately in order that God’s manifold grace may better appear to us.” — John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), Bk. 3, chap. 11, sec. 6).

“But the plain truth is, that men will persist in confounding two things that differ–that is, justification and sanctification. In justification the word to address to man is believe–only believe; in sanctification the word must be ‘watch, pray, and fight.’ What God has divided let us not mingle and confuse” (JC Ryle, Holiness: Introduction).

The following is a fuller quotation from Calvin’s Institutes that includes the quotation that Paul lifted from it:

For, in the whole of this discussion, the noun righteousness and the verb to justify, are extended by Osiander to two parts; to be justified being not only to be reconciled to God by a free pardon, but also to be made just; and righteousness being not a free imputation, but the holiness and integrity which the divine essence dwelling in us inspires. And he vehemently asserts (see sec. 8) that Christ is himself our righteousness, not in so far as he, by expiating sins, appeased the Father, but because he is the eternal God and life. To prove the first point—viz. that God justifies not only by pardoning but by regenerating, he asks, whether he leaves those whom he justifies as they were by nature, making no change upon their vices? The answer is very easy: as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable. Whomsoever, therefore, God receives into his favor, he presents with the Spirit of adoption, whose agency forms them anew into his image (Emphasis and Italics mine).

I would like you to consider with me Calvin’s statement in context. I would urge you to read the entire chapter in C.I. so that you can get the full context. As we look at the fuller quote I have cited here, there are three aspects of it I would like you to take into account. First, please consider what Osiander was arguing. Secondly, consider Calvin’s answer to Osiander, and thirdly, consider Calvin’s answer to a supposed objection.

1. Osiander was arguing that the ground of justification before God is not only the righteousness of Christ freely imputed to us but by grace imparted to or infused to us.

For, in the whole of this discussion, the noun righteousness and the verb to justify, are extended by Osiander to two parts; to be justified being not only to be reconciled to God by a free pardon, but also to be made just; and righteousness being not a free imputation, but the holiness and integrity which the divine essence dwelling in us inspires. And he vehemently asserts (see sec. 8) that Christ is himself our righteousness, not in so far as he, by expiating sins, appeased the Father, but because he is the eternal God and life.

2. Calvin’s answer to him is that the ground of justification is the imputation of righteousness alone.

Thus it is said, in Paul’s discourse in the Acts, “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,” (Acts 13:38, 39). You see that after remission of sins justification is set down by way of explanation; you see plainly that it is used for acquittal; you see how it cannot be obtained by the works of the law; you see that it is entirely through the interposition of Christ; you see that it is obtained by faith; you see, in fine, that satisfaction intervenes, since it is said that we are justified from our sins by Christ. Thus when the publican is said to have gone down to his house “justified,” (Luke 18:14), it cannot be held that he obtained this justification by any merit of works. All that is said is, that after obtaining the pardon of sins he was regarded in the sight of God as righteous. He was justified, therefore, not by any approval of works, but by gratuitous acquittal on the part of God. Hence Ambrose elegantly terms confession of sins “legal justification,” (Ambrose on Psalm 118 Serm. 10). (Book 3. Chapter 11, #3)(Emphasis and Italics mine).

Calvin clearly taught that the ground of justification is an alien righteousness that God imputes to the sinner’s account, and that once justified, his standing before God is perfectly righteous. How could anyone read such a statement and believe Calvin taught that a believer’s obedience in sanctification in any way contributes to his justification?

3. Calvin states Osiander’s objection as follows: To prove the first point—viz. that God justifies not only by pardoning but by regenerating, he asks, whether he leaves those whom he justifies as they were by nature, making no change upon their vices?

It was in answer to this objection that Calvin wrote the words Paul cited out of context in an effort to show that Calvin conflated justification and sanctification. “The answer is very easy: as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable. Whomsoever, therefore, God receives into his favor, he presents with the Spirit of adoption, whose agency forms them anew into his image.” In other words, of course God does not leave those whom he justifies as they were by nature, making no change upon their vices. The reason for this is that both these works of God result from the believer’s union with Christ and, to quote Calvin, “as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable.” If God declares a person righteous in justification, he will not stop until he has conformed that person to his image in Christ.

Justification and sanctification must be distinguished from one another, but they can never be separated. They must be distinguished for several reasons: 1. They have different concerns. Justification concerns the believer’s forensic or judicial standing before God–Its concern is a righteousness that is objective, i.e., totally outside the believer. Sanctification has nothing to do with a believer’s judicial standing before God. It can neither affect nor effect his justification. It concerns his personal, internal holiness and results from the internal work of God’s Spirit. 2. The result from different aspects of Jesus’ redemptive work. Justification results from Jesus’ death for the believer. Sanctification results from the believer’s death with Christ 3. Justification is instantaneous and complete the first moment a person believes. Progressive sanctification is gradual and never complete until the believer is glorified. 4. Justification has nothing to do with a believer’s works of obedience. Sanctification enlists the believer’s cooperation in obedience to the imperatives demanded by the objective accomplishments of Jesus’ redeeming work. These and other distinctions must always be maintained.

That said, we must never think justification and sanctification can be separated. That is to say a person cannot exist for whom Christ died who did not also die with him to the dominion of sin. This is the meaning of Calvin’s words, “Christ cannot be torn into parts. . . .” The point of union between justification and sanctification is not direct so that they can in any way be confused or conflated. The point of connection is the believer’s union with Christ. Jesus accomplished both the believer’s justification and his sanctification, so that unless Jesus can be torn into parts, justification and sanctification cannot be separated.
This is exactly what J. C. Ryle believed. He wrote,

He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonoring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Savior. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by his atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness” but their “sanctification.” (I Cor. 1:30). ( J. C. Ryle, Holiness. 27-28. Available online at

Paul accused me of taking this quote out of context. Please access the online copy of Ryle’s work and read the entire context. The following is another quotation from the same page.

(1) Sanctification, then, is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith
gives to a Christian.—“He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.”
(John xv. 5.) The branch which bears no fruit is no living branch of the vine. The union with Christ which produces no effect on heart and life is a mere formal union, which is worthless before God. The faith which has not a sanctifying influence on the character is no better than the faith of devils. It is a “dead faith, because it is alone.” It is not the gift of God. It is not the faith of God’s elect. In short, where there is no sanctification of life, there is no real faith in Christ. True faith worketh by love. In constrains a man to live unto the Lord from a deep sense of gratitude for redemption. It makes him feel that he can never do too much for Him that died for him. Being much forgiven, he loves much. He whom the blood cleanses, walks in the light. He who has real lively hope in Christ, purifieth himself even as He is pure. (James ii. 17-20; Titus i. 1; Gal. v. 6; 1 John i. 7; iii. 3.)

All Ryle is saying is that to separate justification and sanctification would require that Christ be torn in half. It would “make him only a half Savior.” To me, that sounds exactly like Calvin’s view.


The Intercessory Work of Christ

It is important to remember that biblical writers used different motifs and metaphors to express the same truths concerning God’s work of salvation and Jesus’ accomplishment of that salvation. For example, Jesus is the living bread, the fountain of living waters, the light of the world, the shepherd of the sheep, he is the rock that satisfies his peoples’ thirst, he is the lamb of God who is sacrificed for people of all nations, he is the prophet who declares the Father to us, he is the advocate who represents us before the court of heaven, he is the High Priest who offers himself as our sacrifice, then enters the heavenly most holy place to appear as our forerunner and representative, and he is our Sovereign Lord and King.

It is not difficult to discern that all these motifs and metaphors find their roots in the Old Testament Scriptures. Taking them all together, one begins to get a composite picture of the Anointed One and his work as our redeemer from sin. Systematic Theology seeks to bring all these components together into a composite whole, while Biblical Theology seeks to take a closer look at the individual elements that, taken together, make up the whole.

It should not escape our attention that the New Testament writers viewed salvation in radically different ways. The apostle Paul generally viewed salvation in forensic terms. For him, a person is either justified or condemned before the high court of heaven. The issue is our standing before the judge. Though it would be wrong to categorize sanctification as a non-essential issue, it should not escape our notice that the discussion of sanctification in the Epistle to the Romans is introduced, not as a part of the main argument but as a series of answers to questions [one might say objections] regarding the freeness of justification. It is not that Paul said, “Now that we have finished our discussion of justification, let’s discuss the doctrine of sanctification.” Instead, he interrupts his argument relative to the absolute certainty of the final glorification of all who have been justified, an argument he resumes in chapter eight, to answer the sort of base questions that carnal hearers often pose regarding the “dangers of antinomianism.” Those questions are as follows, “What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin so that grace may overflow?” (6:1), “Shall we sin because we are not under the Law but under grace?” (6:15), “Is the Law sin[ful]?” (7:7), and “Has then what is good become death to me?” (7:13). His answer to all these questions is the same—“God forbid” or “May it never be.” His ultimate argument in this regard is that it is the believer’s righteous standing before God that effects the righteous life God’s Law demanded but could not produce.

One of the divisive issues of the present day concerns the believer’s sanctification. Is such sanctification even necessary or important? If it is, how is it to be produced? Can a believer produce it on his own now that he or she has been regenerated or must there be a believing dependence on the Holy Spirit? Is justification completely unrelated to and hermetically sealed from sanctification or is justification that judicial act of God that is necessary to effect a life of holiness?

It is important we understand that no one in this debate believes sanctification in the believer’s life is unimportant (I say this of those who actually believe that sanctification has anything to do with salvation. Those who are now calling themselves “free grace” believers such as one might find at, for example, would be an exception to this statement). The issue concerns the manner in which God produces such a life. Does God produce holiness by imposing Law or by intervening with grace? The apostle’s answer is unequivocal—“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code”(Romans 7:4-6). It is a simple reality that people who know their guilt will never approach a holy God. People who sense they are under God’s righteousness judgment will not love the judge. For this reason, sinners will invariably suppress any revelation of God they encounter. In a state of sinful nature, we, like Adam and Eve, will always flee from God and seek to hide our nakedness. The only thing the Law is able to do is mirror and magnify that nakedness; it can do nothing to clothe us. We can preach duty to sinners until we are blue in the face, but it will never produce obedience to God. Righteousness is never produced by a commandment. It makes no difference whether the Law is applied to believers or unbelievers, it can never justify or sanctify. It is the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that sets us free from the Law of sin and death. The truth that effects sanctification is “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). It was out of this understanding that C. H. Spurgeon said,

While I regarded God as a tyrant I thought my sin a trifle; But when I knew Him to be my Father, then I mourned that I could ever have kicked against Him. When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.

“The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews shared this understanding but couched his understanding of salvation in a different motif. The term “justification” never occurs in the Epistle. Instead, the writer thinks in categories of perfection or restoration of man to his original glory, fulfillment of O. T. covenants, promises, and types, access into the holy presence of God, and inheritance of spiritual promises.

The people to whom he wrote were in deep trouble spiritually. Not only had their growth been stunted in the process of sanctification, but they were in danger of casting off the Christian faith altogether and returning to Judaism. His message to them should be highly instructive to us. He did not instruct them to concentrate more carefully on the Law and their duty to God. It was Law and duty to which they wished to return. Law was not the solution; it was the problem. The remedy proposed by the writer was simple. It was a matter of focus—a matter of contemplation if you will. The message of the Epistle from beginning to end is the same. Though it may be stated in different forms, its focus does not change. It is simply this—“. . .fix your attention on Jesus Christ, the Apostle and High Priest we confess.”

Even in the writer’s sternest exhortations we do not find a call to obey commandments but to persevere in faith. It is an evil heart of unbelief that departs from the living God. He does not exhort his readers to return to works of obedience but to enter into rest.

Please understand, I am not suggesting that obedience is not important. I am suggesting obedience is not produced by exhortations to obedience or reproof for disobedience. It is not produced by a daily examination of one’s progress in holiness. Such an exercise will only produce more doubt and fear. Holiness never results from a guilty conscience.

It is in this context that our writer brings forth the doctrine of Jesus’ High Priesthood and his functions in that office. Drawing from the analogy of the Levitical priesthood and the activities of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, it becomes clear that the high priest was to perform two principal duties. He was to offer the sacrifice on the altar and he was to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat, the gold covered lid of the Ark of the Covenant. He could not appear in the holiest of all places without the blood of the sacrifice. He was accepted there because the sacrifice had stood between him and God and had suffered the penalty of the broken covenant in his place. The sprinkling of the blood added nothing to the efficacy of the sacrifice, but its acceptance and thus the acceptance of the high priest and those he represented in God’s presence was the unmistakable evidence that the sacrifice offered in the outer court had been efficacious. We should never think of the sprinkling of the blood on the mercy seat as a reoffering of the sacrifice. Instead, it was an application of the completed sacrifice in the outer court.

This sprinkling of the blood of sacrifice on the mercy seat corresponds to the intercessory work of Jesus, our Great High Priest, in the heavenly holy of holies. His very presence there for us evinces the efficacy of his sacrifice for us in the outer court of this world. We should not think of Jesus carrying on some liturgical activity in heaven on our behalf. His continued presence there for us believers gives eloquent testimony to the efficacy of his once for all sacrifice for us.

As long as he presents his finished sacrifice before the mercy seat, the place that has now become the throne of grace, all his people will continue to be accepted in God’s presence. We are accepted there because he is accepted there. We are accepted because of our union with him.

We must not think of Jesus’ present work of presenting his finished sacrifice before God’s throne as a perpetual sacrificial offering. Unlike the sacrificial work of the Levitical high priest whose work on the Day of Atonement was not completed until he had sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat, Jesus’ sacrificial work was finished on the cross.

It is not that God has to be reminded of his finished work any more than he needed to be reminded that the sacrifice had been completed in the tabernacle court. Why, then, the sprinkling of the blood on the mercy seat? The presence of the priests and his acceptance before God was the evidence that the sacrifice had been accepted. The continual appearance of Jesus, our High Priest in God’s presence simply gives eloquent evidence that God’s holy wrath has been satisfied for all who draw near to him by faith. It is not that God needs to be reminded by Jesus’ continual appearing in his presence that the work is finished. Instead, it is that we need to be reminded that the veil of the consciousness of guilt that barred us from God’s presence has been removed once and for all. The Christian message is not that God will get even with you if you fail to obey; it is that if you are a believer, God already got even with you at the cross. By his eternal redemption, Jesus has purified our consciences from dead works to serve the living God (See Heb. 9:14). An examination of our evidences of saving faith will not grant us a clean conscience. Gazing at our partially sanctified hearts will not grant us peace. Only a continued meditation on the finished work of Christ and the evidence of that accomplishment in his perpetual appearance for us in God’s presence will maintain our clean consciences so that we might serve the living God.

There are two important issues we must consider in relation to the work Jesus, our High Priest, now performs for us in the heavens. The first concerns the nature of his intercession. Does his intercession merely consist of his appearance in God’s presence for us as a presentation of his finished work or is his intercession vocalized? Does he actually pray for and in place of believers? The second concerns the content of his intercession. With what is his intercession concerned? Does he intercede only for our weakness, needs, spiritual growth, protection etc., or does his intercession also extend to the forgiveness of our sins?

The nature of Christ’s intercession has been a matter of no small controversy, and a resolution of the issue is not easy to attain since we are not given a clear, biblical answer to the question. Additionally, the manner in which Jesus could vocalize all the exigent requests that need attention before God’s throne is beyond our feeble comprehension. Still, our ability to comprehend such an intercession is not the criterion by which we should judge its reality. The truth is, we simply do not know the answer to this question, and any attempt to give a definitive answer would amount to vain speculation. In any case, it is clear that we are saved no less by his resurrection life and his application of his finished work of redemption than we are by his vicarious death that accomplished that redemption. If anything, the writer to the Hebrews seems to concentrate more on the results of Jesus’ sacrificial offering than on the offering itself. That is to say his focus seems to be on the demonstration of the once for all character of his sacrificial work. The issue is how sinners can know there is a way of free access into the presence of the infinitely holy God? How can we know a sacrifice has finally been offered that has satisfied his wholly wrath? The presence of our High Priest in the heavenly Holy of Holies definitively answers that question.

Concerning the content of his intercession, some have suggested that this intercessory work can have nothing to do with the perpetual forgiveness of sins since, in justification, God has declared all the believer’s sins, past, present and future, forgiven and has imputed to us a righteousness that cannot be impugned.

There are several factors we should consider in seeking to answer this important question:

1. Intercession or advocacy [which I take as merely a different metaphor for the same work] is mentioned in relation to sin and condemnation and salvation. For example, “Who is he that condemns? It is [or will] Christ who died. . . who also intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34). Notice the use of the present tense—“who also is interceding for us.” In this context, Paul cites not only Jesus’ death but also his present intercession as a reason for the believer’s non-condemnation. Relative to his work as our advocate, we read, “and if anyone should sin, we have an advocate with the Father and he is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2a). It is significant that the sentence does not read, “he was the propitiation for our sins.” In the Apocalypse, John sees in the center of the throne “a lamb standing as though it had been slain. . . .” (Rev. 5:6). The clear teaching of the New Testament Scriptures is that believers stand justified because Jesus stands crucified. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “. . .but we preach Christ crucified. . . .” (1 Cor. 1:23), he used the perfect passive participle, to indicate a continuing state that resulted from a completed action in the past. Even in his exalted state, Jesus remains the crucified one and the efficacy of his redemptive work remains undiminished.

2. We should not think of Jesus in his official capacity as our High Priest as literally standing before the mercy seat, presenting his pierced hands and feet to the Father any more than we should literally think of Jesus, our Advocate, literally approaching the judges’ bench to plead our cause. These are merely metaphorical expressions that, taken together with other such metaphors, attempt to express the fullness of his redemptive work. The acceptance of Israel’s high priest in the holy of holies in the presence of the manifest holiness of God was evidence that Jehovah’s wrath for his peoples’ sins had been appeased by the blood of the sacrificial beast. The metaphor of Jesus’ perpetual priestly intercession is simply intended to convey to the believer that his finished sacrifice at Calvary will forever retain its efficacy. No post conversion sin we commit can condemn us since we are secure in God’s presence in the person of our High Priest and representative.

3. It is important we remember that Jesus’ appearance in the presence of God is “for us” and that he intercedes “for those who come to God by him.” He is our “forerunner” who has entered into the place within the veil “for us.” This all teaches us that apart from him there would be no access into God’s presence. Not only did he die under the curse of the Law as his people’s substitutionary sacrifice, but he now appears in God’s presence as our representative. His acceptance there is our acceptance there. Severed from him, we have no hope. All depends on the believer’s union with Christ. If we have ever been truly united to him through faith, he will be our perpetual representative until eternity. He ever lives to make intercession for us. The hymn-writer stated this well when he wrote,

Great God! if you should bring me near,
to answer at your awful bar,
And my own self defend;
If Jesus did himself withdraw,
I know Your holy fiery law
My soul to hell would send.

4. We should consider an alternate view that suggests justification is a “done deal” the moment we first believe. Once we have been justified, we have no need of the gospel and no need for Jesus’ intercession in relation to the forgiveness of our sins. Apparently, those who hold this view believe Jesus’ work of intercession is limited to his prayers for our weaknesses, temptations, etc. I have no desire to misrepresent the views of those who believe this, but it sounds as if they are saying that once we have our justification ticket punched by believing the gospel, we do not really need Jesus any more.

This does not differ from the view I have espoused here in regard to the immediate declaration of free justification the moment a sinner trusts God’s promise of salvation in Christ. A believer is never deemed more righteous in God’s sight than he is the first moment he believes. The point of difference is that, in my view and I believe according to the Scriptures, believers never get beyond the need for fresh applications of the finished work of Christ.

5. We should think of the work of intercession as the application of Christ’s once for all accomplishment of redemption. His intercession insures the believer’s full enjoyment of every spiritual blessing Jesus died to procure for his people. Jesus does not need to offer himself in sacrifice again and again in order to satisfy for his people’s sins. This he accomplished once and for all at the cross.

6. In answer to any who question whether the intercessory work of Christ maintains the believers righteous standing before God, i.e., justification, it might help to consider the same question in regard to the believer’s salvation explained using a different metaphor. Does the believer’s free and bold access into the presence of our holy God depend on Jesus’ appearance in his presence as our representative? The answer of the Epistle to the Hebrews is a resounding, “yes!” We are invited to approach God’s throne with boldness only because we have a Great High Priest who has passed through the heavens and now appears in the presence of God for us.

From these considerations it should be clear that Jesus’ intercessory work as our Great High Priest perpetually presents the efficacy of his finished work for the forgiveness of our sins. It is through this work alone that we can obey the biblical injunction to draw near to God’s mercy seat with boldness.


Heretics Indeed.

Paul Dohse Sr. has the unmitigated gall to call Calvinists “heretics.” Yet, the following is a sample from the comments made by those who regularly comment on his blog and attend his “conferences.” These people who deny the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the Trinity, the distinct personalities of members of the God-head, Jesus’ mission to bring glory to the Father etc., are Paul’s close associates. Additionally, like Paul, they continue to make outrageous claims that don’t even come close to accurately representing what Calvinists believe. Here is an example:

Here, this is as close as I can come to the Holy Spirit’s “mission statement”.

“When He is come, He will
reprove(or convict) THE WORLD of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”

Oops, I forgot, the Holy Spirit can’t convict the unregenerate according to you…””

(Who believes that?)

In the above comment, a woman named Lydia Malone is quoting a comment from A. J. Butler who calls himself “freegracefull.”

Then she writes:

EXACTLY!!! Those who will be convicted have already been chosen so the work of the Holy Spirit was done before the foundation of the world. Which is why the whole convo is MOOT with a Calvinist since man has no input at all. They cannot be “convicted” except by force and that was done before Adam sinned. It has all been determined. So why would Randy even be debating? What would be the point? It has all been determined. He knows truth and we are incapable of getting it. That was predetermined for us. We have no volition, remember?

What is missing in Calvinism? LOVE. There is NO love relationship within the Triune God nor between God and man. It is all force. How do they get around this? They redefine the word “love”.

I challenge anyone to find anything like this in anything I have written here or elsewhere.

Of course, I believe all has been determined but that does not mean God has directly caused everything that has occurred. He does not need to “force” sinners to sin. Who denies that sinners possess volition? Do these people relish lying or are they simply speaking out of the abundance of their ignorance?

One of Paul’s buddies named Argo who has a blog called “Unreforming Theology” denies both the Trinity and the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures. He wrote,

The whole argument of the trinity could be avoided by simply denying it. It isn’t in the bible, and so it seems fairly irrelevant. What we know is that God is infinite and absolute. Thus, ANY attribute of God is by definition ALL God. You cannot have “part” God or “part” infinite. Any manifestation of God is God. Whether one, three or five, etc. His “finger” in Exodus is logically ALL God.

There is no trinity. Which is why it isn’t in the bible. Argo (emphasis and italics mine)

I’m not a fan of Paul (the apostle…I am a huge fan of Paul Dohse) either. He is all over the map metaphysically in his epistles. But John Immel makes the case for lightening up on him a bit. The context he was operating in was exceedingly difficult for any one man…he was doing the hard work of going up against some of the most consistent and entrenched philosophies of the time. (Emphasis and italics mine)

Still…yeah, you gotta take his “doctrines” with a grain of rational salt and realize that on some things, taken at face value anyway, he just gets wrong.

(Emphasis and italics mine).

Lydia denies the distinction between the three persons of the Trinity in a statement that sounds very much like Modalism. She wrote,

This is one of those assumptions that sounds pious but has no real meaning. Jesus’ “mission” was to bring Glory to the Father? But isn’t Jesus, God? The Holy Spirit, God?. God is God. So bringing “Glory” to the Father is the same as bringing Glory to Himself.


Yes, Jesus is God, but he is not the Father. The Spirit is God but he is neither the Father nor the Son. God is one but he does not merely “manifest” himself in one of these modes. He is not one God with three hats.

Another guy named James Jordan wrote,

Romans 8:30, eh? If any of this crap were true why is there never any mention in the Old Testament that there is coming some day a scheme of salvation based on predestination from before the world began? Paul is just Gnostic trash. (Emphasis and italics mine).

One wonders why Paul doesn’t call these people “heretics” since they truly are. You don’t suppose the motive could be money do you?

Such statements should make any right minded believer avoid these people. Paul wrote, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them.”