Saved at the Cross?

Question: If Christ actually “saved” the elect on the cross, isn’t it true to say that the elect are born already justified and there is no need to exercise faith?

This is an important issue and the fact that someone would ask this question is a clear indication that they have failed to grasp the full measure of what the Bible teaches concerning Divine election.

Jesus said, “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me” (John 6:37). Think about that for a moment, as a vital point is being made; namely this: THE EFFECTS OF GOD’S CHOICE IN ETERNITY (the Father’s giving) ARE WORKED OUT IN TIME (the people’s coming).

The elect are a love gift from the Father to the Son (in eternity past) but this does not negate the fact that these same people will (IN THE REALM OF TIME) come to the Son. It is not the coming to the Son that CAUSES the Father to give them to the Son. Just the opposite is true in fact. It is the Father’s giving (first) which results in the elect’s coming. All that the Father gives to the Son will come to the Son.

Christ was the Lamb slain BEFORE the foundation of the world (as the Scripture says in Revelation 13:8) yet this did not mean that Christ did not need to be slain in the realm of time. Christ was marked as the slain Lamb in eternity past, and yet Christ came into the space/time dimension with the purpose of dieing for the sins of His people. Likewise, it is also true to say that all the elect were purchased/redeemed at the cross, even though these elect would still need to come to the Son in time also.

It is not unregenerate man who authors the faith that saves. Jesus is the author and perfector of faith (Heb 12:3). Repentance and faith are GIFTS from God (2 Tim 2:25; Phil 1:29), given to the elect (in time). Jesus secured everything necessary for the salvation of the elect at the cross, including these precious gifts. Not all have faith. The elect will come to Christ in faith (John 6:37, Acts 13:48).

Was Christ the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world? Yes.

Were the elect saved in eternity past? Certainly, the Father’s choice to save them took place in eternity past, yes.

Does this negate the need for events to be carried out in time? By no means. The choice in eternity past DETERMINED events that would undoubtedly take place in time.

Therefore the answer to the question is a resounding “No.” No one is born justified. Since the Fall of Adam, all of us are born spiritually dead in need of regeneration and justification. Justification is by faith (Romans 5:1) not by election. Election merely explains who will come to Christ in faith (Acts 13:48). Christ redeemed His people by His blood, and secured their salvation there, even though the effects of His death would be carried out in time (past, present and future), as His people come to Him in saving faith – this being the gift of God, not as a result of works, lest no one should boast.

My own observation is that when people have an issue with Particular or definite atonement, when questions are asked and the issue is pressed, it is almost always due to the fact that they really have an issue with unconditonal election.

The Divine Intention of the Cross (Part 3)

Scripture is explicit then in saying that Jesus died for His people, His sheep, His friends, His Church, securing eternal life for them in doing so.

However, many object to this understanding of Christ’s work on the cross, not because of the many clear texts that teach it, but because other verses seem, a least at first glance, to strongly deny this. For instance, 1 John 2:2, speaking of Jesus, states, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

I can certainly see how someone would use this verse to undermine all I have been saying above. Yet scripture, I believe, is not contradictory to itself. There is one Divine Author of Scripture and He does not contradict Himself.

So how are we to understand 1 John 2:2?

I have written elsewhere about the principles of correct interpretation. There is only one correct interpretation of Scripture. Though there may be many applications of a verse, it only means what it was intended to mean when it was written.

In my article entitled “Playing Marbles with Diamonds” I refer to twelve principles of biblical interpretation (hermeneutics), two of which would apply here:

1. Consider the Author – who wrote the book? (what was his background, language, culture, vocation, concerns, education, circumstance, what stage of life?)

2. Consider the Audience (why was the book written? who was the audience? what would these words have meant to its original recipients?)

I quote again Dr. James White, when he wrote, “Remember when you were in school and you had to take a test on a book you were assigned to read? You studied and invested time in learning the background of the author, the context in which he lived and wrote, his purposes in writing, his audience, and the specifics of the text. You did not simply come to class, pop open the book, read a few sentences, and say, “Well, I feel the author here means this.” Yet, for some odd reason, this attitude is prevalent in Christian circles. Whether that feeling results in an interpretation that has anything at all to do with what the original author intended to convey is really not considered an important aspect. Everyone, seemingly, has the right to express their “feelings” about what they “think” the Bible is saying, as if those thoughts actually reflect what God inspired in His Word. While we would never let anyone get away with treating our writings like this, we seem to think God is not bothered, and what is worse, that our conclusions are somehow authoritative in their representation of His Word.”

A third principle I mentioned in the article relates to the concept of considering the author’s context. This refers to looking at all of a person’s writings – John’s writings, Paul’s writings, Luke’s writings, etc..

When we look elsewhere in John’s writings we notice in his Gospel an exact parallel in John’s use of words, which give us a great deal of insight as to what he (John) was referring to.

In John’s Gospel, chapter 11, verses 51-52, John wrote these words, “he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

In chart form, the parallel with 1 John 2:2 becomes clear:

Phil Johnson (who provided this helpful chart) writes, “There is little doubt that this is how John’s initial audience would have understood this expression. “The whole world” means “people of all kinds, including Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Romans, and whatnot” as opposed to “ours only” i.e., the Jewish nation. What the apostle John is saying in the John 11 passage is particularly significant: Christ died so that he might gather “the children of God” the elect, from the whole world.”

I believe therefore that rather than undermining the case for Christ’s death for His elect sheep, 1 John 2:2 actually affirms it. When we understand the verse in its Johannine context (the writings of the Apostle John) then the correct interpretation becomes very clear.

In Hebrew culture, it is the father who chooses a bride for his son. In the same way, the bride of Christ was chosen by the Father, then given to the Son, and all in this number are without fail raised up to eternal life (John 6:37-39). The Son loses none of those given to Him by the Father.

A second objection to this, that needs to be dealt with are the words of Hebrews 2:9 which say,

“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

Surely “everyone” means everyone, right?

Well usually, yes, but not always. This in fact has to be determined by the context in which the words are spoken. For example, if a teacher asks his class of students, “Is everyone present?” he is not asking if everyone on the planet is present in the room, but rather all the students enrolled in the class. That’s how the word everyone is used, and so it is the context in which the words are used that determine what is meant by the words. The question in Hebrews 2:9 is whether “everyone” refers to all human beings without distinction, or whether it refers to everyone within a certain group.

To determine the answer to that question, lets now read Hebrews 2: verses 9 -10 together:

9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Immediately after saying that by the grace of God Christ tasted death for everyone, the writer of Hebrews explains that God’s intention or design in the cross of Christ was to “bring many sons to glory” (verse 10). Christ tasted death for everyone, because it seemed fitting to God that the way to lead His children to glory was through the suffering and death of Christ.

The “everyone” of verse 9 refers to the “everyone” of the sons being led to glory in verse 10.

Verses 11 and 12 confirm this is indeed the context for the use of “everyone” (in verse 9):

11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

Following the thread of these verses, the sons God is leading to the glory of heaven through the death of Christ are now called the brothers of Christ. It was for everyone of these that Christ tasted death.

Hebrews 9:15 declares, “Therefore He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”

According to this text who does it redeem?

Answer: The called.

Christ’s work on the cross achieved all of the Divine purposes for it. The intent of the design was not merely to try to save all, but when all was said and done, the plan could fail for many because of that stubborn thing called “free will,” with the Savior sad for all eternity because many He died for received no benefit for all His labor. No, He died a satisfied Savior, giving Himself for His friends, for His sheep, for His people, for His Church, and fully accomplished the work of redemption for all in this number.

All who are particularists (who believe that not everyone will be saved – that some people will in fact spend eternity in hell) believe in some type of limitation to the atonement of Christ. The Arminian limits its power, for it only becomes effectual through man’s cooperation; the Reformed person limits its extent.

As C. H. Spurgeon said, “The doctrine of Holy Scripture is this, that inasmuch as man could not keep God’s law, having fallen in Adam, Christ came and fulfilled the law on the behalf of his people; and that inasmuch as man had already broken the divine law and incurred the penalty of the wrath of God, Christ came and suffered in the room, place, and stead of his elect ones, that so by his enduring the full vials of wrath, they might be emptied out and not a drop might ever fall upon the heads of his blood-bought people.” (Sermon 310 – “Christ our Substitute – New Park Street, Southwark)

Elsewhere he preached, “I had rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than an universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of man be joined with it.” (Sermon number 173 – Metropolitan Pulpit 4:121)

In another sermon, Spurgeon said, “Once again, if it were Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own evidence that there is a lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit must be cast some of the very persons, who according to that theory, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a thousand times more frightful than any of those horrors, which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of particular redemption.” (C. H. Spurgeon – Sermon 204 – New Park Street Pulpit 4:553)

This doctrine of the particular redemption or definite atonement of Christ, speaks of God’s design in the atonement, and who it was God was intending to save when Christ went to the cross. Christ died as a substitute who bore the full weight of God’s wrath on behalf of His people, paying the penalty for their sin. Christ intended to save His sheep and actually secured everything necessary for their salvation. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, thereby guaranteeing their salvation.

Christ did not build a wide bridge that merely went most of the way from heaven to earth, requiring all who were willing to jump the final few yards. It was a narrow cross shaped bridge, that extended all the way from heaven to earth, with Jesus the Savior, walking the bridge, finding His sheep on the other side in spiritual death, raising them to life, and carrying each one safely to heaven in His arms.

Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, based on the Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone! Christ’s all sufficient work affirms this!

The Fight to Read

Charles Spurgeon, where Paul wrote to Timothy:

“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments”

We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them.

Even an apostle must read.

Some of our very ultra-Calvinistic brethren think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermon must be a very deplorable specimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot and talks any quantity of nonsense is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains—oh, that is the preacher!

How rebuked they are by the apostle!

He is inspired, and yet he wants books!

He has been preaching for at least thirty years, and yet he wants books!

He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!

He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet wants books!

He had been caught up into the Third Heaven and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books!

He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

The apostle says to Timothy, and so he says to every preacher, “Give attendance to reading” (1 Tim. 4:13).

The man who never reads will never be read.

He who never quotes will never be quoted.

He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves that he has no brains of his own.

Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers and expositions of the Bible.

Here’s how John Piper put it in his chapter “Fight for Your Life” in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (new edition coming from B&H in February 2013):

I agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones that the fight to find time to read is a fight for one’s life. “Let your wife or anyone else take messages for you, and inform the people telephoning that you are not available. One literally has to fight for one’s life in this sense!”

Most of our people have no idea what two or three new messages a week cost us in terms of intellectual and spiritual drain. Not to mention the depletions of family pain, church decisions, and imponderable theological and moral dilemmas. I, for one, am not a self-replenishing spring. My bucket leaks, even when it is not pouring. My spirit does not revive on the run. Without time of unhurried reading and reflection, beyond the press of sermon preparation, my soul shrinks, and the specter of ministerial death rises. Few things frighten me more than the beginnings of barrenness that come from frenzied activity with little spiritual food and meditation.

The great pressure on us today is to be productive managers. But the need of the church is for prayerful, spiritual poets. I don’t mean (necessarily) pastors who write poems. I mean pastors who feel the weight and glory of eternal reality even in the midst of a business meeting; who carry in their soul such a sense of God that they provide, by their very presence, a constant life-giving reorientation on the infinite God. For your own soul and for the life of your church, fight for time to feed your soul with rich reading.


Sanctification – Piper and Keller

From the desiring god website:

Part 1: Earlier this Spring John Piper and Tim Keller sat down to discuss the biblical vision of sanctification. In this 14-minute video they touch on how justification and sanctification relate, along with the psychological dynamics of faith.


00:20 — How Keller talks about sanctification.

2:25 — What are we conforming to in sanctification?

3:45 — How does justification relate to sanctification?

6:40 — The psychological dynamics of faith.

9:00 — What does it mean to “owe God everything”?

11:20 — “I’m going to work my tail off for Jesus, and it’s all of grace.”

Part 2: The discussion continues in this 15-minute video, including some practical guidance for in-the-moment motivations for holiness.


0:01 — When action is enticed by a blessing.

3:00 — Looking for the past and future for sanctification now.

4:44 — How pleasure relates to our motives.

7:10 — The battle against pornography and being a “John Owen guy.”

11:10 — Three levels of motivation for holiness.

11:29 — Strategies and means of grace for holiness.

Tim Challies conducted a short interview with Dr. Piper. He writes:

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to interview John Piper. I promptly solicited questions from you, the readers of this site, and Pastor John was kind enough to answer them. Because the focus of this year’s Desiring God National Conference is sanctification, I asked him questions related to that subject. In this interview he discusses why sanctification is not an instantaneous act, how we can emphasize personal toil in holiness without diminishing the goodness and sovereignty of God, why we need to continue to confess our sins to God, and how we can know if we are growing in sanctification. If you read only one of the answers, be sure it is the final one!

What is God’s purpose in making sanctification a lifelong pursuit rather than an instantaneous act at the moment of conversion?

First, I agree with the assumption that this is true. God does do this. That is, he intentionally does not conquer all our sins in an instant, though he could. He could perfect us now. We know this because he is going to do it when we die. We will not sin in heaven. We will be among “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb. 12:23).

And we know that God will finally throw Satan into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10) and take away his influence in the new world entirely. If he will do it then, he could do it now. But he doesn’t. He gives Satan leash. So why is Satan allowed to rage, and why does God let us go on stumbling toward holiness?

I am not aware of any text in the Bible that answers this question explicitly. So we answer with inferences from God’s broader statements of purpose. The largest answer is that God does all things for the greater display of his glory, and so this too must be for his glory.

One clue to make this more specific comes from Romans 9:22-23. Paul asks rhetorically, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy?”

Could God’s purpose in “enduring vessels of wrath” be a pointer to his enduring the sins of his people and the raging of his arch-enemy?

In the case of those who will never repent, God’s patience intensifies the display of his power and wrath. And when God forgives his people 70 times 7 times 7 times 7, does he not intensify the display of his mercy?

And does he not provide the most intense experiences of our own humbling and remorse as we see what becomes of us when we fail to trust God’s grace and power? And so God displays both our inadequacy and his all-merciful sufficiency in allowing us to go on stumbling toward holiness.

How do you emphasize personal toil and effort in sanctification without diminishing sanctification as an act of trust in God?

First by seeking to maintain the biblical proportions. The barometer of our balance is the Bible, not the sentiments of our audience. Over the long haul are we speaking in biblical proportions? This requires not just adding up the effort-passages and the rest-passages, but also being so immersed in the spirit of the Bible that we discern the spiritual tone of how to speak of both.

We do not gloss over the words of Jesus, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” (Luke 13:24)

Or the words of Paul, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9:25-27)

Or the words of Peter, “Be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10).

But we bring these commands under the blood-bought promise of God’s commitment to complete the work he has begun (Phil. 1:6) and work in us what pleases him (Heb. 13:20-21) and sanctify us wholly (1 Thess. 5:23-24), and “fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thess. 1:11).

We never forget that there is a “holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). And we never for get that “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). Because he strove with sin and death and Satan, and triumphed, we strive with the assurance we too will prevail.

Why do believers need to continually confess their sins to receive forgiveness for them? If Christ has paid for sins past, present, and future, what actually transacts when I confess my sin to God?

One might think that this problem is created by the contrast between John and Jesus on the one side, and Paul on the other. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Similarly Jesus tells us to pray, “Forgive us our debts,” with the same frequency as “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:12).

But Colossians 2:13-14 says, “You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” And Ephesians 4:32 says, “Forgive one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (See also Col. 3:13.)

So Paul seems to treat forgiveness as past and secure, while John and Jesus seem to treat it as future and contingent—“If we confess . . .”

However the problem is not between John and Paul, or Jesus and Paul, but between John and John. 1 John 2:12 says, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.” Here John speaks like Paul. All your sins have been forgiven (perfect tense). So the tension is between 1 John 1:9 and 2:12. This matters because while one might be tempted to pit author against author, it is harder to pit an author against himself.

I think there are two kinds of solution.

1. The solution in 1 John comes from noticing what John says in 1:7-8, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess …” Confessing our sins is the opposite of “saying we have no sin.” If we say that, “the truth is not in us.” That is, we are not Christians. We are not born again.

So John sees “confessing our sins” as a habitual way of seeing ourselves “in the light.” Walking in the light (v. 7) includes not saying we are sinless. Walking in the light means seeing sin for what it is and acknowledging it as such. If we walk in the light this way, that is live a life of acknowledged (rather than denied) sin, “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”

All sin! In other words, John is not thinking that every sin must be recalled and confessed, else it’s not forgiven. Rather, he is thinking: Are we real Christians? Or are we deceiving ourselves by denying we have sin? If we are real, if we are walking in the light, if we have a continual acknowledgement of our sin, then we are truly born again, truly connected to Christ, truly under the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus.

In short, John 1:9 is saying that, if we confess our sins, the truth is in us, and we are really born of God and united to Christ so that all the forgiveness that Christ purchased is ours.

2. When Jesus teaches us to pray daily, “Forgive us our debts …” he is probably pointing us in the same direction as 1 John (and Paul). We need not take him to mean that every sin must be remembered. He knew the psalmists cry, “Declare me innocent from hidden faults” (19:12). We do not know all our sins. We can’t confess them all by name.

So Jesus probably means: Be aware of your sinfulness. Take note of your sins. Feel their sting. Be grieved by them. Do not hide them. Bring them before God, and ask that the Messiah’s blood cover them all. Jesus knew the plan of Isaiah 53:6, “The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And he knew he was the one who would bear the sins of many. “The Son of Man came to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

So when he told us to ask daily for forgiveness he meant, Ask that God daily apply to us what Christ bought for us. The price of forgiveness was paid once for all. The application to particular sins in our lives is experienced day by day. We add nothing to the purchase. “Father, forgive us,” does not contradict, “The Lord has forgiven you” (Col 3:13). It means: Apply that decisive purchase, that decisive letting go of sin to this days shortcomings.

How can you know if you are making progress in your sanctification and how can you know how much progress you are making? Is sanctification something that can be measured?

Paul believed that sanctification has degrees. You can grow. He prays that “your love may abound more and more” (Phil. 1:9). He says the Thessalonians are pleasing God and tells them to “do so more and more” (1 Thess. 4:1). He tells the Corinthians that God will “increase the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Cor. 9:10). And prays, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Thess. 3:12).

But the New Testament does not quantify these degrees. “More and more” and “increasing” are discernible but not measurable. That is, while length is quantified in inches and feet. Holiness does not have similar measuring units.

So how do you know you are making progress? There is a paradox here. On the one hand, greater holiness is greater victory over sins. But on the other hand, greater holiness is greater sensitivity to and hatred for sin. So it does not follow that becoming more holy will mean becoming more happy with oneself. You may be a better person tomorrow and feel worse about the smaller corruption that remains.

But there are ways to discern growth. One is that those around you will see it and confirm it. Another is that you will see some of it. You will feel the weakening of some temptations as love for Christ pushes the desirability of sin far away. You will feel drawn to holy acts that once were burdens. And you will have holy sorrow when you omit them, not just guilt over a duty neglected. You will see the preferences in your life change. What was once supremely desirable is trumped by a superior desire for Christ and his word and his way. And you will confirm your heart change in action. Action that becomes less burdensome as love grows. “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

We can and should make progress in sanctification. And we can and should be aware that it is happening. This will encourage us that God is at work in our lives. And it will humble us because progress will mean we can see more clearly how far we have to go and how small are our advances. And how much we will always need a great Savior.

The Divine Intention of the Cross (Part 2)

There are also Scriptures that clearly state that Christ gave Himself for His Church:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Eph. 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church…

Here’s a rather lengthy quote from Dr. John Piper, that’s well worth considering. In commentating on the above verses he said, “There is a precious and unfathomable covenant love between Christ and His Bride, that moved Him to die for her. The death of Jesus is for the bride of Christ in a different way than it is for those who perish. Here’s the problem with saying Christ died for all the same way he died for his bride. If Christ died for the sins of those who are finally lost, the same way he died for the sins of those who are finally saved, then what are the lost being punished for? Were their sins covered and canceled by the blood of Jesus or not? We Christians say, “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3). And we mean that his death paid the debt those sins created. His death removed the wrath of God from me. His death lifted the curse of the law from me. His death purchased heaven for me. It really accomplished those things!”

“But what would it mean to say of an unbeliever in hell that Christ died for his sins? Would we mean that the debt for his sins was paid? If so, why is he paying again in hell? Would we mean that the wrath of God was removed? If so, why is the wrath of God being poured out on him in punishment for sins? Would we mean that the curse of the law was lifted? If so, why is he bearing his curse in the lake of fire?”

He continues, “One possible answer is this: one might say that the only reason people go to hell is because of the sin of rejecting Jesus, not because of all the other sins of their life. But that is not true. The Bible teaches that the wrath of God is coming on the world, not just because of its rejection of Jesus, but because of its many sins that are not forgiven. For example, in Colossians 3:5-6, Paul refers to “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed,” and then says, “On account of these things the wrath of God will come.” So people who reject Jesus really will be punished for their specific sins, not just for rejecting Jesus.”

“So, we go back to the problem: in what sense did Christ taste death for their sins? If they are still guilty for their sins and still suffer punishment for their sins, what happened on the cross for their sins? Perhaps someone would use an analogy. You might say, Christ purchased their ticket to heaven, and offered it to them freely, but they refused to take it, and that is why they went to hell. And you would be partly right: Christ does offer his forgiveness freely to all, and any who receives it as the treasure it is will be saved by the death of Jesus. But the problem with the analogy is that the purchase of the ticket to heaven is, in reality, the canceling of sins. But what we have seen is that those who refuse the ticket are punished for their sins, not just for refusing the ticket. And so what meaning does it have to say that their sins were canceled? Their sins are going to bring them to destruction and keep them from heaven; so their sins were not really canceled in the cross, and therefore the ticket was not purchased.”

“The ticket for heaven which Jesus obtained for me by his blood is the wiping out of all my sins, covering them, bearing them in his own body, so that they can never bring me to ruin can never be brought up against me again – never! That’s what happened when he died for me. Hebrews 10:14 says, “By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” Perfected before God for all time, by the offering of his life! That’s what it means that he died for me. Hebrews 9:28 says, “Christ also, [was] offered once to bear the sins of many.” He bore my sins. He really bore them (See Isaiah 53:4-6). He really suffered for them. They cannot and they will not fall on my head in judgment.”

“If you say to me then, that at the cross Christ only accomplished for me what he accomplished for those who will suffer hell for their sins, then you strip the death of Jesus of its actual effective accomplishment on my behalf, and leave me with what? An atonement that has lost its precious assuring power that my sins were really covered and the curse was really lifted and the wrath of God was really removed. That’s a high price to pay in order to say that Christ tasted death for everyone in the same way.”

Hebrews 10:
10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.
14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Did Christ’s sacrifice perfect for all time everybody on the planet (past, present and future)? Surely not, unless we believe in universalism (that everyone will be saved).

In John 15, Jesus taught us that true love can be seen in laying a life down for friends:
13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you…

In Galatians 2:20, Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Can a non Christian affirm that like Paul, he was crucified with Christ? Surely not!

The consistent theme of Scripture is the triumph of Christ’s all conquering work of redemption. When we are given a glimpse into the heavenly anthems sung by the redeemed, we read, “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

Notice again the consistency of thought here. It does not say He redeemed everyone in every tribe, tongue, people and nation. Jesus, by His blood, actually redeemed people out of every tribe, tongue, people and nation.

The number of the redeemed is vast. Revelation 7:9-10 declares, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Scripture is explicit then in saying that Jesus died for His people, His sheep, His friends, His Church, securing eternal life for them in doing so.

The Divine Intention of the Cross (Part 1)

What did Jesus actually accomplish on the cross? Who did He accomplish it for?

Who did Jesus die for? If we were to ask this question of Christians today, most would not hesitate for a moment to say, “everyone, of course!” However, it may be something of a surprise to learn that this has not always been the majority view amongst Christians, and that the question actually needs a great deal of thought.

Let me start by saying that all Christians should rightfully affirm the infinite worth of Christ’s work on the cross. “The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world. This death is of such infinite value and dignity because the person who submitted to it was not only really man and perfectly holy, but also the only-begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, which qualifications were necessary to constitute Him a Savior for us; and, moreover, because it was attended with a sense of the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin.” Canons of Dort – Second Head of Doctrine, Articles 3 and 4. The value of Christ’s death on the cross is infinite. That cannot be underlined enough!

Yet when we ask such questions as “what was God’s intention in sending His Son to die on the cross?” we have to think about what the cross actually does for people, and for what kind of people.

For example, when Jesus was dying on the cross, many people in human history had already died. In fact, not only had they died, but they were either in expectation of heavenly bliss (such as those in Abraham’s bosom – Luke 16:23) or the dreaded expectation of divine, eternal punishment for their sins. This being the case, we need to ask, “What would Jesus death actually achieve for people who were already lost, with no hope of eternal life?”

And, would Jesus actually be bearing the sins of all these people awaiting an eternity in hell, when He knew it would do them no good?

If He did bear the punishment for all the sins of all people, then why would those in hell be bearing the punishment for their sins? Surely punishment for sin should not be handed out twice – one time on the spotless Lamb of God, and a second time on the people in hell.

These are not the only questions we need to be asking. We need to think about the Old Testament types and shadows, which point forward in time to portray the work of the Perfect Savior when He came. For instance, what exactly did the sacrifice made on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) actually do for those outside of the covenant of redemption? What exactly did it do for the Hittites, the Jebusites, or the Amalekites? Did the sacrifice actually pay for, and cover the sins of everyone in the whole world? And if it did do so, why would God still be angry with these other nations? If Divine wrath is satisfied by means of the lamb’s propitiatory sacrifice for sin, then God’s anger is averted, and He is happy rather than angry with people, right?

Well let’s look at just some of the many scriptures that speak to this issue. When we do, I believe we’ll notice something about God’s intention in the work of Christ’s cross.

Isaiah 53:4-11 ESV
4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

I am assuming that as Christians we would all agree that although this was written around 700 years B. C., this passage is a highly prophetic one, speaking of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ and His substitutionary work on the cross. Although there are many things that could be pointed out, please notice that Jesus is said to be “stricken for the transgression of my people,” and that He is satisfied by what He achieves, in spite of the anguish of His soul, and that He makes many righteous in doing so, bearing their iniquities.

Whose iniquities does Jesus bear? Verse 11 tells us it is the “many” He makes righteous.

In the New Testament, we see a similar statement in the words of the angel to Joseph regarding Mary. Matthew 1:21 – “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins.”

This prophetic promise again speaks of the Divine intention of the cross, and the fact that Christ would achieve this intention. Jesus will save His people from their sins.

Further on in Matthew we read Jesus’ own words, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28)

In John 10:11, 14, 15, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

In the next verse He continues, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) Here He speaks of those outside the Jewish fold, the Gentiles. Christ has many sheep amongst both Jews and Gentiles for whom He would lay down His life.

Clearly not all people are counted amongst Christ sheep, as Jesus goes on to say,

26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
30 I and the Father are one. (John 10:26-30)

In John 17, Jesus prayed, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. ” (v. 6-10)

Jesus’ intercession here was not for everyone in the world, but for those the Father gave to Him.

(to be continued)

The Struggle with Sin

The Key to Christian Living by Douglas Moo

Any Christian genuinely seeking to please God struggles with sin. We all recognize that we are not where God wants us; that our thoughts and actions are still far too worldly; that we are far short of the holiness that God insists should characterize His people.

No wonder, then, that a virtual “cottage industry” offering “the key to the Christian life” has sprung up in Christian circles. One cannot peruse a Christian publisher’s catalog or scan a list of local church seminar offerings without finding some writer or speaker claiming to have the solution to our struggle with sin. Some, perhaps most, of these books and seminars can genuinely help us grow in Christ. But almost all of them promise more than they can deliver — for there is no simple “key” to the successful Christian life, and success will not come easily but only after years of hard, dedicated spiritual discipline.

Paul gives us a glimpse of what the struggle against sin is like in Romans 6:1–14. For five chapters he has proclaimed the Good News that sinners can be put right with God by believing on Christ and His work. But the more Paul emphasizes that we are justified by faith alone, the more we wonder whether there is any point in even trying to live a consistent Christian life. If God has already accepted us, why should we worry about sin? Paul’s basic answer is that the true Christian will never seriously ask this question. To be justified by faith means that we also are brought into a relationship with Christ — and that relationship cannot help but change the very way we look at sin.

But we are particularly interested in the way Paul elaborates his answer. We can best understand Paul’s response by unpacking its essential logic, a logic that proceeds in three steps:

We have died with Christ (Romans 6:3).

Christ died to sin (Romans 6:10).

Therefore, we have died to sin (Romans 6:2).

Following Romans 5, with its teaching about the sinner’s identification with Adam in sin and death, and the believer’s identification with Christ in righteousness and life, it is no wonder that Paul continues in Romans 6 to emphasize our real involvement with Christ in redemptive events. As Christ died to take away the penalty our sins had earned, so He also died to cancel the power of sin over us. Through faith, expressed in baptism, we identify with Christ and enjoy the power over sin that He Himself won (v. 10). Of course, Christ was never under sin’s power in such a way that He was forced to sin. But as a fully incarnate man, He was exposed to its power. Therefore, His death won release from sin’s power over Him. And it also wins release from sin’s power for every Christian united with Him by faith.

And so Paul can claim that we have “died to sin.” What does this mean?
Continue reading

James on the Divinity of The Lord Jesus

Turretinfan writes:

…. James does make it clear that he holds to Jesus’ divinity.

James 1:1-7

(1) James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. (2) My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (3) knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (4) But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (5) If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (6) But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (7) For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

In verse 1, James identifies Jesus as both God and the Lord. But if you will dispute this point, note that James clearly identifies Jesus as the Lord. Moreover, after suggesting that people can ask things from God, he immediately switches to the designation “Lord” in verse 7. James’ interchangeable use of God and Lord demonstrates that he held Jesus to be divine.

James 2:1

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

Here James explicitly calls Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, which is a divine title. It’s the same title that Paul uses for Jesus:

1 Corinthians 2:8

Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Moreover, James is explicitly teaching people to place their faith in Jesus, which would be very strange if James thought that Jesus was merely a man.

It would be especially strange given that just a little later in the chapter, describing faith, James states (James 2:18-19):

(18) Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (19) Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

Notice that James views faith as faith in God, and holds that there is only one God, yet it is the “faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,” as we saw above. Thus, for James, Jesus is God.

And again, this is the same as the teaching of Paul.

1 Corinthians 8:6

But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

We see James equating Jesus and God again in the fourth chapter.

James 4:8-10

(8) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (9) Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. (10) Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

This is yet another example of James using “God” and “Lord” interchangeably.

Perhaps the most obvious example for a Muslim will come when James provides the Christian precursor to Islam’s “Insha’Allah”:

James 4:13-15

(13) Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: (14) whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. (15) For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

What Muslim would say, “If Mohamed will”? Surely the determination of what the future holds is something that is firmly the will of God – not the will of mere prophet or messenger, yet James assigns the future to the will that to the Lord, whom he has explicitly identified as Jesus Christ. Thus, James held Jesus to be divine.

But James doesn’t stop there. He describes the future return of Jesus to the world (James 5:7-11)

(7) Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. (8) Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. (9) Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. (10) Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. (11) Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

Notice that here James identifies this same coming Lord, namely Jesus Christ, with the Lord in whose names the prophets spoke, and particularly the Lord referenced in the book of Job, which is undoubtedly God. You will recall that after all Job’s sufferings, the Lord gave him better than he had before.

Another example is found in James 5:14-15

(14) Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: (15) And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Notice here that prayer in the name of Jesus is commended, and it is alleged that Jesus will raise up the person. While this may be less explicit than the other cases, the very fact that the prayer is in Jesus’ name indicates Jesus’ divinity.

Thus, not only does James fail to deny the divinity of Christ (James affirmation of monotheism is no contradiction to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity), but James repeatedly treats Jesus as divine from the very first verse of the epistle.


Hearts of Stone

Think about it:

Do people with hearts of stone ask God to give them a different kind of heart?

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.