Making a Defense of the Faith (Apologetic Methodology) and Christ’s work on the cross (Particular Redemption) – These two themes are in view as I was interviewed by the great folks at Apologia Radio this week. You can hear the program online here: – JS
“What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is lack of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher who read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian. Oh begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercise. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterward be pleasant. Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you, and in particular yours.” – John Wesley, writing to a younger minister, quoted in D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge, Letters Along The Way (Wheaton, 1993), page 169.
“We find Christ in all the Scriptures. In the Old Testament He is predicted, in the Gospels He is revealed, in Acts He is preached, in the epistles He is explained, and in Revelation He is expected.” – Alistair Begg
“I would propose that the subject of the ministry of this house, as long as this platform shall stand, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist, but if I am asked to say what is my creed, I think I must reply, “It is Jesus Christ.” The body of divinity to which I would pin and bind myself forever, God helping me, is Christ Jesus, who is the sum and substance of the gospel, who is Himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth, and the life.” – C. H. Spurgeon
“If we say we have faith, but no works follow, that is clear evidence that our faith is not genuine.” – R.C. Sproul
“Before Calvary, Christ was represented by way of a blood-shedding ritual on an altar; after Calvary, he is represented by a blood-less feast at a table.” – Derek Thomas
“The more you know about Christ, the less you will be satisfied with superficial views of him.” – C. H. Spurgeon
“Of all deadly sins, this is the most deadly, namely, that any one should think he is not guilty of a damnable and deadly sin before God.” – Martin Luther
“A Christian is distinguished by his conversation. He will often trim a sentence where others would have made it far more luxuriant by a jest which was not altogether clean. . . . If he would have a jest, he picks the mirth but leaves the sin; his conversation is not used to levity; it is not mere froth, but it ministers grace to the hearers. He has learned where the salt-box is kept in God’s great house, and so his speech is always seasoned with it, so that it may do no hurt but much good. Oh! commend me to the man who talks like Jesus, who will not for the world suffer corrupt communications to come out of his mouth. I know what people will say of you if you are like this: they will say you are straight-laced, and that you will not throw much life into company. Others will call you mean-spirited. Oh, my brethren! bold-hearted men are always called mean-spirited by cowards. They will admonish you not to be singular, but you can tell them that it is no folly to be singular, when to be singular is to be right. I know they will say you deny yourselves a great deal, but you will remind them that it is no denial to you.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Clean and the Unclean,” 1863
“The deepest need of men is not food and clothing and shelter, important as they are. It is God. We have mistaken the nature of poverty and thought it was economic poverty. No, it is poverty of soul, deprivation of God’s re-creating, loving peace. Peer into poverty and see if we are really getting down to our deepest needs in our economic salvation schemes. These are important. But they lie farther along the road, secondary steps toward world reconstruction. The primary step is a holy life, transformed and radiant in the glory of God.” – Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion (New York, 1941), page 123.
“If God should turn away from himself as the Source of infinite joy, he would cease to be God. He would deny the infinite worth of his own glory. He would imply that there is something more valuable outside himself. He would commit idolatry.” – John Piper
“When you desire to be most alive to God, you will generally find sin most alive to repel you.” – C. H. Spurgeon
“We cannot manipulate God, but we can trust him, and that is far better.” – J.D. Greear
“No one can know the true grace of God who has not first known the fear of God.” – A. W. Tozer
“God requires satisfaction because he is holiness, but he makes satisfaction because he is love.” – Augustus Strong
“‘Wait on the Lord’ is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.” – J. I. Packer, Knowing God
“The essence of apostasy is changing sides from that of the crucified to that of the crucifier.” – John Stott
“Backsliding, generally first begins with neglect of private prayer.” – J. C. Ryle
16 July 1842: I feel that, unless the soul be saturated with prayer and faith, little good may be expected from preaching.
4 September 1842: Prayer should be the main business of every day.
22 February 1846: God will not let me preach with power when I am not much in Him. More than ever do I feel that I should be as much an intercessor as a preacher of the Word.
4 June 1848: It is praying much that makes preaching felt.
29 December 1849: My chief desire should be . . . to be a man of prayer, for there is no want of speaking and writing and preaching and teaching and warning, but there is need of the Holy Spirit to make all this effectual.
21 February 1862: I am convinced that living in the spirit of prayer from hour to hour is what brings down the blessing.
9 September 1876: A time of impotence rising from want of much prayer. Nothing but constant intercourse with the Lord will carry on the soul. I got last Saturday set apart as a day of prayer; and I trace much of my help to that day.
22 June 1878: Ask much, for this is the way to grow rich.
12 May 1888: Found time to give the whole of this day entirely to prayer and meditation. There will be fruit of it to me and my people.
Recorded in Philip E. Hughes, Revive Us Again (London, 1947), pages 22-24.
“A disposition or a proclivity does not justify expressing that disposition and that proclivity. That goes across the board for all sexuality.”
Ravi Zacharias answers the question, “Is it possible for a man or a woman to live a sincere Christian life as a homosexual?”
Announcing the revolutionary scientific breakthrough – the Turbo Encabulator:
I know it is hard to believe, but some people just could not understand everything communicated in the first video, so some time later, this second video was made so that all could be made clear:
“Oh, brothers and sisters, if anybody in this place knows the power which is in Christ to make his ministry of any use, I am sure that I do! I scarcely ever come into this pulpit without bemoaning myself that ever I should be called to a task for which I seem more unfit than any other man that ever was born. Woe is me that I should have to preach a gospel which so overmasters me, and which I feel that I am so unfit to preach! Yet I could not give it up, for it were a far greater woe to me not to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Unless the Holy Ghost blesses the Word, we who preach the gospel are of all men most miserable, for we have attempted a task that is impossible, we have entered upon a sphere where nothing but the supernatural will ever avail. If the Holy Spirit does not renew the hearts of our hearers, we cannot do it. If the Holy Ghost does not regenerate them, we cannot. If he does not send the truth home into their souls, we might as well speak into the ear of a corpse. All that we have to do is quite beyond our unaided power; we must have our Master with us, or we can do nothing.
We deeply feel our need of this great truth; we not merely say it, but we are driven every day, by our own deep sense of need, to rejoice that our Lord has declared, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth,” for we need all power. Every kind of power that there is in heaven and in earth we shall need before we can fully discharge this ministry. Before the nations shall all be brought to hear the gospel of Christ, before testimony to him shall be borne in every land, we shall need the whole omnipotence of God; we shall want every force in heaven and earth ere this is done. Thank God that this power is all laid by ready for our use, the strength that is equal to such a stupendous task as this is already provided.”
[Spurgeon, C. H. (1896). The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. XLII (pp. 235–236), “Our Omnipotent Leader.” London: Passmore & Alabaster. Paragraphs added to enhance readability]
Ray Comfort shares some of the reasoning behind the movie/documentary Evolution vs. God which has close to 500,000 youtube views in less than 3 weeks:
Anja was born with a severe case of Cerebral Palsy. Watch as her parents give testimony to the amazing improvement she experiences as prayer persists for her. Let us rejoice in the wonderful healing power of the Lord Jesus, seeing just how far she has come. Lets also be encouraged to reach out in praying for others:
Pastor John, thank you for answering my question concerning your number 1 reason for believing in Particular Redemption. May I probe a little further and ask, “what would be your number 2 reason?”
My number 2 reason would be the Bible’s consistent message concerning the priestly ministry of the High Priest. Please allow me to explain.
In the Old Testament, we have many types and shadows which anticipate the perfect ministry and work of Christ when He would come. One of these types was the Israelite High Priest who offered the sacrifice and interceded for the people of God.
This High Priest wore special garments which portrayed his function in the Tabernacle or Temple. These are described in Exodus 28, 39 and Leviticus 8. As you might imagine, the study of the High Priests garments is very rich in meaning and significance.
For brevity’s sake I would just mention two of these garments. Firstly, the Ephod which was a richly embroidered vest (or apron) with two onyx engraved gemstones on the shoulders, on which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Secondly, the Priestly breastplate (Hebrew hoshen), fastened to the Ephod which had twelve gems, each engraved with the name of one of the tribes.
Much could be said about this but what is clear is that the High Priest, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) made intercession for the twelve tribes (the people of God) and offered the prescribed sacrifice on their behalf.
The High Priest interceded and brought sacrifice for the chosen people of God, Israel; and not for the other nations around them. No intercession or sacrifice was made for the Amalekites, the Philistines, the Amorites. Intercession and atonement was made for the people of God alone.
Fast forward then to the night before Jesus was crucified. What we have in John chapter 17 is something called “Christ’s High Priestly Prayer.” Jesus makes intercession for a definite group of people (those the Father had given to Him). Let me quote the text, highlighting certain words for emphasis:
“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours… Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me… I have guarded them… I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself… I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
In the role of our Great High Priest, Christ inteceeded only for the elect (those given to Him by the Father). Just as the Old Testament portrayed the sacrifice and the ministry of intercession as being intimately related, so it is with Christ and His work for us.
He laid down His life for the sheep
John 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 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.
He died for the children of God scattered abroad
John 11:51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
He gave Himself for the Church
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…
Which Church He purchased by His blood
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.
He bears the iniquities of those He makes righteous
Isa 53:11 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.
He ransomed people (not all without exception, but all without distinction)
Rev 5:9 “for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…
A study of Hebrews chapters 8 – 10 reveals the significance of Christ’s once for all sacrifice which perfects all for whom it was made (Heb 10:10,14). Scripture tells us, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb 7:25)
Just as the Old Testament High Priest made sacrifice and interceded for the people of God, Jesus as the Great High Priest provided the perfect sacrifice (Himself) that actually atoned for sin (rather than merely making people saveable), and His ministry of intercession was for (and continues for) the same exact group.
Pastor John, I understand that you did not always hold to Reformed theology and to the doctrine of Particular Redemption (or ‘Limited Atonement’ as it is called in the acrostic TULIP). May I ask you, what was the number 1 reason you came to embrace it?
Thanks for your question. You are right in the fact that I have not always embraced the doctrines of grace. Concerning the specific matter of the atonement of Christ, in coming to see the clarity of the Scriptures on this issue, by far the most compelling argument in determining my change of view was this fact: The Arminian understanding of the atonement (which was my former view) undermines the mission, purpose and unity of the Godhead.
That is strong language to be sure, but please allow me to explain:
In Arminian theology three different groups of people are in view:
1. The Father elects those whom He foresaw as believing in Christ (that’s one group).
2. The Son dies for everyone in what we would call a universal atonement (that’s a second group).
3. The Holy Spirit then seeks to woo/draw those who hear the Gospel (still a third group). We should note that there are many who will never hear the Gospel of Christ.
Quite clearly, these are three entirely different groups of people.
Jesus made it very clear that His mission was to do the will of the Father. In John 6 we have His words recorded:
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
Jesus and the Father were never at odds for even a moment. Christ came to do the Father’s will which involved losing none of the ones given to Him by the Father and raising that entire group up to eternal life.
Jesus confirmed this unity of purpose in John 10:30 when He said, “I and the Father are one.” Here we see the Father and the Son in perfect accord, united in will, purpose and mission. What is true of the Father and the Son is also true of the Holy Spirit. The entire Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united in purpose and have been from eternity.
In contrast with the fragmented view of Trinitarian redemption found in Arminian theology, I found the consistency of the Scripture revealed in the Reformed view of the cross. As C. H. Spurgeon once said, “Reformed theology is simply a nickname for biblical Christianity.”
Here was the clincher for me. Only in the Reformed view is the unity of the Godhead maintained.
The Father planned redemption for those He chose to save; the Son accomplished redemption for them, and the Holy Spirit applies redemption to them in what we call irresistible grace. All three Persons of the Trinity work in harmony to bring about the salvation of the elect.
So to answer your question, the number 1 argument that convinced me that “Particular Redemption” is the biblical doctrine of the atonement was this; the unity of the Godhead in the work of redemption.
“Universalism is the belief that ultimately and finally, all people will be saved. The Church through the ages has soundly condemned this view as heresy for the simple reason that it is a doctrine denied by the Biblical text. Orthodox Christianity, while insisting on the infinite value of the cross of Christ, believes that by itself, Christ’s death did not save everybody; that some will indeed experience God’s wrath in hell, forever.
In this regard, two main views prevail in the Church today, both of which inevitably limit the atonement in some measure. One (the Arminian view) proclaims a “universal” and “potential” atonement, limiting its power (Christ died to make all men saveable, and that the benefits of His death are effected by man’s choice to believe). The other (the Calvinist view) limits its extent. Christ came to fulfill the will of the Father in laying down His life for the sheep, giving Himself for the Church, securing a “real” and “definite” atonement that actually propitiated the Father’s wrath, securing redemption for the people of God. Concerning this question, clarity emerges when we ask this vital question: “What was the Father’s plan from all eternity in the cross of Christ?” – what did God will for Christ’s death to accomplish? Our study of the Scriptures reveals a breathtaking, staggering answer! Christ as the perfect and powerful Savior, perfected forever, all for whom His death was intended. No mere potential atonement is in view. The angel announced that Christ would save His people from their sins. He did exactly that!”
– John Samson