Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
"What James was trying to counter is the notion that faith in God does not necessarily call for works of righteousness and compassion. What use is that kind of faith? James says, "you believe that God is one? (Jas 2:19). Without any works, this faith proves nothing. Why? The clue is found in the verse of Scripture that James quotes. He quotes the first part of the Shema: "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!" (Deut 6:4). The Shema goes on to say, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deut 6:5). Does this sound familiar? According to Jesus, we are to love God and our neighbor as ourself (Mk 12:28-31). In James's letter, he is complaining of those who readily confess the Shema ("God is one, and I love God") but do not put into practice what Jesus required and is taught in the law of Moses: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev 19:18).
"Therefore, if someone is in need of clothing or food and all that the so-called believer extends is a greeting, "Be warmed and be filled," then the faith of this person is dead. James appeals to Genesis 15:6, but in connection with the great story of Abraham's willingness to offer up his son Isaac (Gen 22).
"None of this contradicts Paul. Indeed, Paul did fundraising for the poor of Jerusalem (1 Cor 16:1-3; Gal 2:10), thus putting into practice what James regards as a faith proven by works. Paul also agrees that faith results in 'good works' (for example, Eph 2:10). This is why elsewhere he speaks of the 'obedience of faith' (Rom 1:5; 16:26). The question is one of emphasis and situation.
"The letter of James serves a pastoral function, urging (Jewish) believers to demonstrate the living reality of their faith through good works. It was not written to deal with teaching that claimed good works and self-made righteousness complete the saving work of Messiah Jesus. That was the problem Paul addressed."
Craig A. Evans, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, (Downers Grove, Ill: Intervarsity, 2006), 200-201.
"Who are the proper recipients of Christian Baptism?"
Gene is a credobaptist (believer baptism) and Paul is a paedobaptist (infant baptism). Although I'm a baptist by conviction, I think brother Paul demonstrated superior debate saavy through using a superior strategy founded in a well-honed ability to critically and quickly analyze and deconstruct arguments. Enjoy listening to the linked .mp3 downloads of my two buds duking it out (Pro. 27:17)!
God calls for strong churches that proclaim and live the reality of the transforming gospel so that it is attractive to the lost. Testimonies like these are built on sanctified relationships. As we have already seen, God has dealt with the churches on
When a person has something important to tell another through personal counsel or correspondence, sometimes the most urgent advice is mentioned last. In the closing words in his letter to Titus, Paul discusses two categories of activities: profitable and unprofitable activities. The profitable activities consist of good works of service for the church and society at large; and the unprofitable consists of wrangling with unbelievers and heretics over foolish speculations. And so we will discuss this under two major headings (I) Profitable and (II) Unprofitable Activities.
I. Profitable Activities
NAU Titus 3:8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.
- First, if we want to live the way God wants us to live in this ungodly society, not resenting the very people we are to reach; we must remember our divinely ordained mission to that society. We must live as we have been instructed in Titus chapter 2.
- “these things” refers to everything Paul has emphasized in that chapter and in the first seven verses of chapter three: namely, the way believers should live and act in regard to one another within the church (2:1-15) and the way they should live and act before the unbelieving world (3:1-7).
- Titus was “to speak confidently” about those truths to the churches, in order that, as Paul already has mentioned (3:1), “those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds.” This young apostle was not to be hesitant, indecisive, or vacillating but rather bold and intense, speaking and acting with the firm conviction that he was obediently fulfilling his divinely appointed ministry.
- The phrase “those who have believed God” does not refer to unbelievers opposed to believers, but instead, it refers to those who have been saved by God’s grace and simply take the “Lord” at His word. For example, biblically grounded believers will remember to submit to ungodly and pagan human governments insofar as those governments don’t force them to break the law of God. Those who love God remember their former and present sins, realizing that if it weren’t for God’s kindness in the washing of regeneration, they’d be condemned to hell. They remember that the Lord Jesus has called them to be His witnesses before the lost and condemned world in which they now live. And so, they recognize that it is not their calling to change culture from the top down, to reform outward behavior, and to try to redeem society superficially; but to preach the gospel of grace which can and will change lives from the inside out.
- They are “careful to engage in good deeds”; genuine acts of virtue that benefit the unsaved and are produced by a loving heart that is empowered to be fruitful by God’s Holy Spirit. Among those “good deeds” are our sincere prayers for those who are lost, “deeds” that the lost may not even know about but which will work to their blessing and hopefully to their salvation. When Christians exalt the Word of God and demonstrate God’s power to transform lives, “these things are good and profitable” for people – for the believers themselves, and, even more significantly as far as the emphasis of this passage is concerned, for the unsaved sinners around them who are drawn to Christ by the exemplary lives of those He has graciously transformed.
II. Unprofitable Activities
NAU Titus 3:9-11 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.
Believers in the isle of
Nevertheless, they were causing great damage to Christ’s church and the gospel and as such, they were to be refuted (v. 9), silenced (v. 11), and reproved (v. 13). They professed “to know God,” Paul explained, “but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed” (v. 16). Like those about whom the apostle warned Timothy, these false teachers held “to a form of godliness, although [they] had denied its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). They were not disobedient believers; they were not believers at all! This is shown by the fact that they espoused ungodly doctrines, lived ungodly lives, and tried to justify it all in the name of love for Jesus. They were to be ejected from the churches immediately because they were corrupting the faith once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 3).
Paul was well acquainted with these fools, for he had been both dogged by their persistence in proclaiming their error over and against the true gospel. One of his encounters with them involved Titus, when some years earlier, Barnabas, Titus, and Paul had gone to
- The command “avoid” translates a verb (periistemi) that means “to turn oneself around, to purposefully turn away from something or someone”. Titus, the elders in the churches, and the congregations on
Cretewere to turn the other way from morally and spiritually destructive false teachers, who not only corrupted the churches but, by their sinful and sordid lifestyles, were a great hindrance to the credibility of the gospel. The effect of false teaching is explained in several New Testament passages. It unsettles the soul (Acts 15:24), shipwrecks faith (1 Tim. 1:19), leads to blasphemy (v. 20), and to the ruin of the hearers (2 Tim. 2:14), produces ungodliness (v. 16), and spreads “like cancer” (v. 17).
- In this single verse, Paul mentions four specific categories of errors these false teachers were espousing: “foolish controversies and geneologies and strife and disputes about the Law.” (1) The word “foolish” (moros) comes from the word that we get the English word “moron” from. The word “controversies” is a word (zetesis) that was used to describe debate and discussion that was both contentious and controversial. This word is always used in Paul’s writings in a negative sense and is used to warn Christians to avoid engaging in silly arguments about vain philosophy and empty and deceptive theology – things that are is based upon human rationalism and imagination rather than the Bible. Paul told Timothy to “instruct certain people not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God” and which inevitably results in “fruitless discussion” (1 Tim. 1:3-6). Paul repeats a similar warning to Timothy, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” (1 Tim. 6:3-5) In his second letter, Paul again instructs Timothy: “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.” (2 Tim. 2:23) False teachers replace sound teaching with newfangled ideas and unbiblical philosophies which end up confusing God’s people. False doctrine is dangerous because it appeals to the natural man, is acceptable to unbelievers and worse yet, it appeals to the flesh of worldly Christians that are poorly taught in the word of God. This is why Paul instructed Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus . . .” (2 Tim. 2:15-17). Once a false teacher is exposed in the church, he is to be rejected by the church, given no platform to spread his doctrinal cancer; he is not to be debated, but rebuked, and quickly expelled from the assembly if he doesn’t repent. What’s the point? The point is this: Do not waste hours and hours debating with heretics who espouse “foolish controversies” but instead disciple your family, your church, and your community. Wasting time debating and quarreling with apostates is “foolish” behavior because (a) it is a time and energy waster for God’s people and (b) if you engage in continually answering and contending with a fool, you’ll end up showing that you’re just as stupid as he is (Prov. 26:4-5). (2) Paul’s warning against “genealogies” is not against the biblical genealogies found in Scripture which are ultimately designed to point to the God-man Jesus (Matt 1:1. cf. 2:1-7). Instead, Paul is speaking against the practice of making fanciful Jewish interpretations of genealogies and physical lineages found in the Scriptures, activities that were supposed to automatically place some Jews in a special spiritual status over and above other men, especially the Gentiles. This kind of practice was associated with the Judaizers when they were engaging in general controversies surrounding the relationship of the Law of Moses to the gospel. Paul said this was a waste of time, a practice only reserved for morons. This is why he told Timothy not to “pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.” (1 Tim. 1:4) (3) The third error that Christians on Crete may have engaged in was “strife”, which always accompanies self-centered behavior and leads to a fourth thing faced by the Christians on Crete (4), which were continual “disputes about the [Mosaic] Law”. These two words, “strife” and “disputes” (eris and mache) are combat terms that indicate the intensity of the spiritual battle faced by these Christians. These “strife and disputes” about the Mosaic Law probably included mythical legends added to Old Testament history, false ideas of the Judaizers that were leading to Gnosticism, and the tradition of the elders, which at the time of Jesus, was believed to have equal authority with the Old Testament Scriptures. This tradition of the elders, known as the Mishna and the Gemara, eventually became what is known today as the Talmud. Essentially, Paul and the apostles were battling the false teachings of the Jewish rabbinic schools that were creeping into the churches, and subsequently causing strife by creating a division and barrier between the Jewish and Gentile Christians (Eph. 2:11-16), something that Christ came to break down (Eph. 2:11-16) and something that the apostles fought against in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:5, 10-11; 12:17; 21:18-19). The same assimilating of false ideas into the church occurs today and destroys the unity of the body. So it was with the Cretan churches, so it goes now with our American churches! This is thy Paul says that such things “are unprofitable and worthless.”
Discussing and debating theology with false teachers who disregard and distort God’s word is an absolutely fruitless task. You are smarter by finding people who will listen to the truth rather than wasting your time quarreling with those who have no desire to receive divine truth. This is because such people are self deceived by “deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). However, those who follow false teachers are many, and according to 2 Peter 2:2, “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned” and they will “not endure sound doctrine” because “wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and . . . turn away their ears from the truth, and . . . turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
- Reject Factious People – “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10-11) Just as we are to “avoid” the ungodly, fruitless, and corrupting activities mentioned in verse 9, we are also to reject “factious” people. The word “reject” (paraiteomi) is also translated “have nothing to do with” in 1 Tim. 4:7 and “refuse” in 2 Tim. 2:23. In the second use of this word by Paul, he is speaking of refusing “foolish and ignorant speculations that . . . produce quarrels.” The word “factious” is from the Greek word hairetikos, from which we get our English word “heretic”. A heretic is one who places his own theories, false doctrine, and self-willed opinions above the truth. Let me give you an example from the writings of a popular infidel, the Episcopal Bishop, John Shelby Spong,
A savior who restores us to our prefallen status is therefore pre-Darwinian superstition and post-Darwinian nonsense. A supernatural redeemer who enters our fallen world to restore creation is a theistic myth. So we must free Jesus from the rescuer role. Yet so totally has he been captured by this understanding that most of us know of no other way to speak of him except to reduce him to a good teacher or a good example. Had the Christ experience been more than that, I doubt seriously if it would have survived. Yet the Jesus portrayed in the creedal statement ‘as one who, for us and for our salvation, came down from heaven’ simply no longer communicates to our world. Those concepts must be uprooted and dismissed. If the Christ experience is real, then we must find a new way to talk about it.
Or how about this one?
Spong is the classic example of a heretic. A person like Spong refuses to listen to contrary views and so rejects the faith once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 3). Galatians 5:19-21 says that such people are associated with the following “deeds of the flesh” – “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing”. And so, a “factious” person refuses to submit to the law of Christ, refuses to submit to godly leaders in the church, and is not concerned with spiritual unity or truth. He is the epitome of what it means to be autonomos, or a “law unto oneself”, and such a person is to be rejected because quarreling with such a one takes time away from family, ministry, and other necessary things. It is certain that Satan will always raise up a heretic to steal your time away from what really matters, thus we all would do well to heed Paul’s instruction to Titus in verse 10.
It is important to note that Paul is not dealing with false teachers only, but is including in his warning anyone in the broader church community that is divisive, disruptive, and breeds dissension. Because the consequences of insubordination, nonsubmission, and bickering can be so destructive of unity among the Lord’s people, the apostle commands that “factious” person be rejected by the church if they do not listen to “a first and second warning”. The reason they are to be rejected is because the issues they are debating may be silly, but their constant arguing and dissension is not! This is why Paul said in Romans 16:17-18, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting . . .” and also in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15, “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” This is why church discipline must be done in a way that is loving, with a view toward the restoration of the sinning believer, for Paul says that we are to confront sinning people, “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth . . .” (2 Tim. 2:25).
Unity and love grounded in God’s divine truth as seen in Christian fellowship is imperative for effective evangelism. It is testimony to the world, for Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” He also said that the purpose of church leaders was to equip Christians for the work of the ministry, for “the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” and he shows that his goal for all Christians was that we would all strive to be “made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11).
For Christians that are well grounded in the Scriptures, the errors and sinfulness of factious and divisive people in the church should be obvious, “knowing that” a person who persists in fighting for foolish and heretical ideas “is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” This word “perverted” (ekstrepho) has the meaning of “turning inside out, or twisting”; and indicates that the factious person is twisted by his constant “sinning”. These types of people always continually manifest their wicked condition by their words and actions and like Bishop Spong, are “self-condemned.” Those people who teach ideas that are completely foreign to Scripture are usually never disciplined in modern evangelical churches and what is the result? They are given further opportunity and even praised for their doctrinal weirdness. May we turn to the profitable activities of verse 8, activities that strengthen the church, edify individual believers, and provide a strong testimony to our communities versus turning to the unprofitable and time-wasting quarreling associated with the likes of obvious heretics, infidels, and schismatics. May God have mercy on us all.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
As I travel and teach for In-Depth Studies I am becoming increasingly aware that there is a common misunderstanding about the nature of the “law in the heart” as found in Hebrews 8:10, 10:16. This misunderstanding is not limited to folks who are new to NCT, but it also includes those who are teachers of NCT. Let me first begin with what, in my opinion, the law in the heart is not referring to.
The law in the heart is not referring to actual laws. This applies to the 10 commandments, the moral law, or any other version of God’s law. In saying the above I am not saying that I endorse concepts like the moral law. I am only saying that these ideas are what are being put forth by other folks as explanations for the law in the heart. It should go without saying that the 10 commandments are not given to the believer at conversion. I, as a Presbyterian, had to learn about the concept of the Sabbath. As a former Roman Catholic this was a foreign concept to me. I had to learn it from my study of scripture. This also applies to the nebulous concept of the moral law. It is true that as someone who was made in the image of God I came into the world with a sense of right and wrong that was affected by sin. But, this sense of right and wrong was not something concrete but rather something that might take different shape in different folks (Romans 2:14-15). Whatever my concept of right and wrong I am unable to live up to it and am therefore condemned.
But, what about the quotation of Jeremiah 31:31-34? Is not the context of that verse the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant and the Mosaic Law? That is absolutely true! There is no way that you could read that verse in its Old Testament context and not come to that conclusion. But the author of Hebrews quotes it in Hebrews 10:14-18 as referring to the fulfillment of that promise which is the transformed life that Jesus purchased on the cross for those who will believe. The transformed life is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. This is described in quite graphic detail in Romans 8:1-27.
So, what we have is the author of Hebrews using the language of the Old Covenant, or language of the picture, to describe the new heart and changed life that the Holy Spirit produces in every believer. In the Old Covenant, our God used the external Mosaic Law to motivate his people, the nation of Israel. But, because they were on the whole unbelievers, the law only made them more sinful and less holy. This result of the law on an unbelieving heart is described in Romans 5:20 and Romans 7:5. In the New Covenant Jesus purchased on the cross an internal motivation called the “law in the heart,” which is the work of the Spirit to cause the believer to be an incurable God-lover.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
In our series on the “washing of regeneration” we have learned that spiritual regeneration is the sovereign, monergistic work of God alone in which He takes out the unbelieving, God-hating heart of stone (which includes a God-hating intellect, God-hating desires, God-hating emotions, and a will that is averse to God) and replaces it with a heart of flesh that willingly loves, craves, and seeks finding its ultimate joy in God’s being, the things of God, and His righteousness (Matt. 5:6; 6:33). Although this inward “washing of regeneration” is done by the power of God alone, in the New Testament, it is also outwardly shown forth as the immediate faith-response of the newly regenerated person through the ordinance of water baptism. Because water baptism is regarded as the divinely appointed means by which the newly regenerated person professes faith in Jesus and publicly unites himself with Jesus in this active faith-response, it is thus viewed by the New Testament writers as the grand climax of the conversion experience whereby the regenerated person shows forth their inward change outwardly to a watching world.
That all important word in Titus 3:5, “Regeneration” (paliggenesi,aj), carries the idea of receiving new life, of being born again, or born from above. Jesus told the enquiring Pharisee, Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the
I. The Power Source:
A. Our regeneration comes through the renewing power of the Holy Spirit (3:5b-6a).
B. Our salvation is purchased by the substitutionary, atoning death of Jesus (3:6).
II. The Outcome:
A. Our justification is by His grace and for His glory (7a).
B. Our adoption to God rescued us from being children of Satan and made us heirs of eternal life (7b).
NAU Titus 3:5-7 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
I. The Power Source
- Our regeneration comes through the renewing power of the Holy Spirit (3:5b-6a).
First, we need to remember that our salvation came through the powerful “renewing by the Holy Spirit.” This phrase moves us on to the next logical step which is that the effect, or result of regeneration is the new life that emerges from the new birth. In Romans 8:2, Paul says that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” The Holy Spirit brings about the spiritual heart transplant through working through the preached word of God, and once this new birth has taken place, the Spirit continues to empower us for our new life in Christ. “If any man is in Christ,” the apostle explains in his second letter to the church in
It is important to note that not only did the Father save us by the power of His Holy Spirit, but He poured out His Spirit upon us richly and without limitation when we were born again (cf. Acts 2:38-39; 1 Cor. 12:7, 11, 13). And so, not only were we sovereignly given salvation by God, but we are sovereignly given spiritual gifts by God! (1 Cor. 12:11) Because of this Holy Spirit power, the Lord “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power [of His Holy Spirit] that works within us” (Eph. 3:20). Because of that available power in us, we are commanded to “be intoxicated not with wine, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18, lit.). The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual life, sustains our spiritual life, empowers our spiritual life, and guarantees that our spiritual life will become eternal life, because He is the seal, or guarantee, of eternal life (Eph. 1:13-14). This brings us to the second component of the power source of regeneration.
- Our salvation is purchased by the substitutionary, atoning death of Jesus (3:6).
One of the best things we can do to remedy feelings of hatred and hostility toward the vile corruptors of our society is to remember that we were saved not on the basis of any meritorious action on our part, but solely on the basis of the substitutionary and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When you start go grind your teeth at the world’s wicked, remembering this will give you a healthy reality check by causing you to realize that it’s only by God’s eternal decree that your lot has been cast with Christ; a lot that was made effective for us by God the Father before we were even born. Consider what Paul says in Ephesians 1:4-5,
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will . . . (Ephesians 1:11)
His substitutionary death in our place is the only basis for our salvation. In his sermon at Pentecost, Peter declared to the assembled Jews that, although Jesus was put to death by their own ungodly leaders, He nevertheless was sovereignly “delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). And the death that He died in God’s plan was a death in which He bore all the sins of all who would ever believe in Him (John 10:15). Now that we’ve briefly looked at the two components of the power source of our regeneration, let’s look at the fruitful outcome as well.
II. The Outcome.
- Our justification is by His grace and for His glory (7a).
NAU Titus 3:7 so that being justified by His grace . . . .
The first part of the outcome of our sovereign salvation also comes only from God. We should remember that we were saved by God’s grace, as Paul has already alluded to in verse 5. In his second letter to Timothy, the apostle explains in more detail that God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according His own purpose, and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” (2 Tim. 1:9; cf.
You see, we can talk about grace, sing about grace, preach about grace, just so long as we do not get too close to it! Election is too close. When we give in to election, we finally give up on ourselves in the matter of salvation. This doctrine takes grace to its logical conclusion: If God saves me without my works, then he must choose me apart from them, too.
Horton goes on to say,
Whosoever will, let him come! – that is the unqualified call of Scripture. The Lord Jesus Christ does not say, Whosoever is white, let him come! or Whosoever is American, let him come! He does not restrict the offer of the gospel to any socioeconomic, political, or ethnic group. Jew and Gentile – all are welcome at God’s table! But when a person does will to come, it is because he or she has been chosen and converted by God’s grace alone. Hence, when a person does come it is, as far as that person is concerned, a free choice, because no one externally coerced the choice. God changes our natural, self-oriented disposition and frees us for the first time from bondage to our sinful will, and then we make the decision that is in harmony with our new, regenerated nature. As freely as we hated God, now just as freely we love Him. He decided to regenerate us and did it while we were resisting, but who’s going to argue with that, especially when all we ever said before was no? I thank God every day that Jesus is not “a gentleman” who lets me have my own way.
I am a Christian because God wanted me to be a Christian and saw to it that his will would be realized in spite of the odds. . . . [God’s sovereignty in His grace] was a compelling sweetness to discover that there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t push a button or flip a switch that would get God to love me. I had stolen from [God’s creation] – and he knew it all along. Still, he had chosen me. One of the church’s greatest problems today is that it has come to the place where it takes God’s grace for granted. . . .[commenting on a statement made by Bonhoffer, Horton says after his quote] “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.” Isn’t that an interesting comment? Well, if in fact grace is something we can’t bestow on ourselves – if only God can grant grace – his is the most valuable grade on the market! That’s what Paul meant when he wrote that when a person does something in order to get something in return, he will demand the payment. In this kind of a situation, the payment he or she receives is not a gift, but a paycheck. Grace expected or demanded is a contradiction of terms.
Looking back at verse 7a, it is necessary to point out that Paul is not using “justified” in the typical way he uses it; which is the narrow, forensic sense in which God declares believers righteous based on Christ’s merits alone being credited to them as their righteousness before God (cf. e.g., Rom. 4:6-8; cf. 3:24, 26; Gal. 2:7). Instead, he is using the word “justified” in this verse in a broader, more general sense as a synonym for salvation. Even John Calvin, a stickler for the narrow, precise definition of justification, recognized that Paul’s use of the word “justified” in this passage refers to salvation in general. He said, “The context seems to demand that its meaning shall be extended further than to the imputation of righteousness.” No, this “justification” includes not only Christ’s righteousness given to the believer as a gift of God, but also includes the rest of the salvation package. Paul used his own life as proof that his salvation was a package deal that was based entirely on the gracious merits and work of Christ alone; even to the point that he was willing to call his former life as a law-keeping Pharisee a huge pile of fecal material! He testified,
If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, (Phil. 3:4-9)
Because Jesus graciously paid the price for our sins, they are graciously removed; justice is fully satisfied; and God’s regenerating power, renewal, kindness, love, mercy, and grace are therefore enabled to act. Grace gives us what we do not and cannot deserve. We can’t merit or earn God’s grace; it has to be dished out to us by Him to us as He pleases lest we, like the pre-conversion Saul of Tarsus, try to base our righteousness on a metaphorical pile of fecal material. In other words, we do not deserve to be forgiven, to have our sins removed from our spiritual bank account, to have Christ’s own lily-white righteousness credited to us, to be given heavenly citizenship, to be justified, sanctified, and one day glorified in the very presence of our gracious Savior and Lord. The bottom line is stated in three words: “He saved us . . .”! Do you see how bad that pile of feces infested self-righteousness stinks? Now you can get some sense of how rank it must be to God when someone tries to take credit for what only God can do!
- Our adoption to God rescued us from being children of Satan and made us heirs of eternal life (7b).
NAU Titus 3:7b . . . . we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The sovereignly given, divine saving grace provides a final amazing benefit to undeserving sinners: By faith they are “made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” As Paul declares more fully in his Roman letter, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Peter exults: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you . . .” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
As recipients of the powerful, monergistic working of God in our regeneration, we experience the Spirit’s work in our lives; a work that was purchased by Christ’s cross-work; a work in which we were sovereignly recreated. This purchased work of the Spirit assures us that we are now being daily conformed to the image of Christ through the continual renewing of our minds, that we now have a drastically different disposition of the will, and the renovation and reformation of our passions has occurred, is occurring, and will continue occurring on into heaven (Rom. 12:2). This work of the Spirit is based in the meritorious work of Christ’s death on the cross, a work that is applied only to God’s elect; a fact that should kill pride, stop the mouth of the boasting moron, and promote genuine humility in the life of the God-lover. When Paul speaks of being “justified” (v. 7), he speaks of the entire package of salvation, which includes all the spiritual goodies that go along with it; which begins with our rescue from the grip of Satan to being adopted as children of God; children who are automatic heirs of eternal life (John 8:44ff). To God be the glory!
Saturday, August 04, 2007
April 20, 1996
Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith.
In the course of history words change. In our day this has happened to the word "evangelical." In the past it served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions. Historic evangelicalism was confessional. It embraced the essential truths of Christianity as those were defined by the great ecumenical councils of the church. In addition, evangelicals also shared a common heritage in the "solas" of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation.
Today the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word "evangelical" has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning. We face the peril of losing the unity it has taken centuries to achieve. Because of this crisis and because of our love of Christ, his gospel and his church, we endeavor to assert anew our commitment to the central truths of the Reformation and of historic evangelicalism. These truths we affirm not because of their role in our traditions, but because we believe that they are central to the Bible.
Sola Scriptura: The Erosion of Authority
Scripture alone is the inerrant rule of the church's life, but the evangelical church today has separated Scripture from its authoritative function. In practice, the church is guided, far too often, by the culture. Therapeutic technique, marketing strategies, and the beat of the entertainment world often have far more to say about what the church wants, how it functions and what it offers, than does the Word of God. Pastors have neglected their rightful oversight of worship, including the doctrinal content of the music. As biblical authority has been abandoned in practice, as its truths have faded from Christian consciousness, and as its doctrines have lost their saliency, the church has been increasingly emptied of its integrity, moral authority and direction.
Rather than adapting Christian faith to satisfy the felt needs of consumers, we must proclaim the law as the only measure of true righteousness and the gospel as the only announcement of saving truth. Biblical truth is indispensable to the church's understanding, nurture and discipline.
Scripture must take us beyond our perceived needs to our real needs and liberate us from seeing ourselves through the seductive images, cliches, promises and priorities of mass culture. It is only in the light of God's truth that we understand ourselves aright and see God's provision for our need. The Bible, therefore, must be taught and preached in the church. Sermons must be expositions of the Bible and its teachings, not expressions of the preacher's opinions or the ideas of the age. We must settle for nothing less than what God has given.
The work of the Holy Spirit in personal experience cannot be disengaged from Scripture. The Spirit does not speak in ways that are independent of Scripture. Apart from Scripture we would never have known of God's grace in Christ. The biblical Word, rather than spiritual experience, is the test of truth.
Thesis One: Sola Scriptura
We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation,which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured.
We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian's conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.
Solus Christus: The Erosion of Christ-Centered Faith
As evangelical faith becomes secularized, its interests have been blurred with those of the culture. The result is a loss of absolute values, permissive individualism, and a substitution of wholeness for holiness, recovery for repentance, intuition for truth, feeling for belief, chance for providence, and immediate gratification for enduring hope. Christ and his cross have moved from the center of our vision.
Thesis Two: Solus Christus
We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father.
We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ's substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.
Sola Gratia: The Erosion of The Gospel
Unwarranted confidence in human ability is a product of fallen human nature. This false confidence now fills the evangelical world; from the self-esteem gospel, to the health and wealth gospel, from those who have transformed the gospel into a product to be sold and sinners into consumers who want to buy, to others who treat Christian faith as being true simply because it works. This silences the doctrine of justification regardless of the official commitments of our churches.
God's grace in Christ is not merely necessary but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. We confess that human beings are born spiritually dead and are incapable even of cooperating with regenerating grace.
Thesis Three: Sola Gratia
We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God's wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.
We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature.
Sola Fide: The Erosion of The Chief Article
Justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. This is the article by which the church stands or falls. Today this article is often ignored, distorted or sometimes even denied by leaders, scholars and pastors who claim to be evangelical. Although fallen human nature has always recoiled from recognizing its need for Christ's imputed righteousness, modernity greatly fuels the fires of this discontent with the biblical Gospel. We have allowed this discontent to dictate the nature of our ministry and what it is we are preaching.
Many in the church growth movement believe that sociological understanding of those in the pew is as important to the success of the gospel as is the biblical truth which is proclaimed. As a result, theological convictions are frequently divorced from the work of the ministry. The marketing orientation in many churches takes this even further, erasing the distinction between the biblical Word and the world, robbing Christ's cross of its offense, and reducing Christian faith to the principles and methods which bring success to secular corporations.
While the theology of the cross may be believed, these movements are actually emptying it of its meaning. There is no gospel except that of Christ's substitution in our place whereby God imputed to him our sin and imputed to us his righteousness. Because he bore our judgment, we now walk in his grace as those who are forever pardoned, accepted and adopted as God's children. There is no basis for our acceptance before God except in Christ's saving work, not in our patriotism, churchly devotion or moral decency. The gospel declares what God has done for us in Christ. It is not about what we can do to reach him.
Thesis Four: Sola Fide
We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ's righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God's perfect justice.
We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ's righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.
Soli Deo Gloria: The Erosion of God-Centered Worship
Wherever in the church biblical authority has been lost, Christ has been displaced, the gospel has been distorted, or faith has been perverted, it has always been for one reason: our interests have displaced God's and we are doing his work in our way. The loss of God's centrality in the life of today's church is common and lamentable. It is this loss that allows us to transform worship into entertainment, gospel preaching into marketing, believing into technique, being good into feeling good about ourselves, and faithfulness into being successful. As a result, God, Christ and the Bible have come to mean too little to us and rest too inconsequentially upon us.
God does not exist to satisfy human ambitions, cravings, the appetite for consumption, or our own private spiritual interests. We must focus on God in our worship, rather than the satisfaction of our personal needs. God is sovereign in worship; we are not. Our concern must be for God's kingdom, not our own empires, popularity or success.
Thesis Five: Soli Deo Gloria
We reaffirm that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God's glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone.
We deny that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self-fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.
A Call To Repentance & Reformation
The faithfulness of the evangelical church in the past contrasts sharply with its unfaithfulness in the present. Earlier in this century, evangelical churches sustained a remarkable missionary endeavor, and built many religious institutions to serve the cause of biblical truth and Christ's kingdom. That was a time when Christian behavior and expectations were markedly different from those in the culture. Today they often are not. The evangelical world today is losing its biblical fidelity, moral compass and missionary zeal.
We repent of our worldliness. We have been influenced by the "gospels" of our secular culture, which are no gospels. We have weakened the church by our own lack of serious repentance, our blindness to the sins in ourselves which we see so clearly in others, and our inexcusable failure to adequately tell others about God's saving work in Jesus Christ.
We also earnestly call back erring professing evangelicals who have deviated from God's Word in the matters discussed in this Declaration. This includes those who declare that there is hope of eternal life apart from explicit faith in Jesus Christ, who claim that those who reject Christ in this life will be annihilated rather than endure the just judgment of God through eternal suffering, or who claim that evangelicals and Roman Catholics are one in Jesus Christ even where the biblical doctrine of justification is not believed.
The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals asks all Christians to give consideration to implementing this Declaration in the church's worship, ministry, policies, life and evangelism.
For Christ's sake. Amen.
Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals Executive Council (1996)
Dr. John Armstrong
The Rev. Alistair Begg
Dr. James M. Boice
Dr. W. Robert Godfrey
Dr. John D. Hannah
Dr. Michael S. Horton
Mrs. Rosemary Jensen
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Dr. Robert M. Norris
Dr. R.C. Sproul
Dr. Gene Edward Veith
Dr. David Wells
Dr. Luder Whitlock
Dr. J.A.O. Preus, III
Friday, August 03, 2007
"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
According to recent statistics, America has nearly 115,000 orphaned kids in foster care waiting to be adopted. Now given James 1:27, I wonder how this is possible in a country with Christian families. Surely, there are 115,000 Christian families in America that want to be obedient to James 1:27, right? Where is this "pure and undefiled religion" that James speaks of? According to early church history, Christian families embraced the redemptive mission of God and practiced "undefiled religion" in their communities by rescuing infants and toddlers that were abandoned to the trash heap and/or left in the open city square at night to be eaten by wild dogs, thus saving them from being raised up as prostitutes or worse, left for dead. Since our church is seriously committed to social change, we are also seriously committed to the idea of displaying "pure and undefiled religion" by helping orphans.
We know that this kind of uber societal change can only come through committed Christians preaching and modeling the gospel and trusting the Spirit to change people from being God-haters into being God-lovers. I fully believe that this type of "social action" through living the gospel could eliminate the U.S. foster care system tomorrow. But sadly, most professing Christians are so drunk with the American Dream that we'd rather get high on a lame life lived for the sake of comfort and ease; and since caring for and adopting orphans doesn't bring comfort and ease; we reject them and so reject "pure and undefiled religion." But it gets worse for those of us who reject or conveniently ignore "pure and undefiled religion" because the Bible contains over 40 verses mandating God's people to look after orphans and the fatherless. Do you feel like a selfish jerk yet? Me too.
So, just so you don't miss the point, let's read James 1:27 again, "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
Notice that "pure and undefiled religion" is said to be two things: (1) visiting orphans and widows in their distress *and* (2) keeping ourselves unstained by the world. How many Christians (and Christian churches) are so neck deep in the sinful world's consumerism, materialism, and greed (i.e., covetousness) that they don't have a clue what "pure and undefiled religion is"? Is it any wonder why we are considered a blight instead of a blessing by the secular community? Evangelical Christians profess to have the corner on religious truth, yet we don't even bear the fruit that is supposed to be rooted in some of the most basic, fundamental elements of that truth. What hypocrites we have been and continue to be! What will God have to do to awaken us?
According to the American Religious Identity Survey, conducted by the City University of New York, there are over 224 million professing Christians in the United States. So, why are there 115,000 orphans in a country that has over 224 million Christians?
Since God's people have always been called to live like missionaries, we are not surprised to see that James is not saying anything new. "When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow." (Deuteronomy 24:21).
Let's break this down further. The Washington Times reports that there are about 65 million evangelicals in America. So, again, why are there 115,000 orphans in America's foster care system? Does this mean that there are 65 million people missing huge sections of their Bibles? Would someone please alert Crossway and Zondervan!
As said earlier, the early Christian church was known for taking in their culture's orphans and the needy. This is an an ancient tradition of the church that has been cast off by post-1960s American evangelicals. So here's the deal: in the early Church, pagans were introduced to Jesus because Christians were taking care of the needy in obedience to Scripture. Taking care of the needy is not done only for the sake of evangelism. Practicing "pure religion" is an extension of the kind of Kingdom-oriented, salt and light, truth-bearing, grace-filled, Jesus-loving people who live to treat other people the same way God treats them (Ephesians 2:8-10).
We need to remember that we were all orphans and God adopted us in his family. "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God," (Rom 8:14-16). As such, the best possible home for an orphan is in a home where a family is following Jesus together because they are former orphans themselves!
Look, if your church is not cultivating an ethos that preaches and practices "pure and undefiled religion" it may not be missional at all. It may be dying or sinking into the tractor beam of consumer-based, entertainment oriented quicksand where people come to have their "felt needs" stroked and cuddled by the rock band and the in-house Starbucks barista. Your pastor might wear "cool" clothes, have a "cool" blog, or be in the process of trying to make God and Jesus androgynous but God cares that his people are being led by capable people who lead the rest of God's people in bringing the gospel to their local neighborhood in all its forms.
While its pretty clear that not all Christian families are gifted or equipped for taking in orphans, it's still pretty darn convicting that 65 million American evangelicals can't rescue 115,000 kids from an unstable hell. If evangelical churches profess a belief in the infallibility of the Scriptures yet reject the fundamental tenets that that infallible word says are to be lived out by Christians, what does that say about their belief in the trustworthiness of Scripture? Friends, if the pagans in our neighborhoods aren't struck by how our churches are applying the infallible word of God to the lost, needy, and destitute, how can we expect them to take our claims about the nature of Scripture seriously? May we all pray that our churches quickly mature into the kind of Christians that James commends, lest we be shown as posers on Judgment Day (Matt. 7:21-23).