Owner of all, God’s
wisdom and attributes are clearly seen in nature,
God’s absolute claim rests upon mankind, man-
kind made in God’s image is under covenant
obligation to fulfill its created purpose.
Moral Governor, Judge, Ruler in posses-
sion of absolute moral authority, God’s
Law reveals His righteousness,
God’s Law is written upon
the conscience of man.
God in His love and mercy
takes on our nature that
He might be the
H U M A N H I S T O R Y
Scripture says that the natural man studiously suppresses the knowledge of God (Rom. 1:18-23). The natural man may try to conceive of a god. Since his efforts involve reasoning that rejects God’s authoritative revelation, his conclusions are nothing more than futility, darkness and speculation (Rom. 1:21; Eph. 4:17-19). God can only be known through Jesus Christ (John 1:18; 3:13; 2 Cor. 4:6).
Because – Outside of Jesus Christ, God is mysterious, unknowable, distant, detached from human suffering and tragedy. Man peers through the fog of sin, despair, injustice, loss and catastrophe and cannot see the glory of God. Outside of Christ, men will only have enmity and hostility for God’s holiness, wrath and justice. (Wrath is God’s settled anger and determination to justly punish sin).
As long as a person has “a bad heart and a bad record in heaven,” he will respond with enmity to the condemnation of God’s Law. That rebellion often takes the form of religious and moral efforts to protect oneself from God.
How can a person come to know God?
PROVERBS 1:7 – “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.” The fear of God is to regard His authoritative Word (the Holy Scriptures) as infinitely above one’s own futile speculations. The answer to man’s problem must come from outside man (Prov. 16:25). The natural “religion” of the heart is contrary to the gospel.
The true knowledge and glory of God floods the hearts and minds of those who believe the gospel (2 Cor. 4:6). “For in the good news God’s Way of man’s right standing with Him is uncovered, the Way of faith that leads to greater faith…” (Rom. 1:17a, Wms transl.).
Salvation deals with the righteousness of God and the guilt of the creature. There can be no reconciliation between God and the creature until both say the same thing about sin. (Precisely that all sin is against God, that the creature cannot change his own sinful nature, that sin is so serious that each person deserves to be eternally miserable). There can be no reconciliation until the creature consents to be represented by the divinely appointed Merciful Redeemer.
Faith in Christ as Lord and Savior is the reception of God’s righteousness as a gift of His grace.
In the hands of the Holy Spirit, the Law of God is a tutor that leads a person to Christ (Gal. 3:24; Rom. 10:1-4).
A person’s bondage to sin is not broken by the Law of God. The sinner’s nature must be changed, his guilt must be pardoned and he must find his right-standing before God in Christ alone. This is all accomplished through the Person and work of Christ (1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18).
God has made the greatest overturning of justice in human history (the murder of the Son of God) to be the infinite satisfaction of divine justice on behalf of all those who believe (2 Cor. 5:21).
Because – What Christ accomplished was a completely voluntary act (Jn. 10:18).
What Christ did in His life and death He did as a Substitute (1 Pe. 3:18)
What Christ accomplished on Calvary was a public display of justice ordained by God (Rom. 3:25,26).
God can only be known by way of our sinnership and His dealing decisively with it!
INTRODUCTION – The Importance of Studying Total Depravity
1.) We cannot know God’s purposes in His grace unless we know how far we have fallen. It is essential to know the Scriptural truth about our deadness, helplessness and rebellion if we are to understand how and why He saves us.
2.) The Scriptures affirm authoritatively that nothing can reverse the human condition save the crucifixion of God in our nature. The cure reveals the seriousness of the “disease.”
3.) Man is not fit to judge and diagnose his own case. Left to his own reasoning, man will fail to assess his condition and ill desert correctly.
4.) Without an accurate diagnosis, men will settle for an ineffective cure.
5.) By nature man believes that there is something he can do to recover himself.
6.) Grace is not grace unless it is sovereign and free. God has used the “bulldozer” of His law to remove the possibility of human merit from the face of the planet.
7.) The message of man’s moral inability is actually conducive to a sense of urgency in seeking God.
8.) One’s view of man’s depravity is inseparable from one’s view of God’s grace.
THE MEANING OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY
Total depravity entails man’s complete lack of merit before God due to original sin. “Depravity”concerns man’s inability to achieve saving favor before God. “Total” means that the defilement extends to all aspects of man’s nature (every faculty and capacity).
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF HUMAN SIN?
Adam was the representative of us all. (1 Cor. 15:21,22)
Through Adam we die, through Christ we gain life. Both Adam and Christ stand as representatives. Adam was placed in unique position to be representative of the human race. His actions directly affected all of humanity.
Adam’s fall was the fall of us all. (Rom. 5:12, 18a)
Adam was placed in the garden not only to act for himself, but also for all future generations. When he was tested, he was also being tested for all mankind. When he fell, we fell with him.
WHAT IS THE EXTENT OF HUMAN SIN?
We are not as sinful as we could be. (Matt. 5:43-47)
Though fallen, it does not mean that all men indulge in every conceivable sin. Even the lost show considerations toward each other. (Jesus stated that Gentiles and tax-gatherers love and bless their friends.) Unsaved people have a conscience. They can distinguish between forms of good and evil (Rom. 2:14,15).
We are sinful by nature. (Jer. 17:9,10)
All people are born with a fallen, sin-sick heart. Jesus argued that sin has its source in the very center of a person’s being, his heart (Matt. 15:19). The lost person’s bad heart or sin nature is compared to a fruit-producing tree. The fruit of the tree is determined by the nature of the tree (Matt. 7:17-20).
People sometimes imagine that their faculties function with complete independence and objectivity. The Word tells us that behind a person’s willing, acting, speaking, choosing and desiring is the inner man. Behind our capacities is the heart or nature.
We are sinful in all of our capacities. (Ps. 53:2,3)
Mind, affections and will are influenced by our fallen natures. Man thinks with a darkened mind (Eph. 4:17-19). Man’s feelings and affections are corrupted, he loves darkness (Jn. 3:19). The fallen nature so influences the faculties that everything men do is tainted with sin, none are righteous (Rom. 3:9-12). Even our best works are unrighteous before God (Is. 64:6).
We are spiritually dead. (Eph. 2:1-3)
God’s testimony of our spiritual condition is not an injury report, it is a coroner’s report. The language is that of finality with no hope of recovery or revivification. The natural man’s spiritual death is manifested in his unresponsiveness to God. He is cut off from the life of God and dead to the things of God (Eph. 4:18).
“Dead in transgressions and sin,” describes a state of having no power to obey God or show devotion to Him. (An example that describes both state and place would be as follows. Picture a corpse face down in a reservoir. He does not conspire how he might return to physical life, neither does the natural man chart how he might love and know God.)
IN WHAT WAYS ARE SINNERS IN BONDAGE?
We are in bondage to our sinful natures. (Job 14:4; Prov. 20:9)
No man can cleanse or change his own heart (Jer. 13:23). Jeremiah’s point is that there is afixedness to the sinful heart of man that renders it completely unable to make itself good. Apart from a mighty work of God, the spiritual state of the heart is immutable.
We are in bondage to sinful deeds. (Jn. 8:34)
God’s testimony is that lost people are slaves to sin. When confronted with the choice between holiness and sin, the natural man always chooses sin (Rom. 6:17,19,20).
The lost man is not free to escape from sin. True freedom entails the gracious divine bestowal of soul-life that rests upon the truth in Christ (Jn. 8:32-36).
We are in bondage to Satan. (2 Tim. 2:24-26)
Those in bondage to Satan are unaware of their plight. A merciful work of God is needed in order for them to “come to their senses.” The word “perhaps” affirms that it is a sovereign act of God (2 Tim. 2:25).
To be in bondage to Satan is to be under the “authority” of darkness (Col. 1:13). If the lost man is ever to repent, God must move his heart and awaken him from his stupor (Eph. 2:1-3; Jn. 8:44; 1 Jn. 5:19).
IS THE SINNER’S CONDITION BEFORE GOD ONE OF INABILITY?
We cannot understand the Lord. (Jn. 8:43)
Perhaps the most difficult concept to grasp concerning the fall is that of inability. The Lord calls all persons to believe upon Christ and to repent, but the majority do not respond to that summons.
When Jesus said “cannot,” He affirmed that the misunderstanding of His hearers was not just a matter of bad choice, it was a matter of inability (Jn. 8:43).
In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, God sovereignly saves primarily the foolish and the weak people of this world. This proves that salvation is something that neither wise people can figure out nor strong people achieve.
Romans 3:11 stresses that without exception, “There is none who understands.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us what makes the difference between those who understand and those who don’t. One must possess the Spirit of God in order to be capable of understanding the things of God.
Unregenerate man “moralizes” the gospel into a work. (Matt. 19:16 ff.)
When the natural man hears the gospel of God’s free grace, he immediately reinterprets it into a work that lies within his capacity. “Is it self-reformation? I will do it. Is it religious requirements? I will vow to do them. Is it a decision? I will make it. Are there conditions to meet? I will comply with them.”
Man cannot bear the admittance of the thought that he is too far gone to be a spiritual resource at all in his own salvation. It is absolutely essential that an unregenerate man be convinced of his inability. Otherwise, he will not see his absolute need of Christ and the power of His grace (Rom. 5:6). To be brought to the end of self is to be an absolute debtor to Christ. It is to fall at His feet, totally obligated to Him forever.
We cannot desire the Lord. (Rom. 5:10)
The natural man maintains an active enmity toward God. The unsaved man is not just alienated from the life of God, but has a positive real hostility in his carnal heart against God.
Romans 8:7 reveals the central source of that enmity. It is rebellion against God’s moral authority. God’s moral reign is manifested in His law. Men despise God’s kingly authority. They resent the fact that their Creator should have an absolute claim upon their lives that governs thoughts, words and deeds.
The natural man’s heart is set upon the flesh. He possesses a bias in favor of sin. John 3:19 tells us that unbelievers love darkness with an agape (self-sacrificing love). They lack affection for God. When confronted with the true living God, man does not want Him (Rom. 3:11; 8:6-8).
We cannot come to the Lord. (Jn. 6:44; Rom. 8:8)
Not only is the natural man unable to understand and desire the Lord, he cannot even will to choose Him.
After the feeding of the 5000, Jesus found unbelief instead of faith. Jesus indicated to His listeners why they did not believe. 1.) They won’t come because they cannot come. Their wills have a bias fixed against God. By nature, people cannot choose God of their own volition. 2.) This inability is universal to all persons. Without exception, all individuals lack the ability to come to Christ and be saved (Jn. 6:65).
This is a most humbling truth that man (by nature), has nothing in himself for his own recovery. ( NOTE: The inability of man is voluntary. There is no such thing as a sinner desiring to come to Christ and be saved the gospel way -- but barred by inability.)
God commands men to do what they will not do.
Repent (Acts 2:38); Be reconciled (2 Cor. 5:20); Seek the Lord (Is. 55:1-7); Come to Christ (Matt. 11:28,29).
The refusal to come involves an habitual, active, exercise of the heart and will in desiring not to come (Rom. 1:18-23; Acts 7:51; Jn. 5:40).
God sent His Son to do what we could not do.
There is sovereign help for those who cannot help themselves. He became sin for us, that sinners in Him by union with Him, might have the righteousness of God. Christ sovereignly raises sinners out of the grave of their spiritual deadness (Eph. 2:4-6). The ability to understand and receive the gospel is pure revelation. We are not the authors of our own spiritual life (Gal. 1:15,16; Matt. 11:25).
INTRODUCTION – The Arminian interprets “whosoever will” to mean that anyone can get saved at any time. Arminianism presupposes that it is within the power of a person to savingly believe if he will only use that power. But, the Scriptural study of depravity reveals that what man does, wills, desires and understands is inseparable from what he is. One cannot separate a man’s decision from all else he is and does. There is no such thing as an isolated act of God-pleasing faith rising up out of the quagmire of corruption, darkness and enmity.
This all leads to a key question. “ Must a person believe in order to be born again, or must he be born again in order to believe?” “Does faith precede or follow regeneration?” The answer to that question affects one’s whole understanding of the Gospel message. What do the Scriptures teach?
THERE ARE BUT TWO KINDS OF PEOPLE
THERE ARE BUT TWO KINDS OF FRUIT
QUESTION: “If a natural man cannot even exercise faith and repentance in order to change into a spiritual man, how can he ever be changed? How is one born again?”
THE NEW BIRTH IS FROM GOD
Scripture does not attribute the cause of the new birth to us, the Bible unequivocally assigns it to God (John 5:21).
THE SCRIPTURES SUPPLY THREE ANALOGIES FOR REGENERATION
In each case, the object is passive – dead body, babe and the thing created.
IT IS THE NEW BIRTH THAT PRODUCES FAITH AND REPENTANCE
If indeed the new birth comes before faith, then a Christian’s faith and repentance are ultimately produced by the Lord. (If faith precedes the new birth, then ultimately faith and repentance rise out of the natural man). What do the Scriptures say?
Jesus admonished Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel, who should have known of the New Covenant promise found in Ezekiel 36:25-27. Jesus came to fulfill the New Covenant.
CONTRARY TO ALL OTHER RELIGIONS, THE GOSPEL IS OF GRACE
THE SCRIPTURES TEACH THAT THE OFFER IS UNIVERSAL AND THAT HUMAN INABILITY IS UNIVERSAL
THE SON OF GOD GIVES THE ABILITY TO RESPOND TO THE GOSPEL
THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF CALLS, OUTWARD AND INWARD
THE INWARD CALL IS GOD’S IRRESISTIBLE DRAWING OF A LOST PERSON TO CHRIST
EVERYONE WHO IS INWARDLY CALLED BY GOD’S SPIRIT COMES TO JESUS AND IS JUSTIFIED
THE SCRIPTURES DISTINGUISH BETWEEN A SPURIOUS FAITH AND A FAITH PRODUCED BY THE POWER OF GOD
SAVING FAITH IS A GRACE GIFT FROM THE LORD
FOR REVIEW AND DISCUSSION
Regeneration (the new birth) cannot be commanded or caused by man. Name some common religious errors that depict the church acting as it has the power to produce the new birth. In what way do these errors resemble the error of the Galatian church?
The new birth is not a process, it is instantaneous (note the conversion of the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus) (Jonathan Edwards, The Rational Biblical Theology of J.E., vol. 3, by John H. Gerstner).
God grants the new birth only in connection with powerful conviction of sin (John 16:8-11; Acts 2:37; Luke 18:13).
Union with God can only be effected by God Himself. Only God can unite Himself to man (Gerstner, vol. 3, p. 160).
The Holy Spirit produces the change of regeneration. His indwelling and operations and life-giving work are the sum of the blessings Christ purchased for His people (Ibid., p. 163).
Natural man is destitute of spiritual sense and of spiritual perception. He has no concept of the excellency of divine truth and he has no heart affection for God. An entirely new principle must be planted in him in order for him to choose God. For depravity, guilt, moral defilement and inability cannot will the improvement of its own depravity! (Ibid., p. 188).
Before man chooses God, there must be the implanting of a nature that loves the divine and supernatural light.
The new birth produces faith in Christ alone. There must be a reception of Christ with the faculties of the soul. True salvation is never a hope that is distributed over personal reform and religious acts.
In the Scriptures, the same things are represented from God as from us. God is said to convert, men are said to convert or turn. God makes a new heart, we are commanded to make a new heart. God circumcises the heart, we are commanded to circumcise our hearts (Ibid., p. 178).
The moral inability of man is not an excuse to avoid seeking God in His Word. Scripture declares that these are the terms of God bestowing mercy. The command is to seek with all the heart. Don’t expect to obtain salvation without seeking it! (Is. 55; Luke 16:16) (Ibid., p. 122ff.).
INTRODUCTION – God is such a wise and all-sovereign ruler that His control and determination extend to the details of the lives of individuals. God has so determined the course and direction of human history that even the acts of sin performed by free moral agents are woven into His plan. Man’s sin justly calls for the fierce wrath of a holy God. Though sinful human acts will receive God’s thorough justice, they do not jump the boundaries of His purposes in history. God decrees what shall come to pass, yet men are guilty and responsible before God for the sinful choices they act out of their own will and desires (Acts 4:27,28; Deut. 32:39).
When it comes to the subject of God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation, it is the Arminian who says that God’s gracious choices must be conditional (i.e. God’s choices must be conditioned by what a person is, does, or will do).
For God to make conditional choice would mean that He looked ahead to see who would be receptive to the gospel, and then chose that person.
This may sound reasonable, but Scripture NEVER makes foreseen faith a cause of our election. Instead, it is always attributed to God’s gracious purposes in Christ.
SCRIPTURE CALLS UPON BELIEVERS TO LOOK AT LIFE FROM AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE (from the divine vantage point “DVP’)
God’s ability to work all things together for the good of the believer is rooted in the following fact:God’s purposes are certain from eternity to eternity. There is no place for chance. (Romans 8:28)
The fear of the Lord is joined to a reverence for His sovereignty (Gen. 45:8; 50:20; Prov. 16:9; 21:1; Eph. 1:11).
Application: Fleshly value systems are attracted to religious dogmas that credit man with a measure of control. By nature we feel most secure about that part of our future where we have exercised control in planning and deciding. Is it any wonder that people react with offense to the doctrines of God’s sovereignty? (See John 6:27-66 and note the response of the multitudes to Jesus’ message).
GOD’S PURPOSES IN ELECTION ARE TO GLORIFY HIMSELF
Election is the belief that a personal, loving, holy, just and wise God is behind salvation and all of history. In His Word, God communicates with believers telling them that they are “predestined” according to His purpose who works all things after “the counsel of His will.” (Eph. 1:11)
God’s saving choice glorifies His own character. God has the undisputed right to display His attributes by saving some of the lost race of humanity (Rom. 9:21-23).
God’s glory is the worthy end or goal of our election. It would be wrong for our election to have any other end exclusively in view (Rom. 11:36; Rev. 4:11; Is. 43:7,21).
SINNERS ARE NOT VICTIMS UNDER GOD’S REIGN, BUT CRIMINALS AND REBLELS IN THE SIGHT OF HEAVEN
God is the One who is sinned against. He grieves over man’s sin (Gen. 6:6; Eph. 4:20; Luke 13:34,35).
God commands men to repent that they might have life. God is ready to forgive the penitent. But, what He offers, they will not receive (Jer 18:11,12; Is. 1:18-20; Ez. 18:24-32).
IF GOD ELECTED UPON THE BASIS OF FORESEEN FAITH, NO ONE WOULD GO TO HEAVEN
When God looked down the corridors of future time, He saw universal depravity without exception (Ps. 53:2,3; Rom. 3:10-18).
If foreseen faith were the cause of our election, then we would have something to boast about. But, God says that His gracious choice is intended to eliminate every instance of boasting concerning salvation (see 1 Cor. 1:26-31; 4:7).
Application: Believers exalt God’s grace when they affirm that they owe their faith to their election, not their election to their faith. Heaven is an eternal monument to God’s sovereign grace. Unlike human love, God’s love is not motivated by the virtues of its object. God’s love to His own is an exotic, other-world kind of love that is foreign to our experience (see 1 John 3:1).
THE CAUSALITY BEHIND BELIEF IS GOD’S UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
The believer is able to affirm, “One other than myself has marked me out so that I would believe.” Jesus refers to His elect as “sheep” even before they believe and are saved (John 10:16).
Those who die in unbelief are left to their own powers of choice and desires. Jesus addressed those who rejected Him indicating that they do not believe, “because you are not of My sheep.” (John 10:26). If election were conditional, Jesus would have inverted the order of causality saying, “you are not of my sheep because you do not believe.”
THE CLEAREST STATEMENT ON UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION IN THE SCRIPTURES IS IN ROMANS CHAPTER 9
9:6-13 – In this passage, Paul answers the troubling question of Jewish unbelief. God’s saving choice does not include all people.
God’s Word toward Israel did not fail because His saving promise was directed to only some, not all Jews (v. 8). God’s saving choice was made irrespective of merit or demerit (v. 11). God’s saving choice was based upon His own good pleasure, the basis of God’s predetermination is His own purpose.
9:14-18 – God’s saving choice reflects His mercy, not injustice. Men naturally applaud their own choices and self-determination. They gladly take credit for the personal abilities that shape their destinies. What would seem logical, fair and democratic to us would be to have each person ultimately determine his own destiny. Question: How can God choose one person and not another without regard for their actions? This inquiry tempts us to question God.
The temptation to question God at this point usually stems from a misunderstanding of two things:
1.) What is it that all fallen people deserve? (ans. Eternal punishment). That alone is what God owes us. God is under no obligation to show mercy to sinners. There is no injustice with God when sinful people are condemned.
2.) We misunderstand God’s mercy. The mercy God shows the elect is totally free mercy (without obligation upon God). The mercy God shows the redeemed is not a transaction, it is not a payment of a debt, it is not a reward for virtue, it is not a response to works or to foreseen faith.
9:16-18 – God’s saving choice does not depend upon or hinge upon our choice. God is sovereign over all people and is clearly sovereign over salvation.
9:19-20 – The Apostle Paul anticipates the reaction of his readers. Expecting them to launch a charge of fatalism, Paul by inspiration writes in an imaginary objector. (Notice, Paul is NOT alleging that God compels people to sin and reject God).
The imaginary objector charges God with injustice. Paul’s answer is swift and poignant. We are not capable of judging God by a system of justice designed by our conceits. The issue is God’s saving prerogative must not be questioned (He has the right to form what He will from the same lump of clay! Remember, there is only one kind of clay, but two kinds of vessels formed from it. v. 21).
Fatalism embraces the idea that chance, blind fate and impersonal forces determine life. Fatalism suggests that because people have no self-determination, they have no motivation for faith, love mercy or holiness; apathy, despair and lawlessness prevail. The charge of fatalism reveals an ignorance of God’s great plan in election.
UNLIKE FATALISM, GOD’S PLAN OF ELECTION IS FILLED WITH WISDOM AND PURPOSE
God is intimately involved in all of history and in the lives of His people. He is working through all things to accomplish His purpose.
God gives us a summary of the dimensions of unconditional election in Ephesians 1:3-6.
The SOURCE of our election – He, (the Father) chose us.
The SPHERE of our election – The Father chose us in Him (in Christ). When God elected a people from the fallen mass of humanity, He never intended to save them apart from His Son, but only by means of the Son (Jesus is the means and goal of God’s electing purpose. 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 8:29). We are saved by union with Christ.
The TIME of our election – We were chosen “before the foundation of the world.” God made His gracious choice of us in eternity past.
The PURPOSE of our election – “That we should be holy and blameless,” adopted as sons. Our becoming holy and blameless cannot be the cause of our election, it is the purpose of our election (see Eph. 5:27; Col. 1:22; Jude 24; Rom. 8:29).
The MOTIVE of our election – “In love He predestined us…” Election is motivated by God’s love for us before time. He loved us before we knew Him. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
The BASIS of our election – “According to the kind intention of His will.” This is a statement that our election is unconditional. If His election of us were according to something He saw in us, it would be according to our will. But it is not according to foreseen faith or to works.
Election is the eternal purpose of God in redemption made certain.
AN UNDERSTANDING OF ELECTION IS THE CONVICTION THAT SALVATION STARTS IN THE HEART OF GOD
God’s love to His elect is infinitely more than cosmic benevolent feelings. It is His commitment to save us accompanied by the exercise of His power (1 Cor. 1:18). God set His love upon us in eternity past and determined to save us in time (see Rom. 5; and Eph. 2).
THE SAINT WHO IS GROWING IN GRACE AND HOLINESS IS CONSTRAINED (CONTROLLED) BY GOD’S ELECTING LOVE
The growing believer is “rooted and grounded in love.” (Eph. 3:17). The knowledge of God’s own free electing love is a powerful motive to produce personal holiness (Romans 12:1,2; 1 Thess. 1:3,4; 1 John 4:9-11,19; 5:2,3).
THE N.T. MEANING OF THE WORD “FOREKNOWLEDGE” IN CONNECTION WITH SALVATION
Romans 8:28-30. Foreknowledge is not merely a knowledge of the future, or bare prescience.Foreknowledge means “whom God set His regard upon” or “whom He knew from eternity with distinguishing affection and delight.” It is always used of persons not events. Those foreknown by God have their lives affected by that foreknowledge rather than the other way around (see 1 Peter 1:20).
Those whom God foreknew were predestined to salvation (Rom. 8;29; Eph. 1:4,5). Every person in heaven was first loved by God in eternity past. God’s saving purposes can never be thwarted.
IF GOD’S PARTICULAR, PREDESTINATING LOVE IS ALL-POWERFUL, WILL THE ELECT BE CARRIED TO HEAVEN NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO?
The answer is no. God’s saving choice included the means through which an individual is saved. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:13,14 and Romans 6:21,22. Christ’s work for His elect included the purchase of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power (Phil. 2:12,13; Heb. 8:10; 2 Pet. 1:2,3).
Those who understand the Biblical doctrine of election will not be apathetic, but will show diligence in the use of means. They will follow after Christ as His disciple unto godliness. They will “make their election and calling sure.” (2 Pet. 1:10). They understand that God accomplishes His foreordained purposes through the use of means (Heb. 6:11,12). God has joined the assurance of salvation to the use of means.
The world’s “gospel” suggests that a person may live as they please and not see damnation. Scripture warns that those who live for pleasure and leisure will lose their souls eternally (Phil. 3:18,19; 1 Tim. 5:6; Heb. 12:14).
We were created for something higher than sensual pleasure. We were made for God’s love (Eph. 3:17-19).
THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION ENCOURAGES BELIEVERS TO PURSUE HOLINESS WITH CONFIDENCE
Romans 8:29 – The elect of God are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.
Ephesians 1:4 – His choice of us in eternity past was that we should be holy and blameless.
1 Peter 2:9 – Our election is for the purpose of forming us into a holy nation for God’s own possession.
John 15:16 – Christ’s choice of us is unto fruitfulness.
Philippians 1:6 – God’s electing love will result in believers fully finishing the course. We will pursue sanctification to the end because God will finish the work He began in us (Phil. 2:12,13).
SUMMARY AND DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
How does the doctrine of election help us understand who God is?
Name some of the ways election manifests God’s glory.
How would you answer the charge that election an “iron door” that blocks the way to heaven for some people? (Hint – The Bible says that Jesus is the door. He will not cast out any sinner who comes to Him. Jn. 6:37; Matt. 11:28-30).
How would you answer the charge that election is a “feather pillow” that removes the incentive for the pursuit of sanctification?
INTRODUCTION – The false “gospel” of our age depicts God as showing love and mercy by the non-enforcement of His laws. By contrast, the God of the Bible acts in uncompromising justiceeven when He is gracious to the sinner who is loaded with guilt. The Scriptural doctrine of the atonement describes Christ’s work upon Calvary as that of a penal substitute. One may accurately say, “God only forgives what He pays for.” Therefore, even in acts of grace, God’s justice holiness, and righteousness are vindicated, demonstrated and preserved.
BY THE SACRIFICE OF HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, GOD TURNS HIS OWN WRATH AWAY FROM ALL THOSE WHO WILL BELIEVE
Propitiation is the turning away of wrath by an offering. In the NT this idea is conveyed by the use of hilaskomai (Heb. 2:17), hilasterion (Rom. 3:25), and hilasmos (1 Jn. 2:2; 4:10).
The words of the hilaskomai group do not denote simple forgiveness or cancellation of sin, but that forgiveness or cancellation of sin that includes the turning away of God’s wrath.
God’s holy response to man’s sin is divine wrath. The whole of the opening argument of the book of Romans is that Jew and Gentile alike are sinners who have come under the wrath of God.
When Paul addresses salvation in the book of Romans, he thinks of Christ’s death as propitiation(Rom. 3:25), the means of removing the divine wrath. The paradox of the OT is repeated in the NT that God Himself provides the means of removing His own wrath.
GOD’S LAW IS THE GREAT REVEALER OF HUMAN SIN AND THE DIVINE WRATH IT DESERVES
Romans 3:19,20 – The Law reveals the righteous character of God. The Law sets forth the penalty and wages of transgressing God’s Law. The Law shows sinners the power of sin over their lives (every natural person is in abject bondage to sin). The Law removes every excuse, alibi, covering and rationalization for sin.
To become “accountable” to God is to face divine judgment that is absolutely thorough and invincible.
God will judge the thoughts, deeds, words, and intents of the heart by His Law (i.e. thou shalt not covet).
Application – No wonder people despise God’s offer of mercy in Christ. It is because they do not respect His justice. Those who have never come to believe in God as Judge have not yet believed upon Christ for salvation. The doctrine of propitiation makes it clear that belief in God as Judge is a necessary part of belief in Christ as Savior. The God of heaven is a just judge. There would be no mercy for sinners if it were not for the satisfaction of justice for sinners by the death of Christ the Mediator.
Apathetic stone-hearted sinners need the application of the Law to break up the hard pavement of heart. Only pulverized heart soil is able to receive the good seed of the gospel with joy. Such radical humbling is necessary. Depraved man must be taught that he can have no part in his own salvation. The Law is that teacher that exasperates the sinner, showing him that efforts to gain salvation by law-keeping are futile and hopeless (Gal. 3:23,24). Man can contribute nothing, he can only receive (Romans 10:2-4).
THE GOSPEL DECLARES THAT THE ONLY GROUND OF ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD IS THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES BY FAITH
Romans 3:21,22 – “But now” introduces God’s plan of mercy to sinners. The glorious reign of God’s grace originated within God’s own divine government. The atoning power of Christ’s sacrifice is sanctioned by the eternal counsels of the Godhead.
The glory of the gospel is that the offended Lawgiver Himself who is our Judge gave His own beloved Son in our place. The gospel promises that sinners may have right-standing before God by faith. Christ provides a righteousness perfectly acceptable to God. God has taken salvation into His own hands.
Application – The cross is intended to disarm the natural man. The cross strikes at all the weapons men use to keep distance from God.
Note the arguments people cast up in their minds in order to stay estranged from God (fear, dread, guilt, severity of their sin, hatred of the Lord as Master, speculations about who God is, doubt God could love them).
In the gospel, we behold God’s own Son bleeding, paying so that sinners might go free, released from their guilt and condemnation. The sinner’s excuses are removed. It is only the avowed enemy of God who rejects the terms of peace and chooses to remain alienated from gospel mercy.
JUSTIFICATION IS THE GIFT OF GOD’S GRACE TO THE BELIEVING SINNER
Romans 3:23,24 – The justified sinner receives right-standing before God as a gift of God’s grace. Justification is a legal judicial action of God that takes place before the tribunal of God. It involves the removal of our guilt, the divine penalty having fallen completely upon Christ our perfect Substitute.
Justification is not only the removal of guilt, it is also the crediting of Christ’s righteousness to the account of the believer. Christ’s moral perfection is imputed to the believer. Because of that imputing or crediting, God is able to declare the believer righteous in His sight.
THE CROSS IS THE VINDICATION OF GOD’S JUSTICE
Romans 3:25,26 – The public display of the crucified Christ 2000 years ago was a mighty demonstration of God’s justice. God was declaring by His Son’s cross that He is completely just when He justifies and forgives believing sinners.
God can forgive believing sinners freely without compromise to His justice and righteousness. There is no forgiveness without the satisfaction of God’s justice. In fact, there is no basis for a single drop of mercy from God for our ruined race apart from the propitiation.
The great object of propitiation is to save the justice of God in pardoning sinners.
The great result of propitiation is that believing sinners are saved from the wrath of God.
Application – Propitiation rightly understood is to realize that you cannot make God kindly disposed toward you. You cannot soften up God by personal reformation.
The only appeasement of God’s wrath and anger toward our sin has been provided by the divinely provided Substitute who is the only propitiation for sins. The “work of God” is that you believe in Him whom He has sent (John 6:29). God is infinitely satisfied with what Christ has done on our behalf. There is labor involved in believing that! (Heb. 4:1,11).
Though our race is ruined by sin, we came from the hand of a holy and just God. We can never have lasting happiness until we have truth, pardon and holiness. These are in the propitiation of our Savior’s cross. In that propitiation alone is the answer to our fear, guilt and misery.
God has intended that His Son’s cross be the only way that peace is brought to the conscience of man. Propitiation is the only way a person can be rightly adjusted eternally to the attributes and perfections of the Godhead so as to live with God forever.
The love of the Father is shown in that He “sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). The purpose of Christ’s becoming “a merciful and faithful high priest” was “to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17).
INTRODUCTION – The actual or sovereign purpose of the cross pertains to God’s design in the atonement. No matter how men respond to the universal offer of salvation, God’s sovereign purpose in the cross cannot be thwarted or defeated in any way whatsoever. Despite the fact that the vast majority of the human race rejects the universal offer of the gospel, the intent of Christ’s death cannot be frustrated.
SCRIPTURE ALWAYS DESCRIBES CHRIST’S WORK AS EFFECTUAL
Hebrews 9:28 – By His death as a sin-bearer, there was an effectual removal of the sins that were laid upon Him.
John 10:27-30 - By His death, Christ secured the eternal safety of those given to Him by the Father. “They shall never perish.”
Isaiah 53:10,11 – By giving Himself as a guilt offering, Christ would justify the many by bearing their iniquities. The text says that Christ would be satisfied as a result of seeing “His Seed.” Seed refers to the spiritual “offspring” purchased by Christ’s death. (See also Heb. 10:10, 14; Rev. 5:9,10.)
BECAUSE CHRIST’S DEATH WAS EFFECTUAL, ONE MUST NOT CONFUSE THE OFFEROF THE CROSS WITH GOD’S PURPOSE IN THE CROSS
The offer is to be taken to “every creature” (Mark 16:15). The good news is to be preached, “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). But when men reject the Substitute who suffered for sinners, and prefer to stay in unbelief, it does not mean that one bit of Christ’s work was in vain.
God has not made the purpose of the cross depend upon the fickle will of man which is enslaved and corrupted. Mankind, by sinful self-determination, does not mold God’s purpose in the cross.
Application: In our humanistic age, the powers of man, his interests and his happiness are vaunted as preeminent. When this humanism is applied to Christianity, there is a tendency to view man’s will as that which makes the atonement effectual. To do so is to confuse the offer of the cross with the purpose of God in the cross. As soon as that confusion takes place, men resort to the language of potentiality.
THE SCRIPTURES KNOW NOTHING OF A HYPOTHETICAL ATONEMENT
Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). He purchased the church of God with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
God’s word knows no distinction between what Christ did on Calvary and what purpose was accomplished on Calvary. Christ’s one act of redemption is not made complete by the sinner’s act. It is a completed work with all its effects accomplished by His death.
Application: From the man-centered perspective, the atoning work of Christ could be compared to a life-giving remedy that sits waiting in a medicine chest. Spiritually dead men by opening the medicine cabinet and taking the remedy are made well.
A hypothetical atonement cannot be supported by Scripture. The death of Christ was not a general atonement without a sovereign plan. Christ died in order to sanctify the church (Eph. 5:26). Christ’s work is NOT the purchase of non-specific dead capital.
The only scheme that fully glorifies God and magnifies His grace and majesty is a complete salvation that actually does the saving and redeeming. The cross is mighty to save. It reaches the sinner in his ruin and helplessness.
CHRIST’S DEATH SECURED THE “DEATH” OF THE BELIEVER (The “death” of the believer in 2 Cor. 5:14 is defined in verse 15.)
2 Cor. 5:14,15 – Christ’s love constrains, controls and governs the child of God. It presses, coerces and impels the believer as a governing influence which controls the life (see also, Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:19). This is the trait of Paul’s experience and is therefore common to all Christians. As the believer is constrained by a sense of the love of his divine Lord, he responds by consecrating his life to Him. Faith in Christ’s deity, love and substitutionary work is the principle or source of the Christian life.
By stating, “having concluded” or “we thus judge,” the Apostle assigns the reason why the love of Christ exerted such a constraining power. It was because the Apostle judged that the death of Christ didn’t just place believers under obligation to be Christ’s servants, it secured this devotion! Why? It is because believers died in Him (Rom. 6:4,5).
CHRIST’S DEATH WAS A TRUE OR DIRECT SUBSTITUTION
“One died for all, therefore all died” (verse 14). Christ died in the place of His people. The idea of substitution is clearly expressed. His death in our place saves us from death. The “all” in verse 14 is a class of individuals characterized by the effects produced in their lives. The “all” is of necessity limited by what the Scriptures teach concerning the design of Christ’s death.
One of the effects of Christ’s death is stated in this clause, “therefore all died” or “then all were dead.” Christ died for all who died when He died.
Substitution is taught in the great doctrine of Christ as Last Adam (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:20-28; 45-49). As Last Adam, Christ stands in the room of His people and as their Substitute, He does the work for all united to Him. The death of Christ was legally and effectively the death of His people.
In the mind of God, those whom the Father chose are so united to the Son that His death is their death and His life is their life. The Apostle’s argument is the same one he used in Romans 6. “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:2).
THE DESIGN OF CHRIST’S DEATH WAS THAT HIS PEOPLE MIGHT LIVE FOR HIM (2 Cor. 5:15).
The death of Christ secures our reconciliation to God and the reconciliation secures a life of devotion to His service. Christ died that He might be the Lord of His people. His people serve Him as Lord. They belong to Him and are devoted to Him (See also, 1 Cor. 6:19,20; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).
There is no distinction between those for whom Christ died and those whom He sanctifies (Hebrews 10:10; 2:11; 1 Cor. 1:30). Those for whom Christ died really die to sin and itsdominion over them.
Application: Those for whom Christ died and upon whom His death takes effect, HENCEFORTH(from the time they apprehend their relation to Him and the power of His vicarious death) they do not live unto themselves.
This describes the Christian’s life in negative terms. In the next clause (2 Cor. 5:15), it is stated in the positive. “[They live] for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
He is not a Christian who is simply unselfish or who lives for some noble cause. He only is a Christian who lives FOR Christ.
Many think they can be Christians on easier terms than these. Multitudes who profess to know Christ rest upon a “decision” for Christ or upon a mental assent to gospel truth, but they do not live for Christ. By contrast, the Bible teaches that if we are partakers of Christ’s death, we are partakers of His life (Heb. 3:14; 1 John 3:14; 5:11,12).
In the true believer, saving faith and consecration to Christ’s service are inseparably joined. Those who have put their trust and hope in the merits of Christ’s death will evidence thesovereign purpose of Christ’s death; they will be constrained to consecrate themselves to His service.
BY UNION WITH CHRIST, THE BELIEVER IS TRANSFORMED (2 Cor. 5:16,17)
Christ is covenant Head of His people as Adam was of our race. Those who are in Christ by faith are in Christ by covenant (1 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 9:15; 12:24).
By union with Christ, the believer is transformed. New life is imparted. A new creation is effected. A new perspective is given (verse 16).
For those in Christ, “old things have passed away.” These include old opinions, old views, old plans, old desires, old principles and old affections. New views of truth, new principles, new apprehension of purpose and destiny and new affections govern the soul.
Application: Those united to Christ gain eternal interest in the merits of His death. To be a partaker in Christ’s life and death is the whole foundation of the doctrine of sanctification (Rom. 6).
The term “creation” in 2 Cor. 5:17 indicates the greatness of the change wrought in us. It is a change produced by the mighty power of God that is so radical in nature that it is justly called a new creation.
RECONCILIATION BELONGS TO ALL IN CHRIST (2 Cor. 5:18,19)
“All these things” (verse 18) refers to the entire change of which the Apostle has been speaking. God is the reconciler. Man never makes reconciliation. The enmity or barrier between God and man is removed by an act of God. The propitiatory death of Christ is always represented as reconciling us to God. The reconciliation consists in the satisfaction of the divine justice by the sacrifice of Christ.
By the use of the word “world” without the article is meant mankind (verse 19). It means the class of beings towards whom God was manifesting Himself as propitious. (This is the same sense in which Christ is called the” Savior of the world” or of “all men.” John 4:42; 1 Tim. 4:10; 1 John 4:14)
“God…reconciling…to Himself,” does NOT mean that He was rendering friendly to Himself. The work of reconciliation is unfolded in the next phrase, “not counting their trespasses against them.” Not to impute sin is to forgive it (Rom. 4:7,8). Here is the basis of the ministry of reconciliation. God is propitious. He freely forgives sinners.
Application: When God is said to forgive men (or not count their sins against them), it of course does not mean all men, penitent, impenitent, believing, unbelieving. No, here as earlier in the text, there is a specific class indicated towards whom forgiveness is exercised (note the three uses of “us” in verses 18 and 19; all believers).
In the believer’s case, the reconciliation to God is made the source and cause of our new creation(our regeneration and holiness). Until God’s wrath and curse are removed, there is no possibility of holiness and love.
Application: It is the duty of believers to proclaim to men that God, justly offended by their sins, can be just and yet justify those who come to Him by Jesus Christ. The ministry of reconciliation is the preaching of the good news that God’s wrath has been put away by God’s Son bearing it upon the cross. The priceless peace won is thereby offered freely to men.
CHRIST’S SUBSTITUTION FOR HIS OWN IS THE JUDICIAL GROUND OF THEIR PERFECT ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD (2 Cor. 5:20,21)
“Be reconciled to God,” is a call to embrace the reconciliation effected by Christ’s death. God is propitious! He has provided the sacrifice to satisfy His offended justice and appease His righteous indignation and wrath. The sinner is guilty and deserving of eternal death and separation.
The very idea of substitution is that what is done in my place by another avails as if I had done it myself. If both parties die condemned, there was no substitution! Those for whom Christ was a true Substitute, have no condemnation. The design of the substitution is to make Him “sin” (bearer) that we might be made righteous.
Our sins were the judicial ground of the suffering of Christ so that there was a satisfaction of justice. His perfect righteousness is the judicial ground of our acceptance with God.
Application: Our pardon is an act of divine justice. Our justification is a declaration that justice is satisfied. We are set free NOT by a mere act of divine sovereignty, but by the judicial decision of the infinitely just. It is important that believers understand that the Apostle sets before our consciences a reconciliation that is in total keeping with the perfect character of God. God’s Law is immutable. When the believer is burdened with a sense of sin, his conscience cannot rest until it knows God to be just in justifying the sinner.
INTRODUCTION – The Priesthood of Christ is unique., because no other priest is fully God and fully man (Heb. 1:2-6). No other priest is sinless (1 Pet. 3:18). No other priest became the sacrificeto be offered (Heb. 10:10). No other priest has infinite power and merit to bestow upon guilty covenant breakers (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ’s priesthood is perpetual, because His life is perpetual (Heb. 7:23-25; Num. 20:22-29).
The term “session of Christ” refers to His ascending after the resurrection to be seated at the Father’s right hand to make intercession for us. “Seated” does not mean resting from all work, Christ is actively engaged in the “unfinished” work of intercession (Heb. 7:25). His intercession involves a constant applying of His sacrificial work, making it effective in the justification and sanctification of sinners (Rom. 8:34; 1 Jn. 2:1).
CHRIST IS MEDIATORIAL KING (Heb. 10:19-22)
All authority has been given to Him in heaven and in earth. He protects, governs and orders all things for the sake of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 28:18; Phil. 2:9-11; Col. 1:16,17). As Mediator, He is able to save to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25). None of Christ’s purposes in man’s salvation shall miscarry. He will bring them all to completion. Redemption, sanctification and protection comprise a complete salvation that saves from sin and the wrath to come a (that is salvation to the uttermost).
It is the victory won by Christ’s atonement that is the true basis and content of Christ’s mediation. His triumph assures us of the efficacy of His mediation (Heb. 9:14,15; 10:14).
IN HIS INTERCESSION, HE LIVES FOREVER TO SEND HIS HOLY SPIRIT TO HIS CHURCH (John 14:16-21)
We depend upon Christ’s Spirit for all illumination (of the Word), for all continuing grace, for all spiritual gifts, for all comfort and consolation, for all endurance and perseverance. We must not forget that the Holy Spirit’s work is vitally joined to the atonement (John 16:13-15; Rom. 8:9-16).
Application – God alone knows how great the work is of saving sinners. He alone knows how to perfect the church to His glory. Consider how much we depend upon Christ’s intercession in order to conquer the remaining strength of sin and to crush the opposition of Satan and the world. The Father saw that the continual intercession of Christ was necessary and expedient unto the salvation of the church for God’s own glory.
CHRIST’S WORK OF BEARING INIQUITY IS CLOSELY ASSOCIATED WITH HIS INTERCESSION FOR TRANSGRESSORS (Heb. 9:12,24; Rom. 8:31-34)
It is clear from Romans 8:31-34 that our Lord’s sacrifice and intercession are intended for the elect. In this passage, the text makes no distinction between those for whom Christ died and those whom He blesses.
Rom. 8:31 – The Apostle draws our attention to the infinite blessing of having God for us (in every possible way that is holy and righteous). The “us” in verse 31 has already been defined in verses 28 and 29.
Rom. 8:32 – Who are the “us all” who are receiving all things from God? ANSWER: Those for whom God delivered up His Son. These comprise the same “us all” as in the previous verses 28-31. Those who have the Son have all of the other benefits described.
Those who fail to receive the benefits do not have the Son, nor can they say that He was delivered up for them if they perish in unbelief.
Rom. 8:33, 34 – These verses continue the thought of the benefits given to those God loves with an unchanging, inseparable love. The great benefit here is the intercession of the Son of God. The “us” in verse 34 is the same as the elect in verse 33. The same class of individuals is in view in verses 29, 30, 31, 32. Those for whom He intercedes are those whom He has justified. The scope of the atonement (those for whom He is delivered up), embraces the same group of individuals for whom He intercedes. That is why they cannot be condemned or stuck with a charge before God. For Christ pleads the merits of His death on their behalf.
Rom. 8:35-39 – His particular love guarantees our security. It is His love that prompted Him to predestinate and it is His love that prompted Him to deliver up His Son for us (31,32). Those whom God in Christ loves covenantally receive all the spiritual blessings promised in these verses.
Application – Christ’s intercession is the continual application of the benefits of His atoning work to the believer. Christ is the divine Advocate for the elect. He pleads the value of His blood and righteousness. His defense for us entails the appeal that He has satisfied divine justice on our behalf.
CHRIST’S INTERCESSION FOR HIS ELECT BEGAN EVEN BEFORE HIS SACRIFICIAL DEATH (John 17)
In John 17, Jesus prays for Himself (vs. 1-5), for His disciples (vs. 6-19) and for all who would come to believe the apostolic gospel (vs. 20-26).
In order for the work through the disciples to continue, two things must happen:
1.) The disciples must be sanctified,
2.) 2.) Jesus must be sanctified.
Every believer must have this sanctification for which Jesus prayed in order to fulfill the commission. By sanctification, Jesus means in this context, “set apart for God for the purpose of a mission” (17:17). This meaning is tied to the sending of the men in verse 18. The Word of God is the appointed means of producing that sanctification.
Jesus prays to the Father, thus God is the agent of the sanctification and the Word is the instrument of the sanctification.
JESUS’ INTECESSORY PRAYER IS FOR THOSE WHOM THE FATHER HAS GIVEN HIM (John 17)
Jesus’ request is particularly focused. He does not pray for all people everywhere. His prayer is “not for the world.” He prays for those given to Him by the Father, including all future believers (John 17:9)..
Application – If indeed Jesus is praying for sanctification that equips for a mission, then the prayer of sanctification and sending involves you! Jesus is praying for everyone who would ever savingly believe upon Him.
Every Christian is given a mission to declare to the world the saving benefits of Christ’s work. We must declare to men that life does not make sense apart from the conquest that Christ has accomplished. Apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ, life is an absurdity.
Jesus’ prayer is for effectiveness in ministry by ongoing sanctification in the lives of believers by the power of God. The apostolic commission is our commission. You are placed here and kept here that you might be a mouthpiece for Jesus Christ. You are set apart by the Word in order to be sent out into the world on a gospel enterprise.
THE BASIS OF JESUS’ REQUEST IS THE FACT THAT HE SANCTIFIES HIMSELF (John 17:19)
By the phrase, “I sanctify Himself,” Jesus means that He is setting Himself apart for His vicarious death on Calvary (John 17:19). Jesus is able to ask His Father for sanctifying grace for His people BECAUSE He is about to purchase it for His own on the cross.
The sanctifying work of the Father is requested on the basis of Jesus’ redemptive work for His own (“for them I sanctify Myself.”). The purpose for which Jesus set Himself apart is the cross. This is the purpose the Father sent Him into the world (John 10:18). By His atoning sacrifice, He purchases grace and He beseeches the Father to dispense it.
JESUS SET HIMSELF APART AS A SACRIFICIAL OFFERING ON BEHALF OF THOSE GIVEN TO HIM BY THE FATHER
The sacrifice of Jesus was particular. His death was on behalf “of them” in contrast to the world (that contrast occurs 5 times in this chapter). Jesus prays for those who belong to Him by divine prerogative (those given to Him by the Father). Jesus sets Himself apart for the sacred purpose for which He was sent into the world to fulfill (Mark 10:45).
Application – The cross purchases the very redemption and sanctification Jesus prayed for (Heb. 9:12). It was a purposeful sacrifice. It secured the sanctification that produces your own eagerness to do what is good. God’s people are characterized by their zeal for good works (Titus 2:14). Wrapped up in the salvation package purchased for you is sanctification through the Word of God (1 Cor. 1:30; Heb. 2:11).
QUESTIONS: Would there be a lordship controversy if evangelicals understood what Jesus purchased at the cross? Consider why a hypothetical atonement exacerbates the problem of antinomianism. Is it not our wisdom to ask the following, “What precisely did Jesus accomplish by His sacrificial death?”
This is why we preach, sing, declare, center upon and unfold the wonders of the cross. For the cross contains every expression of God’s blessings toward us.
Does it matter whether or not a person believes in definite atonement?
1.) Definite atonement qualifies the nature of the atonement. The actual
accomplishment of the cross is of paramount importance because redemption is the central revealer of God’s character. In the divine work of salvation God “bares His holy arm.” (Isaiah 52:10). By contrast, the creation of the universe is merely His “finger work.” (Psalm 8:3). The atonement is of endless fascination to angels because in it is found the greatest manifestation of God’s attributes (1 Peter 1:12).
2.) According to 2 Corinthians 5:14,15, the death of Christ was the death of all those who died when He died. In other words, Christ’s death secured the devotion of the redeemed. Christ’s death guaranteed that the dominion of sin in their lives would be broken. It assures that the redeemed will live for Christ.
3.) Only a definite atonement preserves the biblical theme of an efficacious sacrifice. Christ’s death was efficacious by God’s sovereign design. It is not waiting for men to make it efficacious. Only definite atonement adequately protects the marital picture of Christ’s purchase of His church. (See Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 5:9,10).
4.) Only a definite atonement maintains unity between Christ’s sin bearing and
5.) Only a definite atonement is consistent with the doctrine of true substitution
and propitiation. Christ’s substitutionary death was an actual substitution that turned God’s wrath away from the elect. Divine wrath was immutably removed for all those for whom Christ laid down His life. The Scripture joins the concept of propitiation (the turning away of divine wrath) with the particular love God has for His people (1 John 4:10).
6.) Only a definite atonement preserves the perfect unity of the Godhead in the
work of redemption. In redemption, there is a “division of labor.” The Father elects, the Son redeems, the Holy Spirit applies the benefits of Christ’s death to the elect (See John 6; Romans 8; Eph. 1 and 2 etc.).
7.) Only a definite atonement magnifies the wisdom and power of God. God’s
wisdom is glorified in man’s salvation (Romans 9-11, esp. 11:33-35; Jude 25; Isaiah 53:11; 1 Cor. 1:24,30). God’s power is glorified in an efficacious atonement (Psalm 110:3; Prov. 21:1; Eph. 1:11; Isaiah 46:9,10; Rom. 1:16; Eph. 2:4-6).
INTRODUCTION – When describing the atonement, the Scriptures consistently use the language of efficaciousness. By efficacious is meant that Christ’s work on Calvary produced the effect desired by God. Christ did not lay His life down for a reward that was indefinite (Is. 53:10-12).
The promise was made to Christ of eternal life to His own before the world began (Titus 1:1-3; 2 Tim. 1:9). Had the success of His work been dependent upon the ungoverned will of man, none would have accepted salvation. Had the security of salvation been dependent upon fickle and faithless minds, none would have uniformly held fast so as not to be finally cast out. BUT, Christ did not descend from heaven and pour out His soul unto death on an uncertain enterprise. NO, He had the promise BEFORE He left the Father’s bosom that He was entitled to a certain reward for His great work.
Application – One of the goals of studying sovereign grace is a deeper appreciation of the glory of God in the matter of your salvation. Those who know God are characterized by pressing on to know Him better (Hos. 6:3). Those who know God have great thoughts of God (Amos 4:13; 5:8,9).
Therefore when we study and explore the nature of the atonement, we stand in awe at the sovereignty of God’s grace towards us. We marvel that God should take us from defiled dust to immortal glory. As a result, we increasingly magnify the Lord for so complete and great a salvation. The success and certainty of God’s redemptive plan is anchored in His eternal wisdom. Scripture indicates that prior to the cross, this eternal wisdom was a MYSTERY, predestinedbefore the ages to our glory! (1 Cor. 2:6,7).
SCRIPTURAL TERMS EMPLOYED TO DESCRIBE ASPECTS OF CHRIST’S ATONEMENT
SACRIFICE – An offering by which the sinner is sanctified and made perfect in God’s sight (1 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 10:14; 13:12).
PROPITIATION – An atoning sacrifice that turns God’s wrath away from the sinner and makes him an object of favor (Rom. 3:25; 1 Jn. 4:10).
RECONCILIATION – The removal of enmity and hostility whereby the believing sinner is brought into the bonds of everlasting friendship with God (Rom. 5:10;
2 Cor. 5:18; Heb. 2:17).
REDEMPTION – The giving of Christ’s life as a ransom purchases sinners out of bondage for God (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 1:18; Rev. 5:9;
THE WORK OF CHRIST IN THESE FOUR ASPECTS OF THE ATONEMENT ARISES FROM THE SINNER’S NEED.
The need for SACRIFICE arises from the guilt of our sins and the condemnation that our transgression of God’s Law deserves.
The need for PROPITIATION is created by our being under the wrath of God (our liability to eternal condemnation under God’s settled anger).
The need for RECONCILIATION arises from our alienation from God (holy indignation on God’s side and enmity on our side).
The need for REDEMPTION is born of our bondage to sin, our bondage to Satan and our bondage to God’s justice system (we were bound in custody, awaiting punishment).
All four of the above terms used of Christ’s work in the Bible have a background in the common language patterns of the day. The Apostles did not come up with terminology that required a new dictionary in order to understand. Salvation terms employed by the Apostles had a place in the vernacular of everyday life. For example, redemption is a term taken from commercial transactions, propitiation is from the practice of religion, and justification is a term taken from the law courts.
THE QUESTION, “WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE ATONEMENT?” IS ANSWERED IN GREAT MEASURE BY AN EXPLANATION OF THE CONCEPT OF REDEMPTION.
The term, redemption, is a commercial term. It was the language used in commerce. It means tobuy back or to buy out. Remember, in the ancient world, much of the commerce had to do with the buying and selling of slaves. When used in the context of a slave market, the term takes on the particular connotation that it has in Christian theology. Thus, in the doctrine of salvation,redemption means to buy out of slavery or to set the slave free from sin by the paying of a price.
A great illustration of redemption out of slavery is found in the book of Hosea. Hosea’s wife ran away, she was unfaithful and she sank down in the social strata of that day’s society until she was eventually sold on an auction block in the city of Samaria. God sent Hosea to buy back his wife. Hosea 3:1-5 records the details of Hosea’s redemption of his wife. Hosea was the highest bidder. The acceptance of Hosea’s bid ended the bidding. The auctioneer declared, “Sold to Hosea.”
The prophet Hosea then says to his wife, “Now you shall abide with me many days, you shall not be for another man, you must be faithful to me. You must not play the part of a prostitute and so also I will be true for you.”
This is a vivid picture of redemption. This is exactly what happens to us in salvation. We are the adulterous slave sold on the auction block of sin. The world bids for us (with its many kinds of currency) to keep us in its bonds.
Some people sell their souls for sensual pleasure, some for power, others for fame, respectability and wealth, others for manmade religion.
The Lord Jesus enters the slave market of sin and says in effect, “I bid the infinite price of my blood.” God the Father is an auctioneer in this illustration. He brings the gavel down and says, “Sold to my only begotten Son for the price of His blood!”
This is why Peter can say, “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold (from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers), but with the precious blood, as if of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:18,19).
Application - What kind of redemption would it be if the death of Christ only made redemption possible? What kind of redemption would it be if Christ’s work on Calvary allowed the majority of those for whom He died to perish in a state of bondage to sin, to Satan and to divine justice?
It is worth noting that even in contemporary examples of release by payment of a price (i.e. bail bonds), freedom is secured by a payment. The payment is not a potential or hypothetical redemption, when the bail is paid, the incarcerated party is taken out of his cell.
WHEN THE BIBLE SPEAKS OF REDEMPTION, IT SPEAKS OF IT AS A TRUIMPHANT ACCOMPLISHMENT.
That triumphant note is as follows. Though the cost of our release is beyond calculation, Scripture proclaims Christ as having obtained the ransom price for the release of His people (Titus 2:14; Heb. 1:3; Rev. 5:9). The very nature of Christ’s mission is to secure the salvation of all those who are ordained to eternal life (Matt. 1:21).
A redemption that secures salvation guarantees that not one for whom it was intended can be lost. When speaking of those given Him by the Father, Jesus said that it was God’s will, “that of all He has given Me I lose nothing” (John 6:38-40).
The Bible treats the death of Christ as a price paid to make us His own. By redemption, God in Christ acquired the Church (Acts 20:28). The purpose of His death is to form those He ransoms into one body (John 10:16; 17:21).
Because of the efficacy of the payment, redemption is regarded as synonymous with freedom, liberty and emancipation. Freedom constitutes the redemption. Redemption is deliverance by the payment of a price or acquisition by the payment of a price.
Application – When one follows the theme of redemption through the biblical texts, it is not possible to universalize or generalize the atonement and stay true to the meaning of redemption. To conceive of an unlimited redemption radically alters the meaning of atonement if it applies to those who finally perish.
A universal redemption that lacks efficacy does no more for us than for Judas, Herod or Pilate.
THE O.T. CONCEPT OF KINSMAN REDEEMER PROVIDES A VIVID PICTURE OF CHRIST THE REDEEMER (Deut. 25:5-10; Ruth 3:1, 9-13; 4:1-11, 14).
The kinsman redeemer was to be a close relative in order to redeem. Christ took on our human nature (became related to us) in order to redeem us (Heb. 2:14-18)
The kinsman redeemer was to be free of debt in order to perform the work of redemption. Christ was sinless, He was free to redeem. He had no sinful liability in the sight of God’s holy Law (1 Pet. 3:18).
The kinsman redeemer was to have the necessary price in order to redeem. Scripture indicates that the price our Savior paid was the infinite price of His own blood (1 Pet. 1:18, 19).
The kinsman redeemer was to do his redemptive work in a totally voluntary fashion. He could not be coerced to do it. So also, our Redeemer voluntarily laid His life down for us. No one took His life from Him (John 10:17,18; Phil. 2:5-8).
HOW DOES A DEFINITE ATONEMENT AFFECT OUR PREACHING?
A definite atonement gives us the confidence to boldly preach the accomplishments of the cross. We proclaim a cross that is mighty to save because its accomplishments are certain. Too often one hears a watered-down version of the gospel that places all the emphasis upon the sinner’s response and little upon the victory of the cross. These diluted offers sound something like the following, “God will do this if you’ll do that.”
When Scripture describes the nature of Christ’s cross work, it presents it as a triumphant accomplishment. Redemption, reconciliation and propitiation are said to have happened when Christ died. Death was abolished there (Acts 2:24; 2 Tim. 1:10). Jews and Gentiles were made one at the cross (Eph. 2:14-16).
When speaking of triumph of Christ’s death, these blessings were as good as accomplished there. The power of Christ’s death is such that it will certainly produce salvation in those for whom it is offered. Victory is inherent in our proclamation of the gospel.
Application – The doctrine of particular redemption is not merely an academic or a mental exercise. The discovery of whether or not one has an eternal interest in Christ’s blood is the most important question a person will ever face. “You must learn whether Christ died for you. If He didn’t die for your sins, then you will suffer and die for them forever” (Ferguson, A Price for a People, p. 115).
The GOOD NEWS is that God has NOT told you to sit and wonder whether Christ died for you. He has NOT told you to try to search out whether or not you are one of God’s elect. What He has said is go to His Son, the friend of sinners. Look to the Person and work of Christ. God has commanded you to turn from your sin and to trust in Jesus Christ to make you right with God. He beckons sinners to lay down their arms (repent). He calls for you to turn to God through Christ (believe).
Those who refuse to come to God through Christ in faith and repentance cannot say that Christ died for them. Those who obstinately refuse to come will receive no benefit from the death of Christ even if He had died for a million worlds like ours. On the other hand, if any man or woman will turn from love of sin and cast their entire soul’s welfare upon Christ’s mercy, He will receive them (John 6:37). That person may be sure that they are one of those for whom Christ died.
The gospel command is “be reconciled to God.” “Taste of the Lord, see that He is good.”
God has declared His disposition toward the world. Sinners do not have to stay in a state of alienation from God. They are commanded to enter into the relation of favor and peace established by the reconciling work of Christ.
An effectual redemption does not bar the door to the seeking sinner, rather the opposite is true. An effectual redemption invests the free offer of the gospel with richness and power. It proclaims to the seeking sinner that deliverance has been secured by an all-sufficient and suitable Savior who is most worthy of trust and obedience.
HOW DOES A DEFINITE ATONEMENT AFFECT OUR WORSHIP AND DEVOTION TO CHRIST?
The very nature of Christ’s mission is to secure the salvation of all those who are ordained to eternal life. Therefore, the cross is efficacious to produce a pure BRIDE, a bride already known and loved by Christ (Eph. 5:25-27). Christ’s particular love for His bride is also evinced in His all wise and loving discipline of her (Heb. 12:6; Rev. 3:19). Therefore the Christian has every right and duty to glory in Christ’s particular love.
The believer reasons as follows, “He specifically set His love upon me from all eternity. Hethought of me, His heart love for me motivated the atonement. The joy set before Him of being with me forever moved Him to endure the cross (Heb. 12:2). In eternity, He thought upon me, 2000 years ago He bought me, in time He sought me and made me His own.”
Knowledge of completed salvation is of special comfort to God’s people. It was the heartbeat of the Apostle Paul’s faith (Gal. 2:20). Paul rejoiced that his life was bound up in Christ and His work. The Apostle viewed the atonement in a most personal way and so should we. Our life, our purpose, our hope, our future and our destiny are all wrapped up in Christ. Our security, comfort, praise, love and devotion are by union with Christ. We celebrate the oneness He has with His people.
Definite atonement has ramifications for our sanctification. Our understanding of predestination does not mean that we treat God’s sovereign decree as a feather pillow. Paul’s holy logic corrects any such notion. The Word says that the reason that you are not your own is because, “you were bought with a price”(1 Cor. 6:19,20).
Those whom Christ has redeemed cannot claim ownership of their bodies! They belong to Christ and their bodies must be used for the Lord, for His glory. Those who died with Christ are to daily present the members of their body to Christ as instruments of righteousness (Rom. 6:12-19; 8:12-14). The redeemed sinner is made glorious through surrender to Christ.
A designed atonement takes man’s pride to the very lowest point. Man has no part in completing this atonement or in making it effectual. Christ, by His doing, has taken us from hostile rebel to beloved spouse destined for His marriage supper. There is deep humility involved in our consent to be loved by the Son of God for no good reason, but for His own good pleasure. It is humbling to consent to love that we do not control or merit in the slightest. All our eligibility for divine love rests in Christ.
INTRODUCTION – In the last century, the gracious doctrine of the saints’ perseverance has been “streamlined” down to the inadequate term, eternal security. Eternal security, or “once saved always saved,” is indeed true and valid, but it can be misleading by what it leaves unsaid.
Believers are eternally secure because God preserves His saints and keeps them secure by means of perseverance in faith (1 Pet. 1:5). It is God’s power that does the keeping, but that divine power is manifested in the saints’ endurance and obedience (2 Thess. 2:13).
The doctrine of the saints’ perseverance and security, when correctly understood, promotes vigilance, not carelessness. It motivates godliness, not sloth and indulgence. The doctrine of perseverance teaches that where God gives genuine faith, there will be reliable evidences. Those evidences are the proof that a saint possesses the kind of faith that can save (James 2:14-26).
Application - The doctrine of the saints’ perseverance does not induce holiness by the fear of falling every moment. Instead it induces holiness by faith working through love (Gal. 5:6). God is honored because our security is traced to His power and purposes, not to our decision (2 Pet. 1:2-4). The persevering believer magnifies God for His intercession, justification, promises and sanctifying work. The Christian knows that he owes his stability, growth and comfort to God’s working on his behalf. (For scriptural examples of God’s power working in tandem with the believer’s diligence see the following texts: Heb. 6:11,12; 2 Thess. 2:12-14; 2 Pet. 1:9-11; Phil. 2:12,13.)
THE EPIDEMIC PROBLEM OF ANTINOMIAN, OR LAWLESS “CHRISTIANS”
The “once saved, always saved,” understanding of eternal security has contributed to the problem of antinomianism (or fleshly living). Countless individuals have regarded their profession of faith to be equated with eternal security. In many instances, well meaning counselors have suggested, “Pray this prayer and you shall be eternally secure.” Untold numbers of souls have been led to believe that their security flows from God honoring a decision they made. (NOTE: According to Scripture, the foundation of our salvation’s inception is attributed to God’s call, 2 Peter 1:3.)
Some are truly saved, but many are not. It is possible to be self-deceived into thinking that by a decision, one has bound or obligated God. Those under that deception commonly go forth to live for themselves and their own interests. It is tragic that the church is often indistinguishable from the world. The doctrine that personal holiness is absolutely necessary for entrance into heaven is all but lost in much of today’s Evangelicalism (Heb. 12:14).
The Church needs many voices to raise again the issue of Christ’s Lordship. His Lordship is directly tied to the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance. When Christ is Lord of a person’s life, faith working through love will produce perseverance and universal obedience (obedience in all areas of a man’s life).
The teaching of perseverance under Christ’s Lordship is needed to restore sanity to the Church, for much of Evangelicalism is pitching about on a sea of moral failure. “Cheap grace,” as Bonhoeffer referred to it, touts the freeness of the offer of salvation, but says little about the cost of discipleship.
Application – The Scriptures know nothing of a “two-tiered” Christianity made up of two classes of individuals. The Body of Christ is not broken down into two groups made up of those who are disciples and those who are not. (See the passages on the cost of discipleship, Luke 9:23-26; Matt. 10:34-39; John 12:25).
THE BIBLE STRESSES THE BELIEVER’S SECURITY WHILE AT THE SAME TIME CALLING FOR DILIGENCE AND PERSEVERANCE.
God has provided believers with all the resources necessary to make growth possible. 2 Peter 1 was written that Christians might match their calling and resources with growth in practical holiness. The command is to apply all diligence (1:5). To neglect this kind of progress is to have forgotten the depths from which one was rescued. It is to be blind to the glorious possibilities of spiritual development in Christ (2 Pet. 1:9).
THE GLORIOUSNESS OF GOD’S PROMISES ASSURES THE BELIEVER OF A COMPLETE SALVATION.
Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a
faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and
godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and
excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises
so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the
corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:1-4, all Scripture citations from The
New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman
The majesty and immutability of God’s promises secure the believer’s perseverance and everything necessary for eternal life. These magnificent promises of God nourish our faith, affection, love and trust in Christ. Everything that is necessary for godliness and salvation is reckoned to be included among the supernatural gifts of God.
The knowledge of God is the basis of life (Jn. 17:3). The knowledge of God is the “doorway” to all godliness. God makes us sharers of these great blessings by the knowledge of Himself: byrevealing Himself in the gospel (2 Cor. 4:6). God’s glory, virtue, excellence and power are in view as the cause of our rescue. Everything promised to us by God can rightly and fittingly be thought of as a result of His glory and power. God’s character and attributes are the “foundry” of His promises. That is where they are conceived, cast, formed and molded. (NOTE: To “become partakers of the divine nature,” does not mean that we will become an extension of God. Instead it refers to the kind of existence that is immortal, eternal, holy and completely blessed. We will eternally “house” the Spirit of God according to Ephesians 2:22.)
Application – Our personal, experimental (or practical) knowledge of Christ continues to grow as we walk in dependence upon Him. We experience answered prayer, chastisement and counsel. Christ lets His people know when they are doing His will. He delights in His people, drawing near to them when they share their inner life with Him. As a result of these experiences, our faith is strengthened and we come to know Him more and more. In this text, the promises of God are given the highest possible value. The believer is to respond by treasuring them, living upon them and feeding faith by them.
These promises remind us that Christ is the source of all virtue. Even in our diligence to grow in character, it is the power of God behind the promises that drives all our progress. We ought to notice that it is the purpose of the gospel to make us like God in holiness sooner or later. The higher premium we place upon the worth of the heavenly glory, the more we will be weaned away from the vanity of the present world.
BECAUSE OF THE PROMISES AND PURPOSES OF GOD (WE PARTAKE OF THE DIVINE NATURE), WE CANNOT BE APATHETIC ABOUT GROWTH.
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8).
God’s purpose is that we might grow more like Christ, especially since we have divine resources.
We ought to treasure the divine promises that assure us we are no longer powerless against our soul’s enemies. “We have escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (v. 4).”
“Apply all diligence,” means that we must make it our business. This kind of language infers that it will be a difficult task involving immense labor. The only way to remain on track is to set or fix one’s heart upon things above (Col. 3:1-4). The life of faith is to translate into moral excellence. A steady increase in the knowledge of God gives the ability of greater self-control. That quality is necessary in order to cope with trying people and circumstances. We need grace even to cope with our own weaknesses. An increase in the knowledge of God establishes us in steadfastness, perseverance and godliness.
Application – By faith, we apprehend that Christ is our Source Person for all we lack. As we grow in character, we are to trust Him for what we lack in character. We will experience breakthroughs when we consciously attempt obedience in the strength of Another (Phil. 4:13).
Christ’s sufficiency is learned gradually. It will involve repeatedly coming to the end of self-reliance.
Unbelief retards our growth in service and character because we are unable to see past our own inadequacy. With our eyes off of Christ and His promises, we are left with the impotency of self as a source. We are prone to compromising decisions while in that condition. Spiritual paralysis sets in until we look to the Lord again.
All the virtues produced in your life are ultimately generated by the character of Christ reproduced in you by the Holy Spirit. This fact does not rule out the principle of presentation or yielding ourselves to God for obedience (Rom. 6:13-19).
THE BELIEVER’S COMFORT AND THE BELIEVER’S CONSISTENT ASSURANCE OF SALVATION FLOW FROM A LIFE OF DILIGENCE.
For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his
purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make
certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you
will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you (2 Peter 1:9-11).
When Christians neglect the kind of progress enjoined in this chapter, their spiritual vision becomes shortsighted. In that myopic condition, the person does not see the glorious possibilities of growth in Christ. They are blind to the riches and glories of God’s grace and they do not behold the wonder of their divine calling (Eph. 1:17-23).
When professing Christians miss the virtues commanded, they lack the consistent comfort of assurance of salvation. The reason for this resides in the very nature of God’s calling. It is a calling and election unto obedience and holiness (Eph. 1:4). Holiness and obedience are the fruits that confirm God’s divine choice. They give evidence of genuine faith.
Believers are urged to pursue such character and behavior because by that life they will apprehend full assurance of their salvation now. In this way, they will safely and certainly reach their glorious destination. The warranty of assurance is given to those who are diligent.
Diligence is also rewarded by a favorable entrance into the Kingdom. Diligence affects the way we will greet the King of kings. Those who have abided in Christ will not shrink away in shame at His coming, but will greet Him in confidence (1 John 4:17).
A SUMMARY OF THE BENEFITS OF DILIGENCE.
1.) You will walk in step with the Holy Spirit. You will be living consistently with the purpose of your divine calling. As you value the gracious promises, you will find that the world’s allure and appeal is increasingly diminished.
2.) The development of Christian character will make you useful and fruitful in the Master’s service. The people you draw close to will be encouraged in their spiritual growth. Christ’s character will be operating in you.
3.) Confidence, comfort and assurance will be yours in great measure. You will make your election and calling sure. Your confidence in the Lord will result in more spontaneous worship.
4.) On the last day, you will greet the Lord in confidence instead of shame. Your works will survive the judgment seat of Christ. You will hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant (Matt. 25:21, KJV).”
INTRODUCTION – The world has a definition of freedom and happiness that is divorced from holiness in the Lord. Since the Fall of us all in our first parents, the human race has worshipped and served the creation instead of the Creator (Rom. 1:25). At salvation, we become new creatures with new desires. We were changed from worshippers of the creation, to worshippers of the Creator. As a result, salvation is sanctification. For sanctification means that the believer is set apart for God. The Christian is set apart for God, and set apart from the world to be a worshipper of God (1 Cor. 6:13-20).
Therefore salvation entails a new relationship with God and a new relationship toward the world. As the reality of our salvation relationships is lived out, we are progressively sanctified by God’s Spirit. To the degree that the believer cooperates with God’s purposes in sanctification, he will experience joy, peace, assurance, growth in grace and perseverance.
A Christian’s devotion to God’s purpose in sanctification is referred to in Romans 12:1 as his “reasonable” or “rational” service of worship. It is “rational” to devote oneself to sanctification because we were saved for the purpose of enjoying God. And it is impossible to enjoy God without holiness!
At our justification, we received the perfect status of adoption before God. Every barrier that blocked the reception of God’s love was removed at justification. We ought to regard sanctification as taking our justification seriously, for sanctification prepares us to live with God forever.
Application – Discuss the reasons why holiness in the Lord is the only true happiness. Note the following connections between holiness and happiness.
1.) Humans were made for God. Salvation restores that created purpose. An idol or “false integration point” cannot bring joyful unity to the soul of man.
2.) It is unspeakable joy, pleasure and peace to possess a conscience that is clear enough to reflect the face of the Creator. It is only the clear conscience that possesses a boundless capacity for the reception of God’s love.
3.) Truth and beauty are joined. The highest beauty is God’s holiness. When the
creature is holy, he is able to look upon God’s holiness and be ravished by it.
4.) Holiness is to be lifted out of self-consciousness, self-concern and selfishness.
To be perfected in holiness is to possess a limitless for passion for God’s glory.
5.) The Lord is the habitation of righteousness. Gospel holiness brought to full
fruition involves being an eternal partaker in the righteousness of God.
Holiness rejoices that God shares His own righteousness with His redeemed
6.) It is the holy individual who becomes an unhindered channel of God’s love.
The “wine” of heaven is to endlessly experience God’s love passing through
one’s soul as it is expressed to others.
SALVATION IS A COMPREHENSIVE WORD IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13, all Scripture citations from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.
In modern Christianity, the term “salvation” is often used only to mean deliverance from eternal judgment. By contrast, Scripture emphasizes the completeness and comprehensiveness of salvation. God saves us from sin, misery, guilt, pollution, wrath, death and corruption. In the Bible, the person who is “being saved” manifests a liberty from the dominion of sin. Eternal life is the OUTCOME of a life of overcoming sin and serving righteousness through Christ (Rom. 6:22,23).
As with every true believer, the Thessalonians were CHOSEN by God for salvation. The decree of election connects the ends (salvation), with the means (sanctification). The saints are electedunto holiness. God has chosen us that we might be holy. Those who are truly the elect of God will not fail to achieve that end by God’s grace (Eph. 1:4).
Believers are “beloved by the Lord.” They owe their preservation to Christ’s effectual love in shepherding and preserving their souls. They owe their stability in persevering to the election of grace.
Application – God will not forsake the work of His hands! Where He has begun a work, He will perfect unto the day of salvation (Phil. 1:6). Those who are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit will persevere to the end.
GOD BRINGS ABOUT OUR SALVATION BY MEANS OF SANCTIFICATION BY THE SPIRIT AND FAITH IN THE TRUTH.
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
Those chosen for salvation as the end and goal are prepared for it by sanctification. Sanctification is the necessary means to obtain that end. This salvation which becomes our possession, is THROUGH sanctification by the work of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is a process. It causes the believer to be increasingly detached from the world and increasingly devoted to Christ.
Application – Sanctification is never offered as an option. Sanctification is the will of God for all Christians (1 Thess. 4:3-8).
SANCTIFICATION IS A GIFT BY CHRIST AND HIS WORK ON OUR BEHALF.
BUT THIS GIFT PLACES A HEAVY OBLIGATION UPON US AS BELIEVERS.
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
Christians are under obligation to be active in the power of God (Rom. 8:12-17). They are to put to death the deeds of the flesh and reckon themselves alive to God and dead to the misdeeds of the flesh (Rom. 6:11-13). This obligation is in total agreement with our new nature. For God has quickened our reason, wills and affections that they may be put to work in sanctification.
The Holy Spirit sanctifies us. He communicates the benefits of Christ and His death to us. The power of the cross is active in both justification and sanctification. Faith accepts Christ’s work as the ground of both (See Romans 6, 1 Cor. 1:30, Heb. 2:11; 12:2).
Application – We are dependent upon Christ for our sanctification. We are to cry to Him as our merciful High Priest. He willingly gives us new measures of mercy and sanctifying grace (Heb. 4:15,16). Jesus told His disciples, “apart from Me you can do nothing (Jn. 15:5).
Sanctification is born out of union with Christ. Sanctification is so related to Christ that one cannot receive it but by communion with Him. (When we exercise faith in the truth of Christ we are communing with Him.)
THE HOLY SPIRIT WORKS UPON US SO THAT OUR WILLS, OUR MINDS AND OUR AFFECTIONS GIVE VITAL, ACTIVE CONSENT TO THE TRUTH REVEALED IN CHRIST.
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
Just as we received justification by faith in Christ, so also we receive sanctification’s progress by faith in Christ. It is ongoing faith in the truth of God’s Word that sanctifies us (Jn. 17:17). When the truth is believed and loved, it dominates exceptionally in all areas of one’s life.
The believer’s relationship to God’s truth goes far beyond assent and admiration. The true Christian loves the truth so as to be transformed by it. The truth becomes central in his thoughts, meditations, affections and decisions.
Application – The saints are commanded to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12,13). But this is not to suggest that our activity in sanctification is a legal or law work. Actually, our progress is purely evangelical. That is, it is gospel based. All of our advancement in holiness flows from the cross.
The “fear and trembling” has to do with the awesome proposition that the God of the universe is intimately at work in our thinking, desiring and willing. It is a fearful and wonderful thing to recognize that He is constantly willing to animate our obedience. It is also as cause for fear and self-watch to consider that our flesh may resist the operations of the Spirit. We are warned not to place ourselves in peril by neglecting the means of grace (Heb. 2:3; 10:22-25). Review the duties commanded of all believers (attention to the Word, prayer, the Lord’s Supper and fellowship).
THE EFFECTUAL CALL OF THE GOSPEL IS UNTO HONOR, HAPPINESS AND THE GLORY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:14).
It is the gracious will of our Savior that the glory He possesses and the glory He has purchased be communicated to those believe in Him and obey His gospel. Those who believe and repent shall be with Christ to behold His glory and they shall be glorified with Christ and partake of His glory. The everlasting life we possess now will have its fulfillment in the redemption of our bodies. God calls us to heaven. He expects us to run the race set before us with endurance.
Application – Consider the relationship between our progress in holiness and the level of our desire to be with the Lord (see 2 Cor. 4:16-5:10; Rom. 8:23-25; Phil. 3:20,21; 1 Pet. 1:3-9; 1 Jn. 2:28-3:3).
THE LORD EXHORTS US TO “STAND FAST” AND NOT TO WAVER. MANY OBSTACLES STAND IN THE WAY OF OUR SANCTIFICATION.
So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
We must lean heavily upon the Lord in order to lay aside our doubts and fears and stand fast (Rom. 14:4; 1 Cor. 16:13). God’s election is NOT a ground for inaction on our part. God’s choice of us is the strongest incentive to action and perseverance. Scripture always joins privilege and duty. (You have an anointing, now abide in Him, 1 John 2:27,28.) Since life and favor are assured to us in Christ, then we are to live for Him, depending upon His promised installments of future grace. (Review the privileges of 2 Thess. 2:13-15.)
Application – The Christian is justified that he might be sanctified. Now that he possesses righteousness in Christ and is assured of immutable love and favor, he can pursue sanctification with complete abandon. There is no cause for fear of failure.
Unlike the believer, the unregenerate man possesses no such position or status before God. He or she is yet in a state of moral paralysis. Their sins remind them of their liability to judgment before God. Their moral failures stir up their enmity toward God. Their guilt presses a sense of God’s disfavor upon their consciences. As a result, they have no incentive or power to pursue holiness. They need to see the beauty and preciousness of Christ, the Friend of sinners. Every unbeliever is a stranger to grace. Therefore the pursuit of God’s holiness sounds to him like trying to build a ladder to the moon.
A SUMMARY OF REASONS WHY THE SCRIPTURES CALL FOR PERSEVERANCE.
1.) Perseverance is necessary because the Christian life is a fight (James 1:12; Heb. 3:6; Acts 14:21,22). We are called to be overcomers. We are to live out Christ’s victory in our life and walk (1 Pet. 2:21).
2.) Perseverance is a necessity because it is a vital safeguard against presumption. Those who profess Christ are warned against the prospect of self-deception (Eph. 5:1-6).
3.) Perseverance is necessary because hypocrites walk for a time, become careless, then fall away (Matt. 13:18-23). God uses exhortations to perseverance to admonish and awaken diligence and holy fear in the saints. It is God’s way of instilling sober-mindedness.
4.) Perseverance is necessary because it such a revealer of your relationship with God’s truth (Col. 1:9-14).
5.) Perseverance is necessary because it is genuine faith in action. Perseverance is the opposite of a mystical, privitized religion that remains locked in the corner of one’s soul. When Christ returns, He will find His people pressing along the path of duty and using the means of grace (1 Pet. 4:7).
1.) Foreordination is inconsistent with man’s free agency.
An act does not have to be uncertain to be free. A free act may be certain (i.e. established as certain within God’s decree). An act that is foreknown is as certain as one that is foreordained. If it were possible to have an act foreknown but not foreordained, it would not preserve any more of man’s free agency. An act is foreknown by God because He has foreordained it, it is not foreordained because he foreknew it. (See Luke 22:22; Matt. 26:24; Jn. 6:70, 71; 13:2, 27.)
2.) The Foreordination of the Fall (or Decree to Permit Sin) is Inconsistent with God’s Holiness.
Even if He has not fully disclosed it to us, God has a righteous and holy purpose for allowing His rational creatures the free agency to fall from a state of unconfirmed holiness. He is not the author of sin; the judge who pronounces the sentence is not responsible for the sinful response after the verdict is pronounced. The parent who puts the child to bed is not responsible for the tantrum that ensues.
God predestined the crucifixion of His only begotten Son, but God was in no way responsible for the wicked acts of the men who caused Christ’s sufferings (see Acts 2 and 4). Foreordination establishes the certainty of a fact, but does not make God the author or “compeller” of the decreed behavior.
3.) Foreordination Destroys all Motivation for Exertion.
Opponents of the doctrine of foreordination have drawn a caricature of the truth by suggesting the following: “If all is foreordained, then let’s sit back and relax. We don’t need to do anything, it will all come to pass.”
The above false assumption supposes that God has determined the end without respect to the means (or without respect to the means of accomplishing the end).
It is a fact that the end is always reached by the use of means (whether the end is righteous or wicked, it is reached by the use of means).
God has purposed the things that shall come to pass in history through the acts of individuals. From God’s standpoint, everything is certain and secure. From our standpoint, it is possible to wander from God’s will into disobedience. As believers it is possible to turn against God’s will and experience His discipline as a result. Through rebellion and unbelief, we may stray from God’s best for us.
The fact that something is sure to come to pass (because it is foreordained and promised by God) may act as a motive to pursue it rather than a reason to neglect it (see Heb. 6:11, 12; 2 Peter 1:1-11; Acts 27).
The stronger the hope of success, the greater the motive there is to exert oneself. Where the hope of success is the least, the motive to exert oneself is the weakest. (The greatest missionary evangelists have believed in God’s sovereign grace. They spent their lives exerting themselves for what they were sure God would bring to pass.)
4.) Foreordination is Fate or Fatalism, it Makes Men “Robots.”
Scoffers reason as follows, “If everything is going to come to pass as God has planned it, then we are locked into a certain, inescapable fate.”
Is it accurate to say that there is no difference between fatalism and foreordination as far as the certainty of events is concerned? Oddly enough yes – both preach the certainty of events. BUT, fatalism comprehends no goal. Fatalism says such in such was going to happen, “no matter what.”
The operation of the “laws” of fate have no soul. They only encompass the unintelligent linking of events. Fatalism has no personal plan behind it that is designed to manifest God’s attributes and perfections through man’s salvation.
By contrast, foreordination involves an all-wise, all loving Father who is responsible for events in their sequence and for their accomplishments.
The unfolding of providence will prove to be the perfect exhibition of the divine perfections. God’s infinite wisdom will on the last day be evident in His design for mankind and creation.
Fatalism leads to despair and an amoral, cynical perspective. Foreordination leads to filial confidence in the Father who is truly eternal and true to His gracious covenant. Foreordination leads to humility in the presence of God who works all things according to the counsel of His will. (God’s sovereignty is also a warning to the impenitent that comprehensive judgment and punishment is sure to come to those who do not receive God’s salvation.)
5.) Divine Foreordination Makes our Actions Less Important.
Just the opposite is true. This brief life involves the daily principle of sowing and reaping. Foreordination makes our actions exceedingly important. In essence God really confirms our choices. The real efficiency of second causes (means) is in the hand of God. He alone establishes the work of our hands. He alone confirms or nullifies the plans of men.
Our absolute dependence and moral accountability ought to make us cling to God. Bible believing Christians know that God is ever-present, almighty and that He powerfully controls events so as to accomplish His purposes in the elect. (His love, protection and wisdom are with them.)
6.) How can we Trust in a God who has Foreordained the Damnation of the Majority of Mankind? Wouldn’t that fact Engender an Insurmountable Suspicion toward Him?
God’s character can only be understood by those who have tasted redemption. The redeemed know their ill-desert. They understand their depravity and former enmity toward God. They know that their sins made them deserving of condemnation.
But, they have seen the glory of God in the face of Christ. It is futility to attempt to understand God’s foreordination unless one is a born again Christian. Apart from regeneration, the creature will always allow his enmity to condition his reasoning processes. He will always side with the interests of the rebellious creature against the interests of God’s glory.
Illustration: We could compare the high doctrine of foreordination to a high mountain with a fence and gate around it. No one is permitted to explore the mountain so as to gain understanding UNTIL he deals with Jesus Christ who is the Keeper of the gate. Christ only lets believers through the gate.
Foreordination never kept anyone out of heaven. In fact, without foreordination, no one would savingly believe upon Christ so as to be made an heir of eternal life.
7.) The Doctrine of Foreordination brings us no Comfort when we see Wholesale Wickedness, Suffering and Injustice in the World.
When we see evil abounding, tragedies, injustices, victimization, it may prompt us to think disturbing thoughts about God. For we reason that our God who knows all and foreordains all, “could have prevented these horrible things!” “Where is His goodness now?” “If He doesn’t approve of this, why did He let it happen, much less foreordain it?”
God has righteous purposes for granting men a brief season to exercise their free agency and to express their wickedness. Very soon, God will again invade human history. Then He will restrain evil and publicly judge those who practice it. Every person will prove to be an eternal object lesson to the watching universe (either a vessel of mercy or of wrath, Rom. 9).
Our problem with God’s sovereign permission of evil rises out of our objection that says in effect, “God ought to live in time as we do, instead of in eternity.” “He ought to make the goodness of His character evident to us in everything He decrees.”
Our problem is that we are insisting that God demonstrate His righteousness, holiness, justice and goodness in every human event. We want Him to make it so plain to us that we can see it and approve of it. We want the events He decrees to be compatible with our sense and reason. Like Habakkuk, we hate to wait. We lack the faith to wait until He brings His perfect consummation to history. There are countless acts in history where God has overruled evil for good (i.e., story of Joseph).
8.) If God Foreordained the Acts of Wicked Men, then how did the Men have a Choice in the Matter?
Foreordination renders certain an act to be performed by person. Foreordination does not compel the person to perform the act. Men are at liberty to do what they desire. God does not coerce them. Man is a responsible free agent who originates his own sinful acts.
Sin is transgression of God’s law and is disobedience to the Lawgiver Himself. God does not influence men to sin against Him.
Men who freely choose to not retain God in their thoughts will carry out their depraved desires and (apart from God’s grace) will continue toward destruction. God’s providence directs all of His creatures. He puts limits upon all men. He limits the activities of the wicked to operate within certain boundaries.
God’s providence does not violate the laws of men’s natures. When God chooses to withhold His restraining grace, He Himself does not make the sinner more sinful. The sinner out of his own volition and desire moves further toward a depraved mind God’s providence may bring or permit circumstances which accelerate the sinner’s blindness and self-hardening (i.e., Pharaoh, Rom. 9).
Illustration: The same sunshine that softens wax, hardens clay – the reason lies in the difference of their natures. Regeneration is the only example of God “violating” the law of a man’s nature. When He brings about the new birth, He sovereignly implants a whole new principle from which springs new behaviors.
The doctrine of foreordination is a comfort to the believer. The doctrine reassures him that every aspect of his life is under God’s care and wisdom. Thus, this truth argues for a greater degree of entrusting oneself to God. When rightly understood, it stimulates in us prayerfulness, dependence, thanksgiving, and waiting upon God. It is a doctrine that humbles us. It makes us cry for more grace to incline our hearts after God’s will.
Foreordination reminds us that all we are in ourselves is sin. Whatever is done by the “new man” constitutes an activity that belongs to the power of the new nature – the nature energized by the grace of God’s Spirit. This doctrine should move a believer to consolation, humility and diligence.
There is not a chance that a natural man will begin to do good or begin to do that which is pleasing to God. We are absolutely dependent upon the Creator. The unbeliever is as well, but does not acknowledge that truth.