Friday, March 30, 2012

Sovereignty Scriptures

Listed below are just a few of the passages of Scripture that declare that our Father is in complete control, even when we think that He is not.
  •  "...Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13)
  • "A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven." (John 3:27)
  • "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. (Greek, thelo [θελω]: wills)" (John 5:21)
  • "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me..." (John 6:37)
  • "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing..." (John 6:39)
  • "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him..." (John 6:44)
  • "If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed." (John 8:36)
  • "...And I give eternal life to them (my sheep), and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27-28)
  • "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above..." (John 19:11)
These are just some of the Scriptures in the Gospel of John. This should give one a clear understanding that the Bible is full of the declaration that He is Lord over all. Below are a few key sovereignty scriptures taken from various other parts of the Bible.
  • "And the LORD said to him (Moses), 'Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes [him] dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?'" (Ex. 4:11)
  • "...For the LORD your God hardened his (Pharaoh's) spirit and made his heart obstinate, in order to deliver him into your hand, as he is today." (Deut. 2:30)
  • "'See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded, and it is I who heal; and there is no one who can deliver from My hand.'" (Deut. 32:39)
  • "The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts." (1 Sam. 2:6-7)
  • "...Power and might are in Thy hand so that no one can stand against Thee." (2 Chron. 20:6)
  • "I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted." (Job  42:2)
  • "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will worship before Thee. For the kingdom is the LORD'S, and He rules over the nations." (Ps. 22:27-28)
  • "The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all." (Ps. 103:19)
  • "But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases." (Ps. 115:3)
  • "Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps." (Ps. 135:6)
  • "The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps." (Prov. 16:9)
  • "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD." (Prov. 16:11)
  • "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but the counsel of the LORD, it will stand." (Prov. 19:21)
  • "...There is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?" (Is. 43:3)
  • "And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He (God) does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, 'What hast Thou done?'" (Dan. 4:35)
  • "Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?..." (Matt. 20:15)
  • "The things impossible with men are possible with God." (Luke 18:27)
  • "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28)
  • "For this is a word of promise: 'AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.' And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, 'THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.' Just as it is written, 'JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.'" (Rom. 9:9-13
  • "For He says to Moses, 'I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.' So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.' So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires." (Rom. 9:15-18)
  • "On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this,' will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?" (Rom. 9:20-21)
  • "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Rom. 11:29)
  • "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." (1 Cor.  15:10)
  • "Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world..." (Eph. 1:4)
  • "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace..." (Eph. 1:5-6)
  • "He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to . . . the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth." (Eph. 1:9-10)
  • "...Who works all things after the counsel of His will." (Eph. 1:11)
  • "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:6)
  • "...Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:12-13)
  • "For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." (Col. 1:13)
  • "And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of (Greek, prototokos [πρωτοτοκος]: prior to and sovereign over) all creation." (Col. 1:15)
  • "Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." (1 Thess. 5:24)
  • "Who desires (Greek, thelo [θελω]: will have) all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:4)
All God's purposes for our lives here on earth (and beyond) will stand, whether we believe it or not.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What Is God Sovereign Over?

God Is Sovereign Over . . .
Seemingly random things:
The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the LORD.
(Proverbs 16:33)
The heart of the most powerful person in the land:
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;
he turns it wherever he will.
(Proverbs 21:1)
Our daily lives and plans:
A man’s steps are from the LORD;
how then can man understand his way?
(Proverbs 20:24)
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
(Proverbs 19:21)
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. . . .  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15)
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
(Romans 9:15-16)
As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
(Acts 13:48)
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
(Romans 8:29-30)
Life and death:
See now that I, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
(Deuteronomy 32:39)
The LORD kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
(1 Samuel 12:6)
Then the LORD said to [Moses], “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”
(Exodus 4:11)
The death of God’s Son:
Jesus, [who was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
(Acts 2:23)
For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
(Acts 4:27-28)
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief. . . .
(Isaiah 53:10)
Evil things:
Is a trumpet blown in a city,
and the people are not afraid?
Does disaster come to a city,
unless the LORD has done it?
(Amos 3:6)
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.
(Isaiah 45:7)
“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. . . . “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
(Job 1:21-22; 2:10)
[God] sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. . . . As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
(Psalm 105:17; Genesis 50:21)
All things:
[God] works all things according to the counsel of his will.
(Ephesians 1:11)
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
(Psalm 115:3)
I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
(Job 42:2)
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
(Daniel 4:35)
 God Is Sovereign Over . . .
  1. the universe (Ps. 103:19; Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:11)
  2. nature (Ps. 135:6-7; Matt. 5:45; 6:25-30)
  3. angels and Satan (Ps. 103:30-31; Job 1:12)
  4. nations (Ps. 47:7-9; Dan. 2:20-21; 4:34-35)
  5. human beings (1 Sam. 2:6-7; Gal. 1:15-6)
  6. animals (Ps. 104:21-30; 1 Kings 17:4-6)
  7. “accidents” (Pr. 16:33; John 1:7; Matt. 10:29)
  8. free acts of men (Ex. 3:21; 12:25-36; Ez. 7:27)
  9. sinful acts of men and Satan (2 Sam. 24:1; 1 Chr. 21:1; Gen. 45:5; 50:20)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Faith Is A Gift

Faith does not come from within ourselves. Look through your entire Bible and you will see many passages that command an individual to “believe,” and several passages that state that men cannot believe, but you will never find a single passage that says men can believe. A command to believe is not evidence that men can believe. Faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:5, 8). If faith is something within myself that I can exercise of my own will (which is not free, but is slave to either sin or God [Rom. 6]), then it is something I can boast about. Ephesians 2:9 condemns this.

How do we receive the gift of faith, then? By the hearing of the Word: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the [preaching of the] word of Christ.” That is the method that God chose to establish. Those individuals whom He has chosen unto salvation (John 6:37; 15:16; Rom. 8:29-30; 9:20-24; Eph. 1:4; et al), when they hear, because He has changed and opened their heart to what they hear (Acts 16:14), freely exercise faith. If God did not first work in them, then they would never receive what they are hearing.

Whether you like it or not, this is biblical truth. That is why the preaching of the Gospel is foolishness to many. Because they fail to realize that God has chosen this method with which to work His gift of faith within His chosen elect. All these gimmicks that churches are trying to apply are an effort for them to save people rather than using God's simple method and allowing God to save them. If God did not reach out to save any of us, then none of us would ever be saved because we are dead in trespasses and sins and we hate God with a rebellious hatred.

Jeremiah 18 and Romans 9 both speak to the reality of God's sovereignty and His being able to do with His creation as He sees fit. He answers to nobody. If He elects to save some individuals while leaving the rest dead in their sin, He is free to do so. He is not under obligation to save any of us, and He certainly is not obligated to save all of us. His choosing to save some is for His glory, in order to show what a good and kind God He is, even though we all deserve an eternity in hell apart from Him. It is grace and grace alone that saves us.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Saved By Grace

"For by Grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:8-10

If we ask a botanist how a plant grows, they will tell us that it needs moisture, nutrients, sun light, etc., which is true. Yet, Scripture says that God causes the plants to grow. The reality is that God is the primary cause for how plants grow and the scientific information, ordained by God, is the secondary cause for how plants grow. The same reality of truth is found in this passage of Scripture. Grace is the primary cause of our salvation. Faith is the secondary cause. Grace is the means by which God grants us salvation, whereas faith is the instrument or vessel by which God has chosen to bestow it. "Without faith it is impossible to please Him."

The words, used twice in chapter two of Ephesians, are very clear: "For by grace are ye saved." You are not saved by your faith. Faith is a work in which you can boast. Essentially, God said, "I will save you by My grace, but I want you to exercise faith in order to lay hold upon it." God will get all the glory—you will get none of it. Your confession of faith means absolutely nothing, as you will see in Jesus' words from Matthew 7 with those who called Him "Lord, Lord." Jesus has many disciples, but not every disciple of Jesus is a true, biblical, born again Christian. There are many who name the name of the Lord but have neglected to actually get saved. They know of Jesus, but He does not know them. Having any old faith won't save you. You need the right kind of faith—the kind that agrees with God and results in continuous repentance for the rest of your life, conforming to the image of Jesus Christ.

Salvation is God's work in you and He saves you by His grace. This should cause you to marvel at His loving-kindness and to bow down before His majesty and worship Him for granting you something you do not deserve to have. To think you deserve it in any way or that you have earned it by anything you have done is the ugly face of pride exalting itself in your life. You deserve hell and nothing but hell, but God has graciously saved you for His glory.

"As you have received the Lord Christ Jesus, so walk in Him."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bought With A Price

"For you were bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:20). I would like you to take notice of the tense of this statement. It is past tense; a once-for-all-time action. It does not say "you will be bought with a price," it says "you were bought with a price." This is another deathly blow to Arminianist-based faiths such as Dispensationalism. These faiths hold to a form of Universalism, although they would deny it. If you work it out logically, you will see that that is precisely what they believe in.

These individuals claim that Jesus bought each and every individual that ever was or ever will be with His shed blood on Calvary. The verse prior says, "You are not your own" (1 Cor. 6:19). In other words, if you were bought by the precious blood of Christ Jesus, then you belong to Him; you are His. So, if Jesus bought each and every individual with His shed blood, that means that each and every individual belongs to Him and will come to saving faith. His blood blots out their sins and earns them forgiveness. If He bought each and every individual with His shed blood, then each and every individual has had their sins blotted out and has earned forgiveness. In other words, whether they accept Him or not, because they have been bought and paid for, having had their sins blotted out and having earned forgiveness for those sins, on the day of judgment there will be nothing to be held against them. This is problematic.

These same individuals claim that if an individual does not accept Christ Jesus, his sins are put back on him on the day of judgment and he is judged for those sins. This makes Jesus an "Indian giver." He gives each and every individual these gifts and then, when they do not accept Him, He takes them back. This is extremely problematic because the Bible teaches no such thing.

The Bible teaches us from cover to cover that those who belong to Christ Jesus will come to faith in Him. Why? Because He died for His own and bought His own with His precious blood. The Bible clearly tells us that Judas was fulfilling a prophecy. If you ask these individuals if Judas had a choice in the matter, they will argue that, yes, he did. If he had a choice in the matter, then that means that God can be wrong, because this was prophesied long ago. If he had a choice in the matter, then that means we are more powerful than God, because despite what He prophesied we are able to alter it. But the Bible makes the contrary statement; that God will accomplish all that He has purposed and planned. The fact is, Judas did not have a choice in the matter. He was a vessel made for dishonour for the specific purpose of what he accomplished. Paul says the same of Pharaoh in Romans 9.

Being bought with a price stands in history as a one-time event. I was purchased at Calvary, but my coming to faith was not realized until 2000 years later. I was not bought 2000 years later, I was bought at Calvary. Every individual who was purchased by Christ at Calvary by His shed blood will come to faith in their appointed time. Not one of them will be lost. All other individuals, a vast majority, were never bought and will never come to saving faith.

Jesus will accomplish 100% what He came for. Before the foundations of the world were laid, God the Father chose a remnant of individuals to give to Jesus for His own people. God the Son died for those people given to Him by the Father, purchasing them with His blood. God the Holy Spirit sealed those people for the day of redemption and sanctifies them in order to conform them to the image of Christ Jesus. Every other individual is left to themselves, worthy of the condemnation and judgment that will befall them because they are responsible for their sins. Each and every individual rightly deserves that fate, but God in His sovereign mercy chose to save a remnant for His own glory, leaving all others in their well-deserved fate.

God is not a fair God. He is a merciful and gracious God. That He chooses to be so to any of us is a mystery and an undeserved blessing. We have all earned and deserve the same eternal fate in hell, but for His own glory God chose to redeem a remnant of undeserving individuals. Rather than kick against the pricks, you would do well to be thankful to God for His gracious mercy toward you and evangelize others so that other individuals who were purchased by Christ can come to faith. Remember, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. This is the method God chose for individuals to come to saving faith: hearing of the Word.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Who Did Jesus Die For?

The question may be asked, "Who did Jesus die for?" Some people would say that He died for everyone. This is false. Did he die for those already living in hell? Of course not! In order to better understand what is at stake here, it might be wise to ask the question, "How many times did Jesus die?" Once! Jesus does not die all over again every time a person is saved. He died once to purchase salvation. Every individual who would be saved was covered by the death and blood of Jesus Christ. Everyone else was not!

Those who say Jesus died for all men and that all men are morally free to accept or reject the offer of salvation are ignorant* of the issue at stake. If Jesus died for the salvation of all men, then all men will be saved. No matter how you dice it, this is Universalism. If there are men who are not saved, then Jesus never died for their salvation. Otherwise they would have received it. If Jesus died for the salvation of certain appointed men, then only those certain appointed men will be saved, which is what the Bible teaches through and through as crystal clear as glass. The God Who died to save all men but only saves some is a failure. John 6:37 says that "All that the Father gives me will come to me." Not some. Not most. All! The giving precedes the coming.

Jesus died for the salvation of His people—those people that God the Father gave Him from before the foundations of the world whom the Spirit seals and sanctifies at the appointed time. He died once to purchase their salvation. If Jesus died for all men, then His death purchased salvation for all men, which means that all men will be saved. Again, no matter how you dice it, this is Universalism. This is a heresy! Jesus' death purchased salvation for certain appointed men only. Not for all men everywhere.

This is the crux of the issue that Arminianists and Dispensationalists fail to grasp. Because they ignorantly believe that all men are generally good, they believe that it is unfair if all men are not given the same treatment. Yet, this is precisely what we see with regard to God choosing a single nation and leaving every other nation to themselves. Arminianists and Dispensationalists deliberately overlook this because it undermines their doctrines. Man's goodness has nothing to do with the issue. Salvation is not based upon how good you are or how morally you have lived. Further, all men are not generally good. They are generally evil. There has never been a philosopher who has ever believed that man was generally good. Arminianists and Dispensationalists generally want to believe Jesus died for all men due to their perverted interpretations of John 3:16. In order to understand this issue, read the blog entry The Word "World".

Scripture nowhere speaks of man's "free will." Romans 6 informs us that we are either slaves to God or slaves to sin. There is no middle ground. Scripture is also replete with verses stating that God is in control of, and over, men and that He bounds, overrules, and directs men according to His purposes. He uses ungodly men to accomplish His will, raising up whomever He wills and abasing whomever He wills. Romans 9 and 2 Timothy both speak of vessels of honour and vessels of dishonour. Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 both speak of those who "were not written in the book of life from before the foundations of the world." Peter and Jude both speak of men who were ordained to destruction.

In order to understand what is meant by "certain appointed men," please read the blog entry 2 Peter 3:9. Jesus came to save His people from their sins. Are all men His people? No! Clearly not! Jesus came to die for His people and to purchase salvation for His people. Salvation was purchased at Calvary. If Jesus died for all men and to purchase salvation for all men, then clearly all men must be and will be saved, which, again, is Universalism. Salvation was purchased at Calvary! Therefore, any man or woman who never receives salvation was never saved at Calvary. Jesus died once for all time! Past, present, and future all stand before Calvary. Only those who have received salvation stand covered by the blood on Calvary's hill.

* Ignorance does not in any way, shape, or form denote or connote stupidity. The literalness of a word is its denotation; the broader associations we have with a word are its connotations. “A person can be ignorant (not knowing some fact or idea) without being stupid (incapable of learning because of a basic mental deficiency). And those who say, ‘That’s an ignorant idea’ when they mean ‘stupid idea’ are expressing their own ignorance.” (Paul Brians, Common Errors in English Usage, posted on <>).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Did Jesus Die For All Men?

Here is an analogy of my own: 50 people are in a large body of water drowning. I jump in and, through my greatest efforts, am able to rescue 10 people. Perhaps I even give my own life in the process of rescuing them. The other 40, despite my efforts, die. How many people did I rescue? 10! I may have tried to rescue the other 40, but I cannot be called the rescuer of the 40 because they were never rescued. I tried but failed.

If you are the kind of person who believes that Jesus died for each and every man and woman who has ever lived, this is precisely what your belief about Jesus does. Your belief says that Jesus tries but fails in His attempt to save at least some. You quote verses such as 1 Timothy 4:10 and 2 Peter 2:1 as your proof texts, taking them at face value, but ignoring the other 500 verses that, at face value, say quite the opposite thing.

In John 6:37 it says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me.” Not some. Not most. All! The giving precedes the coming. He says in verse 44 that, “No one can come unless the Father who sent me draws him” and in verse 65 “no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” If all men were drawn, then they would all be raised up unto eternal life on the last day because, according to the Greek grammar of the text, the "him" being drawn in verse 44 is the same "him" being raised up in verse 44. They are one and the same. So if they are being drawn, then they are being raised unto life.

Scripture says, “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven” (John 3:27). This includes salvation. Further, when the disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replied by saying, “With men it is impossible” (Mark 10:27). Salvation is a gift given by God (Ephesians 2:8-9) that has nothing to do with our profession of faith. Do you want to see what your profession of faith amounts to? Look at Matthew 7:21-23. Salvation has nothing to do with us because “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16).

In order to be a Saviour of a thing, it implies that that thing must be saved. The Greek word translated “Saviour” in 1 Timothy 4:10 is sōtēr, which is properly translated as “preserver,” because God’s kindness reaches “all men, but especially those who believe.” His salvation does not. If it did, then all men would be saved, which is Universalism. Although you would deny it, the belief you ascribe to contains elements of Universalism. It cannot be said that Jesus is the Saviour of men residing in hell. It is impossible and a contradiction in terms. Think about it. If He is the Saviour of all (each and every) men, then all men must be saved. When He died on the cross, was He dying for those already in hell? No! Was He dying for those who will be in hell? Of course not. For Scripture states that these men "were before of old ordained to this condemnation" (Jude 1:4; cf 2 Peter 2:3).

You would quote 2 Peter 2:1 in an attempt to claim Jesus bought each and every man and woman with His blood, but the immediate context and the context of the entire chapter contradict your understanding of this verse. Immediately after “denying the Lord who bought them” it says “bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” But wait a minute. I thought Jesus bought them. The purchase by blood is redemption. So if Jesus redeemed them, how is it that destruction befalls them? Hebrews tells us He secured an “eternal redemption.” Since being “bought” implies redemption, how is it that your position makes invalid the “eternal” claim of that redemption? We are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Your understanding is flawed. Verses 20-21 shed some light on the issue. These men professed to be bought by the Lord, but their actions (Titus 1:16) and the passing of time proved otherwise (1 John 2:19).

Regarding 2 Peter 2:1, Simon J. Kistemaker has this to say:
The clause who bought them presents difficulties for the interpreter. Can those whom Christ has redeemed ever be lost? Did the false teachers lose their salvation? Some commentators assert that "Christ bought them at the tremendous price of his blood to be his own forever." but the fact that the teachers faced swift destruction contradicts this interpretation.
Commenting on this clause, Henry Alford confidently states, "No assertion of universal redemption can be plainer than this." But if Jesus had given these teachers eternal life, they would never have fallen away. Scripture clearly teaches that those people to whom Jesus has given eternal life "shall never perish" (John 10:28; also see Rom. 8:29-30, 32-35; Eph. 1:3-14).
Although Christ's death was sufficient to redeem the whole world, its efficiency comes to light only in God's chosen people. Were the false teachers recipients of God's saving grace? Apparently not, for they repudiated Christ. If we look at the words "denying the sovereign Lord who bought them" in the light of the broader context, we discover a clue. We notice that at one time these false teachers professed the name of Christ, for they said that they knew him and the way of righteousness (2:20-21). They made it known that Jesus had bought them, but they eventually rejected Christ and left the Christian community. As John writes, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us" (1 John 2:19; and see Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-29). Hence, their denial of Christ showed that they were not redeemed.
Matthew Poole said:
This is spoken not only of their pretences, that they should profess themselves redeemed by Christ, but in the style of the visible church, which should judge them to be so till they declared the contrary by their wicked actions; and it likewise holds true in a forensical or judicial style, according to which whosoever professeth himself to be redeemed by Christ, and yet denies him in his deeds, is said to deny the Lord that bought him; it being alike as to the greatness of the crime, whether he be really redeemed, or, professing himself to be so, denies his Redeemer.
Ephesians 1:4 says that “[God] chose us in [Jesus] before the foundations of the world.” Scripture says that Christ was “slain from the foundations of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Before God ever began the foundations of the universe, Jesus’ blood had purchased a people for Himself. Time just had to wait for the revealing of that purchase, just as it waits to reveal each believer in his/her time. Revelation states clearly that there are those “whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundations of the world” (17:8; cf 13:8). Before the foundations of the universe were laid, there were certain individuals whose names were written in the book of life and certain individuals whose names were not written in the book of life. The price Jesus paid was, as Hebrews states, “once for all time.” Each believer is not purchased separately. We were all purchased at the same time at a single point in time. Time waits to reveal each one, which is what 2 Peter 3:9 is teaching. God is long suffering so that each and every believer appointed to believe (Acts 13:48) comes to belief. And they will (John 6:37)!

Further, Acts 20:28 and Ephesians 5:25-27 tell us that Jesus shed His blood and gave Himself for the Church—His bride. In John 10:11 and 15b, Jesus declared that he lays His life down for the sheep. What about the goats? Jesus never laid His life down and shed His blood for the goats. Scripture never mentions mediation for any other except His own! Jesus said, "You do not believe because you are not part of my flock" (John 10:26). Take extremely careful note of the fact that it does not say, "You are not part of my flock because you do not believe." He also said, "All that the Father gives me will come to me" (John 6:37a). Again, take extremely careful note of the fact that it does not say, "All that come to me the Father will give me." Those who believe were already given to Jesus before the foundations of the universe (see Eph. 1:4). Jesus also declared, "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours" (John 17:9). He only prays for those who belong to Him!

If Jesus purchased each and every individual, then they would belong to Him because He paid the price for them. To say, as you do, that He purchased them but they chose not to come says (a) that we are sovereign over God, and (b) that the price He paid was not sufficient enough to truly purchase them. This is what your position advocates, which does great harm to Jesus and His redeeming work. If we get to choose whether or not we come to Jesus by our supposed "free will" (which isn't free: see Jonah and God's will overriding his; see Nebuchadnezzar and God making him act crazy and eat grass for 7 years; see Romans and the fact our will is slave to sin until we come to Jesus where it is slave to God), then Jesus' words in John 6 are false. Then we can affect the outcome. We can decrease or increase the number saved. That means that it should read "some" or "most," but Jesus said "all" that the Father gives Him will come to Him. No ifs, ands, buts or maybes about it. They will come to Him. If we get to choose, and we choose no, it says that Jesus failed in what He came to accomplish. Either He set out to save "all" (each and every) and He fails to do so, or He set out to save “all” of a select few and He succeeded.

In the Old Testament, out of all the nations that were in existence, God chose Israel and left all the others to themselves. Within Israel, God chose a remnant for Himself and left the others to themselves. The amount of Gentiles God chose to save in the Old Testament can be counted on two hands. He chose one nation and left all the others to themselves. This is the undeniable reality with which God worked in the Old Testament, yet, when it comes to the New Testament, you ignore this information and want that God should choose nobody but that everyone should have the chance to come to salvation. Scripture is crystal clear on the fact that "no one seeks after God," so how do you figure they will come to salvation apart from Him? You think that for God to choose who He will save is unfair, but you forget that that is what He did with Israel as a nation and the remnant of Israelites within that nation. How is it unfair, when we do not seek Him and would only reject Him anyway? If you want fairness, then tell God to send you to hell because that is all you deserve. There is nothing fair in a sinner receiving salvation for which he did not earn himself - and you could never earn it with a thousand lifetimes. God grants salvation according to His good pleasure and purpose for His glory alone.

You see, your position says Jesus must try and fail in His attempt to save whereas my position (that of the Bible) says Jesus achieved exactly 100% what He set out to do. Romans 9:19-23 bears this fact, a chapter you struggle with accepting and will try your hardest to wiggle around and deny in any way, shape or form that you can. The thing you need to grasp hold of is the reality that not one of us deserves anything other than eternity in hell. If God decided to send all of us there, He would be just in doing so. He is under no obligation to save any, and He is by no means obligated to save all! He is free to save whoever He chooses. If, out of the billions of humans, He only chose to save 10, He is just in so doing. He does so for His glory. No other reason.

I love you as a brother or sister in Christ, but you are wrong in your position. It is noble to want to think that way, but it is not logical nor is it reality. Whether you like it or not, limited atonement is a biblical doctrine supported by Scripture (as seen from the numerous passages dealt with in this article). If I asked you, “If God was going to send you to hell anyway, would you still worship Him?” I am almost certain your answer would be “No,” which is very telling. Whether you end up in hell or not, you should still worship Him because He is worthy. To say “No” shows how little you understand and/or know about God and His holiness and us and our wretchedness. It is engulfed in the idea that we are better than we really are and that we deserve anything but hell. But you and I are only worthy of hell 100 times over. Why did God save you and I? For His glory! Nothing else!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Word "World"

Does the Greek word, kosmos (κοσμος), translated as "world" in our English Bibles, mean "all men without exception"? That is the interpretation that some Christians would force upon the Bible, but is that the Bible's interpretation? For those of us who actually study our Bibles, we will see that the word translated as "world" has more than 6 different interpretations. This is verified and supported by every Greek Concordance, Greek Dictionary, Greek Lexicon, etc. Sometimes the word refers to the entire universe; sometimes it refers to the Earth itself; sometimes it refers to each and every person; sometimes it refers to believers only; sometimes it refers to non-believers only. Context, context, context!!! In knowing this fact, what does John 3:16 actually teach? Certain Christians would have it mean "all men without exception," but this is heresy--especially when one reads their entire Bible and believes what it says. Let's look at some examples that prove these Christians' beliefs to be unsupported by Scripture's interpretation.

John 1:29—"Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world." Did Christ, by His death, take away the sin of "all men without exception"? No, He did not! If He did, then "all men without exception" will be saved. This is Universalism.

John 6:33—"For the bread of God is he which comes down from heaven, and gives life unto the world." Does Jesus give life (not ineffectually offer life, but efficaciously give life) to "all men without exception"? No, He does not! If He does, then "all men without exception" have eternal life. This is Universalism.

John 17:9—"I pray not for the world." Does Jesus refuse to pray for "all men without exception"? No, He does not!

All these texts prove that the word "world" does not always have the same meaning. Anyone who forces it to do so is doing so against Scripture, trying to force their erroneous beliefs onto the Bible rather than accepting the Bible as it is. They are following their favourite ear tickling teachers and authors rather than believing what the Bible teaches. There are 203 verses in the New Testament containing the word "world," which prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the word "world" does not mean "all men without exception." Grab a concordance and look each of them up, examining their context. Anyone who believes that the word "world" means "all men without exception" has created a god in their own image, an idol to suit their own personal feelings and opinions, rather than embracing the true God of the Bible and what He has clearly revealed.

The definitions of the word kosmos (κοσμος) are as follows:
  1. an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government.
  2. ornament, decoration, adornment, i.e. the arrangement of the stars, 'the heavenly hosts', as the ornament of the heavens.
  3. the world, the universe.
  4. the circle of the earth, the earth.
  5. the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family.
  6. the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ.
  7. world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly.
    1. the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments, riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ.
  8. any aggregate or general collection of particulars of any sort.
    1. the Gentiles as contrasted to the Jews (Rom. 11:12 etc).
    2. of believers only, John 1:29; 3:16; 3:17; 6:33; 12:47; 1 Cor. 4:9; 2 Cor. 5:19.
Here are some passages of Scripture that demonstrate how the word "world" is used throughout Scripture. It is definitively conclusive that "world" cannot be argued to mean "all men without exception." Such is a false, unbiblical teaching.
Nahum 1:5 (Septuagint) - all of creation
Matthew 13:38 - all men; some who are children of God, and some who are children of Satan
Matthew 24:14 - all nations
John 7:7 - unbelievers
John 12:19 - many men...though not all men...of a certain region
John 14:15 - hardened unbelievers
John 15:19 - everyone besides believers
Acts 17:6 - the civilized world
Romans 10:18 - all parts of the earth, but not every single individual
1 Corinthians 4:9 - everyone who saw the disciples
Galatians 6:14 - the earthly, sensual pleasures of life
James 3:6 - a variety of all kinds
1 Peter 5:9 - the general population
2 Peter 2:5 - the ungodly
1 John 3:1 - unbelievers
Revelation 13:3 - some from every nation (but not any believers)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

2 Peter 3:9

"The Lord is not slow concerning His promise as some count slowness, but is long-suffering toward you, not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

This verse is often quoted by those who believe that Jesus died and shed His blood for each and every individual that has ever lived in an attempt to claim that He is not willing that any individual should ever perish. However, when we study this verse and its immediate context, we soon learn who this verse is talking about. Is it talking about all men? No, it is not! If God is not willing that any should perish, then none will perish because His will will be accomplished: "My purpose shall stand, and I will accomplish all that I please" (Isaiah 46:10). Whatever God wills is what happens because He has willed it. If you think human will can override God's will, think again. You might want to go back and read about Jonah and Nebuchadnezzar.

Our first step in determining who this verse is talking about will be in examining the Greek language. The word "some," from "as some count slowness," and the word "any," from "that any should perish," are the exact same Greek word—tis (τις). It means "certain ones." So, our passage could read like this:
The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as certain ones count slowness, but is long-suffering toward you, not willing that certain ones should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Now, reading it in that light is very telling. God is not willing that certain ones should perish. Which ones are those? That is what we are going to answer by the end of this study.

Our next step in determining who this verse is talking about is to ask "Who is the 'you'?" Well, that's simple enough to answer. The good student of the Bible will immediately consider the context and read the verse prior, which reads: "But, beloved, do not be ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." The immediate context has just revealed to us that the "you" is the "beloved." In fact, in this entire chapter Peter differentiates between "you" and "they."

Who are the "beloved"? Again, the good student of the Bible will keep with context. The very beginning of this chapter reads: "This is the second epistle I now write to you, beloved." Ah ha! Peter has written two epistles to this "beloved," but we still have not figured out who these people are. For this, we need to turn to his first epistle. There, in the first verse of the first chapter, we read: "To the elect."

Finally! We have just discovered who the "you" is. The "you" (or "us" as the King James translates it) in 2 Peter 3:9 are the "elect." The first "certain ones" in this verse refers to the "they" while the second "certain ones" refers to the "you" (or "us"). Now, in the King James Bible, the word "elect" appears in the second verse of 1 Peter 1, but this is a translational error because in the original Greek it is the fifth word from the beginning of the book.

There is one more nail we need to put in the coffin on this issue. The word translated as "all" is the Greek word pas (πας) and means:
  1. individually
    1. each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything
  2. collectively
    1. some of all types
Now, there are those who, even after seeing this, will still reject the truth in place of their personal opinions and feelings. These people claim to study the Bible but have never studied it a day in their life. They read it and they read books that support their position, but not once have they actually studied the Bible. They will outright deny the evidence we have just uncovered because they do not truly believe what the Bible has to say.

Whether you like it or not, the "you" or "us" in 2 Peter 3:9 is speaking of and to the "elect." God is long-suffering toward certain ones (vessels of wrath) for the sake of certain ones (His elect—vessels of mercy) to come to repentance. This is what Romans 9:22-23 teaches us as well: "What if God, willing to show His wrath and to make His power known, has endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for the vessels of mercy, which He had beforehand prepared unto glory." Revelation states crystal clearly that there are those "whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world" (13:8) and "whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world" (17:8). Ephesians 1:4 tells us that "[God] chose us in [Jesus] before the foundation of the world." Romans 8:19 says, "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God." Time waits for the revealing of each believer. Until the very last believer who will believe comes to faith, God will be patient with the vessels of His wrath. He is patient with them for the sake of His chosen, not willing that any of His chosen should perish -- and none of them will (John 6:39; 17:12; 18:9).

Monday, March 19, 2012

Apostasy: Why the Warnings?

cov·e·nant (n): a binding agreement; a compact; a promise.

We are covenant creatures by nature. That is the way God made us; partners not in deity but in the drama about to unfold throughout history. The reason why apostasy warnings are in Scripture is because there are individuals who are part of the covenants but who are not redeemed. You would think that with all of Christ's parables that it would become clear. The church—the kingdom of God—is filled with both genuine converts and false converts. It does not attract everyone, but of those who are attracted, there will be genuine and false converts. The fact that these false converts are in the church, claiming to be Christians, is a clear reason why the warnings of apostasy are necessary.

As we have seen throughout this entire study, there are two groups of apostates. There are the ones who outright turn back on the faith and deny it, rejecting it completely, and there are the ones who remain hidden in the church still going through the motions but completely empty inside of any real transformation. Both these groups have most likely received baptism, which inducts them into a covenant with God—the New Covenant. Just because they are in covenant with God does not mean that they are genuinely saved. That is the first thing that we must recognize. This is why there is so much confusion and error in the church today. The church erroneously misunderstands covenants in general and the New Covenant in specific. Certain individuals teach that the New Covenant is for genuine, born again converts only. However, if this were true, then the statements against apostasy would make absolutely no sense whatsoever. When this is the understanding one has, one inevitably errs by understanding these passages to refer to the loss of salvation. We have seen it in our own churches; individuals who have confessed to the faith and received baptism only to turn their backs on it entirely. These individuals entered into covenant with God and then broke that covenant. By their rejecting the faith or never having come to the faith, they have revealed themselves as covenant breakers.

We can look to the Old Testament for evidence of this fact. In the Old Testament, when a male child was eight days old, he was to be circumcised, which brought him into covenant with God. Being in this covenant in no way meant that he was saved or that they would eventually be saved. Take a good hard look at Ishmael and Esau. They had entered into this covenant with God and yet turned out to be covenant breakers. The Old Testament frequently warned that if you kept the covenant you would receive blessings, but if you broke the covenant you would receive curses.

In the New Testament, infant baptism brings the child into covenant with God, but does not mean that they are saved or that they will eventually be saved. When parents baptize their infants, as is the correct, biblical action, their children become partakers of that covenant. Again, this does not mean that they are now saved or that they will be saved in the future. It simply means that they are in covenant with God. Let me give you an illustration: When you were born into your country, were you born as a citizen with all the full rights and responsibilities of being a citizen? Yes, you were. However, you could not appropriate those rights and responsibilities to yourself. First, you had to be taught them by your parents. Second, as you grew, you had to embrace them or reject them. To embrace them means that those rights and responsibilities were fully and completely yours. To reject them means you are a traitor to your country and should leave. The same concept goes for infant baptism (or any baptism). Baptism does not save. It merely enters you into covenant with God. When you grow, if you accept what you have been taught by faith, you appropriate the covenant blessings unto yourself; if you reject what you have been taught, you are a covenant breaker and you appropriate the covenant curses unto yourself. That is the reason for all the warnings against apostasy in the New Testament! Whether from individuals who make a false profession of the faith, or from children who were baptized into covenant with God but rejected His Son, the warnings against apostasy serve to them to know what the consequences of their actions shall be.

There is a time in the life of every individual when they are at the closest point they will ever be to coming to Christ—maximum light, conviction, persuasion, etc. If they refuse at that point (and they will never be closer), how will they ever be saved? The sad truth of these passages is that they will not, and since a person never knows if he/she is at his/her closest spiritual point, refusing to say “Yes” at any opportunity could potentially render him/her beyond hope. Now you understand why the warnings against apostasy are in the Bible. We will either be covenant keepers or covenant breakers. Apostates are covenant breakers, and the curses of having broken covenant with God shall be theirs.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Apostasy: 1 John 1-3, Part 2

Continued from last...
1:5-2:2. John’s argument proceeds from the nature of God. God is light, without the slightest hint of darkness (v. 5), so God’s children, who are in Him, are children of light and walk in the light (vv. 6-7). This does not mean that they are completely without sin, for as verse seven clearly says, their lives are char­acterized by three activities all occurring continuously (they walk in the light, they have fellowship with God [who is the light] and with their brethren [who also dwell in the light with them]). As they walk in the light they are being continually cleansed of all of their sin—not the sin of their past, but the sin of their present, committed while they are walking in the light. This is, of course, a very verbose statement, but John wanted to be certain his readers understood what he meant. Stated succinctly, this is what John said: If a person knows God, his life may not be perfect (and God has made provision for that, cf. 2:1-2) but one thing is certain: his life will reflect that he is a child of light rather than darkness. In essence, he said that it is possible to see the evidence of true faith from the outside (which is what Jesus told us: "You will know them by their fruit"). This is an important truth that has been largely obscured in modern Christianity. Why did John make such a statement? Because the church was experiencing the destructive effects of those within that claimed to be right with God who were not what they professed to be. The test of true faith is conversion—the outward manifestation of inner transformation.

Apparently the particular form of unbelief that John was confronting had the characteristic of denying sin. This makes a strong case that it might have been an early form of Gnosticism, since that was a feature that is known to have been associated with Gnostic beliefs.  Since Gnostics denied any metaphysical connection between spirit and flesh, some Gnostics believed that the deeds of the flesh could not contaminate the spirit. Thus, they denied that they had sin. John’s retort is clear and direct: If anyone says he has no sin, he is deceiving himself (v. 8) and calling God a liar since God has declared all men to be sinners (Ps. 53:1‑3). Confession of sin—that is, coming to grips with what we are—is one of the core characteristics of true faith. It is called “repentance” and it is one of the reasons many people refuse to come, because they cannot bring themselves to admit what they are. Repentance is not just something one does in order to obtain salvation, it is an integral part of faith—the turning from sin in order to turn to God for help. It does not cease after a person is initially saved; it continues to be a part of faith as one progresses through the Christian life. The person who does not manifest repentance only evidences that true faith is not present.

2:3-11. Again, John emphasizes that the reality of true conversion (knowing God) will manifest itself not only in the inner life of the believer, but in the outer life as well. James also deals with this subject (James 2:14-26), but John takes it a step further; he not only asserts that the true knowledge of God is evidenced by obedience (vv. 3, 5, 6) and love of the brethren (vv. 7-11), but he states categorically that where there is a lack of these, as a general characterization, the claim to know God is invalidated—such people live in the darkness, not in the light, and thus do not know God.

2:12-18. Notice how John continues his contrast of true belief and false profession. In verses 12-14 he reasserts the position of the truly converted: their sins are forgiven (v. 12), they know God (vv. 13-14), they have overcome the Evil One (“overcome” = nikao, νικαω—perfect active; i.e. they now stand as victors based on the triumph of their faith in Christ when they first believed in Him; cf. vv. 13-14), they are strong spiritually (v. 14), and the Word of God abides (continually) in them (v. 14). The love of the world is inconsistent with Christian faith. John is not referring to the people of the world, but to “worldliness” (i.e. the values of the world). Anyone who loves the world does not love the Father (v. 15) because the character of the world (that is, fleshly lust, material lust, and pride) do not come from the Father; they are the product of the darkness that is in the world. The world is destined to perish, but not the one who does the will of the Father (i.e. the one who truly knows God).

2:19-27. Having laid the foundational truth that there are two kinds of people within the church (those who truly know God, and those who merely profess to know Him), he now embarks upon his explanation of the apostasy of individuals within the local congregation. He reminds the believers that they are living in the last hour (the “last time”—the eschatos, εσχατως, which from the Old Testament perspective began with the advent of the Messiah). They had been taught that in the eschatos false Christs (antichrists) would come. Jesus is the source of this information. It originates from his Olivet Discourse and is recorded in Matthew 24:24. Whether these believers had access to Matthew’s gospel is unknown, but they certainly had access to apostolic teaching. In verse 19, which is undoubtedly one of the most important explanatory passages in the New Testament, John makes the profound assertion that those who have departed (implying a complete departure from the faith) have done so because they were never “of us” (of the children who dwell in light—that is, those who know God). In light of the reiteration in the second half of the verse, it is quite impossible to misunderstand his meaning. He says that we know they were not of us because (ei gar, ει γαρ, “for if”—giving the reason) “if” they had been of us they would have remained with us (they would not have apostatized). John states that their departure happened for a purpose (alla hina, αλλα ινα—“hina” being a purposive particle), “in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us"—the sense is that not everyone who professes to be right with God is truly saved. This verse establishes two critical points with respect to the theme of the book and New Testament soteriology:
  1. the theme of this book is the contrast of true belief, with mere profession leading to apostasy; and
  2. it establishes the doctrine of the permanence of salvation, since is clearly states that anyone who departs from the faith was never genuinely saved.
John did not want his letter to sound as if the believers could not have figured this out for themselves (vv. 20-21). After all, they did have the Holy Spirit (v. 20). We may assume that John was prompted by the Spirit to write these things as a matter of record for the Church at large. In verse 22, John returns to his discourse reiterating that the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah—God’s Son in the flesh) speaks in the spirit of antichrist—which denies both Father and Son (v. 22). The denial of Christ is also a denial of the Father (v. 23), which answers the question some have posed: “Is it possible that some Jews who rejected Christ as Messiah were sincere worshipers of God?” Obviously, in light of John’s statement, there can be no doubt that those who rejected Jesus, as the Christ, could not have been sincere worshipers of the Father.

2:28-3:12. John continues his contrast with the admonition to abide in Christ, but adds an additional motivation:  that we might have confidence and not shrink away from Him (as will those who dwell in darkness) at His coming (v. 28). Again, he reinforces his previous statements to the effect that it is those who practice righteousness that are born of God (“practice” = poieo, πoiεω, present active participle, signifying to practice as an ongoing manner of living). The one who practices sin (again, poieo as before) also practices lawlessness, because sin is lawlessness. The ones who walk in darkness not only sin, they blatantly disobey God’s explicit commands (v. 4).  Christ did not come to save men so that they would be free to sin, but so they could be free from sin (v. 5). He repeats what he has said before: “No one who abides in Him sins”—not a reference to an individual sin, for everyone sins, but to the giving of one’s self to live in sin. He admonishes the brethren not to be deceived. True belief manifests itself in righteousness (v. 7). Where righteousness is absent, it is to be assumed that saving faith is also absent, and the subject is a child of the Devil (v. 8). John says that the Devil has sinned from the beginning and Christ came to destroy the works of the Devil (v. 8); so by implication, the one who sins is not in Christ. Notice the strong dichotomy. John leaves no room for misunderstanding. He is not contrasting “spiritual believers” with supposed “carnal believers.” He is contrasting saved and lost. Not only does the one who is born of God not practice sin, he cannot because God’s seed (a reference to the indwelling Holy Spirit) abides in him. As if he had  not stated this truth robustly enough already, John now connects all the dots so that no one has any reason to misunderstand what he is saying. He vigorously maintains that it is possible to tell who are children of God and who are children of the Devil by their lifestyles (v. 10). In an age of “private religion” this is not a popular text, and if strictly applied—which it should be—we would have to confess that there are probably far fewer saved people than the number professing faith would suggest.

There are other passages in this book where we see the same contrast between the truly saved and the professing but unsaved (3:14-15; 4:1-6, 7-10, 11-21; 5:1-12). Nevertheless, the point is sufficiently made: There are two kinds of people within the professing church (as evidenced in Jesus' parables in Matthew 13): those that know God, and those who merely profess to know him but are unsaved. It is the latter group from which apostates ultimately arise.

Borrowed and revised from Sam A. Smith's The Biblical Doctrine of Apostasy.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Apostasy: 1 John 1-3, Part 1

In the book of 1 John, there are a number of tests. The purpose of these tests is to determine if one is a genuine convert, thereby proving one's salvation, or a false convert. John declares, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life" (5:13). It is important that we test ourselves in order to see if we are truly in the faith. Our profession means absolutely nothing! Just look at Matthew 7:21-23. Paul tells the Corinthian church to "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?" (2 Cor. 13:5). In other words, if you fail the test, it is quite evident that Christ is not in you and that you are not a part of Him. Jesus clearly said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28). Here are some of the tests that John puts forth for us:
  1. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth" (1:6).
  2. "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1:8).
  3. "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments" (2:3).
  4. "The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" (2:6).
  5. "The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now" (2:9).
  6. "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (2:15).
  7. "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us" (2:19).
  8. "Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son" (2:22).
  9. "If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him" (2:29).
The entire book of 1 John comprises an extended contrast between vain profession versus true faith. It demonstrates that disingenuous faith often manifests its true nature in open defection (apostasy). In the first three chapters of 1 John, John discusses the problem of those within the local church who claim to know God, but their lives evidenced a different reality. While the opening verses seem to indicate that the church to which this letter was addressed had become infected with Gnosticism (an early heresy that denied any linkage between God, who is Spirit, and flesh, thus denying the incarnation), it is uncertain if complete Gnosticism was present in the church. We know that regardless of whether these individuals were connected with Gnostic belief or not, they are clearly identified as those who deny that God came in the flesh (4:2); they professed to be in right relation to God but were characterized by corrupt living (1:5; 3:4-10), denial of sin (1:8-10), disobedience to the commands of God (2:3-4), hatred—or at least a lack of love—toward the brethren (2:9-11; 3:11-18; 4:20), love of the world (2:15-17), in some cases open defection (2:18-19), denial that Jesus was the Messiah (2:22-23; 3:14-15), and denial of the Hypostatic Union of the divine and human natures of Christ (4:1-6). John makes the point early on that such individuals are excluded from the fellowship of God. he makes this point by way of contrast, stating that it is those who "walk in the light" (the present continual action indicates a general lifestyle—not the total absence of sin). It is those who “walk in the light”—not those who pretend but are filled with sin, hatred, and denial—that have fellowship with God.

It is a tragedy that the concept of “fellowship” is almost universally misconstrued today. Perhaps the most prevalent view of fellowship is this: Christians who obey God and “walk in the light” are in fellowship with God, and those Christians who sin and do not confess their sins are “out of fellowship;” hence, the notion that confession “restores” broken fellowship. However, such a view is completely at odds with this book. John clearly contrasts two kinds of people: the children of God (true believers, whose life is characterized by walking in light), and children of the Devil (whose lives are characterized by walking in darkness and denying the faith). True believers have fellowship with God; everyone else is in darkness. This does not mean that believers do not sin—they do. But when they sin, truly saved people confess their sin and move forward. In fact, verse 7 clearly demonstrates than sin does not interrupt a believer’s fellowship with God. In this verse John says “…but if we walk in the light (peripateo, περιπατεω—present continual action) as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship (koinonia, κοινωνια—present continual action) with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (katharizo, καθαριζω—present continual action).” Notice that these three actions occur simultaneously: walking in the light, having fellowship, and being cleansed from all sin. He doesn’t say that if we walk in the light, but we fall into sin and lose our fellowship, that when we confess our sin fellowship will be restored and we will return to the light. He says this: If we are walking in the light (i.e. we are God’s children), we are (at the very same time as we walk in the light) experiencing fellowship with God, and being cleansed from all sin. It should be obvious that John is not teaching that sin breaks fellowship, or that confession restores it. (This is not intended to minimize the importance of confession, which is a necessary component in experiential sanctification.) The fact is that Christians can no more lose their fellowship with God than they can lose their salvation. While this discussion may seem to be unrelated to the topic at hand, it is important to understand the subject with which John is dealing. According to John, there are two basic categories of people associated with the church: those who claim to be in right relation to God—and are, and those who claim to be in right relation to God—and are not. Those who claim to be in right relation to God, but who do not know Him, are the same people we have seen from the previous texts that ultimately (if they persist in their unbelief) fall beyond hope (cf. 2:18-19).

Partly borrowed and revised from Sam A. Smith's The Biblical Doctrine of Apostasy.

 To be continued...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Apostasy: John 15:1-8

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples."
As if it was not clear, there is a connection here to Matthew 7:21-23. In that passage, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that not everyone in Him belongs to Him. John 6:66 is another reference, which informs us that all Christians are disciples of Jesus, but not all disciples of Jesus are Christians. This passage bears out the same information. There are two qualifying statements in this passage that identify the apostates in contrast with the true believers. In the first statement, Jesus says, "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away." The "He" here is God the Father. The Greek word translated "takes away" is airo (αιρω), which means "to take away, remove, usually with the idea of violence and authority" (particularly, Luke 6:29-30; 11:22). It is also used in Matthew 9:16 and Mark 2:21 with regard to the new piece of cloth that tears away still more of the old garment. Spoken of persons, it means to take away or remove from the world by death (Matt. 24:39). In the second statement, Jesus says, "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." The words "throw" and "cast" are the exact same Greek word. The last half of this verse is reminiscent of the truths of Jesus' parables in Matthew 13 where the wicked are gathered out of the kingdom and cast into the lake of fire.
How are we to interpret this admittedly difficult metaphor? As always, we must consider the context. And here we find an important clue to Jesus' meaning. Remember what was happening in the upper room. Take not of the characters in that night's drama: "Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And during the supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him" (John 13:1-2).
Here, then, is the cast: Jesus, the Father, His disciples, and Judas the betrayer. All of them were weighing heavily on Jesus' mind that night. He was eager to affirm His great love for the Eleven. He must have also been grieving over Judas, who had utterly rejected His love and set out to betray Him. Most of all, He knew that He and the Father shared an infinite love; yet He was burdened with the knowledge that tomorrow He would be the object of the Father's wrath as He bore the burden of our sin on the cross.
It is not surprising, then, that Christ, the Father, the eleven faithful disciples, and Judas all play a part in the vine-and-branches metaphor. Christ is the True Vine. The Father is the Vinedresser. The disciples (along with all true disciples) are the fruit-bearing branches. And Judas (as well as all false disciples) represents the barren branches.
And so the fruitless branches represent counterfeit disciples—people who were never truly saved. They do not abide in Christ, the True Vine; they are not truly united with Him by faith. They are Judas branches. They can bear no genuine fruit. In the end the Father removes them to preserve the life and fruitfulness of the other branches.
...our Lord was teaching His disciples a truth that would help them to understand Judas's treachery. Judas's faith was a sham. His commitment to Jesus was superficial. He was a fruitless branch. "It would have been good for that man if he had not been born" (Mark 14:21).
John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, ch.16, pp.166-167, 172.
The Greek word translated as "abide" in this passage (and in many others) is meno (μενω), which means "to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy); abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry." It brings to mind the passages that state explicitly that those who endure until the end will be saved (Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:19). Those who do not endure until the end have revealed themselves to be apostates—false converts. The ones who endure until the end have perseverance, and genuine faith always results in faithfulness. The entire idea of faith is that it remains faithful because faith cannot be faithless. With these two statements from this passage, Jesus is revealing both sets of apostates: the ones who leave (v. 6), and the ones who remain as "hidden reefs" (v. 2; cf. Jude 13).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Apostasy: Jude 5-16

"Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day. Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. Yet in the same manner these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you.' But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, 'Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.' These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage."
Jude describes an apostate in much the exact same way that Peter did in 2 Peter 2. Some people may try to argue against the fact that Jude is speaking about apostates, but his language is pretty clear. He informs us that these people are "hidden reefs" in our feasts. He tells us that they are "without fruit," which is a reference to Jesus' words: "You will know them by their fruit." These individuals do not bear any fruit whatsoever. Jude also tells us that the "black darkness has been reserved" for these people. He also says that they "[follow] after their own lusts." The language is clear that Jude is speaking about apostates. False teachers are indeed apostates.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Apostasy: Hebrews 12:14-29

"Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. For you have not come to a mountain that may be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word should be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, 'IF EVEN A BEAST TOUCHES THE MOUNTAIN, IT WILL BE STONED.' And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, 'I AM FULL OF FEAR AND TREMBLING.' But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, 'YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.' And this expression, 'Yet once more,' denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire."
Within these sixteen verses are five statements that indicate this passage is a warning against apostasy. The first statement is found in verse 14b. What the writer is saying is simply this: Pursue salvation; do not stop short only to be lost. There are two contrasting responses to the gospel. One response is to take possession of salvation (cf. Heb. 6:9; the NASB rendering, "accompany" is echo, εκω—middle voice, which means, “to possess for one’s self”). The other response is to turn away from salvation. Here the writer is clearly concerned that some may not press forward (pursue) and obtain (by faith) that sanctification (salvation) without which they are lost. The second statement is in verse 15a. This statement might be somewhat difficult to interpret, if not for the context of verses 14-16. However, given the context, it is apparent that coming "short of the grace of God" means failure to enter into salvation. The third statement is in verse 16. Here, "godless" (bebelos, βεβηλος) means "irreligious." The writer is clearly describing apostasy. Even the illustration of Esau is of one who had something within reach, but turned from it. The fourth statement occurs in verse 25a and is an admonition about refusing Him who warns from heaven. Paraiteomai (παραιτεομαι, translated "refuse") indicates a decisive rejection of God's warning of judgment. The fifth statement, which is found in verse 25b, describes those who "turn away from" God. Unlike some of the other apostasy passages in Hebrews, this one contains no statements which might easily be misconstrued to refer to true believers. It is simply a summary statement of the theme that runs through the entire book. It is a sobering message: Do no trade your opportunity for a bowl of soup or you will be very sorry!

Borrowed and revised from Sam A. Smith's The Biblical Doctrine of Apostasy.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Apostasy: Hebrews 10:26-31

"For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, 'VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.' And again, 'THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.' It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
We need to preface our examination of this text with a brief orientation. Verse 26 begins with the conjunction "for." When we see this word, we need to ask ourselves "What is it there for?" When we examine verses 26-31, which describes the path to apostasy, what we find is that this section stands in contrast to verses 19-25, which describes true belief. Note also the parallel between 10:19-25 and 3:1-6, and between 10:19-25 and 3:12-14. What we have in this book is a recurring warning against apostasy.

We are able to discern from this passage six reasons why the people described in this section (vv. 26-31) are apostates. The first reason is given in verse 26 where the text says, "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." We know from our previous study of 2 Peter 2 that "the knowledge of the truth" refers to an understanding of the gospel (incidentally, this identification is consistent throughout Peter's writings; see 1 Peter 1:22). So here we recognize that we have a person who "sins willfully" (makes a conscious choice of sin over Christ) after receiving the sure knowledge of the gospel (the epignosis). What we must understand is the nature of this state (I say "state" because the word for "sinning" in the original is a present participle and indicates a continuing condition). The word "willful" is hekousios (εκουσιος), which means "voluntary." In other words, the description of a person who has abandoned himself/herself to a state of sin. Obviously, in light of 1 John 3:6-10, this cannot describe a Christian who is merely struggling with sin. This is the description of a person who has voluntarily abandoned himself/herself to sin and does not know Christ—regardless of what he/she might claim. The entire book of 1 John is devoted to this theme.

The second reason why this passage must be describing apostasy is found in verse 26b, which reads, "...there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." The word apoleipo (απολειπω), translated "remains," means "to be left." We could say, "...there is left no sacrifice for sins." The reason why there is no sacrifice for sin is because the person described in this passage has, with full knowledge, rejected the only sufficient sacrifice for sins—which is Christ.

The third reason why this passage must be describing apostasy is found in verse 26. Here, we are told what this person does not have—a sacrifice for sins. In verse 27 we are told what he does have—the prospect of a terrifying future. Note this very important fact given in verse 27: These people are classed as "adversaries" of God. They are adversaries whom God is going to judge with a consuming fire. The NIV reads: "but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God."

The fourth reason why this passage must be describing apostasy is found in verse 29. Here we encounter three parallel statements. They all indicate a rejection of the gospel, but they express it in different words. The first statement says that they have "trampled under foot the Son of God." Katapateo (καταπατεω), which is translated "trample" means "to spurn" (when used figuratively, as here). The idea is an outright rejection of Christ. In other words, the person in view considers the Son of God as "worthless"—like dirt beneath his/her feet. The second statement says that he "regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified." "Unclean" (koinos, κοινος) means "common." The idea is that this person has no appreciation for the sanctity and efficacy of Christ's death—it evokes no positive response from this individual. The third statement says they have "insulted the Spirit of grace." The reference is to the Holy Spirit. Our word "insult" does not carry the depth of force that enubrizo (ενυβριζω) indicates. The idea is an arrogant, insolent, scornful, even blasphemous disregard of the Spirit's work in calling men to salvation. In these three statements, we have three pictures of rejection of the gospel.

The fifth reason why this passage must be describing apostasy is seen in verses 30-31. Ekdikesis (εκδικησις), translated "vengeance," refers to retributive justice. The idea is "punishment" in the strictest sense of the word.

The sixth reason why this passage must be describing apostasy is in verse 39, where the author reflects back on what he has said in verses 19-38. Two words in the first part of this verse are key to understanding who and what is being described here. "Shrink back" (hupostole, υποστολη) means "to turn back;" the idea is equivalent to apostasia ("to fall away"). "Destruction" (apoleia, απωλεια) means "perdition." Perdition is by definition the absence of salvation. Also, note the contrast presented in verse 39b. There can be no doubt that verse 39 identifies the people described in verses 26-31 as apostates.

As before, the question is: Is there anything in the description that would lead us to believe that these individuals were previously saved? Arminianists point out that there are a few reasons for thinking that this is the case. Let us look at those reasons. First, since the writer includes himself in the group he refers to by the pronoun "we" (v. 26), some assume that he must be referring to saved people. The answer to this is that the verse itself defines who is included within the scope of this pronoun—it is everyone who has "received the knowledge of truth," which encompasses both those who have responded positively (unto salvation) and those who have responded negatively (remaining unsaved). There is simply no grammatical or contextual reason for restricting this pronoun to refer only to saved people. The second reason offered is that in verse 26 the subjects are said to have "received the knowledge of the truth." This sounds like something that would describe a saved person. However, as we have noted above, one must receive the knowledge of the truth in order to come to Christ; thus such knowledge precedes salvation and in no way indicates that these people ever possessed saving faith.

Peter, in 2 Peter 2:20, describes people who receive the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour but remain unsaved. We should not confuse "receiving the knowledge of the Lord" with "receiving the Lord." These are two distinct ideas. Receiving the knowledge of the Lord does not imply any decision on the part of the recipient. All that is indicated in this passage is that these individuals came to understand the truth of the gospel; it certainly indicates nothing in the way of positive response. The third reason offered is based on verse 29. The people in question are said to have been "sanctified" by the blood of the covenant, which some take as an indication that the writer is referring to believers. The answer to this objection is somewhat more involved than the others, for this reason: When we hear the word "sanctify" (hagiazo, αγιαζω), we tend to associate it with the sanctification in regard to salvation. However, hagiazo is capable of a much broader application than that. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:14 it is specifically applied to the unsaved spouses of believers. Hagiazo carries the idea of placing something into a privileged position. It might be a position of grace, or of righteousness, or of consecration, or of opportunity. So, in what sense is it appropriate to refer to a lost person as "sanctified" by the blood of Christ? The answer is that the death of Christ sanctifies every man in the sense that it puts every man in a position of opportunity to be saved. This clause has probably been the greatest sticking-point for many, but it is important to recognize that this is due to reading our very narrow concept of sanctification in which only true believers are "sanctified" (with respect to salvation). There is another sense in which all men, especially those that are exposed to the gospel, are "sanctified."

As we have seen, there is nothing in this passage that indicates these apostates were once saved. Based on the description given, they are simply individuals who, having come to understand the gospel, simply said "No" (or "Maybe," which is the same thing) instead of "Yes." To illustrate, say you had a son and your son saw a neighbour about to be run over by a transport truck. Your son pushes your neighbour out of the way only to be crushed to death himself by the large truck. After all of this, your neighbour never acknowledges the sacrifice your son made. In fact, your neighbour has been downright unthankful and even hostile to you and your family. Get the picture? This passage is telling us that God sent His Son into the world to die for sinners so they would not have to spend eternity in hell, but some, after coming to understand what God did for them (the epignosis), either reject the precious gift outright or think so little of it that they just never get around to acting on it until finally they no longer think about it anymore. According to the writer of Hebrews, such people have only themselves to blame for eventually crossing over the line into hopelessness and the fearful prospect of eternity in hell. The underlying message of this passage is this: Today is the day of salvation—do not put it off. Whatever a person may think, they are without excuse and without remedy if they fail to respond to the gospel (Heb. 3:7-19).

Borrowed and revised from Sam A. Smith's The Biblical Doctrine of Apostasy.