Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A contradiction?

"I've put it like this each time, ‘that man is responsible for his damnation, but he is never responsible for his salvation’...The doctrine of election must never be supposed to teach that man is not responsible." – Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in the sermon (#3285), "Regrafting of the Jews" on Romans 11:23-24 preached on Friday evening, Feb. 26, 1965.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones never hesitated to deal with difficult doctrines.  If he was convinced it was Biblical, no matter the apparent difficulties, he went right on forward, teaching the matter so plainly, that at times, a statement taken apart from the whole might seem bombastic.  The above statement is one of those surprising and rather difficult issues.  Election and responsibility do not seem compatible in the first analysis.  So I wanted to offer another aspect to the teaching.

The Doctors statement, “Man is responsible for his damnation, but he is never responsible for his salvation” is hard to accept because it is an apparent incompatibility – that the Bible teaches both man’s responsibility, and yet his inability, all the while holding that God is just in his dealings with men! 

Lloyd-Jones calls it an antinomy.  We might call it paradoxical.  I suspect that this is one of the most significant reason’s men reject portions of election, for it grates against the soul of a man to be held responsible for something entirely out of his hands.  Yet it is not all that it seems.  And rather than to debate the issue ad nauseum, I would like to suggest a better way. 

It is the pride of man which is unable to take such a doctrinal position.  We are rather arrogant to suppose we could grasp the ways of God in their fullness.  I know some will likely check out now, complaining that I am capitulating with the old canard, that God’s ways are not man’s ways.  Well my friends, it is not a canard – but rather Scriptural teaching, found in Isaiah 45:9, 55:8-9; Deuteronomy 29:29, Romans 9:21 and many other places.  But I am not seeking to use these for an excuse not to deal with the riddle before us.

I would suggest that it will be easier to swallow, once we get over ourselves, to look to the very character of the one who is really under attack.  It is not man who is being assaulted when we choose not to believe the two positions of man’s responsibility, and yet his inability.  It is God’s just and righteous character which is under assault.  I contend that if we begin to view Him aright, though we do not grasp the fullness of the two teachings, we will be able to accept them nevertheless. 

God is good.  That is the clear truth of the matter.  Let God be true and every man a liar. (Rom. 3:4)  He is good, and he is patient toward ALL that all may come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) He takes no pleasure in punishing the wicked. (Eze. 18:23)  He wants all to come to repentance. (1 Tim. 2:4)  And of course – one only need look to the cross to see the extent of His love toward us.  I have to say, Romans 5:8 has become one of the most precious verses in the whole of Holy writ to me, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

An extended portion of John chapter 3 states it plainly:

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Let’s look at these apparent difficulties in light of the fact that God is good, and His love for mankind is shown in the sacrificial death of His one and only Son for a world of lost sinners.  James 1:21 tells us, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Lord's Anointed

I have been writing.  I really have! But this is a season of life which is rather full, and therefore, much less has been written, and even which is not worthy of publication.  But today I will venture to publish.  My studies these days have been in the early chapters of Luke, as I am studying this great book.  The passage which I would like to study is found in Luke 2:11-20: 

11.     For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12.     And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13.     And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14.     “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
15.     So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 
16.     And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 
17.     Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 
18.     And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 
19.     But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 
20.     Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

Verse 11 does not directly quote Micah 5:2 as Matthew 2:6 does, but Luke does give us the plain particular details of how it came to be that Joseph & Mary were in Bethlehem when Christ was born. 

who is Christ the Lord – We could interpret like this, “who is the Lord’s Anointed” because the word Christ means anointed one.

This is interesting because it is the very phrase used by David of Saul while both were king.  David would not touch ‘the Lord’s anointed’ and many opportunities were given him to do just that. (see 1 Sam 26) But David knew better.  And for us today, it is fitting to take this and apply it to Christ, for He is the Lord’s anointed King who will sit upon David’s throne! In a sense He does already, but the day is coming when He will return in the clouds just as he left, and take his seat not in Heaven only, but as the rock made without human hands (Dan. 2:34) strikes the governments of men, Christ will reign here!

And this will be the sign to you – That God gives these shepherds such a particular set of circumstances to look for, tells us something of His condescending ways to such as we are, rough edged – hard hearted men who need a sign.  Even Thomas was given grace to ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ (John 20:27)

We are told that they conferred with one another and decided to ‘go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’ They did not question at all, they took no pausing action (except for the brief conference) and made haste to come.  Did you notice they were not commanded to come – this they chose to do, though the angels clearly implied they would come by providing the information, ‘you will find a babe…’

Much has been made of the fact that it was shepherds to whom God made known this event first.  Shepherds were not looked upon positively as a people, but David the King was at first a shepherd, and writing in the Psalms number 23 the Lord is called a shepherd.  And though a shepherd, in another place, called the Lamb of God.  Deep waters…

when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them – There was no debate, ‘Is this the One we should be looking for?’ Though they had almost nothing to go on but the testimony of the angels, they believed in faith (surely they knew of Micah 5:2).  When John the Baptist asked that question, Christ’s response was to report to him the miracles – The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  John 20:29 reads, “Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed 

We do struggle to believe apart from sight, don’t we?  But it is not by sight, but by faith that we live (2 Cor. 5:7).  Yet it is not a blind faith.  It is a faith informed by the message.  The shepherds did hear the angel’s message.  And we have the message in the words of the Bible.  May we keep to it and look into it with the eyes of faith.

Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. – This is a good practice.  We ought to study the Word of God that we might learn His ways in this world.  It may be that we get to know Him better for our struggling with the text.

The shepherds glorified & praised God for all that they had heard and seen.  It is always a proper response to worship Him.  Surely they did not grasp the fullness of Christ’s eventual death on their behalf – but they praised God for what they did see & hear, and that it was just as had been told them!  God is just & he loves to show us His plans.
May we – with eyes of faith, informed to His character, believe what the message in the Bible says – pondering what has come to pass, eagerly awaiting what is yet to come!


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Voddie Baucham!

Voddie Baucham (Voddie Baucham Ministries) reminds us that we need Christ more than our example but as our “federal head.” This allows sinners like us to be both forgiven and declared righteous.
Posted by The Gospel Coalition on Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Toying with the Bible

"[A]s also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,  as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked" 2 Peter 3:15b-17

If, as Peter has stated, some of what Paul has written is hard to understand, then shouldn't we seek understanding these things?  And where should we begin to seek?  Since Paul was given this wisdom, we also ought not to presume on our own intellect, but first by asking of the Lord that we might grasp then by the same wisdom given to Paul?  And we ought to do this before our study commences lest we be found twisting the Scripture to our own destruction.

The pride of human intellect is a dangerous place to toy with Scripture.  How many a man, seeking to understand the Word, zealously gets caught in the minutia of study, commentaries, and cross-references – without first seeking after God in fervent prayer that He might grant the wisdom from above to open our eyes.  Read Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1:15-21 and notice that this is Paul’s very prayer for us!

Much of Peter's argument for caution can be wrapped up in the knowledge that the Scripture is not some collection of wise sayings a man can get at if he only applies himself rightly. Yes we are to study to show yourself approved of God (2 Tim. 2:15), but study alone is not enough. Paul was 'given' this wisdom and if we hope to grasp it, we need to go to the source where Paul also received it, the Lord.

Hebrews tells us, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb. 4:12)

Like a loaded gun, we ought not carelessly handle it!  We would not carelessly grasp a sword by the blade, so how much more ought we not carelessly grapple with the Scripture!  The very Word of God! 

Listen to the people's reaction to God's audible word in Exodus, "Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off.  Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”" (Exo 20:18-19) The Word of God is not to be trifled with!  This is the Word, which if not handled properly could damn a soul to hell! 

Peter rightly says, "beware lest you also fall" This is not to say that a believer can fall - but are you a believer?  Do you examine yourself regularly to see if you are in the faith? And Paul’s prayer in Ephesians, was for believers, so we need to be praying whenever we approach the Book!  Brethren, we ought to have great caution in this Christian life, for we are not as strong, nor as smart, as we think we are. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Adding to your faith

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge”
                                                                                                                                                      2 Peter 1:5
Many times it is argued that we want to hurry past doctrine and get to the practical.  Lloyd-Jones observed this often enough. A popular saying, ‘Don't be so heavenly minded you're no earthly good’ sometimes purports to have a truth, but it is alarmingly shallow.  Apart from a mind to God we ARE no good to anyone on earth actually. Here, in this passage, is content most practical and doctrinal all at the same time.

Giving all diligence add to your faith... 
First, we are to increase the foundation which has been given to us.  Our faith (Peter calls it ours, because though we did not have it at the 1st, but obtained it (vs. 1), is a gift given to us which we are responsible to build upon.  Recall the parable of the talents - the men each received a measure, but the one who did nothing with it was called wicked and lazy.  (See Blog posts in May 2014)

Secondly this work is to be done to our utmost. Peter says, 'giving all diligence' so we are to work hard to build upon the foundation of faith granted to us.  Incidentally, this seems to be exactly opposite the Arminian way of thinking.  Yet Peter says we obtained it using a Greek word, langkano: to get by lot or receive.  Now having obtained this faith, he tells us to get busy adding to the foundation of a faith now ours, by our very life.

And we are to begin this work in cleaning up our dirty lives by moral excellence - virtue.  Virtue is a moral power of a pure and holy living even to praiseworthiness.  Once, before faith, we lived in the deadness of our sin.  But now, having been granted faith, we are to repent of all our wicked ways, and with all our being - pursue holy living to the point of praiseworthiness.  Not that we seek the praise of others, but of God.  I am reminded of Job, and how it was God who sought to boast in his life - even when the adversary sorely afflicted him. 

Our virtuous life then leads to knowledge.  One might ask, why is knowledge not first?  Do not we need to know God before life begins?  Good questions, but Peter would not instruct us to do what we would not have been able to do prior to faith.  Also it is well known that some believe knowledge is not only the foundation but the whole pathway to God.  We need special knowledge they say - secret knowledge.  Gnosticism is ever a danger to the Christian - since faith itself is a mystery - as it comes to the man by external means.  And yet knowledge is very important as we can see by Peter’s inclusion of it in the list. 

Proverbs tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Fools despise wisdom and instruction.  Brethren, don't be the devils fool.  Seek out good instructors and sit at their feet.  You may say I have no one to whom I can go.  Let me give you a great help at this point.  In my earliest days as a believer I carpooled with two older Christian men, who mentored me in the faith.  One was my pastor.  Pastor Dave told me once, "I read mostly dead men".  And then he explained that the works left behind are the gifts granted to us, and as they had already left us, these are tried and trusted sources.  Yes - they are from imperfect men - and not all dead men left us blessings, so discernment is necessary.  But I urge you to taste the works of old.  You may find them meaty - but they will fill your soul with fatness!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Glory & Virtue

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,  as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,  by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:2-4)
Grace and peace are granted in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, but this is not some formulaic to grace and peace.  It is a simple factual statement. Peter, in the verses which follow, explains how this is.  Verse 2 is like a thesis statement which he is setting out to prove.

as - indicates the explanatory nature of what follows further strengthening Peters assertion in verse 2.
His divine power - Life and godly living are not possible apart from the divine Hand, which is shown to us by knowledge of the One who called.

by glory & virtue - What glory and virtue do we have in this life?  What beauty and moral purity do we have which could have revealed to us Christ or the Father? None!  We know there are none righteous, not one among men. Yet Peter here maintains knowledge of Him who calls us is possible by glory & virtue?!  How is this so?
The glory & virtue Peter speaks of is that of Christ's and is, if received, the way to knowledge of the Holy One.  Proverbs 3:1-7 expound on this very well!

By which - that is to say by the virtue and glory of Christ.  Promises have been given.  Blessings have been bestowed in Christ.  These promises have been described as 'exceedingly great' and 'precious'.  Without speaking of the promises themselves Peter tells us what they lead to - a godly life and demeanor.
the divine nature - when Peter says this, it is in accord with all nature.  We are not suddenly turned into some part of the Godhead when we die.  That is not Christianity!  There is only one God-Man, Jesus Christ our Lord. We never take to ourselves divine attributes such as immutability or omniscience.  They are reserved for Him alone - indeed, the very idea of say, immutability to a man, is logically impossible, for man is mutable.  Perfection is not attainable by imperfect man.

How is this so? Couldn't a man, if possible, attain it? No - for God does not reside in time and space.  He sees reality as it is.  In Exodus 3:14 He is described as the great I AM.  Not I was or will be.  Hebrews 13:8 speaks of this, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday today, and forever. God is described to Moses as being the God of Abraham Isaac & Jacob (though they be dead, physically). 

Since this is so- Man could not attain in time (if it were possible) something which is by nature not bound to time.  God sees us as we are - not as we were or will be - for He sees outside of time and space and nothing escapes His gaze. 
Peter further explains when he says, 'having escaped the corruption in the world through lust' - If a man could escape the corruption in the world he might be free from the outside influences of sin - but his evil heart is within him and he cannot escape that!  You cannot escape corruption by leaving the world - for we need a heart transplant (see Jer. 31:31-34).  This is only available through the gift of righteousness in Christ, which Peter has been telling us about since verse 1. 

 Glory be to the Father

Glory be to the Son.

Glory be to the Spirit.

Glory to the 3 in 1.

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