Archive for the ‘Salvation’ Category
I am noticing that the charismatic world is beginning to see a rise in cheap grace in the form of positive confession. For many years, positive confession was the heretical notion that we need to speak only positive words and that God would in turn take the fruit of our lips and create into reality what we are confessing. Much has written on this already but the best book I have read on the subject was A Different Gospel by D.R. McConnell. McConnell shows how the roots of the positive confession movement come not from Scripture but from cults.
I have seen up close the positive confession movement. I have been around people who would not confess they were sick (when it was obvious they were). I have known a church that split when the pastor “confessed” that a brother in the church was sick and needed prayer for healing. I know of people who would never confess anything negative despite ignoring reality. For instance, I have known women who would confess “my child is saved by grace and is a child of the King” despite being a complete pagan. I have seen wives “confess” that their husbands were godly men despite the fact that they were lost pagans. I have seen churches who weekly have a positive confession time where the crowd chants “I am…” and they fill in the blanks with “blessed”, “healed,” “adopted,” ”favored,” and the rest. I remember when positive confession people were eating up Neal Anderson’s books because of his emphasis on seeing ourselves as God sees us and not as we see us.
The new move among positive confession folks is to now confess that they are holy and pure and blameless and loved by God despite living in sin. They can break the laws of the land or watch ungodly movies or listen to ungodly music or do whatever they desire because they are “loved by God” and “holy in Christ.” This new form of antinomianism is different however in that these folks will come together to pray for healing or for people to be blessed by God and despite living in sin all week long, they believe, because of their positive confession, that they are still accepted in the Beloved. They see no problem with abiding in sin but claiming Christ.
Scripture, however, is clear on this issue of holiness. The Bible is not silent on this subject. Just read the words of John in 1 John 3:4-10:
4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
Jesus Himself said in John 8:34-36:
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Notice that if we practice sin, we are slaves of sin. John says in 1 John 3:6 that no one in Him keeps on sinning. In fact, 1 John 2:1 is clear that it is the will of God for us not to sin. 1 John 2:1 reads, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
2 Corinthians 7:1 tells us what the true disciple of Jesus is to aim for:
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
I like how the NASB translates it better:
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
We can confess all day long that we are this or that but if our lives are marked by sin and rebellion, we are not saved. Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 7:21-27 of who His followers are and who are not. Those who claim to be His disciples will obey His Word. Those who rebel are not His (Titus 1:16).
Jude the Apostle warns us in Jude 4 about these apostates who try to turn God’s grace into a license for sinning when he wrote:
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
We must reject any doctrine that does not lead us toward holiness and to exalting Christ. Any teaching that exalts man or the flesh or allows for ongoing sinning without a call to repentance is not the gospel. The gospel is a call to repent (Acts 2:38; 17:30-31; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10). The gospel is a call to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). The gospel is a radical transformation wrought in us by the Spirit of God (2 Corinthians 5:17). Thus when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, He, by nature of His presence, begins to make us holy and pure (Philippians 2:12-16; Hebrews 10:10, 14). Our aim as children of God is to be like Jesus (1 John 2:6) in all that we say or do (Philippians 4:8-9).
No doubt there is a place for rejoicing that the gospel is not about what we do as much as it is on what Jesus has done. We will never come to a place where we don’t need His grace or His mercy to help us be holy. The gospel shouts to us that Jesus is our salvation and we are righteous in Him (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) but we also realize that sanctification is a synergistic work where we allow the Spirit of God to help us to be holy (Galatians 5:16-17). We know that we can’t be holy apart from Him but as we abide in Him, He helps us to be holy (Romans 8:12-14). The reality of our holiness is that we are holy through faith in Christ but we are also being made into His image by His grace (Titus 2:11-12). The gospel declares that I am accepted before God through faith (Romans 5:1) but the gospel also works in me what is pleasing to God (Ephesians 2:8-10).
For many years I have been attacked from time to time with the idea that Arminianism is “man-centered theology” that promotes the works of man. Calvinists will claim that Arminians believe that our faith saves us and thus we believe that we help God in salvation. Of course this is not true. I have read many works on Arminianism including the works of Arminius himself and not one Arminian I have ever read believes that we help God in salvation or that we save ourselves by our works. We believe in Romans 5:1 or Ephesians 2:8-9 just as much as the Calvinist does. We acknowledge completely that God alone saves for His glory and honor.
It seems as of late the lines in the sand for salvation, however, are becoming more and more isolated. It seems that some of my Calvinist friends are now drawing a line in the sand that says you must not only believe in justification by faith but you must hold to Reformed theology to be saved. If you are an Arminian, you are not saved because you hold to “works righteousness.” If you are a charismatic, you are not saved because you believe in “extra biblical revelation” (which is not true). If you are a Lutheran, you are not saved because you hold to baptismal regeneration (same is true for those in the Restoration movement). I have spent a few hours reading various blog posts over this week and have seen this coming. The line in the sand is clear: Reformed non-cessationist or not saved. This is becoming the line in the sand.
I was listening last night to a podcast from Dr. Sam Storms whom I appreciate much despite our disagreements over my Arminianism and his Calvinism. I still hold Dr. Storms to be a godly man, a great Bible teacher, and a man I respect very much. Dr. Storms was teaching on why he rejected dispensationalism. Dr. Storms was educated at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) which is a very well-known dispensational seminary. Dr. Storms, however, now rejects dispensationalism. He holds to amillennialism. I respect Dr. Storms for willing to wrestle with the Bible over this issue and not willing to just settle for what was taught him at DTS. What was striking was that in his teaching, Dr. Storms pointed out that he was willing to offend for what he saw as the truth of the Bible but he would not divide over this. He viewed dispensationalists as his brothers and sisters in Christ and though he felt they were wrong, he acknowledged that they believed in salvation just as he did. I was grateful for his loving tone toward dispensationalists.
We need more of this. The gospel is not Jesus died for our sins and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) plus you must hold to Reformed cessationist theology. The gospel is not salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) plus you must be dispensationalist. The gospel is not justified by faith (Romans 5:1; Titus 3:5-7) plus you must be a Calvinist or an Arminian. The gospel is the gospel. The gospel of Jesus saves sinners (Luke 19:10) and not Arminians or Calvinists or charismatics or non-charismatics. The gospel saves.
We need to see that much of our debates are debates over non-essentials. I read much this weekend where people were trying to make a case that if you do believe in the sign gifts, you are a heretic and here is why. I also read where those who rejected this view were taking swipes at those who didn’t hold to their view. Back and forth it went. The Reformed cessationists finally drew the line in the sand and said, “If you don’t hold to our view, you are not one of us and you are not saved.” This view breaks my heart. It brings such mockery to John 17:22-23. Those who would hold to such a view enjoy the “we are the only ones” view but I do not. I am not that foolish.
I am thankful for my Arminian heritage. I am thankful that I fall into the line of great men of God such as Arminius, Wesley, Ravenhill, and Watson. I rejoice in what God has done through the Arminians of the past and what He is doing through the Arminians today. But I acknowledge that we are not alone. God saves people who believe the gospel and not in a theological position. God saves people who repent (Luke 24:47; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10). Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:9-13). Paul makes it clear in Galatians 1:6-9 that the gospel is the gospel and we must not add to it. We must preach the gospel for sinners to be saved (Romans 10:14-17).
For me, the line is the sand is the gospel. It’s not my view of end times plus the gospel. The gospel is not the gospel plus my view of spiritual gifts or church leadership. My view is Jesus saves and Jesus alone!
On both sides of the Arminian and Calvinist debate is the understanding that Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to the undeserving sinner who believes in Christ alone for salvation. Arminius wrote,
Hence we likewise deduce: That if the righteousness by which we are justified before God, the Judge, can be called formal, or that by which we are formally justified, (for the latter is Bellarmine’s phraseology,) then the formal righteousness, and that by which we are formally justified, can on no account be called “inherent;” but that, according to the phrase of the Apostle, it may in an accommodated sense be denominated “imputed,” as either being that which is righteousness in God’s gracious account, since it does not merit this name according to the rigor of justice or of the law, or as being the righteousness of another, that is, of Christ, which is made ours by God’s gracious imputation. Nor is there any reason why they should be so abhorrent from the use of this word, “imputed,” since the apostle employs the same word eleven times in the fourth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, where the seat of this point or argument lies, and since the efficacy to salvation of God’s gracious estimation is the same, as that of His severe and rigid estimation would be if man had perfectly fulfilled the law without any transgression. (2 Cor. v, 19, 21.)
Arminius further wrote,
Whether it is to be understood “that the righteousness, for which, or unto which, faith is imputed, is the instrumental operation of faith;” which is asserted by some persons. In the theses on justification, which were disputed under me when I was moderator, I have adopted the former of these opinions not in a rigid manner, but simply, as I have likewise done in another passage which I wrote in a particular letter. It is on this ground that I am accounted to hold and to teach unsound opinions concerning the justification of man before God. But how unfounded such a supposition is, will be very evident at a proper season, and in a mutual conference. For the present, I will only briefly say, “I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood.” Whatever interpretation may be put upon these expressions, none of our Divines blames Calvin or considers him to be heterodox on this point; yet my opinion is not so widely different from his as to prevent me from employing the signature of my own hand in subscribing to those things which he has delivered on this subject, in the third book of his Institutes; this I am prepared to do at any time, and to give them my full approval. Most noble and potent Lords, these are the principal articles, respecting which I have judged it necessary to declare my opinion before this august meeting, in obedience to your commands.
You can see that even in the writings of Arminius is an acknowledgment that imputation of righteousness is not set in stone. I believe that Arminius held to imputed righteousness based on his writings but I acknowledge that some Arminians have rejected the teaching. They do so not out ignorance of the Word of God but rather because they see the teaching as leading to antinomianism. I can see their danger.
The arguments against the doctrine of imputation are based on two main arguments. First, the argument from a logical viewpoint that the teaching leads to spiritual apathy. The logic here is that if we teach people that God no longer sees their sins because of the doctrine of imputation then why obey Christ as Lord? Why avoid sin if in fact God no longer sees our sins? What is the point of 1 John 1:9 if in fact we have the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to us?
The second argument is that the Bible never says we are imputed with Christ’s perfect righteousness. The Bible says that we are righteous and they point to this as “declared righteousness.” For example they point to Romans 3:22 as proof. Romans 3:22 reads, “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction.” The righteousness of God through faith. They see this as declared righteousness and not Christ’ righteousness imputed to us.
Two other passages are 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Philippians 3:9. Philippians 3:9 is the strongest text on imputed righteousness. The text reads, “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” They again point out that Paul does not say that we have Christ’s righteousness but rather that through faith God declares us righteous.
My view is that we have both in Christ. We are both declared righteous before God because of Christ and we also are imputed with the righteousness of Christ. All of the focus in salvation is upon Christ. I have nothing in my hands to bring to God for salvation nor after salvation. I need Christ from beginning to end for my salvation. Jesus is the very One that I look to save me and to keep me saved (1 Peter 1:5). Before God I have no righteousness. I need Christ and His intercession (Hebrews 7:25) for salvation. I need Him standing before the Father and pleading for me. I need His Spirit to help me to turn from sin (Galatians 5:16-17). I need Jesus!
Does this matter? Does it matter if we teach imputation or declared righteous? I believe it does. If we teach only declared righteous, I fear that our focus becomes us. We are righteous because we believed but we also need righteousness when we fail. I do fail. I do sin. I hate my sins but I do fall short of the glory of God though the Bible calls me to forsake sin (1 John 2:1). When I fail, do I lose my declared righteousness? Thus I need the righteousness of Christ. Again, I have no righteousness apart from Him. Romans 3:10-18 is clear that I am not even close to being righteous. I need the righteousness of the only perfect one to ever live. Paul even makes it clear in Philippians 3:7 that all of his own righteousness (which was pretty good if the test is man) was worthless apart from Christ. Paul was willing to throw out his own self-righteousness for the righteousness of Christ (Philippians 3:8-11).
I praise God for the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, that I am saved through faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8-9) and that my salvation is apart from my own good works (Titus 3:5-7). God is gracious in His salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son.
Romans 3:27-28 reads:
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
There is no boasting before God of our salvation. We are saved by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the finished work of the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 10:10) who died for our sins (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus is the One who has purchased our salvation (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 1:5). Our work is to place our total faith in the Lord Jesus and His blood to save us and keep us (John 6:29).
People despise this doctrine. They want to believe that their works or their goodness or their disciplines all bring about God’s approval. They fail to see that they have violated God’s law and thus are guilty of breaking all His law (James 2:10; 1 John 3:4). Those who break the law must be punished or God is not holy and good. If God is indeed holy and good then He must execute His justice against those who violate His law. The Bible says that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). Our sins are bringing the just wrath of God otherwise He is not a good God because He ignores His own law.
People want to make God into their own images. They want a user-friendly god who doesn’t burn with wrath against sin. They want a god who is not holy and set apart. They want a god who hears our prayers no matter what the conditions of our heart may be (Isaiah 59:2). They want a god who never judges. They want a loving god who is not pure and holy. This is not the God of the Bible but our own gods that we have created and will perish with us. The true God who created all things (and of whom our consciences bear witness) is a holy God. He is a loving and good God but He is just.
Scripture is clear that God is just (see Exodus 34:6-7; Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Chronicles 12:6; Nehemiah 9:33; Job 34:17-30; Psalm 33:5, 13-15; 36:6; 45:6; 58:11; 96:13; 97:2; 140:12; Isaiah 30:18; 61:8; Ezekiel 18:4; Zephaniah 3:5; Acts 17:31; Romans 3:25-26; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 John 1:9; Revelation 16:5-6). Because God is just, He must punish sin.
God has punished sin in His Son (Isaiah 53:4-6). The Lord Jesus and the Lord Jesus alone is our substitute for sin (Hebrews 9:22). Either we are in the Son and have life or we have death upon us (John 3:18, 36; 5:24-25). When we die, we will stand before a holy and just God who will judge us based upon His law. All of us will be found guilty (Romans 3:23). Yet those who have a mediator before God will be saved (1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 7:20-28; 9:11-28). Jesus’ blood alone is able to wash away our sins before a holy God (Ephesians 1:7). His death on the cross took our sins (Matthew 26:28) and His resurrection proves that God has accepted the perfect sacrifice of the Son (Romans 4:24-25). Thus we must confess both His death and His resurrection for our salvation (Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
This work of Christ takes away our self-confidence and our prideful boasting that we see in religion. The moral person will not get to heaven by their own morality. The religious person will not get to heaven by their religious works. The only way to heaven is through the Lord Jesus (John 14:6). He alone is our Savior. We have no salvation apart from Him (Romans 10:14-17). This is why we disciples of Jesus labor to see the gospel go forth into all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). We know that there is no salvation apart from faith in Christ and there is no hope apart from faith in Christ. Because of the justice of God, none will escape God’s just wrath against sin apart from faith in Jesus (Romans 5:8-11). Religion says “do this and you’ll be reconciled perhaps with God” but the Lord Jesus alone is the way to God. Our faith is not in facts about Him nor in plans about Him but in Him, the Person of the Lord Jesus. He is a risen and living Savior. He is still able to save those who come to Him in true faith trusting in His grace alone to save them and for Him to be the mediator for them before God. I pray that many will repent.
The following points come from the TMS Journal on the subject of repentance in the gospel of John. Non-Lordship advocates and cheap grace advocates point to the Gospel of John as proof that one does not need to repent to be saved. They point out that John’s Gospel was written for evangelism (John 20:31) and that belief and faith are the key points John makes in his writings. However, an analysis of the fourth gospel reveals that John the Beloved was hard on his hearers. While the word “repent” does not come to us in the Greek text, the Gospel of John is still a Gospel that demands a transformation to which repentance is necessary (Matthew 3:8; Acts 2:37-39).
Notice the tough demands in John’s Gospel:
(1) References to John the Baptist and baptism: 1:23–34; 3:23–29; 10:40.
(2) Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”: 1:29.
(3) The wedding at Cana: could the reference to the purification jars be a reference to repentance: 2:1–13?
(4) Born from above/anew and born of water and spirit: 3:3–7.
(5) The lifting up of the snake in the wilderness: 3:14 (see Num 21:4–9).
(6) Light and darkness motif throughout Fourth Gospel: 1:4–9; 3:19–21; 8:12; 9:5.
(7) The relationship of obedience and believing: 3:36.
(8) Jesus pointing out the Samaritan woman’s sinful life: 4:16–18.
(9) Jesus’ command to not sin: 5:14; 8:11.
(10) The motif of hearing and its relationship to obedience: 5:24; 12:47.
(11) The motif of “coming”: 5:40; 6:35.
(12) “die in sin”: 8:21.
(13) “continue to follow”: 8:31.
(14) obeying Jesus’ teaching equals never seeing death: 8:51; 17:6.
(15) “turn to me” from Isaiah: 12:40.
(16) Obedience and love: 14:15, 21, 23–24.
(17) Remain and bear fruit: 15:1–5.
(18) Peter’s restoration: 21:15–17, 19b
These are all tough. One cannot read John’s Gospel and derive from that that he was preaching a soft gospel. He was not asking people to “only believe.” John, like the other Gospels, is calling for radical transformation. Salvation is just that. Salvation is not merely a change in minds. It is a change in everything! Jesus demands that we follow Him completely (Luke 9:23-25; 14:25-35) and this is no different in the fourth Gospel. Salvation is not just looking once to Jesus but is always looking to Jesus to save us and keep us (John 8:51). As John the Apostle show us in his Gospel, Jesus is not a plan but He is our Lord and our God (John 20:28). He is worthy to be worshiped and followed completely and forever.
Here is the gospel…