Clearing A Matter Up – Is the Remission Enough?

I have been receiving a lot of questions lately about some of the things I have written concerning the nature of the righteousness imputed to us, as well as my view concerning Christ’s law.  Judging by the questions, it appears to me there is still a great deal of confusion about where I stand on these subjects.

Christ’s death was the satisfaction of the law’s demand for disobedience.

Romans 3
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

What does the text say shows God’s righteousness?  THE REDEMPTION THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS!

 

Who does the text say about this Christ?  HE IS THE ONE WHOM GOD PUT FORWARD AS A PROPITIATION (satisfaction of God’s wrath)!

And according to the text, how did He propitiate?  BY HIS BLOOD! Notice, it does not say by His law obedience.

Hebrews 10

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Where there is forgiveness (remission) of these . . .  What is the “these”?  The lawless deeds!  Guys, what does the Holy Spirit say results in no more offering of sin?  Does He say obeying the law results in no more offering for sin?  No!  He says the remission of sins results in no more offering for sin.  Duh.  Of course.  Because there are no more sins to remit.

But what is it that He says did the remitting?

10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

1For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Recently a few people who should have known better have nevertheless accused me of saying we do not need Christ’s righteousness, but rather only forgiveness.   This is ridiculous.  I have never said any such thing.

What I have said instead is what I just said above.   That where there is forgiveness (remission) of lawless deeds there is no longer any offering for sin, AND it was the death of Christ which accomplished this remission.  This death is what makes His people righteous, and it did it by removing their lawless deeds.

Romans 6
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Those who include Christ’s law obedience in with His righteousness are insisting that this remission is not enough to be set free from the punishment for sin. At least, those who are accusing me sure sound like they are saying this.

Let me conclude by reminding these folks that it wasn’t His law obedience that justified Christ.  Remember, God had imputed the sins of His elect to Christ.  Fat lot of good all that obedience did then, didn’t it.

No, what justified Christ was His resurrection.

Romans 1
concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord

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Hebrews 1:1-3

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.

Long ago God used dreams, visions, angels and even inanimate objects like a burning bush as well as the urim and the thummim to communicate His word to His prophets.  This word He communicated concerned the promise of the Son.  And we know this word He spoke proved to be reliable and true.  After all, every word He spoke to the prophets concerning the Son has come to pass.

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Long ago our fathers had only the promise of the Son.  Today, we have the testimony of this promise fulfilled.  We have the word of the Son, clothed in flesh and blood, crucified, buried, risen and ascended.   The word of the promise has been fulfilled, and it found its fulfillment in the last days.

In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter assured the people that neither he nor the other disciples were drunk, as the people had at first supposed.  He stood to his feet to tell the people that what they had just heard was, in fact, the fulfillment of the promise of the Spirit which God had made to the fathers long ago.  To prove his point, he quoted from the prophet Joel:

Acts 2
15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
    before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Peter tells us that this prophecy was fulfilled at the day of Pentecost.  He even states this in verse 16, “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel.”  The last days Joel was referring to was the last days of the old covenant.

Just as the final remnants of that old covenant were already swept aside, God fulfilled the promise He had spoken to the prophet Joel.  And with this the old covenant was now just a memory.  A new day had dawned upon us.  The Spirit promise of the new covenant had been fulfilled.  I will put My Spirit in you and cause you to walk in My ways.

In this sense, God’s plan and purpose for the salvation of His elect in Christ proved to be a revelation gradually unfolded.  At the start we had was a vague promise in the garden of Eden concerning a Seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent.   God revealed more about this in His word to the prophets as Old Testament history gradually rolled by.

The author reminds his readers of this fact.  He reminds them there is no new revelation to be had, nor is retreat into darkness a viable option.  That is, if it is their intent to return to legal bondage under the old covenant, then they would do well to remember they are also going to be retreating into the days of prophets and dreams and the promise unfilled.

Peter tells us in his first epistle, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” (1 Peter 1:10)

Let this serve as a warning.  People who have heard the gospel of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and yet desire to retreat still into the legal bondage of old covenants are betraying the very gospel they have heard.  After all, is this not a return to a time when God’s purpose and plan was not yet fully revealed?

History as a Line or a Circle

Indeed there is another significance to this phrase, “in the last days.”  If there are a last days, then there must also have been first days.  There must also be a final day.

At the time this epistle was written Greek philosophy held that history was cyclical.  They envisioned it as a circle of endless destruction and rebirth.  Never was there a true beginning and never would there be a true ending.  Instead, everything would live, suffer, die and then be reborn all over again at the next rebirth of the earth.  Worse yet, nothing would ever changed. Everything that had happened would happen again . . and again . . . for eternity.

philosophychart

If you were one of the millions of wretched lower classes suffering in poverty and/or slavery, then you had only an eternity of suffering to look forward to.

Happily for us, Scripture rejects this.  The word of God holds there was indeed a beginning, and that before the beginning there was God.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Scripture portrays history as a horizontal line with a beginning, a middle and an ending.  And behind it all is the Beginner who began it all, sustains it all, and has ordained every occurrence within it.

It need not be said the significance this holds for the human race.  What man does matters.  Every human has a part to play in history, whether this part be evil or good, minimal or significant.  That this part has been ordained for him by God from eternity does not alter the fact that he plays the part and that no cow or bird or bacteria can play it for him.  History is not written by the beasts of the field or by the fish in the sea.

Of course, there is the temptation to think ourselves as more than we ought.  It need not be said the significance history as a straight line gives to the human race, but it certainly can be overestimated.  God is the one who has ordained it and created it. It all exists for His purposes, for His glory rather than for man’s.  History may not be written by the beasts of the field or the fish in the sea, but neither is it the free will invention of the creature.

The Word

There is some similarity between the opening passage of John’s Gospel and of the opening passage here in the epistle to the Hebrews.  Here in Hebrews our author begins at the same place John began; with the Word and His place within the Holy Trinity.

God spoke.  He has spoken by His Son.  The same Son through whom He created the world.  The same Son who is the exact imprint of God’s nature and the radiance of His glory.  The same Son who even now upholds the universe by the word of His power.  The same Son whom He appointed heir of all things.

The word “imprint” here comes from a Greek word that we derive our word “character” from.  It refers to an exact likeness.  The Son in His Divine nature is the exact likeness of the Father, the radiance of the Father’s glory.   Gill asked us to observe the sun and its ray, both are of the same nature, nor is one before the other, and yet they are distinct from each other, and cannot be divided or separated one from another

Our fathers had the word of God spoken to them by the prophets.  If this word proved to be reliable and trustworthy, then how much less an excuse do we have today now that we have the word of God spoken directly to us by God Himself.

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Sometimes the Blood is not the Blood

Hyper Fundamentalist, Bob Jones accuses John MacArthur of “minimizing the blood.” So do some of his followers like E.L. Bynum (see the article at http://www.thewatchmanwakes.com/John-Macarthur-and-the-Blood-of-Christ.html).  By “minimizing the blood” Jones means MacArthur denies that it was the fluid itself which saved God’s elect.  Yes, I said fluid itself.  Bynum writes —

“MacArthur repeatedly says the blood is merely ‘symbolic’ of death.  This is the false position taken by Robert Bratcher, editor of the Today’s English Version. In that perverted translation the word ‘death’ is almost always substituted for the word ‘blood’ when the Scriptures are referring to Christ’s atonement.  This is a damnable heresy, because the atonement requires both the death and the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:22). The blood is not merely symbolic for death. It itself is a crucial part of our salvation.”

Notice what Bynum argues.   He says, “Atonement requires both the death and the blood . . . the blood is not merely symbolic for death.”

Not merely symbolic for death?  What exactly is Bynum saying?

It takes some time for Bynum to finally explain himself, but if you consult his article (link posted above) you will find his explanation near the end.  This is what Bob Jones and E.L Bynum tell us the Bible reveals about the blood of Christ:

  1. That it was incorruptible. It cannot have been anything else because of its intrinsic purity. I Peter 1:18,19: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…But with the precious blood of Christ..”
  1. That it was indestructible and is now eternally preserved in heaven. It cannot have been anything else because of its permanence.   Hebrews 12:24: “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”
  1. That it was invaluable. It cannot have been anything else because of its parentage. It is the Blood of God incarnate. Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood…” Acts 20:28: “…the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
  2. That it was indispensable. It cannot have been anything else because of its power. No sinner can be saved without washing in the Blood of the Lamb. Revelations 7:14: “..these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Bynum argues that it was the blood itself, and not instead the Christ Jesus who shed the blood, that redeemed God’s elect.  Notice how he gives the blood the very attributes of Christ Himself in order to accomplish this.  Incorruptibility, intrinsic purity, indestructibility, eternal, invaluable and salvific.  We might ask, just how many Persons are in Jones’ Godhead?  It would seem there are four!  The Father, the Son, the Spirit and the Blood.

Consider what Deified blood coursing through Christ’s veins would mean for His human nature.  Long have Christians recognized what Scripture teaches us; that two distinct natures (divine and human) co-exist substantively and in reality in the single person of Jesus Christ, BUT WITHOUT MIXTURE.   This means He is both fully God and also fully a man.  Yet if His blood is divine, then how could He be fully a man?

In addition, not to be too indelicate here, but don’t we have blood cells dying every few months and new one being regenerated to replace them?   How was Christ’s blood to do this if it were incorruptible, indestructible and eternal?

What Jones and those like him have done is fall into the trap of hyper-literalism.  That is, every time they read the word “blood” in Scripture they take it to literally mean the fluid.

Leviticus 17:1 For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul

Note, the life of the flesh is in the blood. If the blood is removed then what happens to the life of the flesh? It dies. In fact, it dies even before all the blood is removed. That’s the point.  Not only would a hyper literal view of this verse deny reason and common sense, but it would also deny the humanity of Christ’s human nature, as well as God’s justice.  Case in point, Genesis 2:16-17.

Genesis 2:16-17
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Notice, the text does not say in the day you eat of it you shall bleed.  If God demanded death at the outset for disobedience and then later changed His mind to say bloodshed is enough, then God’s demand for justice is mutable.  What He demands by way of satisfaction yesterday might not be what He demands tomorrow.

However, had the text read that it is the death which maketh an atonement for the soul, then a priest could dig up any old corpse and throw it on the altar. No, the point of bloodshed is that it is the death of a living being that makes atonement, because death is the punishment for disobeying the law. Blood symbolizes this.  The New Testament often uses the word blood this way. Consider, for instance Hebrews 12:22-24.

Hebrews 12:22-24
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,  and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

The author is using the word blood figuratively here. After all, blood does not speak.  But note who he says the blood speaks a better word than.  Abel.  Did Abel merely bleed or was he murdered? He was murdered, of course.

Recall what God said to Cain concerning this murder.

Genesis 4:10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.

Your brother’s blood. What was Cain’s crime? That he had made Abel bleed or that he had killed him?

1 John 3:12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

Cain’s crime was that he had murdered his brother, and now it was this same brother’s blood that was crying to the Lord from the ground.

We know this does not literally mean Abel’s blood was crying from the ground. We know this is a figure of speech instead.  We know it means God took note of the fact that Abel’s death was an unjust death.  Abel’s murder cried out for justice.

This is the point the author of Hebrews is trying to make; that the death of Jesus is a better testimony than the death of Abel, because the death of Jesus has satisfied justice.  Abel’s death demanded justice, but Jesus’ death had satisfied it.

Hebrews 9-10
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, SINCE A DEATH HAS OCCURRED THAT REDEEMS THEM from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

16 For where a will is involved, THE DEATH OF THE ONE WHO MADE IT MUST BE ESTABLISHED.

17 For a will takes effect ONLY AT DEATH, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.

18 THEREFORE NOT EVEN THE FIRST COVENANT WAS INAUGURATED WITHOUT BLOOD.

1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.

2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?

3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.

4 For it is impossible for THE BLOOD of bulls and goats to take away sins.

5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
BUT A BODY have you prepared for me;

6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.

7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),

9 then He added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” HE DOES AWAY WITH THE FIRST IN ORDER TO ESTABLISH THE SECOND.
(***exactly what the author just finished saying in chapter 9. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.)

There it is, plain as day. When Scripture speaks of the blood that redeemed, it means the death.

 

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Salvation in Christ Alone: The Soul, the Spirit and the Question of Eternity Part 2

If you will recall from our previous conversation, some certain members of the Corinthian church had rejected belief in the resurrection of the dead.  Paul addressed this rejection near the end of his first epistle to the Corinthians.

Paul countered with the argument that if there is no resurrection of the dead then not even Christ Himself was raised, and if Christ was not raised, then we are all still in our sins.  Our faith would be futile, because He would still be dead.  Paul then used the analogy of seed time and harvest to further his argument.

But even after having closed his first epistle to the Corinthians, he is not finished with either them or his argument.  Instead, sometime later, he composes a second epistle to the Corinthians and almost picks up where he last left off.

2 Corinthians 1
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Paul wants the Corinthians to understand the hardship and suffering he and his companions in the gospel have had to endure in order to bring the gospel to Corinth and the rest of Asia.  He wants the Corinthians to know that it was for their sake Paul and the brothers endured.  It was not instead for some ill perceived personal gain or power.

In fact, so perilous was the journey at one point that he and his companions despaired of life itself, and yet still they pressed on.  This despair was to teach them to continue relying not on themselves, but rather on God who raises the dead.

Notice that.  God who raises the dead.  And keep in mind who he is talking to.  These folks had been denying the resurrection of the dead.  Paul counters this denial by pointing out the fact that if the dead are not raised, then Christ is still dead and our faith futile.  He now begins his second letter by reminding them that the God whom Paul and his companions depended on for their strength after they found themselves despairing of even life itself is the God who raises the dead.

I say again, notice that.  After finding himself in despair of life itself, Paul’s hope was in the God who raises the dead.  His hope was not that he would wake up to find himself in heaven after he died.

I think most Christians today would phrase Paul’s comments a bit differently.  I think most Christians today would say something along the lines of this –

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our
strength that we despaired of life itself.  But
then we reminded ourselves that if we died,
we would just go straight to heaven afterward,
so we weren’t too worried about it anymore.

Be honest.  This sounds like something most Christians would say, doesn’t it?  Maybe it even is something you yourself would say.

Paul’s hope was not in the God who would transport him immediately up to heaven after he died.  Rather, Paul’s hope was in the God who raises the dead.

But Paul isn’t finished.  He carries his argument on through the next three chapters, showing the Corinthians how it was for their sake that he and his companions suffered and endured, and how it was the God who raises the dead that gave them the strength to carry on.

2 Corinthians 4
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Young’s Literal Translation puts it like this:

And we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us;

on every side being in tribulation, but not straitened; perplexed, but not in despair;

persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

10 at all times the dying of the Lord Jesus bearing about in the body, that the life also of Jesus in our body may be manifested,

11 for always are we who are living delivered up to death because of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our dying flesh,

12 so that, the death indeed in us doth work, and the life in you.

13 And having the same spirit of the faith, according to that which hath been written, `I believed, therefore I did speak;’ we also do believe, therefore also do we speak;

14 knowing that He who did raise up the Lord Jesus, us also through Jesus shall raise up, and shall present with you,

15 for the all things [are] because of you, that the grace having been multiplied, because of the thanksgiving of the more, may abound to the glory of God;

16 wherefore, we faint not, but if also our outward man doth decay, yet the inward is renewed day by day;

17 for the momentary light matter of our tribulation, more and more exceedingly an age-during weight of glory doth work out for us —

18 we not looking to the things seen, but to the things not seen; for the things seen [are] temporary, but the things not seen [are] age-during.

We have this treasure in earthen vessels, says Paul.  And we might ask, why?  Paul’s answer, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.  In other words, so the world may see that the surpassing power belongs to God and not instead to us.

These earthen vessels, they are afflicted in every way. Afflicted yes, but not crushed; baffled yes, but not discouraged.  Persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.  These earthen vessels bear the death of Jesus so they might also bear the resurrection life of Jesus.  You cannot escape crushing until you are first afflicted. You cannot escape destruction until you are first struck down.  And you cannot escape the grave until you first die.

Paul uses the death and resurrection of Jesus as a metaphor for the persecution and deliverance he and his companions experienced.  We despaired even of life, he told them, and in this we carried in our bodies the death of Christ.  However, this simply served to show us that we must continue to rely upon the God who raises the dead rather than upon ourselves.

The God who raises the dead.

Having explained his hope, Paul then brings his argument to its conclusion.

2 Corinthians 4:16 – 5:21
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

We do not lose heart.  Why do we not lose heart?  We do not lose heart, because although our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Because we know that if the tent that is our home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Now it’s here, right here where many Christians lose their heads, because they insist the righteous enter into this building not made with hands immediately upon the time of their death.  In fact, John Gill wrote the following in his commentary:

a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens? which some understand of the glorified body upon its resurrection, as opposed to its frail, mortal earthly frame in its present situation; though rather all this designs the happiness of the saints, which will be begun, and they shall immediately enter into, at the dissolution of their bodies, and will be consummated at the resurrection; which is all of God’s building and preparing

They shall immediately enter into at the dissolution of their bodies, and will be consummated at the resurrection.

Where in the world is that to be found anywhere in Paul’s argument?  Time and again Paul has argued body.  It’s in the body.  A vessel.  A tent.  A house.  We carry His death and His life in our bodies.  It’s a body that goes down into the ground like a seed, and it’s a body that emerges from the ground like a flower.  A body.

And yet here is Gill arguing that upon the dissolution of our earthly body we shall enter into happiness without a body.  Imagine that.  Paul says body, Gill says no body.  Disembodied and happy while we wait for the consummation of our happiness which will be the resurrection of the dead and only then a new body.

And notice he says “enter into”.  Paul says raised from the dead.  Gill says “enter into,” as if God is merely transporting a consciousness to a new dimension like a captain aboard a star ship.   Energize, Mr. Gill.

My hope is in the God who raises the dead.  Sadly for most Christians, their hope is in the God who transports the consciousness.

But Dave, Paul said naked.  He used the word naked.  He said, “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.”  This must refer to the nakedness of being disembodied in heaven while we await the consummation of our happiness, it just simply must.

Must it?

1 Corinthians 15:37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.

Guess what the word translated “bare” there is in the Greek.  If you guessed gymnos, naked, then you’d be right.

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=G1131&t=KJV

What goes into the ground is a naked kernel.  Naked I came from my mother’s womb and I naked I will return.  But what is sown is not the body that is to be.

1 Corinthians 15:
38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust.  And what was Paul’s argument to the Corinthians in his second epistle?  We carry in this body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.  How?  In a body.

In a body, folks.  A body.  There is no talk of a disembodied existence to be found anywhere in the Scriptures.  There just simply isn’t.  All talk of a disembodied existence must be eisegeted into the text rather than exegeted from it.

A people have been made righteous by the cross.  I mean, really, really righteous.  And yet they still live in these ridiculously broken, sinful and dying tents.  Our true homes, the homes God Himself has made for us, they are stored up in heaven for safe keeping.  We don’t have them yet.  We will not have them until the resurrection.  In that sense we are already naked.

What does that mean for us now then?   I mean, after all, if we aren’t going to be conscious and disembodied in heaven after we die, then where will we be?

Exactly where Paul told the Corinthians we will be.  Asleep.  In the Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:6  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

Wait though, Dave.  What about what Paul told the Philippians?

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Salvation in Christ Alone: The Soul, the Spirit and the Question of Eternity Part 1

Paul’s trouble with the Corinthians reached its zenith after some folks in the Corinthian church began to proclaim the grave was the forever end.  These folks were insisting there is no resurrection of the dead, and because there is no resurrection of the dead, their remaining time would therefore be best spent in wine, women and song – “let us eat, drink and be merry.”

Paul’s countered this argument with an argument of his own.  If there is no resurrection of the dead then not even Christ Himself was raised, because He too died.  But if Christ was not raised, then we are all still in our sins.  Our faith is futile, because He remains dead.

The truth is Christ did raise.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the 2000 years or so of church history, belief in a literal, physical resurrection got turned into belief in an eternal, immaterial existence.   Folks went from believing Christ will one day raise them from the dead to believing they are immaterial, bodiless creatures that can never die.

How this happened is beyond the scope of this study.   That it did happen and why it is unbiblical is what this study will instead focus upon.

It was the first lie Satan told man.  You will not die. Today, millions, perhaps billions even around the world, both Christian and non-Christian alike are convinced he was right.  They have found an intellectual loophole.   Rather than dying, they believe they are instead going to be transformed in some sense into an immaterial, disembodied substance they call a soul or spirit, and that this soul or spirit is going to continue to exist in this state in either perpetual bliss or perpetual torment long after their body has moldered in the grave.   Voila, Satan’s lie accomplished.  You will not die.

To be sure, most of these people have never heard the gospel and could not care, but not all are like this.  There are a few brothers out there who do think along these lines.  This study is for them.  These are the folks who think redemption means never having to die.  After all, if Jesus really has saved His people from the penalty for their sins, then they cannot die, because dying would be the same as suffering the penalty for their sins.

Yeah, okay, so they do still physically die.  And yeah, okay so they still haven’t been raised from the dead yet.   And yeah, okay, so they still aren’t living forever on a new earth yet.  But at least they still get to be disembodied and conscious in heaven, amirite.  And isn’t that what Jesus came to do?  To turn His people into ghosts?

I’m being facetious, but I do think Paul would answer these guys that we still die and we’re still not living on a new earth, because we haven’t been planted into the ground yet like a kernel of wheat.  You have to be planted first.  Only then do you get to become a flower.  It’s the argument he made with the Corinthians, and so it’s the place where we will begin.

1 Corinthians 15
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?30 Why are we in danger every hour?31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

Returning to Paul’s answer to those in the Corinthian church who were denying resurrection.  If there is no resurrection, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then we more than all men are to be most pitied, for our faith is futile.  But Christ did rise.  More than this, in fact, His resurrection was the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

In other words, Christ was the first and not instead the last to undergo resurrection.  Those who have been made righteous by His death and have since fallen asleep will one day also be resurrected.   It was, after all, a man who brought death in; it is therefore necessary that a man also bring resurrection in; because as in Adam all DIE, so also in Christ shall all be made ALIVE.

Paul anticipates another challenge in lieu of his response.  One of these knuckle-headed Corinthians is bound to ask with bemusement just how the dead are raised.  With what body are they raised, Paul, hmm?  Can you tell me that?

Understand the argument.   In other words, since you’ve died and your body has moldered to dust, with what body then can you possibly be raised with?  You’ve got no more body, Paul!  There’s no more body to be had!  With what body then can you be raised?

Paul answers this knuckle-headed challenge by appealing to the farmer.  What the farmer sows into the ground in the Spring is not what rises to life six months later during harvest.  You bury a single, hard and ugly bulb into the ground.  Six months later you’ve got a tall and beautiful tulip staring up at you.

Paul’s point is that the body sown into the soil is not the same kind of body that is going to emerge from the soil.  Notice this though.  They are both still bodies.  Both are still physical.   Keep this in mind, because I know plenty of brothers who forget this part every time they go cherry picking through this passage.

What is sown is perishable, Paul argues.  But what is raised is imperishable.  It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.  It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.   It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.  Body.  Remember this.

Paul then concludes his argument with a sort of mini doxology.   Beginning with verse 50, he writes:

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, he says.   And I know lots of people who insist this proves they will never die, because they will go to live in God’s presence without a body.  But what has Paul just finished saying?   It is a body that is raised imperishable.  A body.  That’s the point.  It is not some immaterial, disembodied consciousness instead that puts on the imperishable.

But when Paul?  When will those in Christ who have fallen asleep put on the imperishable?  At the last trumpet.  At the resurrection when Christ returns to raise His people.

At that time what was sown into the ground as perishable will be changed.  It will rise from the ground imperishable.   A body is how the elect will be clothed with the immortal and imperishable.

But Dave, you might be saying, the Bible does elsewhere use the word spirit and soul in reference to man, so how can you say we are not and never will be a disembodied consciousness?

I say indeed the Bible does use the word soul and spirit in reference to man.  But point in fact, in the New Testament, the two Greek words translated “spirit” (pneuma) and “soul” (psyche) are very closely related.  Both are related to the word for “breath”.

Psyche is most often translated as life, soul, mind and breath.  It signifies life in terms of physical and mental existence.  Some examples of this include:

Matthew 2:20  Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life (psyche).

Matthew 6:25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life (psyche), what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Matthew 20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life(psyche)  a ransom for many.

John 10:15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life (psyche) for the sheep.

Acts 7:14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls (psyche).

Acts 14:2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds (pysche) evil affected against the brethren.

Here is an online link to the Strong’s concordance showing every instance of the word psyche as it appears in Scripture so that you can see for yourself.

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=G5590&t=KJV

Keep in mind, we are not cherry picking these verses.  In fact, we are not even going to use any of them to help form any kind of opinion about our subject.  Rather, we are instead only taking a look at some random verses to discover the various ways in which the Greek word for soul has been translated.

As for pneuma, this word is most often translated spirit and breath.  It is the word the New Testament uses most often to identify the Holy Spirit, angels, demons, and yes, also men.  It is sometimes also used to identify a person’s attitude, such as in 1 Corinthians 4:21 “What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit (pneuma) of meekness?”

Here is another link to the Strong’s concordance showing how pneuma is used.

https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=spirit&t=KJV#s=s_lexiconc

The Old Testament follows the same pattern.  It too uses soul and spirit in the same way.  As you can see from the link provided immediately above, pneuma’s Old Testament counterpart is the word, ruwach.  Ruwach, like pneuma itself, is also used to identify God’s Spirit.

However, the most common use for the word pneuma relates to wind, and in particular, wind in reference to God’s judgment.

Consider Genesis 2:8, for example.

Genesis 2:8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool (ruwach) of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden

The word ruwach has been translated as “cool” in this verse.  Why?  Why has it been translated “cool of the day” when the word ruwach means Spirit or breath?

Consider the fact that translators are tasked with the very difficult job of not only translating the Hebrew and Greek into English, but also with the job of trying to translate the text in a way that makes the most sense to even the most uneducated English speaker.   It would be like trying to translate a 15th century Chinese philosophy book into something a third grader could understand while at the same time holding the interest of a thirty-year old.

With this in mind, the word ruwach is most often translated as Spirit, anger, blast, air, breath.  Here again is an online link so you can see for yourself:

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=H7307

The reason the translators chose “cool of the day” rather than “spirit of the day” or “breath of the day” is because  neither of these make much sense to most people. This is because most people have never considered the word “day” as it relates to God’s judgment.

In the Bible, the day of the Lord is a phrase often used in reference to God executing His judgment.

Isaiah 24:21-22 So it will happen in that day. That the Lord will punish the host of heaven on high. And the kings of the earth on earth. They will be gathered together like prisoners to the dungeon.

Zephaniah 1:14-16
The great day of the Lord is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;
the mighty man cries aloud there.
15 A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
16 a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the lofty battlements.

Romans 2:15-16
15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Consider Psalm 18.

Psalm 18
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
6 In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.

From his temple He heard my voice,
and my cry to Him reached His ears.
7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because He was angry.
8 Smoke went up from His nostrils,
and devouring fire from His mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from Him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under His feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
He came swiftly on the wings of the wind (ruwach).
11 He made darkness his covering, His canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before Him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered His voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And He sent out His arrows and scattered them;
He flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at Your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath (ruwach) of Your nostrils.

We find in Genesis 3:8 this idea of God’s rebuke appearing in the garden with the sudden blast of the breath of His nostrils.  The foundations of mankind’s existence is going to be laid bare.   Adam has disobeyed.  Death is now going to enter into the world.  The rebuke is startling, sudden, and shocking.  His rebuke is like the whirlwind, rushing into the garden with fierce, howling anger.

God enters the garden in judgment.  There is no doubting from God’s rebuke just why He is there either.   He has come to set up court, to execute justice and to bring judgment upon Adam for his disobedience.  “Adam, where are you?”  Step forth.  Gird yourself like a man.  Bring in the defendant.

The other Hebrew word for soul and spirit is nĕshamah.  It corresponds more closely to psyche, but is also often translated breath, as in God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life.

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=H5397

What we find so fascinating about these four words is the fact that Scripture often uses them interchangeably.  For instance, we are told in places like Ecclesiastes that both man and animal have one ruwach, the breath of life.

Ecclesiastes 3:19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath (ruwach); so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

Man has no preeminence above beasts. Why?  The word of God tells us why.  Man has no preeminence above beasts, because man and beast both have one ruwach.

We are shown this again in passages like Genesis 6.

Genesis 6:17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath (ruwach) of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die.

Genesis 7:15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath (ruwach) of life.

Genesis 8:1 And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind (ruwach) to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged

We are told that everything with the breath of life died in the flood.  (This excludes, of course, all whom the Lord had preserved on the ark.)

But what about Genesis 2 where we are told God breathed into the man the breath of life.  This time the word is not ruwach, but instead nĕshamah.

Genesis 2:  then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath (nĕshamah) of life, and the man became a living creature.

Here again, the Bible uses this word for both man and beast.

Genesis 7:20-22  The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.  And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath (nĕshamah ) of life died.

Joshua 10:40 So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed (nĕshamah), just as the Lord God of Israel commanded.

In fact, just like the word ruwach, this other word nĕshamah is also used in reference to God’s breath coming in judgment.

2 Samuel 22:16
Then the channels of the sea were seen;

the foundations of the world were laid bare,
at the rebuke of the Lord,
at the blast of the breath (nĕshamah) of His nostrils.

So often are these two words interchangeable that we get texts like this one:

Job 27:3
as long as my breath (nĕshamah) is in me,

and the Spirit (ruwach) of God is in my nostrils,
my lips will not speak falsehood,
and my tongue will not utter deceit.

The same word used to identify the life of birds and fish and beasts is also used to identify the Spirit of God.  What are we to do with this?

Thankfully, we have texts like Psalm 104 that help explain this.

Psalm 104:
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
15     and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has her home in the fir trees.
18 The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers.

19 He made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
20 You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
21 The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they steal away
and lie down in their dens.
23 Man goes out to his work
and to his labor until the evening.

24 O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Here is the sea, great and wide,
which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.

27 These all look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When You hide Your face, they are dismayed;
when You take away their breath (ruwach), they die
and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit (ruwach), they are created,
and You renew the face of the ground.

If we were to cherry pick this Psalm by plucking verses 29 and 30 free from their context, then we might walk away thinking the Bible tells us that only man has the breath or the spirit of life.  This is clearly not the case though.

This Psalm tells us that all living things, animals as well as men, have the breath of life.  In Genesis 2:7 when we are told the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.  We know this is true of birds and fish and animals too.  We just aren’t told about this until later, in places like Genesis 6, Job, and Psalm 104.

All living things have the breath of life in them; from the antelope to the serpent.  The breath of life is not an eternal, immaterial part of man that we call a soul or spirit.  The Scriptures do not use the words soul and spirit in this way.  We have seen this.

Rather, the Scriptures consistently associate the words soul and spirit with the living, biological process of respiration.  Even when it comes to God’s own Spirit, the Bible associates His Spirit and the Spirit’s activities with the biological process of respiration.  He is the living God.  The conscious God.  The God who thinks, senses and animates.  He is not a senseless, artificial program or machine.

The problem arises when we move beyond this and assume the word soul or spirit refers to an eternal, immaterial part of our conscious that is independent our corporal, material bodies. The Bible does not talk this way.

We have seen the Bible use the word spirit in reference to the life of fish, fowl, beast and man. We have seen the Bible speak of God breathing into both man and beast the same breath of life.  We have seen the Bible use this same word to indicate His own Spirit.  We must not and cannot be Biblically consistent while concluding from this that we are going to continue to exist in some immaterial, disembodied way after our bodies die.  We may find other texts to indicate this, but let us not say we can Biblically deduce this from the words soul and spirit.  We simply cannot. The Bible will not permit us to.

Think about it, what keeps our heart pumping and our brain cells firing? We aren’t Deists, are we? We don’t believe God jump started our hearts at some point in the past while we were in the womb and then stepped back to watch it gradually wind down seventy or so years later, did He? Of course not.

A day is coming for each one of us when God’s Spirit will cease to sustain our breath.  At that point we will go down into the earth like a kernel of corn.  However, the Bible also promises that a day is coming in which the Son of God will return with a trumpet blast.  Blast, breath, get it?

At this appointed point in time the Spirit will once more restore the breath of life to the newly resurrected bodies of His people, causing them to live and breath forever more.  And from this resurrection there shall never again come a day when the Spirit will ever again cease to sustain His people with the breath of life.  God will have clothed them with immortality.

In the next part we will examine the texts to see whether the Scriptures do teach that we will one day be disembodied.  Until then, I hope you will give what we have discussed here some thought.

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Studies in Hebrews Part 20: The Two Mountains

In the seventh chapter of Matthew’s gospel we find Jesus drawing a contrast between the wise man and the foolish man.  The wise man is he who hears Christ’s words and then does them.  He is like the man who built his house on the rock.  The rains fell, the flood came and the waters beat against the house; but the house stood, because it had been built upon the rock.

In contrast to the wise man, the foolish man is he who hears the words of Christ but does not do them.  He is like the man who built his house on sand. The rains fell, the flood came and the waters washed away the house, because it had been built on sand.

Last time we took a brief look at some of the various ways people today build their house on sand.

Take Tolerant Calvinism, for instance.  In Tolerant Calvinism we saw people trying to limit the gospel to the bare historical facts about Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.  These  are the folk who are convinced sinners are saved by making a choice to believe God saves by grace, rather than by law.  They believe the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection communicate this fact to the sinner, thereby enabling him with the power to choose to believe it.

If you recall our discussion about Robert Sandeman then you will no doubt note how similar Tolerant Calvinism sounds to the false gospel that Andrew Fuller preached.  There is good reason for this.  It’s because Tolerant Calvinism functions the same way Andrew Fuller’s false gospel functioned.

Remember what Fuller taught.  He believed Christ did not bear His people’s guilt at the cross, because guilt is not something that can be imputed to an innocent person.   This led him to conclude the cross had merely been a token sacrifice to show the world God’s mercy and grace.  He claimed in light of this that if the sinner chooses to believe God saves sinners by His mercy and grace rather than by law, then the sinner will receive God’s pardon.  Sounds like the same thing Tolerant Calvinism is saying, doesn’t it.

The consequence of Fuller’s false gospel is it made the sinner’s own faith the condition for salvation.   This meant Fuller’s false gospel was more than just false.  It was also a ruse.

Fuller CLAIMED to teach salvation by grace, but what he really taught was works salvation, or more specifically WORK salvation.  I say work, singular, because what he did was boil all the usual works stuff down to a single work – the work of believing.   Salvation by the work of believing.  God can save you if you do the work of believing first.

Today, Tolerant Calvinists are functionally Fullerist in their theology.   Even though most of them confess to subscribe to penal substitutionary atonement, they nevertheless teach a gospel which functions the same way Fuller’s did.

They tell the sinner the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection show him God’s saves by grace rather than by law.  They then tell the sinner that if he will but choose to believe God saves by this grace rather than by law, then he will receive the pardon offered to him at the cross.

This may remind you of the Marrow Men.  Here again, there is good reason for this.

To refresh your memory in case you don’t recall our discussion, the Marrow Controversy developed after twelve spiritual perverts began accusing the Church of Scotland of Hyper-Calvinism for having condemned Edward Fisher’s book.

Edward Fisher, an Englishman, had a few decades earlier published a book entitled The Marrow of Modern Divinity.  In this book, Fisher argued we should say nothing about election and definite atonement when proclaiming the gospel to an unbeliever, because it could lead the unbeliever to assume he or she is not elect since they do not yet believe.  Fisher insisted we should instead tell people Christ’s death was for them, and if they will but accept Him then they will have Him. This argument, like Fuller’s, made faith the condition of salvation.

This attempt by man to establish himself in righteousness by his own faith did not begin with the Marrow.  Had we the time we could keep going further back in history, tracing the various ways man has attempted to pervert the gospel by either adding or subtracting from the good news of Christ’s finished work.

Prior to the Marrow Men it was the Hypothetical Universalists from England.  Prior to them it was the Dutch Remonstrants.  Prior to them, Jacob Arminius.   And so on and so on.  History is replete with men and women who have built their houses on sand.

In addition to Tolerant Calvinism though, we also had a look at Disney Land Christianity; also known as the Seeker Sensitive or Emergent Church movement.  Do not be fooled.  This movement is no movement of God.  It is nothing less than a movement of the flesh instead.

You will hear nothing about sin and death or the coming day of judgment in a seeker-sensitive church.  Neither will you hear any of the fourteen or so paid pastors on staff use words like propitiation and expiation to explain what they teach.  You will hear nothing about a penal substitutionary atonement or the imputation of guilt either, because the seeker-sensitive movement considers none of these things relevant.  They are, as far as the seeker-sensitive movement is concerned, a distraction from a person’s true calling.

Seeker-sensitive pastors and teachers function as little more than pseudo CEO’s.  They see church the same way Bill Gates sees Microsoft.  Marketing ideas and business management models are the seeker’s new theology.   Success is measured by the number of customers a pastor can draw every week.  Faithfulness is tracked by customer loyalty.

You will never hear a message about accomplished redemption or definite atonement in a seeker sensitive church, because both these things assume the listener’s guilt.  Guilt offends.  You can’t attract customers with a message that offends.   This is also why you will also hear nothing about repentance, self righteousness or God’s holiness.

What will you hear then?  You will hear sermons about the self inflated importance of finding your purpose by reaching outward.   Messages about the brutal cross of Christ have been replaced with messages about the bloodless ego of self.   Customers are motivated through the use of hypno-therapeutic speech to believe the best about themselves and then instructed in the various ways they can give from this best part to others.   Through this method they are instructed to seek for their purpose, to rediscover their passion, to enter into their best life now.

I’m told in a seeker-sensitive church that although my dreams may have been long since crucified like the Son of God; nevertheless, the Father can, as He did with the Son of God, raise them up again to give me the passion and purpose I’ve been searching for all my life.  And yes, I literally heard a seeker-sensitive pastor preach this very thing to his church.

In these intellectually vacuous temples to the flesh, truth has been jettisoned in exchange for corporate management schemes.  Worship has been turned into entertainment, and sermons into carefully packaged motivational speeches designed to stir up emotion, sooth the ego and generate income for the mother ship.

Both these houses are built squarely on sand.  The rains will fall, the flood will come, and both houses are going to be washed away.

In contrast to these houses of sand though, let’s take a look at a house built on the rock.  Turn with me in your Bibles if you will to Hebrews 12.

Hebrews 12:18-24
18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

What the Spirit is referring to here is the account recorded for us in Exodus 19.

It was from Mount Sinai that God gave the people His law.  Verse 20 of Exodus 19 says the Lord came down to Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain.

It was from Mount Sinai He gave the people His law.  Mount Sinai, you can say, was a type in this respect.  It represented the law.

But with that law came thunder and lightning, and a cloud which covered the entire mountain.  In fact, Exodus 19 describes this cloud as appearing like smoke rising from a furnace.  Hebrews 12 describes it as the mountain actually being on fire.

This fire and smoke should remind us of an earlier incident in Scripture.

In Genesis 15, God cut a covenant with Abraham.  He is about to do the same with Israel in Exodus 19.  In fact, He has already sent Moses down the mountain two days earlier to tell the Israelites this.

In this covenant God cut with Abraham in Genesis 15, God begins by putting Abraham to sleep.  In Exodus 19 God arouses Israel from sleep with the sound of a trumpet.

In Genesis 15, Abraham snoozes in a corner while God causes two objects to pass before him in a vision; a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch.  God reveals in this imagery the fact that He alone is going to bring this covenant with Abraham to pass.

In Exodus 19 though, God sends Moses down the mountain to tell the people His covenant with them will conditioned on their obedience.

The description of the fire and smoke in Exodus 19 hearkens back to another incident, as well.  We are reminded of that incident recorded for us in Genesis 19 where God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

Remember what the Scriptures tell us about this incident?  Abraham went up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord.  And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the land and went up like the smoke of a furnace.

We have the same description in Exodus 19. The smoke of the mountain went up like a furnace.

Here we have God giving the people His law.  And it is a terrifying ordeal.  In the giving of His law, God reminds the people of the judgment He brought against Sodom and Gomorrah as punishment for their disobedience.

One way to look at it is like this: the fearsome sight of the mountain tells us just as much about God’s law as it does about man’s sin.  God’s law is holy and absolute.  And because His law is holy and absolute, His judgment against all those who disobey His law is holy and absolute, as well.

So holy is His law that we see it forbidding the people entrance into God’s presence in Exodus 19.

God is way up there at the top of the mountain.  The people are way down here in the valley somewhere near the foot of the mountain.  They have no way to get from where they are down here to where God is up there, because standing between them is this vast mountainous expanse, God’s law.  And with this law comes the penalty of death for disobeying it.

One of the problems with people who build their house on sand is they often have a low opinion of God’s holiness.  Consider the man who strives to justify himself by his performance.  He does not have a high opinion of God’s holiness.  He instead has a high opinion of his own flesh.  He thinks he can actually succeed in attaining God’s standard of perfection by performing.

The man who strives to justify himself by his performance believes his spotty record of performance is good enough.

Okay, so fine, he hasn’t kept the law perfectly every waking moment of his life, but he has still at least done a better job of it than that drunk over there has.  God has to honor this, right?

But God’s standard of righteousness far exceeds the standard any of us can ever attain by our hand, because God’s standard of righteousness is nothing less than absolute perfection.

If I am to find assurance of righteousness from my performance, then my performance had better meet this standard of absolute perfection.  Otherwise, I’m only deceiving myself.

The fact is, Scripture tells us there is none of us who meet this standard.  No, not one.

Psalm 53.  God looks down from heaven on the children of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.  They have all fallen away, together they have become corrupt.   There is none who does good, not even one.

Psalm 51.  Behold I was conceived in iniquity and brought forth into sin.

None of us meet the standard.

Problem is I know many who agree none of us meet the standard.   I know many who say only Christ has met the standard. And yet these same people tell me my performance is the proof Christ has met this standard for me.

I don’t meet the standard.  I can never meet the standard.  Only Christ has met the standard.  Yet I am to look to a standard less than His standard for proof  I am righteous?

People who say this are claiming Christ met God’s standard of righteousness in order to make my performance count for righteousness.  God must now accept the righteousness I earn by my flawed performance, because Christ has atoned for all the flawed parts of my performance.

Take, for example, Christ’s account of the two men who went up to the Temple to pray.  The first, being a Pharisee, stood PRAYING TO HIMSELF and said, “I thank you, O God I am not like other men.”

Okay, so his performance is a little flawed there.  He thinks too much of himself.   But at least he is striving to be better than other men, right?

I mean, whereas other men are drunkards and adulterers and thieves and homosexuals, at least our Pharisee here is striving to obey God.  This must count for something, right?  After all, isn’t he just trying to live according to Christ’s Lordship?  His performance might not be exactly perfect, but at least it proves Jesus is doing a work in him, right?

The second guy though, look at him.  Just standing there, afar off.  Won’t even lift his head to look up at God.  Just keeps begging for mercy instead.  Who does he think he is?  Obviously an easy believist.

Clearly he’s not trying to living according to Christ’s Lordship, you ask me.   Hey buddy, the proof is in the pudding.  If you were really righteous, then you’d be trying to live more like me.

Look at what our text here in Hebrews 12 tells us though. We have not come to Mount Sinai.  I want you to hear that.

Those who have been imputed righteous by the sacrifice which has once and for all time redeemed all God’s elect. They have not come to Mount Sinai.  They have not come to smoke and fire, lightning and thunder.

They have not come to the threat of judgment and condemnation.  They have not come to the promise of death for disobedience.   They have not come to the terror and fear of the law.

They have instead come to Mount Zion, home to the holy city, the New Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, the assembly of the elect made righteous, and to Jesus Christ, the mediator of a NEW covenant and better covenant, and to God, the judge of all.

They have come to the home of the sacrifice and the sprinkled blood which speaks a better than the blood of Abel.

The word the blood of Abel spoke was a cry for justice.  Cain had murdered Abel for refusing to take sides with him against the standard of God’s righteousness.

Cain had believed himself righteous.  He believed he could prove this to God by offering the fruit of his performance to God as evidence of his righteousness.

And so by the sweat of his brow Cain cultivated vegetables from the ground which he then attempted to offer to God as evidence of his righteousness.

But the Scriptures tell us God had no regard for Cain’s sacrifice.  Cain responded to this lack of regard with incredulity.   How could God do such a thing?!   He believed God was unjust to refuse his sacrifice.   And after Abel later refused to side with Cain’s low opinion of God, Cain rose up against his brother in anger and murdered him.

The Scriptures tell us the voice of Abel’s blood cried out to the Lord from the ground.  What it cried out for was justice.

But Christ’s blood speaks a better word than Abel’s blood did.  On behalf of His elect Christ had died the death God’s law had demanded of His elect for their disobedience.

For this reason, the word Christ’s blood speaks now is a righteous and just demand for the conversion,  the new birth, the justification and resurrection of all those for whom He died.

Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us that since the children share in flesh and blood, Christ Himself partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

What is this lifelong slavery? This lifelong slavery is the natural condition of every human at birth.  It continues to be the natural condition of every man not made righteous by the cross.

This lifelong slavery is a lifelong slavery to the self righteous desire to justify myself by my own hand.  The superstitions and human traditions of false religion enslave such a man to human rules and regulations which have the APPEARANCE of righteousness in the fact they impose severe limitations upon the body, but they lack any power to halt the self righteous desire to justify myself by my own hand.

If I am looking to my performance for my righteousness, then Mount Sinai is my home.   If I’m a Tolerant Calvinist, this means I am looking for righteousness to my decision to believe God has saved me by grace.  If I’m a seeker-sensitive, then it means I am looking to my participation in the passion and purpose for my life.

In all the examples, the testimony I hear is of fire and smoke, thunder and lightning.   Such a testimony motivates me to draw back and tremble with fear and doubt.  Those who have heard the testimony of Mount Zion but turn back to Mount Sinai have trampled underfoot the testimony of the cross of Christ.

Let us not look to Mount Sinai for evidence of our righteousness.  Let us instead keep our faith fixed on the sprinkled blood of Mount Zion which speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

I am not righteous because I have made the choice to believe I have come to Mount Zion.  Rather, because I have been brought to Mount Zion therefore believe the testimony of Mount Zion.

Verse 27 of chapter 12 here says, “Yet once more, I will shake not only the earth also the heavens.”

The first time God shook the earth was at Mount Sinai.  The second time He shook the earth was at the cross. Matthew recorded the event for us in the twenty-seventh chapter of his gospel.

Remember what happened there?  Matthew tells us that at the crucifixion, beginning from the sixth hour, darkness fell upon the whole land.  The sun was blotted out.  Afterwards, after Jesus had cried out one last time and then had given up His Spirit, Matthew tells us the earth shook, rocks split and the graves of the elect who had died blew open.

As we approach the end of this epistle we are yet again reminded by the Spirit to place no confidence in our flesh.  This means turning away from your performance for proof of righteousness.

We are instead those who look to Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross.  Look to what the Scriptures tell us His death for His elect accomplished for them.  Place your confidence in that death instead.   This is our acceptable form of worship.   This is how we revere God with awe and respect.  That is, we believe what He has said about His Son.

At Mount Sinai, the Israelites revered God with terror and fear.  And for good reason.  His law stood against them.  But for those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, they revere God with praises of thanksgiving and faith.

This cross we preach it is the wisdom of God.  It is also a stumbling block to the Tolerant Calvinist and foolishness to the Seeker-Sensitive.

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Studies in Hebrews Part 19:The Lord’s Discipline

Hebrews 12:3-7 ESV
Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Last time in the text we saw the Holy Spirit draw a comparison between our faith and a marathon.  The determination to rely exclusively upon the cross of Christ for our righteousness demands the sort of relentless endurance a marathon demands.  Said the Spirit, “Run then with endurance the race set before you.”

The Spirit did not leave us without encouragement.  Rather, He gave us some examples of saints from the Old Testament who had successfully run the race with endurance.  Let us also endure to the end as they did.

Having provided us with a list of Old Testament saints, He then provided us with the ultimate example of encouragement.  Jesus Christ Himself.

He who is worthy of all honor and worship did not come to condemn His elect for their sins.  Instead, He came to suffer hostility at the hands of unworthy sinners to the point of shedding blood so that He might save all those who are His.

Therefore, although we too may sometimes suffer humiliation and loss for our faith; nevertheless, we have yet to suffer to the point of bloodshed as Christ did.  For this reason, let us follow His example by not growing weary or fainthearted.

We might ask at this point, why is the race so demanding to begin with?   I mean, if the cross of Christ has saved His people from their sins, then why not take revenge against all those who have tried to humiliate us?  After all, our sin cannot condemn us, right?  So why not just do as some had suggested and say let us sin so that grace might abound?

Verse 7 is the Spirit’s answer. It is for discipline that you must endure.

We must be careful with this word discipline here, because we might just get it into our head that it’s referring to what a parent does to a misbehaving child.  Although this idea is indeed present in the word, it is nevertheless far from being the only idea.

The Greek word translated discipline is a very rich word.  It is sometimes translated educate or instruct.  At other times it is translated as reproof or correct, and still at other times as discipline.

In the Greek it is a word referring to the entire upbringing of a child.  Not only to the responsibility of teaching him the difference between right and wrong, but also to the responsibility of his education, his welfare and yes, also to his correction.

Think of a boarding school.  In the old days people of means would send their children off to boarding school while their children were still very young.  At boarding school these children would be given more than just a first rate education in their A-B-C’s and 1-2-3’s.

They would also be taught how to behave and interact with people in a civilized society.   Education consisted  not only of algebra, but also of decorum.

They were taught how to eat properly, sit properly, stand properly, dress properly, speak properly, and even how to treat members of the opposite sex in a proper and respectful manner.  It was an education of the entire person.

Add an education in religious doctrine and you get the idea present here in the word, “discipline.”

If it helps, we can also think of it as something like boot camp.   That is, the purpose of boot camp is not simply to embarrass and punish.  Rather, boot camp exists in order to quickly train a person how to exhibit self control while under combat fire.  We also are in a kind of combat, except that our enemy is not flesh and blood.  Our war is with the principalities and powers of the air.  Our aim is to take every thought captive to the service of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Father disciplines those He loves.  This means He assumes the responsibility of educating their entire persons.  He is not only responsible for their education in the gospel, but also for their physical, emotional and spiritual well being.  He assumes the responsibility of teaching His people His commandments, as well as correcting them when they disobey.

If you have ever searched the New Testament looking for all the commandments Christ has given to His people you will note there is not a single area of our lives of which His commandments do not touch.

His commandments extend to every area of our life.  They range everywhere from instructing us how we are to think of politics to how we are to think of nutrition.  This does not mean though, we are successfully obeying them or even that we are getting better about obeying them.

We spoke about this before; we are not growing less needful of the cross.  A person who is growing less sinful every year is a person who is also needing less of the cross every year.  This is not who we are.

We are instead growing more aware of how much we need the cross and how unworthy we are of it.

Last time we spoke about propositional truth and its relation to doctrine.  This time I want to talk about putting that doctrine into practice.

We have spent a great deal of time talking about Neonomian heresies and errors like Lordship Salvation and progressive sanctification.   We have not though, spent nearly as much time talking about the opposite extreme – Antinomianism.

You may recall the definitions of Neonomianism and Antinomianism from previous lectures.  By way of quick reminder though, Neonomianism comes from two Latin words – Neo and Nomos meaning “new law.”

The 17th century preacher Richard Baxter was a Neonomian.  He told his people the law of Moses was too hard for anyone to keep, and so no one could be justified by it.  He said this was why Christ had to die in order to pay for all the sins that were committed under it.  He also told them that since Christ had obeyed the law of Moses, He had therefore won the right to replace it with a new law that is easier for us to obey.  He said we are justified by obeying this new law.

This is Neonomianism, and we have spoken at length many times about it. Lordship Salvation is a form of Neonomianism.  Progressive sanctification dances with it.

But on the opposite side of Neonomianism is Antinomianism.  Antinomianism also comes from two Latin words – Anti meaning against, and Nomos meaning law.  “Against law.”

I have mentioned before sometime called Tattoo Christianity.  Another word for Tattoo Christianity is seeker-sensitivism.

In a seeker sensitive church, the pastor will usually end his sermons with an invitation.   This means he will usually ask for a person to raise their hand if they would like to get to know Jesus more.  The soul unfortunate enough to raise his hand is then invited down to the front of the church after services conclude in order to pray with the prayer team.

If this unfortunate soul manages to make it down to the front of the church to pray with prayer team, he is not going to hear word one about the gospel.   Instead, he is going to be asked if he would like to pray something along the lines of the sinner’s prayer.  If he consents, then a prayer team member will lead him through a recitation of the sinner’s prayer after which he will then be told he is now a child of God, a forgiven sinner, a brand new, Spirit filled, born again Christian.  He’s had his ticket punched.  He is now going to heaven.

This is Antinomianism.  I call it Tattoo Christianity.  Some call it easy believism.  I don’t like this term, because there is no belief to be found anywhere in it.  It is not Christianity.  It is a phony, false Christianity.

The Spirit told us earlier in chapter 2 of this epistle to the Hebrews, the Son was made flesh and blood so that He might deliver all those who through the fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

What is this lifelong slavery?  This lifelong slavery is the condition of the natural man.   That is, it is lifelong slavery to superstition, to self conceited human tradition and human precepts; all of which indeed have an APPEARANCE of righteousness in that they impose and promote severe limitations upon the body; but nevertheless, all of which are unable to put a stop to the sinner’s self righteous desire to justify himself by his own deeds.

There is no repentance from this self righteousness to be found anywhere in a seeker-sensitive false gospel.  There is no good news of what Christ has accomplished for His elect, or even why He accomplished it.

But I want you to understand something.  Tattoo Christianity is not the only form of Antinomianism.

Some of you may have heard of Anne Hutchinson.  Hutchinson was a Puritan midwife and mother of 15.  She lived in America.  She is looked upon by American feminists today as one of the first champions of American feminism.

Hutchinson’s troubles started when she began to lead some women in the community in weekly Bible study from her home.  Eventually men began to attend these weekly studies, as well.  In this she knowingly violated the New Testament prohibition against females teaching, but this wasn’t her biggest problem.

Let me pause here a moment to say a great many people today see no problem with a woman acting as pastor or teacher.  After all, men and women are equal, right?  What’s the big deal?

The big deal is it’s not about equality.  It is instead about the curse.

We are told in Genesis 3 that as punishment for Adam’s disobedience, the woman’s DESIRE would be for her husband, but he would rule over her.   The word desire used in the text is the exact same word used just one chapter later in reference to sin’s desire for Cain.   “Sin is at the door,” the Lord said to Cain, “and it’s DESIRE is for you.”   I don’t think sin’s desire for Cain had anything to do with wanting to love him or be his equal.

In the same way sin desired to master Cain for self righteous purposes, so woman would be cursed with the desire to master her husband.  It’s all about self righteousness.  After all, how many times have you heard it?  I’m sure you have.   Things would be better if women ran the world.  Really?  Because the last time I checked, God ran the world and He said things are not going to get better.

In the case of Anne Hutchinson, she had an even bigger problem than a desire for her husband.  She had a desire to rule it over God, as well.

At these weekly so-called Bible studies, Anne taught the people in her study that the Spirit is still communicating divine revelation to His people today.  This made Hutchinson a mystical Antinomian.

Remember what Antinomian means.  Against law.  What Anne stood against was the binding authority of Scripture alone.  She stood against Scripture as the exclusive rule of law by which every claim to truth must be tested.

Hutchinson taught the men and women in her study group that the Spirit communicates God’s thoughts to His people by more than just Scripture alone.  In fact, at her trial, she stated, “The power of the Holy Spirit dwelleth perfectly in every believer, and the inward revelations of her own spirit, and the conscious judgment of her own mind are of authority paramount to any word of God.”

Anne was banished from the community for her heresy.  A few years later she and those few from the community who had chosen to remain at her side were set upon by Indians and massacred to the man.

But Hutchinson is not the end of Antinomianism, because there is another form of it yet.

A third form of Antinomianism is found in the teaching of those who would say we are justified by the absence of any law altogether.  In other words, these are the men who tell us that because there is no more law to condemn us, therefore we are righteous.

Notice, it’s not that because Christ died for us and so therefore this is the reason why we are righteous.  No, instead it’s because there is no more law that condemn us and so this is therefore the reason why we are righteous.

These are the folks who tell us true Christians are not still sinners.  In fact, they tell us it is impossible for Christians to sin; because, after all, there is no more law to sin against.   They interpret the words  “not under law but under grace” to mean precisely this.

In all three of these forms of Antinomianism we find a false gospel seeking to undermine the true grace of God by stripping the gospel of its justice.  The way it does this is by placing the blame with God’s law rather than with the sinner.

It is true, as revealed to us in Romans 5, we would have not known what coveting was had the law not said do not covet.  But this does not mean the law was wrong to say do not covet.  No, the law was good and holy and just to say this.  The problem was not with the law.  Rather, the problem was and always is with us.  We are sinners.

Antinomians believe the problem is with the law rather than with the sinner.  They think the solution is to get rid of any and all commandments.  They believe this is what Christ did.

We must understand though, God did not save His people by abolishing His law.  God would not be just and holy had that been the case.   Instead, He has saved His people by satisfying His law’s just requirement for righteousness.

And understand, this requirement was not their obedience.  This was Richard Baxter’s mistake.   He thought the law’s requirement for justification was their obedience.

No.  The law’s requirement for justification is their death. After all, this was what the law demanded. In the day you eat of it you shall die.  It was this requirement which Christ satisfied by offering His own death to God in place of their death.

This does not mean though, that after a person is imputed with Christ’s death, that they are now free to ignore Christ’s commandments.  No.  They are instead instructed to obey them.

“The grace of God has appeared,” says Titus 2:12.  “Bringing salvation to all, training them to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for their blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.”

The grace of God has appeared, says the Spirit.  And why has it appeared?  Answers the Spirit, for the purpose of bringing salvation to the elect.  And this salvation is of a sort which trains God’s elect to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age while they wait for Christ’s return.

If the grace of God which you say has saved you is not training you to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, then I have to ask whether you have really understood the grace of God. I am not saying you are not saved!  I reject Lordship Salvation.   I am asking instead whether you really understand what God’s grace has cost Him.

After all, if we really did deserve to die for our sins, then why would we think God takes no interest NOW in us resisting sin after He has so graciously saved us from the punishment for it?

Has He saved us from the just punishment for our sins simply so we can continue to pursue disobedience with thoughtless impunity?  Is this what the cross was really for?  To remove the fear of punishment as an obstacle so that we can really get down to the business of indulging our passions with reckless abandonment?

Last week Scott mentioned a young man from South Carolina who he and I used to know.  We used to speak to him by phone and on Facebook.  Just twenty years old this young man had been, and he had been made the pastor of a church.

The problem was this young man never quite understood God’s grace.  He was so anti-Lordship that he saw no need to even talk about sin.  He was the radical Antinomian, see.  Got his ticket punched and so there’s no need to concern himself with Christ’s law.

Eventually he wound up losing his church.  Some time later he deleted his regular Facebook account before creating a new one under a filthy name.  He now posts all sorts of the worst filth on his new page.   This was something like six or seven years ago.  Last I heard he was still at it.

Lordship Salvation’s answer to this has been to impose a legalistic gospel.  The seeker sensitive answer has been to increase the number of social outreaches as well as the volume on the worship leader’s amplifier.  Both are wrong.  Both are false.

We are indeed to obey Christ’s commandments, but not for righteousness and not for assurance.  Rather, we are instead to obey as a sign of gratitude to God for having mercifully accomplished His people’s salvation by dying for their sins.

In other words, we are not saved BY our obedience, but we are saved FOR this.

Ephesians 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

If you disagree, then I have to ask, what were we saved for?

Were we saved by Christ’s death for the purpose of continuing to show disdain for God’s holiness by disregarding His commands?  Or maybe it’s that we were saved for the purpose of sleeping away our remaining months and years while we wait to see which comes first, Christ’s return or our death?

The Spirit reminded us of the terms of the new covenant earlier in the epistle, back in chapter 8.  One of these terms which He promised to His people was that He would put His law into their minds, and write it on their hearts.

The faith is not mere intellectual assent people have seriously loused up the words of this promise by inserting a false dichotomy where there is none.  It is not an either/or though.  In other words, it’s not that God has promised to write His law on one part of us and then also on another part of us.

No, the idea the Spirit presents us with here is the same idea He presents us with in Deuteronomy 6 and 11.

In Deuteronomy we are told this:

Deuteronomy 6:6-9
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

We are also told this:

Deuteronomy 11:18-21
You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.

The Pharisees misunderstood these instructions.  They took their wording as literal.  Their literal interpretations of these texts is where they got their idea of phylacteriesfrom.

You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, the text says, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  The  Pharisees read this and then took it literally.   They fashioned together a small box, scribbled a portion of these passages onto a tiny piece of parchment, then  stuffed this parchment into the box which they then tied to their forehead.

They etched a portion of the same text onto a strap of leather which they then wrapped seven timesaround their right hand and forearm.  A sign on your hand and a frontlet between your eyes, you see.

The people who talk about mind and heart as being two parts that God writes His law upon are committing a blunder similar to the one the Pharisees did.

The idea of heart and mind is analogous, not literal.   It’s a Hebrewism, in other words.  It is a way of saying God is going to make us to understand those things which are pleasing to Him, and He is also going to make us approve of them.  In your mind and upon your heart, you see.

But this does not mean His people are going to succeed in doing that which they know pleases God, and I want us to understand this.   If we were getting better about walking in Christ’s commandments, then we would need less forgiveness between the brothers, because we would be doing less offending.   We would need less bearing with each other’s burdens, because we would each find our burdens decreasing.   What’s more, we would find that although the spirit is willing, hey the flesh would be too.

But this isn’t the case, is it?  This isn’t what the Scriptures teach us.   Rather than growing stronger, we instead are growing more conscious of our weakness and of our need for the cross.  Rather than improving in our behavior, we instead are growing more conscious of how undeserving we are of His grace.   Rather than growing more sinless, we instead keep finding ourselves confronted with failure.

This is part of our education the Father has made Himself responsible for.   He is teaching His people how great their need is for His grace.  But keep in mind, just because we will not become successful at walking in Christ’s commandments does not mean we should not strive to do so.

Think of it like this, the justified elect are pleasing to God.  God is pleased with them, because they have been made righteous by the cross.  But not all the things they DO are pleasing to Him.   THEY THEMSELVES are pleasing to Him yes, and they always will be, but not all the things they DO are pleasing to Him.

In the Spirit’s epistle to the Corinthians, for instance, we find God informing the Corinthians that some of them had died for the unworthy manner in which they had been partaking of the Lord’s supper.

Consider what happened to King David after he committed murder and adultery.   God took the life of his newborn baby.  Later He took away the life of his grown son, Absalom.

In Jeremiah 2:19, we are told this:

“Your wickedness will punish you, your backsliding will rebuke you.  Consider them and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of Me,” declares the Lord Almighty.

Ouch.

The Lord will make our sin punish us.  He isn’t talking about eternal punishment there.  Rather, another way to say it is He will use the immediate consequences of our own sin to discipline us.  The reason why He does this is to further teach us our need for His grace.

The Lord does not always spare us from the IMMEDIATE consequences of our sins.  Rather, forcing us to face up to the immediate consequences of our sins is one way which He uses to deepen our understanding of His gospel.

Consider those parents who are always stepping in to rescue their child every time their child does something wrong.   I am sure most if not all of us have met a person or two like this in our lifetimes.  What happens to the children of parents like this?  They usually grow up to be the most spoiled, selfish, degenerate people.  I mean, all you have to do is turn on TLC or E! Network and you’ll see the result of what happens when parents refuse to let their children reap the consequences of their choices.

Having said all this though, I want you to understand  there is yet still yet another form of Antinomianism.   This form I have saved for last, because it is the worst form of them all.

Early I mentioned a few things about Anne Hutchinson.  I told you she was a mystical Antinomianism; that is, she stood against Scripture as the exclusive rule of law by which every claim to truth must be tested.  There is another form of mystical Antinomianism far worse than the kind Hutchinson practiced. This worse form is called Tolerant Calvinism.

Tolerant Calvinism is a form of mystical Antinomianism.  Some people might question this, but consider what it does.  Tolerant Calvinism calls into question Scripture’s assertion concerning the exclusive object of God’s saving power.

Scripture tells us the gospel is God’s power for salvation (Romans 1:16-17) .  The gospel is what God uses to save His elect.  Tolerant Calvinism rejects Scripture’s assertion though, and claims instead God uses the sinner’s sincerity to save.  Let me give you an example.

At a recent conference, Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries gave a lecture concerning the subject of what he calls Hyper-Calvinism.  I say what “he calls,” because what he calls Hyper-Calvinism is nowhere near  what Hyper-Calvinism actually is.

Nevertheless, in this lecture White called for balance (there’s that word again, balance) – White called for balance between what he says are two opposite extremes;on one side are people who no longer know what the gospel is, and on the other side are people who draw the theological line “so tightly that they are the only ones in it.”

Now keep this very carefully in mind.  He called for balance between what he says are two people who disagree about what the gospel is.

After he called for balance between these two people who he says disagree about what the gospel is, he then asked a question.  What did the apostles define as the church?

Notice this.  White did not ask what did the apostles define as the gospel, but rather he asked what did they define as the church?

White answered his question.  He explained that some people define the church by the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection along with some basic doctrine about the Trinity and about the virgin birth.

If you are like me, then you are shaking your head with confusion right now.  What?

His question was how do the apostles define the CHURCH?   His answer was some people define the church as the bare, historical facts about Christ’s death, burial and resurrection along with some basic doctrine about the Trinity and about the virgin birth.

Excuse me, but what have the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection got anything to do with anyone’s definition of church?

If I were to ask you to define the church, would you say to me, “Well Dave, I think the church is the bare historical facts of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, along with some doctrine about the Trinity and the virgin birth”?

No, you would not say this.  You might have defined the gospel as this, but you would not have defined the church  as this.   No one on this planet would ever have defined the church as this, because it is irretrievably irrational.

White’s answer is not an answer to the question, what did the apostles define as the church?  It is not an answer to anyone’s definition of church.

Why is White using the word church when really what he is describing is what he believes the gospel is?  He tells us why just a few moments later.

Just a few moments later, after telling us that he believes the apostles defined the CHURCH as more than just the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, he then warns us that Hyper-Calvinists define THE GOSPEL as more than just the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

Wait a minute.  THE CHURCH is more than just the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, but THE GOSPEL is not?

What is White telling us here?  It should be obvious.   He is telling us he believes the gospel is indeed the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.  He is telling us he believes God uses these bare historical facts to convert His people, because he believes these bare, historical facts alone communicate the good news about God’s grace to His people.

The bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection do NOT communicate the truth about God’s grace to His people!  Nor does 1 Corinthians 15 say it does.  Were the Lord to ever open Dr. White’s eyes, then White would notice the words “according to the Scriptures” in 1 Corinthians 15.   As it is however, Dr White’s eyes have never been opened.

The irony is that just like Hutchinson, White claims to be reformed.  Yet in his opinion Scripturally revealed essential gospel doctrines like sovereign election and definite atonement are really just optional doctrine a person can take or leave and yet still be counted righteous, because in his opinion the righteousness is the faith a person manages to muster in the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

And this is exactly what tolerant Calvinists have said it is, optional doctrine.  They have written books, I have read them.  In these books they call these doctrines “shelf doctrine”; so named because in their opinion you are better off keeping it on the shelf rather than dragging it down just to start pointless arguments with Arminian brothers.

White himself has co-written books with Arminian authors in which he calls these Arminian co-authors “brother.”

The truth is spiritual perverts like James White have never taken sides against themselves.  Because they have never been imputed righteous and have never been born again, they have therefore never counted their prior religious convictions and experiences as an offense to God and therefore as dung.

Instead, they have heard a few things about God’s sovereignty and maybe a few things about definite atonement, but rather than repenting of their prior convictions, they have instead added these few things to their already existing convictions.

The sick and disgusting irony here is James White’s self righteous, false gospel of faith in the bare historical fact of Christ’s death competes with the true righteousness Christ accomplished for His people by His death.  No wonder God despises White’s repugnant gospel.

God does not save people without the gospel and then later lovingly teach them the gospel as if they were already His children who were simply in need of some further education.

Questions?

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