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.


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.


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Studies in Hebrews Part 18: Bare Intellectual Assent

Hebrews 12:1-17

Having just provided his readers with a who’s-who list of Old Testament saints who did not shrink back in unbelief and perish, the author now provides them with an even better example of faithfulness; Jesus Christ Himself.

Unlike all the examples the author drew from in the Old Testament though, the example he presents his readers with in Jesus Christ is one in which the example has finished the race.

Those Old Testament saints, none of them finished the race.  The author tells us this in chapter 11, verse 39.  “ . . . and all these, though commended for their faith, died WITHOUT receiving the promise.”

They died while still in the race in other words, before they could cross the finish line.

But Jesus has crossed the finish line.  He has received the promise.  Therefore, as our example we see in Him one whose faith was perfected and completed.

By perfected and completed the author does not mean that Jesus’ faith had been incomplete or corrupt.  No, what he means instead is Jesus has obtained the object of His faith.  In other words, what He believed would happen has indeed happened.  He obeyed His Father perfectly, and by offering His body to God at the cross, He has delivered His elect from the just and eternal punishment for their sins.  His resurrection proved He had succeeded.

The author uses the analogy of a race to make his point.  In the same way a long distance marathon runner must prepare himself to endure for the long and grueling race ahead of him, so we too must prepare ourselves to endure in our faith for the long and grueling road ahead of us.   “Let us run with endurance,” he says.

This characteristic of endurance is present in each of his examples from the Old Testament.  He gave examples of men and women who had ENDURED in their faith in the gospel to the very end, even though they never received what was promised.

Like those Old Testament saints, we too are in a very long marathon that is going to last the rest of our lives unless the Lord returns first.  Therefore, we must prepare ourselves to endure all the way to the end.

We must remain steadfast and fixed in our faith in the gospel of the cross of Christ.  After all, it was the cross of Christ all those Old Testament examples are a witness to.  Therefore, if they endured to the end, then so must we.

Earlier in his epistle, in chapter four, the author used the word “rest” instead of the word race.  He instructed his readers to “strive to enter into God’s rest.”

In this earlier chapter he gave them an example from the Old Testament just like he did later in chapter 11.

Except the Old Testament example he gave them in chapter four was not like the example he gave them in chapter 11.   Rather then giving them an example of someone who had SUCCESSFULLY entered God’s rest, he instead gave them an example of someone who had failed to enter that rest.

The example he gave in chapter four was of those former Hebrew slaves who had escaped Egypt only to then later draw back in fear and doubt when it came time to enter the promised land.   Right as they had approached the finish line ready to cross into the land of promise, they drew back from it with fear and doubt.  As a result, all but two of them perished in the wilderness.

Let us learn from their example, the author told his readers. The fear of punishment is where we were before we were made righteous and then made to believe the gospel.  Therefore, having escaped the judgment that is coming upon the earth, let us not draw back in fear now that we have believed the good news.

For this reason he says here in chapter 12, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us.

Notice that.  Not just sin, but THE sin.  Most modern translations remove the word “the”.  They translate this part of the verse as, “let us lay aside every weight and sin.”  This misses the point.

The author is not instructing his readers to trade in their immodest, immoral behavior for a more virtuous lifestyle.

Let me pause here to say yes, we are commanded elsewhere in Scripture to do this.  We are instructed to put away anger, put away malice, put away jealousy, and to clothe ourselves with Christ.  But this is not what the author is talking about here in chapter 12 of Hebrews.

For the entirety of his epistle thus far, the author has been talking to his readers about their faith in the gospel.  Let us hold fast our confession of hope without wavering.  Let us not draw back in fear and doubt, because if you do draw back in fear and doubt, then understand there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin, but instead only a fearful expectation of judgment.

Rather than drawing back in fear and doubt, learn instead from the Old Testament saints who remained steadfast in their faith even though they never obtained the promise in their lifetimes.

Therefore, (and remember what I told you before about the word therefore – whenever you see the word therefore, see what it’s there for).

Therefore, since we have this great cloud of witnesses from the Old Testament, let us lay aside every weight and THE sin which so easily ensnares us.   THE SIN.  The sin of what?  The sin of laziness?  The sin of jealousy?  The sin of bitterness?  The sin of adultery?

No!  The sin of unbelief!  The sin of fear and doubt!

Keeping in step with his analogy, let us lay aside every weight that would slow us down and force us to give up the race.

Let us learn from this great cloud of witnesses in the Old Testament.  Let us follow their example by not clinging to anything that would drag us down into fear and doubt.  Let us not permit anything to get in our way that would distract us from the truth of the gospel.

Is this going to include things like abstaining from bawdy, immoral behavior while putting into practice more virtuous behavior?  Yes.  Of course it is.  After all, bawdy behavior can sometimes indeed lead us into a situation where we might find ourselves drawing back in fear and doubt.   But this abstinence is not itself the point.

Rather, we abstain because we don’t want that bawdy behavior interfering or distracting us from the gospel of our salvation.   We don’t want to introduce something into our lives which might later drag us down into unbelief.

This said, one of the biggest weights by far is false doctrine.

Take for example, verse 14.  In verse 14 the author instructs his readers to “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people, and especially reformed people, interpret the word “holy” here to mean our virtue.   So they will tell us something like if we do not strive to be virtuous, then we will not see the Lord.

This is a false gospel of works righteousness.  This false gospel tells us that what we do makes the difference between saved and lost.

I am not exaggerating when I tell you reformed people are drowning in this junk.  In fact, let me give you a little taste of reformed history here to help you see this point even better.

Back in 1967 Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave a keynote speech at an annual conference attended by reformed pastors and teachers and theology professors from all over the world.

If you don’t know who Lloyd-Jones was, then know that he was a spiritual pervert who was and is still greatly respected by thousands of reformed people who themselves are spiritual perverts.   When I say spiritual pervert, I mean he detested the gospel of God’s sovereign grace.  He taught instead a gospel of works righteousness.

But that aside, at this conference in 1967 he gave a lecture on what he believed to be the dangers of Sandemanianism.

A little about Sandemanianism.

Sandemanianism is the name which spiritually perverted reformed people like Lloyd-Jones gave to folks who agreed with Robert Sandeman.

Sandeman was a Scottish minister who later moved to America.  He was the spiritual opposite of Lloyd-Jones.  In other words, he loved the true gospel of God’s sovereign grace and faithfully preached it.

As part of his love for the gospel he took very seriously Christ’s command to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but even expose them.”  The way he did this was by outing all the popular preachers of his day who he believed were teaching a false gospel.

In his book he named these men by name.  He explained how they were perverting the gospel of God’s sovereign grace, and he warned his readers to have nothing to do with them.  He was not polite about it either.  Rather, he eviscerated and mocked the false gospels of these men.

But one last very important thing about Sandeman.   He also remained steadfast in his agreement with Scripture that faith is “bare intellectual assent.”  What he meant by this is faith is something we do intellectually rather than mystically.   Today we say faith is “mere” intellectual assent.  Sandeman used the word “bare” instead of “mere.”

As you can probably guess, Sandeman’s Biblically consistent view of faith put him right at the very top of the popular reformed enemies list.  Most of his contemporaries detested his book.  Most of ours still do.

He is easily one of the most slandered gospel writers in the world even still today.  He has been falsely accused, libeled and slandered by just about all the most popular theologians.

One of those people who rejected Sandeman’s gospel and his view of faith was infamous English Baptist minister Andrew Fuller, and it was Fuller’s answer to Sandeman that served as the subject of Lloyd-Jones’ lecture.

Andrew Fuller, as I mentioned, was an English minister.  He began preaching a few decades after Sandeman had died.  Fuller taught what is today called the governmental theory of the atonement.  More about this in just a moment.

Fuller believed guilt, as the punishment for sin, is non-transferrable.   This means he believed our guilt could not have been charged to Christ, because he argued that although an innocent person could take the physical punishment for a guilty man, the innocent man would nevertheless continue to remain innocent.

This means that in Fuller’s mind Christ did not bear His people’s guilt on the cross, because Christ could never have ceased to be innocent.

Fuller concluded from this argument that Christ had only borne the EFFECTS of sin rather than the sin itself.   In doing so, and here is where the governmental theory comes into play, Fuller argued that Christ’s death had merely served to show the world God had been angry with sin, while His resurrection showed the world God was now no longer angry with sin.

God’s justice was irrelevant as far as Fuller was concerned.  It wasn’t that the full penalty for breaking the law had to be paid, but rather it was that God needed a way to show something to the world.  Fuller concluded from this that faith is the condition which actualizes God’s pardon.

In other words, in case you are having trouble following me here, according to Andrew Fuller, Christ had simply been a token sacrifice to show the world God’s anger with sin as well as His mercy and grace so that each person could choose to receive God’s pardon by choosing to believe God saves by grace rather than by law.  This false gospel makes faith, rather than the cross of Christ, the condition for salvation.

Fuller hated definite atonement.  He hated it.   He hated sovereign election too.  He believed both were harmful to evangelism.

He so hated definite atonement and sovereign election that he became a staunch opponent of John Gill.  He constantly slandered Gill and accused him of preaching a false gospel that kept sinners out of heaven.

He was so slanderous of Gill that Abraham Booth took up pen and paper to defend the gospel as Gill preached it over against the false gospel which Fuller preached.  His book “Reign of Grace” is his defense of the gospel Gill preached.

Today, you will not hear the popular preachers talk about Gill or Booth.  You will hear them talking plenty though about Fuller.  They love Fuller.  And the reason they love him is because of his definition of faith.

You see, Fuller argued that because faith is the condition which actualizes God’s pardon, then it cannot be mere intellectual assent like Sandeman had argued.  Rather, it has to be something more.  It has to be something mystic.  And this is why Lloyd-Jones was all too eager to hide behind Fuller at the conference where he spoke.

Fuller argued that if faith concerns only the mind, then there is no way to distinguish genuine Christianity from fake Christianity, because a fake Christian can intellectually agree with the truths of Christianity just as much as the genuine Christian can.

Nevertheless, because those truths do not grip the heart and re-orient the affections of the fake Christian, we can therefore know that the fake Christian is not genuine.

Notice what Fuller argued.  He argued that unbelievers can indeed mentally, intellectually agree with God about the gospel.

Is this true?  Can they do this?  Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 2.

1 Corinthians 2:6-14
However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
Notice what Paul argues here.  Only the Spirit of God comprehends the thoughts of God.  Now, we can get into trouble here if we are not careful to correlate Scripture with Scripture, because what some people tell us this means is that the Spirit communicates God’s thoughts to us through some mystical, non propositional way.

No.  Time and time and time again what do the Scriptures tell us the Holy Spirit uses to communicate with His people?   What is the only thing the Holy Spirit uses to communicate God’s thoughts to His people?

We read it a few weeks ago in Hebrews 10.  There the author told us the Spirit has witnessed to us.  And what was the Spirit’s witness?  It was a quotation from the Old Testament.

How does the Spirit communicate God’s thoughts to His people?  Only by His written word!  Sola Scriptura.

John 17:17-20
17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.  20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word

1 John 1:1-4
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

Here John tells us that the apostles saw Jesus with their own eyes.  They touched Him with their own hands.  They heard Him with their own ears. And now they are telling us what they saw, heard and touched so that we may have fellowship with them.

The Holy Spirit communicates the thoughts of God to us by His holy written word alone.  He communicates to us in no other way.

Very well, since this is true, how is His written word received and understood by us?  It is received and understood intellectually, of course, the same way we would receive and understand any other book.  The Spirit uses His written words to teach our brain His truth.

The reason why this is very crucially important especially today is because I continue to meet people who still do not understand this most basic of all principles.

Listen, the revelation which God has given to us in the pages of His written word is a revelation that is propositional in nature.  A proposition, if you will recall from previous talks, is either a verbal or written statement that is either true or false.

All stop signs are red is a proposition.

The grass outside is purple is another proposition.  It is a false proposition, but it is a proposition.

Yellow goes dog banana stitch.  This is not a proposition.  The reason why it is not a proposition is because it is just some random words thrown together which do not mean anything.

A proposition, because it is a statement which is either true or false, means it is also a logical combination of words which when combined into one sentence compose a coherent, logical statement that is either true or false.  Yellow goes dog banana stitch is neither coherent nor logical.

True propositions are propositions which God has told us in His word are true.  These are the only propositions which we can know for certain are true.

The truth which God has revealed to us in the pages of Scripture is not a truth which is hidden behind the words which have been written on the page.  Instead, the logical meaning of the words which have been arranged into grammatically correct sentences is itself the truth which God has revealed to us.  There are no hidden meanings in these sentences.

For example, Genesis 1:1 tells us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  There are no hidden meanings in this sentence.  Instead, the truth which God has revealed to us in Genesis 1:1 is that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

However, false teachers like mystical numerologists have tried to tell us that the real meaning of Genesis 1:1 lies in the number of letters used in the Hebrew sentence.  They tell us the logical meaning of the sentence is irrelevant, because the true meaning of the sentence is found in the total number of Hebrew letters instead.

We find a similar situation with those people who tell us faith is not “mere intellectual assent”  or that we do not ONLY know Jesus doctrinally.  They are telling us that God has revealed His truth to us in a way that is not propositional.

If God’s truth is not propositional, then what is it?  And if it is not propositional, then how is it to be understood?

They tell us it is not only understood and assented to intellectually, but rather also “affectionately.” Ask them to explain how our affections are supposed to assent to something and they fall silent.

Listen to me very closely here, if God’s truth revealed to us in the pages of Scripture is not propositional, then the Bible does not have to be logical, coherent and self consistent.  It can consist of words as randomly thrown together as dog goes banana stitch.  And this is exactly what some theologians have told us.

Men like Cornelius Van Til, for instance, have argued that some parts of the Bible contradict other parts and that no part of our knowledge intersects with any part of God’s knowledge.  Other men like John MacArthur and J I Packer have made their career from telling people that faith is more than just intellectually agreeing with the truth which God has revealed to us in Scripture.

Do you see why this is so very important?

I hear people all the time insist we do not only know Christ through doctrine.   I encounter people on Facebook who claim the same, that we do not only know Christ doctrinally.   They all insist belief is not something you do only with your head, but instead something you do mystically with your “heart.”

Put it like this, I could stand up here and scribble on the board behind me a long, drawn out, difficult calculus equation.  Probably not many of you would understand what the little signs and cosigns and other marks mean, right?  And probably not many of you would know how to solve the equation or how to verify whether it’s true or false.

But now suppose I drew this long equation on the board anyway and then I said to you, this equation may be true or it may be false, but you cannot verify whether it is true or false by only using your head.  Instead, you have to also use your heart.   What would you think of me were I to say this?  I hope all of you would look at me as if I were stupid.

And yet time and again we are told by the popular preachers that faith is not  “mere intellectual assent”, but rather instead something we do with our heart.  And even though not a single one of these popular guys has ever seen Jesus with their own eyes, not a one of them has ever touched Jesus with their own hands, not a one of them has ever heard Jesus with their own ears; nevertheless, they still tell us anyway that we must know Jesus in some way other than by doctrine.

In the case of the mathematical equation I can take some classes in order to learn how to read the marks and solve the equation.  In the case of the gospel though, unless the Holy Spirit makes the necessary neural connections in my brain, then I will never come to agree with what God has said about Christ in His word.

And yet all the same, here was Fuller arguing that unbelievers can indeed understand and agree with God that the propositions of the gospel are true.  The truth though, was that Fuller had changed the gospel to something unbelievers could indeed understand and agree with.

Fuller said the purpose of the cross was simply to show the world that God was angry with sin.  He did not believe it had accomplished anything for God’s elect.  He did not believe the cross had put away the sins of those same elect.  He did not believe it had redeemed them from the just punishment for their sins.  Rather, he believed it had instead showed the world that God CAN save a man by grace if that man will let Him.

This is exactly the same thing the popular preachers have done today.   They have changed the gospel into something unbelievers can agree with.  What they’ve changed the gospel to differs from person to person and denomination to denomination.

For instance, some people have changed the gospel to a message about the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension.  Others have changed the gospel to a message about being justified by the Spirit making us want to live a more virtuous life and thereby prove we have made Christ the Lord of our life.

Still other have changed the gospel to a message about Jesus wanting to make America great again.  Sandeman himself felt the sting of this from some in his congregation.  He died in 1771, just a few short years before the American War for Independence would begin.  He lost a majority of his congregation after he preached a sermon in which he encouraged them not to join what most people in the day perceived to be the coming rebellion against England.  His reasoning lay not with the British crown, but rather with Christ.  He took seriously Christ’s command to not rebel against the authorities He has set in place.  Sandeman paid dearly for his faithfulness.

The sad fact is, Fullerism is modern day Calvinism.   In the view of modern day Calvinism, as long as you have a sincere desire to please God then it pretty much doesn’t matter what you believe about the gospel.

I know of a pastor down in Tennessee who is like this.  He tells me he has no authority to tell an Arminian whether they are lost or not.  What does he mean he has no authority to tell a person who believes a false gospel they are lost?  I will tell you what he means.  He means he believes God makes some people righteous and then leaves them in a false gospel which glorifies their flesh.

I have news for this spiritual pervert.   The Pharisees had a desire to please God too.  They did.  They thought they were pleasing Him by crucifying Jesus!  We just read it in 1 Corinthians.  They never would have crucified Christ had they understood the wisdom of God.  But they didn’t understand.

Cain didn’t understand.   He thought he could please God by offering a sacrifice of his best broccoli and sprouts.

The heart is desperately wicked, says Jeremiah, who can know it?  And yet I am told by the popular preachers that I can look to my heart to see if it has been re-oriented for proof I am a real Christian?

I’m not interested in knowing the status of a man’s heart.  Rather, I’m interested in knowing what gospel he believes.  The only way I’m going to find that out is by asking him to explain what he believes the gospel is.

The holiness without which no one will see the Lord is the holiness which Christ accomplished at the cross by laying His life down at the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins.  Strive for that holiness by resting in it.

When he says strive for peace with everyone, he does not mean strive for peace with Andrew Fuller.  We are to have no peace with spiritual perverts and men who would mock the gospel by preaching a false one.

He means instead, strive for peace with the brothers in the congregation.  See to it that you lay no stumbling block before a brother or sister that would lead them to abandon the race.

Esau found no place for repentance.  Why?  Because he liked hunting rather than staying at home to cook?  No!  He found no place for repentance, because he was looking for another offering besides Christ, that’s why.

There are no other offerings to be had though.  This was why Esau was profane.  He profaned the blood of the Lamb.   He fornicated with the offering of idols.  He wanted the promise, he even begged for it with tears, but he still sought another way other than Christ to obtain that promise when there was no other way to be found.

In closing, I want to read a paragraph to you from Sandeman’s book.  The title of his book is Letters On Theron and Aspasio: Addressed to the Author.  The following quotation comes from page 282.

“It would be tedious to take particular notice of all these forms of expression. But one thing in the general may be freely said, that where the faith necessary to justification is described, every epithet, word, name or phrase, prefixed or subjoined to Faith, not meant as descriptive of the truth believed, but of some good motion, disposition, or exercise of the human soul about it, is intended, and really serves, instead of clearing our way, to blindfold and decoy us; to impose upon us, and make us take brass for gold, and chaff for wheat; to lead us to establish our own, in opposition to the Divine righteousness, even while our mouths and our ears are filled with high sounding words about the latter. – – In vain shall we consult catechisms, confessions, and other publicly authorized standards of doctrine for direction here. These are framed by the wisdom of the scribes, and disputers of this world. We can receive no true light about this matter but from the fountain head of true knowledge, the sacred oracles of Divine revelation. Thence it will appear, that justification comes by bare faith. Ask a Christian, What’s his faith, the spring of all his hope? And he answers you in a word, The blood of Christ.  Ask a proficient in the popular doctrine the same question, and he immediately begins to tell you a long-winded story of how grace enabled him to become a better man than he was, and this he calls conversion. Thus we see what a wide difference there is betwixt the false and true grace of God.”

Sandeman’s grave survives to this day.  He was laid to rest in Wooster Street Cemetery in Danbury, Connecticut.  Upon his headstone is etched the following epithet:

Here lies
until the resurrection
the Body of
A Native of Perth, North Britain
Who in the face of Continual Opposition
From all Sorts of Men
Long and boldly contended
for the Ancient Faith;
That the bare Work of Jesus Christ
Without a Deed, or Thought on the Part of Man,
Is sufficient to present
The chief of Sinners
Spotless before GOD:
To declare this blessed Truth
As testified in the Holy Scriptures,
He left his Country – he left his Friends,
And after much patient sufferings
Finished his Labours
2d April 1771
Aged 53 years



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Studies in Hebrews Part 17: The Substance of Faith

Hebrews 11:1-6 (NKJV)
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.  By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.  By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
In the previous chapter, chapter 10, the author explained to his readers the foundation for the believing elect’s boldness in Christ.   This foundation, as he explained it, is the redemption and propitiation which Christ accomplished for all His elect by offering His body to God at the cross as an atoning sacrifice for His peoples’ sins.  With that death imputed to the believer’s account, the believing elect are made bold to enter into God’s presence, because Jesus Christ has once and for all perfected His elect by the single offering of His body at the cross.

They have boldness to enter into God’s presence and they have confidence in God’s promise of resurrection immortality for all those for whom Christ died.

Having explained the foundation of the elects’ boldness in Christ, the author then warns all those folks who have heard this good news about Christ’s sacrifice, but have nevertheless drawn back in doubt.  He warns these people there no longer remains an offering for sin, but only a fearful expectation of judgment instead.

However, having warned those folks who have drawn back in doubt, he then quickly turns his attention back to the believing elect in order to give to them again another word of encouragement and comfort.  And this word which he gives them is this: (quote) “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”  That’s verse 39.

The word “believe” in this last verse is referring to the object of our belief.  In other words, it’s not saying the act of believing preserves our souls.  No, it’s saying the death of Christ preserves our souls.  In other words, we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who have the cross of Christ imputed to us to the saving of the soul.

A question remains though.  How do we know this about ourselves?  How do we know we have had the cross imputed to us? The author is going to answer this.

Beginning with the first verse of the next chapter, chapter 11, the author proceeds to provide his readers with a brief list of men and women from the Old Testament who also did not shrink back and were destroyed, but who instead were preserved by the same cross the New Testament elect are preserved by.  Immediately before he does this though, he provides us with an answer to our question, how do we know the cross has been imputed to us?

Faith he says, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

This word “substance” in the King James is maybe not the best translation.  The word in Greek actually come from two other Greek words which mean support and essence.  Just about every other modern translation renders the Greek word here as either assurance or confidence.  In other words, faith is the confidence of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  But keeping in mind the fact that Christ’s death is the object of our believing, we can read the verse like this:

The death of Christ imputed to His elect is the confidence of things hoped for, the death of Christ imputed to His elect is the conviction of things not seen.

In other words, I look around, what do I see?  I see the world in sin, I see a creation groaning in travail.  I look at myself, I don’t see righteousness.  I see instead a body that has been racked by sin and is even now in the process of aging dying.  I look at you guys, I don’t see righteousness either.  I see instead sinners like me who are aging and dying.

And yet by looking to the death of Christ alone as my righteousness, I find that I am confident that I have been made righteous.  The cross convinces me that death is not the end, that death will in fact be swallowed up in Christ’s victory on that day when Christ returns to raise His saints.

The cross makes me bold to enter into God’s presence.  It convinces me that the Father hears my prayers.

And even though I was not at Golgotha and I did not witness Christ’s crucifixion, I was not one of the five-hundred who saw Him after His resurrection; nevertheless, the cross makes me confident that all this did happen. The cross of Christ then “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

One way that a false, phony Christianity louses this up is by saying our faith, our believing changes God’s mind about us.

Verse 6 of our text tells us that without faith it impossible to please God.  Phony Christianity understands this to mean if I obey the command to believe, then God will have to accept me as righteous based upon my obedience of that command.  Although God might not be pleased with me to start with, I can nevertheless change His mind about me by proving to Him that I am righteous by obeying this command to believe.
This is exactly how phony Christianity sees the sacrifice of Cain and Abel.

Phony Christianity believes Abel managed to find just the right sacrifice that would change God’s mind about him, and that if Cain had just offered this same sacrifice too, then God would also have accepted Cain as righteous.

This is nonsense though.  Look at verse 2.

For by it . . . that is, by the cross, the object of our faith . . . the elders obtained a good testimony.

A testimony is what they obtained from the good news of the cross of Christ.  In other words, they obtained from this good news a witness to the righteousness they had received from that cross.
Think of a courtroom.  What does a witness do?  A witness provides for the judge and jury a firsthand testimonial account of what they saw or heard.

In a similar manner, the cross provided for Abel a firsthand testimonial account of the righteousness that Abel had in Christ.  This witness which the cross provided to Abel is why Abel could boldly express thanksgiving and gratitude to God for what God Himself had done for Abel.  Abel expressed this gratitude by offering a sacrifice of the first of his flocks to God.

This sacrifice did not make Abel righteous, nor did his believing make him righteous.   No, God had imputed the death of Christ to Abel, and this is what made him righteous.  As a result of Christ’s death imputed to Abel, the Holy Spirit opened Abel’s eyes to understand what the cross was witnessing to Abel.  And as a result of this, Abel believed the witness and entered boldly.

By their faith, the author says, the people of old received their witness.  This follows from verse 1 where the author has just told us that faith is the evidence of things unseen.

How did the Old Testament saints know they were righteous?  The same way we do.  By the good news of what Christ did at the cross.  That good news witnesses to us that Christ has accomplished the redemption of God’s elect.

The author reiterates this in verse 4.
4 By faith . . . that is, by the cross . . . Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained WITNESS that he was righteous . . .
Abel did not offer lambs to God in an attempt to prove to God that he was righteous.   No, Abel offered lambs to God, because God had already made Abel righteous.
Cain’s reasoning for sacrificing was different.  Cain reasoned that if he could just produce a sacrifice that was righteous, then this would prove to God that he, Cain was therefore righteous.

Cain assumed that he could produce a sacrifice that was righteous. He assumed he could do a good work, because he believed the work itself is what made it good. This is what the self righteous world believes even today.  It believes that doing things like being charitable to your neighbor and nice to every stranger and going to church every week are righteous works that will make a person righteous and open the gates of heaven for it.

This is why the Scriptures say Cain’s countenance fell. Cain believed that God was unjust to not accept his “righteous” sacrifice of lettuce and turnips. Cain believed the produce of the ground which he had managed to cultivate by the sweat of his brow was a righteous sacrifice, because he, being sincere, had produced it for God with the intent that God would honor him for his sacrifice by declaring him righteous.   Therefore, according to Cain’s reasoning, God should have accepted the sacrifice if God were really just.  But God did not accept it, and so in Cain’s mind God was unjust.

And when Abel would not agree with Cain’s opinion about God, Cain became angry with his brother and murdered him.
It’s the same for phony Christianity today.  The very definition of self righteous is a self who believes it is capable of producing work that will make it righteous, and that all it needs is for God to agree with this fact.  God demands that we agree with Him about our need of His righteousness, but the self righteous demand that God agree with them they are already righteous.

And what happens when the believing elect refuse to agree with the self righteous?  The self righteous become angry with us.  They mock us.  They call us names like hypers and heretics, and yes, they have even imprisoned, tortured and murdered us at certain times in history.

Look at verse 7.

7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.  By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Notice that last sentence.  He became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.  The text does not say he simply became righteous.  No, it says he became AN HEIR of the righteousness.

That’s a strange turn of phrase, isn’t it?  An heir of the righteousness that comes by faith?  Are any of us here heirs of the righteousness that comes by faith?  What does this mean, heir of the righteousness?

Luke 3 traces Christ’s genealogy for us all the way back to Adam.  Included in that genealogy, of course, is Noah.  And if you think about it, Noah would have to be included in that genealogy, because he was at one point in time one of only eight human beings on the planet, and the other seven being in some way related to him either by blood or by marriage.

In this respect then he was an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.  What is the righteousness here in verse 7?  It is the cross of Christ.  Christ’s death for His elect is the righteousness.  Christ’s death for His elect is the faith.

Noah, by building an ark, became an heir of the promised seed; that is, an heir of Christ who would one day crush the head of the serpent and in the process be bruised.

But it wasn’t that Noah turned himself into an heir by building an ark.  What I mean is, it wasn’t as if God had been casting about searching for someone to build an ark so that the entire human race would not be killed in the flood, and then after He finally found Noah He said, “You know Noah, I was actually thinking about making someone else an heir of the promised Seed, but since you were so faithful to me by building that ark I think I will make you the heir instead.”  No, some people do think like that, but no, it was not that.

God had always intended for Noah to be one of the heirs of Christ, and the way God brought this about was by the ark.  Noah survived the flood to become what God had always intended Noah to be, an heir of Christ.

So even here we see phony Christianity stumbling over itself again, because phony Christianity insists Noah earned a spot on the roster, so to speak, by building an ark.

Now look at verse 6.

6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Phony Christianity falls into two main camps here.  In the first camp are those people who love to quote the first half of the verse.  They seem to think the verse consists only of its first half.  So you will hear them saying, “without faith it is impossible to please God.”  And then that’s it.  That’s all they will say.

Television faith hustlers belong in this camp.  These are the guys and the girls who talk about God as if he were a genie who wants to grant us all sorts of material pleasures, but to get these pleasures we have to pay him off with some of that hard earned faith He seems to enjoy so much.  They talk about faith as if it were the currency of heaven.

But a lot of free will and reformed people fall into this camp too, except that they don’t talk about faith as if it were the currency of heaven. No, they talk about faith as if it were the act of believing, and that this act of believing were the gospel.  So they will say things like if you repeat this prayer after me, then you will be saved.

Or, and listen to me here, they will substitute the act of believing with some act of working and they will say things like, it is impossible to please God without submitting to Christ’s Lordship.  And those who have not substituted the act of believing with the act of working will get angry with this second group and they will accuse the second group of adding to the gospel by changing the act of believing to an act of working.

What I’m saying is both groups have a false gospel, because both are substituting the cross with something else.

But now, there is a second camp in which people fall into over this verse, and these are the people who live more for the second part of the verse. They are the social gospel people.  They think of righteousness in terms of human sincerity, and so they reduce the gospel down to feeding the hungry and clothing the poor. These are the folks who quote Romans 10:9 any time someone asks them about salvation.  Just confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and you will be saved. Boom, that’s it.  Just repeat those words and you’re saved.

I call these guys the stadium crusaders, because they tend to hold huge evangelistic crusades that fill stadiums.  Billy Graham is one of these guys.  But tolerant Calvinists are also in this group, because they will accept as a brother anyone who claims they were saved at a Billy Graham crusade.

I personally know of one of these guys.  I have spoken to him by phone and on Facebook. This guy pastors a church and also runs one of these so called “outreach ministries” that go around the city looking to help people get off drugs and find homes and so forth.

This pastor claims to know and believe the doctrines of grace, yet he refuses to teach them accurately to his church.  Like I said, I’ve spoken to him by phone.  The reason he refuses to teach the truth is because some of the wealthiest donors of his outreach program and his church have gone on record opposing the doctrines of grace.  And because they have bought this pastor and his wife a home and they’ve bought his children cars, and they help pay the bills to keep the social program going and the lights in the church turned on, this pastor remains silent about the truth, because he knows that if he were to start preaching the gospel accurately to his people then he would find himself hitched up quickly by the seat of his pants and then tossed out into the street.

I recently heard him “explain” (quote-unquote) Romans 9 to his church.  He never once used the word election much less define it accurately.  The word he used instead of election was church.

Rather than explaining to the people in his church that election refers to that sovereign act whereby God chose unconditionally from before the foundation of the world a specific people whom He would save by sending His Son to die for their sins, he instead told them that God chose from eternity to save His church.  By saying it this way, you see, he knows he can keep everyone in his church assuming that he is talking about them.  He’s in the second half of this verse, see.  He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  Doesn’t matter whether you believe anything He has said about His Christ or not.  Just believe that He is, and you’ll be saved.

Both camps are wrong.  Both camps are unbiblical.  This verse is not divided.  When the author says “he who comes to God must believe that He is,” he is talking about more than just mere existence.  Of course God exists, but this is not what the author means by the phrase, “God is.”

Keep in mind what the author has just finished telling us in the previous chapter.  The God who is, is the God who is justly angry with sin. The God who is, is the God who is utterly holy.  The God who is, is the God whose wrath against the sinner must be satisfied.  The God who is, is the God who is the only righteous one.

And so if I believe this is the God who is, then I recognize that I am at the mercy of this God.  I stand before this God unjust, unrighteous, a guilty sinner and unable to do anything to justify myself before Him.  But if I recognize that this God who is, is also a rewarder of those who seek Him, then I will also recognize that He has made a way for me to stand before Him justified, because a God who is angry with unrighteous sinners would not reward those unrighteous sinners for seeking Him.  No, He would destroy them instead.

And so a holy God who rewards the sinner who diligently seek Him is the God who has made righteous the sinner who diligently seeks Him so that the sinner will be rewarded rather than destroyed.

Here again though, the sinner is not rewarded because he seeks God. No, he is seeking God because he has been rewarded.

Let’s back up now to the verse we skipped over.  Verse 3.

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

Framed.  Think of it like the framing of a house.  The construction of a home begins with the frame.  The frame is like the skeleton of a house.  The walls, the windows and the doors are all built upon the frame.  Later, the drywall is hung upon the frame and the aluminum siding.  Think of these being like skin.  The frame is the skeletal structure upon which the skin is hung.  It’s similar for the worlds in this verse.

God framed the stars, the sky, the sun, the earth and so on.  He brought them into existence from nothing.  We call this divine fiat.  That is, He created something from nothing, and He did it instantly, effortlessly.

Interesting thing about this is that at the time at which this epistle was written Greek philosophy had long held that matter is eternal, because for matter to have a beginning, then it would have to have come from something exactly like itself.

In other words, according to Greek philosophy, only God could come from God, only man could come from man, only water could come from water, and only air could come from air.  Right at the start we know this makes no sense.  Nevertheless, the philosophers had absolutely proved it true by a mathematical formula.  I’m being facetious.  They proved nothing, but they sure thought they did.

In fact, so certain they were of this that scientists held to this stupid claim all the way up until the 1960’s.  And I am not exaggerating.  If you are old enough to remember, or if you have read any books on the subject, then you will recall how astronomers were claiming all the way up until the 1960’s that the universe is eternal.  It supposedly went on forever and it just always was.  It had no beginning, it will have no end, it just always was.

And just like these ancient philosophers were doing, they were also mocking Christians for claiming otherwise; for claiming the universe had a beginning and will have an ending, and that it was God who created it.  This mocking has not stopped today.  They are still mocking us for saying God created it, but they are no longer saying it is eternal and never had a beginning.

The reason why Christians have resolutely stood by their claim that it had a beginning and that God created it is because this is what the word of God tells them.   The reason why the scientists and philosophers are always shifting back and forth between any number of different claims about the universe is because they trust what their eyes and unaided human reasoning tells them about the universe.

This brings me finally to the subject of faith, and when I say faith in this sense I mean faith as an act of believing. You see, phony Christianity and especially phony reformed Christianity has a lot to say about belief, and what it has to say is unbiblical.  It says belief is non-intellectual, that it’s more a matter of behavior and emotion than it is intellect.  In fact, you probably have heard a reformed teacher or theologian say something like, “faith is more than mere intellectual assent.”

Now, if what is meant by this claim is that belief is more than just reciting some doctrine that you don’t really believe is true, then yes, faith is more than mere intellectual assent.  But very rarely is this what is meant.

What is almost always meant instead is faith is not something you do with your mind.  Faith is instead something you do with your feet.  You do works.  This is nonsense though.  It is unbiblical and it is irrational.

When Jesus asked the man who was born blind, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He was not asking him to go do some jail ministry or start a charity organization in order to prove that he had committed himself to the Son of Man’s Lordship.  Instead, He was asking the man, do you agree that I am who I say I am?   Do you agree with the truth claims that I have made about Myself?  Do you agree with God’s claim that I am the Christ, the Son of the living God?

You see, I mentioned a moment ago about those ancient philosophers and how they mocked the early Christians.  The reason they mocked them was not only because the Christians were making claims about things the philosophers could not see.  No, the bigger reason was because the Christians refused to trust anything they could see, but rather trusted implicitly instead only the claims that God made in His word.
What the Christians were resting upon for their truth was the word of God alone. They were not waiting for a dead person to rise from the dead before saying, see there, Christ could have risen from the dead because we just saw Joe Smith rise from the dead, so we know it’s true that people can rise from the dead.

No, that is not what they said.  Instead, they said Christ rose from the dead, because that’s what the Bible says He did, and we don’t care if we don’t see anyone else rising from the dead, we know it’s true that Christ rose from the dead.

This kind of dogmatism infuriated the philosophers.

Take Celsus, for example.  He was one of these ancient philosophers who hated the Christians.   In one of his writings he complained that Christians sought out gullible and uneducated people, “because they were unable to give reasons for their beliefs . . . they asked people to accept what they said solely on faith.”
Celsus went on to write that the gospels were based only on hearsay.  He said, “Why should we give greater credibility to what is written in them than to other stories about Jesus?  The accounts in the gospels were written solely by Christians and were passed on in Christian circles.  Should the legends there be taken with greater seriousness than the many legends in Greek literature?  The Christian Gospels offer no reliable basis on which to establish the truth of the accounts about Jesus . . . there is no proof except for your word.”

Lucian, another critic of the Christians wrote in his book that, “The poor wretches have convinced themselves that they are going to be immortal and live for all time.  They despise all things indiscriminately and consider them common property, receiving such doctrines traditionally without any definite evidence.”

You read the Atheists today and you discover these ancient criticisms have never changed.  The same criticisms are still being leveled against us.  And just like in the ancient world, their criticisms are being taken by the world as absolute fact.  There is nothing new under the sun.

We Christians do not trust our senses.  No, we trust the word of God alone.  We trust only the Holy Spirit inspired, written word of God.  And we don’t need to see or hear or feel or touch or smell anything in order to prove to ourselves that what the Word of God says is true really is indeed true.  Instead, we agree with God that His word is true, and that’s that, we don’t look for evidence that His word is true.

Now here’s the question, how do Christians do this believing of the word of God?  Do they do it intellectually or by some other way?  We do it intellectually, of course, because intellectually is the only way a person can do it.

The Bible is a book with words arranged into sentences which convey to us particular thoughts, arguments and propositions.  We must use our brain, our intellect to receive these thoughts, arguments and propositions.  And then having received them with our intellect, we must then agree that what we have received from the book by way of our intellect is true.

All of this is done intellectually, not apart from the Holy Spirit, but rather our intellect is what the Holy Spirit works with to make us believe.  For someone to say that this believing is not mere intellectual believing, then what in the world does that even mean?  It means nothing is what it means.  It’s babble.  It’s irrational, crazy talking nonsense.  How in the world else are we supposed to believe?

But you see, what these guys really mean when they say faith is not mere intellectual assent is this:  they mean we cannot only just agree with God the gospel is true.  No, we have to also do something else to assure ourselves that we are what God has said in His word we are.  We have to BALANCE all that grace out, you see, with some law and works. And we have to do this in order to obtain a witness that we are righteous.

Same thing Cain was seeking from his sacrifice.  A witness from God that he was righteous for having offered the fruit of his labor to God.  If the cross of Christ alone is not your witness, then there remains only for you a fearful expectation of judgment.

Finally, I want to reiterate one last thing.  Christ’s death is what the righteousness is.  There can be no confusion about this.  His death is what God imputes to His elect.

Romans 6:16-23 (NKJV)
16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The text says that Paul’s readers WERE slaves to sin, but that they have now been set free from sin and have been made slaves of righteousness. When did this happen? The first half of chapter 6 tells us.

Romans 6:5-7
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Romans 6:7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Romans 6:17-18 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

It was the legal, forensic charging of Christ’s death to Paul’s readers that set them free from sin and in turn made them slaves to righteousness leading to immortality and eternal life.  Christ’s death is what God credits to each elect’s account.

To look at it another way, God had to be justified.  Romans 3 tells us this.

Romans 3:21-26
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, TO DEMONSTRATE HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, BECAUSE IN HIS FORBEARANCE God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, TO DEMONSTRATE AT THE PRESENT TIME HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

God had to be justified.  He had to be proved He was righteous for not immediately killing Adam for having disobeyed Him.  The death of Christ proved this. The death of Christ proved God was right to not destroy everyone immediately for disobeying Him, because the death of Christ really did and really would save all His elect.  This is why God was right and just to pass over His people’s sins prior to the cross.

The cross witnesses to us that God was righteous to not destroy His elect for their disobedience.  The cross demonstrates God’s righteousness to us at the present time.


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Studies in Hebrews Part 16:The Church and the Old Testament

In the New Testament we find the word “church” used in two different senses.  In the first sense the word “church” refers to a local body as in . . .

To the church of the Thessalonians.


To the church of God that is at Corinth.

In the second sense the word “church” refers to all the elect, including those elect who are not a member of a local body as in . . .

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is head of the church


For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body.

Some groups have a problem with this.  Landmark Baptists for one have a problem with it.   They insist the word church refers only in the sense of a local body.   Regardless though, this problem is beyond the scope of our discussion today.

What I want to instead focus on today is the idea the church has in any sense ALWAYS existed, or at least that it existed in the Old Testament.  This is wrong though.  Dangerously wrong.  And we are going to talk about why it is dangerously wrong.

But I want to first explain why we are going to be talking about this again, and what it has to do with our study of Hebrews.

If you will recall the last time I spoke, I discussed very briefly why it is wrong to think of the church as having existed in the Old Testament.  I was apparently too brief, because I began receiving questions afterward by Facebook and email which made it clear to me that I had not explained myself well.

I blame myself for this, for not being clear enough.  So what I’m going to do this week is I’m going to focus my entire time up here today on this subject.  I am going to dive into it much more deeply than I did last time.  In this sense you can think of this as a repeat of my last message, only far more in depth and explanatory.

As for the reason why this topic pertains to our study in Hebrews, the reason should become clear by the time we finish.   Let me say in advance though, these Hebrew Christians were being tempted to return to the old covenant.  If there was no church in the old covenant then what they were being tempted to return to was a churchless covenant.  A churchless covenant means Christ has not yet accomplished His work.

For this reason, we need to understand why there was no church in the Old Testament especially when the fact is we are surrounded by so many in the reformed camp who insist the church did indeed exist in the Old Testament.  We need to understand the implications of their assertion and why their assertion is unbiblical.

One last thing before we begin.  Let me remind us all one last time.  When I say there was no church in the Old Testament, I do NOT mean there were no justified and regenerated elect in the Old Testament.

No.  The Old Testament saints were justified and regenerated, and they were indwelt with the Spirit the same as the New Testament elect are today.  Some people have tried to argue that the old saints were not indwelt with the Spirit.  If they were not indwelt with the Spirit though, then how did they continue to believe the gospel? How was their faith sustained?  By their own will?  No, they were indeed indwelt with the Spirit.

With all these things in mind let us begin then with a brief discussion about types.

What is a type?  Type is short for typology.  A type is something – a person, place or thing that prefigures or points to another person, place or thing.  The thing doing the pointing is called the type, and the thing it is pointing to is called the anti-type.

Think of a road sign, for example, like a sign indicating that there is a curve in the road up ahead.   The sign itself is only a diamond shaped sheet of metal. On its face is painted a thick, curvy line.  This curvy line is meant to indicate something to us about the road ahead.  The sign is the type.  The road itself is the anti-type.

When it comes to Scripture a type is a person, place or thing from the Old Testament which points to Christ or to some part of His finished work.  In this sense it is like the road sign.  It is pointing ahead in time to Christ.

Consider Jonah, for example.  Jonah is a type of Christ.   He spent three days in the belly of a whale.  His three days in the belly of a whale points us to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

Keep in mind though, Jonah was only a type.  Jonah was not actually dead for three days, nor did Jonah’s three days save anyone. His three days were not Christ’s three days.

In the same sense, the nation of Israel in the Old Testament was also a type.  And what Israel typified was Christ and also the church.

Exodus 6:6 reads as follows.

“Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will REDEEM you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.’”

We find out later in the book of Exodus that God had used the Passover lamb as a sign to the Hebrews that He had redeemed them FROM THEIR SLAVERY.   Pay close attention to this.   It was from slavery He had redeemed them.  It was not from sin and death that He had redeemed them.

Keep this in mind, because there are people who already at this point flip this on its head; and I’m sorry to have to say this, but it’s mostly Presbyterians with their covenant theology who do it.  What they do is they confuse the type, which is Israel – with the anti-type, which is the church.

So what they will say is not only was Israel LIKE the church, but rather that it WAS the church.

Here is the problem with saying something like this.  If Israel is the church, then what we find in the account of the Hebrew slaves being redeemed from their slavery is the Church being redeemed, and then afterwards brought to the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the law of Moses for sanctification.

Do you see the problem?

To say the church existed while the old covenant did too is the same as saying the road sign with a curvy line is the road itself.  In that case, we have no reason to look for any sharp curves in the road ahead.

The biggest problem with trying to inject the church into the Old Testament is it places the church under the law of Moses, as well as the covenant of circumcision.

Take King David, for example.  David lived under the Mosaic covenant.  But if he was also a member of the body of Christ while he was also under the law of Moses, then what we have in David and all his fellow Old Testament saints is the body of Christ abiding under the curse of the law.  “Cursed is everyone in the church who does not abide by all that is written in the book of the law to do them.”

In addition to this, the old covenant sacrifice of bulls and goats could not take away sin.  As Hebrews 10 tells us, these sacrifices reminded the people of their sin.  We read that in Hebrews 9 and 10.

If King David was a member of the body of Christ while he was also under the law of Moses, then what we have is the body of Christ being reminded of its sins even while it was still the body of Christ.  How, in that situation, could David had ever have approached God with a clean conscience?

David wrote in Psalm 32:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

David was not looking to the sacrifice of bulls and goats for this sin covering.  He was instead looking to another sacrifice, even Christ’s sacrifice for this sin covering.  Even so, Christ had not at that time in history made this sacrifice yet, and so what David was looking to was a sacrifice that was still far off in the distant future.  Is this the object of the church’s faith?  A sacrifice by Christ which has not yet been accomplished?

To put it another way, the city which Abraham sought was also a type.  The city, like the Old Testament nation of Israel, also typified the church.  Very well, we cannot then say Abraham was in the church while at the same time he was looking for God to fulfill the promise of a church.   He would have been pretty stupid had this been the case.

Hebrews 11 tells us that Abraham died without having received the promise.   In fact, it tells us that all these heroes of the faith died without having received the promise.   How then could they have not received the promise if at the same time they were in the promise?   They can’t.

Israel was a type, but it was not the reality.  It was a type of the church, it pointed to the church, but it was not the church.

There are instead some very rigid and sharp distinctions that exist between the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and the church in the New Testament.  Let me give you a brief list of some of those sharp, rigid distinctions.

Israel the type was called to bring forth Jesus, the Messiah.  It was consecrated by the blood of bulls and goats.  It was chosen in Abraham.  It was called to be a kingdom of priests offering carnal sacrifices.  It was God’s inheritance through Abraham.  It housed God’s earthly tabernacle.

Are any of these things true of the church?  No.  Have any of these things ever been true of the church?  No.  They are not and never have been true of the church.

The church was not consecrated by the blood of bulls and goats.  And it is not God’s inheritance through Abraham.

No, the church instead belongs to Jesus Christ.  It is God’s special treasure forever, His inheritance through Christ.

The church has been consecrated by Christ’s blood.  The church is His flock.  His church is called to be a kingdom of priests offering spiritual sacrifices, not carnal ones. The church is God’s spiritual temple.  It does not house God’s temple; but rather, it is God’s temple.

Someone says, okay Dave, if Israel was not the church, then what about the covenant that Israel was under?  After all, Christ was the promise of this covenant, wasn’t He?

I want you to listen to me very carefully here, because this is the crucial point, this is what it all comes down to.   The cross of Jesus Christ was NOT the promise of the covenant with Israel.  In fact, the cross of Christ was not even the promise of the covenant God made with Abraham and with Noah.

Consider, for example that the promise of the Abrahamic covenant was for both the elect and also the non-elect.  Not all Abraham’s offspring were elect.  Not all who were circumcised were elect, and not all who inherited the land that God had promised to Abraham’s descendants were elect.

The same goes for the Mosaic covenant.  The promise of the Mosaic covenant was for both the elect and non-elect.  Not all who were in the nation were elect.  I mention King Saul and King Ahab as just two examples.

The same goes for the covenant with Noah.  God did not say He would never again only not destroy the elect with a flood.  No, He said He would never again destroy all flesh with a flood.  This goes for the descendants of Ham as well as the descendants of Shem and Japheth.

Therefore, if the promises of these old covenants were for both the elect and the non-elect, then how could Christ be the promise?

Only the promise of the New Covenant is only for the elect.  Your sins and your iniquities I will remember no more.

The promise of the covenant with Abraham was land for a nation of descendants.  The promise of the covenant made at Mount Sinai with the Hebrews, it was land as a continued possession in return for obedience, along with health and prosperity and peace from war.  The promise of the covenant with Noah, as I mentioned a moment ago, was no more destruction of all flesh with a flood.

Now certainly the land and those descendants, the sacrifices and the rainbow, these things did typify Christ and His church IF YOU HAD THE EYES TO SEE.  But if you did not have the eyes to see, then the promise of the land and the nation and the no more flood they were still yours.

This means the promises of these old covenants were all carnal.  They were all physical promises, and they were promises made to both the elect and non-elect alike.

The promise of Christ was a separate promise that God had made to the elect way back in Genesis 3:15 well before He cut the covenants with Noah and Abraham and Moses.  The promise of Christ was a promise made independent of these old covenants.

It may help to think about it like this.  When was Abraham justified, was it before or after he was circumcised?  It was not after, but rather before.  He was justified by the promise of Christ before God entered into the covenant of circumcision with him.

Therefore, if circumcision is ONLY for a sign of the righteousness that Abraham had by faith, then this means that everyone who received circumcision would have had to have been righteous, but this is clearly not the case.

Esau was circumcised, but he was not righteous.  And Abraham and Abel and Enoch and Noah were still all UNcircumcised when they were made righteous.

Circumcision then had to be for MORE than just a sign of righteousness for Abraham.  It had to also be a seal of the promise he had of land and a nation.

In the new covenant, the circumcision of the heart performed by the Spirit and corresponding to faith in Christ is the anti-type.  Circumcision in the Old Testament pointed to this if you had the eyes to see.  If you did not have the eyes to see though, then you still had to be circumcised as a seal of the promise of land and a nation.

What these old covenants did then was they served to propel redemptive history towards that day when at last God fulfilled the promise of Genesis 3:15.  They did this by separating out from all other nations one nation through whom God would bring forth the promised Seed.  That nation was not the promise though and the cross was not the promise of these covenants.  No one in the Old Testament was saved by the promise of land and a nation of descendants.  Instead, everyone in the Old Testament who was elect was saved by the same cross of Christ we are saved by in the New Testament, only back then this cross was still a promise.

Could those people who had received the carnal promise of land and many descendants, could they break those old covenants?  Yes.  In fact, even the elect could break those old covenants.  I give you David and Solomon for example.  They both broke the covenant law.

But can those people who have received the promise of the new covenant, can they break the new covenant?  No, because the new covenant is unconditional.  The fulfillment of its promises are all based entirely upon what Christ has done.

Even though we do indeed still sin by breaking Christ’s commandments, yet the promise of the new covenant remains intact.  God says I will forgive your sins and iniquities.   He does not say I will forgive your sins and iniquities IF . . .

These cannot be the same covenants then, can they?  They are entirely different covenants with entirely different distinctions.  Therefore, if we are going to say that there was always a church, then we are going to have some very tremendous problems, because what we will wind up with is a church that has existed under a series of very distinct and different covenants, all but one of which were conditioned upon the hearer’s performance.

Listen again to the words of the apostle in Ephesians 2.

12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made us BOTH ONE and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create IN HIMSELF one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might RECONCILE US BOTH TO GOD IN ONE BODY through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

The text says, that He might reconcile us BOTH to God in ONE BODY.  Who is the both?  The both is the Old Testament elect and the New Testament elect; Jews and Gentiles; those who were NOT strangers to the covenants of promise and those who were.

But if the Old Testament elect were already in the body of Christ, then why would they need to be reconciled to God in one body along with the Gentiles?  Why would they need to be reconciled to a body they were already in?

Because they weren’t already in that body, that’s why!  Prior to the cross Christ had not yet created in Himself one new man.  The old testament elect were not placed into the body of Christ prior to the cross.  God does not place His elect into the body of Christ and then shackle them to the curse of the law afterward.  Such an act would be self defeating.  It would kill grace.

But understand this.  Grace and sanctification by the cross are not the only casualties of confusing types with anti-types.

Let me take you back in history to see another casualty that comes as a consequence of confusing Israel with the church.

The rise of the monarchical bishops began at around the 2nd – 3rd century AD with the rise and influx of several heresies.   First, what is a monarchical bishop?

A bishop, as the KJV translates it, or overseer or elder as the modern versions translate it, is in today’s vernacular a pastor or minister.   In Titus 1:5 we find Paul instructing Titus to appoint elders in every town. Elders would be better translated pastors or overseers.  In other words, appoint a pastor over every church in every town.

Eventually, some churches grew more prominent with prestige, either because of their location or just because of their reputation.  The pastors of other smaller, less prestigious churches might tend to listen more closely despite themselves to the pastors of these more prestigious churches.

Eventually, by the 3rd century, this turned into the unbiblical practice of giving authority and oversight to these more prestigious pastors.  They were given the title of bishop, and they were granted man-made authority and oversight over all the pastors of all the churches in a given region.

In other words, a bishop was an elder who lorded it over all the other elders of all the local bodies found in a particular region.  This practice began in North Africa and then soon spread to Imperial Rome.  Centuries later it would come to be known as the OLD Catholic Church.  Catholic is a word meaning “universal”.

Nowhere in the New Testament do we find an office in the church whereby a few of the flock are given it to lord it over other the rest of the flock.  In fact, in some New Testament churches we find congregations so resistance to someone from the outside coming in and trying to lord it over them that it was all the apostle Paul could do to just get them to hear him.

Even the apostle Paul himself tells us that he cared not one wit about the reputation of any of the other apostles or what they thought about him.  Right there we can see that there was no lording it over other members of the flock.

That all changed though, with the rise of the bishops.  We now had men lording it over all the other pastors of local bodies.  We had the Bishop of Rome, the Bishop of Naples, the Bishop of Jerusalem and so on.

Here it is, just about two-hundred years after Christ’s resurrection and we were already seeing men trying to lord it over the flocks.

In addition to this unbiblical practice of bishops, something else happened in the fourth century that upset the applecart even more.  The Emperor Constantine came to power and he did something unprecedented.  He made Christianity the state religion.

And unbelievably, because of recent persecution, most people who called themselves Christian at that time lauded this as a good thing.  If you’ve ever read Eusebius then you’ll know what I mean.  He all but worships at the feet of his beloved Constantine.

Later it grew even worse after the popes got involved.

Flash forward in time though, to the reformation.  Zwingli, Luther, Calvin, Knox, the big four.  And at first it was great.  They came preaching Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide and the rest of the five solas.

The problem is that things got really, really bad really, really quickly.  What had started out great soon turned ugly and vicious after the big four found themselves being offered the same thing Rome had been offered – military and political power.

Last time I spoke I mentioned a few things about the city of Cain, remember that?  Well, this is the same thing that happened in the case of the reformers.  It wasn’t long before they went from preaching about the city of God to murdering and politicking for the city of man.

And why shouldn’t it be this way?  After all, if Israel was a type of church in the Old Testament and Israel was a nation with political power and a military, then why shouldn’t the church in the New Testament also make use of political power and a military?

Cromwell thought it a good idea.  So did John Winthrop, Puritan elder and governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  He told his Puritan community they were to be a shining example to all the nations of the world.  And what was the shining example he set?  Murder the natives if they don’t convert, and the Quakers too while we’re at it.

Loraine Boettner reports with relish in his essay, “Calvinism in America” that . . .

“When Cornwallis was driven back to ultimate retreat and surrender at Yorktown, all but one of the colonels of the Colonial Army were Presbyterian elders. More than one-half of all the soldiers and officers of the American Army during the Revolution were Presbyterians.”

Boettner is not alone in reporting this fact.  The US Library of Congress itself houses a number of published letters, sermons and books leading up to the American Revolution that all lay a large part of the blame for the war squarely upon the doorstep of the Presbyterian church.

Take Joseph Galloway, for example, former speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly and close personal friend of Benjamin Franklin.   He wrote in a published pamphlet that the revolution was, to a considerable extent, a religious quarrel, caused by Presbyterians and Congregationalists whose “principles of religion and polity were equally averse to those of the established Church and Government.”

And as if to substantiate Galloway’s words, it is Boettner himself who gives us the words of historian, Frenchman Taine, who had no religious affiliation and no religious faith, but who said concerning Calvinists —

“These men are the true heroes of England. They founded England by the exercise of duty, by the practice of justice, by obstinate toil, by vindication of right, BY THE RESISTANCE TO OPPRESSION, BY THE CONQUEST OF LIBERTY, BY THE REPRESSION OF VICE.  They founded Scotland; they founded the United States; at this day they are, by their descendants, founding Australia and colonizing the world.”

Like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, I think most Protestants have got their Israel mixed in with their gospel.

Is this what Christ instructed His disciples to do?  Go out into all the nations repressing vice, resisting oppression and conquering in the name of liberty?

And it isn’t just the Presbyterians who are doing this either.  No, the Reformed Baptists and the Arminians are getting just as adept at it too.  Today, we’re told by many who call themselves Christian that America is a Christian nation which has lost its spiritual way, mostly due to those darned liberals, but that if we just elect the correct politically conservative people to lead us, then we can restore America’s faith in God and lead her back to her former greatness.

But America never had faith in God and neither has any of her leaders.

Nevertheless, under such nonsense God gets replaced by some nebulous principle known as liberty, while His Word gets replaced by the bill of rights.

I’m sorry, but there is no warrant in the New Testament for a national church.  This means no church of England, no church of Scotland, and no church of America.  Nor is there any warrant for a so called just war.

In addition to this, governors, mayors, presidents, politicians, judges, lawyers, sheriffs and generals have no function in the church.  The gospel cannot be spread by political and carnal powers, but rather only by Christ and the Spirit of Christ.

The irony here is that many of the same people who are confusing types with anti-types will insist on one hand that Israel was not the church, and yet on the other hand they either want America to start behaving like the church, or they want the church to start behaving like Old Testament Israel.

You can’t have it both ways.  Either Israel was the church or it was not.  It was very clearly not.  No nation is the church.  No nation will ever be the church.  And no nation can ever substitute for the church.

At the center of all this is the claim I encounter all too often on the internet.  The claim goes like this, that no gospel believer has any right to question a minister or teacher or theologian if that believer is not “under the authority of a local pastor and elders.”

This is ridiculous.  It’s a return to the monarchical bishops.  What we find is that most of the reformed denominations have never actually put away the office of bishop.  They only got rid of the name, that’s all.

The city of man is not the city of God and we must not confuse them.   There was no church in the old covenant.  Anyone who says there was is telling us that people who were under Christ’s headship were also under a covenant that told them, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all that is written in the book of the law to do them.”

Christ was not the promise of the old covenant.  Land was the promise of the old covenant.  And while those old testament saints did have the promise of the city, what we have is the fulfillment of that promise.  What we have is better.


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Studies in Hebrews Part 15: The Forsaking of Assembly

The last time we looked at Hebrews, we talked about the will of God.  We saw in the text how it has always been God’s will from eternity that Jesus Christ save His elect by dying for their sins.

We saw in the text that Christ has accomplished God’s will; that is, He has saved His people.   And the way He did this was by offering His body to God at the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins.

He offered Himself as a substitute for His people.  And as their substitute, He took to Himself the punishment for their sins and died in their place as the One made guilty for their sins.

His death, as punishment for their sins, has fully and forever satisfied God’s wrath that had stood against His people for their sins.

As a consequence of having satisfied God’s wrath on behalf of His elect, Christ did purchase for His elect their justification, their faith, their conversion, their new birth, and their resurrection.

In view of what Christ has accomplished for them, God now must impute them righteous, for His justice has been satisfied.  He must bring them to faith and He must justify them.  And at the last day He must raise them from the dead and clothe them with immortality.

Elsewhere in the text we also saw that by accomplishing God’s will, Christ has forever put away all the sacrifices and offerings required by the old Mosaic law.

We saw that these sacrifices and offerings could never accomplish God’s will.  They could never put away His people’s sins.   This is why they had to be continually repeated.  The best they could do was postpone for one more year that inevitable date with judgment, but they could never once and for all put away sins.

Christ however, has put away His people’s sins.  He has put away the punishment for them by suffering that punishment Himself.

And lastly, we saw that by His death, Christ did once and for all put away the old Mosaic covenant itself – including its law – and did in its place establish a new covenant which God had promised beforehand from eternity, and which comes with its own identifiable, written law, independent of the laws of all those old covenants, and which Christians are to obey today, but not for righteousness.

This is where we have been.  Today, we are going to look at the second half of chapter  10, which begins with verse 19, but we’re going to start with verse 11 instead of verse 19, because we need to pick up a few things before we head into verse 19.

So, Hebrews 10, starting with verse 11.

11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

I mentioned this a moment ago.  The first three verses of this chapter go into this.  The old covenant sacrifices could never take away sin.  This is why the priests of that covenant had to keep ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices.

Notice the text says the priest stands.  He was never allowed to sit.  And the reason why he could never sit was because atonement had not been accomplished, the work was not finished.

I think we mentioned before how in Matthew’s gospel we find the women approaching the tomb of Jesus only to find the stone that covered the entrance of the tomb rolled away and an angel seated upon it.

He was seated, see.  The work was finished.  Christ had accomplished God’s will.

It’s the same idea we find in the next verse where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, and also in Ephesians 2 where we are told that the saints are even right now seated with Christ in heavenly places.

Verse 12.

12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.

Seated at the right hand of God does not mean Christ spatially occupies a space on the right side of God’s throne versus the left side.

No, right hand is a Hebrewism.  It’s a turn of phrase, in other words.  It’s a Jewish way of saying He is seated upon the heavenly throne.  He is the King of the universe, the supreme authority over all power and dominion in heaven and on earth.  And keep in mind, He is seated there.  He is not standing.

As for Christ being seated “from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool”, this is a reference from Psalm 110.  The author has quoted from this Psalm several times already in his epistle.   He quoted from it in chapter 1, in chapter 5 and again in chapter 7.  And here again in chapter 10 he makes reference to it.

What is so important about this Psalm?  Well, in Psalm 110 we see Christ made a high priest by a promise.

The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

We also overhear God the Father saying to God the Son, “Sit here until I make all Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

And lastly we also find God making His people willing in the day of His power.   What is the day of His power?  The day of His power is that day He converted you.  It’s the day He converts each of His elect.

The I in Tulip, irresistible grace, is a reference to this.  In that day He made us willing to believe His gospel.

We continue with our text, verse 14.

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

We talked about this phrase being sanctified last time.  Verse 10 tells us that, “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  It’s a once and done act, it’s finished.  Verse 14 reiterates this, “He has perfected.”

We talked about how the phrase being sanctified here in verse 14 here is referring to effectual calling.  It’s referring to that day of His power.

Although all the elect have been redeemed 2000 years ago, they are still nevertheless born in need of being imputed righteous and effectually called.

Verse 15.
15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,

The Holy Spirit also witnesses to us.  And how does the Holy Spirit witness to us?  By His written word.  That’s what the author is showing us here.

“But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us, for after He had SAID . . .”  and then the author quotes from the Old Testament.

These verses taken from the Old Testament is what the Holy Spirit said.  The Holy Spirit spoke the Old Testament and He spoke the New Testament.  His written word is His witness.

Moving on to verse 17.
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more”

This is the eternal promise of the new covenant.

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

What’s the these?  The these are verse 17, “their sins and lawless deeds.”

Where there is forgiveness of their sins and lawless deeds, there is no longer any offering for sin. And the reason why there is no longer any offering for sin is because there is no need for any offering for sin.  Christ was the final sacrifice.  His sacrifice has once and for all put away all His people’s sins.

Okay, so you get what this first half of the chapter is getting at.  It’s done.  It’s finished.  No more sacrifices.  No more offerings.   No more seeking to put away sin.  No more seeking to atone for sin, to get our sins forgiven.  No, it’s done.  All of the sins of all of the elect have been once and for all put away.

Keeping all of this in mind, we now move to the second half of this chapter.

The first thing we should note about the second half of this chapter is that it follows a therefore.  This is how the passage begins.  It begins with the word, “therefore.”

Now, as you have probably already heard many times before, when you see the word “therefore” see what it’s there for.

The word therefore is like an imaginary equals line.   2 + 2 =.   It draws a conclusion from a previous passage.  It’s like saying, in the light of everything I’ve just said, now therefore.

This means that if you want to find out what he means by what he is going to say next, then you had better first make sure you understand what he has already said before, because whatever he is going to say next is going to be said within the light of what he has already said before.

What the author of Hebrews has said before is this: “that where there is forgiveness of lawless deeds, there is no longer any offering for sin.”  This is verse 18.  It summarizes everything he has said from verse 1 to verse 17.

Now that Christ has put away all His people’s lawless deeds, therefore, in the light of this.

What follows the therefore is an assertion.

19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.

Notice that.  HAVING BOLDNESS.  The ESV puts it, “SINCE we have confidence.”

This is not a suggestion.   He is not saying he thinks it would be a pretty good idea were we to try to be bold here about entering the holy places.   No.

Nor is he telling us this boldness is something for the mature Christian; that it’s something we grow into, a higher life kind of thing.  No, he is not saying that either.

What the author is telling us instead is that it is a foregone conclusion.  If you believe the gospel, then of course you have boldness to enter the holy places without fear of punishment.   There is no question you have confidence.   It’s absurd to even consider the idea of someone believing the gospel and yet not having boldness to enter the holy places without fear of punishment.

Why is it absurd?  Because listen to what the gospel says.

We went over it in the first half of this chapter.

The gospel tells us that it has always been God’s will that Jesus Christ save His elect by dying for their sins, and that Jesus Christ did indeed accomplish this.  That is, He has removed His people’s lawless deeds by offering His own body to God as a sacrifice for His peoples’ lawless deeds.  God no longer counts their lawless deeds against them, because He has counted them to Christ.  And having been counted with His people’s lawless deeds, He then satisfied God’s wrath that once stood against them for their lawless deeds by dying the death they had earned for their lawless deeds.

He has once and for all perfected them.  Not one of them will be lost, and He will bring every one of them to believe that this is true.

Now, how can someone who believes their lawless deeds are no longer counted to them NOT have boldness to enter into God’s presence?   The idea is absurd.

Contrast this with what the Catholic Church teaches.

Rome tells us that assurance is a sin, because we can never be certain we have done enough to atone for our sins.

Well do we dismiss right from the start, but don’t think for one moment Rome is alone in this.  No.   The fact is this nonsense has been creeping into Calvinist circles for some time now.

Consider the Puritans.  They were terrible for it.  Lots of Puritans taught that some Christians will never be assured of their salvation, and that even those who would be still had to struggle through years and sometimes even decades of doubt first.

Now yes, they didn’t say Christians wouldn’t have assurance because they had to atone for their sins, nor did they say it was a sin to have assurance; but nevertheless, they still treated assurance as if it were some near impossible to attain goal that God delights in keeping from His saints.

No, absolutely not.  This kind of nonsense has helped feed into heresies like Lordship Salvation and Federal Vision.

Lordship tells us that we can have assurance, all right, but not by faith alone.  No.  We have to look to what the Spirit is doing to our behavior instead.  More about that later.

For now though, have you ever heard someone say you can’t know whether you’re really saved or not until after Christ returns?   I have.  I’ve heard it a bunch of times, and let me tell you, it is garbage.

Imagine someone, they have just recently been brought to believe the gospel, and then one of the first things they hear after being brought to believe the gospel is some preacher or person on the internet telling them that they cannot really be certain they are saved.  What are these people saying?  They’re denying the gospel.  They are telling us that if we are certain God keeps His promises, then we are being presumptuous and that we mustn’t think this way.

Every gospel believer from the newest to the oldest has the right to enter boldly into God’s presence without fear of punishment.  He has the right to expect the Father to hear his prayers.  He has the right to expect to be raised at the last day and to be clothed with immortality.   It’s a foregone conclusion that he has the right to expect this, and that he will, in fact, expect this.

What about this Holiest though?  What is the Holiest?

If you were an Old Testament Jew the only place you would know as holy is the Temple itself, and by extension the various rooms within the Temple; the courtyards, the altar and so forth.

But more precisely, for an Old Testament Jew, the Holiest would refer specifically to the innermost room called The Most Holy Place and located in the Holy Place.

The Most Holy Place was where the ark of the covenant was kept.  It was said to be God’s throne and the place where His Presence dwelt.

A thick, heavy curtain hung between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.  The purpose of this curtain was to separate the sinful worshippers who were outside in the Holy Place from God’s presence within the Most Holy Place.

The reason why this curtain was needed was because of man’s sin.  Man, because of his lawless deeds, could not enter into God’s presence.

But now that Christ has removed His people’s lawless deeds by offering His own body to God as a sacrifice for His peoples’ lawless deeds, that curtain which separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place has been torn in two.  It’s been removed.  The way to the tree of life is now open to God’s elect.  They now have free and unfettered access into God’s presence without fear of punishment.

And so what the author means by Holies is simply the Presence of God.  Since we now have free and unfettered access into God’s presence, let us therefore approach Him with boldness . . .

. . . verse 20 . . .

20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Full assurance of faith.  Confidence.  Boldness.  That is, the full assurance that what they believe is true.

And what they believe is true is that they now have the right to enter into God’s presence without fear of punishment, because Christ has removed their lawless deeds by offering His body to God at the cross as punishment for their lawless deeds.

They are fully assured, certain, confident the Father will hear their prayers.   They are fully assured, certain, confident that Christ will raise them at the last day.

The next part of our passage echoes this confidence yet again.  Verse 23

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

The reason why the elect have the right to enter into God’s presence is because Christ has redeemed them and has imputed them righteous.   And because they are convinced this is true, the elect also know and are convinced that their sins have been put away and so therefore their conscience is clean.

A true heart is a heart that is convinced this is true.  Convinced, assured, confident.  Therefore, let us hold fast our confession of hope then.

In the light of this, in light of the fact that we have the confidence to enter into God’s presence without fear of punishment, let us then consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some.

I have a question.  Why would a justified saint, made righteous by the cross of Christ  – NOT want to meet with their brothers and sisters in order to stir and be stirred up to love and good works?

That’s a good question.   But let put that on hold for a moment, because I think we will understand the answer better in light of the rest of the passage.

I will come back to it though, I promise.

Continuing with our passage.   Verse 26.

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

And here we come to what I think is the third most abused, misused, maligned  and misunderstood passage in all the Bible; third only to James chapter 2 and John 3:16.

Some of the interpretations I have heard concerning this passage just anger me.  The most self righteous, God dishonoring commentary that I have ever heard center around this passage.

I have heard preachers and theologians and people with Ph D’s after their name say everything about this verse from it teaches us that we can lose our salvation to it says we aren’t saved if we keep sinning willfully, or as the ESV puts it, deliberately.

Let me begin by saying that both of these “opinions” and just about everything in between is foolishness.  It’s foolishness.  It’s just garbage.

This verse is not teaching us that we can lose our salvation.   How could it be when in every single verse that preceded it has reminded us time and again that the work is finished and our sins have been put away?

For by one sacrifice He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.  Hello?  Forever means forever, doesn’t it?  Forever does not mean such time only as until I sin.

Nor is this verse teaching us that we are not saved if we go on sinning willfully.   How could it be when in every single verse that precedes it we are reminded time and again that the work is finished and that our sins have been put away?   For by one sacrifice He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.  Hullo?  What part of He has perfected does not include the sins we sin willfully?

His perfect sacrifice has put away all His people’s sins, including those sins which they sin willfully or deliberately.

The gospel does not say He took our sins done in ignorance, but He left us to atone on our own for the willful ones.

No, the Bible says He was made sin.  It does not say He was made accidental sin, but not willful sin.

Nor does the Bible teach that He was made accidental and willful sins in reference ONLY to that time before the elect are converted, but He was only made accidental sin for that time when after they are converted.

You see how absurd this gets?

Look at what James tell us about our sinning.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin.

Sounds to me like he’s saying it’s all willful.

There is this idea found in false gospels that says the purpose of the cross, the reason why Christ came to die for His people, was to prepare His people for the Holy Spirit’s work of making them more obedient and less sinful, and that if you are not progressing towards becoming less sinful and more obedient, then you have not the Spirit of Christ and are not really a Christian.

Now think about that for a moment.  I want us to do a little thought exercise.  Suppose for a moment that this were true, just for a moment.   Suppose the purpose of the cross was indeed to prepare God’s people for the work of becoming better, more law obedient, less sinful people with the help of the Spirit.

If this was true, then wouldn’t we be in the process of becoming less needful of the cross?

If I am becoming less sinful, then the fact is I am needing less of His cross today than I did when He first converted me.  Right?  See that?

Do you think Christ is glorified by people having less need of His sacrifice?   I don’t think so.

You see, a man who is growing less sinful every year is also a man who is needing less of the cross every year.  He is needing less of that righteousness, because he is gaining a righteousness from his own obedience.

In addition to this foolishness though, there’s another problem, because if we are getting better about not sinning, then it is true our conscience remains polluted with the sin that we haven’t gotten better about yet.

How, in that case, with a polluted conscience, are we supposed to approach the throne of grace with confidence?  We couldn’t.

This nonsense is not only found among the Pentecostals, and Methodists, and Finney-Wesley circles of Arminianism either.  No, it is every bit as entrenched in Presbyterian and reformed circles, as well.

The purpose of the cross was not to prepare the elect for the process of becoming conformed in their obedience to Christ’s obedience.  No, we just read what the purpose of the cross was right here in the first half of chapter 10.

The purpose of the cross was to perfect the elect once and for all time.  In other words, to present them perfect and complete in righteousness.   The cross has done that, once and for all.  Once and for all is not progressive.  Once and for all is definite, done, finished. This is why there are no more sacrifices.

What then is this passage talking about if it’s not talking about a progressive holiness?

Let’s read the passage again to see what is happening here.  Verse 21

21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Verse 26 connects to verse 25.  Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, BUT INSTEAD EXHORTING ONE ANOTHER.    In other words, let’s continue to meet in order to encourage one another.

To encourage one another about what though?  Verses 24 and 23.

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope WITHOUT WAVERING.

Let’s exhort one another to not waver.  Waver about what?  Verse 21 and 22.

21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in FULL ASSURANCE of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water

In other words, let’s keep meeting with each other in order to keep exhorting one another to not waver in our faith in the great priest who is over the house of God and who has made us to draw near to God in full assurance of faith with a clean conscience.

Because if you do waver from this, if you willfully draw back from this high priest and His sacrifice, then there no longer remains a sacrifice for your sins.  Why?  Verse 18, remember that one?  Where there is forgiveness of lawless deeds, there is NO LONGER an offering for sin.

There is no more offering for sin, folks.  That’s it.  No more.  So if we draw back in doubt from this one, then we’re stuck, because there are no more sacrifices to be had.

Do you see that?

There is nothing in this passage about you’d better start shaping up and start sinning less if you don’t want to lose your salvation.  Good grief.

Listen, men who teach that kind of nonsense are spiritual perverts.  They really are.  They are spiritual perverts.

They pervert the gospel of God’s sovereign grace.  They are enemies of the cross of Christ, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame.  They are men who delight in perverting God’s word for the purpose of gathering disciples to themselves, and they are to be avoided.

Let me say again as I have said in times past, I am against the Zane Hodges’ tattoo version of Christianity in which you stroll up to an altar or repeat a prayer, and boom, you got your ticket punched.  You got your permanent Jesus tattoo. You can go home, never think of Christ again, you can even decide to become a Buddhist or an Atheist, it doesn’t matter, you’re still going to heaven no matter what you believe, because you got your ticket punched.

No, I am against that.  That is a false gospel, make no mistake about it.

But I am equally against this modern brand of Neonomianism called Lordship Salvation that says you aren’t really saved if you don’t have less sin to show for it.

These guys love to talk about “balance”.  This is their favorite word, “balance.”  I’ve heard them talk about the first half of this chapter as if it were just one side of a two-sided coin.

They’ll say yes, that first half, it’s all about the work being finished, it’s about what Christ has accomplished for His elect.  Yeah, that’s what it’s about.  But now we have to BALANCE that.

We have to “balance” all that grace and redemption with our responsibility.  We can’t just go out there start acting like that stuff is actually true.  No, we have to temper that grace with a big heaping helping of self righteous motivation.  It might be finished, but it ain’t finished until it’s finished in us.

I’ve said it before, let me say it again.  These guys, they stand outside the front door of their churches crying, “By grace alone, by grace alone, it’s all been finished by Christ.”  But the moment you cross the threshold and step inside, that’s when they demand you show them some works to prove you belong inside.  And if you can’t, then they escort you out  the backdoor while they continue to shout it’s all by grace alone at the front door.

Lordship Salvation is a false gospel.  It dishonors God and perverts the gospel into a morning makeover show.  But the gospel is no morning makeover show.  God is not Dr Phil, and there are no before and after photos.

But we do still have that question I asked a moment ago.  Why would a justified saint, made righteous by the cross of Christ, not want to meet with their brothers and sisters in order to stir and be stirred up to love and good works?

Certainly there are a number of different reasons why someone might get into the habit of not gathering regularly for fellowship.  Laziness is right at the top.  I’ve been prone to that myself.  Petty bickering, jealousies, is another one.

But consider who he is writing to.  These Hebrews were drawing back in doubt.  They kept laying new foundations of repentance every time they turned around.

Now let me quickly add here before I continue that I am NOT talking about those brothers and sisters who have no where to fellowship.   Not at all.  The tragedy is we have lots of brothers and sisters who are in a situation where they have nowhere to fellowship.  I am NOT referring to them.

Nor am I referring to the occasional emergency.  Truck breaks down, you get sick, someone in the family dies, whatever.  I’m not talking about that either.

No, what I’m talking about is the person who has somewhere to fellowship, they have a local body of solid gospel believers they can gather with, but they consistently refuse to do so.  Why?

I mean, consider our fellowship here.  We have had dozens and dozens of people in our fellowship here come and go over the years.   They’re no longer with us.  Some have come for a few weeks and then we never see them again.  Others have come and have stayed for a number of years before they disappear never to be seen or heard from again.

In some of those cases the people who left seemed to be confident in their assurance, but they are still no longer here with us.  How confident were they really then?

In other cases, some of the people who left us seemed never to be assured.  They were always struggling with doubt, never fixed and certain in their faith.

Let me say that if you are struggling with assurance, if you are uncertain of your salvation, then the last place you need to be avoiding is fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ.   Because I’m going to warn you right now.  If you are struggling with assurance, then it’s only a matter of time before you start finding yourself tossed about by every wave and wind of doctrine.  It’s going to happen, because at the end of the day assurance is what you are looking for and you’ll chase anything and anyone who promises it.

If the good news of what Christ has accomplished for His people is not enough to assure you, then the only thing left to you is a fearful expectation of judgment.

You see, the irony here is that the person who doubts, he is still expectant of something.  We are all expectant of something, because there is no other sacrifice to be had.  Either we are expectant of our salvation, or we are expectant of our condemnation and death.  There is no other sacrifice to be had.

I’m not saying that the person who is struggling with assurance is not a Christian.  No, these very Hebrews here were drawing back in doubt.  The author doesn’t tell them they’re lost.  No, he tells them he feels confident about better things concerning them.

But keep in mind they were still gathering for fellowship, so he knew they were at least hearing him preach the gospel to them.  What can we say about those who are no longer gathering with us to fellowship?

Not a good situation they’ve put themselves in, is it?

I think in addition to this there are some Christians who honestly do not know and understand what the role of gathering for fellowship plays in the life of the believer.  We’re told right here what it is. To gather in order to encourage one another to not waver in our faith.

Listen, if you aren’t here to help encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ, then who is going to encourage them?   And if you aren’t here to be encouraged, then how are you being encouraged?

I mean, are you just giving up on ever doing any good works at all?  Is that it?  You have no intention of honoring God by presenting your bodies as living sacrifices?  You have no gratitude or thanksgiving to render to Him?

It reminds me of the ten lepers.  Christ healed all ten, but only one returned to give thanksgiving and praise.  Whatever the reason why you are not in the habit of fellowshipping, that’s between you and God, but I encourage you to examine yourself if you are one of these.

Let’s keep going so we can finish our passage. We’re almost done.

Verse 28.
28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

The author uses an example from the Old Testament to prove his point about not wavering in our faith.  He’s saying look here, if you want evidence that there no longer remains a sacrifice for people who willfully draw back in unbelief after having heard and understood the gospel of God’s sovereign grace, then consider this.  Anyone who sat aside the law of Moses died without mercy once it was proven by the testimony of two or three witnesses that he had set aside the law of Moses.

Your absence from regular fellowship, what do you think that witnesses of?  Not good.

Verse 29
29 How much worse punishment then, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

When he says “he was sanctified” he’s being hypothetical.   He’s saying look here, if a person under the old covenant died without mercy for setting aside the law of Moses, then imagine how much worse the punishment will be for anyone who draws back in unbelief?

I hope that some of those folks who have gone out from us, I hope they hear this message sometime this week.  And I hope God uses it to convict them, and to bring them back.  Whatever you are going through some of you, whatever issues you are struggling with, whatever doubt you might have, the last thing you need is to be isolated from fellowship with the people of God.


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Evil, Suffering and Soveriegnty

Ecclesiastes 1:12-14
I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.  And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.  I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.

With these closing comments, Solomon begins his account of an investigation he undertook to discover why man does what he does and why things on earth happen to him the way they do.   What, for instance, is the purpose of work, pleasure, greatness, wisdom, foolishness, religion, evil and death?  Why does the sun rise, why does it set?  What is the meaning of life?  Why do you and I exist?

The conclusion Solomon comes to after finishing his investigation is depressing.  He surmises that nothing serves a purpose.  That is, everything done upon the earth is a meaningless, empty, chasing after the wind.  He cannot even make sense out of why evil exists or why anyone should suffer and then die.

But let us not be too disappointed with Solomon’s conclusion, because there is something God is showing us in Solomon’s investigation.  Notice where Solomon’s theology begins.  Not above the heavens where God dwells, but rather under the heavens where man dwells.

Notice also how he goes about his search.  Not by God’s Spirit, leaning upon every word of God for explanation, but instead upon the philosopher’s tool – his own wisdom.  Solomon is going to attempt to use his own God-given wisdom to unearth the meaning behind and purpose for all that is done upon the earth.  No wonder then that he comes away empty.  His wisdom has failed him.

What is God showing us in this?  What is His purpose in showing us the miserable, depressing conclusion of human wisdom?  He is showing us that we can make no sense of who He is and why He does what He does by studying and observing everything done upon the earth.

Isaiah 45:15 Truly, You are a God who hides Himself.

God does not reveal Himself in pain, in pleasure, in toil, in rest, in evil or in suffering.  And God does not reveal Himself in these, because He has chosen to reveal Himself in His Son.

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Apart from Christ Jesus, we cannot know who God is, nor can we see His purpose for all the things done upon the earth.

If Solomon confuses you then consider Job’s three friends.   Job had no idea why he was being made to suffer.   We know, because we have the advantage of hearing the conversation between God and Satan.  But Job did not have this advantage.  He did not know why he was suffering.

His three friends were sure they knew though.  They were certain Job was suffering, because he had sinned.  And no matter how many times he insisted this was not the case, they would have none of it.

What Solomon is doing here in Ecclesiastes is he is taking on those people who are like Job’s friends.  He is challenging their assumptions.  You think you know God is?   Well let me tell you, you don’t.

Just look at the way the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer, Solomon says.   God does not behave the way we might think He should.  He instead appears to be capricious and arbitrary.  One man spends his whole life trying to be wise and to do good, and what happens?  He suffers in this life and then dies.  Another man wastes his whole life in foolishness doing nothing but evil continually and what happens?   He lives a long and prosperous life without any troubles.   Where is the justice in that?

Solomon insists we recognize evil exists and that life is not beautiful.  Nature is instead ugly and twisted and mean.  And to top it all off it is God who has ordained it to be this way.   Solomon’s problem, like Job, is that he cannot figure out why God has ordained it to be this way.

Why would God ordain a world so cruel and mean that it would be better no one were born?  And Solomon does say this.  Better is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.  And remember, God inspired him to say this.

It is in response to Solomon’s observations that we stumble across the so called “problem of evil”.   Solomon’s answer to his question, why does God ordain evil, was to shrug.   He could not explain why.   His advice for people in the face of his ignorance was to fear God and obey His commandments because this is the whole duty of man.

The natural man’s advice though is to rage at God and reject both Him and His commandments.  And by natural man, I mean the man who is not in Christ.  The unrighteous man, the unjust man, the unbeliever; the natural man in contrast to the spiritual man.

From the natural man’s perspective evil cannot be reconciled with a God who is both all powerful and also all good.   If you have read any books written by Atheists, Agnostics and worldly minded philosophers then you will know how the argument well.

If God exists then He is omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good.  But if God were omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good, then the world would not contain evil.  The world does contain evil though.  Therefore, God does not exist.

The irony here is the argument sounds similar to the one Job’s three friends presented to him.

God is omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good, Job.  And since He is omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good, then it must be true that people who have not sinned do not suffer.  But you are suffering, and so it’s obvious to us that you have committed some great sin.

The argument’s basic premise is that we’ve got God all figured out, you see.  That’s what Job’s friends are telling him, and that’s what the natural man is telling us.  We’ve got God all figured out.  We have searched out and studied everything done under the sun and we have discovered what God is really all about.

Consider the argument a little more closely though, and we can see just how vapid it really is.

If God exists then He is omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good.

Really?  That’s it?  He is only omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good?  Those are His only attributes?

What about God is just, righteous, holy?  What about He is also merciful, compassionate, kind?  What about He is vengeful, angry, a God of wrath who is angry with the sinner every day?

The fact is, that of all His attributes revealed to us in the pages of the Bible His holiness is the only one singled out for triple repetition, marking it as the most important of His attributes.

The Bible does not say God is good, good, good or God is sovereign, sovereign, sovereign or God is love, love, love.

No.  The Bible tells us, “holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty.”   And right there in the text is the word almighty, meaning omnipotent, in the text but present only once, standing in the shadow of His holiness.

This means every one of His attributes are clothed in His holiness.  It’s not that God is just simply love.  No.  Rather, His love is a holy love.  His omnipotence is a holy omnipotence.  His grace is a holy grace.

This also means that none of His other attributes will violate His holiness.  He cannot love to the detriment of His holiness.  He cannot and will not show compassion to the detriment of His justice.

This makes the natural man nervous and for good reason, because the moment we start talking about a God who is holy, then we are talking about a God who makes demands of us, who commands us and who imposes punishment on us when we disobey.

The fact is, the natural man is fine with a God who is good.  He can live with a God who is good, because in his view goodness means each man getting to do what is right in his own eyes without ever experiencing any repercussions or accepting any responsibility for what he does.

Goodness to the natural man is each man getting to decide for himself what is good and evil, and God being unable to interfere with that decision.

But a God who is also holy?   No, that is a God who makes demands upon my life.  That is a God who demands I obey Him or else suffer the consequences.   A God like that makes the natural man very, very nervous.

The natural man doesn’t want to consider a God who is holy and righteous, because like the toddler throwing a tantrum, calling mommy mean after she demands he go to bed, the natural man finds a holy God meddlesome and cruel and mean.

It keeps coming back to those first three chapters in Genesis, you see.   The lie the serpent told in the garden of Eden.

God has forbidden you to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, has He?  He has told you that in the day you eat of it, dying you shall die?  Well let me tell you, that’s a lie.  The truth is He doesn’t want you to discover who you really are.   He doesn’t want you to learn that you have the power to become as He is.  He doesn’t want you to know that you can be your own standard of good and evil, true and false, right and wrong and that He will have to honor your decision if He is good.

But the lie was a lie even though the natural man still thinks it was true.

And so the natural man shakes his little fist at God in a tantrum and he shouts, “You’re mean. You’re cruel.  You don’t exist.  We need to be ride of You.”

The tragedy is that we are told in the first three chapters of God’s book that man did, in fact, live in a world without pain and suffering and death, but that this was not perfectly good enough for the man, because what the man wanted instead was the right to be sovereign over that little part of the universe he calls his life.

Man wanted the right to call all the shots, to do as he pleases, to decide for himself what is right and wrong, good and evil, true and false.  And man wanted it all without ever experiencing the consequences of disobeying God.

God had said, in the day you eat of it dying you shall die. God would be a liar if this had not happened.  But God is not a liar and we are all here today dying and shall one day die.

The natural man scours the earth, searching and studying everything done under the sun.  And the only thing he finds for all his searching is only evil continually.

And so rather than thinking to himself, well, what did you expect, little man?   After all, this is what you get for disobeying God.   Rather than thinking that though, the natural man instead thinks to himself there is no God, because I can’t find one who will let me do what I want and get away with it.
What is God’s answer to all this?

Turn with me in your Bibles if you will to Romans chapter 9.   We’re going to read the whole chapter so we can get a feel for what’s going on here, but our text is going to start at verse 6 and run to verse 23.  I’m reading from the English Standard Version.

Romans 9
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel[c] be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.”29 And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”


The apostle begins this chapter by expressing his grief over the fact that many of his Jewish kinsmen have been excluded from God’s plan of salvation.  And he finds this all the more heartbreaking by the fact that it was through them, through their race that Christ came.  It was to their forefathers that God made the promise to, and it was to them that God gave His law, and from them that He established a nation.

But the apostle then quickly adds that this does not mean the word of God has failed.  That is, even though most Jews have been excluded from God’s plan of salvation, this does not mean God’s plan of salvation has failed or even has changed.

And the reason why it has not failed, is because God’s plan of salvation never included most Jews.  The plan was never about nations, but rather about individuals.

This is why it will not help anyone to be born of one nation and not another.  Because the promise is not by genealogy.   The promise is instead by faith.  God’s plan for salvation was for individuals, not nations.

The apostle then gives us an example from the Old Testament to prove his point.  Starting in verse 9.

9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”  10 And not only so; that is, this wasn’t the only promise; but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”  13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

He shows us right there in his example that God’s plan of salvation included a predestined election.   In other words, God chose from before the foundation of the world to create a certain number of individuals whom He would love and a certain number of other individuals whom He would hate.

This choice He made had absolutely nothing to do with us, because if you will note here what the text says, it says, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of Him who calls.

This means He did not choose anyone based upon something they would do at some point in the future after they were born.   Nor does it mean He chose based upon some foresight He had about any choices they would make after they were born.

No, His choice had absolutely nothing to do with them.  Rather, He chose of His own good pleasure and will whom He would love and whom He would hate.  Those whom He loves and hates had no choice in the matter.

And keep in mind His choice has nothing to do with nations, because the promise is not by genealogy or birth.  It will not help anyone to be born of one nation or another, because the promise is by faith rather than by blood.

The apostle continues.  Starting with verse 14.

14 What shall we say then?  Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

In other words, after hearing this truth about God’s sovereignty in election someone is bound to ask, well doesn’t this mean God is unjust?  After all, He is going to hate some people before they’ve even had a chance to earn that hate?

The apostle answers, Absolutely not!  There is no injustice on God’s part.  His freedom to choose whom He will have mercy on and whom He won’t does not make Him unjust.  He is the Creator.  He has the right to create whomever He wants for whatever purpose He wants.

Think of it like this, God knew what Satan would do before God created him, right?   Right.  And yet He still created him anyway.  Why?

I’d say there is only one answer we can give to that question that will be consistent with the Scriptures.  God wanted Satan to do what Satan did.  He had purposed Satan to do what Satan to do.  It was why God had created him.

You see, false religion has given people the idea that God and the Devil are duking it out like Rocky and Drago and that in the end God is going to come out on top, but boy oh boy is it going to be a battle of blows back and forth until then.

No, that is not Biblical.  There is no battle of blows going on.  God is completely in control and always has been.

Look at Job, the first chapter of that book.  Who is it that starts the line of questioning?  God.  “Have you considered My servant Job, devil?”  And what does Satan say to God?  “Stretch out Your hand, God, against him and he will curse You to Your face.”

God doesn’t say, now just wait a minute there, devil.  What do you mean by stretch out My hand?  No, instead God says, okay devil, you can do this much to him, but no further.   And after Satan takes everything away from Job, what does Job say?  Does he say, that darned Satan, he’s afflicted me?  No.  He says, the LORD gives and the LORD takes away.  And the Bible says in everything Job did not sin against the Lord with his mouth.  Satan, it turns out, is just an extension of God’s hand.  He is God’s convenient executioner.

Why would God stretch out His hand though?  Why would He even ordain evil to begin with?

Here again, put it like this, if God truly is the most magnificent and wonderful Being in all the universe, then He must, by the very nature of this fact, be concerned first and foremost with glorifying His own magnificence, because if He were first and foremost concerned with anything else, then whatever else He would be first and foremost concerned with would itself be more magnificent than He.

God is not only perfectly good, omniscient and omnipotent.  He is also merciful and kind, and He is holy and righteous.  If He is to glorify Himself then, then He must glorify not only His mercy and grace by saving some people, but also His holiness and justice by condemning others.

But how is He going to get those people He has predestined to save into the position where they need to be saved?  And how is He going to get those people He predestined to condemn into the position where He can justly condemn them?

Enter Satan.  He opens the gates of the garden to a friendly little snake who was a liar from the beginning.  And in that garden that friendly little snake is going to encourage the first man to disobey God by telling that first man a lie about God.

And God is right to have predestined this, for He truly is worthy to be glorified.  He is worthy to glorify Himself and to receive all glory and honor and respect.

And see, it’s this right here that angers the natural man, because the natural man thinks he should be more than just a bit player on God’s stage.   He thinks he should be the playwright.  He thinks he should be who the play is about.

And so the natural man buries his head in his science and philosophy thinking that in these he will escape God’s control by shoving God out of His own universe.  He doesn’t realize though, that his scientific theories and philosophical monkery have all been ordained for him from eternity as a means to keep him deceived.

I mean, look at it.  Look at what Peter told us in his second epistle.  “scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.  They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

Ever hear of Uniformitarianism?  This is the theory that says the same natural laws and processes which operate in the universe now have always operated as they do now.  In other words, things are continuing now just as they were from the beginning of creation.  Darwin and Wallace built their theories of evolution upon this principle.  Evolution is that theory based on the principle that the diversity seen in the Earth’s species can be explained by the “uniform” modification of genetic traits over long periods of time.

They have said, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing just as they were from the beginning of creation.”

So you see, right there we see it has been ordained for them to believe this.  Evolution, Uniformitarianism, it was ordained for them in order to keep them deceived and blinded.  And we could keep going into all the sciences and philosophies.  Not that science and philosophy is inherently deceptive or bad.  No, there is such a thing as good science and good philosophy.   The apostle Paul asks us in 1 Corinthians, “where is the wise man? Where is the philosopher of this age?”  But these things can also be used to keep blind those whom God hates.

And so God has not lied about any of this, His sovereignty.  Right here it is before us in plain black and white, written in the pages of His word.

Here in our text in Romans 9 the apostle draws a conclusion about His sovereignty in predestination and election.  Beginning with verse 16.

16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.  17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  18 So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills.

Remember Pharaoh back in the book of Exodus?  How many times do the Scriptures tell us time and again that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let the people go?

The Scriptures even record for us that God told Moses at the burning bush, long before Moses even spoke to Pharaoh, that He was going to harden Pharaoh’s heart.

And I know modern American Churchianity has tried so hard to make these texts NOT say what they say, but none of their attempts make sense.  The texts do not say Pharaoh first hardened his heart and then the Lord found Pharaoh’s heart hardened and so He said, well, I guess I can now harden this guy’s heartsome more for some reason even though it’s already hardened.

No.  Verse 18 in our text here in Romans 9 says, “He hardens whomever He will.”

God had determined beforehand that Pharaoh was not going to let the Hebrews go.  And so one of the ways He brought His determined plan about was by hardening Pharaoh’s heart.   And He was right to have done this, because as the text tells us, it was for this reason that God had raised Pharaoh up that God might proclaim through Pharaoh His power over all the earth.

This idea born from false religion that says man has a free will, it’s nonsense.  Man does not have a free will.  Man is born dead in his trespasses and sins.  He is a slave to his sin.  He wills to disobey.  He cannot help but to disobey. He makes choices, but every choice he makes is in accordance with his desire for sin.

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Psalm 53:3-4 God looks down from heaven
on the children of man
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.

Luther rightly pointed out in his classic debate with Erasmus that the mere presence of a commandment in Scriptures does not imply ability.  In other words, the commandments tell us what we ought to do, and not instead what we can do.

Romans 8:7 The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Man has an intellect, emotions and a will.   His intellect allows him to think rationally, rather than by instinct like the beasts.  His emotions enable him to feel and experience.  And his will enables him to make choices that have moral consequences.

But in addition to this he also has a nature.  He has a nature that is different from the nature of that which is shared by plants and that which is shared by animals.  Trees have one kind of nature, lions have another kind, and man still another.

And what man’s nature is, is sin.  Disobedience is as natural to him as mud is to a pig.  Ask any parent who has raised a toddler.  Man is born ready to disobey.   Sin to him is what green is to grass.  It colors his intellect, his emotions, his will.  He wills to commit only evil continually.

Someone says, but Dave, what about folks like Mother Theresa?  Don’t they do good things?

No, they do not, for here again their charitable deeds are done in disobedience.   They are the charitable deeds of darkness.  Rather than submitting to Christ’s righteousness and then afterward seeking to show their gratitude to Him by filling the food bowls of many hungry children, they instead sought to establish their own righteousness by filling the food bowls of many hungry children.

Have I done enough to prove to You God just how righteous I am?  Have I filled enough bowls yet?

Matthew 7:21-23
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
In his unfallen state, man was good.  But the fall into disobedience has twisted every part of man’s nature. Man in his fallen state is darkened in his intellect and incapable of understanding the things of the Spirit of God.  His emotions now deceive him, and his will, his ability to choose good over evil and right over wrong is bound to his desire for self righteousness.

And now I’m told by the natural man that there is supposed to be no consequence for this?  Everything is just supposed to continue along all hunky-dory?  No, you see, that would not be a good God, because that would not be a holy God.

God must punish man for his disobedience.  This world and the death which follows is exactly what man deserves for his disobedience.  Death and suffering and meanness is what man deserves as punishment for his evil.

And let no one think that the suffering and evil which man experiences is a punishment too big to fit the crime, for if God’s holiness is of such an absolute nature that He required the very death of His own Son to atone for the crime on behalf of His elect, then the punishment is every bit fit for the crime.
Here back in our text in Romans, having laid out the details concerning God’s sovereignty in election, the apostle next here in our text in Romans 9 anticipates a question.  Verse 19.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”

That is, why does God then still hold men accountable for their sins if He is the one who has determined beforehand that they would commit them?

The apostle’s answer is sharp and to the point. Verse 20.

20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”  21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?  22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory

In other words, what right do you have to challenge the Creator to justify Himself?  Does He not have the right as the Creator to make His creation in whatever way He sees fit?  If the artist can choose what to paint, then how is the Painter of the Universe at the very least not right to do the same?

Has the Creator no right to make some people for salvation and others for condemnation?  Has He no right to justify those He has made for salvation by sending His Son to die for their sins?  Has He no right to form a person for the purpose of disobeying Him so that He might condemn him for that disobedience?  And do these two choices to save one and condemn another, do they not glorify all of His attributes rather than only three?

Of course they do.  And of course He has this right.  He is not unjust to have created some for salvation and others for destruction.  He would only be unjust had He lied about this, but He didn’t.

This is not American Jesus, meek and mild.  No, this God is frightening.   He is fierce in His justice and terrible in His anger.   This God terrifies man, because He is completely outside of man’s control.  We cannot manipulate Him.  We cannot frustrate Him.  We cannot even choose Him unless He first chooses us.

In his book, “The Sovereignty of God”, Arthur Pink writes:

“How different is the God of the Bible from the God of modern Christendom! The conception of Deity which prevails most widely today, even among those who profess to give heed to the Scriptures, is a miserable caricature, a blasphemous travesty of the Truth. The God of the twentieth century is a helpless, effeminate being who commands the respect of no really thoughtful man. The God of the popular mind is the creation of maudlin sentimentality. The God of many a present-day pulpit is an object of pity rather than of awe-inspiring reverence.”

Isaiah 45:5-7
I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.

Deuteronomy 32:39
“‘See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand.

Outside of Christ it is not difficult to see why evil exists.  Rather, outside of Christ, it is impossible to see why evil exists.  Outside of Christ, the natural man will always keep coming to the same knuckleheaded conclusions about why evil exists.

God also purposes evil for the good of His elect . . .

Genesis 50, verses 19 and 20.  Years after Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery, they find themselves at his mercy seated on an Egyptian throne.  They beg him to spare their lives for the evil they had committed all those years ago.

19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Joseph’s brother had meant it for evil, but God had meant it for good.  God had a purpose for this evil.  Get Joseph into Egypt where He could then install him on a throne as second in command of all Egypt, and then from there direct him to begin storing food in preparation for a severe famine that He intended to bring upon the land.

And for what purpose?  To glorify His name by preparing the fulfillment of the promise He made to Abraham.

But God does not only purpose evil for the good of His elect, nor does this good always immediately appear the way we might think it should.  He also purposes evil for the destruction of those He hates, but here again this does not always look the way we might think it should.

It did not look good for Joseph to be thrown into a pit and then later carried by slave traders weeping and terrified into Egypt.  And it looked even worse after he was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit.

But we find at the end that everyone of those evil things that occurred in Joseph’s life were actually stepping stones taking him eventually to the very foot of the throne of Egypt.

Now, contrast this evil which He purposes for the destruction of those He hates.

Psalm 73
Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For there are no pangs in their death,
But their strength is firm.
They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.
Therefore pride serves as their necklace;
Violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes bulge with abundance;
They have more than heart could wish.
They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression;
They speak loftily.

Skipping down to verse 16.

When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.

18 Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
19 Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.
20 As a dream when one awakes,
So, Lord, when You awake,
You shall despise their image.
The evil here which God purposes for those He hates appears from the outside to look like a blessing.  The wicked prosper.  They have no troubles. They have no worries.  They laugh and mock and abuse with impunity.  I’m sure Job’s friends would have believed them righteous.

God warns in 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, speaking of those who refuse to love the truth.

2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

God sends upon those He hates a strong delusion to make them believe a lie.  And that strong delusion is very often prosperity, comfort and long life.   Just look at Trinity Broadcasting Network for an example today.

These people think they’re righteous.  They think God has blessed them.  After all, look how prosperous they are, look how comfortable their lives and how healthy they are.  Surely they have received of God’s grace, right?

This isn’t to say there is anything necessarily wrong with wealth or health or a comfortable lifestyle.  Job had a comfortable life style.  He had wealth and health.  It’s just to say that God does at times use wealth and comfort to keep people deceived.

God often uses religion to do the same.  From how many multiplex churches or towering Cathedrals have you heard the gospel of God’s sovereign grace preached?   I have yet to hear it preached even once.

Isaiah 10
Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger;
the staff in their hands is My fury!
6 Against a godless nation I send him,
and against the people of my wrath I command him,
to take spoil and seize plunder,
and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
7 But he does not so intend,
and his heart does not so think;
but it is in his heart to destroy,
and to cut off nations not a few;
8 for he says:
“Are not my commanders all kings?
9 Is not Calno like Carchemish?
Is not Hamath like Arpad?
Is not Samaria like Damascus?
10 As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,
whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
11 shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols
as I have done to Samaria and her images?”
12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. 13 For he says:

“By the strength of my hand I have done it,
and by my wisdom, for I have understanding;
I remove the boundaries of peoples,
and plunder their treasures;
like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.
14 My hand has found like a nest
the wealth of the peoples;
and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken,
so I have gathered all the earth;
and there was none that moved a wing
or opened the mouth or chirped.”
15 Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,
or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?

Here God had raised up Assyria for the purpose of punishing the nations for their idolatry, as well as Jerusalem for its own disobedience.  He wielded Assyria like a staff, bringing it down upon the idolatrous nations in fierce and holy anger, treading down these idolatrous peoples like mire in the street.

But Assyria didn’t see it that way.  Assyria believed it had gotten where it was by the strength and determination of its own might.  It paid no honor and no respect to the God who had raised it up for His purposes.

And so when the time approached to punish Israel, Assyria did not tremble at so terrible the responsibility.  No, instead it mocked Israel and its God and it said to itself, that nation is just like any other.  We will wipe away the God of Israel and His people just as we did all the other nations’ idols.

Assyria was deceived though.  Their successes in war had lured them into thinking they were the cause of their success and were therefore invincible.  How wrong they were.

There is no problem of evil.  At least not in the way the natural man means it.  It’s not evil that the natural man has a problem with.  It’s God that he has a problem with.  It’s the God who is holy and righteous and who demands that man obey Him, and who punishes man for his disobedience.   That’s who the natural man has a problem with.   And apart from Christ mankind will always reason that God is mean and selfish and unjust for being holy.

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