A Federal Vision or Just the Same Old Nonsense

A controversy arose in 2002 after an annual pastor’s conference held at the Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church in Monroe, Louisiana.  The controversy centered around the subjects of baptism, justification and salvation.  The men who were invited to speak at this conference included Steve Wilkins, pastor of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church; Douglas Wilson; R C Sproul, Jr; Carl Robbins; John Barach; and Steve Schlissel.  The theological views presented by these men soon came to be known as Federal Vision Theology.  In September of the same year, under pressure to defend the views they presented, the Auburn session approved a 13-point summary statement of their views.

I wish I could say these 13 points represented a new threat to the gospel, but they didn’t. Sadly, most have been present and even cherished in reformed/Calvinistic/Presbyterian circles for decades and sometimes even centuries.  The only thing new about them is the way they were combined with baptism and communion.  Consider, for example:

Summary Statement of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church’s Position on the Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation (emphasis within are mine):

  1. This covenant is made with believers and their children. It is publicly manifested in the Church, the body of Christ which we formally enter by means of baptism. The Church is not merely a human community, and the Church’s enactments of the means of grace ARE NOT MERELY HUMAN WORKS. THEY ARE GOD’S WORKS THROUGH HIS ORDAINED MINISTERS. The Church herself is God’s new creation, the city He promised to build for Abraham. The Church is not MERELY A MEANS TO SALVATION, a stepping-stone to a more ultimate goal. Rather, the Church herself is God’s salvation, the partially-realized goal in history that will be brought to final fulfillment at the last day. WHEN SOMEONE IS UNITED TO THE CHURCH BY BAPTISM, HE IS INCORPORATED INTO CHRIST AND INTO HIS BODY; HE BECOMES BONE OF CHRIST’S BONE AND FLESH OF HIS FLESH.

    So, baptism and communion are not “merely” (notice the propagandist language) the works of men who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.  No, they are God’s works effectually wrought through the hands of “ordained” ministers.  Too bad for those who aren’t ordained ministers, huh.

    Furthermore though, these “means which God effectually works through the hands of His ordained ministers” they are the very means of salvation itself.  That is, in answer to the question how does God save His elect, these men answer, by uniting the elect to the church through the sacraments of baptism and communion.  If this does not represent a blatant return to Rome then nothing does.

    But the tragedy is only beginning, because we are about to find a whole lot of other men drawn into the act.

  2. By baptism one is joined to Christ’s body, united to Him covenantally, and given all the blessings and benefits of His work. This does not, however, grant to the baptized FINAL SALVATION; RATHER, IT OBLIGATES HIM TO FULFILL THE TERMS OF THE COVENANT (EMBRACING THESE BLESSINGS BY FAITH, REPENTING OF SINS, AND PERSEVERING IN FAITHFUL OBEDIENCE TO GOD). One can only fulfill the terms of the covenant by faith, not by works. (?) And even this faith is the gift of God, lest anyone should boast.

    Now where have I heard this before?

    10. Once baptized, an individual may be truly called a Christian because he is a member of the household of faith and the body of Christ. HOWEVER, NOT ALL WHO ARE CHRISTIAN IN THIS SENSE WILL PERSEVERE TO THE END. SOME WILL FALL FROM GRACE AND BE LOST. The Bible DOES NOT explain the distinction between the nature of the work of the Spirit in the reprobate and the nature of His work in the elect, and even uses the same language for both.

    So, people who are part of the body of Christ will not persevere?  Some parts of Christ’s body will fall from grace and be lost?  Anyone remember what the P in TULIP stands for anymore?

10-2.  For example, the same language that describes the Spirit coming upon Saul (1 Sam. 10:6) is used when the Spirit comes upon David (1 Sam. 16:13), Gideon (Jdg. 6:34), Jephthah (Jdg. 11:29), and Samson (Jdg. 14:6, 9; 15:14). Yet in four of these five cases (David, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson), the man in question was clearly given persevering faith and brought to FINAL SALVATION BY THE SPIRIT’S WORK. The Biblical narrative, however, appears to draw NO DISTINCTION between Saul’s initial experience of the Spirit and the experience of those who obtained FINAL SALVATION. While God, no doubt, predestined Saul’s apostasy (since He foreordains all that comes to pass), God was not the author of Saul’s apostasy. Saul received the same initial covenantal GRACE that David, Gideon, and other men who persevered in faith received, but he did not receive the gift of perseverance. At the same time, HIS FAILURE TO PERSEVERE WAS DUE TO HIS OWN REBELLION. Herein lies the great mystery of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

Just what is this reminding me of?

11.  None of those elect unto final salvation can lose that salvation, however much he may backslide. God preserves all His elect in covenant faithfulness. THE BIBLICAL LANGUAGE REGARDING SALVATION, HOWEVER, IS MORE COMPLICATED.    In one sense, ALL THOSE IN THE COVENANT ARE SAVED.  They have been delivered out of the world and brought into the glorious new creation of Christ, BUT NOT ALL WILL PERSEVERE IN THAT SALVATION.  Jesus spoke of those in the new covenant who would be UNITED TO HIM, BUT THEN CUT OFF BECAUSE THEY DID NOT PERSEVERE IN FRUIT-BEARING.  If Jesus Himself is salvation, are we not forced to conclude that being cut off from Him means being cut off from the source of salvation and from salvation itself?

Oh yeah, now I remember what this reminds me of.

“God’s grace is not a static attribute whereby He passively accepts hardened, unrepentant sinners. Grace does not change a person’s standing before God yet leave His character untouched. Real grace does not include, as Chafer claimed, ‘the Christian liberty to do precisely as he chooses.’ True grace, according to Scripture, teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.  Grace is the power of God to fulfill our new covenant duties, however inconsistently we obey at times. Clearly, grace do not grace permission to live in the flesh; it supplies power to live in the Spirit. Faith, like grace, is not static. Saving faith is more than just understanding the face and mentally acquiescing. It is inseparable from repentance, surrender, and a supernatural longing to obey.” – John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, pg 7

“Saving faith is more than just understanding the facts and mentally acquiescing. It is inseparable from repentance, surrender, and a supernatural longing to obey. None of these responses can be classified exclusively as a human work, any more than believing itself is solely a human effort.” – John MacArthur, ibid, pg 7

“The answer to the question, what is faith? is the most basic one in this whole controversy. It is not a simple mental assent to facts—not lordship facts and not Savior facts. It is a heartfelt coming to Christ and resting in him for what he is and what he offers. It is an act of the heart that no longer hates the light but comes to the light because a new set of spiritual taste buds have been created and Christ now tastes satisfying to the soul.” – John Piper, Letter to a Friend Concerning the So Called Lordship Salvation

“Reformed theology cuts the ground out from underneath the position presented by Wilkin (Robert), for the faith that saves is the work of the Spirit in regeneration itself, and hence cannot possibly be separated from the rest of the work of the Spirit. Hence, there is no contradiction between saying that a person who believes has eternal life and saying that a person who keeps Christ’s word has will never see death. Only the synergist has to struggle to explain the relationship: the monergist has a consistent understanding.” – James White, “Lordship Salvation, Faith, Repentance, and Monergism”

The Auburn men talk of a “final salvation” brought about the Spirit.  Lordship drops the “final” aspect of this even as they continue to talk about salvation as being wrought by the Spirit.  Funny thing, I thought salvation was something which had been wrought by the Son and is only applied by the Spirit.  Not according to the Lordship Salvation or Federal Vision men it isn’t.

Listening to the Auburn lectures it becomes clear what the Auburn men think of faith.  They talk about faith as being “more than mere intellectual assent”, and they talk about the object of faith as being “not merely doctrine, but rather a person.”   Once again with the no creed but Christ nonsense.

12.   It appears that the Bible speaks of salvation, more often than not, IN RELATIONAL AND COVENANTAL CATEGORIES, RATHER THAN IN METAPHYSICAL ONES. SALVATION IS NOT A THING WE POSSESS THAT CAN BE LOST AND FOUND, LIKE CAR KEYS. IT IS A MATTER OF BEING RIGHTLY RELATED TO GOT THROUGH CHRIST.  BUT RELATIONSHIPS ARE NOT STATIC, UNCHANGING ENTITIES.   THEY ARE FLUID AND DYNAMIC.  Our salvation covenant with the Lord is like a marriage. IF WE PERSEVERE IN LOYALTY TO CHRIST, WE WILL LIVE WITH HIM HAPPILY EVER AFTER.  IF WE BREAK THE MARRIAGE COVENANT, HE WILL DIVORCE US It may not be wise to call this “losing one’s salvation,” but it seems contrary to Scripture to say that nothing at all is lost. To draw such a conclusion appears to deny the reality of the covenant and the blessedness that is said to belong even to those who ultimately prove themselves reprobate.

A “fluid and dynamic” relationship is neither what the Scriptures nor the reformers defined as a forensic judgment.  The gospel is about what Christ got done outside of His elect, and not instead about what Christ can do with them and alongside them.

In the April, 2003 issue of Christian Renewal (a Canadian newspaper), Steven Wilkins, Douglas Wilson, John Barach, and Steven Schlissel sat down for an interview.  In this interview, Steve Schlissel stated:

“Have Reformed folks gotten it wrong? Yes, to the extent that they’ve followed Luther in an imaginary Law/Gospel antithesis…. The law as God gave it is the gospel…. And the gospel as announced by Paul is the law…. The gospel brings demands…. The gospel has obligations. Always has…. the gospel is permeated with God’s good law . . . we insist that saving faith is an obedient faith.”

Douglas Wilson echoed this sentiment:

“What drives apostasy is unbelief, and the engine that drives salvation is faith and only faith.”

[Interviewer: “But not faith only”?]

[Wilson]: “Not bare bones faith. Not assent. Devils have that. True faith is more than assent…. we say faith cannot be separated from trust and obedience, and…we say saving faith cannot be separated from a life of obedience and trust.”

Isn’t this exactly what MacArthur has said?  Indeed, it is.

“Saving faith is more than just understanding the face and mentally acquiescing. It is inseparable from repentance, surrender, and a supernatural longing to obey.” – John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, pg 7

“Orthodox doctrine by itself is no proof of saving faith. Demons affirm the oneness of God and tremble at is implications, but they are not redeemed. Mathew 8:29 tells of a group of demons who recognized Jesus as the Son of God. They even exhibited fear. Demons often acknowledge the existence and authority of Christ (Matt. 8:29-30); Mark 5:7), His deity (Luke 4:41), and even His resurrection (Acts 19:15), but their diabolical nature is not changed by what they know and believe. Their fearful affirmation of orthodox doctrine is not the same as saving faith. James implies that demonic faith is greater than the fraudulent faith of a false professor, for demonic faith produces fear, whereas unsaved men have ‘no fear of God before their eyes’. If the demons believe, tremble, and are not saved, what does that say about those who profess to believe and don’t even tremble?” – John MacArthur, The Gospel According to the Apostles, pg 151

Like the Lordship Salvationists, the Auburn men also deny that doctrine is the object of faith, and that faith is intellectual assent to this doctrine.   The Auburn men insist instead that faith is in a person and in a relationship, and not instead in facts about said person.

I wish I could say only the Lordship and Federal Vision guys share this idiotic view, but I would be lying if I did.  Sadly, this Kierkegaardian existential view of faith has been the cherished opinion of many reformed folk for centuries.  One need only read how Sandeman is treated to see this.

Not satisfied to deny only four of the five points, the Auburn men go on to deny the fifth, as well.

8.  God has decreed from the foundation of the world all that comes to pass, including who would be saved and lost for all eternity. Included in His decree, however, is that some persons, NOT DESTINED FOR FINAL SALVATION, will be drawn to Christ and His people ONLY FOR A TIME. These, for a season, enjoy real blessings, PURCHASED FOR THEM BY CHRIST’S CROSS, and applied to them by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament.

Here again, I wish I could say this was something new, but . . .

“In continuing the analysis of this doctrine (particular atonement), it is necessary to be clear what the question is not. The question is not whether many benefits short of justification and salvation accrue to men from the death of Christ.  The unbelieving and the reprobate in this world enjoy numerous benefits that flow from the fact that Christ died and rose again.  The mediatorial dominion of Christ is universal.  Christ is head over all things and is given authority in heaven and earth.  It is within this mediatorial dominion that all the blessings which men enjoy are dispensed.” – John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, pg. 61

“Evan (Evangelista). I beseech you consider, that God the Father, as he is in his Son Jesus Christ, moved with nothing but with his free love to mankind lost, hath made a deed of gift and grant unto them all, that whosoever of them all shall believe in this his Son, shall not perish, but have eternal life. And hence it was, that Jesus Christ himself said unto his disciples, (Mark 16:15), ‘Go and preach the gospel to every creature under heaven’: that is, Go and tell every man without exception, that here is good news for him; Christ is dead for him; and if he will take him, and accept of his righteousness, he shall have him. — The Marrow of Modern Divinity, Edward Fisher, Chapter 2, Section 3, 3

Read any of the tolerant Calvinists today.  James White insists the apostles defined THE CHURCH by more than facts about the Trinity, the Cross and the resurrection, but he’ll turn right around and insist you’re Hyper-Calvinist if you insist they also defined THE GOSPEL by more than these facts too.

My question for the ministers and pastors and synods who criticize and refute the Auburn men for their view on baptism; why bother when you yourselves have been preaching the same heresies they have?  Why not first clean out the Lordship Salvationists and Tolerants in your midst?  Why are you holding to obvious heresies like Common Grace and the Free Offer and then pretending to be shocked when men like Schlissel and Wilson take you up on it?

9.  Salvation depends upon being united to Christ (REFER TO #7 ABOVE TO SEE HOW ONE IS TO BE UNITED TO CHRIST.) Clearly, those who are eternally saved are those who continue to abide in Him by the grace of God. There are those, however, who are joined to Him as branches in the vine, but who because of unbelief are barren and fruitless and consequently are cut off from the vine and from salvation. Jesus says these “believe for a while” but do not bear fruit unto salvation.


13. With this understanding, the “five points of Calvinism” are still preserved, but they have been enriched by a nuanced covenant theology following the tradition and teaching of Augustine and Calvin. By framing the issues as we have, we are able to preserve God’s sovereignty in salvation and hold covenant breakers accountable for their apostasy. Additionally, this view seems to do full justice to the Scripture’s teaching on the nature of the Church and efficacy of the sacraments, as well as the genuineness of the covenantal promises and threats. In our formulation of how we understand the application of God’s sovereign and covenantal grace, we lose nothing and yet, gain much in our understanding of how the sovereign God applies His salvation in history.

No, the five points of Calvinism are not still preserved. Nothing about the five points of Calvinism are preserved by anything in these 13 points, or in the heresies of Lordship Salvation, Common Grace, the Free Offer of the Gospel or the Marrow.   You accept any of those, then you might as well call yourself a Federal Vision man.

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The Natural Man Does Not Believe that Believing the Gospel is the Evidence of Salvation by Giovanni Camacho

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:18 ESV

Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 1 John 5:10 ESV

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 1 John 5:20 ESV

Believing in Christ means that you believe what God has said about Christ (i.e. the gospel). You cannot believe in Christ without believing the gospel-that is to say, that believing in Christ is the same thing as believing the gospel. These two things are not separate. There is no meaningful, Biblically-based distinction between believing in Christ and believing the gospel. Scripture does not present believing in Christ as one thing, and believing the gospel as another thing. Some think that one can believe in Christ without believing the gospel. Or that one can believe in Christ without having any knowledge of who He is or what He did. These are those who say things like “I don’t need doctrine, I just need Jesus,” or “All you need to do is believe in Jesus, you don’t need that cold and hard doctrine,” and other such like phrases. This is falsehood.

You cannot believe in Christ (i.e. believe the gospel) if you don’t know anything about Him or His work. That is to say, there is no such thing as a content-less gospel. In like manner, you cannot be wrong about His Person and work and also believe in Christ, because to believe in Christ means that you agree with what God has said concerning Him and His work, not falsehood about who He is and what He did. To rightly be called a “believer,” or to “believe” as contemplated by the verses cited at the beginning means to agree with the very specific, very simple, and very clear propositions that God has put forward concerning Christ and His work. The gospel is a simple message…but it is a hated message by those who have not yet been converted.

To believe means to agree with or to assent. Believing a proposition does not make the proposition actually true or false. The veracity or falsehood of the proposition is independent from one’s assent to it. To believe a proposition simply means that we, in our minds, agree with the proposition. If I believe that the proposition 2+2=4 is true, then I agree with a proposition that is, in fact, a true proposition. The proposition that 2+2=4 is actually true, whether or not I agree with it. My believing it or not believing it in no way affects the veracity of the proposition. However, my agreement with the proposition does determine whether my belief is correct-that is to say, whether my belief agrees with objective reality or the truth. If I agree with propositions that are actually true, then my belief matches ( i.e. I agree with) the objective reality-the truth.

Likewise, if I believe that the proposition 2+2=5672 is true, then I agree with a proposition that is a false proposition. This proposition is false, no matter how many people agree with it. My believing that proposition in no way affects that it is false-that is to say, that my believing that proposition does not make it true or false by merit of believing of it. However, my agreement with the proposition does determine whether my belief is correct/incorrect-that is to say, whether my belief does, or in this case, does not agree with the objective reality. A false proposition will never be or become true, no matter how many people decide that they agree with it.

If what you believe is incorrect, then by definition, you do not believe the truth. Instead, you believe a falsehood. It doesn’t matter how popular that falsehood is, it is and always will be a falsehood. Contrarily, if what you believe is correct, then by definition, you believe the truth. It also doesn’t matter how popular the truth is, it is and always will be a truth.

The gospel is a definite and limited set of propositions concerning the Person and work of the sinless God-man Jesus Christ. These propositions describe both who He is and what He did when He took on flesh, dwelt among men, died on a Roman cross and was raised. The gospel also describes the meaning of His work-what His death actually accomplished from a theological standpoint. There is only ONE gospel that is true.

The gospel is a complete set of propositions. Leave out one or more of these propositions and you have an incomplete gospel. Change one or more of these propositions and you have a false gospel. Both of these are useless. We know this because Paul says in Romans 1:16 that “THE gospel is THE POWER of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” When Paul uses the phrase “the gospel” he is intending to communicate that the complete and accurate set of propositions concerning the Person and work of Jesus Christ are THE POWER of God for salvation. He leaves no room for the conclusion that one can do with an incomplete or false version of this gospel. He states that the gospel is THE POWER of God for salvation. It is the means that God uses to save His people. False and incomplete gospels are not the power of God, and therefore cannot save.

You either believe these gospel propositions and are RIGHTLY called a “believer,” or you do not believe these gospel propositions, and calling yourself a “believer” is presumptuous and incorrect. You don’t get to believe falsehood and still get to be called a “believer.”

The natural man hates the gospel. He also hates the claim that believing the truth (i.e. believing the gospel) is the EVIDENCE that one has been saved by Christ. He would rather assume that something he has DONE is what makes the difference between eternity with God or eternal death. He does not actually care much for the content of the gospel, as long as one remains within a wide universe of what he considers acceptable belief.

Let’s be clear, it is the work of Christ on the cross that saves His elect. Nothing in the elect sinner, or nothing that the elect sinner does, including believing the gospel, can save them. It is Christ’s work and His imputed righteousness alone that will cause one to stand guiltless before God. But HOW do YOU KNOW that Christ saved YOU? The Bible teaches that one KNOWS that Christ saved them by BELIEVING the GOSPEL, or BELIEVING IN CHRIST. The issue is one of assurance of salvation. Every religious person ASSUMES (most incorrectly and without justification) that they will be saved, but on what are they basing their assurance? Usually, it’s something they have done.

Let’s look at the first text I cited-Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:18 ESV. This text instructs us that those who BELIEVE in Him are not condemned, and those who do not believe in Him are condemned already, BECAUSE they have not believed in Him. The BELIEVING is what IDENTIFIES or distinguishes those who possess eternal life from those who are condemned. As stated earlier, this phrase “believes in Him” refers to believing the testimony that GOD has given concerning Christ, not believing a lie from the devil and hoping that will do.

The devil lies about Christ. He lies about His person and His work. These lies that he puts forward about Christ amount to false gospels-they do not describe the truth concerning Christ and His work, two things which are completely inextricable. His Person and work cannot be separated. You cannot be talking about the true Christ while ascribing to Him a work which He did not do. In doing so, you have merely described a false christ. In lying about Christ, the devil actually invents false christs and false works to deceive those who belong to him. The closer these lies resemble the truth, the more deceptive they are.

Make no mistake, the devil will never tell the truth about Christ, and where one is hearing about a christ whose person and work does not match up with the testimony given by God, no matter how slight or seemingly insignificant the deviation may be, one has encountered a false christ and an invention of the devil designed to deceive and keep one ensnared to do the devil’s will. The most sophisticated form of deception is found in false religion-in those things that man assumes please God. The sin that deceives men naturally is not immorality, but rather self-righteousness brought to fruition through false religion.

It is the gospel that reveals the self-righteousness of men as utterly disgusting and deplorable to a Holy God and points the converted sinner to the only acceptable righteousness before Him-that established by Jesus Christ.

So, the issue comes back to assurance and the gospel. Which gospel do you believe? Do you believe the testimony of God? Or do you believe a lie of the devil? The lie of the devil cannot provide you a biblically supported ground of assurance of salvation, but you can be deceived into thinking that it will suffice, and that God will save you in spite of disagreeing with Him, which really means that you call God a liar. This is not a good place to be, and many who are here ASSUME incorrectly that they have right standing with God.

Look at what 1 John 5:10 says- “Whoever BELIEVES in the SON (that is, whoever believes the gospel) HAS THE TESTIMONY in himself.” What John is saying is that the sinner who believes in the Son of God has the gospel as the evidence of their salvation. It is the BELIEVING of the gospel that communicates ASSURANCE of salvation to the one who believes it. Why? Because the gospel is the testimony of God, and the Bible tells those who believe the testimony of God that they have eternal life. What is the gospel? The promise of God to save sinners based on the person and work of Jesus Christ. If you believe in Christ (i.e. agree with God concerning the Person and work of Christ), then you possess the promise of God to save sinners based on the Person and work of Christ. Believing the gospel is the evidence that God has promised to save you because of the Person and Work of Christ. Want to know if Christ and His work saved you? Repent and believe the gospel. That is the only thing that can give you true assurance of salvation. Everything else is sinking sand.

The natural man despises this idea. The natural man believes that any sinner can believe whatever they want about Jesus Christ (with some of their own personal caveats about what they think is and is not acceptable) and be saved in spite of not believing the truth. They deny that the gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Instead, they claim (indirectly) that satanic lies (i.e. false gospels) have the exact same ability to save as the true gospel, and that there is no meaningful distinction between the truth and a lie. That it doesn’t matter if you believe that Christ died for everyone and that one’s choice is what makes the atonement effective, or if you believe Christ only died for the elect and that the cross is the sole ground of their salvation. That it doesn’t matter if you believe that you can lose your salvation or that you can’t. That it doesn’t matter if you believe that God chooses who to save based on His own purpose or on what He sees inside a sinner. That what you about Christ specifically doesn’t matter, as long as you believe He did something for you. What did He do? Doesn’t matter, as long as you believe He did something for you.

The disgusting irony of all of this is that they will tell you that if you don’t believe that those who fail to make the right choice and “choose” Christ will suffer for all of eternity regretting their failure, that you are a heretic. Eternal torture, in their estimation, is non-negotiable. The work of Christ? Ahhh, who cares? You can think what you want about that, after all, no one has a perfect theology. What happens to the reprobate? You better be right about that, or you’re going to hell with them. Doesn’t matter what you believe about Christ, but if you believe that people will be annihilated, you’re a heretic. Doesn’t matter what you believe about Christ, but if you don’t believe in progressive sanctification/increasing holiness, then you’re a heretic. Doesn’t matter what you believe about Christ, but if you don’t stand with Israel, then you’re a heretic. This is the self-righteous hypocrisy and spiritual blindness of the natural man. The one thing that matters (the Person and Work of Christ) is the one thing they could not care less about in terms of precision. Everything else? Non-negotiable. Could it be that they feel so strongly about these other things because they cannot see Christ and the glory of His work? More on that some other time…

The natural man will give all sorts of reassurance to those who believe false gospels, piously claiming that “it is Christ’s work that saves” all the while denying/distorting what that work actually is and what it actually accomplished. They chide anyone who claims that the biblical evidence of salvation is believing the gospel, and essentially claim that God saves apart from the gospel (which is a denial of Romans 1) or that God saves using false gospels, which is to claim that God is a liar, or is ok using lies to save His people. This is blasphemy, and this is what spiritual warfare looks like.

Let’s look at the third text I cited-And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 1 John 5:20 ESV

Prior to believing the gospel, we did not have an understanding of the truth. We did not know God. We believed lies about God and Christ. Any assurance of salvation that we had at that time was based on false religion and was not biblically supported-it was deception.

It is Christ who comes and gives the elect sinner UNDERSTANDING of the truth SO THAT they may KNOW HIM who is true. This is a running theme through the New Testament. Christ says in John 8 that it is the Son who sets one free by means of the truth. Paul writes that Godly repentance leads one to a knowledge of the truth. John writes that it is God who teaches the truth to His people, and because they have been taught the truth, they come to Christ. Jesus Himself says that eternal life is KNOWING the one true God.

God ENSURES and CAUSES His chosen people to KNOW WHO HE IS AND WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR THEM THROUGH THE PERSON AND WORK OF JESUS CHRIST. IF God teaches you something, you will know it. He gives understanding. He created the human mind. No person that He teaches will fail to grasp what He teaches them because it is not their own capacity which causes them to grasp it, but rather a capacity given by God. The capacity to understand spiritual truth comes from God-He gives it to those He regenerates. Paul makes this very point in 1 Corinthians 2-those who have been made spiritual people understand spiritual truths-natural men cannot understand spiritual truths. That is HOW the elect sinner KNOWS that they are elect and therefore saved-because they KNOW and BELIEVE the gospel-God’s testimony of what He has done in Christ.

The issue keeps coming back to assurance. How do YOU KNOW that you are saved? If you don’t believe the gospel, then you don’t have biblically-based support for assuming that you are saved. Claiming to be saved in spite of failing to believe the gospel is just deception. Check this text out-“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. 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?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:21-23-ESV. How can you have assurance of salvation when you don’t believe what God says about His Son? Does God not love you enough to teach you the truth? If God doesn’t teach you the truth, then you don’t belong to Him, and believing lies only means you’re still captured by the devil, and have not been set free by the Son through the means of the truth. Repent and believe the testimony of God. That is the only way the assurance you have of salvation will be BACKED UP by the Word of God.

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Romans 4
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in[a] him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Romans 1:32  Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Guilt.  I sin, I know I sin, and I know I deserve to die for my sin.  The crushing weight of guilt and shame is more than I can endure.

Man has been trying to remove his burden of guilt ever since God drove him out of the garden.  He has tried hiding it with fig leaves, raging at it in murder, and burying it beneath a self righteous exterior.  Nothing works.  The guilt continues to hound him.

The Christianity I had been raised with, had indeed devoted the early part of my adult life to, could not address the overwhelming sense of guilt and shame that burdened me daily.  I am a sinner.  I sin every day. And I know I deserve to die for this.  Yet even so I cannot stop sinning.  No matter what I try, I continue to succumb to the temptation.  If God loves me, then why won’t He take the temptations away?  If He loves me, then why won’t He stop me from sinning?

I recall how even as a child I would sometimes lay awake in my bed at night, imagining the horrors of what would happen if I were to die in my sleep.  I was certain even at that age that I would wake up to find myself in hell.

Years later, after I reached adulthood, I tried the various religious methods that promise to alleviate my sense of guilt.  I tried the “let go and let God” method.  This method promised to be a virtual guarantee.  Whenever a temptation arose, I was to say under my breath, “Lord Jesus take over.”  This was supposed to be the means by which the Spirit would then energize me to overcome the temptation.  It never worked.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  The only thing it did was increase the feelings of guilt and shame.  After all, if the Lord Jesus was not “taking over”, I thought, then it had to be because I was too evil even for Him.

I tried the positive self talk method.  Don’t tell yourself you’re sinner.  That’s a lie.  Jesus died for you.  You’re God’s beloved now.  Right.  And can a leopard change its spots?  It didn’t work.  Lies cannot satisfy the demand of a guilty conscience. And if Jesus has died for everyone, then why is everyone still trying to not feel guilty?

I tried ignoring the guilt and instead burying myself in social outreach programs.  We give you this bag of groceries to show you that God loves you, no strings attached.  We wash your car to show you Jesus wants to have a relationship with you.  We give you this can of cola to . . .  blah, blah, blah.  Right.  And if God really loved me, then He’d do something about these feelings of guilt and shame.

I tried New Age and Humanism.  They just turned out to be sloppy philosophical versions of the other tricks I had already tried.

In despair, I eventually tried drowning the feelings of shame and guilt with alcohol and drugs.  This didn’t work either.  In fact, things just got worse. Shame spiraled down into depression before depression turned to anger and self abuse.  Alcohol and drugs have a way of convincing the abuser that he deserves the abuse.

Sometime in my thirties the Lord was finally pleased to reveal His gospel to me.  A friend and now brother in Christ had spent a few weeks poring over the gospel with me by email.  At the same time I had been studying the epistle to the Hebrews.  One afternoon, after I had spoken with my friend, I opened my Bible to resume my study of Hebrews.  I turned to chapter 10 and began to read.  Two minutes later, all the lights in my head came on.

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 then he adds,

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

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
There it was in front of me.  The answer for the guilt and shame I had lived with over the course of my adult life.   I had read the chapter at least three dozen times, but had never seen it like this before.  Here I was now though, seeing it for what seemed like the first time.

If there is anything we could do to make ourselves acceptable to God, then we would only need to do that thing one time, because having sufficed to make us acceptable to God once, that thing would have sufficed to make us acceptable to God forever.

My much praying, my repeated Bible studying, my church attendance, my many repeated attempts to resist temptation, none of these things could make me acceptable to God. The proof of this was that they had to keep being repeated.

There is only one thing that makes a person acceptable to God.  It was a thing which He Himself performed, and it is a thing which He shall never again repeat.  It was the sacrificial death of His own Son.

I realized right there and then that the gospel is not about a transformation inside me.  The gospel is not a renovation project.  Rather, it’s a relocation project.  God transfers His people from one kingdom to another.

In other words, the gospel is the good news about a change in federal headships. In Matthew 7, Jesus tells us that no good tree produces evil fruit, and no bad tree produces good fruit.  He was not telling us that everyone is a tree.  He was instead telling us that there are only two trees – one that is righteous and one that is unrighteous.

Jesus Christ is the second Adam.  He is the head of a new race of people; a people made righteous by the imputation of His righteousness to them.   He is the tree of life, and all who are “in Him” are His good fruit.

The first Adam is the head of an old race of people; a corrupted people made unrighteous by the imputation of his guilt to them.   He is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and all who are “in him” are his evil fruit.

The good news is God keeps books.  He’s a bookkeeper, an accountant.  This is how He justifies.  He does not justify by performing some mystical thing inside a person that results in better performance.  No, He justifies by doing something outside of the person.  And what He does is credit Christ’s obedience to their account.  He reckons Christ’s righteousness to them.

This solves the guilt.  It completely removes it in one fell swoop, because the righteousness is no longer dependent on my performance.  I am still getting bad results in my behavior, and yet I’m no longer crushed with overwhelming guilt because of it.

Put that on hold.

Opposite this good news is the theory of two natures.  This theory hypothesizes that all men have one nature that was corrupted by sin at the fall.  However, upon conversion through the gospel, the Holy Spirit creates a new nature for the man.  Though still possessing his sin nature, he now also has a righteous nature.  For the rest of his life then, these two natures will duke it out for supremacy inside him while he learns to submit to his new nature and resist his old sin nature.
This is not good news.  This is terrible news.  It’s terrible news for several reasons.  First, it debases the cross of Christ.  With the no nature good news, the cross is what God imputes to my account.  The object of my faith then, the thing which assures me that I am indeed righteous, is the sacrifice of Christ itself.

In the two natures bad news though, the cross merely serves to prepare man to receive a new nature so that he can now combat sin in his life.  It’s not the cross that serves to assure me that I am righteous.  Instead, it’s the experience of overcoming sin in my life that assures me, because this is what proves I have been justified.

In the no nature good news, guilt was once and for all dealt with in a single blow.  With the two natures bad news though, guilt is something that still rides me every time I fail to obey my spiritual nature.  I’m left wondering, am I really saved?  Have I really been regenerated? Am I really righteous?

Much like the two natures theory, the new nature theory also grounds righteousness upon something that occurs inside me.  Rather than hypothesizing two natures though, this theory instead proffers that our sin nature gets replaced with a new, sinless nature.  Even worse, this new sinless nature is then the grounds for God imputing Christ’s righteousness to men.  The men who teach this nonsense sneer at the idea that God would reckon an unrighteous person righteous by merely imputing righteousness to their account, because as they put it, this would be mere “legal fiction”.  They instead insist that we must be made inwardly righteous in some mystical way before God can then impute us righteous.  Just like the two natures theory, this one nature nonsense twists the gospel into a message about renovation rather than a transfer.

Both theories are false.  Both theories are a false gospel.  Both theories fail to see that the good news is not a message about righteousness grounded on personal transformation.   Rather, the good news is a message about righteousness grounded upon a single event that occurred outside of us two-thousand years ago at place called Golgotha.

In the third chapter of his epistle to the Galatians, the apostle Paul urges his readers to recall the message he had preached to them.  It was before your very eyes Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified, he says.  Notice that.  He does not say it was before your eyes you received a new nature, or it was before your eyes the Spirit made you to sin less.

Of course, some legalist is going to read this and then falsely charge me with Antinomianism.  They will accuse me of saying sin all you want with impunity, because after all, Jesus already paid for it.

I did not say this.  I did not say sin all you want with impunity.  God disciplines His people. His people have been instructed to resist evil and to do good, but this does not mean they will succeed, nor does it mean they will become less sinful. I have said it before and I will say it again; if I am becoming less sinful, then I am also growing less needful of the cross.

You stopped drinking?  Good for you.  AA has the same effect.
You stopped holding on to unforgiveness?  Good for you.  Psychological counseling has the same effect.
You stopped abusing drugs?  Good for you.  Recovery has the same effect.

If not drinking, smoking, and doing drugs is evidence of justification, then everyone who undergoes counseling and AA has been justified.  This is certainly not the case.

The reformers summarized the gospel like this; we are justified, not by something God does in us, but rather by something God does outside of us.  If this is true, then the object of our faith cannot be something done inside of me. It must instead be the something that God did outside of me.  Unfortunately for many in the reformed community today, people are by faith laying hold not of the cross, but rather themselves.

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The Gospel of Grace (Tract Form)

The gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness.  It reveals the good news of how, even though God is good and right to demand the death of all who disobey Him, He is also good and right to save from death a people who have disobeyed Him.  (Romans 1:16-17)

Long ago, before He created the world, God determined to glorify Himself by sending His Son to die for a people whom He had purposed to save from eternal judgment.  (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:5)

He also determined to glorify Himself by condemning to eternal judgment everyone whom He did not choose to save.  The Bible calls this choice, predestination.  (Romans 9:14-24)

In determining to save and condemn, God also chose who He would save and who He would condemn.   The choice He made had nothing to do with the people He chose.

In other words, He did not base His decision to save and condemn on anything we would do.  Rather, His decision was based solely upon His own good purpose and will.

God was not wrong to make this choice either.  After all, He is the Creator, and as the Creator He has the right to fashion His creation for whatever purpose He sees fit.   He would only be wrong if He had later lied about the purpose of its creation.  He did not.

Romans 9
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.  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.”So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”  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?” 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?  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, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

In so choosing who to save and who to condemn, God also determined that both groups would fall into sin.  In this way, He could send His Son to die for those whom He had chosen for salvation; thereby glorifying His mercy and kindness, as well as His holiness and justice.

Romans 9:9-13
For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”  And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,  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—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”  As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

God determined that both groups of people would fall into sin through the disobedience of one man.  That is, by treating Adam as the representative of the entire human race, God judged both groups of people guilty of Adam’s disobedience.  He did this through an act of imputation. Imputation is a word sometimes used in accounting.  It refers to the transfer of a value in one account to another.

To accomplish His purpose of felling the entire human race into sin, God credits Adam’s disobedience to every person’s account.  Adam disobeyed and now we each and every one of us get stuck with the bill.  (Psalm 51:5, Psalm 53:3-4, Romans 5:13-21)

This fall into sin, brought about by the imputation of Adam’s guilt is called Total Depravity. Total depravity, because the totality of man’s mind and body is effected by sin.  There is no part of him which desires to honor and worship God by submitting to His authority and obeying His commandments.  Although he knows from the observance of creation that God exists and is worthy of his honor and worship, he nevertheless suppresses this knowledge in unrighteousness.  (Romans 1:28-32)

For this reason, God’s good and just demand for those who disobey Him is death.  He demands this, because this was the penalty He announced beforehand for disobedience.

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

In addition to this imputation of Adam’s guilt, each man adds to this guilt.  His disobedience compounds.  He begins with Adam’s guilt imputed to him, and then adds the guilt of his own disobedience to this. Thus, both groups of people, those whom God had determined to save, and those whom He had determined to condemn, find themselves in utter need of salvation from God’s good and right punishment for their sins.

The method God had determined from eternity to use to save His elect from the punishment of death for their sins was the death of His Son. That is, in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son, born of a virgin, born under the law to redeem those who are under the condemnation of the law.  This Son of God is the eternal second Person of the Holy Trinity, the only begotten Son of God, God of God, Jesus Christ.

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.

God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, took to Himself human flesh and humbled Himself to be born of a virgin. He, who had always been fully God, consented to become also fully a man without ever ceasing to be God. Though He was fully a man, He was nevertheless conceived by the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, rather than by natural means. This means He was not born of Adam’s seed. That is, Adam did not represent Him. He came into the world unblemished by the imputation of Adam’s guilt. (Philippians 2:5-7, Luke 1:26-35)

To accomplish the salvation of His elect, Christ humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross. At the cross, God imputed all the sins of His elect to His Son, Jesus Christ.  That is, He reckoned Jesus guilty for every act of disobedience His people had done, were doing and would ever do.

In so doing, Jesus did not Himself become sinful.  Rather only, the sins of His elect were charged to His account.  The bill had been transferred to His account.  (2 Corinthians 5:21)

With Christ thus reckoned guilty of His elect’s sins by imputation, God then poured out upon Christ the full and eternal measure of His wrath. God punished His Son for the sins His of His elect.  Jesus died their death, the death they had merited with their disobedience, as well as the guilt Adam had merited for them.  (Matthew 1:21, John 10:14-15, John 10:26-29)

Jesus’ decision to die on the cross for His elect was an act of obedience.  He, whose will had always been in perfect agreement with the Father’s, now agreed once again with His Father even to the point of death.  Thus, His work was perfect in its obedience.

For this reason, God raised Christ from the dead. This act of raising Christ from the dead was God’s way of announcing to the world that Jesus Christ is righteous.  (Romans 1:3-4)

But there is still the matter of His elect’s depravity, for although Christ has taken the punishment due His elect for their disobedience, His elect are still nevertheless lost in the effects of total depravity.  To accomplish this total rescue of His elect, God first reckons them righteous.  That is, in the fullness of time, in some due course within each of their lives, God imputes to each of His elect the righteousness Christ earned for them by His perfect obedience.  This righteousness which He earned for them is made theirs by imputation. (Romans 4:3-5)

As an immediate consequence of this imputation, the Holy Spirit overcomes the willful suppression of God’s truth in each elect person’s mind.  That is, He makes the elect person to understand the gospel, as well as to believe it.  The Bible refers to this as new birth.

Having been imputed righteous and born again, the elect person is now declared righteous.   He did nothing to earn this declaration.   Rather, God Himself did all the work, and so therefore receives all the gratitude and glory for accomplishing it.  The Bible refers to this declaration as justified.

Realizing that God’s holy law can no longer accuse him because Christ has suffered the law’s punishment for his disobedience, the justified man now delights in God’s law.  Though his body is still under the influence of evil desires which he can never escape in this life, the justified man nevertheless does still desire to please God.   (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13-14)

In addition to this, the justified man also is made to agree with God that Christ is going to return one day to judge those whom He did not choose for salvation and to resurrect those whom He did.

Because Christ’s resurrection was a declaration of His righteousness, the same resurrection He underwent will be the same resurrection His elect will undergo.  (John 5:24-25, Romans 6:5)

This is the gospel, and God commands all men everywhere to repent of all their false gospels and to believe only this gospel.  Only His elect shall do this.

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


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Only God is Good

Genesis 3 
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Jesus was asked a question once.  “Good Sir, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  He answered this question with a question of His own. “Why do you call Me good?  No one is good but God alone.”
In the text from the book of Genesis we find the serpent, that is Satan, challenging this truth that only God is good.  He begins by telling the woman that God has lied.  Lied about what, you might ask?

To answer that question, consider that God had commanded the woman and her husband to steer clear of eating from the tree that was in the midst of the garden.   In fact, what He specifically told them was, “in the day you eat of the tree you shall surely die.”

Here in our text we now find the serpent telling the woman this is a lie.  You will not surely die.  In fact, the only reason God even you this in the first place is because He’s trying to keep you and your husband from reaching your full potential.

What might this full potential have been?

Consider the truth God is good.  This means He is just, He is right, He is holy, He is honest, He is forthright, He is without change.  He never lies, He never betrays, He is good.  God is good means all His attributes are good.  It means His character is good.  It means all His commandments are good.

We’ve talked before about the fact that of all God’s attributes, Scripture assigns only one to triple repetition thus marking it out as the most important of all His attributes. The Bible does not say God is love, love, love, or He is mercy, mercy, mercy or even that He is just, just, just.  No, the Bible tells us that holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty.

This means that all of His attributes are holy.  His mercy is holy.  His compassion is holy.  His power, His wisdom, His justice, His anger.

Holiness is a reference to the word wholeness.  Imagine a pie, if you will. There is not a single slice or piece of that pie missing.  There is not a single slice or piece that is not the pie.

So it is with God that not a single shred of evil is found in Him.  He is wholly holy.  All His attributes are only righteous; righteous meaning good, just, logical, and perfect.

Now here comes this friendly little snake in the garden though, and the first thing he says is God is not good.  His commandment is not good.  In fact, His commandment is a lie.  You will not surely die.

“You will not surely die,” he says, “For, or because, God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
I want you to understand what he’s doing here.  He’s being very deceptive.

The first thing he’s saying is God is not good. Therefore what God commands cannot be trusted, because God is not good.

In addition, God’s motivation for forbidding you to eat from the tree is selfish.  He just wants to keep you from becoming what you are truly capable of becoming.

This is not the heart of the serpent’s temptation though.  He’s just setting up a reason for the woman to agree with what he’s about to say next.

What he says next is even though God is not good, you can be.  You can learn what is good.  The tree’s fruit will teach you.  You can then use that knowledge the fruit will give you to decide for yourself what good is.  You can be good by doing the good the fruit will knowledge of.

Here’s God’s law.  He says do not eat from the tree, for in the day you eat from it you shall surely die.  It’s a trustworthy commandment, because God who commanded it is good.

But if God is not good, then the commandment cannot be trusted.  In that case, you need a new commandment from someone else.  That someone else can be you.  All you need is the knowledge of what good is.  The tree God which forbade you to eat from will provide you with that knowledge.

The serpent wants the woman to declare her independence from God; to tell God she is capable of creating her own law, because she now has what He has –knowledge of good.

Commenting on this very passage in Genesis, the apostle Paul states in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans that . . .

18 the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

The woman knew God is good.  God had made this knowledge plain to her.  She had clearly perceived His divine nature and eternal power in the things He had made.  She could even take a look at herself and clearly see that she had wonderfully and fearfully made.  She was without excuse then for doing what she did.

Here she stands, turning her head again to take another long, hard look at the forbidden tree.  God had forbid us to eat from the tree lest we die, and I can tell from everything He has made that He is holy and good, but now that I study the fruit a little closer, it sure does look tasty, and I can see now what that friendly little snake meant when he said it would make me wise with the knowledge of goodness if I ate it.

And with that the woman succumbs.  She buys into the serpent’s lie.  She takes some of the fruit and then eats it, then gives some to her husband who eats it.

The text then tells us that upon eating from the tree God had commanded them not to eat, their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked. They then sewed fig leaves together to make themselves loincloths.
Now what is that about?  Why would they sew fig leaves together?  I mean, they are husband and wife living alone in a tropical garden, right.  Why would they care they were naked?

They cared, because for the first time in their lives they are both embarrassed by what they see.

You see, if I am now free to establish myself in righteousness by doing what I decide in my own eyes is good, then what is in my own eyes good might not be what is in your eyes good.  My good might not be your good.  And if my good is not your good, then guess what that makes me in your eyes. It makes me evil in your eyes.

Here is the woman saying to herself, I have done what I have decided in my own eyes is good, therefore I should now be established as a person who is righteous.  But my husband keeps looking at me with condemnation instead.  It embarrasses me.  I’m ashamed.  Maybe I haven’t done enough good.

It was right here that false religion was born.  After all, this is the conceit of all false religions; that we can establish ourselves in righteousness by doing what we decide in our own eyes is good.

Just what exactly this good is varies from religion to religion and denomination to denomination, but it is always a good that is good in one’s own eyes.

Maybe feeding the hungry and clothing the poor is the good that I’ve decided will make me righteous.  Or maybe it’s catechism classes and a baptismal fount.  It could the repetition of a prayer instead, or the confession of a failure to obey the rules.

It doesn’t matter, because in the end it’s all part and parcel of the same lie; you can establish yourself in righteousness by doing what you decide in your own mind is good.

This lie has not only spawned every false religion, but it also pervades every facet of man.  His philosophy, his science, his art, his politics, his entertainment, it’s all eaten up with it.

For one group of people, political correctness and liberal politics are the good that makes them righteous; while for another group of people apolitical correctness and conservative politics are the good that makes them righteous.

I am no philosopher, scientist, politician or artist.  I am not even a farmer.  What I am instead is religious.  And so while I am aware how this faith in the serpent’s lie pervades every facet of mankind, the one area I notice it the most in is in the area of his religion.

And when I say religion, I do not mean only those religions that do not go by the name of Christian either.  No, in fact, I specifically do mean those religions that do indeed go by the name of Christian.

I say this, because as a Christian I am sensitive to those who call themselves Christian but who are in fact, not.  There is a Christianity that is not true Christianity.  It has never been true Christianity, it will never be true Christianity.  But boy is it ever popular.

As a Christian I watch people I care for come under the influence of this false Christianity and it grieves me, because they are only being deceived. What they are getting instead of God’s truth is just more of the same of what they could be getting from politics, philosophy, science or entertainment.  Or even any other non-Christian religion, come to that.

This false Christianity begins at the same place all false religions begin, with the firm conviction that we can establish ourselves in righteousness by doing something that we decide is good.

Let me give you an example.

Most of you know that I came out of the so called
emergent church movement.  The church I used to attend was one of those huge, mega church places with the big theater screens, the electric guitars, and the free donuts and coffee in the atrium.

This church had decided in their mind that loving their community into a relationship with God is what good is.  They believed they could establish themselves in righteousness by doing this.

And so everything that church did revolved around this.  Their doctrine, what little doctrine they had, revolved around it.  This is why their doctrine began with the tenant that God loves everyone, because heck, if God doesn’t love everyone, then loving our community into a relationship with God wouldn’t be possible and wouldn’t be good.

The guitars, the movie screens, the free coffee and donuts, these all flowed forth from the lie they had created.  It was all done in the effort to make visitors feel warm and invited; all as part of the effort to love their community into a relationship with God.

This doesn’t mean there is anything inherently wrong in and of itself with electric guitars and big movie screens, or even with free coffee and donuts.  The problem is not so much what we do, but rather why we do it.

Back when I was a kid, my mom made my brother and sister and I attend a Church of God service every week. If you’re unaware of what a Church of God is, then know that it’s a so called holiness denomination where strict obedience to the rules is taught and enforced.

These guys, unlike the emergent church I later attended, had decided in their minds that good is pretending they had obeyed God’s law.  They counted their failed attempts as perfection.

Everything they did revolved around this.  They made a habit of comparing themselves to other men whom they counted as less worthy than themselves, and then using this comparison to judge themselves righteous.  I mean, after all God, I am better than that guy, right; so I must be good then.

They loved to give their god the glory for enabling them to not be as sinful as other people, or so they thought.

Both of these churches are part and parcel the same false religion.  They don’t appear that way on the surface, and yet they are.  This is what makes them so deceptive.  They don’t look the same, but they are. They both believe the serpent’s lie.

It isn’t doctrinal teaching or exegetical study that makes a man righteous, anymore than it is loud guitars and giant movie screens that makes him unrighteous.

No, what establishes a man in righteousness is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Neither of these churches believe this gospel, and neither of them taught it.

The fact is, we are not good.  No one but God alone is good.  None of us are born righteous.   We are all born evil, and this cannot be changed by anything we do, by any choice we make, by any sacrament we take, by any lifting of a hand or repeating of a prayer.

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

I was conceived in sin.  We all were. We all began life guilty of being evil.

The reason it is this way is because God imputes Adam’s disobedience to the rest of Adam’s posterior, meaning us, all of mankind.

Impute here is a word that means God credits to our account.  God keeps books, you see.  He’s like an accountant.  He credits and debits to each man’s account.   What He credits first to every person’s account is Adam’s disobedience.  Adam disobeyed and now we each and every one of us get the bill.

What was the command Adam disobeyed?  I just mentioned it a moment ago.   Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day you eat of it you shall die.

Wait a minute, die?  Did you say die?   You shall die?  You mean Adam disobeyed and now we each get stuck with a bill demanding our death as payment?

That’s exactly right.  The wages of sin are death.

Someone reading this might protest.  After all, they might say, I’m not the one who disobeyed.  It was Adam who disobeyed.  Why then do I get stuck with the bill for something he did?

We get stuck with the bill for what he did, because this is what God predestined in His eternal purposes for the salvation of His elect.

You see, God chose from eternity; that is, before He created anything else, He chose, He decided in His mind to glorify His goodness by choosing to save a particular people from their sin.  He decided who these particular people were long before He created the universe.

These people He chose had nothing to do with His decision.  In other words, He did not take into account anything they would do or might do at any point in the future.  No, His decision had nothing to do with them.

Now right here false Christianity does not like this.  It tries to get around it by insisting that God chose those people who He knew would choose Him. They describe it as God peering down the corridor of time into the future to see who would choose Him before He chose them.

No.  This is false.  First of all, evil people cannot choose God.  Second, God choosing them because they chose Him would make God’s decision dependent on the desires of evil people.  And third, no one’s choice has ever saved them.

People are not saved by a decision to believe in Jesus, whatever that means.  I know lots and lots of false Christian churches love to teach that, but it is just plain false.   No one is saved by their decision.  Everyone whom God chose to save have already been saved by Christ’s decision at the cross.  This is why He will cause them to believe Him.

God’s decision had nothing to do with the people He chose.   His decision was solely in accordance with His own good purposes and will.

And God was not wrong to do this.  He was not unjust.  There is nothing unjust and unfair and wrong about it.  After all, He is good and He is the Creator.  Does not the good Creator have the right to create however He sees fit?

Did God not have the right to say I am going to create some people to love and for this reason save from their sin?  And did He not also have the right to say I am also going to create another people whom I will condemn in order to glorify My holiness?

Did He not have the right to do both these things in order to glorify His power and mercy and justice?

Of course, He has the right. He would only be unjust if He had later lied about doing this.  He has not lied though.  It is unrighteous men instead who have lied about it.

Romans 9 says,
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.
For those people whom He had chosen to love, God also decided in His mind, again long before He created the universe, that He would save them by sending His Son to die for them.

His Son would redeem them; that is, He would pay the bill they would owe to God for their disobedience and also for Adam’s disobedience. He would do this by offering His own death to God at the cross in lieu of theirs.  They would contribute nothing to the paying of this debt.  Christ would instead pay it all Himself.

As a consequence of this payment that Christ would make, God also decided in His mind that He would send His Spirit to radically change these people’s minds about Him.  Even though they would be born agreeing with the serpent who they had never even met and maybe had never even heard about, His Spirit would yet make them want to change their mind about this serpent’s lie.  They would flush their former opinion of God and of themselves, and they would instead turn to agree with God.

This means they would immediately come to understand and agree with God that they were not good people.  They were never good people.  They had always instead been evil people.  And because they were evil people, everything they did therefore was evil, even the things that they had decided was good.

They would also immediately come to understand and agree God was right and just to demand their death both for Adam’s disobedience and also for their own.  After all, this is how God establishes His people in righteousness.  Not by giving them a new set of commandments to obey, but rather by imputing Christ’s own obedience to them.

In addition, they would also immediately understand and agree with God that Christ has paid the bill for them, and that for this reason alone God is right and just to now count them as righteous people.   Not because of anything they have done or will do, but rather because He has imputed Christ’s obedience to them.

Lastly, they would also come to understand and agree with God that as a consequence of Christ’s obedience imputed to them, they will now not die and stay dead forever as everyone else will.  Instead, the Spirit would make them to understand and agree with God that since Christ was perfect and had never disobeyed God, He therefore did not stay dead forever.  And because God had now imputed Christ’s obedience to them, they too will not stay dead, but will instead be raised from the dead just as Christ was.

God decided all of this without asking them.  He did not consult them.   And He accomplished it and made it happen without their assistance and without requiring they do something first to deserve it or to keep it.

This is the meaning of grace. This is the good news.  It is the only true good news, and it is the only true Christianity.  All other Christianities are a false Christianity.  They are of the serpent’s lie.

In closing I want to mention something.  In addition to the many versions of false Christianity I have encountered, there are at least two versions that are far more subtle than all the rest.

This more subtle version of false Christianity will agree with everything I just said, but it will then add something to what I just said that will render everything I just said obsolete.

This more subtle version of false Christianity claims that a person who has been imputed with Christ’s obedience and thereby is now established in righteousness, nevertheless cannot know for a fact that he has been established in righteousness until he first begins to do God’s good commandments.

What?  I want to say to these people, did you not hear anything I just said? Apparently not.

I just said that God did all of this without first consulting His people or demanding that they do something to earn it or keep it.  This subtle form of false Christianity turns this on its head and claims, “That may be true, Dave, but we all know you can’t take God at His word.  You can’t trust Him.  I know He said bookwork is how He establishes His people in righteousness, but we both know “mere” bookwork is not enough.  Mere bookwork is just fiction.   What we need in addition to bookwork is a new nature that enables us to do His commandments. So unless you got that new nature, well then, you ain’t righteous.”

What are these people saying?  They’re repeating the serpent’s lie.  God is not good, therefore what He said is true is not good.  You can’t just be made righteous by mere accounting.  No, we know what good is, because we ate from the tree.  Good is God making people righteous through their behavior.  That’s what good is.

This is an abomination.  It is a lie.

Scripture often uses the word “flesh” to describe self righteous religion.  It also uses the word “spirit” to describe righteous religion.  Scripture often contrasts these two polar opposites.

What does flesh mean?  Flesh is a reference to the serpent’s lie.  All those people who believe the serpent’s lie look for righteousness in what their own created bodies and brains can do and decide.

As for all God’s chosen people who have been made righteous by the imputation of Christ’s obedience to their account, the Bible calls them “of the Spirit.”

Why Spirit? Because they look to God alone for their righteousness.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit.

All those who are in Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires.

What is the passion and desire of the flesh?  The passion and desire of the flesh is to establish itself in righteousness by doing what it decides in its own mind is good.  Of course then this leads directly to things like sexually immorality, greed and theft, witchcraft and sorcery, and so on.  After all, one who seeks to establish himself in righteousness by doing what is right in his own eyes is very likely going to decide that sleeping with everyone he can is right in his own eyes.

In contrast to this, the fruit of the gospel is joy, peace, patience, self control . .  .

Of course it’s joy.  Duh. I’m not going to die and stay dead forever.  God now accepts me as righteous.  Of course I’m going to be overjoyed with this.

And peace.  Absolutely.  Peace with God.

Patience.  Definitely.  I now understand not only is
God in complete control of all things, but I now also understand that He has decreed all things for the good of His people.  So when something happens to me that I don’t like, I understand why God has decreed it.  He has not decreed it in order to punish me.

I had a bill that I owed to God.  The payment for that bill was my permanent death.  Incredibly, by His grace alone, Christ paid that bill for me.  He credited to my account His own perfect obedience, thereby forever more making me as righteous as He is.  Because of this I now have free and unfettered access to Him.   I know He hears my prayers.

Not everyone understands they also have a bill they owe to God.  Not everyone understands the payment of their bill is also death.  And Christ has NOT paid that bill for everyone.

I pity those people.  After all, I am no better a sinner than they are.   I haven’t been made righteous by behavior.  I’ve instead been made righteous through bookwork.  This means I still have all the same bad behavior I’ve always had.

Yes, God has commanded His people to behave a certain way.  Some people don’t like to hear that, but it’s true.

Jesus, for instance, told us that if someone punches us in the face, don’t go and punch them back.  Instead, turn the other cheek.  In so doing you will show them how gracious your God has been to you.

But this doesn’t mean my paid in full receipt suddenly reverts back to unpaid bill if I do punch back.

I’ve been catching a lot of flack on Facebook recently from a certain person who shall remain nameless. This person has been accusing me of being a legalist, because I said Christians are to strive to obey Christ’s law.

Understand, if Christ’s law makes me angry, then I have not been converted.  If Christ’s law makes me angry, then I still believe the lie!  If Christ’s law makes me angry, then I still believe that God’s commandments cannot be trusted; they are not good.

Just because God justifies His people through an act of accounting does not mean they now have the right to decide for themselves what is good.

Christ’s law does not make me angry.  What makes me angry are those people who insist Christ’s law is how God’s people are made righteous.  And what also makes me angry are those people who insist there are no commandments now for Christians to obey, because they have the power to do whatever they say in their own mind is good.

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Clearing A Matter Up – Is the Remission Enough?

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

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

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

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


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

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

Hebrews 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 then he adds,

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

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

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

But what is it that He says did the remitting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, what justified Christ was His resurrection.

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

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Hebrews 1:1-3

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History as a Line or a Circle

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

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


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

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

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

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

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

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

The Word

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

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

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

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

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