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Posts Tagged ‘Doctrine of Salvation

Barabbas Instead of Jesus

I can’t get away from the account in the Gospels about Barabbas.  This story intrigues me because I see in it the beauty of the substitutionary atonement that Jesus provides for our salvation.   This is a pivotal point of Christianity that runs across the board.  Christians have always held that Jesus died for us, that He died for our sins.  Paul the Apostle states it clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that Christ died for our sins.  He repeats this in Galatians 1:4.  Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:24 that Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree.

The Lord Jesus died for our sins.  We can debate the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and His obedience to the Father but we cannot debate that Christ shed His blood for our forgiveness and that He died in our place.  He was condemned so that we might be saved by the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-9).  Paul states that we redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (Ephesians 1:7).  Hebrews 9:22 states that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness.  Our salvation is based on the Lord Jesus and what He did on the cross by dying for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

In Matthew 27 we see a  beautiful picture of this substitutionary work of Christ.  Here we find Pilate asking the Jews which they want him to release to them: Barabbas (an insurrectionists and murderer) or Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 27:17).  The crowd cries for Barabbas (Matthew 27:20).  Pilate asks them again and they again want Barabbas (Matthew 27:21) to which the crowd asks for Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:22-23).  Pilate washes his hands of this murder of Jesus (Matthew 27:24) and the people cry that they want His blood to be upon them (Matthew 27:25) to which Pilate releases Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:26).

What I find amazing about this account is that the crowd asks for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  They even want His blood to be upon them and their children.  They were speaking prophetically.  They were simply asking for what the Jews had asked for when they offered up the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:21-27).  Paul the Apostle wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:7 that Christ is our Passover Lamb.  Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:29) who is without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:19).  Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for our sins because He was perfect and He died in our place, condemned for our sins but bore our sins on the cross.  The guilty sinner (Romans 3:23) can now look to the Lamb of God to be saved (Isaiah 45:22).

This salvation is based not on our works but upon the work of Christ alone (Titus 3:5-7).  What could be do to appease the wrath of God?  What works could be possibly do to merit eternal life?  Can we keep the law of God perfectly?  Can we live our entire lives free from sin, completely obedient to the will of a holy and perfect God?  If someone says they can they are lying.  None can (Proverbs 20:9).

I have met people before who claim to never sin.  They will even tell me the date the last time they sinned and claim that they have not sinned since in word, thought, or deed.  I find that alarming.  I confess my weaknesses.  I am not perfect by far.  Ask my wife and she could name hundreds of my sins.  No I don’t wake up going out looking to sin or looking to disobey the Lord but I confess that I have not walked perfectly with the Lord.  I have fallen short many times.  I have not loved God perfectly nor have I obeyed Him perfectly.

This makes me so thankful for the crowd asking for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  I am Barabbas.  My heart has been wicked before God.  I have not been perfect as He requires (Matthew 5:48).  I have sinned (Romans 3:10-18).  But thanks be to God for the gift of His Son (John 3:16).  Jesus died for my sins.  Barabbas could not save for he was guilty of great sins.  Yet the Lord in His sovereignty allowed the hardened Jews to choose Barabbas (who is me) instead of Christ.  Jesus thus died in my place and in the place of Barabbas.  Jesus bore the sins of Barabbas as well as the sins of sins of the world (1 John 2:1-2).

My heart now longs to please God.  Not out of legalism.  Not out of bondage.  But my heart longs now to worship and please the Lord because of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Because of what Jesus did for me by dying in my place and taking my condemnation, I now rejoice in this great salvation, this great grace!  I pray because I am so thankful for what Jesus has done.  I long to see others saved because of what Jesus has done.  I long to praise my God because of what Jesus has done.  This salvation is all of Jesus and my boasting is only in the Lord Jesus who died for my sins (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

I often have read the story of Barabbas and wonder what happened to him.  Church tradition is that Barabbas did get saved and became a great preacher of the gospel.  How could he not?  He watched with his own eyes as the people chose him (and he knew he was guilty) for the Lord Jesus who had never sinned.  I am sure Barabbas had heard of Jesus maybe even heard Him preach.  I tend to believe tradition at this point and believe that Barabbas became a great preacher of the gospel.  His testimony would have been powerful as he told how Jesus took His place and was crucified on the cross where he should have died.

The story use to make me weep at the crowds choosing Barabbas.  I would talk to my Bible and say, “No, let Jesus go free.”  Yet I know that without the cross, I have no salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  The gospel rises and falls on Jesus taking our place.  Jesus fulfilled the words of Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 53 and He suffered in our place.

Thanks be to God!

The Master Who Bought Them

In 2 Peter 2:1 we find one of the major passages that teach that Jesus Christ died for those who reject Him.  The Calvinist view is that Jesus died only for the elect of God, His sheep, His people.  Calvinist theologians will often point to passages such as John 10:11 where Jesus says that His death is for His sheep.  Calvinists then point to sheep as proof that Jesus died only for those who His.  They point out that, in their view, the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus died for all men but only all types or kinds of people and thus they come to passages such as John 3:16 and interpret “world” to mean “the elect out of the world” (John Owen) or 1 Timothy 2:4 and believe that the Lord wants to save all types of people from 1 Timothy 2:1-2.  Thus true Calvinist evangelists will never say that Jesus died for a person they are preaching the gospel to since we can’t know for certain if Jesus did die for that person.

Augustine went further in his views on election.  He believed that God would even send a false spirit of assurance to a non-elect person to deceive them.  Why?  Who knows but God?  So a person could possibly think that they are elect, that Jesus died for them, that the Spirit of God dwells in them but in fact they are deceived and are destined for eternal destruction.

I argue further that the Calvinist doctrine of atonement does not lead to assurance.  A person reading this may think themselves elect (including the writer) but in fact a year or so from now, we might turn away from the faith and prove that we were never saved (or elected) to begin with (1 John 2:19 in the Calvinist view).  We could be a Judas (John 6:70-71 and notice that Jesus Himself chose Judas just He did all His disciples according to John 15:16).  Let us hold firmly to 1 John 2:24-25.

In 2 Peter 2:1 however we find a passage that Calvinist theologians and apologists struggle with.  The verse reads in the ESV:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

The verse is clearly speaking of false disciples, false teachers.  These are not Christians, true disciples of the Lord Jesus.  These are even heretics.  Yet Peter the Apostle says that Jesus bought them.  He uses the Greek word “Agorazo.”  The word means to buy or to buy a thing (Matthew 13:44, 46; 14:15).  Paul the Apostle uses the same Greek word in 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 7:23 which both read:

6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.

The word “Agorazo” is used in Revelation 5:9 and 14:3-4:

5:9  And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.

14:3-4 And they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.  It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb.

In both cases the ESV translates the word “Agorazo” as “redeemed” but the basic meaning is to purchase or buy.  While Galatians 3:13 doesn’t use “Agorazo” we see that it is Christ who redeems us or purchases us for God.  Christ is our redeemer, the very One who would die for our sins and redeem or buy or purchase us for God.  We are redeemed from sin, from Satan, from the world, from the curse.

And so are those in 2 Peter 2:1.  They are not saved but they were purchased.  This view aligns perfectly within Arminianism where we believe that Jesus shed His blood for all men.  The blood of Jesus though only saves those who appropriate His blood through faith (Romans 3:25).  We are now justified before a holy God through faith in the Lord Jesus who died for our sins (Acts 15:11; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9).  This salvation is accomplished by the work of the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:3-6).  Our faith is in Jesus alone to save us from our sins and to forgive us and to reconcile us to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

And this gospel is for all sinners (Matthew 28:19).  Jesus died for all and all can be saved through the work of Christ Jesus (Titus 2:11).  Of course, the Bible doesn’t teach that simply because Jesus died all men are now saved (Hebrews 5:8-9).  People are commanded to repent and believe the gospel (Acts 17:30-31; cf. 2:38-39).  The heart of the Lord is for all (2 Peter 3:9). The Arminian evangelist can cry out that Jesus died for all sinners (John 3:16; 12:32), that whosoever can come and be saved (Romans 10:13; Revelation 22:17).  The Arminian can point to the Old Testament examples of proof that God was preparing the world for the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  That just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness and all who looked to it were healed, so the Son of Man was lifted up that all the world might look to Him and be healed (John 3:14-18).

Truly the love of God is great for lost sinners.  Even here in 2 Peter 2:1 we can hear the Holy Spirit calling to these heretics to repent.  The heart of God is not for their destruction (Ezekiel 18:32) but for their repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10; cf. Romans 2:4).  Truly the love of God is great for John writes in 1 John 4:10:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

But lest we forget John adds in 1 John 4:14:

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

This is the same world that John denounces in 1 John 2:15-17 but here he says that the Son of God is the Savior of the world.  This is the same world as in John 3:16 and 1 John 2:2.

Let us preach that Jesus is the Savior of the world and this is great news for all men (Luke 2:10-11).

Leighton Flowers Rebuttal to Tony Miano

Tony Miano, whom some of you might remember caused a stir back in the summer of 2015 when he basically said that Arminians are not saved if they hold to Arminianism and that Arminians worship a false god.  I called Miano’s hand on this as he had written in years prior to this while he was on staff with Living Waters (Ray Comfort) that Arminians were brothers and that we should not divide over this issue.  Miano had called Mark Cahill, an evangelist whom many in the open air preaching world know of, to repent for his statements that Calvinists worship a false god and that he would not associate with Calvinists.  I urged Miano to apologize to Cahill since he did just what he accused Cahill of. Instead, Miano went on to bash Arminians and even called for Dr. Michael Brown to come to repentance and true salvation (i.e. become a Calvinist).

After this, Miano took a “brief” hiatus from social media and blogging he said to get his thoughts together on this issue.  After a brief blackout, Miano is back on social media but not as aggressive this time it seems (for now).  Yet Miano did release the following podcast in which he attacks “the helpless god of free will religion.”  I have linked the podcast for you to listen to if you desire.  I listened to and sent it to my friend Leighton Flowers who did a podcast in which he offers a rebuttal to Miano and I believe Flowers does an excellent job.  I shared in Flowers assessment of Miano’s podcast, that it was not deep nor did he develop an excellent theological presentation to rebuke those of us who hold to free will.  Miano just builds his case against his own perceptions of what we believe and not does not interact with us nor our scholars.

My point here is not to stir the pot again toward Miano.  I think most Arminians simply ignore him.  I use to appreciate much of what Miano did.  I was an avid listener to his podcast, I supported him with money,  I prayed for him often, purchased his gospel tracts and though I disagreed with Tony here and there, I would have gladly preached the gospel with him in the open air.  That has all changed.  I still regard him as a brother though I don’t listen to him anymore, I don’t watch his videos, and I don’t support him.  I pray for Tony to repent of seeing us Arminians as enemies of the gospel.  We can disagree and still love each other.  I gladly would stand with any and every Calvinist in preaching the gospel to the lost.  I would gladly stand with my Calvinist friends against the enemies of the gospel of God’s grace.  While we can disagree let it be a debate “in house” where we regard the gospel as separate from our isms.  We can disagree how we are in Christ but let us praise the Lord that we are in Christ!

Tony Miano’s podcast.

Leighton Flower’s rebuttal.

The Gospel As The Power of God Unto Salvation

I think both Arminians and Calvinists need to rethink our positions on the issue of the gospel as the power of God unto salvation.  Here is what I mean.  Both Arminians and Calvinists assert that because of sin, mankind is unable to hear the gospel and be saved.  Calvinists teach that mankind must first be regenerated by the Spirit of God to come to salvation.  Arminians deny this but still teach prevenient grace as the work of the Spirit to bring sinners to salvation which in essence frees their will to believe the gospel.  Both sides teach that mankind is totally depraved to the point that even if we preach the gospel to lost sinners, they are incapable of responding to the gospel apart from this other work of the Spirit either in effectual calling or in prevenient grace.

However, how can it be that the gospel given to us by the Spirit is incapable of drawing sinners?  What if part of the work of salvation is the preaching of the gospel to lost sinners?  After all, Jesus makes much about the preaching of the gospel (Mark 1:15-16; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).  Notice that in Acts 1:8 the Holy Spirit would empower the disciples to preach the gospel yet is the gospel still not able to save?  What if the work of the Spirit is drawing (John 6:44) but He does so through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14-17)?

Paul the Apostle wrote in Romans 1:16-17:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Notice several things.  First, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  The same Greek word used in Acts 1:8 is used here.  The Spirit of God brings the power of God into our lives but the gospel is also the power of God unto salvation.  I ask again, if the gospel not able then to save?  Could it be that the Holy Spirit works through the gospel that is preached and He also works on the hearts of those who hear the gospel so that they can respond and be saved?

Secondly, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  I think this is where Calvinists get this part wrong.  They teach that a person must be regenerated to be saved.  Even the great Charles Spurgeon saw the folly in this:

“If I am to preach the faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.” [Sermon entitled The Warrant of Faith].

The difficulty lies in trying to prove that a person is regenerated before faith.  To do this, the Calvinists must take their doctrine to the Scriptures and presuppose this upon the text.  Because of time, I will only say that the biblical case for the Calvinist doctrine of regeneration before faith is weak.

As an Arminian, I believe that mankind is depraved (Ephesians 2:1-3) but I believe that the Spirit works through the preaching of the gospel to draw sinners to the Savior.  He also works on the human will to draw sinners to salvation through the preaching of the gospel that He inspired through holy men of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).  The Holy Spirit does both!  He works through the gospel to draw sinners to salvation but He doesn’t stop there.  As the gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit works on the person to prepare them and draw them to salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Can I prove this from Scripture?  Lets look at two examples both used by Arminians and Calvinists: the salvation of Lydia (Acts 16:11-15) and then the example of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30-34.

  1. The Salvation of Lydia (Acts 16:11-15).

Notice the text.  Lydia hears the gospel from Paul and believes (Acts 16:14).  The Holy Spirit opened Lydia’s heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.  She hears the Word, repents, and is baptized just as Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19) and Peter preached (Acts 2:38).

We must not gloss over the truths here that the Holy Spirit did both the opening of her heart and He used the Word of God to bring salvation.  This is the biblical pattern (Ephesians 1:13).

2.  The Salvation of the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:30-34).

The pattern here is clear: the jailer asks what must he do to be saved.  Does Paul say “There is nothing you can do to be saved.  If God wants to save you, He will save you for His glory!”  No!  Paul preaches that he must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and he would be saved.  Paul preaches to him the gospel (v. 32), the jailer demonstrates his repentance and is baptized (v. 33).  Again, the gospel is preached here.  While the text says nothing of the ministry of the Spirit as in Lydia above, no doubt He is at work doing just what Jesus said He would do by exalting the Savior (John 15:26).  As A.W. Tower proclaimed: “We need not cry out for God to pour His Spirit for He already has beginning at Pentecost but now we simply exalt Jesus Christ and we have the assurance that this is the work of the Holy Ghost.”

What is clear is the preaching of the gospel.

Conclusion

Calvinists believe in the preaching of the gospel.  I don’t want to undermine that truth.  I know of many good Calvinists who are out on the streets preaching the gospel to the lost and calling people to repentance.  I appreciate them doing this very much and I admire them greatly.  I do think they are not consistent with their theology and I know they feel the same toward me.  I rejoice that Jesus is preached (Philippians 1:18).

In Galatians 3:2 Paul wrote this:

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?

Notice that Paul makes the receiving of the Spirit conditioned upon hearing the gospel.  The term “hearing with faith” can only mean that as we see in the context from Galatians 3:1.  We preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23) and we exalt Jesus as the One who saves from sin (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  When we preach Christ, the Holy Spirit is at work.  The Holy Spirit has come to glorify the Lord Jesus.  The Holy Spirit takes the gospel preached and He woos sinners to salvation.  The work of regeneration is the Holy Spirit’s work (Titus 3:5).  Being “born again” is being born from above (John 3:3).  When a sinner humbles themselves, the Lord brings the forgiveness of their sins and they are born from above by God’s grace.

Now both Arminians and Calvinists acknowledge the necessity of the new birth.  Both acknowledge the necessity even of preaching the gospel to the lost.  The difference lies in whether depraved sinners can hear the gospel and be saved.  Calvinists deny this.  Arminians affirm this but only with a view of prevenient grace wherein the Spirit works on those whom God has foreknown will believe.  I am more comfortable preaching that the work of the Spirit is in the preaching of the gospel and sinners can hear and be saved.  Simply ponder the amazing work of the Spirit in conviction of sin (John 16:8).  When does this take place in Calvinism?  If regeneration is first, when is conviction of sin?  And how can dead sinners be convicted of sin if not first made alive?  While I acknowledge depravity of sinners, I also believe that the preaching of the gospel is powerful enough to open sinners eyes to their sins.  Most reject the gospel and continue in their sins but a few believe and repent and are saved.

5 Reasons for the Accusation of Misrepresentation when Debating Calvinism

Great post that is worth reading.

SOTERIOLOGY 101

After reading countless articles on soteriology for my doctoral studies and listening to every online debate over Calvinism that I can get my hands on in preparation for my upcoming debate, I have come to this very firm conviction:

It is impossible to rightly represent a view with which you disagree to the satisfaction of every opponent.

misrepresentation

Now, to be fair, this happens both ways. I have witnessed well intending Calvinists attempt to fairly restate their opponents view only to be met with ridicule as well (though it does seem to be more rare from my biased vantage point).  Being a former Calvinist (I know, I know,  IMPOSSIBLE!) and having many close friends and family members who affirm the doctrines of TULIP, this issue has really bothered me. I want to be fair to my Calvinistic friends and I know many of them want to be fair to me and my…

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/20/2015 at 3:14 PM

If Works Could Save

I am thankful to God that salvation is accomplished through the Lord Jesus Christ.  I am thankful that I do not “help” God though my efforts to be saved.  It is the Lord Jesus and Him alone who receives the glory for my salvation.  He purchased me.  He died for me.  He shed His blood for my forgiveness.  My peace with God comes through His work alone and not my works.  This is the biblical way of salvation: that salvation is through faith in the Lord Jesus and not my own works or my own righteousness (John 1:29; 5:24; 6:29; 15:1-11; Acts 13:38-39; Romans 3:22-27; 4:5; 5:1-11; 11:5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 15:1-3; Galatians 3:1-5; 5:1-4; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:1-9; Philippians 1:6; 2:12-16; Colossians 1:10-14; 2:12-13; etc).

Yet what if works could decide salvation?  What if works were the way that God saved sinners?  The problem would be two-fold.  First, who decides what good works save?  Does Bible study save?  Does prayer save?  Does being sinless save?  Does evangelism save?  Does going to church save?  Does taking the Lord’s supper save?  And how often must I do these good works?  Do I do them each day?  Does God expect me to do them only once a week or once a month?  And which one is the most important of the good works?  Does prayer take a priority over say Bible study or evangelism?  And what if I enjoy evangelism more than giving money to the poor?  What if I enjoy praying more than Bible study?  Is that sinful?

The second problem is human pride.  Can you imagine the boating we would do if we prayed more than this man or that woman?  Can you imagine the pride from those who evangelize more than others? Can you imagine the pride from those who are able to attend every church meeting (which I am not able to a lot)?  There would be so much pride from our flesh for what we are doing to save ourselves from God’s holy wrath.

This is why I am so thankful that Jesus did the work.  When He uttered those words, “It is finished” (John 19:30), what was finished?  The saving work of God.  God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Salvation must be appropriated but is done.  The work for us is to believe the gospel (John 6:29).  Salvation by faith takes away our pride and destroys our confidence in our own good works to save us.  We must cast ourselves upon the Lord Jesus alone to save us (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).  We cannot save ourselves by our flesh but in Jesus alone.  This goes against our pride and our self-righteousness but it is the only way of God (Matthew 7:13-14, 21-27).  Our faith is credited to Him as righteousness (Romans 4:3).  This makes us mad but it is God’s only way of salvation.

Let us then keep our eyes on Jesus for He alone saves us by His grace (Hebrews 12:1-2).  May He be the one that we praise and rejoice in for He alone saved us by His grace (Revelation 5:12).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/28/2014 at 5:59 PM

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