Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Salvation

And That’s Why I Need Jesus

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
– 1 Timothy 1:15

I find comfort in reading in the Bible that I am a sinner and that Christ came to die for me and my sins (Galatians 1:4).  I know many people read the Bible looking for “keys” to a deeper life, keys to victory, keys to a happier marriage, keys to a stronger prayer life, etc. but I read the Bible looking for my sins.  I want the mirror of God’s law to show me my ugliness and my sins so that I can repent and be refreshed (Acts 3:19-20; 1 John 1:9).  There is something wonderful about seeing God’s holiness in the light of my sins.  There is something beautiful that comes from confessing my sins.

Psalm 32:15-18 reads:

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.

16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.

18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

When the Spirit of God confronts me about my sins, I love it!  I really do!  It shows me His great love for me, that He would not leave me as I am.  Hebrews 12:7-11 reads:

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Notice verse 10.  The Lord disciplines us so that we might share in His holiness.  Amazing!

Tonight I could sit here and write all about my sins.  I don’t need to.  The point is not about me.  The point is about why I need Jesus and you do as well.  If Jesus came to save only the righteous, none of us would be saved (Romans 3:10-18).  I have met people who think they never sin after getting saved but I have found that they were mostly prideful, arrogant, condescending, and full of their own flesh.  They focused so much on themselves “not sinning” that they lost sight of their sins.  I am not advocating living in blatant sin but I am calling us to recognize the truth that Jesus came to save sinners.  Of course there is truth that those whom He saves become saints in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Jesus saves us out of a life of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  That I know but He is also still saving me out of a life of sin.  Sin is not out of me yet completely nor is it out of you.  Let’s face it, we like sinning.  No, we love sinning.  That is why Jesus had to die for us.  Because we enjoy sin.

And that is why I need Jesus.  I like sinning.  I don’t want to like it.  In fact, I want to hate it.  Yet I find that I enjoy sinning.  I have sinned in many ways.  I have let many people down over the years.  Those who know me best know I am not perfect.  I never confess to be.  Oh there was a time I thought I was all that.  Not anymore.  I see my sins.  I know my sins.  I hate my sins.

It’s funny how people think that we Christians are suppose to be perfect.  I have yet to meet a perfect Christian.  I have met arrogant Christians.  I have met prideful Christians.  I have been those myself.  Yet I have never met a perfect saint.  Every person I have known who truly loved Jesus needed Him.  They knew it.  I knew it.  Jesus knows it.  Even the godliest people I have known, once you get close to them you can just smell the flesh.  They hate it.  I hate it.  Jesus still saves them.

So here I sit writing at nearly 2 AM in the morning.  I can’t sleep.  I am pondering the truth that Jesus loves me and died for my sins.  Yet I still struggle with sin.  I recently had lunch with a godly man and I asked him how about sanctification.  I want to be holy, I told him, but I struggle to be holy.  I see my sins and I see how far I am from being like Jesus.  Yet I still want to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  So how can I be holy?  His reply:  look to Jesus and love Him and obey Him.  He died for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8).  His love hasn’t changed since the day I first believed the gospel and He saved me.

So tonight I issue this call to all who know me: you know I am a sinner.  You know that I sin.  Yet that is why I need Jesus.  I am not perfect.  I am not a perfect father.  I am not a perfect worker.  I am not a perfect saint.  I am not a perfect “deacon” (as a guy at work calls me).  I am a sinner in need of a Savior.  I thank God for sending such a Savior.  I cannot earn His forgiveness (Titus 3:5).  My salvation is based on the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and He alone is my salvation and assurance before a holy and just G0d (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  That is me.

Justification by Faith in Galatians

The epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians is a precious book to turn to when you are struggling with your faith.  The book provides clear answers to our justification before God which is not based on our works or our moral goodness or our works of righteousness but is based on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our assurance is based on Jesus and not us.  This precious truth is a bulwark in times of trouble either from the flesh, the devil, or the world.  As you read the book of Galatians you feel the passion of Paul the Apostle to protect the gospel from error (Galatians 1:6-9) which clearly is pointing back to the first heresy to come into the Church in the Judaizers (Acts 15:1-5).

What is amazing about Galatians 2 is that Paul says that even Barnabas (the son of encouragement) was led astray by this heresy.  The great apostle, Peter, was led astray.  In Galatians 2:14 we read (NASB):

But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

Live like Jews.  That was their error.  In Galatians 2:15-16 Paul makes it clear that these Jews understood that they were sinners (Romans 7:7) and through the law they knew they could not save themselves because of their sins.  Instead, these Jews knew that we are justified before God through faith in Christ and not by being Jewish.  His point is clear, our salvation is based not on keeping the law or what we do but is through faith in the Lord Jesus.

This is the key for our struggles.  We are not perfected by the works of the law (or law).  In Galatians 3 Paul begins by telling his readers that we are not made perfect by our efforts even after our salvation.  Our trust from beginning to end must be in the Lord God.  We don’t begin in the Spirit and finish in the flesh (Galatians 3:3).  Paul then points to our father, Abraham, as our example in the faith in that he trusted God and God reckoned it as righteousness (Galatians 3:6).  From the seed of Abraham comes our Savior, the Lord Jesus, who is the blessing of Abraham that God promised beforehand in Genesis 12:1-3.  This promise was fulfilled in the Lord Jesus so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:14).

The law was given for a purpose writes Paul the Apostle in Galatians 3:15-29.  The law shows us our need for salvation.  The law doesn’t produce righteousness (Galatians 3:21).  The law only shows me that I am a sinner (Galatians 3:24).  Paul’s defense here of the gospel is clear: we are not saved by the grace of God plus keeping the law.  The law shows us the need for grace!  The law is not bad at all.  It does it’s job which is to show me that I am a sinner in need of salvation.  The law condemns but it doesn’t offer any hope.  It only shows me that I have broken the law of God and deserve His wrath.

The solution to our sinfulness is not to try harder or to resolve to not to sin.  This will never work.  We are simply too weak.  Too human.  We need the grace of God that He has given to us in His Son whom He sent to redeem from under the law (Galatians 4:4-6).  We are not slaves of sin or slaves to the law but through Christ we have been set free to be sons of God (Galatians 4:7).  Paul turns again to the Old Testament to show that we are children of the promise, of Abraham and not of the slave woman (Galatians 4:12-31).  Our mother is not the law but is the promise of God that He has fulfilled in His Son.

Our hope now is the Lord Jesus.  God has set us free to look to Jesus and not to our flesh or to the law.  In Galatians 5:1-12 Paul turns to the Judaizers who were demanding circumcision as proof of keeping the law.  Paul says that what matters is not circumcision or what we do in the flesh.  Paul uses strong words in Galatians 5:12 by saying that those who want to circumcise should go and circumcise themselves and mutilate themselves.  They want to cut the flesh so bad, go all the way and mutilate yourselves then!  Paul is attacking this idea of circumcision hard because it robs Christ of His glory and robs the believer of the truth of justification by faith and not by what we do.  Paul adds that our call is to freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1, 13) and not to our flesh.  No doubt we are at war with our flesh (Galatians 5:16) but the answer is the Spirit and not the flesh (Galatians 5:17-18). Those of us who belong to Christ are circumcised in Jesus and His cross (Galatians 5:24; 6:14).  Circumcision is not what counts but being a new creation in Christ (Galatians 6:15).  This is the true Israel of God and not merely the Jews who keep the law (for they are not the true Israel; see Romans 9:30-33; 10:1-5; 11:1-10).

Paul ends Galatians with powerful words that would have cut the Judaizers.  He ends with this:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren.  Amen.

Grace.  Such a marvelous word!  Paul ends by pointing to what saves us: the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This was what he preached in Acts 15:11.  It is grace that saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We are not saved by the keeping of the law.  We are not saved by our works of righteousness (Titus 3:5).  We are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus.  Jesus came and bore our sins on the cross for our eternal salvation (Galatians 1:4).  This is our hope.  This is our assurance.  This is our salvation.

I don’t know about you but that is good news to this sinner.  I am far from being what I know I need to be.  I don’t pray enough.  I don’t share my faith enough.  I don’t give enough of my money to the poor or to missions.  I can see my sins.  I am not a perfect husband.  I am not a perfect dad.  I fall so far from Christ and His perfection (Romans 6:23).

But I find peace in knowing that I am saved by grace and not by works.  I love 1 Timothy 1:15 because Jesus didn’t come to save the righteous.   Jesus didn’t come to save perfect husbands or perfect dads.  He came to save sinners like me.  Jesus died because I am sinful and have violated His laws.  I know this.  The law condemns me each and every time.  But thanks be to God who gave me His Son.  This is my assurance.  This is my hope.  This is the reason why I keep going.  It’s not because I am just strong willed.  It’s not because I am disciplined.  I am not of those things.  I am a sinful man.  I fall short in many, many ways (Romans 3:23).

Galatians is for sinners.  Galatians is for people who struggle.  Galatians is for those who need grace.  Galatians is for those who are tired and weary of trying to live the “Christian life” only to fall short all the time.  Galatians is a book of hope for those who do long to love Jesus and be more like Him.

I pray this has encouraged someone.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/03/2016 at 12:00 PM

The Arminian Affirmation of the Atonement

The Bible is clear that Jesus died for sinners.  No one denies this.  Both Arminians and Calvinists acknowledge that Jesus shed His blood for the souls of lost sinners.  Matthew 1:21 is clear that Jesus came to save His people from their sins.  The key question in this debate over the atonement is whether the atonement is for all sinners period.  Many Calvinists insist that the atonement is indeed for all people on some level.  For example, Dr. John MacArthur believes that the atonement provides benefits for all people while only having the power to save the elect.  MacArthur goes on to state, “Jesus Christ made a sufficient sacrifice to cover every sin of every one who believes (John 3:16-18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 4:10; 1 John 2:2.”

I do not disagree.  MacArthur states the following on 1 John 2:2 and the “whole world”:

This is a generic term, referring not to every single individual, but to mankind in general.  Christ actually paid the penalty only for those who would repent and believe.  A number of Scriptures indicate that Christ died for the world (John 1:29; 3:16; 6:51; 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 2:9).  Most of the world will be eternally condemned to hell to pay for their own sins, so they could not have been paid for by Christ.  The passages that speak of Christ’s dying for the whole world must be understood to refer to mankind in general (as in Titus 2:11).  “World” indicates the sphere, the beings toward whom God seeks reconciliation and has provided propitiation.  God has mitigated his wrath on sinners temporarily, by letting them live and enjoy earthly life (1 Timothy 4:10).  In that sense, Christ has provided a brief, temporary propitiation for the whole world.  But he actually satisfied fully the wrath of God eternally only for the elect who believe.  Christ’s death in itself had unlimited and infinite value because he is Holy God.  Thus his sacrifice was sufficient to pay the penalty for all the sins of all whom God brings to faith.  But the actual satisfaction and atonement was made only for those who believe (John 10:11, 15; 17:9, 20; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32, 37; Ephesians 5:25).  The pardon for sin is offered to the whole world, but received only by those who believe (1 John 4:9, 14; John 5:24).  There is no other way to be reconciled to God.

A few thoughts here about this.  First, I appreciate Dr. MacArthur much.  He preaches salvation to all.  He never fails to call all to repent and believe the gospel.  In this sense, he follows in the steps of men such as George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon in calling all sinners to repentance.  He is no hyper-Calvinist in this regard.  There has probably never been a man who has done more for expository preaching than John MacArthur.  Having personally met him, I found him to be gracious and kind.  So by no means do I present my case against him as an enemy.  I come as a brother.

Now the Arminian can read the above words from MacArthur and agree with most of what he wrote.  I agree that Christ died for the elect.  I agree that Christ died for His sheep.  I agree that Christ died for His Church.  I agree that Christ died for Paul the Apostle (Galatians 2:20).  I agree that Christ died for us (Galatians 1:4).  But I also go one step further and believe that Christ died for all.  I agree that no one is saved apart from being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  I agree that one has to believe to be saved (John 5:24; Acts 16:30-31).  I agree that repentance is necessary for eternal life (Acts 2:38).  But I also believe that all can be saved and there is no limit on this number.

I agree that the world is opposed to God (1 John 2:15-17).  Ironically, MacArthur never limits “world” in 1 John but here in 1 John 2:2.  The world is indeed sinful, God-hating, rejecting the truth of the gospel.  I agree.  But what we find in the gospel is God calling out to the whole world to repent and be saved.  God, who is the one that the world hates, is calling to His enemies to come and be reconciled through faith (Isaiah 1:18).  This is the message of the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47).

You’ll notice in MacArthur’s statement above also that he wants to make sure that we understand that he believes the atonement is powerful enough to cover the sins of the world if God wanted it to.  He doesn’t use those words but it seems implied by this reader.  He wants us to see how powerful and vast the work of Christ is.  I would agree.  In the cross, we do find God the Son dying for the world and shedding His precious blood for the lost.  If God wanted to, He could indeed reconciled the world through the powerful blood of Jesus.  I have no doubt.  Instead, God calls to lost sinners through His love that He demonstrated on the cross (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-9).  This is not a forced love.  This is not a forced relationship.  This is a loving relationship where the repenting sinner comes to God through His Son to be saved (Romans 2:4).  This is a genuine relationship that God initiated and not man (Ephesians 2:4-6; 1 John 4:10).  But this message, this good news is for the whole world (Luke 2:10-11; 1 John 4:14).

It is true that the atonement is only effective for those who believe.  Christ died for His enemies and He even prayed for His enemies at the cross (Luke 23:34).  MacArthur even acknowledges that Christ is praying for His enemies at this passage and adds:

Some of the fruit of this prayer can be in the salvation of thousands of people in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:41).

Notice he adds in his note that “some of the fruit” and not all.  If it is true that Christ is dying only for the elect, why pray for the world?  Why pray for the sinners who are killing Him?  Many Calvinists point to John 17:9 as proof that Jesus does not pray for the world but only for the elect.  Yet MacArthur acknowledges that Luke 23:34 is for the lost.  He also is clear that God heard His prayer and saved some of those who perhaps killed Jesus at Pentecost in Acts 2:41.

Let us be clear here though.  None were saved by Jesus praying for them in Luke 23:34.  They had to appropriate the work of Christ just as we all do through faith.  That Jesus shed His blood saves no one.  Even Calvinists agree with this while insisting that the sins of the elect were placed on the Son.  All agree that we are saved by faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).  And even if we allow for Calvinists to believe that faith is a gift given by God to His elect, we must still acknowledge that the wrath of God is against us till we believe.

This would mean two things.  First, those who are in cast into hell are cast into hell because they rejected the sacrifice of the Son of God for their sins.  Do we have passages of Scripture that speak of Christ dying for their sins while they rejected His sacrifice?  Yes e do.  Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Peter 2:1.  In context all these Scriptures speak of those whom Christ died who may not share in eternal life.  Even MacArthur does acknowledge that 2 Peter 2:1 is referring to false teachers who claimed Christ and so Peter mocks them by saying that they refuse to submit to the Lordship of Christ whom they claimed bought them.

What is clear is that people who go to hell go to hell because of their rejection of God and His truth.  The person is to blame and not God who gave His Son for their reconciliation.  Calvinism would place the blame on God.  God chose to reject sinners even before time began and even if you allow for the sinner’s punishability for their sins, they are sinning because God has predetermined that they be sinners in the first place by His own sovereign will (Romans 9:22-23).  If I were a Calvinist, at this point I would preach hard annihilation since the sinner is in hell tormented day and night forever because God willed that they never be saved in the first place.  Annihilation is at least charitable toward sinners who are being tormented for God’s glory in the first place in the Calvinist view.

Secondly, the application of the atonement is through faith.  Even MacArthur doesn’t preach the doctrine of eternal justification.  Consistent Calvinists such as John Gill see the truth that the elect are born sinless.  How else can it be?  If God placed the sins of the elect on Christ and He ensures that the elect will believe by His own sovereign choice from eternity past, who can one argue that God ever sees the sins of the elect?  If Christ died for my sins at the cross and God placed my sins on Him at the cross, when was the wrath of God against my sins appeased?  Gill would answer the cross.  MacArthur would answer the cross but add that I must receive it by faith.  And I would answer: Yes and this is biblical Arminianism!

Romans 3:21-26 in the ESV is beautiful (with my emphasis):

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.

Faith is the design of God to come into a saving relationship with Himself.  This is the sovereign will of God.  This is the sovereign decree of God.  All who repent and believe will be saved.  There is no limit to the sacrifice of the Son of God.  I have heard many Calvinists preaching like Arminians to the lost by preaching that Christ shed His blood so that they might be saved.  They call out to lost sinners to repent and believe the gospel (as if sinners could actually do this by their command).  They call to sinners to turn from their sins and be saved through faith in Christ.  And I agree!  In fact, I believe that every person whom the Calvinist evangelist is preaching to can be saved and there is no limit to the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).  If God can have mercy on me, He can have mercy on my lost neighbors and co-workers who despise Him at this time (1 Timothy 1:15; 4:10).

As Paul the Apostle wrote above in Romans 3:24, this salvation is a gift to be received by faith.  The sinner does not earn this salvation.  There is nothing we could add to the work of Christ to be saved.  In fact, what a wicked thing to do to add to the cross of Christ by saying that we must also do our part to be saved.  We are justified though faith alone in Christ alone by His grace alone (Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:15-16; 3:13-14).  This is true of us as children of God as well as the lost sinners we are preaching to.  Salvation is the gracious work of God (John 1:12-13; Titus 2:11-14; 3:5-7).  We are saved by the work of Christ alone.

Thankfully both Calvinists and Arminians preach that truth.  Some Calvinists try to assert that we Arminians preach that we can save ourselves or we preach a works-righteousness system but this is not the truth.  Arminius wrote:

“I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood.”

Adam Clarke wrote:

The doctrine of justification by faith is one of the grandest displays of the mercy of God to mankind. It is so very plain that all may comprehend it; and so free that all may attain it. What more simple than this-Thou art a sinner, in consequence condemned to perdition, and utterly unable to save thy own soul. All are in the same state with thyself, and no man can give a ransom for the soul of his neighbor. God, in his mercy, has provided a Saviour for thee. As thy life was forfeited to death because of thy transgressions, Jesus Christ has redeemed thy life by giving up his own; he died in thy stead, and has made atonement to God for thy transgression; and offers thee the pardon he has thus purchased, on the simple condition that thou believe that his death is a sufficient sacrifice, ransom, and oblation for thy sin; and that thou bring it, as such, by confident faith to the throne of God, and plead it in thy own behalf there. When thou dost so, thy faith in that sacrifice shall be imputed to thee for righteousness; that is, it shall be the means of receiving that salvation which Christ has bought by his blood.

And I end with John Wesley:

But there is an undeniable difference between the Calvinists and Arminians, with regard to the three other questions. Here they divide; the former believe absolute, the latter only conditional, predestination. The Calvinists hold, (1.) God has absolutely decreed, from all eternity, to save such and such persons, and no others; and that Christ died for these, and none else. The Arminians hold, God has decreed, from all eternity, touching all that have the written word, “He that believeth shall be saved: He that believeth not, shall be condemned:” And in order to this, “Christ died for all, all that were dead in trespasses and sins;” that is, for every child of Adam, since “in Adam all died.”

Seeing “Us” in Scripture

I enjoy Chris Rosebrough and his podcast “Fighting for the Faith.”  Chris often uses satire and comedy to point out false teachers and teachings.  His podcast often has sermon reviews of both good and bad sermons and Chris will point out why they are that.  I am often amazed at what passes for sermons these days.  Much of what seems to be coming out of the seeker church is not even close to true biblical teaching.  It is more or less about “us.”  It is man-centered to its core.

I have written often on the need for expository teaching and more sound doctrine being preached.  Just this week while working I was pondering why people enjoy attending seeker churches where doctrine is minimized and those who desire to go “deeper” with their faith are criticized.  I want to ask them, “How can you sit under this guy and learn anything?  What has he taught you that brought you closer to Christ, deeper in your theological understanding of the gospel?”  Heck, most of the teachers Chris plays on his podcast have no gospel understanding.  The seeker churches are just “say this prayer and become a Christian” as their gospel.

I subscribe to a local church here in my city that has been sucking people from the more traditional churches (mainly Baptist churches) for some time.  They started at about 50 people or so and today have over 1000.  Because of their growth, church leaders often avoid criticizing them because of their growth.  They are instead esteemed.  I point out that growth is no indicator of truth.  Look at the cults.  Look at Islam.  Truth is not pragmatic.  Truth is truth and God’s Word declares the truth of God (John 17:17).  Jesus said that He is the truth (John 14:6).  God has given us His truth through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  We need no other “truth.”  Yet many are unwilling to take the truth of the Bible and examine the teachings of large seeker churches because of their numbers.

Each week I get their Sunday services on my podcasts.  I listen to their sermons.  Why?  Because I want to know if they are preaching truth.  Often they are not.  In fact, they often are preaching nothing at all.  They are currently preaching through John but they are not expository nor are they dealing with their text.  They often just read the text and fill in stories about themselves or others to pass the time.  They are not false teachers.  They are “un-teachers.”  They are teaching neither bad doctrine nor good.  They are teaching nothing.  They just focus on “us.”

This is true nearly of all seeker churches that I know.  The focus is on “us” and not Jesus.  The gospel is not about the glory of God, the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, His sacrifice for our sins, along with His death, burial, and bodily resurrection from the dead where He now sits at the right hand of God to pray for us.  No!  The “gospel” of seeker churches is on “us.”  It is about “us” and our glory.  The gospel of seeker churches is about Jesus coming to give us an “abundant life” or to give us a “hope and a future” (both John 10:10 and Jeremiah 29:11 are seriously abused and destroyed there).

Just this past week I listened to two seeker churches Resurrection Day services.  Both were focused on “us.”  The gospel was not taught.  The focus was not on the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  The focus was on God resurrecting your dreams.  Neither church preached repentance for the forgiveness of our sins (Luke 24:47).  Neither church even mentioned repentance at all.  Both did mention sin but only in passing.  Sin is what keeps us down, what keeps us from reading our potential.  Gone is the truth of the gospel of repentance.

The gospel is not lost.  It is easily found in the Bible.  One can skip it.  One can downplay it.  But one cannot ignore it altogether.  Just reading the New Testament brings us face to face with our sins, with our inability to save ourselves by our good works, with the fact that we are enemies of God because of our rebellion against His law (Romans 3:19-20).  We find that our world is not getting better by works of the flesh but we realize that we must repent of our sins if we are to have peace with God (Acts 2:37-39; 3:19-20).  We find that repentance brings salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).  We find that Christ alone saves us from the wrath of God by His grace and mercy (Romans 5:1).  The gospel is focused on the person and work of the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-14 and notice how many times “He” is mentioned and we are not).  Salvation is not accomplished by making amends or trying harder or your good deeds (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  Salvation is the gracious work of God wrought in us by His Spirit through the saving work of the Lord Jesus.

Until next time, keep loving and living in the gospel.

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).

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