Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Slaves of Christ

Practicing Righteousness

If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
– 1 John 2:29 (NASB)

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
– 1 John 3:7 (NASB)

By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
– 1 John 3:10 (NASB)

I do believe in the doctrine of imputation.  I have read the works of some who disagree.  They hold that the Bible never says anywhere that we are “imputed with Christ’s righteousness.”  They hold that the Bible declares us to be righteous by virtue of being in Christ by faith but they hold that the Bible never says that the righteousness of Christ is ever imputed to us.  Even the passages that are appealed to for the doctrine of imputation such as 2 Corinthians 5:21 or Philippians 3:9 do not say that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us.

However, to me this is simply semantics.  While the Bible never uses the phrase “imputed with Christ’s righteousness,” the doctrine is based on not just the New Testament but the Old Testament as well.  For example, in the famous story of the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt in Exodus 12, the blood of the Passover lamb would serve as a substitute for God’s judgment against the Egyptians.  The Israelites were protected by the blood.  The blood served as a sin offering substitute by which the Israelites’ sins were imputed to the lamb and the lamb bore them on their behalf.  This looked forward to God’s perfect sacrifice of His own Lamb (John 1:29).  The Lamb of God would take away the sins of the world and would bear the sins of the people of God.  God’s Lamb would be our perfect sacrifice to take away our sins (1 Peter 1:18-19; 2:22-24).  Jesus’ blood now cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7) and His blood is our defense before a holy God.

Hebrews 9:11-22 reads:

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Jesus then is our substitute before God.  He bore our sins on the cross.  His blood alone is able to cleanse us from sin (Romans 5:9).  Jesus’ blood not only cleanses us from all sin but He is our mediator before God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Jesus Christ is our salvation.  He is our everything before God.  We have nothing apart from Him (John 15:5).  He is our salvation, our redemption, our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30).  Our boasting must be in Him alone (1 Corinthians 1:31)!  In Jesus we have “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:22).

Just as the Old Testament sacrifices were imputed with the sins of the Israelites, so the New Testament saint had their sins imputed upon Christ our Lord and He bore our sins.  Thus all He accomplished for our forgiveness is now imputed toward us.

This, however, should not ignore the passages that speak of practicing righteousness.  To merely claim Christ’s righteousness apart from pursuing holiness is not biblical.  Full salvation looks to Christ alone for salvation but we also look to Christ alone to sanctify us.  We are holy in Christ but are also being made holy.  Hebrews 10:14 reads:

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

We look to Christ Jesus to help us not just to be forgiven of our sins but to be made holy before Him.  Jesus came to bear our sins and to give us complete victory over our sins (Matthew 1:21).  We don’t have to be slaves to sin (John 8:34-36).  Those who are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:1-4) are no longer slaves to sin but are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:5-23).  Through the Lord Jesus we are able to live a holy life (1 John 2:1-2).  We don’t have to live a life of defeat in sin.  We can be set free by His grace from sin and its domain (Titus 2:12-14).  Our hearts are cleansed by faith (Acts 15:9) and the Lord wants to continue that deep work of cleansing in us (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

My earnest prayer has been for the Lord to give disciples full victory that we have in Christ.  We don’t have to be slaves to sin.  We can be slaves of righteousness.  If we are not slaves of righteousness, John the Apostle says that we are not righteous at all.  The doctrine of Christ’s imputation should never be used as a basis for sinning.  If that is the heart of the person living in sin, they know nothing of the grace of God.  While I acknowledge that true saints of God can (and will) sin, this is not the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 John 2:1).  May our hearts be to live a life of holiness, pleasing to the Lord (Colossians 1:9-10).

The Unfortunate Results of the American Civil War

I love history books.  I enjoy reading of many different time periods and biographies.  I am currently reading several different history books all at once.  One is on an escape from a POW camp during the Vietnam War.  The second is on World War II from the eastern front between the Germans and the Soviets.  The third is a book on the Civil War and reconstruction.  Having grown up in South Carolina, I have always heard much about the Civil War (or the second war of independence here in the South).  We Southerners have been told since 1865 that we were wrong, the North was right, and the South suffered for her transgressions of slavery.  To this day, many believe that the entire Civil War was fought over the issue of slavery alone.  Popular media casts the North as the valiant warriors who have come to set the African slaves free. Abraham Lincoln is portrayed as the great emancipator of the slaves and the issue of slavery takes the cake when it comes to the Civil War.

There is no doubt that slavery was an issue with regard to the South.  I would also agree that the institution of slavery is best gone.  I do think that the North’s presentation of slavery is at times a bit harsh.  In comparison to the way slaves in Cuba and Brazil were treated, the South was hardly as evil.  There was wicked abuse of slaves but there was also wicked abuse of freed slaves in the North.  The Bible itself does not even ban slavery but sets guidelines for it.  And further, if you reject slavery outright then you must reject the entire epistle of Philemon.  While slavery was not based on race in the Bible, slavery was there.  Jews were even slaves of Jews.  The most common term Paul the Apostle uses for himself is “a slave of Christ Jesus” (see Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10).  Most English translations avoid translating the Greek term as “slave” because of the practice of racial slavery in the South.  Only the Holman Standard Version translates the Greek term properly though the ESV puts the correct term as a footnote.

In every major nation where slavery existed such as in Great Britain, the practice ended peacefully.  William Wilberforce, for example, used the Bible to preach against the practice of slavery.  He preached correctly against racism.  Had the American abolitionist movement in the United States preached against racism, they would have done more good.  Racism existed in both the North and the South both before the Civil War and long after.  The Civil War ended slavery but it only created more hatred of Africans by the whites.  It did not end the harsh reality of racism which has still done more harm than slavery has ever done.  The liberal churches in the North preached against slavery.  The conservative churches in the South preached that slavery was allowed by Scripture (Ephesians 6:5-9) though the South failed to correct the harsh treatment by masters over their slaves.  The North rejected the Bible’s teaching on slavery altogether.  The South embraced it only in part.  Both compromised the Word of God and both were judged for it.  The great Presbyterian theologian of the era, R.L. Dabney, now often accused of being a racist for his support of the Confederacy until his death, believed that God was judging both the North for her sins and the South for her sins.  Dabney wrote that the South was being judged by God for not following completely through on what He has said in His Word regarding master’s treatment of their slaves.  Dabney believed that slaves should be treated with respect, with honor, and should be allowed to be given their freedom if possible just as in the Bible.

The unfortunate results of the Civil War in the United States are still with us today.  Living in the South, I know first hand the results.  I live just a few miles from where General Sherman and his troops camped out during their campaign through the South.  Sherman looted, his men raped women, and they indulged on every form of sin you can imagine for men running wild through the South.  The city of Savannah, Georgia was saved only when the mayor “wisely” brought out prostitutes for Sherman’s men.  Many other cities such as Atlanta and Columbia were burned and destroyed.  Many of the homes had no men in them at all.  Only women and children remained but Sherman (and Lincoln behind him) believed that the South needed to pay for her crimes against the Union.  Especially South Carolina.

The results of the Civil War that are unfortunate are:

  • A destructive end to slavery rather than peaceful resulting in the deaths of over 650,000 people.
  • Millions of dollars in destruction mainly to the South.
  • The deep resentment from Southerners toward the North, the Union, and former slaves resulting in the Jim Crow era laws of segregation.
  • The liberal move of the Northern churches both before the Civil War and after only led to a demise of the gospel.  The North remains the most liberal area of the United States and the South remains the most conservative.  This was a gospel issue before the Civil War and after as well.
  • The failure to preach against racism in both the North and South led to segregation in both areas long into the 20th century and remains intact in many ways today.
  • The failure to preach against racism and looking to the federal government for answers resulted in the horror of reconstruction in the South with whites forced to give their land to blacks and resulted in groups such as the KKK rising to power.  To this day, we have racist groups such as the KKK, the NAACP, and others who fail to preach the true problem of racism as a sin against God.
  • The failure to see that sin was rampant in the North as well as the South.  Both the USA and the CSA were guilty before God.  Neither was in the right.  Neither settled the issues of slavery correctly though the South tried by ending the sale of slaves from other nations in their Constitution.
  • The Civil War resulted in a transformation in the United States that began in 1861 and especially when the War ended in 1865 with the massive increase in Federal Government and its powers.  Before 1861, the American government was controlled by the people for the people.  After the Civil War, the Government became the moral judge and begin to impose her will on the people of the Union especially in the South.  The massive expansion of government that we see today in 2013  can be directly linked to 1861.
  • The segregation of the churches continues in many ways to this day.  The failure to address the issue of racism in regard to slavery was ignored by the North and South and to this day, white churches and black churches remain separated in many ways.  Sadly, many black churches even preach “black liberation theology” or a social gospel instead of preaching the true gospel as a result of the Civil War.
  • The Civil War produced the equally discriminations of forced minority hirings.  Companies continue to receive government money who employ racial minorities which leads to companies hiring people for their color and not their qualifications.  This reverse discrimination does not help but only creates more racism.

My post is not to say that the South was right.  I don’t believe this to be true.  Even Dabney saw the North’s victory as a sign from God that the South was being harshly punished by God.  He didn’t believe the North was right or innocent but rather that the hand of God was against the South more.  He saw the sovereignty of God involved with the Civil War.  The South’s racial slavery was wrong.  The practice of slavery was not.  If we argue that slavery itself is wrong, we must argue against the Bible and this places the liberals in an upper hand for they can point to slavery and ask whether we are for or against it.  I had a black pastor point-blank tell me that he rejected the epistles because of Paul’s endorsement of slavery.  I don’t see Paul endorsing slavery but he sets guidelines for it.  The South should have abided by those guidelines and I believe the practice of slavery would have ended peacefully and not violently with 650,000 dead and countless battles to be fought by blacks for years to come.

The Church of Jesus Christ is the greatest place on earth to demonstrate the end of racism.  Can you imagine what the early church looked like with both slaves and masters serving Christ together?  This is the case with the epistle of Philemon in which the slave Onesimus had run away from his master and had become a disciple of Jesus along the way.  Paul wrote Philemon to tell him this and to return his runaway slave.  Paul tells Philemon these powerful words in verses 15-16 (NKJV):

15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

What if Southern masters had loved their slaves like this?  What if both masters and slaves had been regenerated by the Spirit of God?  This was Dabney’s view.  The South was wrong to preach slavery as biblical while basing it on color.  The Bible does not condemn slavery but it does condemn racism and the Southern church did not preach enough on this subject.  The Civil War did not end this unbiblical practice of racism and no war ever will.  It takes the gospel to break the chains of racism.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/18/2013 at 1:14 PM

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