Posts Tagged ‘CONVERSIONISM’

The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit and Regeneration

This is an extended version of the article at SBC Today which begins with Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus in John 3.

A lot has been written about Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:3 NKJV) Jesus repeats Himself in verse 7, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” There is no question as to the importance of being born again but there is a lot of debate as to what Jesus meant when He said what He said. What did Jesus mean when He said, “You must be born again?”

Basically there are two primary interpretations and both are related to belief, repentance and faith. One posits being born again as being essential for belief, repentance and faith to take place and the other makes belief, repentance and faith essential for being born again. This article will examine these two positions in light of the Scriptural significance of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as it relates to being born again.

Perhaps the best place to start with this endeavor is with the Words of Jesus Himself in John 3: 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’.”

What is clear in this passage is that Jesus speaks of two births: a physical birth and a Spiritual birth. Each is essential if one wants to see the Kingdom of God. Verse 8 offers an unusual statement from the Savior. “8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” What is Jesus saying here? Proponents of the Born again prior to repentance and saving faith make reference to this passage to say, “God chooses those who are born again and those individuals repent and believe and are converted or justified. The work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration is like the wind; it goes where it goes and makes its presence known. However, if one simply reads the text all it says is this: being born again is like the wind; even though it is not visible its presence is felt. It is like the words of the hymn, “you ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.” So it is with everyone who is born again. While one may not be able to prove its existence, one can most certainly experience it.

Nicodemus asks Jesus, “How can these things be?” and Jesus’ answer is quite interesting. He compares being born again to an event that took place in the Old Testament where the children of Israel were grumbling and complaining about God’s provisions for them in the wilderness and they referred to the manna God provided as “worthless bread.” This is an indirect reference to Jesus who is the Bread of Life. (John 6:41-51) God sent poisonous serpents to bite the people and they began to die. The people confessed their sin and pleaded for Moses to intercede on their behalf. “8 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.’” (Nu 21:8-9 NKJV)

Here is Jesus’ commentary on Numbers 21 and being born again: “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 ‘He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’” (Jn 3:14-18 NKJV) It is clear in this passage that being born again is related to looking at the serpent that was raised up; those who look up to the cross and believe will not perish but have everlasting life. Those who are condemned are those who do not look up at the cross and the resurrected Savior and do not believe.

Consider verse 19 and following: “19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (Jn 3:19-21 NKJV) This is a very important statement. Jesus is of course the Light of the World. (John 8:12, 9:5) Because men love darkness they do not come to the light, not because they are unable to do so as portrayed in the doctrine of total depravity and inability but rather because they choose not to come to the light because their attitudes and actions are revealed for what they are! It is not that men cannot come to the light; Jesus clearly indicates that they choose not to because their deeds are evil. Jesus says, “he who does come to the truth (Jesus) comes to the light that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

Now how does this passage relate to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? How does regeneration relate to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? One of two things has to be true; regeneration is the result of the indwelling or it is not. If regeneration is the result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit then the issue of the role of regeneration as it related to conversion is equally related to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the salvific process. Jesus in verse 36 makes the following statement: “36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” Paul makes the following statement in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Here being born again in Paul’s mind is related to being “in Christ.” In Romans 8:9 Paul writes, “We should be led by the Spirit of God. If the Spirit of God does not dwell in us, we do not belong to God.” One thing appears clear: apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or ones being “in Christ” there is no new birth or regeneration.

In Romans 8 the Apostle Paul is clear that the presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart of an individual is essential to his being “born again.” Verse 1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” In verse 8 Paul writes, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Those who are in the flesh are designated as those who are not in Christ or do not have the Spirit dwelling in their hearts. Paul continues, “9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. Clearly to be born again one MUST have the Spirit living in his heart for if one does not have the Spirit in his heart that one does not belong to God. Regeneration is not possible apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Consider the following admonition from Paul in 2 Co 13:5-6: “5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified. 6 But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.” How is one to know if he is in the faith or not? If Christ is “in you” then Paul says that person is qualified and in the faith. In Colossians 1:27 Paul makes this declaration: “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is clearly the means of regeneration in the Scriptures. So the question now is this: does the Holy Spirit take up residence in the heart of the unregenerate so that he is able to believe, repent and be saved or does the Holy Spirit take up residence in the heart of an individual who has believed, repented and is then saved?

Consider the following passages. At Pentecost, “38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Ac 2:38 NKJV) In 1 John 4 points to the importance of confession in the salvific process: “13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (1 Jn 4:13-15 NKJV)

In Romans 10 Paul writes, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Here Paul notes the reason many of the Jews had not been saved. He says that they sought their own righteousness and did not submit to the righteousness of God. It was not that they could not submit, Paul says they did not or would not submit to God’s righteousness. What was required of them? They were to believe in Christ who is the end of the law for righteousness for all who believe! It is obvious that believing in Christ is essential for right standing before God. God does not grant right standing in order to believe; He grants right standing because one believes.

Consider Paul’s continued admonition in Romans 10. “8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’.” Once again, the Scriptures are clear. One must confess the Lord Jesus and believe in one’s heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead to be saved or born again. Those who believe will not be put to shame and those who call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved. Conversion is the result of the Holy Spirit taking up residence in a person’s heart and that takes place after one believes, repents and confesses Christ.

Jesus reiterates this in the Great Commission recorded in Mark’s gospel: “15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk 16:15-16) One is not regenerated or born again enabling him to believe; one believes and will be saved. When one believes, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the repentant heart and then he is born again. In Romans 1:16-17 Paul underscores the necessity of believing the gospel so that one might be saved: “16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is available to everyone who believes.

Consider Paul’s word of instruction in Ephesians 1: “13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (see also 2 Co 1:20-22) Clearly the sealing of the Holy Spirit takes place after one has heard the Word of truth presented in the proclamation of the gospel message and has believed it.

In conclusion, there is no ambiguity in the Scriptures where the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is concerned with respect to being born again or being regenerated. Regeneration is not possible apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to those who have believed and have repented and trusted God by faith. (Acts 2:38) While some may try to make a case for a temporal or logical position for regeneration preceding repentance and the exercise of saving faith, such is not the case for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Since regeneration is not Scripturally possible apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit one must conclude regeneration prior to repentance and saving faith is not possible either.

The lost are not regenerated so they may then repent and by faith trust Christ to be justified or saved; the unregenerate are convicted of their sin and their lost state by the work of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel and through believing and repentance, they by faith in the person and the promises of God are converted and justified and receive right standing before God when the Holy Spirit takes up residence in their hearts. This is the clear position presented in Scripture.

An Exegetical Look at John 3

If man’s sin nature is indeed the result of his wrong standing before God, how does God correct this problem? How does an unregenerate individual who is separated from God’s perpetual presence come into God’s presence and experience life as only a relationship with God can provide?

Perhaps the most popular passage of Scripture dealing with one passing from death unto life is set in Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus in John 3. Nicodemus who is a religious teacher and probably very wealthy and very popular came to Jesus and began a conversation with Him only to hear Jesus say to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:3 NKJV) Much has been written concerning “being born-again”. If it is necessary to be “born-again” in order to see the kingdom of heaven then more needs to be written on what Jesus meant when He told Nicodemus “you must be born again.” Literally the term “born again” is the translation of two Greek words, γεννάω and ἄνωθεν which mean having been born anew or more probably, from above or from a higher place like heaven or of God. Obviously Nicodemus took Jesus’ statement to mean again because he asked how it would be even possible to enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born again.

5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’.” (Jn 3:5-7 NKJV) Obviously Jesus introduces two births; one is of water and the other of Spirit. Some have taken the first to be a direct reference to water baptism and from there the tenet of baptismal regeneration has evolved. It would seem plausible that Jesus’ own statement would provide the more correct rendering since He speaks of that which is flesh is born of flesh and that which is spirit is born of the Spirit, being born of water is a direct reference to being born physically and being born of the Spirit is just that, being born or being born spiritually. It is impossible to be born of the Spirit if one has not been born physically; it impossible to be born again unless one has been born the first time.

Jesus makes a statement in verse 8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
This verse has been whipped around in more ways than a summer thunderstorm. The wind in Jesus’ illustration does not refer to the Spirit but rather to those who are born of the Spirit. Believers hear the sound; they experience the touch of the Holy Spirit but they go where they wish with respect to the convicting and convincing work of the Spirit in and on their sinful hearts. All men need to be born again if they want to see the Kingdom of God.

Nicodemus asks Jesus a very pointed question: How can these things be? Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus is vitally important. He says, “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:14-15 NKJV) Jesus is making a direct reference to an account that took place during the wilderness wanderings when the people cried out complaining “against God and against Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’ 6 So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, ’Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. (Nu 21:5-9 NKJV )

Jesus used this event where God saved His children to explain how one was to be born again to see the Kingdom of God. The provision for the salvation of the children of Israel who had been bitten was made by God. All they had to do was look at the bronze serpent raised up on the pole to live.” “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life or be born again.” “16 For God so loved the world (that has been bitten by sin and is condemned to pay the penalty for that sin) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Jn 3:16 NKJV) The world in John 3:16 is paralleled by the world in Moses’ day. They sinned against God by calling God’s provisions to them “worthless bread.” They deserved to die; the bread was everything but worthless because it was what had kept them alive. Interestingly enough, it is the Word of God that is the bread of life for men today. (John 6:35, 48) It was everything but worthless back then and today as well. God’s provisions for salvation are life giving provisions. Just as God chose to save those in the wilderness who deserved to die, so has He once again made provision for sinful men to live by looking to Jesus and believing in in Him. God has lifted Jesus up; all who look up at Him and believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

Jesus continues: 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (Jn 3:18NKJV) It is imperative that one keep the illustration in mind as Jesus continues His instruction here. Those who believe are like those who looked up at the serpent on the pole that was raised up for all to see. Those who looked at the serpent lived and those who refused to look up or were not able to look up all died. Those who believe Jesus said are not condemned or no longer condemned but those who do not believe are condemned already. Man’s sin is what condemns him; his belief in Jesus washes away the stain of sin and takes away the penalty and condemnation of sin.

“19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Light reveals dirt. Dust and dirt are not visible in the dark. Sin does not seem so bad in the dark where no one is looking and no one knows anybody’s name. Light penetrates the darkness and overcomes darkness and reveals things as they are. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (Jn 3:19-21 NKJV) Looking up is the same as looking into the light. Believing in God removes the condemnation that Jesus has come to reveal to sinful men. The light exposes the sin and allows the sinner to look up and see Jesus and find forgiveness and life.

So, how can all this be? How can one believe and have his sin forgiven and his relationship restored to a position of right standing before a Holy and Sovereign God? How can one be born again or “regenerated” to see the Kingdom of God?

The English word “regeneration” is the translation of the Greek word, παλιγγενεσία which is a compound word from πάλιν (again) and γένεσις (birth). It means simply a new birth, a new beginning, a new order. This term has gained ground in recent years in theological circles especially among its new comers. The issue today concerning regeneration or being born-again is not its necessity but rather its place in the salvific process. Some argue regeneration is the end itself and is synonymous with being born again while others are arguing that regeneration is required for one to be born again. When Jesus told Nicodemus, “you must be born again to see the Kingdom of Heaven” did He mean that being born again made on able to see and understand the Kingdom of God so one could become a child of God or did the new birth Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about refer to the new birth itself that would allow one to see and experience the Kingdom of God?

Once again, the illustration Jesus gave from Numbers would seem to be the best setting to answer this question. Those who looked at the serpent raised up on the pole were instantly healed and saved from the poisonous snake bite. Their looking up did not allow them to be saved; it saved them. In the same respect, in Jesus’ illustration and instruction to Nicodemus, looking up to the Son of Man who was lifted up on the cross saves the one who believes; it does not make salvation possible because one has looked to Jesus; the light of the glorious gospel saves those who believe.

Are There Sins God Cannot Forgive?

According to the tenets of Calvinism, Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of all who would believe. He did not die for the sins of the unregenerate who would not believe. Since the Bible states that God is omniscient, He must know all things. One must conclude that God knew when He created the world who would and who would not ultimately be saved. Given the certainty of this statement, the question concerning the forgiveness of sin is this: is it God who determines whose sins will be forgiven or is God’s forgiveness determined by free choices made by sinful men? God’s sovereignty limits that discussion to the former. God is sovereign in all things including salvation and so He and He alone determines who is and is not saved and as a result, only those whose sins will be forgiven are placed on the cross and those sins and those alone are atoned for and those are the only sins God can forgive.

Some will try to say that Jesus died for the sins of all men everywhere but that the benefits of the atonement are only available for those for whom God intended them to be effectual. John Hendryx, founder of Monergism.com says that this is completely inconsistent with the tenets of Calvinism and to “to reject limited atonement is to reject total depravity and unconditional election. The four-point Calvinists, therefore, do not really believe in election, but rather, that the natural man still has the moral ability to turn to God on his own without regenerating grace (as if faith was somehow a contribution on our part). Therefore, it is impossible to be a four-point Calvinist and remain consistent.”

Notice another comment from Hendryx: “The value of Christ’s atonement is obviously enough to save 10,000 times 10,000 so the question is not its sufficiency but, rather, God’s intent. The following passage explicitly shows that Jesus understands the Father’s intent:

“This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
John 6:39

Jesus shows His intent here is to save all that the Father has given Him, those He has set his affection on from eternity, and no others.” (http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/four-point.html)

Where does John 6:39 make any substantive statement concerning God;s intent where the Atonement is concerned or the specificity of Jesus dying for the sins of a select few? It does not! Jesus is simply saying that He will raise up those the Father has given Him on the last day. What is clear is the meaning of verse 40: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jesus said in verse 35: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” It can certainly be argued that those the Father has given to the Son are those who believe.

The question is, is it God who caused them to believe or is it the Light that Jesus has brought in to a dark world that convicts men and leads them to repent and believe? Is it the gospel that is proclaimed to a sinful world that the Holy Spirit uses to bring people to their knees in repentance and faith that results in their conversion? Is it the numerous number of testimonies of countless millions who have surrendered their hearts to the Lord and continue to live faithful lives so that allow people to see Jesus at work in their hearts and lives that the Holy Spirit uses to bring people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ so that in believing in Him people might be saved and will never hunger or thirst again!

Hear the conclusion to this matter. Simply put, according to the tenets of Calvinism, there are sins that God cannot forgive. Calvinism contends only the sins of the elect were atoned for on the cross. The Bible says, “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Heb 9:22 NKJV) If the sin of the unregenerate were not placed on the cross, God cannot forgive that sin. It is not that He will not do so; scripturally speaking, He cannot do so.

Looks like the Calvinist may have a problem with its concept of the sovereignty of God after all.

The Text and Context of John 10:26

Jesus’ statement to the Pharisees in John 10:26 has garnered a lot of attention and debate concerning an individual’s ability to believe in Jesus. Some have argued that this statement is an obvious reference in support of unconditional election and effectual calling and even limited atonement because it is clear that in Jesus’ own words, an does not believe BECAUSE he is not one of Jesus’ sheep. Since Jesus gave His life for His sheep, there is this idea that Jesus died exclusively for the elect (His sheep) and the elect are those who will believe and the non-elect do not or will not believe because they are not Jesus’ sheep and they never will be.

The following is a look at the text and the context of this very important statement that Jesus made.

 

John Chapter 9

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.  4 I must work the works of  Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.  5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. 7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing. (John 9:1-7 NKJ

Notice what Jesus did; He placed clay over this man’s eyes and told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. Jesus could have simply said, “Open your eyes to see” and immediately his eyes would have been healed. Just like Abram, this man had to go where Jesus told him to go and do what Jesus told him to do BEFORE he received his sight.

Faith is not something man just possess. Faith is something that possesses man. Faith is both active and passive. This man received his sight because of his personal encounter with the Savior and his willingness to do what Jesus told him to do. His faith demonstrated in his obedience is what gave him his sight.

Listen to the religious leaders of this man’s day,

24 So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner. “25 He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:24-25 NKJV)

Notice the response of the Pharisees,

“26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” (John 9:26-29 NKJV)

This man gave testimony to the healing power of God in his life. He told them what happened but they refused to listen. They refused to accept the truth as it was presented to them. The man who was once blind countered their argument that they had no idea where this man was from. Notice his response,

“Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! 31 Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. 33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (John 9:30-33 NKJV)

Basically this is the same argument Jesus used when John the Baptist sent his disciples to Him and asked, “are you the Coming One or should we look for another?

22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.  23 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (Luke 7:21-23 NKJV PP Mt. 11:5)

The religious leaders dismissed this man’s testimony with the following statement, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out.” (John 9:34NKJV)

Jesus once again seeks out this man whose life has been literally transformed in less than 24 hours. He has to be overjoyed by what has happened to him but sorely confused at the same time. Jesus asks the man, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”  (John 9:35 NKJV) We have no idea what this man knew about the Old Testament law. However, we do know that his parents feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. (John 9:22-23 NKJV) This man knew the Messiah was coming and as Jesus asked him this question, he understood the significance of it. He answers Jesus with the following question in verse 36,

“Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” He no doubt already knew the answer to that question! Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” 38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him. (John 9:37-38 NKJV)

Jesus then makes a very interesting statement. 39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” (John 9:39 NKJV) What does Jesus mean in this statement? A couple of things are obvious. He says “for judgment I have come into this world. This is an interesting statement and the idea of judgment here is one of a matter to be judicially decided, a lawsuit or a case in court. (Strong’s Lexicon G2917) The idea here is that judgment will be based on those who do not see may see and those who do see will be made blind. Here seeing is no doubt associated with believing. This man born blind received his sight and he believed. The religious leaders had their sight and they had all the knowledge they needed to believe but they were blinded by their unbelief. Jesus’ judgment was based on what men did with the knowledge they were given. This judgment would be based on what men did with the Light that He brought into the world. One other note is the setting of Jesus’s statement as well. He is not speaking to the world in a universal sense; He is speaking specifically to the Jewish religious leaders and their religious traditions who were proud, self-confident despisers of the truth. This is obvious in the response from the Pharisees.

“Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him,

“Are we blind also?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains. (John 9:40-41NKJV)

The religious leaders were challenging Jesus’ authority to speak over and against their authority where matters of the law were concerned. They were the experts in the law. Jesus’ response to them is telling. Had they been blind, He said you would have no sin but because you see, your sin remains. This is indeed very interesting. What does Jesus mean when he says they would have no sin?

The Pharisees were responding to Jesus’ statement that was aimed specifically at them in verse 39. They knew Jesus was speaking of them and so they responded accordingly. Keep in mind, to them Jesus is some obscure individual with no training and no official ordination or Jewish scholarly recognition. To them, He is nothing more than an expert in his own mind. So, are we blind too, they ask Jesus in a tone of derision. Now, consider Jesus’ response to them. If you were blind, you would have no sin. There are several interpretations of this statement. Perhaps the best is, “if you were blind, which is in reference to the context of what has taken place and what He has said, you would have no sin.” Well, the obvious reference here is that this is not the case. It is a conditional statement that everyone knew did not apply! They were sinful and they all knew it and so the inference that they were blind did not apply to them. Basically, Jesus was saying in effect, “you are without excuse and ought to hear what I am saying to you and you ought to believe as this man did.”

Jesus points out their own arrogance by saying to them, “but now, you are saying, ‘we see’ so your sin remains.” So what is the point of Jesus’ condemnation to them? “You have all the information you need to believe that I am who I claim to be.” That is exactly what Jesus is saying. They are without excuse and this is the reason Jesus said I have come here in the first place in verse 39, for judgment. Basically though, He is saying you are judging yourselves! They had the Law. They knew the Law. Their pride and arrogance and their self-righteous attitudes were keeping them from hearing and heeding the real Truth which He had come to provide.

There is one final contrast that needs to be noted before going to chapter 10. These Pharisees had no excuse. They had the benefit of knowing and understanding the Law. This stands in stark contrast to the man who was born blind. He had no hope. He had no excuse. His condition was not self-inflicted. He was not responsible for his condition. The Pharisees on the other hand were responsible for their blindness. One final thought; Jesus cured the one who was not responsible for his condition. He heard Jesus’ voice and he did what Jesus told him to do and his blinded eyes were opened. The Pharisees had no excuse for their blindness except for their own pride and obstinance. It seems that this blindness was one that Jesus would not heal or correct.

John Chapter 10

Chapter 10 is quite popular for Jesus’ reference to the sheep and their relationship to the shepherd especially in the area of why people believe in Jesus and why they do not. It is important to remember that this passage is related directly to Jesus’ dealing with spiritual blindness found in   chapter 9. This dialogue found in chapter 10 continues what Jesus began in chapter 9.

So, Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”  6 Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. (John 10:1-6 NKJV)

Jesus moves from the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees to their ability to lead the people. Here Jesus is establishing His authority as the Shepherd. He comes to the front gate with his sheep and the gatekeeper opens the door when he comes to get his sheep and the sheep that went in with him will come out with him. In verse 6, John writes, “they did not understand the things that Jesus spoke to them.” The “they” in this passage is the same “they” in chapter 9; “they” are the Pharisees who are the ones who did not enter the sheepfold through the door.” Verses 1-5 refer speak of and to shepherds in general. Verses 7-10 will speak to The Shepherd for both the sheep and the shepherd.

The three verses that get very little attention in most discussions of chapter 10 and Jesus’ reference to His sheep and their hearing His voice are found in verses 7-10.

“Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

“Christ is that door; He is the door of the sheep and He is the door for the shepherds. There is no other way into His fold, for there is no other name, under heaven, given among men, whereby men must be saved (Ac 4:12). Jesus says, ” 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

Christ is the door to salvation. What is the purpose of a door? It is the passageway that an individual must go through to get from one place to another. So, salvation is the passageway from death unto life and the only way to get to life is to go through Christ. There is no other way to be saved. Period. Notice Jesus’ conditional statement, “If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.” He goes on to say, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Jesus is contrasting His coming to that of the Pharisees who are there to “steal, kill and destroy” as false teachers. He has come to give life and to give it abundantly. He is the well spring of life. (Prov. 16:22)

Jesus goes on,

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.  12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.  13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.” (John 10:11-14 NKJV)

Here Jesus is obviously referring to His sacrificial death on the cross for His sheep. He is identified as “the good Shepherd.” This is in obvious contrast to the religious leaders of His day who are opposing Him at every opportunity. They have criticized Him of healing a man born blind of all things pointing to their own spiritual blindness. Jesus will contrast Himself with the hireling who simply wants a paycheck and will flee at the first sign of danger. The hireling does not care for the sheep; Jesus says that He is more than willing to give His life for the sheep, not His sheep. This is vitally important. Jesus’ death is universal in scope as opposed to being specific.

Jesus died in sinful man’s place to obtain pardon for his sin; Jesus paid the penalty for man’s sin so that he could be set free from the punishment of his sin. Jesus did not his life down for His teaching; He laid it down for the sheep. He did what He did so that He could become the doors that anyone could enter by Him and be saved, and go in and out and find pasture. This is an important note to make because the Pharisees were more concerned with the letter of the law whereas Jesus was more concerned with the people who were affected by the Law. Jesus died for people not the Law.

14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.  15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

Jesus knows His sheep; He knows who has and who has not entered by the gate, which is by His blood shed at the cross. His sheep, those who have entered by the gate or the cross, know Him.

16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:14-16 NKJV)

This is an obvious reference to the Gentile inclusion into the sheepfold or the universal church.

17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

Once again, Jesus reiterates His claim as the good shepherd because of what it is that He has come to this world to do and that is to willingly give His life for the sheep. Now, the Pharisees continue to argue about Jesus and His mission and ministry;

“19 Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. 20 And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:17-21NKJV)

Verse 21 obviously links chapter 10 to the events in chapter 9.

22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. Jesus comes into the Temple and He is confronted once again. “Tell us if you are the Messiah.”

The truth is, they were not interested in flowing Him but rather looking for a reason to bring trouble on Him.

Jesus answers them, “26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” This statement has garnered a lot of attention. Jesus tells the religious leaders that they do not believe because they are not of His sheep. Some argue this statement speaks of unconditional election in that “Jesus did not say they were not His sheep because they did not believe; He said they did not believe because they were not His sheep.” The problem with this rendering of this verse is that the context clearly states that the condition of being one of His sheep is believing in Him (John 10:9). So their unbelief which has kept them from becoming one of Jesus’ sheep is the cause of their continued unbelief.

Notice Jesus continues,

“My sheep (those who have entered by the door of belief and faith in Me) hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  30 I and My Father are one.” (John 10:22-30 NKJV)

In verses 34-38, Jesus makes the following appeal: if you cannot believe Me because of the things I say, because of what you believe the Law and your tradition says, “believe the works (that you have seen Me do), that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” (John 10:38-39 NKJV) These works are proof that Jesus is who He says He is and that He has come to do what He has said He would do. Faith is rooted in their believing the promises of God! Jesus was telling the religious leaders to listen to what He was saying but to also pay attention to what God was doing in and through Him.

Salvation is available to all who will come to Him by faith through obedience to His Word to be saved.

Instantaneous or Progressive Regeneration

Monergism.com makes reference to statements made by R.C. Sproul in an excerpt from his book, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit. Sproul makes the following statements concerning regeneration in salvific process.

One of the most dramatic moments in my life for the shaping of my theology took place in a seminary classroom. One of my professors went to the blackboard and wrote these words in bold letters: “Regeneration Precedes Faith”

In this scheme of things the initiative falls with us. To be sure, God had sent Jesus to die on the cross before I ever heard the gospel. But once God had done these things external to me, I thought the initiative for appropriating salvation was my job.

These words were a shock to my system. I had entered seminary believing that the key work of man to effect rebirth was faith. I thought that we first had to believe in Christ in order to be born again. I use the words in order here for a reason. I was thinking in terms of steps that must be taken in a certain sequence. I had put faith at the beginning. The order looked something like this:

“Faith – rebirth -justification.”

I hadn’t thought that matter through very carefully. Nor had I listened carefully to Jesus’ words to Nicodemus. I assumed that even though I was a sinner, a person born of the flesh and living in the flesh, I still had a little island of righteousness, a tiny deposit of spiritual power left within my soul to enable me to respond to the Gospel on my own.

A monergistic work is a work produced singly, by one person. The prefix mono means one. The word erg refers to a unit of work. Words like energy are built upon this root. A synergistic work is one that involves cooperation between two or more persons or things. The prefix syn – means “together with.” I labor this distinction for a reason. At issue was this: Is regeneration a monergistic work of God or a synergistic work that requires cooperation between man and God? When my professor wrote “Regeneration precedes faith” on the blackboard, he was clearly siding with the monergistic answer. After a person is regenerated, that person cooperates by exercising faith and trust. But the first step is the work of God and of God alone.

These giants of Christian history derived their view from Holy Scripture. The key phrase in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is this: “…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have you been saved)” (Eph. 2:5). Here Paul locates the time when regeneration occurs. It takes place ‘when we were dead.’ With one thunderbolt of apostolic revelation all attempts to give the initiative in regeneration to man are smashed. Again, dead men do not cooperate with grace. Unless regeneration takes place first, there is no possibility of faith.

This says nothing different from what Jesus said to Nicodemus. Unless a man is born again first, he cannot possibly see or enter the kingdom of God. If we believe that faith precedes regeneration, then we set our thinking and therefore ourselves in direct opposition not only to giants of Christian history but also to the teaching of Paul and of our Lord Himself.

You may read the summary of Sproul’s book in its entirety by CLICKING HERE.

According to Sproul’s understanding of the salvific process, the unregenerate man is dead in his trespass and sin and as a result, he is totally incapable of responding by faith to God and as Sproul notes, “there is no possibility of faith.” Sproul also indicates the point at which regeneration takes place is instantaneous; while the lost person is in a depraved state, dead in his sin and totally depraved, he is infused with “one thunderbolt of apostolic revelation” which is according to Sproul the irresistible initiative in regeneration that brings about repentance and saving faith and justification is accomplished.

Now with respect to this “one thunderbolt of revelation” or irresistible grace or effectual calling, regeneration would have to be instantaneous or otherwise it would have to be by default progressive and that would mean that at some point an individual would no longer be depraved or unable to begin the process of responding to God. So given the instantaneousness of regeneration or the absence of regeneration, one would have to understand that for the Calvinist, the preaching of the gospel to the unregenerate is useless. Sharing one’s testimony with the unregenerate is a waste of time because they are not even effective much less effectual because of the totally depraved state of the unregenerate individual. Since God’s efficacious calling is solely what brings about regeneration, preaching and teaching and witnessing prior to regeneration have no bearing on one’s repentance and saving faith and justification. Regeneration occurs at God’s sole command and conversion is automatically the result.

This must be understood. The preaching and teaching of the Word of God to the unregenerate cannot be made the means God uses to accomplish the end unless one is willing to relegate the role of regeneration to a progressive one. This would be tantamount to accepting a picture of prevenient grace followed by or leading to irresistible grace. For if regeneration is progressive, then what you have is a form of prevenient grace with an irresistible conclusion and then the question comes into play, what determines when and how prevenient grace becomes irresistible. To counter this possibility is the work of effectual calling in the regeneration process. Effectual calling cannot be progressive but rather must be instantaneous or else it could not be considered effectual.

Given this fact, regeneration as defined and presented by Calvinism does not line up with the Scriptures because the Scriptures are clear, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom 10:17 NKJV) It is clear in the Scripture that the preaching of the gospel is what brings about conversion. Nowhere in the Scripture is it even hinted that regeneration or an efficacious calling is what effectuates conversion. Consider the following passages of Scripture:

14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom 10:14-17 NKJV)

25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26 but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith — 27 to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen. (Rom 16:25-27 NKJV)

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:16-17 NKJV)

Even as Paul speaks about the power of the gospel to save those who believe, it is the power of the spoken Word that brings new life; not God’s effectual calling. The gospel has no appeal whatsoever to the person who has not been regenerated. Dead people cannot hear spoken words. This is the foundation to total depravity. It is simple. According to the Calvinist platform, effectual calling and regeneration bring about conversion, not the preaching of the cross or the gospel.

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Cor 1:18-25 NKJV

14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:14-16 NKJV)

22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
(Luke 7:22-23 NKJV)

Jesus says it plainly here; blessed are those who hear this message being preached to them and are not offended because of Me. It is the power of the spoken Word that has the power to touch men’s hearts and change their lives! This is the real emphasis of John chapter 1 where Jesus is
Identified as the incarnate Word, Who “was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:1-5 NKJV) The Word that spoke the world into existence and breathed life into Adam is the same Word that can breathe spiritual life into our sin hardened hearts and make us whole again.

6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:6-10 NKJV)

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom 10:8-13 NKJV)

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (1 Cor 15:1-11 NKJV)

It is crystal clear; the Bible does not speak of nor even support a salvific possibility of God regenerating an individual outside of the work of the Word of God and its proclamation. It is the proclamation of the gospel that causes lost men to see their sin and their need of a Savior and to hear God’s promise to save those who believe. Calvinism errantly seeks to establish new birth as the sole result of God’s predestined will and subsequent effectual calling, which is not contingent at all upon the proclamation of the gospel because prior to that effectual calling, the gospel has no effect at all on the lost, unregenerate person.

Now this brings up another point. Monergism posits God and God alone in the salvific process. The Calvinist will contend that God and God alone regenerates the lost person and that person repents and is saved. Man plays no part in the process whatsoever. So when it comes to believing, it is God plus nothing (any response from the individual prior to regeneration) that brings about conversion. Why is it then that the Calvinist will argue that it is God plus man that is responsible to bring the message to the unregenerate man? Why would monergism not apply in the sharing of the gospel as it does in the receiving of the gospel? If God does not need man’s participation in receiving the gospel, why does He need man’s participation in the sharing of the gospel? The truth is, it is not necessary for that sharing has no effect unless and until God makes the unregenerate able to hear and understand and then gives him the ability to respond to that message.

Calvinism which posits salvation by regeneration or effectual calling simply is not supported by the Scriptures and needs to be once and for all put to rest.

Here is a question:

Is the gospel the power of God unto salvation to those who are not first regenerated?

Now Is The Accepted Time 2 Corinthians 6:2

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2
NKJV)

In chapter 5, Paul warns the Corinthian church that they must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and “knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” (VV 10-11 NKJV) Obviously the persuading that Paul is referring to is the proclamation of the gospel that has the power to save sinners. “14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (VV 14-15 NKJV)

The mission of Paul’s life is to share this glorious gospel with everyone he can. “18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (VV 18-21 NKJV) Paul understood the power of the spoken Word. He understood the need to preach the gospel and for people to listen. He saw himself as an “ambassador for Christ” and he felt as if Christ Himself was pleading for the lost to come to Him through his preaching.

So Paul makes the following statement, “We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:1-2 NKJV) The Gospel message requires two essential elements. It must be announced and it must be acknowledged. The gospel message must be heard and it must be heeded. Paul makes this abundantly clear. He says that he and those who preach the gospel with him are workers together with the Lord Jesus in the proclamation of the gospel and so he says that he pleads with those who hear to “not receive the grace of God in vain.” It is apparent that there were probably many who heard Paul preach and walked away not receiving the gift of God’s grace like the rich young ruler did Jesus. Paul goes on to say, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

There is only one way to read this appeal. God saves those who respond in repentance by faith to the message presented in the preaching or sharing of the gospel message. For the gospel is indeed “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (Rom 1:16 NKJV) Ppaul had a burning desire to see people saved, Gentile and Jew alike. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Rom 10:1-4 NKJV) The gospel of Jesus Christ is for “everyone who will believe.” “35Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’… and everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:35-36, 40 NKJV) “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:38-40 NKJV)

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:1-5 NKJV)

Notice the conditional statement John leads off with in verse 9: “9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:9-13 NKJV)

The truth of the Scriptures is Jesus has come into this world to save sinners. God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to save those that are lost. How does the preaching of the gospel save sinners? Sinners are saved as they believe. (I Corinthians 1:21) This is why Paul said that Jesus had sent him to preach the gospel! (V17) Jesus said it all when He said, “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:14-18
NKJV) This is what Paul believed; it is what Paul experienced in his own conversion and it this is the message that Paul believed anyone could hear and respond to and that is why his admonition was “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Once a sinner is confronted with the gospel, it is his response that will determine his eternal destiny and today is all anyone is promised.

A Critical Look at Romans 8:29-30

Romans 8:29-30 is perhaps the most Calvinistic passage of Scripture in the Bible. Here the Apostle Paul makes the following declaration: “29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (NKJV) The question of the hour is, what do these two verses mean? Is Paul speaking in salvific terms? Is he giving the world a glimpse into the mind of God as He reaches out to touch the hearts of sinners to make them part of His eternal family? The Calvinist says this is exactly what Paul is doing and this is exactly what these two verses are referring to.

In looking at the Greek,

“for those He knew beforehand, He indeed appointed beforehand (predestined) those to be fashioned in the image of His Son that He might be the first born among many brothers. Those He predestined He called by name, invited and those He called those He also justified and those He justified He also glorified.”

These verbs are all aorist active indicative tenses. They indicate that the action of the verb has already taken place with respect to the subject of the verb. Given the tense of the verb, it is clear at least grammatically speaking, this cannot refer to action that is yet to be taken. The Calvinist argument that glorification is so set in the mind of God that it is virtually already settled is not easily substantiated grammatically in this passage of Scripture. This will be highlighted in greater detail later. With this in mind, is there a contextual application that might better suit Paul’s statement?

Paul begins chapter 8 with these words, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:1-2 NKJV) It is clear that Paul is speaking if not to Christians, about Christians. In verse 4 he settles that question when he wrote, “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”(NKJV) He goes on to say “8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” (Rom 8:8-9 NKJV) “16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Rom 8:16-17 NKJV) Paul is establishing the foundation for their inclusion in the family of God.

Notice the phrase, “if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” This is an important phrase in the exegesis of this text. Paul has taken great lengths to identify the Roman Christians with the family of God; they are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus. So, how are these Roman Christians to respond to the persecution they are facing? This present suffering will end in glorification. What about the tenses in this verse? If we “suffer” is a present active indicative which indicates that Paul is speaking of persecution they are currently experiencing and “that we may be glorified together” is aorist passive subjunctive; which carries with it an intended action that is yet to be completed. The subjunctive voice even with the aorist tense is an indication that there is no past time indicated by the aorist tense of the verb but anticipates some hypothetical event in the future. So Paul is indicating here that the present suffering the Roman Christians are going through will culminate in glory someday.

Paul says that the world itself is going through this futility and “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom 8:21NKJV) Paul continues this concept as he argues the necessity of their present suffering: “23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (Rom 8:23-25 NKJV) Notice Paul’s next statement, “we are not alone! We have the Holy Spirit helping us and praying on our behalf!” Notice Paul’s next statement: “27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom 8:27 NKJV)

Who would these Roman Christians think of when the apostle Paul spoke of “the saints?” It is at least fair to assume they might think of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They might think of David, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, all Old Testament saints that God had used to bring Jesus into the world. It is clear that Paul did not think of himself in this category and was not including himself in this company. Notice Paul’s next statement: “28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28-29 NKJV) “We know” is a very important statement here. How do these Roman Christians know that God works “all things out for good for those who love the Lord?” Because they had been taught the Old Testament and they knew that God had worked in the lives of those Old Testament saints and He had brought them through untold difficulties to glory!

29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Rom 8:29-30 NKJV) Notice the conjunction, “for”’; it ties what is about to be said with what has just been said. We know what God has done for the Old Testament saints, those that He “already knew, He predestined, (aorist indicative, completed action) to be conformed to the image or likeness of His Son. They died long before Jesus was even born but they are still a part of the promises of God! God planned from the beginning to bring their salvation to completion in Christ Jesus. Moreover, those He predestined (aorist indicative, completed action) He justified (aorist indicative, completed action) and those He justified He glorified (aorist indicative, completed action). If Paul had any intended notion that he was speaking to the Roman Christians he would have used the same tense he used previously in verse 16, that being the aorist passive subjective. He did not do so because he was speaking here of the Old Testament saints who had already died but God had provided hope for.

Paul continues, “31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31 NKJV) If God took care of the Old Testament saints, will He not do the same for us? Yes! “32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom 8:21-36 NKJV) Paul is not at all speaking of predestination of individuals to conversion: he is speaking to these Roman Christians who are suffering immense persecution and encouraging them to “keep the faith” for the God who brought the Old Testament saints to glory is going to bring them to glory!

Paul concludes chapter 8 with this great charge, “37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:37-39 NKJV)

Paul simply wanted the newly born again Christians in Rome to know that they were covered by the blood that covered the saints of old and the same God that brought them out of the immense persecutions they endured would bring them out of those they were enduring.

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A Comment and a Question for Calvinists

First of all the comment:

I believe God gave us the choice to choose. We had no choice in the matter. Additionally, While God gave us the choice to choose, He did not give us the choice to choose the consequences of our choices. He reserved that for Himself.

God in His sovereignty chose to make us sovereign over our own choices so that He could make provisions for those who made the chose to choose Him!

Just had glory bumps come over me! Happy Easter to all! (Here I do mean ALL… not just the elect.)

Here is my question:

Every Calvinist I know considers themselves among the “elect.” I do not think I have ever heard from a lost person who was a calvinist. I know a LOT of folks who claim to be Christians that might well be lost but no calvinists. While that is an interesting observation, my question has to do with the children of calvinists and effectual calling and irrestible grace and limited atonement. I think it is fair to say that the majority of people in the world are lost and not saved. I would say most Christians, calvinist and non-calvinist a like would agree with that statement. So, for the calvinist, this is simply the result of God’s eternal decrees.

Here is my question. Let’s say as a Calvinist you have 4 children. God is completely just in giving His grace to whom He wills. Let’s say one of your four children is predestined for glory. There is NO HOPE for the other three. Would that cause you to see Calvinism in a different light?

Here is the reason I ask this question. When I see discussions about God being just in the damnation of the non-elect, “they” get what “they” deserve I realized something; I have never read a calvinist saying, “I will get what I deserve.” It is as if God’s grace is theirs and their family and the “they” that get what “they” deserve always refers to someone one else. I thought that was an interesting observation.

Any feed back there?

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An Argument for or Against Calvinism

One could make a strong argument that there is a real problem with the Calvinist’s position on soteriology: if God and God alone saves the elect and He and He alone is responsible for all who are saved, then why is it that so few in our world are actually saved? It would be difficult to even venture to guess what the percentage of Christians is in the US today much less the percentage of the population of the world might be. If one were to go back even 25 years when satellite television and the internet were just beginning to make a mark in the communications explosion, evangelism opportunities and the proclamation of the gospel message were not as easily available then as they are today. It would appear that the percentage of the world’s population that has heard about Christ and has had an opportunity to respond to the good news of Jesus is at least greater today than it has been at any time in the history of the world. With this in mind, while a very small number of people around the world are Christian, that number must be significantly greater today than in any generation before. So, if God is responsible for every person who will spend eternity in heaven as the Calvinist contends, then why is this number or percentage of the world’s population so pitifully poor?

Here is another question that seriously challenges irresistible grace and limited atonement and unconditional election: if God and God alone saves the elect and He and He alone is responsible for all who are saved, why are our churches are so weak and why are there so few in our churches who are committed to walking with God as He would have them walk? Some have argued that many on the average church roll are not even saved and there is no debating the fact that a vast majority of those on the church rolls (who may be saved) show very little commitment to God or His church. If God and God alone regenerates individuals and those and only those are truly born again, then something is terribly wrong because God does not fail in anything He does. If His grace is efficacious as Calvinists’ contend, God’s sovereignty in salvation is certainly subject to challenge as its effect is obviously suspect in the lives of those He supposedly has efficaciously called to be His people. Because God has made Jesus BOTH SAVIOR AND LORD, He cannot make Jesus one without making Him both, if He is the One who is solely responsible for this conversion process in the first place. Since this is not the case, it has to cast doubt on the exent of God’s involvement in this process as posited by the Calvinist’s position.

If on the other hand, salvation is a choice made by individuals who have been convicted of their sin and are responsible for their own choice, the whole scenario changes. If God in His sovereignty chose to make man sovereign over his choices and responsible for those choices, then the lack of spiritual commitment in the body is explainable as well as the lack of evangelistic fervor in our world. While there is no question about the importance of one’s responsibility to walk with God and be involved in evangelism in the Calvinist platform, the lack of either hardly limits God’s ability to do what He intended to do from the foundation of the world where conversion and salvation are concerned. The fact that neither, conversion nor sanctification is as pronounced as one would expect it to be in the world or even in America, a “God fearing” society, would seem to be an argument against the tents of Calvinism as opposed to an argument in support for it.

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Total Separation as Opposed to Total Depravity

In the following article, I lay out the foundation for my position of Total Separation from God’s perpetual presence and its relationship to what we call our “sin nature.” In Christ Jesus, God provided the solution to our sin problem, which in turn is the solution for our sin problem.

Sin is a reality of life. There are a number of questions that are centered on the problem of man’s sin. Is man a sinner because he sins or does he sin because he is a sinner? In some ways, both are true. It seems that the Bible is clear that man is born with a sinful nature and that sinful nature causes him to sin. What is the essence of this “sin nature”? How does this sin nature affect man?

Theological discussion today is saturated with conversation that begins with what is commonly referred to as Total Depravity or Total Inability. The doctrine of total depravity teaches that man cannot in any way or at any time choose God because his nature is evil and his actions are sinful and because of this he is incapable of knowing God and coming to receive Jesus Christ as his savior apart from the efficacious work of the Holy Spirit made possible by God’s sovereign and divine will as presented in the doctrine of election. Calvinism contends that man in his sinful nature has the free will to choose evil but does not have the capacity or ability to choose God because he can only sin. The question that needs to be answered has little to do with the issue of man’s depravity but rather everything to do with the extent of that depravity and its effect on an individual’s ability to make choices relative to God’s plan and purpose for that individual’s life.

In the Scripture there is an undeniable truth declared: man is willfully wicked, deceitfully destructive, and seriously sinful. He is incapable of standing before God in his own righteousness. Every man is a sinner condemned to death and is therefore desperately in need of a Savior. A question that needs to be answered is, what is the nature of sin and how does this nature affect the decisions men make causing men to sin?

The Concept of Original Sin

One of the answers to this dilemma can be seen in the concept of “original sin.” When God created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden, Adam was perfect and untouched by the effects of sin until he disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit God clearly told him not to do. God warned Adam “in the day that you eat of the fruit, you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) It is obvious that this act of disobedience has affected every person that has ever been born. The question is, how has Adam’s disobedience affected mankind and to what extent? Some see the effects of this event as causing a tendency in man to sin with no reference to corporate guilt all the way to the other extreme where individuals are fallen and totally depraved and automatically guilty because of corporate culpability.

There are questions concerning the very nature of sin itself. Some speak of the imputation of Adam’s guilt and then there are those that contend that it is not Adam’s guilt that is charged to his progeny but rather a sin nature is imputed. Proponents of imputed guilt argue all are born guilty of sin, which is the corporate culpability position. Others argue man inherits a sinful nature and all men are condemned because of their own sin and not specifically the sin of Adam. Some will argue the fallacy of this latter position establishes the possibility that someone might not sin and therefore not need a savior; that possibility is clearly rejected for the Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The only real problem that position creates is the spiritual condition of infants and those who are born mentally challenged. The proponents of imputed guilt argue babies need Jesus’ righteousness because they are born guilty of Adam’s sin. They will reason to assume otherwise would in effect make Jesus’ death on the cross unnecessary for their salvation because they have not sinned themselves and are therefore innocent and do not need a Savior. While these are good philosophical questions given the various implications of these two positions, they are not the only theological possibilities.

Man’s Sin Nature

In looking at this Adamic event, perhaps there are some clues in the narrative that can help unlock the mystery that is commonly referred to as “man’s sin nature.” God created man and placed him in the garden and gave him dominion or complete control over God’s creation to do with it as he saw fit. God gave Adam complete freedom with one exception. “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 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.” (Gen 2:15-17)

This is indeed interesting. God created the garden for Adam. God created Adam for Himself. There are two things that are evident in the garden narrative. The first thing that is evident is the fact that God’s perpetual presence is in the garden. God placed Adam in the garden and He was there with him the whole time. The second thing that is evident in the garden narrative, is the fact that God met or supplied every single need Adam had. Along with His perpetual presence in the garden, came His perfect provisions for Adam. This is a very important aspect to contemplate when considering the issue of the nature of man’s sin.

Why did God make man in the first place? Perhaps an answer to this question will reveal much about the issue of sin and why it is such a problem with God and for man. Listen to what the Bible says of man’s creation, “’Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ’Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’.” (Gen 1:26-28) Up until this point, everything was seen in God’s eyes as being “good.” However, following man’s creation the Bible says, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (Gen 1:31)

Created for Relationship

Could it be that God created mankind for one reason and that reason was for fellowship and a relationship where God could pour Himself into man and meet his every need and give life to him that was both full and abundant? Since God created the garden and the whole world and universe for the sole benefit of man, it would seem plausible that this statement has some validity. God created a cosmic environment where He could bless man and man could live with Him. Why did God not just place Adam in the garden and give him free reign with no restrictions? What is the significance of “not eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?” Consider the following.

All Adam knew was good. He had no concept of evil at all. There is no mention of how long Adam and Eve lived in the garden before they disobeyed God and ate of the fruit that God told them not to eat. Adam and Eve could have been in the garden for a few decades, a few years or merely a few days before the “fall.” Listen to the serpent’s charge to Eve, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Gen 3:1) This question is interesting in its own right. The serpent challenged God’s Word right off the bat. He spoke directly to her challenging God’s word of warning. It can be argued that Eve should have dismissed the serpent’s challenge altogether because God’s Word is just that and was not to be challenged. There really was no need for a response on her part.

However, Eve did respond, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'” (Gen 3:2-3) Understand something concerning the nature of sin seen here; there is no room for compromise or discussion where God’s Word is concerned. God is the Creator. He knows why He created man and what it is that He wants to do for man and it is imperative that man be what God has created him to be and do what God has created him to do. Anything less than this is sin because when man fails in his created purpose, man automatically falls short of God’s glory.

Eve’s answer is telling as well. There is no record of God ever telling Eve anything about not eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. There is also no record of God telling the couple not to go near the tree. He simply told Adam, not to eat of it for if you do, you shall surely die. No doubt Adam and Eve had discussed God’s word of warning, probably more than once. Perhaps they decided the best way to avoid eating the fruit was to not go near it and that is what they decided to do. Here is an interesting side note. This may well be the first reference to religion in the Bible. Understand religion is not bad. Religion is man’s attempt to stay in step with God. If this is true, the serpent challenged Adam and Eve’s religion or their effort to stay in step with God when he challenged their response to God’s command. Religious efforts can get out of step with God very easily and that is unquestionably where problems begin. It was true in Adam and Eve’s life and it is still true today.

Challenging the Word of God

The serpent challenged God’s word of warning but he really did more than that; he challenged Eve’s response to God’s Word. The serpent knew that he could not change God’s word of warning but he could challenge how Eve looked at that warning. “The punishment does not fit the offense. You are not going to die. God loves you. He created you. He is not going to kill you because you eat this fruit. Besides, God knows that in the day you eat of the fruit you shall be like Him, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:4-5) “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” (Gen 3:6)
Notice Eve “looked at the tree and saw that is was good for food.” She did what seemed right in her own eyes instead of listening to God’s Word and being obedient to it. It is here that it could be argued that the grace and mercy of God are first demonstrated. What if the fruit had been highly poisonous and could kill anyone who ate it immediately? Eve had no way of knowing that this was not the case. She did not die immediately.

Now, notice the Bible tells says that the serpent came to Eve and tempted her. It appears that she was alone. Once again there is an element of applicable truth to God’s Word in the garden when He said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Gen 2:18) Relationships are essential to life. Life is based on and built upon relationships. Love is the foundation of life. Love for one another is essential and love for God is equally important. Once again, God’s purpose in creating mankind can be seen in His desire to demonstrate His great love and to be loved in return. It can be argued that in creating man and making Him the object of God’s affection, the only thing God could not do was create a being capable of loving Him without the possibility of his not loving Him in return. So in a sense, the only thing God does not have may well be man’s heart and his love for God in return for all that God has done for man. While God’s statement that it is not good that man not be alone is certainly applicable to human relationships, it is equally applicable to man’s relationship with God. It is not good that man ever be alone where God’s presence is concerned.

The Serpent Tempted Eve

The serpent tempted Eve. She chose to disobey God’s word of warning, which she may or may not have ever even heard from God, herself. The Bible says following the serpent’s temptation, she looked and saw that “the tree was good for food that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and she ate from it. (Gen 3:6) Here the concept of concupiscence is evident. The serpent appealed to Eve’s innate desire to have something she did not have. There is a lot of theological debate as to the validity of this desire, specifically if desire in and of itself is sin. Is desire the root of all evil? The Bible says, God created man in His Own image and “in the image of them created He them.” (Gen 1:27) When God placed Adam in the garden and told him to tend it and to eat freely from it with the one exception, what God did in essence was give man the choice to choose. Adam had no choice in the matter. In addition to this, God chose the consequences of Adam’s choice. God told Adam to choose and God laid out the consequences and the limitations on Adam’s choices. Eve made a choice; her choice was in direct disobedience to God’s Word. The Bible says that Eve brought the fruit to Adam and he did eat. Notice, there is no reference to the serpent tempting Adam. To this point, life in the garden was perfect. There was no sin; there was no death. Everything was perfect. Note something; Adam has not eaten the fruit. There is no indication that anything has changed in the garden. This could make for an interesting philosophical discussion in and of itself. However, everything is about to change.

Why did Adam not refuse to eat the fruit? There are a number of answers to this question. It could be argued that Adam had no concept or understanding of death and as such God’s warning was really not much of a warning to him at all. Consider for example, the words POISON clearly written on a Coke bottle. A child too young to read can pick that bottle up and open it and drink it; the warning written on the bottle is no warning at all to the child that cannot read. Here is the real irony of this point of view; folks today are living their lives as if death is no big deal. It is as if death is something that happens to everyone else and is always something that will take place in the future. Death is rarely seen as the present foe that it really is. It is also interesting that Paul speaks of death as the final enemy to be defeated. (I Cor. 15:26)

There is a second possible answer to the question of why Adam ate of the fruit. Some charge that Adam did not believe God or take His warning serious. Perhaps the text indicates the opposite; what if Adam ate the fruit because he did believe God. Perhaps Adam looked at Eve, whom God had given to him and said, “If she has to die, then I will die with her” and he took the fruit with tears in his eyes and a heavy heart and he willingly ate it. Is it possible that Adam did what he did, not in defiance, but out of love for his wife? Consider the following. What if Adam “gave his life for his bride?”

The New Testament says that Jesus loved the church and willingly gave His life for her. (Eph. 5:25; John 10:11) The church is affectionately identified as Christ’s bride. (Rev, 21:9, 22:17) Jesus as the bridegroom implies that the church is His bride. (Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19; Luke 5:34) Both Adam and Jesus gave their lives for their bride. The real difference between in Jesus and Adam can be seen in their respective acts of obedience to God’s Word with respect to their responses to their “brides.” The Bible says that Jesus was tempted “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15-16) Jesus obeyed God while Adam failed to do so. In this scenario, Adam’s sin is not something that satisfied his base desires but rather was his sacrificial response to a situation that he saw Eve in and Adam failed to see any other solution but to offer to die with her. Adam should have sought God’s instruction as opposed to taking matters into his own hands and making a rational decision based on options as he saw them. Here is why this is so important. There is a major problem Adam failed to understand. His perspective was way too limited and paled in comparison to God’s perspective. Adam did what seemed right in his own eyes when he should have gone to God and asked God for His direction. God was merciful and He did provide a covering for their sin. Imagine what God might have done had Adam gone to Him with the problem Eve presented before he took matters into his own hands and did what seemed right in his own eyes. One thing is clear in the Scriptures. God wants to be man’s first response and not a last resort.

Adam, “Where are you?”

When God came walking in the cool of the garden He called out to Adam, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9) Adam and Eve had already sinned. They hid themselves in the garden because they knew they were naked and they were ashamed to be seen by God in their condition. Listen to God’s response, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (Gen 3:11) Here is an interesting note. Apparently man is not totally depraved and dead in his sin at this point where total inability has kicked in or else one would have to assert that God would have had to regenerate the couple before there could have been any kind of response on Adam’s part to God. It seems obvious, Adam’s sin did not keep God from speaking to him nor does it keep him from responding to God. There is no picture of total depravity or inability at this point. It is not there. How does this event of Adam’s sin affect mankind and what is commonly referred to as man’s “sin nature?”

Perhaps the answer can be seen in what God does with Adam and Eve after their confrontation with Him over what they have done. First of all, the effects of sin are evident immediately. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent. Ironically, both indirectly blame God for their failure. The woman “You gave me” gave the fruit to me and then Eve’s blame was that the serpent “You created” enticed me. God went on to pronounce curses that each would face in their new world. God moved the couple out of the garden and away from His perpetual presence and His perfect provisions into a world where chaos as opposed to concord and pandemonium as opposed to peace would become their new “norm.”

Look at God’s curse on Adam. “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:17-19) Adam’s sin changed everything for him. Difficulty would reign until death returned him to dust. Adam’s “new norm” is nothing like what he has known all because he “heeded the voice of his wife, and ate from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’.” (Gen 3:17)

This event of God putting Adam and Eve out of the garden may well provide the crucial key to understanding the sin nature that mankind is effected by. If it is true that God created mankind for His glory, then Adam’s sin that precipitated his consequent separation from God’s perpetual presence in the garden may actually be the source of the ongoing problem that man has with sin today. If God’s purpose in creating mankind was so that God could be with him and be the source of life for him, then God’s banishing of Adam from the garden and His perpetual presence was in and of itself a form of death to Adam. Adam’s choice to do what he thought was best was in direct contrast to what God told him to do in the beginning. That cost Adam dearly because God created him to pour Himself into Adam, making God the source of life for him. Adam’s deliberate disobedience caused him to be banished from the garden and from God’s perpetual presence, which cut him off from the source of life who was God. The absence of life is death. How does this banishment from the garden affect mankind and this sin nature that haunts him?

God’s Perpetual Presence

If man was created so that God could meet his every need as he abided in God’s perpetual presence, then man’s rebellion and consequent banishment from the garden has upset his created purpose, “his” being both man’s created purpose and God’s purpose in creating man. If man was created for God’s glory then consider for a moment that God created man for constant companionship and a personal relationship. It is through His perpetual presence that God intended from the beginning to be the source and sustenance of life for mankind. When Adam sinned and God placed him outside the garden and out of the reach of God’s perpetual presence, it became impossible for man to receive all that God originally purposed in His heart to do for him. Since God’s perfect provisions are tied to His presence, the absence of His presence also means the absence of a measure of His provisions. Since every human being that has ever been born has been born outside the garden, all have been born outside the reach of God’s perpetual presence and His perfect provisions. If God’s presence is indeed essential to the presence of His provisions, then it can be argued that being in His perpetual presence is the quintessential element of God’s glory. In other words, it is not what man does for God that gives Him glory but rather what God is able to do for mankind that gives Him glory. If this is the case, anything that falls short of God’s glory is sin. (Rom. 3:23) In this scenario, any decision that a man makes while he is separated from God’s perpetual presence is sin because God is not the provider and sustainer of life for that individual as He originally intended to be. Here sin is the result of being outside God’s perpetual presence. When an individual is separated from God’s presence, nothing he does will be pleasing to God because every decision he makes is made outside God’s perpetual presence and outside His perfect provisions. Only God can make one’s life full and abundant. This is only possible when an individual is in God’s presence.

As long as men are estranged or separated from God’s perpetual presence, every decision he makes will be sinful, because all of his decisions will fall short of the glory of God because God’s glory is made full in His presence that brings His provisions that give life to men. It is impossible for a man who is separated from God’s perpetual presence to make any decision that will bring the lost individual into God’s presence apart from the provisions made available to him by God Himself, in Christ Jesus. This is why Jesus could say, “I am the Way, The Truth and The Life.” (John 14:6)

In thinking about man’s nature of sin being related to God’s perpetual presence, consider what God has done to provide a remedy for sin. Consider John 1: “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 nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:1-5) “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) This is an interesting statement. If man’s “sin problem” is really a “separation problem” then it is no surprise that God would correct man’s sin problem in the incarnation, with “the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.” Note John’s next statement, “We beheld His glory.” God’s perpetual presence was now clothed in human flesh and He and He alone was meeting Jesus’ every single need. (John 6:57) God’s glory is in essence on full display and as a result we hear God saying of His Son, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt 3:17) It is equally interesting that Paul will both compare and contrast Adam and Jesus and we find God making the same basic declaration of His good pleasure over both, here and in Genesis 1:31.

John will go on to declare that Jesus’ self-described purpose is to “do the will of Him who sent Him.” (John 4:34,5:30,6:38,40) He did not come to this world to do His own will. (Mt. 26:42; Mk. 14:36; Luke 22:42;) Jesus admonished those listening to Him not to do His will but rather to do the will of His Father who sent Him. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt 7:21-23) Jesus is teaching and word is brought to Him that His mother and brothers are at the door wanting to speak to him. Listen to His reply, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matt 12:49-50) Jesus came to do the perfect will of His Father who sent Him. Jesus in His obedience to God did what Adam failed to do.

Jesus in the Wilderness

In the temptation experience, Jesus was confronted with Satan himself. He had been in the desert for 40 days and had not eaten anything. Satan came to Jesus and said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Jesus is in the wilderness. He has just been baptized and He is about to embark on His public ministry that will culminate not with a crown but at the cross. What is the significance of this temptation and how does it relate to Adam’s original sin? Satan’s temptation is for Jesus to take matters into His own hands and turn worthless stones into bread so that His popularity will soar. Look at Jesus’ predicament. He does not have television and satellites to let people know who He is; He is the son of a carpenter. No one is going to listen to Him. Look at what Jesus does, He relies on God’s Word as opposed to His own pride and doing what seems to be the right thing to do is His own eyes. He replies, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'” (Matt 4:3-4)

Satan ramps up his efforts. Jesus quoted Scripture, Satan quotes Scripture himself back at Jesus. “Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” (Matt 4:5-6) Once again, Satan tempts Jesus to turn to the miraculous to gain popularity and instant fame. Jesus responds, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” (Matt 4:7)

Satan takes a final shot at Jesus. “Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me’.” (Matt 4:8-9) At first glance, this seems to be a pitiful temptation to level at the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who was at the creation and is even now the sustainer of life. Jesus knows the kingdoms of the world already belong to Him and there is nothing that Satan can give Him that He does not already own. However, there is one thing Jesus does not have and that is what this temptation addresses. Jesus does not have the obedience and the love of those He has created. God created man and gave him the choice to choose. While God’s love is a given and is not conditioned on man’s love for Him in return, His ongoing response to man is dependent on man’s response to His selfless love. The very fact that Jesus is in the world proves His dilemma. He has come to die on the cross to pay the penalty for the sin of the world so that who would believe in Him might be born again and pass from death unto life and life with Him in heaven forever.

So what is Satan’s final temptation here? “Jesus, You claim that You love the world. Bow down before me right here, and every single man, woman, boy and girl will go to heaven and You and I will go to hell. If You do it Your way, You will get some but I will get the vast majority of them. Do this and You will get them all.” This temptation was similar in nature to Adam’s dilemma with Eve in the Garden of Eden. Both can be seen as a test of sacrificial love. Adam basically gave his life for Eve’s; if she was going to die, then he would die. Jesus was faced with the same choice; the church is His bride! Listen to Jesus’ response, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'” (Matt 4:10) Jesus did what Adam failed to do. Jesus took God at His Word while Adam did what he thought was the only option he had because of what Eve had done. Adam failed to obey God’s Word; Jesus was faithful to God’s Word in the beginning and in the end.

Worship begins with and is centered on God’s presence! God’s presence is the key to obedience. Jesus has been alone with God for 40 days! I am sure Jesus may well have considered in His humanity the validity of the argument Satan presented to Him but He knew that the answer to true love was in being obedient to God’s Word and not doing what seemed right in His own mind. Remember, while Jesus is 100% God, He is 100% man. Jesus had to keep His humanity in step with His divinity. Jesus did not make the same mistake in the wilderness Adam made in the garden.

The Garden of Gethsemane

Fast forward to Matthew 26 to the final temptation experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. Isn’t it ironic the first temptation of took place in the Garden of Eden and the last temptation took place in the Garden of Gethsemane? “Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me’.” (Matt 26:36-38)

Men look at the Gethsemane experience as if Jesus was struggling with coming to the end of His life and His reluctance to facing the cross when He made the following statement: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” Listen to Jesus’ prayer, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt 26:39) Perhaps there is more taking place here than what immediately meets the eye. Maybe the key to Jesus’ struggle can be seen in the verses that follow: “Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’” (Matt 26:40-41)

Read the rest of the account. “Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.’ And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then He came to His disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand’.” (Matt 26:42-46)

Asleep in the Garden

Why is it that the Scriptures make so much of the disciples sleeping instead of them praying? Consider this possibility. What is Satan’s final temptation was, “Jesus, I know You are going to the Cross. You were born to die. However, You cannot go today! Look at Your disciples; they have no clue what is about to happen. You cannot die today. If You do, they will not make it and Your death will have been in vain. The church (the bride of Christ) that You love so much will not get off the ground.” Interesting isn’t it? Imagine Jesus in His humanity thinking, “Wow; I do not see how this is going to work! I do not have a choice.” Once again, Jesus is in the same position in Gethsemane that Adam was in, in Eden. Adam made the wrong choice; Jesus made the only choice He could make; He did what God sent Him to do and trusted God with the results. Obedience to God’s Word is ALWAYS the best and only real option no matter what the odds are against it. The key to Jesus’ obedience is rooted in the perpetual presence in His humanity.

Just like Adam in the Garden of Eden, Jesus’ real temptation was “What am I going to do with those that I love so much that I am willing to give My life for? What if the disciples are not ready? How can I do this NOW?” Jesus’ resolve was, “nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done.” It is also interesting that John records the prayers Jesus offered just before His arrest. “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (John 17:2-5)

Jesus goes on to pray for His disciples specifically; “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.” (John 17:6-8) Some might argue, “them that You have given Me is a reference to the elect” and not the disciples, specifically. Note a comment in verse 12, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” This is an obvious reference to Judas, who was at the very moment Jesus made this statement leading the Roman soldiers to arrest Him.

Jesus continues, His prayer, “But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. (John 17:13-19) It is obvious Jesus’ concern was with the disciples and their ability to do what needed to be done after He was crucified.

Not only does Jesus pray for His disciples for strength in the days that lay ahead of them, He prays for those He is about to go to the cross for as well. He prayed, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:20-23) Jesus prayed that God would bless the ministries of His disciples and those who believed in Him through the word they spoke and that they would be “One in Us as We are one.” Jesus went to the cross as the virgin born Son of God to pay the penalty for man’s sin so that by believing, mankind might be one with Jesus and the Father. God was in Christ Jesus correcting the separation problem, once and for all.

God’s Work in Conversion

Consider God’s work in conversion. When a lost person repents and calls on the Name of the Lord, God promises to save him. (Acts 2:21; Ro. 10:13) When an individual is saved or “born-again, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in that person’s heart. Paul writes, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Eph. 1:13) The presence of the Holy Spirit in the new born person’s heart seals him until the day of redemption. (Eph. 4:30) A child of God’s body becomes the temple of the Living God because the Holy Spirit takes up residence there. (Rom 5:1-5; 1 Cor 6:19-20; 2 Tim 1:13-14) So in the conversion experience itself, God places the Holy Spirit into the new born child of God’s heart and His perpetual presence that was lost at the Garden of Eden is restored at conversion. It is the Spirit that gives life! (John 6:63)

Romans 8 is probably the single best passage that points to the importance of God’s perpetual presence being the source of life to the Child of God. Paul writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (VV1-2) The difference between those who walk in Christ Jesus and those who walk according to the flesh are the ones who have Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit dwelling in their hearts. This is a matter of position as opposed to one of choice. Paul continues, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (VV 3-4) Once again Jesus, who was God in the flesh, did what the Law could not do. The Law could not unite God and man; the best the Law could do was demonstrate man’s inability to be obedient to God because he was separated from Him. The Law continually pointed to man’s separation from God as it continually demonstrated his need for God.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (VV 5-8) It is impossible to please God as long as man is separated from Him and the only way to please Him is to be united with Him in Christ Jesus. “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (VV 9-11) In Jesus, God corrects the separation problem which is the root cause of man’s sin problem.

Prayer and God’s Presence

Consider another aspect of the Christian walk, prayer. Prayer brings the child of God into the very presence of God Himself. (Jude 20-21) In Hebrews 4, Paul admonishes all to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” How does one come boldly to the throne of God’s grace? He does so in prayer and the Bible says the “prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:15-17) What is a righteous man? A righteous man is first of all one whose heart has the Holy Spirit dwelling in it and an is an individual who is responsive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit whose responsibility is to lead the individual to life.(Eph. 6:14-18)

Here is a unique aspect of prayer that can go easily overlooked. When an individual comes into God’s presence in prayer, God accepts that person just as he is. The only prayer that lost person has is, “Lord be merciful to me a sinner; forgive me of my sin; I trust Jesus and the provisions made available to me on the cross and the promises given to me in the resurrection and by faith I come to You believing that you are everything that Your Word says You are and that You will do everything that Your Word says You will do.”(see Heb. 11:6b) Now once the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the new born Christian’s heart, the importance of prayer just begins and the importance of coming into God’s presence is now essential to having life and having it more abundantly! (John 10:10) Paul’s admonition is to “pray without ceasing.” (I Thess. (5:17) Why is prayer so vital? It is vital because man is constantly making decisions and the choice that he has to make is the same one Adam made and the same one that Jesus made; he is to do what God’s Word and the Holy Spirit instructs him to do. This is only possible if he chooses life by choosing God’s way as opposed to choosing his own way. When an individual is in God’s presence, he will choose God will because God’s indwelling perpetual presence will give him the ability to make the right choice.

Remember God’s original statement about man in the creation story where God said, “It is not good that man be alone”? (Gen. 2:18) Perhaps prayer is the real answer to satisfying that need that God knew man would have. God created man as an outlet for His perpetual presence where His power would be established and His provisions experienced.

Separation and Sin

In looking at the issue of sin and its relationship to being separated from God’s presence, a look at the concept of covenant in the Old Testament will produce some interesting parallels as well. The first few chapters of Deuteronomy are interesting because here Moses basically summarizes God’s activity in the lives of the children of Israel after He led them out of Egypt to take them to the land that He had promised to their forefathers. Moses tells the Children of Israel, “For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.”‘ (Deut 2:7) Notice his statement, “The Lord YOUR God.” God has chosen this “stiff-necked people” to be His Own. They are His and He is theirs.

There is an interesting statement in Chapter 4,

“Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what the Lord did at Baal Peor; for the Lord your God has destroyed from among you all the men who followed Baal of Peor. But you who held fast to the Lord your God are alive today, every one of you.” (Deut 4:1-4) Compare this statement to John’s prologue. “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 nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4) The Word of God was the source of life to those that Moses was speaking too. Listen and live, God said to the Israelites through Moses. John makes it clear that this “Living Word” that his listeners were to hear was none other than Jesus Himself. He is life to those who have ears to hear and believe and live.

Moses continues speaking of God’s presence with the children of Israel, not just since they left Egypt but since creation itself! He highlights the benefits of being in God’s presence!

“For ask now concerning the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether any great thing like this has happened, or anything like it has been heard. Did any people ever hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and live? Or did God ever try to go and take for Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord Himself is God; there is none other besides Him. Out of heaven He let you hear His voice, that He might instruct you; on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words out of the midst of the fire. And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power, driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land as an inheritance, as it is this day. Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.” (Deut 4:32-40)

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses reminded the children of Israel of the day he came down the mountain and said, that the “Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive. The Lord talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain. He said: ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. ‘You shall have no other gods before Me’.” Moses went on to repeat the Ten Commandments that God gave them on that day. (Deut. 5:1-22) He reminded the people that they heard the Voice of God and they lived. He reminded them that they came to him and told him to go to God on their behalf and tell Him that they had heard His voice and that they would do what He told them to do. Listen to God’s response to their reply, “Then the Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me: ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” Deut. 5:28-29)

God Restoring His Presence

All though the Old Testament, God sought to restore His presence with man by promising to be with him. As men walked with Him and were obedient to His commandments, God promised His provisions. Listen to Moses’ statement, “So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11 houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant — when you have eaten and are full — 12 then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” God promised His protection and His provisions to His children! All they had to do was remain faithful to Him because He had already proven His faithfulness to them. God’s presence went with the children of Israel all through the wilderness wanderings. He led them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (Ex. 13:21)

God’s presence is demonstrated with His people all through the Old Testament. The Ark of the Covenant is representative of His perpetual presence with His people. God told Moses to make this ark and place on it a mercy seat and there He would sit and speak to Moses and tell him what He wanted the children of Israel to know and do. (Ex.28:22) The Ark of the Covenant went before the people everywhere they went. (Nu. 10:33) In Joshua 3, God tells Joshua to take the Ark and head for the Jordan River and when the feet of those carrying the Ark touch the water, it will part so the children of Israel may cross into the Promised Land safely and on dry land. (Jos. 3:1-17) Once again, it is God’s presence with His people that makes the journey possible.

Consider the tabernacle in the Old Testament. It represents a place where the people could come into His presence and experience God’s love and find His forgiveness. King David understood this well when he wrote, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:4-6) It is the picture of the tabernacle that God presents that which was required for man to become right with Him. The details that God gave the Israelites to make and set the tabernacle up demonstrate His holiness and for sinful man to approach this holy God, he must come to God in His own set way, and no other way. God commanded Moses, “make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8) He promised them that in His dwelling in the tabernacle, “They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. (Exodus 29:45-46)

The tabernacle represents a visual place of God’s presence with His people. Tabernacle literally means “tent” or “place of dwelling” or “sanctuary.” The tabernacle was temporary or mobile as opposed to be permanent as was the Temple that would later be built. The tabernacle would be set up in the center of the camp as Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and each of the 12 tribes would set up their tents around the tabernacle as God had given them instruction to do. The tabernacle represented more than simply God’s presence with His people. The Ark of the Covenant accomplished that. The layout of the tabernacle itself represented God’s plan for redemption and how that redemption was to be accessed. The specific layout of the tabernacle and its courtyard is significant because it illustrates God’s prescribed way for man to approach Him.

The tabernacle was surrounded entirely by a high fence. No one could look over the fence to see in side. There was one entrance and only one and it was always positioned on the eastern side of the tabernacle. Most pagan worshippers faced the east because that is where the sun rises. God wanted everyone who came into His presence to face the west, away from the rising of the sun, which would be a picture of the Son who would rise, and become the only way to enter into God’s presence. There is only one way to God and the gate that everyone must come is Jesus. (John 14:6, 10:9) In the setup of the tabernacle, God is saying in advance of Jesus’ coming, that He is the only way to gain access to Him. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Forgiveness at the Tabernacle

When the Jew came to the tabernacle, he did so for one reason: he came to find forgiveness for his sin and to experience fellowship with His God. God made it clear that He had chosen the Children of Israel for Himself and He wanted to be their God and He wanted them to be His people. The act of entering the tabernacle was special and significant for the Jew. No one entered the tabernacle empty handed. Everyone brought a sacrifice to be placed in the brazen altar, which was the very first thing they saw as they entered the tabernacle. The brazen altar reminded everyone of their sin and their sinfulness as well as their need for a sacrifice in order for them to be forgiven and experience fellowship with God. Repentance was a required part of the offering of a sacrifice for their sin. The brazen altar was placed on a mound of earth, so that it was positioned higher than the surrounding furniture. This represents a picture of Christ who was lifted up on the cross that was raised on a hill called Golgotha. There He became the sacrifice for the sins of all who would come to find forgiveness by coming into His presence and repenting to find fellowship with His suffering and by associating with His death and resurrection.

Sacrifices were required on an annual basis for atonement for one’s sins. Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all a sacrifice for the sins of the world. His death satisfied the sacrificial system and His blood would be sufficient to provide a covering for the sins of all who would enter through the gate and come to Him for forgiveness. Another interesting aspect of the worship experience was the personal aspect. Individuals brought a sacrifice and he would place his hand on the head of the animal to be sacrificed and that transferred his sin to the sacrifice and atonement was made for the individual and his family as the blood was shed. (Lev. 1:4,17;11; Heb. 9:22)

The laver, or basin, was a large bowl filled with water and it was located halfway between the brazen altar and the Holy Place. It was here that the priests would go to wash their hands and feet before entering into the Holy Place, that represented the place of God’s presence with His people.
The laver served as a reminder that people needed to be cleansed before approaching God. Even the priests who were chosen by God to serve Him needed to be cleansed. Everyone needs cleansing before they come into His presence. This constant cleansing is accomplished as men who have been covered by the blood are washed continually through His Word. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27) “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled [with blood] to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)

After washing their hands and feet at the laver, the priests could enter the Holy Place, which was the first room in the tent of the tabernacle. There were three pieces of furniture in the Holy Place: the menorah, the table of showbread and the golden altar of incense. The menorah was a lampstand that had 7 branches or lamps. The center lamp represents Jesus, who is the light of the world. These lamps were to be kept burning constantly inside the Holy Place. They provided the only light there. Just as the lampstand provided light for the priests to approach God in the Holy PLace, Jesus, the “true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9) provides light to an otherwise dark world so that people may come to God. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46) The 6 lamps flanking the enter lamp represent all God’s children making 7 lamps in all; seven is the number of completeness in the Bible. The believer is made complete by the perfection that is available to all who are connected to the Christ, who is the center lamp. Jesus calls us to be the “light of the world” and to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5: 14,16).

In addition to the menorah, there was the table of showbread in the Holy Place. On this table that was covered in gold, were 12 loaves of bread, representing each of the twelve tribes of Israel. These 12 loaves of bread were always in God’s presence. On the Sabbath, the priests would bake new loaves of bread and would come into the Holy Place and eat the bread in God’s presence and place new loaves there. This was a picture of God’s desire and willingness to have fellowship and communion with man. This can be seen in the custom of most cultures where a meal is an invitation of fellowship. God wants men to come into His presence and to fellowship with Him and that invitation is always open. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. … Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.” (John 6:35, 49-50) He told His disciples that He wanted to eat the Passover meal with them before He was to go to the cross. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’” (Matthew 26:26) It is through Jesus’ body that was broken that men today come into fellowship with God today. His invitation today is to come and dine with Him! (Revelations 3:20)

The Holy of Holies

The final item in the Holy Place is the golden altar which stood in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. It was here that the priests on a daily basis would come every morning and evening at the same time the burnt offerings were being made to burn incense as a pleasing aroma unto the Lord. The rising smoke of the burning incense was a symbol of the prayers and intercession of the people going up continually before God. God wanted the tabernacle to be a place where his children could come into His presence and pray to Him. This is why Isaiah would say, “for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7) David would later write, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 141:2) Listen to what John wrote as he was given a glimpse of heaven, “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” (Revelations 8:3-4)

The golden altar is a picture of Christ, who would become our intercessor before God. During His days on earth, Jesus prayed for the believers. He was like the high priest of the tabernacle, who bore the names of each of the Israelite tribes on his breastplate before God. Just before He was betrayed and sentenced to death, Jesus interceded for His disciples and all believers, asking God to guard them from evil and sanctify them by His Word, and that they may see God’s glory and be a witness to the world (John 17:1-26). On the cross He prayed for those who were there saying, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Today, Jesus still is making intercession at the right hand of the Father on behalf of those who know Him and are known by Him. (Romans 8:34)

“Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:26,27,34; Heb. 7:25) The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:15-16)

Inside the Holy Place was the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place. This was the special dwelling place in the midst of His people. There was a thick curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy place. There were figures of cherubim (angels) embroidered onto the curtain. The Cherubim were spirits who serve God and were there to demonstrate His majesty and His almighty power. They guarded the throne of God. This special curtain was there to shield a Holy God from sinful man. Anyone who entered into the Holy of Holies was entering the very presence of God. In fact, if anyone except the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, he would die. Even then the high priest, could only pass through the veil and enter this sacred dwelling once a year, on a prescribed day called the Day of Atonement. (Hebrews 9:7) The picture of the veil was that of a barrier between man and God. God’s holiness was necessarily separated from man’s sinfulness. The veil was a barrier to make sure that man could not carelessly and irreverently enter into His awesome presence. This wall of separation was a final separation that stood between God and man. Notice something; it is God who had the tabernacle constructed with walls and curtains separating Him from man, which is an extension of what He did with Adam when He cast him out of the garden.

The Veil of the Temple

This changed when Jesus went to the cross. The Bible says that when Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. Only God could have done this for the curtain was 60 feet high and 30 feet wide and 4 inches thick. On the cross, Jesus made a way for man to come to God; God’s presence was now accessible to all who would come to Him by believing in Jesus.
As Jesus cried out “It is finished!” on the cross, He was indeed proclaiming that God’s redemptive plan as seen in the layout of the tabernacle was now complete at Calvary. We can now boldly enter into God’s presence, “the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.” (Hebrews 6:19-20) “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body …let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22) The Holy of Holies is a representation of heaven itself, God’s dwelling place, which we have access now through Christ. In Revelations, John’s vision of heaven — the New Jerusalem — also was a perfect square, just as the Holy of Holies was (Revelation 21:16).

On the inside of the Holy of Holies was one piece of furniture called the Ark of the Covenant which had the atonement cover (or “mercy seat”) on top of it. This atonement cover or mercy seat is where God sat. It was His throne on the earth. (Exodus 25:22) The ark was a symbol of His presence and power with the children of Israel wherever it went. Inside the Ark were three items. There was a jar of bread, a budding staff and 2 stone tablets. The jar of bread was a sample of manna, bread from heaven that God provided to the Israelites while they were in the wilderness for 40 years. The people were not thankful for the manna and griped and complained and constantly wanted something else. This was a reminder that the people rejected God’s provisions. Aaron’s rod was also in the Ark. This rod represented the people’s rebellion against God’s power and His authority. Once, when there was a dispute among the people, God told each tribe to bring a staff and place it on the ground and Aaron did the same and his staff budded with blossoms and almonds establishing him as God’s spiritual leader among the people. “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.’” (Numbers 17:10)

The last of the items in the Ark were the 2 tables on which the Ten Commandments were written. God had chosen the Israelites to be His special people. God demanded only one thing from them. They must obey His Law, the Ten Commandments. God’s agreement or covenant with them was itself a conditional agreement. “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6) Israel promised God, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do,” in response to God’s covenant (Exodus 19:8). They failed to keep their promise. Over and over again, they violated God’s holy Law, and God repeatedly reminded them of the consequences of their sin by sending plagues, natural hazards and foreign armies upon them. They continued to rebel against God. The stone tablets in the ark were a reminder that although the Israelites had rejected God’s rules, He would provide them right standing before Him. In all, the three items reminded the people that they were sinners in need of God’s forgiveness that was theirs when they came into His presence.

The Mercy Seat

Here is where the beauty of the Ark and the Mercy Seat comes into view. The Ark is a reminder of man at his worst. Between the Mercy Seat and the Ark is the Atonement Cover. Every year on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would come into the Holy of Holies and would sprinkle the blood of a bull on the atonement cover to provide a cover for his sins and the sins of his household. Then he would take the blood of a goat and sprinkle it over the cover as a covering for the sins of the people. Because the sins of the people, signified by the articles in the Ark were covered by the atonement cover and the blood, when God looked down from the Mercy Seat, He saw the blood and not man’s sin and it appeased his wrath.

The Israelites found forgiveness from their sin through their believing His Word of promise made available to them through the sacrificial system. God’s provision for a covering for their sin was provided to them by the shedding of the blood. Jesus offered Himself as the permanent sacrifice and the shedding of His blood covers the sins of all who come to Him by faith believing that through His sacrificial death on the cross, all their sins are covered as well. So when God looks at the believer, He sees the blood of His Son as opposed to the sinner’s sin. The Mercy Seat was God’s throne in the midst of the Israelites. God is on His throne today in heaven and Jesus provides that same atonement cover for all who come through repentance and faith to Him as the gate and find covering through His sacrificial gift on the cross.

Conclusion

When Adam sinned in the garden, the guilt of his sin was not imputed to mankind. Adam was banned from the Garden of Eden, which represented God’s perpetual presence. As a result, every person who has been born of Adam has been born outside of Eden and outside God’s perpetual presence. God created Adam and placed him in the garden where He could meet every single need that Adam had. Because Adam was in God’s presence, every provision that God had was available to Adam. When he sinned, God put Adam out of the garden and away from His perpetual presence. Because God is the source of life, being banned from God’s presence and withdrawn from God’s provisions was in effect death for Adam. This state of separation from God’s perpetual presence is the root cause of sin in mankind because God’s purpose for creating man was for Him to be the source of life for him. In fact, God’s desire to bless man may very well be the key to understanding what it means to bring glory to God. God is glorified when He is able to do in us and with us all that He had planned to do, which will make our lives their absolute fullest. As long as man is separated from God’s presence, nothing he does will bring honor and glory to God because God is not present and His provisions for man are limited. Anything that falls short of God’s glory is defined as sin.

In the Old Testament, God seeks to solve the separation problem by calling a nation of people unto Himself and seeking to be their God and wanting them to be His people. God protects Israel and provides for them and gives them His commandments and promises to bless them if they will just honor Him and keep His commandments. Israel does not keep God’s commandments. So God tells Moses to make a tabernacle and the tabernacle itself becomes a symbol of God’s presence with His people. His shekinah glory is connected to the tabernacle and various aspects of the tabernacle itself prove to the people that God’s presence is with them. Israel still is disobedient and rebellious. God being with His people was not enough.

So God sends His Son in the form of human flesh as the Word became flesh and in Jesus God cures man’s separation problem. Jesus endured temptation and fulfilled the Law and became the sinless sacrifice for the sins of the world. He was crucified on the cross and buried in a borrowed tomb and 3 days later was bodily resurrected and then later bodily ascended into heaven. God made Jesus both Lord and Savior and He is preparing a place called heaven for all who make Jesus the same in their hearts and in their lives. God has made a way for all to come to Him by believing in Jesus and in doing so, by coming to God in repentance and faith, believing that God is everything that His Word reveals about Him and that He will do everything he says in His Word He will do, the Bible promises that God will hear his prayer and will forgive his sin. When an individual places his faith and trust in Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his heart and God’s perpetual presence is forever joined with the individual. This presence solves man’s separation problem with God’s perpetual presence and sets the stage for the death of the old man and the sin nature and the new birth of the new man who has a new heart and is set to begin the transformation of having the mind of Christ.

There is one other aspect of this new man and new found solution to the separation problem and that is seen in the practice of prayer. Prayer allows man to come into God’s special presence. Prayer allows an individual to be as close to God as he can possibly be at any given moment in his life. As individuals come into His presence, they are most likely to experience His power and His provisions and God is once again allowed to do for man what only He can do. He is glorified as He is allowed to be God once again in the lives of those who believe in His Son.

Here is a very important question: why does being a Christian not free anyone completely from sin? It does not do so because no one is able to do as Paul instructs and “pray without ceasing.” Even as a Christian and even with the Holy Spirit dwelling in the born again believer’s heart, all still have this old nature that seeks to be in control and wants to do what seems right in their own eyes. God’s plan all along was simply for men to be obedient to His Word no matter what because that is what brings His life into their lives and that makes men’s lives the absolute best that they can be. The separation problem is the root problem of all sin. While correcting the separation problem does not guarantee the absence of sin; the separation problem does guarantee the presence of sin.

A person who is once born dies twice. A person who is twice born only dies once. The person who is once born never finds resolution for the separation problem that Christ came to correct. The person who is twice born has been born again and God corrects the separation problem as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his heart. The Holy Spirit’s presence will bring God’s power and His provisions to those who walk with Him in fellowship allowing Him to do what He purposed in His heart to do from the foundation of the world.

A Couple of Complications With Calvinism, Part 2

Now, there is a second issue that would seem to be problematic for the Calvinist’s “ordu salutis.” For the Calvinist, man is totally depraved and is therefore unable to respond to God unless and until God first regenerates him thus enabling him to exercise repentance and faith to be converted. Apart from this initiative that is God’s and God’s alone, man cannot and will not be saved. Once God regenerates the fallen individual, repentance and faith are all simultaneous with regeneration bringing about conversion and new birth. As Calvinists are challenged with the charge that they believe “regeneration precedes repentance and saving faith” their response is often “no, that is not what we believe.” Since they believe the process is all simultaneous, then they can honestly say they do not believe “regeneration does precedes repentance and faith.” However, this is not really a totally accurate response and when asked, “Do you believe repentance and saving faith precede regeneration and conversion,” their answer is often more evasive than direct.

Here is a major problem for what is called a monergistic approach to conversion. Monergism posits a belief that God and God alone through the Holy Spirit works to bring about “effectually” the salvation of individuals with no input from the individual himself and so the tenet of “Irresistible Grace” and “Limited Atonement” come into focus. In this position, God and God alone saves individuals who are condemned because of their sin.
There is a major problem with this position. Jesus is BOTH Lord and Savior. The Reformed position certainly focuses on Jesus becoming Savior. God chooses who is and is not saved. The question that needs to be answered is this: If God indeed makes Jesus ones Savior through the gift of faith and grace that He and He alone gives to the new born individual, does He then also by this same gift of grace make Jesus Lord of that person’s life? The argument that propels Calvinism is this notion that God in His sovereignty is a God who “saves those He has chosen to save” as opposed to being a God who “wants to save those He has chosen to save.” Here is the question. If God does save as the Monergistic God of the Calvinist posits, then does He not also make Jesus Lord for the same individual?

Because Jesus is certainly Savior of the new born Christian, how does the monergistic view of conversion apply to the Lordship aspect of the new born Christian? How does the presence of sin in the life of the new born Christian challenge the Lordship aspect of the monergistic role of God in the salvific process? If God and God alone does save and cannot fail in His decretive work, it would seem that God’s salvific work would also make God sovereign in the Lordship aspect of the new born Christian’s existence and that would by necessity lead to a life of sinlessness for the new born Christian. The Reformed Theology proponent holds on to God’s monergistic work in the tenet of irresistible grace whereby the lost, unregenerate individual accepts Jesus as Savior and God who is sovereign accomplishes what He sets out to do. If this same tenet is applied to God’s making Jesus Lord of the same individual, then it would follow that in His sovereignty He would also make the new born Christian immune to the power of sin because he will submit to the Lordship of Christ instead of continuing to be held captive to the old sin nature that God has effectually and efficaciously put to death at conversion.

Since the new born Christian is not set free from sin completely, one of two conclusions must be true. First, salvation is not monergistic or it would make God not only responsible for those who go to hell, it would also make God directly responsible for the sin the saved person commits. If Jesus is indeed Lord in a monergistic mindset where God does not just “want to save” but accomplishes what He decrees with respect to Jesus as Savior, the same must be true of His Lordship in the life of the new born believer and the ongoing effects of sin on the believer. The second conclusion is simple. Since sin is a present reality in the new born Christian’s life and challenges the question of the implicit benefits of an actual Lordship relationship in the life of the new born Christian, God’s monergistic work with respect to the Lordship of Christ in the new born believer is in all actuality challenged and along with it, His monergistic work in making Jesus Savior. If making Jesus Lord is synergistic as opposed to monergistic, so must making Jesus ones Savior be synergistic as well.

A Couple of Complications With Calvinism, Part 1

A principle problem with the Calvinist tenet of Total Depravity or Inability can be seen in the Jewish concept of sin. In Judaism, there is no concept of “original sin”. There is no Jewish concept of the effects of sin being passed on to future generations. Judaism teaches that man is not born sinful. When man is born he neither carries the burden of sin committed by his ancestors nor is he tainted by it. Sin is the result of human inclinations, which must be properly controlled. In the Jewish mindset, sin literally means “missing the mark” like an arrow missing the bulls eye on a target. Man sins when he strays from God’s Law and is disobedient to His Law. The early stories in Genesis teach that these human inclinations “are the result of evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21, see also Jer. 32:30).

Pardon in the Old Testament actually appears for the first time in Exodus 23. “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him. But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Ex 23:20-22) Here the angel is almost assuredly a reference to the One who led the children of Israel out of Egypt and then appeared as the Shekinah glory of God that guided the children of Israel through the wilderness and then led them into the Promised Land. This “angel” is no doubt the One who spoke to Moses in Exodus 33:14, saying, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” This angel is the “presence” or face of God (Isa 63:9,18; Ex 34:6) His “glory” is no other than “the Angel of the Covenant” (Mal 3:1), the Messiah, the Christ ( John 1:14; 14:9; 1 Cor 10:4; Heb 1:3).

Notice the instruction given to Moses to give to the children of Israel. “Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions.” Take heed to give reverent attention to this One because He is God” and obey His voice. Obedience to the Word of God is seen in the Old Testament over and over again. Obedience to God’s Word is the foundation of the Shema, which is considered to be the most important part of Jewish prayer service. It is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words in this life, and it is customary for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night. This prayer is recited out loud on Yom Kippur demonstrating the overwhelming need for God’s salvation.

The Shema begins with the declaration, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4) relating to the kingship of God. There is an admonition that follows the declaration, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut 6:5-9) This love demonstrated in obedience to God’s Word becomes the foundation for reward and punishment. It contains the promise of reward for serving God with all one’s heart, soul, and might (Deut 11:13) and for the fulfillment of the laws. It also contains punishment for transgression. There is an admonition directed to the individual Jew as well as one directed at the whole community of all the Jews.

The plea for pardon appears for the first time in Exodus 34, in the story of the golden calf where Moses prayed to God on behalf of the people who had sinned terribly against God; “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.” (Ex 34:9) The Israelites had transgressed God’s Law and had done so in an egregious manner. Moses prayed to God on their behalf.

Again in Numbers 14, when the people threatened to stone Joshua and Caleb for encouraging the people to trust God and to go into the Promised Land in spite of the report of strong obstacles facing the Israelites, God’s anger burned against them. “And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel. Then the Lord said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” (Num 14:10-12) Moses interceded on their behalf and prayed for God’s pardon for His people. (Num 14:20-24)

“Then the Lord said: ‘I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord — because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it’.” What is interesting here is this: there is no reference whatsoever to any suggestion or even a hint of any concept of total depravity and certainly no concept of in ability on anyone’s part to respond to God. It simply is not in the Old Testament.

Consider Exodus 20:4-6, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Here and in Exodus 34, and Numbers 14, the Scriptures themselves answer the question of the validity of total depravity; there is none or else there would be no warning concerning disobedience being “visited on the third and fourth generations.” If they were totally depraved as Reformed Theology contends, there would be no validity to the warning.

Ezekiel 18 presents an interesting treatment of sin and redemption as provided for by God. “Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live? (Ezek 18:19-23)

God’s instruction here is clear; “Turn and live.” “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezek 18:30-32) This is God’s Word of instruction and there is no hint of His being the catalyst of repentance whatsoever. Repentance is the responsibility of the sinner; not the One sinned against. Once again, there is no hint of total depravity or inability presented in the Old Testament.

This is not to say that sin is not present in the Old Testament nor is it to suggest that the presence of sin in the world has no effect on the sinner. David acknowledges this in Psalm, when he says that he was born in iniquity and conceived in sin. (Psalm 51:5-6) Sin is an ever present reality. Sin is an individual problem and even a national problem but the focus of sin is on those committing the sin and the One sin is committed against who will forgive that sin if those committing the sin would “humble themselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways.” (2 Chron. 7:14) David also understood that he and he alone was responsible to God for his sin (Psalm 51:2-5) and he also knew that God and God alone was the One who could and would forgive his sin. (Psalm 51:7-19) David did not repent of his sin because God gave him some special grace to do so; he repented because God’s Word through the touch of the Holy Spirit working in his heart convicted him of his sin and God’s love demonstrated to Him and to Israel is their long and storied past caused David to fall to His knees and cry out to God for forgiveness so that God might bless him and in being blessed, David might be a blessing to others.

Total Depravity and Regeneration: Really?

Read Exodus chapter 3.

2 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” 4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”

And he said, “Here I am.”

5 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” 6 Moreover He said,”I am the God of your father — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

Where in this passage is there any hint of the regenerative work of God so that Moses could hear or even respond to God? It is not there. Read on.

11 But Moses said to God,”Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 So He said,”I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

13 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”

God tells Moses to go to the leaders of the children of Israel and speak to them and tell them “I AM WHO I AM has sent me.” Where is regeneration indicated or even hinted at in the children of Israel so that they will hear and respond and not reject anything good from God? Notice verse 18, God says to Moses, “18 Then they will heed your voice;”

Not there.

Fast forward to Exodus 19, verses 3 and 4.

3And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4`Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you unto Myself.

Where is there any mention of even a hint that God has regenerated anyone’s heart here so that the children of Israel who are without regeneration nothing more than totally depraved individuals whose only response here apart from God’s efficacious calling is to reject God’s revelation and Word to be spoken to them by Moses? (So say Calvinists)

It is not there because the whole concept is not Biblical. God spoke to His people through Moses and He expected them to respond and their response determined His response. This is what covenant does. God makes a promise and man’s response becomes the determining factor in the application of God’s promise.

It is like accepting a job offer. If one goes to work and fulfills the obligation of the covenant or agreement to work, THEN there is a payday. This is the concept of covenant in both the Old and New Testaments. Conversion is our response to God’s provision and promise to save those who call on Him and by faith trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Seems so simple to me.

I am so Grateful to be in His Grip!

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Arminianism or Calvinism: Which Comes First?

This morning I read an argument about Which comes first, Arminianism or Calvinism? Kind of reminded me of the age old question: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg!” Let’s examine the question, “Which came first, Arminianism or Calvinism?” The first article I read was a comment on William Birch’s Arminian blog, which I read quite frequently. I appreciate William’s demeanor even when he desagrees, he does it with as much class as anyone I have read. His blog post can be found HERE…

Birch is writing a response to Peter Pike, who I have never read and his article can be found HERE… The article is titled, “Conversions and Deconversions.” The title itself was interesting enough for me to read both. Here are my thoughts on the discussion.

Pike begins his discussion of conversions and deconversions with the following comment: “I have read comments from some of the Arminians at SEA who have said that any new convert to Christianity who reads the Bible will automatically find Arminianism. Arminianism can be read in Scripture, they say, while Calvinism must be taught.

I have certainly heard the argument that MOST Calvinists began their Christian experience as Arminians. I would add, this would seem to me to be especially true of Southern Baptists and most non-Presbyterian denominations. I do know that most Calvinists that I have met and talked with and read,tell that they began their Christian walk as non-Calvinists. Somewhere along the road of Christian growth, they “found Calvinism.” Birch argues, as do many Arminians, that when one reads the Bible, they will have an Arminian view of the Scripture and the only way for one to adopt the Calvinist system is to be introduced to it outside the Bible. It is interesting to note Pikes retort to that argument.

Pike writes, note the parenthesis” “(I would counter by asking why it is that we trust those who are least experienced in Christ, who have followed Him for only a short time and who have not developed a long relationship with Him, would have some kind of inside knowledge about Him that those who have travelled the path of sanctification for many years would somehow lack. That is, why trust the immature Christian to show us the truth as opposed to the elders in the Lord?)”

If one understands his argument here, it is really “eye-opening”. Pike’s argument is basically, Arminians claim that “new born Christians” are Arminian when they begin their journey in the Bible. Calvinists are the more mature Christians, so why argue following the “baby Christians” as opposed to the more mature Christians. That is an interesting come back for the argument that reading the Bible makes one an Arminian. It is a very interesting comment indeed!

Here is why I say this. Pike is saying in essence, reading the Bible is not enough. This is why Birch convincingly concludes, “when merely reading the text of Scripture — do not conclude with any semblance of Calvinism when they study their Bibles. Birch makes note of Pike’s contention that, “there is an admission that Calvinism must be taught; i.e., Calvinism is not the result of a plain reading of the text.” This is a difficult argument for the Calvinist to overcome for most who began their Christian walk as Arminians admit that the later “found” Calvinism. I agree with Birch’s contention that Calvinism must be taught; it is not caught in the Bible, itself. That in and of itself is troubling to me.

If I must be “taught” Calvinism by “elders in the faith”, as Pike suggests, then I am not sure I want it. If I cannot find it in the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit is not able to bring me to that end, then I do not see the significance of reading or listening to Piper, Sproul, Dricsoll, Boyce, Keller, Mohler and so on as the list may go on. It really does not matter if 95% of Christians are Calvinist; if it cannot be “caught in the Bible” without first being taught by someone else, then “thank you but no thank you” is my preference.

Pike continues his article by building another non-Biblical case for adopting Calvinism. He points out that “Calvinism is the most consistent form of Christianity” and he backs up that assertion with the “fact that most convert from Arminianism to Calvinism and not the other way around.” He continues saying, since Arminians are Christian, even though barely, as they mature MOST convert to Calvinism.

Pike offers the following statement:

1. Calvinism is a more consistent form of Christianity.
2. Those who reject the more consistent form a Christianity have nowhere more consistent within Christianity to go toward.
3. Therefore, it is more likely that to reject the more consistent form of Christianity, one will reject Christianity as a whole.

Pike introduces another argument. Those who reject Calvinism rarely go back to Arminianism, which Birch has done; they most often reject Christianity as a whole. Pike writes, “This does seem, at least to me, to make sense. To abandon the more consistent form of Christianity results in the desire to abandon Christianity as a whole. One would not logically expect many to step back to a more inconsistent form of Christianity if they have trouble with Christian beliefs. And if you couple this with the belief that Christian sanctification will result in Christians becoming more consistent, we have two facts that seem to lead inexorably (or, dare I say, irresistibly) toward Calvinism.”

One thing is crystal clear to me: if the “Conversion and Deconversion” argument is a basis for me to conclude that Calvinism is the best logical path to “consistent Christianity, then “Thank you very much, but I must pass.”

Grateful to be in His Grip!

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Total Depravity or Separation

Total Depravity focuses on man’s sin. The statement is often made, “Man sins because he is a sinner and man is a sinner because he sins. The Doctrine of Total Depravity does not really allow that statement. Total Depravity says man sins because he is depraved; he is not depraved because he sins. The latter part of this statement must be true because a man who is totally depraved cannot become more depraved because of his own sin. According to the Doctrine of Total Depravity, man is born in this totally depraved state. He cannot not sin.

Here are some statements from John Piper at monergism.com dealing with Total Depravity. He writes,

“When we speak of man’s depravity we mean man’s natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man.”

“Romans 14:23 says, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” This is a radical indictment of all natural “virtue” that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God’s grace.”

“Man’s depravity is total in at least four senses.

(1) Our rebellion against God is total. Apart from the grace of God there is no delight in the holiness of God, and there is no glad submission to the sovereign authority of God.
(2) In his total rebellion everything man does is sin.
(3) Man’s inability to submit to God and do good is total.
(4) Our rebellion is totally deserving of eternal punishment.”

“Ephesians 2:3 goes on to say that in our deadness we were “children of wrath.” That is, we were under God’s wrath because of the corruption of our hearts that made us as good as dead before God.” To view Pipers article, click HERE.

Much of what Piper says in the abbreviated statements quoted above is all correct, when taken on their own. The problem with total depravity comes into play when one takes the aforementioned statements and begins to use them to draw conclusions. Here is a perfect example of that. Take Piper’s final statement man’s depravity is total in man’s rebellion being “totally deserving of eternal punishment.” This is the basis for total depravity. Piper basically confirms the statement made earlier, that man is condemned and deserves death because he is totally depraved or in a state of rebellion against God.
Note the following quotes.

“But it was not true that all men had actually committed sinful actions at the time that Paul was writing, because some had not even been born yet, and many others had died in infancy before committing any conscious acts of sin. So Paul must be meaning that when Adam sinned, God considered true that all men sinned in Adam.” (Grudem, Wayne; Systematic Theology, Zondervan publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Page 494.)

“The federal headship view considers Adam, the first man, as the representative of the human race that generated from him. As the representative of all humans, Adam’s act of sin was considered by God to be the act of all people and his penalty of death was judicially made the penalty of everybody.” (Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.), 1983, 1985.)

“The federal headship of Adam presupposes and rests upon his natural headship. He was our natural head before he was our federal head. He was doubtless made our federal representative because he was our natural progenitor, and was so conditioned that his agency must affect our destinies, and because our very nature was on trial (typically if not essentially) in him. Whatever, therefore, of virtue in this explanation the natural headship of Adam may be supposed to contain the federal theory retains.”( Hodge, A. A., Outlines of Theology, (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group), 1999.)

Adam represented man and when he fell, man fell. This is the basis for Total Depravity.
If the wages of sin is death and death is the plight of those who are totally depraved because of Adam’s sin, then there remains no punishment for the individual’s sin itself. Since men are condemned because of Adam’s sin, (#4 in Piper’s list) then all are condemned to death because all are totally depraved. The totally depraved person cannot be punished for his depraved position and then be additionally punished for his own personal sin if the punishment for the former is death or eternal separation.

Consider Piper’s initial stament quoted above, ““When we speak of man’s depravity we mean man’s natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man. Romans 14:23 says, ‘Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.’ This is a radical indictment of all natural ‘virtue’ that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God’s grace.” Here Piper is saying “man’s problem is one of position”.

If man’s depravity is seen relative to his position in God, then it may be said that man is depraved, not because he sins, but because he is separated from God. Now it is understood that sin is what separates man from God. There are two aspects of sin. There is the individual aspect of sin and then there is the corporate aspect. If one looks at the corporate aspect, it is easy to conclude, “In Adam all have sinned” because man is without question a product of his own environment.

In this light, it is fair to say that man sins (individually) because he is a sinner (corporately) and/or because he is influenced by his environment. Man is also a sinner in the respect that he has God given needs that must be filled and because he is separated from God, his only means of satisfying those needs is to seek to satisfy them on his own. Because man is born separated from God, he is depraved. He is not depraved because of his sin; he is depraved because of his position inherited from Adam. Since his position is not in God, his actions will always fall short of the Glory of God and that is God’s definition of sin.

This is the reason the Bible says it is impossible for men to ever appear “righteous” in God’s eyes. The only way to ever have a right standing before God, men must be reconciled to God and the only way to be reconciled to Him is through the cross. The cross corrects the separation problem. This is why Jesus became a man. In the incarnation, God conquered the “separation problem”. The Creator became the created. In His death, Jesus did not just conquer sin; He conquered what the Bible calls the “final enemy” which is death itself. Death is the final separation of man and God.

Man is depraved because he is separated from God at birth. He is fully human. He cannot not sin. He is lost and is completely unable to find his own way. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross paid the penalty for sin for anyone who will come to Him in repentance and saving faith, believing that God is everything He says He is and He will do everything He says He will do. It is at this point that the Holy Spirit takes up residency in the “new born person’s heart” and new life begins.

Next Post will deal with the question:
Could Jesus Have Sinned? Stay Tuned!

Grateful to be in His Grip!

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