Mixed Messages

I was browsing Facebook recently and came across one of those “________ changed his cover photo” posts that displayed the following new cover photo.

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Due to the reference to “MY Bible” set against a rainbow flag known primarily as meaning the LGBTQ community, it raised questions in this old guy’s mind, but not about God’s commandment to love others. Let me explain.

The author of the FB post was a Jewish military Chaplain, with whom I had a pleasant online conversation. The unstated reference was to the recent mass shooting here in Colorado Springs at a night club (the “Q Club”) catering to those identifying as part of the LGBTQ community, a fact which I did not know when I first saw the post.

Obviously the “MY Bible” was a reference to books of the Old Testament and not the New testament. I’m not sure why he felt the need for emphasizing the Bible he reads as an observant Jew because the NT also tells us to love our “neighbors”. In fact, in the books of Matthew and Luke there’s are passages quoting the Shema “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5), both of which add the commandment to love our neighbors. (Matthew 22:37-39 & Luke 10:27).

What I wanted to gently clarify was the Chaplain’s position concerning the sinful lifestyles represented by the rainbow flag, so I replied to his post with the question: “Sir, Do you hate what God hates?” I probably flunked the “gentle” part, which led to further discussion with him, which, to a degree, clarified some things for me..

So here is the critical issue, from my point of view. I saw a message that could be, and is often misunderstood to mean that loving one’s neighbors also means approving or accepting of lifestyles that God unequivocally calls sin. It was posted by a military Chaplain. The message however, was, as I see it thr0ugh a Christian lens, was incomplete.

Those engaging in what God considers sin will call those who want to “love the sinner but hate the sin” (hate what God hates) will accuse anyone who disapproves of their behavior of hating them personally. As a result, some of us, and even entire churches, will, for a number of reasons, refuse to confront issues of sin. I’m not just talking about LGBTQ issues, although it is front page news again.

The excuses (yes, I said “excuses”) for minimizing sin are many, and quite “creative”. I’m not going to name any of them, but I do know that the Bible tells me that sinners love their sin (John 3:19) and I know that telling someone that what they love is wrong doesn’t go over very well. So we focus on the “love” of God, thinking that when people know how much God loves them they will run to the cross. We try and remove the “offense” of the Cross, that by nature offends those who do not yet believe in Christ (1 Cor 1:18).

I submit to you, dear friends that to minimize the issue of sin, whatever it might be, is to minimize the Gospel of Christ. And I submit to you that a minimized gospel is no gospel at all.

The Apostle Paul told young Pastor Timothy:

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Tim 1:15).

Paul also defined very clearly the Gospel message of which he was not ashamed (Rom 1:16) and not afraid to preach:

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, .” (1 Cor 15:1-4)

My friends, if, for the sake of sounding loving and not being rejected as “haters”, we omit the issue of sin from our sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, can we claim to be sharing the the message that saves sinners, no matter what the sin? The Apostle Paul answers that question quite clearly:

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:6-9)

My brothers and sisters, let us indeed love our neighbors and demonstrate that love most supremely by sharing the complete gospel with those who live apart from Christ, with His love in our hearts! We don’t need to send mixed messages. If God has opened a heart to pay attention to the gospel we share, the gospel that is offensive to an unregenerate heart, salvation will surely follow!

Be blessed!

Layman’s Partial Book Review – “Making Sense of Salvation” by Wayne Grudem

clip_image002This is a layman’s partial book review because after all, I am just an ordinary retired Army guy who has long been interested in things theological. It’s a ‘partial’ review because I am not finished reading it yet. If I waited until then, Any review at all would be much further down the road.

“Making Sense of Salvation” is one of seven parts from Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Apparently, he took the seven major sections of his Systematic Theology and published them separately, as a “Making Sense Of” series I found them when I was studying the “chicken and the egg” topic concerning regeneration and faith, which is chapter five of this book in the series. Here is the introduction to “Making Sense Of Salvation” from Amazon:

“With clear writing—technical terms kept to a minimum—and a contemporary approach, emphasizing how each doctrine should be understood and applied by present-day Christians, Making Sense of Salvation explores God’s common grace to redeem those who will be saved, and to demonstrate his goodness, mercy, justice, and glory. Topics include but are not limited to the order of salvation—from God’s choice of people to be saved to the chosen people receiving a resurrection body; effective calling—the act of God the father speaking through the human proclamation of the gospel to summons people to himself in saving faith; regeneration—a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us; and glorification—when Christ returns and raises from the dead the bodies of all believers for all time who have died. Written in a friendly tone, appealing to the emotions and the spirit as well as the intellect, Making Sense of Salvation helps readers overcome wrong ideas, make better decisions on new questions, and grow as Christians.”

As I already said, I read Chapter 5 – Regeneration first, which is quite acceptable, since the chapters do stand alone and can be read separately. I have since read through Chapters 1 – 3; Introduction to Theology, Common Grace, & Election and Reprobation. Bear in mind that this book is an introduction to systematic theology, written for, and easily understood by students and laymen alike. Each chapter begins with an Explanation and Scriptural Basis for the topic being discussed, clear definitions of terms and concepts, clear examples and analogies where needed, as well as answers to common objections to some topics and explanations of false teachings that we might come across as we continue to grow in faith.

The print edition is 240 pages long and contains 14 chapters organized according to the logical “Order of Salvation” found in Scripture.

While I have several other systematic theologies more appropriate for “deep dives” into the Bible, so far I have found this book to be clearly written using everyday English and suitable for just reading and capturing “the big picture” concerning major topics about our salvation as believers in Christ.

“Making Sense of Salvation” truly is an appropriate title!

Be Blessed!

The REST of the Verse – Romans 10:9 – 10

It’s been said by some biblical scholars that the three most important rules for a proper and thorough understanding of the text of Scripture are Context, Context, & Context. By that we mean:

  • The immediate context in a section or chapter of Scripture
  • The larger context of a particular book in the Bible
  • The broad context of the entire Bible and God’s plan for his children

I freely admit that some passages of Scripture can be valuable in and of themselves as precious promises, words of comfort, or even admonition or warning. They can also be used to ‘prove’ one’s personal opinion or preferred interpretation. Examining context can therefore be not only profitable, but at times harmful.

With that said, let’s examine Romans 10:9 -10. 

What a wonderful promise of salvation! There are sincere and well-meaning Christians who use these passages to lead others to faith in Christ. Some will tell you that it describes two separate acts, both of which are necessary for salvation; a heartfelt belief in Jesus Christ as savior and a public confession of faith. But is that what these two verses are actually teaching us?

1. What is the context of Romans 10:9 – 10?

In Romans Chapter 10, specifically verses 5 – 13, the Apostle Paul, speaking to Christians in Rome, contrasts two types of righteousness; righteousness based on obedience to the Law (the old covenant) as practiced by the Israelites, and righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ (the new covenant). In fact, Paul refers to the OT law to make his case, quoting from a passage in Deuteronomy (Deut 30:14) in Romans 10 verse 8, immediately preceding vv. 9-10. If we add verse 8 to our passage, we can see Paul’s comparison of the Old and New covenants:

8But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (vv. 8-10) 

As we can see, verses 9 –10 complete Paul’s interpretation of the Deuteronomy passage quoted in verse 8. Verse 9 explains the relevance of “heart” and “mouth” in verse 8, while verse 10 explains verse 9. Allegiance to Christ, rather than adherence to the law, is both covenant faithfulness and salvation. Christ is the fulfillment of the law.[1]

2. If the Romans 10:9-10 passage isn’t talking about two separate acts leading to salvation, what IS it teaching us?

This was a great time for consulting commentaries!

After consulting several good commentaries, I did find one (John Wesley) that spoke of two separate acts leading to salvation:

Rom 10:10 For with the heart—Not the understanding only, man believeth to righteousness—So as to obtain justification: and with the mouth confession is made, so as to obtain final salvation. Confession here implies the whole of outward, as believing does the root of all inward religion.[2]

Other commentaries I consulted all agreed that the confessing that “Jesus is Lord “describes an outward expression of inward trust, an indication of true salvation, for at least two reasons:

1.  When Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, for a person to accept Christ and confess Him as Lord typically resulted in persecution and, ultimately, death. To embrace Christ and confess Him as Lord, knowing that persecution was sure to come, was an indication of true salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit.

2. The Greek verb for “confess” (homologeō – verb ), is derived from a root  a root word (homologos – adverb) meaning “the same/together”, reinforcing the idea that confessing Jesus as Lord is merely “confirming” with the mouth what has taken place in the heart.

Finally, we can read passages of Scripture that state very clearly what is required and/or not required for salvation. Here are but a few:

  • John 5:24, [Jesus said:] “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
  • Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
  • Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
  • Acts 16:30-31, [Someone asked the apostle Paul] “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’

In the above passages we are told that all those who simply believe in the Lord Jesus will be saved, without any mention of making a public confession of faith. We are also told that human works (i.e., public confessions of faith) do not contribute to our salvation.

3. So what? How do we apply what we have just learned when we share the gracious message of salvation in Christ to others?

First let me say that it’s not necessary to explain the finer points of our selected passages if you are engaged in personal evangelism with a lost friend or loved one. If that’s your situation, stick to what is necessary in sharing the message of the gospel – the problem of sin, the solution to that problem in Christ, and the need to respond to the message. If our Romans passage enters the conversation you will be ready to discuss it.

On the other hand, if you are involved in a discussion about what one must do to be saved, and more specifically, someone suggests that making a public confession of faith is absolutely required to be saved, you will be ready to offer a sound biblical explanation!

So regardless of what anyone says about Romans 10:9 – 10, now you have. . .

. . .the REST of the verse!

Be blessed!


[1] Douglas Mangum, ed., Lexham Context Commentary: New Testament, Lexham Context Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020), Ro 10:5–13.

[2] John Wesley, Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament, Fourth American Edition. (New York: J. Soule and T. Mason, 1818), 404.

Does the Bible Teach Prevenient Grace?

Something that popped up again. I already have various articles and commentaries  that speak to the question, some more easily understood than others. I still favor R.C. Sproul’s response to the question. He merely asks a series of questions followed by his conclusion in the matter. Enjoy!

Does the Bible Teach Prevenient Grace?

by R. C. Sproul

As the name suggests, prevenient grace is grace that “comes before” something. It is normally defined as a work that God does for everybody. He gives all people enough grace to respond to Jesus. That is, it is enough grace to make it possible for people to choose Christ. Those who cooperate with and assent to this grace are “elect.” Those who refuse to cooperate with this grace are lost. The strength of this view is that it recognizes that fallen man’s spiritual condition is severe enough that it requires God’s grace to save him. The weakness of the position may be seen in two ways. If this prevenient grace is merely external to man, then it fails in the same manner that the medicine and the life preserver analogies fail. What good is prevenient grace if offered outwardly to spiritually dead creatures?

On the other hand, if prevenient grace refers to something that God does within the heart of fallen man, then we must ask why it is not always effectual. Why is it that some fallen creatures choose to cooperate with prevenient grace and others choose not to? Doesn’t everyone get the same amount?

Think of it this way, in personal terms. If you are a Christian you are surely aware of other people who are not Christians. Why is it that you have chosen Christ and they have not? Why did you say yes to prevenient grace while they said no? Was it because you were more righteous than they were? If so, then indeed you have something in which to boast. Was that greater righteousness something you achieved on your own or was it the gift of God? If it was something you achieved, then at the bottom line your salvation depends on your own righteousness. If the righteousness was a gift, then why didn’t God give the same gift to everybody?

Perhaps it wasn’t because you were more righteous. Perhaps it was because you are more intelligent. Why are you more intelligent? Because you study more (which really means you are more righteous)? Or are you more intelligent because God gave you a gift of intelligence he withheld from others?

To be sure, most Christians who hold to the prevenient grace view would shrink from such answers. They see the implied arrogance in them. Rather they are more likely to say, “No, I chose Christ because I recognized my desperate need for him.” That certainly sounds more humble. But I must press the question. Why did you recognize your desperate need for Christ while your neighbor didn’t? Was it because you were more righteous than your neighbor, or more intelligent?

The question for advocates of prevenient grace is why some people cooperate with it and others don’t. How we answer that will reveal how gracious we believe our salvation really is. The $64,000 question is, “Does the Bible teach such a doctrine of prevenient grace? If so, where?”

We conclude that our salvation is of the Lord. He is the One who regenerates us. Those whom he regenerates come to Christ. Without regeneration no one will ever come to Christ. With regeneration no one will ever reject him. God’s saving grace effects what he intends to effect by it.

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Excerpt: R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God

What Does it mean to Come to Christ?


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Before we take a closer look at it really means to “come” to Christ, we need to realize that the term “come” must be understood spiritually and not carnally. We know this because the Bible tells us that our natural mind is actually hostile to God:

Rom 8:7  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. (Rom 8:7)

The Bible also tells us that the natural man is unable to understand spiritual matters:

“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:14)

Our coming to Christ not merely a matter of obeying God’s commandments, attending a Church service, going to a Bible study, listening to Christian music, or even reading the Bible. Anyone can do all of those things. Genuine coming to Christ is a spiritual matter.

With that understanding, we, can now try and describe our “coming” to Christ. To paraphrase John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress author John Bunyan described it as a “moving of the mind towards him”, from “a sound sense of the absolute want that a man has of him (Christ) for his justification and salvation.”

In simpler terms, when a person realizes his/her spiritually lost condition in sin, and that justification and salvation are only to be found in Christ, that person willingly comes to Christ. Coming to Christ involves both the will and the heart. So how can we describe those who genuinely come to Christ? Consider these evidences:

· They come with prayers, supplications and tears, demonstrating their heartfelt need for mercy.

“With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” (Jeremiah 31:9)

  • They ‘run’ to Christ, fleeing the wrath to come. Realizing their desperate condition in sin and that Christ is the only way of escape, they fly to safety as fast as they can. (Matt 3:7; Psa 143:9).
  • A genuine coming to Christ is marked by a clear sense of an absolute need of Jesus Christ to save and evident from the outcries of those even as they are coming to him. Consider the following examples:

PETER WALKING ON WATER

“But when he (Peter) saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” . (Matthew 14:30)

PETER PREACHING AT PENTECOST

“Now when they (the crowd) heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

THE PHILIPPIAN JAILER

“Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

  • A genuine coming to Christ is accompanied by an honest and sincere forsaking everything to follow him.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

The above evidences describe all those who have, or are coming to Christ. Anyone genuinely coming to Christ for salvation casts leaves everything behind and forsaking all to follow Christ. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer so eloquently said in his book The Cost of Discipleship:

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die”

When we glance at today’s evangelical environment, we can see example after example of invitations to come to Christ for a multitude of reasons focused on what we mortals desire most in this life (our best lives now), rather than what God has done for us in sending his Son do die for our sins. Some have called them “adventures in missing the gospel.”

Anyone who truly comes to Christ comes because of being spiritually awakened to the reality of their sin, the dire consequences of it, and the reality that Jesus Christ is the only escape from the just wrath of God.

My desire is that everyone who reads this has truly come to Christ and is faithfully serving him in whatever vocation they find themselves. If not……..

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“He Will Save His People from their Sins”

It’s a familiar story. When Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father discovered that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant and he was not the father, he considered divorcing her quietly. An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and spoke these words:

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” ( Matthew 1:20-21)

But I digress. The question that has most frequently occupied my mind of late is “Who exactly are his people? Glaringly obvious, from the very words of the angel who spoke to Joseph, is the term “his”, a possessive pronoun meaning that those whom Jesus will save are his possessions – they belong to him. What else do we know from Scripture about those whom Jesus saves – his people? The rest of this post will highlight , drawing primarily from John’s gospel.

        • All whom Jesus saves were chosen by the Father for salvation.
        • Jesus saves those given to him by the Father.
        • Jesus calls those the Father gives him my sheep.’
        • Jesus will save all those whom the Father has given him – each and every one of his sheep.
        • Jesus continually intercedes before the Father on behalf of his people, those whom the Father has given him, but not for the whole world.

First of all, we are all quite familiar with God’s choosing a special people as his own, for his own glory, beginning with the Old Testament account and the Jewish nation of Israel. The Apostle Paul, called by God to bring the gospel message to the Gentile nations, mentions God’s choosing in at least two of his letters to churches in his time:

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)

13But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, . 14To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

Second, we know that those Jesus saves were given to him by the Father because of Jesus’ own words:

37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”( John 6:37-39)

Third, note that it is also in Jesus own words that we find out that those he saves are his ‘sheep’. Speaking to unbelieving Jews in the Temple at Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication, Jesus refers to those the Father has given him as his ‘sheep’

27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

Fourth, if we look at portions of the above passages one more time, we can see that all of those given to the Son – his sheep – come savingly to the Son and are granted everlasting life.

37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”( John 6:37-39)

27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

Lastly, in High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus interceded specifically for his people, those the Father has given him, but not for the whole world:

1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. . . .

6 I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

11And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

12While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

24Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

In summary, we have stated that the purpose for Jesus birth, death and resurrection was “to save his people from their sins.” We then discussed just a few of the attributes, or characteristics of “his people”. The people whom Jesus saves are:

  • chosen by the Father for salvation,
  • given to Jesus by the Father,
  • those that Jesus calls his sheep, and
  • are those for whom Jesus continually intercedes before the Father.

We also stated, from Scripture, that ALL who are chosen for salvation, given by the Father to the Son as his sheep, and who are the object of Jesus’ intercession before the Father WILL be saved from their sins. and live eternally in His presence.

So What? Here’s some food for thought/questions for consideration:

  1. Is salvation limited to “His people”, as defined in this article, or are there some who are not “His people” who can be saved? Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and explain your answer.
  2. If Jesus will only save “His people”, what would that mean concerning the extent of Christ’s atonement?
  3. What does this article tell you about the sovereignty of God in salvation?

For a biblical summary of HOW God saves someone, read Romans 8:28-31.

May God bless your study of His Word!

Did Christ Actually save anyone or just make salvation possible?

A recently published Facebook post published the following:

“On a ship bound for Rome, Paul advised the captain to winter in a port due to bad weather. Ignoring Paul’s advice, they sailed on, right into a storm that grew so fierce that the sailors feared for their lives. “Be of good cheer,” Paul said. “There stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee”.

When the storm continued, some of the sailors decided to bail out. But just as they were about to leave, Paul said, “Except these abide in the ship, you cannot be saved”. In other words, “If you choose to go overboard, you’ll be wiped out. You are secure, safe, and sealed only as long as you stay on board.”

No one can pluck us out of God’s hand – but that doesn’t mean we can’t leave on our own. I’m shut in the good ship salvation because I have no intention of going overboard, of sailing off in another direction. Yes, I sin. But I am determined, and have decided that I will love the Lord all the days of my life.” – Jon Courson.

An obvious comparison was made between a frightened sailor aboard the Roman ship wanting to jump overboard and a Christian wanting to leave the protection of God’s (and Christ’s) hands.. While the comparison is clearly stated, do you think it’s a fair analogy? That’s my question.

To helpI offer for your consideration commentary from Albert Barnes (1798-1870) for John 10:28:

“I give unto them eternal life – See Joh_5:24.

Shall never perish – To perish here means to be destroyed, or to be punished in hell. Mat_10:28; “which is able to destroy (the same word) both soul and body in hell.” Mat_18:14; “it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Joh_3:15; “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish” Rom_2:12; They who have sinned without law shall also perish without law” Joh_17:12; 1Co_1:18. In all these places the word refers to future punishment, and the declaration of the Saviour is that his followers, his true disciples, shall never be cast away. The original is expressed with remarkable strength: “They shall not be destroyed forever.” Syriac: “They shall not perish to eternity.” This is spoken of all Christians – that is, of all who ever possess the character of true followers of Christ, and who can be called his flock.

Shall any – The word “any” refers to any power that might attempt it. It will apply either to men or to devils. It is an affirmation that no man, however eloquent in error, or persuasive in infidelity, or cunning: in argument, or mighty in rank; and that no devil with all his malice, power, cunning, or allurements, shall be able to pluck them from his hand,

Pluck them – In the original to rob; to seize and bear away as a robber does his prey. Jesus holds them so secure and so certainly that no foe can surprise him as a robber does, or overcome him by force.

My hand – The hand is that by which we hold or secure an object. It means that Jesus has them safely in his own care and keeping.

The story about Paul’s trip to Rome and the great storm had everything to do with Paul, by God’s sovereign design, arriving safely in Rome. Our passage from John 10:28 has everything to do with the eternal salvation of believers and the security (God’s sovereign design) of the double fisted hand of God. On one hand, a frightened sailor with free choice saw jumping overboard as a better alternative than going down with the ship. In like manner, a Christian believer could get to a point that he/she wanted to walk away from God.

Questions for us:

1. Can/will God ‘keep’ those whom he saves.

2. Does Jesus gives his ‘sheep’ eternal life, or ‘conditional’ eternal life., with our free will decision the determining factor in keeping the ‘eternal life’ once given. What does scripture say?

3. Did Jesus death on the cross actually save anyone, or did it just make salvation possible?

4. What did the Apostle John mean when he said of those who left following Jesus:

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” 1 John 2:19

Tell us what you think and why. Smile

Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS)?

A friend of mine wrote a rather long post on Facebook all about OSAS doctrine. A particular paragraph in his post really grabbed my attention. This post contains the text of his post and my response, for what it’s worth. Although the Bible contains much (to say the least) that teaches the eternal security of the true believer, my response revolves around a small portion of my friend’s post and the text of John 10:28 – 29, which I believe is more than adequate to refute my friends position on the matter. I also included a couple of good commentaries. I was not trying to win an argument, but I did want to encourage searching scripture, which he also recommended.

Without any further banter on my part, here is the text of my friend’s FB post and my response. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

My friend’s FB post:

The passages below all deal with the doctrine of once saved always saved. Every teacher needs to be questioned and checked. If we just accept what we are told by someone then we are doing that person and our brothers and sisters a huge disservice. Please pray over and go through the word with anything that is fed to you. If it is from God then the Spirit will make that clear and will bring you to an even deeper understanding of the teaching. If it is not from God then the Spirit will make that clear as well and you will learn still more about God. Checking what a teacher feeds us can only bring us closer to Jesus. That said………

It is a deliberate choice for us to repent and follow Jesus. Salvation is not something that we stumble into one day by doing good, being good enough, or somehow balancing the scales between good and evil toward good.

Neither does one lose or reject the salvation given to us by Jesus by stumbling out of our walk with Him. It is a deliberate choice. It is not the result of simply sinning, committing a certain amount of sin, or somehow balancing the scales between good and evil toward evil.

Jesus died once for our sin. He did not die twice or more. Those who choose to repent and follow Jesus die with Him. Those who choose to deny Him will be denied by Him. There is no separation shown between Christians and Non-Christians in this. At no point is the ability to choose or the will of a Christian removed. Having the desire taken from us is not the same as having the choice taken from us. Being a new creation does not mean that the creation cannot be warped or contaminated. Adam was a new creation that walked physically with God and he turned from God.

Romans chapter six dwells specifically on choice. Telling us that our master is the one we choose (current action) to serve. It does not say that our master is the one that we chose (past action) to serve.

Over and over throughout Scripture we are told to endure (current action) and when Jesus told us that anyone who takes their hand off of the plow is not worthy, He did not limit or specify a point in the work at which that applied.

In the parable of the seeds/soils we are given a powerful message. In all four cases it was the same seed that was sown. In three of the four examples the seeds grew and had life. Apple seeds do not grow into pecan trees. The same type of seed grows the same plant. Only the soil is different.

In the case of scripture saying that we cannot be taken, separated, or snatched from the hand of God it is often stated that this would apply to us as well. In the passages where such terminology is used it refers to something outside of the person that would be taking them from God and not the person themselves. Nowhere does it say that we cannot walk away.

At the end of the Revelation there is a penalty listed for taking away from the prophecy. Suffice it to say that one cannot lose something they do not have. We are told in Hebrews that those who were partakers of the Holy Spirit and turn away from Christ cannot repent again. It is in effect crucifying (a cursed death) Jesus a second time and it is cursing the Holy Spirit (which Jesus said is unforgivable).

Scripture tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. He loved us so much that Jesus suffered a cursed and painful death to shed His blood for our sin. That sacrifice was for the entire world. That love is so great that Jesus gave Himself up even for those that He knew would deny Him. His love is not limited to Christians.

Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23

Matthew 18: 21-35

John 5:24-25, 10:28-29

Romans 6

Hebrews 6:4-6, 9:20-28

2 Timothy 2:11-13

Revelation 22:19

My response:

You said:

“In the case of scripture saying that we cannot be taken, separated, or snatched from the hand of God it is often stated that this would apply to us as well. In the passages where such terminology is used it refers to something outside of the person that would be taking them from God and not the person themselves. Nowhere does it say that we cannot walk away.”

There was a time when I agree with you concerning being able to snatch oneself out of the double fisted hand of God, however I had to change my opinion after careful study. Here are the relevant passages.

Joh 10:28 “and I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

Joh 10:29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

The key words are “no one-(NASB), or “no man” (KJV)

“no on/no man” in the Greek (Strong’s):

From G3761 and G1520; not even one (man, woman or thing), that is, none, nobody, nothing: – any (man), aught, man, neither any (thing), never (man), no (man), none (+ of these things), not (any, at all, -thing), nought.

Total KJV occurrences: 233

“No man” means exactly what it says – no man, woman, or thing (NOTHING)

One has to read into the passages (eisegesis) the notion that “no one” refers to that which is outside of the believer.

COMMENTARIES

ALBERT BARNES

None is able – None has power to do it. In these two verses we are taught the following important truths:

1. That Christians are given by God the Father to Christ.

2. That Jesus gives to them eternal life, or procures by his death and intercession, and imparts to them by his Spirit, that religion which shall result in eternal life.

3. That both the Father and the Son are pledged to keep them so that they shall never fall away and perish. It would be impossible for any language to teach more explicitly that the saints will persevere.

4. That there is no power in man or devils to defeat the purpose of the Redeemer to save his people. We also see our safety, if we truly, humbly, cordially, and daily commit ourselves to God the Saviour. In no other way can we have evidence that we are his people than by such a persevering resignation of ourselves to him, to obey his law, and to follow him through evil report or good report. If we do that we are safe. If we do not that we have no evidence of piety, and are not, cannot be safe.

BIBLE KNOWLEDGE COMMENTARY

My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. That is, no one is strong enough to snatch any of Jesus’ flock from the Father’s hand (or from Jesus’ hand, Joh_10:28). As the NIV margin states, Joh_10:29 in many early Greek manuscripts reads, “What My Father has given Me is greater than all.” The thought of the verse in either case is that the Father who is omnipotent secures the flock by His power and protection. God’s plan of salvation for Jesus’ flock cannot be aborted.

Also, I must ask, what does “never perish” mean in verse 28? If it means wake up in hell (and it does), I then have to ask another question. “If you walk away from / ‘take yourself away from God’ (your expression), would you eventually wake up in Hell?

There is much more to say from scripture concerning the eternal security of the believer that makes it abundantly clear that He who began a good work will bring it to completion. I sometimes use the phrase “Those whom God saves, God keeps.”

I’ll leave it right there.

Why you should (and probably already do) believe in limited atonement

By Robin Schumacher, Exclusive Columnist

When it comes to which of the five points of Calvinism that irk non-reformed Christians the most, my money is on limited atonement. The doctrine of limited atonement teaches that Christ’s redeeming work on the cross secured an actual salvation for only the elect of God.

If this causes you to grind your teeth in irritation, stop. I’m going to show you why you probably already believe in limited atonement and then provide what I believe to be the definitive argument that puts the issue to bed once and for all.

Welcome to the club

Unless you’re a universalist, you already believe in limited atonement. That’s right – if not everyone is saved, then the atonement has to be “limited”.

How is it limited? It is limited to believers only: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Technically, this is called limited in extent, meaning limited in who it applies to. Christ’s death saves every person that it meant to save and doesn’t make salvation a mere possibility, which would be limited in effect.

So, as I said, you likely already believe in limited atonement in general without knowing it. Charles Spurgeon puts it like this: “[They] say Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by that. Did Christ die to secure the salvation of all men? They say no, certainly not…Did Christ die to secure the salvation of any one person in particular? They say no, Christ has died that any man may be saved if … and then follow certain conditions of salvation.” 

The knockout punch

John Owen wrote what is perhaps the most definitive work on Christ’s atonement in “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”. In that book, Owen delivers what I believe is the knockout punch to anyone who opposes limited atonement. Let me quote his argument in full and then let’s work through it a little at a time:

“God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved . . . If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why then are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, ‘Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.’ But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will”.

The Options

“God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men.

Owen says we have three options: either Jesus died on the cross for (1) all the sins of everyone; (2) all the sins of a particular group of people; (3) some of the sins of everyone.  He then proceeds to work through those possibilities.

Option 3 – out

If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved.

Working backwards, Owen quickly jettisons the third option because, if everyone still has some sins that have not been atoned for, no one will spend eternity with God. Impossible to disagree with, wouldn’t you say?

Option 2 – limited atonement

If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world.

The second option Owen presents is limited atonement – that Jesus only died for God’s chosen people and took upon Himself all their sins. Such a position ensures an actual salvation for that group of people because all their sins were placed on Christ at the cross and they have nothing left for which to atone.

The start of option 1 – a good question

If the first, why then are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins?

Option 1 is what many Christians believe – that Jesus took upon Himself, at the cross, all the sins of everyone who ever lived or will live. But Owen asks a good question: if that’s the case, then why isn’t everyone saved?

Outside of universalism, no one believes all will be saved and this includes those not upholding the reformed doctrine of limited atonement. And it is these people that Owen addresses next.

Is Unbelief a Sin?

You will say, ‘Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.’

The ever-famous John 3:16, which I’ve already quoted, limits the atonement to only those who believe – a point that showcases the truth that all Christians really believe in limited atonement in one form or another. But then Owen asks an important follow up question:

But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not?

This inquiry marks the beginning of the end for anyone who attempts to deny the doctrine of limited atonement. The answer, of course, is yes. Paul flatly says, “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). The writer of Hebrews, describing faithless Israel, also says, “So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:19).

But Owen works through the possibilities, nonetheless.

If not, why should they be punished for it?

If unbelief is not a sin, Owen says then there is no reason for it to bar anyone from God’s presence.

If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not.

If unbelief is a sin (and we have seen that it is), then it was either one of the sins that Christ died for, or it was not. So, either unbelieving people still have something for which to answer to God or they don’t.

If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death?

This logical conclusion is the deathblow for anyone claiming that Christ died for all the sins of everyone, but that unbelief keeps a person from eternal life. Owen says if unbelief is a sin, and if Christ died for ALL the sins of everyone born of human parents, then that sin must be included in the mix and labeled as one for which Christ died. Unbelief, as a sin, could not keep anyone from spending eternal life with God more than any other sin for which Jesus paid.

If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins.

If someone wants to say that Christ did not die for a person’s unbelief, and unbelief is a sin, then Jesus did not die for all his or her sins. Thus, a person cannot make the claim that Jesus died for all the sins of the world (with “world” being defined as every human being ever born).

Let them choose which part they will.

This is polite 17th century language for saying, “Checkmate”.

Owen convincingly shows that options 1 and 3 are untenable, with the only option remaining being the doctrine of limited atonement.

Not fair?

In his book entitled, The Nature of the Atonement, John McLeod Campbell explains how the only alternative becomes one where Christ’s atonement is limited. Recounting the just-covered John Owen’s summary of the case, Campbell concludes, “As addressed to those who agree with him as to the nature of the atonement, while differing with him as to the extent of its reference, this seems unanswerable.”

I agree.

Any scripture plucking[1] or other arguments fall short of undercutting the biblical logic behind limited atonement. Truth be told, most attempts are emotional in nature and boil down to a “not fair” contention.

But here’s the thing: as Christians, we often quote Is. 55:18, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” and we rest in it until it comes to matters like this. Then we expect God’s ways to be our ways.

But Proverbs 50:21 says simply, “You thought that I was just like you”, meaning He’s not just like us. Whatever superficial feelings we have about God’s plan of salvation being not fair are misplaced.   

Dr. James White speaks to the simplicity and beauty of Christ’s atonement when he says, “In its simplest terms the Reformed belief is this: Christ’s death saves sinners. It does not make the salvation of sinners a mere possibility. It does not provide a theoretical atonement … Christ’s death saves every single person that it was intended to save.”

I’m good with that. Are you?

[1] E.g., 1 John 2:2; John 12:32; 2 Pet. 2:1 by themselves and not viewed within the whole of Scripture.  

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master’s in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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