Subtle but dangerous error…

I came across the quote below in the Doctrinal statement of an unnamed emergent church plant…

“When we put our faith in Christ, it triggers a spiritual chain reaction. We become the Temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19). Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 3:5).”

Sound pretty good? Appears to be based in Scripture? Looks can be deceiving. Please read it again.

It denies the foundational and critical sovereignty of God as clearly stated in the bible. Let’s see how…

Reducing their statement to the logic and intent we have  “When we put our faith in Christ, it triggers a spiritual chain reaction…Our names are written…”.

Action -> Result 1 and Result 2

You put our faith in Christ resulting in your inclusion in the Book of Life

I honestly can’ t see that anyone could interpret this any other way.

Well, to be blunt, that is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Let’s look at the truth of Scripture in Ephesians 1:4-6
“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (italics mine)

Their statement stays that the believer was were chosen after they believed and because they decided to believe.

Scripture says that the believer was  chosen (and thus written in the Book of Life) before creation. These verses contain no caveats, individual conditions or other provisions for later causation.

These are two opposite positions, and they can’t both be correct. If the Bible is the sole statement of truth (Sola Scriptura), then this doctrinal statement is in error and at completely odds with Scripture.

So what? Next, we will examine why this is significant for all believers…

Calvinism is the Gospel

A nice summation from a master of the pulpit

– Charles Spurgeon

“And I will go as far as Martin Luther, in
that strong assertion of his, where he says,
‘If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even
the very least, to the free will of man, he
knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not
learnt Jesus Christ aright.’ It may seem a
harsh sentiment; but he who in his soul
believes that man does of his own free will
turn to God, cannot have been taught of
God, for that is one of the first principles
taught us when God begins with us, that
we have neither will nor power, but that
He gives both; that he is ‘Alpha and Omega’
in the salvation of men.”

-C.H. Spurgeon, from the sermon:
“Free Will A Slave” (1855)

A TULIP by any other name…

For God says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy, and I will show compassion to whomever I show compassion.” So then, it does not depend on the person who wants it nor the one who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very reason I raised you up, in order to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. Romans 9:15-18

As believers, we serve a totally sovereign God, who demonstrates His absolute freedom in saving His elect as suits His own purposes. Being the result of His sovereign will alone, the calling of His elect proclaims that salvation does not depend upon man who wills or man who runs but on God who has mercy.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Powerful verses

Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.'” Jeremiah 23:16-17

What a couple of verses!

This could have been spoken and written today. How many places can you think of that it applies, both inside and outside the church?

Even with just the Solas Christ alone, as documented in the Scripture alone in mind, comparison to the world inside and outside the church sure gives lots of application…


Condemned by what?

After reading a post quit a long time ago by Michael Patton on his blog (and excellent resource I might add) some time ago and also considering one of the articles in the Canons of Dordt, I continue to think about the believer’s perspective on what we are saved from and by.

What struck me is that we often communicate an entirely wrong set of ideas concerning the forgiveness of sin, both to others believers and even ourselves, and that the result of faulty communication may be to limit assurance and growth. As always, of course, this is from a Reformed perspective, since I can take no other…

In brief, Michael makes the point that we are not condemned primarily by our ongoing sin, but by the sinners that we are as Adam’s seed. Unfortunately, as he points out, we too oft communicate the condemnation of ongoing sin and not the more significant hereditary reason, for our fallen state. This has many nasty consequences. He is so right!

How many times have you heard it said to the unsaved or other believers that they must be saved from ‘their’ sins – past, present and future? It is presented as if those personal sins are what is holding them, and then once saved, as if ongoing sins is a possibly danger to salvation. We may even slip subtly into this thought pattern ourselves.

The result of this scenario is that, whether subtly or overtly, the mind of flesh could be encourage to think that the natural self actually had some input to whether they will be among, or are among, the saints. Since the worldly mind is already bent in this direction, a performance based or maintained salvation is a natural next step. This is true even if it is not presented that way, but how much more so if it is.

When we are regenerated by the spirit, and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, what primarily are we saved from? Since the decision about election was made in eternity past, “before the foundations of the world” (Eph 1:6), though we are certainly released from our sins of this life, salvation is not based primarily about them. It is about our nature as Adam’s seed. Thus we are saved from our natural selves, as we were born into the world of flesh carrying that as the principle charge.

Our salvation, then, is from our nature most of all. We are firstly saved from the wrath that was due Adam. The release from any sin that may or may not have been added to our account in this world is significant but peripheral.

You are splitting hairs, you say. Sin is sin. I would not agree.

We are primarily saved from ourselves, who we fundamentally are, as recipients of Adam’s fall. The fact that once we are born into the world we continue to actualize this pattern is merely a result, ugly though it may be. It is interest added to the principle.

Further, once we are saved from our natural selves and made into the new man (that includes you too ladies, by the way) we are saved from the present and future of our old fallen selves which carried the stain of Adam. That is a lot bigger than any sin or sins we could have committed in the present or future in this world.

All interesting you might say, but so what?

Well, it is a very big so what:

First, the grace and mercy that have been freely bestowed up us in the Beloved is far greater that we would appreciate otherwise;

Second, the God who bestowed them is revealed more in His overwhelming glory by the real extent of the forgiveness now seen;

Third, we are brought more to our true place before the infinitely holy God when we see that out imputed sin (not just our puny recent sin) has been pardoned – that true place being on our knees or on our face;

Fourth, our redemption through grace alone is even clearer. We have been redeemed from the stain that was beyond our comprehension. As such, we could not even appreciate the extent of it, let alone dream that we could atone for it by anything of ourselves.

Fifth, since given our situation just described, and having been redeemed from a stain of unimaginable proportions, our foundational dependence upon Father, Son and Spirit is undeniable. Absolute dependence equates to true faith in the one and only source. This clarifies grace through faith for us.

So, as we rejoice in our salvation in the Beloved, let us rejoice in the clear vision of how and from what we have been saved, on our knees before our infinitly Righteous and Holy God.

We have been saved from our nature, inbred and beyond our control. All is forgiven in Him, now and forever. Just as we could not see the totality of our inherited nature, let alone change it ourselves, we have been saved by His mercy and grace alone.

Let us rejoice in and communicate that…


Yes, we have no bananas

You can hear it from the Pulpit of countless churches now “If you are saved you must see the fruits of the spirit actualized in your life” with the implication that is must be clear, continuous and now. It is also heard as church lobby chit chat about whether so and so is a real believer since they haven’t been behaving very well. They are clearly not demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit in a proper (as the speaker sees it) ‘Christian’ manner or not consistently. You have surely heard this in one form or another, right? I have, and for reason that will become clear, it makes steam come out of my ears…

These scenarios naturally lead believers (especially new ones) to ask themselves whether they are truly saved, assuming that they occasionally do not behave as a the perfect believer or they do not at times overtly show the fruits of the spirit particularly prominently.

This is well and clearly addressed in the Canons of Dordt. Remember those? No? Well since they form the foundation and effect virtually all Reformed confessions, you should. However, let us not digress on that for now.

First Head of Doctrine: Divine Election and Reprobation

“Article of faith 12: The Assurance of Election
Assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God’s Word–such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.”

And in Scripture we have (as one example of many) in Romans 10:9 ”if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”

As the Canons imply, the fruits of Spirit do not even enter the equation as more than a side effect, a significant one admittedly, but not a determinant one for salvation.

You were saved by the Gospel message (Romans 10:9 and others). Your knowledge in your own heart of your belief in that message, and thereby belief in Christ, is salvation. All else is after the fact.

To preach otherwise is IMO to do the people of God a great dis-service and produce in those that might buy into it, unnecessary angst and worry. Hence the steam from my ears.


A Tale of Two Johns

John Calvin and John Wesley, of course! In reality, though, it is a case of Augustine versus Pelagius or Calvin versus Arminius. But the current title is true and just so cool.

Let us use the lens of Spiritual Warfare, but more specifically responsibility and consequences.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
                                                                                              Ephesians 6:12 (NASB)

With the outworking of life as a reflection of this invisible warfare, and an active actualization of this battle between principalities and saints, where does personal outcomes as a result of individual actions fit in?

The premise of saving grace in Reformed Theology is that it is not of us: ” For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8 (NASB). We can not save ourselves, even a little bit. So what implication does this have for living in the world after He has called us to Himself?

By virtue of our lives in creation, we are actively involved in the divine struggle. Looking at the power of the principalities involved, and our human affinity for the world of Natural Man, if we do not subscribe to the Perserverance of the Saints (the P in TULIP), we are in big trouble indeed.

Those who know that salvation is not of ourselves, but of the Lord, also know from Scripture that “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand;” John 10:27-28 (NASB). Thus they can rest in the knowledge that in the ongoing battle they are safe in His arms for eternity, worldly outworking and appearances notwithstanding.

For those who take a Wesleyan view, and see a human role in salvation, and more importantly a human role in maintaining that state, there are big worries and loads of jeopardy.

We are born to sin, and for all intents and purposes can not help ourselves. We required His quickening in order to consider the promise of salvation to be other than foolishness. If any of the responsibility was or remained ours, then even once we are His how could we maintain that state? Clearly we could not, and we would be in constant danger, particularly if the end of life should approach at the wrong moment. A life of constant jeopardy is not the promised life of joy in the Lord.

Thankfully, it is all of Him alone (Solus Christus), through His Grace alone (Sola Gracia). And since His will can not be thwarted, we as believers shall preserver into Glory.

Now, does the fact that the Wesleyan does not believe this mean that he, once saved, is in any actual jeopardy? The Wesleyan would likely say yes, but the answer must of course be no.

To say yes one must assume that there is an ongoing battle in progress of the actual salvation and that the believer participates actively in its determination. The narrative of Scripture says that this is wrong.