Predestination

When I consider the absolute independency of God, and the necessary total dependence of all created things on Him, their first cause, I cannot help standing astonished at the pride and impotent, degenerate man, who is so prone to consider himself as a being possessed of sovereign freedom, and invested with a power of self-salvation, able, he imagines, to counteract the designs even of infinity wisdom, and to defeat the agency of Omnipotence itself.  You shall be as gods, said the tempter to Eve in Paradise; and you are as gods, says the same tempter, now, to her apostate sons.  One would be apt to think that a suggestion so demonstrably false and flattering; a suggestions the very reverse of what we feel to be our state; a suggestion alike contrary to Scripture and reason, to fact and experience, could never meet with the smallest degree of credit.  And yet, because it so exactly coincides with the natural haughtiness of the human heart, men not only admit, but even relish the deception, and fondly incline to believe that the father of lies does, in this instance at least, speak truth.

The Scripture doctrine of predestination lays the axe to the very root of this potent delusion.  It assures us that all things are of God; that all our times and all events are in His hand.  Consequently, that man’s business below is to fill up the departments and to discharge the several offices assigned him in God’s purpose from everlasting; and that, having lived his appointed time, and finished his allotted course of action and suffering, he that moment quits the stage of terrestrial life, and removes to the invisible state.

– Augustus Toplady from the preface to Absolute Predestination by Jerome Zanchius

The Elephant is in Our Room: Athanasius Shakes Hands with Arius in the Southern Baptist Convention

Polemics Report

Is the doctrine of the Trinity something worth standing resolute on anymore in the Southern Baptist Convention? The question, seemingly obvious among the people who turned back the liberal tide and fought for the inerrancy of Scripture 35 years ago, must be asked in the early days of 2014 when one looks at the schedule for the 2014 Empower Conference, an evangelism conference put on by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC).

Go ahead. Take a minute to look and then come back.

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God’s Sovereignty in the Salvation of Men

A Sermon

by

Jonathan Edwards

Sermon IV of Seventeen Occasional Sermons, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume Two, The Banner of Truth Trust, Reprinted 1995, pp. 849-854.

Romans 9:18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

Jonathan EdwardsTHE apostle, in the beginning of this chapter, expresses his great concern and sorrow of heart for the nation of the Jews, who were rejected of God. This leads him to observe the difference which God made by election between some of the Jews and others, and between the bulk of that people and the christian Gentiles. In speaking of this he enters into a more minute discussion of the sovereignty of God in electing some to eternal life, and rejecting others, than is found in any other part of the Bible; in the course of which he quotes several passages from the Old Testament, confirming and illustrating this doctrine. In the ninth verse he refers us to what God said to Abraham, showing his election of Isaac before Ishmael – “For this is the word of promise; At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son:” then to what God had said to Rebecca, showing his election of Jacob before Esau; “The elder shall serve the younger:” in the thirteenth verse, to a passage from Malachi, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated:” in the fifteenth verse, to what God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion:” and the verse preceding the text, to what God says to Pharaoh, “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” In what the apostle says in the text, he seems to have respect especially to the two last-cited passages: to what God said to Moses in the fifteenth verse, and to what he said to Pharaoh in the verse immediately preceding. God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” To this the apostle refers in the former part of the text. And we know how often it is said of Pharaoh, that God hardened his heart. And to this the apostle seems to have respect in the latter part of the text; “and whom he will he hardeneth.” We may observe in the text,

1. God’s different dealing with men. He hath mercy on some, and hardeneth others. When God is here spoken of as hardening some of the children of men, it is not to be understood that God by any positive efficiency hardens any man’s heart. There is no positive act in God, as though he put forth any power to harden the heart. To suppose any such thing would be to make God the immediate author of sin. God is said to harden men in two ways: by withholding the powerful influences of his Spirit, without which their hearts will remain hardened, and grow harder and harder; in this sense he hardens them, as he leaves them to hardness. And again, by ordering those things in his providence which, through the abuse of their corruption, become the occasion of their hardening. Thus God sends his word and ordinances to men which, by their abuse, prove an occasion of their hardening. So the apostle said, that he was unto some “a savour of death unto death.” So God is represented as sending Isaiah on this errand, to make the hearts of the people fat, and to make their ears heavy, and to shut their eyes; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Isa. 6:10. Isaiah’s preaching was, in itself, of a contrary tendency, to make them better. But their abuse of it rendered it an occasion of their hardening. As God is here said to harden men, so he is said to put a lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets. 2 Chron. 18:22. That is, he suffered a lying spirit to enter into them. And thus he is said to have bid Shimei curse David. 2 Sam. 16:10. Not that he properly commanded him; for it is contrary to God’s commands. God expressly forbids cursing the ruler of the people. Exod. 22:28. But he suffered corruption at that time so to work in Shimei, and ordered that occasion of stirring it up, as a manifestation of his displeasure against David.

2. The foundation of his different dealing with mankind; viz. his sovereign will and pleasure. “He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” This does not imply, merely, that God never shows mercy or denies it against his will, or that he is always Continue reading

Spurgeon Thursday

SALVATION BY WORKS, A CRIMINAL DOCTRINE

NO. 1534

DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, APRIL 18, 1880,

BY C. H. SPURGEON,

AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.

I do not frustrate the Grace of God: for if righteousness comes by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Galatians 2:21.

Youthful Charles Spurgeon THE idea of salvation by the merit of our own works is exceedingly insinuating. It matters not how often it is refuted, it asserts itself again and again and when it gains the least foothold it soon makes great advances. Hence Paul, who was determined to show it no quarter, opposed everything which bore its likeness. He was determined not to permit the thin end of the wedge to be introduced into the Church, for well he knew that willing hands would soon be driving it home! Therefore when Peter sided with the Judaizing party and seemed to favor those who demanded that the Gentiles should be circumcised, our brave Apostle withstood him to his face. He always fought for salvation by Grace through faith and contended strenuously against all thought of righteousness by obedience to the precepts of the ceremonial or the moral Law.

No one could be more explicit than he upon the doctrine that we are not justified or saved by works in any degree, but solely by the Grace of God. His trumpet gave forth no uncertain sound, but gave forth the clear note—“By Grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Grace meant Grace with Paul and he could not endure any tampering with the matter, or any frittering away of its meaning. So fascinating is the doctrine of legal righteousness that the only way to deal with it is Paul’s way—stamp it out! Cry war to the knife against it! Never yield to it! And remember the Apostle’s firmness and how stoutly he held his ground—“To whom,” he says, “we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour.”

The error of salvation by works is exceedingly plausible. You will constantly hear it stated as a self-evident truth and vindicated on account of its supposed practical usefulness, while the Gospel doctrine of Salvation by Faith is railed at and accused of evil consequences. It is affirmed that if we preach salvation by good works we shall encourage virtue—and so it might seem in theory—but history proves, by many instances, that as a matter of fact where such doctrine has been preached virtue has become singularly uncommon and that in proportion as the merit of works has been cried up, morality has gone down!

On the other hand, where Justification by Faith has been preached, conversions have followed and purity of life has been produced even in the worst of men. Those who lead godly and gracious lives are ready to confess that the cause of their zeal for holiness lies in their faith in Christ Jesus. Where will you meet with a devout and upright man who glories in his own works? Self-righteousness is natural to our fallen humanity and, therefore, it is the essence of all false religions. Be they what they may, they all agree in seeking salvation by our own deeds. He who worships his idols will torture his body, will fast, will perform long pilgrimages and do or endure anything in order to merit salvation! The Roman Catholic church holds up continually before the eyes of its votaries the prize to be earned by self-denial, by penance, by prayers, by sacraments or by some other performances of man. Go where you may, the natural religion of fallen man is salvation by his own merits.

An old Divine has well said every man is born a heretic upon this point and he naturally gravitates towards this heresy in one form or another. Self-salvation, either by his personal worthiness, by his repentance or by his resolves is a hope ingrained in human nature and very hard to remove. This foolishness is bound up in the heart of every child Continue reading

Spurgeon Thursday

The sermon I have chosen to share, I’m afraid, would more than likely get the Prince of Preachers booted out from behind the pulpit of most churches today.  I hear many people talk about Spurgeon and the fact that he was a great preacher, but then I hear their doctrine, and have to think to myself, they only say that Spurgeon was a great preacher based on reputation, not because they read his sermons and know what he taught.  For if they did happen to read just 15 or 20 of Spurgeons sermons, and there are over 3000 to choose from, I think they would find that their own views of Doctrine are vastly different that what Spurgeon believed.  I love to read Spurgeons sermons and I think he was a tremendous preacher and theologian.  I don’t believe this because of his reputation for packing out a church Sunday after Sunday, I believe this because his sermons make me angry; they cut me; they make me take a look at the absolute sovereignty of God.  Hebrews 2:9-10 –

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.  For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.

God, was for a short time during His incarnation, made a little lower than the angels, but as the verse above states, ALL things flow from Him and ALL things belong to Him.  That, my friend, is a sovereignty that none of use can claim.  Until we learn that God is sovereign in all things, and that is a process that will continue until we are perfected in glory, our theology, our doctrine, our beliefs are beneath what they should be.

So, with that, I share the following:

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION

NOS. 41, 42

A SERMON DELIVERED  ON SABBATH MORNING, SEPTEMBER 2, 1855,

BY THE REV. C H. SPURGEON,

AT NEW PARK STREET CHAPEL, SOUTHWARK.

 But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through  sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto He called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining  of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14.

spurgeon 2IF there were no other text in the Sacred Word except this one, I think we would  all be bound to receive and acknowledge the truthfulness of the great and glorious Doctrine of God’s ancient choice of His family. But there seems to be an inveterate prejudice in the human mind against this Doctrine—and  although  most other Doctrines will be received by professing Christians,  some with caution, others with pleasure—this one seems to be most frequently disregarded and discarded! In many of our pulpits it would be reckoned a high sin and treason to preach a sermon upon Election because they could not make it what they call a, “practical”  discourse! I believe they have erred from the Truth of God. Whatever God has revealed, He has revealed for a purpose. There is nothing in Scripture which may not, under the influence of God’s Spirit, be turned into a practical discourse—“for all Scripture is given by Inspiration of God and is profitable”  for some purpose of spiritual  usefulness. It is true, it may not be turned into a free will discourse—that  we know right well—but it can be turned into a practical Free Grace discourse. And Free Grace practice is the best practice when the true Doctrines of God’s Immutable Love are brought to bear upon the hearts of saints and sinners! Now I trust, this morning,  some of you who are startled at the very sound of this word will say, “I will give it a fair hearing. I will lay aside my prejudices. I will hear what this man has to say.” Do not shut your ears and say at once, “It is high Doctrine.” Who has authorized you to call it high or low? Why should you oppose yourself to God’s Doctrine? Remember what became of the children who found fault with God’s Prophet and exclaimed, “Go up, you bald-head! Go up, you bald-head!” Say nothing  against God’s Doctrines, lest haply some evil beast should come out of the forest and devour you, also! There are other woes beside the open judgment of Heaven—take  heed that these fall not on your head. Lay aside your prejudices—listen calmly, listen dispassionately—hear what Scripture says! And when you receive the Truth, if God should be pleased to reveal and manifest it to your souls, do not be ashamed to confess it! To confess you were wrong, yesterday, is only to acknowledge that you are a little wiser today. Instead of being a reflection on yourself, it is an honor to your judgment and shows that you are improving in the knowledge of the Truth of God! Do not be ashamed to learn and to cast aside your old doctrines and views. But take up that which you may more plainly see to be in the Word of God. And if you do not see it to be here in the Bible—whatever I may say, or whatever authorities I may plead—I  beseech you, as you love your souls, reject it! And if from this pulpit you ever hear things contrary to this Sacred Word, remember that the Bible must be first—and  God’s minister must lie underneath it!

We must not stand on the Bible to preach—we must preach with the Bible above our heads. After all we have preached, we are well aware that the mountain of Truth is higher than our eyes can discern—clouds  and darkness are round about its summit and we cannot discern its topmost pinnacle. Yet we will try to preach it as well as we can. But since we are mortal and liable to err, exercise your judgment—“Try  the spirits, whether they are of God”—and  if on mature reflection on your bended knees, you are led to disregard Election—a thing which I consider to be utterly impossible—then forsake it! Do not hear it preached,  but believe and confess whatever  you see to be God’s Word. I can say no more than that by way of introduction.

Now, first. I shall speak a little concerning the truthfulness of this Doctrine—“God  has from the beginning chosen you to salvation.” Secondly, I shall try to prove that this Election is absolute“He has from the beginning chosen you to salvation,” not for sanctification, but, “through  sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Thirdly, this Election is eternal because the text says, “God has from the Continue reading

Gospel-Driven Sanctification

Mike2The following is a sermon I listened to this morning on my way to work.  If you have ever wondered about sanctification, this sermon should give you much insight into God’s part in our sanctification and our part in it.  This sermon was preached by Mike Riccardi of Grace-Life Pulpit on the 19th of May, 2013.

Introduction

We love the doctrine of justification. Following in the footsteps of Martin Luther and the Reformation, we hail the doctrine of justification as that great doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. It is precious to us. We hold it dear to our hearts, because it captures the very essence of the Gospel of God’s grace to us sinners who know that we can do nothing to earn our acceptance with a holy God. We know that our only hope is to be reckoned righteous on the ground of the perfect, alien righteousness of Christ credited to our account by faith alone, apart from works. We love this doctrine because our goodness and our efforts and our achievements are debased, and Christ is exalted as all in all. 

And we also love the doctrine of glorification. We look forward with great joy, eagerness, and anticipation to that day when our struggle with sin will have reached its completion, when we will find the rest and the reward upon which we have steadfastly fixed our hope for all these years. It brings great encouragement and sweetness to our souls to contemplate the day when we will finally see our dear Lord Jesus face to face, when we will finally discover what it means to have unhindered fellowship and communion with the Savior whom we love more than anything or anyone—that day when we will enter in to the fullness of joy and the eternal pleasures that accompany being in His presence (cf. Ps 16:11). 

But sometimes the doctrine of sanctification doesn’t fill us with the same sense of wonder and appreciation. That may be because we are quickly reminded of how slowly we are progressing in the process of sanctification. To think of the doctrine of sanctification simply reminds us of what we ought to be but what we’re not. 

It also might be because there is a great deal of confusion about the doctrine of sanctification. Christians have long debated what the role of the believer is in progressive sanctification—whether we are to be actively engaged in and pursuing holiness, or whether we are to be passive, waiting faithfully for God to work holiness in us. You have folks, on the one hand, who say things like, “You just do everything you can and leave the rest to God,” as if you’re pretty alright on your own, you just need God to give you a little boost. These are the people with the bumper stickers that say, “God is my co-pilot.” If God is your co-pilot, you are in the wrong seat, my friend. Or sometimes you’ll hear, “Pray like a Calvinist, but work like an Arminian. Pray as if it all depended on God, but work as if it all depended on you.” I think I get what that means, but it’s never a good idea to pretend that something that’s false is true just to achieve a certain result. In fact, I’m not sure I can think of a better recipe for disaster in your pursuit of holiness than to adopt errant theology as the basis for your philosophy of the Christian life. 

But on the other hand, you have the quietists who say things like, “Your problem is that you’re trying to live the Christian life. What you really need to do is let Christ live through you. You just need to let go and let God. Stop striving, and just relax.” And so confusion abounds, and in dozens of other ways. 

But if there’s one doctrine that we can’t afford to be confused about, it’s the doctrine of sanctification. And that’s because it’s where we all live. All of us who are Christians live in between the time of our past justification and our future glorification, in the present pursuit of the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 

Listen to the entire sermon by clicking the link below.

God’s Absolute Sovereignty

God is SovereignNo doctrine is more despised by the natural mind than the truth that God is absolutely sovereign. Human pride loathes the suggestion that God orders everything, controls everything, rules over everything. The carnal mind, burning with enmity against God, abhors the biblical teaching that nothing comes to pass except according to His eternal decrees. Most of all, the flesh hates the notion that salvation is entirely God’s work. If God chose who would be saved, and if His choice was settled before the foundation of the world, then believers deserve no credit for their salvation.

But that is, after all, precisely what Scripture teaches. Even faith is God’s gracious gift to His elect. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father” (John 6:65). “Nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27). Therefore no one who is saved has anything to boast about (cf Eph. 2:8, 9). “Salvation is from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). . . .

Moreover, everything that exists in the universe exists because God allowed it, decreed it, and called it into existence. “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115:3). “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:6). He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Cor. 8:6). . . .

Paul anticipated the argument against divine sovereignty: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’” (v. 19). In other words, doesn’t God’s sovereignty cancel out human responsibility? But rather than offering a philosophical answer or a deep metaphysical argument, Paul simply reprimanded the skeptic: “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?” (vv. 20, 21).

Scripture affirms both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. We must accept both sides of the truth, though we may not understand how they correspond to one another. People are responsible for what they do with the gospel—or with whatever light they have (Rom. 2:19, 20), so that punishment is just if they reject the light. And those who reject do so voluntarily. Jesus lamented, “You are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life” (John 5:40). He told unbelievers, “Unless you believe that I am [God], you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). In John chapter 6, our Lord combined both divine sovereignty and human responsibility when He said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (v. 37); “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life” (v. 40); “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (v. 44); “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life” (v. 47); and, “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father” (v. 65). How both of those two realities can be true simultaneously cannot be understood by the human mind—only by God.

Above all, we must not conclude that God is unjust because He chooses to bestow grace on some but not to everyone. God is never to be measured by what seems fair to human judgment. Are we so foolish as to assume that we who are fallen, sinful creatures have a higher standard of what is right than an unfallen and infinitely, eternally holy God? What kind of pride is that? In Psalm 50:21 God says, “You thought that I was just like you.” But God is not like us, nor can He be held to human standards. “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isa. 55:8, 9).

We step out of bounds when we conclude that anything God does isn’t fair. In Romans 11:33 the apostle writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” (Rom. 11:33, 34).

– John MacArthur, ‘God’s Absolute Sovereignty

25 MOST INFLUENTIAL BOOKS

I have read about half the books on this list and am at least familiar with the rest of these books and I agree wholeheartedly.

Veritas et Lux

Often I am asked, “What are the most influential books in your life?”  While the Bible is obviously the most influential book in my life, I offer twenty-five more that should be required reading for every Christ-follower.  Some titles do not include reviews, since I read these before my blogging days.

# 1 THE DOCTRINE OF GOD – John Frame

The most influential book in my life, outside of Scripture

# 2 TOTAL TRUTH – Nancy Pearcey

One of the most important books of the 21st century.

# 3  THE PLEASURES OF GOD – John Piper

This book taught me above all that God is delighted to be God.

# 4  THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD – A.W. Pink

An absolutely foundational book that deserves to be read and re-read.

# 5  DESIRING GOD – John Piper

See my review

My introduction to Christian hedonism.

# 6 – FOUNDATIONS OF GRACE…

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