Significance of Systematic Theology

By Andy Woods

The two previous articles in this three part series on the subject of systematic theology [published in the Conservative Theological Journal - see footnotes] dealt with the definition of systematic theology1 as well as the contribution that dispensational premillennialism makes to systematic theology.2 This final article of the series gets to the most fundamental issue by answering the question, “Do we really need theology at all?” Although previous generations of believers would have never entertained such a question, this query is crying out for an answer today on account of the fact that more and more Christian leaders are beginning to view theology as something that is somewhat irrelevant to the health and life of the church.

Evidence of Contemporary Doctrinal Decline

Lest the reader think that this analysis is an exaggeration, let us consider a few comments found in one of the most recent best selling books authored by a well-known advocate of the church growth movement. While many of the insights found in the book are appreciated, one is struck by how frequently the author goes out of his way to marginalize the significance of doctrinal study and exposition. Consider the following: “God won’t ask you about your religious background or doctrinal views.”3 “Jesus said our love for each other-not our doctrinal beliefs-is our greatest witness to the world.”4 “Today many assume that spiritual maturity is measured by the amount of biblical information and doctrine you know.”5 “The Bible is far more than a doctrinal guidebook.”6 “The last thing many believers need today is to go to another Bible study. They already know far more than they are putting into practice.”7 In another work, the same author seems to marginalize in depth teaching when he recommends that a sermon series should never go beyond eight weeks for fear that the congregation will begin to lose interest.8 He then goes so far as to poke fun at in depth eschatological teaching by relaying the complaint of a woman who said, “My pastor has been in Daniel’s seventy weeks longer than Daniel was!”9

The slogans that believers use also betray doctrinal obfuscation within evangelicalism. One sometimes hears the following trite expressions. “Don’t give me doctrine, just give me Jesus.” “What really matters is Christ not creed.” “Devotion is important and not doctrine.” “What counts is our behavior, and not our beliefs.”10

Other signs abound that the modern church is down playing theological truth. Some of these signs come from my own personal experience. For example, I recently ran across an advertisement in a well-known Christian magazine from a church seeking a pastor. The advertisement read, “Seminary not required, MBA preferred.” On a similar front, one of my seminary professors used to ask each of his classes the following question at the beginning of each semester: “When was the last time that you heard a sermon on the Trinity?” According to this particular professor, it was rare to have even one or two hands go up in a classroom of about 50 students each time this question was asked. Furthermore, in an attempt to explain away the lack of doctrinal content in his ministry, I once had a pastor tell me that the “shelf life” of the average sermon is from the church building to the parking lot. He explained that people just do not remember what the Sunday sermon was about after they are reintegrated into daily life.

Much of the blame for the decline of doctrinal teaching in our churches can be laid at the feet of the seeker friendly movement. The name of the game in seeker-oriented churches is to attract the unsaved to church by coming up with sermon topics that appeal to the felt needs of the unregenerate.11 Those topics that run the risk of offending the un-churched such as sin, hell, the Second Coming, etc…are omitted from the church’s Sunday morning diet. Thus, the problem with seeker-oriented approach lies not so much in what is communicated on Sunday morning but rather in what is omitted. Because of its emphasis upon the felt needs of man rather than on what God has disclosed, the seeker philosophy at its core is anthropocentric rather than theocentric. Consequently, MacArthur describes the seeker movement in terms of entertaining the goats at the expense of feeding the sheep.12

The impetus of this philosophy emanates from psychologist Abraham Maslow who postulated that human behavior can be understood in terms of man engaging in various behaviors designed to satisfy his five basic areas of need (physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self development). Modern marketing approaches as well as managerial theories are predicated upon Maslow’s view of human nature. The seeker approach also capitalizes on Maslow’s theory by selecting sermon topics designed to appeal to man’s various felt needs. It is argued that this approach will attract the unregenerate to church. Thus, the Bible is used selectively to preach a variety of pragmatic “how to” messages designed to appeal to the felt needs of the unsaved. Biblical subjects that do not nicely fit into one or more of the categories of Maslow’s hierarchy are avoided. Such a selective approach creates “canon within the canon” teaching philosophy thus robbing the church of the spiritual knowledge necessary to reach maturity.

When seeker advocates are confronted with the lack of doctrinal and expositional teaching in their churches, their standard answer is that such teaching occurs at the midweek service or during small group ministry. However, as explained by T.A. McMahon, theory and practice are often two different things:

As we’ve noted, most seeker-friendly churches focus much of their time, energy, and resources on accommodating unchurched Harry and Mary. Consequently, week after week, the entire congregation is subjected to a diluted and leavened message. Then, on Wednesday evening, when a fellowship is reduced to a quarter or a third of its normal size, would it be reasonable to assume that his remnant is served a nourishing meal featuring the meat of the word, expositional teaching, and an emphasis on sound doctrine and discipleship? Hardly. We’ve yet to find a seeker-friendly church where that takes place. The spiritual meals offered at midweek services are usually support group meetings and classes for discerning one’s spiritual gifts or going though the latest psycho-babble-ized “Christian” bestseller…rather than the study of the Scriptures.13
Because doctrinal decline has become a discernible trend in modern evangelicalism, a fresh scriptural look into what God has revealed concerning the significance of doctrine is appropriate. The remainder of this article will survey various biblical reasons as to why doctrine should be returned to a place of preeminence within evangelicalism.

A Heaven or Hell Issue

The most important reason as to why theology should not be neglected by Christian leaders is that what people believe about certain doctrinal matters can determine where they spend eternity. For example, the expression “do not give me doctrine, just give me Jesus” rings hollow upon considering that doctrine helps determine if someone has believed on the right or wrong Jesus. There are many false renditions of Jesus. The Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses represents the recycled Jesus from an ancient heresy known as Arianism, which teaches that Jesus is not an eternally existent being but rather is a created being. Thus, the Jesus of Arianism is a different Jesus than what is portrayed in Scripture. Believing on the Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses therefore entails believing on the wrong Jesus. This error, if not corrected, could have eternal ramifications. The only way to discern the biblical Jesus from the Arian Jesus is through the doctrine of Christology.

Numerous other examples of a false Jesus are found in other false religions, such as Mormonism and the New Age movement. Paul warned of such false gospels in Galatians 1:8-9 when he said, “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.” 14 It is impossible to harmonize Paul’s warning with modern statements such as “God won’t ask you about your religious background or doctrinal views” or “today many assume that spiritual maturity is measured by the amount of biblical information and doctrine you know.” Doctrine is a central issue since it determines whether a person has believed in the right Christ, which in turn could determine whether they go to heaven or hell.

Christian Living

Not only does the role of doctrine have the potential of determining someone’s eternal destiny, but it also has a tremendous bearing on the standard of Christian living. As one of my seminary professors used to say, “a person cannot behave Christianly until he first learns to think Christianly.” Perhaps the reason that the standard for Christian living has deteriorated in our day is because we have witnessed corresponding doctrinal erosion. A clear scriptural nexus exists between doctrine and daily living. Let us consider some examples.

In John 13:17, Jesus says, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” In this context, “these things” refers to Christ’s example of servitude as recorded in the first sixteen verses of the chapter. Notice the relationship between knowing and doing in John 13:17. Knowing precedes doing. People cannot do what they do not know. Knowing is not an end in and of itself. It is just a first step toward the second step of doing. However, the second step cannot be taken unless the person has a cognitive grasp of doctrinal content. Our capacity to do the right thing is first predicated upon the doctrine that we know.15

Another example of how doctrine influences behavior is found in Acts 2:42-47. This familiar ecclesiological passage depicts the various items that the first church “devoted” itself to. These items included apostolic doctrine, fellowship, communion, prayer, worship, and giving. Although every item on this list is important, it is interesting to observe that the church’s devotion to apostolic doctrine is mentioned first (Acts 2:42). Such prioritization is significant because doctrinal learning shows the believer why and how to perform the other items subsequently mentioned on the list. Doctrine gives insight into all of the following activities. If the church had not first given itself to doctrine of the apostles, it would not have known how or why to perform all the other behaviors. This explains why Luke conspicuously mentions doctrine as the first item the church devoted itself to.16 Interestingly, many pastors complain that their churches do not give enough, worship enough, pray enough, fellowship enough, or value the Lord’s Table enough. Perhaps the reason is that modern pastors do not allow doctrine to have preeminence in their ministries. If churches were more doctrinally literate, then the other previously described behaviors would naturally fall into place. Rather than “beating the sheep” for not living the right way, perhaps pastors should make doctrinal teaching more of a priority in their ministries.

Yet another example of how doctrine influences behavior is found in 2 Peter 3:11, which says, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.” Prior to this verse, Peter had unfolded numerous eschatological truths pertaining to the coming Day of the Lord and the destruction of the present order (2 Pet 3:3-10). Then, in verse 11, Peter explains that these truths have the effect of changing the behavior of God’s people by giving them an incentive to live holy. Knowledge of great eschatological truths, such as the temporary nature of this world, naturally has the effect of revolutionizing a believer’s priorities, value system, and the way he spends his time, talent, and treasure. Thus, this passage links knowledge of eschatology with behavior.

A similar link is found in 1 John 3:2-3, which says, “…We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Thus, contemplating Christ’s coming purifies the daily life of the believer. Unfortunately, many pastors avoid the subject of eschatology altogether for fear that it is too controversial or complicated. But here both Peter and John testify that the subject should be openly preached because of the impact that it has on the believer’s daily life. The linkage between eschatology and behavior is found throughout the Bible. Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost, once commented that nearly every time the doctrine of the Second Advent is mentioned in the New Testament, it is linked to some sort of admonition about daily life. The impact that eschatology has on behavior probably explains why so much of God’s Word is devoted to the subject of predictive prophecy. According J. Barton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, 27%, or over one quarter of the Bible, pertains to the subject of predictive prophecy.17

Practical Issues

Many attempt to marginalize the study of doctrine on the grounds that it is not practical. However, observing how frequently Paul introduces doctrine for the purpose of correcting practical problems within the local church rebuts this assertion. In fact, some of the greatest expositions of doctrinal principles comes about in Scripture as a result of Paul having to correct the daily behavior of Christians. In his writings, Paul does not elucidate doctrinal principles just for the purpose of passing on some random theological thoughts. Rather, some practical problem existed in the churches that he was writing to and he used doctrine to address the practical problem. It is for reasons such as these that biblical epistolary literature is sometimes referred to as “occasional literature.”

Nowhere does this become clearer than in Philippians 2. Most know this chapter as the kenosis chapter. It offers a graphic depiction of Christ’s incarnation. It describes how Christ voluntarily laid aside the independent exercise of His divine attributes, while still retaining His deity, for the purpose of serving humanity. But why did Paul insert this material into his letter to the Philippians? Was his goal to pass along a random theological thought? Hardly. The Philippian congregation was characterized by numerous self-serving attitudes such as selfishness and empty conceit (Phil 2:3), grumbling (Phil 2:14) and disputing (Phil 4:2). At one point, Paul makes mention of two women, Euodia and Syntyche, who were embroiled in a bitter interpersonal conflict. Paul’s remedy for ridding the church of such self-centeredness was an exposition of Christ’s incarnation (Phil 2) in hopes that his readers would imitate the selflessness of Christ. Evidently Paul thought that this doctrine was practical enough to change the behavior of believers.

Another example is Paul’s presentations of the doctrine of the Bema Seat Judgment in 1 Corinthians 3. This chapter represents one of the most graphic portrayals of this unique judgment found anywhere in Scripture (1 Cor 3:10-15). Was Paul’s intent to unfold this doctrine just for the sake of randomly developing another area of systematic theology? Not at all. Paul took the opportunity of revealing the Bema Seat Judgment because of practical problems taking place within the Corinthian assembly. Although the Corinthians were believers (1 Cor 1:2), they had made little progress in the area of practical sanctification. The church in Corinth was one of the most carnal churches of first century world of which we have record. In this church, there existed Christians following men instead of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10-17), worldly wisdom (1:18-2:16) divisions (chapter 3), sexual immorality (chapters 6), incest (chapter 5), lawsuits among believers (chapter 6), drunkenness at the Lord’s table (chapter 11), misuse of spiritual gifts (chapters 12-14) and false doctrine that included a denial of the resurrection (chapter 15). Yet it is to this church that we find one of the greatest expositions of the Bema Seat Judgment because Paul believed that this doctrine would change the behavior of the people by communicating to them the reality of a coming judgment. This judgment, unlike the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:11-15, would not be a judgment to determine whether a person spends eternity in heaven or hell. That issue had already been settled because the Corinthians were already believers. Rather, this judgment would determine reward. The Corinthians would either gain or lose reward depending on how they progressed in the realm of practical sanctification. Paul understood that living with the knowledge of future accountability would change one’s behavior in the present. Rather than seeing the eschatological truth of the Bema Seat Judgment as something unrelated to daily life, Paul saw it as integral to practical living.

Yet another example of Paul using doctrine to stimulate behavior is found in 2 Corinthians 8:9, where he offers the following profound Christological nugget: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” However, there is a context in which Paul offers this Christological truth. Rather than offering an unrelated insertion on the generosity of Christ, Paul’s goal in 2 Corinthians 8-9 was to get the Corinthians to give generously to the offering that he was collecting for the needy saints in Jerusalem. Paul discussed the selflessness of Christ in 2 Corinthians 8:9 in hopes that the Corinthians would imitate the generosity of Christ and give generously as well. Paul evidently thought that Christology was practical enough to insert into the extremely practical context of offering collections. Curiously, one of the common complaints among modern pastors is that their congregations do not give enough. Perhaps the problem lies in the people’s lack of exposure to the doctrine of Christology.

Yet another example of Paul using doctrine for the sake of influencing behavior is found in the famous exposition of the rapture doctrine found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. This passage represents probably the clearest reference to the rapture found in all of the New Testament. Again, we ask the question, is Paul simply providing a random theological truth? On the contrary, this eschatological truth must be understood within the context in which it was written. The Thessalonians were grieving over their deceased believing relatives and were wondering if they would ever see them again (1 Thess 4:13). Paul comforts the Thessalonians in the midst of their grief by informing them that not only would they see their relatives again in a reunion in the sky known as the rapture, but also God’s eschatological resurrection program will in fact begin with these deceased love ones. In other words, Paul used this eschatological truth for the practical purpose of comforting Christians in the midst of emotional turmoil. This explains why Paul concludes this section with the admonition to “comfort one another with these words.” Apparently, Paul saw a pragmatic connection between the eschatological truth of the rapture and alleviating emotional sorrow.

A final example where Paul relied upon doctrine to influence the behavior of his readers is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, which furnishes a detailed outline of events that will transpire during the Tribulation. Items related to how the tribulation period begins are emphasized. But why is this information given? Apparently, the Thessalonians had become convinced that they were in the midst of the Tribulation. Such a misconception was probably due to several factors such as the reception of a false letter allegedly having come from Paul giving them incorrect information (2 Thess 2:2), an overreaction to the eschatological truths that Paul expounded in his first letter, and the present experience of persecution (1 Thess 3:3). Such bad theology was having a negative impact upon their lives by causing them to quit their jobs and neglect daily responsibilities (2 Thess 3:10). After all, why hold down a job if the Day of the Lord has begun and the Second Advent is right around the corner. Paul corrects the problem by furnishing the Thessalonians with an eschatological outline emphasizing key events that must first take place before the Tribulation can begin. Paul’s point was that the Thessalonians were not in the midst of the Tribulation because the events signaling its arrival had not yet transpired. Thus, they could get on with their daily responsibilities such as holding down a job. Again we find Paul using doctrine for the purpose of remedying a practical problem.

James also follows the same practice. In James 3:9, he makes a significant contribution to Christian anthropology by explaining that man, even in his fallen condition, still bears the image of God. Man was originally fashioned in the image of his creator (Gen 1:26-27). Even after the fall, man continues to share in God’s likeness (Gen 5:1; 9:6). Although this image has been defaced through the fall, it has not been erased. But why does James reiterate man’s retention of the divine image even in his fallen state (Jas 3:9)? Interestingly, James inserts this anthropological truth in the context of his admonitions to tame the tongue. In other words, if we view one another as deserving of dignity because we all share in God’s likeness, we will be less inclined to gossip about and slander one another. Thus, James connected a correct understanding of anthropology with the practicality of avoiding gossip and slander.

The preceding examples show how frequently biblical writers appealed to doctrine to alter the life choices of believers. Thus, they did not view doctrine as “pie in the sky” concepts that were available only for an ivory tower elite. They brought doctrine in at every opportunity for the purpose of changing the daily life of Christians. If they saw the practical import of doctrine and used it for pragmatic, tangible reasons, then the present generation of pastors should do no less.

The Pastoral Epistles

The preeminence that God designed doctrine to have in the life of His church is amply illustrated by the doctrinal emphasis found in the Pastoral Epistles. The three pastoral letters of 1-2 Timothy and Titus represent the section of the New Testament that was specifically written for the purpose of providing instruction concerning “how to do church.” One cannot escape the emphasis that these books place upon the priority of doctrinal dissemination. Regarding the book of 2 Timothy, New Testament scholar Daniel Wallace makes the following observation: “By my count, there are twenty-seven explicit commands given in the body of this letter. In 27 words Paul tells pastors what to focus on. You have to be blind to miss the thrust of Paul’s instructions here, because eighteen of those commands–fully two-thirds–have to do with the ministry of the Word.” 18 These commands are especially significant given the fact that Paul wrote them with his impending death in mind (2 Tim 4:6). Therefore they represent his last will and testament. The focus of the elders of the early church upon doctrine can also be seen in their unwillingness to leave the ministry of the word in order to wait on tables (Acts 6:1-4).

We can also observe the priority that the pastoral epistles place upon the preeminence of doctrine in the pastoral letters by noting the criteria for the selection of elders as given in Titus 1. Verse 9 says that an elder must hold “fast to the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” How much should a person know about doctrine before he is selected as an elder of a local assembly? He obviously must understand the doctrinal content of his faith well enough in order to communicate it to others and exhort others in it. However, his breadth of knowledge does not end there. He has to also understand competing belief systems well enough in light of his own faith in order to refute theological opponents. Thus, Paul indicates that doctrinal knowledge was a key attribute that a candidate was to posses before he could occupy the office of elder. Sadly, many churches look for other qualities in an elder such as how “successful” they have been in the business world and consequently place doctrinal knowledge toward the bottom of the list. Unfortunately, the “MBA preferred, seminary not required” mentality is the norm in many places. Here, however, the importance of doctrinal knowledge can be seen in Paul’s criteria for the selection of church leaders.

The doctrinal emphasis of the pastoral letters can also be seen in Paul’s command to Timothy to preach the word (2 Tim 4:2). A few verses earlier Paul explained to Timothy why the word must be preached. According to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequately equipped, for every good work.” Thus, if the faithful proclamation of Scripture is substituted for something else, the ministries of teaching, reproof, correction, training, and equipping within a local assembly disappear since these ministries are inextricably linked to the faithful proclamation of Scripture.

The notion of equipping in 2 Timothy 3:17 conjures up memories regarding what Paul had told the Ephesian church a few years earlier regarding the function of a pastor. In his earlier letter to the Ephesians, he explained that the gift of pastor-teacher was necessary to bring the church to maturity (Eph 4:11-12). But how does this happen? Paul explains this in writing a few years later to the same Ephesian church when he says that Scripture is capable of equipping the man of God for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). Putting Ephesians 4:11-12 together with 2 Timothy 3:17, we learn that the pastor matures the church through the systematic exposition of Scripture. Thus, the primary function of a pastor is that of an equipper. An equipped, matured and gifted body is then capable of carrying on the work of the ministry (1 Cor 12; Eph 4:12). An awareness of a pastor’s primary role is needed in our day when so much confusion abounds concerning what the role of a pastor actually is. Many see the function of a pastor as that of a CEO, marketer, motivational speaker, or resident psychologist. However, the Pauline definition of a pastor is that of an equipper. Perhaps the reason why so much immaturity exists in the body of Christ is that modern pastors have strayed away from their primary task of being an equipper who leads the church into maturity through the faithful exposition of Scripture.

The emphasis upon “all Scripture” (2 Tim 3:16) conveys the idea that pastoral responsibility entails communicating the totality of divine revelation rather than just portions of it. Paul emphasizes all Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16 and then emphasizes preaching the word in 2 Timothy 4:2. Putting these verses together, we can see Paul’s emphasis upon communicating the totality of Scripture rather then using it selectively.

Paul’s emphasis upon “all Scripture” (2 Tim 3:16) also brings to mind what he had told the Ephesian elders about ten years earlier on the Island of Miletus toward the end of his third missionary journey. There, he gave the Ephesian elders his farewell address in which he declared that he was innocent of the blood of all men because he had declared to them the full counsel of the will of God (Acts 20:26-27). This statement may be a direct allusion to God’s admonition to the sixth-century prophet Ezekiel. On two occasions, God told the prophet that if he warns the wicked man who dies in his sin, then the prophet was not responsible for the wicked man’s blood. However, if the prophet does not warn the wicked who does die in his sin, then God would hold the prophet accountable for the wicked man’s blood (Ezek 3:17-19; 33:7-9). In alluding to God’s admonitions to Ezekiel, Paul was modeling for the Ephesians elders that their primary function as spiritual leaders was to disclose the totality of divine revelation. To the extent that they did not, God would hold them accountable (Jas 3:1). To the extent that they did, they had exonerated themselves. This emphasis upon the totality of biblical truth stands in stark contrast to the previously mentioned seeker movement, which selectively uses the biblical text for the purpose of appealing to man’s felt needs. In sum, any honest reading of the pastoral letters demonstrates the great influence that God expects doctrine to have within the local church.

Conclusion

Sadly, we live in a day when the relevance of doctrine to the vitality of the church and the individual believer is being questioned as never before. However, a fresh scriptural look into God’s design for doctrine argues convincingly for its restoration to a place of preeminence. Most significantly, bad doctrine has the potential of damning the soul. Moreover, the influence of doctrine is linked to proper Christian living. The relevance of doctrine can also be seen in the way Paul did not shy away from using it for the purpose of addressing pragmatic concerns within the churches that he was ministering to. In addition, the pastoral letters place an inordinate emphasis upon doctrine. As servants of the Lord, let us not follow contemporary trends but rather work to restore doctrine to its rightful place of preeminence within modern evangelicalism.

Endnotes

1 Mal Couch, “What Is Systematic Theology?,” Conservative Theological Journal 8, no. 23 (March 2004): 10-28.

2 Charles Ray, “Systematic Theology and Premillennialism,” Conservative Theological Journal 8, no. 24 (August 2004): 165-91.

3 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 34.

4 Ibid., 124.

5 Ibid., 183.

6 Ibid., 186.

7 Ibid., 231.

8 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 300.

9 Ibid.

10 Most of these slogans were originally accumulated in Henry Holloman, “Prolegomena, Bibliology, and Theology (Part 1)” (unpublished class notes in TTH511 Theology I, Talbot Theological Seminary, Spring 1998), 9.

11 Ibid., 294-95.

12 John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel (Wheaton: Crossway, 1993), 72.

13 T. A. McMahon, “The Seeker-Friendly Way of Doing Church,” The Berean Call, March 2004, 2.

14 All Scripture citations are taken from the NASB.

15 Henry Holloman, The Forgotten Blessing, Swindoll Leadership Library, ed. Charles R. Swindoll and Roy B. Zuck (Nashville: Word, 1999), 127.

16 Holloman, “Prolegomena, Bibliology, and Theology (Part 1),” 8.

17 J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy: The Complete Guide to Scriptural Predictions and Their Fulfillment (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 681-82.

18 Daniel Wallace, “Crisis of the Word: A Message to Pastors or Would-be Pastors,” Conservative Theological Journal 1, no. 2 (August 1997): 108.

Law and Gospel

4     Believe In God
by Matt Slick

“…for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin,” (Rom. 3:20).

In the Old Testament God gave the Law through Moses. It is the commands and precepts that govern human conduct. In the New Testament God gave the Gospel through Jesus. It is the message of salvation by grace through the sacrificial death and physical resurrection of Jesus, for our sins.

The Law is the do’s and don’t’s of moral behavior. It consists of the 10 commandments (Exodus 20), rules for social life (Exodus 21:1-23:33), and rules for the worship of God (Exodus 25:1-31:18). It was a covenant of works between God and man and was (and is) unable to deliver us into eternal fellowship with the Lord. The Law is a difficult taskmaster because it requires that we maintain a perfect standard of moral behavior. And then when we fail, the Law condemns us to death. Works do not earn us salvation or play any part of it. The Bible says that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law (Rom. 3:28).

The Gospel, on the other hand, is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for our sins (1 Cor. 15:1-4). It is the message of what God has done for us, our deliverance from sin and the punishment of the Law. “Law and Gospel” are also part of our foundation, and a good understanding of their relationship will greatly help your witnessing. How? If you understand that the Law of God is a standard of perfection, that it reveals sin, that we are unable to keep from breaking it, and that the Gospel frees us from the need to keep the law perfectly in order to obtain forgiveness of sins, you will then be better able to communicate the message of salvation to the unsaved.

The Law is different from the Gospel

Most Christians already have a basic understanding of the difference between Law and Gospel; they just don’t know they do. For example, “You are a sinner (Law). You need Jesus as your Savior (Gospel).” The Old Testament (Law) came before the New Testament (Gospel). The Law shows us what we are guilty of and the Gospel delivers us by grace. First we must know we are guilty (Law) before we recognize our need to ask for forgiveness (Gospel).

The Law kills. The Gospel makes alive. When Moses came down from the mount after receiving the Law and saw that the Israelites had fallen into idolatry, he threw the tablets of the Law down to them and 3000 people died (Exodus 32:28). Later, when Peter preached the Gospel, 3000 people were saved (Acts 2:41).

With a better understanding of the Law, it will be easier for you to explain sin. Without the Law, sin cannot be known; Romans 3:20 says, “…through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” (See also Rom. 7:7). If sin is not known, then the need for Jesus is not felt. This is why you mention the Law to those with whom you witness. How? By asking them if they have ever sinned. Tell them that lying, cheating, stealing, lusting, not honoring God, etc. is sin. Everyone is guilty somewhere (Rom. 3:23), so everyone needs to be delivered. Everyone needs the Gospel.

The Law is peculiar. It says “be holy,” but shows us we are not. It says “do not lie,” but shows where we do. It says “honor the Lord your God,” yet shows us where we fail. Since none of us can keep the whole Law, we are all under condemnation. There is no way out. What can we do? Nothing! That is why “the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). The Law guides us to Him. How does it do that? By showing us that the attempt to keep the Law (our works) is insufficient to gain eternal life and that the Gospel of grace is the only way to God.

In other words, you must help the person realize that they are not good enough to merit God’s favor. People tend to think that because they are sincere or “not that bad” they are going to be with God when they die. But the Bible reveals that “sincerity” and being “not that bad” are not good enough. God requires perfection.

Salvation is of God.

That is why salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8), by faith and not by works (Rom. 4:5). That is why it is a free gift of God (Rom. 6:23), through grace (Eph. 2:8-9). That is why God became man (John 1:1,14) and fulfilled the Law: “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). And also, “For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on Law” (Gal. 3:21); “For by grace through faith you have been saved, not by works…” (Eph. 2:8). And, “…but to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5).

In presenting the Gospel, you show how the requirements of keeping the Law perfectly is removed. Say something like, The Bible says that if you break just one command of God, you are condemned, (James 2:10-11). I often add, “Sin can be forgiven but the effects continue. The effect of your sin is death. Your sin is an offense to the Law-giver, God. But Jesus, who is God in flesh, bore our sins on the cross and died with them. If you want your sins forgiven, then you need to come to Christ and ask Him to forgive you. He will.”

No Sense of Smell

 

http://www.letusreason.org/Doct74.htm   Written By Let Us Reason Ministry

What I’m writing here is in behalf of many ministries and pastors who agree and are concerned about what is taking place in the church.

2 Cor. 2:14-17: “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.”

God speaks of our prayers as incense in the Old Testament, and the sacrifices as a sweet smelling aroma unto Him. We are His ambassadors to the world and we are a family, His body on earth. Though we may not all meet together, we are united in the Spirit as we worship Him in spirit and in truth.

If this is what the church is supposed to be united in both the spirit and truth why do we disagree-why are there conflicts in the church? The answer to this question is simple yet weighty- It is written that, “My people perish from a lack of knowledge.” It should be apparent to people who are observing what is taking place in the church and understanding it from Biblical perspective that there is a lot of garbage coming inside our doors. The smell is permeating God’s house and there are only a few that notice it and even fewer that want to say or do something about it. Our indifference and lack of will is what is preventing us from a God sent revival.

In 2 Cor. 2:14-17 the fragrance Paul is speaking of is one of knowledge; we are the ones who bring this knowledge of God’s grace and the truth to people. If they accept the gospel of salvation it is a sweet smell to them. It they reject the gospel, it becomes odious to them. If your life is not being a sacrifice for Christ it may not smell so good. This is why we have only a small influence in society.

We should all follow the example of Mary, Lazarus’ sister who sacrificed her costly perfume for Jesus’ burial and it says “the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil” (John 12:3). The oil was a type of the anointing on Jesus who was to be crucified. The more we are dead to our self the more alive Christ is in us. But this is the more difficult part, where knowledge becomes wisdom as it is applied in our lives.

Have you ever had a cold where you could not smell or taste what you are eating? Well the church has got a cold that is affecting her taste for good food and she is ready to eat any bland food served on the platter. In fact, too many drink the skim milk of men-they do not know what the pure milk of the word tastes like anymore.

The Bible tells us that we were all like sheep that have gone astray. We are sheep that are to be led by the good Shepherd. The Lord used sheep in a number of illustrations and for good reason, because as sheep we can still go astray after we believe. There are other illustrations that are used as well:

Proverbs 27:8: “Like a bird that wanders from its nest is a man who wanders from his place.” Some teachers that were once grounded in Scripture have been influenced away from their place called home.

Many think they are immune to bad influences and leave themselves wide open to them. We are to have discretion with whom we associate with, who we learn from and submit ourselves to. No true minister is to befriend false teachers, defend them or contribute to their ministry. The simple reason is that once you begin to compromise in this area, you have nothing to say, you have lost your salt. It won’t take long before you become one with them and blinded to what you once knew. One of the best examples is found in the New Testament, Barnabas; he was carried away with Peter’s hypocrisy that compromised him and others (Gal.2). Leaven never affects a few but the many.

Chasing down trends has become a trend in itself. People sit and wait for the newest thing they can introduce to their church for church improvement or the real reason- for church growth. Growing attendance and growing spiritually are two different matters. Super-size is in and it is beneath the notice of today’s Mega leaders if you do not have this kind of attendance. So they desire more and follow the one who wanders from its nest. Like birds, they chirp whatever is said and follow the bird droppings of big bird.

The followers parrot whatever their teacher has said, never understanding that they are submitting to him instead of Jesus. For Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). People are following men and their words over Jesus and His Word.

The world is convinced the devil is imaginary and is a mythical creature, who wears a red suit. In the same manner a good portion of the Christian church has been convinced to accept anyone who is successful, that wears an expensive suit (or aloha shirt) behind the pulpit as teaching the truth about God. To the listeners of these teachers it has become more offensive to question what they are saying than it is for spreading heresy. If someone accuses their teacher of saying something wrong, they are pre conditioned to act like Pavlov’s dogs and attack them, labeling them with every derogatory term or word in the book (and some not in the book).

We are to be listening to the content, we do not have our eyes on the messenger. Is it Biblical teaching or is it from man. It happened to Israel- Ezek 22:27-28 “Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. “Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD had not spoken.” We are told to be aware of men rising among us to lead us astray by speaking perverse things. Paul warned the Ephesian church specifically about this (Acts 20:29). Perverse is the Greek word diastrepho-1) to distort, to turn aside to oppose, to plot against the saving purposes and plans of God. 2) to turn aside from the right path, to pervert, to corrupt.

On the other hand he commended a certain group of people above all the others, the Bereans (Acts 17). They searched the Scriptures daily- not just once in a while or not at all. Unfortunately, the emphasis today is on “not at all.”

Like a bad cold, their followers ears are stuffed with the teachers words and cannot hear anything spoken to the contrary, even the pure word. They have become mentally challenged on the truth, rationalizing that because they speak in tongues they are filled with the Spirit and anyone who disagrees with their teacher is not. They label anyone who disagrees with them a Pharisee, they quickly become disrespectful, intolerant to any of the facts. This is no exaggeration, as I have received letters for years on these matters and this is the attitude of too many in the church. All one needs to do is ask- is this a Biblical teaching found in the Bible, can it be proven to be the correct interpretation? Once they are willing to examine it thoroughly they usually come to a different conclusion. But the inquiry of teaching becomes the roadblock to knowing truth.

The main contention between the Pharisees and Jesus were all the extra Biblical laws they were practicing as God’s law. It was their added revelations to Moses that they enforced upon people to obey which got Jesus very angry. The Pharisees wanted him to obey the elder’s laws- their laws (Mk.7 the tradition of the fathers). Jesus would not submit to them at all.

Jesus defended the people against the false teachers of his day. He stood in the gap for them. He corrected them by teaching them what is right and true, often right in front of the false teachers. And when necessary he got in their religious faces. It cost Him His life, though He was going to lay it down for sinful man; that would include them.

The religious leaders had all the money (it says they loved money) they had a monopoly on power and because of this they had great influence on the religious population. Sound familiar? If they were here today (and they are) they would make sure they stand out on the TV. They would make sure everyone sees them pray in public, their giving would be made known, and they would exert their authority and make disciples of themselves. They would enforce their position by making sure the people side with them. They would connive the people to give them money to support their work, using false promises to ingratiate themselves with their audience. Not much has changed only the names and means. All of these qualities were found in the religious sect of Jesus’ day.

It’s hard to defend Christianity when they see the TV evangelists preach money as their gospel. To the unbelievers that watch them on TV they think all of the church is like them. It is they that have brought the church in disrepute. And this is where the latter portion of 2 Cor. 2:17 is applied- “For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.”

When someone is told about their teacher being wrong that they have been learning from for years they immediately start a comparison list of what you have done and what they have done.

We do well to remember what Paul wrote: “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12)

Their defense is often like Simon the sorcerers followers in Acts 8:9-11: “this man is the great power of God.” The Lord’s apostles wrote us that we would know who is with him or against him, NOT by their works, NOT by their power (Mt.7:21), but by their doctrine and lifestyle and love for the brethren (1 Tim.4:6; 1 Pt.2:21; 2 Thess.3:7, 9). God does not pour out His Spirit and power on those who teach falsely, they must repent first and correct their teachings and practices. There is no power from God unless one is under God’s authority. Which means they are servants to him first and then to his people, they are not masters (Jn.15:20; Mk.9:35; Col.1:7,4:7).

What’s the Real problem?

Too many are unaccountable for what they are teaching. They are hurting people’s lives both spiritually and physically. Because of this, so many are depressed, disillusioned, and are losing hope. We love people enough not to sit idly by but to be active in helping them understand what has taken place and help them get freedom that is in Christ Jesus. Love is an action, a commitment and in this case to the word of God which is the truth and to God’s people.

They don’t defend Christ when he is mocked or ridiculed by the world but they do defend their teachers WHEN THEY ARE QUESTIONED OR EXPOSED. It is a form of idolatry to follow man over Jesus and the word of God that is truth.

There are too many Christians that look with disdain on those who publicly defend the Christian faith. For numerous reasons, they have been convinced that we should not have a say about anything. What if the early Church lived by their example against the heresies that arose? We certainly would not have any Christianity today.

Did you ever read a review of a product before you purchased it? Maybe you wanted to buy a refrigerator or a car. Did you not appreciate that someone took the time to look at it in detail to prevent you from losing your money. Of course you did.

People refuse to open their eyes to see, their ears to hear. Go drive down the road with your eyes close and see if you don’t get into an accident. In fact anything that impairs your seeing can bring about an undesirable circumstance.

What if you had a babysitter for your child and someone knew he was molesting him, would you want him to tell you? Of course you would. it would be for the child’s protection.

Silence is part of the problem, silence on matters that are destructive to peoples lives. While people affirm they love Jesus, but where is the hatred for things Jesus hates? (Psalm 97:10-11; John 12:23-26; Lk.16:13; Heb.1:9; Rev.2:6,15). Where is the love for people to help them by telling them the truth? Sitting by idly and watching people get spiritually massacred is not love. Jesus didn’t and neither did those who were trained by him, they spoke up. And that is why we speak.

This lack of discernment and standing up for the Lord reminds me of Cain, who said, “Am I my brother’s keeper? Cain’s response is defiant. He was saying to God I have no obligation, he was accusing God- saying you take care of him knowing full well what he did.

Yet we are commanded James 5:19-20: “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

God tells us to judge teaching, man tells us not to. Who are we going to obey? These scriptures on judging are not bible dressing…

God wants US to judge those inside the Church, He will take care of those outside.

1 Cor 5:11-13: “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner– not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

“Test ALL THINGS; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).

We do not live in the former Soviet Union; we are allowed to speak our mind before God and men. If you tell people its wrong to question and challenge something openly you have either been taught wrong, are naïve to what the Bible actually says or you are intentionally having them disobey the Bibles commands. Either way you are wrong.

Our mild exhortation to the followers of these men is nothing compared to the divisive effect they have on the church. Many of us have had enough of the nonsense- the pervasiveness of false teaching from our pulpits, on our radio and our TV (emphasis on our) has gone on far too long without a strong voice of challenge.

Show us where the apostle Paul, Peter or John taught the church that we are little gods, that we have great spiritual powers like Jesus that can defy or change nature by our speaking. That we will take over the earth as the Church before Christ comes. That Jesus became sinful on the cross and went to hell to be tortured by Satan.

Since they have taught these heresies publicly there is an obligation to Biblically refute them publicly. Analyzing statements and published works are in obedience to the Word of God. Men who have something to lose will always deny people the right to examine their teachings, they intimidate them into silence.

If you allow others to tell you how to think on something without ever looking into it yourself to come to your own conclusion- you have accepted a cult mindset. The cults convince their followers not to pursue questions that would challenge their leadership or teachings. They set themselves up as an authority and convince their followers they are God’s man or woman. This has been going on for hundreds of years. In modern terms its called group think.

The church in Germany was silent as Hitler rose to power. Today the church is mostly silent about the slaughter of their brethren that is taking place all over the world from Islam. But they are quick to speak up and condemn their brethren who are being Bereans and obeying the command of Christ.

Consider this a recent relative example to what is taking place inside the church.

At the Democratic National Committee’s Annual Winter Meeting in Washington the Democrats were led in prayer by a Muslim imam, Husham Al-Husainy, Imam of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center. He asked Allah to assist in converting the party members to Islam. “We thank you God, to send us your messages through our father Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Muhammad. Through you, God, we unite. So guide us to the right path. The path of the people you bless, not the path of the people you doom. Help us God to liberate and fill this earth with justice and peace and love and equality. And help us to stop the war and violence, and oppression and occupation. Ameen.”

I’m astounded that there was no outcry, they did not even blink. It was if they did not hear him say what he said (certainly they did not understand what he meant).

Husham Al-Husainy, was later invited on the Sean Hannity (Friday 9 of Feb. 2007 show to explain himself on the statement of oppression and occupation in relation to the United States. When asked if the president of Iran is an anti-Semite or is Hamas is a terrorist organization he would not answer him. and argued about giving him a chance to speak (which he graciously did) He then tires of Sean and calls him names accusing him of not being for peace and working against the unity of the world. Saying you are against the prophet Mohammed, you are against the Qur’an. You are makinbg God mad at you Jesus is going to get mad at you… he was called the anti peace person; and much more was said in his anger from questioning him

Take this as lesson in dodging the point and turning the tables on the one who directly asks about the facts and is trying to get to the truth. Al-Husainy could not deal with the facts so he went into a tirade.

Getting to the truth will always remove the deception. But to do so, questions need to be asked and ANSWERED– facts need to be scrutinized. When we as a people and a church stop doing this we may find ourselves in a similar time period of Germany in the 1930’s.

Getting back to the subject in the article- If people would learn to think past their feelings – their emotions, their blind loyalty to man, they just might be able to get a whiff of the smell. This aroma is spread all throughout God’s house. Instead they tell people to ignore the smell even if they are ready to keel over. Instead of the fragrance of Jesus filling the house it is the smell of garbage and decay. We are telling people to get the garbage out of the house before it is ruined.

Paul wrote 2 Tim 4:3 They “will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;” its all about – SELF. The problem does not lie with the teachers only but with the people- they want it, they love it (Jeremiah 5:31). Why? Because they love themselves; they are not intending on living as Jesus instructed, to deny themselves and carry the cross. If they did they would see right through the manipulation and chicanery. What has taken place is nothing short of criminal.

The main problem is the strength of the Laodicean church today. The delusion is increasing in power and scope and this is no time for you to be complacent, silent or indecisive. In this matter, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. It’s time to take the garbage out of the house.

Gal. 3:2-3: “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”

Because everything is turned upside down people do not recognize what is taking place. They are under these men’s lawful spell of blessings. They are looking for God in all the wrong places.

With the Spirit and faith comes God’s blessings but when you put people under the law (such as tithing for a blessing, or obedience to men to gain spiritual favor) Gal. 3:10 For “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse” Gal. 3:18 For “if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”

Being under the Law removes one from being under grace. We should not be removed from the simplicity in Christ (2 Cor.11:3). The word simplicity is haplotes- meaning- 1)singleness, simplicity, sincerity, mental honesty the virtue of one who is free from pretence and hypocrisy 2) not self-seeking.

It has been given to us all individually and collectively. 2 Tim 3:16-17 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Some have missed the whole point of the New Covenant and the Spirits indwelling. We have what we need if the Spirit is in us, we don’t have to wait for another baptism- we do not need an anointed man to give us the spirit or more grace or blessings.

2 Pet 1:3-9: “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness ,to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”

You can’t love God with your heart when you are not using your mind, and Jesus told us to know the truth. That means we must judge by the truth, his Word and forewarned us of a deception in the last days that would be so great that few would escape its net. If you do not think we are in these days then you do not believe Jesus’ own words. If you do believe His words then you should be on guard about those who come in his name to deceive you with their teachings, prophecies and their solicitation of money to have a blessing.

In fact, when one chooses to continue following these MENS teachings (Laodicea means men’s opinions) that are false, it solidifies them further in the deception and makes it more difficult for them to hear truth. There is no justification for anyone to continue this once it is pointed out, unless they willfully do not want to walk in the truth (1 Jn.1:6-7; 3 Jn.3-4). We care for individuals and for the body of Christ; and we want to see it strengthen what remains so that we are ready.

Rev 3:11: “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” (1 Cor. 9:25; 1 Pt.5:4)

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GOD’S WILLINGNESS and MAN’S UNWILLINGNESS

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Written By George Zeller

Introduction

In no uncertain terms the Bible declares that God is a sovereign God who “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” and who has “done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Eph. 1:11; Psalm 115:3). God’s purpose and plan will be accomplished without fail: “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it” (Isaiah 46:10-11).

We must, however, be careful to distinguish between what God purposes to accomplish directly by His own actions and what God permits His creatures to do, both of which will ultimately bring glory to His holy Name. Examples of God purposing to accomplish something directly by Himself would be creating the world, sending the Genesis Flood, bringing judgment upon Babel and Sodom, causing the miracle of the virgin birth, etc. Man has nothing to do with these things. God’s direct will and activity brings them about. The sovereign God also accomplishes His overall purpose of bringing glory to Himself by allowing His creatures to perform in certain ways, even ways that are contrary to His revealed will. His creatures are allowed to act in ways that are contrary to the desire and wish of the Creator. This we call sin, and God is not the Author of sin. God, for example, did not want or wish Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit as indicated in His command to the contrary (Gen. 2:16-17), but God allowed Adam to partake of the fruit and this terrible sin and momentous fall was part of God’s overall plan whereby He would ultimately bring glory to Himself by revealing the riches of His grace and the depths of His mercy.

Extreme Calvinists seem to have difficulty in understanding how a sovereign God can “desire” something that will never come to pass. They believe that whatever God wills and desires must come to pass. If God desires to save certain men then these men must be saved. If God so loved the world, then the world must be saved (the “world” referring to the world of God’s elect). If Christ died for all men, then all men must be saved. This is how they would reason. Of course, they believe that Christ did not die for all men but that He died only for the elect. They believe that all who Christ died for will be saved (but they say He only died for some and not for all).

In 1 Timothy 2:4 we learn of God’s compassionate desire for the salvation of all men. One Calvinistic writer made the following comment in light of 1 Timothy 2:4—”What God desires that He will do” (thus he believes that the phrase “all men” in this verse refers only to the elect). They feel that if God wants men to repent, then they will repent (God will work in their hearts and bring about repentance). They reason that if God wants men to believe, then they will believe. The logic of this implies that God does not want the majority of men to believe, and hence, does not want these people to be saved, 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 to the contrary.

Extreme Calvinists have difficulty understanding how God could love someone and not save that person. For example, the Scripture says that Christ loved the rich young ruler (Mark 10:21), a man who “went away” and as far as we can tell never followed Christ. A.W. Pink did not believe that Christ could love a man who would never be saved. He said, “We fully believe that he (the rich young ruler) was one of God’s elect, and was saved sometime after his interview with the Lord” [The Sovereignty of God, p. 125, footnote]. This is Pink’s theory, but the Scripture provides no support for this view. It is a view based on Pink’s theology, not based on Pink’s Bible.

Every honest believer knows that what God desires is not always fulfilled. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 we learn what God desires for every believer. His revealed will (“this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”) is that believers rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing and give thanks in everything; yet how many times do we fail to fulfill God’s will in these areas?

If God is willing, then the extreme Calvinist believes that man must be willing also, because God will make him so. If man is unwilling, then it must be because God was unwilling to make the person willing. The Scripture, however, teaches that even though God is willing and desirous that men should turn from sin and go in His direction, He often allows men to have their own way and go their own way according to the stubbornness of their own sin-hardened hearts. God was willing, but they were not. God would, but they would not.

Thus our purpose in this study is to examine certain key words (especially in the Old Testament) which demonstrate that God’s compassion and desire and invitation does indeed reach out to all men, even to those who refuse to repent and believe and come to Him. We shall see the wonderful willingness of God in sharp contrast to the stubborn unwillingness of man. We will gain a better appreciation for our Lord’s words in Matthew 23:37 which cannot be fully understood apart from certain Old Testament passages which we shall study. May the Lord open our eyes to these truths.

The Hebrew Verb ‛abah [Strong’s #14]

This verb means “to be willing, to consent, to desire, to wish.” It is an interesting verb because it is always used with a negative particle except for two places (Isa. 1:19 and Job 39:9). With the negative it means “to be unwilling, to refuse.” For example, in Exodus 10:27 it is used of Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to let the children of Israel go (“he would not,” he refused!). This word is also illustrated in 2 Samuel 23:16 where David refused to drink the water (“he would not”) even though he was terribly thirsty. This word is also used in Isaiah 42:24 (Israel’s refusal to walk in God’s ways) and in Ezekiel 3:7 (used twice) and 20:8 (Israel’s refusal to listen to God). The following passages which contain this verb especially relate to our study:

1) Psalm 81:11—“But my people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel would have none of me.” God wanted them to open their mouth wide (v.10). God wanted to bless them and fill them (v.10). God earnestly desired that they should hearken unto Him and walk in His ways. How could God’s willingness and desire be stated any clearer than in verse 13? “Oh, that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!” (Psalm 81:13). God was willing! God would have done so much for them (verses 14-16), but they would not. They refused! God had a heart for them; they had no heart for God.

2) Proverbs 1:25,30—“But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would have none of my reproof . . . They would have none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof.” Is God willing that men should love simplicity and hate knowledge (v.22)? Wisdom cries out (v.20) and invites men (v.23) and promises great things to those who come to her (v.23). God was willing; man was unwilling (v.25,30).

3) Isaiah 28:12—“This is the rest by which ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing; yet they would not hear.” God graciously offered rest (compare Matthew 11:28) and refreshment, but they refused (compare Jer. 6:16). God was willing to give them rest but they were unwilling to receive it.

4) Isaiah 30:15—“For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.” God graciously offered rest and deliverance, but the rebellious ones (v.1,9) refused. They said NO (v.16) to God’s kind offer.

5) Isaiah 1:19—“If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. This is one of those rare places where the verb is used without the negative. God’s desire was that they would be clean (v.16). God wanted them to learn to do well (v.17). God was willing to reason with them and to offer them the forgiveness of sins (v.18). God was willing. Would they be willing (v.19) or would they refuse (v.20)?

The Hebrew Verb ma’en [Strong’s #3985]

This verb means the opposite of the last verb. It means “to refuse, to be unwilling, to refuse with a resolved mind.” Thus it means the very same thing as ‛abah [Strong’s #14] with the negative. Pharaoh is a good illustration of this verb also. In Exodus 7:14 he refused to let the people go. Let us now examine some of the passages where this verb is used:

1) Jeremiah 5:3—“O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth? Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.” God wanted Israel to return to Himself (Jer. 4:1) but they refused! God was willing, they were not.

2) Jeremiah 11:10—“They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words.” God earnestly protested to their fathers (v.7) because He wanted them to obey His voice (v.7), but they refused (v.8). God wanted them to obey, but He allowed them to walk in the imagination of their evil heart (v.8).

3) 1 Samuel 8:19—“Nevertheless, the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay, but we will have a king over us.” God was willing to be their King and the Lord was grieved that they had rejected Him (v.7).

4) Nehemiah 9:16-17—“But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, and refused to obey.” God was ready, willing and eager to pardon and to be merciful and to hold back His anger (verse 17), but the people who lived in the days of Moses refused to obey.

5) Proverbs 1:24—“Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded.” God (personified by wisdom-v.20) called but man refused! God was willing to pour out His spirit unto them and make known His words to them, but they were unwilling (verses 23-24). God stretched out His hand (v.24) but they could care less.

6) Isaiah 1:20—“But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword.” God was willing and able to PARDON and WASH His people from their sins (verses 16,18). He was willing to pour out His blessing and give them the good of the land (v.19). God was willing, but were they?

7) Zechariah 7:11—“But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.” God’s will and desire was clearly revealed in His commands. He wanted them to turn from their evil ways (verses 9-10), but they refused to hearken. Their hearts were as hard as stone (v.12).

8) Jeremiah 13:10—“This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be like this belt, which is good for nothing.” God wanted the whole house of Israel and Judah to be unto Him for a people and.for a name and for a praise and for a glory (v.11). This was His desire, but THEY WOULD NOT HEAR (v.11). THEY REFUSED TO HEAR (v.10).

The Hebrew Verb bachar [Strong’s #977]

This is the common Hebrew verb which means “to choose, to select, to elect.” This word has been made famous by Joshua in Joshua 24:15—“Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” Let us now consider some of the other passages that use this word:

1) Deuteronomy 30:19—“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” A choice must be made between life and death, good and evil (v.15). God wanted them to live and be blessed by loving Him and keeping His commandments (v.16). God, through Moses, warns them about making the wrong choice (verses 17-18). Finally Moses said, CHOOSE LIFE (v.19). Doubtless Moses was reflecting the desire of the living God that He might be their choice. God was willing for them to have life, but they must choose (compare John 5:40—God was willing for them to have life, but they must come).

2) Proverbs 1:29—“Because they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” God was willing (verses 20-23) but man was not (verses 24-25; 29-30).

3) Isaiah 65:12—“When I called, ye did not answer; when I spoke, ye did not hear, but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that in which I delighted not.” God was not delighted by their choice. It’s obvious that their choice did not please the Lord. It was not God’s wish or desire that they should choose in such a way. Notice God’s gracious appeal to these people. He “called” (v.12). He spread out His hands (v.2). He was willing, but they were not.

4) Isaiah 66:3-4—“Yea, they have chosen their own ways and their soul delighteth in their abominations . . . when I called, none did answer; when I spoke, they did not hear; but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” God allowed these people to go their own sinful ways. The people made a choice and the people were delighted in the choice that they made! God, however, was not delighted in their choice. He was grieved. God wanted the people to choose His ways not their own ways. Their choice was contrary to God’s desire.

Hebrew Verbs Meaning “To Stretch Out the Hands”

God’s willingness is seen by the way He earnestly and urgently calls to His people and pleads with them and entreats them. How can the Bible writers describe this divine entreaty in terms that we can understand? One of the ways is by picturing God as stretching forth His hands as He invites and urges His people to come unto Himself. In Proverbs 1:24 the verb natah [Strong’s #5186] means “to stretch or extend the hand.” In Isaiah 65:2 the verb paras [Strong’s #6566] is used with a similar meaning (“to spread out or extend the hands”). Consider the following passages:

1) Proverbs 1:24—“’Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded.” Here we have wisdom making her wonderful appeal and invitation which man foolishly rejects.

2) Isaiah 65:2—“I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, that walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts.” Notice that God was not pleased in the way that they were walking. God stretched out His hands and wanted to draw them unto Himself, but they wanted to go their own way. And God allowed it to be so! God let them have what they wanted even though it was not what He wanted. This verse is quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:21 (see below).

3) Romans 10:21—“But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” The word “gainsaying” means “rebellious, contrary, refusing to have anything to do with God.” What words could better express God’s tender invitation to sinful men as He extends wide His arms. As Hodge remarks, “God has extended wide His arms, and urged men frequently and long to return to His love.” What yearning, what love, what pleading, what patience! As Barnes has said, “This denotes an attitude of entreaty; a willingness and earnest desire to receive them to favour, to invite and entreat.” “The arms outstretched all the day long are the symbol of that incessant pleading love which Israel through all its history has consistently despised” (Expositor’s Greek New Testament). God was so willing; man was so rebellious!

The New Testament Verb thelo [Strong’s #2309]

This common verb means “to wish, desire, be willing, take delight, have pleasure.” In the Septuagint it is used frequently and often it corresponds to some of the Hebrew verbs we have already studied. For example, it occurs in Isaiah 1:19-20; Isaiah 28:12; Jeremiah 5:3; 8:5; Ezekiel 3:7; 18:23,32. Let us now consider a few New Testament examples of the usage of this word:

1) Matthew 23:37—“Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chicken under her wings, and ye would not.” The verb is used twice in this verse. Jesus was saying: “I would . . . ye would not.” “I was willing . . . you were not willing!” God was willing to gather these murderers unto Himself but they were not willing! God wanted to gather them, but they did not want to be gathered! God’s willingness and man’s stubborn refusal are so clearly expressed in this passage! We will say more about this verse later.

2) Luke 13:34—parallel to Matthew 23:37.

3) John 5:40—“And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life.” A literal translation: “And ye do not desire to come to Me, that ye might have life.” Again we see man’s wicked refusal to come to the living God. Why do people not have eternal life? They refuse to come to the One who is LIFE and who desires to give LIFE (John 10:27-28). Is God willing that men should come to Him and have life? Consider the next verse:

4) 1 Timothy 2:4—“Who will have (desires) all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” This is God’s desire for all men. God is willing (1 Tim. 2:4) but man is unwilling (John 5:40). God does not desire that any should perish.

Note: This verb, thelo [Strong’s #2309], in its noun form, is often used in relationship to God’s will for the believer (1 Thess. 4:3; 5:18; Eph. 5:17-18; etc.). God’s will and desire for every believer is that we should be holy, constantly filled with the Spirit and constantly filled with thanksgiving, etc. Yet often we fall short of these things and our God is grieved. God is willing to fill us with Himself, but often we hinder and quench His working in our lives even though He is willing to do so much in and through us (compare Psalm 81:10). So even when it comes to practical sanctification, God is willing but His believers are unwilling at times.

The Hebrew Verb chaphets [Strong’s #2654]

This verb means “to delight in, take pleasure in.” Here are some of the places it is used:

1) Isaiah 65:12—“When I called, ye did not answer, when I spoke, ye did not hear, but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that in which I delighted not.” God was not pleased by their choice. He wanted them to choose differently.

2) Isaiah 66:4—“When I called, none did answer; when I spoke, they did not hear; but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” God is not delighted when men choose their own ways (v.3), but He allows them to make such a tragic choice. God desires something else, but often He gives men up to their own desires.

3) Ezekiel 18:23—“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD, and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” God is not delighted when the wicked continue in their wicked ways. God is delighted and pleased when the wicked turn from their wicked ways. God’s will and wish for every wicked person is this: Turn from your evil ways and live!

4) Ezekiel 18:32—“For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD; wherefore, turn yourselves, and live.” In this verse God answers the question raised in verse 23. God is not willing that sinners should continue in their sin. God is willing that they should turn in the direction of the living God. Question for the extreme Calvinists: If God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, then why do the wicked die?

5) Ezekiel 33:11—“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Nothing could be more clear. God desires that the wicked should turn from their evil ways. God pleads with these sinners and urges them to repent and be converted. “Why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Certainly not because God wanted you to die!

The Hebrew Verb shakam [Strong’s #7925]

This interesting verb means “to rise up early in the morning.” Figuratively it came to mean “speaking early and often, to speak earnestly, eagerly and urgently, to urge earnestly.” Let the following verses speak for themselves:

1) 2 Chronicles 36:15-16—“And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up early and sending, because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words.”

2) Jeremiah 7:13—“I spoke unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not.”

3) Jeremiah 7:25-26—Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants, the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them; yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck.”

4) Jeremiah 11:7-8—“For I earnestly protested unto your fathers in the day that I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, even unto this day, rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice. Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart.”

5) Jeremiah 25:3-4—“I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking, but ye have not hearkened. And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants, the prophets, rising early and sending them, but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear” (see also verse 5).

6) Jeremiah 26:4-5—“If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, to hearken to the words of my servants, the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened.”

7) Jeremiah 29:19—“Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants, the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD.”

8) Jeremiah 32:33—“And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face; though I have taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.”

9) Jeremiah 35:14-15—“I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but ye harkened not unto me. I have sent also unto you all my servants, the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings . . . but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.”

10) Jeremiah 44:4-5—“I sent unto you all my servants, the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness.”

[See also Neh. 9:29-30 and Zech. 1:4 where this word is not used but the same idea is there.]

Conclusion

Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet, but his tears were but a mere reflection of a grieved and weeping God. When this God became a man these tears could again be seen as He wept over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37; compare Luke 19:41) and said, “HOW OFTEN would I have gathered you.” These words can only be understood in light of the verses cited above: “How often have I sent my prophets unto you, rising up early! How often have I stretched forth my hands unto you! How often have I pleaded and entreated and invited! How often have I called unto you and spoken unto you! How often have I offered you REST and REFRESHMENT! How often would I have filled your mouth if you had but opened it! How often would I have reasoned together with you about your sins! Oh Israel, WHY WILL YOU DIE? Why do you choose the way that I do not delight in? Why do you go your own way? HOW OFTEN WAS I WILLING TO GATHER YOU UNTO MYSELF BUT YE WERE NOT WILLING!!!

I trust that this study has taught you something about the terrible depravity of man and the compassionate and tender heart of the Saviour who desires all men to be saved and who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. God is willing, but tragically man is often unwilling.

George Zeller

“I WOULD–BUT YE WOULD NOT.”

(Matthew 23:37; Luke 19:41).

Alas! for thee, Jerusalem,

How cold thy heart to me!

How often in these arms of love,

Would I have gathered thee!

My sheltering wing had been your shield,

My love your happy lot:

I would it had been thus with thee–

I would, but ye would not.”

He wept alone, and men passed on,

The men whose sins He bore;

They saw the Man of sorrows weep,

They had seen Him weep before;

They ask’d not whom those tears were for,

They ask’d not whence they flowed;

Those tears were for rebellious man;

Their source, the heart of God.

They fell upon this desert earth,

Like drops from heaven on high,

Struck from an ocean-tide of love

That fills eternity.

With love and tenderness divine,

Those crystal cells o’erflow,

‘Tis God that weeps, through human eyes,

For human guilt and woe.

That hour has fled, those tears are told;

The agony is past;

The Lord has wept, the Lord has bled,

But has not loved His last,

His eye of love is downward bent,

Still ranging to and fro,

Where’er in this wide wilderness

There roams the child of woe;

Nor His alone–the Three in One,

Who looked through Jesu’s eye,

Could still the harps of angel bands,

To hear the suppliant sigh;

And when the rebel chooses wrath,

God mourns his hapless lot,

Deep breathing from His heart of love,

“I would, but ye would not.”

–A.Miller, Brethren writer (The Serious Christian, Series II, Vol. V, pp. 85-87).

Word Search For Blessed

Bible, King James Version

88 matches.

Matt.5
1.[3] Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2.[4] Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
3.[5] Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
4.[6] Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
5.[7] Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
6.[8] Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
7.[9] Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
8.[10] Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
9.[11] Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Matt.11
1.[6] And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

Matt.13
1.[16] But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

Matt.14
1.[19] And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

Matt.16
1.[17] And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Matt.21
1.[9] And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

Matt.23
1.[39] For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Matt.24
1.[46] Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

Matt.25
1.[34] Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

Matt.26
1.[26] And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

Mark.6
1.[41] And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.

Mark.8
1.[7] And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.

Mark.10
1.[16] And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

Mark.11
1.[9] And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:
2.[10] Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.

Mark.14
1.[22] And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.
2.[61] But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?

Luke.1
1.[28] And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
2.[42] And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
3.[45] And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
4.[48] For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
5.[68] Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,

Luke.2
1.[28] Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
2.[34] And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

Luke.6
1.[20] And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
2.[21] Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
3.[22] Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.

Luke.7
1.[23] And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

Luke.9
1.[16] Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude.

Luke.10
1.[23] And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see:

Luke.11
1.[27] And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.
2.[28] But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

Luke.12
1.[37] Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
2.[38] And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
3.[43] Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

Luke.13
1.[35] Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Luke.14
1.[14] And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
2.[15] And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

Luke.19
1.[38] Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.

Luke.23
1.[29] For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.

Luke.24
1.[30] And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
2.[50] And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
3.[51] And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

John.12
1.[13] Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.

John.20
1.[29] Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Acts.3
1.[25] Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.

Acts.20
1.[35] I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Rom.1
1.[25] Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Rom.4
1.[6] Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
2.[7] Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
3.[8] Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
4.[9] Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

Rom.9
1.[5] Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

2Cor.1
1.[3] Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

2Cor.11
1.[31] The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.

Gal.3
1.[8] And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
2.[9] So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

Gal.4
1.[15] Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.

Eph.1
1.[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

1Tim.1
1.[11] According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

1Tim.6
1.[15] Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;

Tit.2
1.[13] Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

Heb.7
1.[1] For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
2.[6] But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
3.[7] And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.

Heb.11
1.[20] By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
2.[21] By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.

Jas.1
1.[12] Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
2.[25] But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

1Pet.1
1.[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Rev.1
1.[3] Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

Rev.14
1.[13] And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

Rev.16
1.[15] Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

Rev.19
1.[9] And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

Rev.20
1.[6] Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Rev.22
1.[7] Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
2.[14] Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

“Classic Pauline Dispensationalism” Explained

575186_10151900939994631_1204923927_nBefore delving into various affirmations of withChrist.org, it may be best to state what Classic Pauline Dispensationalism (CPD) is not. CPD is not one of the many variants of dispensationalism which believe the advent of the Body of Christ (Church) came after the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. Nearly two decades ago, we coined the term “post-Acts 2,” to describe groups who believe the Church began with the Apostle Paul in either Acts 9, Acts 13, or Acts 28(1).

By contrast, we believe the Church began at Acts 2 and that Paul was commissioned by the Risen Lord Jesus Christ to progressively unfold and explain, to the other Apostles and members of the Body, various aspects of subjects previous hidden (“mysteries”) as mentioned throughout his epistles. Thus by classic, we mean the historic view which was held (recovered) and expounded by such groups as the 19th century Plymouth Brethren, and later by American dispensationalists, albeit with modification(2).

Church history records two major “recoveries” of Pauline teaching. This first focused upon the foundational truths of the authority of Scripture (sola Scriptura) together with justification by grace through faith (sola gratia plus sola fide), and is identified with men like Martin Luther (1483-1546) who were contributors to the great Protestant Reformation. The second recovery of truth, which in part built upon the first, is identified with John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) and the Plymouth Brethren, which arose during the middle of the 19th century. Darby set forth “…the Scriptures to be absolutely inspired by God and the sole authority for faith and practice,” as well as “the sovereignty of God, election, assurance, acceptance, and unconditional eternal security.”

(1) Despite their extensive arguments, these groups fail to find agreement among their own and are seemingly consumed with belligerently arguing the issue of when the Church began (similar to debates over the meaning of baptism between Baptist and Church of Christ denominations)…ad nauseum. Sadly, there is little focus upon the Risen Lord Jesus Christ and His Glory.

(2) An extensive documentation of this history was undertaken by the late Christian author, Roy A. Huebner in several of his works, which are available from Present Truth Publishers, Jackson, NJ. For an introduction, see J. N. Darby’s Teaching Regarding Dispensations, Ages, Administrations and the Two Parentheses, 1993, and DISPENSATIONAL TRUTH, Volume 1, 1998. Both publications contain exposition regarding the error(s) of post-Acts 2 dispensationalism.

We are evangelical-fundamental believers holding to the following truths:

SCRIPTURE & KNOWLEDGE

•The supernatural, inerrant inspiration of God’s revelatory Word (2 Peter 1:20), the exclusive 66 books (combined Jewish & Christian Canons) of Genesis through Revelation–the Bible. With the authorship of the final book–Revelation, the Canon was permanently closed. Apocrypha and Gnostic writings do not rise to canonical standards, and are materially inferior in content. The source of all other so-called “sacred writings” are either human or angelic (fallen), or a symbiotic effort of the two.

•By inerrancy of the Word, we mean that the original, God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) writings (on stone, clay, wood, leather, papyrus, or parchment), which no longer exist, were perfectly accurate in every respect. From these original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, Jewish scribes and early Christians meticulously created numerous copies. Through the art and science of historical textual analysis, comparing vast numbers of copies, experts have been able to recreate highly-accurate facsimiles of the originals. These copies are then used as the foundation for translating the texts into various languages. This entire process (from God’s mind to our mind using spoken and written language) has been guided and superintended by the sovereign and providential “hand” of Almighty God to ensure effective communication. This view spans nearly 3,500 years of recorded history.

•Based on this inerrancy, human epistemic certainty (via the “new birth”, sovereign illuminating work of God the Holy Spirit, and tertiary historical validation) is assured for accurately understanding God’s written revelation (1 Cor. 2:15,16). God has initiated communication (Heb. 1:2); He also permits some, but not all, to figuratively “hear” and understand (Luke 8:10). This process results in absolute-definitive knowledge, but not exhaustive knowledge. Those without the new birth wrestle with the text/words of Scripture in their own power and pride and typically arrive at erroneous interpretations and conclusions (2 Peter 3:16).

•The use of a common and literal approach to reading and studying the Word, which allows for normal grammatical and historical use of language. Literal interpretation stands in opposition to a contrived allegorical interpretation–which seldom allows the text to be taken at face value. Seek the normal, plain sense meaning of the text first. We recommend Professor Roy A. Zuck’s Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth for a safe and sound approach to biblical interpretation.

•The Bible is neither an encyclopedia nor science textbook. However, the Bible does speaks, directly and indirectly, to a vast host of relevant subjects.

•While the first 42 books of the Bible (in excess of 80 percent) have to do with the Jewish nation of Israel, what unifies the whole is the unfolding of the nature and glory of God in Christ, manifest in two spheres, the earthly and the heavenly (Eph. 1:9,10).

THE GODHEAD – DEITY

•God the Father (First Person of the Trinity) is Almighty, Eternal, Spirit, Light and Love (John 4:24; 1 John 1:5; 4:8).

•Jesus Christ is God the Son (Second Person of the Trinity, fully equal with the Father (Heb.1:3) and Holy Spirit), Lord and Savior, Head of His Body the Church, Sovereign over a completely New Creation, and Israel’s Millennial Messiah and King. Through the miracle of His incarnation, He became fully man, sharing flesh and blood except for Adamic sin.

•The Holy Spirit (Third Person of the Trinity) is Comforter, Helper, Spiritual Guide and Teacher.

•The Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are absolute sovereignty in power, contra any humanistic notion of the sovereignty of mankind.

MANKIND & THE FALL

•The idea of human “co-sovereignty” with God is an oxymoron and philosophically implausible, by definition. For fallen mankind, so-called free will is an inherent state of shackled rebellion. The concept of autonomous free will, while ancient, is the widespread central tenet of Enlightenment humanism, antithetical to the biblical Gospel, and is Satan’s consummate stratagem in which even the elect are blinded and deceived (2 Cor. 4:3,4).

•Mankind’s inheritance of corruption (sin) from the First Man–First Adam. All men and women are born lost sinners, in an inherent, perpetual state of enmity toward God (Rom. 8:7). In Western culture, the enmity most often takes the form of repulsion or passive-aggressive behavior toward all things “Bible” and “Christian.” For a growing minority, the enmity has developed into visible hate.

SALVATION

•The supernatural, spiritual “new birth” is the exclusive portal to genuine Christian experience. Genuine Christians are those who have been “born again” according to the Scriptural definition . Used in the most broad sense, “Christian” can mean anyone who embraces Judeo-Christian values or belong to some Christian denomination.

•Salvation by grace and divine election (cause), through faith (means) in Jesus Christ’s (Second Man–Last Adam) exclusive work of redemption (Eph. 2:8,9; John 6:37-40,44,45).

•The existence of two life forces (natures) within saved sinners (i.e., saints).

•Believers’ sanctification by grace, faith, and the Risen Christ. In Christ, believers are positionally separated from the law, sin, the world, and Satan/demons.

•Law is not made for the righteous, but for the unrighteous, for accountability, and for just punishment.

•Repentance is a vital part of genuine Christian experience.

•Since salvation is by grace, not works or free will, assurance of Heaven is the comfort of those who are spiritually mature in their understanding.

•Since God is the Author of salvation, His work cannot be thwarted by the existence of sin or sins. Genuine assurance of salvation leads to an obedient heart, not an excuse for further license or rebellion. Believers are both eternally secure as well as subject to loving reproof, correction, and discipline of the Father.

•The existence of supernatural miracles (Acts 2:22; 19:11), including Christ’s unique conception and His resurrection from the dead.

•The 1st century cessation of the sign gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 14:1-32

•Fellowship with God in truth and in the light as the only divine basis for unity among brethren (1 John 1:7).

•Defeated, yet active Satan and demons (fallen angelic spirit beings) existing in a spiritual (non-corporeal) dimension.

•”A new heaven and new earth” as the destiny of the saved; “the lake of fire” the destiny of the lost…both human and demonic. Revelation 21:1; 20:10,15.

•God’s glory in Christ will be manifest with government in the earthly sphere, the nation of Israel at its center. God’s glory in Christ will be manifest with spiritual blessings in the heavenly sphere, the Bride and Bridegroom (Body/Mystery) with Christ as Head, as its center.

•That Israel’s earthly calling and the present Age were interrupted by a parenthetical period in which God interposed a holy calling (the Body beginning at Pentecost) and that its consummation will be the translation or Rapture of this Body or Church, as well as signaling the beginning of Daniel’s prophetic 70th week of years (i.e., Tribulation or Time of Jacob’s Trouble).

• At the end of Daniel’s prophetic 70th week of years, the Lord Jesus Christ will, as promised, come again (Second Coming) to establish His Millennial Kingdom, to bring together things earthly and things heavenly, and later to consummate and usher in an eternal new heavens and new earth, as replacement for our current spacetime reality.

Further, in theological circles the term Pauline is a classical adjective used when speaking of the unique works of the Apostle Paul, his writings, teachings, and theological doctrines derived from them.

The etymology of Dispensationalism relates to the English word dispensation which is “an anglicized form of the Latin dispensatio, which the Vulgate uses to translate the Greek work” oikonomia. Oikonomia comes from the Greek verb meaning: to manage, regulate, administer, and plan. Broadly speaking, a dispensation is: a stewardship, an economy, an administration. While a dispensation can involve a duration of time, it is misleading to treat a dispensation as being synonymous with a biblical aeon (age) or a biblical diatheke (covenant). Distinctions in the various activities of the Godhead have been recognized by theologians and Bible students down through church history. However, it is an error to assume that every mention of oikonomia signifies a major shift in the plans of God.

The truths of the Gospel came under attack in the 1st century. Read Paul’s letter to the Galatians. A “different” Gospel began to establish itself and genuine Christianity increasingly became marginalized. By the post-Apostolic era, the true, born-again Church was fully in exile and the spiritual darkness of Christendom was in ascendance. For the most part, this period spanned nearly fourteen centuries!

The Lord used the Reformation (1500-1650) to recover three foundational tenets from a long era of ecclesiastical and religious darkness.

•The Word of God as principal authority (Sola Scriptura)

•Mankind’s lost estate (depravity) due to the Fall, and

•Justification by sovereign grace, through the instrumentality of faith. (Sola Gratia, Sola Fide)

While the Reformation rejected the religious humanism of Roman Catholicism and reestablished a sound biblical foundation based on NT revelation, it was only the beginning in the recovery of Pauline truth. Later the Lord used one John Nelson Darby, (1800-1882), a leader within the Irish/English Plymouth Brethren, to restore to the Church an understanding of the full-orbed revelation originally given (Gal.1:11,12) by the Ascended Lord Jesus Christ through the Apostle Paul. This included clarification of sanctification by grace, through faith, (not law) plus a clear understanding about the true, born-again Church. At a most basic level, the essence of Pauline dispensational theology, as found in Scripture, is “God has one purpose: to glorify Himself in Christ. This involves glory in two spheres, the earthly and the heavenly.”

Therefore, classic Pauline Dispensationalism is used to describe the biblical emphasis as originally set forth in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, with portions historically recovered by Martin Luther during the 16th century (Protestant Reformation), and a further major recovery by John Nelson Darby during the middle of the 19th century. This framework was embraced by a majority of the original Plymouth Brethren, and dispensational Bible teachers in America such as Clarence Larkin, William R. Newell, Miles J. Stanford, and others. Many American dispensationalists drew heavily upon the deeply-spiritual writings of the original Plymouth Brethren.

Among dispensationalists, confusion has arisen regarding the term. At the end of the 20th century and start of the 21st, the label is used by various groups with both subtle and not so subtle differences in meaning. Our explanation will hopefully clarify these differences.

The Church/Body began on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, but the doctrinal details of this spiritual event were a complete mystery until revealed to Paul by the Risen Christ (Gal.1:12) and then expounded by this Apostle to others. Contrary to a narrowly-held, dispensational error, the Apostle Paul was not the first member of the Body of Christ. For several decades following Pentecost, the other Jewish Apostles, including Peter, were unclear regarding much of this new truth and would subsequently learn it ‘secondhand’ from Paul (2 Peter 3:15,16).

We hold to the following indispensable tenets regarding the Church–the Body of Christ:

1.First and foremost, “Classic Pauline Dispensationalism is based upon the division of LIFE, not simply that of economies. Once that total separation of the two seminal lives [First and Last Adam] is seen and maintained, the economies will never coalesce.” The quintessence of the rightly divided Word is the doctrine of the two Adams!

2.”The Church (Body of Christ) was neither prophesied nor revealed in OT Scriptures.” The Church is a heavenly entity. The Church is not, as per covenant theory, the fulfillment of the promised blessings to Gentiles according to the Abrahamic Covenant. Further, the Church is not the recipient of blessing formerly promised to the nation of Israel nor of any “spiritual blessings” from Israel’s New Covenant. God made no covenant with the heavenly Church. The Body of Christ is unique.

3.”The Church was a complete mystery until revealed doctrinally by Paul.” It is the Body of Christ and her uniqueness that is the central mystery, not the principles of grace or faith. There is one Body of Christ, whose advent was on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts Chapter 2. The Church (Body of Christ) did not begin with the Apostle Paul, but rather his ministry was one of unfolding the truths associated with that one Body.

4.”Paul, in the Church Epistles, was the minister of Church truth.” “Those who do not center in the truths which the ascended Lord communicated directly to this Apostle will not know who and where they are in Christ, nor what their part is in the purpose of God. Neither will they know their heavenly privileges and responsibilities. Those who are ignorant of, and not centered in, the Pauline Gospel as set forth exclusively in Paul’s epistles, are constantly astray in their interpretation of the Gospel, to say nothing of Church truth.

“…for a dispensationalist it is best not to refer to the difference between the Old Testament (books) and New Testament (books), as such. Much of the NT (Synoptic Gospels) is OT (related to Israel and her covenants): all is OT to Matthew 27, Mark 15, and Luke 23. Church (Body) truth, the new, is totally different from Judaistic truth, the old; and it was not fully revealed until after the Cross, via Paul.” MJS

5.”The thirteen epistles of Paul (Romans to Philemon) form a distinct body of truth; and this realm of truth is about us, the Church, the Body of Christ, as no other Scriptures are. And Paul is the Father’s special messenger to us. As has been truly said, ‘All of the Bible is for us, but it is not all about us.’” WRN

Should your Dispensationalism fall below or depart from these standards, it may be time to take a long and hard look at the difference. If your theological ancestors or contemporaries have spent their livelihoods arguing and debating among themselves, even attempting to draw others into the incessant fray, and not focused upon developing a deeper and more meaningful relationship with the Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus Christ, maybe it’s time you considered Classic Pauline Dispensationalism. Pauline dispensationalist Miles Stanford had this to say:

NO COMPROMISE! — A Dispensationalism that includes ground for the charismatic, is a danger to the Church. There may be the claim of “complete separation” of Israel and the Church, while at the same time including charismatic ground, i.e., secondary application of the Sermon on the Mount, the “spiritual” blessings of Israel’s New Covenant, plus aspects of the “present/future” millennial kingdom.

A Dispensationalism that provides ground for Covenantism, is a danger to the Church. There may be the claim of “complete separation” of Israel and the Church, while at the same time including Covenant ground, i.e., secondary application of the Sermon on the Mount, the “spiritual blessings” of Israel’s New Covenant, plus aspects of the “present/ future” millennial kingdom. Such compromised, inclusive Dispensationalism is the spawning ground for charismatic craziness, Lordship salvation, Covenant legalism, Reconstructionism, etc. [bold emphasis mine]

A Dispensationalism that does not include ground for the charismatics, or Covenantism, is a blessing to the Church. The home ground of the Body, her growth ground is in the glorified, heavenly Lord Jesus Christ, who is her Head and her Life. Her doctrinal ground is centered in the Pauline Church Epistles. Carefully note Ephesians 3:9-11. I would a thousand times rather be accused of making the Synoptic Gospels secondary to the Pauline Church Epistles, than to make Paul secondary to anything [other than the Lord Jesus Christ]!

FOR WHOM DID CHRIST DIE?

 

The Atonement – 1 John 2:2

 

 

FOR WHOM DID CHRIST DIE?

A Defense of Unlimited Atonement

1 John 2:2

Read this verse to a child and he will tell you that Christ died for all men. He would
assume that “the whole world” means just that. Read this verse to an extreme
Calvinist and he will tell you that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the elect
Jews, and not for the sins of the elect Jews only, but also for the sins of the elect
Gentiles. We are reminded of Matthew 11:25.

John Murray, who denies that Christ died for all, says this about 1 John 2:2–”No
text in Scripture presents more plausible support to the doctrine of universal
atonement….It must be said that the language John uses here would fit in perfectly with
the doctrine of universal atonement if Scripture elsewhere demonstrated that to be the
biblical doctrine” (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, page 72). Because 1
John 2:2 does not fit in with Murray’s theological system, he tries to make the
passage mean something other than what it so obviously says.

To determine the meaning of the pronoun “our” in 1 John 2:2 we must ask who
John was writing to. John Owen, strong defender of a limited atonement, believed that 1
John was written about 46 AD and was sent to Jewish Christians. However, most Bible
scholars today agree that the letter was probably written towards the end of John’s
life and was intended for believers living in Asia Minor, which is where John ministered
toward the close of his life. Obviously the churches in Asia Minor toward the close of the
first century were composed of both Jewish and Gentile believers, with the Gentiles being
in the majority.

Actually John tells us who he is writing to. In 1 John 5:13 he says, “These things
have I written UNTO YOU THAT BELIEVE ON THE NAME OF THE SON OF GOD.” He wrote this
letter to BELIEVERS. Thus, in 1 John 2:2 Christ is the propitiation for our sins
(that is, believers), and not for ours only, but for the sins of
the whole world
(that is, unbelievers). That the term “world” is used elsewhere to refer to
unbelievers (in contrast to believers) is clear from John 14:22; 16:8-9; 17:9,21.

When John uses the word “our” he is referring to all Christian believers, not
just Jewish believers. See 1 John 1:9 – our sins” (it was not
just the Jewish believers who were to confess their sins). See also 1 John 1:10 –
“we,” “us,” (it was not just the Jewish believers that were in danger
of saying that they had not sinned). See 1 John 2:1 – “we have an
advocate” (it was not just the Jewish Christians who had an Advocate, but all
believers). There is no reason to say that John wrote this epistle strictly to Jewish
believers. The terms “our” and “the whole world” are definitely
contrasts between believers and those who are not.

If there is any question about this, let the Bible define its own terms. One should
consider the usage of the term “world” in the book of 1 John (see 1 John 3:1;
3:13; 4:5; 4:9; 4:14; and especially 5:19). This word is certainly not used when referring
to elect Gentiles. Especially significant is the usage of this term in 1 John 5:19. John
used the expression “the whole world” in only two places: in 1 John 2:2 and
5:19. In 1 John 5:19 we read this: “And we [Christians] know that we
[Christians] are of God, and THE WHOLE WORLD [non-Christians] lieth
in
wickedness
[in the wicked one].” This is the same meaning that the expression
has in 1 John 2:2, though certain Calvinists are forced to deny this because of their
theology which tells them that Christ could not have paid the death penalty for any of the
non-elect.

To summarize this point, in 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 5:19 the terms that are used both
mean the same thing:

“our”   “we”

refers to Christians, those to
whom John was writing (including both Jewish and Gentile believers)

“whole world”

refers to all the
unbelievers who are part of Satan’s world system (this would include both the
non-elect and those unsaved who would at some later time respond to the gospel, believe on
Christ and be delivered from Satan’s world system).

 

Thus, 1 John 2:2 teaches that Christ by His death on the cross satisfied the demands of
divine justice not only for the sins of believers but for the sins of all the unbelievers
who were part of Satan’s kingdom of darkness (the majority of which were non-elect).
Thus, saved people are not a part of “the whole world.” Some who are included in
“the whole world” could eventually believe the gospel and be saved. The term
“world” here in 1 John 2:2 does not mean “all humanity” as in John
3:16. Rather, it means “all humanity” in contrast to “saved humanity.”
This is a common usage of the word “world” (see John 17:9,21 – Christ
prayed for believers, not for the world; however, some who are in the world will believe
through the Church’s testimony).

Those who deny the fact that Christ died for all (believers and unbelievers)
sometimes try to argue on the basis of a comparison between 1 John 2:2 and John 11:51-52
(see the argument in Gary Long’s book, Definite Atonement, p.95). However,
John 11:51-52 is actually a strong argument that Christ died for all men and not just for
the elect! In verse 50, the high priest Caiaphas (himself unregenerate) made mention of
one dying for the people (the Jewish people), so that the WHOLE NATION perish not!
Certainly he was thinking of all the Jewish people without exception! If the Romans were
to invade Palestine they would seek to destroy all the Jews without exception! Without
knowing it, the high priest actually gave a prophecy that Jesus should die for that nation
(verse 51). In other words, Jesus died for the whole Jewish nation! Not only did He die
for all Jews, but the death of Christ was for the sins of the whole world with the result
that God would be able to gather children from the uttermost parts of the earth. John
11:51-52 teaches that Christ died for the whole Jewish nation and 1 John 2:2 teaches that
Christ died for the whole world!


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Acceptance

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Written By Miles J Stanford

There are two questions that every believer must settle as soon as possible. The one is, Does God fully accept me? and the second, If so, upon what basis does He do so? This is crucial. What devastation often permeates the life of one, young or old, rich or poor, saved or unsaved, who is not sure of being accepted, even on the human level.

Yet so many believers, whether “strugglers” or “vegetators,” move through life without this precious fact to rest and build on: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:5, 6).

Every believer is accepted by the Father, in Christ. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). The peace is God’s toward us, through His beloved Son—on this our peace is to be based. God is able to be at peace with us through our Lord Jesus Christ, “having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20). And we must never forget that His peace is founded solely on the work of the cross, totally apart from anything whatsoever in or from us, since “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Our faith becomes a fixed attitude once it begins to rest in this wonderful fact. Then it can be, if necessary, “disallowed [rejected] indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious” (I Pet. 2:4). This is the steadying influence most believers are in need of today. A century ago J.B. Stoney wrote: “The blessed God never alters nor diverges from the acceptance in which He has received us because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Alas! we diverge from the state in which God can ever be toward us as recorded in Romans 5:1–11. Many suppose that because they are conscious of sins, hence they must renew their acceptance with God.

“The truth is that God has not altered. His eye rests on the work accomplished by Christ for the believer. When you are not walking in the Spirit you are in the flesh: you have turned to the old man which was crucified on the cross (Rom. 6:6). You have to be restored to fellowship, and when you are, you find your acceptance with God unchanged and unchangeable. When sins are introduced there is a fear that God has changed. He has not changed, but you have. You are not walking in the Spirit but in the flesh. You have to judge yourself in order to be restored. ‘For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’ (Matt. 26:28). But if your sins are not met there, where can they be met? ‘Now where remission of [sin] is, there is no more offering for sin’ (Heb. 10:18). God has effected the reconciliation; He always remains true to it. Alas! We diverge from it; and the tendency is to suppose that the blessed God has altered toward us. He certainly will judge the flesh if we do not, but He never departs from the love which He has expressed to the prodigal, and we find that when the cloud, which walking in the flesh produced, has passed away, His love, blessed be His Name, had never changed.”

God’s basis must be our basis for acceptance. There is no other. We are “accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6) Our Father is fully satisfied with His beloved Son on our behalf, and there is no reason for us not to be. Our satisfaction can only spring from and rest in His satisfaction. It is from God to us, not from us to God. J. N. Darby was very clear on this: “When the Holy Spirit reasons with man, He does not reason from what man is for God, but from what God is to man. Souls reason from what they are in themselves as to whether God can accept them. He cannot accept you thus; you are looking for righteousness in yourself as a ground of acceptance with Him. You cannot get peace whilst reasoning in that way.

“The Holy Spirit always reasons down from what God is, and this produces a total change in my soul. It is not that I abhor my sins; indeed I may have been walking very well; but it is ‘I abhor myself.’ This is how the Holy Spirit reasons; He shows us what we are, and that is one reason why He often seems to be very hard and does not give peace to the soul, as we are not relieved until we experientially, from our hearts, acknowledge what we are.

“Until the soul comes to that point He does not give it peace—He could not; it would be healing the wound slightly. The soul has to go on until it finds there is nothing to rest on but the abstract goodness of God; and then, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (Rom. 8:31).”

Sadly today, most believers actually reason just the opposite—from themselves to God. When all is going well and God seems to be blessing, then it is that they feel He loves and accepts them. But when they are stumbling and everything seems dry and hard, then they feel that He does not love and accept them. How can this be? There is nothing about us to commend us to God, our acceptance being in Christ, plus the fact that most of our true spiritual development comes through the dry and hard times. Thank God, He has accepted us in His Son, and upon this fact we must rest our faith. As in justification, our acceptance is by grace alone. In his classic, Romans, Verse by Verse, Wm. R. Newell presents some penetrating thoughts regarding this grace. (pp. 245-47).

“There being no cause in the creature why Grace should be shown, the creature must be brought off from trying to give cause to God for His Grace… He has been accepted in Christ, who is his standing! He is not ‘on probation.’ As to his life past, it does not exist before God: he died at the cross, and Christ is his Life. Grace, once bestowed, is not withdrawn: for God knew all the human exigencies beforehand: His action was independent of them, not dependent upon them…

“The Proper Attitude of Man Under Grace:

“To believe, and to consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret.
“To refuse to make ‘resolutions’ and ‘vows’; for that is to trust in the flesh.
“To expect to be blessed, though realizing more and more lack of worth…
“To rely on God’s chastening [child training] hand as a mark of His kindness…

“Things Which Gracious Souls Discover:

“To ‘hope to be better’ [hence acceptable] is to fail to see yourself in Christ only.
“To be disappointed with yourself, is to have believed in yourself.
“To be discouraged is unbelief,—as to God’s purpose and plan of blessing for you.
“To be proud, is to be blind! For we have no standing before God, in ourselves.
“The lack of Divine blessing, therefore, comes from unbelief, and not from failure of devotion…
“To preach devotion first, and blessing second, is to reverse God’s order, and preach law, not grace. The Law made man’s blessing depend on devotion; Grace confers undeserved, unconditional blessing: our devotion may follow, but does not always do so,—in proper measure.”

Have we been afraid to really believe God? Have some even been afraid to allow others to really believe Him? We must never forget that “God’s ways are not always man’s ways. To some men constant peril is the only spur to action, and many religions and psychologies are dependent on fear to keep their disciples in line. Fear, too, has a place in Christianity, but God has higher and more effective motivations than fear, and one of these is love. Often fear after a while produces only numbness, but love thrives on love. To promise a man the certainty of his destiny may seem, on the human level, like playing with fire; but this leaves God out of the picture. Those who have the deepest appreciation of grace do not continue in sin. Moreover, fear produces the obedience of slaves; love engenders the obedience of sons” (J. W. Sanderson, Jr.).

“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (I Cor. 14:8). Until the Christian is absolutely and scripturally sure of his standing, he is not going to do much standing. “Stand therefore” (Eph. 6:14).

“Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work” (II Thess. 2:16, 17).

Answers to the Theological Test

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http://carm.org/answers-theological-test

  1. How many gods are there in the universe? A. One
    The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one God in existence, anywhere, any time, any place.
    •Isaiah 44:6 and 8 say, “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. . . 8Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”
    •See also, Isaiah 45:6; 14, 18, 21, 22.
  2. The Trinity is . . . C. One God in three persons
    God is a trinity. God is three simultaneous persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Though there is no single verse that establishes the trinity, it is derived from many.
    •There is only one God. Yet, the Father is called God (Phil. 1:2); Jesus is called God (John 1:1, 14; 8:58; Heb. 1:8); and the Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3-4).
    •See also trinity.

  3. Jesus is. . . A. God in flesh
    Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. He became a man in order to die on the cross.
    •Col. 2:9, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
    •John 1:1, 14, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. . . And the word became flesh and dwelt among us. . .”
    •See also, Heb. 1:8; Phil. 2;5-8; John 8:58 with Exodus 3:14; Zech. 12:10.

  4. How many natures does Jesus have? B. Two
    Jesus has two natures. He is both God and man.
    •Col. 2:9 “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
    •See also Phil. 2:5-8; John 8:58 with Exodus 3:14; Heb. 1:8 and Jesus’ Two Natures

  5. The Holy Spirit is . . . C. The third person in the Trinity
    The Holy Spirit is a person like the Father and the Son. He is not like a force or invisible like radar. He is not merely an energy presence. He is, like the Father and the Son, God.
    •Acts 5:3-4″But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.”
    •See also the Holy Spirit

  6. Sin is . . . D. Breaking God’s law
    God has revealed His character and will in the Law. To sin is to offend God; it is to break His law.
    •1 John 3:4, Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
    •See also Rom. 3:20; 4:15; 7:7-13; James 2:9; 1 John 5:17;

  7. Human nature is basically . . . B. Sinful
    The Bible reveals that we are sinners. Because Adam fell, we fell with him. We inherited his sinful nature. All of what we are, body, soul, spirit, mind, emotions, etc. is touched by sin.
    •According to God’s word, the sinner (the unsaved), cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14); is full of evil (Mark 7:21-23); does not seek for God (Rom. 3:11); is lawless, rebellious, unholy, and profane (1 Tim. 1:9), etc.

  8. In what manner did Jesus rise from the dead? B. In the same body he died in.
    Jesus rose from the dead in the same body that he died in. It retained His scars. Though His body was resurrected and glorified, it was the same body.
    •John 2:19-21, “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ 20 The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.”
    •Luke 24:39, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

  9. Hell is . . . C. A place of eternal fire and torment
    Many think hell is a state of mind, right here on earth, or that it simply doesn’t exist. It does. The Bible tells us about it.
    •Mark 9:43, ” 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.”
    •Rev. 14:11, “And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.”

•See also Luke 16:19-31; 2 Pet. 2:4; Matt. 22:13; Jude 6, 23; Rev. 21:8.

  1. Heaven is . . . C. A place of eternal joy and peace with God.
    Heaven is the dwelling place of God and of those who are saved through Jesus.
    •Psalm 20:6, “Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.”
    •John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. “
    •See also Psalm 102:19; 123:1; Matt. 5:34; 2 Cor. 12:3,4
  • Salvation is . . . D. Deliverance from the eternal consequence of sin: Damnation
    Salvation is the act where God, through the atonement of Jesus, forgives a person of his sins. He is justified before God and saved from damnation.
    •Rom. 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
    •Rom. 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
    •See also, Matt. 1:21; Heb. 2:14, 15; Rom. 5:9; John 3:17.

  • Salvation is attained by. . . B. Grace through faith
    Forgiveness of sins is not conditioned by anything that we do, but it is all a gift of God’s grace through faith
    •Eph. 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
    •Rom. 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
    •See also, John 3:14-18.

  • The Devil is . . . D. An angel who rebelled against God
    The devil, also called Satan, was an angel who lifted himself in pride and rebelled against God. He is evil, wicked, a deceiver, and powerful.
    •2 Cor. 11:14, “. . . Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light . . .”
    •John 8:44, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
    •See also, Isaiah 14:12-20; Ezekiel 28:14-19

  • The Bible is . . . A. The inspired word of God.
    The Bible is authored by God, through men. They were inspired. The original documents were without error or contradiction.
    •2 Tim. 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. . . “
    •See also, Rev. 22:19; Acts 17:11; and The Bible Page

  • The Rapture is . . . C. The catching up of God’s people into the sky.
    It may sound odd. But the rapture is when Jesus returns to gather His people. Those who are alive when this happens will not see death, but will be changed.
    •1 Thess. 4:16-17, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
    •See also, 1 Cor. 15:51-53.

  • Adam and Eve . . . A. Were the first man and woman created by God
    They were created by God, lived in the Garden of Eden, are our ancient parents.
    •Gen. 2:21 – 22, “So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”
    •See also, Gen. 1:26,27; Gen. 2:7; Rom. 5:12-14

  • How many ways are there to God? A. Just one. Through Jesus
    Unlike other men who have existed, Jesus was God in flesh. He said He was the only way to God. there are no other ways other than Jesus.
    •John 14:6, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
    •John 10:1, “”I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.”
    •See also, Acts 4:12; Titus 3:5.

  • When you die . . . B. You go to heaven or hell
    Death brings us face to face with eternity. For those in Christ, heaven is the destiny. For those who reject Him, eternal damnation is the result.
    •Phil. 1:21-23, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”
    •2 Cor. 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
    •See also, Isaiah 59:2; 2 Thess. 1:9; Gen. 3:19; 1 Cor. 13:12

  • Evolution . . . B. Is not a viable option for Christians
    Evolution is not the fact it is told to be. It is not consistent with the Bible. God created man; man did not evolve.
    •Gen. 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’”
    •Heb. 11:3, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”
    •See also, Col. 1:16,17; Psalm 104:30; Gen. 1-2; and The Evolution Page.

  • Why did God create us? C. To save us, love us, and have us love Him.
    God’s creation and our salvation were not just so we could live with Him. God desires fellowship and intimacy in a loving relationship with His people.
    •1 John 1:3, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
    •Rev. 21:3, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’”
    •See also, John 10:27-28; John 3:16; Phil. 2:1,2.

  • How did you do? Do you need to study more? Maybe you learned something here, or maybe even you disagree with something. If so, e-mail me and let me know.

    As I mentioned at the beginning of this test, there are some essential doctrines that if you deny them, you are not a Christian. It is one thing to make a mistake, learn, and accept them. That is alright. It is quite another to refuse to believe them.
    What are the essentials? Easy. The Bible tells us what they are. They are test questions number 3, 8, and 12.
    •3) Jesus is God in flesh;
    •8) Jesus rose from the dead in the same body he died in; and
    •12) Salvation, or the forgiveness of sins, is by grace through faith. You cannot add anything to Jesus’ finished work.

    There are many extremely important doctrines in the Bible: the Trinity, resurrection, forgiveness, the virgin birth, etc. But the Bible itself declares that these three are essential. If you deny any one of the three, then you are not a Christian.

    If you would like to know more about these essentials, then please see The Essential Doctrines of Christianity

    Remember the words of Paul to Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

    The Universal Need for the Gospel

    2012 Family 300

    Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
    Rom 1:2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
    Rom 1:3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
    Rom 1:4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
    Rom 1:5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
    Rom 1:6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:
    Rom 1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
    Rom 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
    Rom 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
    Rom 1:10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
    Rom 1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
    Rom 1:12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
    Rom 1:13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
    Rom 1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
    Rom 1:15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
    Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
    Rom 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
    Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
    Rom 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
    Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
    Rom 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
    Rom 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
    Rom 1:23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
    Rom 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
    Rom 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
    Rom 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
    Rom 1:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
    Rom 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
    Rom 1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
    Rom 1:30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
    Rom 1:31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
    Rom 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

    From the BBC Commentary
    Romans 1:18-32
    C. The Universal Need for the Gospel (1:18-3:20)
    1:18 Here we have the answer to the question “Why do men need the gospel?” The answer is that they are lost without it, and that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against the wickedness of men who suppress the truth in an unrighteous manner and by their unrighteous lives. But how is God’s wrath revealed? One answer is given in the context. God gives men over to uncleanness (1:24), to vile affections (1:26), and to a reprobate mind (1:28). But it is also true that God occasionally breaks through into human history to show His extreme displeasure at man’s sin—for example, the flood (Gen. 7); the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19); and the punishment of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Num_16:32).
    1:19 “Are the heathen who have never heard the gospel lost?” Paul shows that they are, not because of knowledge they don’t have, but because of the light which they do have, yet refuse! Those things which may be known of God in creation have been revealed to them. God has not left them without a revelation of Himself.
    1:20 Ever since the creation of the world, two invisible characteristics of God have been on display for all to see: His eternal power and His divinity or Godhead. The word Paul uses here means divinity or godhood. It suggests the character of God rather than His essential being, His glorious attributes rather than His inherent deity. His deity is assumed.
    The argument here is clear: Creation demands a Creator. Design demands a Designer. By looking up at the sun, moon, and stars, anyone can know there is a God.
    The answer to the question “What about the heathen?” is this: they are without excuse. God has revealed Himself to them in creation, but they have not responded to this revelation. So people are not condemned for rejecting a Savior they have never heard of, but for being unfaithful to what they could know about God.
    1:21 Although they knew God by His works, they did not glorify Him for who He is or thank Him for all He has done. Rather, they gave themselves over to futile philosophies and speculations about other gods, and as a result lost the capacity to see and think clearly. “Light rejected is light denied.” Those who don’t want to see lose the capacity to see.
    1:22 As men grew more conceited over their self-styled knowledge, they plunged deeper into ignorance and nonsense. These two things always characterize those who reject the knowledge of God—they become insufferably conceited and abysmally ignorant at the same time.
    1:23 Instead of evolving from lower forms, “early man” was of a high moral order. By refusing to acknowledge the true, infinite, incorruptible God, he devolved to the stupidity and depravity that go with idol worship. This whole passage gives the lie to evolution.
    Man is instinctively religious. He must have some object to worship. When he refused to worship the living God, he made his own gods of wood and stone representing man, birds, animals, and creeping things, or reptiles. Notice the downward progression—man, birds, animals, creeping things. And remember that man becomes like what he worships. As his concept of deity degenerates, his morals degenerate also. If his god is a reptile, then he feels free to live as he pleases. Remember too that a worshiper generally considers himself inferior to the object of worship. Created in the image and after the likeness of God, man here takes a place lower than that of serpents!
    When man worships idols, he worships demons. Paul states clearly that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice to idols they sacrifice to demons and not to God (1Co_10:20).
    1:24 Three times it is said that God gave man up. He gave them up to uncleanness (1:24), to vile passions (1:26), and to a reprobate mind (1:28). In other words, God’s wrath was directed against man’s entire personality.
    In response to the evil lusts of their hearts, God abandoned them to heterosexual uncleanness—adultery, fornication, lewdness, prostitution, harlotry, etc. Life became for them a round of sex orgies in which to dishonor their bodies among themselves.
    1:25 This abandonment by God was because they first abandoned the truth about Him for the lie of idolatry. An idol is a lie, a false representation of God. An idolater worships the image of a creature, and thus insults and dishonors the Creator, who is eternally worthy of honor and glory, not of insult.
    1:26 For this same reason God gave people up to erotic activity with members of their own sex. Women became lesbians, practicing unnatural sex and knowing no shame.
    1:27 Men became sodomites, in total perversion of their natural functions. Turning away from the marriage relationship ordained by God, they burned with lust for other men and practiced homosexuality. But their sin took its toll in their bodies and souls. Disease, guilt, and personality deformities struck at them like the sting of a scorpion. This disproves the notion that anyone can commit this sin and get away with it.
    Homosexuality is being passed off today by some as a sickness and by others as a legitimate alternative lifestyle. Christians must be careful not to accept the world’s moral judgments but to be guided by God’s word. In the OT, this sin was punishable by death (Lev_18:29; Lev_20:13), and here in the NT those who practice it are said to be worthy of death (Rom_1:32). The Bible speaks of homosexuality as a very serious sin, as evidenced by God’s obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah, where militant “gays” ran riot (Gen_19:4-25).
    The gospel offers pardon and forgiveness to homosexuals, as it does to all sinners who repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians who have fallen into this heinous sin can find forgiveness and restoration through confessing and forsaking the sin. There is complete deliverance from homosexuality to all who are willing to obey God’s word. Ongoing counseling assistance is very important in most cases.
    It is true that some people seem to have a natural tendency toward homosexuality. This should not be surprising, since fallen human nature is capable of just about any form of iniquity and perversion. The gross sin does not consist in the inclination toward it but in yielding to and practicing it. The Holy Spirit gives the power to resist the temptation and to have lasting victory (1Co_10:13). Some of the Christians in Corinth were living proofs that homosexuals need not be irrevocably bound to that lifestyle (1Co_6:9-11).
    1:28 Because of men’s refusal to retain God in their knowledge, either as Creator, Sustainer, or Deliverer, God gave them over to a debased mind to commit a catalog of other forms of wickedness. This verse gives deep insight into why evolution has such enormous appeal for natural men. The reason lies not in their intellects but in their wills. They do not want to retain God in their knowledge. It is not that the evidence for evolution is so overwhelming that they are compelled to accept it; rather, it is because they want some explanation for origins that will eliminate God completely. They know that if there is a God, then they are morally responsible to Him.
    1:29 Here, then, is the dark list of additional sins which characterize man in his alienation from God. Notice that he is full of them, not just an occasional dabbler in them. He is trained in sins which are not fitting for a human being: unrighteousness (injustice); sexual immorality (fornication, adultery, and other forms of illicit sex); wickedness (active evil); covetousness (greed, the incessant desire for more); maliciousness (the desire for harm on others; venomous hatred); full of envy (jealousy of others); full of murder (premeditated and unlawful killing of another, either in anger or in the commission of some other crime); full of strife (wrangling, quarreling, contentiousness); full of deceit (trickery, treachery, intrigue); full of evil-mind edness (ill-will, spite, hostility, bitterness); whisperers (secret slanderers, gossips);
    1:30 backbiters (open slanderers, those who bad-mouth others); haters of God (or hateful to God); violent (despiteful, insulting); proud (haughty, arrogant); boasters (braggarts, self-paraders); inventors of evil things (devisers of mischief and new forms of wickedness); disobedient to parents (rebellious to parental authority);
    1:31 undiscerning (lacking moral and spiritual discernment, without conscience); untrustworthy (breaking promises, treaties, agreements, and contracts whenever it serves their purposes); unloving (acting in total disregard of natural ties and the obligations that go with them); unforgiving (irreconcilable or implacable); unmerciful (cruel, vindictive, without pity).
    1:32 Those who abuse sex (1:24), who pervert sex (1:26, 27), and who practice the other sins listed (1:29-31) have an innate knowledge not only that these things are wrong but also that they themselves are deserving of death. They know this is God’s verdict, however much they seek to rationalize or legalize these sins. But this does not deter them from indulging in these forms of ungodliness. In fact they unite with others to promote them, and feel a sense of camaraderie with their partners-in-sin.

    EXCURSUS ON THE UNREACHED HEATHEN
    What then, is God’s answer to the question “Are the heathen who have never heard the gospel lost?” The condemnation of the heathen is that they did not live up to the light which God gave them in creation. Instead they become idolaters, and as a result abandoned themselves to lives of depravity and vileness.
    But suppose an individual heathen does live up to the light God gives him. Suppose he burns his idols and seeks the true God. What then?
    There are two schools of thought among evangelical believers on this subject.
    Some believe that if a pagan lives up to the light of God in creation, God will send him the gospel light. Cornelius is cited as an example. He sought God. His prayers and alms came up as a memorial before God. Then God sent Peter to tell him how to be saved (Act_11:14).
    Others believe that if a man trusts the one true and living God as He is revealed in creation, but dies before he hears the gospel, God will save him on the basis of the work of Christ at Calvary. Though the man himself knew nothing about the work of Christ, God reckons the value of that work to his account when he trusts God on the basis of the light he has received. Those who hold this view point out that this is how God saved people before Calvary and how He still saves morons, imbeciles, and also children who die before they reach the age of accountability. Romans 2
    The first view can be supported by the case of Cornelius. The second view lacks scriptural support for the era following the death and resurrection of Christ (our present era), and it also weakens the necessity for aggressive missionary activity.
    Paul has shown that the pagans are lost and need the gospel. Now he turns to a second class of people, whose exact identity is somewhat in dispute. We believe that the apostle is talking here to self-righteous moralists, whether Jews or Gentiles. The first verse shows that they are self-righteous moralists by the way they condemn the behavior of others (yet commit the same sins themselves). Verses 9, 10, 12, 14, and 15 show that Paul is speaking to both Jews and Gentiles. So the question before the court is: Are the self-righteous moralists, whether Jews or Gentiles, also lost? And the answer, as we shall see, is, “Yes, they are lost too!”