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Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 11:2b-6

2b Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

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Last week’s entry discussed Paul’s mention of Isaiah’s disappointment in the disobedient and stubborn Jews of his time.

In Romans 11, he changes tack, introducing his audience of Jewish converts to the fact that there is a remnant who will become faithful to Jesus Christ.

In order to do so, he takes them back to Elijah’s time, when the vast majority of God’s people were worshipping Baal under the wicked Ahab and Jezebel. It was so bad that Elijah felt he was the only faithful Jew left. In fear of his life, he fled to the desert. There he prayed (verse 2).

Paul cites the relevant Scripture passage describing that episode (verse 3), 1 Kings 19:10:

10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Paul reminds the Jews that, even in the worst times of their wickedness, there was always a faithful remnant (verse 4). God told Elijah that He had a remnant of 7,000 Jews who had not succumbed to idolatry, 1 Kings 19:18:

18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Elijah did not know that because the idolatry was so rampant.

Matthew Henry says:

Now the description of this remnant is that they had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal, which was then the reigning sin of Israel. In court, city, and country, Baal had the ascendant; and the generality of people, more or less, paid their respect to Baal.

Paul tells his audience that there was a similar remnant of faithful in his and the Romans’ own era, ‘chosen by grace’ (verse 5). That means God knew from the beginning of time who would be among the elect and His remnant in every generation.

Henry explains (emphases mine):

This is called a remnant according to the election of grace; they are such as were chosen from eternity in the counsels of divine love to be vessels of grace and glory. Whom he did predestinate those he called. If the difference between them and others be made purely by the grace of God, as certainly it is (I have reserved them, saith he, to myself), then it must needs be according to the election; for we are sure that whatever God does he does it according to the counsel of his own will.

Paul then tells the Romans that because the remnant’s election is by grace — a free gift from God — it is not an election by works, i.e. according to Mosaic law. If it were election by works, then grace could not be a part of that election (verse 6).

Henry has more:

Now concerning this remnant we may observe, First, Whence it takes its rise, from the free grace of God (Romans 11:6), that grace which excludes works. The eternal election, in which the difference between some and others is first founded, is purely of grace, free grace; not for the sake of works done or foreseen; if so, it would not be graceElection is purely according to the good pleasure of his will, Ephesians 1:5. Paul’s heart was so full of the freeness of God’s grace that in the midst of his discourse he turns aside, as it were, to make this remark, If of grace, then not of works. And some observe that faith itself, which in the matter of justification if opposed to works, is here included in them; for faith has a peculiar fitness to receive the free grace of God for our justification, but not to receive that grace for our election. Secondly, What it obtains: that which Israel, that is, the body of that people, in van sought for (Romans 11:7): Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, that is, justification, and acceptance with God (see Romans 9:31), but the election have obtained it. In them the promise of God has its accomplishment, and God’s ancient kindness for that people is remembered. He calls the remnant of believers, not the elect, but the election, to show that the sole foundation of all their hopes and happiness is laid in election. They were the persons whom God had in his eye in the counsels of his love; they are the election; they are God’s choice. Such was the favour of God to the chosen remnant.

John MacArthur summarises the remnants throughout the Bible:

In Elijah’s time there were seven thousand in the remnant. In Isaiah’s time there was a very small remnant. Do you remember chapter 6? God says to Isaiah, “You go out and preach the message and know this, that their ears will be fat, their eyes will be blind, their minds will not understand but you preach anyway till all the cities are laid waste, until there’s no inhabitants in the land. Because when it’s all said and done you’ll find a tenth and they’ll be a godly seed.” There’s always a godly seed. In Elijah’s time it was a remnant. In Isaiah’s time it was remnant. In the captivity, when they were in Babylon, there was a small remnant. The remnant was people like Daniel, like Ezekiel, like Shadrach, like Meshach, like Abednego, like Mordecai, like Esther, they were part of the remnant in captivity, while the rest of the people were rejecting the truth of God. And when they returned to the land, a remnant returned under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. In Malachi’s time, there was a remnant and that remnant sought to have their names written in God’s book of remembrance, Malachi 3:16 says, “And the Lord had their names written there and He said, I will punish this whole nation for their apostasy but I have your names written in my book of remembrance.” And He said, “They shall be Mine in the day that I make up My jewels.” God had His remnant in Malachi’s time.

And when Jesus came, the whole nation of Israel was apostate, but He had His remnant. And His remnant was John the Baptist and his followers. And His remnant was Anna. And His remnant was Simeon, and those who looked for the redemption of Jerusalem. There was always a remnant. And in Paul’s time, look at verse 5, “Even so then at this present time there is a remnant, according to the election of grace.” Even in the time of Paul the whole of Israel hadn’t rejected. There was a remnant. I mean, there were the apostles. And there was the church at Jerusalem. Three thousand people converted at the day of Pentecost, thousands and thousands more in [Acts] chapters 4 and 5, you’re up to twenty thousand, by the time you get to chapter 8 they fill Jerusalem with their teaching.

There are more and more Jews being converted, there was a remnant of tens of thousands of them, no doubt, by the time the apostle Paul penned the epistle to the Romans. There was even then a remnant of believing Jews, according to the election of grace. The church at Jerusalem was growing under the leadership of James. They even founded a church in Antioch. And then that church sent out apostles, Paul and Barnabas to found churches all around the world. And in any city they went to, where did they go first? To the what? To the Jewish synagogue. And Jews were being saved all around. So there was a remnant according to the election of God’s grace.

There will always be a remnant, today and in future:

If you’re a Christian, beloved, it’s because God chose you before the foundation of the world and it was made manifest in your lifetime. The remnant is elected by grace, it is all of God’s sovereign love, all of God’s sovereign will, has nothing to do with human performance and that’s what Paul is saying. God has elected His remnant. God has chosen His remnant in every time period.

Chapter 9 verse 11, it says there, “According to the purpose of God, according to election.” It’s the same concept back in chapter 9 verse 11. So, there is a remnant. The salvation of the remnant, like the salvation of everyone else, is wholly based on God’s free gift of sovereign grace. Now listen, God chose a nation graciously, sovereignly. He determined by His own will to love that nation. Therefore in every period of time out of that nation He determines to love a remnant of people. Now may I add, so that you’re not confused, that that choosing is not without the response of faith, but it is initiated by the sovereign choice of God? All men deserve death, none of us has a right to be saved, no Jew has a right to claim salvation, but God graciously grants it.

So the first six verses add up to the reality then that God is not finished with the Jews. He [ha]s not cast off the nation of Israel, as Paul’s conversion proves, verse 1; and as the remnant proves, verse 2 through 6. There always will be a faithful group. There always will be a believing remnant to fulfill the Word of God. So very, very important.

As I write, many churches are succumbing to politics rather than pursuing holiness. Many of us feel as if we are alone in wanting to hear more about the Bible from our clergy in these troubled times.

Matthew Henry has these wise words of advice:

Note, First, Things are often much better with the church of God than wise and good men think they are. They are ready to conclude hardly, and to give up all for gone, when it is not so. Secondly, In times of general apostasy, there is usually a remnant that keep their integrity–some, though but a few; all do not go one way. Thirdly, That when there is a remnant who keep their integrity in times of general apostasy it is God that reserves to himself that remnantThe best evidence of integrity is a freedom from the present prevailing corruptions of the times and places that we live in, to swim against the stream when it is strong. Those God will own for his faithful witnesses that are bold in bearing their testimony to the present truth, 2 Peter 1:12. This is thank-worthy, not to bow to Baal when every body bows. Sober singularity is commonly the badge of true sincerity.

Churches are reopening this weekend in England. If our established church is any bellwether, many sermons will probably be about identity politics and social justice rather than this Sunday’s readings. If so, more’s the pity, as the Gospel reading is particularly pertinent during our health and social crises.

In closing, if you feel alone spiritually during this time, be assured that there are many others who feel the same way. Together, I pray that we are the remnant.

Next time — Romans 11:7-10

Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 7:1-3

Released from the Law

Or do you not know, brothers[a]—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.[b] Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

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Last week’s post discussed the last two verses of Romans 5; God’s law makes us aware of our wretched sinfulness, but, thanks to Christ’s death and resurrection, believers have the promise of eternal life.

Most of the first Christians in Rome had been Jews, therefore, Paul wrote Romans in a Jewish context. The law was still very important to them. However, Paul wanted them to see that, outside of the moral law in the Ten Commandments, it was obsolete with Christ’s death and resurrection.

Throughout the Old Testament, we read numerous references to the law and how it must be obeyed. With the New Covenant that Christ initiated, however, we have the gift of grace and justification by faith through that grace.

Paul wanted his audience to understand that obeying the old Mosaic laws could not bring salvation. He began explaining that in Romans 6. John MacArthur recaps Paul’s thinking for us (emphases mine):

[Romans] 6:14. “For sin shall not have dominion over you.” And here is an absolutely shocking statement to a Jew who all his or her lifelong had been committed to the law. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Now a statement like that has to be defended. It just has to be defended. There’s no way that Paul can make that statement in 6:14 and then walk away from it and write the rest of this epistle. It’s going to leave such a massive block in their minds, he has to deal with what he just said. We are not under the law.

Now would you notice there are two basic statements in verse 14? “For sin shall not have dominion over you.” That’s the first statement. Now listen carefully. He explained the meaning of that statement in 6:15-23. That is an exposition of that statement. The second statement, “for you are not under the law, but under grace,” he explains in chapter 7. He makes those two statements, explains one, and then the other because he cannot leave them unexplained. For those who have such a high and sacred view of the law will be devastated by his statement and they will jettison all of his theology when he says “you are not under the law.” They have all their lifetime lived under the law. It’s all they’ve known. So he must explain it. And I believe he does it in chapter 7.

So now you understand the rationale for chapter 7. Against a background of such affirmation of God’s law, there must be some explanation about what it means to say we are not under the law. It seems that men have been under the law for a long time, how has that and why has that changed?

Now let me give you an overview before we go specifically into chapter 7. And I’m hurrying as rapidly as I can. Remember the context of all of this. The major theme of Romans is justification by faith. In other words, you’re saved not by keeping the law but by believing, right? Through grace. Now we have started with justification by faith in chapter 3. The first couple of chapters showed us how sinful we are. We hit 3:21 and we get into justification by faith, and it runs all the way to the end of chapter 8. Chapter 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, all justification by faith. That’s the theme of all of those. And then in 9 to 11, he applies it to Israel, and then in 12 to the end he shows how it works out in living. But the main theme is justification by faith.

Having presented the doctrine itself in chapters 3 and 4, he then is presenting the fruit of that doctrine. And the first one was chapter 5, and in chapter 5 we learned that the first fruit of justification was security. We have peace with God. That’s settled. Security.

The second fruit of which he speaks in chapter 6 is holiness. We have union with Christ in chapter 6, and now His holiness is imparted to us. So the fruit of justification: First security, second holiness. Now we come to chapter 7 and the third fruit is liberty. Liberty. We are free from the law. Marvelous. And we’re going to see even more fruit of justification. But the point that we’ve been trying to stress since we got into this thing in chapter 3 is that salvation has tremendous effect. You cannot claim to be a Christian without a demonstrable effect in your life. Salvation transforms people.

That’s the essence of what Paul is spending chapter after chapter to tell us. We have in chapter 5 peace with God. We have in chapter 6 union with Christ. We have in chapter 7 freedom from the law. All of that is the fruit of salvation. And that all really answers the rather silly question in 6:1, doesn’t it? “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” You see, that’s what the critic would say. Your doctrine of justification by faith through grace means that you can just sin all you want and every time you sin God has grace so your doctrine leads to unrighteous living.

In other words, the legalist says, “Boy, we keep people toeing the mark here. We’ve got all the rules. When you come along and say, ‘You’re not saved by the law. The law can’t save you. You can’t keep the law. You’re saved by grace through faith.’ You’re just turning people loose and they’re going to run amuck.” And so they accuse him of the doctrine that leads to sin. And he says quite the opposite. True salvation leads to holiness, right? That’s what we saw in chapter 6. It doesn’t lead to license. It leads to the very opposite of license. It leads to holiness, chapter 6. Chapter 7, it leads to freedom from the law.

Paul begins by saying that the law applies only to living persons (verse 1). Once we die, we are no longer bound to law.

In order to begin his explanation, he writes of marriage. A wife must remain with her husband as long as he lives, but, if he dies, she is no longer bound by law to him (verse 2).

If a wife is still married to her husband, who is alive, and lives with another man, then she becomes an adulteress. However, if her husband dies, she, as a widow, may remarry (verse 3).

Paul is saying that, under the Old Covenant, God’s people were married to the law. They had nothing else. Under the New Covenant, though, things changed. Now their bond — an eternal one — is with Jesus Christ.

We speak of the Church, of which we are a part, as Christ’s bride.

MacArthur explains:

Salvation is a complete change of relationship. You no longer have the first husband you had. You no longer are under the bondage of the law. You’re now married to Jesus Christ.

It’s a beautiful picture, isn’t it? We see it in Ephesians 5 where the church is seen as the bride and He is the bridegroom. We see it in 2 Corinthians chapter 11 where we are an espoused wife having a marriage consummated to Christ in glory in the future. So we are called to be married to another and it tells us who it is. “To Him who is raised from the dead.” Notice it says “is raised,” not “was raised”? Who is – in other words, it’s emphasizing His present life. We are not only identified in union with a dead Savior in the past, but we are one with a living Savior in the present. It’s a great truth.

There’s one good thought. I would just draw you back to 6:9 for a moment, I’ll tie this in. Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies – what? – no more. Will Christ ever die again? Will He? Then will we ever lose our husband? Never. That’s a great word about the security of our salvation. That’s a great word about the security of our marriage bond with Christ. Our husband will never die. He will never die. And so we will ever be secure in Him.

And so, we died in Christ by the mysterious miracle of our union with Him, by grace through faith. And we rise to walk in newness of life. And again I say, folks – and this is the salient element of all of this teaching – salvation is a total transformation. We are given security, chapter 5. In us is produced holiness, chapter 6. And liberty from the law, chapter 7. We are free from a works righteousness, from trying to earn our salvation. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the key.

As Eastertide is coming to a close with Pentecost next week, this is well worth contemplating.

More on this theme follows next week.

Next time — Romans 7:4-6

Bible and crossThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 5:20-21

20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Last week’s post discussed circumcision in Romans 4; Paul points out that it was not salvific in and of itself, although it served as a seal of the covenant that God made with the Jews.

In Romans 5, Paul tells us that faith through divine grace brings us peace with God, made possible by Christ’s one sufficient sacrifice for our sins.

He then goes on to say that, although through Adam’s Original Sin, we lived in perpetual darkness, but, that, with Christ, eternal life is open to us. Taking the chapter up at verse 15, we read (emphases mine):

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass[f] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[g] leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Why the Lectionary editors left today’s verses — the conclusion of Romans 5 — out of their readings for public worship mystifies me. They are beautiful.

In verse 20, Paul asks what the purpose of God’s law is. He answers by saying that it is to make us more aware of how disgusting and displeasing to God our sins are. That is what ‘the law came in to increase the trespass’ means. It does not mean that the law causes us to sin more but, thanks to God’s law, we recognise that we have done wrong in His eyes. Believers want to please God, even though we know we need His grace to do that. God provides us with infinite grace to enable us to do the right thing.

This means that, as powerful as sin is in leading us down the path of spiritual death, God’s grace is infinitely stronger, leading to the promise of eternal life thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ (verse 21).

Matthew Henry explains:

The greater the strength of the enemy, the greater the honour of the conqueror. This abounding of grace he illustrates, Romans 5:21. As the reign of a tyrant and oppressor is a foil to set off the succeeding reign of a just and gentle prince and to make it the more illustrious, so doth the reign of sin set off the reign of grace. Sin reigned unto death; it was a cruel bloody reign. But grace reigns to life, eternal life, and this through righteousness, righteousness imputed to us for justification, implanted in us for sanctification; and both by Jesus Christ our Lord, through the power and efficacy of Christ, the great prophet, priest, and king, of his church.

John MacArthur says:

And would you notice how the chapter ends? “By Jesus Christ our Lord.” Beloved, it’s all there, isn’t it, in Him. Would you note that that’s really the theme that’s woven through this whole chapter. Look at verse 1, and let me give you a quick 15-second tour. Verse 1, “Through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Verse 9, “Saved from wrath through Him.” Verse 10, “Reconciled to God by the death of His Son. Being reconciled be saved by His life.” Verse 11, “We have joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Verse 15, “By one man Jesus Christ.” Verse 17, “Shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” Verse 21, “By Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now do you understand why the apostle said, “Neither is there salvation in any other name, for there’s none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”

What’s the practical use of this? I’ll tell you what it is. I’m going to close with this. Listen, don’t turn off your mind now. Listen to this. Every one of us should bow before God in humiliating consciousness that we are vile sinners worthy of death. Every one of us should realize that apart from the work of Jesus Christ we would be doomed to eternity forever without God because God hates sin. But O my, where there was the reign of death, God came with His grace and overpowered that and death is overruled by life for all who believe in Jesus Christ.

May God continue to bless us with His grace.

May we never diminish what Christ did for us on the Cross.

May we always wish to live with Him forever.

Next time — Romans 7:1-3

Bible croppedThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (as cited below).

Romans 4:6-12

just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

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Last week’s post focussed on Romans 3, including these important verses:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

In Romans 4, Paul looks at the justification of Abraham, who was also circumcised — albeit some years later after God chose him to be the father of nations.

Paul’s objective was to convince the Jews that circumcision did not confer salvation or righteousness.

That means that Gentiles could also be justified via faith through grace.

Here are the first five verses of Romans 4:

Abraham Justified by Faith

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in[a] him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

Matthew Henry explains (emphases mine):

St. Paul observes in this paragraph when and why Abraham was thus justified; for he has several things to remark upon that. It was before he was circumcised, and before the giving of the law; and there was a reason for both.

I. It was before he was circumcised, Romans 4:10. His faith was counted to him for righteousness while he was in uncircumcision. It was imputed, Genesis 15:6, and he was not circumcised till Genesis 17:1-27. Abraham is expressly said to be justified by faith fourteen years, some say twenty-five years, before he was circumcised. Now this the apostle takes notice of in answer to the question (Romans 4:9), Cometh this blessedness then on the circumcision only, or on the uncircumcision also? Abraham was pardoned and accepted in uncircumcision, a circumstance which, as it might silence the fears of the poor uncircumcised Gentiles, so it might lower the pride and conceitedness of the Jews, who gloried in their circumcision, as if they had the monopoly of all happiness.

John MacArthur has more:

Paul has told us how to be right with God and he said a man is right with God not by what he does but by what he believes, by believing in Jesus Christ and His perfect work. And now it is very important that Abraham be his illustration because this that he has just taught would be unacceptable to the Jewish mind. And so he selects Abraham to make his point.

Let me give you some reasons why. First, Abraham would show the eternal truth of righteousness by grace through faith since Abraham was an Old Testament character. In other words, by using Abraham, Paul is saying this is nothing new, this is something very old. Abraham even preceded Moses. Abraham even preceded the identity of the nation Israel. Abraham really belongs in the patriarchal period, the very primitive time. He appears early on in the book of Genesis. And if Paul can establish that a man in the book of Genesis was saved by grace through faith and not of works, then he has given to us a timeless truth and nothing new at all.

Secondly, he selects Abraham because Abraham is also the supreme example of faith. Nobody in the Old Testament exercised as much or more faith than Abraham. And the New Testament even tells us that Abraham — the book of Galatians tells us — is the father of all who believe. In a very real sense, all who come to God by faith are children of Abraham, who sort of set the standard for faith by believing God in a most incredible way.

Abraham obeyed God without question. He left his extended family to go to a new land. He believed that his wife Sarah would bear a son, even when she had been barren and long past child-bearing age. He was willing to sacrifice his only son for God, although God relented in that test of faith.

Here is a bit more about Abram/Abraham from MacArthur:

Abram was his name first. It means “exalted father.” God changed his name to Abraham which means “the father of many nations,” for He had given him that promise. And it was twofold. Physically from the loins of Abraham would come multitudes of people, millions of people. The Semitic world, Arab and Jew alike, descended from Abraham. Genesis 17, the first 8 verses, talk about how God said Abraham will produce generations of people. In fact, it is said that they would be as the sand of the sea, or the stars of the heavens. He was the father of many, but not only physically, spiritually as well; for he is the father of all those who are of faith. He is the pattern established, and all others who put their faith in God follow the pattern of their father, Abraham.

Galatians makes this abundantly clear. Paul, writing in chapter 3 verse 6, says: “Even as Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness, know ye therefore that they who are of faith, the same are the sons of Abraham, and the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed, so then they who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”

So, not only did Abraham in a sense produce physical seed, but as well set the standard for spiritual production. And so, as millions follow his directive of faith, they occupy a place uniquely identified in the Scripture as children of Abraham. And that is because he is the example of justification by faith. And Paul makes that point in Romans and as I noted, he makes it in Galatians because it is so very important.

The Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have liturgical prayers that mention Abraham as being ‘our father in faith’.

In verses 6 – 8, Paul mentions David in his discourse by citing Psalm 32:1-2. It is further proof that we are justified by faith, not works. None of our works can ever measure up to righteousness, because we are always imperfect, always prone to sin. We need God’s infinite grace at all times.

MacArthur provides the background to David’s life in the context of Psalm 32. David had committed adultery by the time he wrote it:

Now, basically you have in verse 7 a sinner characterized by iniquity and sin, you have in verse 8 a sinner characterized by sin, and in both cases the Lord forgives and does not hold that sin against the person. So, we know that that didn’t happen by works because both verses define the individual as a what? As a sinner. So how can you say a sinner is blessed? Well, you can only say that if he’s been forgiven, or if the Lord does not put his sin to his account, and that is exactly the case. And it doesn’t come by works, it comes by faith. You see, the truly blessed man is the one who is forgiven of his sin. And by the way, this is a quote from Psalm 32 verses 1 and 2. And believe me, at that juncture of David’s life, he knew guilt. He had been involved in an adultery. He had been involved in what amounts to murder. He had desecrated his throne and the sanctity of his own virtue. He was a vile wretched sinner. In Psalm 51, he went through such agony and such pain. He felt as if God had abandoned him. He was under the horrible experience of guilt. He says in Psalm 32 that his life juices dried up, and that’s what happens when guilt occurs. Saliva, one of the life juices, dries up. Anxiety creates pressure in the head that restricts the flow of the blood, another of the life juices. And the lymphatic system is affected and the nervous system is affected and he began to be old before his time and he began to ache in his joints and he began to be sick. Guilt does that.

And then in the midst of all of that he experienced the goodness of God. No wonder he said twice, “Blessed is the man.” “Blessed is the man whose sins the Lord forgives.” “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute sin.” That’s the truly blessed man. He knows forgiveness. And so David supports Paul’s point. And it’s helpful for us to know that Abraham was a pre-Mosaic figure, David was a Mosaic figure. Abraham predates the clear definition of the Mosaic covenant and so we see that God redeems people pre-Mosaic by faith. David shows us that God redeems people in the Mosaic era by faith. And the New Testament carries it into our own era. Always at all times redemption is a matter of faith resulting in imputed righteousness.

Paul then asks the Jews if imputed righteousness is only for the circumcised, then, how was Abraham included when he was not circumcised yet God found him to be righteous (verses 9, 10)?

Paul answers his question by saying that Abraham’s circumcision was the ‘seal’ of his righteousness before God. Furthermore, as he was righteous in God’s eyes before his circumcision, then, He would consider other uncircumcised men to also be righteous (verse 11).

Therefore, Abraham became not only the father of the circumcised, but also of the uncircumcised who walk in his same journey of obedience in faith through grace (verse 12).

Henry says that sacraments are the seals of the covenant that has been agreed between God and man, thanks to the blood that Jesus shed on our behalf:

The tenour of the covenants must first be settled before the seal can be annexed. Sealing supposes a previous bargain, which is confirmed and ratified by that ceremony. After Abraham’s justification by faith had continued several years only a grant by parole, for the confirmation of Abraham’s faith God was pleased to appoint a sealing ordinance, and Abraham received it; though it was a bloody ordinance, yet he submitted to it, and even received it as a special favour, the sign of circumcision, &c. Now we may hence observe, (1.) The nature of sacraments in general: they are signs and seals–signs to represent and instruct, seals to ratify and confirm. They are signs of absolute grace and favour; they are seals of the conditional promises; nay, they are mutual seals: God does in the sacraments seal to us to be to us a God, and we do therein seal to him to be to him a people. (2.) The nature of circumcision in particular: it was the initiating sacrament of the Old Testament; and it is here said to be, [1.] A sign–a sign of that original corruption which we are all born with, and which is cut off by spiritual circumcision,–a commemorating sign of God’s covenant with Abraham,–a distinguishing sign between Jews and Gentiles,–a sign of admission into the visible church,–a sign prefiguring baptism, which comes in the room of circumcision, now under the gospel, when (the blood of Christ being shed) all bloody ordinances are abolished; it was an outward and sensible sign of an inward and spiritual grace signified thereby. [2.] A seal of the righteousness of the faith. In general, it was a seal of the covenant of grace, particularly of justification by faith–the covenant of grace, called the righteousness which is of faith (Romans 10:6), and it refers to an Old-Testament promise, Deuteronomy 30:12.

What does this mean in a Christian context? The grace God confers on us in the Sacraments enables us to live a holy life, which we are obliged to do in faith.

This is Henry’s caveat about the Jews of Paul’s day and ourselves as Christians:

See here who are the genuine children and lawful successors of those that were the church’s fathers: not those that sit in their chairs, and bear their names, but those that tread in their steps; this is the line of succession, which holds, notwithstanding interruptions. It seems, then, those were most loud and forward to call Abraham father that had least title to the honours and privileges of his children. Thus those have most reason to call Christ Father, not that bear his name in being Christians in profession, but that tread in his steps.

The sacraments and holy ordinances impart grace, although they are not salvific in and of themselves, as MacArthur explains:

Listen very carefully. Many people today are basing their salvation from eternal hellfire on some infant baptism, or some confirmation, or some adult baptism, or some communion involvement, or some religious rite and ceremony. There are many people who call themselves Christians in our society who even would call themselves evangelical, who actually believe that their children are secured eternally for the covenant by infant baptism. And many are hoping in their religious rites, and though they be not circumcision they be basically the same perspective. They parallel …

So, Paul is dealing with a bigger picture than at first we might understand. And he’s dealing with the issue that religious rites and ceremonies do not justify, and when saying that he talks to our time.

Ultimately:

We are saved by grace through what? Faith. These symbols are only symbols and signs. You say, “Well, can I get to heaven if I haven’t been baptized?” Yes. You say, “Then I don’t have to be baptized!” No. “Why?” Because baptism is an act of… You say it: obedience. And if you have confessed Jesus as Lord you will what? Obey Him, and it becomes the point of your testimonyAnd that’s what Paul is teaching us.

Obedience to God characterised Abraham’s life. Jesus was — and is — fully obedient to His Father.

Let us, therefore, obey Him, too.

Next time — Romans 5:20-21

Bible GenevaThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 13:10-17

The Purpose of the Parables

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
    and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
    and with their ears they can barely hear,
    and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
    and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
    and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

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Matthew 13 opens with the Parable of the Sower.

Afterwards, the disciples asked our Lord why He chose to speak in parables (verse 10). He replied that the parables are for them because they have the capability of understanding holy mysteries. The people do not (verse 11).

In fact, Jesus speaks of a judgement on the people in this regard. They are present. They see Him. They witness His miracles. They hear his teaching. Yet, their unbelief prevents them from understanding. He speaks of the gift of comprehension via divine grace in verse 12: to those who have it, God will bestow even more, however, to those who do not have it, even what faculties one has to understand will be taken away. Therefore, the people can hear and see but not comprehend (verse 13).

John MacArthur explains that:

willful rejection becomes judicial rejection.  Man says no, so God says no as well.  God confirms men in their own stubbornness; God binds them by their own chain.  And for them the parables become interesting stories and they really don’t know what the point is.  Just riddles …

And the fact that we who love Jesus Christ understand the Bible is not a statement about our intellect; it is a statement about God’s gracious illumination of our hearts and minds.  This is judgment.  Look at it this way.  When Jesus first came, His words were very clear.  He said He was the King.  He proved He was the King.  He preached the Kingdom message.  He said, “Here’s how it is in My kingdom.”  He said, “Repent, the kingdom is at hand.”  He gave them all they needed to know about the kingdom.  They didn’t hear.  They refused Him. 

Some will say that is harsh. However, MacArthur goes on to say that Jesus made everything crystal clear up to that point so that people would recognise Him as the Messiah:

So, when they wouldn’t listen to the clear words that He spoke.  And you remember back in Matthew 5 to 7, He would say, “The kingdom of heaven is like – ” and then He would use that analogy, salt or light or birds or lilies of the field and He would always explain its meaning?  Therefore He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom and all these things will be added.  It was always very clear what He meant.  And then when they hardened their hearts and blasphemed Him and said He was from Satan, then He talked to them in riddles that He did not explain.

Our Lord extends the meaning of Isaiah 6:9-10 from the prophet’s day to His own (verses 14, 15).

MacArthur gives us Isaiah’s context:

Isaiah wrote that at a time of profound judgment on Israel.  He had just pronounced a series of curses on them.  He cursed them for all of their drunkenness, debauchery, their immorality, He cursed them for their bribery, He cursed them for their oppression of the poor.  He cursed them for their hypocritical religion.  And then, of course, at the height of all of that cursings, the King Uzziah died, and the country plunged into the darkest days in a long time. 

They were on the edge of imminent conquering, and the Babylonian captivity came as that judgment.  And Isaiah says to them, “Now God’s going to judge you; you wouldn’t hear and you wouldn’t see and now you can’t hear and you can’t see.  You wouldn’t be converted and you wouldn’t be healed, and now you can’t be healed or converted.” 

And it wasn’t long after that, Jeremiah echoed the message of Isaiah, and the great hordes came and swept away the people into Babylonian captivity.  That was the first fulfillment of Isaiah’s words.  And Jesus says, “Here’s the second.”  So parables…listen carefully…are a judgment on unbelief.  The fact that the natural man understandeth not the things of God is not only a statement about his ignorance.  It is a statement about God’s judgment on that individual. 

Matthew Henry warns us about God’s judgement of the greatest of sins (emphases mine):

A description of that judicial blindness, which is the just punishment of this. “By hearing, ye shall hear, and shall not understand what means of grace you have, shall be to no purpose to you though, in mercy to others, they are continued, yet in judgment to you, the blessing upon them is denied.” The saddest condition a man can be in on this side hell, is to sit under the most lively ordinances with a dead, stupid, untouched heart. To hear God’s word, and see his providences, and yet not to understand and perceive his will, either in the one or in the other, is the greatest sin and the greatest judgment that can be. Observe, It is God’s work to give an understanding heart, and he often, in a way of righteous judgment, denies it to those to whom he has given the hearing ear, and the seeing eye, in vain. Thus does God choose sinners’ delusions (Isaiah 66:4), and bind them over to the greatest ruin, by giving them up to their own hearts’ lusts (Psalm 81:11,12) let them alone (Hosea 4:17) my Spirit shall not always strive, Genesis 6:3.

Henry explains how divine grace operates in conversion:

Note, 1. That seeing, hearing, and understanding, are necessary to conversion[,] for God, in working grace, deals with men as men, as rational agents he draws with the cords of a man, changes the heart by opening the eyes, and turns from the power of Satan unto God, by turning first from darkness to light, (Acts 26:18). 2. All those who are truly converted to God, shall certainly be healed by him. “If they be converted I shall heal them, I shall save them:” so that if sinners perish, it is not to be imputed to God, but to themselves they foolishly expected to be healed, without being converted. 3. It is just with God to deny his grace to those who have long and often refused the proposals of it, and resisted the power of it. Pharaoh, for a good while, hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15,32), and afterwards God hardened it, Matthew 9:12,10:20. Let us therefore fear, lest by sinning against the divine grace, we sin it away.

When we consider how many of God’s people had the commonly-shared hope that He would provide them with the Messiah, the Redeemer. Not all understood this the same way — the prophets communicated it best — but the universal anticipation among these people, beginning with Abraham, was of divine redemption and union with God.

How they would have loved being in Galilee or Jerusalem during Jesus’s ministry.

This is why MacArthur tells us to cherish the divine gifts we have to understand the divine Truth:

Today we have the Word.  You say, “Jesus isn’t here to explain.”  No, but He said, “When I go away I’ll send another explainer, the Holy Spirit.  And He’ll lead you into all truth.” 

Do you realize what a privilege we have?  Do you realize that we not only have this book, but we have its author living in us to explain it to us?  To interpret it to us?  To apply it to us?  How they of old hungered for that. 

Also:

The other side of that is this second truth.  Rejection of Jesus Christ means the decreasing darkness of unbelief.  You don’t stay in the same spot.  It gets deeper and deeper and deeper

But it need not be so, for God calls you to Christ even this hour while you can still hear, and promises that if you receive the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, there shall be an ever increasing light, an ever increasing illumination of spiritual truth until, finally, someday you shall know as you are known in the eternal presence of the living Lord

In closing, John’s Gospel cites the same verses from Isaiah. I wrote about John 12:39-41 in 2011. That exposition also has more explanations to understand and consider, particularly since Jesus prefaced His citation of Isaiah with this warning (John 12:35-36):

35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

The people of His time ignored and mocked Him.

May we never find ourselves in the same scenario.

Next time: Matthew 13:50-53

On Heidelblog, Dr R Scott Clark recently featured a quote critiquing Pope Francis’s theology.

The quote comes from D C McAllister who writes for The Federalist. Her article is entitled ‘Pope Francis Does Not Get the Gospel’.

I encourage everyone who thinks Jesus’s messages were about economic comfort to read what she has to say in her very thorough examination of the New Testament.

As Catholics and Protestants know, Pope Francis, whilst working in the opulence of the Vatican, plays frequently on middle-class money guilt:

“Poverty is at the very center of the Gospel,” Pope Francis declared. “If we remove poverty from the Gospel, no one would be able to understand anything about the message of Jesus.”

McAllister posits that whilst economic poverty appears in the New Testament, so does spiritual poverty. Spiritual poverty is more important and what Christ came to relieve through His ministry, death on the Cross and overcoming death in His Resurrection.

She writes (emphases mine):

Francis is reminiscent, in some ways, of the disciples in Bethany. While Jesus was there, a woman anointed him with expensive perfume. When the disciples (and especially Judas) saw what she did, they became indignant and said, “Why this waste? This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Jesus rebuked them. “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

To rightly interpret this scene from Matthew 26 (repeated in Mark 14 and John 12) and to understand why putting material poverty at the center of the gospel is so terribly wrong, we need to look at a verse from the Old Testament that Jesus is quoting. When he says, “The poor you will always have with you,” he is referring to a passage in Deuteronomy 15, which tells of canceling debts in Israel every seven years. At that time, every creditor was commanded to cancel any loan made “by a fellow Israelite.” This was not a grace extended to foreigners—only to God’s people. “You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you.” If God’s people were perfectly obedient, there wouldn’t be any poor in Israel (although there would be in the rest of the world).

She observes that even Israelites found this hard to obey, and poverty still existed. We have lived in a fault-filled fallen world since the moment of Original Sin.

But, returning to Francis, she says:

Money has nothing to do with the gospel. When Francis says material poverty is integral to the gospel, he is robbing people of the true message of salvation and the grace of Christ. If material poverty is the “center of the gospel,” Christ is no longer at the center of the gospel. Grace is no longer at the center. Only materialism and works. Francis has, with this statement, exchanged the truth for a lie.

E Burns, a Heidelblog reader, hit the nail on the head with his comment, which reads (in part):

Interesting read on the Pope. The social gospel is sadly alive and well. Truly no better than the health wealth prosperity gospel. Whether social or prosperity gospel or the “you always need to do more” gospel, or “be more monk like” gospel or Jesus plus my works gospel or Jesus plus my……fill the blank, it will always fall far and away short of The Biblical Gospel.

Pope Francis has indeed with this statement, exchanged the truth for a lie.

Money won’t buy us happiness, virtue or Salvation, but neither will poverty. Getting the Gospel right is the preeminent theological, Biblical, and life issue humans face. So many false ones out there. So crucial to the very Salvation of a person and properly giving glory to God is this issue, that the apostle Paul declared anyone changing it or otherwise adding to it should be cursed. Even if a sweet sounding angel from heaven should attempt it, we should not listen. Galatians 1:1-10

Economic poverty and, more importantly, spiritual poverty will exist until the end of time. Some of the former occurs because of injustice, corruption and indifference. It can also depend on individuals’ immoderate lifestyle choices which the West tries to correct through the welfare state: ‘Some people cannot help themselves so we need to keep bailing them out for the rest of their lives’.

Logically, some of us would call perpetually taking state taxpayer money for that purpose theft. The welfare state was intended for a hand-up, not a hand-out. It is based on the same principle as the Israelites’ forgiveness of debts every several years. Unfortunately, it has blown out of all proportion.

Pope Francis spends little time talking about grace, but then, the Catholic notion of grace is not viewed doctrinally as a merciful gift from a loving God, but as a state of being involving something one must work for to achieve periodically and ephemerally.

Presumably, Francis can only preach about economic unfairness in order to remain palatable to a worldwide audience. To speak of Christ bringing us salvation as the principal mission of His ministry, death and rising again would offend those of other faiths.

It’s a lamentable state of affairs — worse yet, a false understanding of the Gospel, which is misleading to many.

Admittedly, he’s not the only clergyman guilty of this. I can think of a number of Protestants, too. However, none of them is in the public eye as much as the Pope.

bible-wornContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 19:20-27

20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’”

———————————————————————————-

Last week’s entry has the first part of this story, the Parable of the Ten Minas, an analogy wherein Christ is the ruler, the minas are divine grace and we are the three servants.

Today’s reading is the second half of the parable. The first two servants obeyed their master in his request for them to invest the minas he gave them whilst he was away to claim his kingdom. He rewarded one with ten cities and the second with five, in proportion to the returns they made on investment.

Now we have the third servant who tells his master that he held onto his mina, keeping it in a handkerchief (verse 20). He claims to have done this because he lived in fear of his master, then went on to accuse him of stealing (verse 21), as if the master had no right to ask his servants to invest his own money.

Both Matthew Henry and John MacArthur consider the third servant’s plea as a paltry excuse. First, everyone in Jesus’s time would have deplored keeping money wrapped up and set aside. They would have invested it to make more. MacArthur explains how this worked in the ancient world:

bank is the word for table…lender’s table, where you gave the lender money and he lent the money to somebody else who paid him interest and shared some of the interest with you.

Secondly, as for the servant’s calumny of his master, Henry says:

He had no reason to fear his master’s austerity, nor blame his expectations, but this was a mere sham, a frivolous groundless excuse for his idleness, which there was no manner of colour for.

MacArthur tells us:

This man has no love for the nobleman. He has no affection for the nobleman. He has no interest in his cause. He has no interest in his honor or respect. He doesn’t care what he thinks of him either. He’s not trying to prove anything. He basically has no relationship with the nobleman and frankly doesn’t care. But he’s been putting on a show …  He takes no responsibility for what he’s done, he blames the nobleman, now the king.

The notion of being prudent and responsible with money will offend many in our modern world: ‘We’re supposed to invest it? Really? Jesus said that?’

Even where that seems incomprehensible to some, the greater lesson is that we are to make good use of the grace He sends us.

This is why the ruler’s response to the careless, indifferent servant is so harsh. The ruler turns the servant’s words back onto him: if the ruler’s reputation were so fearsome, why, then, did this man not obey and invest the mina (verses 22 and 23)?

Disgusted, the ruler tells the others watching this exchange to take the lazy servant’s mina and give it to the servant who has been rewarded with ten cities (verse 24). The ruler’s reaction shocks the others; they point out that the first servant already has a rich reward (verse 25). The ruler retorts that those who have much will be given more but that the person who has little will have even that taken away (verse 26).

Wow. We can see why this reading is not in the Lectionary! It would be difficult to draw any left-wing lessons from it. This does not fit with our popular narrative of a quasi-Marxist Jesus.

The ruler ends by saying that those who do not want him to reign over them will find themselves appearing before him to be slain (verse 27).

That, too, is another verse which goes against our false understanding of an all-accepting, universalist Jesus.

If this sounds shocking, our Lord meant it to be so. We can consider it in its immediate context as well as in a modern one.

Jesus was saying that He knew the Jewish leaders did not accept Him as the Messiah. They did, however, accept Caesar as their ruler. Just as the ruler in the parable turned the indifferent servant’s words against him, so would Jesus with the Jews. The end result was that He would make sure that their nation came to an end; the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD. Henry explains (emphases mine):

When Christ had set up his gospel kingdom, and thereby put reputation upon the gospel ministry, then he comes to reckon with the Jews then it is remembered against them that they had particularly disclaimed and protested against his kingly office, when they said, We have no king but Cæsar, nor would own him for their king. They appealed to Cæsar, and to Cæsar they shall go Cæsar shall be their ruin. Then the kingdom of God appeared when vengeance was taken on those irreconcileable enemies to Christ and his government they were brought forth and slain before him. Never was so much slaughter made in any war as in the wars of the Jews. That nation lived to see Christianity victorious in the Gentile world, in spite of their enmity and opposition to it …

For us, the lesson is to cherish divine grace and make use of it by bearing fruits of faith. The Lord wants us to have something to show for the grace He sends us. To those who make good use of it in godly living, He will give more. However, to the indifferent — as with the third servant — He will take away even the little He gave initially. Those who do not make use of divine grace do not deserve it. He will condemn them, eternally.

If we have been indifferent or lukewarm, it is time for us to repent by turning our lives around and praying for guidance on how to use that generous gift to His glory.

And it is not just Christians who are under this mandate. Every person alive belongs to God our Creator. Henry warns unbelievers:

… those … that dislike the terms of salvation, will not submit to Christ’s yoke, but will be their own masters. Note, Whoever will not be ruled by the grace of Christ will inevitably be ruined by the wrath of Christ.

MacArthur concludes similarly:

You don’t want Him to reign over you? He reigns anyway. But if you confess Him as Lord and King, you become among the faithful those who are rewarded and lavished with spiritual graces and privileges forever. If you’re hiding among the false, the day will come when you will be unmasked and all your phony excuses will be unveiled and discounted and you will be eternal waste, sent off to perish with the enemies of Christ.

There it is in one story…rewards for the faithful, rejection for the false, retribution for the foes. Where are you? What group is your group? All under the sovereignty of the King.

It sounds harsh. Millions refuse to accept it. ‘The afterlife has nothing to do with me; I’m not a believer.’ The day will come when everyone will be called to divine account. Unbelievers will wonder why no one told them. This parable is a wake-up call.

Believers pray for unbelievers to be filled with grace and faith. We urge those who are sitting on the sidelines to also pray for themselves in this regard — before it is too late.

Next time: Luke 19:41-44

Bible GenevaContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (sermons cited below).

Luke 17:1-4

Temptations to Sin

1 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin[a] are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.[b] Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

——————————————————————————–

These first four verses of Luke 17 give us important lessons about sin, forgiveness and humility.

Jesus urged His disciples to disregard the Pharisees’ system of legalism and hypocrisy. The Pharisees talked about divine law and imposed an onerous burden on ordinary Jews, however, with the help of their colleagues the religious lawyers, found numerous loopholes for their own religious observance. Their elitist system allowed them to ignore the spiritual health of what they might have called ‘the lesser orders’ and possibly caused countless souls to be condemned for eternity.

Yet, as John MacArthur tells us, even the Old Testament pointed to salvation through imputed righteousness not meritorious works. He explains (emphases mine):

Genesis 15:6. Abraham or Abram believed God, and it was imputed to him as righteousness. Because he believed, God credited His own righteousness, completely alien to all of us, to Abraham. Psalm 103:17, “The loving kindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting…listen to this…and His righteousness to children’s children.” He just keeps giving His righteousness to every generation of people who believe in Him.

How were you saved in the Old Testament? You were saved in the Old Testament by believing in God as sovereign Creator, all-holy Judge, understanding, therefore, your own sinfulness and repenting of it before God. Acknowledging the fact that salvation could come only on the basis of sovereign grace, because it couldn’t be earned. Embracing the fact that God is a forgiving God by nature. You come to Him offering nothing but your faith, no works whatsoever, realizing that if you were ever to enter into the presence of God and be considered righteous, it’s going to have to be because some alien righteousness is credited to your account. God will accept you on that basis until He can make you fully righteous in His presence.

Furthermore, as God forgives our sins, our responsibility is to forgive others. The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) says:

forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

In the first verse of Luke 17, Jesus speaks against the Pharisees’ condemnation of Him and His ministry. It is also a warning to unbelievers and believers today. If we cause others to disregard Christ as our Saviour through our words and actions, we, too, will be condemned.

That can include all manner of sin which detracts from the Christian message. MacArthur says that the Greek word used there was skandalon, from which we get ‘scandal’, which originally referred to a baited trap:

When the animal grabs the bait, the stick is released, the trap is closed, the animal is caught. That’s a skandalon, it’s a trap. We know we live in a world of traps. We know we live in a world where people are going to be offended. God’s little ones, God’s children, believers, are going to be offended. And by offended, trapped, harmed, hindered. That’s what it’s talking about. The world is full of stumbling blocks. They’re all over the place, to seduce us directly into error, to seduce us into heresy and false understanding of the Scriptures, false understanding of God and Christ, to seduce us in false understandings of how we are to live our Christian lives. And there are scandalous temptations laid out there to directly or indirectly drive us toward sin. There are all kinds of bad examples and there are all kinds of things that lead us away from righteousness. The world is just filled with them and we, of all generations, are exposed to them in a way that prior generations have not been. There was a time, you know, in the world when you had to see the sinner do the sin to see sin. And now you can see the sinner sin at home pumped into your house on your TV. You can read the ugly details of the sinner and his sin in a book or a magazine or a paper or other media exposure. But there was a time when you had to see the sinner sin to know the sin occurred, but now you can experience it constantly in a barrage of images. It’s a different world and there are all kinds of seductions to evil. It’s inevitable that they come.

Our Lord tells us that it would be better to be drowned with a heavy stone around our neck than to cause others to sin (verse 2). Divine punishment will be that severe. MacArthur explains:

The one who sets the offense in motion is guilty before God…guilty before God. It’s a serious thing and God considers it a serious thing … It’s better to stop him now by an execution than to let him keep doing this because if he is a non-believer, he is only going to incur greater damnation, a hotter hell. If he’s a believer, he is only inviting greater chastening and forfeiture of eternal reward. Better that he be dead. Better that he die a horrific death now than to continue to offend and therefore accumulate ongoing damnation.

Why did Jesus choose drowning in this warning? Because it was a Roman import. The Jews were not only terrified of this method of punishment but also considered it as one for Gentiles. Therefore, Jesus’s words have added impact. MacArthur notes:

The Romans did that. The Jews did not do that. In fact, the rabbis taught that drowning was for Gentiles, not for Jews at all.

In verse 3, Jesus says the right thing to do is to call a sinner’s attention to his transgressions. If he acknowledges that he regrets them and turns his behaviour around — repents — then we are to forgive him (or her!). MacArthur says that Jesus speaks of persistent, serious sin:

So we beware of offending and we beware of being indifferent to the sins of others. The Pharisees, they didn’t care about the sinners … We don’t lead people into sin, we lead them out of it. And that starts with rebuke …

Matthew gives the process. The process, is if your brother sins you go to him. If he repents, you gain your brother. It’s over. If he doesn’t repent, you take two or three with you so that you can confront his sin again and confirm his response. If he still doesn’t repent, you tell the church and the whole church goes to call that person back. That’s a concern that holy people have for the debilitating sins that find their way into the lives of the fellowship. This is done out of love. You that are spiritual restore such a one in love…Galatians 6. We don’t sit by and watch some sinner go off into a pattern of sin without caring.

However, MacArthur warns that our Lord did not intend us to turn into nagging busybodies:

Not every sin is to be confronted, please. Love covers a multitude of sins. We don’t want this to go berzerk. It’s those sinful patterns, it’s those sins that are destructive, long-term pattern. It doesn’t mean that every time you say a thoughtless word, or every time you fail to do something you ought to have done, or you have a slip up here or there, somebody has to set confrontation in motion. No … I’ve giving my wife‘s testimony. She couldn’t live with me if she had to confront every failure in my life. This would be a rather dominating feature of life. Love covers. You couldn’t do that with a dear friend, you couldn’t do that even with your children, or children with parents. You couldn’t do that in the fellowship. But there are some sins that effect the life in a turning sense that send it in a new direction and impact the church, and those have to be dealt with. And for those kinds of things, forgiveness becomes conditional. And that’s what he’s talking about. It’s those kinds of sins that you rebuke that must be repented of.

Jesus concludes His brief discourse by saying that if someone sins against us multiple times — even in one day — and says that he repents each time, we are to forgive him each time (verse 4). MacArthur explains that if we do not forgive, God will not completely forgive us, even if we are eternally saved:

Until a believer forgives, he remains in a temporal sense unforgiven. While in an eternal sense we are forgiven, that’s in our justification, in a temporal sense we can be in a condition of being unforgiven in our sanctification. In one sense, all my sins are forgiven because Christ paid the penalty in full. But in another sense, as I go through this world and sin, God will not continually forgive me on a parental level, on a temporal level which opens up blessing and joy to me unless I am forgiving others.

No doubt a number of us have a nemesis in our families or at work or both. They’re draining influences. Our spirits fall a bit every time we encounter them. They might hold grudges against us and we against them. These can last for months or years. Alternatively, we might be angry with a certain institution, e.g. church, employer, political party.

This negative energy, MacArthur says, might well be preventing us from reaching peace of mind in our lives. On this subject, he has an interesting observation, which could well be true:

I think there are Christian people who have had their sins forgiven on an eternal sense, but on a temporal sense, they’re not enjoying the rich fellowship that they should with God and they’re undergoing discipline from Him because they don’t forgive others. They carry around bitterness. I think the emptiness in people’s lives, even those who are Christians, depression, dullness, lack of joy is often due to withheld blessing, withheld forgiveness, guilt and chastening from God.

Offline, I know many churchgoers and clergy who have no end of emotional or psychological problems. My better half often asks, ‘How can a churchgoer or clergyman be clinically depressed?’ MacArthur posits that reason, which seems plausible.

Our modern society is an unforgiving one, even though we believers are always talking about peace, unity and reconciliation. (We had more of all three in the old days when we weren’t talking about them all the time.)

Yet, we look in our hearts and are angry.

We are often calm on the outside, but what’s going on inside?

Some Anglicans are angry because we don’t have female bishops in most of the Anglican Communion. Some leftist churchmen are angry because we don’t have a ‘fair and just’ way of life in a fallen world. Traditionalists and modernists scoff or rail at each other’s interpretation of Christianity. Those are just a few church-oriented examples. The list is endless.

We would do well to pray for grace to forgive others and, in turn, be divinely forgiven. This is why I advocate prayer and Bible reading over a primary focus on things that will never be resolved in this world.

That doesn’t mean we should not try to improve the Church and the secular realm. However, if we turn our attention more to our everyday blessings — and learn to forgive others — we would find this task easier.

As Matthew Henry’s commentary for the first few verses of Luke 17 says:

That we have all need to get our faith strengthened, because, as that grace grows, all other graces grow. The more firmly we believe the doctrine of Christ, and the more confidently we rely upon the grace of Christ, the better it will be with us every way

Next time: Luke 17:20-27

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R C Sproull yankeerev_wordpress_comBy the time Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation by nailing the Ninety-five Theses on the church door of Wittenburg, he had already begun distributing small pamphlets — tracts — about the downfall of the Church.

He compared the corrupt Church of his day to Babylon. Not only were the official representatives of Christ’s Bride collecting money for indulgences as repentance for sin, they were also denying the sacred, inspired truth of Holy Scripture.

The Catholic Church will readily agree to that post-Vatican II. I was taught of the Church’s errors in RE (Religious Education) class in the 1970s. Yet, what appears to linger there is the synergistic notion that we must work for our salvation. God’s grace is insufficient. In fact, we must merit it.

Things are not so different in certain Protestant denominations, especially in some — not all — Evangelical and mainstream Non-Conformist (e.g. Wesleyan, Baptist) congregations.

A works-based salvation is, at best, semi-Pelagian. At worst, it is full-on Pelagianism, which is a heresy. Pelagianism denies Original Sin and says that man is basically good. Semi-Pelagianism acknowledges Original Sin but says that man must work for his conversion, his rebirth in Christ or his ultimate salvation. Both of these dangerous beliefs are devoid of Scriptural truth and divine grace, which God the Father gives us in our Christian walk.

The Reformed theologian Dr R C Sproul — a monergist — deplores the Church’s departure from monergism. Monergism, involving God as the author of our spiritual regeneration and ultimate salvation, espouses the doctrine of grace — completely unmerited on our part but mercifully granted by our Father in heaven nonetheless.

The Covenant Presbyterian Church, a member of the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) in Bakersfield, California, has posted several helpful articles and essays for their congregation as well as for other Christians who might wonder if they are truly saved. Worrying about one’s personal salvation can cause many late nights, much soul-searching and years of anguish.

Sproul’s article which sheds light on monergism, synergism, grace, error and heresy is called ‘The Pelagian Captivity of the Church’. Excerpts follow with page references to the PDF.

Sproul wonders what would happen if Luther were to see the state of Protestantism today (p. 1):

Of course I can’t answer that question with any kind of definitive authority, but my guess is this: If Martin Luther lived today and picked up his pen to write, the book he would write in our time would be entitled The Pelagian Captivity of the Evangelical Church.

Luther, Sproul tells us, believed in the doctrine of grace as revealed in the Bible (emphases mine):

Luther saw the doctrine of justification as fueled by a deeper theological problem. He writes about this extensively in The Bondage Of the Will. When we look at the Reformation — sola Scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo Gloria, sola gratia Luther was convinced that the real issue of the Reformation was the issue of grace; and that underlying the doctrine of sola fide, justification by faith alone, was the prior commitment to sola gratia, the concept of justification by grace alone.

Luther was not alone. Calvin, Zwingli and other early Reformers agreed on

the helplessness of man in sin and the sovereignty of God in grace …

In other words, our faith in Christ is

the free gift of a sovereign God.

Pelagius was a British monk. He lived in the 5th century AD, as did his rival, St Augustine of Hippo (Egypt). Although these were dark and primitive times, Church councils covering Europe and North Africa were ongoing. Pelagius objected to Augustine’s belief in a sovereign God.

Pelagius maintained that, although Adam and Eve sinned, future generations were spared inheriting that sin. This viewpoint goes against Scripture and Christianity, both of which point to our inherent and ongoing depravity because we actually have a proclivity to sin, which we received from Adam and Eve. As St Augustine believed, this state (p. 2), leaves us in

a sinful, fallen condition.

As such, we are able to achieve nothing good or godly on our own. We must rely on God’s grace, the workings of the Holy Spirit and the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins.

Yet, Pelagius insisted that Adam and Eve’s sin was not passed down to us and that any grace we inherited ‘facilitates’ righteousness to us. Sproul said that Pelagius meant that whilst divine grace helps mankind, mankind doesn’t actually need it. In fact, he said that people could live perfect lives under their own willpower, with no divine grace necessary (p. 3).

The Church condemned Pelagianism as a heresy at the Council of Orange in the 5th century, later at the Council of Carthage and, once more, much later, in the 16th century at the Council of Trent (p. 3).

However, despite Church theologians declaring Pelagianism a heresy, the appeal of man’s ‘island of righteousness’ — perhaps ‘divine spark’ — refused to fade away. Hence the rise of semi-Pelagianism: we need God’s grace but we are also capable of accepting or rejecting it.

Sproul writes:

Ironically, the Church condemned semi-Pelagianism as vehemently as it had condemned original Pelagianism. Yet by the time you get to the sixteenth century and you read the Catholic understanding of what happens in salvation the Church basically repudiated what Augustine taught and what Aquinas taught as well. The Church concluded that there still remains this freedom that is intact in the human will and that man must cooperate with — and assent to — the prevenient grace that is offered to them by God.  If we exercise that will, if we exercise a cooperation with whatever powers we have left, we will be saved. And so in the sixteenth century the Church reembraced semi-Pelagianism.

Now to the present day. Many Evangelical — mostly independent, but sometimes associated — churches around the world feature a believer’s testimony and an altar call. The unconverted in the congregation can seemingly ‘choose’ to ‘accept’ Christ as Saviour and Lord. These are also features of Holiness churches of the Wesleyan tradition. Essentially, even if the preachers talk about sin, they say that we have the inner power to overcome it. Furthermore, those sitting in the congregation — a Barna survey says more than 70% — believe that man is basically good (p. 3).

Sproul says (p. 4):

To say we’re basically good is the Pelagian view. I would be willing to assume that in at least thirty percent of the people who are reading this issue, and probably more, if we really examine their thinking depth, we could find hearts that are beating Pelagianism. We’re overwhelmed with it. We’re surrounded by it. We’re immersed in it. We hear it every day. We hear it every day in the secular culture. And not only do we hear it every day in the secular culture, we hear it every day on Christian television and on Christian radio.

You have no doubt heard the sayings ‘The squeaky wheel gets the grease’ and ‘An empty paper bag makes the loudest noise’. One firebrand evangelist in 19th century America lived up to both. His name was Charles Finney. Whether we like it or not, he changed the face of much of American Christianity forever.

Whereas the earliest Reformers held to the aforementioned Solas, Finney claimed we had enough power and ability to affect our salvation alone. We don’t need divine grace — or possibly even Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection — for salvation. Sproul delivers his verdict (p. 4):

if what the reformers were saying is that justification by faith alone is an essential truth of Christianity, who also argued that the substitutionary atonement is an essential truth of Christianity; if they’re correct in their assessment that those doctrines are essential truths of Christianity, the only conclusion we can come to is that Charles Finney was not a Christian. I read his writings — and I say, “I don’t see how any Christian person could write this.” And yet, he is in the Hall of Fame of Evangelical Christianity in America. He is the patron saint of twentieth-century Evangelicalism. And he is not semi-Pelagian; he is unvarnished in his Pelagianism.

Sproul anticipates that people will object to this assessment, saying that grace is necessary for sinful man’s regeneration and redemption. Then he posits — and this is important to consider (p. 4):

But it’s that little island of righteousness where man still has the ability, in and of himself, to turn, to change, to incline, to dispose, to embrace the offer of grace that reveals why historically semi-Pelagianism is not called semi-Augustinianism, but semi-Pelagianism. It never really escapes the core idea of the bondage of the soul, the captivity of the human heart to sin — that it’s not simply infected by a disease that may be fatal if left untreated, but it is mortal.

Sproul explores two semi-Pelagian stories often heard in certain churches. One concerns God throwing a drowning man a life preserver, making an exact hit to reach the man’s hands. Another is about the Almighty assisting a dying man in taking a curative medicine. In both instances, the two men are able to accept God’s help yet contribute their own ability to their rescues.

But, Sproul asks (p. 5), are these accurate and in line with conversion and salvation according to Scripture?

Now, if we’re going to use analogies, let’s be accurate. The man isn’t going under for the third time; he is stone cold dead at the bottom of the ocean. That’s where you once were when you were dead in sin and trespasses and walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air. And while you were dead hath God quickened you together with Christ. God dove to the bottom of the sea and took that drowned corpse and breathed into it the breath of his life and raised you from the dead. And it’s not that you were dying in a hospital bed of a certain illness, but rather, when you were born you were born D.O.A. That’s what the Bible says: that we are morally stillborn.

Sproul goes on to describe a conversation he had with a believer who objected to his theology of grace. Sproul asked him how he came to be a Christian when his friend did not. In the end, the man says:

OK! I’ll say it. I’m a Christian because I did the right thing, I made the right response, and my friend didn’t.

Astonished, Sproul concludes (p. 5):

What was this person trusting in for his salvation? Not in his works in general, but in the one work that he performed. And he was a Protestant, an evangelical. But his view of salvation was no different from the Roman view.

Today, we have theologians (e.g. N T Wright), clergy (even in older Protestant denominations) and laity claiming that we must play a part in our salvation via ‘good works’. Divine grace cannot truly help us, certainly not fully; we must play our part and do something.

This semi-Pelagianism, made popular in the 16th century by Jacob Arminius who sought to deny the doctrine of grace as a comfort for Christians — when it did precisely the opposite, causing them endless anxiety — is the prevailing theology in many churches. And, he says, this anxiety will not disappear until — and unless (p. 6):

we humble ourselves and understand that no man is an island and that no man has an island of righteousness, that we are utterly dependent upon the unmixed grace of God for our salvation

Yesterday’s post explained why I pray that all Christians come to a monergistic belief.

Today’s material comes from John Hendryx who founded and maintains the longstanding website Monergism. Monergism, which first went online in 2001, is packed with classical and more modern Christian resources on this biblical principle.

In 2012, Hendryx gave an interview to White Horse Inn. In it, he explains his own conversion, which came about when he was reading the Bible. At that time, he says (emphases in the original):

I was a 19-year old sophomore at the University of Colorado, Boulder deeply entrenched in New Age Occultism, which was essentially to a mixture of Hinduism, Tantric Buddhism, Occult practices, pseudo-Christianity and solipsism or the worship of the Self.  It was partly drug induced and partly arrived at through deep periods of meditation and lots of metaphysical literature … Then one day while reading the Bible I came across Deuteronomy 18 which reads:

“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, 14 for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.”

This passage struck me right between the eyes. It instantly put the fear of the Lord in me because it revealed to me the inconsistency in my understanding of God.

As a result:

I was born in Christ knowing, from His own words, that salvation is of the Lord … all a work of God.  It was the most radical paradigm shift possible.  My understanding went from “I am God” to “I am not God” … from “I can save myself” to “only Jesus can save me”.

On his own site, he explains monergism (more at the link, emphases in purple are mine):

Monergism simply means that it is God who gives ears to hear and eyes to see. It is God alone who gives illumination and understanding of His word that we might believe; It is God who raises us from the dead, who circumcises the heart; unplugs our ears; It is God alone who can give us a new sense that we may, at last, have the moral capacity to behold His beauty and unsurpassed excellency. The apostle John recorded Jesus saying to Nicodemus that we naturally love darkness, hate the light and WILL NOT come into the light (John 3:19, 20). And since our hardened resistance to God is thus seated in our affections, only God, by His grace, can lovingly change, overcome and disarm our rebellious disposition. The natural man, apart from the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, will not come to Christ on his own since he is at enmity with God and cannot understand spiritual things

Since faith is infinitely beyond all the power of our unregenerated human nature, it is only God who can give the spiritual ears to hear and eyes to see the beauty of Christ in the gospel. God alone disarms the hostility of the sinner turning his heart of stone to a heart of flesh. So the problem of conversion is not with the Word or God’s Law but with man’s prideful heart. The humility required to submit to the gospel (which is beyond man’s natural capacity) is, therefore, not prompted by man’s will but by God’s mercy (John 1:13; Rom 9:16) since no one can believe the gospel unless God grants it (John 6:63, 65). The Spirit must likewise give all His people spiritual life and understanding if their hearts are to be opened and thus respond to Christ in faith

The word “monergism” consists of two main parts. The Greek prefix “mono” signifies “one”, “single”, or “alone” while the suffix “ergon” means “to work”. Taken together it means “the work of one” …

We are all sinners and can boast in nothing before God, including the desire for faith in Christ (Phil 1:29, Eph 2:8, 2 Tim 2:25). For why do we have faith and not our neighbor? Please consider that. Did we make better use of God’s grace than he did? Were we smarter? More sensitive? Do some naturally love God? The answer is ‘no’ to all of the above. It is God’s grace in Christ that makes us to differ from our neighbor and God’s grace alone that gave rise to our faith, not because we were better or had more insight. No other element but Jesus[‘s] mercy alone.

Hendryx’s article, ‘The Work of the Trinity in Monergism’ has more. In short:

God the Father made a pretemporal covenant with the Eternal Son (Psalm 110; John 6:38, 17:2; Eph 1:3, 4; Heb. 6:16-17; Heb 10:5) to enter into human history and redeem a people for Himself through His blood. Among the redemptive blessings that flow from the finished work of the cross are the effectually calling and supernaturally drawing of those same people to Himself (John 6:37, 44, 63-65; 15:16, Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4). Christ himself was chosen to be our Savior before the creation of the world (1 Pet. 1:20; Ephesians 1:4) and accomplishes this for His people in last times by taking on their flesh, fulfilling the demands of the law for them in His life, death and physical resurrection. Through human means of preaching the gospel, the Holy Spirit applies the life-giving work of the Son to the same by raising them from spiritual death, opening their blind eyes, unplugging their deaf ears, disarming their natural hostility and granting them new spiritual affections which see the truth, beauty and excellency of Christ (Ezek 36:26; Rom 10:17; 12:3; 1 Cor. 12:3; 2 Cor 4:13; Eph 6:23; Phil 1:29; 1 Thess 2:13; Heb 12:2). He then counts the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto those united to Him by the Holy Spirit through faith

Monergistic regeneration is a redemptive blessing purchased by Christ for those the Father has given Him (1 Pet 1:3, John 6:37, 39). This grace works independently of any human cooperation and conveys that power into the fallen soul whereby the person who is to be saved is effectually enabled to respond to the gospel call (Acts 2:39, 1 Cor 1:2, 9, 24, Rom 8:30 John 1:13, Acts 13:48). It is that supernatural power of God alone whereby we are granted the spiritual ability and desire to comply with the conditions of the covenant of grace; that is, to apprehend the Redeemer by a living faith, to come up to the terms of salvation, to repent of idols and to love God and the Mediator supremely. The Holy Spirit, in quickening the fallen soul, mercifully illumines the mind and renews the heart, giving God’s elect the capacity and inclination to exercise faith in Jesus Christ (John 6:44, 1 John 5:1). This instantaneous and intensely personal work of God is the means by which the Spirit brings us into living union with Him.

Hendryx’s chart in ‘Two Views of Regeration’ clearly explains the difference between monergism and synergism. In short, synergism says that man has the ability — and obligation — to help effect his own salvation. Some denominations believe that man has the will to initiate the conversion process and to ‘work’ towards salvation. The altar call, for example, is a synergistic practice.

The chart is divided into three categories and is well worth reading in full. Excerpts follow by category.

Cause of Regeneration

Synergism: God and Man work together to produce the new birth. God’s grace takes us part of the way to salvation, man’s unregenerate will must determine the final outcome. In other words belief in Christ gives rise to the new birth.

Monergism: God, the Holy Spirit, alone produces regeneration with no contribution from the sinner (A work of God). The new birth is never spoke of in the imperative (not commanded), rather man must be born again by God.

Synergism: God is eagerly awaiting the sinner’s will.

Monergism: God effectually enables the sinner’s will.

View of Humanity

Synergism: Those fallen men who are saved, either created a right thought, generated a right affection, or originated a right volition that led to their salvation while some others did not have the natural wherewithal to come up with the faith that God required of them to obtain salvation. Therefore salvation is dependent on some virtue or capacity God sees in certain men. Not Jesus alone, but Jesus PLUS…

Monergism: No Fallen man will create a right thought, generate a right affection, or originate a right volition that will lead to his salvation. We would never believe unless the Holy Spirit came in and disarmed our hostility to God. Therefore salvation is dependent on God’s good pleasure alone (Eph 1:4, 5, 11), not some virtue or goodwill He sees in us.

Synergism: Man’s nature & affections do not determine or give rise to their choices. Even without the Holy Spirit working change in his heart, the sinner can still make a saving decision to believe the gospel. In this scheme God gives enough grace to place man in a neutral position which can swing either for or against Jesus. (An act of chance?)

Monergism: Man’s nature determines his desires/affections and give rise to the choices he makes. Jesus bears witness to this: “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.” Luke 6:43 Only Christ can “make a tree good and its fruit will be good.” (Also see John 8:34, 42-44; 2 Pet. 2:19).

View of the Gospel

Synergism: Sinners have the key in their hands. Man’s will determines whether or not Christ’s death is efficacious.

Monergism: God has the key in his hand. God’s eternal counsel determines to whom the benefits of the atonement apply.

Synergism: With Man’s will salvation is possible.

Monergism: With man’s will salvation (repentance and faith) is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Matt 19:26; Rom 9:16; John 6:64,65) “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” John 3:6.

God’s grace, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s redemptive sacrifice on the Cross work through us to draw us closer to them, become spiritually fruitful and bring us to everlasting life. Through divine grace, we intrinsically want to serve Christ.

This regenerative grace comes at different times to different people. Some receive it as children, others as adults and still others in the sunset of their lives. This grace sustains us through our trials and struggles, both temporal and spiritual.

The scriptural fact that divine, merciful grace — rather than our own efforts — brings about salvation  comes as a relief to many believers. May it be so for all of us.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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