Why Should We Be Holy? (1 Peter 1:17-21)

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Peter told us last week that we ought to be Holy, because God is holy. Today he tells us why it’s so important – why He cares about it so much. Last week, we saw that Peter said: 

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy,” (1 Peter 1:13-16).

Today, he continues . . .

 

17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

 

Peter basically says we should never take God’s mercy and salvation for granted. He writes,“if you call upon the Father” (e.g. if you’re saved and a believer) then pass your temporary stay here on this earth with fear!” Why does Peter say this? Peter tells us “because God judges every man according to His deeds, and doesn’t play favorites!”

Peter is telling us we should have a loving respect and fear for God. Not the fear a dog shows to a cruel master, but the kind of loving fear and respect a small child has for his father.[1] Fear and respect not based on threat of punishment, but based on not wanting to disappoint or upset our Heavenly Father. If we have this fear, and we ought to have it, we’ll never take His grace for granted. I don’t think anybody would be ok with taking a gift from a friend while stabbing him in the back at the same time. In the exact same manner, no Christian should ever think it’s acceptable to claim to be a Christian while at the same time deliberately living in sin and not caring – being unrepentant about it. That’s more than hypocritical – it’s sinful

You may wonder, what does Peter mean when he says that God doesn’t play favorites when He judges? After all, Jesus said that if we’ve been called by God, drawn by the Holy Spirit and saved, that nobody can pluck us out of His hand! 

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand,” (John 10:27-29).

Is Peter saying that if we don’t live like holy people, we’ll be damned? Scripture doesn’t lie or contradict itself, so it’s not saying that! But, Scripture does say that if God has to discipline so that we grow, He’ll do it:[2]

“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness,” (Hebrews 12:4-10).

A whole lot was said here – let’s focus on just a few of them. First, we’re wayward children who have been saved from hell. Second, God is our Heavenly Father. Third, what kind of Father would He be if He didn’t discipline His children? No father should let his kids run around like wild animals – a good father teaches, rebukes and trains his kids!

So far so good, but what’s the point of God’s discipline? To be mean? To be petty? To get a few laughs? Not at all; we just saw the writer of Hebrews compare our earthly fathers with our Heavenly Father; “[f]or they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness,” (Hebrews 12:10). This means that God disciplines believers to help us grow and make us a holier people. The writer of Hebrews went on: 

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord,” (Hebrews 12:11-14).

God trains us by discipline. He tells us to pursue holiness – to strive after it, day in and day out. The writer of Hebrews’ point, and Peter’s point, is that if we don’t take our obligation for personal holiness seriously, then we’re making a big mistake. God will discipline us, like disobedient children. If we have this flippant, “who cares” attitude, then we’re in serious spiritual danger. Peter tells us that everybody who calls on the Father should pass their temporary time here on earth in loving, reverential fear – trying our best to please our God and Savior, not wanting to disappoint Him!

That leads us to another question or two (or three!):

  1. Why is it so bad to disappoint God?
  2. Doesn’t He know we’re sinful?
  3. Isn’t He willing and waiting to forgive us when we fall short?
  4. Is Peter trying to tell us that we have to be perfect? Who’s perfect, anyway!?

God doesn’t expect you to be sinless and perfect. God does expect you to get up every day and try your best to fight against sin and temptation because you love Him. He’s saved you, given you the gift of the Holy Spirit (your new Helper), and given you a goal-post to shoot for – to be like Christ! He will not accept the fact that we’re sinful people as an excuse for keeping unrepentant sin in your life. Keep struggling, and keep on struggling until we die or Christ returns to take believers home, whichever comes first.

 

18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

 

Peter’s going to remind us of something very important to make his point. If you’re a believer, you’ve been redeemed by Christ – it was His sacrifice and death on the Cross that paid the price for your own sin. His blood was precious, because Christ is God, and that blood was shed for you. He entered into His own creation and lived a sinless life. An animal brought for sacrifice to atone for sins in the OT had be perfect. Christ was sinless and perfect, and was sacrificed like a lamb without blemish and without spot – for you. You weren’t redeemed by worthless things like silver or gold, but by Christ’s death.

What does this mean? What does this have to do with why we ought to try to be holy people? It’s simply this – Christ has set you free from sin, so why are you tolerating unrepentant sin in your life? 

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s,” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

If you’ve been set free from sin, and given the gift of the Holy Spirit (and if you’re saved, you have!) . . .

  1. Then why do we tolerate sin in our lives?
  2. Why don’t we dedicate time and effort to actually changing the way we live our lives to be more Christ-like?
  3. Why are we so lazy?

Peter says you were redeemed “from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers . . .” We were rescued and bought by Christ’s blood from the road to hell we were on. He’s talking to Gentiles who never knew God or the Hebrew Scriptures, and he’s telling them, “you were redeemed from the worthless actions and attitudes you learned from your parents!” If we’ve been redeemed and set free from something, then we ought to act like that’s true.

  • Do you realize that you’ve been set free from the sin that weighs you down?
  • Do you realize that you can have victory over it?

God calls us to be holy people, He’s set us free from sin and death by Christ’s sacrifice, and given us a Helper in the Holy Spirit. We can overcome sin. It takes daily discipline and effort. It takes a real conviction, real repentance, real daily instruction in righteousness and real determination. But, we’ve been redeemed by Christ Himself, and we can do it. I challenge you to make a list of things you need to change in your life. I want you to realize that Christ died to set you free from those sins.  I want you to realize that, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, you can have victory over those sins.

 

20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

 

Christ’s sacrifice in your place, for your sins, as your substitute was foreordained (planned and determined) before the world even began, and He came, died and was resurrected in these days for your sakes! He didn’t just die to accomplish something when you die, so you be reconciled to God and spend eternity with Him. No, Christ died to redeem you from the “vain conversation” you were in bondage to.[3] “Vain conversation” is “worthless conduct;” the empty and useless things you used to live for and do before you were called by the Holy Spirit for salvation. Christ died to redeem you from that unholy way of life.

Shame on all of us who don’t seize on that freedom He provided us, and continue to live unholy lives, knowing our responsibility to be holy, but not caring to even try. If you’re struggling to be holy, to have victory over a specific sin in your life – then praise God and keep on fighting today, tomorrow and forever. You were set free from this sin, and you can have victory over it by God’s grace!

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Footnotes:

[1] “The attitude advocated is not the craven, cringing dread of a slave before an offended master, but the reverential awe of a son toward a beloved and esteemed father, the awe that shrinks from whatever would displease and grieve him,” (D. Edmond Hiebert, 1 Peter, revised ed. [Chicago, IL: Moody, 1992; reprint, Winona Lake, IN: BMH, 2008], 100).

[2] This seems to be the sense of “who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work.” It is in the present tense, which indicates that God judges believers in the here and now in some fashion. Discipline (e.g. Heb 12:12:4-14) seems to be Peter’s point. For example, Jay Adams writes, “[i]t does speak of the final judgment of God among His people, but it also refers to the on-going judgment of God by which He trains and governs the members of His family (the verb is in the present tense). And, at times when He deems it necessary (because of the disgrace it brings on His name), that Fatherly judgment can be quite severe,” (Trust and Obey: A Practical Commentary on First Peter [Greenville, SC: A Press, 1988], 41-42).

Although the thrust of the passage could be referring to the judgment of believer’s works in the last days (e.g. 1 Cor 3:11-15), that really doesn’t seem to be what Peter is driving at. Wayne Grudem observes, “. . . the phrase is better understood to refer primarily or even exclusively to present judgment and discipline in this life,” (1 Peter, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988], 86). “Peter’s primary reference is to God’s present dealings with His saints in the development of holiness in their lives,” (Hiebert, 1 Peter, 99).

[3]The design of Christ in shedding his most precious blood was to redeem us, not only from eternal misery hereafter, but from a vain conversation in this world. That conversation is vain which is empty, frivolous, trifling, and unserviceable to the honour of God, the credit of religion, the conviction of unbelievers, and the comfort and satisfaction of a man’s own conscience,” (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible [Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994], 2424). Emphasis mine.

Why Should Christians Be Happy? (1 Peter 1:1-12)

This is the start of a series of messages through the Books of 1 & 2 Peter. These are essentially sermon notes that have been expanded for a reading audience. I hope these messages will be helpful!

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INTRODUCTION AND CONTEXT:

In the military, everybody’s favorite duty station is always (1) the place they’re heading to, or (2) the place they just left from. You might get shipped to a pretty horrible duty station in the military, but you know that it won’t last forever – because eventually you’ll get on that plane and go back home. I can still remember the joy I felt whenever I came home in leave when I was stationed overseas in the U.S. Navy. I looked forward to that magic moment when I would step off the plane and see Starbucks waiting for me in the terminal!

From a spiritual standpoint, I can get really down sometimes because I forget that, just like when I was in the military, I’ll be transferred to glory one day – because I’m a child of God! I forget to take the long view. I forget what’s waiting for me at the finish line and get caught up feeling sorry for myself in my problems – whatever they may be.

I’m not minimizing whatever you may be going through or have gone through. This is a world filled with sin, ruined by the Fall, and bad things happen. What I want to do is encourage you today about some very basic truths about the Christian life, and why you ought to smile and be happy today – no matter what kind of valley you’re in the middle of right now! So, here are some reasons from Peter why Christians ought to be happy . . .

crazed smiley

#1 – BECAUSE GOD HAS GIVEN YOU A HOME! (V.1):

 

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

 

Peter wrote this letter to the “strangers” who are scattered all around Asia Minor (what we know as Turkey). Did you know that the Bible says that Christians[1] are “strangers and pilgrims” in this world? Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for us in heaven (Jn 14:2-3). The writer of Hebrews said that all the Old Testament believers counted themselves as strangers and pilgrims who looked forward to being citizens of a heavenly country. While they were alive they didn’t see this heavenly country, but they sure looked forward to it! 

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city,” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

Think of the border crisis. Think of a legal alien, who has a green card. What do aliens and foreigners in the U.S. have to endure? They don’t have the same rights, privileges or comforts of citizens. They can’t vote, can’t be elected to office, can’t bring family members to the U.S., and can’t get government jobs! Why not? Because they’re not citizens!

If we’re just strangers and pilgrims here, that means this world isn’t our permanent home!

  • No matter what evil or wickedness we endure in this world . . .
  • No matter what people do to us or say to us . . .
  • No matter how hard or depressing our circumstances can be . . .

We have this sure promise – we’re heavenly citizens and we have a room waiting for us there right now![2]

 

#2 – BECAUSE GOD CHOSE TO SAVE YOU (VV.2-3):

 

2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

 

I want you to know that the fact that God saved you means that you’re special to Him! Every single Person of the Godhead was personally involved in your salvation and rescue from hell:[3]

  1. You were individually chosen (“elect”) by God the Father before the world even began
  2. You were made holy (“sanctified”) by the Spirit when you were born again – your heart was made clean and washed
  3. Your punishment was paid by Christ when He died for you in your place; His blood atoned for your sin. In the Old Covenant, a priest had to take the blood of your sacrificial animal and sprinkle it on the altar to atone for your sins. Christ took His own blood and sacrificed Himself to atone for all our sins[4]

You are special to God, and I think we sort of lose sight of that fact in our day to day life. You ought to praise God for your salvation![5] Peter says that it’s because of His “abundant mercy” that you were born again. “Mercy” means that God took pity on us when we didn’t deserve it. You have a living (“lively”) hope in eternal life. Just like Christ was resurrected and went to heaven to be with God the Father, so will you . . . and it’s all due to God!

“To God be the glory, great things He hath done! So loved He the world that He gave us His Son!”

#3 – YOUR SALVATION IS SECURE! (V.4-5):

 

4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

 

Your inheritance in God’s Kingdom . . . 

  • Is incorruptible. It won’t rot and wither away like a piece of fruit
  • Is undefiled. It’s pure; it doesn’t become contaminated by anything we do
  • Doesn’t fade away. The freshest flower will fade away and die – your inheritance in God’s Kingdom won’t. Christ has prepared a place for you; it’s got your name on it, and it’s waiting for you!

 

#4 – ALL THIS IS WHY YOU CAN KEEP GOING (VV.6-9):

 

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

 

God saved you. The Holy Spirit helps you every day through life. Jesus promised to come back for you. That means you can keep on fighting each and every day, living Christ-like lives while you wait for God to make good on His promises. Why? Because you’re going to transfer home one day – Jesus has promised to prepare a place for you.

Peter knew what it was to suffer persecution; so did all these early Christians. Peter is writing this letter from Rome, where the insane Emperor Nero was on the throne! This idea of looking towards the end as a way to get through the present wasn’t some pie-in-the-sky idea to him, and it shouldn’t be to you, either! Peter told them to rejoice in what God has done and will do for them, as they struggled through problems, persecutions and everyday temptations.[6] Look past your struggles, whatever they are, and know that God has an eternity of rest waiting for you.

 

7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

 

One thing God does is allow trials to challenge and grow our faith. Peter compares it to gold. One method to refine gold is to melt it and use some kind of gaseous chlorine to attract all the impurities, which float to the top. The impurities are skimmed off, and you have 99.5% pure gold. Peter says, like gold, we go through bad times and suffer through terrible events, and all the while our faith is being strengthened.[7] We see things in our Christian walk we need to fix. Impurities, bad attitudes and un-Christian mindsets are skimmed off, leaving a more authentic and real faith behind; a refined and stronger faith and a more pure faith. The gold is never destroyed by this process; it only removes the impurities.

Through it all, we keep going so we can glorify the God who saved us from hell and has done so much for us. Every single time we persevere through any struggle with our testimony and our faith intact and even strengthened – we bring praise, honor and glory to our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ![8] When He returns for us we’re finished struggling, and we can say we’ve done our part in honoring Him!

And again – what is our motivation? Peter reminds us that we haven’t even seen Christ, but we:

  1. Love Him
  2. We love Him and what He did for us
  3. That means we can rejoice with “joy unspeakable and full of glory!”

 

“I have found that hope so bright and clear, living in the realm of grace!”

“Oh, the Savior’s presence is so near, I can see His smiling face . . .!”

“It is joy unspeakable and full of glory . . . Oh, the half has never yet been told!”

 

I think this is worth being happy about!

 

#5 – YOU KNOW MORE THAN DAVID AND MOSES DID (VV.10-12):

 

You know more about Christ, salvation, heaven and God than anyone in the Old Testament ever did:

“For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them,” (Matthew 13:17).

This is a reason to be happy! You have more of God’s word than they ever did.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report,” (Hebrews 11:1-2).

This isn’t blind faith, as though Abraham just took a running, blind leap out into space. He knew what salvation was. He knew how good God was – God took care of Him. God fulfilled His promises. So, Abraham believed God when He said what He would do, based on what He had done. And, as we look back on the great faith of Abraham, do you realize that we can know about God than Abraham? You have more of God’s Word! The Old Testament saints didn’t have the Gospels, Paul’s letters, Peter’s letters or any other New Testament writing. If we can know so much more about God than the Old Testament saints ever did, because we have so much more of God’s Word, doesn’t that mean that we ought to be even more joyful than Moses or David?

David wrote: “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word,” (Psalm 119:15-16). A lot of the Psalms were written by him, and this was a man who didn’t know the details about Christ that we know now: 

  • He didn’t have the Holy Spirit living inside him
  • He didn’t have a perfect, finished sacrifice
  • He didn’t have the direct and personal, constant access to God that we do now
  • He didn’t have the details about the end-times
  • He didn’t have the details about the new heavens and the new earth
  • He didn’t have the details about eternity in the New Jerusalem, walking in streets of gold

 

10 Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:

 

Daniel, Jeremiah, Hosea – all the prophets asked and searched and wondered about the Messiah who would come and set everything right.They wanted to know what we know now – it’s all the New Testament! How many Bibles do we have in our homes? How easy is it to go to Biblegateway.com, look on Kindle or go anywhere on the internet and find the New Testament – which has the answers the men in the Old Testament could only dream of having access to! We have it. You have it. You can know more about God than they did.

 

11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

 

They didn’t know how everything fit together.[9] They saw that Messiah would be sent from God. He would rule and reign, and His throne and kingdom would last forever. And yet, He would suffer and die . . . How did all this fit together? The Holy Spirit moved them to write the Scripture, but how could they make sense of it all!?

 

12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

 

They didn’t know how or when all the murky details about Christ would come to pass. They figured it wouldn’t be for them to know, but for the folks who were living when it happened:

“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect,” (Hebrews 11:39-40).

The believers in the OT looked forward to the promise of Christ and believed in it by faith – even though they never saw Christ or read His words in the Gospels. We have something better than they did – we look back on what Christ already did!

 

CONCLUSION:

 

If you’re a Christian, you have lots of reasons to be happy. We’re all going through something – we may be going through different things, but we’re all struggling with something. There are some people who I’d never be friends with unless we both weren’t Christians! We’re not all sitting here today because we’re from the same town, went to the same school, have the same interests or even work at the same place. What ties us together is that we’re all Christians. We can all grab hold of these simple truths:

  • God has given you a home in heaven that’s waiting for you
  • God decided to save you – specifically and individually
  • Your salvation is secure; it’s incorruptible, undefiled and will never fade away
  • You have more of God’s Word, and can know more about God than any man or woman from the OT
  • Because all this is true, stay happy, and keep on keepin’ on through whatever you’re dealing with – God’s promises are real and true

Do your best to live a Christ-like life, walking worthy of our great God and Savior, while we wait for orders to ship out back home to heaven – where Christ has a place waiting for you!

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Footnotes:

[1] Some argue that Peter was writing to Jewish Christians. After all, Peter was an apostle to the Jews and his epistles are saturated with OT references and allusions. However, I follow D. Edmond Hiebert in assuming that Peter is just writing to Christians in general: “[i]t seems more natural to understand Peter’s use of the term metaphorically, as a picture of Christians scattered in various areas as minority groups in a non-Christian world,” (1 Peter, revised ed. [Chicago, IL: Moody, 1992; reprint, Winona Lake, IN: BMH, 2008], 47).

[2] “Peter is writing a travellers’ guide for Christian pilgrims. He reminds them that their hope is anchored in their homeland. They are called to endure alienation as strangers, but they have a heavenly citizenship and destiny,” (Edmund P. Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, The Bible Speaks Today [Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 1988; Kindle edition, 2014], Kindle Locations 471-472).

[3] “To describe what God has done to bring about his great design, Peter refers to the Holy Spirit and to Jesus Christ. God’s choosing of his people is applied to them through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood (1: 2). It is by the Spirit that God ‘has given us new birth’ (1: 3), and it is by Christ’s blood that we are cleansed and redeemed (1: 18– 19). The triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, accomplishes our salvation,” (Clowney, 1 Peter, Kindle Locations 438-442).

[4] I disagree with particular redemption.

[5] Peter’s point is not to write a theological treatise or to systematically explain soteriology. “The opening characterization of the readers as elect was meant to strengthen and encourage them in their affliction. The doctrine of election is a ‘family truth’ intended to foster the welfare of believers,” (Hiebert, 1 Peter, 46).

[6] “Peter will describe the political and social duties of the Christian pilgrim. But first the pilgrim must know his calling. It is not to pursue the mirage of humanistic hope. Neither is it to bow down to worship the imperial images of totalitarian power. It is to obey Jesus Christ until the day of his appearing,” (Clowney, 1 Peter, Kindle Locations 570-572).

[7] “God sends trials to strengthen our trust in him so that our faith will not fail. Our trials keep us trusting; they burn away our self-confidence and drive us to our Saviour. The fires of affliction or persecution will not reduce our faith to ashes. Fire does not destroy gold: it only removes combustible impurities,” (Clowney, 1 Peter, Kindle Locations 709-711).

[8] Hiebert suggests that we will be awarded praise, honor and glory by Christ at our glorification (1 Peter, 68-69). I am not comfortable with this idea. Everything we do is for the glory of God. Believers surely will receive crowns for their faithful service, and we will be glorified, but I am very reluctant to ascribe any glory and honor to us. “If we receive crowns of glory, it will be our joy to cast them at the feet of the Saviour,” (Clowney, 1 Peter, Kindle Location 729).

[9] I see the searching and inquiring by the OT prophets as being about how all the pieces would fit together, not about when. This is a major bone of contention. It also touches on the issue of the content of saving faith before the explicit revelation of Christ in the New Covenant. “The words search and inquiry imply a lack of knowledge about how the prophesies would be fulfilled, not about what they meant,” (William Baker, James & First and Second Peter, 21st Century Biblical Commentary Series, ed. Mal Couch and Ed Hindson [Chattanooga, TN: AMG, 2004], 108).

The prophets were concerned with the time of the Messiah’s explicit advent, of course, but they were worried about more than that. It wasn’t just the timing, but the manner of His appearance and the characteristics of His ministry that concerned them. John Calvin observes,

“There was a difference between the law and the gospel, a veil as it were being interposed, that they might not see those things nearer which are now set before our eyes. Nor was it indeed proper, while Christ the Sun of righteousness was yet absent, that the full light should shine as at mid-day. And though it was their duty to confine themselves within their prescribed limits, yet it was no superstition to sigh with a desire of having a nearer sight. For when they wished that redemption should be hastened, and desired daily to see it, there was nothing in such a wish to prevent them patiently to wait as long as it pleased the Lord to defer the time,” (Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles [Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010], 38–39). Calvin went on to say that “[m]oreover, to seek as to prophecies the particular time, seems to me unprofitable; for what is spoken of here is not what the prophets taught, but what they wished,” (Catholic Epistles, 39).

Not everyone agrees. Hiebert says the prophets sought only the timing (1 Peter, 75-76). So dies Tom Schreiner; “Peter’s point, of course, was that the prophets predicted these matters but did not know when they would be fulfilled, and they hoped upon hope that they would be fulfilled in their days,” (1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary [Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003], 73).

They are wrong. The confusion the disciples showed during Christ’s first advent, and the sudden flash of understanding after the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost seen to decisively tilt the argument in favor of how the prophesies about the Messiah would be fulfilled. The core issue, perhaps, is what exactly the prophets understood about Christ in the OT. I am in full agreement with Dallas Theological Seminary’s statement on this matter: “We believe also that they did not understand the redemptive significance of the prophecies or types concerning the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 1:10–12); therefore, we believe that their faith toward God was manifested in other ways as is shown by the long record in Hebrews 11:1–40.”

Unfit for Service?

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Apathy towards the Gospel?

Why are so many Christians, including myself, not as energetic in spreading the Gospel as we should be?

Why are we so uncaring?

Why do we not maneuver conversations with co-workers, friends and family to spiritual matters once in a while?

Why, instead, do we conspicuously try to avoid these topics?

Perhaps, as Lewis Chafer suggests, we’re simply not right with God:

. . . this Divine burden for the lost is a very uncommon experience among believers to-day ; and the solution of this problem is found in the last step that marks the movements of the ” power of God unto salvation.” The difficulty lies with the defilement of the priests before God who do not and cannot, because of their own unfitness, experience the love of God for others, or prevail with God in the holy place. [1]

Under the Mosaic Law, the priest could not approach God in an impure state, else he would be struck dead.  Peter applied this privilege, and responsibility, to Christians in this dispensation:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

New Testament believers are each individual priests before God, blessed with the privilege of approaching God on our own, without a human intercessor. How seriously are we taking our responsibility to be holy? Is unconfessed and unrepentant sin a trivial, laughing matter in our lives? It shouldn’t be; an Old Testament priest would have been killed for such a permissive attitude towards God’s holiness. Perhaps if we get our own spiritual house in order, we will each experience the zeal for personal evangelism we should have.

[1] Lewis S. Chafer, True Evangelism (New York, NY: Gospel Publishing House, 1911), 130.

Works Salvation?

will-work-for-salvation

It is often claimed that James and Paul present different Gospels; that Paul advocates justification by faith and James presents a works based salvation. Well, what of this charge?

James says (2:15-26):

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Paul says:

For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness (Rom 4:2-3).

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Gal 2:16).

Here, critics claim, we find irrefutable proof that these disciples were at odds with one another. How sad it is that these skeptics persist in their unbelief, and refuse to fully examine the Scriptures. James certainly does not declare Abraham and Rahab justified by their works, but merely shows us the fruit of their authentic salvation.

God’s purpose in ordering Abraham to offer up Isaac, his only son, was to tempt or test him (Gen 22:1), not declare him righteous! When God saw that Abraham demonstrated the fruits of real faith and trust in Him, he sent an angel to stop him (Gen 22:11-12). This test was not for God, it was for Abraham.

The Old Testament told us Rahab was spared because she hid the Israelite spies sent to scout out the land (Josh 2:1; 6:17, 23, 25). The writer of Hebrews tells us it was her faith that saved her (Heb 11:31), and this revelation comes to us in that great and wonderful passage which extolls the faith of mighty men from ages gone by (Heb 11). There is no hint of justification by works.

Remember also that Paul and James were agreed on the content of the Gospel (Gal 2:1-10). It is folly to suggest this was not so; if it were, we would have evidence of some sort of major disagreement between Paul, Peter, John and James, all of whom agreed on the terms of salvation at that fateful meeting in Jerusalem (Gal 2:1-10). James’ main concern in his epistle was to exhort Christians to be useful and to explain the nature of real faith; he was not penning a systematic exposition of doctrine like Paul was in Romans. Scripture must be analyzed in its own context. James wanted Christians to be useful, therefore ” . . . faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,” (Jas 2:17). The entire context of his epistle is that real faith produces results!

Consider John the Baptist’s words to Jews who came forth to be baptized in the Jordan River;

Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham (Lk 3:7-8).

John didn’t want them unless their faith was proven by deed. They were trusting in physical lineage with Abraham for salvation, and this would not do. There should be some fruit of real salvation. Paul said much the same thing in his letter to Titus when he urged the young preacher to exhort his people to be ready to perform good works.

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men (Titus 3:8).

How much clearer can it be? Works save nobody, but they are the fruit of saving faith. Paul, like James, was concerned that Christians not be “unfruitful” in their walk with the Lord;

And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful (Titus 3:14).

It is clear that these men do not present different Gospels at all. They agreed on the content of the Gospel. They both emphasized that works are the proper fruit of salvation. John the Baptist agreed with them. And, by the way, Christ agreed with them all:

For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit (Lk 6:43).

A man is known by his fruits, for good or bad. I pray that those confused men and women who believe in works salvation come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The Riches of His Grace!

Ephesians 2:1-9 is a very frank look at what God saved Christians from and about who we really are as people. Are we good people who need help from God? Or, are we rebellious sinners in desperate need of a Savior? For non-Christians, this is a sobering and honest look at sin and their need for Christ. For Christians, this is a reminder of what we’re saved from, and a rebuke to live for God like we ought to. I hope you find you find this little study helpful!

WHO WE REALLY ARE (Eph 2:1-3):

  • Eph 2:1 – And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

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Right up front, without any preamble, Paul reminds the Christians in Ephesus that they used to be “dead in trespasses and sins,” (Eph 2:1). This is who we are without Christ; not physically dead but spiritually dead. This runs counter to what we want to believe about ourselves. We want to believe we’re “good” people.

However, what standard, or benchmark, are people using when they describe themselves as “good people?” Who says murder is wrong? Who says stealing purses from old ladies is a bad thing? Who says marriage is a sacred covenant, or agreement, between a man and a woman? Who says it is morally wrong to be unfaithful to your spouse? Without an anchor of som

e sort, some objective benchmark to ground morality and human “goodness,” then we’re left with a purely subjective mess.

Scripture teaches that all of creation was made by God, and more specifically that men and women are made in God’s image (Gen 1:27-28). Being His creatures, God’s standard is the benchmark for morality and behavior. Scripture teaches us that we’re not good people. Our entire concept of human morality is built on God’s word (Rom 2:14-15). God’s word tells us we’re dead in trespasses and sins without Christ.

Again, this isn’t something people like to hear. Many Christians like to deny the idea of “total depravity,” typically out of a sinful desire for autonomy from God or as a visceral reaction against what they perceive as Calvinism. As theologian Michael Horton wrote, “. . . pelagianism is the natural religion of humanity!” [1] Even compromising Christian counselors deny this doctrine. For example, one prominent Christian counselor boldly declares that his end-goal when assisting people through crisis is to restore self-esteem and instill more self-reliance in the individual! [2] He even goes so far as to declare:

“Jesus’ ministry was one of helping people achieve fullness of life and assisting them in developing their ability to deal with the problems, conflicts and burdens in life.” [3]

It is difficult to imagine a more un-Biblical and ridiculous concept of Christ’s ministry. So much for repenting and believing in the Gospel (Mk 1:15)! Self-reliance is what doomed Adam and Eve in the Garden; they chose to follow their desires over God’s command. This has been man’s natural state ever since (Rom 5:12-21); we don’t want to rely on God, we want to rely on ourselves.

Consider what Paul wrote in the Book of Romans:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse,” (Rom 1:18-21).

We can see from Paul’s words that knowledge of God is everywhere, but men hold back, crush down and suppress this truth in unrighteousness. We don’t want to acknowledge that God is there, because then we’re accountable for what he says. Paul went on to paint a clear picture of all people, Jew and Gentile, knowing the truth about God but glorifying themselves instead:

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened,” (Rom 1:21).

Also, remember the testimony of Romans 3:9-18, where Paul once again explains the spiritual plight of any unregenerate person, Jew or Gentile. Pay particular attention to these two verses:

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one,” (Rom 3:10).

“There is no fear of God before their eyes,” (Rom 3:18).

People are not wandering around, desperately seeking God. Spiritual things are foolish to them. I can recall my own father chiding me with a knowing smile when I was on my way to church one Sunday morning,

“Go ahead and go to church,” he said wistfully. “You’ll soon see there’s nothing to all that nonsense. I figured it out. You will too.”

Paul’s words stand true here; “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” (1 Cor 2:14). The fact that any man does seek God is evidence of the Holy Spirit working in your heart

This is what “dead” in trespasses and sins means. It means that unsaved, unregenerate rebel sinners are spiritual corpses. A dead body cannot rise up again! I was a Military Police officer for 10 years and saw many dead bodies in the course of duty; I can assure you none of those bodies was capable of rising up and walking away. They were dead. This is our spiritual condition without Christ; dead and gone without any hope in the world. It means knowing God is there and pushing that knowledge away, crushing it under false hopes, cynicism, etc. Knowing this makes us accountable for our own sin. Our inherent sin places an unbridgeable gap between us and God. Christ came to fill this gap and save sinners who don’t even want to be saved.

  • Eph 2:2 – Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Paul continues describing the spiritual state of the Ephesian Christians before their salvation. This also describes modern Christians before they were saved by Christ. It describes you right now if you have not been saved by Christ.

People without Christ walk “according to the prince of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air.” Christians used to act this way, and were formerly energized and influenced by Satan. Numerous places in Scripture testify that this “prince of the power of the air” is most certainly Satan himself. In Jn 12:31, Christ discloses that by His death on the cross, Satan will be eventually cast out. His hold on people will be broken. [4] Likewise, in Jn 16:11, Christ comforts His disciples and promises to send the Holy Spirit as a Counselor or Helper for them after He ascended to the Father. Christ explained the role of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life, and said the Holy Spirit convicts men of judgment, because “the prince of this world is judged.”

What Paul says about Satan’s activity is so very important. Satan is “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Notice that Paul describes unsaved, rebellious men and women as “children of disobedience.” The natural man is inherently rebellious against God. Satan is active and working in the lives of people who are unsaved and “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” (1 Jn 5:19). He does the same in a Christian’s life. The critical difference is that a Christian doesn’t belong to him anymore.

Romans 6 brings this out quite clearly. A person belongs in either one of two spiritual spheres; to Satan or God. People are by nature “children of disobedience” and belong to Satan without saving faith in Christ. After salvation, a person’s headship or spiritual ownership transfers to God. This is a legal, forensic decision by Christ to declare believers righteous when He is under no obligation to do so! Do you belong to Satan or God today?

  • Eph 2:3 – Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Paul goes on, describing our actions before salvation. Our “conversation” (or daily conduct) was about the lusts of the flesh. There was little to no thought about God’s standards, our own sin, and repentance for that sin. We lived our own lives for ourselves, not for God who created us. Our goal was to fulfill our own desires of the flesh and the mind. We know when bad and sinful things pop into our minds. We’ve all acted on some of these thoughts and made mistakes we’ve regretted and done things we’re not proud of. All of us know our hearts, and realize we’re sinful people. We all know about this gap between us and God.

Again, Paul makes no apologies for portraying men and men as the rebellious sinners they are. He writes that we are “by nature the children of wrath.” We are born as rebellious sinners, suppressing the truth and knowledge of God. It is our natural state. You and I weren’t born with a disposition to obey God and worship Him as Lord! We were born with a disposition to sinful thoughts and actions, which are opposed to God in every possible way!

“For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not,” (Ecc 7:20).

This doesn’t mean that unsaved people aren’t nice people who do nice things. It does mean that, because of our rebellious, sinful nature, nothing we do gains us any points with God in any way.[5] It is a matter of perspective. It’s a matter of standards.

“Depravity as a doctrine does not stand or fall on the ground of man’s estimation of himself; it rather reflects God’s estimation of man.” [6]

By our own standards, I like to think I’m a pretty good guy. By God’s standard, I’m a rebellious sinner. We’re not sinners by our actions; we’re sinners by our very nature. This encompasses both thoughts and actions.

WHAT CHRIST DID FOR US (Eph 2:4-6):

  • Eph 2:4 – But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
  • Eph 2:5 – Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
  • Eph 2:6 – And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
Heart_of_Stone_by_TheComicFan
In salvation, God changes our rebellious hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.

Think about the significance of this small word, “but.” [7] God is “rich in mercy.” He didn’t have to provide a way of salvation for us, but He did anyway. He was not obligated to do this. Our just punishment for rebellion is instant destruction. So many Christians have a small conception of our just and Holy God. They emphasize God’s love, but denigrate His holiness and terribly underestimate the depths of human sinfulness. This salvation He provided showed the “great love” He has for us. This is undeserved love. Because we’re spiritually dead to God, His love is shown by the fact that He even bothered with us in the first place.[8] Again, salvation in Christ transfers us from one category to another – from Satan’s control to God’s control. Sin no longer has absolute dominion over a Christian; this is a promise unbelievers cannot claim as their own:

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace,” (Rom 6:14).

What does this tell us about God? He is holy, loving and just. We are sinful, rebellious and undeserving people. We should praise His name in every aspect of our lives.

Paul writes that this salvation in Christ “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Eph 2:6). He is reminding the Ephesians, and us, about where our future home is. We are strangers and pilgrims on this earth (1 Pet 2:11), ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). This world is not our eternal home; our hope is beyond this temporal world:

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself,” (Phil 3:20-21).

If we call ourselves Christians, we ought to act and think like it! We don’t have to bring sacrifices to an altar as an offering for God anymore; the ceremonial law has passed away in this dispensation. Instead, Paul tell us our reasonable service is to offer ourselves to God (Rom 12:1). This is the only proper response to the glorious gift of salvation.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service,” (Rom 12:1).

God desires to be worshipped in spirit and truth (Jn 4:24). Our duty is to try our level best to fulfill this calling, looking forward to glorious eternity when we can do so, without possibility of sin.

WHY HE DID IT (Eph 2:7-9):

  • Eph 2:7 – That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

For-His-Glory

Paul reminds us what God’s entire purpose in human history is. Some people believe the main point, or synopsis, of Scripture is that God saves us from sin. This is man-centered thinking and it is terribly wrong. It isn’t about us; it’s about Him. The entire arc of Scripture is about God bringing about His kingdom for His glory.

Christ’s sacrifice for sinners demonstrated His great love. But what was the point of Christ’s sacrifice? Why did God provide a way of salvation and elect to save anybody at all? For our sake? Surely not! He did it so that it would glorify His name and lead a grateful and undeserving people to worship Him the way we ought to have done all along – the way He deserves to be worshipped. Consider the following Scripture passages which plainly show that God works in human history for His own glory, not our own:

  • “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise,” (Isa 43:19-21). Isaiah is speaking once again of the future restoration of Israel, for His own sake.
  • “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins,” (Isa 43:25). God promises to restore Israel and blot out her former sins for His sake, not theirs.
  • “And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified,” (Isa 49:3). This is an excerpt from one of the so-called Servant Songs in Isaiah, describing the future work of Christ the Messiah. It is clear that Christ’s work will glorify the Father, not men.
  • “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went,” (Eze 36:22). Again, this shows why God will act in the future to restore Israel.

Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and our salvation isn’t about us. It’s about God, and the honor and glory due to Him. So few Christians have any idea what the phrase “grace of God” even means. To them, Jesus is a Sunday School character sitting on a green field, surrounded by fluffy white sheep with a child on His lap and a dove floating above Him in the sky! Christians must be committed to really deepen their faith and move beyond crayon Christianity and really understand and appreciate who God is, and reorient our lives to show it.

  • Eph 2:8 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
  • Eph 2:9 – Not of works, lest any man should boast.

We are saved by grace through faith, which is unmerited or undeserved favor. Salvation is a gift from God, and Christians did not earn or deserve this gift in any way. I’ll turn from Ephesians at this point, and briefly discuss what the Gospel actually is. I’ve referenced it enough in this little paper, and it must be heard.

THE GOSPEL:

I believe there is one verse from the Gospel of Mark that is the clearest, most comprehensive passage on salvation in the Scripture:

“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel,” (Mk 1:14-15).

This is the simplest Gospel verse in the Bible. Salvation isn’t a fast food menu where anybody can pick what they like. You can’t pick and choose from a potpourri of man-made religions, choose whichever suits you best and receive your own version of salvation when you roll forward to the pick-up window. God does not present an inclusivist view in Scripture:

  • “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” (Jn 14:6).
  • “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12).

Salvation entails both repentance and belief, or saving faith. Repentance means a change of mind (1 Thess 1:9). This involves a turn away from sin (Heb 6:1; Rev 9:21) and towards God (Acts 20:21). It is also so much more than mere regret.[9] Repentance is genuine sorrow for one’s sin, accompanied by a resolution to turn from it. It is sorrow for one’s sin because of the wrong done to God and the hurt inflicted upon Him. In other words, there must be a real alteration of the inner person. This is the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in men’s hearts; Ezekiel described this process as God changing a heart of stone to a heart of flesh (Eze 11:19-20).

Salvation is also about believing in the Gospel, placing saving faith in Christ. Saving faith is understanding what Christ did for you in an intellectual and emotional way, and acting on it. It is more than some cold, intellectual understanding. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble,” (Jas 2:19).

It does include intellectual understanding (e.g. “Christ is the Son of God!”). However, it also includes emotional understanding (e.g. “Christ died for my sins!”). And finally, it is voluntary action (“I will trust Christ as my Lord and Savior!”).

We cannot save ourselves. Dead people can’t do much of anything. Dead men can’t cooperate with God in salvation, in some kind of ridiculous synergistic fashion. We are totally dependent on the grace of God for our salvation, and I wish more preachers would bring this marvelous truth out. Praise Him that He provided Christ for sinners. He didn’t have to.

———————————————————————————————–

1. Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims Along on Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 561.

2.  H. Norman Wright, The Complete Guide to Crisis & Trauma Counseling: What To Do And Say When It Matters Most! (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2011), 183.

3. Ibid, 24.

4. Edwin A. Blum, John, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 318. “The Cross was also the means of Satan’s defeat. The prince of this world, Jesus said, will be driven out. His power over people by sin and death was defeated and they can now be delivered out of his domain of spiritual darkness and slavery to sin.”

5. Lewis S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1976), 7:119. “Theologians employ the phrase total depravity, which does not mean that there is nothing good in any unregenerate person as seen by himself or other people; it means that there is nothing in fallen man which God can find pleasure in or accept.” Emphasis mine.

6. Ibid, 2:219.

7. Grateful for this insight to John Phillips, Exploring Ephesians & Philippians (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1993), 63.

8. Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 623. “Since sinners are spiritually dead toward God, they have nothing to commend them to God. This is why Paul described this love as being ‘great.’ ”

9. Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 950.