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 trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is
counted as righteousness ...
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
What are the Conditions for Receiving Everlasting Life?
Would you not all agree that we must be clear on how men and women receive everlasting life? If we have confusion on this matter, how are we to instruct the lost on how they can be sure they have eternal life?
I have a question for all the readers of Unashamed of Grace. I would like to have a discussion on this question, so please, each answer individually. Be verbose as well.
Enumerate for us all of the conditions that must be met by an individual (whether by himself, or if you suggest, by gift or introduction by God) in order for him to have eternal life. What must he do and what exactly must he believe? In other words, how do you construct your appeal or invitation to receive eternal life in your 'gospel' conversations?
Do not with-hold any thing. If someone asked you, "I want to be sure that I am not going to hell when I die. I want to be sure that I will be with God forever. How can my eternal destiny be secured? Please share with me all the considerations of this. What must I do to be eternally secure?" What, exactly, would you say?
Let us examine each person's answer to this most important question. Are you hesitant to answer? I know that you have a firm opinion on this if you are reading this blog! Please answer that we may discuss it. I will answer as well.
I would like to hear from Lou Martuneac what his answer would be. I am sure that you all would be interested as well.
"Here we learn that if you are really a child of God and have really been born into God's family, when you do wrong and stay in that wrong, Jesus says, "Let me pick you up." If you say, "No, I will go ahead again, I'll curse again; I'll drink again; and I'll lust again," then Jesus Christ will do what any parent would do. He'll say "Okay. Bend over."
You are going to get a tanning. You can expect it. You know, spankings are wonderful because they tell you that somebody owns you. I don't spank your children. Just in case I pickyou up this morning and spank you, then you can say "Well he is still my daddy." I spank mine.
When you stumble in sin, the Lord says tenderly and lovingly, "I've come to pick you up." If you won't let Him pick you up, then He says "Bend over!"
You mark my word, dear brother, you are going to have a car wreck; you are going to lose your job; you are going to go to hospital. If you're a Christian and refuse to get back up, you are ruined for being happy in this world any more. God made you a new creature, and just as the old man fights against the new man when you are doing right, the new man puts up a stiff battle. You will not be happy in this world because that new man is going to fight you and prick your conscience over and over again. So let me say, when you fall and stumble, let Jesus pick you up, lest He put His chastening rod upon you.
First, Jesus reminds you that He wants to pick you up. If you refuse, He will spank you. God will take you on to heaven.
You have said to your children "Now listen, if you can't behave yourself, you have to come into the house. You are not going to play outside and be bad."
Finally you will say, "Come on in. If you can't behave yourself outside, come in and sit right beside Mama."
If God asks you to get right and you don't, He spanks you. If He spanks you and you still don't do right, God will say "Okay, come on up to heaven where I can keep my eyes on you."
Christ is not going to let you smear His testimony and His name. When it comes to the place that your life will do more harm to the Gospel of Jesus Christ than your death, He will take you home. In John 15:2 we read "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away..."
You are back in sin, you are miserable. You are not happy. What can you do? First realise the harm that your stumbling has done to your testimony. Somebody has been watching you. Somebody has had his eyes on you. Somebody has been saying that 'if he sticks, I am going to come to God.' All of a sudden you hurt your testimony. Realise the awfulness of it!
Secondly, claim 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.""
In reading another blog, I came across a discussion about God's love as it relates to election. Several Calvinists were involved in the discussion. The question being discussed is basically like this:
Does God love thenon-elect at all ... and if so, does he love thenon-electless or differently than the elect?
I have so enjoyed reading some of the thoughts of Daniel - who is one of these involved in the discussion - who is not so willing to stipulate to this idea of God showing partiality. I just wanted to post his thought here as I have been reflecting upon it:
Daniel says: I marvel that if I am commanded to love my neighbor regardless of whether that neighbor is elect - and more, if the whole law of God can be summed up in that command - I say I marvel that I am tragically commanded to do a thing that God himself does not do, that is, to love everyone as myself.I am having a lot of trouble seeing God as saying to men to "Do as I say, and not as I do..."
I am sure that Antonio gets tired of explaining that those of us who are Free Grace do recognise the existence of false believers. Some critics seem to think that Free Gracers recognise as a Christian anybody who calls herself that.
There are just two kinds of false believers:
1) Those who believe a different gospel.
You cannot get saved believing a different gospel. There is only one message of good news that can save.
It is not just those in liberal or sacramental churches who may be believers in a different gospel; no doubt there are many in Evangelical churches who are believing a lie. In so many Bible-believing churches there is only weak teaching and the great truths of Scripture are never really brought out. Then there are the Arminians who deny that Christ has given them a genuine gift of eternal life. And there may be many Calvinists who have never been assured of posessing eternal life. These do not believe the Gospel.
2) Those who pretend to be believers for their own reasons.
We might think that these would be rare in the West. In far away countries it is easy to imagine secret policemen posing as believers. However, here in western churches there are no doubt people who profess to be believers, but who are not.
Many children of Christian parents may well make professions of faith. It is natural to want to please one's parents. Or to please one's peers. I have known many young people who have made temporary professions of faith in order to fit into a crowd of Christian teenagers, either in a Christian school or a church youth club. For some teenagers, being part of the incrowd.
Or older people may come into this category. It is easy to attack seeker-friendly methods, but they do have their problems. In the UK, many Evangelical churches use the Alpha course. Non-Christians attend a series of meetings over dinner where they are taught (not necessarilly in sound terms) the basics of Christianity. Part of the attraction of this method is the fellowship element. The would-be converts are exposed to such wondeful, loving,caring people. They want to join because they see such lovely kind Christians. The problem is that they have never come to the point of trusting in Christ for eternal life.
These people may want to believe. They think that it is very likely that Christ is the saviour of the world. They may think that Christianity is probable. They may hope that salvation is found in Christ. But this is not true faith.
What Free Gracers do not accept as a spurious non-saving faith is a faith that acknowledges Christ as one's personal guarantor of eternal life, but which is supposedly deficent because- 1) it is only an intellectual faith and/ or 2) it is only a temporary faith. The Bible places no qualifications on the nature of a faith that looks to Jesus Christ for eternal life.
A Suggested Gospel Introduction for use by the Calvinist
by Antonio da Rosa
It is common knowledge that the Calvinist cannot know certainly whether or not he is truly saved. They believe that they can be confident as they introspect and see growth, fruit, and perseverance.
Yet in Calvinism, there is such a thing as spurious faith. And you may seem to grow for years but there is a possibility that you can fall away from the faith, thus evidencing a deficient, substandard, and insufficient faith.
For a most RECENT illustration of the pitiable and tragic position of the Calvinist on assurance, see my post on Frank Turk's (AKA the centuri0n) latest post on the gospel -- please refer to my blog here (it comes along with a heinous quote by R.L. Dabney):
Kenneth Gentry writes, "Assurance is subjective ... Dabney rightfully notes that [absolute assurance] requires a revelation beyond the Scripture because the Bible does not specifically speak to the individual in question. Nowhere in the Bible do we learn ... that Ken Gentry is among the elect"
John Murray stated, “The perseverance of the saints reminds us very forcefully that only those who persevere to the end are truly saints”
(For those of you who are wondering, I am 100% certain, convinced, and fully persuaded that I have eternal life. I do not even entertain the slightest doubt. I have eternal life, I am justified, and I will be resurrected by Christ to live with Him forever.)
So on to the suggested introduction for the Calvinist. When starting up a gospel conversation with a potential convert, open it up this way:
Hey, I'm not certain where I am going when I die, and if you have a few minutes, I can share with you how you can be uncertain too!
If the church is God's redeemed people of all ages, then the church must have begun with Adam, though most covenant writers are reluctant to say that. They usually begin the church with Abraham in order to found it on the Abrahamic covenant, link it to the olive tree of Romans 11, preserve the idea of a group fellowship, and be able to use the label "Israel" for the church The church in the New Testament is the "new Israel", and the church in the Old Testament is Israel. But before Abraham, what was the church?
~Charles Ryrie, 'Dispensationalism' (Revised and Expanded)
The following is my response to TULIP. TULIP has many shortcomings therefore this is what I would love to see preached from the PULPIT!
P Preservation of the Saints
The believer in Jesus Christ does not necessarily persevere in fellowship with God but is preserved unto salvation from the lake of fire.
U Unconditional Election of Believers (the Church)
God chose to save “Whoever believes in (Jesus Christ)” from the lake of fire. This was not based on Him foreknowing who would respond to the gospel but was based on His foreknowing the cross of Christ and His gift, eternal life, to all who would receive it.
L Limitless Atonement
The atonement - won by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, His subsequent resurrection and His victory over death - is applied to whoever believes in Him without limits.
P Personal Election of the Believer
The individual who believes in Jesus Christ for eternal life, is placed “in Christ”. Those in Christ are chosen of God and thereby have a personal, individual aspect to their election derived from the corporate election of all believers.
I Immutable Grace
The grace of God does not change - it is a rock - it is immutable. It is free for man to accept or reject. It is not forced on anyone and is not withheld from anyone. Once you believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life, you once and for all accept God's gracious gift - that can never change - the believer is eternally secure.
T Total Depravity of the Able
Man is born in a state of total depravation into an environment that, while fallen, is not totally depraved. God is at work in this world through His Word, the testimony of Jesus Christ and the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit – without the intervention by God - no one would come to Him. God has given man the ability to have faith but does not gift faith to the individual.
"If we had lain in hell forever, yet divine justice would not have been fully justified, for after thousands of years of suffering there would remain still an eternity of debt due to God’s justice. If God had annihilated all the sinners that ever lived, at one stroke, he would not have so honored his justice as he did when he took sin and laid it on his Son, and his Son bore divine wrath which was due to that sin. For now there has been rendered unto divine justice a full equivalent, a complete recompense for all the dishonor which it suffered."
This is a quote from Charles Spurgeon. I just want to if others see in it what I do.
We need a truly cosmic soteriology. By that, I mean that Christians need a soteriology that embraces God's plans for the whole of creation. Most Christians focus on deliverance of individuals from the eternal consequences of sin and forget the eschatological dimesion of redemption. Dispensationalists are strong on eschatology, but at times, they may fail to make a strong enough connection between soteriology and eschatology.
The whole of creation is to be redeemed. At present it is in bondage to sin and has lost its orginal goodness. Most Christians fail to acknwledge God's rescue plan for the creation by talking about the world endind or being destroyed. One of the strong points of Reformed theology is that it maintains that the world will not be destroyed but transformed. The New Earth is not a completely new planet, but it is the old earth regenerated and transformed.
Even those who can see a continuity between the old and new earth can fail to see the redemption of creation; often the New Earth is though of in higly ethereal terms. If the original earth was good, then it seems unlikely that the New Earth will be all that different.
That there is good news for creation means that there is good news for the corporeality or physicality of humanity. While believers of this dispensation will be resurrected to heavenly glory, what of God's original blueprint for humnanity? Is marriage and child-bearing too be discarded as inadequate for the New Creation? I believe there are indications in Scripture that non-glorified humnaity will be redeemed and will continue from the Millennium into eternity. The Bible says nothing about the millennial nations being raptured (changed). The believers of the Millennium will presumably continue into the eternal state in bodies like ours, except freed from death.
A question I would put to readers, is whether there is redemption for the female sex? Will Eve's curse ever be removed? Women are destined to suffer in childbirth for Eve's sin. Is there never too be a time when such a curse is lifted and childbirth is painless? If we allow that non-glorified humanity has a future and that family life was created to be an eternal part of God's creation, then there is hope for womankind.
A truly cosmic soteriology will also recognise that creation will be deified, that the whole universe will enter into a special union with God and the universe will become the dwelling place of God in a way that it has never been before. We see this clearly:
27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
1 Corinthians 15
The fulness of what is meant by this is difficult for our finite minds to grasp.
A truly cosmic soteriology will also recognise redemption in the heavenly sphere as well as the earthly sphere and it is to that the believer is brought.
Christians too often fail to grasp the incredible position into which they are brought in their salvation. The Christian is a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We share in Christ's vital union of manhood and deity and in Him we are deified and brought into the divine life. What is eternal life, but to enjoy the love and life of the eternal Triune godhead?
In our resurrection, we are to share even more deeply in Christ's divine glory. For our bodies shall be changed to resemble His own glorified body. The Transfiguration is a foreshadowing of this glorious future.
For the faithful Christian, who overcomes the world, there is an even greater privilege. To sit down with Christ on His throne (Rev 3:21). The throne of the eternal Son of God. To share in His sovereign rule over the universe. The faithful Christian is to become as divine a being as a creature can become. Naturally, we must be careful about saying that a man or woman can become a god. Such a statement is too easily misunderstood, but it is not far from the incredible truth of what God has in store for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.
I was driving in the car with a friend the other day and we were discussing a certain teacher in Christendom today. We were commiserating over the wideness of this teacher’s influence because, in our understanding of things, he is really ‘off the mark’ with his teaching! We believe he binds heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lays them on men’s shoulders. We observe that he muddies the gospel and Christian living by teaching works of righteousness out of context. We feel that he sells guilt to the church at a high premium. His pockets are full with the wages of others' shame. We are really afraid that he shuts up the kingdom of heaven against men. It is almost like he won’t enter the rest of the LORD ... and he doesn’t want to allow those who are entering to go in.
Don’t try to guess who I am talking about. You won’t be able to … and it doesn’t matter who it is anyway.
Perhaps you can think of a teacher in Christendom that irritates you in the way that this one does us. Our frustration is large … because we have close friends, right here, who are influenced by his teaching. We stand and watch in near horror as his view of salvation (which we feel is a misstatement of the true gospel of grace) is repeated to unsaved members of our family. This is right where we live! This is not “over there” – it is right here. This is a man - who we have never met - teaching things to our family members which could undermine the wonderful good news of Jesus Christ and possibly turn some away from receiving Him. It is really awful to us!
Now you may be reading this and come up with your own fury over teaching or teachers of a different stripe than what I am thinking of. That is your business, but it puts us both in the same boat. We are upset about a spiritual teacher.
For my friend and I, we get really worked up and grieved over it. It galls us to think of all the Christians who are buying this … hook, line and yes, sinker. Then they turn around and propagate the error! We feel we have righteous indignation over this teacher and his ivory tower theology as we, who are down in the foot army, have to deal with all the land mines that he has planted.
We are irritated with him.
However, (and here is where the benefit if non-Calvinism comes in), we know that this is one for whom Christ died. He may not know if he is one of the elect or not, but to us, this does not matter. Paul, who wrote to the Romans and the Corinthians about people in the church who had wrong ideas about their true freedom in Christ, said these are brethren for “whom Christ died.” Did they have a stripe down their back that indicated to Paul that they were elect? NO. Did they have their doctrine right? NO. They were thinking that Christians had to keep dietary laws. Their consciences were weak; they were a bit legalistic, I think it is safe to say. Could Paul be sure that they were ‘truly regenerate’? NO. (I think he took them at their word that because they were with the church, although weak in conscience, they were ‘brethren.’) Either way, it doesn’t matter, because as a Non-Calvinist, we can think of anyone – ANYONE – as ‘one for whom Christ died.’ (2 Corinthians 5:19) This is truly beneficial in our perspective as we grapple with frustration and anger over these people. If Christ loved them and gave Himself for them, we should have mercy in our hearts toward them. Yes, we grieve over false teaching, but we should not hate those for whom Christ died, and we don’t have to wonder who they are for whom Christ died.