Archive for the ‘Soteriology’ category

Steve Lemke on TULIP

October 10, 2008

Since I addressed the T in TULIP in greater detail in my previous post, I will begin with the U of Unconditional election.  While each point of TULIP as addressed by Lemke could (and probably should) be addressed in separate posts, I will am pursuing brevity for the benefit of the reader and should in no wise be taken as a concession for Lemke’s errors.

Unconditional Election

On Unconditional Election, Lemke writes:

“Many Calvinists understand ‘unconditional election’ to mean that salvation is provided by God without any involvement or free choice on the party of the sinner, counting any human response (even assent) as a work.”

Absolutely false. Who are the “many Calvinists” Lemke is referring to who contend that unconditional election removes human responsibility?  Perhaps he is referring to hyper-Calvinists who reject “duty faith.”  Maybe by “free choice of the party of the sinner” he is allowing only for libertarian free will which we find later in his article he advocates.  If that is the case, then yes, Calvinists do not allow for this kind of free will.  This is because the Bible does not allow for libertarian free will (if you will notice in his paper, there are no Scriptural proofs for his arguments).  LFW cannot function with unconditional election, predestination, and divine foreknowledge, and the “power of contrary choice” ultimately makes the human decision the terminal cause in a most arbitrary sense.


Blue Collar Theology 28: TBI TULIP Seminar

May 12, 2008

Having wrestled with the doctrines of grace for more than two years as a college student, I became convinced of the sovereignty of God in salvation both through the study of Scripture and the experience in my own life.  Shortly thereafter, one of the most helpful resources I benefited from was the TBI TULIP Seminar which I purchased in cassette form.  These were messages by John Piper on the five points of Calvinism presented in a humble, fair, and faithful manner, and I tended to return to these messages time and again throughout the years.

A couple of months ago, John Piper again held a TBI Seminar on TULIP, and Desiring God has made the messages available in text, audio, and video format.   I want to recommend this seminar to all Blue-Collar Christians because I believe it is one of the most helpful, accessible, and instructive ways of understanding the doctrines of grace.  Here is the links to each session of the TULIP seminar:

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Assumptions – Irresistible Grace
Part 3: Irresistible Grace – Total Depravity
Part 4: Total Depravity – Unconditional Election
Part 5: Unconditional Election
Part 6: Unconditional Election
Part 7: Limited Atonement
Part 8: Perseverance of the Saints
Part 9: Ten Effects of Believing the Five Points of Calvinism

Unfortunately, the majority of what lay people in churches hear these days regarding Calvinism is by those who are vehemently against it, and rarely if ever are the truths accurately and fairly presented.  As a result, those who disagree with the doctrines of grace are not so much disagreeing with the truths so much as they are disagreeing with the caricatures wherein they have been so poorly packaged.  If you want to know what Calvinists believe, listen and read from the Calvinists, such as this seminar by John Piper.  You still might not agree, but at least you will know that your disagreements are with the facts and not with a false representation of them.  For those of you who do believe in the doctrines of grace, you will find this seminar incredibly enriching and encouraging as scores of Scriptures are unfolded for you.  Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike should appreciate the balanced, humble, and accurate approach Piper takes on TULIP.

Desiring God also has two booklets that might be of interest to you (both are $4).  They are:

* What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism

* TULIP: The Pursuit of God’s Glory in Salvation (the seminar in booklet form)

Passing Thoughts on Eternal Security

April 29, 2008

Two things regarding eternal security: one a question and the other an observation.

1. Been talking to some folks about the new IMB policy on baptism that came out a couple of years ago. One of the changes was that a IMB candidate must have been baptized in a church that believes in eternal security. I am just curious as to why this particular doctrine was selected to the exclusion of others. Anybody care to chime in on this? I mean, why not the doctrine of the exclusivity of Christ as a requirement? Are doctrinal matters such as that just assumed?

2. One of the criticisms leveled against Calvinists (though wrongly I might add) is that a belief in God’s sovereignty in salvation negates true human freedom/responsibility. In other words, they would say that the commands to repent and believe are incompatible with God’s choice and work of regeneration. I have grown up in churches all my life who have taught eternal security and that one is “once saved, always saved.” The idea is that the moment you “accept Jesus into your heart,” everything is done then and there. This is the distinction between eternal security and perseverance of the saints, which argues for human responsibility in progressive sanctification as necessary evidence of having been born again. So, it is not ironic that, non-Calvinists who conflate Calvinists with Hyper-Calvinists (especially in regard to duty faith) are guilty themselves of removing human responsibility when it comes to eternal security? If you are “once saved, always saved,” then are you not giving a false assurance that dismisses human responsibility to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” and “make your calling and election sure?” Or am I missing something here?

John 3:16 for Everyone

March 5, 2008

A couple of days ago Tom Ascol shared the news of a conference hosted by Jerry Vines Ministries called a “John 3:16 Conference” which is going to be held at First Baptist Woodstock on November 6-7, 2008. Here are the guest speakers and what they will be addressing:

* John 3:16 – Dr. Jerry Vines
* John 3:16 to the entire world – Dr. Charles Stanley
* Total Depravity – Dr. Paige Patterson
* Unconditional Election – Dr. Richard Land
* Limited Atonement – Dr. David Allen
* Irresistible Grace – Dr. Steve Lemke
* Perseverance of the Saints – Dr. Ken Keathley

As Tom noted, “no explanation or elaboration is given about the rationale for the conference,” so before those of us who have been on the receiving end of caricatures and gross misrepresentation, I think would be prudent to give this conference a chance of being a profitable and perhaps constructive venue to address the doctrines of grace and where we would agree or disagree.

One of the things I have been considering is not only attending this conference but also live-blogging it as well (that is, if they have wi-fi available). If indeed more caricatures and straw men are on the agenda, it is much harder to do so look face to face with those whom you are misrepresenting. After all, a John 3:16 conference is for whosoever wants to come, right? 🙂

That leads me to my second point. I have attended numerous anti-Calvinist conferences in the past (several at FBC Woodstock) where it was presumed that only Arminians bibliclists can really believe and preach that verse (John 3:16). Of course, this could not be farther from the truth. The weeks and months leading up to this conference could provide a good opportunity for dialogue and discussion regarding God’s love and its relation to God’s sovereignty, justice, wrath, and other attributes. Allow me to lay out some reasons why this conference could turn out to be worth attending:

1. This conference could be a turning point where anti-Reformed Southern Baptists approach the issues with substance and exegesis rather than rhetoric and emotional appeals.

2. This conference could be the place where we finally understand the soteriological framework and positions of “biblicists” and non-Calvinists.

3. This conference could be the place where other verses in the gospel of John, such as John 1:12; 3:8; 5:21; 6:37, 44, 66; 8:47; 10:26-27; 11:52; 13:18; 15:16; 17:2, 9, 24 are also considered. Surely they would want to place John 3:16 in context.

4. This conference could be the place where non-Calvinists decide whether they are either semi-Pelagian or Arminian. In recent years, it certainly has sounded more semi-Pelagian than anything else, and that is not a good thing.

5. This conference could be the place where Molinism, prevenient grace, and libertarian free will are considered in light of, and attempted to be reconciled with, Scripture.

6. This conference could be the place where the love of God is handled in a more exegetically faithful and biblically responsible manner, in contrast with Ergun Caner, Dave Hunt, and Fisher Humphreys in the past.

7. This conference could be the place where Southern Baptists handle difficult issues with gracious spirits and truthful lips, honoring Christ in the way we approach issues and love those with whom we have disagreements.

Now I know that is a bunch of could‘s, but a conference like this affords non-Calvinists to clear up a lot of the confusion that has arisen by defining themselves as either a non-___________ or a “biblicist” (or Baptist) which has no referent. In any case, as a Southern Baptist who wholeheartedly believes in John 3:16 (as I do the rest of the Bible), I am encouraged to see a conference like this take place and look forward to making plans to attend. If you are a Southern Baptist and a Calvinist, one who does not care for theological one-upmanship but wants to learn and understand the doctrinal differences of other Southern Baptists, and desires to exhibit the humble Calvinism of a gospel-centered, grace-based life, then I would encourage you to attend as well.

After all, John 3:16 is for everyone.

Resources on the New Birth

December 4, 2007

The new birth, or regeneration, is an important doctrine for those who consider themselves to be “born-again Christians.” I would like to point you to two resources of late that have focused on this particular subject.

1. The Free Grace Broadcaster, a quarterly publication of Mt. Zion Chapel Library (Pensacola, FL), has their current issue (Winter 2007) focusing on the new birth. Here are the table of contents:

a. “The New Birth Defined” by William Plumer
b. “The Spirit That Breathes Life” by Octavius Winslow
c. “The Necessity of the New Birth” by Arthur W. Pink
d. “Biblical Terms of the New Birth” by John Gill
e. “New Birth, Repentance, and Faith” by James Buchanan
f. “New Birth, New Creature” by Octavius Winslow
g. “The Marks of the New Birth” by J.C. Ryle
h. “The Eternal and Efficient Cause of the New Birth” by John Gill
i. “The New Birth and the Preacher’s Obligation” by John Owen
j. “The Necessity of the Spirit’s Work” by C.H. Spurgeon

2. John Piper has recently started a series on the new birth entitled, “You Must Be Born Again.” Piper explains, “We will begin with “What Is Regeneration?” The other messages will deal with: Why is it necessary? How does it happen? What are the evidences that it has happened?” To date, Piper has preached three messages:

a. “You Must Be Born Again
b. “What Happens in the New Birth?” Part 1
c. “What Happens in the New Birth?” Part 2

Stay tuned to Desiring God’s blog for updates on future messages in this series.

Witherington Takes on Christian Hedonism

November 23, 2007

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
Romans 15:8-9

In his book, Desiring God, John Piper writes,

God’s saving designs are penultimate, not ultimate. Redemption, salvation, and restoration are not God’s ultimate goal. These he performs for the sake of something greater: namely, the enjoyment he has in glorifying himself. The bedrock foundation of Christian Hedonism is not God’s allegiance to us, but to himself.

If God were not infinitely devoted to the preservation, display, and enjoyment of His own glory, we could have no hope of finding happiness in him. But if he does employ all his sovereign power and infinite wisdom to maximize the enjoyment of his own glory, then we have a foundation on which to stand and rejoice. (31)

In case you missed it, Dr. Ben Witherington has written a critique of this idea of Christian Hedonism as well as Dr. Schreiner’s NT Theology in his post, “‘For God so Loved Himself?’ Is God a Narcissist?” Witherington concludes,

I suppose we should not be surprised that in a culture and age of narcissism, we would recreate God in our own self-centered image, but it is surprising when we find orthodox Christians, and even careful scholars doing this.

Recreate God in our own self-centered image? Quite the charge I must say. Denny Burk has written a nice response/rebuttal to Witherington’s scathing analysis. Here’s an excerpt:

Only with God is self-exaltation a virtue, since He is the first and best of beings, the only One who can satisfy the soul. When sinful humans exalt themselves, it is not loving because it is a distraction from the One who truly can meet the deepest needs of fallen humanity. It is a vice for sinful people to call others to admire them and so to distract them from admiring God. God is love. Therefore He must exalt Himself so as to draw people into worship. This is not narcissistic because it is no vice for Him to exalt the beauty of His own perfections for His creatures’ enjoyment and blessing. Witherington misses all of this, and like other Arminians, removes the firmest grounding that we have for God’s love—God’s own desire to exalt the glory of His own perfections.

Michael Spencer (iMonk) has chimed in over at The Thinklings blog.  Spencer writes,

Would that statement- God so loved himself that he gave…- disturb most young Calvinists today? I tend to think a significant number wouldn’t see any problem. Once you have a truth, you can over-compliment that truth to the point of distortion, lack of ability to read Biblical texts honestly, rejection of those who use different language than you do and overall clarity.

This is happening with sovereignty, God-centeredness, inerrancy. Piper specializes in the “highest” possible logical form of theological statement, to the point that theology that doesn’t join him at the pinnacle of language and illustration (rejoicing in God’s sovereignty after your child is killed in an accident for example) is doubt and heresy. . . .

I have a feeling this is what BW is offering: does Piper’s God “come off” as a Narcissist when we hold conference after conference and publish book after book saying all that matters is God God God?

This is why I call myself a Christian Humanist. The light of the incarnation is the light by which I know MYSELF as well as God. We matter. A lot. Not in ultimate terms, but in created, God-reflecting terms. But these theologians are on the path to saying 100 things about God and nothing about humanity except we suck and it’s amazing Jesus died for such scum.

I have heard arguments similar to what Witherington has posited, such as while we should be God-centered, God is man-centered. One particular article worth reading is Piper’s “Is God for Us or For Himself?” which was written at the start of his ministry at BBC (1980).  What do you think?  Do you think philosophical commitments have clouded Piper’s vision of biblical texts?  Schreiner’s NT Theology does not do justice to the love of God?

The Glorious Work of Redemption

October 18, 2007

In his Thoughts on the New England Revival: Vindicating the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards shares how the work of redemption is “the most glorious work of God whatseover.”  Edwards writes,

“It is the work of redemption (the great end of all other works of God, and of which the work of creation was but a shadow) in the event, success and end of it.  It is the work of new creation, that is infinitely more glorious than the old.  I am bold to say that the work of God in the conversion of one soul considered together with the source, foundation and purchase of it and also the benefit, end and eternal issue of it, is a more glorious work of God than the creation of the whole material universe.  It is the most glorious of God’s works, as it above all others manifests the glory of God.  It is spoken of in Scripture as that which shows the exceeding greatness of God’s power, and the glory and riches of divine grace,  and wherein Christ has the most glorious triumph over his enemies, and wherein God is mightily exalted: and it is a work above all others glorious, as it concerns the happiness of mankind; more happiness and a greater benefit to man is the fruit of each single drop of such a shower than all the temporal good of the most happy revolution in a land or nation amounts to, or all that a people could gain by the conquest of the world.”

– Jonathan Edwards, Thoughts on the New England Revival: Vindicating the Great Awakening (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2005), 62-63.

That is a meaty paragraph to chew on!  Should meditating on such a thought not cause us to desire to spend every waking moment of our lives experiencing and being a part of such a glorious work?  More than the whole material universe is the glory of conversion of one soul.  Greater than the conquest of the world is one single drop the happiness wrought in the work of redemption.  Has such glories enraptured our affections?

Book Alert: The Great Exchange

September 6, 2007

Title: The Great Exchange: My Sin for His Righteousness
Author: Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington
Publisher: Crossway
Release Date: September 11, 2007
Pages: 304
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN 10-digit: 1-5813-49270
ISBN 13-digit: 978-15813-49276
Retail Price: $15.99
Table of Contents: No
Intro: No
Sample Chapter: No

From Crossway:

Believers often take for granted the great act of salvation provided to us by the work of Jesus Christ. Beginning with the Old Testament sacrifices and the prophecies that foreshadowed Christ, authors Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington guide believers through the biblical overview of Christ’s atonement. The Great Exchange helps believers see how the Old Testament practices tie in with the New Testament discussion of Christ’s great work of salvation.

As believers work through these principles, they will begin to recognize that even though we deserve condemnation and punishment from a holy God, he has given us the opportunity to experience his great riches through his Son, Jesus Christ. The clear gospel message presented throughout the entire book offers a great appreciation of Christ for believers and an opportunity for salvation for unbelievers.

Buy @:

Crossway for $15.99 (with free PDF of book)
Amazon for $10.87
CBD for $11.99
BAMM for $11.37
Wal-Mart for $10.44

Other books by Jerry Bridges:

The Pursuit of Holiness (2006)
Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts (1990)
The Practice of Godliness (1994)
Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love (1993)
The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness (2006)
The Joy of Fearing God (2004)
I Will Follow You, O God: Embracing Him as Lord in Your Private Worship (2001)
I Exalt You, O God; Encountering His Greatness in Your Private Worship (2001)
I Give Your Glory, O God: Honoring His Righteousness in Your Private Worship (2002)
Growing Your Faith: How to Mature in Christ (2004)
The Gospel for Real Life (w/ study guide) (2003)
The Fruitful Life: The Overflow of God’s Love Through You (2006)
Is God Really in Control?: Trusting God in a World of Hurt (2006)
Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate (2007) – NEW!

Initial Thoughts:

Seldom can it ever be said of an author that everything he or she writes is a must-read. Jerry Bridges is one of those exceptions. His wonderful collection of gospel-centered books are theologically rich but immensely practical as well. Immersed in the gospel and intensely devoted to the Christ-centered life, Bridges points us in this newest book back to the cross where “the great exchange” took place. There are a number of Christian doctrines under attack in the 21st century, but perhaps none are prominent than the penal substitutionary atonement. While I do not expect this offering by Bridges to be polemical in nature, through biblical exposition I believe Bridges will make a powerful case for substitutionary atonement. I do not, however, believe that is the purpose of this book. Rather, Bridges wants us to feel, know, and experience the implications of Christ bearing our sins and sinners receiving his righteousness. The appreciation of the cross work of our Savior should be matched and measured by the transformation it brings in our lives, and it is my hope that this book will serve such a noble purpose.




Jerry Bridges is on staff with The Navigators’ collegiate ministry and resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A popular speaker and best-selling author, Jerry travels throughout the world helping Christians understand and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Survey Says” – 2007 Reports on American Christianity

May 24, 2007

Yesterday, I read two reports that should remind us what are the most important issues are today.  The first survey (conducted by Barna Group) addresses Christians in general (does not specify evangelicals, Protestant, Catholic, etc.), and the second addresses teenagers (conducted by LifeWay research).  Let’s begin with the adults.

The article reports, “Less Americans embrace a traditional view of God and Bible reading is becoming less popular, a new study revealed.”  The study, conducted in January 2007, breaks down accordingly:

  • 66% of Americans believe that God is best described as “the all-powerful, all-knowing perfect Creator of the universe who rules the world today”
  • 45% believe that “the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches”
  • 37% strongly disagree that Jesus sinned
  • 29% have greater reluctance to explain their faith to other people
  • 27% have a willingness to reject good works as a means to personal salvation
  • 24% strongly reject the idea that Satan is not a real spiritual being

Now I don’t want to provide too much commentary and make this a really long post, but notice that 2/3 of Americans do not disagree that Jesus sinned, and 7 out of 10 believe that good works are essential to personal salvation.  That enough should inform us why theology matters in our evangelistic practices!  Now let’s look at what the survey said about what they do:

  • 83% of Americans identified as Christians
  • 49% of them described themselves as absolutely committed to Christianity
  • 83% saying they prayed in the last week
  • 43% attending a church service
  • 20% participating in a small group
  • 41% said they read the Bible outside of church worship services in a typical week

Again, while 83% consider themselves Christians, (1) only 49% describe themselves as “absolutely committed to Christianity”, (2) 43% regularly attend a church service, and (3) 41% read their Bible outside of church worship services.  Could it be that perhaps the reason that only 41% don’t read their Bible is because 55% don’t believe it is “accurate”?  Could it be that the reason why there is a 40% difference between those who call themselves Christians and those who attend church regularly is because that 40% (if not more) are unregenerate?

The conclusion of David Kinnaman who directed the study said:

“While an overwhelming majority the nation’s population claim they are Christian, only half of the adults can name one of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and most Americans do not know the first book in the Bible (Genesis).” . . . “[Christians] lack a consistent and holistic understanding of their faith. Millions of Americans say they are personally committed to Jesus Christ, but they believe he sinned while on earth. Many believers claim to trust what the Bible teaches, but they reject the notion of a real spiritual adversary or they feel that faith-sharing activities are optional. Millions feel personally committed to God, but they are renegotiating the definition of that deity.”

Now let’s look at teenagers.  This study took place during January and February 2007 with a sample of 1,000 teenagers (12-19 years old).  Like the previous survey, LifeWay begins with what teenagers believe and later addresses what they practice (or not practice).

What teenagers believe:

  • 69% of teens believe heaven exists
  • 53% Jesus Christ’s death for their sins as the reason they will go to heaven
  • 27% trust in their own kindness to others
  • 26% trust in their religiosity as their means to get to heaven

 Again, like the adults, teenagers who believe they are going to heaven do not understand salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  In the end, they attribute their salvation to something they have done and not resting in the finished work of Christ. 

What teenagers practice (in last 30 days): 

  • 54% have attended a church or religious service
  • 20% attended Sunday School
  • 39% respondents said they had prayed regularly
  • 14% said they had read the Bible

This survey looks even more alarming as less than half who attend church do not attend a Bible study or Sunday School.  Even worse, of the 53% who say they are going to heaven because of Jesus dying for them, only 14% have read their Bible in the last month.  Where are teenagers getting the idea that their salvation is a product of good works? 

LifeWay concludes,

“The central theme of Christianity is the person and work of Jesus Christ -– His death and resurrection,” said Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, adding, “It is surprising that only about half the teenagers who attended a Christian church in the last month are depending solely on the grace of Jesus Christ to get to heaven.”

If there is one thing we can learn from this is that American Christianity by and large is biblically illiterate, theologically ignorant, and ecclesiologically unfaithful.  That is, professing Christianity.  I suspect that such nominal Christianity does not exist where your throat is sliced for reading the Bible on Easter Sunday or when your tongue is cut out for speaking the name of Jesus.  God help us to bring gravitas to what it means to be Christian in America.

Study: Fewer Americans Embrace Traditional View of God
LifeWay Research Examines Teenagers’ Views of Eternity

To the Praise of His Glorious Grace

May 17, 2007

In his sermon, “Salvation by Faith and the Work of the Spirit,” Charles Spurgeon wrote how “grace must ever be the subject of our praise.”  Consider these stirring words by Spurgeon.

If I ever get to heaven it will be in no measure because I deserve to get there, but because God willed it that I should enter glory by his abounding grace.  No man has any claim upon God whatever.  If God gives man what he may claim in justice he will award him eternal destruction from the glory of his power: that is all man has a right to; he is an undeserving, ill-deserving, hell-deserving sinner.  If any good thing therefore comes to us it must be extended to the guilty, infinite compassion looking upon our misery and determining to reveal itself in a free gift, not to be won by effort not to be deserved nor purchased, but bestowed solely because he “will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion.”  Our hope stands on pure grace, sovereign grace, grace unqualified.  God blesses us because he is good, not because we are so, and saves us because he is gracious, not because he sees any grace inherent in us.  He blesses as according to his great love wherewith he loved us even when we were dead in trespasses and sins; and therefore grace must ever be the subject of our praise.  We can never endure the preaching of any other confidence, for we know it to be a delusion and a snare.

Friends, do we preach and teach sovereign grace like this?  Shall we offer confidence in man, in free will, or any other delusion and snare?  Far be it that we, who were dead in our sins and by nature children of wrath, offer any other message, any other boast, any other confidence save the free, electing grace of God who in love lavished mercy on the chief of sinners.  Pure grace.  Sovereign grace.  Grace unqualified–apart from which we are but worms, wretches, and hell-deserving sinners.  May we ever be amazed by God’s great grace!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
Ephesians 1:3-6

TCC XII: Jeff Noblit on “The Glory of God and the Miracle of Conversion”

May 6, 2007

Jeff Noblit is the Senior Pastor-Teacher of First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He has served on the pastoral staff for 26 years, the last 18 as senior pastor. Jeff is the founder of Anchored in Truth Ministries, an expository preaching ministry, and is the author of The Accountability Notebook and the witnessing booklet, The Great Answer to the Great Question.  He has written articles for various magazines and journals.

Text: Ephesians 2:4-7

A trophy doesn’t do anything but reflect or show off the accomplishment of another.  And that is exactly what we are.  We are trophies of grace.  We are here to show off the grace and glory of God in our lives. 

You’ve got to remember the context (2:1-3).  “But God . . .” – The two greatest words in Scripture. 

It does not say, “But angels . . .”.  It does not say, “But creation . . .”.  It does not say, “But man . . .”. 

“But God!”

He can perform it, and we are the trophies to show forth His accomplishment.

1.  We are trophies of grace because He has directed His love and mercy toward us (v. 4).

God says, “What what I can do because I have the capacity to show mercy, and I have the show love that the world has never seen.”  God did not just have mercy, but is rich in it (Rom. 2:4).  He raised us from spiritual death because of His love.  His love was satisfied when He redeemed us with rich mercy.  God looked at you specifically, personally, individually through sovereign love and mercy. 

The nature of the being dictates the desire of that being.   God is in every respect perfection; man is in every respect imperfection.  Wonderfully beyond comprehension is God’s love.  God by virtue and by His very nature possesses a desire to extend mercy to the most undeserving (1 John 4:8-10).  God made us trophies of grace though there was nothing in us attractive at all.

2.  We are trophies of grace because He raised us from spiritual death (v. 5).

Rom. 5:8 – while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  God made us alive even when were dead in our transgressions.  There we were, doing our thing, being dead God made us alive.  God called us forth from spiritual death by His omnipotence.  (John 10:26-27) When you hear His voice, new life is brought forth.  God spoke in creation and behold it came forth; God speaks in salvation, and new life comes forth.   John 5:25-29  – The dead will hear the voice the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  That is going on right now!  It is all a gift of grace. 

We are together with Christ; it is this connection, this union with Christ – to be “in Christ” that makes this happen.  We are “made alive ‘in Christ.'”  God wants to put you on the trophy shelf of eternity and show forth the greatness of God’s love and mercy. 

3.  We are trophies of grace because He has placed us in His kingdom (v. 6).

“and raised us up with Him and seated us in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”  This the heavenly abode of God, the kingdom of God.  The kingdom is in us now, but in Christ, you are already in it.  Satan cannot touch you; you cannot be condemned; you cannot be lost; you cannot be judged.  God has sealed you securely forever, so much so that as you live here, you are seated in heavenly places right now.  God has delivered us from the domain of darkness but transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.  God has purchased our citizenship of another kingdom.  In Jesus Christ, we have title deeds to all the privileges, joys, and blessings of another kingdom.  You begin to taste some of the other joys of the kingdom as down payments what is to come later. 

We possess the Spirit of that new kingdom.  In every function of life, we live according the purposes, principles, and patterns of a new kingdom.  We are partakers of His Spirit, adopted into His family, and have all the rights and privileges that accompany that. 

4.  We are trophies of grace that we might bring Him glory for all eternity (v. 7).

I love the glories of grace, the wonders of it, the mysteries of, everything about it!  Why did He do all this?  That He might show, manifest, illustrate, put before everyone, the surpassing riches of His grace.  God is absolutely thrilled about being God.  God is overwhelming delighted in Himself, because if He were thrilled or delighted in anything other than Himself, it would be sin.  For God to be worshipped, adored as He ought, all of who He is needs to be seen, and for all that He is to be seen, His Son needed to die.  God did it for God first. 

The surpassing riches of grace was demonstrated when He saved people like us.  It was in Him, by Him, through Him, and to Him.  It’s all about Jesus.  When He died, we died; when He arose, we arose.  In chapter one, we were predestined and chosen as His before you were born; in chapter two, you were raised and seated before you die.  I am so saved it makes me dizzy.  It’s a God thing.  Grace bestowed on us is all to the praise of His glory. 

God’s glory is the vital center of the universe.  Get over your proud, self-consumed, man-centered me stuff.  It is not about us; it is about God.  We receive an unimaginable blessing when we realize that everything that is done on our behalf is by God, for God, and to God.  God is glorified in creation.  God is glorified in salvation.  God is glorified in condemnation.  God is glorified in final glorification.   

God loves to show off what He accomplished.  He will say, “Look what I did.  Look what my love and mercy did.”  The angels might say, “I can’t believe he is here!”  It is all the wondrous, glorious grace of God.


TCC XI: Paul Washer on “Missions and the Miracle of Conversion”

May 6, 2007

Paul Washer ministered as a missionary to Peru for 10 years, during which time he founded the HeartCry Missionary Society to support Peruvian church planters. HeartCry’s work now supports indigenous missionaries in Eastern Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. An itinerant preacher, Paul also teaches in the internship program at his home church, First Baptist Muscle Shoals. He is the author of The One True God: A Biblical Study of the Doctrine of God.

Text: Malachi 1:6-11

Having worked in a third world country for many years, I feel like I can share some things with you that are unique to me, and it is this: I remember people telling me, “If must be difficult to work in Peru, to live in a tent, to be in a country with bombs going off.”  I said, “No.  It is not difficult at all.  It’s not hard to serve Christ there.  Do you want to know what’s hard.  It’s when you leave that jungle or warring city and you arrive back in the U.S. and get on a plane in Miami and sit down beside normal people (lawyers, account) and everything starts getting foggy.”  You see when you have nothing but Christ and bathe in a river and go down to preach, no entertainment, no hobby, no house, no nothing, it is so simple to live for Christ.  And when you come back here it is like getting punched in the face with a 4400 lb. sponge of water and someone has entered into your nervous system and you cannot understand things anymore and are asking, “What are you doing?”

Everyone once and a while you wake up, almost like a man from a foggy, terrible dream, in the middle of the night because you have been trapped, thinking, “Oh my God!  Am I wasting my wife?  What am I doing?!”  The only thing that matters is Christ and His kingdom.  Now I know we live in a world and we have responsibilities, and I know there are extremes on both sides.  But I do not think it is out of place to mention that we as Americans in all our wealth (you are wealthy in light of the rest of the world), we are in need of constant mourning because we are missing the big picture.  I want to touch on that today, and a bigger thing–the sovereignty of God in missions.   

God says, “If I am a master, where is my respect?”  You see, to whom much is given, much is required.  In the OT, the priests were given the greatest privilege to minister before God; therefore, they should give themselves completely and wholly to the things of God.  We are a privilege people, and much is required of us.  You are priests; you have more than any levitical priest every dreamt.  Angels long to look into the very things given to you.  Prophets who prophesied years ago hope to see the day which you have seen.  How should we then live?

It is a joy to say, “Take my life and let it be; wholly consecrated unto Thee.”  My life comes from God, and I must give it back to God. 


TCC X: Jeff Noblit on “Believer’s Baptism and the Miracle of Conversion”

May 5, 2007

Jeff Noblit is the Senior Pastor-Teacher of First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He has served on the pastoral staff for 26 years, the last 18 as senior pastor. Jeff is the founder of Anchored in Truth Ministries, an expository preaching ministry, and is the author of The Accountability Notebook and the witnessing booklet, The Great Answer to the Great Question.  He has written articles for various magazines and journals.

[Note: After the section on “the purpose of baptism,” the wi-fi connection timed out, and I lost my transcription of the rest of the message.  I have, however, provided the rest of the outline of the message and was able to catch some of the concluding words.]

The glory and marvel and wonder and even majesty of baptism is lost because the Church is so weak.  It’s like being part of a football team that hasn’t won a game in five years.  When you tell them that you are on the team, people shrug their shoulders and say, “So what?”  We need to bring the significance of believer’s baptism in the Church. 

There are glaring, malignant, unscriptural issues in the Church.  Someone in the editorial world said, “Just when we needed the Church the most, they have become like us.”  We need to strive for the glory of God.  When people are baptized in your church, it ought to be talked about in your town.  Their witness and testimony ought to be manifested in the changed life expressed in the world around them.  Baptism just doesn’t have meaning anymore. 


TCC IX: Paul Washer on “Evidences of the Miracle of Conversion”

May 5, 2007

Paul Washer ministered as a missionary to Peru for 10 years, during which time he founded the HeartCry Missionary Society to support Peruvian church planters. HeartCry’s work now supports indigenous missionaries in Eastern Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. An itinerant preacher, Paul also teaches in the internship program at his home church, First Baptist Muscle Shoals. He is the author of The One True God: A Biblical Study of the Doctrine of God.

Text: 2 Corinthians 13:5

There is so much that can be handled on the front end of ministry.  Sheep have this uncanny knack of just following.  Let’s talk about assurance, and let’s talk pastorally.  Will I ask them about their conversion, that moment in time when they were saved?  Of course I will.  Explain to me your heart, your conversion, what happened with regards to faith and repentance.  But I will not stop there because that is not the place where Scripture places its emphasis regarding assurance.  The fact that you know you are saved is whether you are presently believing in Christ and repenting of your sin.

The doctrine of the carnal Christian is used to justify the majority of the congregation being lost.  There is no such thing as a “carnal Christian” in the New Testament.  There were only believers and unbelievers.  Can Christians fall in sin?  Yes.  Can they even become overcome by sin?  Yes.  But can they remain in that sin?  No. 

I frequently examine myself and test myself.  It is an extremely important thing.  I want to tell you how bad I deal with the flesh.  We think too much of men.  If I wasn’t preaching and the spotlight was not on me, would I be praying as much?  Would I be this excited if the spotlight was on me?  You see, there is always a need to examine ourselves, to test ourselves.  I hear preachers saying who are practicing homosexuals, “Three years ago you prayed the prayer and became a Christian.  Now you must start acting like a Christian.”  No!  You cannot start acting like a Christian because you are not one.  If you are not acting like a Christian, you can have no biblical assurance.

There is a difference between the security of the believer and assurance.  Baptist have taken the two and combined them and at the same time have lost both.  Everyone who truly believes in Christ can have security.  Everyone who believes in Christ has security.  But assurance asks, “How do you know that you really believed?”  The demons believe and tremble, but you believe and don’t tremble.  So how do you know?  The heart is desperately wicked, how can one know it?  How can members of our congregation have a biblical understanding to assurance?  The answer is in the book of 1 John.


TCC VIII: Paul Washer on “Evidences of the Miracle of Conversion”

May 5, 2007

Paul Washer ministered as a missionary to Peru for 10 years, during which time he founded the HeartCry Missionary Society to support Peruvian church planters. HeartCry’s work now supports indigenous missionaries in Eastern Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. An itinerant preacher, Paul also teaches in the internship program at his home church, First Baptist Muscle Shoals. He is the author of The One True God: A Biblical Study of the Doctrine of God.

Text: Ezekiel 36:22-29

There is a war of the gospel of Jesus Christ.   There is a sense in which men of God should weep; there is also a sense in which men of God should draw swords.  This is about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I want to demonstrate how far we have gone in our gospel reductionism.

“Are you a sinner?”

“Do you want to go to heaven?”

“Would you like to pray to receive Christ?”

“Would you like to repeat this prayer after me?”

“Welcome to the family of God.”

That form of evangelism is a liar.  I have approached many an evangelist and said, “Do you not realize that God is not knocking on the door of a sinner’s heart but the door of the Church?”  The usual answer is, “Yes, I know, but it works.”  Men are building their own spiritual kingdoms on the bone of unconverted sinners.  Men are going to hell not by liberal politicians but by conservative pulpits.  They learn strategies because they have not the power of God on their lives.  We are not boys, strategists, or businessmen, but men who dwell before the presence of God, who weep over souls of men and the Word of God.  We should give our lives in prayer and open our mouth so that the Word of God may come forth not give ourselves to flippant strategies. 

“Was there a point in time when you asked Jesus to come into your heart?”

Where did you get that?  Did God teach you to tell them that?  No!  You got that from the traditions of man, from one empty head to another empty head. 

“I was baptized when I was an infant” and “I prayed that prayer” is the same thing.  It is idolatrous.  People are trusting in a decision they made, and you cannot see the apostasy of it.  The proper answer is not, “I made my decision,” but “I am ever looking to Jesus for salvation by faith and repentance.”