Pastor Ham

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Tag: Faith

Soteriology: The Doctrine of Salvation – Part 6

See Part 1 for an explanation of this series. See what we covered last time here.


 

Puzzle Pieces on the Table So Far

  1. All human beings are totally depraved.
  2. Christ in grace has provided a free salvation for all human beings. And He extends an invitation to all who will believe it. The problem is, in their natural state they never will. God has to restore our moral ability to choose Him.
  3. Does God restore this moral ability to all men as part of common grace, or only to the elect as part of saving grace?
  4. If God restores this moral ability to everybody, then election is conditioned upon God’s foresight of who will receive it (rather than His foresight being equivalent to His active choosing).
  5. The distinction between conditional and unconditional election hangs upon the definition of foreknowledge (Is it active or passive?).
  6. Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:20 clearly class God’s foreknowledge as active and causative. It makes things happen. It’s not mere passive foresight, but it somehow involves God in the execution of His plan. Therefore, election is unconditional. And therefore, moral ability is restored only to the elect as part of saving grace.
  7. Given unconditional election, the salvation of the elect is certain. Everyone who has chosen will freely choose to trust Christ for salvation.

Discussion of John 6:14-45

John 6:37 is a bare statement of irresistible grace. The salvation of the elect is whose choice? It is the Father’s choice. The elect are given. The given will come. The given will be raised (39). The believers will be raised (40). No one comes except the ones who are drawn (44). All who come are those who are raised at the last day (44). All who are drawn are those who are raised at the last day (44).

Jesus is not making a statement on their natural ability, but on their moral ability. They can’t come because they won’t come. Only if the Father draws them will they come. The Father’s drawing always works. This passage has irresistible grace all over it.

REPENTANCE, FAITH, AND CONVERSION

REPENTANCE: the relevant term for this discussion (the Bible uses several for this word) is the Greek word metanoia or metanoeo. The idea is a change of mind.

Repentance is an attitude, not necessarily an emotion or an action. It’s not just feeling sorry for our sins. Repentance doesn’t mean that we stop sinning (or none of us have ever repented). It doesn’t even mean that we purpose to stop sinning (that would be a silly purpose). It means we change our minds.

A big question today: Is repentance necessary for salvation?
Matthew 3:2 (John), 4:17 (Jesus)
Acts 2:38 (Peter)
Acts 17:30 (Paul)
Luke 13:3-5 (Jesus links repentance with salvation)

What is the repentance that is a necessary condition of salvation? Different answers have been given:
1: Feel sorry for your sin
2: Turn your back on your sin
3: Charles Finney said you had to stop sinning!
4: None of the above or you risk a works salvation

At minimum, biblical repentance involves a change in mind about whether sin is worthwhile and about whether Christ is trustworthy. On the larger scale, it involves a change in mind about God, whether God is desirable. At minimum, it involves turning from sin to God although the turn, properly speaking, isn’t the repentance.

Faith and repentance are related. They are two sides of the same coin. Repentance is the mirror image of faith. Traditionally, faith has been defined as having three components: knowledge (in truth), assent (to truth), and trust (relying on truth). Saving faith includes the element of trust. This is the distinction that James has in mind in Chapter 2 verse 14. It’s not that you are saved through your works, but you are saved through a faith that produces works. If your faith produces no works you have no reason to believe you have saving faith.

How much do people actually have to believe in order to be saved?
Acts 16:31
Romans 10:9-10

Saving faith has as its object Christ, in view of His finished work. Exactly how much about His finished work does someone have to grasp in order to be saved? I don’t know. But what God expects is trust in Christ and His finished work.

What about faith and the sacraments?

We tend to avoid the term “sacrament” in Baptist circles because it has been so badly defined. The problem is most people understand a sacrament as some conveyance of divine grace and that’s where we don’t want to go.

SACRAMENTALISTS: the sacraments actually communicate some kind of spiritual power; more than a teaching tool; in and of themselves they nourish you spiritually, they build your faith, they impart grace to you

SACRAMENTARIANS: the sacraments are only symbols; participation in the sacraments may create subjective impressions that may be good for you, but there is no actual conveyance of grace

I believe that sacramentalism runs the risk of violating sola fide, whereas sacramentarianism does not run that risk. It’s not as if nothing happens at the Lord’s Table for sacramentarians, but what happens is at the subjective level not the objective level. It’s not that the sacraments themselves impart grace, but through the communion service, you may be strengthened and nourished as you meditate on the meaning of the elements.

Faith and Salvation

Faith is the sole condition of salvation. Wait a minute, isn’t repentance a part of this? My understanding is that you cannot have saving faith without repentance. Having said that, you can’t add anything to faith in salvation, otherwise you eviscerate faith. Remember, you’ve got airtight compartments.

This logically also excludes trusting in the faith, rather than in Christ, for your salvation. If your trust is in your faith you are on hazardous ground. I encounter this somewhat frequently, in one of two ways:

1: “Experience in Time” salvation
“I remember when I prayed the prayer so I know I’m saved.” Faith is in the symbol, or the act, rather than in Christ.

2: “I Don’t Believe Enough” salvation
This person is placing his confidence in his faith rather than in Christ. It’s legitimate to say “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” But it is Christ that saves you, not your belief or your faith. It’s not about believing harder or better.

What is “Conversion” in Scripture?
Acts 9:34-5, 14:15, 15:9, 26:18
1 Thess. 1:9

Mere rejection of sin does not constitute conversion. Conversion requires turning to Christ in faith. So when you’re repenting, you’re turning from sin, when you’re believing you’re turning to God. When you’re doing both, you’re being converted. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. The coin is conversion.

In Part 7, we will discuss the debate regarding “Lordship Salvation.”

Faith of Our Fathers: Worthy of Ridicule or Rejoicing?

I have long wondered how to think of the early influences that the Lord used to shape my life. I’m not just referring to positive influences, but to the overall influences, both good and bad, that impacted me during childhood. Primarily, I’m thinking of the teachings and actions of my parents, close family, close friends, and church family.

It is very easy to look for and find flaws, warts, spots, bruises, bumps, and even a malignant tumor here or there in the lives of everyone who has ever had any impact on me. In one sense, I get this. We’re all sinners and we all make mistakes. Forgive and forget. In another sense, there are legitimately wrong ideas and actions I’ve heard and witnessed that have done real damage to my thinking and living. To deny either, or to confuse the two, results in error. To think that I am alone in this is another error. Everyone who has ever lived has had this same reality to one degree or another.

(Note: I’m going to use the term “fathers” as a general term to describe the key influencers in our lives mentioned above)

The problem with my generation (let’s say roughly the 20-40 year-old crowd), as I see it, is two-fold:

First, we tend to perceive “mistakes” where no mistakes exist. In other words, we elevate non-mistakes to mistake status (thereby holding our fathers to a higher standard than that which we hold ourselves to). We confuse differences of opinion with mistakes. If my parents did it this way and I currently do not like it, it must be a mistake. If I do it the opposite way as my parents, I am clearly right and they are foolish and obstinate for not doing so. I’m talking about differences like child-rearing philosophies, corporate and personal worship music, which Bible translation you prefer to read, movie choices, your kids’ hair, and other sundries that are really far smaller than the massive hot-air-filled edifices we’ve reconstructed with them. With all of these glaring blind spots in our fathers’ lives, it is nigh unto miraculous how well we turned out, eh? We really raised ourselves well in spite of the mine fields all around us!

Let me give just one example of ways this might flesh itself out. And please remember, the term “example” implies a representative sample of a larger whole. This means I do not think it is wholly representative of the point I am trying to illustrate, nor is it the only example I could have chosen.

Take the Christian school vs. public school question (for the purposes of the example, you could combine home school with the Christian school option). It seems quite popular for some in my generation to insist that public school is not just an option, but the only “right” option. It is now foolhardy to home school or send your kids to Christian school and you risk great ridicule for saying otherwise. This seems to be a massive overreaction by a group of us who went to Christian school or were home schooled and look back on it with disdain and ungratefulness. Ironically, one of the things we passive-aggressively (or brazenly) criticize our fathers for, their ill-founded dogma, shows through with unmistakable clarity in our lives at this point. Unmistakable, that is, to everyone but us.

The second problem is that when genuine mistakes are present, we do not know how to respond in grace and truth. The general tendency in young Christians is to respond very poorly to mistakes made by others, especially our fathers.  I want to be very clear at this point: I’m not talking about egregious abuses; verbal, physical, sexual, psychological, or otherwise. I’m talking about long-held bitterness over the times your dad sinned in anger against you by yelling, or even cursing, at you. Or the time your Mom punished you by forcing you to read your Bible for an hour. Or the persistent, nagging shortcomings you witnessed in your parents’ relationship as they struggled to keep it together. Or the genuine favoritism your dad showed your sibling. Or the genuine favoritism your mom showed you (hadn’t thought of it that way, had you?).

I’m here to tell you your fathers sinned against God and against you, and so did mine. And guess what? You have sinned against your kids, and so will I. And you’ve sinned against people who aren’t even your kids, but whose lives you have influence on. And so have I. How ought they to respond to us? The same way we ought to respond to our fathers. In humility. Considering one another more important than ourselves (Philippians 2). Forgiving. Do you realize how much the Bible says about forgiveness? And soberingly, lack of forgiveness? Let me list just a few:

Matthew 6:14-15 (from The Lord’s Model Prayer):

‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]
For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

Colossians 3:12-17 (A whole passage on putting on the new self…in other words, this is what saved people do. Notice the talk of thanksgiving, a helpful combatant against bitterness, and all the other tremendous fruits listed; note also the emphasis on the Word of Christ and that we should let it dwell richly in us, not barely in us!)

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

And: Eph. 4:31-2; Matt. 18:21-2; 1 Cor. 13:4-6; Acts 7:59-60 and Luke 23:33-44 (where Steven and Jesus forgave their murderers, a bit heavier of a crime than most of us will ever experience), and several more.

In summary, it is not good to imagine faults where they do not exist. Your lack of joy and your unfulfilled existence will prove this if you persist. It is also not good to respond to real sins (“debts” from the Lord’s Model Prayer) with pride and an unforgiving heart. Live in a spirit of humility and forgiveness in the areas where real sins were committed against you. Beg God to give you a heart of gratitude, thankfulness, and genuine rejoicing toward your fathers in areas where they were not. And ask Him to help you to have the biblical knowledge and discernment to know the difference (Philippians 1:9).

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