Not So Random Thoughts 34

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy

The doctrine of free justification by faith only, which became the storm-centre of so much controversy during the Reformation period, is often regarded as the heart of the Reformer’s theology, but this is hardly accurate. The truth is that their thinking was really centered upon the contention of Paul, echoed with varying degrees of adequacy by Augustine, and Gottschalk, and Bradwardine, and Wycliffe, that the sinner’s entire salvation is by free and sovereign grace only. The doctrine of justification by faith was important to them because it safeguarded the principle of sovereign grace; but it actually expressed for them only one aspect of this principle, and that not its deepest aspect. The sovereignty of grace found expression in their thinking at a profounder level still, in the doctrine of monergistic regeneration—the doctrine, that is, that the faith which receives Christ for justification is itself the free gift of a sovereign God, bestowed by spiritual regeneration in the act of effectual calling. (Johnson and Packer’s introduction to Luther’s Bondage of the Will).

The Scriptures of truth are so clear, but they are read and heard by those who are full of self and pride which blinds to the truth. The wide gate and broad road lead to destruction and there are many who are on it. The narrow gate and the narrow road that leads to life are populated by only a few. After stating that, Jesus then tells people to beware of the false prophets. The two are clearly connected. False prophets are not justified by grace alone and so it is in their self-interest (in the eyes of self) to preach and teach what is false about salvation. They preach what they want to hear and what satisfies their pride and self. Their preaching of a false gospel can come from their love of money and it can come from pride, but it can also come from a desire to justify themselves in their enmity toward the true God.

The heart of the Reformation was clearly a God-centeredness in all things and particularly the sovereignty of God. The heart of the Reformation, therefore, was directly opposed to free-will and man-centeredness. The stress was on God and His freeness to do as He pleased rather than God standing back and waiting on man to do as man pleased. It was God who had mercy and compassion on whom He pleased rather than man having mercy and compassion on himself. It was God who made man willing according to His will rather than man exercising a free-will to make God willing. It was God in Christ who completed all the running needed to save sinners and so no running on the part of man was needed or wanted. In fact, when a man runs or wills in salvation apart from the grace of God that willing and running is pride and self working for salvation. That is opposed to the grace of the Gospel and of God Himself.

The clearest line of demarcation between Rome and Luther was at the point of the sovereignty of God and the nature of bondage or freedom of the will. The Gospel Luther preached depended on the sovereignty of God while the false teaching of Rome depended on the freedom of the will of man. As has been stated before, perhaps many times, William Cunningham was clear on this when he said that the will is the point where the sovereignty of God and the depravity of man meet. Rome stressed the will of man and Luther stressed the sovereignty of God. Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone was really justification by grace alone and justification by Christ alone and justification to the glory of God alone.

In modern America (and other places) we seem to be afraid to talk plainly and clearly on the sovereignty of God in terms of the Gospel. We appear to be more afraid of treading on the toes of free-will than we are on the “toes” of Divine sovereignty. When we do so, however, we are choosing to please men (and ourselves) rather than God. When a person tries to speak clearly on the sovereignty of God others are so quick to rush in and speak of the responsibility of man. What ability does man have to respond to God with? Man only has ability when God sovereignly gives it to him. What must be seen, then, is that when back off from the sovereignty of God they are backing off of the Gospel of Christ alone and grace alone. They may think that they are preaching justification by faith alone, but they are not preaching the truth about it and cannot preach the truth of it apart from preaching the sovereignty of God. It appears that preachers in our day have jettisoned the true Gospel of justification by faith alone that is necessarily God-centered and have replaced it with one centered upon man and his will. That is what false prophets to and we are to beware of them.

It may not be necessary to say this, but most likely it is. When one backs off of the true doctrine of justification that is centered in the sovereignty of God, one is also backing away from the Gospel of the glory of Christ. All the glory in saving sinners belongs to Christ. All the glory of dying for sinners belongs to Christ. All the glory of a perfect righteousness given to sinners as a free gift of grace belongs to Christ. All the glory of making sinners willing to come to Christ belongs to Christ. All the glory of bringing sinners to God belongs to Christ. The ravenous wolf rips the glory of Christ from the poor sheep and tries to have it for himself. Christ tells us that sinners must be humbled and broken and become as little children, but the wolf tells sinners to trust in themselves and their sinful flesh to come up with an act of the will that God will respond to. In other words, in the day of the sinner’s power of free-will God is made willing to save them. Really? How abominable.

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