Archive for the ‘History & Theology’ Category

God Saves for His Own Name’s Sake – History & Theology, Part 70

April 10, 2008

The examination of the motives of God in salvation will continue in this BLOG. But of course we cannot know God’s motives apart from Scripture, which is the revelation of God.

Isaiah 43:25 – I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.

Isaiah 48:9 – For the sake of My name I delay My wrath, And for My praise I restrain it for you, In order not to cut you off. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.

In Isaiah 43 it is God telling us why He will forgive the sins of Israel. Why does He wipe out their transgressions and sin? He tells us that is for “My own sake.” Why does He delay His wrath and restrain it? “For the sake of My name” and for “My praise.” Why will He act and why does He act that way? It is for His own sake and in order that His name would not be profaned. In all of that it is because He will not give His glory to another. This is a passage that is extremely God-centered and those who are man-centered are likely to choke on it. God did not save them because they were moral, good or religious. He saved them for the sake of His own name. He did not save them because they had a free-will and used it to make a choice by that freedom, but He saved them for His own glory and His own name. He saved them in order to keep His name from being profaned. In other words, God’s motive in what He did was Himself. In acting for His own glory and name He shows us what His motive was.

Ezekiel 20:9 – But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made Myself known to them by bringing them out of the land of Egypt. 14 But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, before whose sight I had brought them out. 22 But I withdrew My hand and acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out.

Ezekiel 36:22 – Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.”

In the above passages we see the same basic teaching we saw in Isaiah 43. When God acts, He does so for the sake of His name and in order that His name would not be profaned. God delivers from nations for the sake of His name and He turned His people over to other nations for the sake of His name. He specifically tells the people in Ezekiel that He is not going to deliver them for their sake, but rather for His. Now it might be argued that in delivering Israel it was a physical deliverance and not one so great as delivering souls from hell. Surely, it might be argued, that God does not save for His name’s sake when He delivers sinners from hell.

Here is a passage from the New Testament that speaks directly of why God saves sinners. A few BLOGS ago (BLOGS 64-66) we looked at some passages from Ephesians 1:5-14 that showed that God saves according to His good pleasure. Here is another passage:

Romans 3:23-27 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed, 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.

Romans 3:23 defines sin for us and it is that which does not glorify God. However, justification is done apart from human cause (as a gift, freely, or apart from cause as in human cause) and so by grace. Grace is only grace when it is shown apart from any cause in the human being. This grace came to human beings through the redemption or purchase of sinners in Christ. This was accomplished by Christ being the propitiation of one who removes the wrath of God from sinners. Why did He remove His own wrath in sending His Son to bear His wrath on the cross? “To demonstrate His righteousness” (v. 25) the text tells us, and then again “the demonstration of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one how has faith in Jesus” (v. 26). In other words, God saves sinners from His wrath by sending His Son to the cross as a sacrifice in their place. He did this, however, to demonstrate His own righteousness and so that he would be just and the justifier. This is saying the same thing as the Old Testament texts said when God is said to deliver for His name’s sake and to make His power known. The Gospel is about the glory of God who saves according to Himself which is to say that He saves by grace. The Gospel of grace destroys any room for boasting (v. 27). If God saved according to the slightest thing in man (smallest act of a free-will), that would be a reason for boasting. In Romans 3:23-27 we see the motives of God shining. It is to demonstrate and manifest His own glory. The text specifically denies that there is a cause within man and so man has utterly no room to boast. God saves for His own glory and no other reason and that is His motive. He has no need for man to provide Him a motive in an act of a free-will that is free from His grace. That would be something apart from grace and so apart from the Gospel.

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What is Your Motive in Seeking Forgiveness? – History & Theology, Part 69

April 8, 2008

In the last BLOG I gave several verses from Scripture to show that God forgives and saves sinners because of Himself. His motives arise from Himself and not from an act of man’s will. There are many other verses like the ones listed and there are many others that make the point from a different angle. For example, what motivated God when He promised a Savior in Genesis 3:15? The original promise of a Savior was made to Satan and it was a promise that the coming Savior would crush his (Satan’s) head. What would have motivated God to have done that? Was it an act of the will of man?

We can also learn of the motives of God from how we are taught to pray and of the prayers of the godly in Scripture. Jesus taught us to pray first for God’s name to be hallowed (glorified, revered) – Matthew 6:9ff. Then we are to pray for God’s kingdom to come. Then we are to pray for God’s will to be done. If these things are to be the things we pray for, then surely we must see that the motives of God are not human-centered in what He does. He is not moved to answer prayer based on the free-will of human beings, but He is moved to answer prayer based on His own name. We are also taught that when we pray, we are to pray in the name of Jesus. If we are to pray and ask for things on the basis of our own will, then answers to prayer are based on our own name. But instead we are told to pray in the name of Christ which means we are to pray in accordance with who He is and His glory. Perhaps that is one reason why the professing Church is so weak in our day and that is because we pray according to our own selves rather than seeking the Lord for desires to pray for His glory in the name of Christ. God is motivated by His own name and not our acts of the will. It is only when our desires are conformed in truth to His desires that there is power in prayer.

Let us think through some of the verses from the previous BLOG.

Psalm 79:9 – Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.

This is a psalm of Asaph. We see that this is a cry for the help of God. On what basis does he cry for help? His plea for help looks to the motivations of God as God rather than anything else. God, as perfectly holy, will only do and be motivated to do by what is best. Since God loves holiness and truth, He can only be motivated by what is truly holy and true. He can only love what is utterly holy and is worthy of His love. That means He can only be moved by His own name in prayer. When human beings bear His name, they can pray for themselves and that in truth be for His name. But of course that must be the true desire of the human’s heart and not just a use of the name of God as a magic potion of some sort.

It seems so strange to the modern mind to read or hear of a sinner crying out for forgiveness for the sake of God’s own name. Yet if we put audible words to the desires of our hearts, wouldn’t we be crying out for God to save us for sake of our own name and our own good no matter if God has to stop being God to do so or not? Look at how opposite that is of the Greatest Commandment, which is to love God with all of our being. Look at how contrary that is to the command of I Corinthians 10:31 to do all to the glory of His name. When we pray for forgiveness, the true desires of the heart are being shown. If we desire forgiveness more than the glory of God, then what does that say about the chief love of our hearts? If we desire to be forgiven more than we desire God to be glorified, what does that say about the desires of our hearts? While it is not wrong to desire forgiveness, our desire for forgiveness must be out of a love for His name or we desire forgiveness for the wrong reason.

The desires of our hearts for forgiveness must be looked at in terms of the God’s motives. What could possibly be the desire for God to save sinners who hate Him and do nothing but what is at enmity with Him? Psalm 106:8 sets this out for us: “Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, that He might make His power known.” God saves sinners for the sake of His name which shows something of His glory. He saved the Israelites because they bore His name as His people and it demonstrated His power. Why does God save sinners by the blood of Christ? Is it because they have acted according to a free-will in their own name and power? No, and a zillion times no. The only motivation worthy of God is what Psalm 106:8 tells us. He saves for the sake of His name. He does not save according to anything a sinner can or may do. He saves according to His name alone which is grace alone.

The Motives of Fallen Man – History & Theology, Part 68

April 6, 2008

We are continuing to look at God’s motives in salvation. We are looking at this primarily from information revealed to us in Scripture. The issue of God’s motives is very important. We know how important motives are for human beings. The goodness or badness of the outward act, though important itself, is determined by the motives. If I saved a person from drowning, that would normally be thought of as a good thing. On the other hand, if I saved the person to the glory of Satan that would not be a good thing in terms of my motives. If I saved a person from drowning in an effort to gain glory and honor, then I would have saved them for a selfish reason and that is the same thing as idolatry. I am commanded to do all things out of love for God and all things are to be done for His glory. What is motivated by anything other than love for God and His glory is a sin in the motives and the heart.

When we look at God’s motives in salvation, we are looking at His highest and purest intentions in saving sinners. From the human point of view we think that the greatest thing that God can do is to save sinners from hell. That is the view of a fallen man who has fallen so far from seeing and loving God that he thinks that what is good is determined by what happens or does not happen to himself. In other words, man views things in terms of himself rather than in terms of God. Man now determines what is good or bad as how it relates to himself rather than God. So when man thinks of salvation, he looks at it in terms of himself and how it benefits him. He thinks of salvation as being all about man and sees it as good mainly because it keeps man from paying for his own sin in hell. Man can think of no higher motives in God than His doing something to benefit man. We must also continue to keep the issue of Augustinianism and Arminianism in our minds as that is the overall point of the discussion. The reason that God’s motives are important in this context is that the Gospel is of grace alone. The motives of God should help us see the issue of the will in a different light. If God is motivated to save sinners by an act of man’s free-will, then salvation is not totally motivated by God’s love for Himself and so is not totally of grace,

There are many texts which tell us what motive God has in forgiving sins. A few verses are given to demonstrate the prayers and desires of those men who desired God. Notice that their prayers were for His name’s sake. Only a few will be listed below, but enough will be given to get the point across:

Psalm 79:9 – Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake. 106:8 Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, That He might make His power known.

Isaiah 43:25 – “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” 48:9 “For the sake of My name I delay My wrath, And for My praise I restrain it for you, In order not to cut you off. “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.

Jeremiah 14:21 – Do not despise us, for Your own name’s sake; Do not disgrace the throne of Your glory; Remember and do not annul Your covenant with us.

Ezekiel 20:9 – “But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made Myself known to them by bringing them out of the land of Egypt. 14 “But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, before whose sight I had brought them out. 22 “But I withdrew My hand and acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out.

Ezekiel 36:22 – “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.

Daniel 9:19 – “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.

The Importance of Seeing God’s Motives – History & Theology, Part 67

April 4, 2008

In the last post we looked at God’s motives in salvation. In looking at God’s motives in salvation as set out in Scripture this gives us, so to speak, a divine view of salvation. God had a motive for creating all things and He had a motive and intent in the fall and then in the Gospel. It is utterly vital to look at the motives of God in terms of salvation and the Gospel. If He saves sinners with motives entirely and wholly based on Himself and His own glory rather than anything found in sinners, we can see that the notion of free-will as taught by Arminians cannot be why God saves sinners. If His motives are for Himself and from within His triune being, an act of the will of a human being that is free from His grace would be a motive apart from and not of Himself. The Gospel of grace is not just that God does things for sinners that they cannot do for themselves if only they will make one act of the will, but instead it is that God saves sinners based on Himself and His glory alone. That alone is grace alone.

Last time we focused on the motives of God that He gives us in Ephesians 1:5-14. This time we will approach it from a different angle, though with the same basic thought. Rooted in the fallen human nature is a thought that we find in our own fallen hearts: we tend to do things for others based on something that is within that person or that he/she will do. But God saves sinners based on Himself and nothing that the sinner can do (for self or for God). He saves sinners to manifest His glory through the sinner rather than expecting the sinner to do one thing for self or Him at all. God displays the glory of His self-sufficiency through the sinner rather than expecting any sufficiency from the sinner at all. In fact, the sinner’s efforts to exercise self-sufficiency in the smallest of things are an act of enmity to God’s self-sufficiency as displayed in His grace.

Let us look at the motives of God in this sense as to what could move Him to save sinners. We know that He is a God who does as He pleases (Psalm 115:3). What else could please God to save sinners if not Himself and His own glory? What else would be a holy and good motive for God to save sinners but Himself? Should God love sinners as His primary love when He commands sinners to love Himself with all of their beings? He commands sinners to love Him rather than their own lives. Does it make sense for Him as a primary motive to give the Son who was God in human flesh for the souls of sinners who are commanded to love Him at the cost of their lives? Did God love sinners more than He loved His Son? Did the Son love sinners more than He loved the Father?

The questions in the previous paragraph should show us that we must think through these things from a God-centered perspective or we will fall into the trap of thinking God is just like us. The Lord Jesus Christ is said to be the outshining of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3). The same thought is in John 1:14 where the Word is said to become flesh and in that we see His glory which is full of grace and truth. If God loves His own glory, He must love the Son who is the shining forth of that glory. When the Father is said to love His glory it is the same thing to say that the Father loves the Son. The only fitting motive for the Father to save sinners is out of love for His own glory which is to say that He loves His Son. The only fitting motive for the Son is to love the Father and His glory, and He said many times that He did in the Gospels.

We have such an impoverished view of grace in our day. In reality, however, such an impoverished view of grace turns grace to be non-grace. Another way to put that would be to say that an impoverished view of God’s grace makes it to be a different kind of grace, which is to say that it’s not grace at all. Scripture tells us that a different Gospel is no Gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-10). If God’s motive in saving sinners is dependant on a human act of the will, even though ever so slightly, it is no longer grace alone. That little act of the human will turns grace from being 100% to 99.9%, but that means it is not grace at all. We can see this from a picture of His holiness. God is perfect in His holiness. If He turns from 100% holiness to 99.99999% holiness, then it is not holiness any longer but something different. For God, holiness is 100% holiness or it is something else. God’s motive in saving sinners is all Himself and so by grace or it is a different motive and so grace is no longer grace. Romans 11:6 must be pounded into our heads and hearts. One little work destroys grace and makes it no longer grace. A diluted substance is no longer the same substance. If we add just a little poison to water, even .005 %, it is no longer the same substance but it is water and something else. Grace is the same way. One work, no matter how little, turns a pure grace into grace plus something else and so it is no longer grace alone. God’s motive in salvation must be entirely from within Himself as seen in His love for His own glory, that is, His love for the Son and the love of the Son for the Father or salvation is not wholly of grace and is a different Gospel. The teaching of free-will is not just some minor issue with a minor difference, it is the drop of poison in the Gospel of grace alone that changes the very nature of it.

Grace According to God’s Good Pleasure – History & Theology, Part 66

April 2, 2008

In the past few BLOGS we looked at God’s motives in salvation. We are doing this because we are looking at the history and theology of issues between the Augustinian view and the Arminian view. In looking at God’s motives in salvation as set out in Scripture it helps us to get a handle on why He saves sinners. If He saves sinners based on Himself and not for anything found in sinners, we can see that the notion that a person must exercise a free-will in order to be saved is contrary to the Gospel of grace alone.

Ephesians 1:9-11 – He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.

In the preceding passage in verse 9 the phrase “according to His kind intention” should once again be translated as “according to His good pleasure.” Sinners only know the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure and not according to their own pleasure and will. This has all been purposed in Christ and all things will be summed up in Christ, whether they are things in the heavens or things on earth. We see the teaching of predestination come back up referring to those who have obtained an inheritance which is all those who have been truly saved. Predestination is said to be according to His purpose rather than according the purpose of man who chooses according to his own free-will. Predestination is said to be according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will. The text does not say that salvation is according to His purpose who works all things except for a little act of a free-will according to the counsel of His will. But the text says that He works all things after the counsel of His will.

Ephesians 1:12-14 – to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

Verse 12 (flowing from verse 11) then gives us the reason that He works all things after the counsel of His own will. It is to the end (His purpose) that those who hoped in Christ (not hope even a little in themselves and own act of the will) would be to the praise of His glory. In Ephesians 1:5-6 we saw that goal of salvation was to the praise of the glory of His grace. Here we see the same thing. Salvation is all about the glory of God and of His grace and not about the free acts of human wills that choose Him. If we come down and enter time and simply view a person from the outside, we might be led to believe that a person must make a choice and then be saved. But Scripture gives us the eternal and Divine view of things and we must go by that view rather than our sight of things in time. The goal or purpose of God’s working all things after the counsel of His own will is so that it would end up being to the praise of His glory. If something is worked according to a free-will and by definition that is apart from divine influence or it would not be free, then that little part not influenced by the Divine will would not be to the praise of His glory. We must deal with this issue honestly or we have not really dealt with it at all.

There are a few different interpretations of what the sealing of the Spirit means. However, we can still ask questions that relate without dealing with those issues. What does the free-will have to do with being sealed with the Spirit of God? We can all agree that believers are baptized into Christ by the Spirit of God at salvation (Romans 6:3; I Corinthians 12:13). Why does God baptize believers into Christ and seal believers with the Holy Spirit? Does He do this based on His eternal knowledge knowing that man would choose Him? Therefore, does He do this based on the free choice of the will of man? How does that fit with our text of Ephesians 1:14 which tells us that the Spirit “who is given us as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of the glory of His grace”? The Spirit baptizes sinners into Christ based on the grace of God or upon the free choice of the human will. Does the Spirit baptize people into Christ based on the motives of God or the motives of man? Does the Spirit baptize people into Christ based on the choices of God or the choices of man? As Paul teaches us from 1 Corinthians 15:32: “If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me?” Does the Spirit operate based on human motives and choices or as the text teaches us to the praise of His glory? I cannot but believe that the Spirit operates on Divine motives and so grace is applied by grace alone.

The Glory of Free Grace vs. the Devastation of Arminianism – History & Theology, Part 65

March 31, 2008

In the last post we looked at God’s motives in salvation from Ephesians 1:5-6. We saw that God predestines through Christ to Himself and He does that in accordance with His primary motive of His own pleasure. I asserted without trying to prove from the text that the translation of “according to the kind intention of His will” should actually be translated “according to the good pleasure of His will.” A good commentary that includes comments on the Greek text should suffice on this. The cause of salvation is His own pleasure and the goal of salvation is the praise of the glory of His grace. We are entering into the very eternal pleasures of God and we must ask for grace to understand and enjoy Him in the midst of it.

Ephesians 1:5 – “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

Let us step back for a moment and admire the glory of our great God in sheer delight and pleasure. The beauty of predestination is seen in that God takes helpless and ungodly sinners and adopts them as sons. God takes the worst of sinners (His enemies who hate Him) and makes them His sons. Why does He do that? He does it according to His good pleasure. He adopts them as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself. This is to say that He takes sinners and makes them His sons by the life and works of Jesus Christ on earth and brings them into a union with Himself. He does not do this according to the goodness, works, worth, or merit of the sinner, but He does this according to His own pleasure and that pleasure is seen in why He does this. He does this to the praise of the glory of His grace.

In light of our whole discussion on the freedom of the will and the historical differences between Arminianism and Calvinism, we must see how this shines light on that whole subject. God tells us right here in this text that He does not save according to any good or act of the will that He finds in human beings. He saves in accordance to what pleases Him or according to His pleasure. His stated purpose is to the praise of the glory of His grace. He then states the cause of why He bestowed grace on sinners in the Beloved. God Himself tells us in this text that “He freely bestows” grace and adoption as sons on sinners in Christ. Once again, when we think of what the word “freely” means, we have to wrestle to get at the meaning. In one sense the word means without cost and yet it means far more than that. It must be free of any causation within human beings in order to be truly free, and yet the root of the word translated in this text is from the same root word as grace. We have the idea in this text of God giving grace by grace or graciously. There is no reason within man that God gives grace. It is given according to His grace and according to His good pleasure. There is not the slightest mention in this text of God meeting the free act of man with grace. It is all of grace and so all of God. There is no other reason at all.

It is natural for fallen man to reserve something for himself to do in terms of salvation or anything else. But the Gospel leaves nothing for man to do in terms of earning or being a cause for God to save sinners. There is nothing left for man to do if God saves by Christ alone through grace alone. What act of the will did man do in eternity past to cause God to predestinate him to salvation? What act of the will did man do to cause God to predestine him to adoption in Christ? What act of the will did man do to move God to send His Son to save sinners? What act of the will did man do that has anything to do with God saving sinners according to His own good pleasure? What act of the will did man do that would be to the praise of the glory of God’s grace? After all, the text explicitly tells us that the real cause of salvation is the pleasure of God and the goal of salvation is the praise of His glory. What we must begin to see is that by trying to teach that man must come up with an act of the free-will in order to be saved is to fight the grace of the Gospel. It is also to remove true hope from the sinner who must look to himself for something apart from grace in order to be saved.

Arminian theology in this sense is devastating to the Gospel and to the true hope of sinners. It should be fought with the sword of the Spirit for what it is. To repeat myself once again this is not saying that all Arminian people are unconverted. It is to say that the teaching of free-will which is necessary to be an Arminian destroys the teaching of the true Gospel of grace alone and all true hope of the sinner. Sinners must learn to give up all hope in themselves so that they may have faith and hope in the grace of God alone as found in Christ alone. Instead we present them with facts in our day and look to them to come up with faith themselves. Even professing Reformed people do not teach people to give up all hope in themselves and look to grace alone. The giving of grace and its application must always be left in the hands of God or it becomes something other than grace.

Salvation Comes from Within God – History & Theology, Part 64

March 29, 2008

In the last post we looked at God’s motive in justification in an effort to see why justification is by faith alone. We tried to show that justification is by the work of God alone and it is moved by motives from within God and man can contribute nothing to his own salvation. The thought of this was based on Obadiah Grew whose original work that was published in 1669 was re-published in 2005 by Soli Deo Gloria as The Lord Our Righteousness. In this post we want to continue to look at how the grace of God is moved by God Himself and not by anything found in a sinner or sinners. God is moved by and from within Himself to justify sinners, which is what grace alone really means. Salvation by grace alone is a salvation that has not motive in God other than God Himself.

Ephesians 1:5 – “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

Ephesians 1:9 – “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,”

Ephesians 1:12 – “to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

In this post I want to start focusing on three sets of verses from Ephesians 1. In reality all of these verses were originally part of one long paragraph in which the apostle Paul waxed glorious in setting the stage for the glory of God in salvation. The divisions I am setting out are rather artificial, but we simply don’t have the room to deal with all of these verses and show the connections that flow between them. Let us look at Ephesians 1:5-6 first. Instead of thinking like human beings locked in time and space and a chronological view of time, we have to get beyond those things and think in terms of eternity. Ephesians 1:5-6 gives us an eternal view of salvation in which we look to all the causes and reasons of salvation as being from within God.

Verse 5 tells us that God predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself. The truth of the matter is that we will never fully understand predestination. But when the text tells us that this happened and it is brought about through Jesus Christ, we know that the Gospel is of Christ and Christ alone. We cannot over state the issue that all happens through Jesus Christ and the rest of the chapter shows that. The next part is utterly vital. It tells us that the ultimate cause of predestination and the Gospel is in accordance with “the kind intention of His will.” The literal translation of that is “in accordance with the good pleasure of His will.” In other words, this is the God of Psalm 115:3 who does as He pleases. The true God is by definition one that does as He pleases. Predestination is to save sinners according the pleasure of God which is to say that sinners are saved in accordance with the pleasure of God. God is moved to save sinners because it pleases Him to do so. In one sense we are simply back to the foundation of all things.

There is, however, one more step to be taken. We must ask what it means to please God since God is triune. When God does something to please Himself, we know it must mean that it is something pleasing to all three Persons within the Trinity. Another way to state this is to say that what the Father does He does to please the Son and what the Son does He does to please the Father and what the Spirit does He is the pleasure of God that flows between the Father and the Son. While we cannot understand these things fully, if hardly at all, we know that in some way the triune God functions as one God in three Persons and so all are pleased in some way. The goal set out by Ephesians 1:5-6 is that God does all “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” In context of our discussion, we can see without much effort at all that the God who predestines in accordance with His own pleasure (and that in order that salvation would be all to the praise of the glory of His grace) does not save according to anyone or anything other than Himself. The Gospel of the glory of God erupts in glory when we see that the purpose of the Gospel is to shine forth the glory of His grace and is to the praise of that glory. There is little to do at this point but to bow in worship of this great God of grace and join the Trinity in the pleasure of what He does by grace.

God Loves Because He Loves – History & Theology, Part 63

March 27, 2008

In the last post we looked at God’s motive in justification which helped us to see the biblical reason for why justification is by faith alone. We tried to show that justification is by the work of God alone and man can contribute nothing to his own salvation. The thought of this was based on Obadiah Grew whose original work that was published in 1669 was re-published in 2005 by Soli Deo Gloria as The Lord Our Righteousness. In this post we want to look at the grace of God as being moved by God Himself and not by anything found in a sinner or sinners. God is moved by Himself to justify sinners, which is simply to say that He saves by grace alone. Salvation by grace alone is a salvation that is moved from within God alone.

Deuteronomy 7:7 – “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

Romans 3:24 – “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;”

Romans 5:6 – “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Ephesians 1:5 – “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

Ephesians 1:9 – “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him”

Ephesians 1:12 – “to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

From Deuteronomy 7:7-8 we can see the reason that God loved the Israelites. It was because the LORD loved them. Boiled down, the thought of those verses is to say that God loves you because He loves you. In other words, God’s motive for loving and for blessing the Israelites was not what was found within them, but it was found from within God Himself. This was hard for the Israelites to accept as they continually wanted to do works and keep the Law as ways to move God to love them. The same is true today. We want to be sufficient in and of ourselves to give God reasons and motives to love us and we don’t want to be totally dependent on grace. The natural man does not receive the grace of God because the demand of grace is that it be alone and have no help at all. It is impossible for the natural man to bend his pride and bow his heart to receive a salvation that is not moved by anything within man or done by the work of man. But that is exactly what the Gospel of grace demands. For the Gospel to be all of grace it must be by the grace of God alone and with the motive found within God alone.

Romans 5:6-8 sets this truth out for us. It was while sinners were helpless that Christ died for the ungodly. They were not almost helpless, but they were helpless. In other words, there was nothing that they could do. To be helpless is to have an inability to help self. Christ came for helpless people and not for those with just a little ability. He came for those who were helpless and ungodly. What would move God to save those like that? It could only be from within Himself. All of His motives and motivations must be from Himself. In other words, sinners are saved by grace alone which is to say that God saves according to His own motives and reasons and nothing from within the sinner. This is a truth that is worth waking up and getting excited about. This is utterly glorious. Why, it is almost as if God saves sinners apart from anything they can do which means that there is hope for the worst of sinners! God saves sinners who give up on themselves and look to Him alone because He saves sinners based on Himself and nothing in the sinner. This delivers sinners from having to look to themselves for anything and that includes even the smallest act of the will. It tells them to give up all hope in self and look to God who saves based on Himself and expects nothing from sinners other than what He gives. This is the Gospel of hope.

God’s Motive in Salvation – History & Theology, Part 62

March 24, 2008

Today we will be looking at God’s motive in justification, which should help us to see the biblical reason for why justification is by faith alone. In this we will see why justification is by the work of God alone and man can contribute nothing to his own salvation. We will be helped in this by Obadiah Grew whose original work that was published in 1669 was re-published in 2005 by Soli Deo Gloria as The Lord Our Righteousness. Why did God justify sinners? If He did so to manifest His glory through His grace, then we can see that His motive in saving sinners was not the faith of the sinner and did not need or want any help from the sinner. In fact, if God’s motive in saving sinners was to display His grace in Christ Jesus, then an act of the sinner apart from His grace would be opposed to the motives and purposes of God in justification.

Deuteronomy 7:7 – “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

Romans 3:24 – “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;”

Romans 4:5 – “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,”

Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Ephesians 1:5 – “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

With just a brief sampling of verses from Holy Scripture, we can see the motive of God in saving sinners. It was to manifest and demonstrate His glory and grace. There can be no real doubt if we look at the text listed above that the grand motive of God is to manifest His own glory through His grace. In other words, there is nothing that man can do to provide God with a motive to save him. The act of faith, then, from a free-will that is not something that God would meet with favor, but in direct opposition. For the act of the will to be free, it must be free from any constraint or help from God and the grace of God would certainly be considered a help. This is a point that must not be neglected or overlooked. For the will to be truly free it must be free from the grace of God if it is to be free at all. But if God saves to the glory of His grace, then anything that man does must be as moved and empowered by grace. A free act of the will, therefore, is an act of man that is opposed to the Gospel of grace.

When we see texts like Romans 3:24, we can know that we are on the right track. Justification is not because man has made a choice by an act of his will, but the only cause given is that of the grace of God. To be justified freely or as a gift by grace is to say that it is grace alone that is the cause or motive of justification. For God to be truly free in this matter and to justify apart from any obligation on Him by a human being means that He is moved to save sinners apart from anything positive that the sinner can do. The cause of justification is from within God and His desire to glorify Himself by saving by grace alone. Any act of man that is thought to contribute to justification by grace alone would actually be contrary to the purposes of God and even to war against the purposes of God in justification. Ephesians 1:5-6 shows us that the cause of salvation is to the praise of the glory of His grace and nothing within man. Ephesians 2:8-9 shows that it is not of works in any way or that would leave man that little bit of room to boast. We know that when the pride of man is given just a bit of room to boast, it will take a mile and boast and boast even if it is under the guise of humility. The motive of God in justification should be clear. He justifies for His own purposes and not for anything that is found within man or that which can be done by man. Human beings are saved by the grace of God apart from any goodness or act of the will that man can do. This is so that God’s motive in salvation may be fulfilled without any help from man at all. It is the Gospel of grace alone.

Arminianism a Different Gospel – History & Theology, Part 61

March 22, 2008

For several blogs we have been looking at A.A. Hodge’s statements of the three main historical positions regarding man’s inability and therefore of the ability of God’s grace. While these points (as stated by Hodge or even the recognition of the positions) are ignored in our modern day in our rush to civility and unity, there is simply no excuse for ignoring these main points. These are vital issues in any day as they relate to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His ability to save sinners. We must always remember in our rush to unity and civility that the Gospel of peace will bring the hatred of very religious people who hate Christ in reality. Some of those religious people are conservative and evangelical in name. In light of that, we need to travel back a few centuries in order to hear what people who were more concerned with the truth and the glory of God than anything else used to think.

In 1625 William Pemble published a work entitled A Treatise on Justification. This has been reprinted in our day by Soli Deo Gloria under the title of The Justification of A Sinner. In chapter five he refutes what he terms the Arminian error. By that he is meaning the Arminian position that the act of faith is what is counted as righteousness. While that is the traditional Arminian position, I am sure there are many modern Arminians that might dispute that position and adamantly assert that they do not hold that. However, if one holds to the freedom of the will and therefore that the final choice in salvation is at least part of the human choice and will, the conclusion is inevitable. The sinner is either counted righteous by the work of Christ alone or not. While it may sound honoring to Christ and orthodox in many ways, the “alone” part of the Gospel simply means Christ apart from any works at all. Many stumble at the “alone” part of justification and the Arminian position is a logical denial of it.

Let us work through this part with the help of William Pemble. The believer is justified by Christ alone or he is not. The believer is declared righteous by the righteousness of Christ alone or he is not. Remember, the word “alone” means that there can be utterly nothing else but the righteousness of Christ counted to the sinner’s righteousness if justification is to be by Christ alone. If the will of man acts in any way that is free from the grace of God in making a choice in salvation, then that is a righteous act apart from Christ and the Gospel is not by grace alone and a sinner is justified by one righteous act and by the righteousness of Christ. We simply cannot allow any view that allows for the act of a sinner as being necessary for salvation apart from grace alone. It matters not whether a person claims to be Reformed or Arminian or some sort of hybrid position, any act of the will that is not moved completely by grace is an act of the will that destroys justification by faith alone which depends on the imputed righteousness of Christ alone.

Pemble notes that we cannot be justified by “two righteousnesses existing in two various subjects.” If we are justified on account of our faith in any way then we are justified by the righteousness of Christ and of something in ourselves. This is the logical position of all who hold that the will is free and must make some movement apart from the grace of God in order to be saved. That is the heart of the Arminian position. Any move away from the righteousness of Christ alone is a denial of Christ alone, faith alone, and grace alone. In other words, the Arminian position is utterly fatal to the Gospel. This is not to say that all Arminians themselves are not converted, but it is simply to say that the position is a denial of the Gospel as it came forth from the Reformation. The Reformers and the Puritans either taught the biblical Gospel or they did not. If they did, then let us hold to the biblical Gospel no matter how unpopular it is. If it is not, then let us show where the Reformers and the Puritans erred and set out where they erred at. But we cannot claim to follow the Reformers and the Puritans if we do not preach and teach the same Gospel that they did.

Pemble points out that God can only count that as perfect righteousness which is so in deed and truth. But faith is not the perfect fulfilling of the law and is not a perfect act. It cannot, therefore, be judged by God as righteousness and so cannot be counted as righteous in the court of a judge that is perfectly righteous Himself. The assertion of the Arminian of an act of the will that is free from the grace of God is an assault on the Gospel of grace alone by Christ alone. If we think back through the positions as Hodge set them out, we immediately see that these things are true. The Arminian position rests on an act of the will that is free from grace and that God meets with grace. This may sound ungracious to many, but in fact it is simply holding forth the teaching of grace alone that is found in the Bible. When Romans 3:24-25 and Ephesians 2:4-9 teach that God justifies by the cause of grace and that is not caused by an act of the human will or work, it is teaching grace alone apart from the human act. Grace alone, which denies acts of the human will can be free from grace at any point and so righteous, is the Gospel and nothing else.