The Gospel of John: I Have Given You an Example.

“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:12-17)

As today’s text indicates, Jesus washed all of His 12 Disciples feet: including Judas Iscariot. We know this to be true because Judas did not leave the upper room until John 13:30. After He was finished doing so and after resuming His place at the table, Jesus said to the disciples, ““Do you understand what I have done to you?

It is probably accurate to assume that Judas did not care one bit about understanding the significance of what Jesus had just done. Washing another person’s feet! Not on your life! Judas was thinking that his interest was strictly about himself and money (John 12:4-6). He had already agreed with the religious to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Mathew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6).

What about the other disciples? You have to wonder if they truly comprehended what Jesus had done. Therefore, Jesus took the moment to explain the significance of what He had just accomplished. Jesus said, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

Jesus invokes His own sovereign authority by calling Himself not only Teacher but also Lord. The word Teacher (διδάσκαλος; didaskalos) means an instructor or trainer. The word Lord (κύριος; kyrios) is the New Testament equivalent for the Hebrew word Yahweh meaning self-existent one. It was the most personal name for God.

Speaking the logical principle of cause and effect, Jesus said that if the disciples correctly recognized that Jesus was their Teacher and their God, then they should correctly demonstrate such an understanding by emulating Him by washing one another’ feet.

The word example (ὑπόδειγμα; hypodeigma) means a pattern or a model. Jesus displays a pattern or model of behavior the disciples should demonstrate toward one another: servanthood.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, The basic idea of today’s passage is that disciples of Christ must be willing to do what He was willing to do, including acts of service. As the Master, He is greater than us, His servants, and if a task such as foot washing was not beneath Him, neither should we consider any form of service beneath us. The example of foot washing commends to us a willingness to meet the needs of others, to put others before ourselves, and to not be puffed up with pride. It is a call to humility and to a readiness to serve one another.

Jesus then said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

Once again invoking His own authority, Jesus told His disciples in the upper room, and tells His disciples today through John’s gospel, that as His disciples we are not greater than Him. Jesus calls and commands all who follow Him to do what He did in serving and ministering to those in need. We may not be able to meet every need but we can meet some. We may not be able to do what someone else does, but we can do something.

Jesus Christ is not only our Teacher but He is also Lord of heaven and earth. Let each of us today evidence our understanding of this by serving the Lord Jesus Christ as we minister and serve one another.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: Not all of you are Clean.

Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” (John 13:10-11).

It is important to not only understand what a particular biblical text says but also what it means. This entails understanding not only what verbs, nouns and other parts of speech are being used by the author but also to determine whether these words have any other characteristics of note. Such is the case with John 13:10-11.

Initially, Jesus was specifically speaking to Peter. We know this not only because of the immediately preceding context of John 13:1-9 but also by the singular form of the personal pronoun “him.” The text does not say “them” which would refer, at least initially, to the rest of the disciples in the upper room with Jesus.

Therefore, Jesus said to Peter, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.” Jesus was saying to Peter that if an individual is truly converted and sin occurs in their lives they do not need to be converted again but rather they are to confess their sins and receive sanctifying cleansing from God. In other words, they do not need to be completely bathed in the cleansing waters of salvation but rather just their feet need to be cleansed in the power of God’s ongoing forgiveness (I John 1:9).

Dr. John MacArthur explains it as follows. “The cleansing that Christ does at salvation never needs to be repeated—atonement is complete at that point. But all who have been cleansed by God’s gracious justification need constant washing in the experiential sense as they battle sin in the flesh. Believers are justified and granted imputed righteousness (Phil. 3:8–9), but still need sanctification and personal righteousness (Phil. 3:12–14).”

In keeping with this metaphor of cleansing referring to salvation and sanctification, Jesus then emphatically told not just Peter but the rest of the disciples in attendance “And you are clean.” We interpret the verse this way because the pronoun “you” which was in the singular form is now in the plural. Jesus was addressing all of the disciples, but not all of them possessed salvation.

Jesus then said “but not every one of you.” Once again, the pronoun “you” is in the plural form. Jesus made an exception in saying that everyone in the upper room were cleansed unto salvation. As the Apostle John is prone to do in his gospel, he adds a parenthetical comment. “For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” In His omniscience, Jesus understood that one of His disciples was going to betray Him or hand Him over to His enemies. We know that this disciple was Judas Iscariot (John 6:70-71; 18:1-3).

John Calvin writes, “Peter might not set aside the washing of the feet as foolish; for as Christ washes from the head to the feet, those whom He receives as His disciples so in those whom He has cleansed the lower part remains to be daily cleansed. The term feet, therefore, metaphorically applied to all the passions and cares by which we are brought into contact with the world. Thus Christ always finds in us something to cleanse. What is here spoken of is not the forgiveness of sins but the renewal by which Christ, by gradual and uninterrupted succession, delivers His followers entirely from the sinful desires of the flesh.”

While post conversion sins cannot take away our salvation, they can harm our fellowship with Christ and also with other believers. We should also note that in spite of whatever fellowship we may have with other believers, it is most important that we first have a saving relationship with God through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Jesus’ Actions; Peter’s Words.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:6-9)

In today’s text, we observe Simon Peter asking a question, making a declaration and then making a request. One thing we can say about Peter. He was pretty verbal. In other words, his words reflected his heart and you always knew what he was thinking.

First, Peter asks a question. “Lord, do you wash my feet?” We must remember that we are in the context of Jesus washing His disciple’s feet. It was the evening of the final Passover Meal Jesus would have with His disciples prior to His crucifixion. As the disciples relined on mats in order to eat the celebratory meal, Jesus began washing their feet.

As Pastor Burk Parsons explains, “When people traveled the dusty roads of ancient Palestine in sandals, their feet would get dirty, and a servant commonly washed the feet of guests before they joined the master of a house for a meal. But most Jews saw this task as demeaning, so it was given only to the most menial of servants.”

This is why Peter asked his question. He resisted Jesus washing his feet because Peter believed that such a task was beneath his dignity, and therefore beneath the dignity of Jesus. This scene must be understood in light of Luke 22:24 which says, “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” Notice the contrast between the disciples and Jesus. The disciples were arguing among themselves in the upper room as to which of them was the greatest. At this same time Jesus, the God of heaven and earth, was performing a task assigned to the lowliest of servants. What irony.

Jesus told Peter that ““What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter’s immediate declaration was emphatic. ““You shall never wash my feet.” Peter was indignant that Jesus would stoop so low as to do such a menial task. What Peter did not understand, but would come to understand, was that the foot washing symbolized the believer’s spiritual cleansing in Christ while at the same time illustrated the requirement of Jesus’ disciples to humbly serve one another.

Jesus’ response to Peter was equally emphatic: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Jesus was saying that to be one of His disciples, one must be willing to do what Jesus was willing to do. This includes acts of service.

Dr. Parsons states, “As the Master, He (Jesus) is greater than us, His servants, and if a task such as foot washing was not beneath Him, neither should we consider any form of service beneath us. The example of foot washing commends to us a willingness to meet the needs of others, to put others before ourselves, and to not be puffed up with pride. It is a call to humility and to a readiness to serve one another.”

When Peter understood this he said, ““Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Peter was all in. You’ve got to love that about him. When he understood a biblical truth there was no holding him back from a full and complete commitment. Peter reasoned that if it was that important, as one of Jesus’ followers, to have the Master wash his feet then Peter was willing for Jesus to wash his whole body. This makes Peter’s subsequent denial of, and later restoration by, Jesus all the more significant.

As one of Jesus’ servants, are you willing to serve the Lord whenever and wherever He calls you? He may call you to serve Him by working at a grocery store, owning your own business and providing income for your employees, or ministering to the poor by volunteering time at a shelter or bargain clothing store. Be open and be willing.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Serving the LORD and One Another.

“During supper,… He (Jesus) laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:2a-5)

The practice of foot washing was a practical observance when a visitor entered another individual’s home in Israel 2,000 years ago. A good host would not only provide food and lodging, but also make sure a menial servant washed the guest’s feet. A comparable example today would be either offering a house and dinner guest a beverage or offering to take their coat and put it in a safe place until they leave.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “When people traveled the dusty roads of ancient Palestine in sandals, their feet would get dirty, and a servant commonly washed the feet of guests before they joined the master of a house for a meal. But most Jews saw this task as demeaning, so it was given only to the most menial of servants.”

It is imperative for us to understand the specific seating arrangement and posture of the disciples while Jesus washed their feet. They would not be seated at a table like we would be or as depicted in da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Rather, the disciples would all be reclining on thin mats around the table, each leaning on their left arm.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “Luke points out (22:24) that they were arguing about who was the greatest of them, so that none was willing to stoop to wash feet. When Jesus moved to wash their feet, they were shocked. His actions serve also as symbolic of spiritual cleansing (John 13:6–9) and a model of Christian humility (vv. 12–17). Through this action Jesus taught the lesson of selfless service that was supremely exemplified by his death on the cross.”

Consider the following verses as they pertain to serving one another.

Galatians 5:13 – You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

I Samuel 12:24 – “But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.

John 12:26 – “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

Joshua 22:5 – “But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Regardless of what covenant God’s people have been under, Old or New, God called His children to be obedient servants of Him and on behalf of one another. We may no longer wash people’s feet but we are to serve in any practical way we can to those in need.

May we do so today.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Sovereignty of God.

“During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:2-5)

God is in control. In other words, God is sovereign. Therefore, if God is not sovereign, then God is not God for this means that someone, or something else, is in control and not God. Dr. Guy Richard writes, “For if there were anyone or anything in the universe more powerful or more authoritative than God, then anyone or anything would, by definition, be God.”

Scripture overwhelmingly teaches the sovereignty of God. Here is but a selection.

  • I  Timothy 6:13-16 – “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”
  • Psalm 95:1-3 – “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”
  • Daniel 4:34-35 – “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

No being can resist God’s will (Romans 9:19), He rules over the nations (Psalm 22:28), and the kings of the earth are all subject to Him (Psalm 2). God is always enthroned or in power (Psalm 9:7), He works all things to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11), and always does all that He pleases (Psalm 115:3). Therefore, we should examine and interpret John 13:2-5 in light of this understanding of God’ sovereignty.

God is sovereign in the work of Satan or the Devil. ““During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him,” (John 13:2). Satan cannot do anything unless God sovereignly permits him (Job 1-2). However, we should also take note that Judas was not just a passive participant but rather an eager conspirator in the crucifixion of Jesus. Judas’ wicked heart desired what the devil desired: the death of Jesus. The devil cannot make anyone do anything that either God, or the individual in question, does not want the devil to do.

Secondly, God is sovereign in the work of Jesus Christ. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,” (John 13:3). It is important for us to remember that Jesus was in control of all the circumstances He faced up to and following His crucifixion. Jesus previously stated this truth in John 10:17-18.

Third, God is sovereign in the example Jesus sets before us: His disciples. “Jesusrose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:3a-5).

There has been an ongoing debate within the church as to whether or not Jesus established a third ordinance of the church, along with baptism and Communion, by washing His disciples’ feet. There are even some evangelical denominations which regularly practice and observe foot-washing services.

The practice of foot washing was a practical observance when a visitor entered another individual’s home. A good host would not only provide food and lodging, but also make sure a menial servant washed the guest’s feet. A comparable example today would be either offering a house and dinner guest a beverage or offering to take their coat and put it in a safe place until they leave.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “The dusty and dirty conditions of the region necessitated the need for foot washing. Although the disciples would have likely been willing to wash Jesus’ feet, they would not consider washing each other’s feet. In their society, foot-washing was a task assigned to the lowest-ranking household slaves. It was not an action performed by a peer, except possibly as a rare expression of profound love. Luke points out (22:24) that they were arguing about who was the greatest of them, so that none was willing to stoop to wash feet. When Jesus moved to wash their feet, they were shocked. His actions serve also as symbolic of spiritual cleansing (John 13:6–9) and a model of Christian humility (vv. 12–17). Through this action Jesus taught the lesson of selfless service that was supremely exemplified by his death on the cross.”

The specific practice of foot-washing may be debatable as to it being an ongoing and established ordinance of the church. However, God’s sovereign command that His followers be servants is clear and biblical. See I Peter 4:7-11.

God is sovereign not only in matters pertaining to the devil, but also in the historical atonement of Jesus Christ and the humble servant-hood of Jesus’ disciples. Take time to acknowledge and thank God that He and He alone is in control of all things.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Having Loved His Own.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)

We return to our study of the Gospel of John by beginning to examine what is referred to as the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17). Chapter 13 marks the beginning of John the Apostle’s final events of the life of Jesus Christ while He was here on this earth. These final events include the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the crucifixion, the burial and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. John 13:1 sets the stage for what is to immediately follow.

To begin with, the occasion is before the Feast of the Passover. Jesus will become the fulfillment of the Passover Sacrifice (Exodus 12; I Corinthians 5:6-8). This reminds us that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36).

Secondly, the text says that “Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father.” The hour has finally arrived for Jesus to offer Himself as a substitutionary sacrifice on the cross for those who God the Father will call unto salvation (Romans 8:29-30). This atoning sacrifice will be the basis for the sinner’s justification by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 3:21-26).

Dr. Burk Parsons says, “Here we have reference to Jesus’ sovereignty over His own death and the timing of His crucifixion. Although Jesus allows Himself to be killed by a conspiracy of Roman and Jewish authorities, He is not at the mercy of those who want Him dead. They have power to put Him to death only insofar as it has been granted to them according to the divine plan and the divine schedule. Jesus lays down His life of His own accord; no one takes it from Him” (John 10:18).

Finally, in referring to Jesus John writes, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” The word “loved” is from the Greek word ἀγαπάω (agapao). This is the verb form of agape meaning a self-sacrificial love of the will. It is an active love and also a total love involving not only Jesus’ will but also His intellect, or mind, and also His emotions. Agape also refers to highest expression or example of love. Jesus says in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Dr. Parsons adds that, “‘End’ here can mean that Jesus loved His disciples until the end of His life or that He loved them to the fullest extent possible. It is probably best to see the verse as indicating both. Jesus loved His disciples until the crucifixion, and in the crucifixion we see the very depths of the love that Jesus had for them. Jesus willingly laid down His life—no one took it from Him by force—because He was the willing sacrifice for sin. He submitted to death because He loved us enough to pay the ultimate price to atone for our transgressions and reconcile us to God.”

John Calvin writes, “Though we think that we are at a distance from Christ, yet we ought to know that he is looking at us; for he loveth his own, who are in the world; for we, have no reason to doubt that he still bears the same affection which he retained at the very moment of his death.”

Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Canons of Dordt: Perseverance or Preservation of the Saints.

When the Council of Dordrecht or Dordt began on November 13, 1618 it sought to refute the teachings of Jacob Arminius and his followers. The council did so by specifically addressing five points Arminius’ protestors, or Remonstrants, proposed. These five points were that (1) Election unto salvation is conditioned upon foreseen faith and obedience; (2) Universal or an unlimited atonement is taught in the Scriptures; (3) Regeneration enables sinners to contribute good works toward salvation; (4) God’s grace is resistible; and (5) Believers may fall away or lose their salvation.

Previously, we briefly examined the doctrine of Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace. Today we conclude our study by examining the doctrine of the perseverance of the Preservation of the Saints.

The Perseverance or the Preservation of the Saints is often called eternal security. This is the teaching that once God has justified a sinner and called them into a covenant relationship they will never lose that salvation. It is often referred to as “being once saved always saved.”

However, there are those who insist that the whole concept of eternal security can mean a believer in Christ can live sinfully and yet rest assured they are going to heaven when life ends. Is this what the fifth and final point of the Canons of Dordt means?

Philippians 1:6 says, “He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it to the end.”  God promises that what He has begun in our souls He will complete. An old axiom in Reformed theology about the perseverance or preservation of the saints is as follows: “If you have it—that is, if you have genuine faith and are in a state of saving grace—you will never lose it. If you lose it, you never had it.

This is likely what the Apostle John meant in I John 2:19 when he wrote, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

We know people who make professions of faith, and then turn away and renounce those professions. Of course, they were in the church in terms of outward appearances before they left. They had made an outward profession of faith. The Bible makes it clear that it is possible for a person to make a profession of faith when he doesn’t possess what he’s professing.

Dr. R. C. Sproul says, “I think this little catchphrase, perseverance of the saints, is dangerously misleading. It suggests that the perseverance is something that we do, perhaps in and of ourselves. I believe that saints do persevere in faith, and that those who have been effectually called by God and have been reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit endure to the end. However, they persevere not because they are so diligent in making use of the mercies of God. The only reason we can give why any of us continue on in the faith is because we have been preserved. So I prefer the term the “preservation of the saints,” because the process by which we are kept in a state of grace is something that is accomplished by God. My confidence in my preservation is not in my ability to persevere. My confidence rests in the power of Christ to sustain me with His grace and by the power of His intercession. He is going to bring us safely home.”

Dr. Scott Clark writes, “Those to whom He gives the gift of faith, whom He “regenerates by the Holy Spirit, he also delivers from the dominion and slavery of sin.” Our ongoing struggle with sin gives us reason to humble ourselves and to seek heaven. Left to ourselves, we would fall away, but grace “mercifully confirms and powerfully preserves” us “even to the end.” Sometimes believers, such as David, fall into grievous sin and lose the sense of God’s favor, but God preserves them. God never allows His people “to proceed so far as to lose the grace of adoption.” Christ “certainly and effectually renews” His people “to repentance, to a sincere and godly sorrow for their sins.” The Spirit grants assurance to His people not, however, “by any peculiar revelation,” but rather it “springs from faith in God’s promises.” Assurance of grace does not produce immorality among Christians. Rather, “it renders them much more careful and concerned to continue in the ways of the Lord.” As the Spirit makes us alive through the preaching of the Gospel, He strengthens our faith and assurance through the sacraments.”

The Canons of Dordt are an extraordinary statement of conviction among the Reformed churches on five essential doctrines. The very Reformation was at stake at the Synod of Dordt. If we conclude God’s favor towards us is conditioned upon anything in us, then we are lost because we remain dead in sin. If the Gospel is to include our obedience in order to be justified, then it is no longer the Gospel. If the elect can fall away, then grace is no longer grace.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Canons of Dordt: Irresistible Grace.

When the Council of Dordrecht or Dordt began on November 13, 1618 it sought to refute the teachings of Jacob Arminius and his followers. The council did so by specifically addressing five points Arminius’ protestors, or Remonstrants, proposed. These five points were that (1) Election unto salvation is conditioned upon foreseen faith and obedience; (2) Universal or an unlimited atonement is taught in the Scriptures; (3) Regeneration enables sinners to contribute good works toward salvation; (4) God’s grace is resistible; and (5) Believers may fall away or lose their salvation.

Previously, we briefly examined the doctrine of Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, and Limited Atonement. Today we examine the doctrine known as Irresistible Grace.

At the outset, it would seem that the phrase Irresistible Grace is obviously misleading because many people have resisted the Gospel of Jesus Christ and continue to do so. This is the case even with people who eventually repented of their sins and trusted Christ for their justification. I, along with others, prefer the title “effectual grace.”

Dr. R.C. Sproul explains that, “The idea of irresistibility conjures up the idea that one cannot possibly offer any resistance to the grace of God. However, the history of the human race is the history of relentless resistance to the sweetness of the grace of God. Irresistible grace does not mean that God’s grace is incapable of being resisted. Indeed, we are capable of resisting God’s grace, and we do resist it. The idea is that God’s grace is so powerful that it has the capacity to overcome our natural resistance to it. It is not that the Holy Spirit drags people kicking and screaming to Christ against their wills. The Holy Spirit changes the inclination and disposition of our wills, so that whereas we were previously unwilling to embrace Christ, now we are willing, and more than willing. Indeed, we aren’t dragged to Christ, we run to Christ, and we embrace Him joyfully because the Spirit has changed our hearts. They are no longer hearts of stone that are impervious to the commands of God and to the invitations of the gospel. God melts the hardness of our hearts when He makes us new creatures. The Holy Spirit resurrects us from spiritual death, so that we come to Christ because we want to come to Christ. The reason we want to come to Christ is because God has already done a work of grace in our souls. Without that work, we would never have any desire to come to Christ.”

If you recall from our study of John 3:3, Jesus said to Nicodemas, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Notice the cause and effect structure of Jesus’ statement. Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Unless the condition of the new birth or regeneration occurs first, a sinner cannot see the kingdom of God or come to Christ. To put it another way, regeneration precedes faith.

Not only does regeneration, or the new birth, precede one’s faith but it is also monergistic. In other words, regeneration is a work done by the Holy Spirit alone in the heart of sinful man. This is what the phrase “born of the Spirit” means (John 3:6-8). John 6:63 says, “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is not help at all.”

Dr. Sproul states, “An erg is a unit of labor, a unit of work. The word energy comes from that idea. The prefix mono– means “one.” So monergism means “one working.” It means that the work of regeneration in the human heart is something that God does by His power alone—not by 50 percent His power and 50 percent man’s power, or even 99 percent His power and 1 percent man’s power. It is 100 percent the work of God. He, and He alone, has the power to change the disposition of the soul and the human heart to bring us to faith.

Irresistible grace is an effectual grace. It’s a grace that works. It’s a grace that accomplishes what God wants it to accomplish. Since fallen sinners are dead in sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1-3), and since the sinner’s will is held captive by the lusts of the flesh the fallen sinner needs the freedom only God provides.

Dr. Sproul concludes, “In the final analysis, salvation must be something that God does in us and for us, not something that we in any way do for ourselves.”

Dr. Scott Clark adds, “We are so corrupt by nature that we are incapable of life or free choice apart from “the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit.” The natural knowledge and law of God only condemns us.  Only God the Spirit “through the word or ministry of reconciliation” raises His elect to life. We believe because God has made us alive (and not the reverse), but the Spirit makes us alive by working through the administration of the Word; the external proclamation of the Gospel is sincere and the Gospel promise sincere. Those who refuse the Gospel are responsible for their choices, and the regeneration of the elect must be credited only to God’s sovereign grace. God’s sovereignty does not make us “stocks and blocks” because the Spirit works through the Word. It “spiritually quickens, heals, corrects, and at the same time sweetly and powerfully bends it, that where carnal rebellion and resistance formerly prevailed.”

Soli deo Gloria!

The Canons of Dordt: Limited Atonement.

When the Council of Dordrecht or Dordt began on November 13, 1618 it sought to refute the teachings of Jacob Arminius and his followers. The council did so by specifically addressing five points Arminius’ protesters, or Remonstrants, proposed. These five points were that (1) Election unto salvation is conditioned upon foreseen faith and obedience; (2) Universal or an unlimited atonement is taught in the Scriptures; (3) Regeneration enables sinners to contribute good works toward salvation; (4) God’s grace is resistible; and (5) Believers may fall away or lose their salvation.

Previously, we briefly examined the doctrine of Total Depravity and Unconditional Election. Today we study the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

By far the most controversial of the so-called Five Points of Calvinism is the doctrine of Limited Atonement. You have heard, I’m sure, sincere Christians call themselves Four Point Calvinists. They acknowledge and submit to the doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible or effectual grace and the perseverance or the preservation of the saints. But the point they have trouble with is the middle one: limited atonement. What exactly is meant by this phrase?

The doctrine of limited atonement is primarily concerned with the original purpose, plan, or design of God in sending Christ into the world to die on the cross. For whom did Jesus Christ die? Was it for the entire human race that ever lived or would live? Was it God the Father’s intent to send Jesus Christ to die on the cross to make salvation possible for everyone, but with the possibility that His death would be effective for no one? This type of atonement would be unlimited but at the same time indefinite with the possibility that no one would trust and believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

As Dr. R. C. Sproul poses, “Did God simply send Christ to the cross to make salvation possible, or did God, from all eternity, have a plan of salvation by which, according to the riches of His grace and His eternal election, He designed the atonement to ensure the salvation of His people? Was the atonement limited in its original design?

Limited, effectual or definite atonement means that God the Father provides a redemption for the elect in which Jesus Christ died for His sheep (John 10:1-11) and gave His life for those who the Father chose to give Him (John 6:35-66). The doctrine of limited atonement teaches that Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the cross was designed and intended only for the elect. Jesus Christ laid down His life for the sheep and only for the sheep. His atonement is therefore not a just potential work of redemption but an actual one.

While there is no way we can thoroughly examine this particular doctrine in this limited space, nor do we intend to, I do want to make the following observations.

First, while the death of Christ on the cross is sufficient or satisfactory for all sinners who ever lived, it is only efficient or effective for those God the Father gives to the Son. In other words, the death of Christ on the cross makes salvation possible for all but it is only effectual for the elect.

Secondly, the doctrine of limited atonement does not negate the responsibility of preaching the gospel universally. God calls Christians to share the gospel and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) knowing that only those who repent and believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ will be saved. Those who sincerely repent of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ alone for their justification are the ones for whom Christ died and therefore the elect.

Dr. Sproul continues by saying, “One of the texts that we often hear used as an objection against the idea of a definite atonement is 2 Peter 3:8–9: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” The immediate antecedent of the word “any” in this passage is the word “us”, and I think it’s perfectly clear that Peter is saying that God is not willing that any of “us” should perish, but that all of “us” should come to salvation. He’s not speaking of all mankind indiscriminately; the “us” is a reference to the believing people to whom Peter is speaking. I don’t think we want to believe in a God who sends Christ to die on the cross and then crosses His fingers, hoping that someone will take advantage of that atoning death. Our view of God is different. Our view is that the redemption of specific sinners was an eternal plan of God, and this plan and design was perfectly conceived and perfectly executed so that the will of God to save His people is accomplished by the atoning work of Christ.

Another proof text cited against the doctrine of limited atonement is I John 2:1-2 which says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

The text is properly interpreted to distinguish between the words “our” and “whole.” John is contrasting that Christ’s atoning work is not only efficient for the Jew but also for the Gentile. The Gospel is extended to all kinds of people throughout the world. Christ is not only the propitiation for the sins of the Jewish elect but for the elect who God saves throughout the whole world who are not Jewish.

Dr. Scott Clark concludes by saying, “Christ’s death did not simply make salvation available for those who will, but rather our Savior actually secured the salvation of all His people. His death satisfied God’s justice for all the elect. Christ’s death is of infinite worth, but intended to satisfy God’s wrath for the elect. Therefore, the promise of the Gospel is that “whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life” Contrary to the caricature of Calvinism, the synod said that, by His death, Christ redeemed “out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father.” 

Let me encourage you to read John 6:35-66; 17:1-12; Romans 5:1-10; I John 4:1-10; and Revelation 5:1-10 for further study.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Canons of Dordt: Unconditional Election.

When the Council of Dordrecht or Dordt began on November 13, 1618 it sought to refute the teachings of Jacob Arminius and his followers. The council did so by specifically addressing five points Arminius’ protesters, or Remonstrants, proposed. These five points were that (1) Election unto salvation is conditioned upon foreseen faith and obedience; (2) Universal or an unlimited atonement is taught in the Scriptures; (3) Regeneration enables sinners to contribute good works toward salvation; (4) God’s grace is resistible; and (5) Believers may fall away or lose their salvation.

Previously, we briefly examined the doctrine of Total Depravity. Today we study the biblical doctrine of Unconditional or Sovereign Election.

Unconditional Election means that God does not foresee an action or condition on the sinner’s part that induces or persuades Him to save sinners. Rather election, or God’s choosing to save sinners from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin, rests on God’s sovereign decision to save whomever He is pleased to save. It is God’s sovereign choice to save and His sovereign choice alone.

Ephesians 1:3-5 says, “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 to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”

Ephesians 1:3-5 explains that God chose sinners before He created the world. The purpose of God’s choosing to save was so that the redeemed should be holy and blameless before Him. God predestined to adopt some as His own through the person and work of Jesus Christ. God did this according to the purpose of His will. In other words, God wanted to do this.

There are those within the church who believe that God’ sovereign choice was ultimately based on His foreseeing who would believe the Gospel. Based on that decision to believe, God then made His sovereign choice to save. In other words, the sinner chooses Christ and on the basis of that choice, God chose the sinner. To put it another way, we choose to be chosen.

Rather than choosing to save based on those who God “foreknew” who believe the Gospel, God’s sovereign choice was not based upon any foreseen conditions the sinner could ever meet. God chose to save because that is what God independently chose to do.

Dr. C. Sproul explains that, “Many people who have a doctrine of election or predestination look at it this way. They believe that in eternity past God looked down through the corridors of time and He knew in advance who would say yes to the offer of the gospel and who would say no. On the basis of this prior knowledge of those who will meet the condition for salvation—that is, expressing faith or belief in Christ—He elects to save them. This is conditional election, which means that God distributes His electing grace on the basis of some foreseen condition that human beings meet themselves.

Romans 9:10-13 says, “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” 

Dr. Sproul explains that, “Here the Apostle Paul is giving his exposition of the doctrine of election. He deals with it significantly in Romans 8, but here he illustrates his teaching of the doctrine of election by going back into the past of the Jewish people and looking at the circumstances surrounding the birth of twins—Jacob and Esau. In the ancient world, it was customary for the firstborn son to receive the inheritance or the patriarchal blessing. However, in the case of these twins, God reversed the process and gave the blessing not to the elder but to the younger. The point that the Apostle labors here is that God not only makes this decision prior to the twins’ births, He does it without a view to anything they would do, either good or evil, so that the purposes of God might stand. Therefore, our salvation does not rest on us; it rests solely on the gracious, sovereign decision of God.

Unconditional election is another way of saying sovereign election. But is it fair of God to save people this way? The Apostle Paul, in Romans 9, anticipated this objection when he wrote: “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

It is God’s divine and sovereign prerogative to save those who He chooses to save. Some sinners received justice while others received mercy or non-justice. No sinner, the redeemed or the reprobate, receives injustice from God.

When we realize that there was nothing done on our part for God to choose to save us from our sins, then we become broken people. We fall, as it were, upon our faces with the utmost gratitude to God for choosing to save sinners such as us when He was under no obligation to do so. God chose to save on the basis of His sovereign grace and grace alone.

I recall during my first year at Detroit Bible College that this truth came upon me following a theology class. I was overwhelmed with gratitude to God for choosing to save me and also overwhelmed that He was under no obligation to do so. Ultimately, sovereign or unconditional election results in God receiving all the glory and praise for our justification.

Take this moment to thank God for choosing to save you.

Soli deo Gloria!