Saturday, June 23, 2012

THE DEATH OF CHRIST


THE DEATH OF CHRIST
Nothing is more important to the Christian faith than the event of the cross of Christ and its proper interpretation.  How does Paul summarize the message he preaches? - “the word of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18), and “we preach “Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23).  What was the only message he must to preach in Corinth? Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).  If the cross is not central it is not the true gospel message.

THE CRUCIFIXION

You must make sure you know about the following:
(1)   The prophecies that were fulfilled.  Write down the Old Testament reference that is quoted in Matthew 27:46 – Psalm 22:1; Luke 22:37 Isaiah 53:12; Luke 23:46 – Psalm 31:5 John 19:24 – Psalm 22:18; John 19:28 – Psalm 69:21; John 19:36 – Exodus 12:46; Number 9:12; John 19:37 – Zechariah 12:10.
(2)   Crucifixion was a form of death that signified a person was cursed by God (Galatians 3:13).
(3)   The three hours of darkness, at the end of which He shouted, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).  Darkness is a sign of God’s judgment that Jesus fully endured, so He was able to shout that He was victorious, having done all the Father planned for Him to do.
(4)   The curtain of the temple was torn from the top to bottom = by God (Matthew 27:51) to show that through the death of Christ the way into His presence was now open.
THE MEANING OF CHRIST’S DEATH
The Bible uses the following words to explain the death of Christ:
(1) Sacrifice (Hebrews 9:26, 10:12).  He fulfilled the Old Testament sacrifices; for example, He is the true Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), and Hebrews 9:25-26 compares His sacrifice with the atonement (in Leviticus 16).  Most of the sacrifices were because of the offerer had sinned and was asking God for forgiveness.  The animal was killed instead of the sinner.  So Christ was a sacrifice “in our place”, “for” us (John 10:11, 15:13, Romans 5:6,8, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15,21, Galatians 1:4, 2:20, Hebrews 10:12, 1 Peter 2:21, 3:18).
(2) Blood (Romans 3:25, 5:9, 1 Corinthians 11:25, Ephesians 1:7, 2:13, Colossians 1:20, Hebrews 9:14, 10:19, 13:12,20, 1 Peter 1:2,19, 1 John 1:7, Revelation 1:5, 5:9, 12:11).  The blood of animal sacrifices was poured out around the alter (Leviticus 1:5, 3:2, 4:7) to show that it was dead.  The “blood of Christ” means that Christ died as a sacrifice, not that there is something special about the blood in His body.  His blood was just like ours.
(3) Obedience (Romans 5:19, Philippians 2:8).  He came from the Father to do His will, and He perfectly obeyed (Hebrews 5:8-9).  As one without sin He could die for us (Hebrews 7:26-27), just as the animals were to be without “spot or blemish” (1 Peter 1:19).
(4)Propitiation (Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, 4:10).  God’s wrath is upon sinners, but Christ has suffered the punishment sinners deserve, and so God’s wrath is removed from them.  As an illustration, in traditional religion the elders would seek to turn away the supposed wrath of God in times of drought and disease by offering a certain sacrifice. 
(5)   Ransom (Matthew 20:28, 1 Timothy 2:6, Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 1:18-19).  A ransom is a price paid for release.  We are released from our bondage to sin because Christ gave His life as a sacrifice for us.
(6)   Redemption (1 Corinthians 6:20, Galatians 3:13, 4:5).  The word ransom emphasizes the price that was paid; redemption emphasizes that the price paid brings release.  When we say that Christ is our Redeemer, we mean that by His death we are set free to serve God!
(7)   Reconciliation (Romans 5:10-11, 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, Ephesians 2:16, Colossians 2:20-22).  God Himself has removed all obstacles to our fellowship with Him through the death of Christ, so that we are now at peace with God.
Note:  Propitiating God, dying for our sins, redeeming us by a ransom price, and reconciling us to God, are all things that Christ accomplished by His death.  Nothing needs to be added.  Do not miss the assurance in Romans 5:1-2,9-11, 8:33-34!  Christ’s death is powerful.
FOR WHOM DID CHRIST DIE?
This is what our 1689 Confession of Faith states about Christ the Mediator:
“By His perfect obedience to God’s law, and by a once-for-all offering up of Himself to God as a sacrifice …, the Lord Jesus has fully satisfied all the claims of divine justice. He has brought about reconciliation, … for all those given to Him by His Father” (Sect.5).
The Confession states that Christ died for the elect, for those given to Him by the Father (John 6:37-39, 17:24).  Many people think this means that Christ’s death was not able to save everyone.  But the real question is, “What was God’s purpose in giving His Son to die?” 
According to the following verses, for whom did Christ die:
Isaiah 53:11, Matthew 20:28, 26:28 many; John 11:52 children of God
Ephesians 5:25 the church; Hebrews 2:14 children; 
Hebrews 2:16 the offspring of Abraham ;  Hebrews 2:17 brothers
If Christ died for the purpose of saving everyone, then why is not everyone saved?  If His death was a ransom, then why is not everyone ransomed?  If Christ died for everyone, and everyone is not saved, it means that Christ’s death is not sufficient to secure the salvation of anyone.  It would then depend on Christ’s death plus something else in man, such as faith. 
There are a few verses that appear to teach Christ died for all (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 1 Timothy 2:6).  Others verses use the word world and supposedly teach that Christ died for everyone (John 1:29, 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:19, 1 John 2:2).  Note that “all” can mean all types of men without distinction (1 Timothy 2:1), or many people (Matthew 3:5-6).  “World” can mean Gentile as well as Jew (John 1:29, 4:42), sinners as opposed to God’s people (John 17:9).
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
(1)   Let us have full confidence in Christ and His work to save us completely.  Spurgeon likens Christ’s work to a bridge.  One bridge is wide enough for everyone to go on it but it only goes half way across the river.  The other bridge is narrower but it goes all the way across to glory! What does the Bible teach?
(2)   The Bible never presents the gospel as “Christ died for you.”  It rather present Christ as a Person who, by His finished work, is fully to be trusted to save any sinner who comes to Him in faith and repentance.
Write true or false for each of the following statements:
TRUE Christ’s death guarantees full salvation for all for whom He died.
TRUE It was not the purpose of God that Christ should die on behalf of everyone.
FALSE It is possible that Christ died for people who will go to hell
TRUE The ‘blood’ of Christ means Christ’s death as a sacrifice for sins.
FALSE God loves everyone, so there is no need for His wrath to be propitiated by sacrifice.
Further reading:
·         The Sovereignty of God, by A. W. Pink, pp.56-67. 
·         Saving Grace, by John Cheesman, pp.78-92. 
·         A Price for a People, by Tom Wells. 





SIN - TOTAL DEPRAVITY & TOTAL INABILITY


It is so important to understand what the Bible teaches about sin.  If we do not understand the disease, we cannot know how to treat it!  One of the definitions of sin in the Bible is: “Sin is  _________________________” (1 John 3:4).  But sin is not only the actions, speech and thoughts that we have that are against God’s law.  Note what Jesus teaches as to where all these sinful things come from: “For _________________ come evil thoughts, murder, …” (Matthew 15:19).  The “heart” is our inner self out of which all comes.  There is something wrong with our heart.  Jeremiah says of the heart that it “is _________________________________________, ______________________” (17:9).  Paul writes of the Gentiles that they have no understanding and are ignorant “due to ________________________” (Ephesians 4:18).  So sin is a condition, a character, an attitude, man’s nature.  Jesus likens the heart to a treasure box (Matthew 12:35).  How a person lives depends on the character of his heart.  Men and women not only do acts of sin, they are sinners by nature (see Ephesians 2:3).

TOTAL DEPRAVITY

Depravity = moral corruption.  When we say this depravity is “total” we do not mean that man is as sinful as he can be, but that sin has spread to every faculty of his being and has seriously affected him.  As a result everything that men do by nature is sinful and not good in God’s sight.  Paul makes a universal conclusion about all men and all they do that “no one does _____ , _____
________” (Romans 3:11).  No thought, no emotion, no word spoken, no action, is acceptable to God .  Even our very best acts are polluted by sin (Isaiah 64:6, see Philippians 3:4-8).  As a drop of poison makes the whole drink poisonous, so sin makes all corrupt and repulsive to God. 

TOTAL INABILITY

Not only are all actions sinful, but as a result by nature we are totally unable to do anything spiritually good which is acceptable to God.  Note the following Biblical evidence:
(1)   Clear statements.  What things are impossible, according to the following passages? 
John 3:3,5                    ______________________ (unless born of water/Spirit)
John 6:44,65                ______________________ (unless the Father draws)
Romans 8:7                 ______________________ (to the mind that is set on the flesh)
Romans 8:8                 ______________________ (to those who are in the flesh)
1 Corinthians 2:14       ______________________ (to the unspiritual = without Spirit)
Hebrews 11:6              ______________________ (without faith)
(2)   Word pictures.  What word describes total inability in the following passages?
John 8:34, Romans 6:16-17, Titus 3:3                        _____________
Ephesians 2:1,5, Colossians 2:13, 1 Timothy 5:6        _____________
John 9:40, 12:40, 2 Corinthians 4:4                            _____________
Slaves have no power to free themselves – the master, or someone more powerful, must give the freedom.  Those who are dead have no power to make themselves alive – only someone who has power over death can.  The blind, like Bartimaeus depend upon another to open their eyes.
Our 1689 Confession of Faith states: “The actual sins that men commit are the fruit of the corrupt nature transmitted to them by our first parents.  By reason of this corruption, all men become wholly inclined to all evil; sin disables them.  They are utterly indisposed to, and, indeed, rendered opposite to, all that is good” (Ch.7, Sect.4, and see Ch.9, Sect.3).

FALSE TEACHING

The Arminian view insists that sinful man still has a free will.  This view teaches that any man has the ability, any time he chooses, to do the good that God commands, especially to repent of sin and believe in Christ.  They do believe that as a result of Adam’s sin the whole race also fell, and inherited a corrupt nature (= original sin); but also through the death of Christ a grace, which is called “prevenient” (because it preceedes), has been given to all men to make everyone able to choose Christ.  This is the most common view today and people will react with horror if you suggest there is no such thing as free will.  They do not know that at the time of the Reformation Martin Luther wrote, what he called his most important book, The Bondage of the Will, which he regarded to be at the heart of the Reformation controversy.
How would you answer the Arminian teaching?  What does the Bible teach about the will of men now?  Is there such a thing as “prevenient grace”?  It is an assumption because Arminians believe that if God commands something we must be able to do it.  The ‘will’ is the faculty of choice; it does not act independently.  Do you think it possible that a man would choose to drink poison if he knows it is poison and if he feels afraid that it will kill him?  Impossible!  How is it possible that a sinner will choose Christ if his heart is unclean, if he does not understand the things of God, if he hates the light (John 3:19-20)?  Everyone chooses according to his nature.
Write down the reference of two passages that teach the will of man is not free to choose Christ _________________, _________________.  John 1:13, 3:8, Romans 9:16 clearly teach that the
______ of man is not the cause of salvation.

IMPORTANCE OF HAVING THE TRUE TEACHING

(1) Our understanding of salvation depends upon it.  Are we saved because we choose Christ, or because God first chooses us?  The Bible is so clear that we are totally dependent upon God.  What must God first do if anyone is to come to Christ? ________ (John 6:44).  What must first
take place if anyone is to produce spiritual fruit? ____________ (John 3:5).  Like Lazarus, stone dead in the tomb, we must first be made alive, before we can do anything spiritual.  Salvation is of the Lord and to Him all praise is due!
(2) Our method of evangelism is controlled by it.  Man-made methods such as special music, altar calls and testimonies of well-known people have produced many false converts.  Because of total depravity and inability salvation begins with God’s work of the new birth.  God uses the preaching of the gospel to urge men to believe and repent.  We must tell sinners the truth as clearly and forcefully as we can, trusting that God will open the heart to give heed (Acts 16:14).
(3) It will lead us into the practice of both godly humility because we are totally unworthy, and joyful praise because God has graciously done what we could never do.  In our Christian lives sin becomes enemy number one that we take seriously in order to put it to death (Romans 8:13).
Write true or false for each of the following statements:
________God holds us responsible only for what we have the ability to do
________A sinner is saved when he opens his heart to Christ
________Apart from Christ no one has ever done any good before God
________We must tell sinners that they have no ability to choose Christ
________Our understanding of sin does not matter as long as we preach the gospel
Further reading:
  1. The Sovereignty of God, by A. W. Pink, pp.92-108.   
  2. Saving Grace, by John Cheesman, pp.33-41.   
  3. Spurgeon on Inability (John 6:44).   
For Puritan teaching:  
  1. Human Nature In Its Fourfold State, by Thomas Boston; and  
  2. The Plague of Plagues, by Ralph Venning.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD IN SALVATION



Because God is sovereign over everything, then he is also sovereign in our salvation.  Our 1689 Confession of Faith states: “By His decree, and for the manifestation of His glory, God has predestined (or foreordained) certain men and angels to eternal life through Jesus Christ, thus revealing His grace.  Others, whom he has left to perish in their sins, show the terrors of His justice” (Ch.3, Sect.3).  Also read Sects.4-7.
biblical doctrine of election
Election = to choose, just as when Kenya has a general election MP are chosen by the voters.  The idea that Christians have been chosen by God occurs about 40 times in the New Testament.  The “elect” is often another name for a Christian (Matthew 24:22,24,31, Luke 18:7, Romans 8:33, Colossians 3;12, 2 Timothy 2:10, Titus 1:1, 2 John 1,13, Revelation 17:14).  Read Ephesians 1:3-4 that teaches us that being chosen by God is one of the spiritual blessings we should thank God for. 
When did God choose us? He chose us in him before the foundation of the world
What are the two little words that describe the relationship of our election to Christ? in him
What was the purpose for which God chose us? That we should be holy and blameless before him.
Romans 9:6-24 is the most detailed passage about the sovereignty of God in election.  Paul is answering the objection that salvation is not certain because so many of God’s people, the Jews, refused to believe in Christ.  The passage teaches that it was God’s purpose to save some and not all.  One of his examples is Jacob and Esau.  God chose to love Jacob before either child was born, so His choice was not because of (their) works, but because He already had a purpose of election (v.11).  This calling to salvation does not depend upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy (v.16). 
The doctrine of election not only fits in with God’s sovereignty, but also with the fact that because of sin man is totally unable to do anything to save himself.  Unless God saves, all men will continue in their sins and go to hell.  We are like a drowning man totally dependent upon another to choose to rescue us from certain death.
“Predestination” is another word that is used, and it emphasizes the purpose (or goal) for which God has chosen us (see Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:5).  “Foreknowledge” is a word used to emphasize that it is God who first enters into a close relationship with men with the purpose of saving them from their utter helplessness of sin (Romans 8:29, 1 Peter 1:2).
a false view of election
Everyone believes the Bible teaches election and predestination, but many explain it in a false way.  Such believe that God chooses people to salvation because he knows they will believe in Christ.  This makes salvation totally dependent upon whether a person chooses to believe or not.  They teach, “If a person uses his free-will to choose Christ, then God will respond by choosing him to salvation”.  This makes man sovereign and not God!  How can this be answered?
(1)     Jacob was not loved unto salvation because of anything he had done, either good or bad.
(Romans 9:11).  But faith is something good that a man exercises towards Christ.
(2)     The Bible denies that being one of the true people of God depends on them (Romans 9:16), and positively teaches that God has mercy on whomever he will show mercy   (Romans 9:18).
(3)     Faith is the fruit of election.  In Antioch, who were the ones who believed?  As many as were appointed to eternal life  (Acts 13:48).
(4)     Our will is not free to choose Christ whenever we want.  What did Jesus say it is impossible for the sinner to do unless the Father draws him? to come to Him_ (John 6:44,65).  What two things does Paul teach are impossible for the person who is “in the flesh”? Submit to God's law and to please God (Romans 8:7-8). 

common objections to the doctrine of election
(1)     God is unjust to save only some and condemn the rest.  How does the apostle Paul answer this question in Romans 9:14? By no means!.  What did God say to Moses about His sovereignty that shows he is not unjust? "I will have mercy on whom “I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (Romans 9:15).  Because all men are sinners, all men deserve condemnation.  If some are saved it is only because God is merciful.
(2)     God says He does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9).  This means that he does not condemn the wicked gladly; He takes no pleasure in casting people into hell (Ezekiel 33:11).  He is pleased when a sinner repents.  If anyone is lost it is because he refuses to repent.
(3)     If someone is not chosen he cannot be saved even if he wants to be.  Everyone who wants to be saved, and calls upon the name of Christ, will surely be saved (Romans 10:13).  What assurance did Jesus give to anyone who comes to Him? All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out (John 6:37).  Note the first part of John 6:37; who are the only ones that will come to Christ? Only those the Father gives to Christ  If a person truly wants to be saved it shows that God has already been at work in him.
(4)     Election destroys human responsibility.  This is not true, as the Bible teaches both God’s sovereignty in election, and man’s responsibility to believe and be saved (this is not the same as free-will).  Throughout the Bible God addresses men as fully responsible for their own actions, yet they are unable to do anything spiritually good by their own efforts (for example, Jeremiah 13:23).  What is an evil man unable to do?  To do good  (Matthew 12:34). 






the practical benefits of the doctrine of election
The doctrine of election is very practical, and is not only for special students of the Bible.
·         It brings praise to God.  What does Paul do to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as he thinks about being chosen? he blessed Him (Ephesians 1:3).  What does Paul do to God because He chose the Thessalonians? Thanked Him (2 Thessalonians 2:13).  If I am chosen by God, it is by grace (Romans 11:5), and not because I have done anything to deserve it (Romans 11:6).  If the only reason I am saved is because of God’s eternal choice then I must eternally praise Him.
·         It gives assurance to the Christian.  What three other blessings does God guarantee to the one He has predestinated? Called, justified and glorified  (Romans 8:30).  If I am saved because of God’s gracious choice, there is nothing that can make God change His mind.  This is how I can be sure that in my life God works everything for my good (Romans 8:28). 
·         It makes us sinners humble.  The key of the door of salvation is in God’s hand and not in mine!  It is impossible to know the Father unless the Son reveals Him (Matthew 11:27).  I can do nothing to save myself; I deserve nothing but condemnation.
Question.  How can I know if God has chosen me?  How did Paul know the Thessalonians had been chosen by God?  Write out the first half of 1 Thessalonians 1:5 ”because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”  Has this happened to you?

Write true or false for each of the following statements:
_____    God chooses to save a person because He foreknows they will believe
_____     The belief in election makes a big difference to our Christian living
_____    Those God does not graciously choose to save he chooses to condemn for their sins
_____     No one can be saved unless God chooses them to be saved
_____    It is impossible to know if I have been chosen by God unto salvation

Further reading on this subject:
1.       The Sovereignty of God, by A. W. Pink, pp.45-55. 
2.       Saving Grace, by John Cheeseman, pp.52-77. 
3.       Spurgeon on Election (2 Thessalonains 2:13-14).