Ask Steve: Wisdom in Proverbs

February 27, 2014 12:03 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I am currently reading through the book of Proverbs and trying to understand its themes. What instruction about wisdom was conveyed in the book of Proverbs? 

Answer: The book of Proverbs is arguably the crown jewel of all wisdom literature. The content of this book really highlight the “wisdom” aspect of this literary work, since the major theme of the book is wisdom. It is a treasure chest of short and salty kernels of spiritual truth scattered throughout the book, which is meant to inform the reader of what constitutes righteous and wise living. These pithy sayings were authored by King Solomon, Agur, and Lemuel during Solomon’s reign from 971 – 931 B.C. The recurring promise of Proverbs is that generally the wise (the righteous who obey God) live longer, prosper, and experience joy temporally while the fools (God haters) suffer shame and death. However, it must be remembered that this general principle is balanced by the reality (as seen in other parts of Scripture and in everyday living) that the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper at times, though only temporarily. So what good is wisdom? The book of Proverbs answers this question, describing the essence of wisdom and how it generally impacts a person’s life. 

The first instruction that the book of Proverbs gives about wisdom is that men are to actively seek after it. There is tremendous blessing that comes from seeking after and acquiring this wisdom. Proverbs 3:13-15 states, “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her…” The rest of the chapter shows the other benefits of wisdom: that it leads to long life, peace, happiness, understanding, and security. That is why verse 21 says, “My son, let them not vanish from your sight; keep sound wisdom and discretion. So they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck.” The verse states that wisdom is to be heavily guarded, cherished, and applied to one’s life. The end result is a blessed life in the Lord. 4:7 describes that “the beginning of wisdom is: acquire wisdom…” In acquiring wisdom, one learns that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” (1:7). The wisdom is foundationally rooted in fear and obedience to Yahweh. Those who act otherwise reject wisdom and instruction (1:7b) and walk a bit that ultimately leads to death (8:36).

The second instruction that the book of Proverbs gives about wisdom is that it is valuable above all other worldly wisdoms, and therefore must be upheld above all. As previously discussed in 3:13-15, wisdom is described as being more valuable than all the gold, silver, and jewelry of this world. Proverbs 8 portrays wisdom as a beautiful woman who calls on people to pursue her, promising to do only good for those who are committed to her. Verse 10 describes lady wisdom in this way: “Take my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold. For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her.” Wisdom is described as essentially of infinite value, more desirable and worthy than anything else that vies for people’s attention and commitment. Those who pursue lady wisdom will fully enjoy in her fruit. Verse 18 states, “Riches and honor with me, enduring wealth and righteousness,” and verse 21 states, “I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice, to endow those who love me with wealth, that I may fill their treasuries.”

The third instruction that the book of Proverbs gives about wisdom is that it is the way to righteous living. Yahweh’s wisdom represents everything that is holy, true, and righteous, therefore those who follow in His commands do no evil or follow no error. Any worldly philosophy that contradicts godly wisdom is no wise living. That is why 3:5 states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.” Those who trust in God and walk in His ways will flee from sin and evil. Trusting in one’s own understanding, which is the root of all erroneous philosophies and religion, leads to one walking a crooked path leading to death. Passages such as chapters 10 and 11 show wisdom in action by contrasting the ways of the righteous and the unrighteous. Those who have wisdom walk in the way of righteousness. They find vindication before God and prosperity at the end (11:6) while the unrighteous, unwise are “caught by their own greed,” (11:6) and “are overthrown and are no more” (12:7). The book of Proverbs gives many more examples of what the man whose life is marked by righteousness looks like. But the righteous living is always rooted in one’s love for God (1:7, 15:33). This leads to his openness to teaching and instruction (9:9), a commitment to stay away from evil (14:16), a respect for parents (15:20), and humility (11:2).

The book of Proverbs is a book that is noteworthy for defining what wisdom is and what benefits it gives to its followers. It presents wisdom as absolutely necessary for living a life that pleases God and keeping oneself on the straight path that leads to life, in contrast to the crooked path that the fool walks on. Wisdom is foundationally rooted in God, therefore to follow and pursue wisdom is to follow and pursue God. Men must actively seek Him, treasure Him, and see Him as the way to righteous living. Without Him, there is only the ways of the unrighteous and all its devastating consequences. 

Ask Steve: External and Effectual Call

February 24, 2014 5:32 pm

 

Currently Reading:

The Gospel’s Power & Message

by Paul Washer

Category: Christian Living

Reformation Heritage Books, 2012

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, how does the calling of God work? Does God call all people in the same way or are there distinctions in His calling?

Answer: There are different views about the calling of God depending on whether you are of Calvinist, Arminian, Lutheran, or Pelagian background. In answering this question, the Bible presents two kinds of calls: the external call and the internal call. This view is most associated with the Reformed, Calvinist tradition, but is, quite frankly, the most biblically supported view.

The external call is the general call, or the general gospel invitation, that goes out to all humanity when the gospel invitation is extended through evangelism and/or the preaching of the word. It is a visible work done. It can be a call to individuals, to cities, or even to nations, whether in the Old or the New Testament times. This call is met with various responses and does not necessary end up with positive results. In fact, it most always end ups with rejection of the gospel. Passages like Matthew 22:14 teach the reality that “many are invited [external call], but few are chosen [internal call].” This call takes place whenever the gospel is preached, whether it was by Christ during His three year ministry, by the apostles during the apostolic age, or by Christians during the church age. Passages such as Matthew 11:28, Luke 5:28, and Luke 13:34 and teach the external, general call that Christ gives to all people around the world to repent and believe on the gospel before it is too late.

There seems to be a dilemma with this scenario. According to the Bible, all people are infected with sin and are dead in their trespasses (Eph 2:1-3), which makes people incapable of doing good deeds and redeeming themselves. Romans 3:11 states, “There is no one who understands.” How are they supposed to respond to the external call if they are incapable because of their dead nature? In other words, does God hold them personally responsible for rejecting the gospel invitation? The answer is yes, according to Scripture. God holds every person responsible for rejecting the gospel.

It is not God’s fault that people end up lost and condemned, but it is entirely the individual’s. Scripture teaches that every man is accountable and culpable to God for his own sins and for hardening his own heart (Gal 6:8; Ex 7:13). Sinners do not have the ability, because of their depraved nature, to respond to the general offer of the gospel. However, they are still at fault for rejecting the call of God. Because of the spiritual impotence of mankind, the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration and initiative is needed if any man is to be saved (Jn 3:3). Without Him, all people would fail to respond to God’s external call and perish in hell. This is where the internal, effectual call comes in.

The effectual (special) call is the call of God in the person’s heart. This is also called an irresistible call (one of the points of the TULIP formula), and is something that we have no control over, but is entirely based on God’s sovereign will. As Bruce Demarest defines it, the effectual call is a sort of “divine power, mediated by the proclaimed Word, by which the Spirit illumines darkened minds, softens stubborn wills, and inclines contrary affections towards the living God, thus leading the unregenerate to trust God in a saving relationship.” In other words, the effectual call is a powerful work of God in which He uses the preaching of the gospel to bring repentance and faith to the hearer, and thus bring salvation to the person. Therefore, effectual call always leads to the person responding in saving faith. It never fails. Whereas the general call can lead to mixed results (including many rejections of the message), the effectual call always results in acceptance of the gospel. The general call is the duty of man; the effectual call is the duty of God (1 Cor 7:21; 1 Pet 2:21).

As I indicated in Matthew 22:14, “many are called, but few are chosen.” The many refer to the gospel being distributed in the general call, whereas the “few” that are “chosen” represent the elect that experience the effectual call onto salvation. All of the elect experience the effectual call, or else they would not be the elect. Those whom God chosen before the foundation of the world are called, as Romans 8:28-30 teaches. 1 Corinthians 1:9 also comments on the truth of the correlation between calling and assurance of salvation: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In answering the question “Does God call all people in the same way?,” the answer is essentially no. There is a general invitation that goes all to all people (in which all will be held responsible for their decision to that invitation). This general call is observable by all men. But the special call is only known by God, and only known to man when the results are made manifest by the elect’s conversion. That is why multiple Scripture (Rom 8:29; Acts 16:4; Ps 65:4) references make it clear that God has selective callings (election) for those whom He has predestined to save, and this describes the doctrine of effectual (special) calling. It is important to understand this concept because there are Christians who do not believe in this truth. Many Christians believe that God makes one general gospel call to the entire world through Christian’s proclamation of the gospel, thus implying that the gospel call can actually be responded to by some ounce of “goodness” or innate ability within people’s hearts.

One such group who believe in this theory is the Arminianists. They believe in a single, external general call of God to sinners for salvation. They believe that the Calvinist doctrine of “two calls” of outer and inner call is Scripturally unwarranted, and possibly even unjust for God to elect some to be saved while rejecting others to be damned. To explain how sinners have the ability to repent and believe in the gospel, Arminianists say that prevenient grace allows for neutralization of the effects of Adam’s sin in the unbeliever so that he can respond positively to the gospel call. Under such state of “neutrality,” the Spirit’s work can be resisted, contrary to the Calvinist teaching.

Two other traditions that believe only in the universal, external call are the Pelagian and Lutheran tradition. They also believe that the Holy Spirit’s work can be resisted and that people have the innate ability to respond and accept the gospel message. Pelagians believe so because people are not affected by original sin, and Lutherans think that people have enough inner illumination by the Holy Spirit to respond in power to the gospel.

However, all of this runs contrary not only to the Bible’s teaching concerning the theology of God’s calling, but also the doctrine of predestination, election, depravity, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit (e.g. granting faith and repentance). This is why it is important to have a solid understanding of how God works in His calling and our personal responsibility in promoting the call of God in the gospel. As much as we should set out to win souls through the faithful and accurate proclamation of the gospel, we must never try to usurp God’s role to manipulate or coerce decisions in only a way God can do through His effectual calling, which is the only call that can save a sinner. Without such a calling, our own callings have no power. This is not to negate our own personal responsibilities in evangelism, but merely to keep a proper perspective on our role in a sinner’s salvation and God’s role.

Radio Show Appearance

February 20, 2014 11:34 pm

I will be appearing on the Jesse Lee Peterson Radio Show on Monday, February 24 at 7 am Pacific / 4 Eastern to talk about the Brad Pitt incident, as well as various other ministry matters. I will actually be in the studios in Beverly Hills with James Peterson doing the Live interview this Monday. 

For live audio stream this Monday, go to: http://www.bondinfostore.org/SearchResults.asp?Cat=1833

Ask Steve: Job and the Response of Trust

February 19, 2014 10:10 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I am currently reading through the book of Job and trying to understand the book and its difficult theme of righteous suffering. How should the righteous man respond to suffering according to the book of Job? 

Response: The book of Job is widely categorized as wisdom literature, mixed with elements of narrative, legal, lament, and other genres. As a wisdom narrative, the book of Job teaches the audience about the nature of suffering, especially as it relates to believers of Yahweh, and how one should respond to it. A thematic dilemma of the book of Job is how God can allow “unjust suffering” to come to godly and righteous believers who are innocent of anything that would warrant such pain. The mysterious nature of suffering paints a bleak picture of life and calls into question the wisdom of God, no less His goodness. It is a complex issue that has been characteristics of the lives of believers throughout history. The book of Job was not meant to divulge the cause or purpose of suffering in a righteous man’s life, since God never revealed His reasons in this book. Rather, the purpose of the book is to show, through the example of Job’s life, how people are to respond to suffering, which is continued obedience to and trust in God.

Believers must first respond to suffering by ascribing honor to God. Chapter 1 introduces us into the world of Job and describes his background, as well as the backdrop for what is about to come. Verse 1 states that Job was a man who was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” He was so blessed by God that he had “7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many…” Verse 3 makes the point clear: Job was the greatest of all the men of the east. Because Job so righteous and God-fearing, does that mean that he is entitled to a suffering-free life? Does Job’s material blessing indicate that God protects righteous, godly men with security and comfort? As the rest of the book reveals, we see that this is not the case.

Chapter 1 reveals how God made a wager with Satan, in which Satan was allowed to take away all of Job’s material blessings, including his very family. The purpose of the wager was to see whether or not Job would abandon God when things were not going well in life, and if Job truly served God because of his love for God or because of what God can provide for him. Despite the disaster and grief that came upon Job’s life, he did not abandon his loyalty to Yahweh. In 1:21, Job states, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In essence, Job didn’t blame God for his circumstances. This passages shows that not only did Job endure suffering faithfully, but he blessed the Lord amidst his experience of mysterious suffering. He persevered in his faith and obediently submitted to God and His sovereign rule. Since Job recognized that all things came from God, he understood the principle that God had the right to take such blessings away for whatever purpose He wills. God is to be blessed in all circumstances, even in suffering.

Believers must also respond to suffering by submitting to God’s providence. Chapter 2 describes how Satan moved next to strike Job down with a severe illness. According to verse 4, Satan believed that once Job had been plagued physically, Job would finally abandon God. The perseverance of Job in faith is the issue at stake once again, and God confidently allowed Satan to move forward in his evil agenda, because God ultimately uses everything for good in the life of the believer (Romans 8:28). Satan caused Job to be smote with sore boils. Grieved at the situation, Job’s wife demanded that Job abandon his integrity and curse God (2:9). Job responded by rebuking his wife, rightly admonishing her foolish thinking. Job states, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” Job once again withstood the temptation brought on by Satan, remaining obedient by not sinning with his lips (v. 10). This chapter shows that the righteous man is to respond to suffering with a heart attitude of submission to God, especially in the way God decides to distribute joys and hardships his life, knowing that God is wise and good.

The last, but not least, way that the righteous man must respond to suffering is by finding comfort in God rather than finding answers to suffering. Chapters 4 through 37 explore the ways that Job’s three friends, along with Elihu, try to “comfort” Job. After Job’s sad speech in 3:3-26, Job’s friends finally spoke (after 7 days of silence in Job’s presence) in order to defend God’s integrity. They accused Job of not repenting of a certain sin in his life, and it is because of those unconfessed sins that God is punishing and judging Job. If only Job would confess his sins and seek God’s forgiveness, he would be restored in health and blessings, according to Bildad’s knowledge in 8:5-6. The rest of Bildad’s speeches, along with Eliphaz and Zophar, are a variation of these themes: Job was wrong, God was right; Job sinned, God punished; if Job repents, then God restores. In helping Job discover God’s true character and intention, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar thought that they could comfort Job by helping him find the answers to his suffering. They thought that finding the answers to life was the key to solving Job’s dilemma and restoring peace to his mind.

This is not the case. Job became grieved by the poor advice of his three friends, telling them that they are of no help. They further aggravated the pain of Job with their useless knowledge (6:15-23). Job accused his friends of being poor consolers, stating, “Sorry comforters are you all. Is there no limit to windy words? Or what plagues you that you answer?” Job did not long for such words of wisdom, but longed for God (23:1-4). He wanted God not just for comfort, but for acquittal and vindication of his righteous character before his friends. God eventually came to Job’s rescue, speaking to Job in chapters 38, 39, and 41. In these chapters, God moved Job toward repentance, and ultimately stronger faith in Him. God also rebuked Job’s three friends for failing to inspire Job to find comfort and trust in God and stating false things about God’s character. That is why one of the major responses to suffering must be to find solace in God rather than trying to find answers or speaking presumptuously about His will.

In summation, the book of Job is possibly the most valuable book in the Bible that speaks about the nature of suffering and our response to it. Suffering is a prevalent issue amongst believers and unbelievers, and is the result of sin that has entered the world from the time of creation. The only remedy for suffering is trust and hope in God. In His timing, He will bring everlasting comfort to believers and put an end to grief. 

Recommended Resource: Job by Francis I. Andersen

Ask Steve: Atonement Theories

February 17, 2014 7:34 pm

 

Currently Reading:

Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship

by Joshua Harris

Category: Dating/Relationships/Christian Living

Multnomah Books, 2005, 2nd edition

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, Can you explain to me the various historical views on Christ’s atonement and which view you believe is most biblical? Are these various views mutually exclusive to each other? 

Answer: Church history demonstrates the many views regarding Christ’s atonement. Although some of the atonement views capture general truths regarding Christ and His atoning work, there is one particular view that is the most biblical, orthodox, and God glorifying, and that is the doctrine of penal substitution. Before I explain penal substitution, I will first give an overview of some of the popular alternative theories of Christ’s atonement and explain whether or not these views are mutually exclusive to each other and whether they are sound and biblical. It is important to understand these other views so that you know what other contending views are held within the evangelical world for your apologetics purposes. A correct view of the atonement is necessary because it is at the heart of the gospel, and one’s saving faith may very well be at stake in this important issue, son one cannot afford to get this information wrong.

The first view I want to discuss is the classic or ransom theory, which is one held by many church fathers. It states that the atonement of Christ was a ransom paid to Satan to purchase men’s freedom out of sin and its eternal consequences. The theory holds that all men were enslaved by Satan, and once Christ paid the appropriate price to Satan by His death, Satan released believers so that they can be with the Lord forever. At the cross, God handed Jesus over to Satan in exchange for the souls of humans held captive. Satan wrongly believed that he could hold Christ in death, but the resurrection of Christ foiled Satan’s scheme, therefore Satan was defeated.

The second view of the atonement is called the satisfaction theory. This holds that Christ’s death on the cross was offered to the Father as compensation for His lost honor. In other words, Jesus’ death satisfied God’s wounded honor, and not necessarily to appease God’s wrath or justice against sin and injustice.

A third view is called the moral influence theory. This states that Christ’s death is a supreme demonstration of God’s love which moves men to soften their hearts and come to repentance. Those who hold to this view see men as not spiritually dead, but spiritually sick and misguided, needing proper inspiration and prompting to seek after God and be spiritually healed. Once they see the magnitude of God’s love displayed on the cross, these people are moved and are shifted morally towards God. This view has nothing to do with Christ dying to satisfy the wrath and justice of God or offering Himself to satisfy God’s wounded honor.

A fourth view is called the government theory. These adherents see the atonement of Christ as demonstrating high regard for God’s Law and His righteous anger against sin. Men is spiritually depraved and have broken God’s Law as a whole, therefore justice must be served. This is why Christ died on the cross: to be a substitute for the penalty of sin. God can now forgive people because Christ satisfied the Law. Christ’s death was not a full satisfaction of all sins committed by men, but a demonstration of divine justice that was generally satisfied by Christ’s willingness to honor the Law.

A fifth view is called the example theory. This holds that Christ’s atonement provided an example of faith and how men are to live better lives. Those who hold to this theory do not believe in the total deadness of humanity, but that they are spiritual alive, though not perfect. They just need the right impetus to move their hearts in obedience to God. And Christ’s death was that perfect impetus. In many ways, it is like the moral influence theory. The difference between the two is that the moral influence theory teaches us how much God loves us, whereas the example theory teaches us how to live as human beings. This theory does not teach that Christ’s atonement was meant to satisfy the Law or God’s justice in any way.

The last view is the doctrine of penal substitution. This theory sees the atonement of Christ as a vicarious, substitution sacrifice (on behalf of the sinners who come to faith) that satisfied the demands of God’s justice for sin. Man broke God’s Law and consequently incurs an eternal debt (Rom 3:23). However, Christ steps in to pay off men’s debt and to satisfy the demands of justice so that men do not have to pay for their sins in hell. Because Christ paid the penalty and satisfied God’s law by His active and passive obedience, God can forgive sinners of their transgressions. God can justify sinners, impute the righteousness of Christ to their account (2 Cor 5:21), and reconcile them onto Himself, adopting them into His family and making them heirs of the kingdom. Those who hold to this view firmly believe that men are totally depraved, dead in their trespasses. They can never seek after God and earn God’s favor by their actions. Therefore, Christ needed to die to pay the penalty for their sins so that people, through repentant faith, can accept Christ’s substitutionary payment as payment for sin. By faith, men are declared innocent, debt-less, and have the righteousness of Christ as their wages before the Father.

Out of all the atonement theories in existence, penal substitution is the most biblical and necessary one. This view most accurately aligns with what the Bible teaches about sin, the nature of man, God’s holiness, and the results of Christ’s death on the cross. The truth of penal substitution can be clearly observed when we compare the work of Christ against the backdrop of the Old Testament sacrificial system in the book of Leviticus. The book of Hebrews develops the connection well by describing Christ as the fulfillment of the OT sacrificial system, in which the sacrifices (indicative of penal substitution) ultimately pointed to the substitution of Christ on the cross for guilty and depraved sinners. Even prophetic passages like Isaiah 53 describe a scenario that captures the idea of penal substitution in the death of the Suffering Servant. Many sections of the NT also present Christ’s atonement as a sacrifice to acquit guilty sinners and to satisfy the justice of God on lawbreakers (Ex. Luke 22:37, 1 Cor 15:3, 2 Cor 5:21, and Gal 3:13). Both the OT and NT describe Christ’s atonement as a sacrifice for sinners in the spirit of substitution to satisfy God’s wrath upon them.

The other atonement theories do speak some truths regarding Christ’s atonement, its effects, and implications. The atonement did release men out of the sin’s bondage. However, the ransom was not paid to Satan, but to the Father. The atonement was also, no doubt, a powerful demonstration of God’s love for lost sinners. However, this theory fails to capture the truth and necessity of the sacrificial nature of Christ’s atonement and how men can experience that love of God (by repenting of sin and being saved in Christ). The atonement was also a model of exemplary behavior in that it teaches us the debt of love exemplified in sacrificial death so we can practice it for others if necessary. However, this theory fails to take into account the truth of the penal substitutionary aspect of the cross and the satisfaction of God’s justice. Love is also not what saves us, but is the effect of us being saved (that we become a new creation in Christ empowered to love because of the Holy Spirit).

Although the other theories present ideas that capture some aspects of Christ’s atonement and the results of the Christian life, they are by means the true message of the atonement. These theories, at the core, are mutually exclusive to one another. If one does not understand Christ’s atonement as a penal substitution, then he is in danger of following in on a false gospel that does not save. This is why it is necessary to have a correct understanding of gospel, and a right view of the atonement is an indispensable part of it. 

Recommended Resource: Pierced for our Transgressions by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, Andrew Sach

Ask Steve: Psalms and the Kingdom of God

February 15, 2014 10:05 pm

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I am currently reading through the book of Psalms, and noticed the theme of the kingdom of God. What exactly is the book of Psalms and what does it teach about the kingdom of God? 

Answer: The book of Psalms is a collection of prayers, petitions, and other writings offered to God. The book is composed of over 7 authors, including King David, the sons of Korah, Moses, Asaph, and Heman. These books describe the theme of living life in the real world, where two dimensions operate simultaneously: the horizontal dimension (relationship to people) and the vertical dimension (relationship to God). However, the horizontal dimension finds its strength when the vertical dimension is firmly established, which is why the book of Psalms places much emphasis on recognizing and submitting to the rule of God over the world and one’s life. Therefore, the kingdom of God is a recurring theme in the book of Psalms. It is a subject of great importance because it has a direct impact on everything: God’s people, unbelievers, and the course of the present and future history. This essay will demonstrate what the book of Psalms teaches about the kingdom of God in all its aspects.

The kingdom of God must first be understood as God’s sovereign lordship over all creation. This includes people (Israel, Gentiles, saved, unsaved) and the created order (animals, nature, etc). Psalms such as 89, 95, and 104 describe the fact that creation is truly God’s. Yahweh is the sole creator and sustainer of all life as we know it. Psalm 50:12 reads, “For the world is Mine, and all it contains.” 24:1 also reads, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” The One who has founded the earth and established every aspect of its existence and order is perfectly fit to be Lord and Master over all His creation, which shows that the kingdom truly belongs to Yahweh alone. God has a heavenly throne from where He rules and sustains the universe. Psalm 103:19 reads, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” Psalm 47 also declares Yahweh’s kingship over the earth: “For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a skillful psalm. God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne…For the shields of the earth belong to God; He is highly exalted.” Because God’s kingdom affects and lays claim over all the earth, God also has the right to judge in how He sees fit. The psalmists understand this fact, which is why they can proclaim, “Rise up, O Judge of the earth, render recompense to the proud…” (94:2) and, “…He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness…” (96:13).

The kingdom of God is also understood as God’s sovereign rule in the hearts of His redeemed subjects. In other words, the kingdom of God grows and its influence expands on earth when sinners come into a saving relationship with the Lord. Without eternal salvation, there is no entrance into the kingdom of God, whether in spirit or in the eschatological kingdom that is to come when Jesus returns to rule on the throne of David. That is why sinners need to be born again of the Spirit (John 3:5) for entrance into God’s kingdom. Though the Spirit did not indwell sinners in the Old Testament like He does currently with people in the church age, God nevertheless called and elected Israelites so that they may find salvation and entrance into God’s kingdom. They underwent a regenerate experience that made them fit to enter into God’s kingdom, which led to the right spiritual condition that was able to submit to God’s sovereign rule in their lives.

Although the kingdom of God is first described as God’s sovereign reign over the entire created order, only those who have been regenerated in their spirit can faithfully respond to God’s calling for praise and obedience, which is why the Psalms commands obedience specifically from believers of Yahweh. This does not absolve unbelievers of their responsibility to respond to God in faith and obedience, since everyone and everything in the world is called to offer praise and allegiance to God, but the Psalms can only be understood and applied by those who have been are God’s children by repentant faith. That is why the Psalms’ depiction of the kingdom of God has an inescapable component of God’s rule in the hearts of His obedient subjects.

Multiple passages teach about the kingdom of God in God’s election of Israel and the rule of God over their lives which was indicative of their eternal security in the Lord. 135:4 describes Israel as God’s chosen possession, in which He rules over their lives in “righteousness and justice” (89:14, 97:2). God rules over the earth, but it is the people of Israel who are near to Him (148:14) who hear His voice and respond in the appropriate way, thus making the instructions in Psalms applicable to their lives. The sons of Jacob are His chosen ones (105:6), as Psalm 105:8-11 recounts the Lord’s eternal and binding covenant with Israel’s forefather Abraham.

Finally, the kingdom of God refers to the Lord’s physical reign on earth, which the Psalms (and other books of the Bible) looks forward in time to when God will descend from heaven and rule on the earth in Jerusalem. This ruler is the God-Man Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Son of David who will return to earth and rule for 1,000 years from Zion(Revelation 20:1-10). There are numerous references to the reality of God’s inevitable and direct rule over the world, which includes believers and unbelievers. Psalm 110 is one of the most prominent examples, in which the opening verse depicts Father God speaking to the divine Messiah and affirms the Messiah’s right to rule over the earth. Even in passages such as Psalm 72, which describes the reign of Solomon, anticipates the Messiah’s reign on earth, which will also be the culmination of the David Covenant (2 Samuel 7). Psalm 2:7-9 also anticipates the coming of God’s Son and Messiah to rule over the world. The earthly reign of God the Son will prove to the culmination of everything the kingdom of God stands for in the book of Psalms, which is God’s right of authority over all creation and His rule in the hearts of His subjects.

In conclusion, the kingdom of God is a fascinating subject that is explored in marvelous detail in the book of Psalms. The book of Psalms shows that the kingdom of God fleshes itself out in multiple ways, but it culminates in the future coming of God’s literal kingdom and rule over the earth. God’s kingdom forever becomes a part of a person’s life when He believes in Christ as Lord and Savior, which is essentially saying that the kingdom benefits will only be applied to believers eternally, whereas unbelievers will only experience its benefits temporarily should they choose to reject it, whether now or in the future reign of Christ. This is why the book of Psalms calls all people, whether believer or unbeliever, to recognize the sovereignty and goodness of God and to respond to it while there is still time. 

Ask Steve: Homosexuality

February 10, 2014 8:02 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I recently started to attend a church where it claims to believe that homosexuality is a sin, yet the pastor was not willing to publicly call homosexuals to repentance. What is your view of homosexuality, and is it necessary that homosexuals repent/change their lifestyle in order for them to be saved, as well as included in church membership and serving in the body of Christ? 

Answer: The issue of homosexuality is a controversial subject in both the secular and evangelical culture. Yet it is a topic that should not be evaded or unjustly compromised for the sake of tolerance or peace, which tends to be the trend nowadays in even some conservative Christian circles. Truth, righteousness, and salvation are on the line in this sin issue. But most importantly, God’s honor is at stake.

The Bible consistently upholds homosexuality as a transgression of God’s law, since it goes against God’s unique design of human relationship that is between one man and one woman in a covenant relationship (marriage). We first see the sinful nature of homosexuality in Genesis 19:1-13 in the episode of Sodom and Gomorrah, in which the author portrays this practice as divinely condemned and, shortly after, judged by God in the annihilation of the cities by fire and brimstone. When Moses gave the Law of God to the Israelites at Mt.Sinai, God once again confirmed that homosexuality was sin in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Homosexuality was one of many sexual sins that some people practiced at the time, others being incest, bestiality, adultery, polygamy, and fornication. These are sexual sins that people still practice and struggle with today.

Some neo-orthodox and liberal theologians argue that these commands were culturally or historically conditioned for the Old Testament era/dispensation and that they no longer apply to those who are in Christ, as if Jesus’ death somehow nullified the Old Testament prohibition against homosexuality. However, this is total speculation and without warrant. A hermeneutical technique that validates an OT principle is its repeated references and/or warnings in the New Testament by the Lord or His disciples. In this case, the sin of homosexuality is one of them!

Homosexuality is mentioned in Romans 1:26-27, which describes God’s disfavor upon those who indulge in the lusts of their flesh and give themselves over into immorality. The verse reads: “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the women and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” Not only is homosexuality depicted as sinful, but is destructive as well, because God gives these people over to the penalty of their error, of which AIDS is one frightening evidence. Other places in the New Testament that mention the sin and consequence of homosexuality include 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8.

Because homosexuality is a sin propensity like other sins depicted in Scripture (lust, pride, envy, covetousness, greed, etc), the sinner will be held responsible for his actions. He cannot make the excuse that “since he was born that way, he therefore had no choice but to live that way.” If that was the case, even heterosexuals who struggle with fornication from his teenage years can offer before the Lord the explanation that “since I was born this way, I had no choice but to be myself and act on what made me happy. I was just being who I am.” The same story can be repeated with the one struggling with anger issues since birth. And the one struggling with lying, theft, adultery, jealousy, covetousness, pride, cursing, and the list goes on.

However, the message of the gospel guarantees that all sins (including homosexuality) can be forgiven if the sinner repents and puts his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is the essence of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. The passage says that violators such as idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, or drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God, but verse 11 declares, “such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God.” Both heterosexuals and homosexuals who repent and come to God in faith will be washed of their sins (Tit 3:5), be transformed and given a new heart (2 Cor 5:17), and be granted the gift of eternal life (Jn 3:16).

Like any other sinner, people struggling with homosexuality must come to repentance in order to be saved. There is a strong tendency within some, if not many, churches to call upon homosexuals to exercise an intellectual, and maybe even an emotional, commitment to Jesus, but not go all the way with a volitional surrender of the life and will to Christ. In other words, they never truly repent and surrender to the Lordship of Christ (Lk 9:23), allowing Jesus to be the master over all of their desires, priorities, and commitments. Thus, they exercise a shallow commitment and pay lip service to the gospel, but continue to live out their homosexual sin in their everyday life, and possibly other sins that characterize their unregenerate condition. These homosexuals, much like unrepentant heterosexuals, are essentially part of the shallow or thorny soil hearers of Matthew 13, on their way to eternal destruction unless they come to true saving faith before it is too late.

Whether they do this out of theological ignorance or out of fear of man, pastors who do not call homosexuals to repentance both dishonor God and endanger the eternal welfare of homosexuals. These pastors dishonor God because, quite frankly, they do not speak the truth of what the Bible teaches. They misrepresent His standards and choose to cater to men’s feelings rather than to obey God. They endanger the eternal welfare of homosexuals because they preach an incomplete gospel that does not save. Pastors speak about sin, and may even preach that homosexuality is a sin, but preachers must be dutiful to inform homosexuals that they must turn away from the love of their homosexual lifestyle. That is the essence of repentance.

Whenever the Greek word for repentance, metanoia, is used in the New Testament, it always speaks of a change of purpose and turning from sin. It moves beyond the intellectual, and emotional stages and into the volitional stage, which is the observable fruit of repentance (Matt 3:8). A faith without repentance is an incomplete faith and a water-downed version of the gospel. Since faith involves a wholehearted commitment to Christ, repentance must logically be the step that leads a sinner there, because one cannot be committed to Christ unless he has first turned away from his former idols. Therefore, if a pastor refuses to preach repentance to an exclusive group of sinners such as homosexuals, then he is, in reality, granting them preferential treatment while discriminating against everyone else who supposedly needs repentance (the liars, thieves, gossipers, cheaters, greedy, prideful, haters, adulterers, slanderers, murderers, etc).

There is another practical problem concerning this issue of leaving homosexuals unchallenged in their lifestyle while they hold onto a form of easy-believism. The Bible clearly teaches that homosexuals (and any people who practice flagrant sin) who refuse to pursue Christlikeness, but continue to live in their sin while adamantly professing to be Christian (and misrepresenting the pure Christian testimony to the public eye) are subject to church discipline (according to the guidelines of Matthew 18:15-20), especially if they are members of the church and/or heavily involved in the ministry. This dilemma could easily have been avoided if the homosexuals were given the full gospel to begin with so that they know the cost of discipleship (Lk 9:23), which is to give up the love of lust in pursuit of the greater treasure of Christ.

Although they seem to be an intimidating and difficult mission field, people struggling with homosexuality should be approached with the utmost patience, care, and love. We must proclaim the gospel truth to them with both gentleness and uncompromising truth. And a significant part of that gospel truth is calling sinners to turn away from their sinful lifestyle to God (Mk 1:4; Acts 3:19). God is the one who sovereignly regenerates the dead sinner, gives them the Holy Spirit, and grants them a new heart with new desires (2 Cor 5:17). The Lord can do the same as well with the homosexual as he hears the preaching of the unadulterated gospel and repents. Once he is regenerated, then he is no longer enslaved to his former passions, and he becomes a holy man. However, this can never happen if he does not hear the true gospel or is not called to repent and/or put his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That is why pastors, preachers, evangelist and Christians must resist the temptation to be politically correct and instead be faithful to lovingly proclaim the truth to homosexuals, recognizing sin as it really is, describing the cure that is in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and calling them to repentance and faith. 

Ask Steve: Minor Prophets and the Day of the Lord

February 7, 2014 3:52 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I am currently reading through the last twelve books of the Old Testament. Can you explain to me how these twelve books relate the Day of the Lord and Israel’s restoration? 

Answer: The last arranged twelve books of the Old Testament were written by authors commonly known as the Minor Prophets. These books are, for the most part, short but purposeful documents that address the plight of Israel, as well God’s future plans for Israel and all the Gentile nations. In essence, these books are filled with heavy prophetic information. Though each book was written at different times focusing on different historical circumstances, they have a couple of common themes that run throughout all twelve books, which are both eschatological in nature. These themes are God’s future judgment of Israel and the Gentiles (the Day of the Lord) and God’s restoration of national Israel. The repetition and focus of these themes in the writings of the Minor Prophets show how important these issues are to the Old Testament and how God will surely make His plans come to pass in His timing. This essay will show how the twelve books relate the Day of the Lord judgment and Israel’s restoration as a people.

The phrase “Day of the Lord” is mentioned 19 times by 8 different OT authors, many of which include the Minor Prophets. The phrase does not have reference to a chronological time period, but to a general period of wrath and judgment uniquely belonging to the Lord. The Day unveils God’s holy character, which is expressed in His wrath against sin. The Day of the Lord speaks of both an eschatological reality as well as a near fulfillment process. In this latter sense, the OT prophets spoke, and both Israel and the Gentile nations were judged for its sins briefly afterwards. As common in prophecy, the near fulfillment is a historic event upon which to comprehend the more distant, eschatological fulfillment, which is to say essentially that the Day of the Lord has both a present and a future implication to it.

A good example of defining the Day of the Lord is in the book of Joel. The Day of the Lord is a major theme that permeates the book of Joel, making it the most sustained treatment in the entire OT. In Chapter 2:1, Joel commanded a trumpet to be blown in Zion, warning the inhabitants that the day of the Lord is coming, that is surely near. Verse 2 goes on to describe this event as a “day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness…” The Day of the Lord is also associated with seismic disturbances (2:1-11) and cosmic upheaval (2:3, 30). 2:1-17 explains how a great army would be coming to invade Judah, one unprecedented in scope and might. The Day of the Lord means God’s judgment of destruction. In this case, it is being applied to Israel because of its idolatry, apostasy, and other sins. The Day of the Lord was fulfilled in the near sense with the pestilence, plague, and famine that came to the land, but ultimately with Israel and Judah’s invasion, which led to exile.

The imagery of 2:31 reveals that the Day of the Lord has a future fulfillment aspect as well, most specifically toward the end times. Verse 31 reads, “The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” This imagery was also spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24:29 when Jesus spoke about the signs before His Second Coming. Therefore, this is a prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled, since it is a phenomenon that has not yet occurred, even in the prophet Joel’s time. This is basically the second coming of the Day of the Lord.

The Day of the Lord also involves the divine judgment of Gentile nations. God’s judgment of Gentile nations has both a near fulfillment aspect as well a future fulfillment, as with the case of Israel. God’s immediate judgment on Gentile nations appears as a theme in the book of Amos. Amos 1 speaks of God’s judgment plan for Gentile nations. For Syria, God judged the city and the nations for threshing Gilead (Northern Israel).Tyre was destroyed for its breaking the covenant of brotherhood with Israel. Judgment also came to Edom and Ammon for their hostility toward Israel. The Day of the Lord judgment came on Gentile nations for its sins against Israel, as well as its overall sin and rejection of God. Because of this, eschatological judgment awaits the nations that have rejected God and have cursed Israel. 

Joel 3:1-17 is an example of the future Day of the Lord, in which God executes His eschatological judgment on the unrepentant Gentile nations. The book describes how God will gather all the nations to the valley of Jehosphaphat and enters into judgment with them there, which most likely implies judgment of eternal destiny and whether or not one is fit to enter into the messianic kingdom. Verse 2 describes this judgment event occurring after the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem are restored, which means after national Israel comes to repentance, enters into the New Covenant, and Jesus the Messiah returns to earth. Verse 15 and 16 describe the sun and moon growing dark and the stars losing their brightness, which is signs that point once again to the eschatological nature of this Day of the Lord prophecy, which will find its fulfillment during the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:29).

Although both Israel and Gentile nations fall under the fury of God’s wrath in the comprehensive execution of the Day of the Lord, the Minor Prophets are dutiful to point out that the Day of the Lord will not mark the end of God’s relationship with Israel. In keeping with the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12:1-3, God plans to preserve Israeland ultimately bring it to salvation, which is why the Day of the Lord will ultimately be a time of final restoration for Israel. The book of Joel, Amos, Zephaniah, and Zechariah explore the relationship between the eschatological Day of the Lord judgment and Israel’s subsequent restoration to faith in Yahweh.

An example of Israel’s restoration is found in Joel 2:18-29. Immediately after describing the terrible visitation of the Lord’s judgment on Israel, the author Joel reveals the stunning reality of Israel’s deliverance. God plans to deliver Israel in three ways. The first and most important is Israel’s deliverance from sin and eternal separation. Joel 2:2 reads, “It will come about after this that I will pour our My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughter will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour our My Spirit in those days.” This passage speaks of the Holy Spirit coming upon repentant Israelites in the last days, which can only happen when Israel partakes of the New Covenant.

The second way God plans to deliver Israelis by removing Israel’s enemies. 2:20 reads, “But I will remove the northern army far from you, and I will drive it into a parched and desolate land, and its vanguard into the eastern sea, and its rear guard into the western sea.” Those who have oppressed and been enemies of Israel will come to an end. This is a previously explored aspect of the Day of the Lord in which God executes judgment on Gentile nations because of its sin against God and hatred of Israel. This deliverance of Israel from the enemies is also prophesied in other Minor Prophet books such as Zechariah. Zechariah 9:11-17, 12:9, and 14:1-8 speak of God delivering Israel from the onslaught of neighboring nations.

The final way God plans to deliver Israelis by restoring the land to prosperity, no longer subject to famine and fruitlessness. Joel describes the blessed state of agriculture and economy in 2:24, which reads, “The threshing floors will be full of grain, and the vats will overflow with the new wine and oil…You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied…” The land will also be restored to a state of pristine morality, in which the Messiah God will be king over the land of Israel(Zechariah 14). True worship will characterize the land, which indicates that the land will be healthy and prosperous. This was a major theme of the Old Covenant and will surely be reflective of those who partake of the New Covenant. 

In conclusion, the Day of the Lord is an event that affects the entire world. It had immediate application in the Minor Prophets time, yet the prophetic events were also types that point to a greater fulfillment in the future, when God will judge Israel for its sins, along with the Gentile nations. The blessed hope in the midst of the Day of the Lord tragedies is that God will show His faithfulness to preserve and restore Israel, which is the major benefit that will come out of that day.

Ask Steve: Catholic Salvation

February 3, 2014 6:27 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, many are saying that there is no significant difference between Roman Catholicism and what we believe as Evangelicals in regard to salvation. Would you give me a specific critique of the Roman Catholic view of salvation? 

Answer: There are many who are trying to say that Catholics and Evangelicals believe the same saving doctrine, or that both groups will be saved though they have different interpretations on some issues. This spirit of ecumenism, although a seemingly noble idea according to the world, is ultimately dangerous according to God’s word (Gal 1:8; 2 Jn 1:10) and must be rejected, since Roman Catholics do not preach the gospel as the means which someone can be reconciled to God. There are significant differences in Roman Catholic and Evangelical theology, and the core difference has to do with soteriology (the study of salvation). This is important to establish because it teaches us the error of non-evangelical views and the need to lovingly bring the saving message of the gospel to them so Catholics can turn away from their false system of religion.

The historic Roman Catholic view of salvation constitutes a work-righteousness system of religion that is not salvation by grace alone, although some within the camp would adamantly deny this claim. Roman Catholicism teaches that salvation begins at the stage of baptismal regeneration, in which water baptism cleanses the person from original sin, imparts sanctifying grace, and unites the soul to Christ. This salvation is consequently maintained through a lifelong commitment to not only faith, but membership to the Catholic Church, the sacraments, morality, and other religious deeds that supplement this grace. Catholic theology teaches that salvation cannot be guaranteed (contrary to what Scripture says) and must be maintained by one’s willingness to work out their salvation through a lifetime of obedience. 

These good works are comprised of a few key things. The first one, as I’ve mentioned, is water baptism that regenerates the soul and cleanses one of original sin, granting him the power of free will to come to faith in and obedience to Christ/God. The good works that maintain grace in one’s life and merits favor before God are sacraments (such as the Eucharist), confession of sin to a priest, and obedience to God’s Law (the Ten Commandments). Prayer is also important in maintaining a saving relationship with God, in which the Virgin Mary can be petitioned, since she is regarded as the Queen of Heaven and a Co-Redeemer.

Based on this brief survey of Catholic soteriology, it becomes apparent that it does not resemble what the Bible teaches about saving faith. Catholics and Evangelicals clearly believe in two different gospels, or ways of salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5 teach that works do not add to or win one’s salvation. Salvation is purely a work of God. The Bible does not even teach that one is able to lose his salvation if he does not uphold it with enough works and obedience to church sacraments. The whole of Scripture teaches that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Justification by faith is a truth taught not only in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament as well (Hebrews 11; Gen 15:6).

Therefore, no works (such as water baptism) can save or cleanse a sinner from sin and grant him salvation. Regeneration comes from God alone in the hearts of dead sinners, which enable the sinner to come to God in repentant faith for salvation. And that faith is what justifies a sinner and makes him righteous in God’s sight. This implies that justification is a one-time event, never to be repeated again. Therefore, the believer is saved and guided by the Holy Spirit to undergo the lifelong process of sanctification and ultimately reach glorification at Christ’s return for the church. This clearly contradicts the Catholic view that regeneration happens by the work of water baptism, and that justification does not happen at one’s conversion, but happens at the end of one’s life when his life’s merit is ultimately assessed by God. The Bible teaches that Christians do not work to get saved or to maintain salvation, but work because they are saved. They are indwelt by the Holy Spirit as guarantee of that promise.

I will explain a few key areas to show how Catholic and Evangelical salvation is different and mutually exclusive. The first area is the relationship between God’s part and man’s part in the salvation process. Catholicism is essentially synergistic, which means that salvation is a two-way process of man working with God in the accomplishing of the salvation. Man is spiritually sick, but not totally dead and incapable of action. People still have a measure of goodness, free will, and capacity to work in order to reach out to God for help and receive salvation. Catholic soteriology is semi-palagian in that they believe men have a measure of goodness within them that can merit God’s favor and be a means for boast.

In contrast, Evangelical soteriology is monergistic, which means that it is God alone who accomplishes salvation for us. One must not misunderstand this to mean that men do not have the responsibility to respond in repentant faith. Men are not to be passive and believe they will be saved while doing absolutely nothing. They will be held accountable for their choices, which is why they must respond in faith. But the main point of mongerism is that all credit is given to God for salvation because He is the one who elects, regenerates men, calls them to saving faith, sanctifies them in good works, and glorifies them (Rom 8:29). Because men are dead in their sin and incapable of saving themselves and coming to the Lord, God must take initiative in reviving dead hearts and guiding them to salvation, which is why Christianity is rightly monergistic.

Another difference between Catholicism and Evangelicalism is the soteriological doctrine of justification. This is no minor issue, as one’s understanding and commitment to a particular stance can be an indicator of what he is trusting in for salvation, and ultimately reveal his true spiritual condition. Catholicism views justification as not happening at the beginning of one’s faith, but at the end of one’s life. It is not an event, but a lengthy process. The justification process begins with baptism and continues throughout the person’s life. Justification removes past sins and remits grace into the soul, but does not totally make one right with the Lord. In fact, justification can be lost if a believer commits mortal sins. Justification does not involve the concept of imputed righteousness, which is a doctrine that Catholicism rejects as dangerous since it supposedly causes one to be apathetic about living a righteous life. Finally, Catholics believe that an assurance of justification is not possible in this life, but the results are only seen when one dies and stands before God’s judgment to be evaluated for entrance into heaven.

Catholics view justification and sanctification as essentially one and the same process, whereas Evangelicals view justification and sanctification as two different stages. For evangelicals, justification is a one-time event that precedes a life of sanctification. Once someone is justified, he is forever right with God and has eternal life. The sanctification process is not meritorious in gaining or adding to one’s salvation, but is the result of one’s salvation in Christ, in which Christ empowers the believer toward Christlikeness. The sanctification process does not make a believer sinless, but shapes him into an obedient child of God. The sanctification process is complete upon glorification, when the believer becomes completely sanctified in holiness and righteousness, forever set apart from the presence of sin and its effects.

A last analysis I want to make is the role of sacraments (ordinances) in the life of a believer, interpreted differently by Catholics and Evangelicals. Roman Catholicism believes that sacraments are a crucial part of one’s salvation and justification process. The sacraments are a means of conferring grace and thus maintaining one’s salvation before God. These sacraments, such as the Eucharist, physically confer the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice onto the believer when he partakes in them. In other words, sacraments are works that confer grace to the believer, which is entirely apart from faith or reverent attitude of the heart. Sacraments work in and of themselves (apart from faith) when administered by an authoritative representative of the Catholic Church. This is not what the Bible describes as the role of the sacraments in a believer’s life. Evangelical soteriological teaches that sacraments do not play a part in a believer’s salvation, since salvation is by faith alone in Christ as Lord and Savior. Sacraments, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are more appropriately categorized as belonging in the sanctification process. They do not merit or uphold a believer’s salvation, but are a testimony of one’s salvation (and justification) and adoption into God’s family. These sacraments are done to honor Christ as an act of celebration and public witness of one’s salvation in Christ. They do not confer grace whatsoever or infuse any of Christ’s righteousness or merits to the sinner. In fact, one cannot participate in sacraments unless if has already experienced God’s grace which comes by faith.

 

Recommended Resource: The Gospel According to Rome by James G. McCarthy