For Whom Did Christ Die? The Simple Logic of Limited Atonement

Did Christ Die for All Men? Or Did He Die for Only Some Men?

“The simple logic of  Limited Atonement or particular redemption

At some point in our Christian walk we must ask ourselves this vital question: “Who did Christ die for?” A huge portion of our theology is wrapped up in this little question, which has been a hotly debated issue for centuries. I want to offer the answer as I see it by using the simple logic that led to me changing my entire view of scripture several years ago. I believe that most Christians actually believe in Limited Atonement, but disagree on free will or election of the believer.

Assumptions:

  1. I am assuming in this post that you believe that the Bible is the inerrant, eternal, Word of God
  2. I am also assuming that you, the reader, agrees that there is a literal Heaven and a literal Hell as defined in the Bible.
  3. I assume that you agree that our salvation is connected to our belief that Jesus Christ is God, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross in our place, and rose again on the third day securing eternal life for all who believe in Him.

Let’s Agree on One Point at the outset:

These 3 questions are the basis of this discussion. Read these and consider them very carefully:

1. Do all men/women go to Heaven?

I believe that all Christians who stand by the assumptions above would answer NO to this question. If your answer to this question is yes, then you believe in universalism, which is not Biblical and you are not a Christian.

2. Do all men/women go to Hell?

Again I believe that all Christians answer NO to this question. If your answer to this is yes, you are not a Christian because you don’t believe in the atoning work of Christ on the cross, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life with Christ in Glory for the believers.

3. Do only some men/women go to Heaven?

All Christians must answer YES to this question. Because both questions 1) and 2) must be answered NO and it is non-negotiable…for Biblical Christians this is the only option.

The answer to these simple questions gives us one simple point to agree upon as our starting point: Some people go to Heaven and some people go to Hell. All Christians will agree on this point.

How Does Someone Get to Heaven?

Ok, let’s take one more step together, so if some people go to Heaven and some people go to Hell, what is the deciding factor? How does one avoid eternal damnation in the fires of Hell and inherit the eternal life and glory with Christ for all eternity in Heaven? This is answered with the Gospel of course.

There is only one way…believe the following list and become a disciple of Christ (how this belief comes about is a different topic…i.e. free will/election):

  • Christ, the Son, is the second person of the Godhead eternal and holy
  • The Son condescended from Heaven to earth as 100% man and 100% God born as a baby
  • Christ lived a perfect sinless life full of miracles, signs, and wonders
  • Christ was tried for heresy and sentenced to crucifixion, and died on the cross.
  • On the cross Christ became sin and received the infinite wrath of God the Father as a substitute in our place
  • Christ’s death on the cross secured redemption, reconciliation, justification, and adoption as sons of God for those who believe, die to self, and follow Him
  • Christ, on the third day, was resurrected, thus defeating death and appearing to many.
  • After a short time in his resurrected form Christ ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father where He intercedes on our behalf as an advocate.
  • Review John 18-21, Luke 22-24, Acts 2, 2 Corinthians 5:10-21, Colossians 1:10-23, 2:12-15, Romans 1-8

This is what we must believe to be saved from the eternal punishment due for our sins. All sin, all must face judgment (Romans 3). We are saved by our faith in Christ.

Romans 1:17 – For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Galatians 2:16 – “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.”

We should be good so far and all Christians should be in full agreement at this point.

Salvation (Justification) by Faith in the Cross Work of Christ

We know and agree that we are saved by faith in Christ’s death on the cross and we know and believe that He died in our place as a substitute and through our faith our sins are forgiven. So, this is where the controversy starts to kick in.

Let’s go deeper still with more questions:

1)  Did Christ’s death on the cross secure eternal life through forgiveness of sins for God’s Elect? This means that every sin through all of history for THE ELECT (the children of God) only was paid for on the cross. Otherwise stated as: “All of some people’s sins paid for”.

** OR **

2)  Did Christ’s death on the cross secure the potential of eternal life for forgiveness of sins to those who chose to believe? This means that every sin for every person throughout all of time was paid for on the cross. Otherwise states as: “All sins for all people”.

Which is it? This isn’t an easy question because both answers have HUGE implications on our entire theological position and it must be considered carefully. Did Christ’s death actually secure eternal life for the children of God or did it only give the potential for eternal life for those who believe?

What then does John 19:30 mean and what theological impact does it have?

John 19:30 – “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

What does “it is finished” mean? – We’ll return to this soon.

Very Important Logic Question:

Can someone go to hell whose sins were paid for on the cross? This is the implication from answer 2) above. In addition it would mean that Hell is full of people who had the potential of salvation because their sins were paid for, but they chose not to believe? This also means that Christ’s death on the cross was not actually effective.

Can this really be?  Or is it bad logic? Let’s look at it from a different angle…scripture:

Ephesians 1:4-5 “4…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,”

This passage is pretty clear that he (the Father) chose us in him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world. We were predestined for adoption. We were not predestined for the potential of adoption, but for adoption, which is to be an heir to the kingdom of God and to receive eternal life through faith in Christ.

Ephesians 2:4-6 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

How can we have the potential for salvation through choosing to believe in Christ if the Bible says that “even when we were dead in our trespasses (sins), God made us alive together with Christ”? God did it while we were still dead in our sins…before we believed.

Romans 5:6, 8, 10 “6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly… 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…”

Again, we see that Christ’s death and the reconciliation to God occurred while we were sinners, while we were enemies with God. How could our choice to believe in Christ apply the forgiveness of sins through belief when it has already occurred? There doesn’t seem to be any potential. Scripture reads as if it is a done deal. Return now to John 19:30

It is Finished

John 19:30, as we looked at reads simply: “…It is finished…”

The Word of God, God himself states on the cross: “it is finished.” There is no ambiguity in this statement. What was finished? Christ’s mission described in Philippians 2:5-8 to come to Earth humble and in the form of nothing (human) and to obey to the point of death. It was also to transfer us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:12-14) and to defeat the enemy by nailing our sins to the cross (Colossians 2:13-15). I could continue, but I think you get the point. His work for securing our redemption was finished by dying on the cross.

So, was it finished or was it not? Did Christ’s death ACTUALLY complete the work? Was the forgiveness of sins ACTUALLY finished for those that are predestined to be adopted as children of God? Was redemption actually finished? Justification actually finished?

In this short phrase, “it is finished”, we see several important aspects in the original language. First the word actually means to bring to a close, to end, to perform, execute, or complete. It also means to carry out the content of a command by fulfilling it. This word, which is a verb is a the Perfect, Passive, Indicative, which means that it was completed without need of repeating and it is a statement of fact. John is telling us that it is finished. The atoning work is finished, Christ did it a long time ago.

The Propitiation for Our Sins

Think about this logic for a minute. We agreed at the outset that not all go to Hell or Heaven in our basic assumptions. So, how could Christ be the propitiation of our sins (and every single person in the world) if all people are not saved? Propitiation (defined as: to appease or satisfy) means that those whom Christ was the propitiation for have not condemnation sin Christ has appeased and satisfied the penalty of wrath in our place as our substitute.

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

  • Important to note here: “World” is the Greek word “Kosmos”, which has 8 definitions in the Greek lexicon and none of the 8 definitions means “all people for all time”. Kosmos in this verse simply means that salvation is not restricted to just the Jews, but the whole world beyond Israel…God will save people from all over the world, all nations, and all people groups.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

 Romans 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

But What of Our Faith?

Those who have faith in Christ are saved from Hell and receive the inheritance of Heaven as adopted sons, so doesn’t everyone who believes have an equal chance at salvation? YES! Of course they do. All who believe in Christ will be saved, the Bible tells us so. Look at these passages relating to our faith:

 John 6:37-40, 44  37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”… 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Only those given by the Father to the Son will come to the Son, which is faith. Only those who are given by the Father to the Son will look on the Son and believe.

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”

Hebrews 12:2 “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,…”

The Father gives the disciples to the Son, our faith is a gift from the Father, and Christ is the perfecter of our Faith. It is finished. Every child of God, predestined for adoption (Ephesians passage above) will have faith and will be saved. There has never been a person who cries out to God for salvation through faith in Christ who hasn’t been saved.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I want to return to the question above. Did Christ death on the cross actually secure eternal life for the Elect children of God? Or, did Christ’s death just secure the potential for all mankind depending on who believes?

Implications are everything with this question.

  1. If we say that Christ death actually secured eternal life for the Elect, we must then accept that God predestined every believer before time began and HE gives the faith to those. Then every single child of God is saved and the atoning sacrifice on the cross is perfect and complete and every single person whom God did not elect is punished in Hell for their sins which were NOT atoned for. I am very comfortable with this.
  • Believers elect? – YES
  • Sins of all mankind atoned for? – NO
  • Sins of the believer atoned for? – YES
  • Believers go to Heaven? – YES
  • Sins of the non-believer atoned for? – NO
  • Non-believers in Hell with sins atoned for? – NO

2. If we say that God doesn’t elect believers and that Christ’s death on the cross gives the potential for every single person for all time to be saved depending on their faith because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice then you are left with some people being saved based on their belief and their sins are atoned for and others who don’t believe and go to Hell, but their sins are atoned for. This I cannot accept under any circumstance.

  • Believers elect? – NO
  • Sins of all mankind atoned for? – YES
  • Sins of the believer atoned for? – YES
  • Believers go to Heaven? – YES
  • Sins of the non-believer atoned for? – YES
  • Non-believers in Hell with sins atoned for? – YES

Please consider this simple logic and the Bible verses above that support these two options. It was either finished on the cross or not. I personally chose to believe it was finished. To not agree with limited atonement means that you believe that there are people in Hell who have had their sins atoned for and the cross work of Christ was not perfect and effectual.

Ultimately the question in the title, for whom did Christ die? We could answer with, “He died for the elect.” However, even that is too shallow. For whom did Christ die? He died for God the Father who predestined before time began that the climax of Plan A would be Christ dying in an atoning sacrifice for the children of God.

This bottom piece is more simple logic that influenced me from John Owen:

FOR WHO DID CHRIST DIE?

John Owen


The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:

  1. All the sins of all men.
  2. All the sins of some men, or
  3. Some of the sins of all men.

In which case it may be said:

  1. That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
  2. That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
  3. But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

What Vine are you Abiding In? (Part 3)

What Vine Are You Abiding In?(Part 3) – Why does Christ tell us these things?

If you haven’t had a chance to read Parts 1 and 2 about John 15, please take time and review them and ask yourself this tough question: What vine am I abiding in? Find Part 1 here. And we need to examine our own hearts and our own faith by asking the tough question: What fruit am I bearing? Find Part 2 here.

Let’s dive back into John 15 and look into the next part…

Why does Christ tell us that he is the true vine? Why does he stop with the disciples late on the night he will be arrested to teach the disciples proper gardening techniques? Is it so that they can start working in their lives and to start bearing fruit? Is it so that we will know how to produce noticeable fruit in our lives? No. Absolutely not. We are not able to bear fruit on our own; it is not up to us! God produces the fruit and he only produces it when we abide in Christ. Our job is to abide and he will  bear the fruit in our life. The amazing thing about fruit is that you’ll always know where it comes from. An apple tree will not bear oranges, so if it is, it isn’t an apple tree. So where are we abiding? Are we abiding in Christ? Or are we abiding in our attempts to bear fruit? Are we abiding in something other than Christ and thus we have to Velcro fake fruit to us to keep up appearances?

Here are three reasons why Christ teaches about the fruit that comes from abiding:

1. First, look at v 8:

“…by this my Father is Glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

We will be seen as Christ’s disciples by our fruit. Our fruitfulness glorifies God. It is about God! Our fruit in the form of good works, love, joy, peace, patience, and and the like are to glorify God – to the glory of God alone. It’s His fruit after all. We prove to be his disciples meaning that it is evident that we are not of this world, but that we are members of the family of God…it is a family resemblance to the ultimate fruit bearer.

2. Christ’s second reason…verse 11:

John 15:11

11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

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What Vine are you Abiding In? (Part 2)

What Vine are you Abiding In? (Part 2)

Please take some time and read What Vine are you Abiding In? (Part 1). In Part 1, we looked at the context and background for our passage John 15:1-11 and Jesus’ teaching regarding the vine and the branches. We also had to face the tough question: “What vine are you abiding in? Jesus, the true vine? Or one that is untrue?

Now, in Part 2, we’ll ask another tough question: “What fruit are you bearing?”

BEARING FRUIT

Let’s jump back into our passage from John 15:

John 15:4 “…As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

So, what kind of fruit are you bearing? Are you bearing any fruit at all? Surely you are bearing fruit…its either good fruit or its bad fruit.

The purpose of the branch is to bear fruit. It is completely useless if it does not bear fruit. Notice how, from Part 1, the branches are pruned, cut off, and taken away, but the vine is never pruned or cutoff. There is no other purpose for the branch than to bear fruit. In order to bear fruit the branch must be fully connected to the vine. The branch gets all its sustenance from the vine. All the water and nutrients come from the roots to the vine to the branches in order to bear fruit. If the branch is disconnected or partially connected, it will NOT bear fruit…and we know what happens to that branch.

Jesus mentions “FRUIT” 6 times in this passage, do you think he is serious about it?

BAD FRUIT

Are you abiding in one of these unTRUE vines? One of these FALSE vines described earlier which makes you bear BAD FRUIT? False fruit? What does bad fruit look like? Let’s consider several passages from the Apostle Paul:

Romans 1:28-32

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Any of these sound familiar? Recognize any of those fruits in your life? How about these: Continue reading

What Vine are you Abiding In? (Part 1)

One of my favorite passages in scripture is Jesus’ teaching on the vine and the branches. Let’s look at what it means for Christ to be the vine and for the believer to be the branch.

John 15:1-11
15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT
Before we get into the meat of this passage we need to consider the context and set the stage a bit. Just two chapters previous to our passage, we see Jesus and the disciples entering the upper room to celebrate the Passover together. This was likely just a few hours before Jesus teaches on the vine and the branches. In the upper room, Christ knows he is on his way to the cross his time has come. While in the upper room during the Last Supper, we see Jesus teach his disciples these humongous truths:

(a)  Jesus washes the feet of the disciples and introduces servant leadership – to love one another (John 13:1-17)
(b)  Jesus tells of a disciple who will betray him. (John 13:18-30)
(c)  Jesus introduces communion – (Mat 26:26-29)
(d)  Jesus introduces the new covenant of his blood (Luke 22:20)
(e)  Jesus introduces a new commandment – love one another (John 13:31-35)
(f)  Jesus foretells of Peter’s denial (John 13:36-38)
(g)  Jesus drops the deity bomb by declaring that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through him…and if you have seen him you have seen the father. (John 14:1-14)
(h)  Jesus promises the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16)

Christ, after casually dropping these huge topics on his unsuspecting disciples during this  dinner, he says in  John 14:31: “Rise and let us go from here!” The disciples, I’m sure, are sitting at the table looking at each other a bit shell shocked asking, “What did he say? Another is coming? A Helper? Who? What was that about eating his body? Blood what? Hey, what about the blood?” As Jesus gets up and moves on…probably leaving the disciples at the table scrambling to catch up with him.

I AM THE VINE AND YOU ARE THE BRANCHES
Christ and the disciples leave the upper room that evening, likely dark by then, and make their way towards the Garden of Gethsemane. It is sometime during this walk that Jesus teaches on the Vine and the Branches. According to various commentaries, there are a couple of possible reasons why Christ compares himself to a vine and defines himself as the TRUE Vine.

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What Discernment Actually Looks Like

A few days ago I posted a link from Phil Johnson on the Pyromanics blog regarding Mark Driscoll’s self-proclaimed “gift of discernment”, which sounded more like a man with a dirty mind talking offensively to the sheep under his care. In the post on Driscoll’s madness found HERE , I call attention to why I believe Driscoll has fallen away from the basic pillars and  qualifications of an elder/overseer of the church (I am assuming that he had these qualifications at one point). He is speaking on discernment while demonstrating the lack of discernment in what is appropriate for discussion from the pulpit…or, sadly, the stage as it is in his case.

I now want follow up on this story by sharing what real discernment looks like.

John MacArthur was asked in this video what he thinks may come about in the church in the years to come and MacArthur is quick to comment on the essential component missing from so many churches and pastors today in the reformed faith. In part one he talks about how having reformed soteriology doesn’t give you a pass in regard to the role as a shepherd or with the way you conduct yourself.

Part 1 – Reversal of the Reformed Revival

In part 2 of this interview, MacArthur again challenges us in a wonderful way. Are our pastors involved in the life of the church? Are you attending a church that has a video screen playing the sermon, which MacArthur calls “Flat Screen Preaching”? How can you tell if this man is qualified to be an elder and above reproach if he only exists on a video screen? What sort of church is that? We should not allow a rock-n-roll event on Sunday morning replace the  shepherding care of our souls.

Part 2 – Reversal of the Reformed Revival

Let us not forget how Paul instructs Timothy regarding overseers of the church in his first letter to Timothy. These words are tragically ignored, forgotten, pushed aside, and downplayed way too much today:

1 Timothy 3:1-7

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Mark Driscoll’s Madness

Ok, this one has pushed me over the edge with Mr. Driscoll. I have had issues with his methods and his personal witness, the way he talks from the pulpit, and so on…but this is a whole new level for me.

This link takes you to the Pyromaniacs Blog where Phil Johnson posted this today…It is regarding Mark Driscoll’s Pornographic Divination. And what is my problem you ask? As if it is not obvious. It’s not that this is just terrible theology and horrendous doctrine regarding discernment and spiritual gifts. But, rather simply that Paul calls Pastor/Teachers/Elders to be above reproach:

1 Timothy 3:1-3:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,…

Mr. Driscoll is misfiring on several cylinders here. Look for yourself is he above reproach?:

PORNOGRAPHIC DIVINATION (find article here)

Here is the intro from Phil:

“In a post last week, I pointed out that the preposterous claims, unhinged behavior, and spiritual quackery that are so prominent at the charismatic movement’s lunatic fringe are by no means limited to the outer edges. Goofiness and gullibility are necessary byproducts of a belief system that fails to take seriously the principle of sola Scriptura and its ramifications (i.e., the authority and sufficiency of Scripture).

Here’s a sample of the kind of thing I was referring to: The video below features Mark Driscoll, claiming the Holy Spirit regularly gives him graphic visions showing acts of rape, fornicators in flagrante delicto, and sexual child molesters in the very act.

Please be forewarned, this video and the transcript is somewhat graphic in content and may be offensive to you. It certainly is offensive to me.

Phil Johnson and Team Pyro:

http://teampyro.blogspot.com/

A Clearer Understanding of What Albert Mohler Believes About Homosexuality

Back several weeks ago there were some serious concerns in conservative circles regarding comments that Albert Mohler made to the Southern Baptist Convention conference in regard to homosexuality. Mohler’s comments left room for serious doubt in how he viewed homosexuality. The original article and comment thread can be found HERE.

I am pleased to see now that Mohler has continued to deal with the subject (homosexuality and our cultural and church acceptance) in a way that makes his SBC conference comments less concerning or confusing. I think we can clearly see in this article that Mohler retains his Biblical stance on homosexuality and has a heartfelt gospel driven focus.

The article can be found here on Albert Mohler’s Blog regarding the culture’s problem with “Reparative Therapy”…i.e. Therapy directed towards the changing of one’s homosexual attraction to a natural heterosexual attraction.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

Poking Each Other in the Eye

Imagine for a moment that you are talking to a friend face-to-face, discussing something important. As you are talking you notice something floating in his eye. I would imagine that you would say, “Do you see that? “Doesn’t that bother you? Does it hurt?”

“What? See what?” They ask.

“Well, that thing in your eye. Can’t you feel it?”

“No, I don’t feel anything.” They reply, “I’m fine.” But they aren’t fine because this thing in their eye will eventually cause pain and damage. You feel compelled to help them.

“Come on; let me get that out for you.”

How quickly are you going to let a friend put their finger in your eye and pull something out? I know I wouldn’t be comfortable with it. My eye is incredibly sensitive. If your friend agreed to let you help and you were to pick this speck out of his eye, how would you do it?

I think it is safe to say that we would all be exceedingly gentle. We’d wash our hands, have the person lie down or sit in a chair, then we’d get an extra light so we could see better, then gently hold their eye open with one hand and with the gentlest touch possible you try to get the speck without poking your dear friend in the pupil causing pain and possibly more damage. You patiently try and try again with equal gentleness until the speck is out.

Now, imagine this scene again, except this time you have a patch on one eye and blurred vision in the other. Can you still get the speck? Or what if you just jump him in mid-conversation, peel his eyelid back rubbing, picking, and poking his eye until the speck is out? This would leave him in shock, pain, and stress. Would you do it this way or the first way? Does it matter? I think it matters greatly. Let’s look at some scripture inspiring this scene.

Matthew 7:1-5
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

We know this passage of scripture from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in regard to judging others and pointing out hypocrites. But, have we ever considered what it takes to actually get the speck out of our brother’s eye? Have we ever thought about the gentleness and sensitivity that it takes? Did Jesus use the eye here because of how sensitive our eyes truly are? So often we like to focus on not being “hypocritical” when pointing out the speck in your brother’s eye and forget about our methods. We’ll use this passage when feeling defensive: “you can comment on my sin when you get that gigantic beam out of your own eye!” Rarely do we even consider taking special care in how we “take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Isn’t this level of gentleness and sensitivity the primary goal?

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Quotes (894)

The Pure in heart shall see God, those that hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be completely satisfied with the same, the peace-makers shall be called the sons of God. These second clauses in the beatitudes describe the essence of the final kingdom in which the reward will consist. They show, therefore, that the reward towards which Jesus points his followers is not something morally or spiritually indifferent, but the highest enjoyment of what here already constitutes the natural blessedness pertaining to the internal Kingdom. Thus the reward bears an organic relation to the conduct it is intended to crown.

– Geerhardus Vos

1862 – 1949

Quotes (888)

“It is in the gymnasium of affliction that men are modeled and fashioned in the beauty of holiness, and all their spiritual powers are trained for harmonious action. It was meet also that they should suffer, in order to complete their service. Like their Lord, they had to be made perfect through suffering; and if they had not suffered they had not finished the work which he had given them to do. They needed tribulation, moreover, that they might be made like their Savior; for a saint untroubled, how can he be like the man who wore the thorn crown? Never smitten, never slandered, never despised, never mocked at, never crucified, then how could we be like our Head? Shall the servant be above his Master, or the disciple above his Lord?”

From a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled “What And Whence Are These?,” delivered February 25, 1872.

C. H. Spurgeon

1834 – 1892

Have You Asked Jesus to Leave You Alone Yet?

Have you asked Jesus to leave you alone yet? Maybe you are like me and you were called by Jesus as a young adult. Or maybe you have known of Jesus your entire life. Maybe your earliest memories of childhood include Sunday school songs about Jesus and memory verses at church. So, why would you ever ask Jesus to leave you alone? It is an absurd thought, isn’t it? After all this time, you have Jesus! Don’t you want him to stay? I propose that if you don’t ask Jesus to depart from you, then you may not know him at all. Follow me to the shores of Gennesaret (Lake Galilee) more than 2000 years ago as told by Luke.

Luke 5:1-3:

1On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

Jesus was on the scene and being pressed by the large crowd following him and listening to him teach, he ran out of dry ground and was basically forced to climb into a boat. Jesus climbed into Simon’s (Peter) boat. Do you think this boat choice was a random selection? No, it wasn’t random. Before time began the Father set an appointment with the Messiah in Peter’s life to have this discussion. Jesus showed up on time, as he always does.

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Peel Your Eyes from the Mirror

Are you happy being who you are?
Do you have good self-esteem?
Good self-confidence?
Does it really matter?
Are you comfortable in a room full of strangers or do you compare yourself to everyone; focusing on your flaws?

I think many of us struggle everyday with who we are. I’m not talking about how we wish we could lose 20 lbs or how I wish my hair hadn’t started falling out in my mid-twenties. Those are minor cosmetic issues. I’m talking about the big stuff that becomes chains and shackles binding us to the walls in the dungeon of depression.

We are going through many trials in these difficult times. Many are losing homes and jobs, going bankrupt and feeling like failures.

Do you feel like a failure?
Do you feel not good enough?
Are you jealous of those who seem successful and have it all?
Do others have better jobs?
Are others more attractive?
Do they have better clothes?
Is their house, or wedding ring, or motor home that much bigger and better than yours that you feel insignificant around them?
Do you ask why them and not me?

These thoughts of discontentment will eat away at our self-confidence and self-worth. But what is self-confidence and self-worth? Where does self-confidence and self-worth come from?

We need to start by peeling our eyes away from the mirror for a change and look up. We need to look up toward our creator and savior Jesus Christ. We spend so much time looking at ourselves and comparing ourselves to other people that we don’t have time to look at God…and when we look at God we feel the weight and disgust of our sin and we turn away from God. Encouragement for our lack of confidence can only be found in the Word of God:

Genesis 1:26

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

Each one of us is uniquely and specially made in the image of God, which means we each carry unique attributes of God. We are all different, but equally made in God’s image.

Psalm 139:13-14

13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

God crafted our bodies, minds, and spirit in our mother’s womb in a unique and special way. We are wonderfully made in an awe-inspiring and fearful way. We are no accident. We are different, but each one of us is formed by the hands of the living God, who is infinitely holy, perfect, and good…every time…God doesn’t make mistakes and he certainly doesn’t make such thing as an economy version.

Isaiah 43:1-2 & 7

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine… 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

God is very serious about these facts: He made us in His own image. He uniquely formed us from the inside out in our mother’s womb. He made us for His glory – for His purposes. Based on these scriptures (many others tell the same story), we should be able to deduce that we are not a freak occurrence of nature or an accident. We were not the results of strange biological evolutions or random chemical combinations. Each and every one of us was uniquely planned, creatively designed, precision engineered, and delivered with a purpose. God made us the way we are for a reason…for his glory. God made us just as we are for his purpose and his glory alone. There is nothing more valuable or perfect in the universe than God’s delight, purpose, and glory.

I hope you find comfort and confidence in this. We cannot compare ourselves to others when we know we are unique for God’s purpose. We should instead search out where God has gifted us and apply our lives fully to those gifts and let God do the rest.

But why has he made us this way or that way?
But, if God makes us in His image, why is everyone else more interesting, more desirable, more rich, more important, more everything?
Is it not enough that you are the image of God?

Two of my favorite passages in scripture finish the story. These verses add power to our created nature and they describe the scope and depth of the power of the God who created us.

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Ephesians 1:11

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…

These two phenomenal verses show that God’s will and purpose rules our existence. All things work for good – good in God’s eyes, not our own – and He works all things according to his predestined purpose. We and our lives are chosen and planned before time began in order to fulfill God’s ultimate design, purpose, and pleasure. This is good news. There are no mistakes and no failures…ever. Everyone has a purpose.

Not only do all things work for good, but all things are being maintained and held together by Jesus Christ. Right now, Christ is holding the stars in place in the sky, choosing the exact amount, size and speed of the rain drops falling in another part of the world while He is orchestrating the events of your life. I’d even argue that He is beating your heart to keep you alive.

Hebrews 1:3

…and he [Jesus] upholds the universe by the word of his power…

Colossians 1:17

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The best part is that it is all good. It was all planned to be this way. You were planned to be this way. Have hope and have courage to serve your purpose to God’s glory. Find your purpose and work it out.

If, however, you are not encouraged and you still want to complain to the all knowing living God, I would caution you. We must be careful in complaining to the creator. Gratefulness and thankfulness should rule our hearts. We in today’s society have lost the healthy respect for God. We need to know our rightful place in the universe. This verse helps keep perspective:

Romans 9:20

20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

Do we have higher standards than God? Or should we find peaceful contentment in how we were molded? Should we change our self-consumed focus from what we don’t have to God, His purpose, His glory, and His genius? I’d say so.

The Monstrosity of a Faith that is Alone

I am currently reading John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied published in 1955 by Eerdmans Publishing Company. This little book (180 pages) is an amazing dissertation on the meaning of the atonement, how it was accomplished, and how it is applied to sinful man. Murray, a Scottish theologian who died in 1975, spent most of his career at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

In Part 2 of this book, Murray explains what he sees as a Biblical sequence, or order, of application of redemption. I highly recommend this little book.

He walks the reader through each of these sequential steps and explains how one follows the other with Biblical evidence. I was particularly struck with this section in the chapter under Justification and wanted to share with you and explain it further.

Quoted from page 131: “It is an old and time-worn objection that this doctrine ministers to license and looseness (he is speaking of the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone). Only those who know not the power of the gospel will plead such misconception. Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.”

This is an argument we often hear and Murray challenges it strongly by claiming those who make this claim do not know the power of the gospel. Those who say that justification by faith alone will lead to a life of looseness, continued living in sin, and an attitude of living free have a point, but it is short sided in that they do not know how this same justifying faith powerfully changes the person.

Continuing with his quote: “Justification is not all that is embraced in the gospel of redeeming grace. Christ is a complete Savior and it is not justification alone that the believing sinner possesses in him. And faith is not the only response in the heart of him who has entrusted himself to Christ for salvation.”

So, the believer puts his faith and trust in Christ and then he is done?

Is he complete? Is his work finished or is more expected? Is there more to the story?

Murray points to the fact that there is more to the response of faith than just believing.

Will we go on sinning? Or will our lives be different?

Our faith cannot be alone, there must be a response of holiness and works of the faith along with their belief (James 2:17-20). But then does that mean we are saved by works? Not even close.

Continuing with the quote: “Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace. Faith works itself out through love (Gal. 5:6). And Faith without works is dead (James 2:17-20).”

The so called believer who has faith without works is a MONSTROSITY that can’t exist in the kingdom. Faith comes with works. Fruit will follow faith.

Are we without the response of holiness, service, and works of the faith?

Are we a deformed monster that is not actually part of the kingdom since faith cannot exist alone?

Are we living a lie?

Has there been a fruitful response to our belief?

More from Murray: “It is living faith that justifies and living faith unites to Christ both in the virtue of his death and in the power of his resurrection. No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

Wow, do you hear that? No one has entrusted themselves to the deliverance of the GUILT of sin (i.e. forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ) who has not also entrusted themselves to the POWER OVER SIN…or in other terms the power given to us through our faith to NOT SIN. This is awesome. Shall we live in sin then since we are free not to? God forbid! Let it not be so! We must embrace and trust the power we have over sin that comes with our faith and justification in the eyes of God. Because we have faith we will fight the temptations that come and we will wage good warfare against sin (1 Tim 1:18-19). We will also love others, serve others, die to self, and give sacrificially because of our faith. We possess these things as an integral part of our faith. It is the natural response to our faith.

Examine yourself as I examine myself. Are we mutant Christians who have a dead faith because it is without works? Are you a monstrosity in the kingdom of God?