Particular Redemption

Commonly referred to as Limited Atonement, the idea is that Christ died only for those God chose to redeem. People opposed to this doctrine also limit the atonement – in their system it makes salvation possible for all but saves none.

Brother Borgman does yeoman’s work once again explaining this from the Bible in ways common folk can readily understand.

You can listen to this message here.

Devotional with Charles Spurgeon

February 2

“Without the shedding of blood is no remission.” — Heb 9:22

This is the voice of unalterable truth. In none of the Jewish ceremonies were sins, even typically, removed without blood-shedding. In no case, by no means can sin be pardoned without atonement. It is clear, then, that there is no hope for me out of Christ; for there is no other blood-shedding which is worth a thought as an atonement for sin.

Am I, then, believing in him? Is the blood of his atonement truly applied to my soul? All men are on a level as to their need of him. If we be never so moral, generous, amiable, or patriotic, the rule will not be altered to make an exception for us. Sin will yield to nothing less potent than the blood of him whom God hath set forth as a propitiation. What a blessing that there is the one way of pardon! Why should we seek another?

bloodatonement

Persons of merely formal religion cannot understand how we can rejoice that all our sins are forgiven us for Christ’s sake. Their works, and prayers, and ceremonies, give them very poor comfort; and well may they be uneasy, for they are neglecting the one great salvation, and endeavouring to get remission without blood.

My soul, sit down, and behold the justice of God as bound to punish sin; see that punishment all executed upon thy Lord Jesus, and fall down in humble joy, and kiss the dear feet of him whose blood has made atonement for thee. It is in vain when conscience is aroused to fly to feelings and evidences for comfort: this is a habit which we learned in the Egypt of our legal bondage. The only restorative for a guilty conscience is a sight of Jesus suffering on the cross. “The blood is the life thereof,” says the Levitical law, and let us rest assured that it is the life of faith and joy and every other holy grace.

“Oh! how sweet to view the flowing
Of my Saviour’s precious blood;
With divine assurance knowing
He has made my peace with God.”

Jesus’ Punishment Not Like Ours

Jesus’ Punishment Not Like Ours

There are certain denominations that don’t believe in the eternal conscious torment of the sinner, even among professing evangelical circles. I will deal with this in future articles, but they often bring up the inequality of punishment that Christ receives as a substitution for sinners. Someone like me who believes that hell is eternal conscious torment is often accused of not seeing the cross in just terms because Christ didn’t suffer eternally. There are some opponents who are inevitably annihilationist that will admit, however, that Jesus also was not annihilated. So in either case, Jesus’ punishment does not equally demonstrate the punishment of the wicked. Yet some within this camp further affirm that Jesus dying was the punishment. In other words, because Jesus died, that is how He was able to equally take our punishment because we die. And He rose again, defeating death on our behalf so that the righteous can have immortality. In essence, the moment that Jesus died is when Jesus took the punishment and only in dying, therefore, can we justly say He took our place, since death is the punishment.

While I do not holistically disagree with the conclusion, I also do not fully agree with the premise. Jesus’ experienced God’s wrath for us on the cross. The punishment was not solely death, but suffering God’s wrath because sin was laid upon Him. Death is the result of sin, and Jesus should have died long before He hung on that cross because of the way He was beaten. But because He was sinless, and had not yet had sin placed upon Him (which was a picture of the day of atonement), the body He had was not yet ready to die. It was only after sin was laid upon Him, and God’s wrath poured upon Him that He could cry, “It is finished!” This is penal substitution which some who reject eternal conscious torment love to also subtly (and boldly) deny. They also do this by not explicitly affirming it with plain speech. They rather affirm some type of substitution, but not penal substitution. But I digress. The point is how do we reconcile the fact that Jesus was able to endure sufficiently and efficaciously God’s wrath that He will forever pour out on sinners? If the annihilationist position is true, why would Jesus have to experience the Father’s wrath if the punishment is truly realized in His death as some teach?

These are questions that seem weighty, but can be answered easily. Let’s make this plain. Jesus did not suffer punishment the same way that we will suffer punishment. Whether you believe annihilationism (in any form) or eternal conscious torment, one truth about Christ’s atonement will remain the same. Jesus suffered more for sinners than any sinner will ever suffer for their own sin. Why? Because of who He was! Listen, we are not just talking about a regular Joe Schmoe. We are talking about the precious Lamb of God! God of very God. The Holiest of Holies. The High and Mighty Son. The Prince of Peace. He humbled Himself, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was ridiculed, mocked, and beaten by His own creation who He could have crushed like grasshoppers. Yet, He endured suffering in obedience to the Father to fulfill all that was written concerning Him. In one sense, He did not need to hang for hours. He didn’t need to continue bearing with the mocking and jeering that He did on behalf of sinners. But He chose to. And whether God chose to do it with a paper cut, or He chose to do with all of His eternal might, because of who Jesus was, just one tiny drop of blood spilled from an open wound inflicted upon Him would have been sufficient to save infinite legions of depraved sinners. But because dying is a part of the punishment, He could have just had His throat slit like the lambs of the Old Testament. He could have had a swifter execution. But instead He chose one of the most excruciating and humiliating ways to die. And endured God’s wrath as He bore it all!

I pray you don’t miss this. The punishment of Jesus will never match the punishment we receive because Jesus should not have been punished. If it were not for the grace of God, the punishment of Jesus would never have happened. If it were not for the justice of God, the punishment of Jesus would not be necessary. So in one sense, I agree with those who are opponents of eternal conscious torment that the punishment on Jesus doesn’t seem fair and equal. Because it wasn’t! What’s fair is that >>>> I <<<< should have been slaughtered! I should have experienced God’s wrath for all eternity without mercy and grace. Jesus enduring even a millisecond of God’s wrath on my behalf and in my place is infinitely more grace than I will EVER deserve. So when I hear from certain circles concerning their rejection of penal substitution and eternal conscious torment on how it seems cruel, I agree. Jesus should have wiped us all out! It’s seems cruel that it took the matchless, priceless, and spotless God-Man in order for wicked and depraved sinners like us to be free. That Jesus, in His willingness and obedience, stepped into time, clothed Himself in sinless flesh, and subjected Himself to something worse than an everyday criminal’s death. It was one of the most tortuously notorious executions invented by man. A punishment reserved for the worse of the worst. Yet He suffered more than just a criminal’s death so that criminals like me can be saved. Why would He do such a thing?! It is more than cruel, it should not have happened! God would have been perfectly justified in giving us what we deserve, and never thinking twice about it. And in light of what the Father did to Jesus, eternal conscious punishment in Hell seems like an act of mercy in comparison to what Jesus endured for us. But the Triune God, by His mercy and grace, had an eternally bigger plan to save sinners from their sin, and to separate a people unto Himself, so that they can enjoy the greatest blessing ever to receive –Himself.

Jesus was more than a substitute. He was THE Surpassing Substitute. He was more than what you could expect a substitute to ever be. Sacrifices in the Old Testament typified substitution, but Jesus outshines them all! But Jesus wasn’t just a substitute, He was THE Perfect Penal Substitute. He didn’t just suffer a little of God’s wrath, but endured as much as was necessary to appease and satisfy His justice as a propitiation for our sins. And this was still infinitely more than He deserved. He endure more suffering, more pain, more sorrow, more agony not because of how long He was on the cross, but because He was on the cross! I cannot stress this enough.

Jesus is more valuable and more beautiful than any being in the universe because He was God. He gave Himself for our sins. The punishment was not exactly what we should have received in its duration. But it was way more than we’ll ever experience, because He was innocent. This finite duration of punishment was of infinite value. If we can grasp this, when we look at Jesus on the cross, we should no longer wonder how He could sufficiently endure God’s eternal wrath in such a finite amount of time, but wonder why He was on the cross in the first place. We should no longer ponder how does the punishment match the crime, but the fact that He had to be punished in the first place. We should be more offended at Christ having to take such a punishment than the eternal conscious torment of the wicked. Because if we value Jesus as He should be valued, it should be no surprise that God would eternally pour out His wrath on those that choose their sin over Him.

Jesus’ punishment is by far a greater offense than sinners suffering in Hell forever (although paradoxically, it is a glorious grace because of Him who regenerated me because of it). I am more humbled and broken about my sin when I see the Lamb of God crushed by the Father, than by millions of souls weeping and gnashing in Hell. Jesus shouldn’t have suffered and died on that cross. But praise God He did. For it was the only way I would see Jesus as preciously and magnificently as I do today (and it grows daily). And even still, this article falls miserably short in comparison to the glory and majesty of who He is and what He has accomplished for those of us who have repented and believed His glorious gospel.

One final word. While I get what people say when they sing or read that “it should have been us upon that cross,” I can no longer say that this is fully the case for me. I don’t seek to undo thousands of pages that say something to this effect, because, for the most part, I don’t disagree. I should have experienced my punishment for my own sin. And it is from this sentiment that this understanding springs forth. So when people say this, I don’t fret. But I have recently come to appreciate the crucifixion of Christ in a way that has become exceptionally humbling for me, and I sought to share it with all. I pray that this article brings you to the same place it has brought me. To a place of deeper reverence, worship, obedience, and understanding concerning what Jesus accomplished on our behalf.

-Until we go home

A Devastating Question for Lifestyle Evangelists

A Devastating Question for Lifestyle Evangelists

If you have followed DefCon or any other site that affirms gospel-centered theology, you have already run across mounds upon mounds of reasons why lifestyle evangelism is unbiblical. We’ve expounded, extrapolated, and exegeted this to death in order to reveal why trying to win souls by simply just living your life before the unsaved is plainly unbiblical. But the one thing we have failed to do is teach how to engage a person that believes we should simply let our good works shine before men, and then be ready to give an answer for the reason of the hope that lies within you when they ask you.

I like to keep the target of an article directly in my gaze. Therefore I will not exhaustively offer my insights as to why I think this strategy of evangelism is good or bad depending on the context.  But here is a mock conversation that will reveal the most devastating question you can ask someone that believes in lifestyle evangelism, which will allow the drill of the gospel to penetrate the problem at its core and root out this man-centered method.

(Background: You are walking down the street and you see someone with a sign by a booth that says “FREE HUGS.” You notice it also has Jesus’ name on some of the other signs, so you walk over to investigate)

Lifestyle Evangelist (LE): Would you like a free hug today?

You: Sure. What’s it for?

LE: We just want to demonstrate the love of Christ and show that we love you?

You: Ah. I see. Do you preach the gospel when you get people who are interested?

LE: We are showing the gospel by sharing the love of Christ through hugs.

You: So what is the greatest demonstration of God’s love to mankind?

LE: Jesus Christ dying for our sins.

You: So how do your hugs measure up?

Did you catch the point? The last two questions really expose the root problem of merely “demonstrating” the love of Christ without opening your mouth about the gospel. And the previous to last question really sets up the penetrating question at hand.

If someone feels that they are being more effective (which is pragmatism by the way) by sharing the gospel through their lifestyle and neglect to share the good news of Christ, by asking them, “What is the greatest demonstration of God’s love?” you will bypass any defense and shoot right to the source of why Christians should even bother to spread the gospel in the first place. The sacrifice of Christ for sin! Even more so, when you ask them “How does their (insert good work here) measure up?” it pinches the nerve of this pragmatic error and hopefully causes the hearer to question their means of “spreading” the gospel. Or, in their minds, letting their good works shine. Because it causes the person to take notice that they are basically saying their good work, whatever that may be, is a proper or better demonstration than Christ’s sacrifice for sin.

If it is true that Christ died for our sin, and that while we were still sinning, Christ died for us, if this gruesome act is what God had to undergo in order to save men from sin, death, and hell, how in the world could any of our good works ever measure up!? Sure we do good works because we are saved, and yes, as a byproduct of our preaching our good works compliment our message, but there is nothing (and I mean nothing) that we can do (ever) that will be a better demonstration of God’s love other than what He has already done! Let’s read that one more time. This is extremely important. There is nothing we can do to demonstrate the love of God in such a way that would project the glory of the gospel than what God has already done. That should be one of the greatest assurances for fearlessly speaking the gospel. But oftentimes, it’s not. Forgive us Lord for our unbelief.

I’m not saying taking up your cross is not a powerful testimony. But it’s not the gospel. I’m not saying you can’t give to the poor. But it’s not the gospel. I’m not saying you can’t show kindness, goodness, meekness, humility, love, self control, gentleness, and the like. But it’s not the gospel. I am not saying that your works amount to absolutely nothing when trying to be a witness in the world. But it’s not the gospel! All these things are types and shadows that should point to the gospel message. And even if they do demonstrate the power and love of Christ in some measure, none of our good works should be held to such a high regard that we think it measures up to the love of Christ efficaciously demonstrated to us on the cross. Tell the old, old story of He who paid an eternal price for our sin and gave Himself for us to make us free from sin’s power!

Remember that the above conversation is only an example. Each conversation is unique and can flow in different directions. However, don’t lose sight of the main point. It might take a little persuasion to reveal what you are trying to say, but as long as you keep the last question in sight (really the last two questions), you should be able to drive home the single, most important point of how the gospel should be shared – that we should tell someone what is the gospel, not just show them! To do otherwise is to essentially say that what we are doing is a better demonstration than what God has done.

-Until we go home

The Consistency of God’s Justification

20130712-141054.jpgI found a gem on justification, written by J.I. Packer, that can be found here:

Let me quote from it:

God’s justifying judgment seems strange, for pronouncing sinners righteous may appear to be precisely the unjust action on the judge’s part that God’s own law forbade (Deut. 25:1; Prov. 17:15). Yet it is in fact a just judgment, for its basis is the righteousness of Jesus Christ who as “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45), our representative head acting on our behalf, obeyed the law that bound us and endured the retribution for lawlessness that was our due and so (to use a medieval technical term) “merited” our justification. So we are justified justly, on the basis of justice done (Rom. 3:25-26) and Christ’s righteousness reckoned to our account (Rom. 5:18-19).

The argument, in summary, is this: If God is just, how can He declare someone that is sinful to be righteous? Answer: Because the righteousness that God sees when he looks at the elect sinner is the righteousness of Christ. In other words, God does not nilly willy and “in a vacuum” declare something sinful to be holy. That would indeed be an unjust declaration. However, if in Christ we are righteous, because He is our “Adam,” that is, our spiritual representative and head, then it would be unjust for God to NOT declare us justified. See the logic there? According to God’s own consistency, since Jesus is our righteousness, God justifies the elect.

The justifying action of God is not an exception to his otherwise perfect justice. On the contrary, the action is an application of God’s perfect justice. This is the magnificence of the cross. The cross verified and guaranteed the justifying salvation to all who were of the elect sons and daughters of Christ, the new and perfect Adam.

Sermon of the week: “Sovereign Election, Israel & Eschatology (a.k.a. Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist)” by John MacArthur.

John MacArthur Your sermon of the week is Sovereign Election, Israel & Eschatology (a.k.a. Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist) by John MacArthur. This is the message that caused a stir a few years ago when MacArthur delivered it at the Shepherd’s Conference.

Not all the contributors on this blog agree with MacArthur on this subject, but I wanted to make it available here for those who have not listened to it yet.

You may also want to hear the opposition’s position to the Premil view posted last week by ATG.

For a more in-depth examination of this subject, I highly recommend MacArthur’s six -part series found on this previous post. (I actually prefer MacArthur’s six-part series as he has more time to unpack his points, and makes a more convincing argument for the Premil position, than he does in today’s single message.)

You can download this week’s message by MacArthur by going to the page found on this link, or just right-click and save this link.