Soteriology


Jesus told his disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. The disciples cried out, “who then can be saved?” The response is no one! No man can work to earn his salvation. But the sweet blood of Jesus Christ is more efficacious than all the work that a man can do. Thomas Watson, in his Treatise on the Holy Eucharist, comments:

If we had offered up millions of holocausts and sacrifices, if we had wept rivers of tears, this could never have appeased an angry Deity. Only Christ’s blood ingratiates us into God’s favor and makes Him look upon us with a smiling aspect. When Christ died, the veil of the temple was rent. This was not without a mystery, to show that through Christ’s blood the veil of our sins is rent which interposed between God and us.

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Sometimes Christians become confused about the language of Scripture that deals with God’s electing love versus our responsibility to choose Him.

Last evening, First RP concluded another Puritan Paperback (we are working through the series one book at a time). We just completed The Christian’s Great Interest by William Guthrie.

He answers many objections to faith in Christ and has a wonderful section on personal covenanting. Here is his response to those confused about the language of Scripture concerning sovereign love and personal responsibility:

O then, it is a coming on our part, and yet a drawing on His part; ‘No man can come to Me, except the Father, which has sent Me, draw him.’ (John 6: 44.) It is a drawing on His part, and a running on our part–‘Draw me, we will run after Thee.’ (Cant. 1:4.) It is an approaching on our part, and yet a ‘choosing and causing to approach’ on His part. (Psa. 65: 4.) It is a believing or receiving on our part–‘But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name;’ and yet ‘it is given us to believe.’ (John 1: 12; Phil. 1:29.)

Next month we are reading The Lord’s Supper by Thomas Watson. Feel free to join us!

Question: “What must I do to be saved?”
Answer: Do you mean this? Do you say this in truth and in earnest? Would you be willing to miss all that is delightful in the world? Would you be willing to part with your sin which you deem to be so delightful, well-intentioned advantageous, and enjoyable? Is the idea of being reconciled with God, to love, fear, and serve God in all godliness more desirable to you than anything else? Is it your desire to be acquainted with Him? Do you desire it more than anything else? If you say, “Yes, I mean this in earnest,” then I reply, “Repent and believe the gospel.” If you reply in turn that you know very well that you will then be saved indeed, take special note that it is an inexpressible mercy and privilege that you can be saved upon faith and repentance. God is not obligated to save you in this way, but it is His sovereign goodness alone that He promises and bestows salvation in this manner. Therefore, repent!

As we approach the 490th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we need to remember that the heart of the matter was this question: ‘How can a man be made right with a holy and just God?” This is a question that we need to be asking ourselves, our families, and those with whom we come into contact. The doctrine of justification by faith alone is as important, and misunderstood, as it was before the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. May the Lord again send Reformation to His Bride.

Habakkuk 2:4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.

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.”

“The precious and momentous doctrine of justification by faith alone, when biblically preached and rightly balanced, is not a denominational or sectarian peculiarity. It is not a mere species of Christianity. It is the heart of the evangel, the kernel of the glorious gospel of the blessed triune God, and the key to the kingdom of heaven.

“Justification by faith,” John Murray writes, ” is the jubilee trumpet of the gospel because it proclaims the gospel to the poor and destitute whose only door of hope is to roll themselves in total helplessness upon the grace and power and righteousness of the Redeemer of the lost.” In our decadent and desperate day there is a crying need to reestablish and defend, with prayer and hope, in the power of the Spirit, the scriptural proclamation of this doctrine. The relevance and urgency of this doctrine relate to the identity of the church, the essence of Christian theology, the proclamation of the gospel, as well as to the scriptural-experiential foundations of the Christian faith for every one of us. Not only is justification by faith still, in Luther’s words, “the article by which the church stands or falls” (articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae), but by this doctrine each of us shall personally stand of fall before God. Justification by faith alone must be confessed and experienced by you and me; it is a matter of eternal life or eternal death.”
-Dr. Joel Beeke.

Today in Prolegomena we discussed the idea of dogma. We defined it according to the uses in Hebrew and Greek and showed the various ways that the Scriptures use the concept.

During the discussion time, one of our new (and insightful) students asked the question, “Can someone who does not hold to the dogma of the Church [which we loosely defined as the Ecumenical Creeds] be saved?”

I immediately thought of a quote from my best-est-est-est friend, Shawn Anderson. Samuel Rutherford, in Against Separation answers this question in his mind blowing way. This is very important as we live in times of great theological confusion- the Lord saves apart from our works (which includes our theological endevors.)

DISTINCTION ONE. One may believe that Christ is the Son of God by a Divine faith, as Peter does (Matt. 16:17), and yet doubt of the necessary fundamental consequences. Ergo, Christ must be delivered into the hands of sinners, and be crucified, as the same Peter doubted of this. For as one may fall in a grievous sin, though regenerated, and fail in act[ion], and yet remain in grace, in habitu [in condition], the seed of God remaining in him, so may Peter and the apostles doubt of a fundamental point of Christ’s rising from the dead (John 20:8, 9), in an act of weakness, and yet have saving faith in Christ, as it is like[ly] many of the saints at Corinth denied an article of their faith, the rising again of the dead. One act of unbelief makes not an infidel.
DISTINCTION TWO. A simple Papist and a Lutheran, not well educated, believes upon the same former ground, that Christ is true man, and has an habitual faith of this article, that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of David, and yet holds transubstantiation, or consubstantiation, that Christ’s body is in many sundry places in heaven, and earth, on this side of the sea, and beyond sea. Yet the connection between Christ’s humanity and this monster of transubstantiation not being possible, all error may be merely philosophic, that the extension of quantitative parts without or beyond part, is not the essence of a quantitative body, while as the rude man believes firmly that Christ is true man, and so believes contradictory things by good consequence. Therefore the quality of the conscience of the believer is to be looked into, since fundamental heresy is essentially in the mind, and pertinency and self-conviction does inseparably follow it.
(1.) There is a conscience simply doubting of fundamental points, this may be with a habit of sound faith. (2.) A scrupulous conscience which from light grounds is brangled about some fundamental points, and this is often in sound believers, who may and do believe, but with scruples. (3.) A conscience believing opinions and conjecturing and guessing, as in atheists; this is damnable, but where obstinacy is, as defending with pertinency transubstantiation, and that it is lawful to adore bread, this pertinacious defending of idolatry does infer necessarily, that the faith of the article of Christ’s humanity is but false and counterfeit, and not saving.
DISTINCTION THREE. There is a certitude of adherence formal, and a certitude of adherence virtual. A certitude of adherence formal is, when one does adhere firmly to the faith of fundamentals. A certitude of adherence virtual is, when with the formal adherence to some fundamental points, there is an ignorance of other fundamental points, and yet withal a gracious disposition and habit to believe other fundamentals, when they shall be clearly revealed out of the Word. So [in] Luke 24, Christ exponed the resurrection, and the articles of Christ’s sufferings and glorification (vs. 25-27), to the disciples who doubted of these before, and yet had saving faith of other fundamental points (Matt. 16-18). (Source)

How serious do we take our high calling of being a follower of Christ? Do we cultivate that relationship with Him or do we find contentment in the fact that now I am a believer I can go on ‘doing my thing’. I believe that there is a sad form of antinomianism in the reformed churches today that wants to replace our battle cry of ‘All things done to God’s glory and enjoyment’ with a spirit of ‘do these things really matter’?

I answer with this: If things matter to the Lord Jesus Christ, they should matter to us. All Scripture is given for doctrine, etc. If my main concern with my relationship to my wife is to keep the legal status of married, I would not have to cultivate much in that relationship. If my main desire is to love her, to honor her, to respect her, to please her, to care for her, to grow deeper in love with her- then I have a lot of daily labor as I cultivate that type of relationship.

If I want to maintain my legal status with the Lord Jesus Christ I can do those lowest common denominator things. If I want to fall deeply in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and esteem his smiles higher than the smiles of men and esteem his frowns higher than the frowns of men; than I have some work to do.

Heart-work is hard work indeed. To shuffle over religious duties with a loose and careless spirit, will cost no great difficulties; but to set yourself before the Lord, and to tie up your loose and vain thoughts to a constant and serious attendance upon him: this will cost you something. To attain ease and dexterity of language in prayer and to be able to put your meaning into appropriate and fitting expressions is easy; but to get your heart broken for sin while you are actually confessing it; melted with free grace even while you are blessing God for it; to be really ashamed and humbled through the awareness of God’s infinite holiness, and to keep your heart in this state not only in, but after these duties, will surely cost you some groans and travailing pain of soul. –John Flavel

The Arminian view of Christ’s atonement not only contradicts the biblical definition of Christ’s redemptive work, but also contradicts itself. An examination of three options regarding Christ’s death will prove that Arminianism is irrational. Jesus Christ paid the price and endured God’s wrath against sin 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. If number 3 is true, then all men still have the guilt of some sins to answer for. This would mean that all men will go to hell, for it only takes the guilt of one sin to merit eternal damnation. If one holds to option 2, that Christ died for all of the sins of some men, then one believes that only some men (i.e., God’s elect) will be saved and go to heaven. This is simply biblical Christianity; that Christ actually achieved the salvation of all of God’s elect. The non-elect are passed by and perish. Arminianism, or inconsistent universalism, holds to position number 1, that Christ died for all the sins of all men. If this position is true, then why are not all men freed from the punishment of all their sins. The Arminian will answer: “because they refused to believe in Jesus Christ. They are guilty of unbelief.“ But this unbelief, is it a sin or is it not a sin? If unbelief is not a sin, then why should anyone by punished for it? If unbelief is a sin, then Christ was punished for it in His death. If Christ paid for this sin as all others, then why must this sin stop anyone from entering heaven more than any of the other sins (e.g., murder, adultery, homosexuality, etc.). Furthermore, if Christ did not die for the sin of unbelief, then one cannot say that He died for all the sins of all men. The Arminian cannot escape from the horns of this theological dilemma.

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