Wednesday, January 17, 2007

SAVED AND CALLED WITH A HOLY CALLING

Many of us were trained that when there is a Baptism, there is a Form we should read.

Why were we not trained?

When there is a Baptism, we go to the Bible.

Why?

It is because the organized Churches, through the centuries, have shifted their eyes away from the Bible and toward the creeds, and to the confessions, and to the traditions, and to the liturgy, and to other things that are outside the Bible. That is a sad state of affairs in the Churches. Our focus must be immediately on the Word of God, and not on the Form or on the Catechism.

We were saved and called with a holy calling.

But Who saved us and Who called us?

What or Who is our Authority?

We read in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 about the foundation of our Church:

1 Corinthians 3:10
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

1 Corinthians 3:11
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

These verses say that the Church's One Foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ is our only Authority. We must obey what He said.

How do we know what He said?

Christ is called "the Word of God". The Bible is the Word of God. In other words, if we must obey Christ, then we must obey the Bible. The Bible is our only Authority. All other sources like creeds, or confessions, or traditions, or liturgy, or sermons cannot be trusted completely, because they are the works of man. That is what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 3:11. The Bible is our only foundation; it is the only Word of Truth.

God emphasizes in 2 Timothy 2:15 that our only trustworthy source of spiritual truth is the Bible.

2 Timothy 2:15
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

God says here that the Bible is the Word of Truth. This is how we show to ourselves that we are approved unto God: We must be diligent in studying the Bible and we must learn how to use the Bible to cut a straight path. This verse says that the Word of Truth is a road to be laid out straightly, and we must not deviate from this road to the one side or to the other.

Our Authority must be the Bible only. Any Church that has as their authority the Bible plus some other source of Divine information has by definition a false gospel. Therefore anyone who brings a gospel of the Bible plus messages in dreams, or visions, or in a tongue is bringing a false gospel.

Not According to Our Works (2 Timothy 1:8-10)

In 2 Timothy the Apostle Paul was comforting his spiritual son Timothy, but God recorded these words for us as God's words to our souls. We need encouragement as much as Timothy did.

2 Timothy 1:8
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

2 Timothy 1:9
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

2 Timothy 1:10
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:

God says here in verse 9: "He has saved us and called us with a holy calling", and then He adds: "Not according to our works".

Why is God apparently putting us down?

Why is God putting down our works?

The fact is: God is not putting us down. God is stating our condition, and the condition of our works. God says in Romans 3:

Romans 3:12
"...There is NONE that doeth good, no, not one."

God says in Ephesians 2:

Ephesians 2:3
"...We all were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."

And God says in Isaiah 64:

Isaiah 64:6
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."

This means that even our best works after our salvation are in God's sight like filthy rags. Even our best works are tainted with sin. A righteous God demands that every sin must be rewarded with an eternity in Hell. That is why our works cannot contribute anything to our salvation. Most people who call themselves Christians would agree with us there.

But then they turn around and say: "But you need to be baptized in water!"

Many Christians believe that water baptism is "a sign and a seal". That is how water baptism is described in the Belgic Confession that you find in the back of the Psalter Hymnal.

It is true; the Bible speaks about water baptism as a sign, just like circumcision was a sign, pointing to the Covenant. But we do not believe superstitiously that water baptism is a seal from God.

A seal would be a guarantee that God has placed this person in the Kingdom of God. Water baptism cannot be such a seal, because water baptism is an action that we take. If our works cannot contribute anything to our salvation, then no physical act on our part can ever give substance to our salvation. Therefore water baptism cannot be a sign and a seal of our salvation.

The Belgic Confession is wrong on that point.

Are we listening to what the Confessions teach us; are we listening to the Church, or are we listening to the Bible?

That is the test that God has put in our lap. It is for this reason that our Church has thrown out the Belgic Confession as one of the descriptions of what we believe.

Let's continue with 2 Timothy 1:9. There we read:

But according to His own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9)

2 Timothy 1:9
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

God saved us and called us with a holy calling, according to His own purpose and grace. God did not save us because He looked down the corridors of time and He saw that we by our own free will would believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. That cannot be, because salvation cannot depend on any action taken on our part. The Bible teaches that God only sees dirty rotten sinners, who were in rebellion against God.

That is why God had to save us not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace. And God says in this verse that He decided that before the world began. In other words, before the world began God chose out of this miserable mess of mankind those whom He elected unto salvation, and God reprobated all others.

God guaranteed to give His elect this gift of salvation before the foundation of the world, because this verse says that it "was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began". Therefore, when God the Father sent His Son into the world, the Lord Jesus Christ had the assignment to take the sins of all the elect upon Himself, and to pay for their sins the full payment that a righteous God requires, which is the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. That is what the Lord Jesus had to pay, and He could only pay that if He was God. On the cross the Lord Jesus paid only for the sins of His elect, because their salvation was guaranteed "before the world began".

Christ did not pay for the sins of everyone in the whole world, because that would mean that everyone would be saved. God did not plan to save every one of mankind. Christ did not suffer the equivalent of an eternity in Hell for those who are going to Hell. That would be a great injustice to Christ, and that would make Christ's work on the cross a failure, because the Bible says that the majority of mankind will end up in Hell.

But think of the marvelous grace that God has bestowed on His elect. Allow me to bring the words of the first stanza and of the refrain back to your remembrance:

I know not why God's wondrous grace to me He had made known,
Nor why, unworthy (unworthy as I am), Christ in love redeemed me for His own.
But "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day."
When God poured His grace upon us unworthy sinners, the result is that we believed.

I Know Whom I Have Believed (2 Timothy 1:11-14, Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

The Apostle Paul was speaking about the Gospel when He said in:

2 Timothy 1:11
Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

2 Timothy 1:12
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

2 Timothy 1:13
Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 1:14
That good thing which was committed unto thee, keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.

In verse 12 we read:
"I know whom I have believed".

People say: "I believe". But the devils also believe, and tremble. So there is more than one way to believe. The all-important question is:

Whom have you believed?

Where do we find the truth?

Where is our Authority?

And are we willing to obey this Authority?

God addresses this obedience in Deuteronomy 6:4-9,

Deuteronomy 6:4
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

Deuteronomy 6:5
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

God commands us in these verses to focus on this One God. One LORD, which means Jehovah is One God. God the Father is Jehovah, God the Son is Jehovah, and God the Holy Spirit is Jehovah. We are commanded to love the Lord our God "with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our might".

This is where the rubber hits the road. Here is where the troubles start.

What is the evidence of our love for God?

The Lord Jesus said: "If ye love me, keep my commandments". This means that our obedience to the Word of God really shows how much we love Him. Verse 5 states what our relationship to God is:

Do we really love Him?

Deuteronomy 6:6
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

Deuteronomy 6:7
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

This is the reason why our love for God must show on the outside. If we are truly saved, then those words are in our heart, and our faith will show by how we raise our children. Then we will teach those words diligently to our children. We shall talk of them. It does not say, "We shall talk to them". Look at verse 7 carefully. The word "them" does not refer to our children, but it refers to the words of God. We shall talk of those words to our children.

When?

"When thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up", which means: "All the time". Then read the words of verses 8 and 9, which in the past have been greatly misunderstood:

Deuteronomy 6:8
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.

Deuteronomy 6:9
And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

The Jews put a little piece of paper, containing a Scripture verse, in a little box, which they tied to their hand, and another one between their eyes, and another one on the posts of their house. The Jews thought that if they literally obeyed these commands, they were off the hook. But God meant the Scriptures to be in our hearts, so that our whole life would be permeated with the Word of God.
Now, let us return to 2 Timothy 1:12. I have expounded on a fraction of this verse: "I know whom I have believed". Now let us consider the second half of this verse:

Against that day (2 Timothy 1:12, Hebrews 12:1-2)

2 Timothy 1:12
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

I am persuaded, I am convinced, that God is able to make my commitment stick until the last day.

Is that not confusing?

Is it my commitment that counts, or is it God's commitment that counts?

How could our commitment be of any value toward the perseverance of the saints?

We already know that our works cannot contribute anything to our salvation. Therefore, this verse says that it is God who makes sure that we commit our life to Him. Almighty God, by His irresistable grace, has drawn us to Christ, and He will make sure that we, by His irresistable grace, will continue to commit our life to Him until the day of Christ's returning.

God speaks about this same thing so clearly in Hebrews chapter 12. Some people say that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is unknown. That is not true. God is the Author of this Epistle, as well as of all the other writings. God says in:

Hebrews 12:1
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

How do we run the race?

First of all, to run the race means that we need to be in the Word of God. Then let the Bible be our guide how to lead our life in this world. That requires patience. That is why verse 1 says: "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us".

How then do we persevere?

Hebrews 12:2
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Lord Jesus is called "the author and finisher of our faith". If we are God's elect, then God initiated our faith, and God will see to it that we will keep the faith until the day of Christ's returning. Not only our justification is a gift of grace, but also our sanctification is entirely a gift of grace.

For He Is Faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, 2 Timothy 1:3-5)

God is faithful in completing what He has begun, because He has saved us and called us with a holy calling. God says in:

1 Thessalonians 5:23
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:24
Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

What does it mean: "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly"?

It means that the very God who gave us peace with God, and gave us also peace within, this God also sanctifies us wholly. God sanctifies us wholly, or sets us apart completely. Our body and soul belong to Him and have been set apart for service to Him, and God will preserve us. That is not something that is left to our efforts. This is how God worked in Timothy's life, and it was written for our comfort.

Let's return now to 2 Timothy 1, and let us read the beginning verses in this chapter. Timothy was the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father.

What was happening in Timothy's family?

Timothy heard the Gospel, and Timothy became a believer. Then Timothy accompanied the Apostle Paul on his missionary journey and the result was that Timothy was trained for the ministry. By the time this letter to Timothy was written Timothy had become the pastor of the Church at Ephesus.

2 Timothy 1:3
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;

2 Timothy 1:4
Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;

2 Timothy 1:5
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.

God is encouraging Timothy through the Apostle Paul. He says to Timothy: "I remember the unfeigned faith that is in thee". The word "unfeigned" means "sincere", or "genuine".

Paraphrased:
Timothy, I remember the sincere faith that is in you. This faith first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and then also in your mother Eunice. Timothy, you have come from a Gospel home and God used the instrument of a Gospel home to impart also a sincere faith in you. We can say to God:

Great is Thy faithfulness (2 Timothy 1:5)

The Apostle Paul says that he thanks God for the gift of faith given to Timothy.

Where did that sincere faith in Timothy come from?

2 Timothy 1:5
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.

Let that be an encouragement to us when we do our utmost to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. God will be faithful when we are faithful. But we can only be faithful because God is faithful to His eternal promise to save a people for Himself. God is pleased to draw His children to Himself through the instrument of a Christian home. That is not an exception; but it occurs more often. In Timothy's case, God used his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice as instruments.

This is encouraging to us. Timothy was well prepared before he heard the Apostle Paul. Likewise we are instruments in God's hands when we raise our children. Therefore, our walk before our children must also be genuine and sincere. For our sakes, and for the sakes of our children, we must inspect our lives to see if our faith is sincere.

Do we feel that the Christian faith is like a straitjacket?

This is one of the warning signs that our faith may not be genuine.

Do we experience that money, or cars, or career play a dominant role in our thought-processes?

That is another warning sign that our faith may not be genuine. When that is the case, we are placing roadblocks before the spiritual development of our children. Therefore God's advice to the parents of this child is this: Make sure that your faith is genuine. Then by God's grace we are able to say: "I rejoice and I thank God when I see the sincere faith in you, which first dwelt in your parents and in your grandparents."

Let this passage be an encouragement to us that God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, is "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."

God is faithful.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Amen.

By Alfred Chompff

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