Thursday, May 31, 2007

PREACHING THE PROMISE OF THE GOSPEL


God's preachers are sent to preach the Gospel. They are not sent to preach vain, worthless issues. The Apostle Paul wrote:

1 Corinthians 9:16
"For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel"

Every message should define and distinguish the good news, that single message which is "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16).

Most everyone who claims to preach the Gospel will recognize the existence and growth of false gospels. The New Testament speaks of this (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6). Much is said concerning people worshipping false gods and following after counterfeit messiahs.

This being the case, is it not binding upon true preachers to preach the Gospel in such a way so as to distinguish it from all false gospels, to distinguish the true and living God of the Bible from all false gods, and to distinguish the true Christ from all counterfeits?

Should not our Gospel distinguish the real difference between the true ground of salvation as opposed to all false refuges, and the true difference between grace and works?


The Gospel, when preached aright, reveals the true and exposes the false. The Gospel can be defined and distinguished. It is not an arbitrary message left to the subjective whims of men. It is not a different message for each man. It is the same message for all men. The Gospel itself does not emphasize one point of doctrine one time and another point of doctrine another time. There are many implications and particulars which are derived from this simple message, but the basic kernel, the very heart, of the Gospel is a specific revelation from God. The Gospel is a promise from God. It is the product of an eternal covenant of grace, which is a covenant of promise (Galatians 3:14-29). The Gospel is the preaching of the particulars and terms of that covenant, therefore, IT IS GOD'S PROMISE OF ETERNAL SALVATION AND FINAL GLORY CONDITIONED ON JESUS CHRIST ALONE. It proclaims to helpless, depraved, condemned sinners that God will save sinners for Christ's sake alone.


The preaching of the Gospel involves all the particulars of man's condition by nature, as a totally depraved sinner, alienated from God, and in need of a righteousness he cannot produce. The Gospel exposes both our condemnation in Adam, and the wickedness of our best efforts at removing God's wrath and gaining God's favor (John 3:18-19). The Gospel involves all the particulars and implications of the Person, offices, and redemptive accomplishments of the Lord Jesus Christ, who perfectly satisfied God's law and justice on behalf of a multitude of guilty, hell-deserving sinners which no man can number. The Gospel is the promise of righteousness through Christ as it reveals the righteousness of God, the only ground of salvation. This is the imputed righteousness of Christ. Any man who claims to be sent of God to preach the Gospel should ask himself, "Am I truly preaching and emphasizing the promise of salvation conditioned on Christ alone, based on His righteousness alone?"


The message of the Gospel reveals and distinguishes the true God as a JUST GOD AND SAVIOR, one who justifies the ungodly based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. It reveals and distinguishes the true Christ as the one sent of the Father to fulfill all the conditions of the salvation of His sheep. It reveals how He, by His obedience and death as the Representative and Substitute of His sheep, established an everlasting righteousness of infinite value whereby God the Father could be just and justify sinners. It commands, as well as gives every reason for, sinners to believe God's promise of salvation by Christ and to repent of former idolatry and dead works (all works and efforts before faith aimed at the ground of salvation).


The Gospel, in defining and distinguishing the truths mentioned above, aims at JUSTIFYING FAITH and true REPENTANCE. The promise must be preached in order for these goals to be realized in the power of the Spirit of God. The Apostle Paul described his ministry to the Ephesian elders in this way - "Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21)

This proves that the very first response to the preaching of the Gospel is "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Faith and repentance are inseparable. Repentance toward God is the goal of preaching the Gospel -

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Saving faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ is the means to attain that goal -

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.

The Gospel Promise and Justifying Faith

Faith is the foundation grace, and repentance is the first evidence of faith. Both are gifts of God, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the promise of the Gospel.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saving faith is believing God's promise of eternal salvation and final glory in heaven conditioned on Christ alone, based on His righteousness freely imputed and received by faith, according to God's promise. Repentance, which always accompanies saving faith begins with a change of mind concerning who God is and what it takes to appease Him. In saving faith we see that nothing but Christ's righteousness imputed could remove God's wrath and gain God's favor. We see that God can only justify sinners based on Christ's righteousness. In true repentance we see that all our efforts at religion, morality, penance, reformation, were nothing more than self-righteous attempts at trying to establish a righteousness of our own. We see that they were wicked attempts at removing God's wrath and gaining God's favor. We see that they were dead works, fruit unto death and evil deeds, because they were all done in unbelief, all aimed at the ground of salvation. We even see that the god who accepted such works is an idol, and, therefore, we were idolaters. Both faith and repentance, then, are directly related to the preaching and believing of the promise of the Gospel.

To illustrate the nature and necessity of faith and repentance, as they are related to the promise, the Scriptures identify Abraham more than any other justified sinner as the example. Abraham is the archetype of believing sinners. After having defined God's way of salvation, based on the merits of the righteousness of Christ freely imputed and received by faith, according to God's promise, the Apostle Paul illustrates this salvation in Romans 4 by using Abraham.

Romans 4:20-22

He (Abraham) staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
And being fully persuaded what He (God) had promised, He (God) was able also to perform.
And therefore it was imputed to him (Abraham) for righteousness.

What did God promise Abraham?


Read Romans 4:18-19.

Romans 4:18-19

Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb:

We see here that it was specifically related to the promise that Abraham and Sarah, his wife, who were way past the child-bearing years, would have a child, given of God. This child was to be Isaac, the child of promise. Abraham believed that the sovereign God of the universe would be faithful and that He was able to fulfil what He had promised. This glorified God. Abraham attributed unto God all the qualities of character that belonged to God, especially God's faithfulness. But if we look at the context of Romans 4, we must see that the promise involved much more than the birth of Isaac. The promise ultimately involved God's way of saving guilty sinners. This is proven by several verses beginning with Romans 4:1-5.

Romans 4:1-5

{1}What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
{2}For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath to glory; but not before God.
{3}For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted him for righteousness.
{4} Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
{5} But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted unto righteousness.

The Apostle Paul was dealing with the question of Abraham's eternal justification before God, and how Abraham was declared righteous before God.


Was it by works, conditioned on Abraham, or was it by grace, conditioned on Abraham's Substitute?

Paul proves that it was most certainly by grace. He had already in Romans 1-3 shown the impossibility of any sinner being justified by deeds of law (Romans 3:19-20).

God's promises to Abraham, recorded in Genesis 12 and 15, were both temporal and eternal. From the very beginning God made a distinction between Abraham's natural seed and Abraham's spiritual seed. There was to be a temporal accomplishment of those promises to Abraham's natural seed here on earth. More importantly, there was, and is, to be an eternal realization of the promises for Abraham's spiritual seed, all the "heirs of promise" (Galatians 3:29). The "heirs of promise" are made up of Jew and Gentile, a multitude of guilty sinners, chosen by God before the foundation of the world. They are redeemed by Christ, and called to faith and repentance by the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the Gospel, God's promise of eternal salvation and final glory conditioned on Christ alone.

We begin to see the vital connection of all this when we realize that it was through Isaac, the child of promise, that the Messiah (Christ, the woman's seed) was to come according to the flesh. Everything God did in fulfilling His promises to Abraham's natural seed, the children of Israel, was ultimately to prove His faithfulness to fulfil His promises to Abraham's spiritual seed, the whole election of grace, all who would believe God's Gospel, His promise of salvation through Christ.

We see the promises, both temporal and eternal, were, and are, limited. The temporal promises were limited to the natural seed of Abraham, the children of Israel. It was to them, through Abraham, that all the temporal promises were made. In the same way, the eternal promises are limited to the spiritual seed of Abraham. God has never promised to save all without exception. God did not send Christ into the world to redeem all without exception. The doctrines of universal redemption and indefinite atonement are not Scriptural, and they are opposed to the Gospel, the promise. They reduce God's love and Christ's obedience and death to nothing, having no real value, in and of themselves, to save any sinner. They exalt man's will and man's efforts, making salvation conditioned on the sinner's faith, repentance, and/or perseverance, which is salvation by works. God does promise to save any sinner who comes to Him by faith in Christ, believing the promise of salvation conditioned on Christ alone, based on His righteousness alone. But faith is not the cause nor the ground of their salvation. Faith receives Christ and His righteousness imputed as the only ground of salvation. This is revealed in the promise, and all who refuse to believe this promise shall perish. Read Galatians 3:16.

Galatians 3:16

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

The promises were made to ONE, a representative. Abraham represented the natural seed, the children of Israel. But it goes beyond the temporal realm and into the eternal. "And to thy seed", which is CHRIST. Christ represents the spiritual seed, all the heirs of promise. The important truths of representation and imputation are very much in force as we see them brought out in the Gospel. The eternal promises were placed in the hands of a Mediator and Surety (Christ). All the conditions of the promises were placed upon Him. He is the one who represents many, the Head representing the body which is His church. All the merit of His whole work of redemption was imputed to Abraham as the only ground of Abraham's salvation.

This gives us some insight as to what Paul wrote in Romans 4:22. Considering the nature of the promise given to Abraham, the pronoun "it" refers not to Abraham's faith, but to the entire merit of Christ's whole work of redemption. Faith is a God-given grace applied by the Holy Spirit. It is subjective and cannot be imputed. Only the merit or demerit of a work can be imputed. Just as the demerit of Adam's sin was imputed to all whom he represented, the merit of Christ's obedience and death is imputed to all whom He represented (Romans 5:18-19). Therefore, "it" refers to the righteousness of Christ freely imputed to Abraham, and which Abraham received by faith. The nature of God's covenant with Abraham was grace, absolute and unconditional promise. God conditioned all of Abraham's salvation on the promised Messiah, Christ, Abraham's Substitute! Christ's righteousness, His perfect satisfaction to God's law and justice, was imputed to Abraham as the only ground of Abraham's salvation.


When the Scripture states that Abraham believed God, it is referring to these promises mainly in Abraham's eternal salvation conditioned on Christ alone. All the other promises, including the promise of Isaac, were subordinate to this.


Did Abraham see and understand all this?

There were many things that Abraham did not know and understand concerning the particulars of the coming Messiah. Many things had not yet been revealed. But Abraham knew and understood that he was a sinner in need of a righteousness he himself could not produce. He knew and understood that God was holy and just and could not justify any man based on character and conduct. He knew and understood that God had made a promise of eternal salvation and final glory conditioned on a coming Messiah who would be both God and man, who would, by His obedience and death, establish an everlasting righteousness whereby God could be just to justify the ungodly. Therefore, Abraham believed "on him that justifieth the ungodly" (Romans 4:5). Abraham knew the ground of salvation, the righteousness of Christ freely imputed and received by faith.


In John 8:56 our Lord stated, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad." Abraham fully expected God to fulfill His promise of eternal salvation based on the righteousness of the coming Messiah. Abraham believed all the other promises, including the temporal ones, that were connected with this main promise. So, again, when Romans 4:5 states that "his faith is counted for righteousness," it is not saying that faith itself was imputed to Abraham as righteousness. Faith is imparted, not imputed. Robert Haldane, in his commentary on Romans, pointed out that the Greek word translated "for" in this expression here and in verse 3 should be properly translated "unto" as in Romans 10:10. The meaning then is this: "His faith is counted unto the receiving of righteousness."


Faith itself is not the ground of salvation, nor does faith make up any part of the ground of salvation. Faith does not remove God's wrath or gain God's favor. This is the fatal error of multitudes of professing Christians who in reality believe a cleverly disguised system of works which they call grace. Righteousness removes God's wrath and gains God's favor because it is perfect satisfaction to God's law and justice. Righteousness is what we must have in order to be justified. Faith is the means through which we receive this righteousness. It has already been made clear in Romans 1:17 that righteousness and faith are two distinct things, brought in for two different purposes and always found in those who are justified.

Romans 4:23-25

{23} Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
{24} But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
{25} Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

In Romans 4:23-25, the apostle tells us that God promises to impute this same righteousness to the account of all who believe the same promise as Abraham. Again, this refers to the promise of eternal salvation conditioned on Christ alone. God must act in strict righteousness and truth. He must remain holy and just in all His dealings. He cannot give any sinner the inheritance of eternal life at the expense of His holiness, law, and justice. So the eternal blessedness of all the heirs of promise, Abraham's spiritual seed, depends upon Christ satisfying the conditions of the Covenant of Grace, which is a covenant of promise. Christ satisfying all the conditions enables God to be just and holy when He justifies the ungodly. Anyone who has the same kind of faith that Abraham had, anyone who does the works of Abraham (John 8:39), will plead Christ's righteousness as the only ground of salvation and repent of former idolatry and dead works. Where righteousness is imputed, faith is always immediately given to receive it. We cannot separate the imputation of righteousness and justifying faith. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). This word is the Gospel, the way of salvation by Christ alone, according to God's promise.


This proves that God has promised to save a particular number of sinners and that He is faithful and able to do so. Christ came to save His people from their sins by making an effectual atonement for their sins. His obedience and death as their Representative and Substitute demands their justification, sanctification, and their final glory.


Does the fact that God promises salvation to a particular number of sinners and the fact of Christ's definite atonement shut any sinner who hears the promise of the Gospel and who desires to be saved by grace out of the kingdom of Heaven?

Does it shut anyone out who truly desires to know and please God in a salvation that glorifies every attribute of God's holy character, exalts Christ in His mediatorial accomplishment, and excludes all grounds of boasting in sinners?

NO! There will be no sinners in Hell who will be able to say that they sought after God, according to God's promise, and could not find Him because God shut them out. On the other hand, there will be no saved sinners in Heaven who will be able to say that they are there by virtue of certain conditions they met. It is the righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel that entitles sinners to the whole inheritance of grace.


All sinners who hear this promise are commanded, directed, and invited to receive freely God's grace, to rest in God's way of salvation, and to reject every false way. If any sinner is shut out of Heaven, it is due to his own self-righteousness, self-love, and religious pride in insisting that salvation be conditioned on the sinner in opposition to the promise.

Mark 16:15-16

{15} And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
{16} He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Christ commissions His disciples to preach the Gospel. The Gospel is the preaching of God's promise of eternal salvation conditioned on Christ alone. It is to be preached to all without exception. God assures, according to his faithfulness, that all who believe this specific promise, shall be saved. Baptism is the outward sign and confession that a convinced sinner has already been regenerated and converted, believing, receiving, and submitting to God's way of salvation in Christ. All who believe shall be saved. This salvation is the product of an absolute and unconditional covenant of promise. The Gospel then is the preaching of that promise. If this promise is preached aright, sinners who believe it ought to come unto the Father, not timidly nor in doubt, but fully expecting God, who is faithful, to fulfill His promise. Too many present salvation as if it is an arbitrary whim of God as to whether or not He will save sinners. Too many think that they are exalting God's sovereignty when they tell their hearers, "Come to Christ. I don't know if God will save you or not." This is opposed to the promise of God, and it is opposed to God's sovereignty and faithfulness engaged to save sinners based on the righteousness of Christ.

Isaiah 46:9-13 -

{9} Remember the former things of old: for I God, and none else; God, and none like me,
{10} Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times that are not done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
{11} Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken , I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed , I will also do it.
{12} Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that far from righteousness:
{13} I bring near my righteousness: it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.


God reveals that He has engaged every attribute of His sovereign, holy character to save sinners based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. God is faithful to save any sinner who comes to Him expecting salvation based upon this one ground. We cannot tell all men without exception that God loves them and Christ died for them. That would be the same as telling all men without exception that their eternal salvation is sure and certain no matter what. We can and we should tell all men without exception that they are "far from righteousness," void of a righteousness that answers the demands of God's law and justice and unable to produce one.


We can and we should tell all men without exception that God brings near His righteousness by sending Christ into the world as the Substitute for sinners to establish the only righteousness by which God will save us. We can and we should tell all men without exception that God's "salvation shall not tarry," that now is the day of salvation and to wait for the sinner to meet certain conditions or qualifications for salvation is deadly. We can and we should tell sinners that God "will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory," that God has engaged Himself to save all the objects of His love and all for whom Christ lived and died. We can and we should tell all men without exception that God will save sinners, any sinner who seeks this salvation, for Christ's sake alone. We know that any sinner who seeks this salvation, God has sought him first.

The Gospel Promise and True Repentance

We have seen how the first evidence of salvation is belief of the Gospel, the promise. This is justifying faith, which is the gift of God, and which comes by the power of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. The next evidence of salvation is also directly related to this promise. It is repentance. All true believers know from God's testimony that by nature we are in a state of idolatry as Abraham was before God saved him. This state is described in the Bible in various ways: "ungodly," "enemies of God," "alienated from God," "in the flesh," "under the power of darkness," "under the law," "servants of sin," etc. All of these terms describe all men and women without exception in a state of nature, born in Adam, before salvation. These phrases describe the religious, moral person, as well as the irreligious and immoral person. The Bible teaches in the law and the Gospel that before salvation our persons are condemned and all of our efforts at religion and morality are evil deeds, wicked works, and dead works (John 3:18-19). These efforts at religion and morality are not wicked due to immorality or even lack of sincerity. Many before salvation are very sincere in their religious efforts. These efforts are wicked because they are performed by a person who is in a state of condemnation, a state of idolatry, and one who is ignorant of the true holiness of God. This person is ignorant of the only ground of salvation, therefore, all his efforts at religion and morality are aimed at removing God's wrath and gaining God's favor, to some degree. This is opposed to the glory of God in salvation. It is opposed to the preeminence of Christ in salvation. It is opposed to God's promise of salvation by grace.


As indicated, among those who are in this state of idolatry, there are many different personalities, races and cultures. It includes both men and women, moral and immoral, religious and irreligious. There are many differences amongst these, but there is one thing common to all. They are all in a state of condemnation, all void of a saving knowledge of the true and living God and Jesus Christ whom God has sent, all void of a righteousness that answers the demands of God's holiness. They all seek after salvation and God's favor in ways that are dishonoring to God, shameful to Christ, and ways which leave the sinner room to boast (Romans 3:10-12). To say that any one individual in this state is not an open idolater, no matter what his/her claim, is to deny God's explicit testimony. God says, "He that hath the Son hath life," and none of us, by nature or by practice, have the Son. By nature we have neither the Father nor the Son. By nature and by practice we have neither the righteousness God requires nor the ability to produce such a righteousness. By nature we are ignorant of God, and, therefore, in a state of idolatry, just like Abraham when he was in Ur of the Chaldees.


These are the issues of true repentance. This is the substance about which God commands every sinner who hears the Gospel promise to change his mind. To believe the Gospel, to follow Christ, and to turn to God, is to break the bonds of the old life, to admit of our idolatry and wicked efforts before hearing and believing the promise of salvation based on the righteousness of Christ alone. This is the most difficult thing for sinners to do. It is impossible apart from the Spirit of God in power bringing us to be born again. But any who believe the Gospel, who truly fear God and love Christ, and who desire to see sinners saved, need to recognize that in order for these issues to be known, the Gospel must be defined in clear, unmistakable terms, not allowing sinners to put their own definitions upon God's promise. God draws all the conclusions for us, because we by nature will draw the wrong conclusions. Sinners must be told the particulars concerning true repentance, and they must see that unless they repent, they will perish.


It is the preaching of the promise of the Gospel that brings forth these issues. By nature we know nothing of a righteousness imputed. All we know by nature is "do and live; disobey and die." In our natural state we know that sin is the cause of our dilemma with God, and we sincerely believe that our attempts at goodness and morality will set the situation aright. It is these very thoughts of which we must repent. We must, by faith in Christ, change our minds concerning who God is and the only ground upon which He will save us, keep us, and bring us to heaven. We must change our minds concerning who we are and see the utter impossibility of God saving any of us based on our best efforts at religion and morality. We must change our minds concerning who Christ is and see that He is the successful Savior who fulfilled all the conditions of our salvation and secured our final glory by His righteousness alone.


By preaching the clear promise of salvation conditioned on Christ alone, we can insist on the sinner's responsibility to believe the Gospel, to repent of idolatry and wicked works, and to persevere in the faith. It has been charged by some that to insist that sinners know these things, and to insist that sinners must believe and repent, is legal. What these people cannot or will not understand is that the promise itself, the Gospel message itself, removes all notions of legalism and salvation conditioned on the sinner. Faith is necessary for salvation, not as a condition to earn or merit salvation, but as a means of receiving and uniting with Christ. Faith believes God's promise of salvation conditioned on Christ alone! Knowledge is necessary because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). The knowledge which is necessary is the Gospel promise. Repentance is necessary in the same way, and this is a change of mind concerning salvation. We are to repent of ever thinking that salvation was conditioned on ourselves. Perseverance is necessary in the same way. We are to persevere, continue, believing that our final glory certain, not because of conditions we meet, but based solely upon the imputed righteousness of Christ.

This initial repentance from former idolatry and dead works in conversion is where all continual repentance begins. All repentance which came before this is legal, natural-conscience conviction (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). As we grow in grace and knowledge of God, we do not continually change our minds concerning who God is, concerning who Christ is, and concerning the only ground of salvation. We are continually struggling with sin, with legal fear and doubts, and we do continue to repent of these things as we see more of our own sinfulness and more of God's holiness and love. This is a continual aspect of repentance which can be defined as Godly sorrow over sin. It is an ashamedness over sin without fear of punishment knowing that God's wrath has been forever removed by the blood of Christ. We have some great examples of this in the lives of Job and King David
(Job 42:5-6; 2 Samuel 12:1-16; Psalm 51; Psalm 130:3-4).

This is evidence that a sinner truly fears God. This is that reverence and respect for the honor of God's character revealed in His promise to save sinners by Christ alone. This is what brings about true love to God and true love for the brethren in any degree. We who believe know that our love falls way short of what it ought to be. But we recognize that we now have a love that we did not have before. It is love that springs from saving faith and true repentance. We now love our brethren in Christ, not perfectly as we ought, nor as we desire, nor in any way which would make us proud of our love. But we have a principle of love within. It is the product of the Spirit of God, and it causes us to desire to be loyal to the honor of God's character, to the preeminence of Christ, and to our brethren in opposition to the world and its religion. This is what causes us to take sides with our brethren against any system of doctrine that dishonors God, devalues the Person and work of Christ, and leaves sinners room to boast. This is what causes us to refuse to speak peace to sinners who do not believe the Gospel.

Conclusion

How amazing it is that we see the glory and wisdom of God in such a simple message! In the preaching of the promise of the Gospel, God removes all legal and mercenary notions and establishes the nature and the place of everything He requires for salvation. One of the most deadly errors of our day is that faith itself, not Christ alone, that makes the difference between heaven and hell. Most who claim to believe the Gospel have never even heard the promise of the Gospel, or they would not even imagine that faith forms any part of the ground of salvation. They would see that it is impossible for God to be glorified if salvation is conditioned on the sinner, even the sinner's faith, repentance, or perseverance. They would see that the only ground of salvation, of peace with God, is the imputed righteousness of Christ. Sinners are commanded to believe that Christ made all the difference by establishing this righteousness according to God's promise. This is the lesson of Ephesians 2:8-9 - "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Christ is to have all the preeminence in salvation.

The preaching of the promise also establishes the blessed fact that all exhortations given to believers to persevere, to obey, to live soberly and righteously in this present world, are motivated by the certainty of final glory conditioned on Christ, based on His righteousness. Believers are to obey God, not to earn or merit God's favors and blessings, not even to insure their final glory, but in response to God's love and grace in Christ. In true obedience, believers are to rest in Christ, realizing that they are sure for heaven's glory based on the righteousness of Christ, according to God's promise. This is the essence of the "spirit of adoption."

We see, then, that the preaching of the promise of the Gospel is to be the central issue and emphasis of our messages. It should be the basis of all teaching, of all growth in grace, and of all motivations to obedience. This promise is not all that we are commanded to preach, but we are commanded to preach all things in the light of this promise. We are to move on into other areas, not leaving the Gospel behind, but building upon its central message for the salvation of sinners and the edification of God's people. This is what it is to preach Christ crucified!

Bill Parker

ESTABLISHED IN THE GRACE OF GOD

One thing clearly established and revealed in God's Word is the fact that if any sinner is going to be saved, recovered, brought back into fellowship with God, it must be by God's free and sovereign grace. If not, no sinner will be saved. The Bible says plainly in Ephesians 2:8-9 -- "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." The problem is that by nature we do not know what grace really is. By nature, we are so self-righteous that all we know is salvation conditioned in some way upon ourselves. We think so highly of ourselves that we insist on salvation by works in some way, to some degree, and at some stage. And Satan is so subtle, and we by nature are so ignorant and deceived, we create a cleverly disguised system of works religion and call it salvation by grace.


But God does not leave us in the dark. He plainly and often in His Word tells us the difference. He tells us that in order for Him to be honored and glorified in the salvation of a sinner, His law and justice must be satisfied. He tells us that His law and justice cannot be satisfied by anything a sinner does or by anything done in a sinner (Romans 3:19-20). He tells us we that in order to be saved, we need a righteousness we cannot produce. God also reveals in the Gospel how He in grace and mercy appointed His only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the Representative and Substitute of a people, a great number chosen out of Adam's fallen race, and conditioned all of their salvation upon Christ. He sent Christ into the world to become incarnate and to obey the law for them and to suffer the full penalty of their sins. He sent Christ to establish a righteousness that would demand the eternal salvation and final glory of all whom He represented.


In that Gospel God promises to save every sinner who comes to Him for salvation based on the righteousness Christ established. He commands all who hear to believe in Christ and repent of dead works. He forbids all who hear it to think that anything else could save them, keep them, or bring them to heaven. He shows us that real grace is salvation conditioned not on the sinner but on Christ. Real grace is the fact that Christ by Himself met those conditions and established a righteousness that demands all grace here and all glory hereafter. Real grace is the fact that all who are in Christ do not have to earn the least of God's favor and blessings. In fact, it is unbelief and legalism to try to do so. Real grace shows us how Christ earned for us all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). In Hebrews 13:9 Paul tells these believers that it is a good thing to have our hearts established with grace. It is a bad thing, an evil thing, for our hearts to be established any other way than with grace. God shows us the reality of grace and established our hearts with grace by enlightening our minds with His truth, the Gospel and the doctrines of grace.


I. THE GROUND OF ALL GRACE (Hebrews 13:8) -- "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."


The apostle had been exhorting these believers to persevere in the faith, to obey God's commandments, to be diligent in worship, good works, obedience, love, devotion, and support of the Gospel and those who preach it. Obedience, in and of itself, is not the issue. There is no argument whether or not God's people should be obedient, moral, dedicated, and kind. The issue has to do with our ground, reason, and motive for obedience. Here he shows that the only right motive and ground for acceptable obedience is the unchanging character and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Surety. We who are in Christ, who have His righteousness imputed to us, who trust Him for all of salvation, are in an unchangeable, eternal state of justification, blessing, and salvation, based on His righteousness alone.


Everything about us in our character and conduct changes, but Christ never changes, and we who are in Him are certain to be glorified based on His merits alone. Our love, obedience, diligence, dedication, even our morality, changes at times. Thank God that our final glory in heaven is not conditioned on us. In Christ, there is no possibility of condemnation because of our sins as all who are in Him are "dead to sin" (Romans 6:1.; 8:1). The law can cannot curse me or demand any obedience aimed at saving myself, keeping myself saved, or making myself fit, qualified, or certain for Heaven (Romans 7:4). In the immutable Christ, based on His righteousness alone, believers are completely pardoned and forgiven of all sin, completely fit and holy for the presence of God, and completely entitled to the whole inheritance of grace (Colossians 2:9-10).


II. THE HEART ESTABLISHED WITH GRACE (Hebrews 13:9) -- "For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace."


"Divers and strange doctrines" refers to different doctrines that are foreign to the Gospel of grace. This refers to any doctrine, no matter how good it may sound, that contradicts the believer's standing in Christ based on His righteousness alone. The warning here is for believers not to be tossed to and fro with doctrines that produce uncertainties in our minds concerning the fact that we are dead to sin and dead to the law -- complete in Christ. He is telling them to avoid legalism or any notion that salvation or any part of can be lost or made more certain based on anything other than the imputed righteousness of Christ. Any notion that any part of salvation is conditioned on the sinner is works salvation and opposed to grace, opposed to the Gospel, and opposed to the liberty we have in Christ (Galatians 5:1-4).


The "heart" is the mind, affections, and the will. Being tossed to and fro and being established are both acts of the mind and understanding whereby sinners are deceived by Satan into thinking that salvation or some part of it is conditioned on themselves or sinners are convinced by God that all of salvation is conditioned on Christ alone. God uses the Gospel and the doctrines of grace to convince and establish us in His grace:


Total depravity shows us our need of grace. It shows us the impossibility of salvation conditioned on ourselves. It shows us the need of a righteousness we cannot produce because we owe a debt to God's law and justice we cannot pay.


There are verses in the Bible that tell us that "whosoever will" may come (Revelation 22:17), and this true. Read (Romans 10:13; John 6:37). These scriptures do not deny the doctrine of total depravity and total inability. They simply tell us that God will save any who come to Him pleading the righteousness of Christ. The problem is that by nature, of our own free will, we will not come this way. God must make us willing by applying His truth to our minds. Now if we deny total depravity and make salvation conditioned on the sinner, then we deny grace. Total depravity establishes us with grace because it leaves us with nowhere to go but to Christ for all of salvation according to God's mercy and grace.


Unconditional election shows us that God chose a people out of this mess of fallen humanity, those who did not deserve salvation or any other blessing, and conditioned all of their salvation on Christ. The Bible says that God left the rest to their own way, what they wanted. God commands all who hear the Gospel to believe and repent. Election does not mean that man does not choose. All men choose, but if left to ourselves, we will choose anything but God's way of salvation conditioned on Christ (Romans 3:10-18).


Now if God leaves salvation up to man's free will, then no one will be saved. That's not grace.

What makes a sinner think he would choose God's way and another would not?

It is because he thinks he is better than the one who does not choose God. This is self-righteousness.

But what if we realize that none of us on our own would choose God? Then where does that leave us?

It leaves us to the mercy of God's grace, and He reveals it in His Gospel and commands you to believe it. If you refuse, you have no one to blame but yourself.


Definite atonement shows us the only ground of salvation. It shows us that Christ came to establish a righteousness that would demand the salvation and final glory of everyone for whom He died. All for whom He died shall be saved.


Who are they?

He said it (John 10:27-30). Now you are commanded to believe that His blood, His atonement, His cross, His death, His righteousness, makes the only difference between saved and lost.


Universal atonement leaves us to believe that Christ's blood and righteousness, in and of itself, makes no difference, as it says He died for those in Hell just as much as for those in Heaven. It leaves salvation ultimately in the hands of the ungodly sinner, who has no fear of God before his eyes. That would doom all of us. Passages of scripture that use the word all and every do not teach a universal atonement (Hebrews 2:9ff.).

Which establishes our hearts with grace?


Irresistible grace shows us that God the Holy Spirit brings God's elect into salvation by convincing them of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. It shows that by nature we all hate the light of the Gospel that shows us how we are lost and our deeds are evil. We are commanded to seek and believe that light and to reject all else in salvation.


It is true that man by nature will refuse to believe and resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). This is the general call of the Gospel.

But why do sinners refuse it?

It is not because they do not have the faculties of mind and reason and will. People can choose what they want. But by nature we do not want salvation God's way, so as to glorify Him, exalt Christ, and exclude boasting in ourselves. By nature we want it our way. Those who believe that their faith makes the difference, their choice, which establishes our hearts with grace.


Perseverance of the saints shows us that we are kept by the power of God based on the righteousness of Christ, and all who are convinced of God's Gospel will continue in the faith seeing themselves as certain for heaven based on the merits of Christ.


The established heart has to do with a person who is assured of salvation. Many people have assurance of salvation to one degree or another. This assurance, in and of itself, is not the main issue. The main issue is --


WHAT IS THE GROUND OF YOUR ASSURANCE?

If your ground of assurance is not the grace of God in Christ, then your assurance is presumption. Your heart is not established with grace until you see yourself as dead to sin and dead to the law. As long as you see any possibility of condemnation based on your sins, or any hope of assurance, glory, or reward, based on your obedience, your heart is not established with grace. God's people persevere in believing that their final glory is certain based on the righteousness of Christ.


"Meats" here refers to any deeds of the law or anything that men by nature think make the difference between saved and lost, holy and unholy, fit or unfit, certain or uncertain. Any notion of any part of salvation, including assurance of final glory based on anything other than the imputed righteousness of Christ is opposed to the Gospel, opposed to grace, and opposed to the liberty we have in Christ (Galatians 5:1-3). Believers are not to allow anyone to bring them into such bondage. Believers are not to be tossed to and fro with these things that bring uncertainties to our minds. We are commanded to have our hearts established with grace. And any doctrine that serves that purpose is good.


III. THE JUDGMENT OF GRACE (Hebrews 13:10) -- "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle."


Here we are told not to speak peace to anyone who seeks salvation or any part of it by deeds of law, based on anything other than the merits of Christ. Our altar is Christ. All who reject Him, who are not submitted to His righteousness, have no rights or privileges at our altar. They are lost and their deeds are evil. We cannot have fellowship with them (Galatians 6:14-16; 2 John 9-11). We must follow Christ and be separate from the world in this sense, even though it brings about their hatred (Hebrews 13:11). But our hearts must be established with grace.


As to the charge that this will lead or encourage people to sin or to be complacent or lazy in the fight against sin, the Bible disagrees -- Hebrews 10:18-25

Bill Parker

PERSEVERANCE OF GOD'S SAINTS

Salvation By Grace Completed


God's people know that all of salvation, which includes our preservation, perseverance and final glorification, is conditioned on Christ our Surety according to God's promise. We know the only true God who made the promise of eternal life conditioned on Christ, and we know the only true Christ who merited for us all grace here and all glory hereafter. We are fully persuaded that what God has promised, HE IS ABLE TO PERFORM. Our confidence is not in ourselves, nor in our obedience, nor is our confidence in the fruit of the Spirit and what the Holy Spirit enables us to do. OUR CONFIDENCE IS IN GOD OUR SAVIOR, BASED UPON THE MERITS OF THE ATONING BLOOD AND IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST, APART FROM ANYTHING DONE BY OR DONE IN US.


We are encouraged and motivated by the absolute certainty of salvation conditioned on Christ alone which produces true love and loyalty to Christ and His sheep. This causes us to delight and be diligent to obey God from a spirit of adoption and in the use of all the means which God has provided for our preservation. This brings us to the blessed Gospel doctrine of THE PERSEVERANCE OF GOD'S SAINTS. This teaches that if God has chosen sinners absolutely and unconditionally to eternal life, and has conditioned all of their eternal salvation upon His Son; and if Christ, the Son became incarnate and met every condition for their eternal salvation; and if God the Holy Spirit effectively applies to them all that God had purposed for them and all that Christ had merited for them, then these without fail shall be saved and preserved unto final glory. THEY CANNOT FALL AWAY, LOSE THEIR SALVATION AND BE FINALLY AND TOTALLY LOST.


If God has accepted us in Christ, the Beloved, and we have been sanctified and called by His Spirit, brought from condemnation unto justification and life, then we will persevere and continue, and we can never be condemned again or brought back under God's just wrath. Being preserved by the grace of God, based on the imputed righteousness of Christ, we will persevere and continue by faith on to final glorification. The idea that any justified sinner could ever be lost again, unjustified, comes from an ignorance of the imputed righteousness of Christ, the only ground of justification, and the false notion that salvation is conditioned on the sinner. We all by nature, knowing that sin against God brought us into our lost state, believe that obedience unto God can regain His favor. Therefore, thinking that obedience can gain it back, we by nature think that sin can lose it. This is the religion of works, inspired by Satan to keep sinners condemned. We must see that all who truly believe God's Gospel and truly rest in Christ for ALL of salvation believe this blessed truth of perseverance unto final glory, and that it is impossible to believe otherwise if we truly believe God's promise of salvation by grace, salvation conditioned on Christ alone.


I. THE HEART OF PERSEVERANCE IN THE FAITH.


We must first see that perseverance is perseverance IN THE FAITH. Faith here is the faith of God's elect. It speaks of saving, justifying faith which believes God's Gospel -- God's promise of eternal salvation and final glory conditioned on Christ and based on His righteousness alone, according to God's Word. Perseverance in the faith is continuing to believe that God is faithful to save us, keep us, bless us, and bring us to glory based on the righteousness of Christ. Saving faith sees that our final glory is not conditioned on our perseverance, therefore, saving faith cancels out perseverance as being a condition of our final glory. Our persevering in the faith is an evidence, not a condition, of the certainty of our being finally glorified. All of the "if" passages in the Scripture concerning the believer's final glory, such as Colossians 1:23 and Hebrews 3:6,14 do not teach that believer's will stay saved and be finally glorified if they meet the condition of perseverance. These passages show that one of the main evidences of their salvation and of the certainty of their final glorification is that they continue to expect all grace and all glory based on the merits of Christ. This is the hope in which believers abide.


Here we see that the heart of perseverance is the absolute certainty of eternal salvation and final glory based on the righteousness of Christ. If we are in Christ by imputation and by faith, we are "dead to sin" (Romans 6:2) and "dead to the law" (Romans 7:4). This means we are dead to the guilt and defilement of sin. Sin can no longer bring us under condemnation, because Christ has satisfied God's law and justice for us. He has removed the guilt and defilement of sin by making an atonement for all our sins. Being dead to sin has nothing to do with our character and conduct. We still have to struggle with the presence, power, and influence of sin in everything we do. But sin can no longer bring us back under guilt and condemnation, nor can it defile us so as to block our free access to God. This is all based on what Christ has done. To be dead to the law means that the law of God can no longer curse us because we no longer owe a debt to the law. Christ has paid that debt in full, and the law can demand no obedience from us for the purposes of saving ourselves, keeping ourselves saved, making ourselves holy and fit for God's presence, or for making our final glory certain. The law demands obedience and love from us, but not for these reasons. It demands obedience and love as we are motivated by the absolute certainty of final glory based on the righteousness of Christ.


The heart of perseverance in the faith then is believing that we are certain for heaven's glory as if we were already there based on the merits of Christ. This is not presumption because it is not based on anything we do or anything we do not do. It is based on what Christ has done. This means that believers are to see themselves as complete in Christ (completely forgiven and pardoned, completely fit and qualified for God's presence, and completely entitled to the whole inheritance of grace) (Colossians 2:9-10)before we take the first step in obedience and perseverance. If we take any step in obedience and perseverance while thinking that it will make more saved, more fit or holier, or more certain for heaven, then it is all legal and against faith. Again, we are to persevere in believing that our whole salvation is certain based on the righteousness of Christ. Any person who claims to believe in Christ, who claims their salvation is by grace, but who believes we can lose that salvation by our sinning, does not believe salvation by grace. They believe in a cleverly disguised system of works, and all their obedience and perseverance is legal, dead works, fruit unto death, as it is the result of self-righteousness. They deny the true Christ (Galatians 2:21; 5:1-3). If there is any possibility of condemnation, then nothing we do can be of faith and be pleasing unto God. Any assurance of salvation a person has under such thoughts is presumption because it is not based on what Christ accomplished alone. Again, a person can only persevere in the faith as that person sees the whole of salvation completed and accomplished and certain in Christ.


II. PERSEVERANCE CONSIDERED IN SEVERAL POINTS OF TRUTH.


A. FROM A CONSIDERATION OF GOD'S REDEMPTIVE CHARACTER -- God has made a promise to save and to glorify all who come to Him for eternal life based on the blood and righteousness of His Son. He has engaged Himself (every attribute of His character) to fulfill that promise. He redemptive glory is engaged in this great salvation, and He is faithful and powerful to fulfill all that He has promised, including bringing His elect to final glory (Malachi 3:6; John 10:27-30 Romans 8:28-39; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 1:12; 4:18; Jude 24). God will preserve His people by His free and sovereign grace.


We who believe the Gospel know the God who has made the promise, and we know the Christ who has merited for us all grace here and all glory hereafter. We are fully persuaded that what God has promised, He is able to perform. Romans 4:20-22 -- The promise of God to Abraham was eternal salvation conditioned on Abraham's Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ. God had promised Abraham that He would justify the ungodly based on the merits of Christ's whole work of redemption on his behalf, NOT BASED ON ABRAHAM'S WORKS. Abraham believed God's promise, and all the merits of Christ's whole works of redemption, His very righteousness which would be established, was charged to Abraham's account. To believe that any whom God purposed to save, for whom Christ died, and to whom the Holy Spirit has applied the benefits of redemption could ever lose that life, that salvation, is to deny God's faithfulness, power and love, all His attributes engaged in the fulfillment of His promise of salvation conditioned on Christ alone. It is to call God a liar.


B. FROM A CONSIDERATION OF CHRIST'S WORK OF REDEMPTION.


Romans 5:9-10, 21; 8:30-34 -- Again, any notion that a true believer could ever lose salvation comes from ignorance of Christ's Person and His righteousness as the only ground of salvation. Sinners are saved and kept saved not based on their obedience, but based solely upon the obedience and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS DEMANDS THE ETERNAL JUSTIFICATION AND LIFE OF EVERY SINNER WHOM HE REPRESENTED, FOR WHOM HE DIED. To believe that any sinner for whom Christ died or to believe that any saved sinner could lose salvation is a denial of both Christ's Person and His righteousness. On the other hand, any notion that a justified sinner cannot lose his salvation that is not based on the imputed righteousness of Christ is self-righteousness and works salvation. For example, I used to believe "once saved always saved" when I was ignorant of the only ground of salvation. What I believed was that I was saved and kept saved based on what I thought the Holy Spirit had done and was doing in me rather than what Christ had done for me. This is just as deadly as openly saying that a believer can lose his/her salvation.


Christ and all whom He represents, for whom He died, are eternally accepted before God based solely upon the satisfaction He made as our Substitute. He paid the sin debt in full and secured by His righteous obedience all grace here and all glory hereafter for us. God the Father chose us and conditioned all of our salvation and all that it includes upon Christ who became incarnate and fulfilled every condition so that we might receive and keep forever the eternal inheritance of grace.


Hebrews 2:17-18 -- God the Son became incarnate in order to faithfully fulfil His duties as our High Priest. He did and suffered everything God required of us to make reconciliation for our sins. This reconciliation is the actual accomplishment of our redemption, the actual bringing in of that righteousness which enables God to just and Justifier of the ungodly. Christ did not become incarnate, suffer, and die in order to make salvation possible for those who would meet certain conditions. He came to save a people, and when He established this righteousness, reconciliation was made for their sins. HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, THEREFORE, DEMANDS THEIR JUSTIFICATION AND ETERNAL LIFE, ACCORDING TO STRICT LAW AND JUSTICE. God would be unjust to eternally punish those for whom Christ was punished. He is just to save them based on Christ's righteousness alone. CHRIST IS OUR SURETY to bring us to the state of grace AND to all future blessedness. And God has excluded every other way of saving us, keeping us saved or blessing us.


Justified sinners are comforted by Christ's greatness and power along with His goodness and love. He performs ALL of His duties on our behalf. If someone were to claim that His love and compassion for us might turn to anger because of the greatness and frequency of our sins, which is what those who believe we can lose salvation are saying, look at the alternative. What could we do to pacify His anger and regain His favor? All our righteousnesses are as "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6)when it comes to the ground of salvation. At our best state, we are all unprofitable servants. Future reformation will not pay for past sins. Repentance will not pay for sins. God has excluded all atonement for sin except the precious blood of Christ, and all other ways are legal and mercenary, self-righteous ways that deny God and Christ and oppose grace. There is no other alternative which will glorify God, exalt Christ, and remove all ground of boasting in sinners (Hebrews 10:18).


C. FROM A CONSIDERATION OF THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.


Philippians 1:6 -- The good work here is the new birth which includes regeneration and conversion, evidenced initially by justifying faith and repentance from dead works and former idolatry. It is begun when the Holy Spirit imparts a new nature, the very nature of Christ, and causes us to believe God's truth. He convinces us of the impossibility of salvation conditioned on the sinner, and of salvation based upon anything other than the imputed righteousness of Christ. It is performed or finished when we are brought to final glory, when Christ brings us to Himself to heaven, and we are free from the presence, power and influence of sin forever. If God is the Author of this work, it will not fail. It will be finished.


Ephesians 1:13-14 -- Sealed means confirmed in our minds by the absolute certainty of salvation conditioned on Christ alone. Regeneration is a radical and supernatural change of the inner nature, through which the soul is made spiritually alive, and the new life which is implanted is immortal. The nature of the change which occurs in regeneration and conversion is a sufficient guarantee that the life imparted shall be permanent.


Hebrews 11:15 -- We have repented of former idolatry and dead works, and we see that only eternal death and everlasting misery is the portion of all those who either refuse or forsake God's promise of salvation based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. Thank God we also see that our character and conduct is totally excluded from the ground of saving us, keeping us saved or even recommending us unto God. Our good works do not make us more saved, and our sins cannot bring us back under God's wrath (Romans 6:14). All these blessed truths and more cause us to love Christ and trust Him more and more.


1 John 2:19-20 -- These who have this unction are those in whom God has been glorified, who by faith plead Christ's righteousness as the only ground of salvation and have repented from dead works and former idolatry. They have taken sides with Christ, to the glory of God, and with God's people against the world. This is our being sealed as justified sinners by the Holy Spirit shedding abroad in our hearts the love of God, and our receiving, as children of God, not the spirit of bondage but the Spirit of adoption and love which the world cannot recognize. This unction is evidenced by our having been convinced that God will justify no sinner based on anything other than the imputed righteousness of Christ. It is one of God's means as a preservative against our falling away. Having been sealed into the truth, we continue and persevere by faith based on the absolute certainty of salvation conditioned on Christ alone.


Compare this with "They went out from us."


How could they leave?

They were not convinced that there was no other hope for sinners other than the merits of Christ, even though they themselves agreed to the truth and had separated for a time. They had not repented from dead works and idolatry. They changed doctrines but they had never changed gods. But those who have this unction have repented from dead works, and they are joint-heirs with Christ and have no connection with antichrist. We want nothing more to do with idols and will not cry peace to any who worship a god who cannot save. Having been convinced by God the Holy Spirit, we cannot be unconvinced by natural conscience or Satan's deceits.


D. FROM A CONSIDERATION OF THE BELIEVER'S STATE.


Romans 6:14 -- Under grace means to be justified based on a righteousness that answers the demands of God's law and justice. Therefore, it means salvation is not conditioned on the sinner who by nature has no such righteousness, but on Christ alone who brought and provided such a righteousness. Any sinner who believes salvation conditioned on himself is under law, void of righteousness, owing a debt to law and just he cannot pay. The law curses him and demands his eternal death. Any sinner who is justified by the blood and righteousness of Christ is under grace, and since they are not under law, they cannot be condemned for having violated God's law. The law cannot justify any sinner based on that sinner's character and conduct, but the law cannot condemn any sinner based on the righteousness of Christ imputed. So, those who are saved are under grace and further sin cannot possibly cause them to perish because they are not charged to them (Romans 8:33-34).


As long as anyone believes that they can gain salvation based upon their do's and don't's, based upon anything other than the blood and righteousness of Christ, they are under law. As long as anyone believes they can lose salvation based upon their do's and don't's, they are under law. Those who have been born again have been justified freely by His grace in Christ, based on His righteousness which is unchangeable and everlasting. They are under grace and can never be brought back under law. If they are under law today, they have always been under law, and under the wrath of God. Once God's wrath has been removed by the blood of Christ, according to strict law and justice, that wrath can never be brought back, according to law and justice. Those born of God, justified by the righteousness of Christ could no more be condemned than Christ could be condemned. Those adopted into His family, could no more lose their sonship than Christ, who is the Son of God by nature, could lose His.


E. FROM A CONSIDERATION OF THE NATURE OF ACCEPTABLE OBEDIENCE.


Romans 12:1 -- Every exhortation for justified sinners to obey God and avoid sin is given based upon the absolute certainty of salvation and final glorification conditioned on Christ alone. Since all acceptable obedience is motivated by that absolute certainty of salvation conditioned on Christ, and since the very nature of saving faith is the full expectation of salvation and all that it includes as sure and certain based on the imputed righteousness of Christ, then we must see that whatever is not of faith is sin and not pleasing unto God. Good works are works performed by justified sinners not aimed at saving themselves, nor receiving blessing from God, nor keeping themselves saved. They are works performed based on the fact that all these things have already been attained by the obedience and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, acceptable obedience in the obedience of a willing, loving bondslave, not an unwilling, legal mercenary.


We must see then that any sinner who thinks that salvation can be lost, cannot serve God acceptably or please God (Romans 8:7-8), because all of His obedience is aimed at saving himself and keeping himself saved. He is yet a servant of sin, yet in unbelief, under the bondage of the law. All his efforts and attempts are fruit unto death as they are motivated by a legal spirit, opposed to the promise of God in Christ and, therefore, to the very glory of God in salvation. God will not receive nor accept any sinner based on dead works, so apart from assurance of final glory based on the imputed righteousness of Christ, it is impossible to please God and to serve Him acceptably.

CONCLUSION -- A WORD CONCERNING DOUBT.


We know that true believers can be and are beset with doubts and misgivings, especially when we see ourselves with so much remaining sin and self-righteousness and when we confront things in providence we do not understand. But the sad things is that many who claim to believe salvation by grace promote such doubts and misgivings as if they were evidences of humility. They are not. We who truly believe the Gospel should treat such doubts and misgivings as we would any other sin. We should be ashamed of them and run to Christ and to God's Word for help and encouragement. It is God the Holy Spirit's work to establish our hearts with the absolute certainties of God's grace in Christ (Hebrews 13:9). When Paul, in consideration of the greatness of his sin in Romans 7:14-25, grieved over his own sinfulness, it was not to promote doubts and misgivings concerning his salvation. Remember how he quickly wrote -- "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). His whole point was that we as justified sinners are always dependent upon God's grace in Christ. We are always in need of Christ's blood and righteousness for our whole salvation, and we can never have any confidence in the flesh. We must always say with the hymn writer --


My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus' blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name.

On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.



When we as believers are caught up in doubts and misgivings, it is because we are looking to ourselves and not to Christ. True perseverance shows us that we must never take our eyes off of Christ. We must rejoice in Him alone and have confidence in God our Savior. We must realize that "If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). This is why the believer's motto and confession in perseverance is -- "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ"
(Galatians 6:14).


Bill Parker

INVINCIBLE GRACE

God's Grace Sovereignly Applied


Invincible, irresistible, efficacious grace, or effectual calling, is the blessed fact that all whom God had predestinated unto life, all whom He had chosen from the beginning in Divine election, and all for whom Christ obeyed the law and died on the cross, making an atonement for them, must in time be brought from condemnation into the blessed state of justification and salvation. When we speak of effectual calling, we are speaking of the work of the Holy Spirit IN God's elect whereby He sovereignly applies the great salvation that God purposed before time and Christ purchased in time for the sinner. What God's elect already possess in the person of Christ, as He by Himself earned all grace and all glory for them, is sovereignly applied to their persons, in each and every generation, in time. The application of salvation to their persons is called the new birth which includes:

(1) Regeneration, or quickening by the Holy Spirit, wherein He gives spiritual life to a spiritually dead sinner, and

(2) Conversion, whereby the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel brings that sinner to saving faith and true, godly repentance. Regeneration and conversion are always together. Where the Spirit gives life, He always gives faith and repentance. This is the invincible, effectual calling of the Holy Spirit.


Two important things we must understand about the work of the Holy Spirit in God's elect.

(1) All the work of the Holy Spirit IN a sinner is the fruit and effect of Christ's work FOR the sinner. In other words, Christ's work, His righteousness, is the only ground of salvation. None of the work of the Holy Spirit IN a sinner forms any part of the ground of salvation. The work of the Holy Spirit IN a sinner is as necessary for salvation as the work of Christ FOR the sinner, but not for the same reason. Christ's work is the ground of salvation. The Holy Spirit's work IN a sinner is the fruit and effect. The is important because it is necessary that Christ as Mediator between God and men have all the pre-eminence in salvation. The triune Godhead is glorified in the salvation of sinners based on the merits of Christ alone. Without Christ's work FOR sinners, there would be no work of the Spirit IN sinners (John 16:7; 1 Corinthians 15:14-19). Also consider that the main work of the Holy Spirit IN sinners is to point them to Christ and cause them to value His work for them (John 16:13-14).


(2) Another thing to remember is that this work of the Holy Spirit IN sinners is not called invincible or irresistible because the Holy Spirit forces us to come to Christ against our wills. It is true that apart from the Holy Spirit's work we will never choose to come to Christ for salvation. If left to ourselves we will always choose our own way and perish, but God the Holy Spirit in salvation, in true conversion, changes our wills. God makes us willing in the day of His power (Psalm 110:3), and He does it by using His truth in the Gospel to enlighten us and teach us and convince us that there is no hope of salvation outside of God's free and sovereign grace in Christ (John 6:45; 16:8-11).


This effectual, invincible calling is the work of God the Holy Spirit whereby He through the preaching of the Gospel convinces us of sin (of the absolute impossibility of salvation conditioned on the sinner), enlightens our minds in the knowledge of God in Christ (how He can be just to justify the ungodly based on the imputed righteousness of Christ), and draws out our affections and wills toward God as both a just God and a Savior in Christ. The Holy Spirit persuades us and enables us to embrace Christ by faith and plead His righteousness alone as the only ground of salvation, freely offered to us in the Gospel.


This is absolutely necessary as we all by nature are spiritually kin to Satan and totally opposed in our minds to God being glorified in salvation conditioned on Christ alone. We all by nature believe salvation conditioned on the sinner, and go about trying to establish a righteousness of our own (Ephesians 2:1-3). This is the product of the powers of Satan and darkness, self-righteousness, self-love and pride which we inherited from our natural father Adam. Therefore, it is NECESSARY that we be BORN AGAIN by the Spirit of God through the word of God (John 3:3,5).


God must do right, and just as Adam's sin is imputed and his fallen nature imparted to each one whom he represented in each generation, when we are born by natural generation, even so, Christ's righteousness is imputed and His very nature imparted to each and every one whom He represented in each successive generation, when we are born again by regeneration and conversion. Just as the sin of our representative Adam plunged all whom he represented into guilt, total depravity and all particulars involved in this state, even so, the righteousness of our Representative Christ Jesus demands that each one whom He represented be made partakers of all grace here and all glory hereafter. Adam's sin insured that we be made partakers of spiritual death, and Christ's righteousness insures that all the elect be made partakers of spiritual life (Ephesians 2:4-5; John 6:37, 44-45; 10:16; Romans 8:28-30). Consider the great Gospel truth of invincible grace in light of the following:


I. PURPOSED BEFORE TIME, FULFILLED AND APPLIED IN TIME.


A. Whatever God purposes before time must have its accomplishment in time. Christ is the LAMB SLAIN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD in the mind and purpose of God. For salvation to be obtained and completed, this must take place in time according to the Father's will in Christ's own Person as God the Son incarnate. This actual event was always sure and certain, yet it must have had its accomplishment in time on the cross of Calvary.


Galatians 4:4-5-- In time Christ came, being made of a woman, under the law, and our sins were IMPUTED to Christ who went to the cross and paid our sin debt and perfectly satisfied law and justice on our behalf. Jeremiah called Him the LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. In time, Christ came and actually established that righteousness. Daniel said that messiah would come and make an end of sin by satisfaction and establishing that righteousness. Christ came and did what was purposed for Him to do before the foundation of the world. Both Jeremiah and Daniel, for example, were saved based on that atonement yet to be accomplished in time.


In order for God to be just and punish Christ for our sins, sins actually had to be imputed to Him. HE HAD TO BE MADE SIN (2 Corinthians 5:21a). He was already made sin in the mind and purpose of God, but not yet in His own Person as God the Son incarnate. He was set up from everlasting as God the Son incarnate, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, but He had not yet actually taken into union with His Divine Person that perfect, sinless humanity formed by the Spirit. In the mind and purpose of God, Christ was always ONE WITH THE ELECT in the view of God's law and justice BY REPRESENTATION, but it was necessary that He be made ONE with us BY IMPUTATION. So Christ in eternity past became a partaker of our nature in the mind and purpose of God WITH A VIEW TOWARD His incarnation and His becoming a partaker of our sin and guilt by imputation. When this took place in time, there was an actual death, an actual separation of the Father and the Son, an actual atonement, a righteousness established, all in fulfillment of God's eternal purpose of grace to glorify Himself in salvation.


B. It can be said that ALL of God's elect in every generation are saved in the Person of Christ, their Representative, yet not in their own persons UNTIL REGENERATION AND CONVERSION (salvation). Ephesians 2:6 states that we are already seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, not in our own persons, but in the person of our Representative. Christ has by God the Father's appointment performed and satisfied all the conditions of the salvation of His elect in order that we should most certainly enjoy all the grace and glory prepared and promised in the way and manner determined by God.


Christ actually delivered us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us 2000 years ago. He purged our sins by Himself. He perfected God's elect forever by His one offering as their Substitute, Surety, and Representative. Christ alone satisfied all the demands of God's law and justice thereby establishing a perfect unchangeable righteousness for each and every one of God's elect 2000 years ago. Each and every one of God's elect were, at that time, actually entitled to all spiritual blessings to be communicated and freely bestowed unto us, in God's way and time, without any dependence upon any condition to be performed by us. This is why our reconciliation, justification and all of salvation are in the Scriptures spoken of as things actually done and accomplished in the death of Christ. It is not as though all of God's elect were actually justified and saved in their own persons at that time. Most had not been born yet, but because of the absolute certainty of our regeneration and conversion in time, it is spoken of as if it were already accomplished.


Always keep in mind the vital principles of representation and imputation, and never lose the distinction between Christ as Head and Representative and the ones whom He represents. We know that we all sinned in Adam, and, therefore, we all became guilty, defiled, and condemned in our representative, Adam, yet not in our own individual persons until by natural generation and imputation we become so personally. In time, when we are born into this world by natural generation, we are born in sin, in a state of wrath and condemnation, guilty and defiled by representation and imputation. In the very same way all of God's elect were purged from sin and justified in Christ our Representative, yet not in our own individual persons until by imputation, regeneration, and conversion, we become actual partakers of Christ's nature, Spirit, and imputed righteousness. This is the application and communication of grace. THIS IS EFFICACIOUS, IRRESISTIBLE GRACE!


II. IN THE NEW BIRTH, COMMON TO ALL TRUE BELIEVERS.


A. PAUL'S CONVERSION, A PATTERN (Galatians 1:15-16; 1 Timothy 1:15-16) -- We know that the details of each person's conversion may be different in the realm of circumstances and temporal situations, but the process and the issues are the same for all of God's people. Consider the Apostle Paul as an example. Before his regeneration and conversion, before he was born again, before justifying faith and repentance from dead works, he was a guilty, defiled, servant of sin, a member of Satan's spiritual family, alienated from God, and all his efforts at religion and morality were dead works and fruit unto death. Even at this time he was already saved in the mind and purpose of God, yet not in his own person. His sins were already purged, put away, and he was already perfected forever in the Person of Christ his Representative, yet certainly not in his own person. Righteousness had been established for him, yet righteousness had not yet been imputed to him. All spiritual blessings had been secured for him, yet none had yet been communicated to him. Christ, his Representative, had purchased for him all grace here and all glory hereafter, yet he had not yet become a partaker of any of this in his own person. He was righteous and holy, purged and justified in the Person of Christ his Surety, but he was guilty and defiled, condemned and under the power of darkness in his own person, BEFORE REGENERATION AND CONVERSION, BEFORE SALVATION.


We might note that even before Paul's actual conversion, he, like all of God's elect, was blessed of God in temporal and providential ways. God had determined before the foundation of the world to bring this man to the point in time when he would be saved, born again. But before his conversion, Paul attributed all of the temporal and providential blessings to a god of his own imagination, not the true and living God. This is the experience of all of God's elect. We may look back in our lives and see many times when God preserved us and blessed us temporally and physically, but before we came to faith in Christ and true repentance, we attributed it all to a false god, a god who cannot save.


Paul was purged and made righteous and holy in his own person when in true conversion, which includes regeneration, faith, and repentance, he was made an actual partaker of Christ's nature, spirit, and righteousness. Before believing, before justifying faith, Paul was not purged in his own person. He was defiled and had no fellowship with God. Remember, the wrath of God abides on all who believe not on the Son of God (John 3:18,36), and God's wrath cannot abide where sin has been purged. An unbeliever is not purged, cleansed, justified or yet a partaker of any grace or glory in his own person, although like Saul of Tarsus, he may be so in the person of Christ, His Representative. If he is, then at some time he, by the power of the Spirit of God, will hear and believe the Gospel. Justifying faith and repentance from former idolatry and dead works is the evidence of election and that Christ represented and atoned for that person's sins.


B. All of us are born under the covenant of works, under law, owing a debt to God's law and justice. There is an actual passage in time between the covenant of works to which we are born by nature and the covenant of grace which is the NEW BIRTH by the Holy Spirit of God. The elect of God must in time be made one with Christ by IMPUTATION of His righteousness to them (2 Corinthians 5:21b) and in REGENERATION, wherein we become actual partakers of His nature, His spirit, that powerful principle of holiness which enables us to receive Him and His righteousness by FAITH and to repent from dead works and former idolatry. Righteousness alone demands justification and life according to God's promise and consistent with strict law and inflexible justice; and until we become actual partakers of Christ's righteousness by imputation and faith, it is impossible for a holy God to justify us and receive us into His fellowship, in our own persons. Only those who receive the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by Jesus Christ. Until we are united to Christ by faith through the preaching of the Gospel, we remain guilty, defiled, under wrath in our own persons, and lost.


C. Titus 3:4 -- This is the manifestation of God's goodness and love to us PERSONALLY in a special manner by His Spirit. The grace of God, the love of Christ, APPEARED to us when we were enlightened to God's Gospel of salvation conditioned on Christ, where His righteousness is revealed (2 Corinthians 4:6). This does not oppose God's purpose before time, nor Christ's purchase in time. Paul seeks to magnify the grace of God in our conversion. Here, God reveals Himself in a certain way to His elect as both a JUST GOD AND A SAVIOR based on the blood and the imputed righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 45:21-22, 24-25).

Who is commanded to look and be saved?

Those already saved?

NO! Active idolaters are commanded to look and be saved, to repent of their idolatry.


On what ground are they to seek salvation?

The imputed righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel.


Titus 3:5 -- What is the NEW BIRTH?

What actually takes place in a sinner when he is born from above by the Spirit of God?

Paul tells us. That sinner is REGENERATED (given life or quickened) and RENEWED (converted in newness of life) (Romans 6:17-18; 7:4-6). The Agent in this new birth is the Holy Spirit who makes us actual partakers of the very nature of Christ (His spirit, His righteousness), and the instrument is the Gospel whereby our hearts are purified by faith and our consciences are purged by the blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit imparts a new, holy principle in our hearts, the very nature of Christ, enlightens our minds to the glory of God revealed in the promise of salvation conditioned on Christ, and we are brought from death unto life. God the Father actually imputed the very righteousness of Christ to each one of His elect in each successive generation. The Holy Spirit imparts new life unto them and renews their minds with the truth of the Gospel, overcomes their natural prejudices against it, and brings them to faith in Christ and repentance from dead works. Now these things take place as God has ordained from the beginning, and they are never separate according to Scripture. They can be distinguished but never separated. Where there is the imputation of righteousness, there is regeneration and conversion. Where there is faith, there is life (John 6:54).


D. Salvation is not only a thing determined and resolved in the mind and purpose of God, but it is actually and completely accomplished by the atonement of Christ (Titus 3:6), and in the actual application of it is made in time to the elect in regeneration and conversion. THIS IS THE ELECTS' OPEN PASSAGE INTO THE STATE OF GRACE, AND WITHOUT THIS THERE IS NO ENTRY INTO GRACE AND GLORY. Remember, there is a vital, unbreakable connection between God's purpose in election as the cause of salvation, Christ's work for us as the ground of salvation, and the Holy Spirit's work in us to apply salvation.


Ephesians 2:1-5 -- We were spiritually dead and condemned in the person of Adam our representative, but not in our own persons until we were born by natural generation. We were spiritually alive, purged from sin, redeemed, and even glorified in the Person of Christ our Surety, but not in our own persons until we are born again by regeneration and conversion, and not finally glorified in our own persons until we pass from this life into the next (Romans 8:30; Ephesians 2:6). The application of salvation to our own persons, whereby we are made actual partakers of justification and life in this world, is just as sure and certain as Christ's death on Calvary. This application is the effectual call of God the Holy Spirit through the preaching of God's Gospel. God the Holy Spirit is the sovereign Agent who quickens spiritually dead sinners, and the Gospel preached, heard and understood is the means, the very power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17) by which He calls and converts God's people (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 1 Peter 1:23-24; James 1:18). Here we see that the truth of irresistible grace does not shut any sinner out of the kingdom of God. Sinners exclude themselves by refusing to believe these truths which honor the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Sinners refuse to believe these truths which exclude all occasions and grounds of boasting in themselves (1 Corinthians 1:29-31).


III. OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO PREACH AND HEAR.

A. Someone may object then, "Why preach, why listen, why evangelize, why send missionaries? We don't know if they are God's elect, if Christ died for them, or if the Holy Spirit will quicken and call."


We must see that in all things the secret things belong unto the Lord, but the revealed things belong to us (Deuteronomy 29:29). God has commanded His people, for His glory, to preach the Gospel to all without exception and show sinners their responsibility to believe and repent. Evangelism is not motivated by what we do not know. It is motivated by what we do know! We know that the Gospel preached will have no saving effect upon any sinner apart from the Holy Spirit's effectual call. We know that if any sinner savingly believes God's Gospel, it is due to the power of God in affecting that great change. But we know also that God uses means to save His elect, and we are responsible to use the means to His glory and our good.


We know that the means will be used in every instance of the application of salvation to God's elect. We know that God's elect will hear and believe God's truth. We know that all without exception are commanded to believe it and to seek justification and life based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. We know that all are forbidden to seek salvation any other way upon any other ground. We know that all without exception are responsible to believe God's promise of salvation conditioned on Christ -- HE THAT BELIEVETH SHALL BE SAVED, AND HE THAT BELIEVETH NOT SHALL BE DAMNED. God uses means, and we are commanded and encouraged to be diligent in using the means (Isaiah 55:6-7). Many who claim to believe the doctrines of grace excuse their ambiguous and vague preaching by claiming that if any of their hearers are God's elect, they will hear and believe. This is nothing more than a person seeking to remove the offense of the cross under the guise of exalting God's sovereignty. We should make our preaching plain and distinct and definitive so that sinners, whether they believe it or not, know exactly what we believe and what God's Word says (1 Corinthians 14:8). This is our responsibility.


B. We know that THIS PROMISE OF THE GOSPEL IS SURE AND CERTAIN TO ALL THE SEED (all of God's elect), and that it is made certain by means of faith, believing God's promise of salvation conditioned on Christ (Romans 4:16). There are many things we do not know and have no promise or assurance from God as to the outcome. For example, if you get sick and need an operation, you do not know when you go under the anesthesia whether or not you will wake up. You have no promise from God concerning the certainty of physical health and life, but that does not stop you from seeking after and using the means.


Why?

It is because your physical life is precious to you.


In eternal salvation and life we do have a sure and certain promise from God BASED ON HIS FAITHFULNESS TO FULFILL HIS PROMISE OF SALVATION CONDITIONED ON CHRIST ALONE! We are to tell sinners that GOD WILL JUSTIFY THE UNGODLY, EVEN THEM, BASED ON THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST ALONE. Now, all are commanded to seek after and use the means to gain eternal life.


B. We also know what keeps sinners from the means and in condemnation. John 3:18-20 -- The only thing that keeps a sinner in a state of condemnation is the sinful principles of self-love, self-righteousness and religious pride which cause them to refuse to admit of and repent of former idolatry and dead works. These sinful principles cause a sinner to insist on salvation based on something other than the imputed righteousness of Christ. In the invincible calling, God the Holy Spirit convinces those whom Christ redeemed of the utter impossibility of being saved based on anything other than the imputed righteousness of Christ, and He reveals to them that God is glorified in their salvation conditioned on Christ alone. This makes them willing to be saved and kept saved by grace alone.


Bill Parker