Wednesday, November 22, 2006


This is Part 8 of a continuing series of articles examining the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This statement of faith was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting on June 14, 2000 “to set forth certain teachings which we believe.”

God's Purpose of Grace

Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-8; 1 Samuel 8:4-7,19-22; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 31:31ff.; Matthew 16:18-19; 21:28-45; 24:22,31; 25:34; Luke 1:68-79; 2:29-32; 19:41-44; 24:44-48; John 1:12-14; 3:16; 5:24; 6:44-45,65; 10:27-29; 15:16; 17:6,12,17-18; Acts 20:32; Romans 5:9-10; 8:28-39; 10:12-15; 11:5-7,26-36; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:4-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-11; Colossians 1:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:10,19; Hebrews 11:39–12:2; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:2-5,13; 2:4-10; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:19; 3:2. (Baptist Faith and Message, 2000)

A young seminary student was listening to a debate between Calvinists promoting the sovereign grace of God and a group of the Arminian persuasion (who stress the free will of man). It was a debate so contentious that the class literally divided—one group on one side of the room and the other on the opposite side. Carefully considering the Scriptural arguments on each side, the young man decided he was more in line with the Calvinists. So he walked over to join them and was met with the question, “Why have you come to join us?” His response was, “I came of my own free will!” “Then, you don’t belong here! Get over there with that other bunch!” So, that is what he did. That group greeted him with the same question, “Why have you come to join us?” Without thinking, he honestly answered, “I was sent.” “Then, you don’t belong here! Go away!”

Sometimes, I feel like that young man—that I don’t belong to either camp. Actually I believe in both! Why? That’s what the Bible teaches—the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. If God doesn’t draw us to Christ, we will not come. But if we will not come, then we will not be saved.

How do we reconcile those two seemingly contradictory positions? Spurgeon (a Calvinist with great evangelistic zeal) answered that question, “I never try to reconcile friends.” They are not enemies of each other—but two sides of the same coin—God’s purpose of grace. As we stand on one side of the door of salvation, a sign above reads, “Whosoever will, may come.” But as soon as we walk through that door, and look back, there is another sign that reads, “Chosen from the foundation of the world.”

I know that there was a time in my life that I received Christ as my Lord and Savior, after years of resisting His call and rejecting His claims on my life. With trembling, I know that had I died in my sins, I would have been in hell today and forever. I was responsible for my choice and no one—not a Christian father who set an example for me, not a Christian mother who prayed for me, not a pastor who shared the Gospel with me, not God Himself would be able to fit me for heaven had I insisted on going to hell. Yet, in retrospect, I see the sovereign hand of God directing events, so that I was born in America and not a communist country, taught about Jesus in Sunday School instead of being taken to a mosque, raised in a Christian home rather than by a father and mother who were atheists—and all the other events, large and small that served as prods to drive me along the path to Christ.

That is the amazing grace of God! Some think God unjust that few are saved and that many will be lost. But God would not be unjust to condemn us all, for we are all sinners. The astonishing thing is not that there are people who will be lost, but that anyone will be saved! It is not justice, but mercy that we need and that is available.

That grace is at work in the elect. Who are the elect? They are the “whosoever wills,” and the non-elect are the “whosoever won’ts.” God, in His foreknowledge, is aware of the name of all who will come to Him—and they will come to Him, or He would be mistaken and that cannot be. However, I am still responsible for my choice. We are not automatons mindlessly programmed—mere puppets on a string that God is manipulating. Still—He is God. Salvation is all of grace and for His glory—no room for boasting on our part. We would not even have faith to believe in Him had He not provided it.

Think of the words of John Newton—once such a profane and wicked man deserving condemnation—who penned the immortal hymn, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,That saved a wretch like me.... I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now, I see.” We could not save ourselves—only God could. We were lost and not looking for God, but He came and found us. We could not see and only God could open our eyes.

Once we come to Christ, we are kept by Him. The eternal salvation promised is a promise kept—not by our goodness, but God’s faithfulness. We persevere in faith because of the powerful grace of God at work within us. The eighth chapter of Romans begins with “no condemnation” and ends with “no separation!”

If you are having difficulty getting a grip on these truths—don’t worry—let them get a grip on you! Then we will be in good company. The brilliant mind and recipient of exceeding revelation, the Apostle Paul responded to God’s purpose of grace that way:

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Rom.11:33-36 NIV)

Thursday, November 09, 2006


This is Part 7 of a continuing series of articles examining the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This statement of faith was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting on June 14, 2000 “to set forth certain teachings which we believe.”


Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior.
B. Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.
C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life.
D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

Genesis 3:15; Exodus 3:14-17; 6:2-8; Matthew 1:21; 4:17; 16:21-26; 27:22-28:6; Luke 1:68-69; 2:28-32; John 1:11-14,29; 3:3-21,36; 5:24; 10:9,28-29; 15:1-16; 17:17; Acts 2:21; 4:12; 15:11; 16:30-31; 17:30-31; 20:32; Romans 1:16-18; 2:4; 3:23-25; 4:3ff.; 5:8-10; 6:1-23; 8:1-18,29-39; 10:9-10,13; 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18,30; 6:19-20; 15:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Galatians 2:20; 3:13; 5:22-25; 6:15; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-22; 4:11-16; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:9-22; 3:1ff.; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 9:24-28; 11:1-12:8,14; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:2-23; 1 John 1:6-2:11; Revelation 3:20; 21:1-22:5.
(Baptist Faith and Message, 2000)

Picture yourself trapped in a burning building. You are screaming for help. There is no way of escape. When hope seems gone, a firefighter chops through an adjacent wall with his ax, lifts you and carries you through the blinding smoke to a ladder. Emerging from the flames engulfing the building, you tearfully, thankfully cry, “I’m saved! I’m saved!”

So, we are in spiritual peril from the judgment of God—the flames of hell threaten to sweep over us. There is no way of escape that we can find on our own. Then Jesus comes. He lifts us out and we are saved. That is a picture of our salvation.

Another picture is of a slave on the auction block. In Bible times, slavery was a grim reality. Think of how brutal it would be to find you are in bondage without hope of release. You cannot free yourself. Then an amazing thing happens. Someone purchases you, and then to your astonishment—they set you free! That is the thought behind the great Gospel word, “redemption”—to set free by payment of a price. The Bible teaches that we are in the slave market of sin, in bondage to Satan, the world, and the flesh. But Jesus paid the price of His own precious blood to liberate us from the shackles of sin.

Regeneration is yet another term used to describe salvation. That is a second birth—a spiritual birth into God’s family. It is a work wrought by the Holy Spirit that makes us a new creation in Christ. By virtue of our first birth we are the children of Adam. We are in the flesh and under the curse of sin—the condemnation of the second death. When we experience the second birth we are children of God. We are in the Spirit and possess eternal life.

A diamond has many facets—each sparkling with beauty—and so it is with our salvation. Another facet of that great salvation is justification. Here is a person on death row—guilty and condemned. But then the word comes that the criminal has been pardoned, the record of their crimes has been expunged from the record. That’s what God has done for us spiritually, and has applied the very righteousness of Christ to our account, so that we can be pronounced just before a holy God.

Still another rich term is sanctification. This means to be set apart. The vessels of the Jewish temple were sanctified—holy unto the Lord—set apart as belonging to God and for His use alone. These vessels were cleansed and marked out for this purpose. So, in sanctification we have been set apart for God, as His special vessels, washed clean by the blood of Christ and identified as His own. Sanctification is positional and progressive. That is, when we are saved we are sanctified—this is our position before God, and nothing can alter that fact that we now belong to Him. But, sanctification is also progressive. We are in the process of being sanctified in our daily walk as we are led of the Spirit to become more and more like Christ.

At last, we will become like Him—fully like Him—and that is glorification. The Apostle John says it this way, “Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when he comes we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.” (1 John 3:2 NLT)

So, we have salvation in three tenses:
1) I am saved—saved from the penalty of sin. There is no fear of condemnation for I am redeemed, regenerated, and justified. God has dealt with my sin.
2) I am being saved—saved from the power of sin. God is growing me in grace. As I walk in the Spirit, I am being conformed into Christ’s likeness daily.
3) I will be saved—saved from the presence of sin. Salvation will be complete, consummated in the glory of heaven.