Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The sad story of the nation of Israel is one of repeatedly turning away from God. That is a synopsis of the Old Testament. God sent prophet after prophet calling on them to repent, but they rejected the light. Finally, He sent His Son, as the Light of the World, and they sought to extinguish Him by snuffing Him out on the cross, and sealing His lifeless corpse in the darkness of a tomb. But, He wouldn’t stay dead! In the dawn of Resurrection Morning, God raised Him from the dead. Still, the Jews refused to believe the witness. The disciples took the testimony into the synagogues and were met with hate from most—all but a remnant of spiritual Israel who received the Messiah.

You cannot do that without it having a spiritually deadening effect. Think of the way a callus develops. As you are working with that shovel or post-hole diggers, the skin of your hand blisters and pain ensues. Yet, if you press through the pain, and keep working day after day, the pain lessens and a callus develops. You can stick a pin into that hardened flesh and be impervious to pain. That happens to our souls—when we are pricked by the Holy Spirit—the pain of conviction of sin—and then resist those pangs of conscience, little by little a judicial hardness sets in,until one gets beyond feeling.

It happened to Israel.

7 What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
8 Just as it is written: “God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day.”
9 And David says: “Let their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and a recompense to them.
10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, And bow down their back

But, hear this solemn warning: that isn’t just true of a nation, but of an individual also. The Bible says, “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts,” (Heb.3:15). One of the devil’s deadliest ploys is procrastination. He says something like this, “Sure you need to be saved. Of course, you are going to be saved—just not today. Tomorrow will be soon enough.” And we listen to the serpent’s forked tongue and reject the still, small voice of God. Then the next day, and the next…always tomorrow and for most, tomorrow never comes. Friend, this is the most urgent matter we face! It is far more important than life and death—it’s a matter of heaven and hell!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

THE REMNANT OF ISRAEL: Christian Believers

When the church was birthed on the Day of Pentecost it was exclusively Jewish. A Jew named Peter preached of a Jewish Messiah, Jesus, and about 3,000 Jews from all over the world were converted. But, as the disciples obeyed the Great Commission, and the Gospel broke through barrier after barrier—first Samaria, then among the Gentiles, fewer and fewer Jews made up a significant percentage of the church—the flood of Gentile converts filled the ranks. Also, the hostility of the Jews to Christianity increased and hardness set in. Yet, God has never lacked a remnant of Jews who were not only descended from Abraham physically, but were spiritual Israel also, having the faith of Abraham. Here’s what the Apostle wrote in Romans 11:1-6,

1 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying,
3 “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”?
4 But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”
5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

We know of Paul’s deep passion for His kinsmen (9:1-3) and his devoted prayer for them (10:1). God rewarded his intensity and intercession with souls from the seed of Abraham. Though the harvest was small, it was still there.

The Apostle illustrates this with the incident where Elijah thought he was the only one still true to God in the days of the reign of wicked Ahab and Jezebel. The prophet had a pity party and in his frustration prayed to die. God corrected his error and told him there were 7,000 that were still faithful to Jehovah. God knew who they were and where they were. The fact is, God knows those who are His and calls them to salvation.

I’m wondering, do we exhibit passion and express prayer targeted to reach the Jews for Jesus? There is a remnant that is reachable!

Monday, June 28, 2010


It would only take one word to convince me of the existence of God and the authority of Scripture. That word is: Israel. There is no explanation how the Jews have survived and thrived unless God exists and the Bible is true. Consider the fact that Jews make up less than a quarter of 1% of the world’s population.

Despite these miniscule numbers they have claimed major attention as a people.

They have known more prejudice and persecution than any other race. While all races have periodically known such problems, and some more than others,as concerning the Jews, it is absolutely disproportionate—off the scale! This can only be explained by spiritual reasons, for it makes no rational sense. There is both the wrath of Satan against them and the discipline of God to them.

The three most influential people in the history of humanity are all Jews: Moses, Jesus and Marx, and of course, Jesus stands at the pinnacle—a simple carpenter from Nazareth—a working class Jew of His day. How can you explain this? God exists and His Word is true.

Constantly, this little nation is at the center of world events. Anything that happens in Israel grabs the world spotlight. Why? They are God’s chosen people! Paul wants us to know in Romans chapter eleven that God is not through with the Jew!

“I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not!” (Romans 11:1a). We will see how Israel fits into God’s unfolding drama of redemption in this week’s studies.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Paul tells us in the concluding verses of Romans chapter ten, concerning the resistance our Gospel message meets,

18 But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.”
19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.”
20 But Isaiah is very bold and says: “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”
21 But to Israel he says: “All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary people.”

This is the primary reason we don’t do a better job of evangelism: it costs so much—maybe everything! There will always be opposition from the devil and the resistance of sinners to the message. Evangelism is exceedingly hard work!

The Gospel meets resistance because of the DARKNESS THAT REJECTS THE LIGHT (v.18-19). According to the Apostle, all people have some light and are responsible for what they do know, but the darkness of sin leads people to reject the light. Our minds are darkened by sin. I have shared simple Gospel message as plainly as I knew how and it was like those listening were in a fog—they just didn’t get it!

The Gospel also meets resistance because of the DISOBEDIENCE THAT REJECTS THE LORD (v.20-21). God reaches out to those who aren’t looking and speaks to those who aren’t asking. He reaches out even to the most resistant. So must we! The very person we brand unreachable may be won to faith in Christ—such is the remarkable power of the Gospel.

Since the Bible clearly teaches that it is faith in Christ alone that saves us, how can we have faith to receive Christ and believe in Him. Where does such faith come from? It is the gift of God’s grace—as is all of salvation. The Word of God is given and it creates faith in the hearts of those who will receive it.


8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is
rich to all who call upon Him.
13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13)

Everybody needs to know!

The late Adrian Rogers shared an illustration from the sinking of the ocean liner, Titanic:

On the Titanic, there were passengers who were rich and poor; young and old, male and female. Some traveled in the luxury of first class while others were in a small berth in the bowels of that ship—but after it sunk, there were in the end only 2 classes of people which the newspaper reports gave: those listed as saved or lost! Some are going to hell first class, others are in the lower deck; there are some working hard at staying afloat while others are lounging in luxury. But all need the Savior—and thank God whoever will may come!

Believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead; confess with your mouth that Christ is Lord! He will not fail to hear you—this is the promise—whoever! There are none so good that they need not be saved and none so bad that they cannot be saved! Everybody needs to hear the message.


14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how
shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear
without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:14-17)

You see the logic, don’t you?

You won’t call on someone unless you believe in them and you can’t believe in someone you haven’t heard about and you can’t hear about someone without a witness and you can’t have a witness unless someone sends them! It is a beautiful thing to go and tell the good news! God sends us to the unbelieving with a Word that they may believe. We don’t dare let the Great Commission become the great omission!

Recently, David Platt spoke at the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference. You should go online and find the message and listen to it all! There were a few points that were particularly poignant

“With 6,418 people groups we would not spend our dollars as we do, if we really believed the Good News of the Gospel…
Success is not how many people coming into your building, but how many are going out to do missions…
Do you believe that the Word of God empowered by the Spirit of God is enough to accomplish great things in this world?
Unreached people groups only have enough knowledge of God to damn them to hell.
Over 1.6 billion people with hell as their only option!”

Are we making ourselves available for God to use us to make an eternal difference in someone?

What would you consider the greatest need of the human race? The reason for the Gospel is wrapped up in the answer to that question. If man’s greatest need were for knowledge, God would have sent an educator. If it were for technology, He would have sent an engineer. If it were for finance, God would have sent an economist. If any of those were our greatest need, then there is really no reason for the Gospel. Our greatest need, however, is for forgiveness of sin and so God sent a Savior! That is the reason for the Gospel. We need to hear the Gospel message. We need to hear it desperately, and Paul, knowing this, proclaimed it passionately.

That is the church’s mission still. There is no plan B—only plan A—that is for the church to share the good news of eternal life through the Son.

We must share the Gospel because of IGNORANCE OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS REQUIRED. Paul addresses this in Romans 10:1-4,

1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.
2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Israel was ignorant of God’s way of righteousness. They thought that through their own effort at keeping the law, they could be saved. That is the thinking of most people in our world today. But, there was no reason for Christ to come and live the life He did and die the death He died if we could work our way to heaven.

Paul says that, “Christ has become the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes,” (v.4). He lived a perfect life and died in our place—meeting all God’s righteous demands. Yet, so many fail to respond to the Gospel because we are blinded by unbelief. It takes a miracle to give sight to the blind—that’s why Paul prayed, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved,” (v.1) and we need to pray similarly. Salvation requires a supernatural act of God. I can’t save anyone, but God wants to use me to reach them. Do you have a burden for the lost? Do you plead for their souls? I dare you to pray for lost souls and see what happens! Listen to the way we pray, however. It is usually an organ recital, and so much about physical need. That’s not necessarily wrong, but that involves life and death—while the Gospel involves heaven and hell! We spend more time trying to keep the saints out of heaven than trying to keep the lost out of hell!

We must share the Gospel because of the IMPOSSIBILITY OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS REQUIRED. That is the next matter which Paul presents:

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who
does those things shall live by them.”
6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down from above)
7 or, “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

It isn’t just difficult to be righteous enough to get to heaven—it’s impossible! Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees we will not enter the Kingdom of God. Now those folks were extremely religious. I dare say none reading these words is their equal—and certainly none exceed them—the very thing Jesus demands. A friend of mine on the internet, Mark Lamprecht whom I know on Twitter as @hereiblog, put it this way, “The question is not, ‘Am I good enough to be a Christian?’ Rather the question is, ‘Am I good enough not to be?’ " You don’t have to be relatively good as compared to man, but utterly good as compared to God! That is impossible. The Apostle wants to know would you be good enough to reach up to heaven and bring Christ down or qualify to raise Him from the dead. No! And you don’t have to—Christ came for you and rose to justify you. This is the righteousness that comes by faith and only by faith in Christ!

This past weekend, we celebrated Father’s Day—and that is a good thing. I’ll tell you an even better thing—I was able to visit with my Christian father. I am so thankful I was raised in A Christian home. That is a great privilege—and if you experienced that, it is impossible to express how much an advantage that is to lead us to Christ.

But, we must remember that God has no grandchildren! Even those raised in a Christian home must receive Christ, personally, as their Lord and Savior. This was the issue that Paul was confronting in trying to reach his countrymen. The Jews of the first century were convinced that it was enough to be physical descendants of Father Abraham, but Paul tells us that it is the faith of Abraham that makes one a child of God.

Here is the reality: whether Jew or Gentile—all people of the world are lost without Christ and are on their way to eternal misery. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that God allows U turns by responding to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have been to a Bible-believing church at all, you have heard the term, “Gospel” many times. But, do we know that it means? The word means, “Good news.” The glad tidings are that Jesus saves! That is good news, indeed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Paul anticipates arguments against the teaching of election and answers them in Romans 9:19-33. We may not be able to fully understand this doctrine, but we must attempt to interpret it in light of what the Holy Spirit teaches us. The Apostle interprets the doctrine of election as revealing God’s glorious power, His generous patience and His gracious provision. This much is plainly presented.

Election points to GOD’S GLORIOUS POWER.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”
20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”
21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

God has absolute power as a potter has with the clay. We are formed of the same common clay—depraved dust that we are in our natural state. If God were only just, then He would form us all to be chamber pots. That is, we are all fit for destruction due to our sinfulness. Yet, He is not only just, but merciful, and so He forms the undeserving into beautiful vases to display His glory—from the same dirt! Yet, we must not press an illustration beyond the single point intended. Humans are sentient beings, made in the image of God, though admittedly that image is marred by sin. So God doesn’t just randomly make a vessel for honor and throw a bunch of others aside indiscriminately—breaking them without concern—as vessels for dishonor. God has the right to do as He pleases, but He always pleases to do what is right.

Election points to GOD’S GENEROUS PATIENCE.

22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
God is so patient. He even pleads persistently with those that He knows will reject Him. God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet.3:9). He knows those that will come to Him. He knows those who will reject Him and it grieves Him. Jesus knew Judas would betray Him, yet it is evident that the Lord loved Him, and gave the treacherous disciple an opportunity to do the right thing. He chose perdition. There are those who choose their will rather than God’s will.

Election points to GOD’S GRACIOUS PROVISION.

25 As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.”
26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”
27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved.
28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”
29 And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;
31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.
32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

God has provided grace for salvation to all who place their faith in Christ. Those who hear the Gospel and respond to its power by turning from sin to Christ are the elect. In Paul’s ministry, many Gentiles were responding and a remnant of Jews.

25 As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.”
26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”
27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved.
28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”
29 And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”

That is still true today. Very few physical descendants of Abraham become part of the true Israel through the faith of Abraham—and the righteousness that comes from that faith.

Why is it that so many Gentiles were embracing the Gospel? It was God’s grace that amazed them! The Gentiles weren’t looking for God but God sought them, “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith,” (v.30). Israel thought God owed them and thus missed the way of faith, “but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.” (v.31). Why would the Jews be amazed by grace, when they felt entitled to salvation because of their own goodness? In fact, they stumbled on Christ, “Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ ” (v.32-33). He wasn’t the kind of Messiah they were looking for and they were scandalized by the cross.

What about you? Have you understood that you cannot be saved apart from God’s gracious provision on the cross? Have you in utter desperation called upon Christ as the only way of salvation? If not—do it now!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. That is why illustrations are often so helpful in conveying profound biblical truths. Certainly one of loftiest doctrines in Scripture is that of election. Knowing this, Paul reaches into the Word of God with three illustrations to illumine this teaching. We learn that election is not a matter of human parentage, performance or position.


7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.”
8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.
9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Ishmael was a biological son to Abraham, but it was another son, Isaac, that would be the recipient of the covenant blessing. Jesus confronted the Jews who thought that race made them right with God –that genetics was sufficient. Jesus dispelled that notion in John 8:39-47.

39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.
40 But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.
41 You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.
43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.
44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.
46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?
47 He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”

There are those who think they are God’s children because their parents were Christians. The Bible is clear, “You must be born again!” (John 3:7). The regenerate are “born, not of blood…but of God” (John 1:13, emphasis added). Election is not a matter of human parentage.


10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls),
12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”
13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!

It is difficult to understand everything these verses teach. God says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa.55:8-9) If you can explain everything there is to explain about God, then the Trinity can admit a fourth person!

But there are some things we can know. We know that if anyone is saved it is because of heavenly grace not human goodness. Jacob didn’t deserve to be chosen—he had done nothing good or bad. Both Esau and Jacob were scoundrels and the amazing thing isn’t that Esau was rejected but that Jacob was accepted! Nobody will get to strut into heaven.

Also, the word “hated” here is a relative term. For example, Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). Obviously, God isn’t going to tell us to honor our parents and then turn around and tell us to hate them. Do you think that because I follow Christ that I must hate my wife and children? No! I can love them more, as I love Him most! That is, my love for God is to claim my highest devotion and absolute allegiance, so much so that He has the preference over all other relationships. In the same manner, God preferred Jacob (and that was grace) rather than Esau—even before the twin boys were born. But, that doesn’t mean God looked into Rebecca’s womb and said, “I hate that baby!” God loves sinners and wants them saved! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:16, emphasis added). If Esau went to hell, it was because he rejected God’s grace, not because he had no choice. God doesn’t predestine a baby for hell before he or she is born. God is merciful and compassionate on all who want His mercy.

God has the right to do as He pleases for He is God and He always pleases to do what is right for He is God! Esau, you, me, anyone who wants to have mercy may have it. Here’s what the Bible teaches, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov.28:13, emphasis added). There’s that wonderful word “whoever” again! It’s mercy, not justice, we need. If you go to heaven you can only credit God and if you go to hell you alone bear the blame. The regenerate are “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh…but of God” (John 1:13, emphasis added). Election is not a matter of human performance.


17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”
18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

Men make distinction between classes of people, but not God. We classify people by rich and poor, royalty and peasants, powerful and puny, famous and infamous. God makes no such distinctions. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him,” (Rom.10:12).

What do we make of Paul’s quote concerning God’s purpose in raising up Pharaoh, and the declaration that God hardened the wicked ruler’s heart? The quote is accurate, of course. Scripture records this, but says more than this. The Bible also states that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. So, his hard heart is attributed to both Pharaoh and God. Pharaoh, like every unbeliever was born with a hard heart, and through persistent rebellion against God reinforced that hard heart. God permitted this process to unfold and the end result was the judicial act of God in hardening Pharaoh’s heart. This is why the Bible warns, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb.3:15). “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Prov.29:1). Don’t dare say, “I’ll come to God when I want to,” or “I’ll receive Christ later,” for you cannot say that! It may be true that you will, but there are no guarantees. You may not come to Him when you want to, because you will no longer want to! The regenerate are “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13, emphasis added). Election is not a matter of human position.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


The opening verses of the ninth chapter of Romans are weighty words with serious implications.

1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,
2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,
4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;
5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,

That’s heavy duty stuff!

We hear PAUL’S PASSION in verses one through three. Like a sudden thunderstorm brings an end to a sunny picnic, the Apostle goes from singing a doxology at the conclusion of chapter eight to commencing chapter nine with a dirge. He goes from the heights of hallelujah to the depths of distress. As he has considered the marvel of God’s grace to the believer, he recalls that most of his kinsmen—the Jews—were rejecting the Gospel.

His burden is strong and steadfast (v.2). The heart of this soul-winner is the heart of God, inspired of the Spirit (v.1). Paul suffered so much to get the Gospel out—beaten, battered, in bonds—a hair’s breadth from death. Yet, he insisted on first going into the synagogues. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16, emphasis added). He was ready to die, if it came to that.

Paul wasn’t just ready to die, but to spend eternity in hell if that would have saved Israel (v.3). There was another man, thousands of years before, who prayed similarly—another Jew named Moses. Israel had turned to idolatry, worshipping a golden calf. God proposed to Moses that He would destroy those sinners and raise up from Moses a chosen people. The response of Moses was remarkable, “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” (Ex.32:32). This is the heart of God for a lost world. We know because He sent another Jew who would alone qualify to be a substitute for sinners—separated from God in order to include the penitent. Though the plea of Moses and Paul was sincere, only One could pay the price: this is what Jesus literally did.

Recognition of the love of God for sinners is of such importance that we will miss the meaning if we lose that focus. Some have taken the truths of this chapter and taken them beyond where they were meant to go, and infer that God predestines some for heaven and some for hell. He chooses and we have no choice. There is some kind of a Divine lottery and some have their number called and others—lose out. There must be a balance where truth is seen in its context. Chapter nine must be interpreted in the light of the rest of the Word of God. In Romans 5:8, Paul previously wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (emphasis added). Clearly, God loves the lost—do we? Where is our burden for lost souls? Where is our concern about those who have never heard of Jesus? What kind of intense passion do we have to reach our family and friends who aren’t prepared to meet God? Paul’s passion is convicting.

We consider ISRAEL’S POTENTIAL (v.4-5) In His grace, God had chosen Israel to be a special people to Him. What special blessings they had which were exclusive to them—and they are enumerated here. The question becomes, why? The answer is given in Deuteronomy 7:6-10,

6 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.
7 The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples;
8 but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
10 and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face.

Why did God choose Israel? BECAUSE! Just because He loved them! It was undeserved. It was all of grace. But, that is true of each of us—I don’t understand why God would pick such unlikely candidates as I am and as those I know. How could we possibly merit such love when we deserve hell? No wonder they call grace, “Amazing!”

These concepts are important to remember as we go on. We might have the idea that we are chosen because we are better than others, when the opposite is true. One could wrongfully conclude that one who is chosen means that another is rejected. But, it is evident that God didn’t choose Israel to exclude other nations, but set them apart to reach other nations. They were chosen to be a Kingdom of priests that would bring God to the nations and lift the nations to God. This was their potential. Yet, they failed miserably. They had so many privileges, so much potential, but Israel rebelled against God. That is the sad saga of the Old Testament in a nutshell.

Yet there is GOD’S PERSISTENCE (v.6) A gracious God gave Israel another chance. The Lord had sent prophet after prophet, servant after servant. They rejected them, even killed some. So, He said, “At last, I’ll send my Son, perhaps they will listen to Him.” (the thrust of Christ’s parable in Mark 12:1-11). But no, God sent His Son, “He came unto His own and His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:11). Paul saw their position hardening, but here and there some, like him, received Christ and this is what he means here. These were the true Israelites—not just those who had Abraham’s DNA, but his faith! Paul had already spoken to this in Romans 4:16, “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” Lest we conclude that the rejection meant that God’s Word had failed, Paul emphasizes that it wasn’t God’s Word that failed. It never does. The failure was in those who rejected Christ. The Word of God always brings results. The same sun that melts snow, hardens clay.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Most of us wouldn’t argue that if an atheist dies in that condition, they will spend an eternity in hell regretting their folly. What we may fail to grasp is that most people in torment will be religious. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21). They will be shocked to find out that they aren’t going to heaven. They will respond on the Judgment Day, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt.7:22-23).

The fact is that religion isn’t the same as genuine Christianity. That’s why Romans nine cannot be passed by. Many commentators seek to evade it. They look at it as parenthetical material. It would seem, as Paul often does in his letters, that one could move from the doctrinal teaching in chapters one through eight into the devotional application in chapters twelve through sixteen. Why not? There are Christians that look at it is you might your appendix—it’s there, a part of the body of truth, but really serves little purpose and something we can apparently do without.

Nothing could be further from the truth! The dispensational teaching here is a key link with the doctrinal and devotional portions. This begins a new section where Paul moves from a general discussion of salvation by faith in Christ to how this specifically affects the Jews. In chapter nine, the focus is on God’s past dealings with Israel, in chapter ten, His present dealings with them and then in chapter eleven, His promised dealings in the future.

One word can sum up God’s past dealings with Israel in chapter nine: election. A sovereign God has chosen a special people. That will be the focus of our studies this week. Does it matter? You say, “I’m not a Jew.” It matters; it matters a lot! If I cannot trust God to keep His promise to the Jews, how can I trust Him to keep His promise to me? If God will not be faithful to His covenant with Abraham, then we can’t be sure He will keep His covenant with us.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I have a book by A.W. Tozer called, “I Talk Back to the Devil.” You can! I wouldn’t advocate getting into a debate with him—he’s very shrewd. But you can dispatch him by following Christ’s model. Answer Satan with the Word of God. He will try to put doubts in your mind concerning your salvation and undermine your faith, thus stunting your spiritual growth. Here’s an answer in the form of a question in Romans 8:34, “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

Based on this Word, we can say, “Devil, there is only One who could condemn me, but how could Jesus speak words of condemnation, when He is speaking words of intercession?” Jesus isn’t a hypocrite! He doesn’t speak out of both sides of His mouth. There is no condemnation: Christ speaks for us.

Years ago, the TV show, Perry Mason, was a big hit. It would seem as the hour unfolded that Perry’s client was in big trouble. But, somehow before the show was over, Perry had gotten someone else to confess and his defendant was set free. Perry Mason was good, but we have one better—the Lord Jesus Christ to speak on our behalf. John tells us “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1). He’s never lost a case, nor had a client He represented condemned. All He has to do when the devil demands condemnation is raise His nail-scarred hands to the Judge and He declares, “Not guilty! Case dismissed!”

That’s an unbeatable position! No wonder Paul states that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom.8:37).

Thursday, June 10, 2010


We are all sinners and cannot save ourselves—big problem! Thankfully, there is a divine solution. Weigh Paul’s question in Romans 8:33, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”

I can answer Satan’s snarling charges against me with this, “Devil, do you think that God will charge me with sin when He has already justified me?” God is not going to justify you as a son and then turn around and judge you as a sinner!

This means that there is no accusation: God saves us. Satan is called in Scripture, “the accuser” (Rev.12:10). That is what his name means and that is what he does. He delights to dredge up your past. He is quick to point out your sins. But, you have been forgiven of all your sins if you have received Christ! The good news is, you don’t have to listen to the devil’s accusations! What God has done in saving you is to remove the debt of sin by paying it with the blood of His Son—the eternal One dying for all. But also, He positively credited the ledger of your life with the righteousness of Christ! Recall Paul’s emphatic statement in Romans 4:5-8 concerning imputation (to credit to a person or cause):

5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”

Has anyone ever told you, “Go to hell”? The next time they do just answer, “I don’t have to because Jesus did it for me!” There is a beautiful Old Testament illustration of this:

1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him.
2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.
4 Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”
5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.

There are those who will protest, “If you preach the eternal security of the believer, you will lead people to sin all they want to!” The reality is I do sin all I want to—in fact, more than I want to. I just don’t want to. God changes our “want to’s”! The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is more than just the positional act of making us right with Him. It is also the practical action of God’s grace at work to produce righteous desires and deeds. If someone can claim to know the great love of God for them in His amazing grace, and then tread that precious blood underfoot by using it as a license to sin, they show that they have neither comprehended nor received such grace. That isn’t the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer, but the everlasting insecurity of the make-believer!

Here’s the reality, though, even the best of us are capable of failing God, and God’s Spirit within is grieved and leads us to cry out in repentance. It is at that point, the Accuser levels his barrage of doubt. There is an answer—in Christ my sins have not been imputed to me, but to Him and His righteousness has been imputed to me—saved by the blood of the Lamb!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


The incarnation means that God directly injected Himself into the stream of humanity—not standing aloof from us or detached from our needs—but He became a man and walked among men. He did this in order to die for me. Through the incarnation, I am more than a conqueror. Paul wrote in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

When Satan comes at us with a bombardment of doubt, we can pose this question, “Devil, do you think that if God sent His Son to die for me—the greatest gift for the greatest need—that He won’t provide everything else I need?” The result is that there is no deprivation: God supplies to us.

Follow the logic. What if I said to you, ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you, and you said, “What I want is your son. I want his life. I want his blood.” Then, if you also asked, “And by the way, I’d also like to have his car and his clothes and his credit cards with any other valuables belonging to him.” If I gave you my son, do you think that I would hesitate to give you anything and everything else? That is what God did for us so that we can be saved. He gave His Son—His life—His blood. He will certainly supply every other provision. When the devil whispers, “God doesn’t care; you can’t trust Him,” all you need do is look to Calvary! The cross erases all doubts!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Paul’s question in Romans 8:31 helps us answer Satan’s assault on the child of God. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Devil, since God is for me, then who can be against me? You are much more powerful than I am, but I don’t have to beat you, because God is on my side and you are overmatched!

This means that there is no intimidation: God stands for us. We have nothing to fear with God on our side. You might argue, “But I’m not sure God stands for me. Can I be sure of that?” Look at how this verse begins, “What then shall we say to these things?” What things? The whole book of Romans gives us the solution to the sin problem and declares Satan’s purpose has been thwarted by God’s plan of salvation. More specifically, the entire eighth chapter gives us a Hallelujah chorus of victory to sing! Then, “these things” in the immediate context of the preceding verses help us:

29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

God knew you before you were ever born and has predetermined that one day you will be like Jesus. Therefore, He called you to Himself in His great grace and justified you through faith in His Son and has glorified you! That culmination of salvation is so certain that although a future event for us, in the heart and mind of God that He can speak of it as an already accomplished fact!

Do you think that what God has determined by His almighty power in heaven can be undone by weak humans on earth? Not even all the demons of hell can stop it. If Satan could have you, he would and the fact that he hasn’t means he can’t!

Don’t let the devil intimidate you! He’s a big bully, and you aren’t fast enough to run from him, smart enough to outthink him, nor strong enough to overpower him—but God is far bigger and He stands for us! Stand in Christ’s strength alone. “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom.8:37).

Monday, June 07, 2010


Paul writes in the eighth chapter of Roman, in verse thirty-seven, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” If we are more than conquerors, why are so many Christians living in defeat?

A lot have been defeated by their doubts. 1 John 5:4 says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” If we forsake faith we will be overcome rather than be overcomers. One of Satan’s most powerful weapons in his arsenal is doubt. A doubting Christian will always be a defeated Christian. I have known many church members in this plight—paralyzed by fear that they might not be saved. It is a miserable place—always wondering, “Did I pray the right words? Was I sincere enough? Was my faith strong enough? Have I been too bad and am I still too bad? Am I going to heaven or hell?” There are people like that who periodically get stuck in the quagmire of doubt. No wonder they don’t get anywhere spiritually!

Yet, God has given us a defense against doubt. Paul says when the fiery darts of doubt come at you from the devil, lift the shield of faith, and you will extinguish them! You say, “But Pastor, where can I get that faith?” Here’s the solution, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” (Romans 10:17). Immerse yourself in the Word of God, saturate your soul with God’s promises and when Satan tries to put the squeeze on you to doubt, all that will be wrung out is faith!

So, what we are going to do this week is take the Word of God and seek to build your faith in Christ. You can be assured of your salvation. This is God’s will for you.

Satan will seek to undermine your confidence in the Word of God. He asked Eve in Eden, “Did God say…?” Have you heard his voice—that sly, sinister serpent speaking with forked tongue? In these studies, we are going to turn the tables and ask the Devil some questions—questions for which he has no answer! Paul asks five in Romans 8:31-39 that will help us to see that we are more than conquerors through Christ!

Friday, June 04, 2010


God has decided to give grace to men and women to come to Him through Christ. He has decided that all who come to Him, He will receive. It is all of grace—none deserve it—and it is all to His glory—for no man can attain it of himself. God is sovereign. He rules and overrules all. Yet, it is not our business to determine the elect. We are commissioned to go into the entire world and preach the Gospel, giving opportunity to all who believe in the Gospel message to receive salvation. Our decision may indeed rest on God’s decision, but apart from our decision we remain in our sins. Today, as the prophet Joel stated, there are multitudes in the valley of decision. With Joshua and with Elijah we call people to choose.

How do the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man fit together? I will acknowledge that fully grasping it would be like a flea understanding calculus. I should seek greater understanding, for there is no glory in ignorance. Yet, even one with such spiritual insight as the Apostle Paul said,

9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture.
10 But when full understanding comes,these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.
12 Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

(1 Corinthians 13:9-12 NLT)

I am often tempted to tell things I don’t know—to engage in speculation beyond Scripture—after all, to my congregation, I am the “Bible Answer Man” with apologies to another fellow who likes that title, but doesn’t have all the answers right, either.

One of my heroes, Charles Haddon Spurgeon framed it like this:

“The system of truth revealed in the Scriptures is not simply one straight line but two, and no man will ever get the right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at two lines at once. These two facts [Divine sovereignty and human freedom] are parallel lines….

That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”

The study of the sovereignty of God in the salvation of man brings great humility and requires great grace. Extolling the virtue of the latter (sovereign grace) should lead to the former (humility), or else we miss the point! It has been rightly said, “Try to explain election and you may lose your mind. But try to explain it away and you may lose your soul!”

John Phillips’ illustration isn’t perfect, but it is helpful to my “flea-brain.”

“Imagine two men playing a game of chess; the one player is a master at the game, the other is very much an amateur. The master knows hundreds of moves for opening, pursuing, and closing the game, whereas the amateur okays blindly from one move to the next with little skill and only limited forethought. Both players have free will to make whatever moves they wish. But the master of the game, without in any way violating his opponent’s free will, uses every move the amateur makes to drive him into a corner and take his king.”

I am so thankful that one day God said to me, “Checkmate!”

I believe in sovereign grace and I believe humans are accountable for the decision to receive or reject Christ—with eternal implications. I can’t find Scripture teaching anything else. I declare with Paul as he sums up this doctrinal discussion,

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?”

35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”
36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 NKJV)


Thursday, June 03, 2010


The critical issue in the debate concerning freewill and predestination and God’s plan of salvation, in the final analysis, isn’t what a theologian describes, or what history demonstrates, or what intellect defines, but what does the Word of God declare?


Adam took the initiative in sinning and secluded himself, while God took the initiative in saving and sought him. Abraham was minding his own business in Ur—a hotbed of heathenism—when God came calling and in sovereign grace decreed, “I am establishing my covenant with you.” The younger Isaac was preferred over Ishmael as the one to inherit the covenant blessing. Jacob was chosen instead of Esau. Now, explain that one!

Had I been God, I would have certainly picked Esau. I mean—he was a man’s man—rugged, the outdoor type, and Jacob—well, he was a “mama’s boy” and seemed more capable in the kitchen than around the campfire. Not only that—he was a scoundrel—a conniving, cunning character you couldn’t trust any farther than you could throw him. Yet, that’s what makes grace to be grace! God chooses the least deserving, the most unsavory—sinners like Zacchaeus and the Samaritan woman, and sinners like you and me!

Israel was chosen as the covenant people over other nations. God explained to them why—because He wanted to. He emphatically declared that it wasn’t because they were better and more deserving than other nations, but remarkably less so.

6 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has
chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples
on the face of the earth.
7 The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples;
8 but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
(Deuteronomy 7:6-8)

Then, we have the case of a man named Saul of Tarsus. How he hated Christ! He was determined to eradicate that name from human vocabulary and to obliterate those despised followers of His. It was in the middle of such a violent persecution he was leading that God stopped him in his tracks on the road to Damascus. Christ appeared to this avowed enemy, and brought the proud Pharisee to his knees—convicting him, calling him and converting him. He was transformed by sovereign grace—this one deserving retribution but receiving regeneration. The one who would become the Apostle Paul had one purpose at the time: to arrest Christians and imprison them, but it was he who was arrested by grace and became the prisoner of Christ Jesus.


There are so many Biblical references to the sovereignty of God in the salvation of man that it would take pages to list them. Let us just look into just a few references from John’s Gospel and our Lord’s teaching concerning this subject.

36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.
37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.
38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.
(John 6:36-39)

44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will
raise him up at the last day.
(John 6:44)

65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me
unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
(John 6:65)

16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should
go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the
Father in My name He may give you.
(John 15:16)

But, now, here’s where people start going off base. They worry, well what if I’m not one of the elect? What if God doesn’t call me to salvation? If you have that concern and you want to be saved, it is because you can be saved. You would not care were God not calling you. There are many references to this as well. Consider this one, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev.22:17). I think of the Philippian jailer—quite a brutal fellow. He had no interest in the Gospel and abused two Gospel preachers. But, then he was shaken that very night and on his knees begged Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). The answer wasn’t, “Well, let’s wait and see if you’re serious about this. How can we be sure you are one of the elect? If God is effectually calling you, then you are going to come to Him eventually, so let’s see what happens.” That wasn’t the answer! It was this, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (v.32). The promise was extended to his entire family that if they placed their faith in Christ they would be saved also. It was the sovereign grace of God that brought the evangelists there and caused the earthquake, but it was the responsibility of the jailer to exercise faith in Christ. D.L. Moody said it well: “The elect are the whosoever wills and the non-elect are the whosoever won’ts.” God finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they turn from their sin and live.

21 “But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed,
keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live;
he shall not die.
22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall
be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he
shall live.
23 Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?”
says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?

(Ezekiel 18:21-23)

Peter, in explaining the apparent delay of Christ’s return to earth and the judgment of sinners, expresses the heart of God for a lost world this way, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)


God is sovereign and man is accountable—how can these seemingly contradictory things be reconciled? Spurgeon had the answer. Dr. Lewis Drummond made these comments:

Spurgeon was once asked how he could reconcile his stance between Calvinistic
theology and his fervent preaching of the gospel. He replied, "I do not try to
reconcile friends."

Spurgeon stood on the precarious razor's edge between High Calvinism and Arminianism and preached the Word of God as he understood it. Thus, The World Newspaper reported that "Mr. Spurgeon is nominally a Calvinist." He was rejected by many of the high Calvinistic churches. The pastor of the Surrey Chapel, for example, spent time every Sunday criticizing Spurgeon's previous sermon because it was not Calvinistic enough. At the same time, Spurgeon was certainly not admitted to Arminian circles because he was far too Calvinistic for them.

Why this paradox? Spurgeon preached what he found in the Word of God and was not overly concerned to systematize everything. A reading of just a scattering of his sermons makes it obvious that when Spurgeon took a text, he took it seriously. And he used it to point people to Christ—not to establish or reestablish a formal doctrinal system.

That, dear ones, is where I try to be. I am Calvinistic, but not a five-point Calvinist. I am certainly not an Arminian. It may be that neither group would have me. What I want to be is a Biblicist! Scripture teaches both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man as complimentary (not contradictory) truths—two sides of the same coin of salvation’s currency.

Again, it would be an exhausting study to do an exhaustive treatment, when a few Biblical texts set these theological teachings in tension with one another. Examine the following:

Peter was speaking of Christ in his Pentecostal preaching when he stated matter-of-factly:
“Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death…” (Acts 2:23) The determined purpose and foreknowledge of God directed Christ to the cross—God’s eternal plan of salvation, as Jesus would be the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Yet, the people were guilty of the sin. It was their choice that by wicked hands they nailed Him there. That is the balance of truth standing on a razor’s edge.

The ship that was transporting Paul as a prisoner for trial in Rome was going to sink in a storm in the Mediterranean Sea, yet the Apostle gave these reassuring words as a promise from God in Acts 27, that not one passenger or crewman would lose their life:

22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.
23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve,
24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’
25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.

Later, some conspired to try to lower a lifeboat and escape—they didn’t have enough faith to trust the preacher, and Paul gave them a stern warning,

30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had
let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the
31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay
in the ship, you cannot be saved.”

All would make it through the storm, but if some tried to save themselves, they would perish. That is the balance of truth standing on a razor’s edge.

Don’t lose your balance. Truth is a narrow road and there is a ditch on either side. The devil doesn’t particularly care which ditch he gets you in, just so he stops your spiritual progress.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


Most Americans seem to know very little of US History and some of the debates that shaped the course of our country. That ignorance is likely surpassed by American Christians concerning church history and debates that have shaped our creeds. The debate we are focusing on this week is between proponents of freewill and predestination, as pertaining to God’s plan of salvation. Why is it important to consider this? Because Scripture speaks to the matter and we need to know what to believe! Salvation is a pretty important doctrine! We cannot study Romans—that shining gem of the Gospel—without considering this in general and verses like 8:29-30 in particular. Those verses state, “ For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

So, against that Biblical backdrop, we step into the theological ring and look at the match—in one corner stand the advocates of freewill and in the other predestination.

This is round one. In the fifth century, Augustine was saved out of such a life of debauchery that he was convinced only God could save him and that man could do nothing. Had God not sought him, he didn’t believe he would ever have sought the Lord—quite the opposite. Upon his conversion, Augustine became an influential theologian and powerfully defended a predestination position. In the other corner was the freewill camp, led by Pelagius. He was a cultured, educated monk who believed that with some help from God, man could improve himself. Pelagius taught that Adam’s sin only affected Adam and that we sinned by following Adam’s bad example. Salvation on the other hand was found in Christ’s example, and as we followed that we would be saved. His teachings were examined, rejected and labeled heresy, while Augustine’s view prevailed.

Now we come to round two in the 1500’s. Martin Luther believed that teaching freewill compromised grace. He taught that the will was not free, but because of sin man’s will was in bondage and he wrote a book to that effect—a book which he considered to be his finest work, “The Bondage of the Will.” On the other hand, Erasmus was a Roman Catholic priest that had sympathy with Luther’s reforms, yet who refused to abandon Rome. He was a humanist who believed that the fall may have affected man, but that humans could still find God of their own volition. Luther saw salvation as all of grace and would not back down. The Protestants adopted Luther’s view and followed him and other Reformers in that doctrine.

Next, round three was fought with what has become the most familiar names in the debate, with the respective adherents called Arminians and Calvinists. The twist that Arminius gave to freewill teaching is to acknowledge that salvation is indeed all of grace but he expressed that God gives every man enough grace to overcome depravity. Opposite him was John Calvin, unwavering in his teachings concerning God’s absolute sovereignty in matters of salvation and the teaching of predestination.

Calvin’s followers have put this into a five-point formulation called TULIP, an acronym for: 1) Total depravity—all are sinners and cannot save themselves; 2) Unconditional election—God chooses those in His grace that He wishes to save; 3) Limited atonement—Christ died only for the elect; 4) Irresistible grace—those God elects will come to Him; 5) Perseverance of the saints—The elect cannot be lost.

It should be noted that sometimes those who stake themselves to their respective positions take things to extremes—as we are all prone to do. Arminians, in rejecting TULIP theology, adopt another flower, “daisy” theology, instead. You know, that’s where you pick the daisy’s petals, “He loves me; he loves me not.” Thus, one day God loves us and we’re His child and the next He doesn’t love us because of our failings. These have no assurance of salvation—just trying to hang on—backsliding and repenting and getting “saved” multiple times. Their hymn is rendered, “I once was lost in sin, and now I’m lost again. Let us have a little talk with Jesus and make it right.” Calvinists may outdo Calvin himself and become hyper-Calvinists thinking like this, “Eeny meeny miny moe, this one to heaven, to hell you go.” One must acknowledge that at times the debate seems to shed more heat than light.

The contest continued with round four in the 1700’s. Whitefield and the Wesley brothers—John and Charles—were friends in their younger days and all members of the “Holy Club” while at Oxford. Both George Whitefield and John Wesley were prominent figures in the Great Awakenings in England and America. Each had a profound impact on the shaping of America and the American church. Their friendship, however, was torn asunder when Wesley adopted Arminian theology while Whitefield held to Calvinism. This pained Whitefield greatly, who longed for reconciliation. Wesley was rigid in this and went so far as to crusade against his former friend for preaching what he called the “blasphemy” of predestination. Later they were reconciled in spirit, though never in doctrine, and John Wesley preached Whitefield’s funeral.

Wesley was, of course, very evangelistic as one who sincerely holds to freewill teaching would be. The charge is leveled that Calvinism makes a person unconcerned about evangelism, since God will save those He wants to save anyway. While this charge may accurate concerning some Calvinists, and hyper-Calvinists certainly, Whitefield was no less an evangelist than Wesley. Multitudes were converted as he preached the Gospel. I am currently reading one of Spurgeon’s works called, “The Soul-winner.” The eighteenth century Baptist pastor was a Calvinist yet none can doubt his evangelistic fervor. There are Arminians who say they believe in evangelism and yet behave like hyper-Calvinists and Calvinists who witness with the zeal of Arminians! I’d prefer the latter to the former.

So what are we to conclude concerning this debate that has raged across two thousand years of church history? One thing I can conclude is that I cannot settle it in a sermon or even a series of messages! I’m not that good. Yet, we must all seek to know God’s glorious Gospel and are challenged to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Please consider the following thoughts expressed by Jim Elliff at:

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


In two verses—Romans 8:29-30—Paul unlimbers major theological artillery concerning the doctrine of salvation: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” The Apostle presents to us what has been called the golden chain of salvation—each term being a link in that unbreakable chain that brings us to heaven—one that reaches from eternity to eternity!

FOREKNOWLEDGE “For whom He foreknew…”
The Greek word is proginosko from which we get our English medical term prognosis. A physician diagnoses your disease and prescribes a course of treatment. He makes a prognosis—a projection based on his knowledge of what the course of the disease and effectiveness of the cure will be. So, God’s proginosko means to know beforehand. God is omniscient, so that nothing ever surprises Him. He is eternal, so time holds no constraint on Him. We are creatures that are captive to calendars and clocks, but God transcends time—over, above and beyond it. This Eternal God knew you before you were born. God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer.1:5). In the New Testament, we find that John the Baptist was called before conception! Indeed, God knew you even before creation—before there was a sinner in need of a savior or even the sphere where the sinners would dwell was suspended in space—He saw you as His child.

I run into people that knew me B.C. That era of my existence was etched with evil. They are shocked to find out I’m a Christian, and a preacher, no less! But, there is One that was not surprised when I repented of sin and received the Savior: the God who foreknew me.

PREDESTINATION “He also predestined…”
This word means to determine beforehand. What God knows to be, will be, for it is impossible for Him to be mistaken. What He does will be done right, for it is impossible for Him to do wrong. God is sovereign and directs all things according to His purpose. This includes events divinely caused and permitted. God cannot author evil, but He permits it. Yet, evil cannot thwart His will, but He turns it to accomplish His will. That, in context, is what Romans 8:28 is saying, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” So, there are acts certain to take place in His sovereign plan, but men are still responsible for the choices they make.

Several of you that are reading these words have been on a Caribbean cruise. You dirty rats! I have never been, but really want to—and you just led me into covetousness! But, I digress. When on gets on board the ship, there are many choices that are made throughout the voyage. You have “freewill” it might be said. You can decide when to get up and when to go to bed. You decide what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. You have options in terms of activities. But, there is a captain who is piloting the vessel. He has charted a course and made the decision to take you to his intended destination. So, for those who are in Christ (you are on board the old Gospel ship) there is an intended destination where the Captain of our Salvation will bring us, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Each child of God will one day look just like the Son of God when we see Him in glory!

ELECTION “these He also called…”
God calls us to Himself by grace—we don’t deserve it. We aren’t seeking Him—He seeks us. Evangelicals often use the term, “Seeker” to describe one that the church is trying to reach with the Gospel, and in particular may be attending church and searching for something. It isn’t a term invented by contemporary Christianity. I have a book authored by Spurgeon in the 19th century called, “Advice for Seekers.” So, how do we explain that idea with the clear teaching of Romans 3:11-12, which says, “There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”? The answer is this—if we seek after God, then it is because God first sought after us. If we are seeking Him, it is because the Father is drawing us. Jesus said that otherwise none would come (John 6:44). This is His calling.

Remember the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) that was “seeking” to know God and drove his chariot all the way to Jerusalem in a futile search to find God in religion and ritual? He was reading the Word of God, but was clueless—as lost as a goose in a snowstorm. God was at work, in sovereign grace extending His call all the way to Africa. The Lord transported a witness named Philip over miles and miles from Samaria to Gaza in order to take the text and present Jesus to this court official. The black man turned to Christ, was converted and baptized that very day! That’s election. You might argue from your experience that you “found God.” We hear this language, all the time. If you, like the Ethiopian did, it is because God first found you! We are straying sheep, lost and cannot find our way. The Good Shepherd comes calling us.

Why? Just because He loves us! Why does He love us? Just because—and with God that is reason enough. We may be certain that it isn’t because we are lovely or lovable, for “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom.5:8). He chooses to do so in His grace—and our unworthiness is what makes it grace. If you are saved, you can look back on the circumstances of your life and see how God was orchestrating events to bring you to salvation. We live life forward, but understand it backward.

Christ woos us, wins us and weds us. He calls us to Himself as a young man sets his heart on a woman to become his bride. He continues to reach out to us to win our heart. He brings us into covenant relationship. Through it all, God takes the initiative, and we respond.

JUSTIFICATION “these He also justified…”
This is the judicial act of declaring those who receive Christ righteous. It is the absolute pardon of all sin and the imputation of righteousness by faith. Christ has taken our sin and paid the price a holy and just God demanded. Beyond that, His very righteousness has been placed in the credit side of life’s ledger for those He has called to be His own.

GLORIFICATION “these He also glorified.”
This is the consummation of salvation in heaven. It is a blessed truth to ponder that Paul describes this climactic moment in our future as in the past tense! Our resurrection state is so certain it is spoken of as though already accomplished. God sees it as a settled matter. Not all the demons of hell can prevent it, for God has purposed and promised it. He calls all His sheep and not one of them is lost (John 10:27-29). Not one link of the golden chain of salvation will be broken—that chain that lifts us up from earth to eternity.