Grace is Greater than a Second Chance

This summer, I had the wonderful privilege of being a Sky Ranch summer camp counselor. I worked with high school sophomores who all came from Christian backgrounds. Throughout the week, we walked through six different passages in Scripture, including Ephesians 2:1-10. When we got to verses 4-5, I asked the question, “What is grace?” I asked that question because I knew I shouldn’t assume that just because they came from a Christian background they already knew what grace was. Week after week, I received the same answer from multiple different campers, “Grace is a second chance.” This answer seems like it’s correct. Second chances are great, right? A popular worship band has a song titled “Second Chance” and it has these lyrics:

Your blood offers the chance

To rewind to innocence

Reborn, perfect as a child…

Oh Your cross, it’s where my hope restarts

A second chance is Heaven’s heart

While these lyrics sound wonderful, it is unwittingly leading us back to bondage.

In Socratic fashion, I would then ask my campers, “So it would seem that God forgives our first failed attempt at gaining eternal life because of our sin, but now gives us another attempt to gain eternal life by obedience, correct? God is like a school teacher who takes pity on a student who failed his math test, but now gives him another chance at passing the test.” This is what logically follows from calling grace merely a second chance. This view of grace puts us back in the same position as Adam in the Garden of Eden. Adam was created in a state of innocence and perfect like the lyrics above state. Adam had the hope of eternal life and glory in the presence of God on the basis of his perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience (Luke 10:25-28, Genesis 2:9).

My campers would counter, knowing that we continually fall into sin, “Grace is actually an infinite amount of second chances.” The problem with this view is that you have to attempt to attain eternal life an infinite amount of times (or at least until you die). Salvation, in this sense, can never be applied individually to the believer in the past, but only something that can be applied in the future after death. Moreover, this means that God must pardon (in a legal sense, not the familial sense as in the Lord’s Prayer) us every time we sin. We fall from the state of being justified before God every time we sin and need to be re-justified by God. This is fascinatingly similar to the medieval Christian view of salvation. Church historian Carl Trueman explains this view by writing,

God can demand perfection from human beings prior to giving them grace but, in fact, has condescended via means of a pactum (or covenant) to give grace to ‘the one who does what is in oneself.’ In answer to Luther’s question, ‘How can I be righteous [or justified] before God?’ one might respond, ‘Do what is in you,’ that is, do your best.

Understanding What the Law Demands

However, Scripture teaches that the Law does not demand that we merely try our best. It demands that we be perfect. Romans 2:13 says, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be justified.” Scripture offers two categories of humans: doers of the Law or breakers of the Law (James 2:10). Doers of the Law receive glory, honor, peace, and eternal life (Romans 2:7, 10); breakers of the Law receive wrath and fury, tribulation and distress (Romans 2:8-9). There is no third category of humans who try their best to obey the Law. The Law demands that we love the Lord our God with all of our heart, with all our soul, with all of our mind, and all of our strength and our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:26-27).

The Law demands everything from us. Our entire being must be dedicated to serving God and neighbor in order to have eternal life (Luke 10:28). If not, then we are under the curse of God as Galatians 3:10 says, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” For all of us who live right now, post-Fall, are born in the bondage to sin. We do not have the ability to obey the Law that we can attain eternal life by our own strength. We do not even have the ability to not sin. No one, by nature, can please God (Romans 8:8). Therefore, the pactum of medieval theology has no validity since there is nothing good in us that we can try our best to obey the Law. We are all born “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), in both a legal (Colossians 2:13-14) and moral sense (Ephesians 2:2). We all by nature exiled from the presence of God as the penalty for sin demands, as all those who touched a dead body were ceremonially unclean and could not participate in the worship of God in the community of God under the Mosaic Law (Numbers 19:11). Our whole person is defiled with sin, as touching a dead body defiled the whole person.

Heaven’s Heart

But a glorious light shines through our spiritual darkness: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…” The grace of God in Christ alone initiates and accomplishes our salvation. God alone frees the sinner from the penalty and power of sin. According to this text, this salvation is something that has occurred in the past, not to be gained in the future. Later on in this passage, Paul will argue that we are saved apart from our works (vv. 8-9). This salvation is bestowed upon a sinner apart from anything she does and is something she possesses now and forever more.

Another question I enjoyed asking campers each week was, “How is God just in saving sinners when He demands perfection for eternal life and must punish sin with eternal death?” Does God compromise His just Law to save sinners? He does not. But how can God remain just while being merciful to sinners? The answer is within the text of Ephesians 2: we were raised and made alive in Christ. When Christ was raised from the dead, we were raised from the dead.

The Active Obedience of Christ and Federal Headship

How is it that when Christ was raised from the dead we were raised from the dead? The answer lies in the concepts of the active obedience of Christ and his federal headship. While these are academic terms, they communicate a simple truth: when God sees us, He sees Jesus. When God sees us, He sees us as ones who have perfectly satisfied all of the demands of the Law, both its commands and condemnation.

The active obedience of Christ refers to His keeping of the Law of God throughout His entire life. He loved God and his neighbor perfectly. Because He loved God and neighbor perfectly, He received the reward of the Law: eternal life (Luke 10:25-27). The resurrection of Christ was God’s justification of the perfect life of Christ (Romans 1:4, 1 Timothy 3:16). Jesus was justified by works!

The federal headship of Christ refers to His legal representation of the people He saves. As the Second London Confession puts, “God was pleased, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them, to be the mediator between God and humanity.” The federal headship of Christ means that whatever the Son does, those who believe are counted as ones who did the same. When Jesus obeyed, the believer obeyed, just as when Adam sinned, humanity sinned. God regards the whole world as if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil like Adam did. Likewise, God regards all those believe as if they rendered perfect obedience the Law of God as it is written, “For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

The federal headship of Christ also means that we are raised, in a legal sense, with Christ. This means that God’s legal verdict upon Christ becomes our verdict through faith for it is written that Jesus was “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). Since the resurrection of Christ was God’s legal declaration of righteousness upon the life of Christ, this legal declaration of righteousness becomes ours through the federal headship of Christ. Since God has counted the obedience of Christ as our own, we receive the reward of that righteousness which is eternal life. Jesus was justified by works so that we may be justified by faith.

Grace is much greater than a second chance. God not only forgives our first attempt at eternal life, but sent Jesus to attempt and succeed as our great champion. Jesus not only died for our sins but lived to be our righteousness. On the cross of Christ, God saw us instead of one who perfectly obeyed the Law. Through faith in Christ, God sees Jesus instead of the sinner. “And to the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). For the ungodly who believe, as far as God is concerned, you are Jesus. That is heaven’s heart towards the ungodly.

Jesus Christ as Our High Priest

Before the throne of God above

I have a strong and perfect plea

A great High Priest whose name is love

Who ever lives and pleads for me.

The reality we all face in this sin-stained world is the truth that there is nothing of our own will or action that can remove our innate sin nature. Nothing. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Well where is the hope in that?” The only answer is written in the blood of Jesus Christ that was spilled on the cross of Calvary. It is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who now sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven (Heb. 1:1-4). That is the answer to our sin nature. Jesus as our High Priest sits and watches; He sees and knows everything and intercedes on our behalf.  Unlike the priests from the times of the Old Testament, who never finished making sacrifices, Jesus has finished His sacrificial work. His sacrifice on the cross was final and complete.

Old Covenant – Priests and Temple Sacrifice

In the the Old Covenant, the people of God knew the idea of a mediator only through the shadow of the Old Covenant priests, and particularly the high priest of Israel. The high priest was the only individual who could enter the innermost part of the tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, and that was only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). The priests were to offer sacrifices of various kinds- sin, burnt, grain, peace, and trespass offerings- (Lev. 1-7) which all ultimately pointed forward to Jesus and His complete sacrifice for our sins. God specifically set aside the Levites, one of Israel’s twelve tribes, to perform specific daily rituals and duties. However, these chosen Levites were still corrupted because of their sin nature. Some of them worshiped idols and stole from others (Ezek. 22:26; Jer. 2:8). Pastor David Mathis clarifies that,

The first covenant, with its earthly location and priesthood, was good and effective for a season, as God intended. Through animal blood, it brought God’s people, represented by the high priest, into his presence each year. However, the new covenant is better. Through Jesus — the superior priest, who cleanses us fully (inside and out), by means of his superior blood — we are invited to approach the very throne of God himself not just annually but weekly, daily, and at any moment (Hebrews 4:14-16).

The final answer came in the New Covenant, where the priestly line would come from the order of Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20), and the order of sacrifices under the Law would cease in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus would come, not from the fallible order of the Levites, but from Judah. Jesus reigns and He will not be succeeded by another priest; for His perfect life is the resounding end to temple sacrifice and atonement. He is our new and final High Priest.

New Covenant – Jesus as our High Priest

Jesus as High Priest atoned once and for all for the sins of humanity by offering His own life as the substitutionary sacrifice that satisfied the wrath of God. The atonement of the New Covenant is far greater than any atonement that came through the Levitical priests. The Law would no longer need to be fulfilled by earthly practices, but rather would be abolished forever because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice (Gal. 3:10-14). For the Lord declares, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34). Christs’ sacrifice was effective because His life was perfect and He did not remain dead, but rather was raised to eternal life at the right hand of His Father in Heaven to intercede for His people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 8:1-2).

Both Christ’s full humanity and full divinity are necessary to fulfill this role as the great High Priest. As Christians, our confidence is not in our own abilities or works, but rather in the High Priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, and was tempted just as we are, yet lived without sin (Heb. 4:14-15). He is our assured hope and anchor for our soul because He alone meets the requirements for a full sacrifice (Heb. 6:19-20). Jesus makes the propitiation for our sins, and by His own blood secures the covenant and enters the most Holy place where He reigns today (Heb. 9:11-12). To be seated at God’s right hand implies the greatest of honor and authority which Jesus possesses in His perfect union with the Father. Jesus’ divinity is further expressed in Hebrews 7:26-28, where it is written,

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once and for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. – Hebrews 7:26-28

The Truth for Today

So, what does this mean for you today? Well, if you are in Christ, you have a mediator who has secured eternity for you at the price of his own life. It is as Dr. Brandon Crowe, a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary writes,

Jesus’ sacrifice provides the solution to a problem that we often find in the Old Testament: even where sacrifices may be offered, people’s hearts (including those of the priests) were often far from God.

Praise be to God who saw us in our affliction and had a plan for redemption before time began. The fruition of this plan was Jesus Christ. Those who come to faith and submit their whole lives to Christ have a changed heart that is filled with the guiding direction of the Holy Spirit. We no longer need to perform ritual sacrifices, but we give our lives in obedient sacrifice to the calling of the Lord. It is through His grace and mercy we are being sanctified through the Spirit to bring others into the loving embrace of the Father and the presence of the priestly King, Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:11-14). He is our confidence and peace so that we, as redeemed sinners, can enter His presence with boldness now and for eternity (Heb. 4:16). This redemption allows us to sing joyfully the song “Before the Throne of God Above,” knowing that Jesus reigns as our loving High Priest. And because of this truth, the Lord will never reject us.

A Defense of Limited Atonement

Since Limited Atonement is so controversial, I thought it might be helpful to discuss a few of the passages people use to deny the doctrine. Hopefully, this will help resolve any seeming conflicts with other Bible passages.

Evidence to the Contrary?

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” – 2 Peter 3:8-10

Second Peter 3:9 is usually used by deniers of Limited Atonement because of the phrase, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” They reason, “If God truly does not want anyone to perish, how could he refrain from providing a sacrifice for their sins?” However, by reviewing the context of this verse, one will see that the group God does not want to perish is not every human being, but Christians. 

In 2 Peter 3:1-8, which establishes the context for verse 9, Peter the apostle encourages the recipients of his letter to believe that God is truly going to save them. Peter wants to reassure them that the scoffers, who declare that God’s judgment will never come, are wrong and that God will come for his people to bring Judgment Day to pass. Verse 9 begins with the assertion that God is not slow to fulfill his promise of salvation. God has made no such promise to the unbelieving scoffers being discussed here, but instead has made this promise of salvation to Christians. Peter wants the recipients of his letter to understand that God has not forgotten them, and that the blaspheming scoffers’ claims have no merit.

After this, Peter says that God is being patient toward “you.” Whatever patience God has is directed toward the “you,” which is the Christian people to whom he is writing. “You” does not refer to all humanity as some people argue. Peter is saying that God is waiting for all those who will comprise the “you” group (Christians) to come to repentance. God has made no such promise to non-Christians, and Judgment Day will follow soon after this promise is fulfilled (v. 10). It is a mistake to apply 2 Peter 3:9 to non-Christian people because it is an encouragement to Christians against lying unbelievers and not a declaration of God’s desire for everyone’s salvation.

To understand the next few passages, we need to understand how John uses the word “kosmos” or “world” in his writings. He sometimes uses it to mean the entire universe (John 17:5), the evil world system (1 John 5:19), unbelievers (John 15:18), Jews and Gentiles worldwide (John 6:33), the human realm (John 1:10), and even large crowds of people (John 12:19) among other uses. The term “world,” especially in John’s writings, must be interpreted in light of the context in which it is written. He does not use the term as most people would today. 

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2 

The second verse of 1 John 2 seems to deal a decisive blow against Limited Atonement. John calls Christ the propitiation for the sins of the “whole world.” Upon further examination, we will see that this verse cannot be denying Limited Atonement. 

To understand this verse, we need to understand what propitiation means. Propitiation means to appease an offended party. This verse states that Christ actually is the propitiation for the sins of the “whole world.” It does not say that he could be or that he aspires to be the propitiation, or appeasement, to God for the sins of the “whole world,” but that he actually is. If Christ has appeased the wrathful God on behalf of every single person (if that is indeed what “whole world” means here), then neither believers nor unbelievers would have to worry about God’s coming wrath. The whole of scripture is clear, however, that God is going to eventually pour out his righteous wrath on unbelieving sinners. Romans 2:5 says, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing  up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” 

Our solution lies in understanding how John uses the term “whole world.” It might be helpful to consider that in 1 John 5:19, a short three chapters later, John says, “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Here, John excludes Christians, who are “from God,” from the “whole world.” Clearly, “whole world” in this context does not mean everyone living, but only to the many people across the world who are under the power of the evil one. This necessarily excludes Christians because they are no longer under Satan’s power (Eph. 2:1-3, Col. 1:13).

We should view 1 John 2:2 similarly, and understand that “whole world” refers to all those across the whole world who can say Christ actually was a propitiation for their sins, and God no longer has any wrath reserved for them. It cannot mean every single person in the world, because that would mean there is no coming wrath for anyone, and the rest of scripture testifies against that idea. It should be noted that in 1 John 4:10, John refers to Jesus as a propitiation for sins once again, but says that he is a propitiation specifically for believers’ sins.

John 1:29 is another verse that is frequently cited to argue that Christ died for the sins of all people, even those who would never believe. Our understanding of the word “world” is important for understanding this verse too. Referring to Jesus, John the Baptist says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Many people who read this exclaim, “Look! This says he took away the world’s sins. This can only mean that Christ died for all people.” However, if we look carefully at the statement, we will see that John is not speaking of any potential Christ has to take away sins, but that whoever constitutes “the world” actually has their sins taken away. Like I said in my explanation of 1 John 2:2, taking “the world” to include even those who never believe would mean that all people would have their sins taken away and thus be saved. Scripture makes clear that some people will not be saved, and God will pour out his wrath on those who do not turn from their sins (Prov. 28:13). We should also understand the word “world” here to mean Jews and Gentiles across the world rather than every person in the world. 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

This verse is often used to argue that Christ died for all. The word “world” here likely means sinners generally as it does in other places in John’s writings. Regardless of who or what “world” refers to, the verse itself says nothing of the atonement’s extent. All we can deduce from this verse is that God gave his Son so that all the believing people would be saved. To use this verse as a rebuttal to Limited Atonement is to assign a meaning to the verse that is not there. We have to be careful to draw the meaning of a passage from passages and not impose our own ideas on the text. 

Further Study

Because I could not address every argument that opponents of Limited Atonement use in this article, I would like to give some general advice for looking at any scriptures concerning the extent of Christ’s atonement. First, we need to be certain that the passages we are examining are actually talking about what Christ desired to accomplish or did accomplish by his sacrifice. Verses about Christ welcoming all who come to him, and verses concerning Christ’s care for unbelievers do not necessarily tell us for whom he died. Secondly, we must be mindful of the consequences of our conclusions. Would your understanding of the verse you are reading contradict the rest of Scripture’s clear teaching? If so, there is an error in the interpretation. We must always be mindful to interpret less clear scriptures in light of clearer.

Rather than railing against this biblical doctrine as some do, we should happily embrace its truth. Everyone who turns from their sins and asks for God to forgive them in Christ can be certain that Christ suffered and died to secure a relationship with them and to make them holy and blameless before God (1 Peter 3:18, Eph. 1:4). That is where he ransomed you. If you have not yet come to Christ, please understand that he is commanding you to repent from your evil works and to find forgiveness in him by faith alone (Acts 17:30). The relationship with him to which he is calling you is greater than anything you could even fathom (Ephesians 3:14-19).

For Whom Did Christ Die?

Is Limited Atonement biblical? This doctrine states that at Jesus’ crucifixion, he only paid for the sins of those he intended to save. He purchased their salvation through his death, and it is guaranteed that each person for whom he died will come to saving faith and continue walking in faith until he or she safely enters into God’s presence. Jesus was able to atone for the sins of as many people as he wished, but he chose to pay only for the sins of Old Testament believers and those who would become Christians. Keep in mind, I am not trying to find verses that explicitly refute those who disagree. Instead, I am working from a neutral standpoint to learn what Scripture says about the extent of the atonement.

Clear Biblical Support 

To start, let’s look at some of Jesus’ statements from the Gospel of John:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
– John 10:11, 25–28

In this passage, Jesus speaks clearly about his intentions to sacrifice himself for a specific group of people; his sheep. Not only does Jesus declare that he will lay down his life specifically for the sheep who will follow him, but in verse 26 he makes a distinction between his sheep and those who are not his sheep. Since Jesus committed to sacrificing himself for his sheep and he explicitly excluded some people from that group, it is only reasonable to conclude that he does not intend to die for those who are not included in the group of his sheep. In verses 27–28, he says that he will grant his sheep eternal life, they will never perish, and they will not be removed from his care. Because Christ only died for his sheep and only gives them eternal life, it can be said that Christ only died for Christians.

Despite Jesus’ clear statement, some may still object, “Well, the passage does not explicitly reject the idea that Jesus died for his sheep and those who would never repent and believe in him.” Those who reject Limited Atonement may want this explicit statement, but it is unnecessary. When one says they will perform an action for a specific group of people, they do not need to explicitly state that the action is not being performed for people outside the identified group. For example, if one says, “I will pay for the food of everyone in my house,” it is unnecessary to clarify that they will not pay for the food of people outside of their house. Similarly, Jesus’ assertion that he will lay down his life for his sheep is sufficient for communicating that the laying down of his life was only for his sheep. No additional statement is needed, but the fact that Jesus clearly says some people are and his sheep removes any ambiguity. 

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
– Romans 8:32

Following his discussion of God’s unstoppable plan to save and sanctify his people in Romans 8:1–30, the apostle Paul explains how these truths reveal the love of God to believers. Verse 32 emphasizes the great love demonstrated by God the Father in his sacrifice of the infinitely valuable Son of God, Jesus. According to this verse, all those for whom the Son was given up can rest assured that God will give them “all things.” Can those who will spend eternity in Hell for their sins (people who never repent and trust in Jesus alone) say that God has “graciously given them all things?” Absolutely not! All who do not repent and believe will suffer an eternity of weeping, moaning, and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:36–43). It will be evident that Christ died for someone by the spiritual blessings they receive from God (“all things”). “All things” are received by everyone for whom Christ died. Therefore, those for whom Christ died can only be those God chooses to save and bless with “all things.” Clearly, this excludes those who are not saved and consequently condemned to Hell.

I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours… I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
– John 17:6–10, 20–21

In his prayer, Jesus identifies his apostles as individuals given to him by God the Father. He has revealed to them the truth that he is the Messiah, and they believe that he is the Christ. Not only does Jesus pray that the apostles would be saved and perfectly unified, but he prays for all future Christians who would believe through the proclaimed Gospel. While praying for this group, he explicitly states that he is NOT praying for the salvation of anyone outside of that group (John 17:9). Only the people he is praying for belong to God (John 17:10).

If Christ is not willing to pray for the salvation of these people, is it reasonable to believe he would be willing to die for them? It is clear that his intention is to save only those whom the Father has given him for the purpose of saving. Christ’s intentions in atoning for sins are not conflicting with the Father’s will because Christ perfectly did the will of the Father (John 5:19, John 6:37–44).

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
– Revelation 5:9–10

In this excerpt, we see that Jesus “ransomed people for God” by his blood. The word “ransomed” means to have purchased something, and the “blood” that was used to ransom the people for God refers to the bloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus actually ransomed for himself, people by his sacrifice at the cross. This means that he did not merely make a provision for people to accept if they wanted to, but he actually secured certain individuals who would definitely become God’s people. If Jesus chose to ransom all people by dying for all people, they would be his and become Christians. However, this verse does not teach that he ransomed all people, but only some. Notice that the passage says that Jesus ransomed people from every tribe and language and people and nation, and not that he ransomed every tribe and language and people and nation themselves. Those who are ransomed are really his and will be made into a kingdom by God (Revelation 5:10).

Why Is This Important? 

While acknowledging the truths above, we must not forget that God does all these things in love. Christ did not suffer with an indifferent attitude, but with a deep love for each individual that the persons of the Trinity agreed to save before creation (Eph 1:4).  When I first understood that the doctrine of Limited Atonement was biblical, I almost shed tears because of how clearly it revealed God’s love for me.

If you are a believer, rejoice that Jesus had you in mind at the cross. He knew you by name, and he suffered the outpouring of God’s wrath on your behalf. And he did it out of love. The triune God demonstrates his love in this way: the Father gave up the Son for you, the Son suffered for you, and the Holy Spirit has sealed you for the day you will fully enter into God’s presence. All three persons of the Trinity are delighted to have fellowship with you through Jesus Christ. 

If you have not yet received this blessing by repenting of your wicked rebellion against God, do that now. Ask the Lord for forgiveness, acknowledging that you have broken his commands, and come to him believing that Christ paid the penalty for your sins at the cross. There are no good works for you to do to please him. Although you should pursue these things in response to your relationship with God, they are not the foundation of your relationship. If you do repent, you can rest assured that he died for you and ransomed you for a relationship with him.

The Deity of the Holy Spirit

Whether you were raised in a Christian household, have grown up in the Church, or have recently become a Christian, I would be interested to ask what your view is on the Holy Spirit. Can you support with biblical evidence the triune divinity of the Spirit and His role in the Father, Son, Spirit relationship? Not to mention, how would you begin to explain who the Holy Spirit is to a non-believer? I too had to wrestle with these questions as I came to terms with the reality that the Holy Spirit is a person of depth and the roles of the Spirit need to be addressed by looking at the narrative of Scripture.

The deity of the Holy Spirit is essential to understand as a Christian and recognize its various roles in the history of Scripture, as well as its active role in the world today. As a Christian, the Holy Spirit may prove to be a challenging topic to be fully cognizant of; yet we must challenge ourselves to think critically and rely on wisdom from the Lord to gain understanding. 

The Hebrew word for Spirit is Ruakh, meaning an invisible, powerful energy, necessary for life. The Holy Spirit is invisible but is an indwelling person, and the biblical authors refer to the Spirit as God’s personal presence. Jesus, Himself, says, 

He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
-John 16:14

Jesus uses a singular, masculine pronoun to establish that the Spirit is a “He,” not an “it.”

Being honest with ourselves and others about the importance of the Holy Spirit is crucial to our Gospel witness. The Gospel mandate is to go into the world preaching the Good News to all creation. To do this, believers must first understand the Scriptural basis for the Holy Spirit and the roles this third person of the Trinity fulfills.

The Role of the Spirit in the Trinity

To begin addressing some of the questions posed above, there must be a clear presentation of how the Holy Spirit is involved in the Trinity. This starting point must be concrete knowledge in the heart of the Christian. Michael Horton presents a clear, foundational explanation of the Trinity in his book, Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story. He writes,

So the essence is one. The persons are God in exactly the same way and to exactly the same degree. They are equally omniscient, omnipotent, eternal, loving, just, and holy. The Son and the Spirit share the same essence (homoousios) as the Father. But the persons are three. Each has his own personal attributes that distinguish him from the others. The Father is the unbegotten source of all things, the son is the only-begotten Son, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Father gave his Son, and the Spirit unites us to him.
-Michael Horton

The doctrine of the Trinity was secured during the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 and later finalized at the Council of Constantinople in AD 381. The doctrinal statement of one essence in three persons is established in the recognizable Nicene Creed. Today, the Church recognizes the overwhelming importance of the Holy Spirit in every born-again believer.

Pastor and theologian, John Piper, establishes two key truths about the Holy Spirit in his message, The Holy Spirit: He is God! that succinctly describes who the Holy Spirit is: 1) the Holy Spirit is a person, not an impersonal force (John 14:15-17), and 2) the Holy Spirit is God, not a creation of God (1 Cor. 2:10-13). The Spirit is “of God” not because God created Him, but because He shares God’s nature and comes forth eternally from God. It is by the Spirit that Christ’s followers comprehend the Scriptures as well as speak and preach the good news of the Gospel.

The triune relationship of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit is complex and yet each person is equal first and foremost in power, knowledge, and divinity. Acts 10:38 gives a glimpse of this relationship,

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
-Acts 10:38

God himself provided Jesus with the Holy Spirit and the full power to complete His commands and purposes. Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, is our example to work towards our high calling (Phil. 3:14) and to fulfill our role as ambassadors for His Kingdom on earth (2 Cor. 5:11-21). The presentation of the roles of the three persons in Acts 10:38 proves evidently that each divine being engages equally together according to their respective characteristics. As Michael Horton puts it, 

The Father is the source, the Son is the mediator, and the Spirit is the one at work within the world—and within us—to bring the work to completion.
Michael Horton

The history of redemption that spans the course of Scripture progressively evolves the triune relationship. The Trinity, specifically the Spirit, has been and will continue to be imperative to the work of the Gospel.

The Spirit’s Divinity Evident in Scripture

Since the very beginning, the Spirit has been presently involved in the biblical narrative of Scripture.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and the darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
-Genesis 1:1-2

The triune God is the Maker of heaven and earth: the Father speaks creation into being through the Son and by the operation of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 104:30; John 1:1-3; Heb. 11:3). Realizing the Spirit was present, hovering, and actively participating during the formation of the world verifies His divine quality. 

Advancing into the New Testament, the Spirit continues to be present and declarative in the life of Jesus Christ. For the birth of Christ was by and from the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18; 20) and the Spirit was present at Jesus’ baptism, descending like a dove as Jesus arose from the water (Matt. 3:13-17; Mk. 1:9-11; Lk. 3:21-22; Jn. 1:32-34). The Spirit of God came once again in the person of Jesus Christ to transform and commission people to love the Lord God and others more completely. Jesus Himself as part of the Trinity was in a relationship with the Spirit as God saw accordingly fit. John Piper states that, 

Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River was God’s Spirit empowering Jesus to begin the new creation; healing and forgiving sins.
-John Piper

Today, the Spirit is continuing to work among the hearts of believers and non-believers to bring about the great multitude promised in Revelation 7:9-12. Two of the Great Commission accounts (Luke 24:44-53 and John 20:19-23) acknowledge the gift of the person of the Holy Spirit. Luke refers to the disciples being “clothed with power from on high” while John expresses the receiving of the Holy Spirit by being breathed on by Jesus. In particular, the Johannine Commission records Jesus appearing to His disciples after the Resurrection. This receiving of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ disciples is the same Spirit believers receive today when they confess, repent, and believe in God.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then, the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
John 20:19-23

The Holy Spirit is a gift upon becoming a new creation in Christ and as a follower of the Lord you are given the Holy Spirit as a Helper and Teacher and peacemaker as you live in the world for Christ’s glory (John 14:15-17, 25-26). When we ask the Spirit to direct and guide us daily, we are asking in the power of Christ to engage with the Father so we can honor Him in all that we say and do. For we know we are to love one another, and through the Spirit, God’s love is perfected in us as we abide in Him (1 John 4:12-14). 

Spurred on by the Spirit

Ultimately, each Christian’s life is to be lived empowered by the Spirit, who is not just a figure of the imagination, but is a fully divine being—the third person in the Trinity. The Spirit was present at Creation, in a communal relationship with Jesus Christ in the New Testament, and now is living in the hearts of Christians all over the world. Theologian John Piper articulates in The Holy Spirit: He is God! by saying,

There is only one power that can break the spell of Satan, waken the armies of the Lord, and rout the god of this age—the power of the Holy Spirit.
-John Piper

The Spirit has the power to right unbelief with trust, shatter hate with love, and awaken wayward hearts to the Gospel of grace. The reality is the Holy Spirit is what allows us to understand the things of God (1 Cor. 2:12-14) and because of Him, we have true wisdom to understand rather than reject the Gospel. 

The question now becomes do you believe the truth of the deity of the Spirit found in Scripture, and can you recognize the various roles the Spirit has and will continue to fulfill until the day of Christs’ return? I pray the Spirit will work anew in your heart and awaken your mind to the power living inside you if you are in Christ. If you have not given your life to Christ, I ask that you repent and believe in the saving power of Jesus’ death on the Cross and by faith come to Him, recognizing that it is by the Spirit your heart was awoken to your sin. May the peace of Christ fill you as you live as a Christian in tandem with the Spirit who is our indwelling ability to enjoy and glorify God forever.

Faith vs. Belief: A Study on Salvation

Ever since 1517 and the nailing of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door, Protestants have been known for a commitment to salvation by grace through faith alone. This Reformation was a call for the Church to return to its roots because it recognized that biblical salvation is a direct result of faith alone as it is attributed to faith alone over 50 times within the New Testament. Despite the beauty of this biblical doctrine, “Sola Fide” has been often marred and manipulated by a modernized Western church seeking a “cheap faith” that is, in reality, a mere form of intellectual assent. 

Regardless, the Bible preaches salvation by faith alone, so we must also. Again, we preach salvation by faith alone. Not belief alone. We, as Americans, have been inadvertently and falsely taught that faith and belief are, for all practical purposes, in fact one in the same. But maybe there’s more to “faith” than simply the acknowledgement of what is true.

Faith From the Perspective of a New Testament Writer

In the Greek, the word that translates into the English as “faith” is πίστις. As defined by the NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon, πίστις is understood to be “conviction of the truth of anything” and includes with it the idea of “trust and holy fervor.” Surprisingly, the technical modern day definition has hardly changed, and it is generally defined by Merriam Webster as a type of “allegiance” or “loyalty.” 

However, because the word “faith” in everyday conversation has become so overused in referring to a “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”, this is the way we typically envision it. More significantly, this is the way we read the word “faith” when we see it in Scripture, but this was not the intention of the writer then and therefore is still not the intention today. 

With this in mind, “faith alone” and “conviction of the truth, trust, and holy fervor alone” should theoretically invoke the same mental image when we hear each phrase. So yes, salvation is by faith alone, but it is extremely important to know what the writer originally meant when he said “faith.” A misunderstanding here can be dangerous.

Scripture’s Definition of Faith

It’s always a good idea to enlist the services of the Almighty God who possesses all the authority, wisdom, and knowledge necessary to define a word, especially when that word is the central theme of His own book. So what’s the Holy Spirit’s definition of faith? 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
-Hebrews 11:1

Based upon this verse, I believe that faith is where intellectual acknowledgement and desperation collide. Not only is it the convicted assurance of what we do not physically see, but it is also the assurance of something we are genuinely hoping for – something we genuinely need. This passage assumes that there exists a large capsule of hope within the heart that truly possesses faith, and this kind of hope implies a thirst and desire for something we do not yet have. Paul more fully explains this hope in his letter to the Romans.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. -Romans 8:22-25

To put these things together, biblical faith could be described as hope for the redemption of all creation, including one’s own soul, from the effects of sin and death’s decay, brought about by the convicted assurance of something not yet physically present (2 Cor. 4:16-18). My question is once again this: Does this define the faith of the American church?

Salvation Throughout Scripture

For this section, I have chosen what I believe to be three of the most commonly used “Salvation Verses” in the Bible for further analysis. Upon participating in some brief exploration of each, I quickly discovered the remarkable depth to these verses that we are blinded from seeing by the bright lights of familiarity and cliché. As it has been wisely noted, “the greatest enemy of faith is not fear; it is familiarity.”

because, if you confess with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
-Romans 10:9-10

Sounds simple enough right? Initially, it seems like Paul is saying that to be saved, you must simply say a few words and then acknowledge the validity of a historical event, namely, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. However, with this interpretation, what we miss in the passage is the word “heart.” 

When the word “believe” is used, it is typically defined as an intellectual function of the brain. But if Scripture was trying to communicate academic agreement, it would have instead said “believe in your mind” or maybe even “be fully convinced in your mind” or something more along those lines. 

However, that is not what the passage says. It actually attaches the word “belief” with the word “heart.” The clear distinction we must make is that believing in your heart is in fact different from believing in your head. 

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
-James 2:19

Now, I am under the impression that demons do not possess the faith necessary to obtain eternal life in heaven, and I hope you would agree. So in order to grasp what this kind of heartfelt belief looks like, let’s look at perhaps the most quoted Bible verse in America:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
-John 3:16

As the most popular verse in the entire Bible, John 3:16 has certainly received its fair share of air time, but what most people have never read are the two verses directly before.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
-John 3:14-15

To figure out what the belief in the Son of Man that leads to salvation actually is, we must look at the story that Christ is referencing in the Old Testament. The story occurs within Numbers 21 in verses 4 through 9, while the Israelites are in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land after recently being freed from their slavery to Egypt. The people begin to doubt the goodness of God and sin against Him by complaining that the food that God has given to them is not good enough. Because of this, God sends judgement upon the people in the form of what the Bible calls “fiery serpents.” The serpents bring death to many of the Israelites while also bringing about repentant hearts within others. The members of this second group confess their sin, and God provides a path for their healing by asking Moses to set up a pole with a bronze serpent on it. With one glance at this bronze serpent, those seeking healing will be healed from the effects of the fiery snakes.

From this passage, there are three brief things that are important to notice when interpreting the meaning of John 3:14-16. These three things are repentance of sin, willful seeking of healing, and a trusting in the provision of God as the source of redemption. The people actually felt guilty and understood their need for rescue, they sought healing in something outside of themselves, and they found this forgiveness, mercy, and love from the God who freely offers it to those who seek it. This is the kind of faith and belief that Jesus is teaching in John 3:16, and it is the basis for all other Scriptural teaching on salvation. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
-Ephesians 2:8-9

Other than an explicit teaching against a “faith plus works” theology on salvation, this passage reveals that even the faith we have is a gift from God. Now, does intellectual agreement require an act of God? Certainly not, because, as we have seen, demons believe in God. No work gets us into heaven, including the “work” of believing that no work will get us into heaven. 

It is the faith itself, a gift of God, and not the belief in “salvation by faith” that saves. Belief in something does not require anything supernatural, but Scripture teaches that the faith that brings about salvation does. So what’s the difference? What does the Christian saved through faith possess that the nominal Christian who supposedly believes does not?

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
-Romans 8:14-16

The true child of the living God has the Spirit of God within them and a new heart that cries out “Abba,” the Hebrew word signifying personal intimacy between father and child. As Charles Simeon puts it, 

For a nominal Christian is content with proving the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer. But the true Christian loves it, delights in it, glories in it, and shudders at the very thought of glorying in anything else.

So, faith is a gift of God. It is planted into the contrite heart and broken spirit that seeks redemption, through the Father’s provision, from the condemnation brought about by sin. It is the point where a correct understanding of truth and heartfelt desperation meet. This truth is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and this desperation finds its fulfillment in the Christian’s hope for future vindication – the freedom of all creation from its temporal bondage to death. 

Faith is expressly seen through an inexplicable trust in God and fervor for his Kingdom that flow from the Spirit of God within the Christian’s new heart that inevitably leads to good works for the glory of God. This is biblical faith (Phil. 4:7).

But What About James 2:24?

This is totally a fair question. After all, the only place in the entire New Testament where you can find the phrase “faith alone” is actually in this verse:

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
-James 2:24

First, we must interpret Scripture with other Scripture by using the 50+ verses attributing salvation to an act of faith. Second, we must interpret Scripture within the context of that specific passage. When James uses the word “faith” in verse 24, he has already defined what he means by this in verse 14, and this is not the kind of faith that we have seen so far throughout the New Testament. The faith that will alone never justify anyone is a “dead faith”, a faith without works. While a “dead faith” justifies no one (with or without works), real faith is a “living faith” that justifies man before God, and good works are simply what externally reveal the inward reality of the faith’s condition.

It is also abundantly clear within Scripture that even the good works you do after receiving salvation are the acts of God working through you (Phil 2:12-13, Eph 2:10, John 15:4-5, Heb 13:21, etc.). So, if you believe that your works justify you before God, remember that your works are not even your own. These righteous works are simply the Spirit’s gift of “faith working itself out through love” (Gal 5:6). While belief has to work, faith longs to do so.

So Then How Is One Saved?

Well, it is definitely worth noting that this conversation is only happening because most people who call themselves Christians today are not actually internally bothered and grieved by their own sin. Instead, they are merely bothered by the idea of going to hell. Faith, therefore, looks to them more like belief, because there is nothing within their heart truly begging for healing. In other words, the good news is just news to those who are not poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3-6). But, when this type of pleading is indeed the case, the gospel is much more simple:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
-Matthew 11:28

So, to those who are weary from the seemingly hopeless fight against sin; to those who are weary from the burdens of bad decisions made in the past; to those who are weary from relentless attempts to be good enough, nice enough, righteous enough, kind enough, perfect enough, or whatever enough; and to those who are heavy laden upon discovering that you will never be; come find rest in Jesus. 

Though the world lies to you in an attempt to ignore the problem by telling you that “You are enough,” Christ instead chooses to love you regardless of the fact that you are not enough. He has paid for all your sin on the cross and has defeated sin, death, and the grave on your behalf. Now, He calls out to you under one simple condition: Follow me. And what a privilege it is to do so.

Why Read the Old Testament?

I love to rewatch movies. There is just something sweet and restful about knowing how a movie will end. When you know the movie will end, you can sit there and enjoy the story without worrying or wondering what will happen. I have many movies that I love, but one of my go-to movies is You’ve Got Mail. That movie is just sweet every time. I remember the very first time I watched that movie, and still every time I watch it, I am swept up in the story. 

Will Joe and Kathleen be able to overcome their business feud? Will they get together in the end? It is captivating every time. However, I also love rewatching it because I know how it will end. I know that in the end they will meet in the park and Brinkley, Joe’s dog, will come running to meet Kathleen and she will start to cry because she wanted it to be Joe so badly. 

Now that I have seen it once, when I sit down to watch it I can rest knowing how it will end. I still get swept up in the story, but my worry level is way down because I know the ending. But, if I only rewatched the last ten minutes of the movie, I would soon become numb to it. The ending would start to become less and less beautiful to me because I would forget the build up. The buildup makes the ending that much sweeter. I do injustice to the movie when I only watch the ending. It was never intended to be watched that way. 

Only Reading the End of the Bible

I think we do the same thing with the Bible. There seems to be this epidemic going around where people only read the New Testament. This seems to be a significant shift in evangelical tradition where the Old Testament has been seen as less important, and much less necessary for the Christian walk. To be sure, the story of Jesus’s life is the center of the story that all Scripture is pointing to, but how will we ever know what it means that Jesus is the center if we have not read anything that comes before that?

Jay Sklar, an Old Testament scholar, tells a fascinating story about people who were interviewed after seeing Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ. Many said that they liked the film, but that they felt that the film did not have much of a plot. These people are spot on. If nothing came before that displayed the need and anticipation of Christ’s death, then He is just a random guy who died a criminal’s death. Christ’s death has little plot if there is nothing that precedes it. 

If we really believe 2 Timothy 3:16 that says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” then we will take the Old Testament much more seriously. Because I want to avoid numbing myself to the beauty of my favorite movies, I don’t watch the end over and over again. We must not do that with Scripture either. 

However, I am not unaware of the struggles people have with the Old Testament; I’ve gone through them myself. But, I think it is essential to examine the reasons we tend to shy away from the Old Testament. 

I Don’t Understand

Many people say that they don’t read the Old Testament because it is difficult to understand. This is a fair argument to be sure. Entering into books like Leviticus or Zechariah and trying to interpret both what they are saying and the significance of the book as a whole is difficult. There is nothing wrong with starting with the New Testament because it feels more comprehensible and straightforward. 

However, I believe the New Testament will become so much more rich and robust to you if you understand the Old Testament. There are many aspects of Scripture that are difficult to understand that are worth understanding. If you are in this boat, I would encourage you to find resources, or ask someone you trust to help you walk through the Old Testament. If a movie is not understandable at the beginning, it won’t be understandable if you skip to the end.

It Isn’t Applicable

The argument that the Old Testament has no application to our lives is an interesting one. I understand it. How do the genealogies in 1 Chronicles affect how I live my life today? Should I go and offer a grain offering like Leviticus commands? These, again, are fair points to be sure. To think about this, let’s think about the life of Jesus himself. 

When Jesus is tempted in the desert, he uses Scripture to back it up. When Satan tempts Jesus to turn stone into bread after fasting for forty days, Jesus meets that temptation with Scripture. He quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 which says, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” When Satan promises to give Jesus authority if he worships Satan, Jesus brings up both Deuteronomy 6:13 and 1 Samuel 7:3 by saying, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” 

Satan’s third attempt at temptation is intriguing because Satan throws Scripture back in Jesus’s face! Satan says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and ‘On their hands they will bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone.” As readers we think, “Oh man, how is Jesus going to come back after that? Satan just used Jesus’s own defense weapon against him!” Jesus, without missing a beat, responds to Satan and quotes Deuteronomy 6:16 and says, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 

Then Satan departs from him. This is important for us. Jesus not only knew enough Scripture to combat Satan’s lies, he also knew an incredibly important truth: Scripture interprets Scripture. Satan’s misuse of the Word of God did not cause Jesus to stumble because he knew it well enough to know when it is being taken out of context, and knew other passages to combat a misuse of Scripture. We must be well acquainted with the Bible, not only to combat lies, but the misuse of the true Word of God. 

Remember, Jesus only had the Old Testament at this point. For Jesus, the Old Testament was what he clung to in times of hardship and temptation. And of course he would, the Old Testament shows us again and again that God is faithful in times of need, that he is a promise keeping God. Knowing who God is changes everything about how we live our lives today. Jesus models that to us. The Old Testament is a window into the heart of God. Yet when is the last time we have gone to books like Deuteronomy in times of trouble and temptation. Let us model after Jesus, who was deeply knowledgeable of the Old Testament and was ready to use it when he needed to combat lies with truth. 

Jesus Didn’t Say It 

The idea that any word in the Bible that is not said by Jesus is not worth hearing or following is one that stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of Jesus and of Scripture. I remember I was once with some of my friends and someone jokingly said, “All I need is the red letters of the Bible,” to which my friend sarcastically responded, “Yes because those are the ones that are Jesus’s words.” I remember being completely stunned as I witnessed this encounter. 

We are so quick to take Jesus’s words with more weight and gravity. I do not mean here to devalue the words of Christ. We should take it incredibly seriously that God came down as a man and had important things to say to us. The gravity of this should overwhelm us and bring us to incredible gratitude. 

Since before the creation of the world, the Father has been loving His Son through His Spirit. They are eternally united. The Bible is breathed out by God. Our whole Bible should be in red ink because Jesus is not separate from the Old Testament. It all points to Him, and He was there as it was being written. Every word of the Bible is a word from Christ. 

The Old Testament Show Us the Character of God

The Old Testament gives us an incredibly robust picture of the character of God. It is indispensable. The Levitical laws show us what God values. The laws give us a window into the heart of the lawgiver. Deuteronomy shows us that God’s covenant faithfulness should lead to obedience. Judges shows us that we are in desperate need of a Perfect Rescuer. 1 and 2 Kings show us that God is faithful to a faithless people, even though they turn from him again and again. Jeremiah shows us that God is faithful to deliver judgement but that he will not make full end of His people because he keeps His promises. It shows us, in the words of Charles Spurgeon, that, 

History shows that whenever God uses a rod to chasten His servants, He always breaks it afterwards, as if he loathed the rod which gave His children pain.

God is consistent in his punishments and in his faithfulness to His people. The book of Psalms shows us what it looks like to cry out to God in our pain and in our rejoicing. Ecclesiastes calls us to be honest about the bleakness of living in a fallen world, and yet that there is nothing better to do but enjoy the gifts from God that we do have now. Ezekiel shows us that God delivers judgements in order to help us know that He is the Lord. Hosea shows us that God is faithful to his faithless bride. The list goes on and on. 

We need this knowledge of God because just like his people Israel, we are God’s faithless bride. I remember reading Psalm 119 the same time I was reading 1 Kings. Psalm 119:140 seemed to jump off the page: “Your promise is well tried, your servant loves it.” After seeing all of the ways that God’s people had run so far from Him and not walked in His ways, reading this brought me to tears. Realizing that after centuries of God being faithful to His faithless people, that He will be faithful to me too, who is just as faithless and untrusting as the Israelites. 

The Old Testament is applicable to our lives because God is an unchanging God. If we learn something new about God in Genesis, we have learned something about God that is still true to this day. And we need to know about God because God is the creator and sustainer of all things. And He is the ruler of our lives. Don’t you want to know about your ruler? 

What He values and what He is like? Knowing more about this changes everything about how we live. What could be more applicable than knowing more about the maker and keeper of life? And knowing that if He has been faithful for centuries and centuries to a people that fails Him often, then He will be faithful to us as well. 

The Old Testament Matters

We must let the Old Testament awaken our hearts to the beauty of what Jesus has accomplished. Yes, it can be tedious and difficult to understand, but the biblical story, the story of Jesus, is nothing without it. The Old Testament shows us more of who God is, more of His unfailing loving and faithfulness. That is worth reading.

Does God Desire All to Be Saved? A Review

This is a book review on John Piper’s Does God Desire All to Be Saved?

Nearly three years ago, I was sitting on the floor of my small group leader’s spare bedroom with a dozen high school students when we came upon 1 Timothy 2:4. In his pastoral words to Timothy, Paul writes,

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
-1 Timothy 2:3-4

As we thought through what this verse might mean, and what the contextual clues in this passage and throughout Scripture had to say about it, we concluded that though God desires all people to be saved, not all people are saved. 

What is keeping God from saving all people?

Thankfully, in light of the contextual clues throughout Scripture, the wisdom of our small group leader, and the teaching we had received growing up, we avoided the heresy of universalism. After quickly dismissing the idea that God saved all people despite their faith, we were stumped. How could God desire for all people to be saved, yet all people not be saved? What hindered God from accomplishing his will? These questions were well over our heads.

Our small group leader explained that he believed God was even more committed to giving us self-determination or free will than he was to saving all people. Essentially, God loves us too much to force a decision upon us, therefore, leaving it up to our choice whether we would respond in faith.

This was problematic to me for several reasons. First, the Scripture shows examples of people like Paul who came to faith as a result of God’s regenerative work in bringing them to new life and faith in Christ’s work. Second, the Scripture seemed to present a greater will of God than to merely give us our own choice.

Conveniently, there are men far wiser than I who have asked these same questions and searched the totality of the Scripture for them. One of those men is John Piper. In Piper’s 2013 short theological essay, Does God Desire All to Be Saved?, the seasoned pastor-theologian asks the same question we asked that night.

The Aim of the Essay

If you’re going to read this essay, you should know that Piper comes in with a few presuppositions. First, Piper assumes that Scripture is inspired by God and does not contradict itself. Second, he presumes that God is sovereign over everything. 

To be clear, both of these presuppositions are orthodox positions, but it is important to remember that Piper’s aim in writing this essay is not to defend these truths, but rather, assuming that they are true. 

To show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God’s will for all people to be saved and his will to choose some people for salvation unconditionally before creation is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion.

By saying this, Piper introduces the idea that God has two wills: a sovereign will and a moral will.

Where This Book Excelled

Generally speaking, this essay was fantastic. In a mere 54 pages, Piper lays out his argument clearly, carefully, and pastorally. There were a few areas where I felt like this book particularly shined.

Built on Scripture

Throughout the essay, Piper builds his assertions not on ever-changing logic or deduction, but on the Scriptures. He immediately points out the seemingly problematic nature of a text like 1 Timothy 2:4, but rather than dismissing it as a misunderstanding, he engages it. 

Though Piper notes that “it is possible that a careful interpretation of [this verse] would lead us to believe that [this] does not refer to every individual person, but rather to all types of people,” he puts that interpretation to the side for the sake of understanding the reality that Scripture teaches God desires for all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:8-9, Ezekiel 18:23, and Matthew 23:37).

Relied on History

While the crux of the argument made in this book is made on the basis of thorough examination of the Biblical text, Piper consistently relies upon the insights of faithful Christians of the past. He frequently points the readers back to authors like John Gill, Adolf Schlatter, Heinrich Heppe, Jonathan Edwards, Theodore Beza, Stephen Charnock, Robert Dabney, and John Calvin. For an idea that initially seems rather novel, Piper does well to point to the men of the past in order to strengthen his case.

Engaged with Opponents

As Piper develops his explanation, he simultaneously interacts with the position of his opponents. In a conversation where both camps claim their position is built on the Bible and relies on history, one of the most revealing aspects of the author’s side is the way that he engages opponents’ own text.

Throughout the essay, Piper walks through the ideas presented in A Case for Arminianism by Clark Pinnock and a number of other contributors. For example, he fundamentally changes the way that we answer the question when he references the words of the late I. Howard Marshall. In the section entitled, “Universal Grace and Atonement in the Pastoral Epistles,” Marshall writes, 

We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen, and both of these things can be spoken of as God’s will.

Identifying the Epicenter

Piper rightly identifies the points of unity and the grounds of debate when he writes, 

Both the Reformed and the Arminians affirm two wills in God when they ponder over 1 Timothy 2:4. Both can say that God wills for all to be saved. And when queried why all are not saved, both the Reformed and Arminians answer the same: because God is committed to something even more valuable than saving all. The difference between the Reformed and the Arminians lies not in whether there are two wills in God, but in what they say this higher commitment is.

This is crucial because initially it seems like Reformed theologians are forced to perform exegetical gymnastics in order to conclude that there are two wills in God, but Piper is arguing that both sides actually come to the same initial conclusion. 

Where This Book Fell Short

At this point, I have spent ample time explaining the areas in which this essay surpassed my expectations. While this work was incredibly well-written and thought-provoking, a few areas missed the mark.

Overly Reliant on Previous Works

To be honest, if I had not read his other works, Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ and Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace, much of the assertions made in this book would seem insufficiently explained. Piper relies heavily upon the conclusions of these two books in order to lay the groundwork for the theological ideas presented here.

Lack of Practical Application

Near the end of this essay, Piper notes that Randall G. Basinger argued that “belief in the absolute sovereignty of God is practically irrelevant in daily life.” Piper shows the irony of this statement in light of James 4:13-15, but falls short of giving useful application. The inclusion of actual examples in the Christian life such as evangelism, work, or marriage, would elevate the weight of this essay’s argument.

Who Should Read This Book?

This is not simply a book for the theology nerds, but rather a pastoral call to understand the seemingly paradoxical relationship within the will of God. This is a book for pastors, teachers, business men and women, stay-at-home parents, and even college students. While Piper does not explicitly state how this will affect the Christian life, I believe that by reading it you will not only grow in your knowledge of the Lord, but your love as well.

This topic is dense, but Piper guides the reader through these deep waters. If your aim in reading this book is mere intellectual satisfaction, you’re missing the point. You should read this book in order to grow in your understanding of who God is and, therefore, worship Him for it.

The Wrath of God

Have you ever heard your pastor preach on the wrath of God? In many churches it seems as if preaching on such a topic is a thing of the past. Kevin DeYoung gives an example of the stuff you will even hear from some church goers: “We’re past that fire-and-brimstone, puritanical stuff. The God I believe in is a God of love.” John MacArthur writes that “God’s wrath is almost entirely missing from modern presentations of the Gospel. It is not fashionable to speak of God’s wrath against sin or to tell people they should fear God.” 

We feel as if it hurts our witness to preach God’s justice and wrath; so, we choose to preach only on God’s mercy and love. But, as DeYoung phrases it, when “we minimize God’s justice, we do not exalt His mercy, we undermine it.” The oncologist is pained to tell his patient of a brain tumor. He does not enjoy this duty, but imagine the inhumane (easier) alternative. MacArthur asserts that such compromise “does not enhance evangelism; it undermines it.” Our willingness to neglect the doctrines of hell and holy wrath is ultimately not loving, it is a willingness to water down the Gospel, and it is out of line with Scripture.

Scripture’s Insistence Upon God’s Wrath

The biblical presentation of the Gospel includes mention of the wrath of God. The Bible could not be more clear about God’s wrath. It mentions it around 470 times. The adage that God “hates the sin but not the sinner” is simply not true for unbelievers. The Bible states that God hates not just sin, but also unconverted sinners (Ps.5:5). 

After Paul’s thesis in Romans (1:16-17), his first premise includes the wrath of God: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). Paul cannot be accused of being unloving towards his audience, he testifies before God with utmost sincerity that he was willing to even suffer the wrath of God on their behalf (Romans 9:1-5)! 

Christ spoke more about the wrath of God and the judgement of God than anyone else in Scripture. He warned, “my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4-5). Ryan Denton writes that, “Hell reveals that God is a sin-avenging judge, not the apathetic grandpa of contemporary evangelicalism. Jesus used the most horrid descriptions imaginable when it came to Hell. Language fails to describe what omnipotent wrath will accomplish against the sinner in hell, yet we must do our best to communicate its realities” 

This being said, we must remember to be careful not to blasphemously think of God as cruel or evil in any way. This doctrine ought to lead us to worship our God in seriousness and wonder. Beeke writes that “God’s wrath does not reveal any evil in his being, but his zealous love for justice. There was no divine wrath toward creation in its pristine purity. Only after the fall did God bar the entrance to paradise with the ‘flaming sword of his anger (Gen. 3:24).” 

The Eternal Damnation of the Reprobate

We must take it to heart that there are millions of souls who will be tormented under God’s wrath for all eternity (Is.33:14, Mt.25:46, Lk.16:19-31, 2Thes.1:8-9, Rev.14:10-15). Jonathan Edwards solemnly warned: 

Do but consider what it is to suffer extreme torment forever and ever; to suffer it day and night, from one day to another, from one year to another, from one age to another, and so adding age to age and thousands and thousands, in pain, in wailing and lamenting, groaning and shrieking and gnashing your teeth; with your souls full of dreadful grief and amazement, with your bodies and every member full of racking torture, without any possibility of getting ease; without any possibility of moving God to pity by your cries; without any possibility of obtaining any manner of mitigation or help or change for the better any way, without any possibility of hiding yourselves from God.

It truly is a “fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Currently we go about our short lives in the midst of countless souls, blind to this reality. There are many around us who are “at rest when they are thus hanging over eternal burnings, at the same time having no lease on their lives and not knowing how soon the thread by which they hang will break, nor do they pretend to know. And if it breaks they are gone; they are lost forever, and there is no remedy!” We must sound the alarm, for “there is a Savior provided who is able to and who freely offers to save you from the punishment.” Let us plead with souls to “flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7). Let us urge the lost to “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way…”, and tell them the comforting news that “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12). 

Does God’s Wrath Remain on You?

If you have not been born again, I plead with you to consider the wrath of God which currently remains on you. Put all of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). Please, friend, “flee and embrace Him who came into the world for the very end of saving sinners… who has paid the whole debt due to the divine law and has exhausted the eternal torments in His temporal sufferings… Therefore, believe in Him, come to Him, commit your souls to Him to be saved by Him. In Him you shall be safe from the eternal torments of hell… Through Him you shall inherit inconceivable blessedness and glory which will be of equal duration with the torments of hell. For, as at the last day the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, so shall the righteous, or those who trust in Christ, go into life eternal.” What is stopping you from turning to Christ? Do not procrastinate, for today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). You are not guaranteed tomorrow. 

We proclaim the wrath of God because we love God and we love sinners. Compromising here hides the full picture of the cross, where Christ was crushed under the full force of God’s wrath on behalf of those who believe in him. The cross was simultaneously the greatest demonstration of the love of God and the greatest demonstration of the wrath of God in all of human history. Christ knew that God’s wrath was to be poured out upon him at Calvary. He pleaded in Gethsemane that the cup of the wrath of God would pass from his hands, (Mt.26:39, Ps.75:8, Jer.25:15-16), yet he still went to the cross and agonized for sinners. 

The Heidelberg Catechism says that we desperately need a Savior “who is truly human and truly righteous, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.” Why did our substitute need to be a righteous human being? Because “God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin; but a sinner could never pay for others.” Why did our substitute need to also be divine? “So that, by the power of His divinity, He might bear the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life.” Since Christ did this for me, I am His forever.

Consider the thousands of anxious Christians, struggling to believe they are loved by God. If only someone would cry out to them that Christ has satisfied the fullness of the wrath of God that they deserve! Consider the loving words of God to His people: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2). ALL of her sins have been dealt with, for “it was the will of the LORD to crush him” (that is, the Christ), in her place (Isaiah 53:10). To know that Christ has done this for you is to never doubt God’s love for you.

Further Application of the Doctrine

Rightly understanding the wrath of God helps us to endure suffering. Not even the worst we will endure is comparable with the past suffering of Christ, the present suffering that we deserve, or the glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). Now, lamenting in times of great pain is a godly thing. Christians are not called to pretend that our problems and our suffering do not exist. We are given the incredible privilege to lament our suffering before God. But honestly, we sometimes resentfully feel like we are entitled to better treatment from God. But the only thing we are entitled to is God’s wrath, which Christ took for us. When we exchange entitlement for gratitude, then we are freed to live more joyfully. Therefore, in the midst of all of the current suffering our nation is enduring, our nonbelieving neighbors ought to be astonished at the songs of praise being lifted up from Christian homes.

Rightly understanding the wrath of God will free you from grumbling about your spouse. Behind such grumbling “is the pride that says, ‘I have the right to a certain kind of spouse or to a certain amount of sexual pleasure and gratification.’ You have no right to anything except judgement for your sins.” Beekes goes on to say that “when you see that you are a hell-deserving sinner, surely you must also admit, ‘I am receiving better than what I deserve.’ And if you have a believer for a mate, no matter how imperfect, you have cause to bless God every day.”

Rightly understanding the wrath of God will help to liberate you from the lust for revenge. Paul writes, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19). Knowing this can also help us not to be envious towards the wicked around us. Beeke writes that “Knowing that God will punish the wicked with sudden and total destruction, we no longer envy their attainments or resent their prosperity (Deut 32:35; Ps. 73:18).” Instead of envious hearts towards them, let us put on hearts of pity and broken-hearted love that lead us to evangelism and acts of kindness.

As Beeke also mentions, rightly understanding the wrath of God will also help us to mortify our sin. In a sense, we should “learn to imitate his wrath precisely because we imitate his love.” As Paul says, we need to put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit, (Romans 8:12). We need to have wrath against our sin and detest it.

And finally, as believers in the wrath of God, we can be comforted, for we know that God is not turning a blind eye to all of the abominable injustices which plague our land, but hates injustice far more than we will ever hate it, and we can have additional assurance of the fact that He will make all things right.

John Calvin on the Assurance of Salvation

Recently, Flame, one of the most prolific Christian rappers in history, came out with an EP called “Extra Nos.” The focus of the album was about Flame’s journey to becoming a confessional Lutheran and how Calvinism tends to erode the believer’s assurance of salvation by pointing believers to their good works and progress in sanctification instead of the finished work of Christ. 

Flame believes that Luther had a scripturally correct view of assurance because his emphasis was upon the mighty works of Christ in His redemptive work for sinners while Calvin had a defective view of assurance because his emphasis was on the weary efforts of the Christian at holiness. I would like to contend that Flame did not say anything Calvin would disagree with. In fact, Calvin expresses the same view of assurance as Flame almost word for word.

Good Works and Assurance

In his interlude song “Good Works,” Flame says,

But what makes us right with God, Paul says, is our faith. That’s how we are made righteous and how we remain righteous, in Christ. But when you blur those lines and start looking at your sanctification for assurance that you’re right with God, a bunch of problems arise. First off, we end up filled with discouragement from constantly missing the mark. We can also end up filled with self-doubt from constantly applying subjective and arbitrary measures to assess our level of sanctification in order to determine whether or not we are justified. Or on the flip side, we could be filled with self-righteousness as a result of fulfilling some criteria we created and then in turn cast judgement on others who don’t check our specific boxes. This is a common experience especially among Calvinists.

The reason Flame believes sanctification and good works cannot be the foundation of assurance is because sanctification is a “partial, uncompleted work” as he said in his song “2KR.” According to Flame, the emphasis should not be upon the uncompleted, subjective work of sanctification in us but upon the completed, objective work of justification outside of us in Christ. The righteousness of Christ extra nos (outside of ourselves) is where we ought to find the objective foundation of assurance of our salvation.

Calvin would like to agree. In his commentary on Romans 5:1, Calvin writes,

When any one strives to seek tranquility of conscience by works, he labors for it in vain; for either his heart is asleep through his disregard or forgetfulness of God’s judgement, or else it is full of trembling and dread until it reposes on Christ, who is alone our peace.

Romans 5:1 is about our objective peace with God. Since we have been justified by faith, we are no longer under God’s wrath, but have peace with Him because Christ exhausted the wrath of God on our behalf and met the demands of His Law as our representative. We merely received and rested in Christ so that God declared us righteous, one who has met the obligations of the Law and has satisfied its penalty. This is objective. It’s true whether we feel it or not. It’s not based upon our good works but upon the good works of Christ.

But Calvin believes the objective work of Christ for us ought to give us a kind of subjective feeling of peace. In order to have tranquility of the conscience, we must repose, or rest in, what Christ has done for us. Calvin agrees that believers, if they trust in their good works, will never find true assurance before the throne of God because even our good works are mingled with sin, as he writes:

There is nowhere such a fear of God as can give full security, and the saints are always conscious that any integrity which they may possess is mingled with many remains of the flesh.

Believers will fall into either despair or self-righteousness if they trust in their good works for assurance because we still fail to meet the demands of a holy God. Calvin agrees with Flame that we must daily come back to the objective, finished work of Christ to find the foundation of our assurance.

Now Calvin did think good works play a role in the assurance of the believer as he writes,

But the fruits of regeneration furnish with a proof of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, experiencing God to be a Father in a matter so much a moment, they are strengthened in no slight degree to wait for His assistance in all their necessities. Even this they could not do, had they not previously perceived that the goodness of God is sealed to them by nothing but the certainty of promise.

Good works are not the foundation of assurance, but they do strengthen assurance. However, as Calvin indicates at the end of the quotation above, good works can only strengthen assurance once we perceive that the goodness of God is sealed to us by the certainty of His promise in the finished work of Christ for us. For Calvin, we cannot find assurance in the sanctifying power of the Spirit in us unless our emphasis is in the justifying power of Christ outside of us. Indeed, there is no sanctifying power of the Spirit without the justifying work of Christ on the cross!

Election and Assurance

In his song “Sola Fide,” Flame says,

When you believe in the doctrine of election like Calvin did (like I did), you’re pretty much gridlocked in a system in such a way you believe you’re saved by faith alone but for the large part, you look to your sanctification for your assurance (that’s just facts).

According to Flame, Calvin pointed people inward to themselves to know if they were chosen by God before the foundation of the world to be saved. The only way we can if we are elected is if we are bearing fruit. But did Calvin really believe this? Calvin writes:

But if we are elected in Him, we cannot find the certainty of our election in ourselves; and not even in God the Father, if we look to Him apart from the Son. Christ, then, is the mirror in which we ought, and in which, without deception, we may contemplate our election…

Calvin emphatically denies looking for the certainty of election in ourselves. When we look to Christ we know without being deceived that we are elect because Christ is the mirror of our election. When you look into a mirror, you see what you’re wearing. You must look into a mirror to know for certain how you look. So, if Christ is the mirror of our election, when we look to Him by faith, we see for certain that we are covered with His blood and clothed in His righteousness. God the Father chose us in God the Son (Ephesians 1:4) so that Christ would be our federal representative in His life and death. It is simply untrue that Calvin pointed believers to themselves instead of Christ to know if they are elect.

Preaching and Assurance

In his song “Ordo Salutis,” Flame says,

He rock a priest collar
He cop a crewneck
Both monergistic in the pulpit (Facts)
One told me faith‘s where the proof’s at (Luther)
The other told me better do a fruit check (Calvin)

Flame is contrasting Lutheran preaching and Calvinist preaching. The Lutherans wear the priest collars, the Calvinists wear the crewnecks. Both are monergistic, meaning both believe God alone saves a person apart from a person cooperating with grace. Lutherans point believers to faith and the Gospel for the assurance of salvation. Flame claims that Calvinists point believers to their fruit. According to Flame, Calvin demanded a certain quota of fruit from believers. Flame seems to indicate that Calvin demanded a certain quantity and quality of fruit that meets FDA standards (I’m joking). But Calvin was most certainly not a “fruit-checker” in the pulpit.

In fact, in his commentary on 1 John, Calvin instructs pastors to establish the believer’s assurance in Christ as he writes,         

For the apostle says he wrote these things, that is, that eternal life is to be sought nowhere else but in Christ, in order that they who were believers already might believe, that is make progress in believing. It is therefore the duty of a godly teacher, in order to confirm disciples in the faith, to extol as much as possible the grace of Christ, so that being satisfied with that, we may seek nothing else.

It is the duty of a godly preaching to extol as much as possible the grace of Christ. Calvin would agree that fruit-checking, moralistic preachers in the pulpit are not being faithful to their calling as under-shepherds of Christ, the Good Shepherd himself, who tenderly cares for His flock. According to Calvin, pastors are not called to pound their people with the burden of the Law every Sunday, but to proclaim to weary believers that Christ is here to give them rest by taking on Himself the burden of the Law. 

Encountering Reformed Thought

I’m truly happy that Flame’s relationship with Jesus has exponentially improved since he has discovered Reformation theology. However, what I wish for Flame is that he doesn’t reject Calvinism just because he has interpreted his experience with New Calvinism back into Calvin or the Westminster Divines. My wish for Flame, and for all who are skeptical of Calvinism, is that they come to a deep appreciation for the impact that the Reformed tradition has had on how we think about the Christian life.