Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Titus 2:11 and Definite Atonement

Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people”. I recently heard a synergistic preacher preach from this text with these words, “There are those people, some Baptists, that like to limited the atonement, but I have never had one of them get around this verse”.  Let me say first of all that he probably has not had anyone “get around this verse” because, for the person who believes in the Doctrines of Grace, it is not an issue. We celebrate this verse.
Let me also say that I do not like the term “Limited Atonement”, because I do not believe that there was some kind of defect in the atonement. In other words, I do not believe that the atonement was or is ever limited in its power. I have always preferred the phrase “Definite Atonement” or “Particular Redemption”. Yet, I believe that the people who believe in an “unlimited atonement”, really do not think things all the way through.
My question, before I deal with the verse, to this bother would be, “what do you believe actually happened at the cross”. If he is your typical synergistic preacher, which I believe he is, he no doubt would say that Jesus died to atone for the sins of all people.  But was the atonement actual or potential? I do not see anywhere in any language of the Scriptures where it even intimates that the atonement was potential. Jesus said, “It is finished”; that is not language of potentiality but of actuality.
But if we say that the atonement paid in full  the the sins of all people everywhere, then I ask, “What of those people who were already in hell at the time of this atonement? If Jesus paid the sin debt of every single person without exception at the cross, then what sin do they commit that causes them to die and go to hell? I ask that question because people do die and go to hell, so if Jesus died to atone for the sins of people already in hell and those that will go to hell, what sin did He NOT atone? Some say “unbelief”. So the atonement was incomplete? You see the circle that such thinking takes you. The Scripture say nowhere that unbelief is the one sin for which Jesus did not atone.  The greatest picture of an “unjust God” (for which I am blamed as believing in… hmm, strange) is for God to pour out His wrath for sin on Jesus for all men, and then for most men (Matt 7) to spend an eternity in hell in judgment for the sins poured out on Christ.  John Owen spoke of this as double jeopardy.
But now to the verse at hand. Why would anyone assume that the phrase “πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις” is referring to every single person without exception? Answer, of course, is because they are looking at it through the eyes of tradition and not allowing the text to speak for itself. There seems to be the constant assumption that “all” is always referring to every single person without exception. Context must be our teacher. It is easy to rip a verse from its natural context and form a theology, but usually it is bad theology.
Context is King!! Paul spends the whole chapter speaking to different kinds of believers; Old men, young men, old women, young women, and slaves. And how they should be godly, self-controlled, obedient, demonstrating dignity; etc. The point is that such is not the language that would be spoken to unbelievers or in a context speaking about unbelievers. Unbelievers do not have the ability to be any of those things; so by natural context, the audience is believers. Such is not, I hope, up for debate.
The debate comes in when you get to verse 11 and what exactly did Paul mean and to whom was he speaking.  Paul says that our life should demonstrate all good faith, doing credit to the teaching of God..then you have verse 11. Please note:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, (comma, continuation of thought), training US,….” did you see that vital pronoun? This grace that Paul is referring to that brings salvation, is for the training of the believers. This, in its natural context, does not speak about salvation for all men, in the idea of all people without exception, but what is being referenced is the grace that brought salvation to the ones Paul is speaking, the saved. Because this grace teaches US. This is speaking about grace that God extended to the ones saved, not some grace that God extends to every person without exception. This grace was not for all in some universal sense, but was for all in the ecclesiastical sense (those in the Church).
I trust that it can be clearly seen, that a universal application of this verse is simply reading into the text what is not there, instead of allowing the text read for itself.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Lowered Standard

One of the areas of life that have always concerned me, as a parent, is the fact that I know that the standards that I set with my children, they will always come just under that standard with their children. With that knowledge, I must take action to make sure that I raise the standard high. Do not ever let anyone tell you that you are "too strict" with your children, you must set the standard high with them, so that when they are parents and they come just under your standard, they will atleast come within a the range of righteousness.

Take, for example, Church attendance. Your children, when they are adults, will come just under the standard that you set for them. So, the question that I ask many parents is, "What are you teaching your children about Church?" When "christian" mom and dad are unsettled about Church membership and/or Church attendance, their children will grow up to be even worse. When I say "unsettled" I am referring to a mom and dad who cannot (or will not) decied on a Church home and be absolutely faithful to it (in attendance and service). They are here, there, and everywhere. They attend this congregation this week (or maybe a couple weeks), another congregation on another occasion, and then, perhaps, nowhere another week. Those parents must understand that their children will come under that standard. Is that what you want? Most, if not all Christian parents would say "I want my children to grow up and be faithful to the Lord". But are you willing to make the necessary changes in your life to help ensure that?

They go to this Church because they like the music, they go to another Church because they like the fellowship, they go to another Church because they enjoy the programs for their Children. Listen, there is ONLY ONE criteria for choosing a Church, only one question that you need to ask yourself, "How does this Church handle the Word of God? Is the Word of God supreme here?" Those are very vital questions. Is emotion and feeling supreme? You can get people to make emotional decisions all day; but lasting, God honoring decisions will ONLY come as a result of the preaching of the Word of God. People get all worked up and emotional with music and say, "The Lord met with us today", but did the Word of God make the difference in your life? If it was not the Word of God, then the decision that you made out of emotion will be very short lived.

There are people all over Christianity that are wondering aimlessly from Church to Church trying to find, sometimes I do not think that they know what. What they need is a Church where the Word of God is supreme and is taught in the pulpit everytime the man of God steps up to the Pulpit. Our Childern are watching and they will follow your lead, just a step or two behind. Set the standard of Church high, parents, so that your childrens standards will also be high.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Birds, The Plane and the President

Sometimes we are so overwhelmed at being treated better than we deserve that we must exult in the all-sovereign God—the God of birds' flight and Obama's rise. When King David pondered how many were God's "wondrous deeds," he said, "I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told" (Psalm 40:5). That's the way I feel watching God's public mercies in our day.

Have you considered how unlikely was the crash of USAir flight 1549 in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009—not just the rescue but the crash itself? Picture this: The Airbus A320 is taking off at an angle—maybe 30 degrees. It's not flying horizontal with the earth. Not only that, it is flying fast—not full speed yet, but perhaps four times as fast as your car would go at top highway speeds.

The geese are flying horizontally with the ground, more or less. They are not flying in a cloud like a swarm of bees. They fly level with the ground, often shaped like a V. In view of all that, what are the odds that, traveling at this speed and at this angle, this airplane would intersect with the flight of those geese at that very millisecond which would put a bird not just in one of those engines, but both of them?

Two laser-guided missiles would not have been as amazingly effective as were those geese. It is incredible, statistically speaking. If God governs nature down to the fall (and the flight) of every bird, as Jesus says (Matthew 10:29), then the crash of flight 1549 was designed by God.

Which leads to the landing in the Hudson River—which is just as unlikely. The airbus now has no thrust in either engine. The flight attendants said it was as quiet as a library in the plane without the sound of engines. The plane is now a 77-ton glider with its belly full of fuel. Captain Sullenberger decides to land in the river. Anywhere else would mean one big fireball.

He banks and misses the George Washington Bridge by 900 feet and glides the plane into a perfect belly landing. A few degrees tilt to the front or back or the right or left and the plane would have done cartwheels down the river and broken up. On the water, the flight attendant does not let passengers open the rear door. That would have flooded the cabin too fast. The emergency doors and front doors provide exits for everyone and the plane floats long enough for all of them to climb out. Ferry boats are there almost instantly. The captain walks the aisle twice to make sure everyone is off. Then he leaves. Later the plane sinks.

If God guides geese so precisely, he also guides the captain's hands. God knew that when he took the plane down, he would also give a spectacular deliverance. So why would he do that? If he means for all to live, why not just skip the crash?

Because he meant to give our nation a parable of his power and mercy the week before a new President takes office. God can take down a plane any time he pleases—and if he does, he wrongs no one. Apart from Christ, none of us deserves anything from God but judgment. We have belittled him so consistently that he would be perfectly just to take any of us any time in any way he chooses.

But God is longsuffering. He is slow to anger. He withholds wrath every day. This is what we saw in the parable. The crash of Flight 1549 illustrates God's right and power to judge. The landing of the plane represents God's mercy. It was God's call to all the passengers and all their families and all who heard the story to repent and turn to God's Son, Jesus Christ, and receive forgiveness for sin.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The President and Roe V. Wade

When Barack Obama was running for President, he was described by some observers as one of the most radical candidates in the nation’s history in terms of support for abortion. Once in office, President Obama has done little to dispel that judgment. Even as the President is tracking to the middle on many issues, this is not the case when it comes to abortion.

This past Saturday, on the 38th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, the President issued a statement that is remarkable, even for presidents who support legalized abortion. The President’s statement included not one word that indicated any recognition that abortion is in any case or in any sense a tragedy. There was not even a passing reference to the unborn child. President Obama did not even use the language used disingenuously by President Bill Clinton — the pledge that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.”

“Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters,” the President stated. That “fundamental principle” was not actually the principle claimed by the Supreme Court, which located the “right” to abortion with the woman, not with a family.

The President continued: “I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.” So, the President of the United States puts his high office behind his hope to “encourage healthy relationships,” but not behind any effort even to reduce the number of abortions in this country. Currently, in America one out of five pregnancies ends in abortion.

As he concluded his brief statement, the President said: “And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.”

That paragraph is just a recitation of the feminist argument that was enshrined in Roe v. Wade — that women, no more than men, should be encumbered by the professional and personal limitations required by a pregnancy. That logic is enshrined as orthodoxy within the Democratic Party, and President Obama is one of its most ardent defenders.

Ever since Barack Obama emerged on the national political scene, he has been promoted and protected by a corps of preachers and religious leaders who have tried their best to explain that he is not so pro-abortion as he seems. Nevertheless, his record is all too clear — as is this most recent statement. There was not one expression of abortion as a national tragedy, even as a report recently indicated that almost 60 percent of all pregnancies among African American women in New York City end in abortion.

How can any President of the United States fail to address this unspeakable tragedy? There was no hope expressed that abortion would be rare, only the expression that he would remain “committed to protecting this constitutional right.” The only words that even insinuate any hypothetical reduction in abortion were addressed to reducing “unintended pregnancies” and promoting adoption. But no goal of reducing abortion was stated or even obliquely suggested. No reference at all was made of the unborn child. There was no lament — not even a throwaway line that would cost him nothing in terms of his support from abortion rights forces.

These words were not imposed upon this President. This is his own personal statement. It is one of the most revealing — and tragic — statements made by any political figure in our times.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"What About the Twins?"

Saturday will mark the 38th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision that opened the floodgates for abortion in America. On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the decision, declaring that women have a constitutional right to an abortion. Hard as it is to imagine, the justices in the majority really believed that their decision would end the national debate over abortion. Not by a long shot.

Nearly four decades later, the argument rages on — and so does the carnage. The national abortion rate is over twenty percent. Just last week it was reported that the abortion rate in New York City is over forty percent, and among African-Americans in that city, nearly sixty percent. In other words, an abortion industrial complex now claims over a million unborn lives each year. The carnage just continues.

In recent days, two horrifying accounts of abortion have gripped the human conscience. From Australia, news came of a couple who had aborted twin boys, just because they wanted a baby girl. Having three sons already, the couple aborted the twins because they want a daughter after the death of a previous baby girl who died shortly after birth.

Related Posts

The Perverse Logic of Abortion

The Deadly Logic of Anti-Blasphemy Laws

What Makes Abortion Plausible? What Makes Abortion Unthinkable?, Part Five

What Makes Abortion Plausible? What Makes Abortion Unthinkable?, Part Six

When Abortion Collides with Totalitarianism (Audio)

The couple is now appealing to a legal tribunal, demanding the right to use gender selection in the course of an IVF procedure. Australia, unlike the United States, has laws against gender selection. The couple is pressing for an exception.

The abortion of the twin boys precipitated an international outcry, with headlines carrying the news around the world. But, even as millions were morally troubled by the account, many were unable to muster a moral argument against the abortions. Why? Because the logic of abortion has been so widely accepted in the larger society.

The very idea of gender-selection abortions is abhorrent, and most people would almost surely argue that such abortions should not be allowed. But the logic of abortion rights demands that a woman be recognized as having a right to an abortion at any time for any reason or for no reason. Once you accept abortion as a moral option, it is virtually impossible to preclude any abortion for any reason. The Culture of Death is built upon the logic of abortion on demand. Once the floodgates were opened, it is almost impossible to stem the tide.

On January 19, the Associated Press reported that a Pennsylvania doctor had been charged with eight counts of murder in the deaths of one woman and seven babies, “who were born alive and then killed with scissors.”

The description of Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society sounds like something out of a Stephen King novel. Investigators found bags and bottles containing aborted babies and parts of babies. District Attorney Seth Williams said that Dr. Kermit Gosnell “induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy, and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord.”

Williams described Gosnell’s clinic as a “house of horrors.” Gosnell, it turns out, made millions of dollars by performing abortions, including late-term abortions, by the thousands. According to the prosecutors, Gosnell performed “as many illegal late-term abortions as he could.”

Dr. Gosnell has been charged with multiple counts of murder, and for this fact, we should be thankful. But the reality is that what Dr. Gosnell did is just a more graphic display of the horror inside every abortionist’s chamber.

These two cases illustrate the pattern of moral confusion found among the public. News of the “house of horrors” in Pennsylvania brings prompt moral outrage, and understandably so. But is the abortion clinic on the corner, established for the purpose of killing unborn children, any less a house of horrors?

The couple in Australia openly admitted aborting their twin boys because they want a daughter. Millions around the world seem outraged by their decision, but having accepted the basic logic of abortion, they are hard-pressed to define when any abortion demanded by a woman might be unjustified and thus illegal.

The Christian revulsion over abortion and the destruction of human life is based in the knowledge that God is the Author of all life and of every life, without exception. Abortion is the business of death, and it is the great wound that runs through the nation’s conscience. These shocking accounts may sear their way into the nation’s collective conscience, but unless the basic logic of abortion rights is overturned, such accounts will erupt again and again.

Once we buy into the logic of abortion, there is no end to the trail of tears. In the case of the Australian couple, a professor of medicine commented that they should be able to select the gender of their baby after aborting the twin boys. “I can’t see how it could possibly hurt anyone,” he said.

What about the twins?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Repost: Interpreting, Properly, Revelation 3:20

Have you seen the old potrait that portrays Christ as the effiminate Savior standing at a doorway knocking on the door waiting for someone to open it? Such is really a tasteless view of the Master. He is not some wimpy shepherd that stands at a door and knocks with absolutely no power to open the door. So what does Revelation 3:20 mean?

Many people include this verse in their evangelistics attempts to lost people. Usually saying something like, "Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart waiting for you to open it". Such is not the Biblical doctrine of Salvation, nor the clear context of Revelation 3.

In Revelation 3 Christ is speaking, not to group of unredeemed people, but to the Church; the Church of Ladocia in particular. Jesus was trying to get back into the Church not trying to get into the heart of an individual person or persons in Salvation. These people were already saved. To use this verse in an evangelistic sense is to take the verse from its context and force a meaning on it the Holy Spirit never intended.

This is another example of so many people just taking a verse to mean a certain thing because they have always heard it taught like that. The Scripture must be allowed to speak for itself, not the way we have always heard it spoken for. Let us be faithful to allow the Word to speak for itself.
Just remember, Jesus did not ask Lazarus, in John 11, to "come forth", He commanded it and Lazarus came out of the grave.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Christian Master Narrative

The reversal of the curse of sin originates in God’s love and his sovereign determination to save sinners, and it is grounded in the cross and resurrection of Christ. The atonement of Jesus Christ accomplishes our salvation from sin. Nevertheless, the New Testament makes clear that we are awaiting the transformation of our bodies and the arrival of the Kingdom in fullness. Any honest reading of the New Testament leaves us knowing that our salvation is secure in Christ, but we await the final display of Christ’s glory in the Kingdom’s fullness.

In understanding the Kingdom, we benefit by considering the fact that the Kingdom is already here, inaugurated by Christ, but is not yet fully come. The “already/not yet” character of the Kingdom explains why, though sin is fully defeated, we still experience sin in our lives. Death was defeated at the cross, but we still taste death. The created order continues to cry out for redemption, and the venom of the serpent still stings.

The Christian doctrine of eschatology provides the Christian worldview with its mature understanding of history. Every worldview must provide an account of where history is headed and whether human history has any purpose at all. Christianity grounds the meaning of human existence in the fact that we are made in the image of God and the meaning of human history in the security of God’s providential rule. Thus, the Christian worldview dignifies history and assures us that history is indeed meaningful. The Gospel of Christ is itself grounded in historical events – and so is the promise of things to come.

At the end of this age, Christ will return to bring his Kingdom in fullness. He will rule with perfect righteousness and will both judge the nations and vindicate his own cause. The unfolding events point to a conclusive final judgment at the end of history.

This final judgment is made necessary by the fact of human sin and the infinite reality of God’s holiness. The Bible straightforwardly presents the assurance of a final judgment that will demonstrate the perfection of God and the glory of his justice. This final judgment will demonstrate God’s mercy to those who are in Christ and God’s wrath righteously poured out upon sin.

This judgment will be so perfect that, in the end, all must know that God alone is righteous and that his decrees are absolutely perfect. God’s power will be demonstrated when all authorities are brought under submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, when every earthly kingdom yields, and when every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10).

The glory of the Garden of Eden will be surpassed by the glories of the New Heaven and the New Earth. The saints will rule with Christ as his vice-regents, and perfect peace will dawn in the messianic Kingdom.

Every single moment of human history cries out for judgment. Every sin and every sinner will be brought before the throne of God, and full satisfaction will be made. The demands of divine justice will be fully met, and the mercy and grace of God will be fully demonstrated. The great dividing line that runs through humanity will be the one that separates those who are in Christ and those who are not.

The backdrop of eternity puts the span of a human life into perspective. Our time on earth is short, but eternity dignifies time even as it reminds us of our finitude. The concluding movement of the biblical narrative reminds us that we are to yearn for eternity and for the glory that is to come.

On this Day of Judgment, all human attempts at justice will be shown to fall far short of authentic justice. On this day, God’s perfect justice will indeed flood like a mighty river. The destiny of the unrepentant sinner is eternal punishment. But God’s justice is also restorative, and those who are in Christ will come to know the absolute satisfaction, peace, wholeness, and restoration that Christ promises. Every eye will be dry, and every tear will be wiped away (Rev. 7:17; 21:4).

The reversal of the curse and the end of history serve to ground Christians in this age within the secure purposes and the sovereign power of God. The Christian worldview rejects all human utopianisms, all claims of lasting earthly glory, and all denials of the meaningfulness of history and human experience.

In other words, the conclusion of the Christian master narrative reminds believers that we are not to seek ultimate fulfillment in this life. Instead, we are to follow Christ in obedience and give the totality of our lives to the things that will bring glory to God in the midst of this fallen world. We will refrain from optimism grounded in humanity and will rest in the hope that is ours in Christ. We will suffer illness, injury, persecution, and death—but we know ourselves to be completely safe within the purposes of God. And so we wait. And so we pray, “Even so, Lord, come quickly.”