Legalism and Antinomianism

From Michael Horton and the White Horse Inn, dealing with antinomianism:

The danger of legalism becomes apparent not only when we confuse law and gospel in justification, but when we imagine that even our new obedience can be powered by the law rather than the gospel. The law does what only the law can do: reveal God’s moral will. In doing so, it strips us of our righteousness and makes us aware of our helplessness apart from Christ and it also directs us in grateful obedience. No one who says this can be considered an antinomian. However, it’s not a matter of finding the right “balance” between law and gospel, but of recognizing that each does different work. We need imperatives—and Paul gives them. But he only does this later in the argument, after he has grounded sanctification in the gospel.

The ultimate antidote to antinomianism is not more imperatives, but the realization that the gospel swallows the tyranny as well as the guilt of sin. It is enough to save Christians even in their failure and not only brings them peace with God in justification, but the only liberation from the cruel oppression of sin. To be united to Christ through faith is to receive everything that we need not only to challenge legalism but antinomianism as well.


God’s Mercy and Grace are Not Infinite and Will One Day Cease

I think there is a real problem with many confusing God’s infinite mercy and grace. It’s only infinite because it comes from an infinite God. But one day it will cease. R.C. Sproul makes the point well:

When God judges people according to the standard of his righteousness, he is declaring that he will not strive with mankind forever. We hear all the time about God’s infinite grace and mercy. I cringe when I hear it. God’s mercy in infinite insofar as it is mercy bestowed upon us by a Being who is infinite, but when the term infinite is used to describe his mercy rather than his person, I have problems with it because the Bible makes very clear that there is a limit to God’s mercy. There is a limit to his grace, and he is determined not to pour out his mercy on impenitent people forever.  There is a time, as the Old Testament repeatedly reports, particularly in the book of the prophet Jeremiah, that God stops being gracious with people, and he gives them over to their sin.

From Romans: St. Andrews Expositional Commentary.

The Poor In Spirit — LORD’s Day Thoughts

I love what J.C. Ryle writes about the first instruction Jesus gives us in the Sermon on the Mount when our LORD declared to us: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Ryle writes:

“The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are poor in spirit. He means the humble, and lowly-minded, and self-abased. He means those who are deeply convinced of their own sinfulness in God’s sight. These are they who are not ‘wise in their own eyes and holy in their own sight.’ They are not ‘rich and increased with goods.’ They do not fancy they need nothing. They regard themselves as ‘wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.’ Blessed are such! Humility is the very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity. We must begin low, if we would build high.”

I love the way Ryle puts that: “Humility is the first letter in the alphabet of Christianity.” Who refuses to see this when we come to know the LORD by being born again? We see it because we realize how it took God moving in us before we would believe. It took God’s Spirit giving us a heart of belief and removing our heart of stone. The true believer knows that he is a believer purely by God’s grace. God may have used the believer’s intellect in the process, but his belief is not a result of that intellect, or human reason. In fact, while faith is not void of intellect and reason, the true believer knows that more often than not, our intellect and reason stood in the way of our belief. It took a miracle in our lives to bring us to faith.

Continue reading “The Poor In Spirit — LORD’s Day Thoughts”

“This is the work of God…”

Church 001

When the people ask Jesus what they may do to do the works of God, I bet they never imagined that the focus of God’s work in us is belief in Him. Jesus responded to their question by saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

This verse is full of truth in that it reveals that even our faith is a work of God’s grace in us. We like to think that our faith is something that we conjure up when were driven by our fickle emotions in hearing about Jesus. But true faith never comes about by emotions. It comes by the power and the hand of God. This is what He does in saving us. He tells us we are to believe in His Son, then works the faith in our hearts, so that we can believe.

I know many reject this truth because they want to cling onto their ability to believe in Christ for salvation. This is where we differ when it comes to the gospel. Those with Calvinist leanings, like myself, understand that even our faith is a gift of God’s grace toward us so that He gets all the glory for our salvation. If we accept this truth, then we can also take great comfort in the passage found in Hebrews 12:1-2.

Therefore… let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

He is the author of our faith, in that His Spirit worked in us so that we would have eyes to see and ears to hear. He worked in us, giving us a heart to believe. He worked in us, so that when we heard the gospel, we would actually hear from Him (Romans 10:14). This is the work of God, that we believe in Him whom the Father has sent. All of our salvation is the work of God in our lives. He is the One who began a good work, and will see it to the day of salvation.

When we accept the premise above that even our faith is from Him, then we can find the assurance of salvation that so many of us struggle with because we also see that the One who began it, will see it to its completion. If our faith is dependent upon something that we have done, then we know rightly that we can lose our faith and our salvation is only as certain as our fickle emotions. Yet, if our faith is something He produced in us, then we can rest assured that He is the finisher of that faith as well.

Let’s not make the mistake of the people who asked God what they could do. When it comes to saving faith, nothing but believing in Him is the only answer. We cannot walk an aisle, say a prayer, give $10,000 to Joel Osteen, go to a Bible conference, or even be baptized. All we can do is believe, and then we must trust in the Spirit to work faith in us.

In other words, if we are truly saved, then we know it is because of God’s rich mercy toward us. Many, like the people in Christ’s time, want nothing to do with God’s mercy. They want more Law, even though the Law condemns us all the more, even though we are unable of keeping the Law, even though it signs our death warrants. This is one reason the people in Christ’s day were so furious with Him. They liked the Law, and their false-belief that they were actually keeping the Law. But the gospel stands to show us otherwise. The gospel stands to show us… we are in need of God’s mercy and His hand working in us.

Does the Covenant Keeper Save Dying Infant Children?

Originally published on March 27, 2008. 

The sign of the covenant does not save us. However, the Covenant Keeper does.

Don’t know much about the theology: reminds me of a premature daughter many years ago. She was in dire straits and the neonatal staff offered: “If a chaplain is not available, or if death is imminent, a nurse or physician may baptize the child. A small amount of water should be placed on the child’s head with these words: “I baptize you (give the child’s full name) in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” An entry should be made in the chart.” ..this little girl did not last the day and I’m glad we did the emergency baptism. What are the ramifications of ‘original sin’, premature birth & death and the place of baptism (by a medical practioner) in this not uncommon circumstance?

BB, I’m sorry for your loss and that you had to go through this. I hope the following is helpful and will strengthen your faith in our LORD.

Continue reading “Does the Covenant Keeper Save Dying Infant Children?”

The Camp Movie — Shooting a Scene in Our Church

I just found out about 30 minutes ago that the filmakers of the movie Camp, are filming a scene for the movie in our church, Redeemer Christian Fellowship. Jacob Roebuck, the director and writer for the movie, is the son in-law of one of my elders. They needed to shoot a scene in the waiting area of a jail… and… well, seems like one of our classrooms fits the bill. I’m not sure if I’m excited about that, but I will get over it.

I hope to go down and take some pictures of them while they are filming. I just got to meet Teresa and Kate who are responsible for turning the classroom into the jail holding area.  It will be interesting to see how that takes place.

Watch this video for the some back ground to the movie. It is a Christian movie about summer camps that take in troubled children for two weeks at a time and the difference they make in the lives of those children.

One more point: I got to see a screening of part of the movie several weeks ago, and it looks like it’s going to be a great movie.

Also, if you want to help support the movie, go to their website. They are taking donations to help produce it and finish it out. Also, it will be a great movie for churches to rally around when it comes out in February or March. Here is the link to their web site.

Baptist Vote to Keep “Sinner’s Prayer”

The Southern Baptist Church voted this week at their convention to keep the “sinner’s prayer” as a form of conversion. Some might think this an odd thing, but the there have been those Baptist Calvinist who have questioned the use of the “sinner’s prayer.” They have done so because it gives the allusion that by saying the “sinner’s prayer,” one is actually saved.

One is not saved by saying the “sinner’s prayer.” I agree with the Calvinistic Baptist and this in one of the reasons I left the SBC back in the 1990s. Too much emphasis is put on what we do as opposed to what God does in saving us. No where does the Bible ever tell us to utter this prayer, it truly is an invention of men, specifically that bastard of revivalism known as Charles Finney. Sorry but I must call him that. He did more damage to the church in American than a hundred liberal courts or seminaries with the implementation of his new methods, i.e., the sinner’s prayer. More churches have been led down a hell-bound path by adopting such practices as altar call than any liberal professor could ever dream of. It would boggle our minds to know the number of people who were led to believe they were saved by trusting in these damnable actions of their own, instead of trusting in Christ. You hear it today every time the sinner’s prayer is put forth, and once a person says this prayer, they are told to write the date down so they can remember when they were saved.

This is all focused on what the sinner does and not what Christ does. If we are truly to be saved, we must believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. We are not to “say” a prayer, although prayer will result after true belief comes about. We are not told in Scripture to walk an aisle, go to the altar or do any other thing in order to be saved. Simply believe in Christ and His work for salvation. We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone, and this is NOT of ourselves, but is a gift of God. We are merely passive recipients of God’s grace.

To take and add altar calls and sinner’s prayers to the gospel is no different than the Roman Catholics calling for indulgences in order to be saved. It is Christ plus our works that ends up not saving us at all.

So I am saddened by the actions of the Souther Baptist Convention. They have added works to our salvation. This should be rejected by all Christians, Baptist and non-Baptist alike.

Here is a bit from the story about the SBC:

The resolution was originally presented by Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Mississippi, though the version approved by the committee omitted language designed to refute the denomination’s increasingly Calvinist membership. (An effort to put much of the language back in was defeated in a floor vote, as was an effort to remove references to the phrase “Sinner’s Prayer.”)

Indeed, Hankins says his resolution was sparked by a talk from one of the SBC’s Calvinist stars, David Platt. Speaking at the Verge church leaders’ conference March 1, the pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, said the emphasis on the Sinner’s Prayer is unbiblical and damning.

“I’m convinced that many people in our churches are simply missing the life of Christ, and a lot of it has to do with what we’ve sold them as the gospel, i.e. pray this prayer, accept Jesus into your heart, invite Christ into your life,” Platt said. “Should it not concern us that there is no such superstitious prayer in the New Testament? Should it not concern us that the Bible never uses the phrase, ‘accept Jesus into your heart’ or ‘invite Christ into your life’? It’s not the gospel we see being preached, it’s modern evangelism built on sinking sand. And it runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls.”

Speaking at the SBC Pastors’ Conference preceding the Baptist’s annual meeting, Platt referenced his Verge sermon, lamenting that his messages “can become three-minute YouTube clips.” But, preaching from John 2-3, he reiterated his statements that believing in Jesus is not enough. “Many assume they are saved simply because of a prayer they prayed,” he said. “It’s not that praying a prayer in and of itself is bad—but the question in John 2 and 3 is what kind of faith are we calling people to?”

The Need For Christ Crucified — J.C. Ryle

The following is from J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, on John 6:1-14 when Jesus fed the 5,000.

Let us never doubt for a moment, that the preaching of Christ crucified, — the old story of His blood, and righteousness, and substitution,– is enough for all the spiritual necessities of all mankind. It is not worn out. It is not obsolete. It has not lost its power. We want nothing new,– nothing more broad and kind,– nothing more intellectual,– nothing more efficacious. We want nothing but the true bread of life which Christ bestows, distributed faithfully among starving souls. Let men sneer or ridicule as they will. Nothing else can do good in this sinful world. No other teaching can fill hungry consciences, and give them peace. We are all in a wilderness. We must feed on Christ crucified, and the atonement made by His death, or we shall die in our sins.

Even today, with all of man’s inventions and technological advances, we still need the same old gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation. Nothing will ever replace that need for mankind because no matter how we rationalize, we are still sinners in need of God’s grace.

Ask Pastor Timothy

A friend wrote and asked me to respond to the following quote:

“You can not grow spiritually healthy until your are emotionally healthy.  Emotional maturity is necessary for spiritual growth”

Wow! What a burden that places on us to get emotionally healthy, and what a hindrance for the Holy Spirit. This statement is very similar to the statement that was made to a bunch of single friends back in the 1990s: “You will never be married until you are spiritually mature!” Glad we have that going for us. Now that I’m married, I MUST be spiritually mature!

I had to speak to my friend to find out more about the quote before I gave any comment to it. Apparently the pastors of this church are preaching through a book that makes this claim on Sunday mornings. Notice, I said that they are “preaching through a book?” Please notice, they are not preaching from a book in the Bible, but some popular book out there that is supposed to help us become holistically healthy, so that we may go out into the culture and reach people for Jesus Christ.

This type of stuff always sounds great on the surface. “Let’s get you healed up and complete so that you can be used by God, people will see you for being complete and whole and want to come to know Christ too!” The problem with this mindset is that it is contrary to the gospel itself and makes evangelism/spiritual maturity, growth in Christ, all dependent upon us. It is very much like the statement from St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel always. Use words when necessary.”

This isn’t the gospel at all, but humanism with a gospel dress. It’s an attempt to make those feel like they are in control of their emotions, the gospel, the kingdom, their own spiritual growth. This fails on several levels.

First, please notice that the Apostle Paul never called us to become more Christ-like so that we could preach the gospel, even using words at times. He said just the opposite: 2 Corinthians 4:5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.

Paul wasn’t preaching himself, but Christ alone. This is the call of the church when it comes to reaching the world. We are not to preach ourselves, or put ourselves on display or even talk about how much we have benefited from being saved. We are to preach Christ. We are to tell of His death and resurrection. We are to point others to the gospel for salvation, not us, or a particular church. It is the gospel that saves, not our conformity to some holistic ministry model.

Secondly, the above quote and assertion assumes that emotional health is something under our control and precedes spiritual maturity. Emotional health may result as we grow in Christ, but it may not. That is not the goal of the gospel and sometimes the LORD leaves a thorn or two in our flesh to keep us dependent upon Him (2 Corinthians 12:7). Some people may always be emotional wrecks, yet, God may use such to help them grow spiritually.

Third, the problem with the quote is that it seems devoid of Christ’s work in our lives through the washing of the water and the word (Ephesians 5:25-26). It is Christ who cleanses us with His word and His Spirit. We don’t mature because we do something or don’t do something, we mature spiritually because He causes the growth and cleanses us and heals us. We are dependent upon Him for spiritual growth.

Now, we may aid in that growth. Just as a child will grow whether we feed him M&M’s and candy bars, or chicken soup and veggies, the child will grow. The question is: will the child be more healthy using a healthy diet, or using candy? Since we know healthy eating helps our children grow in a healthy manner, so too does eating spiritually healthy food aid us in our spiritual lives.

What is spiritual food? The preaching and teaching of God’s word. This is the spiritual food that Jesus commanded Peter to give to His sheep (John 21). If we want to be healthy spiritually speaking and grow spiritually speaking, we must seek out those things that help us grow in that manner: His word, the preached word of God, the sacraments of baptism and communion, prayer and corporate worship.

Isn’t it ironic that the above church that brought all this about is trying to grow their people spiritually but isn’t using the very means that God has given them to do so? Sad. The pastors of this church should truly repent of such foolishness. They are turning to man’s wisdom in order to grow God’s people, yet God has told us to preach Christ crucified in order to do so. Shame on them.

For more on spiritual growth, I commend the chapter on Growth in J.C. Ryle’s book: Holiness. Go here to read it.

Also, if you have a question for me, email me at askpastortimothy   at Gmail dot com. That is in code, so I hope you can figure it out. I wrote it that way so some bot doesn’t discover it and spam me.

Matt Chandler — Jesus Wants the Rose!

(Hattip: Bryan at Chief of the Least)

I heard of Matt Chandler through some of the members of the congregation, but this is the first time I have actually heard him. Now I see why they were telling me about him. He is spot on when it comes to the gospel. Instead of preaching moralism, like the man he refers to, he gets right to the gospel. He who knew no sin, died for those of us who are sinners. While we were yet sinners, He died for us. Watch the video, it’s very powerful.