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Archive for January, 2010

New Sermon Player

New Sermon Player

In the past we have tried to record most of our sermons.  Unfortunately due to may technical difficulties, we were unable to get all of them.  However, we believe that we have most, if not all, of the issues taken care of.  We also now have, for your convenience, a Sermon Player.  This player will allow you to listen to our sermons as we update the library.  You will also have the opportunity to podcast our sermons.  This player can be found on our website as well www.thegracecommunity.com.  We hope that you will find this user friendly and most of all, we hope that our sermons will help you grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

 

www.sermon.net/thegracecommunity

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One Year Anniversary

We invite you to join us:

Sunday, January 31st,  2010

as we celebrate the 1 year anniversary of

“The Grace Community Church of Portsmouth”

 

Schedule:

*Sunday School- 9:30am

*Morning Worship- 10:30am (Brad Howerton will be Preaching)

*Dinner will follow A.M. Service

*After dinner we will gather back in for a time of Worship  (Kevin Hay will be speaking)

**Our regularly scheduled 6pm Service will be cancelled**

Located:

2502 Grandview Ave

Portsmouth, OH  45662

 

www.thegracecommunity.com

 

 

 

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Lessons from Lady GaGa

Lessons from Lady GaGa

by Todd Friel

 

First of all, she ain’t no lady. 

 

Second of all, it is a testimony to the depravity of our world that tens of millions of GaGa lovers purchase her filthy songs and watch her dirty videos on YouTube. If indeed the kind of records she sells tells us something about the heathens, is it fair to suggest that the type of records sold to Christians tells us something about ourselves? 

 

This is by no means a scientific poll, but I just clicked on the song sample that Amazon offers so you can hear an album highlight. These are the random highlights from five songs from the top ten Christian downloads; see if you notice a theme.

 

  •       I don’t know what makes me so afraid.
  •       You will be safe in His arms.
  •       You bring me through.
  •       How you gonna fix it with nowhere to turn?
  •      You’re crying on the floor cuz you can’t take no more.

 

If this is any sort of mood barometer, Christians are very scared these days. That really isn’t a shocker; the economy is shaky, unemployment is high and there are people willing to blow up their underpants to kill us. Christians are not immune to these concerns and the contemporary Christian music industry has tapped into this zeitgeist.

 

What is interesting (and troubling) is how Christian artists are attempting to sing us out of our anxieties. Certainly not all contemporary Christian music (CCM) is guilty of this, but I think it is fair to say that overall, CCM offers no more hope than Chopra (a new age guru from India) or Oprah (a new age guru from Chicago). 

 

Story Time

Imagine you are at the park when a child falls and gashes her knee. You and her father run to rescue her. Right before you reach her, you both stop short and hold out your arms so she can choose who she wants to help her. Dad does not say a word while you beg her, “Let me hold you. I want to hug you. I will help you.” 

 

Who is she going to embrace? Instinctively she will run to the arms of her father because she KNOWS that he will take care of her. She KNOWS this because he has proven himself faithful to her for years. You can plead and beg all you want, but the child will only find comfort in the one who has proven his faithfulness and ability.

 

That is precisely where most contemporary Christian music and preaching fails. An artist can sweetly sing that God wants to hug you, and that may make you feel better while you listen, but these lyrics are placebos at best. In order to find true comfort and true healing, you need to KNOW that God is in capable of protecting you. You need knowledge of his abilities, power and past performance. In other words, you need theology.

 

It does not help to be told over and over, “Let God hold you, He wants to protect you, fall into His arms.”   What comforts us is when we see God’s strength demonstrated over and over again in the Bible. We don’t need tunes that tell us to let God embrace us, we need theology set to music that proves that God is strong and is in control over every detail of our lives. 

 

Experiment time

Here are three actual CCM lyrics that I discovered when I Googled, “God wants to hold you.”

 

          I was wondering can you hold me now

     You are the only one that’s patient when I fall.

 

                                   Father, I want You to hold me                               

                                         I want to rest in Your arms today                                    

   Father, I want You to show me

      How much You care for me in every way

 

            All that I ever wanted was this peace as you
     Hold me now, as you hold me now 
           All that I ever needed was this love as you
 Hold me now, forever hold me now

 

Contrast those gems with these theological statements from the Bible.

 

  •       God spoke the universe into existence in six 24 hour days.
  •       God parted a sea so His children would be safe.
  •       Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven.

You don’t even need to be told to not worry when you KNOW that God is the Creator, Controller and Conqueror. Knowledge of who God is and what He has done results in comfort.

 

While I am terribly tempted to plug Exalted Worship (available at www.wretchedradio.com), I am not going to. Instead, let me encourage you in these challenging times to not reach for sugar pill music, but to fill yourself with songs about God’s unchanging truths. Don’t listen to pep talk preaching, but gorge yourself on solid sermons filled with truth.   

 

It is OK to need comfort, God is happy to provide it. God will feed you when you flee to His Word. It may not be as catchy as breathy Christian pop tunes, but it is sweeter than honey, more valuable than fine gold and it (and it alone) will comfort you.

 

www.wretchedradio.com

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A look at Romans 1:1-4

A look at Romans 1:1-4

by Brad Howerton

 

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord. (NASB)     –Romans 1:1-4   

        As we work through this great epistle to the Romans, I will try and post some key thoughts on the text that we are covering. I did want to mention a correction on one of the internet sources from my previous entry, it is www.sljinstitute.net. A few more books and sites to take note of; “The God who Justifies” by James White, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, and A.T. Robertson’s Word Picture’s in the New Testament.

In the opening verse, Paul introduces himself with three identifying characteristics. He speaks of his master, his office, and his purpose. The first clause identifies Paul as a servant (doulos) of Jesus Christ. This Greek word “doulos” is by far not an uncommon term in the New Testament and it speaks of a specific concept. Basically, the word means “slave”. We should note the difference between a servant and a slave at this point. Although the terms could be used synonymously, a servant by definition renders service to someone, while a slave belongs to someone. Paul is referring to himself as a slave of Christ, a total submission to the control and directives of a higher authority, that higher authority being none other than His Lord Jesus Christ. This concept should be familiar to us as scripture is clear that we who are in Christ were chosen, purchased/bought, owned, subject to the will of our Master, totally dependant on Him for everything, and ultimately we will be called into account, evaluated, and either rewarded or chastised by Him.

        It is also true that not only are we slaves of Christ, not merely slaves but Jesus also calls us His friends (John 15:14,15). Make no mistake about it, one is either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. Our Lord set a pattern for us to follow regarding this; “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant (doulos), being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil.2:5-6) Everyone serves some master whether they realize it or not. For more study on this I would recommend “The Gospel According to Jesus” by John MacArthur.   

        In the next clause Paul identifies his office as an apostle called by God. The word apostle means “one who is sent” or “messenger”. Although the word is used several ways in scripture, in this instance Paul is referring to the office of Apostle. We must note that Paul didn’t appoint himself to this nor did others take a vote to put him in there, he didn’t volunteer nor earn it, Paul was appointed by God. Although the word “called” can refer to an invitation or welcome, outside of the Gospel accounts it usually refers to an effective or efficacious call. In other words, Paul was appointed an apostle. In Acts 9, we see that God refers to Paul as “a chosen instrument of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles.” Paul was not only chosen for salvation but also for apostleship, he also notes in Gal.1 that he was separated from his mother’s womb. It is imperative that one also has an understanding of who Paul was and I would encourage one to study his heritage and tradition, this brings a depth to one’s understanding of any of his writings.

        This last clause in the first verse “set apart for the gospel of God” speaks of Paul’s purpose. This is the third identifying characteristic that Paul mentions. As one studies the life of Paul, it will become clear that he was a Pharisee prior to his conversion. Interestingly enough, the word Pharisee means “separated one”. Paul was indeed separated, he had first separated himself but now God had separated him for a greater purpose, the gospel of God. Ultimately, this plan was already in the mind of an almighty and sovereign creator and in His time, He brought it to fruition. This gospel, the “good news” was far different than the “good news” that Roman’s were used to hearing about. This news wasn’t about man, but for man. The news that Jesus Christ had died on the cross for the sins of those who believe in Him, was buried, and on the third day rose again to sit at the right hand of the Father.

        In Philippians chapter 3, we get a glimpse of Paul’s credentials. He states that if anyone could have had confidence in the flesh, it should be him. He goes on to say that he counts all of what he was prior to his salvation as rubbish, as loss, as “skubala” which means dung. Part of the reason for his statement is because it was all for another master. He wasn’t a slave to righteousness but a slave to unrighteousness. Never lose sight of the fact that any attempt of self-determination or to be truly independent is nothing but an allusion. One is either a slave to sin or a slave to Him.

 

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Can I Be Your Pastor

“Can I Be Your Pastor?”

 

            A church was in need of a pastor. One of the deacons was interested in knowing what kind of minister they desired. He therefore wrote the following letter, as if it he had received it from an applicant, and read the letter before the pulpit committee.

 

Dear Gentlemen:

            “Understanding your pulpit is vacant. I should like to apply for the position. I have many qualifications that I think you would appreciate. I have been blessed to preach with power and have had some success as a writer.

-Some say that I am a good organizer. I have been a leader in most places I’ve gone.  

– Some folk, however, have some things against me. 

– I am over 50 years of age. 

– I have never preached in one place for more than 3 years at a time.

-In some places, I have left town, after my work caused riots and disturbances.

-I have to admit that I have been in jail 3 or 4 times, but not because of any wrong-doing.   

-My health is not good, though I still get a great deal done.      

– I have had to work at my trade to help pay my way.

-The churches I have preached in have been small, though located in several large cities.

I have not gotten along too well with the religious leaders in different towns where I have preached. In fact, some of them have threatened me, taken me to court, and even attacked me physically.

-I am not good at keeping records. I have been known to forget whom I have baptized.

However, if you can use me, I shall do my best for you, even if I have to work to help with my support.”

 

            After reading this letter to the committee, he asked if they were interested in the applicant. They replied that he would never do for their church; they were not interested in an unhealthy, contentious, trouble-making, absent-minded intellectual. In fact, they were insulted that his application had even been presented. Then they inquired as to the name of the applicant, whereupon the leader answered:

Paul, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ”

 

-author unknown

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Was Anyone Saved at the Cross?

 

We say Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved, and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. —Charles Haddon Spurgeon

There was a time when I called myself a “four-point Calvinist.” There are a lot of people who use that term, and, almost all the time, the one point of the five that they reject is the terrible, horrible, “L”. Limited atonement. There is just something about the term that doesn’t sound right. How can Christ’s atonement be limited? And that is exactly what I said until I began to seriously think about the whole issue. It is my experience that most of those who reject the specific, or limited atonement of Christ, do not *really* believe in the complete sovereignty of God, or the total depravity of man, or the unconditional election of God. Most objections that are lodged against the doctrine are actually objections to one of the preceding points, not against limited atonement itself. The “break” in my thinking came from reading Edwin Palmer’s book, The Five Points of Calvinism. [Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980) pp. 41-55.] In doing a radio program on the truth of God’s electing grace, I was challenged by a caller in regards to the death of Christ. “Why would Christ die for the whole world if God did not intend to save everyone?” I looked at my co-host, and he looked at me, and I made a mental note to do more study into that particular question. I grabbed Palmer’s book as soon as I returned home, and began to read the chapter on the atoning work of Christ.

I became a full “five-pointer” upon reading the following section:

The question that needs a precise answer is this: Did He or didn’t He? Did Christ actually make a substitutionary sacrifice for sins or didn’t He? If He did, then it was not for all the world, for then all the world would be saved. (Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism, p. 47.)

I was faced with a decision. If I maintained a “universal” atonement, that is, if I said that Christ died substitutionarily in the place of every single man and woman in all the world, then I was forced to either say that 1) everyone will be saved, or 2) the death of Christ is insufficient to save without additional works. I knew that I was not willing to believe that Christ’s death could not save outside of human actions. So I had to understand that Christ’s death was made in behalf of God’s elect, and that it does accomplish its intention, it does save those for whom it is made. At this point I realized that I had “limited” the atonement all along. In fact, if you do not believe in the Reformed doctrine of “limited atonement,” you believe in a limited atonement anyway! How so? Unless you are a universalist (that is, unless you believe that everyone will be saved), then you believe that the atonement of Christ, if it is made for all men, is limited in its effect. You believe that Christ can die in someone’s place and yet that person may still be lost for eternity. You limit the power and effect of the atonement. I limit the scope of the atonement, while saying that its power and effect is unlimited! One writer expressed it well when he said,

Let there be no misunderstanding at this point. The Arminian limits the atonement as certainly as does the Calvinist. The Calvinist limits the extent of it in that he says it does not apply to all persons…while the Arminian limits the power of it, for he says that in itself it does not actually save anybody. The Calvinist limits it quantitatively, but not qualitatively; the Arminian limits it qualitatively, but not quantitatively. For the Calvinist it is like a narrow bridge that goes all the way across the stream; for the Arminian it is like a great wide bridge that goes only half-way across. As a matter of fact, the Arminian places more severe limitations on the work of Christ than does the Calvinist. (Lorraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1932) p. 153.)

Therefore, we are not talking about presenting some terrible limitation on the work of Christ when we speak of “limited atonement.” In fact, we are actually presenting a far greater view of the work of Christ on Calvary when we say that Christ’s death actually accomplishes something in reality rather than only in theory. The atonement, we believe, was a real, actual, substitutionary one, not a possible, theoretical one that is dependent for its efficacy upon the actions of man. And, as one who often shares the gospel with people involved in false religious systems, I will say that the biblical doctrine of the atonement of Christ is a powerful truth that is the only message that has real impact in dealing with the many heretical teachings about Christ that are present in our world today. Jesus Christ died in behalf of those that the Father had, from eternity, decreed to save. There is absolute unity between the Father and the Son in saving God’s people. The Father decrees their salvation, the Son dies in their place, and the Spirit sanctifies them and conforms them to the image of Christ. This is the consistent testimony of Scripture.

The Intention of the Atonement

Why did Christ come to die? Did He come simply to make salvation possible, or did He come to actually obtain eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12)? Let’s consider some passages from Scripture in answer to this question.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10).

Here the Lord Jesus Himself speaks of the reason for His coming. He came to seek and to save the lost. Few have a problem with His seeking; many have a problem with the idea that He actually accomplished all of His mission. Jesus, however, made it clear that He came to actually save the lost. He did this by His death.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst (1 Timothy 1:15).

Paul asserts that the purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was to actually save sinners. Nothing in Paul’s words leads us to the conclusion that is so popular today—that Christ’s death simply makes salvation a possibility rather than a reality. Christ came to save. So, did He? And how did He? Was it not by His death? Most certainly. The atoning death of Christ provides forgiveness of sins for all those for whom it is made. That is why Christ came.

Christ’s Intercessory Work

But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (Hebrews 7:24-26).

The New Testament closely connects the work of Christ as our High Priest and intercessor with His death upon the cross. In this passage from Hebrews, we are told that the Lord Jesus, since He lives forever, has an unchangeable or permanent priesthood. He is not like the old priests who passed away, but is a perfect priest, because He remains forever. Because of this He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him. Why? Because He always lives to make intercession for them.

Now, before considering the relationship of the death of Christ to His intercession, I wish to emphasize the fact that the Bible says that Christ is able to save men completely. He is not limited simply to a secondary role as the great Assistor who makes it possible for man to save himself. Those who draw near to God through Christ will find full and complete salvation in Him. Furthermore, we must remember that Christ intercedes for those who draw near to God. I feel that it is obvious that Christ is not interceding for those who are not approaching God through Him. Christ’s intercession is in behalf of the people of God. We shall see how important this is in a moment.

Upon what ground does Christ intercede before the Father? Does He stand before the Father and ask Him to forget His holiness, forget His justice, and simply pass over the sins of men? Of course not. The Son intercedes before the Father on the basis of His death. Christ’s intercession is based upon the fact that He has died as the substitute for God’s people, and, since He has borne their sins in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24), He can present His offering before the Father in their place, and intercede for them on this basis. The Son does not ask the Father to compromise His holiness, or to simply pass over sin. Christ took care of sin at Calvary. As we read in Hebrews 9:11-12:

When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.

When Christ entered into the Holy of Holies, He did so “by his own blood.” When He did this, we are told that He had “obtained eternal redemption.” This again is not a theoretical statement, but a statement of fact. Christ did not enter into the Holy of Holies to attempt to gain redemption for His people! He entered in having already accomplished that. So what is He doing? Is His work of intercession another work alongside His sacrificial death? Is His death ineffective without this “other” work? Christ’s intercession is not a second work outside of His death. Rather, Christ is presenting before the Father His perfect and complete sacrifice. He is our High Priest, and the sacrifice He offers in our place is the sacrifice of Himself. He is our Advocate, as John said:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2. [This passage is often used to deny the specific atonement of Christ; yet, when the parallel passage in John 11:51-52 is consulted, it is clear that John means the “world” to be taken in the same sense that is explained for us in Revelation 5:9-11, where Christ’s death purchases for God men “from every tribe and language and people and nation,” that is, from all the world.]

Christ’s atoning death is clearly connected with His advocacy before the Father. Therefore, we can see the following truths:

1) It is impossible that the Son would not intercede for everyone for whom He died. If Christ dies as their Substitute, how could He not present His sacrifice in their stead before the Father? Can we really believe that Christ would die for someone that He did not intend to save?

2) It is impossible that anyone for whom the Son did not die could receive Christ’s intercession. If Christ did not die in behalf of a certain individual, how could Christ intercede for that individual, since He would have no grounds upon which to seek the Father’s mercy?

3) It is impossible that anyone for whom the Son intercedes could be lost. Can we imagine the Son pleading before the Father, presenting His perfect atonement in behalf of an individual that He wishes to save, and the Father rejecting the Son’s intercession? The Father always hears the Son (John 11:42). Would He not hear the Son’s pleas in behalf of all that the Son desires to save? Furthermore, if we believe that Christ can intercede for someone that the Father will not save, then we must believe either 1) that there is dissension in the Godhead, the Father desiring one thing, the Son another, or 2) that the Father is incapable of doing what the Son desires Him to do. Both positions are utterly impossible.

That Christ does not act as High Priest for all men is clearly seen in His “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17. The Lord clearly distinguishes between the “world” and those who are His throughout the prayer, and verse 9 makes our point very strongly:

I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.

When Christ prays to the Father, He does not pray for the “world” but for those that have been given to Him by the Father (John 6:37).

For Whom Did Christ Die?

There are a number of Scriptures that teach us that the scope of Christ’s death was limited to the elect. Here are a few of them:

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

The “many” for whom Christ died are the elect of God, just as Isaiah had said long before,

By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11)

The Lord Jesus made it clear that His death was for His people when He spoke of the Shepherd and the sheep:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15).

The good Shepherd lays down His life in behalf of the sheep. Are all men the sheep of Christ? Certainly not, for most men do not know Christ, and Christ says that His sheep know Him (John 10:14). Further, Jesus specifically told the Jews who did not believe in Him, “but you do not believe because you are not my sheep” (John 10:26). Note that in contrast with the idea that we believe and therefore make ourselves Christ’s sheep, Jesus says that they do not believe because they are not His sheep! Whether one is of Christ’s sheep is the Father’s decision (John 6:37, 8:47), not the sheep’s!

…just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God….husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:2, 25-27).

Christ gave Himself in behalf of His Church, His Body, and that for the purpose of cleansing her and making her holy. If this was His intention for the Church, why would He give Himself for those who are not of the Church? Would He not wish to make these “others” holy as well? Yet, if Christ died for all men, there are many, many who will remain impure for all eternity. Was Christ’s death insufficient to cleanse them? Certainly not. Did He have a different goal in mind in dying for them? [I am not here denying that the death of Christ had effects for all men, indeed, for all of creation. I believe that His death is indeed part of the “summing up of all things” in Christ. But, we are speaking here solely with the salvific effect of the substitutionary atonement of Christ. One might say that Christ’s death has an effect upon those for whom it was not intended as an atoning sacrifice.] No, His sacrificial death in behalf of His Church results in her purification, and this is what He intended for all for whom He died.

He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring a charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us (Romans 8:32-34).

The Father gave the Son in our place. Who is the “our” of this passage? The text says that it is “those whom God has chosen,” that is, the elect of God. Again, the intercessory work of Christ at the right hand of the Father is presented in perfect harmony with the death of Christ—those for whom Christ died are those for whom He intercedes. And, as this passage shows, if Christ intercedes for someone, who can possibly bring a charge against that person and hope to see them condemned? So we see what we have seen before: Christ dies in someone’s place, He intercedes for them, and they are infallibly saved. Christ’s work is complete and perfect. He is the powerful Savior, and He never fails to accomplish His purpose.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Are all the friends of Christ? Do all own His name? Do all bow before Him and accept Him as Lord? Do all do His commandments (John 15:14)? Then not all are His friends.

While we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:13-14).

Both the substitutionary element of the cross (gave himself for us) and the purpose thereof (to redeem us…to purify) are forcefully presented to Titus. If it was the purpose of Christ to redeem and purify those for whom He died, can this possibly not take place?

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Christ will save His people from their sins. I ask what Edwin Palmer asked me before: Well, did He? Did He save His people, or did He not?

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

This is the common confession of every true believer in Christ. We died with Him, our Substitute, the one who loved us and gave Himself in our behalf.

We have seen, then, that the Word teaches that Christ died for many, for His sheep, for the Church, for the elect of God, for His friends, for a people zealous for good works, for His people, for each and every Christian.

Perfected and Sanctified

One could quite obviously fill entire volumes with a study of the atonement of Christ. [The reader is strongly encouraged to make the effort to read completely a work that stands as a classic in the field: John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ from Banner of Truth, for a full discussion of the issues surrounding the atonement of Christ.] It is not our purpose to do so here. Instead, we shall close our brief survey of Scripture with these words from Hebrews 10:10-14:

And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifice, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

While we have seen many logical reasons for believing in limited atonement, and we have seen many references to Christ’s death in behalf of His people, this one passage, above all others, to me, makes the doctrine a must. Listen closely to what we are told. First, what is the effect of the one time sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ? What does verse 10 tell us? “We have been made holy,” or, another translation would be, “We have been sanctified.” The Greek language uses the perfect tense here, indicating a past, and completed, action. The death of Christ actually makes us holy. Do we believe this? Did the death of Christ actually sanctify those for whom it was made? Or did it simply make it possible for them to become holy? Again, these are questions that cannot be easily dismissed. The writer goes on to describe how this priest, Jesus, sat down at the right hand of God, unlike the old priests who had to keep performing sacrifices over and over and over again. His work, on the contrary, is perfect and complete. He can rest, for by His one sacrifice He has made perfect those who are experiencing the sanctifying work of the Spirit in their lives. He made them perfect, complete. The term refers to a completion, a finishing. Again, do we believe that Christ’s death does this? And, if we see the plain teaching of Scripture, are we willing to alter our beliefs, and our methods of proclaiming the gospel, to fit the truth?

What of Faith?

One common belief needs to be addressed in passing. Many who believe in a “universal” or non-specific atonement, assert that while Christ died for all, His atonement is only effective for those who believe. We shall discuss the fact that faith itself is the gift of God, given only to the elect of God, in the next chapter. But for now, we defer to the great Puritan writer, John Owen, in answering this question:

To which I may add this dilemma to our Universalists:—God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God enter into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in his sight: “If the LORD should mark iniquities, who should stand?” Ps. cxxx. 3….If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why, then are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, “Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.” But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then he did not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will. (John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1985) pp. 61-62.)

Conclusion

Some object to the doctrine of limited atonement on very pragmatic grounds. “The doctrine destroys evangelism, because you cannot tell people that Christ died for them, because you don’t know!” Yet, we ask, is there an advantage in presenting to men an atonement that is theoretical, a Savior whose work is incomplete, and a gospel that is but a possibility? What kind of proclamation will God honor with His Spirit: one that is tailored to seek “success,” or one that is bound to the truth of the Word of God? When the Apostles preached the Gospel, they did not say, “Christ died for all men everywhere, and it is up to you to make His work effective.” They taught that Christ died for sinners, and that it was the duty of every man to repent and believe. They knew that only God’s grace could bring about repentance and faith in the human heart. And far from that being a *hindrance* to their evangelistic work, it was the power behind it! They proclaimed a *powerful* Savior, whose work is all sufficient, and who saves men totally and completely! They knew that God was about bringing men to Himself, and, since He is the sovereign of the universe, there is no power on earth that will stay His hand! Now there is a solid basis for evangelism! And what could be more of a comfort to the heart that is racked with guilt than to know that Christ has died for sinners, and that His work is not just theoretical, but is real?

The Church needs to challenge the world again with the daring proclamation of a gospel that is offensive—offensive because it speaks of God saving those whom He will, offensive because it proclaims a sovereign Savior who redeems His people.

by James White

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Does God Hate Haiti?

Does God Hate Haiti?

by Albert Mohler

The images streaming in from Haiti look like scenes from Dante’s Inferno. The scale of the calamity is unprecedented. In many ways, Haiti has almost ceased to exist.

The earthquake that will forever change that nation came as subterranean plates shifted about six miles under the surface of the earth, along a fault line that had threatened trouble for centuries. But no one saw a quake of this magnitude coming. The 7.0 quake came like a nightmare, with the city of Port-au-Prince crumbling, entire villages collapsing, bodies flying in the air and crushed under mountains of debris. Orphanages, churches, markets, homes, and government buildings all collapsed. Civil government has virtually ceased to function. Without power, communication has been cut off and rescue efforts are seriously hampered. Bodies are piling up, hope is running out, and help, though on the way, will not arrive in time for many victims.

Even as boots are finally hitting the ground and relief efforts are reaching the island, estimates of the death toll range as high as 500,000. Given the mountainous terrain and densely populated villages that had been hanging along the fault line, entire villages may have disappeared. The Western Hemisphere’s most impoverished nation has experienced a catastrophe that appears almost apocalyptic.

In truth, it is hard not to describe the earthquake as a disaster of biblical proportions. It certainly looks as if the wrath of God has fallen upon the Caribbean nation. Add to this the fact that Haiti is well known for its history of religious syncretism — mixing elements of various faiths, including occult practices. The nation is known for voodoo, sorcery, and a Catholic tradition that has been greatly influenced by the occult.

Haiti’s history is a catalog of political disasters, one after the other. In one account of the nation’s fight for independence from the French in the late 18th century, representatives of the nation are said to have made a pact with the Devil to throw off the French. According to this account, the Haitians considered the French as Catholics and wanted to side with whomever would oppose the French. Thus, some would use that tradition to explain all that has marked the tragedy of Haitian history — including now the earthquake of January 12, 2010.

Does God hate Haiti? That is the conclusion reached by many, who point to the earthquake as a sign of God’s direct and observable judgment.

God does judge the nations — all of them — and God will judge the nations. His judgment is perfect and his justice is sure. He rules over all the nations and his sovereign will is demonstrated in the rising and falling of nations and empires and peoples. Every molecule of matter obeys his command, and the earthquakes reveal his reign — as do the tides of relief and assistance flowing into Haiti right now.

A faithful Christian cannot accept the claim that God is a bystander in world events. The Bible clearly claims the sovereign rule of God over all his creation, all of the time. We have no right to claim that God was surprised by the earthquake in Haiti, or to allow that God could not have prevented it from happening.

God’s rule over creation involves both direct and indirect acts, but his rule is constant. The universe, even after the consequences of the Fall, still demonstrates the character of God in all its dimensions, objects, and occurrences. And yet, we have no right to claim that we know why a disaster like the earthquake in Haiti happened at just that place and at just that moment.

The arrogance of human presumption is a real and present danger. We can trace the effects of a drunk driver to a car accident, but we cannot trace the effects of voodoo to an earthquake — at least not so directly. Will God judge Haiti for its spiritual darkness? Of course. Is the judgment of God something we can claim to understand in this sense — in the present? No, we are not given that knowledge. Jesus himself warned his disciples against this kind of presumption.

Why did no earthquake shake Nazi Germany? Why did no tsunami swallow up the killing fields of Cambodia? Why did Hurricane Katrina destroy far more evangelical churches than casinos? Why do so many murderous dictators live to old age while many missionaries die young?

Does God hate Haiti? God hates sin, and will punish both individual sinners and nations. But that means that every individual and every nation will be found guilty when measured by the standard of God’s perfect righteousness. God does hate sin, but if God merely hated Haiti, there would be no missionaries there; there would be no aid streaming to the nation; there would be no rescue efforts — there would be no hope.

The earthquake in Haiti, like every other earthly disaster, reminds us that creation groans under the weight of sin and the judgment of God. This is true for every cell in our bodies, even as it is for the crust of the earth at every point on the globe. The entire cosmos awaits the revelation of the glory of the coming Lord. Creation cries out for the hope of the New Creation.

In other words, the earthquake reminds us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only real message of hope. The cross of Christ declares that Jesus loves Haiti — and the Haitian people are the objects of his love. Christ would have us show the Haitian nation his love, and share his Gospel. In the midst of this unspeakable tragedy, Christ would have us rush to aid the suffering people of Haiti, and rush to tell the Haitian people of his love, his cross, and salvation in his name alone.

Everything about the tragedy in Haiti points to our need for redemption. This tragedy may lead to a new openness to the Gospel among the Haitian people. That will be to the glory of God. In the meantime, Christ’s people must do everything we can to alleviate the suffering, bind up the wounded, and comfort the grieving. If Christ’s people are called to do this, how can we say that God hates Haiti?

If you have any doubts about this, take your Bible and turn to John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. That is God’s message to Haiti.

 http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/01/14/does-god-hate-haiti/

 

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