Tag Archive for 'Salvation'

Luther on Salvation By Grace Alone

It should be obvious, but I will give my usual Reformed alert here. Not meant for sensitive readers, those with high blood pressure, or those who may be pregnant, and not Reformed.

I like how this is explained by Luther, who is being quoted by Warfield.

“As a man, before he is created, to be a man, does nothing and makes no effort to be a creature; and then, after he has been made and created, does nothing and makes no effort to continue a creature; but both these things alike are done solely by the will of the omnipotent power and goodness of God who without our aid creates and preserves us – but He does not operate in us without our cooperation, seeing that He created and preserved us for this very purpose, that He might operate in us and we cooperate with Him, whether this is done outside His kingdom by general omnipotence, or within His kingdom by the singular power of His Spirit: So then we say that a man before he is renovated into a new creature of the kingdom of the Spirit, does nothing and makes no effort to prepare himself for that renovation and kingdom; and then, after he has been renovated, does nothing, makes no effort to continue in that kingdom; but the Spirit alone does both alike in us, recreating us without our aid, and preserving us when recreated, as also James says, ‘Of His own will begat He us by the word of His power, that we should be the beginning of His creation’ (he is speaking of the renewed creature), but He does not operate apart from us, seeing that He has recreated and preserved us for this very purpose that He might operate in us and we cooperate with Him. Thus through us He preaches, has pity on the poor, consoles the afflicted. But what, then, is attributed to free will? Or rather what is left to it except nothing? Assuredly just nothing.”

What this parallel teaches is that the whole saving work is from God, in the beginning and middle and end; it is a supernatural work throughout. But we are saved that we may live in God; and, in the powers of our new life, do His will in the world. It is the Pauline, Not out of works, but unto good works, which God has afore prepared that we should live in them.

B.B. Warfield, The Theology of the Reformation, quoting Luther

Monergism’s newsletter said, “This is a must-read essay by Warfield. If you have never read this, I would encourage you to take the time to do so”; so I’m reading it! Although if we read everything that’s a ‘must-read’, we couldn’t finish in many lifetimes. But I took their word for it, and it’s very good. I thought it was time I read something by him.

Accepting Jesus As Your Personal Savior

I wonder when this phrase started. Maybe with Finney? It’s not in the Bible. I realize the word Trinity also isn’t in the Bible and it’s a foundation of orthodox faith. But God makes us acceptable to Him, not the other way around. I believe salvation is wholly a work of God and isn’t based on our “acceptance” of Him. I even think in some definitions of the word, it’s offensive, but I know that most people don’t mean it that way.

John 1:12 GW
he gave the right to become God’s children to everyone who believed in him.

And even the faith to believe is a gift from God.

Ephesians 2:8 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

We need to repent and work out our salvation.

Acts 17:30
God overlooked the times when people didn’t know any better. But now he commands everyone everywhere to turn to him and change the way they think and act.

Philippians 2:12
My dear friends, you have always obeyed, not only when I was with you but even more now that I’m absent. In the same way continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

I think this article is pretty good: Accept Jesus?

I hate cliches and catch phrases. I spent three plus years going through the New Testament with the help of commentaries and read through the Old Testament just to see what’s in the Bible and what’s not, what’s true teaching and what’s not. Most of the extra-Biblical sayings we Evangelicals hear aren’t Biblical, or not quite. Some of them are. I wish people would just use what’s said in the Bible or say in their own words what’s Biblical. But I’ve been learning how Biblically illiterate most are. I would have to include myself in that category to some degree until the last few years (though still lacking), although having some Scripture memorized really helped. I’ve had to put myself through catechism, because I never got it anywhere else. A sermon hear and there isn’t going to do it.

Search the Scriptures to see if what people say is in them.

Acts 17:11
The people of Berea were more open-minded than the people of Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive God’s message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true.

What do you think?

Also see: To Love Him Is To Know Him

Salvation Requires A Work

What work do we have to do? It’s to believe. So it would appear that this is what we need to do. But some translations would interpret is as something God does for us.

John 6:28-29 NRSV
Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Wouldn’t “the work of God” be what God does for us? Or “the work of God that He requires”? The former looks to me to be a more ‘literal’ translation and is how most by far render it.

The Good News Translation, which is one of my favorites, explicitly says that it’s something God does for us to cause us to believe.

John 6:29 GWT
Jesus replied to them, “God wants to do something for you so that you believe in the one whom he has sent.”

The NET goes the other way, along with the REB, my favorite:

John 6:29 NET
Jesus replied, “This is the deed God requires–to believe in the one whom he sent.”

What do you think?

My Testimony

For those unfamiliar, a testimony in most evangelical Christian lingo is how you became a Christian. Most people say, “I shared my testimony.” The word share is an  over-used catch-all for explain, say, proclaim (as in proclaiming the gospel), talk, speak, preach and many other words which involve speech. I’m writing this because my ‘testimony’ is so short that I thought I’d write about some other things.

My testimony:

I read the book of John in the Bible and within that time the Holy Spirit came to me and caused me to believe.

That’s about it. I’m so thankful that God used the Bible in his own timing and I can’t claim anything. I didn’t even buy or ask for a Bible. Someone gave it to me and suggested I read the book of John and ask God to speak to me. What a wonderful thing God did and is still doing.

At the time, the sinner’s prayer (asking Jesus into your heart, which I still don’t understand or find in the Bible, accepting Jesus as your personal savior, etc.) was, and probably is so in vogue that I prayed it later on just to make sure I ‘did it right’. I now know those were brought about in large part because of Charles Finney. Because of God working in us even though we don’t deserve it, belief in Jesus dying and rising again and being the way to God is how we become Christians, not going to church or being a good person (which none of us really are–not enough anyway) or doing good things. (John 5:24, Ephesians 2:8-9)

I’m also practicing explaining things without using Christian lingo. I like to say things in my own words anyway.

So that’s my boring but wonderful testimony. I love how God worked that out so that I can’t brag about anything and he only used Scripture. If you aren’t a Christian and would like to try it, please do. If you need any help with a Bible, how to go about it, or especially need help after you read it, let me and my blogging friends know.

Quote of the Day: Please approve of me

Many Churches:

“Oh, please, approve of me”–the usual message of modern Christian churches

–William Murchison, retired senior columnist for the Dallas Morning News and committed churchmen, writing in Mortal Follies

HT: Kevin DeYoung

This goes along with “accepting Christ”. We don’t accept Him, He accepts us! We may accept the gospel, but as we believe and boldly turn away from the world and to Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit and Jesus becomes our Lord and Savio[u]r. God is sovereign over salvation and Jesus is the only way to Him. We are are wholly devoted to that or not.

The right way and the wrong way to lead someone to salvation

Some other people have done the work for me and written about a couple of things I’ve wanted to articulate. So I will just link to them. I think these posts for the most part are great.

Ask Jesus into my heart?
HT: Cal.vini.st

Even as a Christian “ask Jesus into my heart” still makes no sense to me. This by itself is a great way to start someone out on rocky soil.

On the other end we have Integrity of belief at Castle of Nutshells. I can only imagine what the church would be like if this early church (and currently Orthodox) practice were commonplace.

I think I’ve been putting myself through this process of being a catechumen without really realizing it with my “three year plan” of reading commentaries, other books, learning how to study the Bible, being more rigorous about spiritual disciplines etc. This is without an official mentor but hopefully I’m not going off course. After I’m done with this basic training I’ll only have scratched the surface but hope to have a better grasp of the NT and a little more of the OT and most importantly get to know more of who God is and continue to grow closer to Him. Going through a lot of suffering also does wonders for spiritual growth if receptive to learning.

2 Timothy 3:14-15
But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.

Can Christians Become Demon-Possessed? What Is True Conversion?

Can Christians Become Demon-Possessed? (<– link) by John MacArthur

What does God’s Word, the touchstone of truth, say? Can demons inhabit or spatially indwell a true believer? Can they walk through an open door and become a squatter? Proponents of today’s spiritual warfare movement say yes, but they base their answer on subjective experience, not on God’s Word. The Bible makes it clear that such a claim has no justifiable basis.

–John MacArthur

if there is no real and lasting change in people who think they are converted, their religion is worthless, whatever their experiences may be.

–Jonathon Edwards



Please excuse this post for being like a rough draft. I spent too much time on it already. If you can make it to the end you will either be rewarded, frustrated or wonder why I’m writing about things you already know.

Galatians 2:16 NRSV yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.

Most of us believe that works (of the law) will not save us and it is by God’s grace through faith in/of Christ that we are saved. Longenecker defines Paul’s use of “the law” as:

…the Mosaic law as a religious system associated in some manner with righteousness.

Paul adds another dimension to this in his letter to the Galatians. He is also saying that the law can’t add anything to what Christ has done for us nor can it perfect our salvation. There is no supplement regarding our standing before God. If we “obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:9) and then try to perfect it by works of the law, we are going backwards:

Galatians 3:3 NRSV Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?

Longenecker says,

The main point of Paul’s rhetorical question here, however, has to do with the incongruity of beginning one’s Christian life on one basis (‘with the Spirit’) and then shifting somewhere in progress to another basis (‘by human effort’). What Paul wants his converts to see is that the Christian life is one that starts, is maintained, and comes to culmination only through dependence on the activity of God’s Spirit (Gal 5:25; also see Phil 1:6…the point is made that completion of the Christian life comes about on the same basis as its inception, viz. by God’s working).

Longenecker quotes Betz,

Paul’s missionary efforts were taken as merely the first step, and that the opponents claimed to provide the necessary and final measures to bring salvation to completion and perfection.


As such it combined faith in Christ for initial acceptance before God and a nomistic lifestyle* for true holiness, thereby claiming to work out in full the meaning of righteousness. Paul, however, was not content to allow any supplement to the work of Christ, either for one’s initial acceptance before God or for one’ life as a Christian. For him, to start talking about supplements [including circumcision] was to bring matters back to square one and the issue of legalism, even if it be claimed that nomism alone was the question.

It’s interesting to note that whenever Paul mentions Abraham and the covenant, he never mentions circumcision, which is one of the ‘works of the law’ that the Judaizers where claiming the Galatians needed to perform. The promise of Abraham did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith (Rom 4:11-13; also see 1 Cor 7:19).

Galatians 3:6-18 NRSV Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed. For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person’s will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ. My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.

Galatians 5:18 NRSV But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.

*According to Longenecker, nomism is “expressing their Christian convictions in their lifestyle in ways compatible with Jewish tradition” which was not to be foisted on the Gentile Galatians. Although, “To be a Jewish believer in Jesus did not mean turning one’s back on one’s own culture or nation. Yet no longer could it be argued that circumcision, Jewish dietary laws, following distinctly Jewish ethical precepts, or any other matter having to do with a Jewish lifestyle were requisite for the life of faith.”

Update: Please see the first comment by Bryan.

Free Will Rewind

The most searched for terms that land on this blog are related to free will. Since this original post I added some additional resources in the comments.

Free Will

God’s Wrath and Our Salvation

In the church I was brought up in they taught that Jesus’ death paid for everyone’s sins except for those who are really bad like murderers etc. and that the wrath of God was taken away from virtually everyone. What does the Bible say?

John 3:36
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.

Romans 2:8
but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

Isn’t this unfair?

Romans 9:22-24
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory– even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Ephesians 2:3
among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

If we don’t believe God is a God of wrath, it dilutes our thankfulness for the fact that He sent His Son to be a propitiation for us.

1 John 4:10
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Romans 5:9
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

God’s Wisdom

1 Corinthians

The Corinthians were very much into secular wisdom, individualism, egocentricity, prestige, power, philosophy, debate, etc.

I love how God in His wisdom had Paul preach what is foolish to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:21-24
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

It’s interesting how Jesus and Paul made it more difficult to be saved than easy. They wanted to make sure that Christians are true believers who are drawn by God and spoken to by the Holy Spirit instead of those who just agree with the Gospel on an intellectual level and don’t truly believe or love God.

What could be more foolish to people like the Corinthians than a person dying on a cross? David Garland in his commentary on 1 Corinthians says, “To be full of oneself as a golden-tonged orator is the opposite of emptying oneself (of oneself), which is the paradigm presented by the cross.” He goes on later to say, “He does not say that he preached the resurrected Christ, but the crucified Christ. Crucifixion and resurrection belong together as part of the gospel story (1 Corinthians 15:3-5), but the cross was repugnant to ancient sensibilities and assailed the world’s self-centeredness and self-destructive ways. It was not yet the ‘old rugged cross’ sentimentalized in hymns, embalmed in stained-glass windows, perched on marble altars, or fashioned into gold charms.”

There were no altar calls or asking people to pray the sinner’s prayer. The message was simple. The persuasion was left to the Holy Spirit.

As a side note I found that 1 Corinthians 1:21 (a) and 1 Corinthians 1:29 serve as bookends to what is explained in between. Together they are, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

It’s unlikely that the typical Corinthian (or us) is going to boast in something that seems foolish to us. Salvation through someone’s death on a cross is not something anyone would come up with in their own wisdom. And even if they did, it’s not something they would present as an orator for people to marvel at.

Real Conversion

In the post on October 6th Thomas Schreiner is quoted as saying: “The ultimate reason for a mission to the Gentiles was not the salvation of the Gentiles but the proclamation of the name of Jesus Christ.” And John MacArthur, “The decision of yielding, surrendering and then acting, is between the hearer and God, not between the hearer and the preacher.”

Thanks to Nath at Reformed Geek there are two videos of Paul Washer preaching on true conversion and puts into words some thoughts I’ve had recently.

If anyone can find any Scripture supporting alter calls or praying the sinner’s prayer let me know.