Sunday, August 30, 2015

Repentance and Grace

When unbelievers, convicted by the Holy Spirit of the seriousness of sin and of judgment to come, cry out to the Lord to save them, they have, of course, repented, or changed their minds, as the Greek word signifies. Many pastors and speakers today, however, thinking only of the fact that unbelievers need this change of mind, conclude that the best way to produce results in their ministry is to stress repentance.

It should be remembered, however, that Israel's response to the calls to repentance under the Law was undeniably meager: John the Baptist called Israel to repent but was beheaded as a result (Matt 3:1-12; 14:3-10). The Lord Jesus took up the cry where John had left off (Matt 4:17), but was crucified for it. After the resurrection, He sent His disciples to preach "repentance and forgiveness of his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). But Jerusalem refused to repent, and it was not long before blood flowed again as Stephen was stoned to death and a great persecution followed (Acts 8:3).

Israel's hardness of heart increased too as the call to repentance was intensified.  Notice the progression:  While John's murder was permitted by the people, Christ's was demanded by them, and Stephen's was actually committed by them. So the so-called "Great Commission" was bogged down from the start, because if Jerusalem and the covenant people refused to repent, what hope was there that the "nations" (Luke 24:47) would?

"...but where sin increased, GRACE abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, GRACE also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 5:20-21).

After calls to repentance failed, the ascended Lord reached down to save Saul, who was far from being in a repentant mood, on the road to Damascus. Our Lord didn't speak to him in judgment but rather in the tenderest of tones showed him the glory of His grace.  Paul, this "trophy of grace", was then sent out to proclaim "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).

Repentance was the theme of God's message from John the Baptist until Paul, while grace, proclaimed through the cross and received by faith alone, gradually displaced it as the theme of God's message for today (Acts 20:24).

Along this same line, most believers know that Paul taught that if you are saved, the Lord has already forgiven you "all our trespasses" (Col 2:13).  But they also know that the apostle John taught that the Lord is "is faithful and just to forgive us our sins" if we confess them (1 John 1:9). So to reconcile these two opposite and contradictory messages, they conclude that believers are forgiven when they are saved, but need just a little more forgiveness when they sin. This despite the fact that forgiveness of sins is something believers receive the moment they are saved, along with salvation, justification, and redemption. Most believers wouldn’t dream of asking for more salvation, justification, or redemption when they sin, but asking for more forgiveness is the only way to get Paul and John to say the same thing.

Yet more reasons why it is so important to observe the progression of Scripture!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Motivations for Obedience (a comparison - under law and under grace)

Under the Law:
(obedience in response to a warning or command) - THEN

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt 6:14-15).

"See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God..." (Deut 11:26-28a; cf. 1 Pet 3:8-11)

You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always (Deut 11:1; cf. Matt 22:36-40).

"We have to obey...or else..."

Under Grace:
(obedience in response to all He's done for us) - NOW (Gal 5:18)

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Col 3:12-17).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.  In him we have obtained an inheritancehaving been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory (Eph 1:3-14).

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace...Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph 4:1-3; 17-32)

"We are so grateful for all He's done for us that we want to (or should want to!) walk worthy of Him."

Saturday, August 22, 2015


How believers would be thrilled if they but understood the Bible doctrine of sanctification!

Sanctification isn't a negative matter: "Don’t do this" and "Don’t do that." Rather, it's the positive truth that God wants us for Himself as a cherished possession, much like a bridegroom considers his bride his very own in a special and cherished way.

Bible sanctification is a twofold truth, affecting both our standing before God and our practical Christian walk while on this earth. 

In one sense every true believer in Christ has already been sanctified, or set aside to God, by the operation of the Holy Spirit.

…God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth… (2 Thes 2: 13).

according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit… (1 Pet 1:2).

This has nothing to do with our conduct. God did it. Sanctification begins with Him. This is why Paul could write to even the sinful Corinthian believers and say: 

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11; cf. Acts 20:32; 26:18).  

In other words, God has set us apart for Himself.  This phase of sanctification — our standing before God — is based on the redemptive work of Christ in our behalf.

...we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb 10:10).

But now, in response to all He's done for us, God wants us to show our appreciation by conducting ourselves accordingly, setting ourselves apart ever more completely to Him. This is practical, progressive sanctification.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God (1 Thes 4:3-5). 

This is the reason for Paul's benediction... 

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thes 5:23), 

...and why he said to Timothy:

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house,ready for every good work (2 Tim 2:21).

How can believers be more wholly set apart to God in their practical walk? By studying His Word!

Our Lord prayed, "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth" (Jn 17:17), 

and Paul declares that, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word" (Eph 5:25-26).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bearing Good Fruit

When John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ appeared on earth, God's people had been under the law of Moses for fifteen hundred years. No wonder John and Jesus Christ looked for fruit among them.

When the hypocritical religious leaders came to join John's growing audience and asked to be baptized, John called them a "brood of vipers" and told them to "bear fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matt 3:7-8). True repentance, with fruit to prove it, was the basic requirement of the earthly kingdom John proclaimed. This is evident from his declaration:

Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matt 3:10).

Our Lord appeared, proclaiming the same message as John, and also looked for fruit among His people (Matt 7: 16-20; 21:33-43). We know, however, that John the Baptist was beheaded and Christ crucified. The fruit produced under the Law was puny indeed. Even after the resurrection of Christ, the majority of His people refused to repent and failed to produce the required fruit.

But what the Law requires, grace provides. It was at this time that God raised up the Apostle Paul, whose preaching of "the word of the cross" (1 Cor 1:18) showed that Christ had not died an untimely death, but in infinite love had come into the world to die for sinners so that they might be saved by grace, through faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9). Paul's message was called "the gospel [good news] of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24), and where the Law had failed to produce fruit, grace produced it in spades.

When Paul wrote to the Colossians that his good news was going out into all the world, he added: "it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth" (Col 1:5-6 cf. Rom 6: 21-22).

In fact, grace trains us to produce good fruit. 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).

Monday, August 17, 2015

Why was the law given?

There are three misconceptions entertained about the law of God and its Ten Commandments:
  1. Most people have a vague notion that the law was always in existence and that it must have been given to the first man, Adam, or soon after. Actually, God gave the law to Moses for Israel about 1500 B.C., after about 2500 years of human history had elapsed (John 1:17). So mankind lived on earth for about 2500 years without the law or the Ten Commandment.
  2. Most people suppose that the law and the Ten Commandments were given to mankind in general, when in fact, it was given to Israel alone (Deuteronomy 5:2,3).
  3. Most people suppose that the law and the Ten Commandments were given to help us be good. Even some pastors teach this, although the Bible clearly tells us they were given to show us we are guilty sinners.
It's true that the law, while given to Israel, also shows us that we are sinners. This is why Romans 3:19 says:

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

But most important of all, few people realize that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins to deliver us from the just condemnation of the law...

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us… (Gal 3:13).

For our sake he made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). that believers are not under the law.

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Rom 6:14).