- The Regulative Principle of Worship
- Covenant Theology
- The Law of God
- The Regulative Principle of Worship
- Covenant Theology
- The Law of God
I recorded a short commentary (23 minutes) on the current mid-east crisis. I trust you will find it to be edifying. The message is entitled “A Pastoral Word on the Mid-East Crisis”.
1. PELAGIANISM – Salvation is all of man (human monergism)
BELIEF: MAN IS WELL
Named after the British monk Pelagius (354 – 418 A.D.)
Pelagius believed that Adam’s sin affected no one but himself. Those born since Adam have been born into the same condition Adam was in before the Fall, neutral towards sin. Human beings are able to live free from sin if they want to.
Pelagius read one of Augustine’s prayers which upset him greatly. Augustine had prayed “Lord, command what You will and grant what You command.” Pelagius thought that if God commanded something, for Him to remain just, man would need to have the ability to do what God commanded without grace. There would be no need for God to “grant” what He commanded. Augustine defended his view that although God commanded, He needs to grant grace to us so that we can be empowered to do what He commands.
Pelagianism is a humanistic, man centered teaching and while it is very positive, it limits the nature and scope of sin and flatly denies the necessity of God’s grace. Pelagius’ view was condemned as heresy by the Church, as it has no basis in Scripture. However, the view never really went away and is still very prevalent in our own day. As one man said, “we are born Pelagians at heart.” We think we can do anything God commands or achieve salvation without the need for grace.
2. SYNERGISM (through the actions of more than one – cooperation)
BELIEF: MAN IS SICK, EVEN MORTALLY SICK
Observing that if man was as healthy as the optimists say, then surely war, disease, starvation, poverty and such problems we face today would have been eliminated by now. Since such problems have not been fixed, Synergists conclude that something is basically wrong with human nature. Yet, they contend that the situation is not hopeless. Its bad, perhaps even desperate, but not hopeless. We haven’t blown ourselves off the planet yet so there’s no need to call the mortician yet.
Human nature has been damaged by the Fall. The will is NOT enslaved to sin, but is capable of believing in Christ, even prior to regeneration (although not entirely apart from God’s grace). Every sinner retains the ability to choose for or against God, either cooperating with God’s Spirit unto salvation or resisting God’s grace unto damnation.
Election is conditional, determined by individual choice: the only people God has chosen are those whom He already knew would believe. The faith He foresees is not exclusively a divine gift but partly a human decision. Therefore, the ultimate cause of salvation is not God’s choice of the sinner but the sinner’s choice of God.
Under this broad heading of synergism, we have two basic schools of thought:
A. SEMI-PELAGIANISM – which teaches that man initiates, God helps.
“… Divine grace is indispensable for salvation, but it does not necessarily need to precede a free human choice, because, despite the weakness of human volition, the will takes the initiative toward God.” R. Kyle (Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)
B. ARMINIANISM – which teaches that God initiates by offering grace, and that mankind either does or does not cooperate with that grace.
This belief, though quite popular in our day, would still be classed as synergistic because regeneration takes place through the cooperation of man with God’s grace.
3. AUGUSTINIANISM (Reformed) – God saves by His Divine power alone (Divine monergism)
BELIEF: MAN IS DEAD
Each of the members of the Trinity are at work in the salvation of sinners. God the Father elects a people for salvation, Jesus the Son redeems them in His atoning work on the cross, and God, the Holy Spirit, regenerates them, bringing them to life.
Lazarus, being a lifeless corpse in the tomb, did not cooperate with Christ with regard to his own resurrection. Jesus simply cried out “Lazarus come forth!” and this call was powerful and sufficient in and of itself to bring dead Lazarus back to life. Christ did not interview the dead man Lazarus and ask if he would like to be resurrected, and once he got the “all clear” went ahead with his plan, now having obtained Lazarus’ permission and assent. Nor did Lazarus, once brought back to life, immediately take Jesus to court in attempt to sue him for violating his free will – his libertarian rights as a dead man to stay dead! No, for the rest of his earthly life, Lazarus was deeply grateful for the unspeakable mercy he had received from the Master.
This is a beautiful picture of what God does in our regeneration from spiritual death. Man, once receiving this grace of regeneration, then infallibly responds in faith to the effectual call of God.
I believe this is the biblical description regarding the state of man before he is regenerated. He is “dead in trespasses and sins.” (Eph. 2:1).
Augustinianism is named after Saint Augustine of the 5th Century A.D.. As far as his relationship to God is concerned, man is a lifeless corpse, unable to make a single move toward God, or even respond to God, unless God first brings this spiritually dead corpse to life. Although spiritually dead, it is a strange death since he is nevertheless up and about actively practicing sin. He is what horror stories call a zombie – dead but walking around. This is a fair description of what Paul says about human nature in its lost condition. Apart from Jesus Christ, these sinning human corpses are the living dead. Man’s will is enslaved (John 8:34).
Man has a will, most definitely, but this will never wants God (Rom. 3:11; Rom. 8:7), without the direct and gracious intervention of God. The sinner actively practices evil. He is also by nature an object of God’s wrath (Eph. 2:3). BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy…. even when we were dead… made us alive (by grace you have been saved)… (Eph. 2:4, 5)
This truth is demonstrated in many passages in scripture, but perhaps the clearest is Ephesians 2:1-10.
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Colossians 2:13 also states, “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him…”
Notice that both in Ephesians 2:5, and Colossians 2:13, it was when we were dead that God made us alive. Not one mention is made of our role in all this, such as, “when you were dead, you decided to cooperate with God’s grace, and He then raised you…” I don’t know how the Apostle Paul could have taught Divine monergism more clearly. It was when we were dead that God made us alive.
Augustinianism removes all ground for boasting, demolishes all human pride and exalts God’s grace as the sole efficient cause of a sinner’s salvation. As Jonah 2:9 says, “Salvation is of the Lord.” Therefore the glory for it goes to God, and to God alone.
“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” – Rom. 9:16
We can make a distinction between the body and the head of a man and he suffers no loss, but if there is a separation, the man will be dead. The head and the body must stay together for life to continue. Similarly, though we can make a distinction between justification and sanctification, we must never separate the two.
Justification is a legal court room term defined as the act of God when He declares a person just or righteous in His sight. This takes place the moment a sinner places their trust in the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. For the sinner who has faith in Jesus, God pronounces the sentence “I find you not guilty! I reckon (I count, I declare) you righteous in My sight, and you and I are forever at peace with each other. All of your sins were transferred to your sin bearing Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ, who took the full brunt of My holy wrath for you, and what has been transferred to your account is the righteousness of My Son, who lived not only a sinless life, but a life fully pleasing to Me. This very real righteousness is yours now and forever.”
Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Christian is a justified person. God has declared him right in His sight because of Christ.
What is amazing to us (and what is at the heart of the gospel message) is that God does not wait until we are inherently righteous before He declares us righteous. He justifies “the ungodly.” Romans 4:5 says, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
How can God do this without compromising His holiness and justice? He does this because the very real righteousness of Christ has been given as a gift to the one who believes in Him. Christ’s righteousness is a real righteousness and “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30).
What about sanctification then? Justification happens in an instant – the moment a sinner places faith in the Savior. Sanctification is the process of becoming more and more holy and separated to God in daily life.
In the Old Testament, vessels used for the house of God (the Tabernacle or the Temple) were “sanctified” and set apart for that purpose, never to be used for more mundane purposes. In one sense, the Christian is already sanctified in that he is set apart to God (1 Cor. 6:11). Yet there is another dimension of sanctification for although set apart to God, there is still much work to do because in all actuality, no Christian on earth is entirely sanctified. The battle between the flesh and spirit is a life long battle. The flesh still wants its independence, and in contrast, the spirit wishes to live in absolute dependence upon God. Sanctification is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian.
Having made the distinction between justification and sanctification, let me affirm straight away that these two cannot be separated. That is because the truly justified person will be involved in this process of sanctification. If someone claims to be justified, but there is no desire to be sanctified, the claim to justification is proven to be fraudulent. The justified man possesses the Holy Spirit and He sets about the task of sanctification the moment He comes in to the human heart. He desires holiness, and He stirs up that desire in the heart of the true Christian. The Christian still sins, but there is now a struggle against sin, whereas before there was no struggle at all. The fact that you wish to be free from sin is an indication that the Holy Spirit is at work in the heart. When a person is happy to stay in a lifestyle that knowingly displeases the Master, it raises huge red warning flags to indicate that we need to analyze any claim to true justification.
Martin Luther gave the following analogy: When we are justified, it is as though a doctor has just administered a sure and certain remedy for a fatal disease. Though the patient may still endure a temporary struggle with the residual effects of his illness, the outcome is no longer in doubt. The physician pronounces the patient cured even though a rehabilitation process must still be carried out.
So it is with our justification. In Christ, God pronounces us just by the imputation of the merits of His Son. Along with that declaration, God administers something to us; He gives us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit begins immediately to work within us to bring us to holy living.
It is both a reality and comfort to know this truth – once He begins the work, He will complete it. Scripture says, “those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). So certain is Paul that this is the case, he writes of glorification in the past tense. Though glorification has not yet happen for the Christian in this world, its future certainty is assured. It’s as good as done. No one fall through the cracks.
Imagine being a sports fan and your team is in a big final. Due to a pressing commitment, you are not able to watch the game live and so you record it for later viewing.
You are finally ready to sit down to watch the recorded game and a friend calls and, before you can stop him, he congratulates you on your team’s big win. You really didn’t want to know the final score… you wanted to watch the game not knowing the final outcome. You wanted to watch with all of the emotions of a live experience. But you cannot do that anymore. The fact is that because you now know the final result – because you know that your team wins the game – you watch the entire encounter knowing that no matter how bleak things may look, even if your teams falls behind in the score, you know… in fact you know with utter certainty… your team will win! You watch the game with this comfort: victory is inevitable.
In a similar way, in the battle for sanctification there are often struggles along the way. There are even moments when we might even feel a measure of despair at our seeming lack of spiritual progress. Yet the big picture reality is this: God the Holy Spirit having started the work will complete the massive sanctification project bringing every true Christian all the way to future glorification. All the justified are glorified. He who began the good work in you will complete it, until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).
I am blessed indeed to call Pastor Dan Phillips my friend. He knows his Bible well and serves his congregation well.
He wrote the following and asked me if I had anything I could add before he sent it to the parents in his congregation. I read it and did not have anything to add. I think what he wrote is very helpful.
I then asked him if he would mind if I passed it on to others. He was happy for me to do so. Hence this post here with his words below.
Much love in the Lord Jesus,
Dan Phillips writes:
Dear CBC parents,
We all wish we could shelter our children from the harmful and corrupt elements of our God-hating culture. Apart from living under a rock, this is becoming increasingly impossible. The homosexual-and-much-more agenda has increasingly intruded itself into every area of American life, from the media to sports to department stores to fast food restaurants and coffee shops.
I am writing to try to help you talk to your children. I’ll write it as one side of a conversation. Use any part that helps you address matters that arise in your children’s world.
You asked me what “gay” and “homosexual” and “trans” means, and why you suddenly see the word “Pride” everywhere. I’m glad you asked me! Let me try to explain it to you.
We’ve read Genesis together. You know that God created the world as a perfect, wondrous place. And you know in Genesis 1 He created Adam and Eve without sin, or any of the awful things sin does when it gets inside someone. Adam and Eve loved God and were happy with themselves, with each other, and with their world.
But then Satan came along in Genesis 3, and he got them to be dissatisfied with what God gave them. He tried to make God look like He didn’t care, and like He didn’t really want what was best for Adam and Eve. Satan tried to convince them that they knew better than God what was right and good, and what was best for them. Now you know, that is pride. Pride blows us up like balloons — all big and impressive looking, but with nothing but air inside. So in their pride, Adam and Eve rebelled against God.
When they did, they died inside. The happiness and wholeness they had were gone. They weren’t happy with themselves, or each other, or their world — or God. So they had to find ways to try to make themselves feel happy, and to hide the guilt they had inside. They felt guilty, because they were guilty. They had sinned against God, their Maker.
All those words you asked me about come out of this. They are all about people dead and broken by sin, still trying to find happiness by defiantly shaking their fist in God’s face and pretending they’re smarter than God.
You remember that God made Adam and Eve, a man and a woman. That’s what sex means — it means being a man, or being a woman. People say “gender” today, but gender is really a grammar-term, about words, not people. “Sex” is the better word here. How many sexes did God make? That’s right: two. And when God saw it wasn’t good for the man Adam to be alone, what did God make for him, in Genesis 2? That’s right, a woman, named Eve. So God invented marriage, when a man wants to be with a woman in a special way, and a woman wants to be with a man — only the two of them, with each other.
But all of us children of Adam are sinners, and sin ruins all our good desires and feelings that God gave us. Sin makes us want what we shouldn’t want, and it makes us not want what we should want.
So some poor sad men don’t want to have a woman as their wife. They want another man. And some poor sad women don’t want a man, they want another woman. They are ashamed to want these things, they feel guilty. When we feel guilty, we can only do one of two things. We can go to God, confessing our sins and finding His forgiveness and help. Or we can pretend that we’re okay, and just keep holding to our sin. When people want to pretend these broken, wrong desires are okay, they call it being “gay,” pretending to be truly happy. But they don’t have peace with God, and they won’t be happy when God’s patience comes to an end and He judges them.
And then there are other people so broken by sin that they aren’t willing to be what God made them. God made them a man or a woman — remember, He only made two sexes — but they want to pretend to be something else. Men want to pretend to be women, and women want to pretend to be men. Of course, we are what God made us, and no one can really become the opposite sex. They may try very hard, and even hurt themselves, but it just can’t be done. Still, sometimes we keep pretending, even though it really harms and shames us to do so. And when men or women pretend to be the opposite sex, they call it being “trans.”
So they took the whole month of June to pretend together that all these wrong and harmful things are good, and they call June “Pride” month. Like the Bible says, their “glory is in their shame” (Philippians 3:19).
But things are what God calls them, aren’t they? Not what we call them. So men are always just men, women are always just women, and we can only really marry someone of the opposite sex from us. A man marries a woman, a woman marries a man. Anything else can never really be marriage.
Isn’t it sad to think about people so badly wanting things that are bad for them? Isn’t it awful that what people think will be good for them is really bad for them? But that’s what sin does. It does that to all of us! It’s why children want to disobey their parents. It’s why parents sometimes fight each other, or don’t do such a great job being parents. Sin is behind everything bad that we do or feel.
But remember, God so loved sinful men and women that He sent Jesus to save sinners. Jesus can save any sinner! There is no sin too big for Jesus. He shed His blood so that His people could be forgiven and freed from every last sin of every size! When we turn from our sin and believe in Jesus, we can know that all our sins are forgiven. Isn’t that just the most wonderful news there is?
Even more, Jesus died so that His people could be given new hearts, and so that God’s Holy Spirit could live in our hearts. So God removes our old heart that wanted awful and bad things and hated God, and He gives us a new heart. That new heart wants to love God, and believe Him, and walk in His ways. So all of us, whatever our sins were, can be made new people, children of God, learning to love what God loves and hate what God hates.
So we don’t hate people who want bad things. We would be exactly the same if it weren’t for Jesus. We love people who don’t know Jesus, we pray for them, we want to help them, we want to tell them about Jesus. And when they believe, we accept them and love them and help them to learn to walk with Jesus, just like we’re doing.
Thank you for asking me. Always feel free to ask me any questions you have!
Yours in Christ’s Service,
Pastor, Copperfield Bible Church, Houston Texas