Pastor John Samson
I was recently involved in a friendly discussion with a fellow Christian minister. I was talking about the teachings that sparked the Protestant Reformation, when out of nowhere, it seemed, my minister friend said, “The Holy Spirit is not stuck in the 16th Century. He has moved on. Why don’t you?”
I was a little taken aback to hear this, especially from a minister, but I then realized that he is perhaps speaking for many when he wonders why people like myself are enamored with the Reformation almost five centuries on. Many wonder about the relevance of the Reformation, and see no obvious relationship between that time and our own.
So, is it the case that I am seeking to go back in time and live in the 16th Century? Was that an era that simply thrills my soul?
Hardly! I can assure you that I have no desire to re-establish the dress, fashion, music or mindset of the 16th century. Those days are long gone and I am actually very thankful for that. However, there is a big difference between the time of the Reformation and the central truths of the Bible which the Protestant Reformation brought back to the Church. Here I would have to admit that I strongly desire that the Church comes back to these Bible truths. In this, I hold up my hands, and admit that I am guilty as charged. Modern day believers are largely ignorant of the issues and in this regard, I earnestly pray that the Holy Spirit will bring a new reformation back to the forefront of the Church in our day.
So, if I haven’t moved on, the question is, has the Holy Spirit? Many would say that He has. Yet, it is because I believe it is the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scripture and led His Church back to the truth of the Gospel during that Reformation era that I say, “No, I don’t believe He has in any way moved on.” Here’s why: I believe that the central truths of the Reformation are the central truths of the Bible.
The Holy Spirit is certainly leading His Church into other secondary truths in our day (secondary only in relationship to that which is primary – the truth about God and His Gospel) but He is NOT leading His people away from the Bible or the truths of the Gospel.
One of the slogans of the Reformation was “Semper Reformanda” or “Always Reforming” and we should always seek to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead as He reveals to us what Scripture says, and shows each of us our man-made traditions. We all have our traditions. Some of them are good (when the tradition agrees with the Scripture), some of them are bad, because Scripture clearly denies them. In this regard, let God be true and every man a liar.
Jesus was very clear about this when addressing the Pharisees and scribes saying: “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition…. thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” Mark 7:8, 9, 13
In that we are always to be reforming to His Word, the Holy Spirit’s work goes on in our time, but it is NEVER, EVER, EVER at the expense of the Gospel itself. We are never to abandon the truth of the Gospel for the sake of ecclesiastical unity. To do so would be to deny the Lord who brings us unity in the first place. Agreement on minor issues are not important for the unity we enjoy as Christians, but we should never compromise the Gospel. The Gospel is not something that can be altered, modified or adjusted without severe consequences. The book of Galatians affirms this (Gal 1:6-10). Preaching a different Gospel may seem “relevant” to people, and might make them happy, but Scripture declares that it brings the anathema of God (Gal. 1:8, 9). I want to try to avoid that if at all possible!
In some ways, it has to be said that the Holy Spirit has moved on. He continues to lead His people into all truth. Yet, as regards to the Gospel, I don’t believe the Holy Spirit has moved on, nor will He ever.
In five simple slogans known as the Five Solas, I believe the Reformers brought us back to the heart of the Gospel. The Bible has not changed one iota since the 16th Century, and neither has the Gospel that the Bible proclaims. When we move beyond the Bible, we move away from the Holy Spirit who inspired it. Some people would say that the Holy Spirit has moved on. With all that is in me, I must humbly but strongly disagree. It is indeed sad that most Christians think these things to be irrelevant, when in all reality there could be nothing more relevant to the Church and our world.
Briefly then, let me enumerate these five solas of the Reformation. Luther and his reformers had 5 main slogans, all using the word “SOLA,” which is the Latin word for “ALONE.” It was this word “ALONE” that designated the true biblical Gospel and set it apart from all other pretenders. The cry of these Reformers was not simply FAITH!, GRACE!, CHRIST!, THE SCRIPTURE!, or THE GLORY OF GOD! (All embracing a false Gospel could do that.)
Instead, the cry was FAITH ALONE!, GRACE ALONE!, CHRIST ALONE!, SCRIPTURE ALONE!, THE GLORY OF GOD ALONE! With Scripture alone as the sure foundation, the Reformers affirmed that justification is by grace alone, received through faith alone because of Christ alone for the glory of God alone.
The central or material issue was Justification by faith alone (Latin: Sola Fide). Yet often overlooked is another controversy which was equally as serious for the life of the Church. The formal issue (the structure in which the whole debate ensued) was the issue of final authority – who or what speaks for God? It was here that Luther and the Reformers believed that Holy Scripture alone is the infallible rule of faith for the Church.
SOLA SCRIPTURA – SCRIPTURE ALONE
Sola Scriptura, means Scripture alone. This does not refer to simply “me and my Bible in the woods” so to speak, or interpreting the Bible in any way we choose to do so. This doctrine does not seek to negate the authority of the Church and of biblical eldership. Scripture teaches us to submit to godly leaders who have the rule over us (Heb. 13:17). Nor does it refer to Scripture in isolation. What sola Scriptura refers to is the idea that Scripture is the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church.
Though God has set teachers and other offices in the Church, they are not to exercise dominion over the Bible, but to submit themselves to it. Only the Scripture is theopneustos or God breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), and every idea, thought and doctrine needs to have its foundation in Scripture to carry the weight of Divine authority and bind the human conscience.
Regarding false prophets and false teachers, Isaiah 8:19, 20 says, “When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”
The law and the testimony is a reference to the Scripture. If a false teacher says something that cannot be substantiated by sacred Scripture, he/she may claim to be bringing new light, but actually there is no light present there at all. It is the entrance of His Word that brings light.
SOLA FIDE – FAITH ALONE
The material principle of the Reformation was Sola Fide, meaning “by Faith alone.” This was the material or substance of the preaching of the Reformers. The formal principle “Scripture alone” was the principle that Scripture alone (and not Church tradition) is the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church. This was the principle by which “Faith Alone” is affirmed, as well as the other solas. That is because these doctrines are the doctrines of the Bible.
Against the background of a Europe filled with the traditions of men, including priestly absolution, penances, indulgences, pilgrimages, prayer to the saints, etc., Luther and the Reformers made the bold cry of “Faith alone.” This did not mean faith in isolation, or a dead faith that produced no works. This referred to a vibrant, living faith, for only a living and not a dead faith would result in justification. Faith without works is dead, and a dead faith will not save anyone (James 2:17).
Sola fide then was the belief that faith alone is the instrument of justification without any meritorious works of man added to it.
Rome believed (then as it does now) that justification is by grace, through faith and because of Christ. What Rome does not believe is that justification is by faith alone, or by grace alone, or by Christ alone. For Rome, justification is by grace plus merit, through faith plus works; by Christ plus the sinner’s contribution of inherent righteousness. In contrast, the Reformers called the Church back to the one true Biblical Gospel: Salvation is by God’s grace alone, received through faith alone, because of Christ alone, based on the Scriptures alone, to the Glory of God alone.
In Romans 3:28 the Apostle Paul declared, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
Romans 4:4-5 says, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
Many other scriptures would affirm this as the heart of the Gospel (Rom. 3:21 – 4:5; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 3:9). Martin Luther called the doctrine of justification “the article of the standing or falling Church.” That is, in his estimation, a church preaching the doctrine was “standing,” and one not preaching it was, or had already, fallen.
SOLA GRATIA – GRACE ALONE
Sola Gratia means Grace alone. Surely everyone who had a Bible would affirm this truth at the time of the Reformation. Well firstly, not everyone had access to a Bible, and secondly, no, that is not the case at all.
A pure Pelagian (a follower of the British monk Pelagius) would argue against grace as a necessity, believing that man, apart from God’s grace, had the inherent power within himself to raise himself up by his bootstraps to become pleasing to God. But surely Rome would agree with Grace alone, wouldn’t it? No, not at all.
The religions of man are usually comfortable with the idea of God’s grace being necessary. Rome has always believed that, as do the Mormon Church in our day (2 Nephi 25:23), but as my friend Dr. James White states so well, “The issue has never been the necessity of grace. It has always been the sufficiency of grace!”
The question is this: Is grace able to save or is it merely a help to save, with man’s will being the final deciding factor?
The Reformers affirmed that grace actually saves. Grace alone meant grace at the start, grace to the end, grace in the middle, grace without fail, grace without mixture, grace without addition, grace that allows no boasting, grace that precludes all glorying but in the Lord.
It is here that we get into the arena of monergism (one working) v. synergism (more than one party working) regarding salvation. All the Reformers were monergists, believing that God’s grace is the essential deciding factor that enables a person to believe. As Augustine, who without doubt was the greatest theologian of the first millennia of the Church said, “God chooses us, not because we believe, but that we may believe…”
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12, 13
“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” Phil 1:29
Apollos “greatly helped those who had believed through grace.” Acts 18:27
“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” Romans 9:16
“But it is by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31
Grace alone is affirmed by these and other scriptures, including:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Eph. 2:8, 9
“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” Rom. 11:6
SOLUS CHRISTUS – CHRIST ALONE
The next sola was Solus Christus, the affirmation that it is Christ alone who saves. It is not Christ plus someone or something else.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6
“by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by this name this man stands here before you in good health. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:10, 12
In all reality the doctrine of justification by faith alone is really theological short-hand for justification by the work of Christ alone. There was a double function at work in this regard. Christ not only died an atoning death for our sins, but we need to remember that He also lived a sinless life. If all that was necessary for our justification was the death on the cross, Christ could have come to earth on Good Friday, died on the cross for us, and three days later, risen again. However, for more than 33 years, Christ was tempted in every way like us, yet He was without sin (Heb. 4:15). Christ is the only One who can say that He loved His Father perfectly in life, with all His heart, soul, mind and strength and fulfilled the entire demands of God’s law.
At the cross then, all our sins were laid on Him (though of course, He remained the holy and spotless Lamb of God, in and of Himself) and as our sin bearer, He was punished in our place. As the angel declared to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24).
Isa 53:5, 6 says, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
But that is far from all that took place. There was a double imputation. Not only were our sins imputed to Christ and He bore their punishment for us, but positively, the righteousness of Christ was imputed to us. The punishment due to us came upon Him, and the pleasure of God due to Jesus’ obedience to every jot and tittle of the law came upon us. That is because the righteousness of Jesus Christ is one that has fulfilled the entire law of God. 2 Cor 5:21 declares, “He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (Christ).”
The righteous demands of the law (the requirement of total obedience) was met by Christ alone who becomes the righteousness of the believer (1 Cor. 1:30). The work of Christ is perfect in every respect, and perfect in every aspect. The righteousness now enjoyed by the believer is an alien one (one that comes from outside of himself) for it is the righteousness of Christ Himself. It is a gift, not something earned (Rom. 5:17), and is the cause of our rejoicing in the direct presence of the Lord. As believers in Christ, we’ve been made righteous with a righteousness that has never known sin. Hallelujah!
“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:30, 31) We are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone.
SOLI DEO GLORIA – TO GOD ALONE BE THE GLORY
The final sola was Soli Deo Gloria, which means “to God alone be the glory!”
Again, wouldn’t everyone agree with this?
Well, no, because at the time of the Reformation there was much attention given to Mary, to the saints, to the lighting of candles, etc.. In Medieval Catholicism there was massive confusion due to the plethora of idols, who for all practical purposes, became almost minor deities.
Even the young Luther, in 1505, in the midst of the thunderstorm that threatened his life, prayed to Saint Anne. As a lightning bolt struck just feet away from him, in fear of his life, he shouted, “Save me Saint Anne and I will become a monk.” Saint Anne was the patron saint of miners, and seeing that Luther was from a mining family, it seemed natural to him to pray to Saint Anne to save him from impending death. Luther, in surviving the storm, kept his vow to Saint Anne, gave up his studies to become a lawyer (much to the anguish and consternation of his father, Hans) and joined the monastery. The young Luther’s devotion to the saints (before his conversion to Christ) was typical of that era.
God will not share His glory with another (Isa. 48:11). Salvation was designed to give God’s glory the maximum amount of exposure. It resounds to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph 1:6), according to the riches of His grace (v. 7), to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory (v. 12), with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory, (v. 14).
Only God gets glory for our salvation. Human merit (or works) plays no part in a person’s salvation but are merely the by-product, or fruit, of a relationship with God, established by God’s grace alone (Eph. 2:8 -10).
The five solas are relevant in all ages, because they are truths that can be clearly demonstrated from sacred Scripture. To many, these doctrines are mere historical novelties – interesting milestones and beliefs of a former era. Yet, as far as I can see, it is very much apparent that we need these same biblical, Holy Spirit inspired correctives in our own day.
The 16th Century is one very different to our own. We may strongly disagree with the burning of heretics at that time, and perhaps even be shocked by the very hostile rhetoric that flowed freely between those who disagreed on these issues. Yet at the same time, we must try to understand a culture so removed from ours where people believed the Bible was the Word of God; that heaven and hell were real places; and that doctrine actually mattered.
Today, many want to hear a positive or affirming message when they come to a Church. They certainly don’t want to hear about the majestic holiness of God, or the wrath of God against sin. I am not sure how popular the Apostle Paul would be if he was enabled to preach on Christian television in our day and taught from Romans Chapters 1 – 3. What do you think?
In 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul gave Timothy this charge: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Perhaps the greatest sign that all is not well in our day is the fact that God may well be giving the people what they want – preachers who will tell them what their itching ears want to hear (verses 3, 4 above). Could it be that this, by itself, is God’s judgement? I’ll let you, the reader decide.
I don’t believe the Holy Spirit has moved on from the central truths of the Reformation. In fact, I believe He is calling His Church back to the proclamation of these doctrines that once shook the world.
by Dr. James Montgomery Boice
What follows below is a very short summary of what is known as the five solas (sola being the Latin word for “alone”). It comes from the book “Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?” by Dr. James Montgomery Boice.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is a wonderful biblical overview of something near and dear to the heart of God – the very gospel itself. I have read and re-read it many times and each time I do so, I am astonished at the clarity and impact it has on my heart and life. The message of the gospel thunders forth from each page. It presents a stirring challenge to the Church in our day to forsake the trivial and rediscover “the doctrines that shook the world.”
I wish I could put this book in the hands of every Christian and that they would read it and live life in the beauty and power of Christ and His gospel of grace. – Pastor John Samson
“1. Scripture alone. When the Reformers used the words sola Scriptura they were expressing their concern for the Bible’s authority, and what they meant is that the Bible alone is our ultimate authority, not the pope, not the church, not the traditions of the church or church councils, still less personal intimations or subjective feelings, but Scripture only. Other sources of authority may have an important role to play. Some are even established by God, such as the authority of church elders, the authority of the state, or the authority of parents over children. But Scripture alone is truly ultimate. Therefore, if any of these other authorities depart from Bible teaching, they are to be judged by the Bible and rejected.
2. Christ alone. The church of the Middle Ages spoke about Christ. A church that failed to do that could hardly claim to be Christian. But the medieval church had added many human achievements to Christ’s work, so that it was no longer possible to say that salvation was entirely by Christ and his atonement. This was the most basic of all heresies, as the Reformers rightly perceived. It was the work of God plus our own righteousness. The Reformation motto solus Christus was formed to repudiate this error. It affirmed that salvation has been accomplished once for all by the mediatorial work of the historical Jesus Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification, and any “˜gospel’ that fails to acknowledge that or denies it is a false gospel that will save no one.
3. Grace alone. The words sola gratia mean that human beings have no claim upon God. That is, God owes us nothing except just punishment for our many and very willful sins. Therefore, if he does save sinners, which he does in the case of some but not all, it is only because it pleases him to do it. Indeed, apart from this grace and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that flows from it, no one would be saved, since in our lost condition, human beings are not capable of winning, seeking out, or even cooperating with God’s grace. By insisting on “˜grace alone’ the Reformers were denying that human methods, techniques, or strategies in themselves could ever bring anyone to faith. It is grace alone expressed through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ, releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from death to spiritual life.
4. Faith alone. The Reformers never tired of saying that “˜justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.’ When put into theological shorthand the doctrine was expressed as “justification by faith alone,” the article by which the church stands or falls, according to Martin Luther. The Reformers called justification by faith Christianity’s “material principle,” because it involves the very matter or substance of what a person must understand and believe to be saved. Justification is a declaration of God based on the work of Christ. It flows from God’s grace and it comes to the individual not by anything he or she might do but by “˜faith alone’ (sola fide). We may state the full doctrine as: Justification is the act of God by which he declares sinners to be righteous because of Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone.
5. Glory to God alone. Each of the great solas is summed up in the fifth Reformation motto: soli Deo gloria, meaning ‘to God alone be the glory.’ It is what the apostle Paul expressed in Romans 11:36 when he wrote, “˜to Him be the glory forever! Amen.’ These words follow naturally from the preceding words, “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (v. 36), since it is because all things really are from God, and to God, that we say, “˜to God alone be the glory.’”
-James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2001), pp. 65-149.
Pastor John Samson
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities””all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1:15-17
There is much that could be said about the title “firstborn”. It is a title of honor and refers to Christ being given all “the rights and privileges of a firstborn son, especially the son of a monarch who would inherit ruling sovereignty. This is how the expression is used of David: “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27).” (ESV Study Bible notes)
The phrase “firstborn” does not mean that Christ is a created being. We can establish that by reading the words that immediately follow in the text. Jesus is presented as the Creator of all things and He is before all things! This passage is in fact one of many that presents a clear affirmation of the Deity of Christ.
Here, and elsewhere, the “Bible” of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (New World Translation published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) deliberately changes the scripture to obscure this truth. Rather than repeating the phrase “all things” over and over again, as Paul did, the Watchtower translation inserts another word, “other,” into the text, making it read, “because by means of him all [other] things were created… All [other] things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist.”
The reason for the translation change is easy to understand: Their theology says that God the Father created Jesus and then Jesus created all other things and therefore, since Watchtower theology insists Jesus is merely a created being, this passage must be rendered this way.
Is there a legitimate reason in the text itself for this insertion? No, not at all – it is merely the blatant attempt to hide the truth.
Note once again the words of Scripture, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities””all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Jesus is the Creator of all things and holds all things together! That is what the text says.
But there is much more we can say here. Not only does Colossians 1:15-17 declare Jesus to be the Creator and sustainer of all things, but like so many things in Scripture, when we establish the context of a term or phrase, the truth about what is meant to be communicated becomes immediately apparent.
As we continue on reading in the book of Colossians, we are told in the clearest possible terms of the full deity of Christ. Paul was writing to combat the heresy of the Gnostics. The word Gnostic means “to know” and the boast was that these people were “in the know” having been enlightened with a special knowledge unavailable to the normal person.
The Gnostics developed a very elaborate system of gods called “aeons” and their “enlightened” chart showed how each one related to the next one in terms of authority and power. This made up chart was known as the pleroma. Elsewhere in the letter, Paul uses this very word employed by the Gnostics to speak of Christ when he writes “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). The word “fullness” there is the Greek word pleroma. In other words, Paul was saying, “if you want a chart… if you want a pleroma, here’s the only chart you need – Christ Himself!” In Christ “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (NASB).
Knowing this then, it becomes clear that, to quote Dr. James White, “the position taken by those who deny the deity of Christ falls right into the trap of agreeing with the Gnostics against Paul! In other words, if we interpret this passage as saying Jesus is a part of the creation, and not the Creator Himself, we are left with a Jesus who looks very much like the Gnostic “aeon” that Paul is arguing against! The argument presented by deniers of the deity of Christ in fact guts Paul’s entire argument against the Gnostics, leaving him arguing in circles! But when we allow the text to stand and speak for itself, Paul’s point is devastatingly clear: the Gnostic cannot just stick Jesus into his “system” somewhere. Jesus can’t be one of the “aeons” between the one true, good God and the evil demiurge who ends up creating the world. No, Paul makes it impossible for the Gnostic to hold onto his false beliefs about the world and try to make room for an edited “Jesus” by firmly asserting that everything that exists, including the physical universe, came into existence through the creative activity of Jesus Christ.” (The Forgotten Trinity).
Understanding the context helps us avoid the misinterpretations rampant in non-Christian cults today. Some may consider these things too “complex” or “obscure” to be important. Yet, knowing these things, and being able to explain them to others, could well be used of the Lord to help deliver someone from deception.
Pastor John Samson
We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.
Like Humpty Dumpty, we all had a great fall, but not by accident, but by deliberate choice. The human race had a Federal Head in the Garden of Eden, namely Adam, who represented the entire human race. When he sinned, he sinned “for us” – we all sinned in him – he acted on our behalf. Because he was our Federal Head, this had huge and drastic consequences for us. Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”
Did you catch that? We all sinned in Adam. When he disobeyed, he was disobeying on our behalf. His act brought death to us. We died in him. Just as Adam was cut off from the life of God (spiritually) as a result of his sin, all those born after him were born spiritually “dead on arrival” on planet earth. The Bible teaches us clearly that there are two Federal Heads for the human race, Adam and Christ. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor 15:22). If we remain only represented by Adam, there is no hope for us whatsoever. Adam failed us all. He offers no redemption. God takes the sin of Adam and imputes it to all the human race. When Adam sinned, we sinned in him. That is the bad news – we were born sinners.
Before we say it is not fair that we are credited with Adam’s sin when we were not there in the garden, thousands of miles away, thousands of years ago, we need to remember, that the other side of the coin in imputation (crediting) is that Christ’s righteousness is credited to all those who place their trust in Him.
This is the really good news! Let me explain.
Jesus the second Man succeeded where Adam, the first man failed. All that Jesus did, He did for us. He already was perfect and already had a perfect fellowship with His Father. He did not need to come to earth for any reason, except for love. He came here for us. He came here on a mission to save His people from their sin (Matt 1:21) and His mission was accomplished. He could cry out on the cross, “It is finished!” (It is paid for, the debt is removed completely). Because of His work for us, if we will make the Lord Jesus Christ our Lord, we gain all that He accomplished by His perfect life of obedience, His death as our Substitute who died in our place and triumphant resurrection.
Now these words in Romans 5 begin to make sense: 17 “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”
Christ took the punishment our sins deserved and God imputed (credits, counts to us) the righteousness of One who obeyed God fully – a perfect righteousness that can never be added to or improved upon.
“Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:” – Romans 4:4-6
“For our sake he (God) made him (Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (in Christ) we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21
Have you transfered your trust from your own works or actions and given yourself over to God’s mercy found in the only One who can save you, Jesus Christ? If you have, all that Christ is and all He achieved is yours, now and forever. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the gospel (good news) of Christ.
Christ came into the world to save sinners, and He does so when we turn from all self effort or trust in ourselves and instead rely soley on the finished work of the perfect Savior.
In Christ there is endless hope; in Adam there’s just a hopeless end. So let me ask you – who represents you, Adam or Christ?
Pastor John Samson
Some passages of Scripture are easier to understand than others. While some passages are extremely clear, others require a good deal of prayer, thinking and study before the meaning finally becomes apparent.
In 2 Timothy 2:7, Paul instructed Timothy – “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”
Here it is as though Paul says “Think Timothy.. keep on thinking.. mull it over and over in your mind… think about everything I have said.. think it all the way through.. God is not against you thinking.. in fact, He actually commands you to use your God given intelligence.. think through the implications.. use logic.. use rationality.. think everything through all the way as you seek to gain sound conclusions.. yes, even as you look to God for the understanding… think, and go on thinking.. don’t stop Timothy because understanding will come.. the Lord gives understanding, remember that.. even as frustration seems to be your only friend, persevere… keep on thinking.. understanding will come.. think, think, think.” Even though it is the Lord who gives the understanding, we are often called upon to do a whole lot of thinking before illumination comes.
If you have struggled as I have to try to understand some things in the Bible, you are in very good company. It is something of a comfort to know that even the Apostle Peter found some of Paul’s writings “hard to understand.” (2 Peter 3:16)
One of the basic rules of hermeneutics (the science of biblical interpretation) is that on any given subject we should start by examining the clear passages before moving on to the seemingly unclear. Then we should use the clear passages to determine what Scripture teaches and use them to interpret the unclear. I am sure you will agree that this is an immensely helpful rule.
How heartening it is to read clear passages like John 3:16 which says that all who believe in Christ will “not perish but have eternal life.”
John 6: 37-40 is equally clear – “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
I cannot for one moment conceive of the Lord Jesus failing to do the will of His Father and here the passage teaches us that it is God’s will that He will not lose any of those given to Him by the Father but will raise all of them up to eternal life at the last day. Jesus is the perfect Savior who saves perfectly.
Notice the words of John 10: 26-30, “… but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Jesus the true and perfect Shepherd loses none of His sheep. What could be clearer?
In the final words of the epistle of Jude we read, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24, 25. Properly understood, these words leave no room for any doubt on the issue. I have written a short article on this here.
Romans 8:29-30 is also a clear passage: For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
In what theologians refer to as “The Golden Chain of Redemption,” God is revealing to us an unbreakable chain that starts in eternity past, goes through time, and on into eternity future. This chain is forged by God Himself, and has five unbreakable links: God foreknows, predestinates, calls, justifies and glorifies.
Notice that there is one ambiguity in the text; something that is not actually stated but is definitely implied – that being the word “all.” Let’s see this clearly by inserting another possible implication by way of contrast, the word “some.”
“For (some) whom He foreknew, He predestined; (some) He predestined, He called; (some) He called, He justified; and (some) He justified, were glorified.” What kind of comfort and security would that give to us? Would we be able to say “who can separate us from the love of Christ?”
I think our answer would have to be that “many things” could separate us from the love of Christ (if the intended implication was the word “some” in this passage). It would make absolutely no sense whatsoever, and certainly would not give us any kind of security in Christ, which is the very thing Paul is seeking to provide for us in this passage.
No, I believe 100 out of 100 Bible scholars would all agree that the implication of the text is that ALL He foreknew, He predestined; ALL He predestined, He called; ALL He called, He justified; and ALL He justified, He glorified.
Notice the statement “these He justified; He also glorified.” If this was the only verse in the Bible on the subject, it would be enough on its own to show us that no truly justified person loses salvation. All those who are justified end up being glorified. None fall through the cracks, so to speak. So certain is the final outcome that God speaks of glorification in the past tense. Though in this life we are not yet glorified, so certain is God that we will arrive at this condition that He announces it ahead of time “these He justified, He also glorified.” I don’t know how the Scripture could be written with any more clarity. Case closed!
Let me quickly point out that we are not justified by the mere profession of faith but by the possession of faith (Romans 5:1). Not all who make a profession of faith have possession of genuine saving faith. Only true genuine faith justifies, and true faith will show itself (reveal itself) by works.
In a verse that gives terrific insight into this whole question, the Apostle John wrote, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). John makes it plain that those who leave the Christian faith were never truly a part of it. I don’t know of a more emphatic statement that could be made on this issue.
Then there’s Jesus words to those who seem to have exercised Christian ministry and who are shocked when at the Judgement, Jesus says “Not everyone who says to me, “˜Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matt 7:21-23)
Jesus words give great insight when He says, “I never knew you…” It is important to note that He did not say, “I knew you once for a short period, but you blew it!” No, the phrase “I never knew you” indicates that those who are sent away to a lost eternity are people who were never in any kind of saving redemptive relationship with Christ.
However, at least at first glance, some scripture verses seem to undermine these precious truths. Because the Bible is the inspired word of God, it is consistent throughout. It never contradicts itself.
On this question about whether a true, genuine Christian can lose salvation, it is good to ask this question – are there any actual verses that show a true believier actually losing salvation? Can we point to anyone by name? As I have looked through the Scriptures, my answer has to be “no.” That’s because I cannot think of anyone who was saved and then lost that salvation.
Some raise the issue of Judas Iscariot as he was one of the original twelve disciples and had a successful ministry amongst them until he betrayed Christ. However, Jesus made it clear that rather than him being a true disciple, Judas was in fact “a devil.” (John 6:70, 71) Jesus words make it clear that Judas was never a true child of God.
True saving faith is not the product of man’s hostile heart of stone human nature, but is in fact the gift of God (Eph 2:8, 9; Phil 1:29). Its nature is one of continual trust in God even during hard times. Jesus is “the author and perfector of our faith.” (Heb 12:2) What He starts, He finishes. Those who fall away show themselves to have cheap imitations of the real thing (genuine faith), for the real thing endures – that is its very nature – (as we saw in 1 John 2:19)… it presses, it strives for holiness and relationship with Christ, showing evidence of a new affection and nature.
If there is no spiritual fruit we can be sure that there is no living spiritual tree for its by our fruit that we are known as Christ’s disciples (Matthew 7:20). True Christians must endure, and the fact is, true Christians will. The One who started the work in us will bring it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6).
These things are clear. We now turn to a passage that is not quite so clear, Galatians 5:2-4, and for this I quote material provided by my friend, Dr. James White on his blog at www.aomin.org. I trust you will find it to be a blessing.”
– Pastor John Samson
Question: How do we explain Galatians 5:4 which talks of people falling from grace?
Answer: Gal 5:4… you have fallen from grace. – This shows that you can receive God’s grace and then fall. Quite true: but what kind of grace, and in what context?
These words are addressed to a particular group, as the context shows:
Galatians 5: 2 “Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”
So in what way had those seeking to be justified by law “fallen from grace”?
The assumption that is usually made is that to fall from grace proves that you once received saving grace; evidently, the same assumption would follow that one who is severed from Christ was once joined to Him savingly.
Aside from the contradictions such a position creates with the plain assertions of Scripture elsewhere, the fact of the matter is Paul is addressing those who were seeking to add to faith in Christ the single act of obedience encompassed in circumcision–clearly the Judaizers were not saying you did not have to believe in Christ, nor were they importing the entirety of the law of Moses (Paul argues their inconsistency at this point as part of his refutation of them); instead, they were adding a select list of things one had to do in addition to faith to be right before God. Paul has already laid out the stark contrast between the path marked by law-keeping obedience and that marked by grace-inspired faith in Christ. One cannot go down both paths.
These men were still seeking their justification, unlike true believers who look back upon theirs (Romans 5:1). They had not yet found peace with God by faith in Christ Jesus alone, and Paul says they will never find it going down the path they are going. They have been severed from Christ not in the sense that they had been salvifically united to Him and now He was failing to save them, but that by seeking to be made justified by something other than faith alone, they were severed from the only true source of life in Christ; they have fallen from grace not that they had been salvifically regenerated and justified and sanctified by grace already, and were now destroying that grace by their beliefs, but that they have fallen away or failed of grace (literally) by proceeding down a path grace has never, and will never, mark out, that path of human cooperation and works righteousness that is so much the desire of the unregenerate heart.
To prove that God’s sovereign electing grace can fail to save the elect would require a text far more to the point than one addressing false teachers who are perverting the gospel and thus cutting themselves off from salvation.
Pastor John Samson
I remember a time (May, 1981) when as a teenager, I was given the privilege of representing my High School in a soccer penalty shoot out competition. I survived the knock out rounds and ended up playing at Anfield, Liverpool’s home ground in England before a crowd of more than 17,000 people. This was a very memorable night for me, to put it mildly – one I still remember with pleasure. At the time, Liverpool were the greatest soccer team in Europe. Three weeks later, they won the European Cup. As a boy I had stood on the terraces and watched my favorite team play so many times. Now it was my turn to play there and my emotions were mixed. I was both very anxious and extremely excited.
On the Sunday before this big event, a Christian brother, knowing what I would face and knowing that I was more than a little nervous to play in front of such a vast crowd told me to focus on the text mentioned above, namely Paul’s words to the Philippians in chapter 4, verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
At the time, the text was a real comfort to me and without doubt it became the object of my focus. But now years on, though I was inspired by the text, I do not believe it was a correct application of the text. Paul was not referring to sporting events in that text.
In our day, we are far too keen to rush to make application of the text. People want “practical” sermons and practical messages. Well there’s nothing wrong with that. The Bible is intensely practical, yet we need to rightly interpret a text before we attempt to apply it. The one thing comes before the other. False interpretations lead inevitably to false applications.
How do we ascertain the meaning or interpretation of a text? The answer comes by applying the rules of hermeneutics, which is the science of biblical interpretation. One of the rules to apply is that of “context.” Simply taking the time to read a text in its context eliminates so many false interpretations.
The words “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” have a context, and this context allows us to ascertain what Paul meant by his words. The whole book of Philippians provides a context, and we could take a lot of time to document it, but if we simply look at the few verses before the one quoted here, we immediately see what the “all things” were that Christ would strengthen Paul to do:
Phil 4:10 – I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
So, what were the “all things” of verse 13 referring to? Running the 100 meter race in less than 9 seconds, perhaps? Breaking the long jump world record? How about swimming the Atlantic in a day? No, the context has nothing to do with sports or human feats of skill. The “all things” refer to the trials of life – the good times and hard times, the times of joy and the times of sorrow; the times of prosperity and the times of lack. And for Paul, this contentment in the face of life’s difficulties or joys was not something that came naturally to him but something that he learned (v. 11, 12).
The application is not that a Christian strengthened by Christ will win a soccer penalty shoot out competition. I scored 2 out of 3 by the way, and while still a notable feat against Liverpool’s goalkeeper Bruce Grobelaar, I still rue the fact that I missed one… I also remember being somewhat disillusioned that I did not win the whole competition because I was expecting Christ to “strengthen me” to do exactly that. My disillusion stemmed from a false interpretation and application of the text.
No matter what comes our way in our lives as Christians, we, like Paul, are to learn contentment and go through each trial knowing that Christ Himself will strengthen us to do so. Paul did not write this as a mere promise, as good as this would be. It is more than a promise, it is a statement of fact.. “I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
It is as if Paul is saying, “I am not going under, for Christ strengthens me.. I will not give up, for Christ strengthens me. Sometimes life is a lot tougher than I would like, and sometimes it seems like I cannot bear its pressures another moment and find myself in deep despair (see his words in 2 Cor 4), yet I know I can endure, because of Christ. Its me.. yes, me, Paul, that does it… and I know I can do and will do it.. but I recognize that its not because of my strength but His. This is not arrogance – this is not some form of puffed up pride in my heart. This is something altogether different. This is a Christ centered confidence – not in myself, but Him. He has not left me alone at any point, nor will He do so now. I am confident, no matter what happens in life, with both its times of severe pressure and its times of euphoric joy, I can handle it all, I can do it all, through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Child of God, no matter what comes your way today, you can go endure it, because first of all, you learn to be content in each circumstance, and secondly, you know that the power that sustains you in such times of great abundance or deep poverty, is Christ’s own power, and He is living in you, and will strengthen you. Of this, you can be sure. You can do all these things because Christ will give you strength.