Thomas Confesses Jesus as Lord: John 20:24-31

Here are my notes for John 20:24-31. These form the conclusion of my notes on the 20th chapter of John’s Gospel.

20:24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

There is now no doubt that the person who stood amongst them was, in fact, Jesus. They wanted to tell others – and rightfully so. One of the people they tell is Thomas whose reaction is to deliver a withering statement of unbelief.

John goes out of his way to give us the details of this interaction for a reason.

The implacability of Thomas draws a vivid contrast to what the reader has just learned. Thomas seems to be so stubborn as to demand that unless God met his own conditions, he wouldn’t believe. This is hubris only humans are capable of, and unfortunately it offers us an uncomfortable and unvarnished window into our own souls.

During the most difficult of times our minds often become warped and bitter. Frustrated at our circumstances we make demands of God, which He sometimes yields to for the sole purpose of entailing on us a stiff lesson. At times God is so desirous to show us our own depravity that He actually grants our infant-like demands. Such was the case with Thomas. He would soon get more than He bargained for, and be so deeply knifed by the Spirit that His submission to Christ’s Lordship was immediate and forthcoming.

Not that I speak of any harsh injustice on God’s behalf, rather He sometimes cuts us most deeply by pouring over us His unrivaled affection, thereby revealing to us our own sinfulness and His own comparative faithfulness and charity.

20:26-29 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” [27] Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” [28] Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” [29] Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Lord’s Timing

It wasn’t until 8 days later that Thomas actually saw the Lord. In the Bible we have many times where numbers play a significant role. What I mean is that they “signify” something. The number 7 usually signifies “completeness” or “fullness”, and I’ve heard R.C. Sproul say that if 7 is the fullness, then 8 must represent the overflow of that – almost a one-upping of that idea (to paraphrase his thoughts).

Not to read too much into this, but Thomas didn’t get to see the Lord right away. Instead he had to wait not simply a week – 7 days – but 8 days. He had to wait until it was well past time for him to see the Lord. While everyone else probably discussed every detail of the Lord’s first appearance, Thomas was left out. His attitude of unbelief festered as the Lord waited until the right time to appear again.

I don’t think its wrong for us to remember that this is how the Lord works. His timing is not always in alignment with our timing!

In fact, the very timing of His coming into the world was perfectly selected by the Lord. Paul notes this in Galatians:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

And of course we see this in our own lives as well. How often do we look at the lives of others and say, “Well if I had there money, or their experience, or their children, or their husband, then things would be different! When will God give me those things?” And until then we hold out in unbelief. We don’t believe His promises because He hasn’t acted in our timing!

Getting What We Want

We don’t know how this scene played out emotionally, or have the benefit of watching the reactions of Thomas and the others, but I wonder if Thomas believed right away at this point or not. My guess is that at this point he didn’t have to touch Jesus to believe. Yet he still was commanded to put his hands into the wounds. Jesus was going to make him go through the motions of his own request. Therefore, by the time Thomas exclaims “My Lord and my God!” it seems possible that the declaration came through tears of shame.

Jesus’ words are not of comfort, but rather of rebuke for Thomas and a lesson for us all. He says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.”

This is the very definition of faith.

The author of Hebrews would later write, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3).

In other words, faith is trust in God that He is who He says He is, and will do all that He has said He will do. And in the fullest sense of Jesus’ words, those who believe are indeed “blessed” because they will receive eternal life. This is what He said before His death:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21)

What Stands in Our Way?

Knowing that we have been called to believe in Christ – in His saving work, and also in the promises articulated for us in the Bible, I think it very worthwhile for us to ask the question: What is standing in the way?

The reason its worthwhile to ask this question stems from the fact that, like Thomas, we all battle unbelief from time to time. In fact, John Piper would say that unbelief is really at the root of many of our sins. It is unbelief in “future grace”, as he says in his book ‘Battling Unbelief’:

The “unbelief” I have in mind is the failure to trust in the promises of God that sustain our radical obedience in the future. These promises refer to what God plans to do for us in the future, and that is what I mean by future grace. It is grace, because it is good for us and totally undeserved. And it is future in that it hasn’t happened to us yet but may in the next five seconds or the next five thousand years.

For the Christian the promises of God are spectacular. They relate to our immediate future, before this minute is over, and our eternal future.

Therefore, its important to remember to fight the fight of faith every day, equipping ourselves with the truth of God’s word, and trusting to what is unseen.

Paul reiterates this truth in 2 Corinthians:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. [17] For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, [18] as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

20:30-31 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; [31] but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Gospel is Not Neutral

And now we come to the thesis statement of our author. For many pages and lessons now I have pointed out that these verses are the foundation and the reason for why John wrote his gospel. He is not an indifferent historian; he has an agenda. And that agenda is spelled out in such certain terms that commentary seems almost superfluous.

Nevertheless a few words are appropriate.

First, one of the things that has always struck me about verse 30 is that John, and the other gospel writers, actually didn’t record all of the things Jesus did. They didn’t even get all the miracles down on paper.

Later John will say, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

This man Jesus was doing so many miracles that they couldn’t all be written down! We know, however, that those God intended for us to know were recorded. Everything written was written for our benefit by His gracious foresight.

Remember, these acts were not simply one-on-one clandestine doctors meetings. These were public healings. Let your mind be awed over His majesty as mediated through His miraculous healings. Surely this was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54).

Someone once asked me, “Why do you think Christianity spread so quickly and to so many people?” My answer was two-fold. 1) Anyone who rises from death and spends 40 days teaching people all over the country in mass audiences is going to cause a major stir and 2) anyone who heals this many people for three years is going to cause a major shift in the cultural landscape of the day (not to mention the physiological landscape!).

Secondly, just as John was not a neutral observer, so we also cannot be neutral observers. It is impossible to hear this message of the gospel and remain “neutral” because the gospel divides. It divides people because it convicts us of our sin, and exposes our darkness with the light of truth. Jesus said:

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! [50] I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! [51] Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. [52] For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. [53] They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)

So the gospel is truth that cannot be responded to in a neutral way – you either reject its claims or embrace them, but there can be no in-between.

This is clearly articulated in chapter three:

Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. [34] For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. [35] The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. [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. (John 3:33-36)

For those of us who have accepted the truth of the gospel, let us read John’s thesis statement with joy, knowing that these things were written with us in mind! For those who might be reading this and do know claim a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, then I urge you to bear these things mind – look at what this man did and what He said. Can there really be any doubt that this was the Son of God?

4 Goals to Pursue in Parenting

Last week I reposted ‘s article on 5 Dangers to Avoid in Parenting, which was linked from the Ligonier Blog.  Tonight, I wanted to repost the continuation of that series.  Boekestein now gives a few ideas about the “positive” side of the equation.  I hope you find this encouraging as you start your week!

PJW

4 Goals to Pursue in Parenting

Posted: 15 Jul 2013 03:00 AM PDT

 

Near the end of Colossians 3 God speaks his will to people who play a role in six different relationships; Wives, husbands, children, fathers, bondservants, and masters. Only to fathers does God NOT speak a positive command. He simply says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Col. 3:21). Perhaps by doing so, God is accentuating the uniquely devastating problem of parental provocation. Still, Ephesians 6:4 teaches us that there is a clear alternative to provocative parenting.

So, instead of provoking our children to wrath and discouragement how do we bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord?”

1. Make Jesus Central to Your Family Life

In some “Christian” families Christ is simply not central. Too often we emphasize our own righteousness or the righteousness we expect from our children. How is this ethic different from that in a non-Christian home? We sing, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Do we apply those words in our homes?

Christ-centered parenting also means explaining to our children how they can come to Christ. Too often we tell our children to respect us, to obey us, and to grow up. But we don’t help them bring their troubles to, and find healing in, Jesus. Christ said that his yoke is easy; his burden light. He will give rest for our weary souls (Matt. 11:29-30). We need to lead our children to rest in Christ. God forbid that we would make things more difficult for our children than Jesus would.

2. Make Grace Shine in Your Family

Is the most powerful principle in your home grace or law? The law merely tells us what God’s will is and that we must obey it. It is grace alone that teaches us how to please God.

William Hendriksen explains that “Fathers should create an atmosphere which will make obedience an easy and natural matter, namely, the atmosphere of love and confidence.” Our emphasis should be on the positive.

Imagine that on the first day of a new job your trainer gave you only negative instructions. “Don’t ever be late to work, interrupt the boss during his meetings, use the phone for personal calls…” You would eventually wonder, “What AM I supposed to be doing? How do I do my job?” We often lead children to the same exasperation.

Gracious parenting especially applies to correction. Be sure that your children know that you love them as they are, not as you would like them to be. As a good rule of thumb, ask yourself, “What kind of correction is most helpful for me?”

3. Model Repentance before Your Kids

Many children are rarely shown what it looks like to seek forgiveness from others for their sins. We tell them to do it but we don’t show them how. We tell them to “apologize like you mean it.” But we don’t demonstrate what heart-felt sorrow for sin looks like. One way to model repentance is to seek our children’s forgiveness, especially if our provocation has driven them away.

4. Listen to the Advice of Others

Effective parents seek counsel from their pastors and elders, their own parents, and even their own kids. They also take advantage of good books on parenting. Two great helps on spiritual parenting are Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp and Parenting by God’s Promises by Joel Beeke.

Our children are a sacred trust. Our task is not so much to rule over them, as to lovingly, graciously, train them to fear God. If you have ever worked with concrete you know that you only have a few hours to work it into the proper shape before it becomes immovable. So it is with children. We have just a few years to help shape the spiritual impulses that will guide them through the rest of their lives. We must do all we can to avoid misshaping our children by provoking them to discouragement.

Obedience

Last week our church did a week long study on Obedience as part of a larger church-wide study on “revival.”  As I mentioned in the lesson on Sunday morning, the way the lesson was laid out was problematic and it was my hope to correct theological misconceptions and legalistic tendencies that the lesson book veered off into.

First and foremost is that our relationship with God is not based in any way whatsoever on OUR obedience.  Rather it is based on the obedience of Jesus Christ.  So, the lesson plan that states our “obedience is foundational” to our relationship with God, it simply incorrect.

It is only because of the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ that we have any ability to stand before God’s throne or His people.  Paul tells us this much in Romans 5:

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. [16] And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. [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. (Romans 5:15-19 ESV)

Our service to God in obedience is a biproduct of our love for Him and His work on our behalf.  However, even the love itself is not of us, but rather of and from Him who took the initiative and gave us the example of love in His Son, and imparted His Holy Spirit to empower us to love.  Here’s what John had to say about the matter:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. [8] Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. [9] In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. [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. [11] Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. [12] No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. [13] By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. [14] And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. [15] Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. [16] So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:7-16 ESV)

Because of this love, we are compelled to stop sinning.  Paul says this:

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. [14] For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
(Romans 6:13-14 ESV)

Therefore, the key to obedience is not a checklist – as the book provides us – of items that we need to ensure we do each week, but rather the key to obedience is love for God and others.  We love and obey because of His work within us.

In very practical ways, we can do this by the power of the Holy Spirit by reading our Bibles and praying for God’s help.  The renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2) goes hand in hand with our presenting of ourselves as living sacrifices.  We need to be in the Word and we need to be in prayer if we’re to have any hope at all of even wanting to obey!

Once we have been in the Word and in prayer the Holy Spirit will prompt our obedience – now is the time to take action! Be a doer of the Word and show your fruit.  Listen to what James says:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? [15] If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, [16] and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? [17] So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. [18] But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:14-18 ESV)

Therefore, our actions in obedience to Christ’s commands will prove our faith and show forth his work in us.  This is not a matter of legalism, its a heart issue.  Listen to what Jerry Bridges says about this:

We have loaded down the Gospel of grace of God in Christ with a lot of “oughts” – “I ought to do this” and “I ought to do that.” “I ought to be more committed, more disciplined, more obedient.” When we think or teach this way, we are substituting duty and obligation for a loving response to God’s grace.

Finally, when God helps you obey, and you live in His will you will want to give Him glory.  Check out this passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, [13] for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. [14] Do all things without grumbling or disputing, [15] that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, [16] holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. [17] Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. [18] Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18 ESV)

Indeed it is God who is working in us for His good pleasure.  It is Christ’s obedience that is the foundation for our relationship with God the Father, for He is the Cornerstone of the church upon which our faith is built.

No lists; just grace!

Peace be with you all,

PJW

Reprobation and Predestination (Justice and Mercy)

Reprobation and Salvation

During last week’s class, near the end, I got a question as to why some people are saved and not others. The question was framed in the context of creation: “why would God create some people who He knew would never accept His gospel, and therefore go to Hell”?  The question is more bluntly put, “if God is the One sovereignly quickening us (bringing us alive from the dead), then why would He even create others who were not going to be saved?”

This question hits on a few important doctrines: predestination and reprobation.

Reprobation is defined in this way by the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, “God’s action of leaving some persons in a state of their own sinfulness so that they do not receive salvation but eternal punishment.”

Predestination is defined in this way, “A term for the view that God predestines or elections some to salvation by means of a positive decree while those who are not saved condemn themselves because of their sin  (also: “God’s gracious initiation of salvation for those who believe in Jesus Christ”).”

But before I go to scripture to explain these doctrines, particularly that of reprobation, let me first say that there are certain things that we can know, and other things that we cannot know, and will not be able to figure out.  This is not a cop-out, but rather an understanding of the fact that God is greater and His ways are deeper than our minds can fathom (Is. 55:6-11).

Do Not Pry into His Eternal Council

But not only are there things our minds were not made to comprehend, but there are things which we must not pry – the sovereign council of God. There is a limit not only to our understanding, but to what God will allow us to search out – most particularly in arrogance (which is the attitude we humans tend put on when exploring big questions of the unknowable). Job found this out first hand when he questioned God’s purpose in his life.  What was God’s reaction to Job?  This is what He said:

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

He challenges Job over and over “Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this…Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars and spreads his wings toward the south? Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?

God concludes two lengthy chapters of rebuke with this “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.”

Some are Predestined…Others Are Not

It is supposed by the question that this blog post is being addressed that we believe that indeed some are saved and others are not.  But I want to just reaffirm this great mysterious truth once again by citing some Scripture.  Ephesians 1 tells us this:

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, [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love [5] he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, [6] to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, [8] which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight [9] making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ [10] as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

[11] In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, [12] so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. [13] 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, [14] who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Eph. 1:3-14)

What this passage clearly teaches us is that before the world began, God predestined a chosen group of people for salvation, and that all of this was “according to the counsel of his will” for a purpose.  What was the purpose? “For the praise of His glory.”  I will come back to that in a minute.

In Romans 9, the seminal passage on predestination and reprobation, Paul says this:

[6] But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, [7] and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” [8] This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. [9] For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” [10] And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, [11] though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—[12] she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” [13] As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

[14] What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! [15] For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” [16] So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. [17] For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” [18] So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

[19] You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” [20] But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” [21] Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? [22] 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, [23] in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory (Romans 9:6-23 ESV)

Paul uses the example of Jacob and Esau, God loved Jacob and not Esau, in other words, God chose Jacob for salvation and for His work of redemption and not Esau.  Why did He choose one and not the other? Paul answers: “In order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls.”

Therefore the choosing is all of God.  Can the passage be anymore plain? He alone is sovereign and soverignly chooses whom He wills.  This is why Christ can confidently say in John 10 that His sheep know His voice and follow Him.  His sheep are discriminatory.  Why?  Because He has chosen them. His Spirit has quickened them. He has plucked them as brands from the burning to be the objects of His affection, and they have been given to Him as a gift from the Father to the glory and enjoyment of the Son.

Now in verse 19 Paul anticipates the same objections I received in class.  He knows that some will object.  He knows some will say, “that’s not fair!”  But how does he answer them?  God says, speaking through Paul, something similar to what He said thousands of years prior to Job:

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

Wayne Grudem says this about the text, “…we must remember that it would be perfectly fair for God not to save anyone, just as He did with the angels: ‘God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment’ (2 Peter 2:4). What would be perfectly fair for God would be to do with human beings as He did with angels, that is, to save none of those who sinned and rebelled against Him. But if He does save some at all, then this is a demonstration of grace that goes far beyond the requirements of fairness and justice.”

Then Grudem gets into the objection specifically raised in class:

But at a deeper level this objection would say that it is not fair for God to create some people who knew would sin and be eternally condemned, and whom He would not redeem. Paul raises this objection in Romans 9 (citation of the passage). Here is the heart of the “unfairness” objection against the doctrine of election. If each person’s ultimate destiny is determined by God, not by the person himself or herself (that is, even when people make willing choices that determine whether they will be saved or not, if God is actually behind those choices somehow causing them to occur), then how can this be fair?  Paul’s response is not one that appeals to our pride, nor does he attempt to give a philosophical explanation of why this is just. He simply calls on God’s rights as the omnipotent Creator (Romans 9:20-24)…there is a point beyond which we cannot answer back to God or question His justice. He has done what He has done according to His sovereign will. He is the Creator; we are the creatures, and we ultimately have no basis from which to accuse Him of unfairness or injustice.

Furthermore, this troubles us greatly because not only does it say that we can’t always understand His purposes or question His great purposes, but it goes further…that God is actually glorified in all of this.  Certainly He does not desire anyone to go to Hell (1 Tim. 2:4) but He is glorified in His actions because they magnify His perfect holy character.  Reprobation magnifies His justice, and salvation magnifies His mercy.

Why?

There is a certain point beyond which we may not pry, as I mentioned above, and as Paul alludes to when he says, “who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”  But I want us to understand that while we may not understand the eternal counsel of His will, we can still understand the basic parameters of His will and His actions, and these parameters have to do with His pleasure, His honor, and His glory.

Look at what that Ephesians passage said about the reason for predestination.  Verses 6 and 12 both said this was for “the praise of His glory” or “His glorious grace.”

Then look at what Romans says about the reason for reprobation. Verse 23 says this was “in order to make known the riches of His glory.”

In other words, all things work together not only for our good (Romans 8:28), but they will all eventually work together for His glory.  Indeed all of human history will culminate in Christ’s receiving the glory that is due Him.  No matter what the issue, we can be certain that God does it because He finds pleasure in His plan, and wants to receive glory in and through that plan.

The Example of Christ and Our Response

Perhaps the most grueling and baffling example of predestination was the plan set forth from before creation for the death of Jesus Christ. God predestined Jesus to die a horrific death on the cross. This plan was forged before He even made the world! He could have said, “No I am not going to do this act of creation because ultimately my Son will have to die.” But that is not what He did.  According to His own pleasure and plan to the glory of His son and the praise of His name, He created the world and all that is in it, and He did so with the full knowledge that one day He would send His Son to die for the sins of the world.

This is a great mystery. We ask, “Why would He create some whom He does not save?” When we ought to ask, “Why would God choose to send His Son to die for me even before He created a single solitary speck of earth?”  Asking the former appeals to our pride, asking the latter calls us to search out the depths of the love of God – love that is so unsearchable that we cannot understand or fathom it. We simply respond with Job:

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6 ESV)

Enslaved to Merit or Enslaved to Christ?

This past Sunday, I briefly mentioned near the end of the lesson that we ought not to think about earning any merit or grace with God.  I stressed that we need to get out of this cycle of thinking that as Christians we need to strive to “be good” as a way to earn something in heaven. For all of our reward has been purchased by Christ, and given by grace. Now, I realize, and as humans we sometimes have difficulty balancing the role of grace and merit, and understanding the purpose of Christian works here on earth.

Though we are prone to either excessive legalism, or sinful liberty, what I want to stress is that the principles of living holy lives, and understanding God’s grace in our lives are not mutually exclusive.  We need to be seeking holiness while also seeking to please God and love others through our actions. In order to do this, we must understand why we are to love others, and where our “merit” in heaven ultimately comes from.  Our motivation for loving others and doing good works is gratitude and enjoyment of God.  Likewise, any merit we have before God, ultimately, has already been won by Christ.

Let me explore these two co-existing principles further with some perspective from those who are wiser than myself.

First, we are called to holiness. JC Ryle said this about seeking holiness as it relates to our relationship to reward and closeness with Chrirst:

Above all, grieve not the Spirit. Quench not the Spirit. Vex not the Spirit. . . . Little jarrings between husbands and wives make unhappy homes; and petty inconsistencies, known and allowed, will bring in strangeness between you and the Spirit. . . . The man who walks with God in Christ most closely, will generally be kept in the greatest peace. The believer who follows the Lord most fully and aims at the highest degree of holiness will ordinarily enjoy the most assured hope, and have the clearest persuasion of his own salvation

And commenting on this passage from Ryle, John Piper says:

Can you really “drive [God] to a distance, by tampering with small bad habits”? Do “petty inconsistencies bring strangeness between you and the Spirit”? Is the greatest peace really enjoyed by those who “walk with God most closely”? Is the greatest assurance known by those who “aim at the highest degree of holiness”?  Yes. This is clearly taught in Scripture. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

This means that there is a precious experience of peace and assurance and harmony and intimacy that is not unconditional. It depends on our not grieving the Spirit. It depends on our putting away bad habits. It depends on forsaking the petty inconsistencies of our Christian lives. It depends on our walking closely with God and aiming at the highest degree of holiness. If this is true, I fear that the unguarded reassurances today that God’s love is unconditional may stop people from doing the very things the Bible says they need to do in order to have the peace that they so desperately crave. In trying to give peace through “unconditionality” we may be cutting people off from the very remedy the Bible prescribes. Let us declare untiringly the good news that our justification is based on the worth of Christ’s obedience and sacrifice, not ours (Romans 5:19, “as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous”).

But let us also declare the biblical truth that the enjoyment of that justification in its effect on our joy and confidence and power to grow in likeness to Jesus is conditioned on our actively forsaking sins and forsaking bad habits and mortifying lusts and pursuing intimacy with Christ, and not grieving the Spirit.

To give an even fuller perspective on the merit of Christ in all of this, Jerry Bridges labors how it is by God’s grace that we are what we are.  In his book ‘Transforming Grace’, Bridges has some great remarks on the matter.  Here are a few of them:

  • We believe God’s blessings are at least partially earned by our obedience and our spiritual disciplines. We know we are saved by grace, but we think we must live by our spiritual “sweat.”
  • If you are trusting to any degree in your own morality or religious attainments, or if you believe God will somehow recognize any of your good works as merit toward your salvation, you need to seriously consider if you are truly a Christian.
  • The generosity and the magnanimity of God are so great that he accepts nothing from us without rewarding it beyond all computation…. The vast disproportion existing between our work and God’s reward of it already displays his boundless grace, to say nothing of the gift of salvation which made before we have even begun to do any work.’
  • That is what Peter experienced. His failures and his sins abounded. There is no question about that. But however much his sin increased, God’s grace increased all the more. It superabounded. God blessed Peter, not in spite of his sins, but without regard to his sins. That’s the way His grace operates. It looks not to our sins or even to our good deeds but only to the merit of Christ.

In conclusion, let us strive toward holiness and intimacy with Christ, drawing near the throne of grace with confidence, while also realizing that we deserve not this grace, nor do our feeble works merit further blessing. The blessings we received were already purchased for us by Jesus Christ. His merit has earned our blessings, and even in our state of continual sin He is anxious to restore us, to bless us, and to conform us to His image – by His own power, not ours.  What a relief this is! How comforting! Let me close with the words of Paul in Romans 6:

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! [16] Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? [17] But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, [18] and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:15-18 ESV)

Soli Deo Gloria

Scriptural Foundation for Election and the “Doctrines of Grace”

Because we’ve been closely studying the 6th chapter of John on Sunday mornings, the doctrine of election has come up frequently – mostly because Jesus brings it up frequently.  In an effort to give our class a deeper understanding of God’s foreordination in salvation, and his sovereign power over all things, I wanted to provide you with some scripture to look at in connection with the Doctrines of Grace.

Firstly, you may be saying “what are the ‘Doctrines of Grace’ anyway?”  They are the core doctrines of God’s grace toward sinners in salvation (at least that’s how I would describe them).  They comprise what is normally known as Calvin’s “Tulip” and involve 5 points of distinction: Man’s depravity, God’s unconditional election, God’s effectual drawing of sinners to Himself, God’s plan of atonement for His children, God’s ensuring that we are preserved until His second coming (we can’t lose our salvation etc).

Thanks to Parris for sending along this link (here) that summarizes pretty well the scriptural basis for these doctrines.  Though even after extensive study you may still not be able to put all the pieces together in your mind, I think that studying the word of God  is the first thing that needs to be done if we’re to understand God’s plan and purpose in the salvation of sinners.  Because these doctrines are so foundational we will continue to study them, and see how they help us understand God and His purposes and plan for mankind.

I think that before we start to look at man’s role in things (the free will question) its good to first have a right understanding of God’s role in things (i.e. salvation and sanctification), and that is what I’m going to try and lay out here with the help of Mongergism’s great research team.

 

Now here is the bulk of the scriptural foundation for the Doctrines of Grace:

Unconditional Election

God is Sovereign Exo 15:18; 1Chr 29:11-12; 2Chr 20:6; Psa 22:28

  1. He exercises that sovereignty in actively ordaining everything

Deu 32:39; 1Sam 2:6-8; Job 9:12; Job 12:6-10; Psa 33:11; Psa 115:3; Psa 135:6; Isa 14:24; Isa 45:7; Act 15:18; Eph 1:11

    • Including matters of “chance”

Proverbs 16:33; 1Kings 22:20,34,37

    • The wicked actions of men

Gen 45:5; Gen 50:20; Exo 4:21; Jdg 14:1-4; Psa 76:10; Pro 16:4; Isa 44:28; Amos 3:6; Act 2:22-23; Act 4:27-28

    • The actions of evil spirits

1Sam. 16:14-16; 1Kings 22:19-23; 1Chr 21:1/2Sam 24:1

    • The good actions of men

John 15:16; Eph 2:10; Phi 2:12-13

    • The actions of good angels

Psa 103:20; Psa 104:4

    • The actions of animals

Num 22:28; 1Ki 17:4; Psa 29:9; Jer 8:7; Eze 32:4; Dan 6:22

    • The operations of all creation

Gen 8:22; Psa 104:5-10; Psa 104:13-14; Psa 104:19-20; Mark 4:39

  1. Man is not permitted to question his sovereign acts

Job 33:12-13; Isa 29:16; Isa 45:9-10; Mat 20:1-16; Rom 9:19-24

God elects [i.e. chooses, predestines, foreordains]

  1. His angels

1Tim 5:21

  1. His peculiar people, Israel

Exodus 6:7; Deu 7:6-8; Deut. 10:14-15; Psa 33:12; Isa 43:20-21

  1. Individuals to salvation

Psa 65:4; Mat 24:24; John 6:37; John 15:16; Act 13:48; Rom 8:28-30; Rom 9:10-24; Rom 11:5-7; Eph 1:3-6; Eph 1:11-12; 1The 1:4; 1The 5:9; 2The 2:13-14

  1. Individuals to condemnation

Exo 4:21; Rom 9:13; Rom 9:17-18; Rom 9:21-22; 1Pet 2:8

His motivation in election

  1. His own good pleasure

Eph 1:5; 2Tim 1:9

  1. The display of his glory

Isa 43:6-7; Rom 9:22-24; 1Cor 1:27-31; Eph 2:4-7; Pro 16:4

  1. His special love

Deu 7:6-8; 2 Thess. 2:13

  1. His foreknowledge

Rom 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2

    • Which means his special love

Jer 1:5; Amos 3:2; Mat 7:22-23; 1Cor 8:3; 2Tim 2:19; 1Pet 1:20

    • But not:
    • Any good [nobility, wisdom, power, choice, seeking] he foresees in anyone Deu 7:7; Rom 9:11-13; Rom 9:16; Rom 10:20; 1Cor 1:27-29; 1Cor 4:7; 2Tim 1:9

Total Depravity

Man is constituted a sinner by his relationship with Adam Psa 51:5; Psa 58:3; Rom 5:18-19 He is therefore unable…

  1. To do anything good

Gen 6:5; Job 15:14-16; Psa 130:3; Psa 143:2; Pro 20:9; Ecc 7:20; Isa 64:6; Jer 13:23; John 3:19; Rom 3:9-12; Jam 3:8; 1John 1:8

  1. To believe in God (or come to him)

John 6:44; John 6:65; John 8:43-45; John 10:26; John 12:37-41

  1. To understand the truth

John 14:17; 1Cor 2:14

  1. To seek God

Rom 3:10-11

He is dead in sins Gen 2:16-17; John 3:5-7; Eph 2:1-3; Col 2:13 He is blinded and corrupt in his heart Gen 6:5; Gen 8:21; Ecc 9:3; Jer 17:9; Mark 7:21-23; John 3:19-21; Rom 8:7-8; Eph 4:17-19; Eph 5:8 He is captive to sin and Satan John 8:34; John 8:44; Rom 6:20; 2Tim 2:25-26; Tit 3:3; 1John 5:19 He performs actions freely according to his nature, but his nature is wholly evil Job 14:4; Mat 7:16-18; Mat 12:33; Mark 7:21-23; Jam 1:13-14

 

Limited Atonement 

God purposed to redeem a certain people and not others 1Chr 17:20-21; Mat 22:14; 1Pet 2:8-9 [see “God elects individuals to salvation”/God elects individuals to condemnation”]

  1. It is for these in particular that Christ gave his life

Isa 53:10-11; Mat 1:21; John 6:35-40; John 10:3-4, 11, 14-15; Act 20:28; Eph 5:25 [we are commanded to love our wives in the same way that Christ loved the church and gave himself for it; therefore, if Christ loved and gave himself for all people in the same way, we are commanded to love all women in the same way that we love our wives]; Heb 2:17; Heb 9:15

  1. It is for these in particular that Christ intercedes

John 17:1-2; John 17:6-12; John 17:20-21, 24-26; Rom 8:34

  1. The people for whom Christ intercedes are the same as the people for whom he offered himself up as a sacrifice

Heb 7:24-27; Heb 9:12 [note context, in which entering into the holy place is explicitly for the purpose of intercession], 24-28 [For a fuller understanding of the indissoluble connection between sacrifice and intercession, read Hebrews chapters 7-10]

The atonement of Christ is effective

  1. To justify

Isa 53:11 [the single effective cause of justification in view here is the bearing of iniquities; all whose iniquities Christ bore must be justified]; Rom 8:34[the argument here is that the fact of Christ’s death, resurrection, and intercession is in itself an incontrovertibly effective reason for non-condemnation; if this verse is true, then no one for whom Christ died and was raised to intercede may be condemned]

  1. To redeem and cleanse from sins

Eph 5:25-27; Tit 2:14

  1. To propitiate the Father

1John 2:2 [“propitiation” means “the turning away or appeasement of wrath”; therefore, by definition, the Father has no more wrath against those whose sins have been propitiated]; 1John 4:10

  1. To raise to new life

2Cor 5:14-15 [the argument is a simple “if/then” proposition: “if” Christ died for someone, “then,” with no other conditions, that person died with him and was raised again]; 1Pet 3:18

[See also, “Jesus’ death purchased for his people a new heart; – faith; – repentance”. Jesus died in order to establish the New Covenant (Mat. 26:26-29, etc.); the New Covenant promised faith, repentance and knowledge of God (Jer. 31:33-34, Ez. 36:26-27, etc.); therefore, Jesus died in order to provide faith, repentance, and knowledge of God, as the fulfillment of a unilateral promise. This means that his death had a definite purpose which was intended for some and not others. His death effectively purchased faith; not all have faith; and so his death had an effective intent that was limited to certain persons.] Those whom God purposed to redeem include all who believe John 3:16

  1. From every nation

Rev 5:9

  1. From every class

Gal 3:28; 1Tim 2:1-6 [the first “all men” is explicitly tied to all classes of men, which gives warrant for understanding the second “all men” in the same way]

  1. Therefore, Christ’s saving work is commonly spoken of in terms of “all,” “world,” etc.

John 1:29; Tit 2:11-14 [in the context of “all men” is the delimiting concept of a peculiar people, zealous of good works]; Heb 2:9-10 [notice that the many sons whom Christ brings to glory gives a contextual delimiter to the term “every”]; 2Pet 3:9 [note that this desire is explicitly limited to “us” (Peter was writing to fellow-believers) in the context]; 1John 2:2 [propitiation means “appeasement of wrath”; either Jesus appeases God’s wrath against all, and therefore hell (which is the place where God’s wrath resides) is non-existent; or the “whole world” means something different than “every individual who ever lived”. See John 11:51-52, and “The word ‘world’ is often used in the sense of ‘many,’ or ‘all of a set’”]

  1. The word “all” is often used to indicate all of a set, or even many representatives of a set

Mat 10:22; 1Cor 6:12; 1Cor 15:22; Mat 2:3; John 4:29; Act 10:39; Act 17:21; Act 21:28; Act 26:4

  1. Or, to indicate all “classes” or “nations,” not all individuals

Mat 5:11; Act 2:17; Act 10:12

  1. The word “world” is often used in the sense of “many,” or “all of a set”

Luk 2:1-2; John 6:33; John 12:19; Act 19:27; Rom 1:8

Additional reasons that the atonement of Christ is not for all the sins of all people

  1. God punishes people in hell, which would be unjust if their sins were atoned for

Mark 9:43-44

  1. If one were to say, “their sins are atoned for, but that atonement is not applied because of unbelief,” he fails to realize that unbelief is likewise a sin

Heb 3:12 [“The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for either: 1) All the sins of all men; 2) All the sins of some men; or 3) Some of the sins of all men. In which case it may be said: 1) If the last be true all men have some sins to answer for, and so none are saved; 2) That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth; 3) But if the first is the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins? You answer, Because of unbelief. I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!” – John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ]

  1. God bears eternal wrath against people, which by definition means that his wrath against them has not been propitiated [appeased]

1The 2:16; 2The 1:6-9

Intentions of Christ’s death other than atonement

  1. To make a public display of demons

Col 2:13-15

  1. To rule over everyone

Rom 14:9

  1. To redeem creation

Isa 35:1-4; Rom 8:20-23

  1. To lay the foundation for a genuine gospel call

John 6:39-40; John 7:37-38

  1. To provide temporal mercies for the non-elect

Mat 5:45; 1Tim 4:10

Irresistible Grace 

Faith and Repentance (as well as the new heart which is able to produce them) are themselves gifts of God

  1. A new heart

Deu 30:6; Eze 11:19; Eze 36:26-27

  1. Faith

John 3:27, 6:63-65; Phi 1:29; 2Pet 1:1; Act 16:14; Act 18:27; Eph 2:8-10

  1. Repentance

Act 5:3; Act 11:18; 2Tim 2:25-26; 1Cor 4:7

The Father writes his own word upon (places the fear of himself in, etc.) his people’s hearts Jer 31:33; Jer 32:40; Mat 16:15-17; Luk 10:21; John 6:45; 2Cor 4:6 The beginning of salvation is the sovereign impartation of spiritual life into a heart which had been dead, thereby causing it to exercise faith 1John 5:1; Eze 37:3-6, 11-14; John 1:11-13; John 3:3-8; John 5:21; Eph 2:1-5; Jam 1:18; 1Pet 1:3; 1John 2:29 True offers of grace in the outward gospel call may be resisted by men who do not have this new heart Act 17:32-33 In fact, true offers of grace will always be resisted by such men John 10:24-26; John 12:37-40 But there are some whom God causes to come to him Psa 65:4; Psa 110:3; John 6:37-40; Rom 9:15

 

Perseverance of the Saints 

What God begins, he finishes Psa 138:8; Ecc 3:14; Isa 46:4; Jer 32:40; Rom 11:29; Phi 1:6; 2Tim 4:18 Of all whom he has called and brought to Christ, none will be lost John 6:39-40; John 10:27-29; Rom 8:28-31; Rom 8:35-39; Heb 7:25; Heb 10:14 God’s preservation of the saints is not irrespective of their continuance in the faith 1Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5; Heb 3:14; Heb 6:4-6; Heb 10:26-27; Heb 12:14; Rev 21:7-8; Rev 22:14-15 However, it is God who sanctifies us and causes us to persevere John 15:16; 1Cor 1:30-31; 1Cor 6:11; 1Cor 12:3; 1Cor 15:10; Gal 3:1-6; Eph 2:10; Phi 2:12-13; 1The 5:23-24; Heb 13:20-21; 1John 2:29; Jud 1:24-25.