Category Archives: Balanced Bible Doctrine Resource Library

Solid, Balanced, Bible Doctrinal Commentaries, Resources, Articles and Links. Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Can We Add to God’s Word?

Can We Add to God’s Word?

Matthew 24:24; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 John 4:1; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19
by John MacArthur

Over the last hundred years, the church has seen an explosion of interest in the Holy Spirit—particularly in His work of empowering God’s people and revealing His truth. This renewed interest in the Spirit’s role in our daily lives has injected excitement and enthusiasm into many churches, as the Lord seems to be revealing Himself and His power in wonderful ways.

But for believers caught up in tales of a fresh unleashing of the Spirit, it may be hard to see the difference between what God is saying and doing today and what He said and did in the days when Scripture was being written. We must ask the question: Is there a difference between God’s Word as given then and the word He is supposedly speaking to and through believers today?

I think there is a major difference, and it’s something we must keep in mind if we are to keep the authority and infallibility of the Bible in proper perspective.

The Canon Is Closed

The truth is there is no fresher or more intimate revelation than Scripture. God doesn’t need to give us private revelation to help us in our walk with Him. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, emphasis added). Scripture is sufficient. It offers all we need for every good work.

Christians—particularly charismatics, as well as those who are merely “open but cautious”must realize a vital truth: God’s revelation is complete for good. The canon of Scripture is closed. As the apostle John penned the final words of the last book of the New Testament, he recorded this warning:

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

When the Old Testament canon closed after the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, there followed four hundred silent years when no prophet spoke God’s revelation in any form.

That silence was broken by John the Baptist as God spoke once more prior to the New Testament age. God then moved various men to record the books of the New Testament, and the last of these was Revelation. By the second century A.D., the complete canon—exactly as we have it today—was popularly recognized. Church councils in the fourth century verified and made official what the church has universally affirmed, that the sixty-six books in our Bibles are the only true Scripture inspired by God. The canon is complete.

Just as the close of the Old Testament canon was followed by silence, so the close of the New Testament has been followed by the utter absence of new revelation in any form. Since the book of Revelation was completed, no new written or verbal prophecy has ever been universally recognized by Christians as divine truth from God.

Dividing Truth and Error

Jude 3 is a crucial passage on the completeness of our Bibles. This statement, penned by Jude before the New Testament was complete, nevertheless looked forward to the completion of the entire canon:

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (Jude 3)

In the Greek text, the definite article preceding “faith” points to the one and only faith: “the faith.” There is no other. Such passages as Galatians 1:23 and 1 Timothy 4:1 indicate this objective use of the expression “the faith” was common in apostolic times. Greek scholar Henry Alford wrote that the faith is “objective here: the sum of that which Christians believe.” [1] Henry Alford, Alford’s Greek Testament, vol 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980), 530.

Note also the crucial phrase “once for all” in Jude 3. The Greek word here is hapax, which refers to something done for all time, with lasting results, never needing repetition. Nothing needs to be added to the faith that has been delivered “once for all.”

George Lawlor, who has written an excellent work on Jude, made the following comment:

The Christian faith is unchangeable, which is not to say that men and women of every generation do not need to find it, experience it, and live it; but it does mean that every new doctrine that arises, even though the legitimacy may be plausibly asserted, is a false doctrine. All claims to convey some additional revelation to that which has been given by God in this body of truth are false claims and must be rejected. [2] George L. Lawlor, Translation and Exposition of the Epistle of Jude (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1972), 45.

Also important in Jude 3 is the word translated in our English Bibles as “handed down” or “delivered.” In the Greek it is an aorist passive participle, which in this context indicates an act completed in the past with no continuing element. In this instance the passive voice means the faith was not discovered by men, but given to men by God. How did He do that? Through His Word—the Bible.

And so through the Scriptures God has given us a body of teaching that is final and complete. Our Christian faith rests on historical, objective revelation. That rules out all inspired prophecies, seers, and other forms of new revelation until God speaks again at the return of Christ (cf. Acts 2:16-21; Revelation 11:1-13).

In the meantime, Scripture warns us to be wary of false prophets. Jesus said that in our age “false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). Even extraordinary signs and wonders are no proof that a person speaks for God. John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Ultimately, Scripture is the test for everything; it is the Christians’ standard. In fact, the word canon means, “a rule, standard, or measuring rod.” The canon of Scripture is the measuring rod of the Christian faith, and it is complete.

(Adapted from Why Believe the Bible? and Charismatic Chaos.)

http://www.gty.org/blog/B160720

The Dividing Doctrines of Grace

The Dividing Doctrines of Grace

April 27, 2016

Have you ever met a theological fence-sitter? These are those who like to have their proverbial cake and eat it too. They epitomize the old adage, “love the one you are with” so as not to anger any.

This phenomenon is found in various circles and even in many professing Christian circles, but the ones of whom I write today are those who waver with the wind in regard to their soteriological profession. One can almost imagine the Apostle Paul shaking his head at the mere thought.
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

The word ‘Calvinism’ is divisive

We have all heard this feeble argument, haven’t we? “I don’t believe everything Calvin taught, so I do not say that I am a Calvinist,” say some. At face value, this sounds reasonable, but might it be a cop-out?

It seems fair to state that when the majority of Christians hear the word “Calvinist,” they assume that what is implied are the “five points” of Calvinism (i.e., total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints). Quite simply, most who claim the name of Calvinist do not claim to believe everything the man John Calvin taught.

Another common argument set forth by these fence sitters might be: “I don’t follow a man, I follow the Bible.” This ought to be a great insult to all who hold to the doctrines of grace, for it is an unjust accusation of idolatry.

S. Lewis Johnson was one of the twentieth century’s great expositors of Scripture. Of Johnson, Dr. John MacArthur has said, “Through the years I have listened to the preaching of S. Lewis Johnson far more than any other preacher.” With that in mind, in his exposition of Romans 8, Johnson states that John Calvin “was one of the greatest interpreters of the Bible down through the centuries.” He goes on and explains,
Now, I want to make something very plain, because unfortunately all of the people who listen to the word of God are not well taught in the Bible. When we talk about the five points of Calvinism, we are talking about soteriological truth, salvation truth. Now, it is possible for a man to hold this doctrine and not necessarily hold to all that John Calvin taught and believed. For example I would stand there myself. I don’t believe everything that Calvin wrote. He was a man and he made some mistakes, on the other hand, these are important teachings in the doctrine of salvation. [1]

In short, over the course of Church history, the word “Calvinism” has come to be synonymous with these five soteriological truths. The word itself, then, is a mere shortcut, a nickname, a brief way in which to refer to these doctrines. If the Christian would simply search the scriptures, he would find that the word of God exalts and proclaims these doctrines over and over again:*

Total depravity — Jeremiah 17:9; Jeremiah 13:23; Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 3:10-12; Romans 8:6-8
Unconditional election — Matthew 22:14; John 6:37, 65; John 10:27-30; Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Peter 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:4
Limited (or actual) atonement — Matthew 1:21; John 6:37-40, 10:11, 15, 19:30; Ephesians 5:25; Titus 2:13; Romans 5:17, 19
Irresistible grace— John 6:37-40, 44; Romans 8:30; Acts 16:14;
Perseverance of the saints— Philippians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Timothy 2:13; Jude 24
The Bible teaches both!
Now, very often one of the primary points of contention for these fence-sitting individuals is the doctrine of unconditional election. The Bible teaches free will and election so I believe them both!” is their exclamation.

Well, it is true that the Bible speaks greatly about the free will of God (i.e., His sovereign will) to do as He pleases. But what of man’s so-called “free will”? Says John MacArthur,
[T]here’s a way to understand free will that is very important. Man’s will is free to choose the form of sin that most appeals to him, but that’s the limit of his freedom….
We’re depraved…our nature is fallen, it is dead, we are blind, we are alienated from God. We do not possess the life of God. We are dead in trespasses and sins, to borrow the language of Ephesians chapter 2. But within the framework of our sinfulness we could pick our poison.
When you talk about free will, we’re talking about the freedom that the sinner has to choose his iniquity. That’s what his freedom is, that’s the sum and substance of his freedom. The one thing he’s not free to do is to choose salvation, or to choose righteousness, or to choose holiness, or to choose God, or to choose Christ unaided and on his own.
The natural man understandeth not the things of God, they are foolishness to him, the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing. The Jews are looking at it and it’s a stumbling block and it’s folly and foolishness to the Gentiles. All that the Bible says about the fallen man is that this man has no capacity to make the righteous choice. So…the will is bound by sin so that mingling around in the reality of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, you can pick your sin. But the one thing you can’t do is extricate yourself from that condition of sin and death. [2]
Man is only free to choose according to his nature. Apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, sinful man is enslaved and in bondage to his sinful nature:*
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” (John 8:34)
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23)
Now, a paradox does exist as regards the role of man’s responsibility. What many do not seem to understand, however, is that one can believe in the sovereignty of God over all things and still affirm human responsibility as he walks and grows in faith. This is simply done by examining the Scripture in context:*
All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:27-28)
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
The realities of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility rest side-by-side in Scripture; however, as we have already seen, man is not in control of his own salvation. He cannot be, else no one would ever be saved!*
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
As much as it may offend our human sensibilities, salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Wholly. Entirely. Woe to those who would say otherwise.

So pay attention to your favorite Christian personality. Is he or she doing a doctrinal tap dance?

God’s Word declares difficult but glorious truths. May we never falter or fail to stand upon them simply because we seek to please men. We serve Christ alone.

___________________________________________
* The scripture verses presented serve only as a sampling of the myriad of texts that could be given.
[1] S. Lewis Johnson, “The Divine Purpose: Romans 8:28-30,” accessed 02 April 2016.
[2] John MacArthur and Phil Johnson, “Answering the Key Questions About the Doctrine of Election,” accessed 02 April 2016.

http://www.donotbesurprised.com/2016/04/the-dividing-doctrines-of-grace.html

Contextualization?Christ the wisdom and power of God vs gospel context

Christ the wisdom and power of God vs gospel contextualization

Posted on June 7, 2015

by Mike Ratliff

18 Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν. 19 γέγραπται γάρ·

ἀπολῶ τὴν σοφίαν τῶν σοφῶν

καὶ τὴν σύνεσιν τῶν συνετῶν ἀθετήσω. (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 NA28)

18 For the word of the cross to those perishing is senseless, but to us being saved, it is the power of God 19 for it has been written,

‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise ones

and the understanding of the intelligent I will set aside.’ (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Look around at those man-focused, pragmatic, seeker-sensitive “churches” in our time. They may vary in many ways, but there is a commonality that marks them all as products of the spirit of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) rather than the spirit of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13). That commonality is seen in the passage I placed at the top of this post. It is what makes them of the spirit of Laodicea. They are structured and operate according to the wisdom of men. Their very way of handling the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ depletes the cross of its power. What do I mean? When the “so-called gospel” that is “preached” is given in a way that intentionally removes its offense and an attempt is made to make it sensible to the lost and dying world by removing the blood and removing the necessity of our Lord’s death for those who owed a debt to God they could not pay, what is given is more of a sales pitch and self-help remedy. All this does is create a body of people who are neither cold nor hot. No, they believe they have everything and are right with God, but are in reality, wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked who are simply ready for the next deceiver to come along.

I was contacted by a friend earlier today about this article (http://davidsills.blogspot.com/2009/05/reclaiming-contextualization.html ) by David Sills from 2009. The reason she wanted me to look at it was that it was linked to by a very recent page here that reaffirms gospel contextualization for missionaries🙁 http://www.toeverytribe.org/category/contextualization/ )It was disturbing to her because she supports a ministry that supports that ministry… I have posted about Gospel Contextualization before, but it’s been awhile. To summarize, it depends on what you mean by it. If you are referring to how you share the gospel with children like I did with my daughter when she was a young where I used a pencil with several colors on it so that the gospel message was simplified and you call that Gospel Contextualization then okay that is okay. However, if you are all about changing the Gospel message to fit a culture group and actually change the message of the atonement and remove the Doctrinal necessities for such as the ‘original sin,’ in order to remove the offense of the cross then we have a problem. The Gospel message is not really very complicated. It is not hard to understand at all. People who demand that we contextualize it in order to open wide the doors of the Kingdom so that people can come in without having to change much are making a huge error. Why?

The preaching of the gospel is never done correctly according to the wisdom of men. No, God created one way to salvation through the Son and that one way makes no sense to the unregenerate, that is, those who are of this world. Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. Don’t you believe God meant it when He said this? What Paul said in v18 totally defeats all attempts to modify or edit the gospel message by those who desire to conform it to man-made parameters like Political Correctness, or Pop-Culture, or Post-Modernist thinking, et cetera. The reason the proponents of those things desire to edit the gospel is they see that the word of the cross is foolish or senseless. What does that say about them my brethren? Doesn’t that mark them as among those who are perishing?

20 ποῦ σοφός; ποῦ γραμματεύς; ποῦ συζητητὴς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου; οὐχὶ ἐμώρανεν ὁ θεὸς τὴν σοφίαν τοῦ κόσμου; 21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔγνω ὁ κόσμος διὰ τῆς σοφίας τὸν θεόν, εὐδόκησεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος σῶσαι τοὺς πιστεύοντας· 22 ἐπειδὴ καὶ Ἰουδαῖοι σημεῖα αἰτοῦσιν καὶ Ἕλληνες σοφίαν ζητοῦσιν, 23 ἡμεῖς δὲ κηρύσσομεν Χριστὸν ἐσταυρωμένον, Ἰουδαίοις μὲν σκάνδαλον, ἔθνεσιν δὲ μωρίαν, 24 αὐτοῖς δὲ τοῖς κλητοῖς, Ἰουδαίοις τε καὶ Ἕλλησιν, Χριστὸν θεοῦ δύναμιν καὶ θεοῦ σοφίαν· 25 ὅτι τὸ μωρὸν τοῦ θεοῦ σοφώτερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐστὶν καὶ τὸ ἀσθενὲς τοῦ θεοῦ ἰσχυρότερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25 NA28)

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Did not God make foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, by the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through its wisdom, God was pleased through the foolishness of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews an offense, to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both to Jews and to Greeks, Christ, God’s power and God’s wisdom. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser then men and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (Corinthians 1:20-25 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

This is very clear my brethren. As I said above, those who are not called by God, see the cross as foolishness or an offense. It makes no sense to them. When we deal with atheists, pagans, Jews, or Muslims in our apologetics, this is their complaint. Notice, however, that Paul makes it very clear, “but to those who are called, both to Jews and to Greeks” Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. The reference to “Greeks” is referring to all Gentiles. Therefore, where does the responsibility lay to draw people to believe? Is it with programs and preaching and big churches and fellowship? No! It is God who calls (John 6:44) and it is God who gives the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:1-10).

26 Βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα, οὐ πολλοὶ δυνατοί, οὐ πολλοὶ εὐγενεῖς· 27 ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς, καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά, 28 καὶ τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὰ ἐξουθενημένα ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, τὰ μὴ ὄντα, ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ, 29 ὅπως μὴ καυχήσηται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 30 ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὃς ἐγενήθη σοφία ἡμῖν ἀπὸ θεοῦ, δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμὸς καὶ ἀπολύτρωσις, 31 ἵνα καθὼς γέγραπται· ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NA28)

26 For you see, your calling brothers, that not many wise men according to the flesh, not many powerful men, not many well-born, 27 but the foolish ones of the world God chose that he might shame the wise men. 28 And the weak ones of the world God chose that he might shame the strong ones. And the low-born of the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no flesh may boast before God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom to us from God, both righteousness and sanctification and redemption 31 that according as it has been written, “The one boasting, let him boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Who chose whom? By what criteria did He make His choice of His elect? Do you see that those of us in Christ have no place to boast except in the Lord? We should not marvel that so few seem to be among the elect, but that anyone is at all. Are any of us deserving?

Now, compare what we just studied in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 with what is going on in most of the visible church in our time. You will find a great variance. Gone is the foolishness and offense of the cross replaced with Christless Christianity that is the religion of the “churches” of the spirit of Laodicea. Flee to the cross my brethren!

Soli Deo Gloria!

https://mikeratliff.wordpress.com/2015/06/07/christ-the-wisdom-and-power-of-god-vs-gospel-contextualization/#comment-74107

What Does This Verse Mean to Me?

What Does This Verse Mean “to Me”?

Titus 1:9, Romans 12:1-2

June 16, 2009

John MacArthur

That’s a fashionable concern, judging from the trends in devotional booklets, home Bible study discussions, Sunday-school literature, and most popular preaching.

The question of what Scripture means has taken a back seat to the issue of what it means “to me.”

The difference may seem insignificant at first. Nevertheless, our obsession with the Scripture’s applicability reflects a fundamental weakness. We have adopted practicality as the ultimate judge of the worth of God’s Word. We bury ourselves in passages that overtly relate to daily living, and ignore those that don’t.

Early in my ministry, I made a conscious commitment to biblical preaching. My first priority has always been to answer the question, “What does this passage mean?” After I’ve explained as clearly and accurately as possible the meaning of God’s Word, then I exhort people to obey and apply it to their own lives.

The Bible speaks for itself to the human heart; it is not my role as a preacher to try to tailor the message. That’s why I preach my way through entire books of the Bible, dealing carefully with each verse and phrase-even though that occasionally means spending time in passages that don’t readily lend themselves to anecdotal or motivational messages.

I am grateful to the Lord for the way He has used this expository approach in our church and in the lives of our radio listeners.

But now and then someone tells me frankly that my preaching needs to be less doctrinal and more practical.

Practical application is vital. I don’t want to minimize its importance. But the distinction between doctrinal and practical truth is artificial; doctrine is practical! In fact, nothing is more practical than sound doctrine.

Too many Christians view doctrine as heady and theoretical. They have dismissed doctrinal passages as unimportant, divisive, threatening, or simply impractical. A best-selling Christian book I just read warns readers to be on guard against preachers whose emphasis is on interpreting Scripture rather than applying it.

Wait a minute. Is that wise counsel? No it is not.

There is no danger of irrelevant doctrine; the real threat is an undoctrinal attempt at relevance. Application not based on solid interpretation has led Christians into all kinds of confusion.

No discipline is more sorely needed in the contemporary church than expositional biblical teaching. Too many have bought the lie that doctrine is something abstract and threatening, unrelated to daily life.

It is in vogue to substitute psychology and spoon-fed application for doctrinal substance, while demeaning theological and expositional ministry.

But the pastor who turns away from preaching sound doctrine abdicates the primary responsibility of an elder: “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

Practical insights, gimmicks, and illustrations mean little if they’re not attached to divine principles. There’s no basis for godly behavior apart from the truth of God’s Word.

There are only three options: We teach truth, error, or nothing at all.

Before the preacher asks anyone to perform a certain duty, he must first deal with doctrine. He must develop his message around theological themes and draw out the principles of the texts. Then the truth can be applied.

Romans provides the clearest biblical example. Paul didn’t give any exhortation until he had given eleven chapters of theology.

He scaled incredible heights of truth, culminating in 11:33-36: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

We Don’t make the Bible relevant; it is inherently so, simply because it is God’s Word.Then in chapter 12, he turned immediately to the practical consequences of the doctrine of the first 11 chapters. No passage in Scripture captures the Christian’s responsibility to the truth more clearly than Romans 12:1-2. There, building on eleven chapters of profound doctrine, Paul calls each believer to a supreme act of spiritual worship-giving oneself as a living sacrifice. Doctrine gives rise to dedication to Christ, the greatest practical act. And the remainder of the book of Romans goes on to explain the many practical outworkings of one’s dedication to Christ.

Paul followed the same pattern in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. The doctrinal message came first. Upon that foundation he built the practical application, making the logical connection with the word therefore (Rom. 12:1; Gal. 5:1; Eph. 4:1; Phil. 2:1) or then (Col. 3:1; 1 Thess. 4:1).

True doctrine transforms behavior as it is woven into the fabric of everyday life. But it must be understood if it is to have its impact. The real challenge of the ministry is to dispense the truth clearly and accurately. Practical application comes easily by comparison.

No believer can apply truth he doesn’t know. Those who don’t understand what the Bible really says about marriage, divorce, family, child-rearing, discipline, money, debt, work, service to Christ, eternal rewards, helping the poor, caring for widows, respecting government, and other teachings won’t be able to apply it.

Those who don’t know what the Bible teaches about salvation cannot be saved. Those who don’t know what the Bible teaches about holiness are incapable of dealing with sin. Thus they are unable to live fully to their own blessedness and God’s glory.

The nucleus of all that is truly practical is sown up in the teaching of Scripture. We don’t make the Bible relevant; it is inherently so, simply because it is God’s Word. And after all, how can anything God says be irrelevant?

Related Resources (free):

How to Study Your Bible

What’s wrong with the “what does this verse mean to me” approach to interpreting the Bible?

Why are you compelled to preach verse by verse through books of the Bible, unlike other notable preachers such as C. H. Spurgeon?

Why is it important for me to study the Bible?

Что это означает «для меня»? (Russian)

What Does It Mean “to Me”?

http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A329/what-does-this-verse-mean-to-me

Justification and Sanctification

Justification and Sanctification

Let me show you the essential difference between justification and sanctification. Look at it like this: Justification is an act of God the Father; sanctification is essentially the work of God the Holy Spirit. There is this division of work in the blessed Persons of the Trinity. It is the Father who declares righteous and just. It is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies.

Second, justification takes place outside us, as in a tribunal; sanctification takes place within us, in our inner life. I stand in the court when I am justified, and the judge pronounces that I am free; it is a statement about me, outside me. But sanctification is something that is worked and takes place within.

Third, justification removes the guilt of sin; sanctification removes the pollution of sin and renews us in the image of God.

And therefore, last, by definition justification is a once-and-for-all act. It is never to be repeated because it cannot be repeated and never needs to be repeated. It is not a process but a declaration that we are pronounced just once and forever, by God. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a continuous process. We continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord until we are perfect beyond the veil.

So there is nothing quite so erroneous and confusing and unscriptural as to mistake the essential difference between justification and sanctification. That is the whole trouble with Roman Catholic teaching and all Catholic piety. If you confuse sanctification with justification, you will be doubtful as to whether you are justified or not. If you bring in your state and condition and sin that you may commit, then you are querying your justification. But if you realize that justification is forensic, external, and declaratory, you know that you are justified whatever may be true about you.

– Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Great Doctrines of the Bible: God the Father, God the Son – God the Holy …By Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Does God's Sovereignty Mean He Makes People Evil?

Does God’s Sovereignty Mean He Makes People Evil?

by Phil Johnson

A fellow who espouses hyper-Calvinism wrote me to argue that there is no such thing as “common grace.” He insisted that God’s “apparent goodness” to the reprobate has no other purpose than to increase their condemnation. He was convinced that God is as active in making the reprobate wicked as He is in conforming the elect to the image of Christ. And for “proof,” he cited Romans 5:20: “The law entered that the offense might abound.”

Different? You bet. My view, of course, is different from his.

So let’s think through some of these issues carefully. Consider, first of all, that the law has the effect of provoking sin in the elect as well as the reprobate. Even the apostle Paul testified that the tenth commandment stirred up all manner of coveting in his heart (Romans 7:8). He went on to explain in verse 13 that this is because the law was given to make sin appear exceedingly sinful. In other words, the law makes sin abound in order to confront us with the reality and magnitude of our sin.

But that is ultimately a gracious purpose, and the second half of Romans 5:20 makes that point inescapable: “The law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” So the exacerbating of sin is not an end in itself. God’s ultimate purpose, and that which He delights in, is not the sin, but the superabounding grace.

Moreover, even while the law is provoking us to rebellion, the Lord through common grace usually restrains sinners—including the reprobate—from giving full expression to their sin (cf. Genesis 20:6; Romans 2:14-15).

So it is my conviction that the overall effect of common grace on the reprobate will be to decrease their condemnation, not increase it.

But what about the potter-clay analogy in Romans 9? my hyper-calvinist correspondent wondered.

We need to think that through carefully, too. The potter starts with a lump of clay—something inherently filthy and base, with hardening properties already defining its very nature. So the clay is analogous to fallen humanity—useless for anything at all except in the hands of the heavenly Potter.

Left alone, clay will harden into something permanently worthless. But when a skilled potter applies His work to that amorphous lump of filthy clay, he always makes it useful. He improves the clay-lump into something that can be employed for good purposes.

The end-products are of varying quality, of course, because they are made for different purposes. Sometimes the potter makes fine pottery that may include veritable works of art; other times he makes ash trays. But he starts with the same glob of clay, and all his finished products are superior to the worthless lumps they would have been apart from His work.

That’s exactly what Paul meant when he spoke of vessels of honor and dishonor. “Dishonorable” vessels in Paul’s analogy would be things like diaper pails, chamber pots, spittoons, garbage containers, and whatnot. The vessel used in such a way is “dishonorable” in the sense that you don’t put it on display for honored guests, or use it to serve your Thanksgiving Turducken. (Or pizza, as the case may be.) But the potter who makes such dishonorable vessels isn’t himself dishonorable. Nor are his purposes dishonorable. On the contrary, they are good. (Imagine a world without garbage containers.)

So the potter imagery does not suggest that God works to make the reprobate worse or worse off than they would have been without His work, nor does it suggest that He delights in increasing their condemnation. In fact, if their damnation is ultimately exacerbated in any sense because of His work, it is precisely because they have despised and spurned His goodness, which ought to lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4)—not because He deliberately made them into something worse than they would have been otherwise. If they are worse off because of His goodness to them, it is their own fault. His goodness is not a mask for some hideous secret delight over their damnation.

The example of Pharaoh, cited by Paul in Romans 9, is a case in point. We are not to imagine that the potter-clay imagery suggests God made Pharaoh evil. The proclivity of Pharaoh’s heart was already evil. Pharaoh’s hatred for God and the things of God was Pharaoh’s own character flaw, certainly not something God was responsible for.

Like this. It was a beaut.

Let me give you an illustration. When I was in high school, I had an old car, a beautiful 1954 Chevrolet Bel Aire. (I wish I still had it.) But in those days it was not quite the antique it would be today, and far from being a classic, it had some rather severe mechanical problems. One was that it steered left all the time. If I wanted to make it go straight down the road, I had to exert a steady pull to the right. But if I wanted to change to the left lane, I simply had to release that pressure, and the car would automatically veer left.

God exercises His sovereignty over an evil heart very much like that. The heart of Pharaoh was in God’s hands so that He could turn it whithersoever He willed (Proverbs 21:1). But when it served God’s sovereign plan for Pharaoh to turn stubborn, God did not have to exert force to pull him in an evil direction. God did not need to infuse an evil intention into Pharaoh’s heart. God simply withdrew His influence and Pharaoh’s own evil inclination steered him into the left lane, fulfilling God’s plan.

John Calvin has an interesting section dealing with this very issue in his Institutes. (II.4.3) He writes:

God is very often said to blind and harden the reprobate . . .. There are two methods in which God may so act:

[1] When his light is taken away, nothing remains but blindness and darkness: when his Spirit is taken away, our hearts become hard as stones: when his guidance is withdrawn, we immediately turn from the right path: and hence he is properly said to incline, harden, and blind those whom he deprives of the faculty of seeing, obeying, and rightly executing.

[2] The second method . . . is when executing his judgements by Satan as the minister of his anger, God both directs men’s counsels, and excites their wills, and regulates their efforts as he pleases.

So when Scripture says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, we are not to think God infused an evil desire into Pharaoh, or sovereignly steered him in a direction Pharaoh was himself not inclined to go. Pharaoh’s own will was already inclined toward evil; God simply permitted Pharaoh to fulfill the already-evil intentions of his own fallen heart and will. Or in other words, God sealed the will of Pharaoh in its own evil intention, and then used Pharaoh’s evil designs to accomplish God’s good purposes.

In fact, God’s agency in hardening Pharaoh’s heart is exactly like the agency of the sun in hardening clay. The sun is in no way tainted or influenced by its contact with the clay; but the clay is profoundly affected by the sun’s rays.

Furthermore, the property that gives clay its hardness is a property that belongs to the clay, not the sun. Want proof? Put a block of ice in the sun and see what happens to that. It will melt rather than harden. So the property that leads to the hardening of clay is something in the clay. Left to itself the clay will harden with or without exposure to the sun’s bright light. The sun merely accelerates the natural process.

And that is precisely the effect the Word of God had on Pharaoh. So while we may truly say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it is vital to remember that the sinful properties that caused the hardening lay in Pharaoh’s own heart. Pharaoh alone was responsible for his stubbornness. God, though sovereignly in control from beginning to end, bore no responsibility whatsoever for the evil that emanated from Pharaoh’s own will.

http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2007/10/does-gods-sovereignty-mean-he-makes.html

In What Way was Jesus ‘Made Sin’ on the Cross?

In What Way was Jesus ‘Made Sin’ on the Cross?

by Nathan Busenitz

February 6, 2015

Yesterday, as I was reading through portions of Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians, I came across the following:

“Christ took upon Himself our sins, not by constraint, but of His own good will, in order to bear the punishment and wrath of God: not for the sake of His own person (which was just and invincible, and was not in any way guilty), but for our person. So by means of a joyous substitution, He took upon Himself our sinful person, and gave to us His innocent and victorious person: with which we, being now clothed, are free from the curse of the law. . . . By faith alone therefore we are made righteous, for faith alone lays hold of this victory of Christ.”

(Commentary on Gal. 3:13 [2]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3])

John Calvin’s comments on 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] are similar:

“How can we become righteous before God? In the same way as Christ became a sinner. For He took, as it were, our person, that He might be the offender in our name and thus might be reckoned a sinner, not because of His own offences but because of those of others, since He Himself was pure and free from every fault and bore the penalty that was our due and not His own. Now in the same way we are righteous in Him, not because we have satisfied God’s judgment by our own works, but because we are judged in relation to Christ’s righteousness which we have put on by faith, that it may become our own.”

(Commentary on 2 Cor. 5:21 [5]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3])

Those quotations, which underscore the doctrines of substitutionary atonement and Christ’s imputed righteousness, reminded me of an earlier study I had done regarding 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3], specifically with regard to this question: In what way was Jesus “made sin” on the cross?

I thought it’d be worth rehearsing some of that material in today’s post.

* * *

To state the question another way: Did Jesus become the literal embodiment of sin, or take on a sin nature, or become a sinner when He died at Calvary?

The heart of the question centers on Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3]: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

In what sense did Jesus become “sin on our behalf”? Does that phrase mean that Jesus literally became a sinner on the cross?

There are some today who teach that Jesus became a sinner (or took on a sin nature) at the cross. Benny Hinn is one such advocate. In a TBN broadcast, Hinn exclaimed:

“He [Jesus] who is righteous by choice said, ‘The only way I can stop sin is by me becoming it. I can’t just stop it by letting it touch me; I and it must become one.’ Hear this! He who is the nature of God became the nature of Satan when he became sin!”

(Benny Hinn, Trinity Broadcasting Network, December 1, 1990)

Prosperity-preacher Kenneth Copeland echoes those same teachings. In Copeland’s words:

“The righteousness of God was made to be sin. He accepted the sin nature of Satan in His own spirit. And at the moment that He did so, He cried, ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ You don’t know what happened at the cross. Why do you think Moses, upon instruction of God, raised the serpent upon that pole instead of a lamb? That used to bug me. I said, ‘Why in the world would you want to put a snake up there; the sign of Satan? Why didn’t you put a lamb on that pole?’ And the Lord said, ‘Because it was a sign of Satan that was hanging on the cross.’ He said, ‘I accepted, in my own spirit, spiritual death; and the light was turned off.’”

(Kenneth Copeland, “What Happened from the Cross to the Throne,” 1990, audiotape #02-0017, side 2)

On another occasion, Copeland reiterates that same teaching:

“How did Jesus then on the cross say, ‘My God’? Because God was not His Father any more. He took upon Himself the nature of Satan.” (Kenneth Copeland, “Believer’s Voice of Victory,” Trinity Broadcasting Network, April 21, 1991)

But do assertions like these accurately reflect Paul’s teaching that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf”?

To come back to the original question: “Did Jesus become the literal embodiment of sin, or take on a sin nature, or become a sinner when He died at Calvary?” My answer to that question is a resounding no.

Here are five reasons why:

1. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3], Paul declares that Jesus “knew no sin.” Whatever the rest of the verse means, it must be interpreted in light of Paul’s statement that Jesus “knew no sin”—meaning He had no personal experiential knowledge of sin in any way. If Jesus became a sinner or took on a sin nature then Paul would have contradicted himself in that very verse.

2. The rest of Scripture makes it clear that the Lord Jesus remained perfectly sinless, righteous, and obedient throughout His entire Passion. At no point did He ever become less than perfectly holy. Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] must be interpreted in light of the whole witness of Scripture. Below is a sampling of biblical passages that make this point explicit:

a) Isaiah 53:10–11 [6]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.”

Comment: The Suffering Servant is called the [COLOR=Red]“Righteous One” even in the context of bearing the sin of others.[/COLOR]

b) Luke 23:47 [7]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’”

Comment: The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to record the centurion’s comment. As the centurion rightly understood, Jesus remained innocent throughout His crucifixion.

c) Romans 5:19 [8]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “For 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.”

Comment: Jesus’ death on the cross was an act of obedience, such that His righteousness is imputed to those who believe in Him.

d) Philippians 2:8 [9]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Comment: In His death, Jesus remained perfectly obedient.

e) Hebrews 4:15 [10]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

Comment: In this passage, the author of Hebrews is focusing on Jesus’ work of redemption (as our great High Priest). Even in the act of redemption, He was always without sin.

f) Hebrews 9:11–14 [11]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

Comment: The author of Hebrews emphasizes that, even in His death, Jesus offered Himself to God without blemish.

g) 1 Peter 1:18–19 [12]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”

Comment: Speaking of Christ’s death, Peter emphasizes that He was the spotless Lamb (cf. John 1:29 [13]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3]). There was no sinful blemish in Him at any point.

h) 1 Peter 3:18 [14]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”

Comment: Peter explicitly states that Christ (the just) died for sinners (the unjust). If Jesus became a sinner, how could He still be called [COLOR=Red]“just” or “righteous”?[/COLOR]

i) 1 John 3:5 [15]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.”

Comment: It is difficult to see how anyone could force John’s statement in this verse to fit the notion that Jesus became a sinner on the cross. Even in the act of taking away sin, there was still no sin in Him.

Based on the above passages, we can safely determine what 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] does not mean. It cannot mean that Jesus became unrighteous, or that He became a sinner, or that He took on a sin nature, or that He literally embodied sin.

So, then what does it mean? This brings us to our third point.

3. The best way to understand Paul’s statement (that Jesus became sin on our behalf) is in terms of imputation. Our sin was imputed to Christ, such that He became a substitutionary sacrifice or sin offering for all who would believe in Him.

As John MacArthur explains in The MacArthur Study Bible:

“God the Father using the principle of imputation, treated Christ as if He were a sinner though He was not, and had Him die as a substitute to pay the penalty for the sins of those who believe in Him (Cf. Is. 53:4–6 [16]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3]; Gal. 3:10–13 [17]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3]; 1 Pet. 2:24 [18]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3]). On the cross, He did not become a sinner (as some suggest), but remained as holy as ever. He was treated as if He were guilty of all the sins ever committed by all who would ever believe, though He committed none. The wrath of God was exhausted on Him and the just requirement of God’s law met for those for whom He died.”

Martin Chemnitz, the second-generation Lutheran Reformer, explained that same truth this way: “How was Christ made sin? Certainly by imputation. And thus we are made the righteousness of God in Him” (Examination of the Council of Trent, “Concerning Justification,” 1.7.6.)

This view explains Paul’s use of the Greek word hamartia (“sin”) which was sometimes used in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) to mean “sin offering.”

Furthermore, this view fits with what the rest of the Scriptures teach about Christ’s death and the doctrine of imputation. Here are a few more biblical passages to make the point.

a. Isaiah 53:6 [19]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “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.”

Comment: This verse does not teach that the Suffering Servant would become a sinner; but rather that that sins of others would be imputed to Him.

b. Ephesians 5:2 [20]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”

Comment: Jesus’ death was a [COLOR=Red]“fragrant aroma” to God. The idea here points back to the Old Testament concept of a sin offering [/COLOR](cf. Lev. 4:7–10 [21]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3]).

c. Hebrews 9:28 [22]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

Comment: The author of Hebrews describes the fact that Jesus Christ bore our sins, meaning they were imputed to His account. He did not become a sinner, rather He bore the sins of those who were sinners.

d. Hebrews 10:10 [23]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Comment: In referring to Jesus’ death, the author of Hebrews points back to the Old Testament sin offering. (See Hebrews 10:8 [24]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3], just two verses earlier, where the author specifically references [COLOR=Red]“sin offerings.”)[/COLOR]

e. 1 Peter 2:22–24 [25]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “He committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

Comment: Peter again expresses the point that Jesus was sinless, even in His Passion. Moreover, Peter articulates the fact that on the cross Jesus bore our sins as our substitutionary sacrifice.

Based both on Paul’s use of the Septuagint, and on other passages that describe the death of Christ, it is best to understand Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] as a reference to the imputation of our sin to Christ, such that He bore our sins as a substitutionary sacrifice on the cross.

4. It is should be noted that, if Jesus took on a sin nature or became a sinner on the cross, He would no longer have been an acceptable sacrifice for sin, since He would have been blemished by sin at the very moment of His death.

In the Old Testament, only a spotless lamb could be offered as an acceptable sacrifice. As Moses recorded in Leviticus 22:20 [26]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it will not be accepted for you.” The analogy, fulfilled perfectly in the Lamb of God, necessitates that Jesus remained spotless even in His sacrificial death.

5. Finally, on a theological level, the idea that God the Son even temporarily became a sinner, or the literal embodiment of sin, raises serious questions about the unchangeableness of His holy character and perfect nature. Those who would twist 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] to claim that Jesus’ perfect nature was momentarily replaced by a sin nature immediately raise unanswerable theological questions about the immutability of Jesus Christ.

Bonus: Just for fun, I should add that understanding 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] in the sense of a substitutionary sacrifice is the way that Christians throughout church history have interpreted this verse. I’ll conclude our post with just three citations from the church fathers to make the point:

Cyril of Alexandria: “We do not say that Christ became a sinner, far from it, but being righteous (or rather righteousness, because He did not know sin at all), the Father made Him a victim for the sins of the world.” (Letter 41.10)

John Chrysostom: “God allowed His Son to suffer as if a condemned sinner, so that we might be delivered from the penalty of our sins. This is God’s righteousness, that we are not justified by works (for then they would have to be perfect, which is impossible), but by grace, in which case all our sin is removed” (Homily on 1 Cor 11:5 [27]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3])

Ambrosiaster: “It was only because all flesh was subject to sin that He was made sin for us. In view of the fact that He was made an offering for sins, it is not wrong for Him to be said to have been made ‘sin,’ because in the law the sacrifice which was offered for sins used to be called a ‘sin.‘ (Commentary on Paul’s Epistles, cf. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, 7:252)

Topic Tags:

Gal. 3:13 [28]

Source URL: http://www.worldviewweekend.com/news/article/what-way-was-jesus-made-sin-cross

Links:

[1] http://www.worldviewweekend.com/profile/nathan-busenitz

[2] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Gal.%203.13

[3] http://www.worldviewweekend.com/ESV

[4] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/2%20Corinthians%205.21

[5] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/2%20Cor.%205.21

[6] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Isaiah%2053.10%E2%80%9311

[7] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Luke%2023.47

[8] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Romans%205.19

[9] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Philippians%202.8

[10] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Hebrews%204.15

[11] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Hebrews%209.11%E2%80%9314

[12] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/1%20Peter%201.18%E2%80%9319

[13] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/John%201.29

[14] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/1%20Peter%203.18

[15] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/1%20John%203.5

[16] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Is.%2053.4%E2%80%936

[17] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Gal.%203.10%E2%80%9313

[18] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/1%20Pet.%202.24

[19] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Isaiah%2053.6

[20] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Ephesians%205.2

[21] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Lev.%204.7%E2%80%9310

[22] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Hebrews%209.28

[23] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Hebrews%2010.10

[24] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Hebrews%2010.8

[25] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/1%20Peter%202.22%E2%80%9324

[26] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Leviticus%2022.20

[27] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/1%20Cor%2011.5

[28] http://www.worldviewweekend.com/topics/gal-313

In What Way was Jesus ‘Made Sin’ on the Cross?

In What Way was Jesus ‘Made Sin’ on the Cross?

by Nathan Busenitz

February 6, 2015

Yesterday, as I was reading through portions of Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians, I came across the following:

“Christ took upon Himself our sins, not by constraint, but of His own good will, in order to bear the punishment and wrath of God: not for the sake of His own person (which was just and invincible, and was not in any way guilty), but for our person. So by means of a joyous substitution, He took upon Himself our sinful person, and gave to us His innocent and victorious person: with which we, being now clothed, are free from the curse of the law. . . . By faith alone therefore we are made righteous, for faith alone lays hold of this victory of Christ.”

(Commentary on Gal. 3:13 [2]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3])

John Calvin’s comments on 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] are similar:

“How can we become righteous before God? In the same way as Christ became a sinner. For He took, as it were, our person, that He might be the offender in our name and thus might be reckoned a sinner, not because of His own offences but because of those of others, since He Himself was pure and free from every fault and bore the penalty that was our due and not His own. Now in the same way we are righteous in Him, not because we have satisfied God’s judgment by our own works, but because we are judged in relation to Christ’s righteousness which we have put on by faith, that it may become our own.”

(Commentary on 2 Cor. 5:21 [5]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3])

Those quotations, which underscore the doctrines of substitutionary atonement and Christ’s imputed righteousness, reminded me of an earlier study I had done regarding 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3], specifically with regard to this question: In what way was Jesus “made sin” on the cross?

I thought it’d be worth rehearsing some of that material in today’s post.

* * *

To state the question another way: Did Jesus become the literal embodiment of sin, or take on a sin nature, or become a sinner when He died at Calvary?

The heart of the question centers on Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3]: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

In what sense did Jesus become “sin on our behalf”? Does that phrase mean that Jesus literally became a sinner on the cross?

There are some today who teach that Jesus became a sinner (or took on a sin nature) at the cross. Benny Hinn is one such advocate. In a TBN broadcast, Hinn exclaimed:

“He [Jesus] who is righteous by choice said, ‘The only way I can stop sin is by me becoming it. I can’t just stop it by letting it touch me; I and it must become one.’ Hear this! He who is the nature of God became the nature of Satan when he became sin!”

(Benny Hinn, Trinity Broadcasting Network, December 1, 1990)

Prosperity-preacher Kenneth Copeland echoes those same teachings. In Copeland’s words:

“The righteousness of God was made to be sin. He accepted the sin nature of Satan in His own spirit. And at the moment that He did so, He cried, ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ You don’t know what happened at the cross. Why do you think Moses, upon instruction of God, raised the serpent upon that pole instead of a lamb? That used to bug me. I said, ‘Why in the world would you want to put a snake up there; the sign of Satan? Why didn’t you put a lamb on that pole?’ And the Lord said, ‘Because it was a sign of Satan that was hanging on the cross.’ He said, ‘I accepted, in my own spirit, spiritual death; and the light was turned off.’”

(Kenneth Copeland, “What Happened from the Cross to the Throne,” 1990, audiotape #02-0017, side 2)

On another occasion, Copeland reiterates that same teaching:

“How did Jesus then on the cross say, ‘My God’? Because God was not His Father any more. He took upon Himself the nature of Satan.” (Kenneth Copeland, “Believer’s Voice of Victory,” Trinity Broadcasting Network, April 21, 1991)

But do assertions like these accurately reflect Paul’s teaching that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf”?

To come back to the original question: “Did Jesus become the literal embodiment of sin, or take on a sin nature, or become a sinner when He died at Calvary?” My answer to that question is a resounding no.

Here are five reasons why:

1. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3], Paul declares that Jesus “knew no sin.” Whatever the rest of the verse means, it must be interpreted in light of Paul’s statement that Jesus “knew no sin”—meaning He had no personal experiential knowledge of sin in any way. If Jesus became a sinner or took on a sin nature then Paul would have contradicted himself in that very verse.

2. The rest of Scripture makes it clear that the Lord Jesus remained perfectly sinless, righteous, and obedient throughout His entire Passion. At no point did He ever become less than perfectly holy. Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] must be interpreted in light of the whole witness of Scripture. Below is a sampling of biblical passages that make this point explicit:

a) Isaiah 53:10–11 [6]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.”

Comment: The Suffering Servant is called the [COLOR=Red]“Righteous One” even in the context of bearing the sin of others.[/COLOR]

b) Luke 23:47 [7]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’”

Comment: The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to record the centurion’s comment. As the centurion rightly understood, Jesus remained innocent throughout His crucifixion.

c) Romans 5:19 [8]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “For 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.”

Comment: Jesus’ death on the cross was an act of obedience, such that His righteousness is imputed to those who believe in Him.

d) Philippians 2:8 [9]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Comment: In His death, Jesus remained perfectly obedient.

e) Hebrews 4:15 [10]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

Comment: In this passage, the author of Hebrews is focusing on Jesus’ work of redemption (as our great High Priest). Even in the act of redemption, He was always without sin.

f) Hebrews 9:11–14 [11]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

Comment: The author of Hebrews emphasizes that, even in His death, Jesus offered Himself to God without blemish.

g) 1 Peter 1:18–19 [12]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”

Comment: Speaking of Christ’s death, Peter emphasizes that He was the spotless Lamb (cf. John 1:29 [13]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3]). There was no sinful blemish in Him at any point.

h) 1 Peter 3:18 [14]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”

Comment: Peter explicitly states that Christ (the just) died for sinners (the unjust). If Jesus became a sinner, how could He still be called [COLOR=Red]“just” or “righteous”?[/COLOR]

i) 1 John 3:5 [15]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.”

Comment: It is difficult to see how anyone could force John’s statement in this verse to fit the notion that Jesus became a sinner on the cross. Even in the act of taking away sin, there was still no sin in Him.

Based on the above passages, we can safely determine what 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] does not mean. It cannot mean that Jesus became unrighteous, or that He became a sinner, or that He took on a sin nature, or that He literally embodied sin.

So, then what does it mean? This brings us to our third point.

3. The best way to understand Paul’s statement (that Jesus became sin on our behalf) is in terms of imputation. Our sin was imputed to Christ, such that He became a substitutionary sacrifice or sin offering for all who would believe in Him.

As John MacArthur explains in The MacArthur Study Bible:

“God the Father using the principle of imputation, treated Christ as if He were a sinner though He was not, and had Him die as a substitute to pay the penalty for the sins of those who believe in Him (Cf. Is. 53:4–6 [16]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3]; Gal. 3:10–13 [17]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3]; 1 Pet. 2:24 [18]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3]). On the cross, He did not become a sinner (as some suggest), but remained as holy as ever. He was treated as if He were guilty of all the sins ever committed by all who would ever believe, though He committed none. The wrath of God was exhausted on Him and the just requirement of God’s law met for those for whom He died.”

Martin Chemnitz, the second-generation Lutheran Reformer, explained that same truth this way: “How was Christ made sin? Certainly by imputation. And thus we are made the righteousness of God in Him” (Examination of the Council of Trent, “Concerning Justification,” 1.7.6.)

This view explains Paul’s use of the Greek word hamartia (“sin”) which was sometimes used in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) to mean “sin offering.”

Furthermore, this view fits with what the rest of the Scriptures teach about Christ’s death and the doctrine of imputation. Here are a few more biblical passages to make the point.

a. Isaiah 53:6 [19]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “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.”

Comment: This verse does not teach that the Suffering Servant would become a sinner; but rather that that sins of others would be imputed to Him.

b. Ephesians 5:2 [20]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”

Comment: Jesus’ death was a [COLOR=Red]“fragrant aroma” to God. The idea here points back to the Old Testament concept of a sin offering [/COLOR](cf. Lev. 4:7–10 [21]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3]).

c. Hebrews 9:28 [22]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

Comment: The author of Hebrews describes the fact that Jesus Christ bore our sins, meaning they were imputed to His account. He did not become a sinner, rather He bore the sins of those who were sinners.

d. Hebrews 10:10 [23]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Comment: In referring to Jesus’ death, the author of Hebrews points back to the Old Testament sin offering. (See Hebrews 10:8 [24]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3], just two verses earlier, where the author specifically references [COLOR=Red]“sin offerings.”)[/COLOR]

e. 1 Peter 2:22–24 [25]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “He committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

Comment: Peter again expresses the point that Jesus was sinless, even in His Passion. Moreover, Peter articulates the fact that on the cross Jesus bore our sins as our substitutionary sacrifice.

Based both on Paul’s use of the Septuagint, and on other passages that describe the death of Christ, it is best to understand Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] as a reference to the imputation of our sin to Christ, such that He bore our sins as a substitutionary sacrifice on the cross.

4. It is should be noted that, if Jesus took on a sin nature or became a sinner on the cross, He would no longer have been an acceptable sacrifice for sin, since He would have been blemished by sin at the very moment of His death.

In the Old Testament, only a spotless lamb could be offered as an acceptable sacrifice. As Moses recorded in Leviticus 22:20 [26]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] – “Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it will not be accepted for you.” The analogy, fulfilled perfectly in the Lamb of God, necessitates that Jesus remained spotless even in His sacrificial death.

5. Finally, on a theological level, the idea that God the Son even temporarily became a sinner, or the literal embodiment of sin, raises serious questions about the unchangeableness of His holy character and perfect nature. Those who would twist 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] to claim that Jesus’ perfect nature was momentarily replaced by a sin nature immediately raise unanswerable theological questions about the immutability of Jesus Christ.

Bonus: Just for fun, I should add that understanding 2 Corinthians 5:21 [4]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3] in the sense of a substitutionary sacrifice is the way that Christians throughout church history have interpreted this verse. I’ll conclude our post with just three citations from the church fathers to make the point:

Cyril of Alexandria: “We do not say that Christ became a sinner, far from it, but being righteous (or rather righteousness, because He did not know sin at all), the Father made Him a victim for the sins of the world.” (Letter 41.10)

John Chrysostom: “God allowed His Son to suffer as if a condemned sinner, so that we might be delivered from the penalty of our sins. This is God’s righteousness, that we are not justified by works (for then they would have to be perfect, which is impossible), but by grace, in which case all our sin is removed” (Homily on 1 Cor 11:5 [27]Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) [3])

Ambrosiaster: “It was only because all flesh was subject to sin that He was made sin for us. In view of the fact that He was made an offering for sins, it is not wrong for Him to be said to have been made ‘sin,’ because in the law the sacrifice which was offered for sins used to be called a ‘sin.‘ (Commentary on Paul’s Epistles, cf. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, 7:252)

Topic Tags:

Gal. 3:13 [28]

Source URL: http://www.worldviewweekend.com/news/article/what-way-was-jesus-made-sin-cross

Links:

[1] http://www.worldviewweekend.com/profile/nathan-busenitz

[2] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Gal.%203.13

[3] http://www.worldviewweekend.com/ESV

[4] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/2%20Corinthians%205.21

[5] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/2%20Cor.%205.21

[6] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Isaiah%2053.10%E2%80%9311

[7] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Luke%2023.47

[8] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Romans%205.19

[9] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Philippians%202.8

[10] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Hebrews%204.15

[11] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Hebrews%209.11%E2%80%9314

[12] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/1%20Peter%201.18%E2%80%9319

[13] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/John%201.29

[14] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/1%20Peter%203.18

[15] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/1%20John%203.5

[16] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Is.%2053.4%E2%80%936

[17] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Gal.%203.10%E2%80%9313

[18] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/1%20Pet.%202.24

[19] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Isaiah%2053.6

[20] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Ephesians%205.2

[21] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Lev.%204.7%E2%80%9310

[22] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Hebrews%209.28

[23] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Hebrews%2010.10

[24] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Hebrews%2010.8

[25] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/1%20Peter%202.22%E2%80%9324

[26] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Leviticus%2022.20

[27] http://biblia.com/bible/esv/1%20Cor%2011.5

[28] http://www.worldviewweekend.com/topics/gal-313

Justification and Sanctification

Justification and Sanctification

Let me show you the essential difference between justification and sanctification. Look at it like this: Justification is an act of God the Father; sanctification is essentially the work of God the Holy Spirit. There is this division of work in the blessed Persons of the Trinity. It is the Father who declares righteous and just. It is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies.

Second, justification takes place outside us, as in a tribunal; sanctification takes place within us, in our inner life. I stand in the court when I am justified, and the judge pronounces that I am free; it is a statement about me, outside me. But sanctification is something that is worked and takes place within.

Third, justification removes the guilt of sin; sanctification removes the pollution of sin and renews us in the image of God.

And therefore, last, by definition justification is a once-and-for-all act. It is never to be repeated because it cannot be repeated and never needs to be repeated. It is not a process but a declaration that we are pronounced just once and forever, by God. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a continuous process. We continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord until we are perfect beyond the veil.

So there is nothing quite so erroneous and confusing and unscriptural as to mistake the essential difference between justification and sanctification. That is the whole trouble with Roman Catholic teaching and all Catholic piety. If you confuse sanctification with justification, you will be doubtful as to whether you are justified or not. If you bring in your state and condition and sin that you may commit, then you are querying your justification. But if you realize that justification is forensic, external, and declaratory, you know that you are justified whatever may be true about you.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones Great Doctrines of the Bible: God the Father, God the Son – God the Holy …

Justification and Sanctification

Justification and Sanctification

Let me show you the essential difference between justification and sanctification. Look at it like this: Justification is an act of God the Father; sanctification is essentially the work of God the Holy Spirit. There is this division of work in the blessed Persons of the Trinity. It is the Father who declares righteous and just. It is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies.

Second, justification takes place outside us, as in a tribunal; sanctification takes place within us, in our inner life. I stand in the court when I am justified, and the judge pronounces that I am free; it is a statement about me, outside me. But sanctification is something that is worked and takes place within.

Third, justification removes the guilt of sin; sanctification removes the pollution of sin and renews us in the image of God.

And therefore, last, by definition justification is a once-and-for-all act. It is never to be repeated because it cannot be repeated and never needs to be repeated. It is not a process but a declaration that we are pronounced just once and forever, by God. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a continuous process. We continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord until we are perfect beyond the veil.

So there is nothing quite so erroneous and confusing and unscriptural as to mistake the essential difference between justification and sanctification. That is the whole trouble with Roman Catholic teaching and all Catholic piety. If you confuse sanctification with justification, you will be doubtful as to whether you are justified or not. If you bring in your state and condition and sin that you may commit, then you are querying your justification. But if you realize that justification is forensic, external, and declaratory, you know that you are justified whatever may be true about you.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones Great Doctrines of the Bible: God the Father, God the Son – God the Holy …