Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification

In our sermon on Phil. 2:12-13 titled “God Works in You for His Good Pleasure,” we heard the terms justification by faith alone, sanctification, and glorification. To help clarify:
Justification: being declared righteous by faith in Christ alone; you are freed from the penalty of your sins—past, present, and future. You will not be cast into hell. This is what we actually mean by saying someone is saved, and what the Bible means by saying Christ will save His people from their sins.
Sanctification: first, being set apart positionally as holy unto the LORD, and second, being made more practically holy and righteous in your Christian life over time. The first is called positional or definitive sanctification, the second is called progressive sanctification. The second flows out of the first, plus from your justification. Most of us are thinking of progressive sanctification when we speak of sanctification, and this was the focus of our sermon. In sanctification, you are freed from the power of sin. You will not fully and finally fall away from the true faith, though you may stumble and backslide for a time. The Bible sometimes words this as “those who are being saved,” or in our passage, Paul’s meaning of the word “salvation” in grammatical context: “work out your own salvation [sanctification] in fear and trembling.”
Glorification: the perfection of body and soul conferred upon you at your good resurrection, secured by your faith in Christ and experienced in the new heavens and new earth. In glory, you are freed from the very presence of sin. You will be presented faultless before the throne of God, and fixed in an unassailable perfection, never able to fall into sin again. This is the full experience of redemption that the Bible speaks of in places such as Eph. 1 and Rom. 8.
Rom. 8:28-29 ties justification and glorification together, Paul speaking of glorification as something so sure and secured by your justification, that he even speaks of glorification in the past tense as if it has already happened.
There is also a Trinitarian link here: justified by the Father based upon the covering of Christ’s blood and righteousness appropriated by saving faith which the Holy Spirit works in you in the new birth. Further, you are justified on account of the work of Christ, sanctified by the Spirit, and glorified by the Father.
Hear the old hymn: “To God [the Father] be the glory, great things He has done, for every believer in Jesus the Son.”

 

Posted in The Bible | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Grandfather, Harold Richard Marsh

My maternal grandfather became a born-again Christian very late in his life, in the last 10-12 years of it by his own reckoning. He had been a good man, civilly and in every other way, for all of his middle aged to older life. And yet, he recognized through reading the Bible completely three different times early in the dark hours of the morning—when he could no longer sleep through the night due to intense physical pain—that he had not the perfect righteousness by faith alone necessary to stand before the throne of God above. He needed to believe in Christ for his justification (Phil. 3:8-11). I spoke of him in our Phil. 1:22-26 sermon titled “A Good Dilemma to Have.” By all accounts before his conversion, he was called a good man. Afterwards, we can rightly regard him as a righteous man and a good man.
He died in February 2011. My wife and I had not planned to move back to West Virginia from North Carolina, but in June of 2010 we did. We understand in hindsight, one of the main reasons for moving back to West Virginia, in God’s providence, was so I could have the privilege of preaching his funeral sermon. The pastor of the small country church did everything he could to block me from preaching my grandfather’s funeral, but God and man united in ensuring that I was able.
My grandfather humbly embraced his newfound Christian life. He became the point-of-contact and coordinator for “Crosses Across America” in that region. If any of you have driven through WV, OH, PA, and even parts of VA and seen three crosses standing on large hills by the highway—he was in charge of their erection, maintenance, right-of-ways, etc. Even in his dying days in the hospital, he would ask nurses and doctors, after making pleasantries, “What does the cross mean to you?”
He prayed before family meals nearly always in tears; he often stopped by our house with my grandmother just for the joy of visiting with no agenda except love, he was able to hold my oldest son when he was an infant, he loved my wife even from our engagement and before we were married, he tirelessly attempted to work for reconciliation of family relationships that had been drifting and damaged, he often wanted to speak about the Bible and theology—and he and I frequently conversed and he asked questions especially and rejoiced once I was in seminary (and not only did he have good, genuine questions, but I see now he was also in humility giving me a chance to speak out loud what I had been learning even while he was learning from me).
I came across a poem this morning while studying. This is a poem written about a man named Kasper Olson, penned by a man named L. J. Pedersen. I want to apply it to my grandfather:
“In love we think of those who’ve gone before,
Of those who dwell on sinful earth no more,
They walked with us in mingled joy and pain,
Now God has called them to eternal gain.
For friends who lived and died, we thank Thee, Lord
For those who loved Thy people and Thy Word,
Help us, like them, in all to faithful be,
And so in life and death abide with Thee.”
Taken from Arnold Theodore Olson, Stumbling Toward Maturity, vol. 3 of the Heritage Series (Minneapolis: Free Church Press, 1981), 198.
Posted in Autobiographical | Leave a comment

The Intersection of Religion and Reality Examined Through Culture and Art

Francis Schaeffer, in his book titled How Should We Then Live?, has a portion where he describes the control over the thoughts and emotions that the new technology of television and film can have. Throughout the book, Schaeffer is supportive of good art of all types, but he has a special qualifier for television and movies—the editing crew, director, and even the camera angle all factor into creating a certain perception, reaction, and set of feelings in the viewer that may not correspond to fact and reality due to not showing the whole truth or because of purposeful misrepresentation of the truth. Over the course of time, he also worried that this would reshape how Western culture interacts with reality and diminish our understanding of truth and ability to discern truth from error, good from evil, fact from fiction, partially true from totally true, etc. Similarly, ancient philosopher Plato, in his book Republic, has a few portions where he worries that bad art will foster impiety, irreligion, ignorance, and incorrigibility through a manipulation of emotions.
Enter the beautiful movie, The Last Samurai. Edward Zwick directed a technically excellent film, which I have watched numerous times, which no doubt has many truthful elements in it as well as a certain nobility and honor as it pays homage to the positive aspects of the samurai mentality and resolve. When I was younger, at age 20, in the winter of 2003, I saw the film in the theater. I remember thinking, based upon the movie alone, that the traditional samurai and Buddhist culture seemed so much more . . . honorable, peaceful, simple, prosperous, stable, and settled than the Pentecostal–Charismatic Christian culture in which I was raised. This was on the twilight of my days as a lost man and close to the dawning of my Christian conversion, because I became a Christian at age 21 or 22 through a desperate studying of the Holy Scriptures.
Having been a practitioner of Korean and Chinese martial arts for years, along with my brother, we practiced in such a way on both our instructors’ part and our part, that we avoided participation in Buddhism or its religious practices—for martial arts can be practiced physically without the religious elements (the exception being Hinduism’s religious connection to yoga, for yoga is designed to be inseparably linked with Hindu worship of the gods). But, man O man, Buddhism seemed attractive for a short while in my young life, especially based upon this movie’s presentation of it with all the nobility of the religious and civil culture surrounding it which was being corrupted by Western culture’s influx into Japan (and by some traitors among the Japanese who prostituted themselves to Western money, technology, and power). While the inroads of the Western world into Japan surely produced some of the upheavals presented in the film, this simply is not the entire story that Zwick presented us with—intentionally or unintentionally.
Enter the fortuitous (Providential) events of seeing three more films of traditional samurai and Buddhist culture made by actual Japanese directors instead of American directors. I had the privilege of watching them with my new wife, Valerie, during the first year or two of our marriage and during the first year or two of seminary at Southern Evangelical Seminary. These are films that were much more historically accurate in their presentation of the samurai and of Buddhism, and also the highly structured civil culture tied to Buddhism which placed heavy, heavy burdens on most of the people (similar to Jewish Pharisaic religion in certain ways [Matt. 23:4]). The three films, in the order I watched them, are The Hidden Blade, Twlight Samurai, and When the Last Sword is Drawn. Surely, the first was a gut wrenching fluke! Then I watched the second. Then, the third. We were struck by the heaviness of it all, and I was smacked by the larger picture of reality being presented. There was a pattern emerging. Though there were individuals that were honorable within that system as it stands, overall, Buddhism was not as freeing as The Last Samurai projected it, and traditional Japanese culture was not as beautiful as the cherry blossom trees which dot the landscape—in fact—it was oppressive as any of the worst elements of all world cultures, Western and Eastern, American or Japanese. I have not seen it yet, but the new movie Silence portrays the Japanese persecution of Christians in Japan during the 1800s, in their reaction to anything perceived to be Western. Further, in seminary after my conversion to Christ, I was privileged to be taught World Religions by Richard Howe, and we had a textbook written by another Christian professor named Winfried Corduan. He, through study and life, deeply explored the other religions, Buddhism included.
Alas! The Christian doctrine of total depravity extends to all men, in all cultures, in all times, as cursed sons of Adam, scattered at Babel, who need redemption and forgiveness, who need truth and reconciliation, who need a relationship with God restored rather than either a system of rituals without relationship to the one true God, or a religion, like Buddhism, which lacks a proper Deity and instead fosters an inward looking and a self-salvation through the elimination of all desire and the working off of bad karma through reincarnations. Instead of repairing damaged humanity, the goal is to slowly deny and destroy your humanity and consciousness through an elimination of all desire and a ceasing of the activity of the mind, with an extinction of being itself as the goal in the atheistic strains of Buddhism, or a merging with the Buddha nature in the more theistic strains. Either way, it is the cessation of your consciousness and the end of the cycle of rebirths and reincarnations which is the goal. In Christianity, “the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” In Buddhism, the chief end of man is to become a God (god?) or to cease to exist forever. All religions do not lead to the same God.
Posted in Apologetics, World Religions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gospel

John MacArthur has written an excellent summary of the doctrines of salvation in Christ Jesus, in his newest book titled The Gospel According to Paul. I referenced the preface of this book a few weeks ago in another post, and today I am excited to share his Biblical definition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Qualifier: some of the things he mentions as mistaken gospel substitutes are not bad in and of themselves (e. g. liturgy, sacraments/ordinances, human dignity, overcoming racial division), but when they replace or eclipse the gospel they are abused and become bad, indeed, “another gospel” (cf. Gal. 1:1-12).
This quote is from chapter five in his book, a chapter on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer and the imputation of the believer’s sin to Christ on the cross as one of the many benefits of saving faith: true salvation only available by faith alone and not of works, according to God’s grace alone, with Jesus Christ as the object of that faith. MacArthur builds this chapter on Rom. 4:3, 23-25:
Paul neatly summarized the gist of the Gospel: it is a declaration about the atoning work of Christ. In the preaching of Christ and the apostles, the gospel was always punctuated by a clarion call to repentant faith. But it is not merely a summons to good behavior. It’s not a liturgy of religious ceremonies and sacraments. It’s not a plea for self-esteem and human dignity. It’s not a manifesto for culture warriors or a rallying cry for political zealots. It’s not a mandate for earthly dominion. It’s not a sophisticated moral philosophy seeking to win admiration and approval from the world’s intellectual elite, or a lecture about the evils of cultural and racial division. It’s not an appeal for “social justice.” It’s not a dissertation on gender issues or a prescription for “redeeming culture.” It’s not the kind of naive, indiscriminate congeniality that is content to sing “Kumbaya” to the rest of the world. Within the past half decade I have seen every one of those ideas touted as “the gospel” in various books, blogs, and sermons. They are all deviations or distractions from the true gospel as proclaimed by Paul. The cross of Jesus Christ is the sum and the focus of the gospel according to Paul: “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23) . . . To make the gospel about anything else is to depart from biblical Christianity. Paul’s teaching is not the least bit ambiguous about this . . . Quite simply, the gospel is good news for fallen humanity regarding how sins are atoned [paid] for, how sinners are forgiven, and how believers are made right with God [and righteous in Christ].
John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teachings (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2017), 75-76. Brackets mine.
Posted in The Bible | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Word of God is Living and Powerful

The Bible is living and powerful, or living and active. The book of Hebrews defines God’s Word this way, and the passage in which it is found is Heb. 4:11-13:

Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

The Word of God is living and powerful, living and active, because of the power vested in the received Word from the mouth of God. It is living, not because it is malleable to suit our current cultural milieu and preferences, but because it has a lively power to bring about the new birth (Rom. 10:17, faith cometh by hearing the Word of God), and because it has the power to sanctify and vivify Christians into deeper godliness (John 17:17). In other words, when we say the Bible is alive and living, we do not teach that it is changeable in its meaning, because the meaning is fixed—but rather it is powerful in its application—powerful enough to “read” the reader, to hold the intents and thoughts of your mind and heart back up to you as in a mirror even while you read it. Our passage says there is no creature hidden from God’s sight. We do not transform the Word because of its liveliness, but rather are transformed by the Word due to its liveliness. This is not some old musty Book, telling dead men’s tales. We give an account to the Lord someday based upon how we personally handled His Word (Heb. 4:13), and, to those who teach, we must give an account for what we taught and therefore we face a harsher judgment than the laity (cf. James 3:1).
“Your Word is very pure; therefore Your servant loves it (Psa. 119:140).” Who inspired the written Word? The Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:16-21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). What is able to make one wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, even from childhood? The Holy Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15).” To quote martyred missionary Robert Jermaine Thomas, “God’s Word is a treasure.” Amen.
Posted in The Bible | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bible’s Certain Words and Fixed Meaning

The Bible’s Certain Words and Fixed Meaning
“So that your trust may be in the LORD; I have instructed you today, even you. Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, that I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth, that you may answer words of truth to those who send you (Prov. 22:19-21)?”
In order for the Church to have anything of eternal value to say, we are charged with speaking words that are true, certain, knowledgeable, and excellent. What is the goal of knowing and speaking so? So that you, even you, can place your trust [faith] in the LORD, and so you can answer words of truth [evangelize] to those who send you or send for you.
One very clear thing to understand for us as Christians concerning how we think and speak about God and His Word is this: uncertainty is not humility, and certainty is not arrogance. God Himself created the reality in which we live, language and how it works to communicate meaning, the rules of logic which govern grammar and discourse, and the sensible world we interact with as embodied creatures. We do not live in the Wachowski’s The Matrix, nor do we live in a world created by some unknown God with ever changing rules of reality. We do not practice pagan spirituality that has as its goal an undefinable numinous “awe” centered on a God we cannot define, based upon questions and not answers. Christianity, by definition, is a religion of answers.
The Word of God is what created all things (Gen. 1). The Word of God sustains and upholds all things by His Word (Col. 1; Heb. 1). The Word of God is that through which men and women are brought into a saving relationship with Christ (Rom. 10:9-21; Tit. 1:1-3). The Word of God is that which through men are judged (John 12:48). The Spirit of God inspired the men who wrote God’s Word in the Bible (2 Pet. 1; 2 Tim. 3). God’s Words are more important than any experience in the Christian life. Recall Job: “Though He slay me, I will trust Him (Job 13:15).” If the validity of God’s Word depended on us in any way or our experience of God, then God’s Word would have ceased to have objective meaning and power long before any of us were alive. We are transformed by the Word, the Word is not transformed by us.
Therefore, we as Christian pastors and laymen are entrusted with that Gospel Word to become established in the “excellent things of counsels and knowledge” so that we come to “know the certainty of the words of truth” so that we can actually evangelize the lost and also defend and explain the faith rationally. The faith advances propositionally in an objective Word, not mystically in a subjective quagmire. Christian ministry and Christian evangelism were never and are never primarily driven by personal experience, nor does evangelism require an extravagant testimony nor a previously wayward life to have the grounds to “authentically” speak God’s Word. Why? Because the worth is located in the God who saved you and His Word; the worth is not grounded in your experience of that salvation.
Remember, the prophet Samuel served God and learned the deep truths of the High Priest Eli from the time of being a child: “Samuel ministered before the LORD, even as a child (1 Sam. 2:18).” Think of others who were never drinking down the dregs of sin before conversion (Daniel, Joseph, David, etc.) Think of those who were great sinners before they were saved, and how they did not glory in their former shame as some supposed merit badge of authenticity that gave them the right to preach, teach, evangelize, or lead (Manasseh, Paul, Moses; cf. Rom. 6:21). Our American ideal of spiritual authority being bound up in a testimony of an exceedingly sinful life, and that somehow giving someone greater authority, finds no place in Scripture or Church history. Read Augustine’s Confessions, and compare that to most modern testimonies, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Augustine knew his authority was grounded in God and His Word, not in his own personal pre-conversion sinful experiences nor his personal post-conversion spiritual experiences. Our experience is secondary, not primary, when it comes to ministry and evangelism.
In a culture that has so thoroughly attacked objective (fixed) meaning vested in words, we are living in a functional despair because we bought into the lie that words cannot be certain, cannot be true, or cannot get at reality as reality. Christian scholars have, in a method of unbelief, gone off looking to cultural background and the Biblical authors’ “intent” to try to timidly grasp at meaning in the Biblical text, when they should simply be looking at the meaning already vested in the inspired text as it stands, not some unspoken intent in the mind of a now dead human author, nor some plausibility structure from the ancient culture to get around the plain meaning of the text and its long-standing tradition of historical interpretation. We are to “hold fast the word of life (Phil. 2:16).”
This is why, for the first time in the Church’s existence, we have people in the Church-at-large, with a straight face, both pastors and laity, calling evil good and good evil, defiantly coming at the Word of God based upon their preferences and experiences instead of humbling themselves under the Word of God. This is why the book of Judges ends on a somber note, “and every man did what was right in his own eyes.” We try to appeal to our experiences and preferences to justify disobedience, disregard, or downright hatred for God’s Word.
“An astonishing and horrible thing
Has been committed in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule by their own power;
And My people love to have it so.
But what will you do in the end (Jer. 5:30-31)?”
Most Christian laymen have given up trying to read the Bible, and instead look for inner words from the Spirit to try and bypass the despair of being hoodwinked into thinking they cannot know anything for certain—but they somehow know that they feel for certain. But if you cannot trust your mind, then by that same rationale you cannot trust your heart. In other words, if you cannot know with certainty, then you cannot feel with certainty. Our inner life, our soul, is connected—we are thinking, feeling, willing beings. We’ve been reduced to finding fixed meaning from God in a rush of feeling, a “quiver in our liver,” as Norman Geisler calls it, instead of God’s Word. We are close to the shamans of old who tossed bones into a dish and based major decisions on intuitions and subjective impressions of what they thought the gods were telling them to do. Beloved, we do not want to get to the point where we “think not till we feel.” Feelings are good when they are in service of the truth and are a response to truth, but not when they become the arbiter and determiner of truth. God’s Word is sufficient for a robust faith and healthy practice thereof (2 Tim. 3:15-17).
The Bible is not true based upon how you feel when you read it, but is true because it is the Word of God. The Bible is not subject to mean anything that anyone wants it to mean, nor can everything be reduced to “the Bible as I see it” when you are explaining it, or “The Bible as you see it” to your opponent in any theological debate—but rather “The Bible as it stands.” This is the heart of strength in our denomination, the EFCA, which laid our foundations and has reformed itself in various ways since 1884 based upon the piety of the old Swedes, Danish, Dutch, and others, with their rallying cry of “Where Stands It Written?”
Remember Prov. 22:19-21, and understand that entire goal of Biblical studies as a pastor or layman is to speak forth the words of truth with certainty, and to correct those in error, from the Word of God, not from your own spiritual experience or authenticity, however you try to define that. This is how we have a certain Word to evangelize with, and it is how Philip easily accompanied the Ethiopian man and brought Him to Christ by way of the book of Isaiah, when the man asked, “How can I [understand], unless someone guides me (Acts 8:31)?” “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:35).” Philip did not spend time trying to dazzle the Ethiopian with the facts about the angel of the Lord directing Philip to go there (Acts 8:26), trying to establish himself as superior to the Ethiopian, nor as someone who should be listened to over other ministers because he had a supernatural experience. The inspired, inerrant, infallible, powerful, meaningful Word of God was and is sufficient. Even the deeper things of God in experience, and the meat of His written revelation, are not granted to you apart from the diligent study of and submission to His written Word, the Bible.
Posted in Apologetics, The Bible | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Voddie Baucham on Apologetics, Preaching, and the Christian Mind

I have not watched the entire sermon, but up until the 9:30 mark it is very important to understand our modern cultural mindset and dealing with sin in the Church at large, as well as the rich tradition we are losing quickly in Christendom. I am sure the entire sermon is worth hearing. [Update: IT WAS A FANTASTIC SERMON!]

Posted in Apologetics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment