The elect, the believing, and the one the Father draws (John 6:39, 6:40, 6:44)

NOTE: This article is a detailed study of three verses from John chapter 6 about those whom Jesus will raise up on the last day in the Resurrection. The result is fascinating, as my study revealed how God the Father ensures that all His elect will certainly come to believe in Jesus, the Son, and be raised up on the last day. I hope you find it an edifying study. rmb

Who are the ones that Jesus will raise up on the last day?

John 6:39 – “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing but raise it up on the last day.”

LOOKING AT THE VERSE:

Who are “all that He has given Me?” These are all the elect (righteous) of all time whom God has chosen for salvation before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). These have been given to the Son by the Father.

What will Jesus do with all those whom the Father has given to Him? He will raise them all up on the last day. This “raise up” is certainly the Resurrection. Jesus even adds emphasis by saying that, of all that the Father has given Him, He will lose nothing. All the elect will be raised up on the last day. All the elect who are living will be resurrected, and all the elect who have died will be resurrected. Jesus makes no distinction between the living and the dead in terms of whom He will raise on the last day. “All that He has given Me” will be raised up on the last day. Thus, the Resurrection of all the elect occurs on the last day.

John 6:40 – For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

LOOKING AT THE VERSE:

COMMENTS: At first glance, it might seem that Jesus is just repeating Himself, but that is not the case. Jesus is teaching that the Resurrection of the righteous is two sides of the same coin. In John 6:39, our Lord stated that He will raise up “all that the Father has given Him” on the last day, and it is clear that the expression “all that He has given Me” refers to all the elect. Thus, in John 6:39, Jesus is talking about God’s sovereign decree of election and declares that He will raise up all the elect on the last day. But in John 6:40, we are looking at the righteous through the lens of believing unto salvation.

Notice that in both verses we read of the “will of the Father.”

In John 6:39, “the will of Him who sent Me” is that Jesus will raise up on the last day all that the Father has given Him (all the elect). This is the Resurrection of all the righteous.

In John 6:40, “the will of My Father” is that Jesus will raise up on the last day everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him. And this is the Resurrection of all the righteous.

ALL THAT GOD HAS GIVEN JESUS” EQUALS “ALL WHO WILL BELIEVE IN JESUS

We know that the will of the Father will always come to pass (Psalm 115:3; Ephesians 1:11). Now, since it is the will of the Father, we know that all that He has given Jesus will be raised up on the last day (6:39), and, since it is also the will of the Father, we know that everyone who believes in Jesus will be raised up on the last day (6:40). What Jesus is teaching here is that “all that the Father has given the Son (6:39)” is identical with “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him (6:40).” Everyone who will ever behold the Son and believe in Him unto eternal life was given by the Father to the Son in eternity past, and all whom the Father has given to the Son will behold the Son and believe in Him unto eternal life. In simpler terms, we could say, “All the elect equals all who will ever believe.”

But this presents us with a difficult question. “How can the Father make sure that all those whom He has given to the Son will actually believe in the Son?” For election does not save. While it is true that God chose us, the elect (all the righteous), in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), it is also true that a sinner must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. So, again, how do the elect become those who believe in Jesus unto eternal life? Consider John 6:44.

John 6:44 – “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”

LOOKING AT THE VERSE:

COMMENTS: What does it mean in this verse “to come to Jesus?” For Jesus says, “No one can come to Me.” In most contexts, but especially in the gospel of John, we should understand “come to Me” as meaning “believe in Me,” because to come to Jesus has no significance unless the one who comes to Him also believes in Him.

But Jesus says, “No one can come to Me unless. . .” This word, “can,” speaks about ability. In fact, the original Greek could be written, “No one has the ability to come to Me.” In other words, “It is not possible for anyone to come to Me.” Then, if we added our interpretation, it would read, “No one has the ability to believe in Me.” This is an alarming verse, but we must remember that Jesus added a condition. “No one has the ability to believe in Me UNLESS the Father who sent Me draws Him; and I will raise Him up on the last day.”

From this, I have three ideas:

  1. Since no one can come (has the ability to come) to Jesus unless the Father draws them, it means only those that the Father draws will come to Jesus. (By the way, we can see here God’s sovereignty in salvation. If He does not draw you, you are not saved.)
  2. On the last day, Jesus will raise up all those whom the Father draws. John 6:44 implies, “If the Father draws them, I (Jesus) will raise them up on the last day.”
  3. From our previous work in John 6:39 and 6:40, we already know those whom Jesus will raise up on the last day. From John 6:39, we know that, on the last day, Jesus will raise up all the elect. And from John 6:40, we know that, on the last day, Jesus will raise up all those who believe in Him.

PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER

I know that I have been going very slowly through this passage, but now we are ready to put the pieces together. Earlier in our study, we asked the question, ““How can the Father make sure that all those whom He has given to the Son will actually believe in the Son?” Then we asked that question another way, “How do the elect become those who believe in Jesus unto eternal life?”

Now in our study of John 6:44 we have the answer: The Father draws all those that He has given to the Son so that they all come to the Son to behold the Son and to believe in the Son.

Here is a simpler way to understand these verses: Jesus will raise up all the elect on the last day, and Jesus will raise up all those who behold the Son and believe in the Son, and Jesus will raise up all those the Father draws.

So, the Father draws (John 6:44) all the elect (6:39) to the Son so that they behold the Son and believe in the Son (6:40).

            SDG                 rmb                 4/28/2021

Justified by faith and justified by works (James 2:14-26)

“Does the Bible teach that we are justified by faith alone, or does the Bible teach that we are justified by our works?” This question was one of the central issues of the Protestant Reformation and remains the main dividing line between evangelical Christians and Catholics. “Justification by faith alone” is a non-negotiable doctrine of the Christian faith because it is a central teaching of the New Testament. On the other hand, a major doctrine of Catholicism is that the Catholic is saved by faith and works. This teaching was firmly established as Catholic doctrine at the Council of Trent and is still the doctrine of the Catholic Church today. Thus, the two positions contradict one another. Justification is either by faith alone or it is by faith and human works, but both positions cannot be true.

A PROBLEM PASSAGE?

And this brings us to a passage in the New Testament book of “James” that seems to create a conundrum, because James explicitly states in James 2:24,

“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

Now, it is a fact that the overwhelming majority of New Testament teachings on justification explicitly state that justification is by faith. “Works” are either expressly rejected within the passage or are prohibited by the context of the passage. (A list of these passages is given at the end of this article.) But now we see that this passage in James 2 seems to declare that justification is by works. In light of this verse and this passage, Catholics say that their doctrine of justification by faith plus works has biblical warrant.

Is this the case? Do Paul and James contradict one another in the fundamental doctrine of justification? Is there a contradiction in the New Testament, indeed, a major contradiction? Is the Bible ambiguous on how a sinner is justified? We will need to investigate this passage in James 2:14-26 to see if these things are so.

TWO DIFFERENT QUESTIONS

First, the good news is that there is no contradiction in the Bible’s teaching on justification. The Bible is the Holy-Spirit inspired, God-breathed infallible word of the living God and, as such, has no contradictions. The Bible is the Christian’s final source for all matters of faith and practice and is trustworthy. Therefore, we know from the outset that Paul and James do not contradict one another. But, having said that, we must nevertheless carefully consider this passage in James 2 and see why there is no contradiction with the rest of the New Testament.

Second, a reading of James 2:14-26 will reveal that James is addressing the situation where the person in view already has faith. James’ teaching in this passage requires that the person under consideration already professes faith in Jesus. In fact, the entire passage is predicated on a claim of saving faith. So, in this passage James is not addressing the question, “How does a person receive salvation?” Rather, this passage addresses the question, “Is the faith that you claim you have received a saving faith that manifests itself in works keeping with salvation?” The answers to these two questions cannot contradict each other because they answer two entirely different questions.

JAMES AND PAUL ON JUSTIFICATION

Paul’s teaching on justification is almost entirely focused on answering the first question above, “How is a sinner justified unto salvation?” Paul consistently and repeatedly answers that question with, “The sinner is justified by faith (alone).”

By contrast, in James 2:14-26, James is dealing with the second question; namely, “How is the faith that you claim justified (proven)?” James answers that question with, “The claim of faith must be justified (proven) by your works.” So, it may be said that James is, indeed, teaching “justification by works.” James is teaching that saving faith is “justified” by a changed life full of “works,” full of evidence that you are saved.

With that understanding as a background, the difficulties of James 2:14-26 disappear, and the passage flows easily.

INTERPRETING THE PASSAGE

  • 2:14-17 – James gives an example of faith without works. “What use is that (2:16)?” The expected answer is, “It’s not worth anything!” “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead.” A works-less faith is dead.
  • 2:18 – The difficulty of a claim of faith is that anyone can make such a claim. It may be a justified claim, or it may be an empty claim, but there is no way to tell based on the claim alone. Ah, but show me your godly works, and show me your obedience, and show me your fruit in keeping with repentance, and I will believe your claim of faith.
  • 2:19 – You can make a claim of faith and the demons can make a claim of faith, but if your claim is not justified by visible godly works, your claim will net you a demon’s reward.
  • 2:20 – James is now going to give illustrations of those who were justified by saving faith, because “faith without works is useless.”
  • 2:21-23 – Abraham proved the immensity of his faith by obediently being willing to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice. The faith that had justified Abraham and that was reckoned to him as righteousness many years before (Genesis 15:6); that faith was justified and perfected when Abraham offered up Isaac on Moriah.
  • You see that Abraham was justified by faith, but Abraham’s faith was justified by his works.
  • 2:24 – “You see that a man is justified by works and not by (a claim of) faith alone.”
  • 2:25 – Even Rahab the harlot proved that she had saving faith because she risked her life by sending the spies out by another way. In this way, her invisible saving faith was made visible. So, she was justified by her works.
  • 2:26 – James concludes his argument, “Faith without works is dead.”

APPLICATION

            The first application of this teaching is to assure the believer that James and Paul are not at odds and the Bible is not unclear about justification. James and Paul are addressing two different questions and are using “justification” in two different ways.

            The second application would be as a possible Bible study opportunity for one of your Catholic friends. If your friend was willing to listen to this teaching from James AND also listen to the teaching on justification by faith unto salvation, you may be able to use this as an evangelistic opportunity.

            SDG                 rmb                 4/26/2021

It is faith alone that saves, but the faith that saves is not alone.

“Justification by faith” verses or passages:
Romans 3:22, 24, 28, 30; 4:2-6; 5:1; 9:30-33; Galatians 2:16, 21; 3:6, 8, 11; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 11:6, 7, 17-19; 1 Peter 1:5, 9

The Cage (Romans 6:20-21)

Going to a college reunion can be an enlightening experience. You get the chance to see people you haven’t seen in thirty years and see what they have done with the last thirty years of drawing breath and taking nourishment on this planet. You may hear, “Oh, wow! You look just the same as you did thirty years ago!” Now, that is probably a bold-faced lie, but it is received with grace, because that is just what you say at college reunions. Another phrase that you may hear at the reunion weekend goes like this, “My, you haven’t changed at all!” This comment would alarm me. “What? You don’t see any change after thirty years? You mean that you still see the same arrogant, profane buffoon that you knew thirty years ago?” I would hope that the comment would sound more like, “You are not the same person you were.”

But the stark reality is that most people do not change. They remain the same “arrogant, profane buffoon” their entire lives. A more wrinkled version of the same person shows up at the forty-year reunion that attended the twenty-year affair. No growth. No change. The question we want to address with this article is, “Why do people not change?”

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit (“fruit”) were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. – Romans 6:20-21

SLAVES OF SIN

The Bible presents the truth that people are “slaves of sin.” Here in Romans 6:20, the apostle Paul states the truth that, “When you (the believers in Jesus) were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.” What that means is that, as a slave of sin, I had no desire to change, and I had no ability to change.

NO DESIRE TO CHANGE

Before I trusted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I was a slave of sin. I did not know that I was a slave of sin, but slave I was, nevertheless. According to Romans 6:20, I did, however, have some freedom. I was “free in regard to righteousness.” That actually is a strong indictment. “Free in regard to righteousness.” This basically means I was free OF righteousness and free FROM righteousness. At that time, there was not a single shred of righteousness in me to restrain my sin. I was a willing slave of sin and zealously did my master’s bidding. This does not mean I was always actively pursuing sin, but it does mean that I was never pursuing righteousness. Since I was “free in regard to righteousness,” I exercised my freedom by carefully avoiding any taint of righteousness. All this says that one reason I did not change was that I had no desire to change. I enjoyed being unrighteous, so why would I want to change?

NO ABILITY TO CHANGE

But there was another, much more powerful and fundamental reason why I did not change. Because I was a slave of sin, I had no ability to change. The foundational reason I did not change was that I could not change. It was not a question of my lack of desire, it was a question of my utter inability. I was a slave of sin, and there was no one to set me free. I was trapped in the cage that Adam’s sin had built, and I did not have the power to break free. My willpower might allow me to modify my behavior, but the cage of sin prevented me from changing. The same broken man was in a new location or in a different situation, but the same man, nevertheless. This is what it means to be a slave of sin and to be free in regard to righteousness.

And the Bible declares that every unsaved man or woman, boy or girl is trapped in this cage, and you are unable to free yourself. You may be able to modify your behavior for a while, but you cannot leave the cage. You remain helpless, a slave of sin unless and until someone with power opens the cage and sets you free from your slavery.

IF THE SON SETS YOU FREE

There is only one Person with the power to free you from your cage of sin so that you can begin to make fundamental changes, and His name is Jesus Christ.

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.  36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.John 8:34, 36

For those who have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior, the cage has been crushed and the chains of slavery to sin have been shattered. Now in Christ Jesus, those who were slaves of sin who loathed righteousness have become slaves of righteousness who loathe sin. Those who are in Christ are transformed into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). Transformed! What does that mean? Changed! Transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). We are being transformed (changed) from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). And how can they change? They change because believers in Jesus have been delivered from the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:15) so that they hunger for righteousness (Matthew 5:6).

Jesus Christ changes those who come to Him for salvation. First, He sets them free from the power of sin so that they are no longer slaves to sin. But He also gives them a new heart that desires holiness. So, the believer in Jesus has the ability to change and they have the desire to change. And so, they change.

Has the Son set you free? Have you changed or are you still caged?

If Jesus has made you free so that you are free indeed, your next college reunion will be an interesting experience. ““I don’t remember you, but I do remember a guy that looked a lot like you. But it wasn’t you. No, it definitely wasn’t you.”

SDG                 rmb                 4/22/2021

The danger of merely tasting Christ (Hebrews 6:4-6)

In a recent post (April 9), we began a consideration of Hebrew 6:1-8, a passage that talks about the danger of “tasting” all the truths of the gospel and hearing all the glories of Christ without ever coming to true faith in Christ. This post will continue in that vein.

A SUMMARY OF HEBREWS 6:4-6

The best way to understand Hebrews 6:4-6 is as a strong warning about the danger of hearing the gospel of salvation and yet never actually coming to faith in Jesus. The author suspects that some in the fellowship are still unsaved because they remain on the fence, considering the claims of Christ but refusing to make a full commitment to Jesus. Here in this passage, the author warns that, if you delay long over the call to faith, and if you persist in refusing Him who calls, then there may come a time when your heart will grow cold and when the gospel no longer compels you to respond. If you merely taste the things of Christ without confessing Him as Lord and Savior, you may know that experience where “it is impossible to renew you again to repentance (6:6).” At that place, your eternal doom is forever sealed. Tasting Christ without trusting Christ will be regretted forever in hell. So, this is a very sober passage.

TASTING, BUT NOT BELIEVING – HEBREWS 6:4-6

The full gospel had come to the readers of this letter. “God had testified to the gospel by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit (2:4).” They had been called to enter God’s rest (3:7-4:13). They had heard the message about Jesus, their great High Priest (4:14-5:10). The gospel had been proclaimed such that they had heard the truth about Christ and about His salvation. How had they responded?

“For in the case of those who had once been enlightened (6:4)

These had heard the gospel proclaimed, probably many times. Upon hearing it, they had been enlightened. They had become aware that Jesus, the Son of God from heaven, had come and died on the cross, and risen on the third day. But, having heard the gospel, they have not believed the gospel and called on the Lord. (Romans 10:13-14) They are enlightened, but still unbelieving.

“and have tasted of the heavenly gift (6:4)

The “heavenly gift” is the gift of the One who came from heaven. The heavenly gift is Christ Himself. But Christ is not merely to be tasted but is to be received as Lord and Savior (John 1:12). “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves (John 6:53).” A tasting can never save. You must love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength (Matthew 22:37).

“and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit (6:4)”

I do not know what it mean to be a “partaker” of the Holy Spirit I know what it means to be sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Word teaches about being indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16). There are certainly gifts of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). These verses describe a vital, saving relationship with the Holy Spirit, but being a “partaker” talks about an association or a familiarity, but does not speak of a saving relationship. The true believer is empowered and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, not merely a “partaker” of Him.

“and have tasted the good word of God

These people had been in the assembly of the church and they had heard the pastors and the elders teach the Bible, and they had been moved. “Ah, surely here is power and truth! Yes, these men can preach!” They had enjoyed the Bible teaching, but they had not been changed by the Word. They tasted the Word, but they did not embrace the Word. If the Word did not agree with their opinions or desires, they just tuned it out or rejected it. A taste of the good word of God will not cleanse a filthy heart or open blind eyes.

“and have tasted the powers of the age to come

There were some people in the church who has seen signs and wonders and miracles (2:4) performed before their very eyes. They had tasted the powers of the age to come, but their interest in Christ remained lukewarm. 

Yes, they had been exposed to everything about the glory of God and the salvation offered in the Lord Jesus Christ. They had heard it all, and yet they remained unconverted. They still had not unreservedly run to Jesus. They had not bowed the knee to the Jesus and confessed Him as Lord. They were comfortable with these ideas and enjoyed associating with those in the church, but nevertheless they remained once-born.

THE DANGER OF MERELY TASTING

There is a danger in continuing to taste of salvation without coming all the way to full repentance. Today the word of the gospel may have an appeal and there is in your heart a curiosity about Christ, maybe even an attraction to Christ. You enjoy being in the company of believers and the Bible is an interesting book. You even had the thought, “You know, maybe I’ll become a Christian today.” You are tasting Christ, but you are not trusting in Christ.

For in the case of those who have tasted “and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.” – Hebrews 6:6

But the danger of merely tasting Christ without embracing Christ as Lord and Savior is that one day, suddenly, you “have fallen away.” Suddenly, one day the gospel is foolishness to you. In a moment, your curiosity about Jesus has vanished like smoke. All of a sudden, you despise the people in the church and the Bible is a dead book. Your heart has gone from lukewarm to ice cold. You “have fallen away” and the collapse is both irreversible and complete.

Most chilling of all, your eternal destiny is now sealed, for if you “have fallen away, it is impossible to renew you again to repentance.” You are doomed to be damned. Repentance is now impossible. Hebrews 10:26-27 gives this warning:

If you have fallen away “after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”

You have heard the gospel and have heard of the offer of salvation in Christ, but you delayed too long, and now the offer has been forever withdrawn. Now all that awaits you is a “terrifying expectation of judgment.”

SEVEREST WARNING POSSIBLE

Because of the eternal danger of falling away, the author of this letter is giving the severest warning possible. If you fall away, the opportunity for repentance is eternally lost. If you fall away, you can never be saved. Therefore, come to Christ now!

“Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart (Hebrews 4:7).” Act now! Come to faith in Jesus now! The Lord will not call forever. There is an urgency to your response.

Do not hesitate until the call of the Holy Spirit has ceased. Then you will be like Esau, who trifled with the blessing too long, and then finally could not obtain it for any price (Hebrews 12:17). The gospel was proclaimed to you, but you refused to respond. Now your heart is cold, and the gospel is foolishness. The moment is forever lost, and it is impossible to renew you again to repentance (Hebrews 6:6).

When you sense the attraction of the gospel, when you feel the draw of the Holy Spirit, then cry out to Christ for salvation. Be like Bartimaeus, who knew that eternity hung in the balance (Mark 10:46-52). Jesus Christ is passing by! Call to Him now. Hesitate and He will be gone, and you will never have this opportunity again.

Do not be those who receive (meaning, “hear”) the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6:1). “Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation (6:2).” Do not be among those who heard the good news but did not heed the good news (Romans 10:16). You have heard the message. What will you do? “Be saved from this perverse generation (Acts 2:40)!”

SDG                 rmb                 4/19/2021

Hearing a blind beggar’s cry (Mark 10:47)

For Bartimaeus, that day had begun like every other day. The blind man had been led down to his spot beside the Jericho road, sitting in the dirt and the dust and crying out for alms to passersby whom he could not see, most of whom intentionally tried not to see him. Few of them knew his name and fewer still had pity on him. After all, why should they be concerned about a blind beggar sitting by the road? Yes, it seemed like this would be another ordinary day.

But something was different about that day, for down the road coming out from Jericho was a large crowd, all apparently following the Man who was walking on ahead of them. The crowd was talking excitedly among themselves, as crowds do, but they were also listening intently to the words being spoken by the Teacher, the Rabbi who was leading the crowd.

Large crowds were not common on that road out of Jericho, so Bartimaeus asked about the Rabbi. Who is He?

And when he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” – Mark 10:47

It would be difficult to find a less significant person in all of Israel than this blind beggar in the dust of the Jericho road, whose lot in life was to cry out for alms. And it would be impossible to find a more significant Person in all of human history than Jesus, the Son of David, the Son of God sent from heaven “to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).” And at this moment, this most significant of men was fixed on accomplishing the most significant work in human history as He aimed for Jerusalem and His appointment with a cross.

Nevertheless, blind Bartimaeus “kept crying out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” – Mark 10:48

Could Jesus even hear the blind beggar’s cry above the din of the crowd? And even if He could, would He pay any attention? Why would He pay any attention? But Jesus does hear the beggar’s cry.

And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” – Mark 10:49

Jesus interrupts His journey to Jerusalem and His mission of dying as a sacrifice for sin to call a dirty, blind beggar to Himself. What manner of Man is this (Matthew 8:27)? Bartimaeus “jumped up and came to Jesus (10:50),” and then the Son of God gave Bartimaeus a blank check.

“What do you want Me to do for you?” – Mark 10:51

Jesus put no limitations on what could be requested, because there are no limitations on what He can supply. In essence, Jesus said to Bartimaeus, “Ask Me according to your faith.”   Then, as an act of pure faith,

the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight! – Mark 10:51

As only Jesus could do, He gave the blind beggar sight, then continued on His way to the cross with a new disciple following behind Him.

THE MESSAGE OF BARTIMAEUS

Why is this story of Bartimaeus in our Bible? It is here because all of us are born into this world as insignificant blind beggars, and we figuratively sit in the dust beside the road begging for mercy from passersby. Like blind Bartimaeus, we cannot change our situation or fix ourselves. Every day is basically the same as the last one, and we wait for someone or something that can give us hope of change.

Like Bartimaeus, we are waiting for Jesus the Nazarene. We are waiting for someone to tell us about Jesus, Son of David, who can give sight to the spiritually blind and who can give life to the spiritually dead. We are waiting for Jesus, the Man with divine power, to have mercy on us, to call us to Himself, and to allow us to follow Him forever.

For all those who know Jesus as Lord and Savior, you, like Bartimaeus, have a “that day” when you met Jesus. On “that day,” when the Lord Jesus came near, you cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And on “that day,” Jesus heard your cry and stopped and said, “Call them here.” When you realized that He was calling for you, yes, for YOU, you threw aside your cloak, and jumped up and came to Jesus.

Jesus said to you, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

“Lord, save me! Forgive me of my sins! Make me one of Your disciples. Let me walk with You.”

Then Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you.”

So, that is one reason why this story of Bartimaeus is in our Bible. It gives a picture of who we are as fallen, sinful humans and how we can come to Jesus and be saved.

SDG                 rmb                 4/8/2021

Bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20) – Part 2

A recent post was on this same verse as we were examining doctrinal implications of this text from the apostle Paul. “What truths does 1 Cor. 6:20 reinforce or establish?”

For you have been bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.

The last post focused on “BOUGHT WITH A PRICE,” and from this, we saw that we could be confident about our salvation because Christ is the One who bought us. The verse indirectly teaches that, having been purchased by Christ’s blood, the believer can be assured that they will certainly persevere to heaven.

In this post, we will focus on the “YOU;” that is, we will focus on who was bought with the purchase price of Christ’s blood on the cross. Who is included in this transaction?

To review from last time, this verse describes what we might call a commercial transaction. There is a buyer, there is the item purchased, and there is the purchase price paid. In 1 Cor. 6:20, the buyer was Jesus Christ, and the purchase price was His death on the cross. Now the key question: Who did Christ buy with His death on the cross? A thoughtful reading of the verse makes it clear that the Corinthian believers were bought with the price of Christ’s death on the cross. Because they were bought with a price, they are obligated to “glorify God in their body.”

We need to pause here to think about what we have discovered so far. Paul states as fact that these Corinthian believers “were bought with a price.” But how does Paul know these people “were bought with a price?” Paul knows they “were bought with a price” because they are believers who have placed their faith in Christ and have thus been saved. Paul is not writing to the general population of Corinth letting them know that they “were bought with a price,” the price of Christ’s death on the cross. Paul has absolutely no warrant to write to anyone or to tell anyone that they “were bought with a price” unless that person manifests faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, because the only ones we know “were bought with a price” are those who have placed their faith in Jesus and thus have been saved. If there was no evident faith, the assumption would be that they were not bought with a price.

From this, it is obvious that the “default” for anyone is to assume that they were not bought with a price, for why would Paul make this grand pronouncement that the believers in Corinth “were bought with a price,” and why would he make the emphatic point that these believers were therefore obligated to glorify God in their bodies, if everyone were bought with a price when Christ died on the cross?

From this we can draw some doctrinal truths.

  • All those who have believed in the Lord Jesus and have thus been saved were bought with the price of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.
  • That a person was “bought with a price” is necessary for salvation.
  • The “default” for anyone is to assume that they were not bought with a price. It is only the manifestation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that reveals that this person was actually bought with a price.

We have answered some important questions already, but the most controversial one remains. We have said that being bought with a price is necessary for salvation. That is, the sinner must have their sin atoned for by Jesus Christ or they cannot be saved. But there is another question, and that is, “Does the atonement of Jesus Christ guarantee salvation?” Another way of asking this is, “If a person was ‘bought with a price,’ will they certainly be saved?” That is, “Does Jesus save those for whom He atones?” There are many who answer these questions with an emphatic “Yes!” It is impossible to separate the atonement from salvation. Opposed to this view, there are others who maintain that Jesus atoned for everyone when He died on the cross, but only those who believe are saved. These people would acknowledge that atonement is necessary for salvation, but they would say that, just because Christ died for your sins, you have no guarantee of salvation. Christ died on the cross to atone for all sin and for every sin, but only those who believe are saved.

To help answer this dilemma, I offer the following example:

AN ENGAGEMENT RING EXAMPLE

When I had decided that I wanted Lisa to be my wife, I went to the jewelry store for “a commercial transaction.” I looked over the available rings and carefully selected the engagement ring that I wanted for Lisa. There were many possible rings, but I chose THAT one specific ring. I could have bought any ring that was for sale, assuming I could afford it. Or I could have bought several rings, again assuming I could afford them. I did not do that. Of all the diamond rings in the world, I chose that one particular ring, and then I bought the ring that I had chosen with the expensive purchase price. Once the transaction had been completed, most importantly, I left the store with my purchase. I was not going to pay an exorbitant price for a diamond engagement ring and then leave the ring on the counter! It would be absurd to choose a diamond ring and pay thousands of dollars for the ring and then not actually possess the ring. No! When I paid the purchase price for the ring, the ring was mine. (And now the ring is Lisa’s.) But the sequence here in my “commercial transaction” is important. I chose the ring, I bought the ring, and I possessed the ring. Chose, bought, owned. Every ring I chose, I bought, and every ring I bought, left the store in my possession. Also, there was not one single ring that I bought that did not leave the store in my possession. In other words, I did not pay an extravagant price for any ring that I left on the counter in the store. Every ring I bought was mine. That is just the nature of a commercial transaction.

In the same way that, when I paid the price for the engagement ring, the engagement ring was mine, so when Christ bought certain people at the price of His death on the cross, those certain people belonged to Christ. They will be saved and will not perish (John 6:37-40). “Does the atonement of Jesus Christ guarantee salvation?” Emphatic “Yes!” “If a person was ‘bought with a price,’ will they certainly be saved?” Emphatic “Yes!” All the ones that Christ has bought with the price of His death on the cross will certainly be saved.

On the other hand, those who hold that “everyone was bought” see Christ like the buyer of engagement rings who went to the jewelry store and paid the exorbitant price for the engagement ring, but he never took the ring out of the store. In fact, the illustration could really be taken further, because, in this view, Christ paid for all the rings in the store, and yet He did not leave with any. But does this make any sense? Who pays for a house, but never actually takes possession of it? Who pays for a car, but never drives it off the lot? Does Christ spill His blood on Calvary without ever actually saving anyone? Does Christ’s blood not atone for sin?

So then, all those who were bought with a price will certainly be saved.

SDG                 rmb                  4/6/2021

Bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20) – Part 1

The nature of a purchase transaction has not changed substantially in two millennia. The way we purchase things today is pretty much the same as the way that they purchased things in Corinth in the first century. This is helpful when we take a long look at what the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers in 1 Corinthians 6:20.

For you have been bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.

In this post, I want to take a few minutes to examine this verse carefully with an eye to its doctrinal teaching.

PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS OR “ONCE BOUGHT, ALWAYS BOUGHT”

The first doctrine we want to consider is what is called “the perseverance of the saints,” that is perhaps better known as the believer’s “eternal security” or “once saved, always saved.” This is the idea that, once a person is genuinely converted (or “saved”), they will continue in obedience to Christ and will persevere in their faith to the end of their life (Revelation 2:10; Matthew 10:22). Those who persevere to the end will be saved and will go to heaven. Those who do not, will perish with the unrighteous.

What does this verse, then, have to teach us about perseverance?

We will begin by looking at the commercial transaction which Paul mentions in this verse. In this transaction, who was the buyer? Certainly, the buyer was Christ. What was the price used for Christ’s purchase? The price was Christ’s own blood (or His death). (Isaiah 53:5-6; Mark 10:45) Lastly, who was purchased? The Corinthian believers were bought with the price of Christ’s own blood. Notice the nature of this transaction: Christ bought them. “You have been bought.” Thus, the Corinthian believers did not “get a vote” in this transaction. They were passive in the transaction. What was the return policy? All sales FINAL!

When I was thinking about marrying Lisa, the wonderful woman who is now my wife, I went to a jewelry store and selected the diamonds that I wanted in her engagement ring. Then, a week later I went back to the store and picked up the finished ring. Then I paid for it. Gulp! And right at the bottom of the paper receipt it said in all caps: ALL SALES FINAL. Now, while that was a daunting idea that I could not return the ring, it was not a problem for me, because I had no intention of returning the ring. I had bought that ring with a price and I intended to use it to win myself a wife. And now, almost sixteen years later, that ring still sits on my wife’s left hand.

Here is the point: When Christ bought His people with the price of His own blood, there was a no return policy, because Christ has no intention of returning those He has purchased. Those He bought, He bought for eternity. Once you have been bought with a price by Christ, you are forever purchased. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, then Christ has bought you. And so, you will always be with Christ. You are eternally secure.  

In the next post, we will see how this verse also contains implications for the doctrine of particular redemption, which is also known as “limited atonement,” the doctrine that Christ died only for those who will be saved; that is, only for the elect.

SDG                 rmb                 3/31/2021

They will return to Me (Jeremiah 24:5-7)

SUMMARY: This (fairly long) article was taken out of Jeremiah 24 and gives a fascinating account of the LORD promising eternal blessings on people whom He “regards as good.” The expression, “regards as good,” introduces the idea of God’s sovereign election of some for salvation. This passage shows that God was sovereign over their salvation and, by implication, He is also sovereign over our salvation.

“The Lord God is sovereign over His universe.” Most professing Christians will agree with this statement whether they have thought much about it or not. But it makes sense, especially when we remember that, according to Genesis 1, God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Since He is the Creator, He should also be the ruler. Many do not realize, however, that the Bible claims that God is sovereign over all that takes place to anyone anywhere in the world, including where people will spend eternity. And uncomfortable though some may be with the Lord God’s right to rule His universe as He sees fit, and “to have mercy on whom He desires, and to harden whom He desires (Romans 9:18),” the biblical evidence of God’s sovereignty is plentiful in both testaments. In my daily Bible reading, I was in Jeremiah 24 and found a fascinating passage about good figs and bad figs.

BACKGROUND

In the Old Testament, it is often helpful to get the context of a passage. In Jeremiah 24, the year is 597 BC. The nation of Judah has been in moral and social decline for a long time. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has recently carried away into exile Jeconiah king of Judah along with many others in Jerusalem and has brought them to Babylon. Jeremiah has been the LORD’s anointed prophet to Judah for thirty years, warning them of the LORD’s coming judgment and urging them to repent.

In Jeremiah 24, the LORD shows Jeremiah a vision of two baskets of figs:

One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, and the other basket had very bad figs which could not be eaten due to rottenness.

Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying,

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not uproot them. I will also give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.’”

Consider carefully what the LORD God of Israel says:

“I will REGARD AS GOOD the captives of Judah, WHOM I HAVE SENT OUT of this place into the land of the Chaldeans.”

REGARDED AS GOOD

The LORD declares that He will regard the captives as good. Notice that it is of no importance how the captives regard themselves. Nor is it of any importance whether the captives are actually good or not. We search the text in vain for any mention of the obedience or of the moral character of the captives. We do not know if they fear the LORD and try to obey the Law or if they ignore the LORD altogether. When the LORD regards them as good, all other data or opinion becomes irrelevant.

Again, we ask, “Why does the LORD regard them as good?” No reason is given. The LORD regards the captives as good because the LORD regards the captives as good. No other reason is given because no other reason is needed. The LORD’s declaration of “good” establishes the fact of the captives’ “goodness,” and nothing can change it.

The LORD’s declaration of “good” was not based on anything the captives had done in the past, and so it cannot be lost by anything they will do in the future. The captives did nothing to merit the LORD’s regarding them as good. According to His sovereign will, the LORD chose to regard as good this group of people called captives, and whatever the LORD regards is irrevocable.

THE LORD AT WORK IN THE PAST

But notice also that the LORD’s sovereignty has already been at work in the past on behalf of these captives. The LORD says the captives are those “whom I have sent out of this place.”

How did this group of captives get taken from Jerusalem? The LORD sent them out. Well, how did these captives get taken to Babylon? The LORD sent them out. But didn’t Nebuchadnezzar come to Jerusalem from Babylon and take these captives away with him? Yes, the LORD sent out these captives by bringing Nebuchadnezzar and his army from Babylon to Jerusalem and then having him gather the exiles and take them back to Babylon That was how the LORD sent them out.

THE LORD HAS PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

And, also, notice that the LORD has plans for those who He has regarded as good. The LORD pours out eight promises for future blessing.

I will set My eyes on them for good.

I will bring them again to this land.

I will build them up and not overthrow them.

I will plant them and not pluck them.

I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD.

They will be My people.

I will be their God.

They will return to Me with their whole heart.

The LORD gushes out on the captives four promises of temporal, material blessings, but He also pours out four promises of eternal, spiritual blessings. Note that none of these blessings have been requested by the captives and that none of them are earned by the captives. These promised blessings are given by the LORD solely because it is His sovereign will to do so. Also observe that in these promises, the LORD is declaring what He will certainly do. These promises will certainly come to pass because the LORD always does what He intends to do. Nothing and no one resists His will (Romans 9:19).

ETERNAL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS

“I will give them a heart to know Me.” All children of Adam are born with a heart that is deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). We have a hard heart (Ephesians 4:18), a foolish heart (Romans 1:21), a stubborn, unrepentant heart (Romans 2:5), and an evil, unbelieving heart (Hebrews 3:12). But the LORD here promises a new heart to those whom He regards as good, a heart that will know Him. He “will remove the heart of stone and give a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26-28).” And with that heart they will know the LORD.

“They will be My people and I will be their God.” The captives who are regarded as good will be the people of the LORD (1 Peter 2:10), and in all the earth they will be His treasured possession (Exodus 19:5). And the LORD will be their God: their defender, their shield, their refuge, their provider, their Lord and their God.

“They will return to Me with their whole heart.” Read this carefully, for in this blessing the LORD is making an unconditional promise about what free people will do. What does it mean when the Scripture says, “Return to Me with their whole heart”? This is an Old Testament way of saying that they will genuinely and fully believe in the LORD. We would say that they will be saved. But notice that the LORD is promising that these captives whom the LORD regards as good WILL CERTAINLY return to Him with their whole heart. How can the LORD promise that these captives will do that? He can make this promise because the LORD is the sovereign ruler of the universe and has ordained it to be so.

APPLICATION TO OUR LIVES

This story from Jeremiah 24 of God’s eternal promises and of His regarding some people as good to their eternal, unmerited benefit is the story of the gospel and of how God has sovereignly chosen His people for salvation. But this story in Jeremiah also shows that, when the Lord chooses to regard someone as good, He also ordains that all the means necessary to bring about that person’s salvation will providentially occur in their lives.

So, just as the LORD unconditionally regarded the captives as good, so the Lord has unconditionally “chosen His people in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).”

As the LORD promised to give the captives a heart to know Him, in the same way the Lord has “made us alive with Christ and raised us up with Him” (Ephesians 2:4-5), and the Lord has “caused His people to be born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3).”

The LORD declared that these captives would return to Him with their whole heart, and now we who are in Christ have a heart that says, “To live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).” We are those who declare, “I count all things loss in view of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8).”

SDG                 rmb                 3/12/2021

Remaking a spoiled vessel (Jeremiah 18:1-4)

The potter worked quickly and skillfully as he created his vessels from the lumps of formless clay. His working on the wheel was almost as if the two were one unit, with the wheel yielding to and obeying every impulse from the potter as he shaped and molded. Every once in a great while, the potter would make a mistake with the wheel or with the clay, and the vessel that he was making would be spoiled in his hand. In those instances, the potter would collapse the spoiled vessel back into a lump of clay and quickly remake it into another useful shape.

The LORD calls Jeremiah, the prophet, to go down to the potter’s house and he sees what we just described. The potter takes the spoiled vessel and remakes it into another one.

But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so, he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. – Jeremiah 18:4

As interesting as the work of the potter is, it is not the main point of this story. In fact, this story of the potter and the spoiled vessel is just an illustration that speaks to our own ruined human condition. You see, you and I come into this world as spoiled vessels and we need to find someone who will remake us into pristine, useful vessels.

WHAT DOES A SPOILED VESSEL LOOK LIKE?

The Bible is the story of God’s pursuit of His people and of how He redeems them and remakes them regardless of how spoiled they are. Included in the pages of Scripture are many pictures of what ruined vessels look like to show me how ruined I am.

So, what does a spoiled vessel look like?

As a spoiled vessel, I was like a demon-possessed man screaming naked among the tombs as I gash myself with stones. Not even chains and shackles could restrain me as I fought wildly against my own depravity (Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:27-39).

A spoiled vessel, I was like a newborn infant thrown out into the open field, squirming in my own blood, helpless and rejected. (Ezekiel 16:4-6)

I was dead like Lazarus, rotting in the grave, stinking in my graveclothes (John 11:39)

I was spoiled like Mephibosheth, crippled in both feet. (2 Samuel 9:3-4)

I was an unclean leper, longing to be touch and cleansed. (Matthew 8:1-4)

I was a spoiled and ruined vessel like the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, sitting in the dust beside the road (Mark 10:46-52).

Those are pictures of what a spoiled vessel looks like.

Watching a skilled potter make pottery and occasionally remake spoiled vessels into beautiful ones is entertaining, but what does someone do if they themselves are the ruined vessel? For the clay vessel was visibly spoiled, but I am comprehensively ruined. A skilled potter can remake a clay vessel into something useful, but who has the power to redeem and remake a ruined life?

THIS POTTER CAN REMAKE ME INTO SOMETHING NEW

And now we come to the main application of the story of the potter. For there is a master Potter who has the power to remake the most spoiled of vessels into a new and glorious creation. But observe that the ruin in the vessel cannot be repaired. This is not pottery repair, but it is pottery made new. The old vessel must go, and the new vessel must come.

For me there came a day when I realized that the vessel of my life was ruined and there was nothing and no one who could repair it. Sin had ravaged and was ravaging my life, and I needed to find someone who had the power to make me new and set me free. I was tired of gashing myself on stones. I was weary of the dust beside the road. I was rotting in the grave and I was crippled in my feet. My life was spoiled and needed to be remade. Then I met Jesus Christ, the great Savior, the one who has the power to remake ruined lives into useful lives. He has the power to give sight to the blind and freedom to the captives and beauty for ashes. He took my spoiled vessel and remade it as it pleased Him to make it.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. – 2 Cor. 5:17

SDG                 rmb                 3/8/2021

Why all the warnings? (Hebrews 3:12-14)

False assurance is a dangerous thing. The person possessing false assurance is confident that they are prepared to face a certain challenge or threat when, in fact, their defenses are inadequate, and their preparation is incomplete. This is like the fair-skinned sunbather on the Florida beach with SPF 5 sunscreen that they are confident is SPF 50. Or this is like the rock climber with the 100-foot rope rappelling down the 130-foot cliff which the climber is confident is only 80 feet tall. Or this is like someone who has been attending a local church for a little while and has joined in the singing and has listened to the sermons and has done whatever they saw the other people in the church doing; this is like that person having the false assurance that, because they behave like a true believer and go through the same motions, they possess the same salvation and are safe from God’s judgment. In these instances of false assurance, the person must be warned about their error before bad consequences result. So, we can see that false assurance is a dangerous thing.

The author of “Hebrews” is acutely aware of the disastrous consequences of a false confidence of salvation. He warns those who may possess a false profession, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (10:31),” and “our God is a consuming fire (12:29).” In fact, one of the dominant themes in this New Testament epistle is the author’s warning to those who are religious and unconverted. “Pay close attention lest you drift away.” “Do not neglect this great salvation.” “Do not fall away from the living God.” “Hold fast!” “Have faith, not unbelief.” “Strive to enter God’s rest.” “If you fall away, it is impossible to restore you.” “Do not be a person who shrinks back.” The author repeatedly urges the pretenders and all the falsely assured to fully embrace Jesus Christ and loudly proclaim Him as Lord to rightly be assured of true salvation.

WARNINGS IN HEBREWS 3:12-14

Consider one of the author’s warnings in Hebrews 3:12-14:

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.

The warnings in this passage are strident and the implied consequences dire because it is urgent that the writer gain their attention and alert them to their peril. He does not mince words when he warns them of an “evil, unbelieving heart” and tells them they “will fall away from the living God.” Without encouragement, they are in danger of being “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” You are truly partakers of Christ only “if you hold fast your assurance (your faith) firm until the end.” Implicit and explicit warnings follow one after the other as the writer speaks to this fellowship.

WHY ALL THE WARNINGS?

Why so many warnings? The warnings evidence a heartfelt pastoral concern. The writer-preacher is concerned that some in his congregation are in danger of falling short of salvation, that they have not really embraced Christ in faith, but rather are just going through their old religious motions in a new way. These people must be warned that following Christ is radically different from the old Jewish traditions and practices, and that those who fall short of or drift away from genuine faith in Jesus will eternally perish. Having heard the message about Jesus Christ, you must embrace that message. To go through the new Christian “rituals” without embracing Christ and without being born again is to engage in useless religious works.

THE TASK OF WARNING THE RELIGIOUS

This task of warning people of the peril of religion is never an easy one because most people are quite comfortable with the religion they have been given. Religion gives its adherents a false sense of assurance. Just so, until recently, this Jewish (Hebrew) community was contentedly practicing their religion of external works, moral lifestyle, and traditional practices. All Jews were accepted as full members of the religious community based on their adherence to the external works. (This is the way all religions work.) The community was close-knit because they all maintained the same age-old practices. The old wine was good enough (Luke 5:39). There was no talk of salvation or of repentance or of faith in the Messiah. All was routine and peaceful. And, unfortunately, all were peacefully perishing without a Savior.

But now, the religious landscape has seismically changed. Now the gospel of salvation has been proclaimed. Now Jesus is preached as the Messiah, the Christ. Now the religious community of the Hebrews is being replaced by the faith community of the followers of the Messiah. The traditions of the elders and the fathers are no longer good enough because the works of the Law cannot justify anyone (Romans 3:20). Now we must repent from dead works (Hebrews 6:1) and place our faith in Jesus. Now unity and fellowship in the Jesus community is based on a common faith in Jesus the Messiah.

WHAT ABOUT A THIRD OPTION?

In addition to the old Jewish religion based on external works and traditions, and the new movement of faith in Jesus the Messiah, what we see happening in the book of “Hebrews” is the emergence of a third option. It is this third option that is the reason for all the writer’s warnings. The preacher’s concern is that some in this congregation have exchanged the external works of Judaism for “the external works” of the faith community without embracing Jesus the Messiah by faith. These people emulate the external “religious works” of genuine believers without the new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) of genuine believers. They mistakenly think that this new Jesus movement is just another religion, and, like Judaism, a person can be an accepted and respected member of this new community merely by doing the appropriate works and going through the expected motions. The writer-preacher directs his most urgent exhortations at these people in the hopes that they will forsake this deceptive and disastrous way of thinking and come all the way to full faith in Christ.

APPLICATION FOR OUR OWN TIME

The beauty of the Scriptures is that they are always contemporary, and they apply to our world and our situations. Just so, we must take seriously the warning about this “third option,” which is the circumstance where members of our church fellowship may be falsely assured of their salvation because they are relying on “religious works” or even “Christian works.” In the case of the Hebrews, the people emulated the external “religious works” of genuine believers without the new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) of genuine believers. This is a real concern today, particularly in American churches where religious traditions can replace genuine faith. In churches where conversions are not celebrated (Is that because they do not occur?) and where forms are prominent, the church can gradually become a homogeneous gathering of people united based on shared traditions and externals, rather than being united based on a shared experience of conversion and a fervent faith in the Lord Jesus. I believe that when the writer-preacher of the book of “Hebrews” wrote his warnings, he had specific people in the congregation in mind. He was, thus, compelled to warn them of the peril of religious motions without saving faith. Just so, the concerned pastor today would be well-served to preach these same warnings with vigor to his congregation in the hopes of stirring up faith in those who are comfortably unconverted.

SDG                 rmb                 3/5/2021