Considering 2 Peter 2:1 – “the Master who bought them”

INTRODUCTION: This post is longer than most and is more of a study of 2 Peter 2:1 than it is a typical blog. As will be seen in the body of the post, this verse poses significant difficulties in interpretation. I have studied this verse for a long time and wanted to set aside some time now to produce my “once and for all” interpretation.

Here is the verse according to the NASB:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Peter 2:1 (NASB)

THE DIFFICULTY STATED

The difficulties in this verse are created by the phrase, “even denying the Master who bought them,” and by the significant implications of this phrase with regard to the extent of Christ’s atonement. It seems that Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21), is here stating that “there will be false teachers who introduce destructive heresies” into the church, whom the Master has bought (Greek active aorist participle from the verb ἀγοράζω, meaning buy, redeem, ransom). In the context, the identity of the Master is clearly the Lord Jesus, and His buying or redemption of these false teachers refers to His substitutionary atoning death on the cross. This means that Christ atoned for some who will perish, for the verse concludes by telling us that these false teachers of destructive heresies will “bring swift destruction on themselves.” If this understanding of the verse is correct, then it poses a serious challenge to the doctrine of particular redemption (also known as “limited atonement”), which states that Christ died for the elect, and for the elect only, and that everyone for whom Christ died will certainly be justified and glorified. What I wanted to research, then, is how those who hold firmly to the doctrine of particular redemption as just stated (which is the doctrine I hold firmly and which I believe to be the biblical position) have interpreted 2 Peter 2:1 such that the biblical doctrine stands unshaken.

JAMES BOICE AND PHIL RYKEN IN THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE

James Boice and Phil Ryken address this verse in their book, The Doctrines of Grace. In the section of the book speaking of the perseverance of the saints, they offer the perspective that these false teachers “seem to have been purchased by Christ and will show outward signs of such deliverance, but they will still be false prophets and professors” (p. 171f). My understanding of this interpretation is that, while they appeared for a time to be genuine followers of Jesus, their pretense eventually became evident in their heretical teachings. When these false teachers persisted in their heresies, it became plain that Christ had not, in fact, purchased their salvation.

In addressing the question of how this verse relates to the doctrine of particular redemption, Boice and Ryken suggest, “The best approach is to think of this as describing what these unbelieving teachers claimed (emphasis mine) rather than what they had actually received from Jesus” (p. 129).

JOHN OWEN IN THE DEATH OF DEATH

In John Owen’s masterful work, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, there is a large portion of the book devoted to addressing problem texts. Here we find 2 Peter 2:1 in the section discussing the argument “of the Arminians and their successors from texts of Scripture as seem to hold out the perishing of some of them for whom Christ died, and the fruitlessness of the blood in respect of divers for whom it was shed.” In other words, the Arminians claim that there are certain texts of Scripture which teach the eternal perishing of some of those for whom Christ died. From this statement, those who argue for universal atonement (or universal redemption) draw the conclusion that “If Christ died for some reprobates and for some that perish, then He died for all and everyone universally and without distinction.” Owen vigorously opposes the Arminian position and presents his arguments against their understanding of this verse.

THREE POINTS TO BE PROVEN BY THE ARMINIANS

Owen begins by presenting three points that must be proved by those who maintain universal redemption from this verse. The first point is that the “Master” here mentioned refers to Jesus Christ. Second, that “bought” refers to Christ “purchasing them with the ransom of His blood.” And third, that Peter speaks of this purchase in respect to its reality, and not in respect to the estimation of others based on outward appearances (their behavior and changed lives) and based on the public professions of these false teachers. In other words, the Arminians need to prove that Peter is not speaking here of a purchase (“bought”) that is assumed by the human believers in the church based on external evidence (what humans see and hear), but that Peter intends “bought by the Master” to be understood as a reality from the divine perspective.

Here are my own thoughts about these three points. It is my view that “Master” as used in this verse does, in fact, refer to the Lord Jesus, for I cannot imagine who else Peter could intend. Likewise, “bought” here refers to Christ’s atoning death on the cross because, again, there does not seem to be another option. The third point, however, that Peter is speaking of the reality of these heretical teachers being bought by Christ’s blood rather than the mere external appearance of that purchase based on human observation, is much less certain. The substance of Owen’s argument of this third point is given below.

(Just to be sure I am communicating what is happening here, Owen is going to be arguing that, in 2 Peter 2:1, the phrase, “the Master who bought them,” does not mean that Christ actually bought them with His blood, but that the behavior and the professions of these heretical teachers led the church to assume that Christ had bought them. In other words, the verse speaks of the appearance on earth rather than the reality in heaven.)

Here are Owen’s arguments (On p. 252 of The Death of Death). He says first that it is not “certain that the apostle speaketh of the purchase of the wolves and hypocrites in respect to the reality of the purchase and not in respect of that estimation which others had of them – and by reason of their outward seeming profession, ought to have had – and of the profession that they themselves made to be purchased by Him.” In other words, the “purchase” mentioned in this verse is referring not to the reality of their profession, but to the estimation others in the church had of its reality. Also, the estimation, that professing followers of Christ in the church are genuine believers, is the proper estimation to have, at least until their profession is called into question by other evidence. Also, these people, before their heresy, had claimed to be blood-bought followers of Christ. So, the estimation of others based on the hypocrites’ external behavior, the gracious assumption of others that, since they remained in the church, they were genuine believers, and the assumption that the hypocrites’ profession of faith in Christ was genuine all led to the estimation that the Master had bought them.

Owen continues his argument by saying “that it is the perpetual course of the Scripture to ascribe all those things to everyone that is in the fellowship of the church which are proper to them only who are true spiritual members of the same, as to be saints, elect, redeemed.” By this, Owen is saying that the Scriptures typically refer to all members of the church as if they were elect. So it is here. Until these wolves revealed their false profession by their heretical teaching, they were viewed as bought by the blood of Christ. Thus, they ruin their testimony by their heresy, but they do no violence to the divine decree of election. They were only apparently bought by the Master, and their heretical apostasy revealed that their purchase by Christ was only apparent.

CALVIN’S COMMENTARY ON THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PETER

The third source we will consult is Calvin’s commentary on 2 Peter. While Owen directly confronts the difficulty in this verse with his exegetical artillery, Calvin seems to overlook the problem. This may be due to the intent of their writing. Owen writes his treatise to demolish all suggestions of a universal ransom, and Calvin writes his work as a general commentary on the epistle.

Calvin considers that these false teachers are the same as those who “turned the grace of God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). He then reasons that, “Christ redeemed us, that He might have a people separated from all the pollutions of the world and devoted to holiness and innocence” (p. 393, Volume XXII of Calvin’s Commentaries). Many Scriptures could be cited here, but Titus 2:11-14 may fit best. But if Christ redeemed us so that we would separate ourselves from the lusts of the world and would henceforth live holy lives, “They, then, who throw off the bridle, and give themselves up to all kinds of licentiousness, are not unjustly said to deny Christ by whom they have been redeemed.” In other words, Calvin focuses on the Bible’s insistence that genuine believers are to be holy (See 1 Peter 1:14-16), so that those who continue in their licentiousness or who drift into persistent immorality are revealing that they are not true believers.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the best way to understand this verse is to say that those whom the Master bought claimed to be genuine believers and behaved as genuine believers so that they could “secretly introduce destructive heresies” into the church. Their exposure as heretics revealed that their claim to be bought by Christ’s blood was false. In this way, they brought swift destruction upon themselves.

SDG                 rmb                 12/29/2021                 #477

A study in baptism based on Romans 6:4

INTRODUCTION: One of the clearest verses on the doctrine of baptism is Romans 6:4. Paul’s unambiguous teaching here declares the purpose and the meaning of baptism. This article studies this verse.

Baptism is a New Testament ordinance given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself. At the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:15) in the Jordan River, and at the end of His first advent, He commanded His church to baptize His disciples in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). But while Jesus modeled baptism and commanded baptism, we are going to turn to Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:4 to learn about the purpose and the meaning of baptism.

Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:4

The purpose of the ordinance of baptism is to mark the beginning of the believer’s new walk of holiness as he now walks with Jesus. The old life of sin has been buried with Jesus in the waters of baptism, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

In baptism, the believer publicly declares their commitment to forsake their old life of sin and godlessness by repentance from sin, and vows by faith to live for Jesus Christ as they strive for holiness. Baptism is the outward illustration of an inward transformation. Water baptism pictures the realities of Romans 10:9, and of 1 John 1:9, and of Matthew 22:37.

Romans 10:9 – In biblical baptism, the believer publicly confesses with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord of their life, and they declare their faith in Christ and in His resurrection. Thus, baptism is for those who can confess their submission to Christ and their faith in Him.

1 John 1:9 – Water baptism is the occasion of the believer’s public confession of their sin and of their willfully turning away from their sin.

Matthew 22:37 – Water baptism marks the believer’s intention to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love his neighbor as himself. His love for the Lord will henceforth be manifested in obedience to all the Lord commanded us.

Both for Christ and for the believer, there is a death and burial, and there is a resurrection from the dead. Paul’s analogy is beautifully pictured in the waters of baptism. The analogy is understood by the paradigm, “As Christ physically, so the believer figuratively and spiritually.” As Christ physically died and was buried to mark His vanquishing of sin, so the believer figuratively and spiritually dies and is buried in the baptismal waters to mark their relinquishing of sin. The posture of the believer being pushed back into the water is significant because it pictures the believer’s weakness and helplessness, and their surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Then, as Christ was physically raised from the dead in glorious resurrection, never to die again, so the believer is spiritually raised to walk in newness of life, never to be condemned again. As Christ was physically raised by the power of the Father (Ephesians 1:19-20), so the believer is raised from the water by with the help (“power”) of the pastor.

As Christ confessed His intentions (Mark 10:45; John 10:11, 15, 17, 18; Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19) and consequently submitted to His physical death, so in baptism the believer confesses their intentions (Romans 10:9; 1 John 1:9; etc.) and then submits to burial into the water.

Thus, it is clear that believer’s baptism is what Christ commanded for His church.

SDG                 rmb                 12/27/2021                 #476

An encounter on the street with James

The other day I met James. I had just finished a last minute Christmas purchase of art supplies for my wife and was sitting in my car scrolling up my GPS to get me to my next extravagant expenditure. My car was facing out onto the street, and as I looked up from my cell phone, my eyes met the gaze of a thin man in a rumpled coat. He looked directly into my eyes and, after giving me the universal motions of imaginary feeding, he shrugged his shoulders and held up his hands, clearly indicating he needed me to provide money for his food.

His gesture was not done belligerently, and I did not feel like he was just pan-handling me, but I was locked into task mode and his appearance was unexpected and a little unwanted, so, in a blatant display of selfishness, I shook my head, “no.”

“Why not?” His question startled me. “Why not? Why won’t you help me out?”

“I don’t feel like it,” was my heartless answer.

“Why won’t you help out a hungry veteran?” he shouted in reply. “You have a chance to help out a fellow human being.” Then he pointed to a hole in the side of his neck and said, “That’s where a bullet went through my neck. I have served my country and now you won’t even help me out!” And he turned to walk away from me across the street, disgusted with my stubborn stinginess.

I jumped out of my car and yelled, “You’re right! You make a very good case. Hey, come back here! You are right!”

By now the man had crossed the main traffic lane and was in the turn lane, shouting at the cars as they drove past, too close for his comfort. “Hey, you almost hit me!”

Now I was on the curb, and he was in the street but walking toward me. He was thin, but not quite gaunt, with a full brown beard. His speech was sober, and I sensed he was an intelligent man. “You seem to be angry,” I said. “Why are you angry?”

Why was he angry? What a naïve question! The answer was obvious. He was angry because life had been cruel to him. He hadn’t planned to be homeless and living in trash dumpsters as he begs for food on the streets of the city. Every plan had failed, and each road had been a dead end. It was a life of opportunities squandered, of unwise choices, and of hard providences. Now this human being, this highest of God’s creatures, this one created in the image of God, was dodging cars to try and scrounge his next meal. Who wouldn’t be angry?

He was now only a couple of feet away from me, but he was still in the edge of the traffic lane. “You need to get out of the street,” I said as I put my hand on his shoulder and pulled him onto the sidewalk.

“Well, you were right to ask me for some money for food. You do need money, don’t you?” I asked.

“Yes, I need money for food.”

I pulled out my wallet and handed him a twenty dollar bill. “Are you able to find work? Or are you looking for work?” It turns out that, because he did not have a cell phone, he was not able to find employment.

“I do have a place to live, though,” he said. “I live in that storage bin beside that shop over there. You want to see it? It doesn’t smell too good.”

“No, thanks. What’s your name?”

“James.”

“How old are you, James?”

“I’m fifty.”

“Has faith ever been a part of your life?”

“Faith is part of my life now. Faith that I will be restored. Faith in Jesus Christ.” His words had a ring of sincerity to them, not the usual “faith talk” that you here from beggars who know that talking about Jesus with people is sort of expected. “Do you know John 1:1?” he asked. “Go ahead, James, tell me John 1:1.” And he quoted it verbatim. I added John 1:2. “Wait here for a second, James.”

I ran over to my car and grabbed a “Who is Jesus?” tract and gave it to him.

“Oh. ‘Who is Jesus?’” he said. “Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. John 14:6.”

I affirmed his quote of Scripture and encouraged him to read the tract and think about what it said. We talked a little more, then I shook his hand and said, “I have to get moving, but God bless you, brother.” As I got in my car, I shouted, “Maybe you can find a church that needs a good preacher!” Then we waved goodbye, and James disappeared into my rear view mirror.

The first thing I learned from my encounter with James is that I can still be self-centered and greedy and heartless. There are evidently times when my heart is hard and when I feel inconvenienced because a fellow human being pleads for my compassion and assistance. O, how I need to repent of my greediness! Our Lord Jesus commanded me to “Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30), and I reject them because I am slightly inconvenienced or just don’t feel like helping. “Lord, please change me more into the image of Jesus with the heart of Jesus! Amen.”

I still think about James, and here’s why. I know that, except for the grace and providence of God, I could be where James is. If at certain critical points in my life, the Lord had not turned events in His providential and favorable direction, I would be sleeping in a storage bin and asking cruel strangers to give me the means of survival. If God had not been merciful and generous to me (And why has He been so good to me, the one who deserves His wrath and who should receive the consequences of so many foolish choices?), I would be living like James with no plans for the future and no hope for the present. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us . . .” (Ephesians 2:4). “Lord, let me ever praise You for Your mercy and grace.”

Finally, I pray that James reads the tract and that causes him to get a Bible and read it. I pray that his reading of the Bible creates the spark of faith in his heart and mind, and that he seeks the Lord with all his heart. I pray that he believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and that he finds a good church. How James’ life can be restored and straightened out so that it is useful again and that he is useful to the Master, I have no clue. Those things are too difficult for me (Psalm 131:1), but there is nothing too difficult for God (Jeremiah 32:17; Luke 18:27). I know that Jesus Christ is the only hope for James. Jesus Christ came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He finds the prodigals in the pigsty and restores them to a joyful life in the Father’s house. If Jesus is willing, He can and will save (Matthew 8:2). So, I pray that James seeks Jesus with his whole heart.

SDG                 rmb                 12/26/2021                 #475

Where is the right path? (Proverbs 14:12 and John 14:6)

My friend Doug and I have had a weekly phone call appointment for more than 14 years, and for those 14 years we have walked through life together, experiencing highs and lows and seeking to pursue the Lord and to live for His glory. This week we were talking about our mutual feelings of yuletide incompetence, how the Christmas season offers virtually unlimited opportunities for us to disappoint others by not fulfilling our basic duties, when Doug changed to a more serious topic. “So, I got a text from Jonathan this week.”

The tone of our conversation was abruptly more sober. “The gist of his text was something like ‘How does it feel to be a future grandfather?’” My friend went on to explain that his son has apparently gotten his current girlfriend pregnant. We spent the rest of phone call talking about his son and about this turn of events and about how this is yet more evidence that Jonathan seems bent on destroying his life.

This morning I was reflecting on Jonathan’s situation. Despite being at an exclusive private high school and having a godly father who poured into his life, this young man had become involved in drugs in high school, first using and then dealing. He had escaped high school and had bounced from place to place, becoming a heroin user and a member of the opioid addiction community. He has spent significant time in jail. He has overdosed multiple times on heroin. At one point, it looked like his organs were shutting down, but he survived and, like a dog returning to its vomit (2 Peter 2:22), he returned to his destructive habits. He has lost jobs that were basically given to him to help him pull out of his long-term nosedive. He has been in and out of innumerable halfway houses and recovery programs. In fact, Jonathan had done basically everything he could do to ensure he would mess up his life, except get a woman pregnant. But now, even that disaster he has now inflicted on himself. With immense advantages and every opportunity to choose a path offering some degree of success, the young man has consistently chosen the path of disaster. Not the path of lesser success that could have turned out well but providentially did not, but the path that is obviously bad and that will almost certainly produce pain and misery. Jonathan seems bent on his own destruction and on ruining his life.

ALL FALLEN MAN

But isn’t that the state of all fallen man outside of Christ? Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” We are all born broken, with flawed wisdom and with selfish desires and sinful passions. All of fallen man is born blind (See Isaiah 6:10; 43:8; John 9:25.) and stumbles along life’s path, groping for some sort of light or trustworthy direction (Isaiah 59:10-14; Acts 17:27). We all pursue a path that seems right to us, that seems “right in our own eyes” (Judges 21:25), but the end of that path is death. There is only one way that leads to life, and His name is Jesus (John 14:6). All other paths are false trails, dark and slippery, that lead to death. There is only one gate, small and narrow, that leads to life, and the name of that gate is Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14). All other gates, gates wide and broad to admit the many who rush through them, are gates of destruction that lead inevitably to death.

Jonathan is manifestly on a path of destruction, but he is not alone on that path. While the degree of damage and ruin is more evident in Jonathan’s life than in most others, the trail he is walking is well trodden. The prophet speaks not of heroin addicts only, but of all mankind when he says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). Our old heart of stone is deceitful and leads us down dark and slippery paths to our own ruin. The only solution for our deceitful heart of stone is replacement with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26-27). And the only one who can replace our sinful heart with a new heart is Jesus.

A SAVIOR WHO SAVES

While there is pity and sadness when we see someone like Jonathan making a shipwreck of his life and running headlong down the path of destruction, we need not despair. Jesus is a Savior who has come to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Humanly, we may see the sinner as being far down the path of destruction, but distance is no obstacle for the Lord, because nothing is too difficult for Him (Isaiah 59:1; Jeremiah 32:17, 27; Luke 18:26-27). The Lord can deliver any sinner from his circumstances, no matter how deep the well into which he has fallen (Jeremiah 38:9-13). There is no place the sinner can go from which the Lord cannot deliver him unto salvation. The distance a sinner has wandered is of no consequence to the Lord.

The situation for Jonathan appears bleak. He seems to have wandered into a place from which there is no rescue. And if Jesus Christ had not been sent from heaven to earth and had not lived a sinless life and died an atoning death; if Jesus had not been raised from the dead and did not now offer His atoning blood as payment for all the sinner’s sins; if Jesus was not a glorious Savior, King of kings and Lord of lords, mighty to save so that anyone who places their trust in Him will be saved (Acts 16:31), then there would be no reason for any hope for Jonathan.

Like Jonathan, all mankind outside of Christ is on the way to destruction. Titus 3:3 says, “For we were once foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” A bleak situation, indeed, but not hopeless. “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for all mankind appeared, He saved us” (Titus 3:4-5). Because of Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel of salvation, all who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus will be saved.

SDG                 rmb                 12/24/2021                 #473

The Last Act of the Drama has been published as an ePub!

December 21, 2021. Yes, this is a shameless plug for the JUST PUBLISHED ePub version of my first published book, The Last Act of the Drama: a guide to the end times. This ePub has been a labor of some magnitude as I have been forced to learn all the nuances of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and how to turn the paperback version of my book into an ePub version. But now, nearly two months after the paperback began to roll off the presses, the digital book has been completed. It should appear on Amazon by tomorrow (?) Simply go to Amazon and type in “roy britton” in the search line. My book should come up.

So, please tell your friends and acquaintances that The Last Act of the Drama is now digital!

For those of you who are not familiar with the paperback version, this book has been written to give the person who is fairly familiar with the Bible, insights and understanding about the main passages in the Bible that teach about the end of the age, a period of time know as “the end times.” This type of study is also known as “eschatology,” or the study of last things. Please consider going to Amazon and buying a paperback copy or getting a copy of the Kindle version today.

If you read the book, PLEASE give my book a review on the Amazon Website.

By the way, below is a link to my Amazon Author Page so you can find out a little bit more about me personally. (I think this link will work. Like most of my efforts at technology, this link is an act of faith!)

https://amazon.com/author/roybrittonrev19

Thank you for reading my work. I hope you are edified and encouraged. rmb. 12/21/2021

“They will come to Me” – (John 6:37 – Part 4)

INTRODUCTION: This is the last post in this series studying John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly teaches in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our third study in this series, we considered the phrase in the verse, “will come to Me” and sought to answer the question, “What does it mean for the sinner to ‘come to Jesus’?”  (See post #469 on 12/11/2021.) This article gives a clear explanation of what it means to come to Jesus in repentance and in faith.

In this fourth and final article from John 6:37, we will be discovering what Jesus promises to the one who comes to Him in repentance and faith. Our Lord says, “The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” What does this mean? What is Jesus’ purpose in this teaching?

THE BELIEVER IS NOT CAST OUT

There are many ways that we can understand this expression.

The reason Jesus said this was to give confidence to the person who has believed in Him. Jesus’ purpose was to let the one who trusts in Him for salvation know that the believer is held securely by the Savior. That is, the believer is saved forever. There is no possibility that the one who has trusted in Jesus will ever be lost again. Eternally secure.

We already know that the one who comes to Jesus for salvation has passed from death to life (John 5:24). That is a one-way ticket. There is no return flight. The death of Jesus has been applied to the believing sinner’s sin and believer’s sin is atoned for. All the sins of the believer are covered by the blood of the Lamb and are therefore forever separated from the believer as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

By faith in Jesus, the sinner is born again (or born from above). The twice born can never suffer the condemnation and punishment of the once born. The one who has believed in Jesus has been “delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of Jesus Christ, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). Again, this is a one-way trip. There is no path back into the darkness for the true believer.

There is therefore now no condemnation for the one who has trusted in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Not now, not ever.

So, Jesus is here proclaiming that the one who has trusted in Him as Lord and Savior is certainly bound for heaven and will be there eternally. That is the entire purpose of Jesus’ statement. Therefore, believe in Jesus.

SDG                 rmb                 12/20/2021                 #472

Thoughts on baptism from Matthew 28:19-20 – Part 1

“Buried unto death in Christ, rise again to walk in newness of life.” – my pastor when I was baptized thirty-one years ago at the age of thirty-one.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Jesus Christ giving the Great Commission to His church in Matthew 28:19-20.

Yesterday morning, our church celebrated the baptism of three new disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. One was a lady in her early thirties who had lived an immoral life before Christ. In her testimony, she herself compared herself to the “woman at the well” in John 4. But then she met Jesus, and had professed faith in Him, and had now found a good church where she could grow in her relationship with Jesus and could be taught what it means to be an obedient disciple of Jesus. As a testimony to her faith in Christ, she was baptized into Christ, and also baptized into His body, the church, where she will be nurtured and grow.

The next person baptized was ethnically Vietnamese. He was a young man 17 years old who had been raised in a Bible-believing home where Christ was honored as Lord. His parents were strong believers and had taught their son that he must personally place his faith in Jesus. And so, there came a day when this young man repented of his sins and placed his faith in Jesus. Now, as a testimony of his faith in Jesus, he was baptized into Christ, and also baptized into His body, the church, where he will be nurtured and grow.

The third person baptized was a Chinese man in his thirties. He had been born in northern China and, five years ago, had come to the United States to earn his PhD. When he came to this country, he was under tremendous stress. He and his wife had a newborn and there were issues with his visa and his job was stressful. As a result, he had almost experienced an emotional breakdown. At that time, he had met some Christians from our church and had begun to hear about Jesus. He committed to read the Bible from cover to cover to find out about Christianity. Then there came the day when he told his friend, “I believe in Jesus.” And so, in obedience to the command of Jesus, he was baptized into Christ, and also baptized into His body, the church, where he will be nurtured and grow.

These three stories are very different and are about three very different people. Externally they are about as different as people can be. Their journeys varied widely, as the Lord drew them to Himself (John 6:44). But the destination was the same. They were journeying toward Jesus and toward the salvation that Jesus offers to anyone who will repent of their sin and believe in Him.

THE BEAUTY OF THE GREAT COMMISSION

This is the beauty that is contained in the Great Commission which Jesus has given to His church. A person is far from God, living their life separated from Him by their sins (Isaiah 59:2; Ephesians 4:17-19). They may be living in open rebellion against God, or they may be outwardly “good” people who simply do not believe in Jesus, or they may be people who have never heard of Jesus and so remain ignorant of their sin and ignorant of His salvation. But regardless of why they are lost, and regardless of where they are in their wanderings, the path to salvation is clear and is the same.

First, a follower of Jesus proclaims to the sinner the gospel of salvation and tells the sinner of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, at some point, the sinner’s ears are opened so that he hears the gospel and trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation. Now the sinner has passed from death to life (John 5:24) and has been born again (John 3:3, 5), and has been saved (Acts 16:31). Thus, the sinner has become a disciple of the Lord Jesus.

Now that this person is a disciple of Jesus, what happens next? He is to be publicly baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit as a testimony of his new faith in Jesus. This is explicitly stated in Matthew 28:19, and there is absolutely no ambiguity. And the disciple is to join themselves with a local church where she can be taught “all things that the Lord commanded us.” The proper place for every disciple of the Lord Jesus is the local church. The church is where the new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) grows into a mature and obedient and reproducing believer.

The beauty of this transformed life was pictured for us Sunday in our church when these three disciples testified to their faith in Jesus and told of their journey to Him. From different directions they had entered through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14) of faith in the Lord Jesus, and they had been publicly baptized into Christ, and now they were in the place of nurturing and teaching where they would grow into “oaks of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:3). This is such a beautiful picture of what Jesus came to do, “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) by bringing them to faith and then placing them in healthy local churches.

TWO DIFFERENT VIEWS AND PRACTICES

Having talked about the biblical picture of what happens when a person comes to faith in Christ, I wanted to talk about two different views and practices that occur in many churches which do not correspond to the teaching of the Great Commission, and which thus result in great confusion in even identifying disciples and determining if they are obeying what Jesus commanded. The first practice that I will discuss is Paedobaptism, which is the practice of many Protestant churches of sprinkling infants with a little bit of water and calling that baptism. The second practice that we will explore is what I will call “revivalism.” Revivalism is a particular practice of evangelism which assumes that, when an “evangelist” proclaims a standard message, there will be instantaneous conversions, which will be punctuated by “praying the sinner’s prayer” and thus guaranteeing the sinner an eternity in heaven.

I will expand on these ideas in two future articles.

SDG                 rmb                 12/20/2021                 #471

Genesis 22 – Part 1 – Foreshadowing the cross

INTRODUCTION: In many ways, Genesis 22 is the culmination of the Bible’s story of Abraham, for in this chapter we see the foreshadowing of the cross of Jesus, we again encounter the angel of the LORD, and we see the supreme demonstration of Abraham’s faith as he takes his son, his only son, whom he loves, Isaac, to the land of Moriah to sacrifice him there (22:2). This series of articles will cover these different elements of Genesis 22.

The first article will focus on the way the circumstances and details of this narrative in Genesis 22 paints for us a clear foreshadow of the cross of Jesus Christ.

FORESHADOW (TYPE) OF CHRIST (GENESIS 22:1-10)

No word or detail of the inspired text of the Bible is random. The Bible is God’s word to His people, and God has chosen each word precisely for its intended purpose. As we read the Bible, then, we are alert for details that God has placed in the text to communicate His message to us. It is not surprising, then, that a first reading of Genesis 22:1-10 reveals that this father and son event points toward another Father and Son event out in the future. The details of this passage foreshadow Jesus’ crucifixion.

GENESIS 22:2

Examining the passage, then, we first observe that God tells Abraham to “take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as an offering on one of the mountains” (22:2).

Abraham the father was to take his only son. This son was the answer to all his waiting and all his hope. This was his ONLY son. There would not be another. All God’s promises to Abraham rested on this son, his only son. This only son, Isaac, was the son whom Abraham loved. This detail is not given for information, but for emphasis. Can you feel the agony of this assignment? Imagine the father’s pain in taking his beloved only son to Moriah and offering him there as an offering. Notice, also, the place of the offering. Moriah was the place where, a thousand years later, Solomon would build his temple, there to offer sacrifices. So, Moriah was associated with sacrifice and burnt offering. But another thousand years after Solomon, Moriah was also the place outside of Jerusalem where the Romans would crucify criminals. And Abraham was to take his beloved only son to Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice.

These details are given to us here in Genesis 22:2 so that, when we see the events of Jesus’ journey to the cross, we can see that these events were pictured for us in this narrative so many years before. For we know that Jesus was the Father’s only begotten Son. There will never be another. He is the only Son of the Father. Jesus is the Beloved Son. Jesus said, “For the Father loves the Son” (John 5:20). And in the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus was praying to the Father and said, “You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). So, what we see in Jesus’ crucifixion is the Father giving His beloved only begotten Son as a sacrifice on the hill of Moriah.

GENESIS 22:3

The detail to be noticed in this verse is the wood. Abraham “split the wood for the burnt offering.” The wood was necessary for the burnt offering. The sacrifice was not possible without the wood. For our Lord Jesus, His sacrifice was also not possible without the wood of the cross, So, both for Isaac and for Jesus, the wood is essential to the sacrifice.

GENESIS 22:4

Another detail is inserted here in the inspired Scripture – “On the third day.” It is not important that Abraham and Isaac traveled three days to get to Moriah, but that fact is mentioned to draw attention to the immense importance of this passage. To make the passage stand out, Moses mentions the third day. This time period of three days occurs many times in Scripture, and is associated with significant events, so its occurrence here is another part of this narrative that would cause the reader to pause and take notice.

GENESIS 22:5

Abraham announces to his young men, “I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” At no point does Abraham suggest that he is not going to sacrifice his beloved only son Isaac, so this statement to his young men should be interpreted as meaning that Abraham believed that his son would be given back to him by resurrection (Hebrews 11:17-19).

But now consider that, as outrageous as Abraham’s belief was, Jesus Christ publicly made statements that foretold His own resurrection after His sacrifice. In fact, Jesus declared that He must be killed to accomplish His mission, and He would certainly be raised up on the third day. Again, we see the details of Abraham and Isaac’s experience clearly contained in the events of the cross.

GENESIS 22:6-8

The plot thickens as the father and the son draw near to the place of sacrifice. The details in Genesis 22:6 are so carefully chosen. “Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son.” The wood of the sacrifice is laid on the son. No doubt, the wood was heavy, and its splinters rubbed into the son’s shoulders, but he carried the wood without complaint. The wood was his to carry, so he carried it willingly. Abraham took the fire and the knife, the instruments of sacrifice, and readied himself for the awful task. The father would sacrifice his beloved only son. “So the two of them walked on together.” The son trusts the father and the father loves the son, so the son does not run away, and the father does not disobey. The father and the son walked on together. Ever since Isaac could walk, father and son have walked together. Now they walk together to the place of sacrifice.

The poignancy of the scene increases still more in Genesis 22:7, as Isaac speaks to Abraham his father. “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Isaac is old enough to know the elements for an offering. There must be a sacrifice, but where is the lamb?

Abraham speaks words of immense faith, or at least of great hope. Abraham knows that Isaac, the son of promise, is to be the sacrifice, but the father tells the son, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (22:8). The father cannot bear to tell the son that the son whom he loves is to be the sacrifice. Isaac accepts the vague answer, and then “the two of them walked on together.” Trust. Love. Father and son going up the hill together to the place of sacrifice. Will God provide the lamb for the sacrifice? Where is the lamb?

Once again, the details so carefully woven into the narrative of Abraham and Isaac clearly give us a foretaste of the events of the cross. The Father figuratively lays the rough wood of the cross on the shoulders of His Son, where the splinters will enter His shoulders and back. Jesus the Son must bear this load alone, the heavy wood of the cross, but more, the terrible weight of the wrath of God. He will groan but not complain, for this is the work, His terrible work. Although the Father is with the Son as He climbs the hill, the Father cannot be seen by the eye of sinful man. Father and Son go on together to the place of sacrifice. The words of Isaac spoken so long ago still hang in the air over Moriah – “Father, where is the lamb?”

GENESIS 22:9-10

Having arrived at the place of sacrifice, the father “built the altar and arranged the wood and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood” (22:9). Abraham is old and frail, and Isaac is young and full of the strength of early manhood. It is certain, therefore, that the father could not possibly force the son onto the altar, but the son yields in submission and obedience to the father’s will. The child of promise is now on the altar as Abraham raises the knife to slay his son.

Abraham and Isaac on Moriah give us a biblical “type.” That is, this father and son foreshadow for us the much more significant event of the cross of Christ. In the real event, the ultimate event, God the Father has appointed the crucifixion of God the Son. The Son yields in complete submission to the will of the Father (“not My will, but Thy will be done”) and allows Himself to be scourged and crowned with thorns and led up Moriah’s hill, the hill we know as Calvary. Here is the Lamb of God, the Lamb that Abraham said God Himself would provide. Jesus the Lamb is laid on the wood of the cross and then is lifted up so that He can be despised and forsaken of men. Isaac, the son of promise, is allowed to go free and to live while a ram is sacrificed in his place, but Jesus as the Lamb of God is the substitute. He is the sacrifice found in the thicket (Genesis 22:13) that is sacrificed in the place of the repentant, believing sinner, so that the sinner covered by His blood can be forgiven and go free. God the Father forsakes God the Son (unfathomable mystery!) so that the Son can bear the wrath of the Father’s judgment in the place of His people.

In the next post, we will take a close look at the angel of the LORD who appears in Genesis 22:11 and try to understand who he is. It should be a fascinating study.

SDG                 rmb                 12/15/2021                 #470

“They will come to Me” – (John 6:37 – Part 3)

INTRODUCTION: This is part of a series of blog posts studying John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly teaches in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our second study in this series, we considered the next phrase in the verse, “will come to Me.” (See post #468 on 12/10/2021.) In that post, we focused on answering the question, “Who will come to Jesus?” This led to a detailed study of the nature of the elect and election, and how this displays God’s sovereignty in salvation.

But now, in this post we seek to answer the extremely important question, “What does it mean for the sinner to ‘come to Jesus’?” Since it is only those who “come to the Son” who are saved from eternal condemnation, we should strive to know what “will come to Me” means.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ‘COME TO JESUS’?

The expression “come to Me” appears twice in this verse. Jesus says they “will come to Me” and He says, “the one who comes to Me.” To “come to Jesus” is one the most important themes of the entire Bible. Jesus Christ, God the Son, was sent from heaven to earth on a rescue mission, “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10) as He “gave His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The only way that anyone receives salvation is by coming to Jesus. The Bible teaches that God has divinely chosen those people whom He will bring to salvation, but this doctrine of God’s election is given to us so that we may know the power of God’s sovereignty in salvation, not so that we may be confused about how to be saved.

Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” For the human sinner, the most important part of Jesus’ statement is, “will come to Me.” If you want to be saved, there is something that you need to do. If you want to be saved, you must actively come to Jesus.

“What does it mean to ‘come to Jesus’?” First, you must believe in Jesus. In John 1:12 says that to those who believed in Jesus’ name become children of God. In John 20:31, the Bible says that those who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have eternal life in His name. This believing can be understood as an unshakeable trust in Jesus, that He is who He said He was and that He is my Savior and my Lord.

Second, this inward faith and trust in Jesus manifests itself in an outward profession. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Faith in Jesus cannot remain an inner, silent thing, but must be expressed outwardly in a verbal profession. When you come to Jesus, others should know that Jesus has become your Lord and Savior.

Also, to come to Jesus means to repent of your sin and to begin to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). John the Baptist cried out, “Bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). At Pentecost, the people asked, “What are we to do (to be saved)?” Peter replied, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). The Philippian jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).

Finally, to come to Jesus, the Son of God, means obeying Him. In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” If you have come to saving faith in Jesus, you will have a desire to obey His commands and to walk in holiness and righteousness. You will forsake the wicked ways of your past. Paul says that, if you have come to Jesus, “you laid aside the old self with its evil practices” (Colossians 3:9). Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23).

As we conclude this post, we should notice two things. First, all those who come to Jesus will be saved. This should be an encouragement to anyone who desires to be saved from the coming judgment. But second, only those who come to Jesus will be saved. This should instill a sense of urgency. Those who were thinking about coming to Jesus but never did, and those who never expressly rejected Jesus, but who also never came to Him in repentance and faith alike will perish forever. All second chances are forever blown away at the final heartbeat. At that moment, eternity opens wide, and the lake of fire receives another unrepentant sinner. I urge you to come to Jesus.

In our next post in this series, we will examine the truth that the one who comes to Jesus He will certainly not cast out.

SDG                 rmb                 12/11/2021                 #469

“They will come to Me” – (John 6:37 – Part 2)

INTRODUCTION: This is part of a series of blog posts studying John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly teaches in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our first study in this series, we examined the phrase, “All that the Father gives Me.” (See post #465 on 12/6/2021.) It was discovered that all the souls given by God the Father to God the Son was established and fixed “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) when the Father chose the elect for salvation. These people have been given as a gift by the Father to the Son to worship the Son forever in heaven (see Revelation 7:9-12). These truths mean that the phrase, “All that the Father gives Me,” could be expressed as “All the elect.”

In this part of our series, we will consider the next phrase, “will come to Me.” We will break this study into two parts: first, the implications of “All that the Father gives Me” with respect to who will come to Jesus for salvation, and second, what it means for any sinner to “come to Jesus” for salvation.

WHO WILL COME TO JESUS?

Now that we have begun to dig deeper into this verse, we need to identify who will, and who will not, come to Jesus for salvation. If we simply read the verse as it appears, the answer appears obvious. Who will come to the Son for salvation? All that the Father has given the Son will come to the Son for salvation. To simplify this answer, we can make the substitution we mentioned above. Thus, “All the elect will come to the Son for salvation.”

Let’s talk about this a little. Here Jesus is making a statement of divine decree. That is, God has decreed that all those He chose in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) will certainly come to Christ for salvation during the course of their natural lifetimes. (The corollary to this decree is that only those the Father chose in Christ before the foundation of the world will come to Christ.)

So far, so good. But is there any way to know who is elect and who is not? Because if only the elect will come to Christ for salvation, I want to know who those people are. More specifically, I want to know that I am one of the elect. So, is there any way to know who is elect and who is not?

WHO IS ELECT?

The answer is, “Yes. We can know who is elect.” The way that we discover who is elect is by observing who comes to Christ for salvation. To give a personal example, I know that I am one of the elect. I know that because about thirty years ago I came to Christ for salvation. I placed my faith in Jesus, I repented of my sins, I was baptized upon profession of my faith, and my life was radically changed, and I have continued to follow Jesus in the fellowship of His church to this day. My coming to Christ revealed my election by God before the foundation of the world. So, the way we know the elect; the way we know those the Father has given to the Son, is by noticing those who come to faith in Christ.

Okay. So, are we saying that only those who have come to Christ are the elect? Not exactly. You see, we have said that all those given by God the Father to God the Son (the elect) will certainly come to Christ for salvation during the course of their natural lifetimes. As we think about this, though, it becomes obvious that some people may be of the elect, but they have not yet come to Christ for salvation. If they are elect, then they will certainly come to Christ before they die, but they have not come to Christ yet. The fact is that it is impossible to know those who are elect unless and until they come to Jesus for salvation. This, by the way, is the reason that we continue to pray for and to evangelize all people until they come to Christ or die, because we do not know who, among the unsaved living, is elect and who is not.

WHO IS NOT ELECT?

But sadly, there is a way to know who is not elect. Every person who dies outside of Christ, that is, who never comes to the Jesus the Son for salvation during their natural lifetime has revealed that they were not of the elect. They were not given by the Father to the Son. Because they died outside of Christ, they perished. Every person who does not come to the Son for salvation will be judged on the last day and will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “COME TO JESUS”?

This leads to an extremely important question. If only those who “come to Jesus” are saved from the lake of fire, then the critical question is, “What does it mean for the sinner to ‘come to Jesus’?” I am glad that you asked. That will be the subject of the next post on John 6:37.

SDG                 rmb                 12/10/2021                 #468