Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Salvation by Grace through Faith, without Works, Forever.

"I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."  Galatians 2:21  NASB

Every religious system is, at its core, based on either works or grace.  Any system that seeks to blend the two, however orthodox it may seem, is actually a system of works righteousness.  Any mixing of the two nullifies the grace and exalts the works.  Motives may seem pure, but the implications of mixing truth with error are far-reaching, with eternal consequences.

This verse is the conclusion of a confrontation.  Beginning in verse 14 we are given what Paul publicly said to Peter, rebuking him for his hypocrisy in withdrawing fellowship from Gentile Christians whom he had previously accepted (v. 12; Acts 10:24-29).  The ramifications of this seemingly-innocuous move were significant.  As the most prominent leader in the community of believers, and headquartered in Jerusalem (the recognized center of the movement), Peter's actions were noted and emulated by many.  His fear of men (v. 12c) led to the same discriminatory withdrawing by "the rest of the Jews" and "even Barnabas," (v. 13).  This especially wounded Paul, since Barnabas had been the first to befriend and accept him, following his encounter with the living Christ on the Damascus road.  

     But much more was at stake than personal issues:  the purity of the gospel of God's grace, and the efficacy of the cross of Christ.  Paul understood then what desperately needs to be understood today-- any action, attitude, or lack of same that communicates works righteousness as an acceptable means of God's salvation dilutes the gospel and renders the Lord Jesus' blood atonement superfluous.  Why would there be a need for satisfying God's holy wrath by becoming sin for sinners (II Corinthians 5:21), if sinners can be righteous before perfect God through good deeds?  

     Yet that is exactly what legalism involves.  The emphasis is on doing, not being.  Although the Judaizers of Paul's day claimed to be Christians, their "gospel" was:  receive Christ, PLUS males must be circumcised, and everyone must follow the 613 laws set forth by the Jewish leaders, including all the dietary guidelines and prohibitions.  It was works righteousness under the guise of grace terminology.
     Today, the Roman Catholic belief system is the most prominent continuation of the Judaizers' perspective.  Rather than the Old Testament law, however, it insidiously takes New Testament principles of grace and transforms them into means (works) for salvation. Such a sacramental system decimates the true grace gospel message, deceives millions into believing they are Christians, and renders the cross of Christ needless.  The irony is that the crucifix is used so prolifically wherever Roman Catholicism is embraced, yet the system's theology actually negates the needed atonement depicted there.

    "Father, thank You for the passion of the apostle Paul, his holy boldness to confront Peter in his error, regardless of the consequences.  Thank You, too, for Paul's unwavering commitment to Your truth of grace in its purity, expressed by his flawless declarations.   Grant grace that we, too, would speak the truth in love, setting forth Your message of sovereign grace and the absolute necessity of Your Son's blood atonement for salvation.
In His Name,



Saturday, January 25, 2014


It's one of the most controversial doctrines in all of Christian history.  Why?

     In the first place, baptism is a symbolic representation of a biblical truth, and symbols are inherently slippery.  A symbol just naturally lends itself to individual interpretation (the favorite altar at which mankind loves to worship), thereby lulling us into fanciful and obscure meanings that bear little resemblance to the intended reality.  With today's prevailing attitude being "every man doing what seems right in his own eyes", it is naturally assumed that baptism pictures no absolute truth for which we are accountable.
     Secondly, because baptism is something done, an action taken, it easily morphs into a work that is thought to contribute to one's salvation.  Baptism is one of many tools that Satan uses to re-enforce the natural (and fatal) assumption that one can gain salvation and access to heaven by good deeds, transforming salvation into that which is earned  (and thus deserved).   
     An extension of the second point relates to terminology.  Multiplied millions consider baptism a sacrament.  A sacrament, by its very name, is thought to impart grace.  And, as it is true that grace is empowering, it follows that a sacrament would complete or contribute to the salvation of an individual.  From this sacramental perspective, the cry of the Savior from the cross on Calvary would be a lie when He said:  "It is finished!"  
     The truth is that baptism is an ordinance.  As the 29th chapter of The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 reads:  "Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament instituted by Jesus Christ.  It is intended to be, to the person baptized, a sign of his fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection, and of his being engrafted into Christ, and (on the basis) of the remission of sins.  It also indicates that the baptized person has given himself up to God, through Jesus Christ, so that he may live and conduct himself 'in newness of life.'
     Hence, modeled by the Lord Jesus Himself (Matthew 3:16), commanded by Him to all His disciples (Matthew 28:19), and expounded by the apostle Paul (Romans 6:3-5), baptism is to be an expression of joyful obedience to a loving Lord, following His example by immersion, and marked as the public declaration of a holy, new life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

I Corinthians 3:18--20

"Let no man deceive himself.  If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.  For it is written, 'He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS'; and again, 'THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.' "

Men deceive themselves when they equate knowledge with wisdom.  Wisdom is seeing life from God's perspective, and apart from a changed life through the salvation that is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ, man will not naturally have God's perspective.  Until, or unless one is given the fear of the Lord (which is the beginning of wisdom, Prov. 1:7), he will live life foolishly, with no spiritual reward.  Indeed, all his "good" deeds will only serve to heighten the justified condemnation received at the Great White Throne judgment.

Meanwhile, why are the reasonings of the "wise" man (in the world's opinion) useless from the Creator's perspective?  It is because the spiritual dimension is inoperable.  The unchanged individual is spiritually separated from God (Ephesians 2:1), unable to understand the things of the Spirit (I Corinthians 2:14), because such require spiritual discernment.  Consequently, without spiritual revelation upon which to act, the unbeliever has only speculation to work with in the realm of spiritual truths.  Refusing to accept what God has revealed, he is left with guessing, surmising, and "common sense" assumptions for guidance.  Such reasonings from a deceived and deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9), based on self-effort rather than faith (Hebrews 11:6) are unacceptable to the living God.  What, then, is acceptable?

"...he must become foolish..."  What the world calls foolish is to submit one's life to an unseen Being, who may or may not be trustworthy.  To live a life ordered by such trust is viewed by the unbeliever as the height of foolishness.  Why?  The entire world system operates on Satan's pernicious and pervasive lie: "This (what you understand with your senses) is all there is."  To "become foolish" (from the Creator's vantage point) is to abandon the works-approach to God, and come to Him as He requires:  through trusting the Lord Jesus Christ alone for acceptance.  Only He can change from the inside, out.  He alone transforms spirit, soul, mind, and body.  

Each and every one of us is a fool for someone.  The one who says in his heart "there is no God" is a fool for Satan and his agenda.  The one who has been changed by the Lord Jesus is to be a "fool" for Him, becoming all things to all men that more may be saved (I Corinthians 9:19).