Archive for the ‘Doctrine’ Category

What is the Gospel?

It is only through Jesus Christ that sinners can know and live for God. This truth, called the gospel, is the “good news” about who Jesus is and what he has done.  It includes his deity, incarnation, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension into heaven, present rule as King of kings and Lord of lords and his future return to establish God’s Kingdom on earth.

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God: Supremely Worthy

The Bible teaches that God is the supreme being of the universe. (Psalm 115:3; Isaiah 42:8; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 48:11; Romans 11:36) Creation declares the magnitude of his worth, the heavens display the beauty of his excellence and he alone deserves the entirety of our lives. (Psalm 8:1-4; Psalm 19:1; Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 10:31) In love, this God created us to live in unhindered relationship with him and with one another as we enjoy his glory together. (Genesis 1-2; Isaiah 43:7; Isaiah 43:21)

Man: Ill-Deserving

We, however, like our first parents Adam and Eve, have refused to give God the glory that he alone deserves. We have rejected him, disobeyed his commands and turned to worship created things rather than God our Creator. (Romans 1:18-25; Romans 3:9-10, 23) We have broken friendship with God by turning away from him in sin earning his just condemnation in the eternal, conscious torments of a very real hell. (Romans 6:23a; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10)

There is absolutely nothing that we can do to earn God’s forgiveness or acceptance. No good work will get us to heaven; no amount of personal effort will bring us back into loving friendship with God. (Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:11) We are powerless to overcome sin and its effects on our own. (John 8:34; Romans 7:7-25)

Jesus: All Sufficient

God, in his loving-kindness, has, however, chosen to glorify his name by saving sinners through his Son, Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:3-14) He demonstrates his love for us by sending Jesus to the cross while we “were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10) God didn’t wait for us to get our life together, to earn his approval or to prove our worth through our good deeds. He sent Jesus to remove our sin and bring us back to him through his death and resurrection. When we were at our worst, God gave us his best.

In other words, God sent Jesus to live as our example, (Philippians 2:5; 1 Peter 2:21; Hebrews 12:1-3) to die on the cross as our substitute (Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 3:18) and to rise from the dead as our Lord,¹ freeing those who believe from Satan, sin, hell and death and redirecting our worship back to God. (Luke 24:1-12; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Romans 5:9; Romans 8:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8) The good news, then, is that ill-deserving sinners can receive forgiveness of sins and be brought back into loving relationship with God by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:11-21; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 John 4:9)

We are not saved by our good works, but by Jesus’ finished work. We can know, enjoy and live for God not because of what we do, but because of what Jesus has done for us. Our acceptance before God is eternally secured when we turn from sin and self-reliance to believe in and depend on Jesus alone for salvation. (Romans 3:23-25; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:1-7)

Lord of All

The gospel, then is the good news that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and earth.  He used his authority entirely for the benefit of ill-deserving sinners by sacrificing himself in our place on the cross.  He then rose from the dead victorious over sin and death so that those who believe can freely worship in submission to and reverence for Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus Christ is Lord of all.  We live for him because he died for us.  (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) This news, as the Apostle Paul says, is of first importance. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) If you truly want to live for God you must come to terms with the gospel. It must determine who you are and how you live.

¹Paraphrased from “The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out” by Mark Driscoll.


The Cross: God’s Love Magnified or His Wrath Satisfied?

April 18, 2014 7 comments

This post is in defense of the biblical doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement.  It is written as a response to specific misconceptions about what Jesus accomplished on the cross. This post is exceedingly long and it is intended to be for the sake of a thorough defense of an important doctrine. Be advised. 

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The cross and resurrection are the culmination of Christ’s ministry.  It was here that Jesus would die for the sins of the world. (1 John 2:2; John 1:29)   It was here that sin and death would be defeated.  (1 Corinthians 15:56-57; 1 Corinthians 15:26) It was here that the Lord would have his victory over Satan and hell. (1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-15; Revelations 12:11; Revelation 20:13-14; Revelation 20:6)   It was here that sins would be forgiven and those who believe would be made right with God. (Hebrews 8-10)

Because of our sins, for our Benefit

On this topic Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” To die for our sins means to die because of our sins.  Elsewhere Paul says, “for our sake [God] made [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Here Paul indicates that Jesus not only died because of our sins, he also died for our benefit.  Peter echoes this in 1 Peter 3:18 when he says “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”

This exchange is known as penal substitutionary atonement; penal meaning penalty, substitutionary meaning in our place because of our sins and atonement meaning to make those who believe right with God. In other words Jesus died on the cross in our place to take the penalty we deserve for our sins so that those who believe in him can be made right with God.

The Wrath of God

The Bible clearly states in both the Old and New Testaments that God’s wrath is against those who do evil.  God’s wrath is his just anger against sinners. We see this in the passages below as well as many others:

1) Psalm 78:21-22:Therefore, when the Lord heard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; his anger rose against Israel, because they did not believe in God and trust in his saving power.”

2) Ezekiel 25:17: The Lord said, “I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon them.”

3) Nahum 1:2:The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.”

4) Romans 12:18:Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

5) Ephesians 2:1-3:And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

6) Revelation 19:21:He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.”

Basically, God is loving, gracious and kind. He is slow to anger, wanting all to turn from sin and be saved, but he will not withhold his wrath from those who continually refuse his loving kindness. (2 Peter 3:9; Exodus 34:6-7)

All Have Sinned

Scripture is also clear when it states that all people have sinned against God and face his wrath.

1) Romans 1:18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

2) 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9:when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from[a] the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might”

3) Romans 3:10-12, 23: “None is righteous, no, not one; no on understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless.  no one does good, not even one… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

4) 2 Peter 2:9:Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment”

Jesus, therefore, substituted himself for sinners at the cross.  He would die so that we could live.  He would be condemned so that we could be forgiven.  He would absorb the wrath of God so that those who believe could instead receive the mercy of God.

A Necessary Substitute

This is called propitiation, which means to appease or deal with a persons anger by diverting it to someone or something other than the person who deserves it. In other words, the offense is actually dealt with by someone or something other than the person who committed the offense, it’s not just overlooked. The following passages illustrate this clearly:

1) 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10:For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven,whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

2) Romans 5:9:Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

3) Romans 3:23-25:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift,through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”

4) 1 John 2:2:He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Scripture is clear: all people are sinners who deserve the wrath of God.  God, in his kindness and love, sent Jesus to the cross as our substitute to absorb the wrath of God so that those who believe could instead receive his love.  God is holy.  It would be unjust for him to simply overlook our offenses.  The cross is where God can execute justice against sin, while simultaneously showing mercy to sinners.

Naysayers and False Teachers

At this point, many progressive Bible teachers speak out against the truth of God’s Word.  These are the men who would rather tell the gospel as they’d like for it to be than as it actually is. (2 Peter 3:14-18) Their arguments are as follows:

1) Modern Bible translations have misinterpreted the word propitiation used in places like 1 John 2:2, Romans 3:25 and 1 John 4:10.  They argue that the word translated as propitiation doesn’t actually mean to “pacify wrath,” but that it should be translated as expiation which means to “remove sin.”  The truth is that Jesus both pacifies wrath and removing sin.

Let’s assume however that you’re smarter than I because you know Greek and Hebrew (or can quote the first website that agrees with your opinion) and that the word for propitiation is incorrectly translated.  There are other Scriptures that do not use the word propitiation and still communicate that Jesus saves us from the wrath of God.

1 Thessalonians 1:10, for example, states that “Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come.” Likewise, Romans 5:9 clearly states that we are “saved from the wrath of God by [Jesus].” Finally, John 3:36 explicitly says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Scripture clearly and emphatically teaches that  Jesus saves from God’s wrath.

2) The second argument against Jesus’ substitutionary work is that Jesus never stated that he died to save sinners from God’s wrath.  This is simply not true. In John 3:16-17 Jesus himself says that “For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  Jesus is referring to a person perishing because they are condemned, but condemned to where?  The answer is hell, the place of God’s wrath as we’ve already seen in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9. At the cross Jesus was condemned so that those who believe wouldn’t have to be. 

Furthermore, in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5-7), Jesus states that it is better to enter life maimed than it is to be thrown into hell for one’s sin. (Matthew 5:27-30)  If a person is thrown into hell because of his sins, then for Jesus to save a person from his sins means that Jesus has saved him from God’s wrath in hell.

Lastly, John the Baptist stated that Jesus died to take away the wrath of God (John 3:36). Jesus had personal interaction with John and many of John’s disciples became Jesus’ disciples. (John 1:35-37) Surely the Lord would have heard of John’s teaching, yet no where in Scripture does Jesus refute the teaching that he is to die for our sins to take the wrath of God.  If it were not true, Jesus would have most certainly corrected the man he regarded so highly. (Matthew 11:11)

3) Those who disagree with the doctrine of propitiation also argue that this stance does not fit with the rest of the New Testament.  Hogwash.  Jesus said at least three times that he came to fulfill the Scriptures (Matthew 26:54, 56; Luke 24:27)   and Paul echoes Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:3.  The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. If Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures, that means that he fulfilled the Old Covenant with it’s laws, rights, rituals, practices, traditions, customs and requirements.

Leviticus 16 illustrates penal substitution when it describes the responsibility of the high priest to slaughter animals as a substitute, or sacrifice, for the sins of the people.  The animal would die, so that the people could live.  The animal would be condemned, so that the people could be forgiven.  If Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures, then he fulfilled this requirement by becoming the substitute for us, which is also confirmed in Hebrews 5-10.

This would also mean that Jesus fulfilled the Passover in which the death angel, executing God’s judgment and wrath against Pharaoh’s rebellion, passed over the homes of those who had the blood of a Lamb painted over their doorposts.  (Exodus 12:12-13) In Matthew 26:26-29 Jesus indicates that his blood is the blood of the covenant, indicating that he is the Passover Lamb, through whom the wrath of God passes over those who believe.

4) One final argument that is commonly made is that penal substitutionary atonement (propitiation) is too judicial.  It pits God the Father against Jesus the Son.  Those who make this argument must have removed passages like Romans 2:1-52 Corinthians 5:10, Acts 17:31 and Revelation 20:12 from their Bibles.  These passages clearly teach that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God to be judged for our sins.  You can’t get much more judicial than that.

If we are to be judged for our sins, then Jesus had to have died to take that judgment.  If he didn’t, then we have no hope but to face the judgment ourselves.  God the Father positioned himself against Jesus the Son on the cross so that he would no longer have to position himself against ill-deserving sinners, which is why 1 John 1:9 calls Jesus our advocate.

An advocate is someone who defends another person in a court of law.  Again, very judicial. How does Jesus defend us in God’s court? By taking the judgment of God upon himself so that he can rightfully defend us at our own judgment. Christ’s judgment is our restoration and without Christ’s judgment there can be no restoration. God is not Judge or Father he is both Judge and Father.

A Glorious Conclusion

Indeed, at the cross God’s wrath is most certainly satisfied.  Jesus absorbed it so we wouldn’t have to.  What then of God’s love? Is he a cold, begrudging deity?  By no means. 1 John 4:10 tells us that “in this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Other translations say “atoning sacrifice” which is another way of saying “to make right with one through the substitutionary death of another.” In fact the dictionary definition for sacrifice is “the offering of an animal, plant or human life or of some material possession to a deity, as in propitiation or homage.”

The breath-taking reality is this: God would rather pour his wrath out on his own Son than to see ill-deserving sinners get the penalty they deserve. You cannot find a better personification of love than that.  Jesus willingly took the punishment you deserve for your wrongs against God so that you could be forgiven.  That’s love.  God the Father chose to punish his Son for your sins so that he could adopt you as his child.  That’s love.

If the question is whether or not the cross is God’s love magnified or his wrath satisfied, then the answer is that the cross is God’s love magnified through his wrath satisfied.  It is at the cross that love and justice meet.  A holy God is vindicated and ill-deserving sinners are loved far beyond what their sins deserve.

This post was adapted from a sermon I preached at the Living Hope Church-Maryville Campus called “Christ Our Substitute.”  This sermon was one of four sermons in a series called “The Cross of Christ,” one of our most popular series at Living Hope.  You can view the series here and the sermon here.

Providence: God’s Hand in Everyday Life

This is a guest post from David Qaoud former chaplain for the Northwest Missouri State Bearcat football team.  You can read his blog “Gospel Relevance” and follow him on Twitter.  Please note, the doctrine of providence is complex.  This post leaves several of the more difficult questions unanswered because it is intended to be a brief introduction, not a comprehensive examination.  

I once ate at Qdoba with a few friends after church one Sunday afternoon. Upon arriving, the employees kindly informed us that this Sunday was uniquely dedicated to the Cardinals (of St. Louis) and everyone who wore any Cardinal apparel would receive a discount. I had no idea of the rule prior to agreeing to attend the lunch. And I just so happened to be wearing a St. Louis Cardinals t-shirt. Coincidence?

There is a mysterious doctrine that pertains to God called providence. In short, it says that God is specifically and actively related to and involved in every aspect of creation – big and small – at each moment and that he ordains, arranges, and predestines everything that happens according to his will.  More particularly, Wayne Grudem defines providence in his classic work, Systematic Theology, like this:

God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.

God's Providence

This should give us an immeasurable amount of peace and joy. Why?

Here’s why: God has ordained every single event in our life – from the obviously big, to the seemingly irrelevant – to happen the way he wants them to happen to fulfill his perfect plan, which is for your highest good. Nothing can happen to us outside of his providential care. (Psalm 103:19)

And because we know that God is in control of all things, that all things work together for good, and that nothing can happen to us apart from God’s ordaining, we can rest in God’s sovereignty and goodness. (Romans 8:28-30Genesis 45:5-8)

Likewise, Jesus is our great providential King. He is the lamb of God provided to be slain. He is the good Shepard who provides food for thousands. He is the Great I Am who creates many miracles. He is the Alpha and Omega, who is not only creator of creation, but also the sustainer of it. In living a perfect life, dying for sin and rising from death, Jesus is our Ultimate Sacrifice who provides his very self to bring us back to God. (John 10:11-18; John 8:58; Colossians 1:15-17; 1 Peter 3:18; Revelation 1:8; Revelation 17:14)

Jesus is in control of everything. And everything that happens to us is for our highest joy and his greater glory.

Now tell me what you’re worried about again?

For more resources on the doctrine of providence visit’s-will. 

The Good News

The central message of the entire Bible is “the gospel.” The word literally means “good news.”  It comes from the Greek word euangelion, which is where we get the English word evangelism, “to share the good news.”  In Jesus’ day, the word gospel meant one of two things: 1) that a male heir had been born to the royal throne and would one day be King or 2) that a royal victory had been won by the King. The Christian gospel is both.

The Royal Heir

In the opening chapters of the book of Genesis God creates the heavens and the earth, establishes vegetation and wildlife on the planet and then creates mankind in his image and for his glory. (Genesis 1 & 2) The earth and its inhabitants were established in God’s moral perfection and God saw that “it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) By chapter 3, the “prince of the power of the air,” (Ephesians 2:1-2) Satan comes to Eve as a Serpent and deceives her into disobeying God, an act of treason to God the King, punishable by death. (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23).  She invites her husband, Adam, to do the same and they both become corrupt, morally flawed sinners who marr their reflection of God.

This is where the war of the kingdoms begins.  God, the supreme authority over all created things, is opposed by Satan.  Satan, knew that he couldn’t pick a fight with God and win, so he declared war on God’s highest created order, mankind.  In his deception God’s people became captive to Satan, sin, hell and death. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12; Jude 21-22)  God then calls a family meeting with Satan present.  At this meeting he declares the curse that men and women will endure for their sin.  He then declares Satan’s curse by briefly describing that God’s heir will be born to the throne and will crush Satan with his heel.  (Genesis 3:8-20)

The rest of the Old Testament reveals the need for God’s King to save his people from their sins in the Law, (Genesis – Deuteronomy), prototypes the coming of the King in the History Literature (Joshua – Esther) explains the wisdom of his Kingdom in the Wisdom Literature (Job – Song of Solomon & Lamentations)  and foretells the coming of this King who will win salvation for his people in the Prophets (Isaiah -Malachi). 

The New Testament then reveals this King as Jesus in the gospels (Matthew – John), records the work of the King among his people (Acts) unpacks the salavation victory of this King over Satan, sin, hell and death in the Epistles (Romans – Jude) and declares the return of the King, and the establishment of his Kingdom in the book of Revelation.

The Royal Victory

The New Testament, then begins by declaring the birth of the King who is heir to the throne of God.  Both Matthew and Luke’s Gospel accounts, recall the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.  An angel from God comes to Mary and Joseph to tell them that the anointed heir to the throne of God is going to be born to them and that they are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1; Luke 1)

Jesus then lives the morally perfect, law-filling life we could not live and goes to the cross to die in our place and for our sins.  In the garden, we substituted ourselves for God, giving ourselves to Satan, enslaving ourselves to sin and condeming ourselves to hell.  At the cross, Jesus exchanged himself for sinners, taking our sin, our guilt and the punishment of God’s wrath that we deserve. (1 Corinthians 15:45-48; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 4:14-16)

God then raised Jesus from the dead, defeating Satan, sin, hell and death as the true King who wins victory for his people by his death and resurrection through which God, by his unearned, undeserved favor calls ill-deserving sinners (you and I) to salvation, which leads to repentance.  True repentance is marked by faith in Jesus, baptism and service in the local church, made evident by living obediently under his rule as King. This life of obedience bears witness to this present generation that he is in fact King. (Luke 24:1; Matthew 28:1-8; Ephesians 2:8-9Romans 7:24-8:4; 1 Corinthians 15:54-56; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12; 1 John 3:8; Romans 6:1-23)

Jesus spent 40 more days with the disciples and ascended into the heavens where he is ruling and reigning over all races, religions, political parties, languages and peoples as King of kings and Lord of lords commanding all people to turn from sin to trust him as Savior, obey him as King and love him as Lord.  There is coming a day when he will judge the living and the dead.  At that time those who have rejected, neglected, refused and abused him will be subjected to his reign as King in the eternal, conscious torments of hell, while those who, by grace, have received him will rule with him in eternity forever. (Acts 1:1-8; Philippians 2:9-112 Thessalonians 1:5-12; Revelation 19:11-21; Matthew 25:31-46)

A Summary

Therefore, the good news is that Jesus is the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of God who has won eternal victory for those who repent of sin and trust in him as Lord, God, King and Christ. It is the truth that we do not achieve victory over Satan, sin, hell and death by our works, but that we receive the victory by faith in the work that Jesus has done. From that truth we then live in obedience to Jesus as Lord and King by the power of his death and resurrection at work in us.

A Blue Collar Invitation

Mark 1:16-18: “Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

Mark 1:16-18 offers readers 3 big lessons:

1) We do not initiate God, God initiates us.  Jesus is the one who saw Simon and Andrew.  Jesus is the one who called Simon and Andrew.  Jesus is the one who gave Simon and Andrew their task.  Ultimately, Jesus is the one who went to the cross to die for our sins when we were enemies of God.  We weren’t seeking after God, so God came seeking after us by sending Jesus to be our example and our substitute. It is through faith in what Jesus has done  that we can live for God. (Romans 3:9-26)

2) Jesus expects us to follow and obey him.  Notice that Jesus didn’t ask Simon, Andrew, James and John if they wanted to follow him, he called them to follow him.  It was a statement, not a question. Jesus was a Rabbi, a teacher of his day.  Most Jewish teachers chose the cream-of-the-crop, religious students to be their students.  Jesus chose some fisherman who were probably only fishing because they didn’t make the cut in their religious education.  These fisherman knew it was unusual for a man of Jesus stature to be calling to ordinary blue-collar guys like themselves.  They probably didn’t understand at the time, but they definitely didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity.

This is important for us because it means that we don’t have to have the high-paying job, the correct religious understanding or even a church background to be loved and chosen by God.  We can be ordinary, blue-collar people and God loves us the same.  The disciples didn’t have anything to offer Jesus, but Jesus had everything to offer them.  In the same way, we have nothing to offer Jesus and he needs nothing from us, but like the fisherman Jesus is offering himself to common, every-day people like you and I.  He chooses us based on the work he’s done, not on the work we do. He forgives our sin because of his death, not our discipline.  He sets us free to live for God by his resurrection, not our rule keeping.  He invites us to receive, not to achieve.

Likewise, throughout Scripture Jesus is revealed as Lord, God, King and Christ.  Colossians 1 tells us that he is the center of the universe and all things are held together in him.  Hebrews tells us that he upholds the universe with his powerful word.  Simply, Jesus rules over everything and everything is subject to him.  When he speaks the universe responds without hesitation.  When he calls us he expects the same.  The disciples didn’t know this truth at the time, but they definitelyfound out. And it was this truth that entirely reoriented the disciples life, just as it should reorient ours in much the same way.

3) Jesus calls us to the Father’s work. These four men were busy working when Jesus called them, but that didn’t stop Jesus from calling them.  Notice that Jesus didn’t call them to stop being fishermen, he simply called them to be a different kind of fishermen.  They were expected to follow Jesus as fishermen, but for a purpose that extended far beyond the money making venture of their trade.  They were called to catch men for God.  This is important for us in our daily lives as well.  The question is not whether or not you are a businesswoman, a teacher, a banker or a fisherman.  The question is what kind of businesswoman, teacher, banker or fisherman are you?  The point is that we are called to do the Father’s work of winning souls to God within the context of our daily lives.  We are to use our position to fulfill our purpose of bringing glory to God and people to Jesus. 

Question: How can you use your job to do God’s work?


Depravity is a Biblical word used to describe the sinfulness of the human race.  It means that we, though created in the image of God with value and worth, are morally bad, evil and corrupt. (For the best Biblical illustration of this see Romans 1:18-31).  There are two types of depravity: Total Depravity and Utter Depravity.

Total Depravity

Total depravity means that every member of the human race is to some degree corrupt, evil and morrally bad in thought, action, word and motive. (Romans 3:23)  Every part of our being has been affected and stained by sin. Our mind and heart (Ephesians 4:18, Jeremiah 17:9), will (Romans 6:16-17, John 8:31-37), emotions (Titus 3:3), conscience (Titus 1:15) and physical body (Romans 8:10) are all corrupted by sin.  As Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears state in their book “Doctrine,” “The totality of a person is pervasively affected by sin, and there is no aspect of their being not negatively impacted by sin.”

Practically this means two things.  First, their are no ‘good’ people.  The existance of seemingly ‘good’ people is only the result of God’s common grace toward humanity to keep us from being completely corrupted by our sin.  We are not good people who can get better, but are evil people in need of saving. 

Second, we all desperately need Jesus.  Though God created us in his image with perfect value, dignity and worth, (Genesis 1:26-27) we have become depraved in the totality of our being both by nature and choice. (Romans 5:12-21, Romans 1:18-31)  We disobey God, harm one another and, as slaves to sin, condemn ourselves to hell (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, Psalm 14). We are powerless to overcome our depravity by good, moral works. Knowing this, God sent Jesus Christ (the only morally good and pure person) to live the life we could not live, to die the death we should have died, on the cross in our place and for our sin.  (Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 3:18) God then raised Jesus from the dead 3 days later to set us free from our depravity by destroying the power of sin. (1 Corinthians 15)  As a result, those who trust in Jesus’ work of the cross are set free from Satan, sin, hell and death to live for God, while those trust in themselves die in their depravity and face the eternal corruption of their souls. (Romans 6-9We can not achieve freedom from depravity by our work, but must receive it by the saving grace of God available to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This means that we can only overcome the power of sin by the work of Jesus Christ. It also means that as J.C. Ryle states, “we need the Spirit of God, the Word of God and the people of God [as well as the grace of God] to help us live wisely.” 

Utter Depravity

Utter depravity, then, would describe someone who is completely evil.  An utterly depraved person cannot get any worse because he or she is already as bad as he or she can be.  Since no one is outside of the common grace of God no one is subject to utter depravity, accept, perhaps, Satan and his demons. By the common grace of God we are free from utter depravity and are not as bad as we could be. By the saving grace of God we can experience freedom from, and victory over, the affects of total depravity by faith in the person and work of Jesus.

Question: How does understanding your depravity help you appreciate the grace of God? You can leave your comments here.

What’s so important about Grace?

February 16, 2012 3 comments

Grace, one of the Bible’s most recurring themes, is defined as the unearned, undeserved favor of God. It is the term used to describe how God works in spite of us, not because of us and for us when he should be working against us.  Grace has two contexts in both the Bible and in life: Common Grace and Saving Grace.

Common Grace

Common grace is the unearned, undeserved favor that God gives to all people to varying degrees in a general way.  The Bible is clear that though we are each created in the image of God with infinite value and worth (Genesis 1:26-27), we have sinned against God in both the fallen nature of our being and the choices of our conscious minds (Romans 5:12, James 1:13-15).  That is at the very core of who we are we rebel against God’s authority and presence in our lives (Romans 1:18-32). As a result, we condemn ourselves to hell, the just punishment we deserve for rebellion against the Almighty. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, Matthew 13:40-43)

This means that each and every one of us deserve nothing less than God’s eternal, unceasing wrath in the torments of hell.  If God were to sentence everyone to hell he would simply be giving us what we deserve for our crimes against him.  Common Gace, then is the unearned, undeserved favor that God gives to all people in allowing us to live in moderate happiness on the earth. God’s common grace includes technology, food, water, clothing, shelter, medicine, education and any other aspect of this life that can be considered good.

Basically, if the circumstance you’re experiencing are better than hell, then you’re experiencing the common, undeserved, unearned favor of God in your life. Common grace then beomes both eternally and practically important. It is eternally important because it means that a person who rejects Jesus, remains in their sin and dies to find themselves in hell has still, to some degree, experienced the unearned, undeserved favor of God in that God granted them a few years on earth to escape the punishment they should have received from the start. 

It is practically important because it means that we can be thankful even in the midst of the worst adversity because our circumstances are in no way as bad as they could be.  It is also practically helpful because it means that though we as ill-deserving sinners are not as good as we should be, we are neither as bad as we could be and can still live decent more lives, even if we don’t know Jesus.  Lastly, common grace means that this life is as close to heaven as unrepentant sinners will ever get, while it is as close to hell as those who trust in Christ will ever get.  Common grace makes common life worth being grateful for.  Suddenly, that hour long drive to work isn’t that bad, you’re old beater of a car is actually a blessing, and being fired from your job is still better than the alternative.

Saving Grace

The second type of grace is known as Saving Grace.  Saving grace is the unearned, undeserved favor that God extends to some sinners so that they can repent of sin and believe on Jesus.  Jesus tells us in John 8 that we are “slaves to sin.” As slaves we are unable to set ourselves free.  There is no choice we can make of our own free will and no effort we can make of our own work that will ever free us from the captivity of our sin.  If God were to leave all people to their sin enslaved will, we would all end up in the hell we deserve.  Saving grace, then is the favor that God extends to some in choosing to free them from their slavery to sin so that they can believe on the work of Jesus Christ and thereby be forgiven their sin, rescued from hell and brought into friendship God. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

The argument against saving grace is that it means God did not extend his grace to all people in the same way and some will die and go to hell because God was unkind in not extending saving grace to them. Those who argue this wrongly believe that God owes saving grace to all people.  The truth is the only thing that God owes to all people is justice.  Anyone who experiences common grace has already received more of God’s goodness than they deserve and those who receive God’s saving grace are simply to be grateful that he extended his unearned, undeserved favor to them because he certainly didn’t have to.  The truth of saving grace is that God needs to save no one, but in his unearned, undeserved favor chooses to save some. (Romans 9-11)

Question: How does understanding God’s grace enrich your life? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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