Episode 19: Justification by Faith

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.-Romans 5:1

Sermon text
This week’s song: My Soul Thirsts by The Loverlies

I was excited to read this sermon for two reasons.  Firstly, I am going to be teaching on this in two weeks as a part of a group in my church that is going through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. (By the way, anyone who would be interested in joining us, we meet Saturdays at 9:30 am at the West Oak Coffee Bar on the Square in Denton, TX.)  This subject is near and dear to me, as I believe it should be to all believers: Paul spends so long setting out his case for this truth because it must be understood in light of both the gravity of man’s sinfulness, as well as the great mercy being shown by God and the love with which He gives it.

Knowing this is true, is what broke me of so many years of pride and selfishness, and the Holy Spirit used the teaching of this truth to turn me from loving my sin to hating it.  I pray that I love God more every day for this simple fact among so many: that I, a man who was guilty of so much sin, so many ways I had wronged both God and others around me, could find forgiveness at the cross and life in the resurrection.

I was also excited to read it because it is a central truth in my ongoing response to Dr. Ken Boa’s paper that I’ve been posting on the blog.  I’ve got 3 parts up, but the part I’m currently writing is taking a while to complete and I want to make sure that I treat this with full fairness and with an eye to exegeting the text faithfully in response to what I see to be arguments seriously deficient in their approach to Scripture.  I won’t rehash everything here, but suffice it to say: our responsibility before God in the face of His sovereignty is no mystery, but is a function of our nature as creatures who will stand before our Creator and give account to what we’ve done with His gifts.

Truly, what he says in this sermon is true: I desire, and I think all believers should desire, to know this truth as an innermost part of our beings.  It should drive the way we live, the way we work, the way we love God and love the people around us.  And it should define that very word: love.  We, most unlovable creatures, rebelling against God and pursuing everything that is hateful to Him, spitting in His face even as we breathe His air and eat His food He gave us, absolutely worthy of condemnation.  And yet, even as we lived in sin and loved it, He sent His Son to die and pay the penalty for sin for all His people.

But here’s the important reality: no matter how heartfelt I or Charles Spurgeon can be, nothing can move the heart of the person dead in their sin except the Holy Spirit.  If you have actually made your way to the end of this podcast as an unbeliever and find yourself unmoved, it is you that I pray for most of all, because you are in the greatest danger.  God’s people will stand before Him justified by faith, and there is no one who has engaged in sin so great that the blood of Christ is not enough to cover it.  But to use one of my favorite phrases from an early episode: God justifies the ungodly.  He does not justify the self-righteous.  Those who would stand on their self-righteousness, who would do life apart from the only real source of life, will reap exactly what that sort of living does: death, real and eternal.

So my prayer, then, is that God would be glorified, and that hearts would be broken for Him.  Mine was, by His mercy, so that I could tell you this now, and I pray earnestly that this world full of darkness and hard hearts would be blown open by the power of the Holy Spirit touching one heart at a time.  God is love, and we should run to that love.

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A more excellent ministry: A response to Dr. Ken Boa (part 3)

Reminder if you’ve forgotten: you can read Dr. Boa’s paper in full here.

There is a greater issue that must be addressed in light of all this, and is the larger reason why I felt this response was necessary: this is an issue of how we, as believers, view Christ’s work on the cross.  As Dr. James White writes in his book The Potter’s Freedom:

[T]he ransom that Christ gives in His self-sacrifice is either a saving ransom or a non-saving one.  If it is actual and really made in behalf of all men, then inevitably all men would be saved.  But we again see that it is far more consistent to recognize that the same meaning for “all men” and “all” flows through the entire passage [referring to 1 Timothy 2:4], and when we look at the inarguably clear statements of Scripture regarding the actual intention and result of Christ’s cross-work, we will see that there is no other consistent means of interpreting these words….[1]

The doctrine of justification by faith is one that requires an understanding of the nature of Christ’s work on the cross.  The book of Hebrews discusses this at length, and while I won’t walk through the multiple chapters of argumentation here, I want to discuss some key texts and encourage my readers to read the whole book for themselves, to see the majestic work of salvation accomplished perfectly for God’s people in Jesus Christ.

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The importance of context: a response to Dr. Ken Boa (part 2)

In this next section I will address what I view as an incorrect use of Scripture to support his assertion, and show how it has led to a conclusion that is arguably not defensible scripturally.  Dr. Boa writes:

Finally, God’s plan is not always the same as His desires. Although His plan controls what men will be, the product often is not what He desires. This is partly because God has chosen to allow human will to operate. For instance, God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4; see also 2 Peter 3:9). Yet He has not elected all men: “… The elect obtained it. The rest were hardened” Rom. 11:7).

Thus, God’s plan and desires are two different aspects of His will. He has revealed His desire (what men ought to do), but His plan for what specific men will do has for the most part been hidden. This is almost a mystery within a mystery, because there is no way we can conceive of how these two aspects of God’s will relate together in His mind.

Now, the concept of the two wills of God–His decretal will, or God’s plan He will carry out in creation, and His prescriptive will, what Dr. Boa calls “what men ought to do”–are not at all foreign to the reformed believer.  One of my first introductions to reformed theology was through a sermon of Matt Chandler’s when I was first in the process of joining the Village Church some years ago called “Are there two wills in God?”  John Piper has a similar teaching available, and of course there is much discussion of this subject in the extensive writings of the reformers, all available for free online.  The difference, however, is that where Dr. Boa sees a conflict, the reformers saw harmony, and this is arguably a key part of the issue of compatabilism.  That is a subject we shall address later, but I argue that Dr. Boa has created division within God that is not warranted.  A big reason for that is the way he is handling some commonly abused texts here.  1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 are cited here in support of the idea that God’s true desire is to save all of mankind, but I want to demonstrate here that this is not an appropriate exegesis of this text.

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Salvation belongs to the Lord: A response to Dr. Ken Boa (part 1)

This began as a single post I started some time ago, but it has grown until it has simply become far too long for a single blog post, so I’ve decided to carve it up into parts and post more of it as I write it.

I’ve had the opportunity to teach for an ongoing discussion group/class my church has been hosting, going through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.  I recently was given the opportunity to teach on the doctrine of the Trinity, an opportunity I was extremely excited to take advantage of.  The discussion was good and I was very gratified to spend an extended period walking through large chunks of the Gospel of John to see how the doctrine is revealed by God’s Word: not in a singular verse that says “God is one being made up of three persons,” but by the manner in which God reveals Himself, the perfect cooperation of Father, Son, and Spirit in calling God’s people to Himself in salvation and completing that work perfectly.

And it is about that work, and about that call, that I wish I write.  In our discussion group our leader posted a link to this paper by Dr. Kenneth Boa on the question of God’s sovereignty in salvation versus human responsibility before God.  Dr. Boa says much with which I can agree; it is by no means a thoughtless screed like those so often written against the reformed position, and he goes to great lengths to insure that Scripture is looked at as a whole.  He does not deny God’s election of His people, nor the power of God to save.

Nevertheless, there are a few things I wish to consider in this paper, to discuss at some length and respond to in good faith and brotherly love.  I will argue that Dr. Boa has a tradition that is driving him to certain positions in opposition to what the Scriptures reveal, and I want to try to walk through the relevant texts to demonstrate that.  Not because I have a driving desire to spend my every moment defending reformed theology, but because I take the doctrine of God’s freedom to save His church to His own eternal glory very seriously, and I take just as seriously the doctrine of the depravity of man.

These two doctrines are analogs, they inform each other and are seen, I will argue, very clearly in Scripture: man’s complete inability to turn from his sin and the rule of his desires over his heart to his own ultimate destruction, and God’s perfect ability to take a man in that state of slavery and spiritual death and turn him into a man whose heart beats for the glory of Christ.  I consider myself an example of this by God’s grace, and therefore will say before any reader that the only boasting that will be done here will be done in the cross of Christ.  I believe that Dr. Boa would agree to this as well, and I hope that, should he actually read this, he sees that this is written in a tone of respect and a desire to glorify God by honoring the full measure of God’s revelation.

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Episode 7: All of Grace

Short sermon this time, but on one of the crucial truths of Christianity: sola gratia is not just a Reformation slogan, but the life-transforming truth that brings so many to their knees in repentance–myself most of all!  No matter who you are, no matter your struggle or fear or sin weighing on you, God’s grace is the path to freedom, and we can hold it firmly by faith in the work and person of Jesus Christ.  Friends, brothers, I pray that in listening to this you will be edified.

See the full text here