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 11: The Panting Deer (Psalm 42)

UPDATE: reuploaded due to an earlier editing error

Sermon text here.

I have decided to try, as a new addition to the podcast, a portion after the sermon which will serve as sort of a devotional time of my own, to talk about what led me to choose this sermon and to give my own thoughts on the subject.  This will not supplant discussion episodes, but I wanted to try doing this to begin generating my own original thoughts on Spurgeon’s words and the Scriptures at hand.

By the way, the transition music is a new arrangement of A Mighty Fortress is Our God by Jarod Grice, whom you may recall from discussion episode 8A.  You can download his song and many others he’s written at his Bandcamp page.

I chose this sermon for three reasons.  Firstly, this is probably one of my favorite psalms, and there have been many days since the Holy Spirit broke my heart for Christ that I have found myself feeling exactly like King David in this psalm, aching deeply for closeness with my Lord.  My desire has been to have a heart that is fully in sync with Paul’s words of Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  But it seems like that is often beyond my grasp, and I am forced to be reminded of something else Paul wrote, a word from God in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

And that feeds into my second reason, and one that Spurgeon acknowledges early on: the deadly effects of sin on our communion with God.  Like all believers who still live, I have had to do a great deal of battle against the sins of my past, against my fleshly will to rebel and against the enemy that tempts and accuses.  I have struggled with the truth that God’s grace is sufficient for me, that the sacrifice Jesus made of Himself on the cross is truly vast enough to cover what I am guilty of.  Most of all I have had the bittersweet experience of having my eyes opened to an idol I have been holding back; over the last few years God has walked me through this same process in gentleness but with discipline, in showing me things that I am holding onto in such a way that I have made it clear that I don’t truly trust God fully.  Then in that same sense of joyful, repentant weeping that Spurgeon talks about, I have had to release my grip…and in that release, God has been faithful to bring healing, renewed life and rest, and to remind me that He loves me.  That is, after all, one of the reasons I started this podcast, to be able to share material that God has used in my life for exactly that purpose so many times.

And finally, that leads into my third reason: my wife returned from a mission trip to Asia and had amazing opportunities to share the Gospel with many and to meet people who had become believers in a place where proclaiming the name of Christ is at best, severely frowned upon, and at worst met with death.  She spoke about one man who shared his testimony; after becoming a believer his family had disowned him.  For years he had been unable to speak with them, and this in a society which is far more communal and collectivistic by nature than the West; losing contact with your family is like losing contact with your context for the world.  His father passed away and he tried to return and see him one last time, but he was kept out, unable to attend his own father’s funeral.  She recalled that his closing words were, “Christ is my only asset.”

And as I heard this, I was deeply convicted of this truth: the same is true for me.  I live in a society where we do not have this same level of persecution; becoming a believer was not something that destroyed my connections with family and friends.  Yet the truth is that even with all the things I do have here, Jesus Christ really and truly is my only asset.  If I live, it is for Christ and through Christ; if I die, I go to Christ.  Yet how many times, even in just the last few days, have I been guilty of living as though Christ were simply one of several fungible assets I can choose from?  Too many to count, enough to make me cry out to the Father just like the blind man, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!”

But thanks be to God, that mercy is given, and given readily.  My friends, I pray this podcast is a blessing to you.  If you know Christ, then I pray your spirit has been strengthened by this mere echo of a great preacher of years gone by.  If you don’t know Christ, then I pray you have felt a conviction that you are in need.  I hope that you are driven to ask questions, and to seek answers.  The answers are there to be had, and Jesus Christ is there to know you, to cover the sins you and I and all people are guilty of, and to give you the only real, meaningful, lasting asset any human can ever possess.

Episode 9: Herein is Love

Love is in the air and in the news, and I wanted to do a sermon on love with its truest center in our human experience: God’s love, and the great display of it in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Listen above, and stay tuned for our next discussion episode featuring a very special crossover!

Meanwhile, I am also posting my own writing on the subject, crossposted from my own blog.  Check it out below the fold:

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Episode 8: The Blind Beggar

Sorry for the production delay, but we are finally here with episode 8!  Thanks to all our amazing fans for following us on Facebook and Twitter, and the sermon you helped us pick was number 266, The Blind Beggar.  This one made me consider my own testimony as I recorded it, and it was a stark reminder of God’s grace in my salvation.  It is also a reflection on our own society and the need for those to go forth and preach: this man, as the preacher says, was not someone who had watched Jesus perform miracles, or followed him around as a disciple.  He probably sat in the same area day in and day out, begging, maybe hearing stories about Jesus, yet when he was told that Jesus was walking by, he knew to do nothing less than run straight to the only one who opens eyes and transforms hearts.  I pray this episode blesses you, and I hope you’ll watch for the next one–possibly a new discussion episode!

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