|The Truth Which Sets Free - Destiner Press|
For free online reading simply click on the Chapters listed below.
An exposure of the false teaching of Christianity concerning the reason for evil and suffering. This is one of the most challenging and deepest areas in the Word of God.
The following four booklets are now also included in the Addendum of The Truth Which Sets Free.
Now revised and included here in this Addendum of The Truth Which Sets Free
Original booklet published by the Olive Press
Copyright © by Peter Dunstan
1. The Sovereignty of God
God does as He pleases with His creatures
God predestines everything that happens
God never changes His plan or purpose2. The Bondage of Man
Man is dead to God * Man is a slave to sin
Man is a prisoner of self and Satan3. Election by Grace
God shows favor to all * God especially loves His people
God elects * God excludes4. The Sacrifice of Christ
Christ died for sinners * Christ died as a substitute
Christs ransom is enough for everyone
Christ died especially for his people5. Calling and Regeneration
God calls everyone * God especially calls His people
God does not save people against their will
The saving call of God cannot be frustrated6. Repentance and Faith
God desires everyone to repent and be saved
Repentance and faith are essential
God commands everyone to repent and believe
God grants repentance and faith to His people7. Justification
Justification by grace * Justification in Christ
Justification by faith alone * Justification by works8. Sanctification
Sanctification is predestined * Sanctification is essential
Sanctification is never complete in this life9. Eternal Security
Promises of security * Warnings against apostasy
Encouragement to endure1. The Sovereignty of God
The Sovereignty of God means, in effect, that He has the absolute right and power to deal with His creatures as he pleases. This does not contradict the fact that God is also Love, Light, Holiness and Wisdom, it reinforces all of His infinite perfection. It means that He is truly the "Lord God Almighty", the "Most High." The word "sovereign" literally means "highest." (See Daniel 4:2,34; Revelation 4:8; 6:10) An understanding of His absolute sovereignty is vital before any sense can be made of salvation by grace.
God does as he pleases with his creatures
Even the great pagan emperor Nebuchadnezzar (after he had been reduced to little more than a wild animal) admitted that the Most High "does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, What doest thou?" (Daniel 4:35) Indeed, no one after truly tasting the power of the living God will dare to question His sovereignty, especially in the matter of salvation by grace. God declares, "I will have mercy upon whom I have mercy," and the elect believer humbly acknowledges that "he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills." (Romans 9:15,18) The Creator is not obliged to save anyone and He may choose not to do so. Those who challenge this truth receive the sharp rebuke, "But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder Why have you made me thus?" (Romans 9: 20) God also hides or reveals Himself exactly as He pleases. Jesus thanked his Father that He had, "hidden these things (concerning salvation) from the wise and revealed them to babes" and he taught his elect that "no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Matthew 11:25,27) To his disciples Christ explained that "to you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them (the rest of the crowd) it has not been given." (Matthew 13:11) The first step to understanding salvation by grace is made by recognizing the complete power and authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords and accepting the truth that "as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will." (John 5:21)
God predestines everything that happens
The Lord "accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will." (Ephesians 1:11) The fact that God has predestined everything which comes to pass does not destroy the fact that man is a creature with a will of his own, responsible for his own actions. In the death of Christ (the very center of Gods saving plan) men were fully responsible for their actions, even though the crucifixion had been predestined by God from all eternity. "The Son of man goes as it has been determined," explained Jesus, "but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!" (Luke 22:22) "Men of Israel," explained the apostle Peter, "this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." (Acts 2:23) The early disciples understood from God that "both Herod and Pilate, with the Gentiles and peoples of Israel," were personally responsible for uniting themselves against Christ "to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place." (Acts 4:27,28) God did not compel Judas to betray Christ, nor did He force Adam to disobey him in the beginning. They had only themselves to blame for their actions which they performed of their own will. Yet all these things took place according to Gods predestined plan, even the disobedience of Adam. The whole creation was "subjected to futility" by God for the purpose of bringing out His children. (Romans 8:19,20) Indeed, "God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and his ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:32,33)
God never changes his plan or purpose
God is eternal, "the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (or "no variation due to a shadow of turning"). (James 1:17) He does not make mistakes in Himself or in his actions. "This God, his way is perfect." (Psalm 18:30) Consequently, he does not ever need to repent or change his mind about his plans. If He did change His mind, it would mean that His purpose was not perfect in the first place, and thus He could not truly be God. However, the Scripture sometimes does speak of God being "sorry" that He had created men because they had become so sinful (Genesis 6:6) and that He "repented" of preparing to destroy the Israelites after Moses had pleaded with Him. (Exodus 32:14) But these examples are describing the actions of an infinite God in human terms for the sake of mans limited understanding (in the same way as Scripture speaks of the "hand" of God when in fact He is pure Spirit). God knew from eternity that men would become wicked, and He knew beforehand that Moses would successfully pray for Israel because He had already promised to bless Israel. (Exodus 32:13) From mans point of view it appeared that God changed his mind but in eternal reality the Lord never does this. "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said and will he not do it? Or has he spoken and will he not fulfil it?" (Numbers 23:19) No, Gods plan is unchanging, and He will bring it all to completion exactly as planned. "My counsel shall stand," says the Most High, "I will accomplish all my purpose." (Isaiah 46:10)
2. The Bondage of Man
The Most High clearly has the right and the power to save us by grace. But why does man need to be saved by Gods grace rather than by his own effort or will? The reason is that man is in a dreadful state, worse in fact than a zombie or even a robot. By his very nature, disposition, temperament and character he is dead to God, a slave to sin and a prisoner of self and Satan.
Man is dead to God
In the beginning, when man was first created in Gods image, he was truly free and able to morally choose between serving his Creator or disobeying him. His one restriction was the forbidden fruit, and the penalty for eating it (for disobedience, the fruit itself may well have been harmless) was immediate death, "for in the day that you eat of it you shall die." (Genesis 2:17) Adam did not merely "fall" when he disobeyed (terrible enough) he died as far as God was concerned, and the whole human race died with him. In the same way that children may become bankrupt through the foolish act of a parent, so too mankind lost its blamelessness and descended into a corrupt state with this act of defiance. "Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin," explains the apostle Paul. "Many died through one mans trespass," and "one mans trespass led to condemnation for all men." (Romans 5:12,15,18) Since Adam was the head of the human race, "in Adam all die," (1 Corinthians 15:22) Ever since then each individual human being is "conceived in sin" and comes into the world spiritually stillborn, dead to God. (Psalm 51:5; Job 14:4; 15:14) For this reason the Scripture speaks of the natural man as being "dead in sins and trespasses." (Ephesians 2:1,5)
Man is a slave to sin
Man is totally unable to get himself out of his dreadful situation. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?" asks the prophet: "Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil." (Jeremiah 13:23) The answer is that it is not possible for flawed, fallen or dead men to change themselves. "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin," explained Jesus, and he added that men could be freed only "if the Son makes you free." (John 8:34,36) All of us begin life as "slaves of sin" (Romans 6:17) and in this natural state we cannot truly seek God, or receive spiritual things or please Him in any way whatsoever. All men are "under the power of sin" so "no one understands, no one seeks for God." (Romans 3:9,11) The problem is not only that man will not understand but also that he cannot understand. "The natural man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14) Consequently "those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:8) They are enslaved to sin and naturally hostile to their Creator, not wishing to abide by His Word or His will.
Man is a prisoner of self and Satan
The natural man is not able to make the right spiritual choice between good and evil. When the choice is offered to him he will always choose evil, freely and willingly, because he is a prisoner of his own heart, and his heart is inclined towards sin. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt." (Jeremiah 17:9) Scripture describes men in their natural state as "uncircumcised in heart" which is why they "always resist the Holy Spirit." (Acts 7:51) When Christ appeared as the light of the world, "men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19) Men are responsible for these sins which they willingly commit, but at the same time they are spiritually incapable of giving up their sins. The carnal man is not merely part captive and part free; the whole person is a prisoner. His heart, his mind, his soul and his will are in total bondage to his satanic master. He does not have the power in himself to go the right way, nor does he wish to do so, because he is fallen, caught in "the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:25,26) Unbelievers are "by nature children of wrath," because their wills are fully inclined to "following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air...following the desires of body and mind." (Ephesians 2:2,3)
3. Election by Grace
Since the natural man is unwilling and unable to free himself from sin, salvation clearly does not depend on anything he can do; it depends entirely upon an act of the Most High. God could quite justly condemn all men for their sins, but the marvel is that he has actually chosen to save some sinners because of His own love and compassion. His action of choosing undeserving people and showing them mercy is known as election by grace.
God shows favor to all
God is Love. As Creator He extends graciousness to all men, even those whose hearts are set against him. "Love your enemies," said Jesus," so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust." (Matthew 5:44,45) Jesus loved even the rich young ruler who refused to give up his possessions and follow him. (Mark 10:21) Concerning the unbelieving Jews God says," All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient people." (Romans 10:21) No one, however sinful, is beyond the reach of Gods compassion because He is infinite and His love is inexhaustible. In this sense His love is capable of encompassing the whole world.
God especially loves his people
God is Light and He truly despises not only sin, but also sinners themselves (without whom there would be no sin). He "hates all evil doers." (Psalm 5:5) As Savior God does not love everyone, he divides between men. In terms of race (Jew or Gentile) or social status (servant or master) or even deeds (good or evil) the Scripture emphasizes that "God shows no partiality." (Romans 2:6-11; Ephesians 6:8,9; Colossians 3:25) But in terms of the election of His people out of the sinful human race God does indeed discriminate between men, otherwise no one would ever be saved. God is partial to his people in showing them mercy which they do not deserve. God distinguished in this way between Jacob and Esau. "Jacob I loved but Esau I hated," and this was true even though "they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad in order that Gods purpose of election might continue, not because of (their) works but because of his call." (Romans 9:11-13) As a Father, God especially loves and disciplines his own people saying, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth," (Amos 3:2) In this sense God particularly loves His elect.
"You did not choose me but I chose you," Jesus told his disciples. (John 15:16) Why does God elect? It cannot be because of mans will, because man is in the flesh, unable to please God. God elects purely because it is His will, because it is His good pleasure and gracious purpose. "He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness but in virtue of his own mercy." (Titus 3:5) "He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will." (Ephesians 1:5) "He saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago." (2 Timothy 1:9) When does God elect? He elects His people from eternity. "He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world." (Ephesians 1:4) How does God elect? He elects his people in Christ and they discover their election when God enables them to hear about and put their trust in His Son. Thus believers are encouraged to "confirm your call and election" by obediently following Jesus. (2 Peter, 1:10) Churchmen know almost nothing of Gods electing power, and they either avoid it or try to get around it. For instance they love to insist that the scripture which reads, "those whom he foreknew he also predestined," (Romans 8:29) means that God elected his people from eternity because He foresaw that they would decide to believe in Christ. But this reasoning denies that the natural man is dead in sin, unable to receive spiritual things. And far worse, it teaches that man is ultimately saved because of his own action (his foreseen faith). True faith is not the cause of election; it is the fruit of election, a gift of God. People are not chosen because they are faithful, they are faithful because they are chosen. They love God because He first loved them. (1 John 4:10,19) Just as a builder foresees a house because he already has the prepared plan in front of him so also God foreknows everything because He has ordained it to happen in His plan. He foreknows His elect because He set his love upon them before they appeared in history and has also predestined them to salvation. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you," says God to his chosen prophet. (Jeremiah 1:5) Scripture reveals that the elect are in fact a little flock, a small minority whom God keeps for Himself out of the religions and churchmen of the world, "a remnant chosen by grace. But if it is by grace it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace." (Romans 11:5,6) No one is chosen because of his past actions, present desires or foreseen faith, but solely because of Gods undeserved favor. "So it (election) depends not upon mans will or exertion, but upon Gods mercy." (Romans 9:16)
When Jesus taught that God may opt to help one widow and not the rest, or heal one leper and not the others, the churchmen were angry enough to try and kill him. (Luke 4:25-30) The truth is that God shows mercy to whomever he wishes. Since He is in no way obliged to save any sinners at all He may rightly choose to pass some by, leaving out whole civilizations if it is His purpose. As God elects a remnant of undeserving mankind to salvation He does indeed exclude the rest, letting them reap the just penalty for their sins. Like all things which ever happen, this is according to his perfect plan. "The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble." (Proverbs 16:4) At the time of Christ God actually gave the Jews "a spirit of stupor, eyes that should not see and ears that should not hear" so that they would not obtain salvation: "the elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened." (Romans 11:7,8) Scripture describes these people as "vessels of wrath, made for destruction" and "creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed." (Romans 9:22; 2 Peter 2:12) It is true of course that God, acting as Judge, may also reject such people because they have sinned (see Romans 1:18-32) but that is not the whole truth. As Sovereign He may simply act to "harden whom he will" because it is His plan to do so. (Romans 9:18) Concerning Pharaoh God forewarned Moses, "I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go" because it was Gods "very purpose" to "make sport of the Egyptians" with His great miracles, so that His own people would know "that I am the lord" and "so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth." (Exodus 4:21; 10:1,2; Romans 9:17) This is not a popular message, and Christians in particular have no stomach for it. God can and has excluded multitudes from salvation, pouring out His wrath on them in order to teach His elect that he really is Lord. He is the Creator, man is the creature. He is the Judge, man is the defendant. He really is God, and He has the power and the glory to deal with all as He wills. "Has the Potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?" (Romans 9:21) However, this does not mean that God punishes people because he has not chosen them. No, He punishes them for sin. Even though their disobedience is predestined and inherited from Adam they also willingly sin, and are responsible for their actions. The fault (sin means "failure," "falling short" or "short-coming) is theirs. The Word clearly teaches this double-edged truth many times concerning the people God excludes. "They stumble because they disobey the word (their fault) as they were destined to do (Gods plan)." (1 Peter 2: 8) Even if such reprobates (the word means "those passed by" or "by-passed") manage to creep into a gathering of the elect they cannot hide for long, "They pervert the grace of God (their fault)" and were "long ago designated for condemnation (Gods plan)." (Jude 4)
4. The Sacrifice of Christ
God is love and He saves helpless sinners out of his infinite compassion for them. God is also Light and he cannot merely overlook sin. As Judge he has pronounced that "the wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23) How then can a holy God save sinners and still be just? By sending His only Son into the world to die for sin in the flesh, the innocent bearing the penalty for the guilty. Thus God shows us His deepest love, and at the same time the requirement of His Law is fully satisfied. Only in the God-Man Jesus Christ can peace be established between God and flesh. "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) "No one," said Jesus, "comes to the Father, but by me." (John 14:6)
Christ died for sinners
Paul wrote, not to the world but to specific groups of disciples that, “While we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for (us) the ungodly,” (Romans 5:6) and that salvation was by God’s grace, “even when we were dead through our trespasses.” (Ephesians 2:5) God saves His own, not because they are good enough or deserve it, but because of His merciful plan. “God shows his love toward us (the elect) in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Christ died as a substitute
As the Lamb of God, Christ died in the place of others, not for his own sins, but for theirs. "He committed no sin," explained Peter to exiled believers; "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree." (1 Peter 2:22,24) "All we like sheep have gone astray," said the prophet, "but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6) "He loved us and sent his Son," wrote John, "to be the expiation of our sins." (1 John 4:10) As the ultimate Lamb of God Christs mission was "to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)
Christs ransom is enough for everyone
How can one mans life be a ransom for countless others? Because the crucified Christ was not merely man but the infinite God Himself. The value of his sacrifice is limitless; it is sufficient to save the whole world, every individual, all mankind. Indeed there is no race anywhere on earth which is excluded from the effect of this ransom. A glimpse of Christs future glory reveals, "for you were slain and by your blood did ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." (Revelation 5:9) The elect are to be found in every age and amongst men in every corner of the earth, not merely in the Mediterranean area in the first century, and so the apostle John tells the readers of his letters that Christs death paid, "not only for our sins but the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2 ) From this viewpoint, and in this sense alone, Christ has indeed "tasted death for every one" and "gave himself as a ransom for all." (Hebrews 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:6)
Christ died especially for his people
God loved the whole helpless, sinful world so much that He gave His only Son, begotten not created, in order that "whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) Christ is Savior whether men accept it or not, but he is not necessarily their personal Savior. He is "the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe." (1 Timothy 4:10) The Egyptians knew that the God of Israel was the real Savior, but they themselves were not saved by Him, nor was the blood of the Passover Lamb shed for them. The Lamb was provided only for Israel, Gods chosen people. In the same way Jesus was sent to redeem his own, the true Israel, the elect, "for he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) In this sense Jesus died only for his elect (the sheep) but not the rest (the goats). "I am the good shepherd," said Jesus, and I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:14,15) At the end of time, Christ will separate his sheep from the goats because he died for them, and they have heard his voice and followed him. If Christ had died for the sins of every single person whether they obeyed or not (and unbelief is the condemning sin of the whole world; John 10:26) then there would be no condemnation for anyone, even for their unbelief, because God simply does not condemn a person whose sins are paid for by Christ. This is the universal salvation that the disobedient church goats of Christianity are hoping for in vain. But Jesus did not lay down his life to save the goats, and they will indeed choose the way to the wide gate and the wrong place for eternity. He told the churchmen to their face, "You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep." (John 10:26)
If Jesus had died in the place of every individual in history then he would have failed to save all for whom he died because it is crystal clear in Scripture that the majority will not be saved. (Matthew 7:13,14) But it was prophesied that Jesus would in fact be entirely successful in his mission. "He will (not merely might, but surely shall) save his people from their sins," and "he shall see the fruit of the work of his soul and be satisfied." (Matthew 1:21; Isaiah 53:11) "All that the Father gives me will come to me," said Jesus, "and he who comes to me I will not cast out." (John 6:37) Jesus actually saves each and everyone for whom the Father sent him, and he rejoiced in this truth. "Father, the hour has come, glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given Him...I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work which you gave me...I have manifested thy name to the men you gave me out of the world; yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word...I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours; all mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them." (John 17:1-10) Christ especially died as a substitute for a definite portion of the sinful human race: his people, his sheep, his elect. Though they may be only a tiny remnant of the vast total the Word still describes them as "a multitude which no man can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues" who worship the Lord with the words, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb!" (Revelation 7:9,10)
5. Calling and Regeneration
In receiving Gods gracious salvation people must be truly called to believe in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. "And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?" asks the apostle Paul. They must hear about the good news of Christ. "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ." (Romans 10:14-17) But if the natural man is dead to God and unable to receive spiritual things (he has ears but cannot hear) how can he possibly respond to this call? He must also receive new life from God by regeneration. "Truly, truly, I say to you," said Jesus, "unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)
God calls everyone
"Go into the world and preach the gospel," said Jesus, "to the whole creation" and "to all nations." (Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47) The Word is Gods call that comes to everyone externally. It is a serious calling meant for all ears, and those who choose to refuse it are condemned long before the Day of Judgement. "He who believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:18) Such people are already "being lost" and so the gospel appears to be "foolishness" to them. To those who are "being saved" the message is "the power of God for salvation." (1 Corinthians 1:18; Romans 1:16)
God especially calls his people
The elect receive their calling not only externally via their ears but also internally by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit who plants the truth in their hearts. Thus they are "born anew through the word of God" and "brought forth by the word of truth." (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18) "For we know, brethren beloved by God," explained Paul to early converts, "that he has chosen you (how did they know this?) because our gospel came to you not only in word (external call) but also in power and in the Holy Spirit (internal call) and with full conviction." (1 Thessalonians l:4,5) "Many are called (external)," explained Jesus, "but few are chosen (internal)." (Matthew 22:14) "One who heard us was a woman named Lydia...the Lord opened her heart (internal) to give heed to what was said (external) by Paul." (Acts 16:14) Those called in this way are surely saved, thus the Holy Spirit is promised to "everyone whom the Lord our God calls (internally and effectively) to himself." (Acts 2:37)
There is no way the natural man can truly respond to the Word in his own strength. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," said Jesus. "It is the spirit which gives life, the flesh is of no avail." (John 3:6; 6:63) To receive the call man must be spiritually born anew and, like physical birth, this has nothing to do with the will of the person being born. It is totally an act of the Sovereign Lord. "The wind blows where it wills and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes, so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit," said Jesus. (John 3:8) Hence those who have received and believed in Christ are "born, not of blood (not through natural parents), nor of the will of the flesh (not by self-will) nor of the will of man (not by the persuasion of others) but of God (salvation by sovereign grace)." (John 1:12,13)
God does not save people against their will
The external call of God, even when the elect powerfully deliver it, can be resisted by man. Indeed, the natural man will always refuse this calling because his inner nature is hostile to God. "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart (no internal renewal) you always resist the Holy Spirit," said Stephen to the Jews who rejected the Word. (Acts 7:51) The internal call of God, however, surely and effectually calls the elect "to eternal life" (1 Timothy 6:12) and through various trials "to eternal glory." (1 Peter 5:10) God does not force people to come to Him against their will, instead He makes them willing from within by giving them new life. "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you...and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances." (Ezekiel 36:26,27) "I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart." (Jeremiah 24:7)
The saving call of God cannot be frustrated
The regenerating call of God to his elect cannot be defeated. It is Gods way of surely and mercifully saving his people. When Lot hesitated after being commanded to leave sinful Sodom God literally had him pulled out from the impending destruction of that condemned city. (Genesis 19:15,16) That is grace. The saving command of Christ to his sheep, "Follow Me," was likewise irresistible, while to others, particularly churchmen, he merely said, "You are of your father the devil he who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." (John 8:44,47) Such teaching greatly offended the majority of followers who abandoned Jesus. Indeed, churches are packed with these people, finding in Christianity a good place to hide from the Word of God and hear a softer message to their liking. Jesus offered no such relief, "I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." (John 6:65,66) Jesus actually used the teaching of Gods absolute sovereign election to expose and push away the goats. "He who does not love me does not keep my words," he taught, but "if you continue in my word you are truly my disciples." (John 14:24; 8:31) It is only the life-giving call of the Lord that saves with absolute certainty. This is the call that cannot be reversed, a gift that is indeed precious and "irrevocable." (Romans 11:29)
6. Repentance and Faith
When Gods elect receive their new life by grace He also causes them to actively respond to Him with their own (renewed) hearts. They willingly take part in what is called conversion, and this involves two things: repentance (turning away from sin and self) and faith (towards God and His Word).
God desires everyone to repent and be saved
The Scriptures reveal that the Lord is a compassionate God "who desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth;" a patient God who waits, "not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9) He is not a vindictive Person who takes delight in the fact that anyone should perish forever. Just as the gospel is a serious call to all, so the desire of God that all should repent is serious. "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?...I have no pleasure in the death of anyone says the Lord God; so turn, and live." (Ezekiel 18:23,32)
Repentance and faith are essential
"Unless you turn," said Jesus, "you will never enter the kingdom of heaven," and, "you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he." (Matthew 18:3; John 8:24) "Repent therefore and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out," cried the apostles, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved." (Acts 3:19; 16:31) Repentance and faith are the prime evidence of the truly regenerated person, and unless both these fruits appear there is no Biblical reason to assume that a person has been born of God. It does not matter how many do-it-yourself salvation prayers they have prayed, nor any formula their church evangelist has had them follow, nor how loudly they bleat about being "born again." Empty vessels make the most noise, especially the ones in church pews. Check the fruit.
God commands everyone to repent and believe
The natural man, who is incapable of true faith, does not desire to repent in his heart. He must be born anew (the tree must be made good before it can bear good fruit). Even so, John the Baptist told the Pharisees to "bear fruit that befits repentance," and God Himself "commands all men everywhere to repent." (Matthew 3:8; Acts 17:30) A landlord has every right to ask for the rent owed to him even if his tenant cannot pay. Much more so can the Creator demand the debt of repentance and faith from his rebellious creatures even if they are found empty handed. His very request shows us to be lacking, that we are ever dependent on sovereign grace.
God grants repentance and faith to his people
The natural man cannot of his own accord produce the required faith in God or truly repent (although there are certainly false types of faith and repentance found in scripture, and demonstrated by countless millions in Christianity in particular). Faith that saves and endures is a gift of God. In this, as in all things, He is totally sovereign. "It has been granted to you," explains Paul to believers, "that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake." (Philippians 1:29) Consider the literal Greek grammar of this famous verse: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this (faith) is not your own doing, it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8) Repentance is likewise a gift of God to those trapped in sin. "God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and they may escape the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:25,26) When God first poured out His Spirit on the Gentiles the Jewish apostles were astounded, but they accepted that "to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life." (Acts 11:18) They realized that the Most High saved whom He wished. If man chooses to reject the Word then he has only himself to blame for his folly, but if he is able to receive and believe in it, he rightly gives all the praise to God alone Who chose him before the world was made. "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48)
Every one whom God chooses and calls out of the sinful human race He also puts right with Himself forever. "Those whom he predestined he also called; and those who he called he also justified." (Romans 8:30) Justification is Gods act of declaring a sinner to be righteous in His sight once and for all time on the basis of Christs righteousness. This verdict comes to Gods elect "by grace" (gift of the Father) "in Christ Jesus" (gift of the Son) "to be received by faith" (gift of the Spirit). (Romans 3:24,25)
Justification by grace
The Word of God reveals that because of Adams sin, and also because of their own shortcomings, all descendants of Adam have fallen short of the divine standard and all stand condemned. "One mans trespass led to condemnation for all men," and "by one mans disobedience many were made sinners." (Romans 5:18,19) No person can ever gain acceptance with God by living up to Gods requirements, "for no human being will be justified in his sight by the works of the law." (Romans 3:20) But a holy God never lowers His standard to meet mans fallen capabilities. He always demands no less than perfect righteousness. Since this righteousness cannot be achieved by man, God Himself freely provides it. Free that is for man, of unimaginable cost for the Lamb of God. In Christ God forgives (quite literally gives for) the sins of His people and clothes them with the righteousness of His Son. The elect are therefore "justified by his grace as a gift," (Romans 3:24) and this free grace comes to sinners in the one and only Man whose life has ever completely satisfied God from start to finish. "This is my beloved Son," says God, "with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17) In Christ the elect are completely forgiven for all time. "There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...who shall bring any charge against Gods elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn?" (Romans 8:1,33,34)
Justification in Christ
Goats of all persuasions, in their navel gazing and religious exercises and striving for "sainthood," have often stated that it is unworthy of God to declare sinners to be righteous. But He does not declare that they are righteous in themselves, but that they are righteous in Christ. They are accounted (reckoned, credited, imputed) with the righteousness of Christ, their substitute. By taking the place of his sheep Christ suffered the death penalty for their sins and provided them with a life that meets Gods standards. Christ actually "poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors" in order that he might "make many to be accounted righteous." (Isaiah 53:11,12) Just as every child of Adam is accounted with Adams sin, so every child of God is credited with the righteous life of Christ, "so by one mans obedience many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:19) "For our sake He (the Father) made Him (the Son) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) The chosen in Christ possesses a righteousness that is as perfect as God Himself, "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." (Romans 3:22) This infinite righteousness cannot possibly be possessed in a believers finite body, it is kept for him in heaven at Gods right hand. Thus Gods people can rightly say that "The LORD is our righteousness." (Jeremiah 23:6; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
Justification by faith alone
Gods gift of righteousness in Christ is designed to be "received by faith." (Romans 3:25) More than that, this righteousness is to be continually held by faith alone. "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law...and to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness." (Romans 3:28; 4:5) The apostle Paul explained to the mistaken Galatians that they could never return to a doctrine of getting right with God by their own good deeds, because "man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ...He who through faith is righteous shall live." (Galatians 2:16; 3:11) Paul counted everything else to be rubbish except Jesus Christ, and his one desire was "to be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God which depends on faith." (Philippians 3:9)
Justification by works
While man is put right with God through faith alone, this faith, if it is true faith, is never alone. It is a living, active, fruitful faith which produces works of obedience. These works have no saving value in themselves, but are indeed evidence that faith is real. "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." (James 2:17) In this sense, and only in this sense, the Bible also teaches that "man is justified by works, and not by faith alone." (James 2:24) This guards against the classic false teaching found in Christianity that a person can have saving faith and yet not produce the fruits of repentance; that they can somehow know Christ as Savior (be justified) but not know him as Lord (be sanctified).
Whoever God justifies He also sanctifies. Justification and sanctification are like Siamese twins: inseparable but distinct from each other. Whereas justification is Gods legal act (declaring the guilty to be innocent) once and for all time, sanctification is the ongoing process of moral renewal. Justification is Gods work for man in Christ. It takes place outside the believer in his Substitute. The believer is passive in justification, accepting Christs work on his behalf. Sanctification is Gods work in the believer by the activity of the Holy Spirit. He causes the believer to be active in his own sanctification: to strive, to stand fast, and to fight the good fight.
Sanctification is predestined
Gods elect have been "predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son." (Romans 8:29) "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy," writes the apostle Paul. (Ephesians 1:4) Again, he says, "God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth." (2 Thessalonians 2:13) Peter describes believers as, "chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood." (1 Peter 1.2) "You did not choose me," explained Jesus to the twelve, "but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit." (John 15:16)
Sanctification is essential
"You shall be holy," says the Father, "for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:16) Holiness is not an optional extra for the elect. They are commanded to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his own good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12,13) "Be perfect," Jesus commanded the crowds, "even as your heavenly Father is perfect," for "unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20,48) Every true disciple must aim for the goal of perfection, "the holiness without which no one shall see the Lord," and must walk the predestined path of "good works which God has prepared beforehand." (Hebrews 12:14; Ephesians 2:10) No one who approaches the throne of God empty handed will receive eternal life.
Sanctification is never complete in this life
While the believers own holiness is thus absolutely essential it is equally true that it is not his own holiness which saves him now or at the final judgement. In order to be saved in that way the believer would have to be perfect, but that is not accomplished in the present body of flesh because the Holy Spirits work in him is not completed in this life. "I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ," wrote Paul, and he admitted, "not that I have already obtained or am already perfect." (Philippians 1:6; 3:12) He described himself as still "carnal, sold under sin," serving God but also serving the law of sin "with my flesh." True children of God always have an inner struggle between the spirit and the flesh, and they "groan inwardly" to be free of their sinful bodies. (Romans 7:14,25; 8:23) Indeed every Spirit-filled believer will admit at the end of the day that he is an "unworthy servant" whose righteousness is really no better than "dirty rags." (Luke 17:10; Isaiah 64:6) The only saving holiness, the only real and acceptable perfection, is the righteousness provided for the elect in the finished work of Jesus Christ, not in their own Spirit-filled lives, which are feeble in comparison. The false teaching of the church, that Christs death pays only for sins of the past up to conversion, and that after that it is up to followers to finish the job, is rank fodder for goats. This is what the priesthood (which Christ abolished) reinvented itself to peddle, the obligation to go to their confessions, and seek their last rites to make it to heaven. This is all a sham, and belongs only in churches. Jesus is the one true Priest of the elect, and he has them covered for all time, whether they lived 2,000 years before or after the Word came in the flesh. This glorious message is what the Book of Hebrews is all about. "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all...for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified." (Hebrews 10:10,14)
9. Eternal Security
Every person whom God has called, regenerated, justified and sanctified will also be kept by God to the journeys end. Indeed, they have already received a down payment of the righteousness which awaits them in heaven for they have been "sealed with the promised Holy Spirit which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:13,14) At the same time Gods people are warned to be watchful because churchmen and false prophets, even miracle-workers, will appear "so as to lead astray (if that were possible) even the elect." (Matthew 24:24)
Promises of security
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Fathers hand." (John 10:27-29) Those given to Christ, the elect for whom he laid down his life, receive eternal life (which cannot perish otherwise it would not be eternal) and are never lost because Gods power never fails them. "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day." (John 6:39) Christ revealed to Peter that Satan had demanded to possess him, but, said Jesus, "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail." (Luke 22:32) No power, no person, "nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38,39)
Warnings against apostasy
"If a man does not abide in me," said Jesus, "he is cast forth as a branch and withers, and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned." (John 15:6) The Scriptures are full of warnings against falling away from Christ. These are strong reminders that there is no such thing as an unrepentant believer or unsanctified disciple. Those who fall away, having once tasted truth, are beyond forgiveness. (Hebrews10:26) "For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have been once enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt." (Hebrews 6:4-6) However, this does not destroy the security of Gods elect, for the scripture continues, "Though we speak thus, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things which belong to salvation and we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end." (Hebrews 6:9,11) When the Scripture names those who "have swerved from the truth" it also states that "the Lord knows those who are his." (2 Timothy 2:18,19) Jesus himself said to his followers that "there are some of you who do not believe," and many did desert him. (John 6:64-66) The very fact that some fall away shows that they were never amongst Gods elect, "for if they had been of us they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they are not of us." (1 John 2:19) That is precisely what happened to Judas. He was clearly revealed as having never belonged to God in a saving way, even though he had been one of the twelve apostles (see John 6:70,71) and when Jesus prayed for the security of the eleven he also revealed that the falling away of Judas was no surprise. "I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled." (John 17:12)
Encouragement to endure
Because of the warnings against apostasy, eternal security can never be an excuse for the elect to drop their guard. Many trials will come to test a disciples faith, said Jesus, "but he who endures to the end shall be saved." (Matthew 10:22; 24:13) Because of the promises of God, eternal security is a great encouragement for believers to hold fast in the time of trial. Faced with sailors about to abandon ship in a storm, the apostle Paul warned the Roman soldier that, "unless these men stay in the ship you cannot be saved." But he had already told them all of Gods promise that there would be "no loss of life." (Acts 27:22,31) They obeyed and remained in the ship, and they were saved as God had ordained. In the same way God warns the elect against disobedience and yet promises to save them to the very end. They will hold fast to their Savior, because He first took hold of them, and He continues to strengthen their feeble grip. On the one hand they are warned, "do not grieve the Holy Spirit" and at the same time promised "in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Ephesians 4:30) The elect will press on despite their stumbling, and every one of them will be saved, as predestined, because of Gods unfailing power and undeserved mercy: salvation by grace. "The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:18)