The Abomination of Easy-Believism – Part 2 – The Nature of True Faith

 

by Mike Ratliff

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37 ESV)

What a glorious Biblical truth it is that sinners my come to Christ just as they are! They come on the basis of faith and He saves them all (John 3:16). Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1-10 that salvation is by grace through faith alone, apart from works. God saves His people this way so that none may boast. This means that no one whom He saves must do any work or attain any merit in order to be worthy to come. No, God saves sinners. However, in “today’s gospel” these wonderful truths have been twisted or extended to say that not only does Christ receive sinners just as they are, but He also will let them stay that way. 

When I was a new Christian I bought my first Bible at local Christian Book Store in Tulsa. It was a Ryrie Study Bible. It was the New American Standard edition.  I had no idea who Charles Ryrie was. I was intrigued by the voluminous notes. I used that Bible for many years until the backing gave way and the cover fell off. Charles Ryrie is quoted as saying that new converts to Christianity are genuine even if they were “to leave God out and live according to the old nature.”

Reformed Theology emphatically disagrees with this “doctrine,” which has come to be called “Once Saved, Always Saved.” Instead, we believe in the doctrine of “The Perseverance of the Saints.” What is the difference? The former teaches that the mere act of believing the facts of the Gospel will cause one to be in Christ, to be saved, receive absolution and eternal life. This doctrine states that all who have “done this” can even walk away from the faith, deny Christ, and live as an atheist, but since they had that “experience,” they are saved. The latter, teaches something entirely different. In the Doctrines of Grace we learn that our salvation is God’s work from beginning to end. He saves sinners whom He calls to Himself. They are regenerated and from this receive faith, they believe, and they repent of their sins. They are washed clean, justified, sanctified, and adopted into the family of God. The Perseverance of the Saints teaches us that God sustains the believer. He works in each believer’s life to hold them, to grow them, and keep them from falling away. 

Today’s gospel says that telling unsaved people they must surrender to Christ is preaching works salvation. It sees salvation as the unconditional gift of everlasting life given to people who believe the facts about Christ even if they choose to not obey Him. It teaches that salvation may or may not change a person’s behavior. The focus must be on whether the facts of the gospel are believed. If so, then he or she may rest on the certainty of heaven. Isn’t this the “gospel” of the seeker-sensitive and church growth movements? I fear that is also rapidly becoming the “gospel” of the SBC and other mainline denominations. 

Think of the huge numbers of “seekers” who approach our Lord on those terms. They have been assured that He will welcome them and not confront their sins.  They really have no sense of their utter depravity and guilt before our Holy God, hence they have no motivation or desire to be freed from sin’s bondage. They have heard from their preacher that their faith, expressed by agreeing to the facts of the Gospel, will save them. This level of faith is only intellectual and cannot save.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:14-26 ESV)

Even though some try to make this passage teach that we are saved by works and faith, James is not teaching that. Instead, this passage is teaching that faith that saves will be accompanied by good works while faith without works is dead and cannot save. James describes this dead faith as hypocrisy. Why? Since it is based only on assent and empty of any verifying works, then it is comparable to the belief of demons. These verifying works are not the cause of genuine salvation, but the fruit of it.  This is so because saving faith, belief born from the grace of God, is continually working in the heart of the truly saved expressing itself in abiding in Christ, enduring, and remaining faithful to our Lord. These are the works James is referring to. Endurance is the mark of a genuine believer no matter the circumstances.

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful– for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:10-13 ESV)

Saving faith is expressed throughout the gospel of John by the present tense participle “πιστευων” or “pisteúō.” The Greek present tense verbs and participles speak of continuous, repeated action. When Jesus said to Nicodemous, “that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (John 3:15 ESV), He was telling us that the faith that saves is not a once and done action, but a faith that continuously believes. This is a supernatural faith that is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). (References in the gospel of John for “pisteúō” are John 3:15-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35; 40, 47, 7:38; 11:25-26; 12:44, 46; 20:31) Saving faith is enduring faith. While those who endure are assured of eternal blessings from God, those who profess faith, but do not endure will receive only condemnation because their “faith” was not the faith that endures, hence they have not really believed.

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. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:17-18 ESV)

Genuine faith is not a human work (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25). It is a supernatural gift of God. I use Ephesians 2:8-9 quite a bit, but I make no apologies for that for it tells us clearly that Christians are saved by grace through faith, not of themselves, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, that no one should boast.  

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:29-30 ESV)

Who grants to us that we should believe in Christ for His sake? It is God. No one has eternal life who has not believed (John 6:47) and no one believes unless the Father draws them (John 6:44). All who come to Jesus as the Father draws them believe and are saved. These are all sinners who have no ability to believe and be saved. Saving faith is granted to them by God. As we have seen, saving faith is powerful and sustaining. It enables the genuine believer to remain faithful, abide in Christ, and run the race set before them with their eyes firmly fixed on the Saviour. Saving faith is not a one time event in our lives, but the beginning of a journey down the narrow, difficult path to God. 

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

Genuine saving faith imbues the Christian with the will to obey God because he or she is our Lord’s slave and their will is consumed in His. It also gives them the ability to obey His will.  When we discuss the necessity of Christian obedience we are not talking about something that is impossible. No, it is possible because genuine Christians have a supernatural faith that enables each of us to walk in repentance and obedience. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) give us the character of the faith that saves and enables Christians to walk in Christlikeness. Here is the passage.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12 ESV)

What do we see here? Don’t we see humility and mourning over sin? This saving faith works in the heart to make us understand that we are indeed sinners and have nothing in and of ourselves to offer Him. Therefore, we mourn with godly sorrow and this helps us walk in repentance. As we walk this way God changes our hearts so that we become meek and hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness. As God feeds us, He changes us even more by conforming us unto the image of the Son. We become more merciful, purer in heart, and a peacemaker who seeks to reconcile others to Christ. This changes believers so radically that they appear to be not of this world and are persecuted.  True righteousness is born of genuine saving faith. 

This faith does not seek to just keep the letter of the law, but to conform even the thoughts and intentions of the heart to it. Yes, we are still imperfect, but our Lord calls us to attain to the higher standard of God. We have supernatural faith that enables us to be Christlike so we should never claim that we cannot obey God. Instead, we must draw near unto God, seek His face, and spend time in prayer and communion with Him in His Word. As we go through the fires of testing and tribulation then God will shape and change us according to His will. Only those with this supernatural faith can bear the fruit that God causes through His pruning (John 15). 

Genuine saving faith obeys God. Dead faith does not. The fruit of one’s life reveals the veracity of their salvation. Yes, all Christians are capable of sinning. However, the Holy Spirit does work in genuine believers to bring conviction, which produces hatred of their sin and a desire to repent. Scripture does not teach that a Christian can continue in continual disobedience from the moment of their conversion with no evidence of righteous fruit whatsoever. Remember, the Christlike are those who are merciful. These who are mired in their sin should be counseled and given the genuine Gospel, not consoled into believing that their one time “belief” is what holds them in Christ. 

Soli Deo Gloria!

1Charles C. Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life (Chicago:Moody, 1969), p. 35.

69 thoughts on “The Abomination of Easy-Believism – Part 2 – The Nature of True Faith

  1. Amen Mike! Well said! And correct! What a pity that the easy believismers get these poor souls to believe they are really saved because someone told them they were. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t do the work, then its not salvation. And one who is truly born again will know it within a very short time. NOTHING is the same :)

  2. “They are regenerated and from this receive faith, they believe, and they repent of their sins.”

    Does the Bible really teach that regeneration really precede repentance? Might I point out a few scriptures that seem to argue diffrently:

    “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the LORD. -Isaiah 59:20

    Therefore this is what the LORD says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman.” -Jeremiah 15:19

    Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” -Acts 2:38

    Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, – Acts 3:19

    There are many more if you would like them, but I felt these would be sufficient to support my point. How would you support the position that God regenrates a person and causes repentance?

    Perhaps we are once again defining our terms diffrently. I understand regenration as the act of God making a person a “new creation” in which the old self is put away and the new self created in Christlikeness is brought into being. And no where in scripture can I find this happening prior to repentance.

    Help me out here…

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  4. God bless you Mike for posting this series. It’s absolutely correct, and by correct, I mean biblical. Thank you for your devotion to the truth of God’s Word, brother! And I love “Paul & Luann’s” response too.

  5. Here is my reply Heath:

    Order of Salvation (John Murray)

    John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 79-87
    I. The application of redemption is not “one simple and indivisible act.” It is made up of a “series of acts and processes.” They are calling, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification each is distinct from the other.

    II. There is some type of order since glorification cannot begin the process, it is naturally at the end and regeneration has to be prior to sanctification. The Scriptures support this:
    A. Jesus speaks of being born from above (regeneration) coming before seeing and entering (application of redemption) the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5).
    B. Regeneration (born of God) is prior to being delivered from sin – being born of God is the cause of being delivered from sin (1 John 3:9).
    C. Faith in Christ’s name is prior to adoption (John 1:12).
    D. Sealing follows hearing the word of truth and believing (Ephesians 1:13).
    E. These texts help establish some kind of order.

    III. But questions still remain for other parts of the process: which comes first calling or justification, faith or justification, regeneration or calling?
    A. Calling, justification, and glorification appear to be in order (Romans 8:30). For the following reasons:
    i. Verse 28 “called according to purpose” means that “purpose provides the pattern or plan according to which calling takes place. Therefore the purpose is prior to the calling, and in this case, of course, eternally prior” (pg. 83).
    ii. In verse 29 there is a “progression of thought from foreknowledge to predestination” (pg. 83). iii. In verses 29 and 30 foreknowledge precedes glorification and there can be no reversal of positions.
    iv. The only question that remains is whether calling is prior to justification.
    v. Murray believes that Paul’s reference to calling and justification are in logical order and progression and therefore Romans 8:30 is a “broad outline of the order in the application of redemption” (pg. 84).
    vi. What about faith and justification? First, this is not “God’s eternal degree to justify” which would be prior to faith. It is justification in terms of applied redemption. Scripture clearly states that we are “justified by faith, from faith, through faith, and upon faith” (Rom. 1:17; 3:22, 26, 28, 30; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; 3:24; Phil 3:9). It is “impossible to avoid the conclusion that justification is upon the event of faith or the instrumentality of faith…faith is presupposed in justification…faith is God’s appointed instrument through which he dispenses this grace” (pg. 85).
    vii. Another reason that faith is prior to justification is that calling is prior to justification and faith is necessary for calling.
    viii. Regeneration is prior to faith. Sinners are dead in their trespasses and sins and are incapable of faith until they have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3, 6:44,45). Is regeneration prior to calling? In Scripture it is “calling that is given distinct emphasis and prominence as the act of God whereby sinners are translated from darkness to light and ushered into the fellowship of Christ…salvation in actual possession takes its start from an efficacious summons on the part of God and that this summons, since it is God’s summons, carries in its bosom all of the operative efficacy by which it is made effective” (pg. 86).
    ix. Since you cannot have repentance without faith, they are conjoined. And conversion is the same as repentance and faith.
    x. Justification comes before adoption since you cannot become part of a family until you have been accepted into that family.
    xi. Sanctification is an ongoing processes that begins in regeneration. Perseverance is a compliment of sanctification and could be placed before or after.

  6. for Heath:

    Yes, regeneration precedes repentance. Repentance is a gift that is granted to us:

    2 Timothy 2:24-26 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, (25) correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, (26) and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

    Even faith to believe in Jesus is not something that we initiate; it is granted to us as a gift:

    Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

    John 6:65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

    Ephesians 2 says that we are dead in our sins. Dead. We are spiritually unable to do anything, and that is why God must act first to grant us repentance and faith. Otherwise we would all be dead in ours sins, in the flesh, hostile to God, and an enemy of God. (Rom 8:7-8)

    As for the verses you quoted, such as:
    “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the LORD. -Isaiah 59:2

    …this does not say that the people initiated repentance. It merely says that God will come to those who repent. In light of all of Scripture, we see that those who repent do so because God enabled them to.

    Consider this one question: “Are we born totally depraved?” In other words, “are we all corrupt by sin?” If the answer to that is yes (which Rom 3:9-10 says so), then there is nothing good that can come out of us. Again, we are dead in our sins and corrupt until God moves in grace to redeem us.

    I hope this helps!

  7. Ya, therein lies the issue once again….

    It is amazing how defining terms makes a huge diffrence.

    What you call regenration, Armenians (and specifically, Nazarenes) call previenient grace. What we call regeneration contains the acts of adoption and sanctification outlined by Murray. Nazarenes understand the process of sanctification on multiple levels, begining with “Initial sacntification” at the time of regeneration, which is later (and sometimes instantaneously) followed by “entire sanctification” and a life of “progressive sanctification.”

    So really, it comes down to whose definitions we are using… Under your definition of regeneration, I agree that it precedes repentance. But I am just not sure if “regeneration” is the best term to use for this act of God’s, since “God is not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance.”

    If that is the case, then God would regenerate everyone, since it is this act which facilitates repentance, and the repentance of all is clearly stated as God’s will. And if regeneration always results in repentance, then this would lead to a doctrine of universal salvation.

    But it is somewhat a case of semantics, I guess. I just think it is important that we understand what is being said when we use theological concepts such as this, because they are easily assumed to be one thing when perhaps are intended to mean another.

  8. That’s right Heath and I agree with you except for Peter’s statement that you quoted. The context of that particular passage is addressed to “the beloved” so is he talking to Christians to edify them or is he speaking of everyone? Who is the all?

    What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory– even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:22-24 ESV)

    Scripture interprets scripture. God is merciful in delaying his wrath so that all the elect will be saved. However, there are vessels of wrath designated for destruction and God is not delaying for their sake.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  9. Respectfully, you are missing Peter’s point. While the letter is clearly written to believers, Peter is explaining to them why God is slow (or rather seems slow) in fulfilling his promises. It is because of his love for those who are yet lost, that He might afford to them every opportunity to repent. God does not create “throw away” people.

  10. Hello Heath,

    I agree with Mike’s last post. In addition, have you heard of the 2 wills of God? I would type an explanation from one of my theology books but it would take a long time, as their explanations are several pages each. Perhaps someone reading this has an electronic copy and can post that section.

    Theologians talk about God’s perfect will and His permissive will. Sometimes they are called His secret will vs. revealed will, or even His moral will vs. permissive will. In a nutshell, God’s permissive will is always done and nothing can sway it. It was God’s permissive will that planned and caused Jesus to die for the sins of His people [Acts 4:27 to 28].

    On the other hand, God’s perfect will “usually contains His commands or precepts for our moral conduct. This revealed [perfect] will of God is God’s declared will concerning what we should do or what God commands us to do.” – Grudem, p. 213 This will of God is not always done.

    This makes sense. Here’s a good example: Acts 17:30 “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” But, as we know, not everyone repents, even though God has commanded (willed) it.

    So, when a verse says that something is the will of God, we must then determine which type of will it is. It makes a big difference and explains “contradictions” of God’s will in the Bible…which of course there are none.

    For a good reference on this, please see Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Chapter 13: Communicable Attributes of God.

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  12. Heath,

    There’s also the problem of you redefining terms. No one here said or implied that regeneration is any thing like previenient grace. Regeneration is the making alive of those who were dead, those whom this happens to are a predestined few whom God chose regardless of anything in or about them, and for whom this is effectual. While preveinient grace is to all men everywhere and is not effectual. On this it would be best if you would go back a few days in the posts here and read on preveinient grace and its unbiblical assertions.

  13. No, Heath I am not missing the point. You cannot take one part of scripture and say it means x when that supposition is unsupportable in context with the rest of scripture. You said that God doesn’t create thow away people. Really? Show me where that is in scripture.

  14. Thanks Mike. A heart dead in sin cannot possibly reach out to God unless the Holy Spirit first regenerates it. I’ve seen it happen and I believe it. Thank for you for make it clear scripturally.

  15. I’ve seen this a lot in recent months, but have to say that not everyone who preaches “once saved, always saved” is advocating “easy-believism”. I think the problem with “once saved, always saved” comes down to the definition of “saved.” Obviously, to many people “saved” means totally different things.

    For some (perhaps most), salvation is merely saying a prayer, maybe being baptized and going on your merry way thru life doing what you want, thinking you have a “fire escape from hell.”

    The biblical understanding of salvation is much more than that, and it does involve all the above – repentance, regeneration, sanctification, faith, justification, etc. Those who have a biblical understanding of salvation (and have actually been born again) cannot lose it, else we would perish, and we would not have everlasting life (John 3:16).

  16. Mike,

    Great post(s) confronting the dangerous and deluding false gospel of easy-believism that knows nothing of the truth of salvation being a matter of Lordship. I know that there has been much controversy over this issue but it is the heart of the gospel and needs to be contended for. Not only does the Bible teach Lordship salvation, it also clearly illustrates it, doing away with easy-believism, utilitarian, Jesus as Savior only nonsense. See here for the biblical illustration of salvation being a matter of Lordship.

    By the way, what was lost in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God? Was it not their loving obedience to the Lordship of God? What is restored and regained in salvation through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ? Is it not loving obedience to the Lordship of God through Jesus Christ as our Lord?

    God bless you and your ministry!

  17. Instead of getting perturbed about some very minor things I am going to quote a couple of my life verses: :)

    Romans 1 (Righteoussne only in Christ)
    17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[c] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”[d]

    Isiah 61
    7 Instead of their shame
    my people will receive a double portion,
    and instead of disgrace
    they will rejoice in their inheritance;
    and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,
    and everlasting joy will be theirs.

    Isiah 41 — No Fear Baby!!
    10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

  18. I guess I will join in on some of this,

    Jesus died for all (2 Cor. 5:15). However, not everyone takes hold of Gods grace.

    I agree that God makes us alive by His mighty power, without our aid (Eph. 2:5; John 1:13). But Scripture warns that we can resist God’s gracious call (Matt. 23:27; Acts 7:51; 2 Cor. 6:1). And some people do resist God’s grace, or all would be saved (1 Tim 2:4). Furthermore, God warns us not to resist His grace (2 Cor. 6:1; Heb. 4:7).

    Like I said before. I believe this to be a mystery.

    JS

  19. Well Jon, you need to understand that when we encounter those words in the Bible such as “all” we need to be very careful to get the context. To ignore context in these types of passages puts the one doing so in a place of potential error.

    Now, the call to believe the Gospel is actually divided into two calls. The first is the call we do when we preach the Gospel to the lost. Yes, this can and is resisted “all” the time. :-) However, the call to believe and repent that comes from God is not resistible. Man’s sovereignty is true except when it encounters God’s Sovereignty. He gives up none of His Sovereignty for to do so would make Him not sovereign.

    Believers struggle with sin. Is God allowing us to be sovereign over that or is He using our struggle to sanctify us by humbling us? I see no mystery. I see that many have a false understanding of the Sovereignty of God and, therefore, believe they have a real say so in their relationship with God. No, it is all of God. God allows us to reason and exercise our will, but He is ultimately in complete control over all.

    I challenge you to reconcile what you commented with Romans 9:22-24.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  21. Good comments and answers here you guys! From what I can see here……..it all boils down to if you do or do not believe that God is totally 100% sovereign over everything. The total depravity part seems to be where they just can’t get past. Like R.C. says in the Amazing Grace dvd…….if you dig deep enough, you’ll see thats where the problem is.

  22. I absolutely agree on the misunderstanding of Gods sovereignty. :)

    Gods sovereignty is shown to us most fully on the Cross.

    Also, I agree with what you just wrote. Don’t see any mystery there either.

    Been there done that on Romans 9. Romans 9, as you said, needs to be understood in context and in light of Pauls summary point at the beginning and end of Romans 9. We need to ask ourselves the question Gods sovereignty in “doing what”.

    It finally comes to light in Romans 9:30-33

    30What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” 33As it is written:
    “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall,
    and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

    Gods sovereignty has a plan and purpose being revealed to us on the Cross.

    I need to ask the question? Why do we even talk about such things? :).

    In love,

  23. I should say. I believe this was also a mystery to Paul. The verses you quoted were posed as questions by Paul.

  24. Paul is arguing his point about what is the question I would have:

    The point of Gods sovereignty in Romans 9:30-33 is that salvation is also be extended to the gentiles by the faith and that its not guaranteed to Israel by works.

    Paul even starts out Romans 9 with a discussion about Israel. Paul is dealing with both Gods sovereignty and racial pride simultaneously saying whatever boundaries you have on God are man-made. Its also being extended to the gentiles and to all people that take hold of Gods grace by faith.

    He finally answers the question about Gods sovereignty in some purpose in Romans 9:30-33.

    JS

  25. Jon,

    In other words, to put limits on God’s sovereignty is not right. He is going to do what He has purposed to do and who are we to question that? Who are we to make up things about God’s Sovereignty from a motivation of rescuing His honor from how the Bible portrays Him? He does not need our help. He is completely self-sufficient without us.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  26. Jon,

    I think that if you study the following passage that you will see that there is no mystery at all.

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:3-23 ESV)

    It is all according to God’s purpose and plan.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  27. To make you guys really think there are two types of reformed thinkers in my opinion.

    Type 1: is centered on Gods sovereignty.

    Type 2: is centered on the Gospel and Christ.

    Type 1’s would disagree that they were not Christ-centric but they are less so than side 2 since most of their thoughts are centered on Gods sovereignty.

    Type 2’s would never say they are not focussed on Gods sovereignty but they are less so than side 1 since most of their though life is on the Gospel

    Type 1 has some very good theologians of which John Piper/RC Sproul are a couple.

    Type 2 has some brilliant theologians of which Martin Luther and Tim Keller are a couple. I am of this side.

    Both sides can be 5 point calvinists.

    I believe the distinction and area of emphasis between the two sides are minor but also important.

    My opinion only,

  28. I disagree with this Jon because I see the cross as Christ’s victory over Satan and the completed work of redemption for all the elect. The Cross must be viewed in light of God’s Sovereignty. Only He could impute the elect’s sin to Christ on the Cross with His death paying the price of redemption. Only He can look at the redeemed, though sinners, and impute Christ’s righteousness to their account. Then He justifies, sanctifies, and adopts them. He has glorification awaiting them. They are held eternally in Him because of HIs sovereignty.

    The mystery aspect bothers those who believe that man somehow is sovereign in such a way that impedes God somehow. Utter nonsense. God is completely sovereign and does accomplish His will and overrides the will of Man in this. Should we emphasize the cross? Absolutely! This is the Gospel and we must live our lives in light of it, but in doing this we are also subjecting ourselves to God’s sovereignty. Why? Christ is Lord!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  29. I affirm along with Scripture that those who are predestined to salvation cannot be lost but will continue by God’s power to a blessed end (Rom. 8:30; 1 Peter 1:5). Scripture does not teach, however, that those who come to faith cannot lose that faith (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-29; Ps. 51:11). God urges His people not to continue in sin but to live in repentance and faith (Rom. 6:1-4).

    Assurance comes by being “in Christ” and not by a more nebulous understanding of Gods Sovereignty. In Christ we have assurance. Outside of Christ we don’t. Thats the language I prefer. It maintains the strength of the Gospel.

    Who would ever want to lose that?

    JS

  30. O.K. Mike, are you going to tackle the Heb. 6:4??? Its your blog :) Jon, the people in that verse were never saved in the first place. If you are truly saved you can not lose your salvation. They just ‘tasted’, they were NOT filled. Big difference there.

  31. JS,

    One of the most disheartening things about the non-Reformed soteriology is this notion of losing one’s salvation. Thankfully, I was so dead in trespasses and sins that I wasn’t able to “come to faith” as you put it…God had to not only grant me both repentance as well as saving faith, but apply that to my spiritual corpse. As such, and since I had nothing to do with bringing about my salvation (to God be ALL the glory), I don’t have to worry as to whether MY faith is and always will be sufficient to persevere or not, because I know that HIS faith is.

    I do know that no one can snatch me out of either the Father’s hand or Christ’s hand (John 10:28-29). If God has me in His hand so tightly that no one can snatch me out, then I certainly can’t fall out due to my weak sinful nature.

    I also know that I have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of my inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14). The purpose of sealing something was so that only an authorized person on the other end could break that seal. Certainly the thing sealed could not “unseal” itself.

    Also, since I have been predestined to adoption as a son according to the will of God (which is eternal), and have not acquired my salvation through any act of my own will (John 1:13, John 6:63), I can rest assured that my salvation is secure.

    Greater minds than mine have addressed the two references from the book of Hebrews that you mention above, and the reference from Psalms was during the Old Covenant, prior to the time where the Holy Spirit was sent to be with us always (pre-Pentecost), but 1 John 2:19 is pretty plain when it tells us that those who “appeared” to be with us, yet fall away, were never really among the redeemed to begin with.

    May God continue to reveal Himself to you…

  32. Mike,

    I hope you don’t mind the back-to-back posts, but I would like to share something that I just ran across (and had read previously) concerning a scripture that JS referenced, namely Hebrews 6:4-6.

    “…The very assertion that a Christian can lose their salvation is tantamount to saying that what Christ accomplished on the cross was insufficient to save completely and so you need to trust in yourself to maintain your own righteousness, and this is not unlike Roman Catholic theology. To say Christ can lose us is the same as believing that what Christ did is not enough for someone… That you MUST MAINTAIN YOUR OWN JUSTIFICATION.

    This is a form of legalistic self-justification to believe that you can either attain or maintain your own righteousness before God and it is itself a denial of Christ, the very error the Hebrews were tempted to make, that the author was speaking of. In fact this is a backdoor to the Galatian heresy where Paul says, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3) To believe one can lose salvation, therefore, is trusting in something other than Jesus Christ to keep you righteous in Him.”

  33. Mike, ‘Saving faith is not a one time event in our lives, but the beginning of the journey down the narrow, difficult path to God’.. AMEN!!!
    “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
    I came up against a gentleman recently who insists Christians only need to ‘choose’ Jesus. The ‘salvation formula’ given by today’s church has people believing they’re saved because they prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, made a decision, or choice, were baptized as a young child, believe in salvation by works and a Eucharistic Christ, follow the up and down emotions- based charismatic Christ, believe only on the ‘promise’ without being willing to make any kind of commitment, and on and on and on…It is enough to make your head spin! Sadly, they’ve never heard of the word ‘repent’, or ‘godly sorrow’. Never have they compared their ‘goodness’ with God’s commandments, allowing His word to reflect their true condition. They do not understand God must humble a proud, arrogant, sinful heart before He does a mighty work. They think salvation is effortless, painless, requiring no big dramatic change. “In less than half an hour, you can become a child of God!” Doesn’t this all fit in with our hurry up and go nowhere society? We want everything fast, quick, easy, there’s no time to actually READ the bible! May God be merciful to this sin-sickened world.
    “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” Hosea 4:6
    God bless

  34. Paul and Luann and Michael,

    I had meetings all afternoon and then I had a lot of errands to run after work. It looks like you and Michael handled Jon’s comment just fine. :-) Amen to all of you!!!!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  35. May I comment to Paul and Luann on Hebrews 6:4? There was a woman who briefly attended the church I attend, she professed Christ as her Lord and Savior, and for a short time, she seemed genuine. She gave her testimony, stating how Christ had given her power over her addiction to alcohol. This woman was a sodomite, and in her testimony, she NEVER said Christ gave her power over that. I repeatedly asked her to study the bible together, which she graciously declined. After a while, she grew more hostile at my invitation, so I let it be. I knew the Lord would bring to the surface what was festering down deep. For a time, she remained sober. She frequented AA, and through that met another woman {I have much to say about AA, but this is not the current topic of discussion}. It wasn’t long that her sin did indeed ‘find her out’. She left the church, and is now living with this woman. She is an out -of -control alcoholic and a pill popping drug addict. God has turned her over to a depraved mind, just as Romans 1:28 states. As the scriptures say, ‘a dog returns to its own vomit’, and ‘a sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud’. She is living proof of Hebrews 6:4, she had a taste of the goodness of the Lord, but she was never totally filled. God will not be mocked.
    Thank you Mike for allowing me to share this, God bless

  36. Laurie, The sin that leads to death is what John MacArthur calls it. In his notes he said that after a time only God knows, He turns them over and will be under even more severe judgement because they knew better and had heard the gospel. So sad. There are a few ‘interpretations’ of Heb. 6:4, but with much study we have come to the conclusion they were never saved, otherwise them falling away would contradict scripture and we know that can’t happen.

  37. Jon,

    How can you divorce the sovereignty of God from the Cross? To focus on the Cross, His sovereign will had to be that there was/is no other way. To focus on His sovereignty is to know that all of redemptive history, in fact every single thing that has/ever will happen, is to glorify Christ. Now those two roads make their intersection at the highwatermark of the Cross.

    Our chief end is to glorify ALL of God, sovereignty included, by enjoying Him forever. Not just the bits we care to reminisce over, but ALL of Him.

    This means that you cannot couch the things you would rather not talk about in the ‘mystery’ category. That is the same as saying scripture contradicts itself, and the seeming paradox cannot be solved. But Scripture does speak plainly, and emphatically on this subject. God’s sovereign reign does in fact trump your humanity, fully and completely. He saves those whom He will save, and damns those whom He will damn. God is no respecter of persons. And this very simple fear, not respect or reverence, but FEAR of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

  38. Thats exactly it its not divorced from the Cross. The cross exemplifies the highpoint of Gods sovereignty.

    You actually just made my point for me. I think many calvinists have done this to varying degrees.

    JS

  39. Michael,

    I have absolute assurance in Christ. I have never had any lack of assurance in my faith.

    I do believe that some calvinists paint the landscape of Gods assurance using exclusively Gods sovereignty without the Cross. This is why I STRONGLY believe in the centrality of the Gospel as the hermeneutic in interpreting all scripture. I think, quite often, Christ is left behind and we start infringing on a Christ-less christianity focussed on externals and external behavior.

    Sometimes we do it to small degrees only, but I prefer not to do it at all.

    I probably should not say more than that.

  40. And of course when people like to engage in a focus on externals and comparative Christianity, Gods sovereignty being on their side can come in pretty handy.

    JS

  41. Christ atoning sacrifice is absolutely suffiicient for everyones salvation.

    Like I said on a different BLOG topic of Mikes. I believe this is incomprehensible to human reason.

  42. Jon,

    What point? You were saying that there are those who focus on the cross and those who focus on God’s Sovereignty. I believe that it is you who are creating an artificial division not us.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  43. Jon,

    If a person has genuine saving faith then this changes everything. It enables a person to believe what the natural man cannot conceive. However, the regenerate person has no trouble at all with what you are calling the incomprehensible. Human Reason coupled with genuine saving faith is incredible because that human reason has been regenerated as well.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  44. Jon,

    Yes, Christ’s sacrifice is worth more than everything in all creation and more. However it is only effectual to the degree HE had in HIS purpose. IF it was in HIS purpose to save EVERYONE then why are there people in HELL?

    If this is truly the case, then He would not be allpowerful. You see, God does all of it , saves, reprobates, gives life, kills, all of it.

    You can stick your head in the sand, and yes, I’ll call you and ostrich.

  45. How in the world do calvinists seperate the cross of Christ and His sovereignty? They go together. No one is seperating the two except you Jon. Who said the two were seperated? Where do you come up with these ideas? And amen Mike & jfranklin6!!!

  46. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37 ESV)

    You start your post by this Bible verse and herein lies the biggest philosophical question regarding Christianity. Once I had a long debate with someone who was Calvinist and I supported Free Will. He quoted this and said ”all THAT the Father GIVES” are the key words here. It means God has predestined some to go to hell whereas given salvation and grace as insurance policy to the elect. In other words, the damned can’t be saved and the saved can’t be damned.

    Our debates got very heated and left both of us with bloody noses. But Bible seems to be contradicting itself. At times it appears that all who come to God are saved but others times it sounds like all who are ALLOWED to come to God are saved. So what’s your take on it?

    By the way, I am one of those who believe without intellectual understanding faith is useless and meaningless. God gave us reason and intelligence so that we can understand and know Him intellectually, logically and even scientifically. In fact one can only express faith if his or her brain cells are capable of doing so. Mentally disabled people, people in coma or in a state of unconsciousness cannot reasonably believe in Jesus Christ.

  47. “I do believe that some calvinists paint the landscape of Gods assurance using exclusively Gods sovereignty without the Cross. This is why I STRONGLY believe in the centrality of the Gospel as the hermeneutic in interpreting all scripture. I think, quite often, Christ is left behind and we start infringing on a Christ-less christianity focussed on externals and external behavior.”

    I may have some strong disagreements with my Calvinists brothers, but that statement is not only wrought with incongruencies, it’s just plain wrong and significantly misrepresents the reformed hemeneutic. I have found the reformed camp FOCUSES on the gospel in almost every area. I mean even their marriage seminars center on the gospel. And do you suggest that Spurgeon, excxept for Calvin himself the prince of the Calvinistic view, doesn’t teach, preach, and completely reveal the centraility of the cross?? Oh my.

    I just could not refrain from confronting that paragraph.

    Wow, just wow.

  48. emberglow,

    Here is how to understand the Gospel.

    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 and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
    (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)

    No one is saved unless God first REGENERATES them from spiritual death unto spiritual life.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  49. Amen Rick and I agree with the the Wow, just wow part too. This has been very eye opening. I have heard many well thought out arguments before for and against our Theology, but these are simply smoke screen attacks meant to confuse and paralyze.

    Thanks for commenting on this Rick.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  50. Awesome article!! It is scary how people are twisting Ephesians 2:8 for easy loose living. I believe it is called “Faith Alone” gospel.

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