by Mike Ratliff
6 n He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who o by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking  and p do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress q for every human being who does evil, the Jew r first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and s peace for everyone who does good, t the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For u God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:6-11 ESV)
I listened to two sermons today. The first was by R.C. Sproul and the second was by John MacArthur. Interestingly, both preachers emphasized in their sermons the vital importance of believers hearing and believing the truth of God. Even though it should be obvious to us, I believe we take for granted the veracity of Gospel. However, the Word of God, Sacred Scripture, makes it clear that those who belong to God believe His truth while those whose eternal destiny is Outer Darkness do not believe the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness.
9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan r with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for s those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore t God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe u what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned v who did not believe the truth but w had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 ESV)
The word “truth” occurs twice in this passage. In both cases, it is the same Greek word, ἀλήθεια or alētheia. This word means “truth” as the unveiled reality lying at the basis of and agreeing with an appearance; the manifested, or the veritable essence of a matter. In this usage it refers to people refusing to believe “the truth” as revealed in God’s Word as it is spoken to the heart by the Holy Spirit. In other words, this “truth” is correct doctrine, which includes the Gospel. “Those who are perishing” refers to those who are not redeemed. They are not regenerate. They are not Christians even though they may indeed profess that they are.
Many years ago I assumed that this passage referred to Christians and reprobates in this contrast, however, I have since become firmly convinced that Paul was referring here to those in the visible Church who refuse to believe “the truth” and obey it. This truth is the genuine Gospel. Notice that God sends these people “strong delusion” so that they may believe what is false. He would not have to do that with reprobates would he? Of course not! The Greek words for “strong delusion” are ἐνέργεια πλάνη or energeia planë. This would be an effectual fraudulent teaching that is doctrinally oriented. The word πλάνη actually refers to a straying from orthodoxy. In other words, God is sending to those who hate the genuine Gospel a version of it that they love, but it is empty and those who do not repent of holding to it by believing the truth are damned. This delusion from God to those who hate the truth leads them to believe to be true what is false or a lie. The Greek word for “false” here is ψεῦδος or pseudos. We get our English word “pseudo” from this word. It means “falsehood” or “lie.” It is an appealing substitute for the truth, but it is not the truth. It appears far more appealing to the unregenerate than the truth. Therefore, in our day we have many forms of Christianity that profess to be genuine, but they are built on a foundation of sand, which is a lie that is enforced in people’s hearts by a “strong delusion” sent to them straight from God. Those given this strong delusion reject the truth, but believe the lie because it does not condemn them for their unrighteous behavior.
13 But x we ought always to give thanks to God for you, y brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you z as the firstfruits  a to be saved, b through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through c our gospel, a so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 ESV)
These two verses are a wealth of instruction for Christians about the nature of genuine salvation. Paul uses this as a contrast to what those who love not the truth believe. In other words, all genuine Christians believe these two verses as the truth while the “pseudo” Christians reject them because they prefer the version of the Gospel that is a lie.
Genuine Christians are beloved by the Lord because He chose them as first fruits. God made the choice of whom He would save before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). The KJV translates this part of the passage as, “because God hath from the beginning chosen you.” For what purpose did God choose them? He chose them “to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” This is a wonderful statement of what God actually does when He saves someone. They are “saved,” or rescued through a process that makes them holy. This process is empowered by the Holy Spirit as the one being saved believes the truth. The word “belief” in this passage is the Greek word πίστις or pistis. This word refers to a person being persuaded by the truth to the point that their faith is strengthened and their belief in the truth becomes unshakable. What did God use to draw His chosen into this process? He called them through the gospel, not the false gospel that those who love not the truth believe, but the real Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which begins with election and ends with glorification all controlled by God and done for His glory alone.
Effectual calling is the title of chapter 10 of the Westminster Confession (1647). The chapter begins:
All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.
When God saves a person, He illuminates them, regenerates them, and transforms their will. This is His sovereign work effectually performed by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the part of the Gospel rejected by those who love not the truth. They love the idea of their salvation being accomplished by the exercise of their Free Will, however, the Bible clearly teaches that no one can be saved this way.
1j And you were k dead in the trespasses and sins 2 l in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following m the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in n the sons of disobedience- 3 among whom we all once lived in o the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body  and the mind, and p were by nature q children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But  God, being r rich in mercy, s because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even t when we were dead in our trespasses, u made us alive together with Christ-v by grace you have been saved- 6 and raised us up with him and w seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable x riches of his grace in y kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For z by grace you have been saved a through faith. And this is b not your own doing; c it is the gift of God, 9 d not a result of works, e so that no one may boast. 10 For f we are his workmanship, g created in Christ Jesus h for good works, i which God prepared beforehand, j that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)
This passage clearly tells us that it was God being merciful to those whom He saves by “making alive” those who are dead in trespasses and sins. He did this by His grace through faith. Notice that God did it all. This was not in any way accomplished by the exercise of an unregenerate Free Will. No, the will that we exercise that is to believe by the Grace of God is a regenerate will which is the product of the effectual call of God.
My brethren, never stop praying for the lost people around you that God will save them. Be bold in sharing the Gospel with all who will hear. Never forget that you were not saved because of your own works. No, it was God’s work from beginning to end to save His people. Also, never forget that we do not know who the elect are. Only God knows that. So share the Gospel with all and always be ready to give an account to those who are mired in man-made religiosity and call it Christianity. Come soon Lord Jesus!
Soli Deo Gloria!