by Mike Ratliff
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 (NASB)
When this blog first came online in 2006 and then when I became associated with Christian Research Network in 2007 the number one topic that seemed to consume my time was debating a group of people called the “Emergents.” One of their leaders was Brian McLaren. Debating the defenders of writers such as Brian McLaren was a very eye opening thing. I found it very interesting that they used the very same methods as Liberal Christians and atheists. The Straw Man fallacy was the most prevalent tool they used. They were the defenders of relativism and universalism. Our resistance to any compromise caused them to refer to us as “backward” and “legalistic.” They made the false assumption that all holders of relativism make, which is declaring absolute truth to be a myth. When proof was given from the Bible they declared that was only our interpretation. It took awhile, but we learned from this to see the logical end of a debate fast approach when that argument was given. Why? It is a total waste of time at that point to continue.
Another aspect of debates like this was the way it made me examine myself and my faith, which is a good thing. These fellows were all about trying to sow seeds of doubt in the heart. Their parting shots were always quite disturbing. Of course these were simply fiery darts of deception intended to neutralize us. One such dart was that all that I was trusting in was, to him, just a house of cards and props. I knew better, but it made me think about how this person could have conceived of such a thing. Then I understood or at least I think I did. It occurred to me that our trust in God, in His Sovereignty, to save and keep us is to them an unreality. They are trusting in their own work, their own decision, their own religiosity to hold them. Within that religiosity they have the mechanism of the sinner’s prayer in response to some sort of ‘time of decision.’ They have made the right decision so they ‘must be saved.’ Right?
I know that is not a complete synopsis of those folks and it may not even be how they conceived of themselves. However, it was how I conceived of my position in the Kingdom of God before 2004. I used to look at the theology of Luther or Calvin or Sproul and see their total lack of dependence on the ‘mechanisms’ of salvation that I was used to. It just seemed impossible that anyone who believed like that could possibly be saved.
However, starting in 2004, God opened the eyes of my heart to the truth of the Gospel. It is the Gospel God uses to save people. It is not religion or religious acts. People are not saved because they ‘made the right decision’ or ‘feed the poor,’ but are saved by God by Grace through faith as His gift. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Also, after that and since then I have been studying the theology of those I used to view with eyes of skepticism. While some take that theology and make an idol of it, it is far closer to being Biblically correct than I had thought before. Also, those in the theological boat I came from have made their own theology into an idol and are just as guilty as everyone who worships their religion, which I have come to call the Religion of Do.
As I said, I studied theology constantly for the next couple of years, and still do to some degree. During that time I found a theologian that, I believe, had the most balanced and correct view of the Gospel. That man is C.H. Spurgeon. He was reformed in His theology, but one of the most evangelical people to have ever lived. He had the proper evangelistic viewpoint. Another contemporary of Spurgeon that I have come to admire very much is John A. Broadus. When I looked at these men’s theology I saw where they were totally submitted to the Sovereignty of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They understood that our salvation is via God’s Sovereign Grace, however, they also understood that God works through evangelists preaching the genuine Gospel with the Law in the regeneration of those He saves. They understood that no one is saved who does not see their sin as sinful and, therefore, they must repent. Therefore, they preached the same Gospel that Peter and Paul preached.
If you listen to or read the sermons that are prevalent these days in our ‘churches,’ you must agree that they, for the most part, do not fit this description. The offer of the Gospel they preach is to come to Jesus so He can make your life better. Numbers are all-important in these churches so the Gospel and the way church is done is geared to attract and entertain non-believers to the detriment of genuine worship and discipleship. They do not want to offend these people so they do not teach about the bloody cross and why it was necessary. They do not teach or preach about all people being born dead in their trespasses and sins and what God did to save His people out of this world.
Spurgeon did not preach like this and we must not either. The following short piece by Spurgeon is based in Isaiah 53:12, which I placed at the top of this post. He shows us the work of Christ on the Cross and how that is the basis of our salvation.
Why did Jesus suffer Himself to be enrolled amongst sinners? This wonderful condescension was justified by many powerful reasons. In such a character He could the better become their advocate. In some trials there is an identification of the counsellor with the client, nor can they be looked upon in the eye of the law as apart from one another. Now, when the sinner is brought to the bar, Jesus appears there Himself. He stands to answer the accusation. He points to His side, His hands, His feet, and challenges Justice to bring anything against the sinners whom He represents; He pleads His blood, and pleads so triumphantly, being numbered with them and having a part with them, that the Judge proclaims, “Let them go their way; deliver them from going down into the pit, for He hath found a ransom.” Our Lord Jesus was numbered with the transgressors in order that they might feel their hearts drawn towards Him. Who can be afraid of one who is written in the same list with us?
Surely we may come boldly to Him, and confess our guilt. He who is numbered with us cannot condemn us. Was He not put down in the transgressor’s list that we might be written in the red roll of the saints? He was holy, and written among the holy; we were guilty, and numbered among the guilty; He transfers His name from yonder list to this black indictment, and our names are taken from the indictment and written in the roll of acceptance, for there is a complete transfer made between Jesus and His people. All our estate of misery and sin Jesus has taken; and all that Jesus has comes to us. His righteousness, His blood, and everything that He hath He gives us as our dowry. Rejoice, believer, in your union to Him who was numbered among the transgressors; and prove that you are truly saved by being manifestly numbered with those who are new creatures in Him.
Our Lord became a man in order to judged as a man by God for the sins of His people. In order for this to ‘work,’ Jesus had to live a perfect, sinless life as a man. He became a brethren of all of God’s people. When the time came for God’s wrath to be poured out on the sins of His people, our Lord was given into the hands of sinful men to be cruelly used and killed. During His time on the cross, our Lord was numbered amongst the transgressors. Even though He was sinless, He became sin on behalf of His people. God’s wrath against their sin was satisfied in the death of Christ on the cross. Therefore, in Christ taking our place, God uses this sacrifice in the Gospel to draw sinners unto belief and repentance. Without the realization that one is a sinner who cannot do one thing to save himself or herself, how can they receive Christ as their Lord and saviour trusting in His righteousness to blot out their sins?
My brethren, take not lightly our Lord’s sacrifice as the Lamb of God through which we are saved. Also, reject relativism and universalism and compromise and works theology. The Gospel is not editable.
Soli Deo Gloria!