Straw Men and Salvation, Part 3 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #8)

The Bible says in John 6:37: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:

The Father works sovereignly in people’s lives. There is an election of God which is the Father’s gift to the Son. The Son has no concern that His work will be ineffective, for the Father will enable people to come to Jesus. Jesus has confidence. But people may have confidence also. One who comes to Jesus for salvation will by no means be driven away.

Today’s quote is from Blaise Pascal. He said: “It is good to be tired and wearied by the futile search after the true good, that we may stretch out our arms to the Redeemer.”

Our topic today is titled “Straw Men and Salvation (Part 3)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

The third straw man concerns the antiquity or recency of a teaching. If something was taught by the early church, then it must be true. If a teaching is more recent, then its truthfulness is at least suspect, if not untrue.

Christians can be carnal, living by and for their fleshly desires. This teaching, however, is said to be new in this century, allegedly making it suspect, if not unbiblical. On the other hand, lordship and lordship-like statements by those who lived earlier in the history of the church must surely indicate that the lordship view is true.

Sometimes this straw man has a mate. Not only does the antiquity of a view make it truthful but also the number of people who held or hold it makes it true. The more the better to substantiate its truthfulness.

Of course, the smoke screen this straw man and its mate throw up can be easily dispelled. The fact that something was taught in the first century does not make it right (unless taught in the canonical Scriptures), and the fact that something was not taught until the nineteenth or twentieth century does not make it wrong, unless, of course, such teaching is clearly unscriptural.

Baptismal regeneration was taught in the early centuries, but it is wrong. The majority of the church doesn’t practice immersion. Does that make a belief in immersion wrong? Today, the majority of the church is not premillennial (believing in Christ’s return for His church before His earthly reign). Does that make that doctrine wrong? The ransom-to-Satan theory regarding Christ’s atonement (i.e., that in His death Christ paid a ransom to Satan) was taught in the early church. Does that make it right?

The antiquity or recency of a teaching and the number of people who are for or against it make for interesting study, but neither factor proves or disproves the truth of that teaching. The charge of newness was leveled against the teachings of the Reformers. With characteristic straightforwardness, John Calvin responded to it this way:

“First, by calling it new they do great wrong to God, whose Sacred Word does not deserve to be accused of novelty…. That it has lain long unknown and buried is the fault of man’s impiety. Now when it is restored to us by God’s goodness, its claims to antiquity ought to be admitted at least by right of recovery.”

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Straw Men and Salvation, Part 2 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #7)

The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Today’s quote is from Horatius Bonar. He said: “The gospel is the proclamation of free love; the revelation of the boundless charity of God. Nothing less than this will suit our world; nothing else is so likely to touch the heart, to go down to the lowest depths of depraved humanity, as the assurance that the sinner has been loved — loved by God, loved with a righteous love, loved with a free love that makes no bargain as to merit, or fitness, or goodness.”

Our topic today is titled “Straw Men and Salvation (Part 2)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

The second straw man deals with carnality in a believer’s life. It goes like this: A carnal Christian is someone who is saved but who shows nothing of the outworking of his salvation. Or, a true believer can be carnal all of his Christian life and never produce fruit.

What makes this a straw man are phrases like “shows nothing” or “all of his Christian life.” That a Christian can be characterized as carnal cannot be denied, simply because the text of 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 says there were carnal believers at Corinth. Paul addresses these people as “brethren” and “babes in Christ” in verse 1, then he describes them as “men of flesh” and “fleshly” in verses 1 and 3. So there were carnal or fleshly Christians in Paul’s day.

What characterizes such Christians? Paul says they walk as mere men, that is, like unsaved people. That does not mean that they were in fact not believers; Paul addresses them as believers. But it does indicate that believers may live like unsaved people. To be sure, Christians are not supposed to live like unsaved people, but the reality is that some do. For how long? More than a moment or a day or a month or a year? When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, those believers were four or five years old in the faith, and obviously some of them were still carnal or fleshly. Yet Paul expected that by that time they should have matured to the point where he could address them as spiritual.

At this point, one of those “what if’ questions will inevitably be asked. What if a true believer seems to live like an unsaved person all of his life? Is he really a believer? Can a believer be carnal all of his life? Or, to phrase it another way, can a believer remain a babe in Christ all his Christian life? If the answer is no, then two options follow. Either such a person was not in fact a believer, or he was and lost that salvation because he did not grow out of spiritual babyhood.

But as long as we are asking “what if’ questions, let’s ask another. What if one or more of those babes in Christ in Corinth died between the time of conversion and the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians? In other words, what if a babe in Christ at Corinth died before growing out of that baby state? Did he or she go to heaven? Assuming that such an individual did live all his (or her) Christian life in a baby state, if he is “in Christ,” whether baby or mature, he will certainly be in heaven.

But let’s be clear. Even if a believer could be characterized as carnal all of his life, that does not mean that he is carnal in all areas of life. Nor does that mean he will not bear some spiritual fruit during his life. Every believer will bear some fruit. But that is the subject of another chapter. This straw man eliminates the work, if not the presence, of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. As long as the Spirit lives within, no believer can show nothing of the work of salvation and thus be totally carnal all of his life.

Straw Men and Salvation, Part 1 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #6)

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:

No one was more able to reflect on this transformation than Paul who switched from a persecutor of Christ to a proclaimer of Christ. He was in Christ (a phrase Paul used repeatedly in his epistles to speak of a believer’s spiritual relationship to Christ) because he believed the message of the gospel and was identified by faith with Christ. To be in Christ is to be a new creation. This new creation is brought about by the Holy Spirit, the Agent of regeneration and the Giver of divine birth. God’s new creative work, begun in each one who believes in Christ, will one day be consummated on a universal scale. The old life of slavery to self and sin has gone. The new life of devotion to Christ means that one has new attitudes and actions.

Today’s quote is from Frederick W. Robertson. He said: “Every natural longing has its natural satisfaction. If we thirst, God has created liquids to gratify thirst. If we are susceptible of attachment, there are beings to gratify that love. If we thirst for life and love eternal, it is likely that there are an eternal life and an eternal love to satisfy that craving.”

Our topic today is titled “Straw Men and Salvation (Part 1)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

Differences of opinion often create straw men. The reason is simple: Straw men are easy to demolish.

According to the dictionary, a straw man is “a weak or imaginary opposition (as an argument or adversary) set up only to be easily refuted.”

In the contemporary discussion over the meaning of the Gospel and areas related to it, a number of straw men have been created. In reality these are spurious arguments often raised by proponents of a lordship salvation. Such arguments against those straw men seem more devastating. Realize that a straw man usually is not a total fabrication; it usually contains some truth, but truth that is exaggerated or distorted or incomplete. The truth element in a straw man makes it more difficult to argue against, while the distortion or incompleteness makes it easier to huff and puff and blow the man down.

STRAW MAN #1

The first straw man deals with the role of the intellect and knowledge in salvation. Simply stated, it is: The Gospel is a sterile set of facts to which we need only give intellectual assent in order to be saved.

This is the accusation leveled against those who do not hold to so-called lordship/discipleship/mastery salvation. They are accused of teaching that intellectual assent to a set of facts is sufficient for salvation. Sometimes this is labeled “decisional” salvation, for all one needs to do is make an intellectual decision confirmed perhaps by a formula prayer. No one can be saved, says the lordship position, “by a casual acceptance of the facts regarding Jesus Christ.”

What makes this a straw man are words like sterile, intellectual assent, and casual.

Facts are essential. In describing the Gospel he preached, Paul said it was “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” These historical and doctrinal facts are “of first importance,” for without them there is no Gospel.

Do these basic facts about the Gospel require only a casual, academic, or intellectual acceptance in order for one to be saved? Not if one defines faith as the Greek dictionary does: to “be convinced of something” or to “give credence to.” Specifically, to believe in the Gospel is “to put one’s trust in” the Gospel. Being convinced of something or putting one’s trust in the Gospel could hardly be said to be a casual acceptance of something. When a person gives credence to the historical facts that Christ died and rose from the dead and the doctrinal fact that this was for his sins, he is trusting his eternal destiny to the reliability of those truths.

And that is as far from casual as anything could be.

So you see, the argument erected about the non-lordship view is nothing more than a straw man. With such telling words as “sterile” and “only intellectual assent,” opponents can more easily destroy this straw man. Make no mistake, non-lordship people do not say what straw man #1 alleges they say.

Semantics and the Gospel, Part 3 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #5)

The Bible says in Romans 10:9: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:

In these verses Paul stated the content of that message concerning faith. Confessing with the mouth that Jesus is Lord is mentioned first to conform to the order of the quotation from Deuteronomy 30:14 in Romans 10:8. The confession is an acknowledgement that God has been incarnated in Jesus, that Jesus Christ is God. Also essential is heart-faith that God raised Him from the dead. The result is salvation. The true order is given in verse 10: For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Yet these are not two separate steps to salvation. They are chronologically together. Salvation comes through acknowledging to God that Christ is God and believing in Him.

Today’s quote is from Catherine Booth. She said: “The Gospel represents Jesus Christ, not as a system of truth to be received into the mind, as I should receive a system of philosophy or astronomy, but it represents Him as a real, living, mighty Savior, able to save me now.”

Our topic today is titled “Semantics and the Gospel (Part 3)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

In our last episode, we went through 16 statements that are commonly used in presentations of the Gospel. Notice the different key words in those statements:

Repent.
Confess.
Deny.
Lord and Master.
Come forward.
Baptism.
Pray through.
Commit.
Turn from all sin.
Surrender.

Some words stand out as poor, even wrong, choices for stating the Gospel. Many would agree that coupling the word “baptism” with the Gospel results in a wrong expression of the Gospel message. But others disagree with this. To them water baptism is a necessary requirement for salvation. For many, faith and works cannot be linked as requirements for salvation. For others, works are involved in becoming a child of God. Whether baptism or works is required in order to be saved is a matter of semantics that in turn becomes a matter of a true or false Gospel.

Most of you will probably agree that “baptism” and “works” are words that should not be used in the Gospel message simply because they mean something that is not a part of the Gospel message. That seems clear enough. But what about the meaning of a word like “repentance”? That does not seem so clear. Is it part of the Gospel message? Is it a requirement to be saved? Is it only a matter of indifference whether one uses the word or not in presenting the Gospel? Or what about the word “Lord”? What does it mean if it is made a part of the Gospel message? What about Messiah? God? Master?

Or what about the word “give,” as in “Give your heart to Christ”? Is that actually what has to be done if one is going to be saved? Is “give” another way of saying “trust”? And if it is, then is it true that in order to be saved, I must “trust” my heart to Christ? Or should I say, “Give my life to Christ”?

These are important semantic differences because they give different meanings to the Gospel message. Some give a wrong message; others, an unclear one. But we must strive to use the words that give a clear witness to the grace of God. It is not that God cannot use an unclear message; doubtless He does this more often than He would prefer to. But why should He have to? Why don’t we sharpen our understanding of what the Gospel is about so that we can present it as clearly as possible, using the right words to herald the Good News correctly?

Words are crucial. How terribly important they are in statements like these in 1 Corinthians 15:3: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and…He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Or like these in John 20:31: “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

We shall discuss some of the crucial words in our upcoming broadcasts with the goal that this will clarify our thinking and then our presentation of God’s good news.