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A Matter of Faith (04/20/2008)
God's Word doesn't change

From: Rev. Adam Burge

Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church

Winona

Opinions do not matter. What we believe does not change the eternal and unchanging truths of God's Word. There is a difference between stating one's opinion and giving an exegesis of the Holy Scriptures. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines opinion as "a belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof" (italics for emphasis mine). Exegesis, on the other hand, is defined as the "critical explanation or analysis, especially of a text" or simply to interpret. When speaking of such important matters as the eternal state of one's soul, neither my opinion, nor the opinion of any other fallible human being, counts. The only position on any matter that counts is God's. If we claim to speak for God, we must simply say what God says.

It appears that the gentleman who disagreed with my last posting comes from a Universalist position which basically teaches that all people are going to Heaven when they die. This is the position which most people hold to and can be simply stated as "we are all going to the same place, we are just taking different paths." Scripture teaches that this is true. However, the place we are all going is hell, not Heaven. God is very restrictive and selective as to whom He will allow into Heaven with Him. God intervened, however, and provided a way for all to be saved, provided they will come His way.

What does Jesus Himself say about the matter? "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:21-23).

The third chapter of John teaches us the necessity of personal faith in order to be saved. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Jesus then goes on to explain what it means to be "born again." It means that just as a person must be physically born before he enters this world, so a person must also experience a spiritual birth before He can enter Heaven. The way that a person receives eternal life is further explained: "whoever believes may in Him have eternal life" (John 3:15). Jesus then speaks what many consider to be the most beloved verse in the Bible: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). John said something similar in John 1:12: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." Why does a person need to believe in what Christ has done and receive the free gift of eternal life? "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:17-19).

The book of Romans is a clear and full presentation of the Gospel. Chapter 1, verse 18 tells us that "the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." Christ had already died some 25 years prior to Paul's writing this book. Christ's death did indeed pay all that was necessary for us to be saved. But, as if shown in the previous paragraph and in verses to follow, faith is unnecessary, why is God still angry at sinners? Personal faith in the death of Christ as the substitute for one's punishment is necessary before the merit of Christ's death is appropriated to the sinner (called imputation).

Paul continues to argue that all are condemned as guilty before God. The Gentile (non-Jew) is guilty before God because he is willfully ignorant of what God demands (1:18-32). The moralist is condemned because he tries to earn salvation his own way (2:1-16). The Jew is guilty before God, because even though he received the law of God, he fails to keep it. He is also condemned because he fails to believe the promises of God (2:17-3:8). Paul's conclusion is that all are condemned as guilty before God: "There is none righteous, no, not one" (3:10). Lest we think that there might be any exceptions, Paul continues: "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there i≠ot one. Their throat is an open sepulchre (grave); with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps in under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes" (3:11-18).

God will not allow an unrighteous person to enter Heaven. Therefore, man must be justified, or declared righteous, through another source. Paul argues that this source is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ (3:21-30). Man is "justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (3:24-25). We read the great word propitiation in these verses. This term is very significant theologically. It means an appeasement of God's righteous wrath. Without going into too great of a discussion on this wonderful truth, let me state it succinctly: God demands "the soul that sinneth it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). All men are sinners (Romans 3:23) and, therefore, all must die (Romans 5:12). Jesus Christ died in the place of sinners, thus providing expiation. Expiation means that Jesus satisfied God's righteous demands for punishment. The result of expiation is propitiation, meaning that God's wrath against the repentant sinner is appeased. The result of propitiation is reconciliation. Man can now enjoy the fellowship with God that God intended since the beginning of the world. See the following verses for greater clarification - Romans 5:11, II Corinthians 5:18-19; and Hebrews 2:17.

Man can be declared righteous because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Romans 4 tells us that justification is by faith alone in the work of Christ which we read of in Chapter 5. Some will wrongly interpret several verses in that chapter. The argument that Paul makes there is since Adam sinned as our representative, thus making all men guilty before God and worthy of punishment, Jesus Christ could die as our representative making it possible for all men to be saved. Should we make the argument that it is not fair that one man's sin should make all men guilty, let us consider how fair it is that one innocent man, Jesus Christ, became sin for us and died so that all can be declared righteous. Just because Jesus Christ died for all does not mean that all are automatically forgiven.

So how do we avail ourselves of that which Christ has done for us? The answer is again found in the book of Romans in chapter 10:9-13: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made into salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon his name. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." First, one must confess that Jesus is God. No other Jesus will save you. Second, believe in your heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead. We must believe that Jesus died as our substitute, yet did not remain dead (I Cor. 15:1-3). It is necessary for us to believe that what Christ did was all that is necessary for salvation, and there is a need to confess (agree with God) that it is true. Verses 11-12 teach us that the way of salvation is the same for all people. Third, we have to call upon the name of the Lord and He will save us: "Neither is there salvation in any other [Jesus Christ]: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Again, why is there a necessity to be saved? The answer is to escape the coming judgment of which the Bible clearly speaks.

While people would like to believe that all people are going to Heaven, that simply is not true. The Bible, God's inspired, inerrant, infallible Word, teaches us some very revealing truths. First, man is a sinner by choice who hates God. Second, man is destined to an eternity in a Christless hell. Third, there is nothing that man can do to save himself from this punishment. Fourth, God - our Creator, Lawgiver, and Judge - loves us so much that He sent His only begotten (unique, one of a kind) Son into the world to perfectly fulfill all of God's righteous requirements and then to die in our place, taking the full brunt of God's wrath upon Himself. Fifth, God graciously extends to the sinner an invitation to be forgiven and be pardoned from his punishment. Sixth, we must individually receive God's gracious gift. The result of rejecting Christ is to face God's full wrath by burning for eternity in hell (Revelation 20:12-15; Mark 9:43-48).

Friends, these words are not written to condemn you, but to warn you of the wrath to come and to invite you to accept God's gracious free gift of eternal life. God offers this through simple faith alone. There is nothing more for you to do. Won't you accept His gift of forgiveness and eternal life today?

 

 

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