Archives For Soteriology

In, The Cross Centered Life, C.J. Mahaney quotes Luther in explaining that we all carry the nails of the Cross in our pockets:

You and I follow along as the Romans lead Jesus away to the hill called Golgotha – – “Place of a Skull.” They nail His quivering flesh onto a cross, then raise it and slam it on the ground.

From all around us in the throng of onlookers, the verbal abuse continues. Those passing by wag their heads and say, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” The chief priests and the scribes and the elders echo the mockery: “He saved others; he cannot save himself.

Make no mistake: Jesus can descend from the cross and save Himself at any moment.  It isn’t the nails that keep Him there.  What keeps Him there is what placed Him there – – His passion to do the will of His Father, and His love for sinners like you and me.

Without their knowing it, the mocking words these onlookers utter do in fact reveal the uniqueness of the Savior’s death and why it mattered.  In their spiritual blindness they in effect express sublime spiritual truths. For Jesus cannot save both Himself and save you and me. It’s precisely because He refused to save Himself that He’s able to save others.

It would be necessary for Him to die even if it were for your sin alone or my sin alone. That’s why you and I are fully responsible for this tragic death. As John Stott wisely observed, “Until you see the cross as that which is done by you, you will never appreciate that it is done for you.”

Luther said that we all carry in our pockets His very nails. Are you aware of those nails in your possession?

What do Christians believe about the fate of those who don’t turn to Christ?

Do We Really Believe What We’re Saying? from The Church at Brook Hills on Vimeo.

HT: JT

See also this post on the Gospel Coalition site that interacts with different options for the future of those who haven’t heard the Gospel.

One of the points I argued in Unpacking Forgiveness is that forgiveness cannot happen completely apart from repentance. Christians ought always to have an attitude of forgiveness.  But, forgiveness is about the restoration of a relationship and if the offending party is unrepentant, then forgiveness cannot fully take place any more than you can shake hands by yourself.  The offended Christian wraps the package and offers it freely.  Yet, the gift needs to be received. For more on this point, see this post.

Conditional forgiveness flows out of the biblical principle that we are to forgive one another as God forgave us (Eph 4:32).  God only forgives those who turn in repentance from their sins and receive the gift of eternal life. I’m not alone in taking this position!, see also A.B. Caneday, “Being forgiving doesn’t always mean forgiving.”

A point I have stressed in writing and speaking about forgiveness is that if we insist on unconditional interpersonal forgiveness, then some will inevitably argue that God forgives unconditionally apart from repentance and faith.  Those who insist on automatic forgiveness can easily end up arguing that God should also automatically forgive.

This progression is seen in Rob Bell’s thinking.  In Velvet Elvis, Bell asserted:

Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for (Bell, Velvet Elvis, page 146).

This is a very problematic statement. The idea that someone can be forgiven by God, yet still go to hell, eviscerates forgiveness of any biblical meaning.

Now in Love Wins (188-189), Bell has taken the next step when he argues that on the Cross, Jesus granted unconditional forgiveness apart from repentance or faith on the part of those who crucified Him.

Jesus forgives them all, without their asking for it.

Done. Taken care of.

Before we could be good enough or right enough, before we could even believe the right things.

Forgiveness is unilateral. God isn’t waiting for us to get it together, to clean up, shape up, get up – – God has already done it.

But, should we accept Bell’s premise that Christ granted forgiveness? As I have argued elsewhere, Jesus wasn’t granting absolution to those who crucified Him – – he wasn’t saying unilaterally that they were forgiven.  He was praying for their salvation.  Scripture is clear that this prayer would only be answered if they believed in Him.  Otherwise, the wrath of God would remain on them (John 3:36).

Bell insists he does not believe in universalism (the teaching that all people are saved).  Yet, when  he argues that Christ granted forgiveness unilaterally on the Cross and extends that forgiveness to all people, apart from belief, then it’s hard to see how this is not universalism.

Last Sunday, I stressed that a goal for our pulpit is to consider how sound doctrine shapes how we see life.  It’s worth glancing at the sermon notes again to recall not only some of the definitions I gave so we could digest the passage, but also how this doctrine would shape our approach to different situations in life.

Always Be Connecting Sound Doctrine with Life and Experience, Pastor Chris Brauns, Romans 5:6-11, 3/27/11

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). It’s not enough to teach sound doctrine.  We must demonstrate how that doctrine fits with life.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching (2 Timothy 3:16-4:2). Scripture is good for something!  It is profitable.

Terms: We cannot digest Romans 5:6-11 apart from reflecting on these terms.

Lostness / total depravity – Without Christ, all people are radically corrupted at the core of our being.  We are dead in our transgressions (Eph 2:1-3, Titus 3:3, John 6:65).  This does not mean all people are as bad as they could be.  It does mean that we are completely and utterly unable to save ourselves.  We need to be born again.

Blood – “The blood of Christ is the clear outward evidence that his life blood was poured out when he died a sacrificial death to pay for our redemption (Grudem, Larger Systematic, 579).”  Grudem also quotes Leon Morris, “the blood of Christ means his death in its saving aspects.”  See 1 Peter 1:18-19.

Justified- This is a legal term that means being declared righteous in Christ (Romans 5:1, 8:1).

Reconciled – To be brought back into fellowship with God through Christ (See 2 Corinthians 5:11-21).

Substitutionary atonement – The truth that Christ stood in the place of Christians and took upon himself the punishment we deserve.

Wrath of God – It is an oft repeated truth in the Bible that God will punish sin.  John 3:36 stresses that whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.  Ephesians 2:3 says that, apart from Christ, we are “children of wrath.”

So how would this doctrine affect our approach to:

Parenting a small child – Our children are not born as blank moral slates . . .

Parenting an elementary age child – Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  We cannot just be “behavorists” as parents who raise well behaved children.  We must evangelize them.

Being the victim of an horrific offense with an unrepentant offender–We can trust a just God for justice.

A major fight in your marriage- We ought to graciously forgive one another even as God forgave us.

Worship – “I will sing of my redeemer and his wondrous love for me, on the cruel cross he suffered, from the curse, to set me free.”

Facing the possibility of cancer -Whatever our lot, thou hast taught us to say, “It is well with my soul.:

Is Forgiveness Possible?

Chris —  February 8, 2011 — 1 Comment

This clip from ER shows the emptiness of liberal theology.

HT: Trevin Wax

Can you spot what is missing in the verses people search?

Collin Hansen:

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that John 3:16 is the most-searched Bible verse, according to statistical analysis provided by the folks at Bible Gateway. They reviewed the behavior of some of the 8 million visitors who stop by their site each month, many of them chasing results provided by Google. I was intrigued to review the top 10 results, which I’ve listed in reverse order.

10.) Matthew 28:19: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

9.) Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

8.) Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

7.) Proverbs 3:6: “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

6.) Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

5.) Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

The rest here.

See also What Scares Me Most as a Pastor

HT: Z

Kevin DeYoung with wise counsel regarding assurance of salvation.

Whenever counseling Christians looking for assurance of salvation, I take them to 1 John. This brief epistle is full of help for determining whether we are in the faith or not. In particular, there are three signs in 1 John given to us so we can answer the question “Do I have confidence or condemnation?”

The first sign is theological. You should have confidence if you believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God (5:11-13).  John doesn’t want people to be doubting.  God wants you to have assurance, to know that you have eternal life.  And this is the first sign, that you believe in Jesus.  You believe he is the Christ or the Messiah (2:22).  You believe he is the Son of God (5:10).  And you believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (4:2).  So if you get your theology wrong about Jesus you will not have eternal life.  But one of the signs that should give you confidence before God is that you believe in his only Son Jesus Christ our Lord (4:14-16; 5:1, 5).

Read the rest here.

The Bible pictures all human beings as defendants in a courtroom: a courtroom in which God is the judge and our sins constitute the evidence against us. The judge weighs the evidence and finds every single one of us guilty of sin and announces that we, therefore, must be condemned. The marvellous news of justification is that God has himself provided for us the means of escaping that condemnation: by responding to his gracious initiative in faith, we become joined with Christ, who died for us and was raised for us. We become joined to Christ, who takes on himself the penalty for our sin and covers us with the ‘righteousness’ that we need to reverse the verdict of condemnation and receive the verdict of ‘justified’, ‘right’ with God. And because we have been joined to Christ, the holy one, and have in that union received the gift of God’s powerful holy Spirit, we, who have been justified, also find our lives transformed so that we love God and neighbour.

HT: JT

Key Words for Today’s Sermon

Chris —  March 21, 2010 — 1 Comment

Today, D.V., I will be preaching on what some theologians argue is the greatest paragraph ever written (see this post on who suggests it’s the greatest passage ever).

Here is some of the day’s vocabulary:

Atonement – The work of Christ necessary to pay the price for sin. The center of Christ’s atoning work is that that he paid the penalty for his people on the Cross.

Justification – God’s legal declaration that sinners are righteous. It does not mean that we are made righteous. Rather, it is a declaration.[1]

Mercy Seat – The covering of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark contained the 10 Commandments and was the central symbol of God’s presence with Old Testament Israel. The included picture is from the Holman Bible Dictionary.[2]

Propitiation – The turning away of wrath by an offering.[3]

Redemption – Deliverance at a cost or release by payment.[4] As a slave buying freedom.[5]

Salvation History – The true story of how God is unfolding his plan to redeem His people and His creation. We often summarize the big picture or meta-narrative of the Bible with the words: Creation, Fall, Creation, Consummation.


[1] See R.C. Sproul, Romans: The Righteous Shall Live by Faith, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009), 97-104.

[2] C. Brand, Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., Butler, T. C., & Latta, B. , "The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary," (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003).

[3] Leon Morris, "Atonement," in The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 888.

[4] Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, 40-55.

[5] Douglas Moo, Encountering the Book of Romans, Encountering Biblical Studies (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 83.