Archives For Soteriology

Try reading through this question and answer twice.  The first time read to get a feel for it.  The second time read with rhythm and expression.

Q. 21 – What is true faith?

A. True faith is

not only a knowledge and conviction

that everything God reveals in his Word is true;

it is also a deep-rooted assurance,

created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel,

that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ,

not only others, but I too,

have had my sins forgiven,

have been made forever right with God,

had have been granted salvation.

This is a reminder I often give to our people.

If you asked me, “What is your biggest fear as a pastor?” The answer would be easy.

I fear for people in our flock who think they are Christians when they are not. I fear for those who have false assurance about their salvation.

Stating it baldly, some believe they are headed for heaven and the reality is that they are destined for hell.

That some have false assurance is a fact. The Bible teaches that there are a group of people who think they are Christians, when in fact they are not.  Their faith is dead (James 2:17); their calling and election is not sure (2 Peter 1:10).  On the last day, Jesus will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you (Matthew 7:21-23).

When some, who think they are Christians, find out that they are not, and that it is too late – – this will be the most terrible moment ever faced in human history.

If you have any questions about this, by all means talk to a mature believer soon.  For more on the Gospel, see here.

Saved from God

Chris —  May 2, 2011

R.C. Sproul:

. . . I said, “Do you want to know what you are saved from? In a word, you are saved from God.” They just gasped and to this day when I attend that convention people come up to me and say, “I had never thought of that until I heard your message.” It is God who saves people from God because his wrath is stored up against the day of wrath, and he most certainly will demonstrate, as he has demonstrated his love toward us “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Commentary on Romans, 161, emphasis added).

Sproule references Romans 5:8 in making his point, but John 3:36 also comes to mind:

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36).

True Repentance

Chris —  April 26, 2011

R.C. Sproul:

In true repentance there is no rationalization.  There is no attempt to minimize guilt.  There is no attempt at self-justification, which is the human tendency (Commentary on Romans, 82).

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.


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

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.