Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Q & A with Warren Wiersbe: "What is the Gospel?"

As a well-known and trusted Bible theologian and scholar, and former pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Dr. Warren Wiersbe is well-qualified to answer questions about the gospel. Let's see what he has to say about this most important issue. Commenting on the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15, Wiersbe writes:
"We should test everything by the truth of the Gospel. What is the Gospel? Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was buried and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. He was seen alive by many witnesses. If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved. (See I Corinthians 15.)"1
"The good news of the Gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ, '...that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen...' (1 Cor. 15:3-5)."2
"The gospel is the most important message that the church ever proclaims. While it is good to be involved in social action and the betterment of mankind, there is no reason why these ministries should preempt the gospel. 'Christ died...he was buried...he rose again...he was seen' are the basic historical facts on which the gospel stands (1 Cor. 15:3-5). 'Christ died for our sins' is the theological explanation of the historical facts. Many people were crucified by the Romans, but only one 'victim' ever died for the sins of the world."3
"The burial of Jesus Christ is as much a part of the gospel as is His death (1 Cor. 15:1-5), for the burial is proof that He actually died."4
"What gives us our firm footing? The gospel of Jesus Christ. (See 1 Cor. 15:1-5; Rom. 5:1-2; Gal. 5:1.)"5

ENDNOTES:

1 Warren Wiersbe, "SANCTIFIED BY CORRECTION" (accessed November 9, 2011), bold added.

2 Wiersbe, "J is for Jesus Part 1," (accessed November 12, 2011).

3 Wiersbe, Be Wise (1 Corinthians), p. 164.

4 Wiersbe, Be Comforted (Isaiah), p. 162.

5 Wiersbe, A Gallery of Grace, p. 123.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Darby vs. Moody on Calvinism

A couple weeks ago I started reading a biography of D. L. Moody's life titled A Passion for Souls, by Lyle W. Dorsett. I'm about 130 pages into the book, and this morning I was reading about Moody's first trip to England and how he was introduced to Charles Spurgeon, George Muller, and the Plymouth Brethren - John Nelson Darby among them. Concerning the latter, Moody was attracted to many of the Plymouth Brethren distinctives, but as time went on he became increasingly uncomfortable with some of their teachings, particularly the Calvinistic teaching of Limited Atonement. Dorsett gives the following details:
     Moody's initial love affair with the Brethren movement was inspired by their love for the Bible and their purposeful focus on reaching the lost for Christ. Therefore, Moody spent much time in Brethren assemblies on his [first] trip [to England in 1867], and he would invite many, including John Nelson Darby, to come to America and preach at the Illinois Street Church.
     Within a few years, however, Moody became uncomfortable with the Brethren. Not that he eventually swayed from his commitment to Scripture, premillennialism, missions, and evangelism, but he did find the increasingly separatistic views of the movement to be personally distressing and ultimately harmful to Christian unity. For instance, Darby was a staunch Calvinist who held unyieldingly to predestination and the doctrine of the elect. Increasingly, Darby unleashed verbal warfare against anyone who gave quarter to the Arminian and Wesleyan view that Christ died for all men and women. Moody was never a predestinarian, and as the years went by, his proclamation theology was like that of John Wesley rather than the one embraced by John Calvin (and Darby). Furthermore, while Darby wanted less and less to do with Christians who advocated clergy ordination, liturgy, and using women in ministry, Moody was seeking ways to unify all the denominations.
     Finally, Darby personally launched an ugly, verbal attack on Moody's "Arminian" views, arguing that he and most Americans, except for a few Presbyterians, did not know "the first principles of grace". Indeed, one day while doing a Bible reading time at Farwell Hall in Chicago, he and Moody had a verbal exchange on free will. The session ended when Darby, in disgust with Moody's emphasis on "whosoever will may come," [Rev. 22:17, KJV] closed his Bible and walked out; and he never returned.1
I find this information very interesting because I've attended Moody Bible Institute  in Chicago, and I would say that most of the present-day students and faculty would probably agree with Darby on this issue, not Moody! The present-day Moody Bible Institute is "generally Calvinistic,"2 while I'm not so sure that Moody himself was.3

I also find it interesting that in response to Moody's quoting of Scripture, Darby closed his Bible and walked away! This reaffirms to me that Calvinism really cannot stand up to the Word of God - in this case the simple truth that "whosover will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17, KJV).


ENDNOTES:

1 Lyle W. Dorsett, A Passion for Souls: The Life of D. L. Moody [Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1997], pp. 136-137. NOTE: Moody was not an "Arminian"; neither was he a Calvinist. Instead, Moody held to a Biblical balance between the two positions.

2 See the Moody Bible Institute "Doctrinal Statement".

3 I am reminded of the following statement by D. L. Moody, which I taped to the outside of my dorm room door while I was living in Culbertson Hall: "But some say, Faith is the gift of God. So is the air; but you have to breathe it. So is bread; but you have to eat it. So is water; but you have to drink it. Some are wanting a miraculous kind of feeling. That is not faith. 'Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God' (Rom. x. 17). That is whence faith comes. It is not for me to sit down and wait for faith to come stealing over me with a strange sensation; but it is for me to take God at His Word." (Moody, The Way to God [Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1884], p. 51.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Robert H. Mounce's article on the word "GOSPEL"

     I recently came across an excellent article on the word "GOSPEL" in Baker's Dictionary of Theology while doing some research in Crowell Library at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. The article is written by Biblical Greek scholar Robert H. Mounce (father of William D. Mounce) and edited by Free Grace theologian Everett F. Harrison.1 The entire article is very much worth reading, but in this post I'd like to just highlight a couple of sections in regards to the clear content of Paul's gospel. First, notice what Mounce says under the heading "THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PAUL":

     "Paul's ministry was distinctively that of the propagation of the gospel. Unto this gospel he was set apart (Rom. 1:1) and made a minister according to the grace of God (Eph. 3:7). His special sphere of action was the gentile world (Rom. 16:16; Gal. 2:7). Since Paul accepted the gospel as a sacred trust (Gal. 2:7), it was necessary that in the discharge of this obligation he speak so as to please God rather than man (1 Tim. 2:4). The divine commission had created a sense of urgency that made him cry out, 'Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel' (1 Cor. 9:16). For the sake of the gospel Paul was willing to become all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:22, 23). No sacrifice was too great. Eternal issues were at stake. Those whose minds were blinded and did not obey the gospel were perishing and would ultimately reap the vengeance of divine wrath (2 Cor. 4:3; 2 Thess. 1:9). On the other hand, to those who believed, the gospel had effectively become the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).
     Because Paul, on occasion, speaks of his message as 'my gospel' (Rom. 2:16; 2 Tim. 2:8), and because in his letter to the Galatians he goes to some pains to stress that he did not receive it from man (Gal. 1:11 ff.), it is sometimes maintained that Paul's gospel should be distinguished from that of apostolic Christianity in general.
     This does not follow. 1 Cor. 15:3-5 sets forth with crystal clarity the message of primitive Christianity. Paul, using terms equivalent to the technical rabbinic words for the reception and transmission of tradition (M. Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, Scribner's, New York, 1935, p. 21), refers to this message as something which he had received and passed on (vs. 3). In verse eleven he can say, 'Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.' In Galatians, Paul tells how he laid before the apostles at Jerusalem the gospel which he had preached. Far from finding fault with the message, they extended to him the right hand of fellowship (Gal. 2:9)."2

     In the next section of the article titled "THE APOSTOLIC PREACHING," Mounce again draws attention to 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. Notice what he says:
    
     "If we wish to investigate more closely the specific content of the primitive gospel, we will do well to adopt the basic approach of C. H. Dodd (The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1936). While Dodd refers to the message as kerygma [i.e. preaching or proclamation], he is ready to admit that this term is a virtual equivalent of euaggelion [i.e. good news or gospel]. (Kerygma stresses the manner of delivery: euaggelion, the essential nature of the content.)
     There are two sources for the determination of the primitive proclamation. Of primary importance are the fragments of pre-Pauline tradition that lie embedded in the writings of the apostle. These segments can be uncovered by the judicious application of certain literary and formal criteria. While at least one [fragment of pre-Pauline tradition] purports to be the actual terms in which the gospel was preached (1 Cor. 15:3-5), others take the form of early Christian hymns (e.g., Phil. 2:6-11), summaries of the message (e.g., Rom. 10:9), or creedal formulae (1 Cor. 12:3; 1 Tim. 3:16).
     A second source is the early Petrine [i.e. Peter] speeches in Acts. . . ."3

     In the statement above, Mounce referenced C. H. Dodd and his book The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments. It will thus be helpful to observe what Dodd says in regards to the content of Paul's gospel. Dodd writes:
    
     "To begin with, Paul himself was conscious of a distinction between the fundamental content of the Gospel and the teaching which he based upon it. In 1 Cor. 1:23, 2:2-6, he recalls that at Corinth he had preached 'Christ and Him crucified.' He would now like to go on to 'speak wisdom among mature persons,' and regrets that the Corinthians do not show themselves ready for it.
     Again, in 1 Cor. 3:10 sqq., he distinguishes between the 'foundation' which he laid, and the superstructure which he and others build upon it. The reference is no doubt to the 'building up' of the life of the Church in all its aspects. But a study of the context will show that what was most particularly in his mind was just this distinction between the fundamental Gospel and the higher wisdom (not to be confused with 'the wisdom of men') which can be imparted to those whose apprehension of the Gospel is sufficiently firm. The 'foundation' is Christ, or, may we not say, it is the Gospel of 'Christ and Him crucified.' Paul himself, Apollos, and others developed this fundamental Gospel in various ways. The epistles represent for the most part this development, or superstructure. But Paul was well aware that what gave authority to his teaching was the Gospel which underlay it all.
     In 1 Cor. 15:1 sqq. he cites in explicit terms that which he had preached at Corinth:

'that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
and that He was buried;
and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures;
and that He was seen of Cephas . . .'

'It was thus,' he adds emphatically, 'that we preached and thus that you believed.' He then goes on to draw out certain implications of these fundamental beliefs . . ."4


ENDNOTES:

1 Robert H. Mounce, "GOSPEL," Everett F. Harrison, Editor-in-Chief, Geoffrey W. Bromiley Associate Editor, Carl F. H. Henry, Consulting Editor, Baker's Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960). See the entry under "GOSPEL" on pages 254-257. NOTE: Everett F. Harrison is a well-known Free Grace advocate who debated Lordship Salvation with John Stott in 1959. For more information see the article: Lordship salvation controversy.

2 R. H. Mounce, Everett F. Harrison, Editor-in-Chief, et al., Baker's Dictionary of Theology, p. 256, bold added. The same "Gospel" article by Mounce also appears in Walter A. Elwell's Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), pages 472-474. NOTE: Mounce's article is also available online. See the article: Gospel, Godspel, Godspell, Evangelion (scroll down to the second section titled "Gospel").

3 R. H. Mounce, Everett F. Harrison, Editor-in-Chief, et al., Baker's Dictionary of Theology, p. 256, bold added.

4 C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1962), pp. 9-10, bold added. NOTE: This book was originally published in London by Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd., 1936.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A FEW WORDS ABOUT GRACE - by William R. Newell


The following statements are excerpted from the book 
Romans Verse-By-Verse by William R. Newell:


A FEW WORDS ABOUT GRACE

I
The Nature of Grace

1. Grace is God acting freely, according to His own nature as Love; with no promises or obligations to fulfill; and acting of course, righteously - in view of the cross.
2. Grace, therefore, is uncaused in the recipient: its cause lies wholly in the GIVER, in GOD.
3. Grace, also is sovereign. Not having debts to pay, or fulfilled conditions on man's part to wait for, it can act toward whom, and how, it pleases. It can, and does, often, place the worst deservers in the highest favors.
4. Grace cannot act where there is either desert or ability: Grace does not help - it is absolute, it does all.
5. There being no cause in the creature why Grace should be shown, the creature must be brought off from trying to give cause to God for His Grace.
6. The discovery by the creature that he is truly the object of Divine grace, works the utmost humility: for the receiver of grace is brought to know his own absolute unworthiness, and his complete inability to attain worthiness: yet he finds himself blessed, - on another principle, outside of himself! 
7. Therefore, flesh has no place in the plan of Grace. This is the great reason why Grace is hated by the proud natural mind of man. But for this very reason, the true believer rejoices! For he knows that "in him, that is, in his flesh, is no good thing"; and yet he finds God glad to bless him, just as he is!

II
 The Place of Man under Grace

1. He has been accepted in Christ, who is his standing!
2. He is not "on probation."
3. As to his life past, it does not exist before God: he died at the Cross, and Christ is his life.
4. Grace, once bestowed, is not withdrawn: for God knew all the human exigencies beforehand: His action was independent of them, not dependent upon them.
5. The failure of devotion does not cause the withdrawal of bestowed grace (as it would under law). For example: The man in 1 Cor. 5:1-5; and also those in [1 Cor.] 11:30-32, who did not "judge" themselves, and so were "judged by the Lord, - that they might not be condemned with the world"!

III
 The Proper Attitude of Man under Grace

1. To believe, and to consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret.
2. To refuse to make "resolutions" and "vows"; for that is to trust in the flesh.
3. To expect to be blessed, though realizing more and more lack of worth.
4. To testify of God's goodness, at all times.
5. To be certain of God's future favor; yet to be ever more tender in conscience toward Him.
6. To rely on God's chastening hand as a mark of His kindness.
7. A man under grace, if like Paul, has no burdens regarding himself; but many about others.

IV
Things Which Gracious Souls Discover

1. To "hope to be better" is to fail to see yourself in Christ only.
2. To be disappointed with yourself, is to have believed in yourself.
3. To be discouraged is unbelief, - as to God's purpose and plan of blessing for you.
4. To be proud, is to be blind! For we have no standing before God, in ourselves
5. The lack of Divine blessing, therefore, comes from unbelief, and not from failure of devotion
6. Real devotion to God arises, not from man's will to show it; but from the discovery that blessing has been received from God while we were yet unworthy and undevoted.
7. To preach devotion first, and blessing second, is to reverse God's order, and preach law, not grace. The Law made man's blessing depend on devotion; Grace confers undeserved, unconditional blessing: our devotion may follow, but does not always do so, - in proper measure.

____________________________

Excerpted from William R. Newell, Romans Verse-By-Verse, pp. 245-247. This segment is the same as the original piece except for the following changes: (1) "fulfil" has been changed to "fulfill"; (2) "I Cor. 5.1-5" and "11.30-32" has been changed to "1 Cor. 5:1-5" and "11:30-32"; (3) The numerical points have been aligned with the left margin instead of indented.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Facts Which Constitute the Gospel


"We set out not to study human creeds, but the Bible, and we agreed to let the Bible interpret itself and mean what it wants to mean." - B. H. Carroll, from "The General Foreword" to his classic set: An Interpretation of the English Bible.

B. H. Carroll (1843-1914), the late founder and first president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of An Interpretation of the English Bible, offers some keen insights in regards to "the facts which constitute the gospel." Carroll affirms that the biblical gospel includes the four facts of Christ's substitutionary death, burial, resurrection, and appearances. Notice what he says in his commentary on the passage in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11:

     "This chapter commences with the statement of the facts which constitute the gospel. The first fact, 'Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.' Three ideas are involved in that fact:
    1. Christ actually died. It was not a mere trance; it was actual death.
    2. It was a vicarious, substitutionary, expiatory death. 'He died for our sins.'
  3. He died for our sins 'according to the Scriptures' - that the Scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testament up to the time of his crucifixion clearly foretold his actual, substitutionary, and expiatory death.
     The second fact in the gospel is that he was buried - he was dead and buried - and that was according to the Scriptures. The Scriptures testified that he would be buried. The third fact is that on the third day, according to the Scriptures, he rose from the dead; and the fourth fact of the gospel is, that risen, he was visible to men, recognized by men, and identified by men.
     Paul goes on to tell of the numerous appearances, including an appearance to him. He was buried, he rose again, he was visible after death with spiritual evidence, and his body was identified. In other words, John says, as if to anticipate many foolish statements, 'We don't know what we shall be, but we do know that when he comes we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.'
     The next thing that Paul presents is that this was not merely a preaching of his, but all the apostles preached it, as verse 11 of that chapter shows. And the next thought is that they did not originate it. He says, 'I have delivered unto you that which I also received, and you received it from me.' That was according to the sign which Christ submitted: 'He died, he was buried, and was raised.' The next argument that he makes is that every Christian in the days of the apostles believed what he said, 'As I delivered it, so you received it, and that so believing it, you are saved by it,' making it a doctrine of salvation."
________________________

Excerpted from B. H. Carroll, An Interpretation of the English Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973), 17 Vols., Vol. 13, pp. 246-247, bold added.

Note: This 17 volume set was first printed by the Fleming H. Revell Company in 1913. Broadman Press bought the copyright in 1942, and it was reprinted by Baker Book House in 1973.

Friday, September 30, 2011

An Invitation to Salvation

Tim Nichols from Full Contact Christianity has posted a new blog article titled "Don't Give An Invitation!" and overall I think it's pretty good. While I'm hesitant to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" (as the saying goes) and completely do away with all gospel invitations in church - if for no other reason than I think that gospel invitations are inevitable when certain passages of Scripture are read in the assembly, i.e. an invitation is given by the Spirit when certain Scriptures are read - I agree that "in one sense"  they are not the biblical thing to do. Nichols is correct to say that many gospel invitations actually confuse the gospel and encourage individuals to doubt their salvation. Nichols writes:

"To this day, many churches will close every service with an invitation to come forward and receive Christ as savior - and woe betide the minister who fails in his duty to deliver a stirring invitation. The practice poses an obvious problem: 'Salvation is completely free. You don't have to do anything but believe Jesus. If you'd like to do that now, get up out of your seat in front of everybody and walk down here.' Concerned that the practice confused people by asking them to perform a work (walk the aisle) in order to receive a free gift, many churches have done away with the altar call in its common form. However, a great number of churches still close every service with an invitation."1

Nichols is highlighting a common practice in many of today's churches. I've personally sat through a number of Billy Graham style altar calls, and I agree that they do NOT promote the clear gospel or the assurance of salvation! These invitations tend to confuse the gospel message because salvation is in effect conditioned on walking an aisle, praying a prayer, or dedicating one's life to Christ. How contrary to the message of the Bible where the offer is simply look and live! One of the classic texts in this regard is found in the Old Testament book of Numbers, chapter 21, when it says:

"And the LORD [i.e. Yahweh or Jehovah, and so throughout] sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, 'We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us.' And Moses interceded for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he shall live.' And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived." (Numbers 21:6-9, NASB)

In the Gospel of John, Jesus uses this account from Numbers 21 to illustrate how to receive eternal life. Jesus declares:

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten [i.e. one-of-a-kind] Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:14-17, NKJV)

Zane Hodges writes: "Jesus means to say, He Himself will be lifted up on the cross, and the one who looks to Him in faith will live....So, in John 3, the issue is faith, or confidence, in Christ for eternal life. Will a man look to the Crucified One for eternal life, or will he not? The man who does, lives! By this very simplicity, the Gospel confronts and refutes all its contemporary distortions."2

The unsaved don't have to drag themselves down an aisle to receive eternal life, they simply have to look to "the Son of Man...lifted up" (John 3:14).3 Look to Him in faith and live!


ENDNOTES:

1 Nichols, "Don't Give An Invitation!," Full Contact Christianity blog, September 18, 2011 (accessed September 28, 2011).

2 Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege (Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1992), p. 147, italics his, ellipsis added. NOTE: Unfortunately in his later years Hodges departed from his once orthodox beliefs about the gospel. For more information see the article "The Cross Under Siege by Zane Hodges".

3 Also see: Jn. 12:32; 1 Cor. 1:17, 18, 23, 2:2, 15:3; Gal. 3:13.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spurgeon on the Gospel: "How does Paul put it?"


"Jesus Christ is the essence of the gospel: he himself is the good news, as well as the medium of it. The good news is that God hath sent his only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through him....Everything is brought out as a matter of fact arising from the actual life and death of the Saviour, and I am free to confess that I greatly admire this way of preaching the gospel. How does Paul put it? What was the gospel to him? Hear him: 'Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures; and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.' [1 Corinthians 15:1-5.] Thus, you see, Paul's body of divinity was the life and death of that only embodied divinity, the Lord Jesus. My brethren, always set forth the gospel in close connection with your Lord, fetching it, as it were, out of him."1

______________________

ENDNOTE:

1 Excerpted from C. H. Spurgeon, "The One Foundation," The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1880), Vol. 25, pp. 523-525, italics his, ellipsis and bold added.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Glad Tidings of God - by C. H. Mackintosh

"GLAD tidings were announced to Abraham when it was said to him, 'In thee shall all nations be blessed.' [Gen. 22:18, KJV] Glad tidings were also announced when the angel proclaimed to the watching shepherds the birth of a Saviour, Christ the Lord, and the praises of the heavenly host rang through the heavens: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.' [Lk. 2:14, KJV] In a fuller way still, glad tidings were preached after Jesus died, and rose, and ascended, as we have it in 1 Corinthians xv.: 'Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you....for I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures: and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures; and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve,' &c. [1 Cor. 15:1, 3-5, KJV] There is also the gospel, or glad tidings, of the glory of Christ, which Satan labours to obscure, as it is written: 'In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.' (2 Cor. iv. 4-6.)
     What was announced to Abraham was something to take place in the future. It was not an accomplished fact. It was something he could look forward to as a hope - a sure hope, no doubt, but only a hope. To us - to you, reader - something better is announced. It is the blessed fact of a present salvation, through Him who died on the cross, and who rose again for [literally, because of] our justification [cf. Rom. 4:25, NASB]. The facts announced in the gospel of our salvation are: - 
  1. Christ died for our sins.
  2. He was buried.
  3. He rose again the third day.
  4. He was seen by many witnesses after His resurrection.
  5. He is now a Man in the glory of God. [This truth is inherent in the 'glorious gospel'. See: 2 Cor. 4:4-6; 1 Tim. 1:11.]
Blessed facts announced to those who are lost! Facts of eternal importance to every ruined child of Adam!
     Reader, are you a child of Adam? Then know that these are facts which deeply concern you for time and eternity."

_________________________

Excerpted from C. H. Mackintosh, "Glad Tidings of God," Things New and Old (London: G. Morrish, 20, Paternoster Square, 1889), Vol. 32, pp. 184-185.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"WHOSOEVER WILL" - A Poem by A. T. Pierson



WHOSOEVER WILL

THE Gospel of Thy grace
My stubborn heart has won,
For God so loved the world
He gave His only Son,
That

"Whosoever will believe,
Shall everlasting life receive!"
"Shall everlasting life receive!"

The serpent "lifted up"
Could life and healing give,
So Jesus on the cross
Bids me to look and live;
For

"Whosoever will believe,
Shall everlasting life receive!"
"Shall everlasting life receive!"

"The soul that sinneth dies":
My awful doom I heard;
I was forever lost,
But for Thy gracious word
That

"Whosoever will believe,
Shall everlasting life receive!"
"Shall everlasting life receive!"

"Not to condemn the world"
The "Man of sorrows" came;
But that the world might have
Salvation thro' His name;
For

"Whosoever will believe,
Shall everlasting life receive!"
"Shall everlasting life receive!"

"Lord, help my unbelief!"
Give me the peace of faith,
To rest with childlike trust
On what Thy Gospel saith,
That

"Whosoever will believe,
Shall everlasting life receive!"
"Shall everlasting life receive!"
________________

A. T. Pierson (A. T. P.), "WHOSOEVER WILL,"  
The Gospel Watchman,Vol. 13 (1881): p. 148.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

In Defense of the Gospel, Part 5

Question: Isn't Christ's resurrection appearance to Cephas (1 Cor. 15:5) somewhat puzzling and mysterious? The Gospel accounts don't even tell of it, except to say that it happened (Lk. 24:34).

Answer: The Bible makes it clear that Paul was "always setting forth the truth plainly" (2 Cor. 4:2, NIV; cf. 1 Cor. 1:17). So which is it: is the truth of 1 Corinthians 15:5 "puzzling" or is it "plain"? The obvious answer is that the truth of 1 Corinthians 15:5 is plain, not puzzling or mysterious. Let us dwell on this statement for a few moments and consider the following five points in regards to:

THE CLARITY OF 1 CORINTHIANS 15:5

1.) The appearance to Cephas is placed first in Paul's list of appearances. In enumerating the appearances of the risen Christ (1 Cor. 15:5ff), the apostle Paul would hardly place a "puzzling" appearance first in his list of witnesses! Chrysostom is correct to say that the appearance to Cephas is placed first because he is "the most credible of all" the apostolic witnesses.1

2.) The appearance to Cephas is a simple statement of historical fact. That the risen One appeared to Cephas is a plain and simple truth. The early Christian theologian John Cassian affirms: "But 'doctrine' unfolds the simple course of historical exposition, under which is contained no more secret sense, but what is declared by the very words: as in the passage: 'For I delivered unto you first of all what I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day, and that he was seen of Cephas'".2 Reverend Gwilym O. Griffith, (who was a student of B. B. Warfield, Charles R. Erdman, J. Grescham Machen and others at Princeton Theological Seminary and a former pastor of the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY) affirms the same truth. Quoting 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 he writes: "For 'brothers, I would have you know the gospel I once preached to you, the gospel you received, the gospel in which you have your footing, the gospel by which you are saved - provided you adhere to my statement of it - unless indeed your faith was all haphazard. First and foremost I passed on to you what I had myself received, namely that Christ died for our sins as the Scriptures had said, that He was buried, that He rose on the third day as the Scriptures had said; and that He was seen...' (I Cor. xv. 1-5 : Moffatt). This is Paul's gospel. In itself nothing could be clearer, more objective, less mystical, more insistent in its emphasis upon external and attested fact."3

3.) The appearance to Cephas is not the only one lacking details. The question under discussion implies a double standard because the questioner is singling out the appearance to Peter as "somewhat...mysterious" because "the Gospel accounts don't even tell of it" when the same could be said about most of the other resurrection appearances mentioned by Paul in the passage! For example, are we to conclude that Christ's resurrection appearance to the 500 brethren is mysterious as well? It is mentioned nowhere else in the New Testament except by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:6. MacLeod affirms: "Paul's mention of 'the five hundred brethren' is especially noteworthy. This appearance is mentioned nowhere else in the New Testament, but Paul seems to have personal knowledge of them and affirms that most were still alive at the time of writing. As Dodd observes, 'There can hardly be any purpose in mentioning the fact that most of the five hundred are still alive, unless Paul is saying, in effect, 'the witnesses are there to be questioned.'"4 This is hardly "mysterious"!

4.) The appearance to Cephas focuses on Christ, not Cephas. The apostle Paul declares that "[Christ] was seen...." (1 Cor. 15:5, KJV). Even with the mention of "Cephas" (1 Cor. 15:5) and the clear emphasis on eyewitness testimony, the focus remains on Christ.5 He is the grand subject of the glorious gospel: "Christ died...He was buried...He rose again...He was seen...." (1 Cor. 15:3-5, KJV). Let me be more specific: Christ alone is the subject of all four verbs in the sentence. Raymond F. Collins affirms that the "credal formula which [Paul] uses on 1 Cor 15:3-5 has Christ as its subject."6 Harry A. Ironside makes an insightful comment on this issue. In reference to "Paul's Statement of the Real Gospel"7, Ironside concludes: "And now the One who is alive forevermore (Rev. 1:18) is presented as an object for the hearts of His own. 'He was seen' [1 Cor. 15:5, KJV]; and the same apostle exclaims, in another place, 'We see Jesus!' (Heb. 2:9, KJV)."8 The eye of faith beholds Christ alone - the Jesus of the historical gospel, not the Jesus of the imagination (1 Cor. 15:1-5; cf. Acts  2:22-32, 10:36-43, 13:26-39).9

5.) The appearance to Cephas reveals Christ. Paul says that the risen Christ "was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve" (1 Cor. 15:5, NKJV; cf. Lk. 24:34-36, YLT; Jn. 16:16-22, 20:19-21:14). Christ was revealed (Acts 10:40-41, KJV; 2 Tim. 1:10). Now compare this truth with what is said concerning the death of Christ. In His substitutionary death on the cross, Christ was not seen! Christ was concealed. Notice what the Gospel accounts say:

"Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:45-46; cf. Psa. 22:2)

"And when the sixth hour had come, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' which is translated, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?'" (Mark 15:33-34)

"And it was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, the sun being obscured...." (Luke 23:44-45)

The gospel truth is plain enough: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3) - but  the event is shrouded in darkness and "mystery". Billy Graham affirms: "[Christ] came to die. And in His death there is something very mysterious that very few of us know very much about. When He died on that cross, God in some infinite, mysterious, and glorious way, took all of your sins, [and] laid them on Christ. He became sin for us Who knew no sin. And in that moment when He prayed: 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' A shadow passed between God and Christ. God took your sins and put on Him."10 Similarly, J. Vernon McGee says: "Now if you will examine carefully the Gospel accounts, you will make the discovery that only a few, unrelated events that are connected with the crucifixion are given, and that the actual crucifixion is passed over with a reverent restraint. The Holy Spirit has drawn the veil of silence over that cross, and none of the lurid details are set forth for the curious mob to gaze and leer upon. It is said of the brutal crowd who murdered him that they sat down and watched it. You and I are not permitted to join that crowd. Even they did not see all, for God placed over His Son's agony the mantle of the darkness. And some sensational speakers, they gathered to themselves a bit of notoriety by painting with picturesque speech the minutest details of what they think took place at the crucifixion of Christ. Art[work] has given us the account of his death in ghastly reality. You and I will probably never know, even in eternity, the extent of His suffering. 'None of the ransomed ever knew, how deep were the waters crossed, nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through, ere He found His sheep that was lost.'"11 Thus, if anything is "mysterious," it's the substitutionary death of Christ, not His resurrection appearance to Cephas!

Not surprisingly, the question under discussion is common among those who deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. All the way back in 1879 the same idea of a spooky savior was advanced by J. P. Mendum and the infidel D. M. Bennett in their book Revelations of Antichrist, Concerning Christ and Christianity.12 Notice what they say in their chapter on THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST: "The story of the Resurrection of Christ is a pitiful muddle. Each of the four Evangelists is at loggerheads with the rest, and all of them with Paul, the earliest writer....But who was this Cephas who first saw Christ? Why, Peter, of course, some will say, because Cephas was the name which John says Jesus gave to Simon, alias Peter....Well, supposing Paul's Cephas means Simon Peter (which no one knows) it is singular that none of the Evangelists confirm this appearance to Peter except Luke".13 The authors go on to conclude that the resurrection appearances of Christ are nothing more than "spook stories"14 and "ancient idle tales about a materialized Jesus".15 In light of these anti-christian statements of unbelief it becomes evident that the question under discussion is nothing more than the whispering of Satan!

Actually, the only thing puzzling or mysterious in regards to Christ's resurrection appearance to Cephas (1 Cor. 15:5) is that someone would question such a plain and simple truth. No wonder the apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4: "But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the SIMPLICITY that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted - you may well put up with it!"16


ENDNOTES:

1 The statement by Chrysostom is as follows: "Ver. 5. 'And that He appeared to Cephas:' he [Paul] names immediately the most credible of all." (Chrysostom, Homilies on First Corinthians, Homily 38.) Cf. 1 Cor. 1:12, 3:22, 9:1-5; Gal. 2:9.

2 Cassian, The Conferences of John Cassian, Part 2, Conference 14, Chapter 8, "Of spiritual knowledge". Note that following Cassian's statement quoted above, there is a footnote citing 1 Cor. 15:3-5 (see the previous link "Of spiritual knowledge," footnote 800).

3 Griffith, St. Paul's Life of Christ, pp. 165-166. Even Rudolf Bultmann (who did not believe that the resurrection of Jesus was an objective historical fact) was forced to admit that verses 1-11 of 1 Corinthians 15 "do represent 'an attempt to make the resurrection of Christ credible as an objective historical fact'". (See Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 1202.)

4 David J. MacLeod, "The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Myth, Hoax, or History?," The Emmaus Journal, Vol. 7, Num. 2 (Winter 1998): p. 183. NOTE: MacLeod introduces his remarks above by saying: "He [Paul] prefaces his list of eyewitnesses [in 1 Cor. 15:6-8] with what many scholars consider to be a very early Christian creed: 1) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; 2) and that He was buried 3) and that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; 4) and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve [1 Cor. 15:3b-5]. Following the creed, a summary of the basic tenets ('of first importance') of the Christian faith, Paul lists in chronological order ('after that...then...then...last of all') Jesus appearance to others: "After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also [1 Cor. 15:6-8]." (Ibid. pp. 182-183, bold and ellipsis his.)

5 James Denney has correctly stated that "no man can bear witness to Christ and to himself at the same time." (Denney, Studies in Theology, p. 161.)

6 Collins, Studies on the First Letter to the Thessalonians, p. 340. There seems to be no real debate among scholars on this point. For example, Roy E. Ciampa writes: "Christ is the subject of all the verbs from v. 3b to v. 8 except for the two in the relative clause of v. 6b (regarding the five hundred witnesses)." (Ciampa, Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, p. 744.)

7 Ironside, The Mormon's Mistake, or What is the Gospel?, p. 3. NOTE: Under the heading "Paul's Statement of the Real Gospel," Ironside includes the reference to "Cephas" in the gospel. (Ibid.)

8 Ibid., p. 5. It must be remembered, however, that "Apostolic witness is...uniquely different from that of the witnessing church in later generations. This is the very point of Paul's citing the pre-Pauline apostolic tradition which he himself is able to endorse." (Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 1201; cf. Acts 13:31-32; Eph. 2:20, NET; Heb. 2:3-4.)

9 As one blogger has stated so eloquently: "Belief and trust in a Jesus of the imagination does not save." Free Grace theologian Warren Wiersbe affirms the basic historical facts involved in the gospel when he says: "First of all means 'of first importance.' The gospel is the most important message that the church ever proclaims. While it is good to be involved in social action and the betterment of mankind, there is no reason why these ministries should preempt the gospel. 'Christ died...he was buried...he rose again...he was seen' are the basic historical facts on which the gospel stands (1 Cor. 15:3-5). 'Christ died for our sins' is the theological explanation of the historical facts. Many people were crucified by the Romans, but only one 'victim' ever died for the sins of the world.' (Wiersbe, Be Wise [Colorado Spring: David C. Cook Publishing, 2010], p. 164, ellipsis and italics his.) Elsewhere Wiersbe similarly affirms: "The burial of Jesus Christ is as much a part of the gospel as is His death (1 Cor. 15:1-5), for the burial is proof that He actually died." (Wiersbe, Be Comforted [Colorado Springs: David C. Cook Publishing, 2009], p. 162.)

10 Graham, St. Paul, Minnesota 1961 Crusade (27:42 minutes - 28:32 minutes). J. C. Ryle makes a similar statement when he writes: "In a word, St. Paul told the Corinthians that, when Christ died, He died as the representative of guilty man, to make expiation for us by the sacrifice of Himself, and to endure the penalty which we deserved. 'He bore our sins in His own body on the tree;' 'He suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.' 'He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.' (1 Pet. ii : 24; iii : 18; 2 Cor. v : 21.) A great and stupendous mystery, no doubt! But it was a mystery to which every sacrifice, from the time of Abel, had been continually pointing for four thousand years. Christ died 'according to the Scriptures.'" (Ryle, "FIRST OF ALL.," The Homiletic Review, Vol. 5, Num. 7 [April 1881]: p. 374.)

11 McGee, Isaiah 53, Introduction, Part 1 (1:05 minutes - 2:38 minutes).

12 NOTE: I'm not saying that the questioner's thinking is wrong because it happens to be associated with D. M. Bennett and the antichrist - that would be the logical fallacy of guilt by association. Instead, I'm saying that the questioner's thinking is wrong because it's not biblical. It contradicts biblical truth as I noted above (see 2 Cor. 4:2, NIV; cf. 1 Cor. 1:17). And it should be no surprise when unbiblical thinking finds company with those who are opposed to Christ and Christianity!

13 Mendum and Bennett, Revelations of Antichrist, Concerning Christ and Christianity, pp. 20, 25, ellipsis and bold added, italics his; cf. Ibid., pp. 17-18.

14 Ibid., p. 25, bold added.

15 Ibid., p. 26.

16 Cf. 2 Cor. 11:13-14

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Forgiveness of Sins: What is It? - by C. H. Mackintosh

 "Oh! the blessedness; transgression forgiven; sin covered."1 This truly is blessedness, and without this, blessedness must be unknown. To have the full assurance that my sins are all forgiven, is the only foundation of true happiness. To be happy without this, is to be happy on the brink of a yawning gulf into which I may, at any moment, be dashed for ever. It is utterly impossible that any one can enjoy solid happiness until he is possessed of the divine assurance that all his guilt has been canceled by the blood of the cross. Uncertainty as to this must be the fruitful source of mental anguish to any soul who has ever been led to feel the burden of sin. To be in doubt as to whether my guilt was all borne by Jesus or is yet on my conscience, is to be miserable.

Now, before proceeding to unfold the subject of forgiveness, I should like to ask my reader a very plain, pointed, personal question, namely, "Dost thou believe that thou canst have the clear and settled assurance that thy sins are forgiven?" I ask this question, at the outset, because there are many, now-a-days, who profess to preach the gospel of Christ, and yet deny any one can be sure that his sins are forgiven. They maintain that it is presumption for any one to believe in the forgiveness of his sins; and, on the other hand, they look upon it as a proof of humility to be always in doubt as to this most momentous point. In other words, it is presumption to believe what God says, and humility to doubt it. This seems strange in the face of such passages as the following, "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:46, 47) "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace." (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14).

Here we have remission or forgiveness of sins (the [Greek] word is the same in the three passages) preached in the name of Jesus, and possessed by those who believed that preaching. A proclamation was sent to the Ephesians and Colossians, as belonging to the "all nations," telling them of forgiveness of sins, in the name of Jesus. They believed this proclamation, and entered on the possession of the forgiveness of sins. Was this presumption on their part? or would it have been piety and humility to doubt the forgiveness of sins? True, they had been great sinners, indeed in trespasses and sins - children of wrath, aliens and foreigners - "enemies by wicked works."2 Some of them had, doubtless, bowed the knee to [the pagan god] Diana. They had lived in gross idolatry and all manner of wickedness. But then, "forgiveness of sins" had been preached to them in the name of Jesus. Was this preaching true, or was it not? Was it for them, or was it not? Was it all a dream - a shadow - a myth? Did it mean nothing? Was there nothing sure, nothing certain, nothing solid about it?

These are plain questions, demanding a plain answer from those who assert that no one can know for certain that his sins are forgiven. If indeed no one can know it now, then how should any one have known it in apostolic times? If it could be known in the first century, then why not in the nineteenth? "David describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." (Rom. 4:6-8) Hezekiah could say, "Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back." (Isaiah 38:17) The Lord Jesus said to one in His day, "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee." (Matt. 9:2)

Thus, at all times, forgiveness of sins was known with all the certainty which the word of God could give. Any one of the cases adduced above is sufficient to overthrow the teaching of those who assert that no one can know that his sins are forgiven. If I find from scripture that any one ever knew this marvelously precious blessing, that is quite enough for me. Now, when I open my Bible, I find persons, who had been guilty of all manner of sins, brought to the knowledge of forgiveness; and I therefore argue that it is possible for the very vilest sinner to know now, with divine certainty, that his sins are forgiven. Was it presumption in Abraham, in David, in Hezekiah, in the palsied man, and in numbers besides, to believe in the forgiveness of sins? Would it have been a sign of humility and true piety in them to doubt? It will, perhaps, be argued that these were all special and extraordinary cases. Well, it matters not, so far as our present question is concerned, whether they were ordinary or extraordinary. One thing is plain, they completely disprove the assertion that no one can know that his sins are forgiven. The word of God teaches me that numbers [of people], subject to like passions, like infirmities, like failures, and like sins as the writer and reader, were brought to know and rejoice in the full forgiveness of sins, and hence those who maintain that no one can be sure on this momentous questions, have no scriptural foundation for their opinion.

But is it true that the cases recorded in the holy scripture are so special and extraordinary as not to afford any precedent for us? By no means. If any case could be so regarded it is surely that of Abraham, and yet of him we read that "it was not written for his sake alone, that righteousness was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for [literally, because of] our justification." (Rom. 4:18, 25) Abraham "believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness." (Gen. 15:6) And the Holy Ghost declares that righteousness shall be imputed to us also if we believe. "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:38, 39) "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive the remission of sins." (Acts 10:43)

Now, the question is, what did the apostles Peter and Paul mean, when they so unreservedly preached the forgiveness of sins to those who listened to them? Did they really mean to convey to their hearers the idea that no one could be sure that he possessed this forgiveness of sins? When in the synagogue of Antioch, Paul said to his audience, "We declare unto you glad tidings,"3 did he entertain the notion that no one could be sure that his sins were forgiven? How could the gospel ever be called "glad tidings" if its only effect were to leave the soul in doubt and anxiety? If indeed it be true that no one can enjoy the assurance of pardon, then the whole style of apostolic preaching should be reversed. We might then expect to find Paul saying to his hearers, "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that no one can ever know, in this life, whether his sins are forgiven or not." Is there ought like this in the entire range of apostolic preaching and teaching? Do not the apostles everywhere set forth, in the fullest and clearest manner, remission of sins as the necessary result of believing in a crucified and risen Saviour? Is there the most remote hint of that which is so much insisted upon by some modern teachers, namely, that it is a dangerous presumption to believe in the full forgiveness of all our sins, and that it argues a pious and humble frame of soul to live in perpetual doubt? Is there no possibility of every enjoying, in this world, the comfortable certainty of our eternal security in Christ? Can we not rely upon God's word, or commit our souls to the sacrifice of Christ? Can it be possible that the only effect of God's glad tidings is to leave the soul in hopeless perplexity? Christ has put away sin; but I cannot know it! God has spoken; but I cannot be sure! The Holy Ghost has come down; but I cannot rely upon His testimony. It is piety and humility to doubt God's word, to dishonour the atonement of Christ, and to refuse the faith of the heart to the record of the Holy Ghost! Alas! alas! if this is the gospel, then adieu to peace and joy in believing. If this is Christianity, then in vain has "the dayspring from on high visited us to give the knowledge of salvation through the remission of our sins" (Luke 1). If no one can have this "knowledge of Salvation," then to what end has it been given.

And let my reader bear in mind that the question before us is not whether a person may not deceive himself and others. This would be at once ceded. Thousands, alas! have deceived themselves, and thousands more have deceived others. But is that any reason why I cannot possess the absolute certainty that what God has said is true, and that the work of Christ has availed to put away all my sins? Men have deceived themselves. And therefore I am afraid to trust Christ. Men have deceived others, and therefore I am afraid that God's word will deceive me! This is really what it all amounts to, when put into plain language. And is it not well to have things thus put? Is it not needs, at times, to strip certain propositions of the dress in which legality and fleshly pietism would clothe them, so that we may see what they are. Does it not behoove us, when men stand forth as the professed and authorized exponents of a sound and enlightened Christianity, to test what they say by the unerring standard of holy scripture? Assuredly it does; and if they tell us we can never be sure of salvation; and that it is presumption to think of such a thing; and, further, that the very utmost we can attain to in this life is a faint hope that, through the mercy of God, we may get to heaven when we die; we must utterly reject such teaching, as being in direct opposition to the word of God. False theology tells me I can never be sure, God's word tells me I can. Which am I to believe? The former fills me with gloomy doubts and fears; the latter imparts divine certainty. That casts me upon my own efforts; this upon a finished work. To which shall I attend? Is there a shadow of foundation, throughout the entire volume of God, for the notion that no one can be sure of his eternal salvation? I most fearlessly assert there is not. So far, from this the word of God, in every section of it, sets before us, in the clearest way, the privilege of the believer to enjoy the most unclouded certainty as to his pardon and acceptance in Christ.

And, let me ask, is it not due to God's faithful word and Christ's finished work, that the soul confiding therein should enjoy the fullest assurance? True, it is by faith that any one can so confide, and this faith is wrought in the heart by the Holy Ghost. But all this, in nowise, affects our present question. What I desire is, that my reader should rise from the study of this paper with a full and firm conviction that it is possible for him to possess the present assurance that he is as safe as Christ can make him. If any sinner ever enjoyed this assurance, then why may not my reader now enjoy it? Is Christ's work finished? Is God's word true? Yes, verily. Then, if I simply trust therein, I am pardoned, justified, and accepted. All my sins were laid on Jesus when He was nailed to the cursed tree. Jehovah made them all meet on Him. He bore them and put them away; and, now, He is up in heaven without them. This is enough for me. If the One who stood charged with all my guilt is now at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, then, clearly, there is nothing against me. All that divine justice had against me was laid on the Sin-bearer, and He endured the wrath of a sin-hating God that I might be freely and for ever pardoned and accepted in a risen and glorified Saviour.

These are glad tidings. Does my reader believe them? Say, beloved, dost thou heartily believe in a dead and risen Christ? Hast thou come to Him as a lost sinner, and put thy hearts full confidence in Him? Dost thou believe that He died for our sins, according to the scriptures, and that He was buried and rose again the third day according to the scriptures? If so, thou art saved, justified, accepted, complete in Christ. True, thou art, in thyself, a poor feeble creature, having an evil nature to contend with every moment; by Christ is thy life, and He is thy wisdom, and thy righteousness, thy sanctification, thy redemption, thy all. He ever lives for thee up in heaven. He died to make thee clean. He lives to keep thee clean. Thou art made as clean as His death can make thee, and thou art kept as clean as His life can keep thee. He made Himself responsible for thee. God sees thee to be what Christ has made thee to be. He sees thee in Christ, and as Christ. Therefore, then, I pray thee, tread no more those gloomy corridors of legalism, pietism, and false theology, which have resounded for ages with the sighs and groans of poor sin-burdened, and misguided souls; but seeing the fullness of thy portion, and completeness of thy standing in a risen and glorious Christ, rejoice in Him all thy days on earth, and live in the hope of being with Him for ever in His own mansions of heavenly glory.

Having thus sought to establish the fact that it is possible for one to know, upon divine authority, that his sins are forgiven, we shall now, in dependence upon the teaching of the Spirit of God, proceed to consider the subject of forgiveness of sins, as unfolded in the word, and doing so, we shall present it under the three following heads, namely: - First, the ground on which God forgives sins; secondly, the extent to which He forgives sins; and, thirdly, the style which He forgives sins. There is value in this threefold presentation, as it gives clearness, fullness, and precision to our apprehension of the object as a whole. The more clearly we understand the ground of divine forgiveness the more shall we appreciate the extent, and admire the style thereof.

May God the Spirit now be our guide while we ponder for a little,

THE GROUND OF DIVINE FORGIVENESS.

It is of the very last importance that the anxious reader should understand this cardinal point. It is quite impossible that a divinely convicted conscience can enjoy true repose until the ground of forgiveness is clearly seen. There may be certain vague thoughts respecting the mercy and goodness of God, His readiness to receive sinners and pardon their sins, His unwillingness to enter the place of judgment, and His promptness to enter the place of mercy. All this there may be; but until the convicted soul is led to see how God can be just and yet the justifier - how He can be a just God and yet a Saviour-God - how He has been glorified with respect to sin - how all the divine attributes have been harmonized, it must be a stranger to the peace of God which truly passeth all understanding. A conscience on which the light of divine truth has poured itself in convicting power, feels and owns that sin can never enter into the presence of God - that sin, wherever it is found, can only be met by the just judgment of a sin-hating God. Hence, until the divine method of dealing with sin is understood and believed, there must be intense anxiety. Sin is a reality, God's holiness is a reality, conscience is a reality, judgment to come is a reality. All these things must be looked at and duly considered. Justice must be satisfied - conscience purged - Satan silenced. How is all this to be done? Only by the cross of Jesus.

Here, then, we have the true ground of divine forgiveness. The precious atonement of Christ forms the base of that platform on which a just God and a justified sinner meet in sweet communion. In that atonement I see sin condemned, justice satisfied, the law magnified, the sinner saved, the adversary confounded. Creation never exhibited ought like this. There the creature enjoyed the manifestation of power, wisdom, and goodness; but the fairest fields of the old creation presented nothing like "grace reigning through righteousness"4 - nothing like a glorious combination of "righteousness and peace, mercy and truth."5 It was reserved for Calvary to display all this. There that grand and all important question, "How can God be just and Justifier?"6 received a glorious reply. The death of Christ furnishes the answer. A just God dealth with sin at the cross, in order that a justifying God might deal with the sinner on the new and everlasting ground of resurrection. God could not tolerate or pass over a single jot or tittle of sin; but He could put it away. He has condemned sin. He has poured out His righteous wrath upon sin, in order that He might pour the everlasting beams of His favour upon the believing sinner.

"On Jesus' cross this record's graved,

Let sin be judged and sinners saved."

Precious record! may every anxious sinner read it with the eye of faith. It is a record which must impart settled peace to the heart. God has been satisfied as to sin. This is enough for me. Here my guilty, troubled conscience finds sweet repose. I have seen my sins rising like a dark mountain before me, threatening me with eternal wrath; but the blood of Jesus has blotted them all out from God's view. They are gone, and gone for ever - sunk as lead into the mighty waters of divine forgetfulness, and I am free - as free as the One who was nailed to the cross for my sins, but who is now on the throne without them.

Such, then, is the ground of divine forgiveness. What a solid ground! Who or what can touch it? Justice has owned it. The troubled conscience may rest in it. Satan must acknowledge it. God has revealed Himself as a Justifier, and faith walks in the light and the power of that revelation. Nothing can be simpler, nothing clearer, nothing more satisfactory. If God reveals Himself as a Justifier, then I am justified through faith in the revelation. When the moral glories of the cross shine upon the sinner, he sees and knows, believes and owns, that the One who has judged his sins in death, has justified him in resurrection.

Anxious reader see I beseech thee that thou apprehendest the true ground of the forgiveness of sins. There is no use in our proceeding to the extent and style, until thy poor troubled conscience has been led to rest upon the imperishable ground of forgiveness. Let me reason with thee. What is to hinder thee from this very moment, resting on the foundation of accomplished atonement? Say, does thy conscience need something more to satisfy it than that which has satisfied the inflexible justice of God? Is not the ground on which God reveals Himself as a righteous Justifier sufficiently strong for thee to stand upon as a justified sinner? What sayest thou, friend? Art thou satisfied? Is Christ sufficient for thee? Art thou still searching for something in thyself, thy ways, thy works, thy thoughts, thy feelings? Is so, give up the search as utterly vain. Thou wilt never find anything. And even though thou couldst find something, it would only be an encumbrance, a loss, a hindrance. Christ is sufficient for God, let Him be sufficient for thee likewise. Then but not until then, wilt thou be truly happy.

May God the Holy Ghost cause thee to rest this moment, upon an all-sufficient sacrifice, as the only ground of divine forgiveness, so that thou mayest be able to enter, with real intelligence and interest, upon the examination of the second point in our subject, namely,

THE EXTENT OF DIVINE FORGIVENESS.

Very many are perplexed as to this. They do not see the fullness of the atonement. They do not grasp the emancipating fact of its application to all their sins. They do not enter into the full force of those lines, which, perhaps, they often sing:

"All thine iniquities who doth

Most graciously forgive."

They seem to be under the impression that Christ only bore some of their sins, namely, their sins up to the time of their conversion. They are troubled as to the question of their daily sins, as if these were disposed of upon a different ground from their past sins. Thus are they, at times, much cast down and sorely beset. Nor could it be otherwise with them until they see that in the death of Christ, provision was made for the full forgiveness of ALL their sins. True it is that the child of God who commits sin has to go to his Father and confess that sin. But what does the apostle say, in reference to one so confessing his sins? "God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."7 Now, why does he say, "faithful and just?" Why does he not say, "Gracious and merciful?" Because he speaks on the ground that the entire question of sin was gone into and settled by the death of Christ. Who is now up in heaven as the righteous Advocate. On no other ground could God be faithful and just in connection with the forgiveness of sins. The sins of the believer have all been atoned for on the cross. If one had been left out, he should be eternally lost, inasmuch as it is impossible that a single sin, however trifling, can ever enter the precincts of the sanctuary of God. And, further, let me add, if all the believer's sins were not atoned for in the death of Christ, then neither by confession, nor by prayer, nor by fasting, nor by any other means, could they ever be forgiven. The death of Christ is the only ground on which God could, in faithfulness and justice, forgive sin; and we know He must either do it in faithfulness and justice, or not at all. This is to His praise and our exceeding comfort.

But I can imagine my reader exclaiming "What! do you mean to say that my future sins were all atoned for?" To this I reply, that all our sins were future when Christ bore them on the cursed tree. The sins of all believers, for the last eighteen centuries, were future when Christ died for them. Hence, if the idea of future sins presents a difficulty in reference to what we may commit, if left here, it presents just as great a difficulty in reference to what we have committed. But, in truth, all this perplexity about future sins arises very much from the habit of looking at the cross from our own point of view, instead of God's - looking at it from earth instead of from heaven. Scripture never speaks of future sins. Past, present, and future are only human and earthly. All is an eternal now with God.

All our sins were before the eye of infinite Justice, at the cross, and all were laid on the head of Jesus the Sin-bearer who, by His death, laid the eternal foundation of forgiveness of sins, in order that the believer, at any moment of his life, at any point in his history, at any stage of his career, from the time at which the hallowed tidings of the gospel fall upon the ear of faith until the moment in which he steps into the glory, may be able to say, with clearness and decision, without reserve, misgiving, or hesitation, "Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back."8 To say this is but faith's response to God's own declaration, when He says, "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."9 "Jehovah hath made to meet on him the iniquities of us all."10 Let us, by way of illustration, take the case of the thief on the cross. When he, as a convicted sinner, cast the eye of faith upon that blessed One who hung beside him, was he not, then and there rendered fit to enter the paradise of God? Was he not furnished with a divine title to pass from the cross of a malefactor into the presence of God? Unquestionably. Did he need anything more to be done for him, in him, or with him, in order to fit him for heaven? By no means. Well, then, suppose that, instead of passing into heaven, he had been permitted to come down from the cross. Suppose the nails had been extracted and he allowed to go at liberty. He would have had sin in his nature, and having sin in his nature, he would have been liable to commit sin, in thought, word, and deed. Now, could he ever lose his title, his fitness, his meetness [for heaven]? Surely not. His title was divine and everlasting. All his sins were borne by Jesus. That which had fitted him to enter heaven at the first, had fitted him once and for ever, so that if he had remained on earth for fifty years he would, at any moment, have been equally fit to enter heaven.

True it is, if the pardoned sinner commits sin, his communion is interrupted, and there must be the hearty confession of that sin ere his communion can be restored. "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth."11 But this is, obviously, a different point altogether. My communion may be interrupted, but my title can never be forfeited. All was accomplished on the cross. Every trace of sin and guilt was atoned for by that peerless [i.e. matchless], priceless sacrifice. By that sacrifice, the believer is transferred from a position of guilt and condemnation into a position of justification and perfect favour. He is translated from a condition in which he had not a single trace of righteousness, into a condition in which he has not a single trace of guilt, nor ever can have. He stands in grace, he is under grace, he breathes the very atmosphere of grace, and he never can be otherwise, according to God's view. If he commits sin - and who does not? - there must be confession. And what then? Forgiveness and cleansing, on the ground of the faithfulness and justice of God which have had their divine answer in the cross. All is founded on the cross. The faithfulness and justice of God - the advocacy of Christ - our confession - our full forgiveness - our perfect cleansing - the restoration of our communion - all rest upon the solid basis of the precious blood of Christ.

My reader will bear in mind that we are, at present, occupied with the one point, namely, the extent of divine forgiveness. There are other points of great importance, which might be looked at in connection, such as the believer's oneness with Christ, his adoption into the family of God, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, all of which, necessarily, imply the full forgiveness of sins. But we must confine ourselves to our immediate theme, and having endeavoured to set forth the ground and the extent, we shall close with a few words on

THE STYLE OF DIVINE FORGIVENESS.

We are all conscious of how much depends upon the style of an action. Indeed, there is frequently far more power in the style than in the substance. How often have we heard such words as these: "Yes, I own he did me a favour; but, then, he did it in such a way as to take away all the good of it." Now, the Lord has His style of doing things, blessed by His name. He not only does great things, but He does them in such a way as to convince us that His heart is in the doing of them. Not only is the substance of His acts good, but the style most charming.

Let us have a sample or two. Look, for instance, at Christ's touching word to Simon the Pharisee, in Luke 7. "When they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both."12 Now, so far as the mere matter of the debt was concerned, the result would have been the same whatever style had been adopted. But what heart does not receive the moral power of the word, "frankly?" Who would part with it? Who could bear to see the substance stripped of its style? The creditor might forgive with a murmur about the amount. That murmur would, in the judgment of a sensitive heart, rob the act of all its charms. On the other hand, the frankness of the style enhances, beyond expression, the value of the substance.

Again, look for a moment at that familiar but ever fruitful section of inspiration, Luke 15. Each of the parables illustrates the power and beauty of style. When the man finds his sheep, what does he do? Does he complain of all the trouble, and commence to drive the sheep home before him? Ah! no; this would never do. What then? "He layeth it on his shoulders."13 How? Complaining of the weight or the trouble? Nay; but "rejoicing."14 Here we have the lovely style. He showed that he was glad to get His sheep back again. The sheep would have been safe on the shoulder, however it had been placed there; but who would part with the word "rejoicing?" Who could bear to see the substance of the action stripped of its charming style?

So also in the case of the woman and her lost piece of silver. "She lights a candle, sweeps the house, and seeks."15 How? With dullness, weariness, indifference? By no means; but "diligently,"16 like one whose whole heart was in her work. It was quite manifest that she really wanted to find the lost piece of silver. Her style proved this.

Lastly, mark the style of the father in receiving the poor returning prodigal. "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him."17 He does not send out a servant to tell the erring one to turn aside into one of the out-offices, or betake himself to the kitchen, or even to confine himself to his own room. No; he himself runs. He, as it were, lays aside his paternal dignity, in order to give expression to his fatherly affection. He is not satisfied with merely receiving the wanderer back. He must prove that his whole heart is in the reception; and this he does, not merely by the substance of the act, but by his style of doing it.

Various other passages might be adduced to illustrate the style of divine forgiveness; but the above will suffice to prove that God graciously recognizes the power which style has to act upon the human heart. I shall, therefore, in closing this paper, make an earnest appeal to my reader, as to what he now thinks of the ground, the extent, and the style of divine forgiveness.

Beloved reader, thou seest that the ground is as stable as the very throne of God itself, that the extent is infinite; and the style all that the heart could possible desire. Say, therefore art thou satisfied as to the great question of the forgiveness of sins? Can you any longer doubt God's willingness to forgive when He has set before you, in such a way, the ground on which, the extent to which, and the style in which He forgives sins? Can you hesitate when He actually

"Opens His own heart to thee

And shows His thoughts how kind they be?"

He stands with open arms to receive thee. He points thee to the cross, where His own hand laid the foundation of forgiveness; and assures thee that all is done, and beseeches thee to rest now, henceforth, and for evermore, in that which He has wrought for you. May the blessed Spirit lead thee to see these things in all their clearness and fullness, so that thou mayest not only believe in the forgiveness of sins, but believe also, that, thy sins are frankly and for ever forgiven.

C. H. M.


ENDNOTES:

1 Psa. 32:1, KJV

2 Col. 1:21, KJV; Eph. 2:3, KJV

3 Acts 13:32, KJV

4 Rom. 5:21, KJV

5 Psa. 85:10, KJV

6 See Romans 3:26.

7 1 Jn. 1:9, KJV

8 Isa. 38:17, KJV

9 Jer. 31:34, KJV; Heb. 10:17, KJV

10 Isa. 53:6, KJV

11 1 Jn. 1:6, KJV

12 Lk. 7:42, KJV, italics his. The New American Standard Bible renders it: "he graciously forgave them both" (Lk. 7:42, NASB, italics added).

13 Lk. 15:5, KJV

14 Ibid., italics his.

15 Lk. 15:8, KJV

16 Ibid.

17 Lk. 15:20, KJV