Monday, January 31, 2011

Luther's 101 biblical ways to destroy "free-will"

I thought about quoting various different parts of Martin Luther's "the Bondage of the Will"; a book which could have been appropriately named, "101 Scriptural arguments to destroy 'free-will'". I especially liked how Luther demonstrated that the Semi-Pelagians were far worse than the old Pelagians in two important respects, that the former were far more dishonest and crafty about their assertion of merit, and also attempted to purchase the grace of God at a far cheaper rate. It was very encouraging to read Luther unleashing the "thunderbolts" of Paul against both by the teaching of free justification.

I would also have loved to quote in full, Luther's demonstration that salvation by faith alone destroys "free-will" - since many today think that the modern protectors of "free-will" nevertheless still teach justification by faith alone (as they claim that they do). Luther considered the two wholly incompatible, and the one disproves the other. John Wesley's doctrine of justification was very different to Luther's, who no doubt would have called it justification by "free-will" alone!

Suffice to say, that Christians today ought to read this treasure of the Reformation, and learn what "the essential issue" of the Reformation was (as Luther called it), and how much of Evangelicalism today has in principle reaffirmed the most fundamental doctrine of Rome. I will quote one of his most succinct, simple, and characteristic arguments against Erasmus:

"Rom. 7; Gal. 5: the power of the 'flesh' in the saints disproves 'free-will'

"I forbear to insist on the Achilles of my arguments, which the Diatribe [of Erasmus] proudly passes by without notice - I mean, Paul's teaching in Rom. 7 and Gal. 5, that there is in the saints and the godly such a mighty warfare between the Spirit and the flesh that they cannot do what they would. From this I would argue as follows: If human nature is so bad that in those who are born again of the Spirit it not only fails to endeavour after good, but actually fights against and opposes good, how could it endeavour after good in those who are not yet born again of the Spirit, but serve under Satan in the old man? And Paul is not here speaking of gross affections only (which is the universal expedient by which the Diatribe regularly parries the thrust of every Scripture); but he lists among the works of the flesh heresy, idolatry, contentions, divisions, etc., which reign in what you call the most exalted faculties, that is, reason and will. If, now, the flesh with these affections wars against the Spirit in the saints, much more will it war against God in the ungodly and in their 'free-will'! Hence in Rom. 8 he calls it 'enmity against God' (v. 7). May I say that I should be interested to see this argument punctured, and 'free-will' safeguarded from its attack!"

You can purchase "the Bondage of the Will" by Martin Luther from the online bookstore at: They even have in eBook format if you're that type.

Sam W.

What did it feel like to be born again?

(I was asked this question by a man from a Pentecostal background and responded as follows:)

‎"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." - John 3:8.

The first work of regeneration, that implanting of new life is a secret unconditional and sovereign work of God, as that passage teaches. We can only see that it has happened from the fruits of it, namely faith in Jesus Christ, repentance from sin, and the beginning of the new obedience to the will of God. Just as we cannot be conscious of the exact moment of our natural conception (yet we know certainly it happened, as we live and breath today), we cannot conscious of the exact moment of our spiritual birth (even though afterwards we experience the results of it - spiritual life). Before we are born again, we are not spiritual, but dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-10), and so cannot believe:

"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." - I Cor. 2:12-14.

So, before the new birth, we cannot believe and everything in us, our mind, will, affections, and strength, wages warfare against God:

"For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." - Rom. 8:6-9.

And this same passage also teaches that if someone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they are not a Christian at all, because they do not belong to Christ.

All these passages prove that it is the Lord's gracious will and pleasure alone that determines who is reborn, and who is not. Without the Spirit, our will, and every other faculty of our entire being is under slavery to sin and Satan - and that is the natural condition of man since the Fall.

Because I see that I believe all this, that Christ has paid for my sins on the cross, and I therefore belong to Him, I am assured that He has given me His Holy Spirit. And this assurance is further strengthened as I see that the work of His Spirit in me, not only causing me to believe, but also to live a new life for Him. Since it is God who testifies in my conscience through the faith He works in me by His Spirit, there is nothing in all the world that can shake that confidence - not even certain Pentecostals who think that speaking in unintelligible languages is the necessary proof of the new birth:

"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:" - Rom. 8:15-16.

This is the primary difference between the true Christianity of the Bible, and the false religion of the Roman Catholic church. In one there is full assurance, confidence, peace and joy - and in the other, there is nothing but terror of punishment, and dread of presumption.

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." - Rom. 5:1-2

"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Rom. 8:38-39.

It was these same convictions, worked in Martin Luther by the Spirit of God, that led him to boldly declare in face of the fierce opposition of the false church of his day, "Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God."

This assurance of eternal salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and fellowship with God, is the foundation of the Christian life - without it, there is no Christianity; because it is the work of the Holy Spirit in every true Christian. But it is also true that many Christians for various reasons at various times (false teachings, and their own sins, etc), have a weak faith, and do not enjoy this assurance to the same degree - but these are exceptions in terrible temporary circumstances. The chief means by which God strengthens our faith is the preaching of His Word. This is why preachers who think that their calling is to try to terrify the congregation as much as possible, are not being obedient to their calling which is:

"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins." - Isa. 40:1-2.

This same message of comfort which strengthens God's people, and cultivates thankfulness and godly joy in them, testifies against hypocrites and unbelievers, and hardens them against the truth which they hate. The salvation of the church always means the destruction of her enemies.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Which doctrines are not important?

"What sins can I commit, and yet still be saved?" I hope you recoil in horror from such an ungodly sentiment. But many "Christians" today have this very same attitude when they say, "What is the least I must believe correctly, and yet still be saved?" It's like saying, "I don't really care about God at all, but I'd like to not go to hell."

Every child of Satan wants to be saved from hell, but we don't want to be saved from sin, because we love our sin - unless we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God.

People are just looking for a cheap ticket to heaven, to avoid hell, but what they don't realise, or don't think about, or simply refuse to believe, is that the Holy One who cannot abide sin is in heaven, and heaven is not an escape from Him. Hell is to be in the presence of God and not hidden in Christ.

Is truth and righteousness unimportant? Then God is unimportant. One cannot love God, without loving truth and righteousness. God is truth. God is righteous.

People misuse the words, "Oh, I don't believe in religion, I have a personal relationship with God." You have a personal relationship with God do you? Yet you don't care about doctrine, or living a holy life according to His commandments? How absurd. As if doctrine and obedience belonged to "religion" and not also to "relationship", and as if "religion" was necessarily devoid of "relationship"!

But as for the saints, "we love Him, because He first loved us." - I John 4:19.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I don't want your empty music anymore

"Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." - Amos 5:23-24.

These verses make me think back to the time I spent in a kind of broad, wishy-washy, shallow, and worldly Evangelicalism.

Music to stir the emotions was always a big deal, but I think that was just trying to compensate for the lack of real depth and genuine spirituality. It was as if there was an unspoken philosophy that maybe if people's senses are distracted enough with excitement they won't notice the superficiality of it all.

I say this because there was a disinterest in the truth of God, even sometimes an active attempt to keep it vague and unclear. There was an apathy differentiating between right and wrong, and godliness was seen as an optional extra; maybe even inadvisable since it might make the worldlings feel uncomfortable in their worldliness.

Well, whatever they might think, God is not pleased with such hollow worship. He is righteous, and loves righteousness, and demands that we judge between true and false, right and wrong, good and evil. We must set ourselves apart from everything that is against His good and beautiful standard of His own infinite moral perfections, and devote ourselves entirely to Him in loving gratitude for what He has done for us - and especially for Christ's sacrifice for our sins.

If only Scripture was more treasured in the heart:

"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." - James 4:3-10.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The living God is the covenant God

The following is a excerpt from Herman H. Hoeksema's "Reformed Dogmatics," volume 1. This work is available on the Reformed Free Publishing Association website.

"The truth of the Trinity means that God is the living God.

"As the living God he is the covenant God. The idea of the covenant is not that of an agreement, pact, or alliance. It is a bond of friendship and living fellowship. Friendship is that bond of fellowship between persons, according to which and by which they enter into one another's life in perfect knowledge and love so that mind in knit to mind, will to will, heart to heart, and each has no secrets from the other. It presupposes a basis of likeness, of equality, for only like knows like. On that basis of equality, it requires personal distinction: for without this there is only sameness; there can be no fellowship. Both the equality and the personal distinction are in God because He is triune; the most absolute equality exists between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for these three are one in essence. In Him there is personal distinction between the three persons subsisting in the one essence.

"Thus the three persons of the holy Trinity completely and perfectly enter into one another's life. Their fellowship is infinitely perfect. They have no secrets from one another. There is no conflict between them. Their relationship is one of perfect harmony: the Father knows and loves the Son in the Spirit; the Son knows and loves the Father in the Spirit; the Spirit knows and loves the Father through the Son in Himself. The living God is the covenant God. That is the great significance of the truth that God is triune and that these three distinct persons are the one, only, true, and eternal God."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Faith: the Only Cure for Pragmatism

 (Written to a man defending R.C. Sproul's supposed co-operation with Arminians, who also defended the supposed claim that Whitefield and Wesley co-operated)

"How can two walk together except they be agreed?" By dissimulation, certainly, by dishonesty, and by craftiness indeed, but not in true fellowship. If two believe fundamentally different messages (even diametrically opposed messages, which are not only incompatible, but antithetical to one another), how can they co-operate in the work of spreading such messages? They can only co-operate in spreading one or the other. And always in such attempts to co-operate, it is the truth that is compromised for the sake of lies. Why? Because God is jealous for His glory, and will not share it with another. He will not bless efforts which profane His holy name.

But we serve Jesus Christ alone, and therefore have no need for the co-operation of men. It is God who preserves, defends and spreads His Gospel in order to gather and sanctify His church from every tongue, tribe, and nation. So, if we are His instruments in bearing witness to this Gospel, what aid could we possibly need in addition, since the power of God is with us? The temptation for whatever reason to co-operate in church work (which is primarily the preaching of the Gospel) with those who preach a false gospel ought to be condemned by seeing with the eyes of faith that whatever power or resources they might seem to offer is nothing is comparison the thousands upon thousands of the chariots of God, which we must learn to see by faith.

The sinful compromising philosophy of pragmatism only seems attractive when we take our eyes off Jesus who is reigning at the right hand of the throne of God. The arm of the flesh seems tempting only the eyes of the flesh, not to the eyes of faith, and so there are many today who need reminded of this and exhorted to repent and cast off entirely the help of the wisdom of the princes of Egypt which is no help at all, no matter what it seems.