“And He Shall Save His People From Their Sins”

babyjesusWithin a couple of years of my conversion in college, I had an associate pastor friend at my church loan me a copy of the classic work “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented” by David Steele and Curtis Thomas. It was a fabulous book I still recommend to this day for any person to understand the basic tenents of Calvinism.

One of the first things I got straight in my thinking is that God has an elect people for whom He sent His Son to redeem. I believe the Scriptures plainly teach this.  However, in my zeal as a new Calvinist, I had the bad habit of reading my theology back into  the Bible, rather than allowing the Bible, rightly exegeted, to shape my theology.

Thus, when I would read for instance John 3:16, I interpreted the word “world” as the “elect,” because only the elect would believe in order to be saved.  I believe it is true that only the elect will get saved, but the word “world” in John 3:16 isn’t saying that. Other passages will say that.

The same can be said about the angel’s prophecy to Mary in Matthew 1:21. When he said that Jesus “will save His people form their sins,” did he mean “his people” is to be understood as all the elect? Or, the Jews, the people to whom Jesus was promised as a Messiah? Thomas and Steele, in their book on Calvinism that I mentioned above, write this,

There are other passages which speak of His saving work in definite terms and show that it was intended to infallibly save a particular people, namely, those given to Him by the Father.

The first verse in their list following that statement is Matthew 1:21.  But honestly, is Matthew 1:21 really defining the extent of Christ’s redemptive work? We can say the passage tells us Christ’s work will definitely “save” in that it is certain salvation He grants, not that He just makes men “saveable.”  Again, I believe that Christ’s saving work was definite and was intended to infallibly save a particular people given to Christ by the Father, but Matthew 1:21 has only one particular people in mind and it isn’t all the elect of all time both Jews and gentiles.  It is the Jewish nation.

Why I think this is important is that there is a tendency also among Calvinist to erroneously embrace concepts of replacement theology in their zeal to establish the doctrines of Grace. Rather than allowing passages like Matthew 1:21 to speak directly to the salvation and restoration of Israel, they unwittingly transfer those passages to the “elect of God” or “the True Israel” the Church. That is eisegesis, reading into the Scripture, not exegesis, reading out of the Scripture.

Doug Kutilek, in his March 2011 edition of his monthly news letter, As I See It, addressed this very verse regarding the subject of Calvinism.  When I read it, I was a bit rankled by his conclusions, because he used Matthew 1:21 to launch out with establishing unlimited atonement.  I part company with him and his conclusions where he becomes imbalanced in the other direction.  You can read the entire article at the link above and judge for yourself, but the section pertaining to Matthew 1:21 specifically stirred up in my mind the constant need to be faithful to what the text of Scripture is truly saying rather than reading our theology into it and what WE want it to say.

Moreover, when one reads Matthew 1:21 as it is intended to be understood, we have another clear promise of God’s intention to save the nation Israel.  In other words, those promises were never only intended for some spiritual body called “the Israel of God.”  It was a real physical people that was a real national entity.

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The rigid Calvinism of the type embraced by Gill and others, in particular the doctrine of limited atonement (also known as particular redemption), requires that no verse be allowed to say, however clear, plain or obvious it may seem, that Christ’s death made provision for the salvation of anyone who does not actually and ultimately partake of that salvation, lest it be said that some of Christ’s sufferings were wasted and the grace of God frustrated.

By-passing the system and focusing solely on the verse in question, we enquire, “what is meant by the term ‘his people,’ those whom it says Jesus will save?”

The term “people,” modified by a possessive pronoun referring to God–that is, “my people,” “your people, “ “his people”–occurs something on the order of 326 times in the Old Testament (I do not claim infallibility in my count).  The overwhelming majority of these are in reference to the entire nation of Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, along with such proselytes as have become a part of the nation.  Occasionally, the reference is limited to the faithful and devoted among this political entity, this physical nation.  Only once that I could discover was it used of something other than literal, physical Israel in whole or in part.  That exception is Isaiah 19:25, where the nation of Egypt, in a millennial context, is described as being as much the people of God as Israel (and Assyria).  Never in the OT is “my people,” etc. used as a term to describe the whole body of ”the elect,” a spiritual group.

Now, turning to the NT, it is widely recognized that Matthew is the most Jewish of the Gospels, that its writer was Jewish, and that it was written for a Jewish audience with the purpose of proving from the Jewish Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish Messiah and King.  On such a basis, the a priori assumption must be that Matthew (and the angel who first spoke these words) uses the term exactly the same way as the OT, namely, that the “his people” for whom Christ died (1:21) is the nation of Israel, not “the elect,” an interpretation imposed on the text in violation of the consistent usage of the OT.  Matthew must be presumed to have followed the usage of the OT unless and until strong evidence to the contrary can be produced.

In the NT, usage of the term “his / your / my people”–especially in the birth narratives of Matthew 1, 2 and Luke 1, 2–clearly indicates what the angel meant in speaking to Joseph.  In Matthew 2:6, the scribes quote Micah 5:2 with regard to the birth of the promised Messiah.  It is said that He “shall rule my people Israel” which, beyond all question, mean the nation of the Jews, not the elect.

Similarly, in Luke 1:68ff, Zacharias’ Spirit-inspired utterance, we read, “praise the Lord, the God of Israel, “–obviously the Jewish nation–“because He has visited and provided redemption for His people,”–the aforementioned Israel–“He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David”–the king of Israel–“just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets . . .”–those were Israelite prophets–“salvation from our enemies and from the clutches of those who hate us”–a clear reference to the nation’s adversaries–“He has dealt mercifully with our fathers, and remembered His holy covenant –the oath that He swore to our father Abraham”–references to Israel’s national covenants (See Romans 9:4) and Israel’s literal, physical ancestor.

Zacharias speaks further of his own son John’s mission–“You will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”  In such a context, the only “His people” that can possibly be meant here is literal, physical, national Israel.

In announcing the birth of the Savior, the angel brought good tidings of great joy “that will be for all the people” (the definite article is present in Greek, and is properly represented in the HCSB translation, as earlier by Tyndale, the Geneva, and other versions).  While there is no possessive pronoun referring to God here, the reference is worthy of attention.  The location is in close proximity to the city of David, the Jewish king; the shepherds are Jewish shepherds; the term Christ (“the anointed one”) is a Jewish term.  The people for whom the good tidings were specifically intended were the Jewish nation.

Later in Luke, when aged Simeon held the infant Jesus and uttered the famous Nunc dimittis (2:29-32), he addressed praise to God for “”Your salvation you have prepared in the presence of all the peoples”–the definite article is present in the Greek, and the noun is plural.  This term “all the peoples” is further clarified by Simeon, who speaks of this salvation as “a light of revelation to the Gentiles” (or “nations”), “and glory to Your people Israel,” showing that “Your people” means the literal, physical nation of Israel in distinction from the Gentile nations, and cannot mean “the elect” in a soteriological sense, since the saved / elect will be drawn from both Israel and the Gentiles.  And that “Your people” means literal, physical Israel is exactly what would be expected in a context involving Jewish parents, with a Jewish infant in a Jewish temple, offering a Jewish sacrifice in fulfillment of Jewish law.

You May Be an Arminian If ….

The Society of Evangelical Arminians have posted a brief survey to help determine if whether or not a person is an Arminian.

Are You an Arminian and Not Even Know It?

The main questions are,

  • 1. Do you believe that Jesus died for every human being?
  • 2. Do you believe that humans are so depraved that they can do nothing to earn salvation and that they cannot choose to believe in Jesus without the intervention of God’s grace?
  • 3. Do you believe that a person can resist the convicting power of God’s grace?
  • 4. Do you believe that you are born again when you put your faith in Jesus?
  • 5. Do you believe in election?
  • 6. Do you believe in predestination?
  • 7. Do you believe in eternal security?
  • 8. Do you believe in the penal satisfaction view of the atonement?
  • 9. Do you believe that God exhaustively knows the future?
  • 10. Do you believe in the sovereignty of God?
I respond with NO on questions 1, 3, and 4, all three significant doctrinal distinctions between Calvinism and Arminianism, so I am fairly confident that doesn’t make me an Arminian. There were some odd explanations for few of the questions. For example, according to the test giver, he seems to suggest that open theism falls (#9) within the realm of historic, Reformed Arminianism, even though I would think even Jacob Arminius would reject such a notion.

Additionally, I see a bit of inconsistency between how this test defines election and predestination. Exegetically, I understand the two doctrines as working in tandem. God elects in His decrees and then predestination is the out working of those decrees in the establishment of time. Charles Spurgeon illustrated this concept the best when he preached his sermon “Things that Accompany Salvation

Election went through the world and marked the houses to which Salvation should come and the hearts in which the treasure should be deposited. Election looked through all the race of man, from Adam down to the last, and marked with sacred stamp those for whom Salvation was designed. “He must needs go through Samaria,” said Election; and Salvation must go there. Then came Predestination. Predestination did not merely mark the house, but it mapped the road in which Salvation should travel to that house, Predestination ordained every step of the great army of Salvation, it ordained the time when the sinner should be brought to Christ, the manner how he should be saved, the means that should be employed; it marked the exact hour and moment, when God the Spirit should quicken the dead in sin, and when peace and pardon should be spoken through the blood of Jesus. Predestination marked the way so completely, that Salvation doth never overstep the bounds, and it is never at a loss for the road.

The quiz provides a little bit explanation as to why your answer will make you an Arminian. Go see how you do.

John Calvin’s Missionary Zealotry

An often repeated objection by the opponents of Calvinistic theology is that Calvinism will kill evangelistic and missionary endeavors. It’s believed by these objectors that if Christians believe everyone’s salvation has been determined from eternity past then there is really no need to evangelize because God will do it all at His own time. Such a claim is absurd and reveals an ignorance of Church history, let alone what historic Calvinism has taught on evangelism.

What most do not know, including many Calvinists, is that John Calvin himself was an indefatigable supporter of missionary efforts. Historian Rodney Starke writes, “Frankly, I can’t understand why Calvin’s remarkable career running missionary-agents has been so completely ignored by historians… But virtually no trace of this aspect of Calvin’s career or of its immense impact on the success of Reformed Protestantism can be found in the standard works.” Starke highlights an Encyclopaedia Britannica article by Robert M. Kingdon who writes a few paragraphs on the subject. I thought Starke’s sketch of Calvin’s missionary support was worth copying for others to read.

huguenotsIt is well known that, following in the wake of Lutheranism, Calvinism soon became the primary basis for popular conversions to Protestantism. In many places Lutheranism was from the early days a “state church,” in that it was adopted by kings and princes as the new, official faith with little regard for what the “people” may have preferred. It was Calvin’s “Reformed” brand of Protestantism that rapidly gained several million individual French, Dutch, and German adherents, and a significant number in Italy as well. These converts were not produced by royal edict but were the direct result of personal enthusiasm, usually in defiance of the state.

A great deal of learned and sophisticated attention has been devoted to the particular theological basis for the greater popular appeal of Calvinism. But even though Calvin was a profound theologian and an exceptionally clear writer, it is unlikely that the theological appeal attributed to his work could explain the conversion of more than one in a hundred of those who became Calvinists. … [T]o transform favorable sentiments into activities requires face-to-face recruitment. That’s how Calvinism really outdid Lutheranism. Not by effective theology, but by more effective action- by creating huge underground religious networks of individual converts who brought in their friends, relatives, and neighbors, under the guidance of professional, missionary secret agents.

It was during his visit to Poitiers that Calvin got his first experience with secret evangelism. Not only did he proselytize in homes, but he held secret services in “a spacious cave near the city.” Once reestablished in Geneva, Calvin recognized that he had access to large numbers of men well suited to serve as secret Protestant missionaries behind Catholic lines. They abounded in the constant stream of Protestant refugees (including Calvin) who arrived in Geneva and other Swiss cities from Catholic-controlled territories, especially from France and the Low Countries. … What Calvin did was to select talented and reliable refugees, ordain them and train them not only theologically but also in what modern intelligence agencies call “tradecraft,” and send them home to build the Calvinist movement. Responsibility for this operation was vested in the Geneva Company of Pastors. …

In addition, the training of agents stressed efforts to win the nobility to their cause, and many of the noble refugees were convinced to return home as convert supporters- it is estimated that 50 percent of French nobles were Calvinists by the time the first French War of Religion broke out in 1562. Of course, since these “subversive” nobles were not trained or directed by the Company, they were not named in its official records, so their number will never be known. Nor do we know how many unordained refugees also went back to their country of origin on their own to missionize. We do know that as religious conflict in France came to a head, during 1561 and 1562, nearly every Calvinist leader in Geneva made at least one surreptitious trip into France.

In any event, despite the records maintained by the Company, it is nearly impossible to know how many missionary-agents Calvin sent out. … The best that can be said, then, is that “hundreds” of ordained missionary-agents were sent forth, in addition to the many lay missionaries and nobles. It is important to realize that the primary role of these agents from Geneva was to recruit local missionaries whose task was to inspire their flocks to convert others, thus constructing a kind of pyramid club of conversion.

Owen Chadwick has offered a specific example of how rapidly these pyramids could grow. In 1559 several citizens from the small town of Castres in the Languedoc went to Geneva to buy Bibles and other religious books. While there they asked to be sent a pastor. In April 1560 Geoffrey Brun arrived in Castres and began holding secret services in a private home. The congregation grew so quickly that after six months Brun returned to Geneva to get an assistant. By February 1561 the assistant was holding separate services in another home. The magistrates ordered him to desist. But after several sessions with Brun, the magistrates joined the congregation. “The flock was now too big to meet in private houses, and so they took over public buildings and released Protestant prisoners by force. Henceforth the town was a Huguenot town.”

To assist the Calvinist conversion efforts, printers proliferated, and printing soon became the major industry in Geneva. The presses ran day and night, producing a flood of tracts and pamphlets, as well as books and vulgate Bibles. The city also sustained large paper mills and ink-making plants. … Most of this immense flood of Calvinist publications was sold abroad, making a substantial contribution to the spread of Protestantism. Of course, since most of this material was banned in Catholic-controlled areas, the distribution pipeline operated surreptitiously; some shipments were confiscated, but most went through. [For the Glory of God: How Monotheism led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts, and the End of Slavery, pg. 95, 96, 97, 98].

Happy Birthday Jean Calvin

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that today was John Calvin’s 500 birthday. Interestingly, 2009 also marks the 400th anniversary of Jacob Arminius’s death – but that’s not until October.

I have the authoritative, 2 volume Battles edition of Calvin’s Institutes. I must confess that I have only read portions of them, so in the strictest sense of the word, one could say I am not a Calvinist. I would imagine R. Scott Clark would certainly say that.

But I am a Calvinist as far as the five points are concerned. Actually, that, and Calvin’s commitment to expository preaching are the main things that label me “Calvinist.” I would be a Baptist of the immersionist stripe, a position Calvin abhorred.

Honestly, I was a “Calvinist” before I even knew who Calvin was. No one taught me the “Calvinist” view of predestination. I didn’t learn it from R.C. Sproul or John MacArthur for that matter, though John taught on election when it was discussed in the text he happened to be preaching through. I was even a Calvinist when I was holding to KJV-onlyism. Talk about a strange combination of convictions.

The first “Calvinist” writer I ever encountered was A.W. Pink, but I read him for nearly a year before I got a hold of his Sovereignty of God and learned he was a “Calvinist.” My views on election were shaped all by myself from my study of scripture. Later, when I was really introduced to Calvin, I was pleased that my convictions on the matters of election, predestination, and God’s sovereignty were confirmed by someone who lived so long ago.

I still marvel at the hatred Calvin stirs in the minds of his detractors. Usually the vitriol is aimed toward his views of salvation, but election and predestination was not really emphasized by Calvin in his earlier editions of his Institutes. Luther taught on the doctrine much more during his lifetime than Calvin did in his. It wasn’t until much later during Calvin’s ministry when he engaged Pighius, a Catholic apologist who wrote against the doctrine of predestination, that Calvin’s pen was moved to write on the subject. Yet it is Calvin’s views on election that draws the most fire from his theological enemies.

One of my fellow Calvinist seminary students use to forward me anti-Calvinist articles. My favorite one was written by an internet personality named “kingsknot” if my memory serves me, who claimed Stalin went to Geneva in order to read up on how John Calvin ran his brutal dictatorship. Hence, the Gulag system in Russia was really the brainchild of John Calvin.

But I figure if folks like Jimmy Swaggart, Tony Campolo, Charles Finney, and Dave Hunt have gone out of their way to decry Calvinism so loudly, I must be in good company.

So here’s to 500 more years, John Calvin. Thanks for all you have done.

The New Calvinism

Calvinism has ranked higher than “Survival Stores” and “Ecological Intelligence” as a “World changing idea.”

Time magazine on line ranks Calvinism, or what they call the “new Calvinism” (but we Calvinists know better), at #3, just below “Recycling the suburbs” at #2 and “Jobs are the new assets” at #1.

Arminianism didn’t even break into the top 25.

Dire Warnings

People ask me, “Fred, why do you even bother checking in with bro. Cloud?” I say, “Because its FUN! and educational.”

From the Way of Strife … I mean Life, Friday Church News Notes for January 23, 2009, comes this hand-wringing warning (note my emphasis in blue):

A WARNING ABOUT THE GROWTH OF CALVINISM (Friday Church News Notes, January 23, 2009, http://www.wayoflife.org fbns@wayoflife.org, 866-295-4143) – The following is from a reader in California: “I am thankful to our Lord for your distinct Biblical opposition to Calvinism. I am even now re-reading a piece of yours titled ‘Calvinism’s Proof Text Examined.’ I thought that you might appreciate any information which further confirms your views that Calvinism is a threat to Biblical churches. To whit, my family and I just left a church which we attended for a year having only recently discovered that it was Calvinist. The pastor at this church is from Master’s Seminary. Master’s is cranking out Calvinists faster than even the SBC. John MacArthur has become increasingly Reformed notwithstanding his eschatology, and more worldly I may add. I cite the ‘Resolved Conference’ for youth as evidence of both. The conference is hosted by Grace Community Church, in Palm Springs. It features Mr. MacArthur, John Piper and C.J. Mahaney, etc. Succinctly, it is a Reformed rock concert, a sanitized equivalent of your average collegiate spring break. … It has a following of thousands of young, and not too young, people.”

When I was deciding to come to Master’s seminary way back in the 90s, the draw for me was the fact Master’s was passing out Calvinism degrees faster than congress is handing out money. We memorized 5 sermons, each one covering the individual points of Calvinism. And I added a bonus sermon to my collection just on the subject of God’s sovereignty. And I certainly was eager to join that Reformed Calvinist Burning Man festival in the desert above the Salton Sea otherwise known as Resolved. We learn all sorts of Calvinist rock music and hurl ourselves at each other in the Calvinist mosh pit.

In reality, the true problems for churches are not Calvinistic pastors preaching the doctrines of Grace. Sure there have been Calvinist pastors who have caused problems in a local church. I would even add, graduates from Master’s have been trouble making pastors in a church.

But from the testimony of people I have encountered over the last decade or so who are graduates from Master’s, or any other Calvinistic leaning seminary, the biggest problems are not faithful men who happen to be Calvinist. You know, those men who pour themselves into serving their church and feeding them the Word of God.

No. It is those people like this gossiping email writer. That handful of spiteful, unregenerate congregates who probably have never been correctly taught the Bible before, who react angrily to a pastor who teaches a lesson from a biblical passage that takes away their false belief in radical autonomy and the control they believe they have over their eternal destiny, and places it squarely in the hands of God alone. It is these members who begin a gossip campaign to smear the pastor’s reputation which eventually results in the church being split or the pastor run out of town altogether.

And the bulk of these sinful agitators are emboldened in their strife by the bad teaching found at bro. Cloud’s website pertaining to Calvinism.

And to think this one person has the gall to send an email complaining how it is the Calvinists messing up the church.

Not Your Mama’s Calvinism

The NYT did a lifestyle report on Mark Driscoll’s ministry. Quite an interesting take from a worldling looking in.

Who Would Jesus Smack Down?

The line that caught my attention:

But what is new about Driscoll is that he has resurrected a particular strain of fire and brimstone, one that most Americans assume died out with the Puritans: Calvinism, a theology that makes Pat Robertson seem warm and fuzzy.

Driscoll has resurrected Calvinism? Ummm…. I was Calvinistic probably before Driscoll was even preaching in his church.

None the less, the authoress goes forth with the entire article writing about the theology of Calvinism, or at least how she sees it, and speaking to how Driscoll represents the new, restless Calvinists with an attempt to mesh the recent resurgence of Calvinism with how Driscoll does church.

As if the two are related beyond Driscoll’s views on predestination.

A fascinating read for those of us who know better.

Personal Reflections on Calvinism in the SBC

A Hip and Thigh Classic

The latest attempts by some in the SBC to accuse Calvinists of being borderline heretical (See discussions here, here, and here) reminded me of a post I wrote around two years ago addressing my take on the struggle happening in the SBC between those who still wish to cling to the current traditional Southern Baptist status quo, and those who long to see the denomination revived and defined along biblical lines. I thought I would re-post it, though slightly modified and edited from its original form, so as to offer my 2 cents.

God was pleased to save me the last week of my college freshman year at a large Southern Baptist Church. That SBC congregation was my home church all through my college years until I graduated and moved to L.A. to attend seminary.
During the late 80’s as I was adjusting to my new found church home, I quickly learned there was a great rift among the membership throughout the SBC. The division was caused by a vocal minority who did not like the idea of affirming the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. I wasn’t too keen on SBC politics (I am still not too keen on SBC politics), but God be thanked I was directed to a church in the inerrancy camp.

On my college campus of Arkansas State, the largest religious organization was the Baptist Student Union of which I was a regular participant my first year. The BSU is a campus organization where “like minded” Southern Baptist students can come and find fellowship on an other wise Baptist unfriendly college campus. At my BSU, the students attended two main churches: my church, and what a lot of folks considered to be the non-inerrancy, liberal church. The members at that church of course used the term “moderate” to define their views.

The bulk of the kids who frequented the BSU attended the “moderate” church. The year I walked into the BSU, this church had just opened a brand new Family Center (a big gym), complete with roller skates, pool tables, video games, and the other trappings necessary to pull in a large crowd of students. In a manner of speaking, it was one of the early versions of the seeker-friendly churches. All the BSU people would talk about how wonderful it was to visit because of all the great fun they would have in the Family Center. We didn’t have a family center at my church; we bored ourselves to death reading the Bible and listening to preaching.

I began to realize after a year of participating in BSU oriented activities, Bible studies, and leadership training times, that my church was held in contempt with the majority of the folks who attended the “moderate” church. We were called the “Bible thumping” church, we were said to be “worshipping the Bible,” and we were stodgy old boring legalists. (There may be a little truth to the legalist claim, but I digress). On the other hand, we at my church viewed our “moderate” critics as being loose morally, lacking any true biblical discernment, soft on sin, and only fun and games; no sober spirituality. Where as we were the Bible thumpers, they were the Bible deniers.

Well, shortly after my graduation from college, the non-inerrancy, liberal minority in the SBC denomination split off to form their own denomination so as to wallow in their intellectual progressivism, abort babies, and ordain all the women pastors the could with reckless abandon. For a brief time the split was a major news event. Rarely do we see a massive split in the largest protestant denomination in America. Thankfully, from the conservative side, it appeared as though God was purifying His people by purging out the dross, so to speak.

Now, some 20 years or so later, I believe the SBC is on the path to another major split. This time however, it will not be over the issue of the inerrancy and the infallibility of scripture, but the authority and sufficiency of scripture.

All the while the battle was raging over the inerrancy of the Bible between liberal and conservative Southern Baptists, the Founder’s movement was quietly in the background of the denomination laying down roots among supporters. The Founders are a group of SBC folks who desire to return the denomination back to the historic Baptist principles on which it was founded. The most notable principle is that of Calvinism, or what is called the Doctrines of Grace. While the SBC was fighting over the issue of the Bible, the Founder’s were pretty much unknown. They were small and grassroots.

When I was still in college attending my Southern Baptist church, I never heard of them. I, however, was exposed to Calvinism through my college pastor who loaned me his copy of Boettner’s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. I already had a high view of scripture and God’s character, and that book, along with the writings of A.W. Pink, and my deep love for exegetical and theological preaching, brought me to the place where I affirmed the doctrines Calvinism as being clearly biblical. It was not until years later that I heard of the Founders and their love for Calvinism. By that time the liberals had moved on and the SBC was considered rescued from heresy, but the Founders, on the other hand, had moved from being relatively unknown to becoming an annoyance for the overall denomination.

Why is that?

Because most SBC pastors and evangelists have a disdain for Calvinism. I think there are a couple of reasons for this attitude. For starters, the sad reality is that a lot of pastors are not into doing serious exegesis or doctrinal preaching from their pulpits and instead preach shallow sermons. I realize I can be accused of speaking in generalities at this point, but to be honest it has been my observation that such an accusation is true. Additionally, the traditional SBC mindset focuses upon gathering large numbers of people with either making a “decision” for Christ at an evangelistic crusade, or increasing the membership of local churches. A theology like Calvinism which de-emphasizes the importance of numbers and instead looks to the importance of theological and exegetical preaching that leaves any results to God cuts against any “revival” ministry dependent upon large numbers of people walking aisles, signing prayer cards, and being baptized – and giving money.

Calvinism has the tendency to meddle with man’s will and his decision making process. If a person’s salvation is dependent upon an act of God’s grace, rather than manipulative emotional pleas from a preacher, that seems to take away from man’s ability to choose at the crisis moment at the end of a service when the organ is playing “Just as I am.” In a nutshell, Calvinism is wrongly perceived as being anti-evangelism.

As Calvinism has grown in popularity over the past decade or more among the young 20-30 somethings under the influence of such pastors and theologians like James White, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and R.C. Sproul, dislike for the Founders movement has also increased among the SBC leadership. Celebrity preachers like the late Adrian Rogers and Jerry Vines have had a few choice words against Calvinism. Ergun Caner of Liberty University has become a staunch anti-Calvinist practically saying the Founders are introducing heresy, and the recent speakers at the SBC sponsored John 3:16 Conference have irresponsibly accused Calvinism as being heretical and adherence of Calvinism as anti-evangelistic.

These sort of fool hearty criticisms are not going away and in my mind only appear to becoming worse. I can actually envision a day when the supporters of the Founders will either have to leave on their own, or be asked to leave the SBC denomination unless some unforeseen move of God takes place. Until such a miracle happens I believe there are five important areas where traditional Southern Baptists and the proponents of the Founders will disagree:

1). Invitational regeneration – The SBC methodology where a person just walks the aisle at the request of a preacher, shakes his hand, and is declared forever saved even though the person has no true conversion and continues to live like a devil when he goes home after Church has ended, cannot co-exist with the efficacious grace of Calvinism working apart from walking an aisle that transforms a God hating sinner into a Christ honoring saint.

2). Quick prayer soul winning – When an “evangelist” merely gets folks to repeat a prayer but does not care for their spiritual growth. This artificial approach to evangelism cannot co-exist with evangelistic discipleship that instills in the convert rich theology and a love for God’s Word.

3). Shallow sermonics and pulpit theatrics – I could write an entire series of posts discussing the tragic decline of the Christian pulpit over the years, but preachers jumping from a text in the NT one week, to a text in the OT the next week, and who seek to entertain the audience every Sunday is not friendly with expository preaching where a pastor is required to build his sermon upon the accurate handling of a text from the Bible.

4). Sunday School classes driven by quarterlies – I never cared for quarterlies when I was in Sunday school where a class races through the entire Bible in 3 years. Worst still is having to be subjected to the flash in the pan popular Christian book of the moment. These thing are no competition to the strong teaching in Historical and biblical theology and solid, real life apologetics.

5). The lack of church discipline – Churches where a member is publicly known to be involved in some scandalous sin by everyone else in the congregation, yet is never confronted by anyone in leadership and is left alone to sit in the back and tolerated, is not the same as a congregation where members are held accountable by the other members and the leadership will confront any member involved in grievous sin even to the point of disciplining the person from the Church if he or she remains unrepentant.

These are obviously some sharp distinctions to two approaches of the ministry. I for one do appreciate how many pastors and other supporters of the Founders are genuinely seeking the spiritual well being of the SBC denomination in these areas which truly do matter.

Yet, I do not think the Founders are not above constructive criticism in the way they present themselves to the overall denomination. If the Founders do remain with in the operations of the SBC and never seek to separate by their choice, let me offer a couple of suggestions to help them be more palatable to the non-Founder SBC person:

Recognize that not everyone likes full blown Covenant Theology. I know for myself, I am not fully convinced of all the presuppositions of CT like a universal covenant of grace and so forth. I do see the Bible clearly teaching some aspects of dispensationalism, at least a measure of discontinuity between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. I imagine a lot of SBC members are totally ignorant of CT. If they have been taught anything, it is more than likely Americanized dispensationalism. Don’t force them to become Covenant Theology supporters in order to embrace the vision of the Founders.

Realize that not everyone cares for amillennialism. I know for myself, I am a happily assured premillennialist who believes in a future restoration of Israel and I for one do not think I need to abandon premillennialism in order to support the objectives of the Founders. Certainly the leaders of the Founders would tell me I don’t have to, but I have encountered way too many individual supporters who suggest that if I maintain any form of dispensational leanings and remain a premillennialist, I might as well be falling under the science fiction theology of Tim Lahaye.

I think if the Founders keep these in mind, and I am sure they are probably aware of these issues, a long with individual supporters conducting themselves with grace and humility, perhaps God will spare the SBC another major split. Perhaps, in His sovereignty, their will be true, Reformational revival.

The Assurance of Eternal Security (pt. 4)

I return to my study of the doctrine of eternal security. Those interested can see my previous three installments here:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

I believe the doctrine of eternal security is a vitally important one. Primarily because having a proper understanding of what the scriptures teach on the subject is so key to the psychology of our spiritual well-being. There are many folks who struggle with the certainty of their salvation because they think they have engaged in some sin that has disqualified them from their inheritance of eternal life. Having a biblically based understanding of eternal security shapes our hope and motivation in our salvation.
I have been noting through out my studies that the doctrine of eternal security is the capstone of the doctrines of salvation. All of them point to the certainty of eternal security, and to deny eternal security wrecks havoc upon the entire superstructure of soteriology.
Eternal security, or the certainty of eternal life is threaded throughout the Bible, particularly the New Testament.
For example:
Eternal Life is founded in God’s ordaining decree. Consider Acts 13:48 – Now when the gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Eternal Life is grounded in the Person and Work of Christ. Romans 5:21 – so that sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Eternal Life comes to us as a gift. Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The truth of eternal life, and the certainty of our eternal security if we are recipients of eternal life, is so intertwined with the full manifestation of who God is and so clearly taught in scripture, to suggest or teach contrary to what God has revealed on the subject slanders God’s character. In fact Paul says as much when he wrote Titus. In Titus 1:2, …in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. Thus, to claim eternal life is conditioned upon our “remaining in Christ” or our “continuing efforts to be obedient,” and if we willfully stumble or rebel against these duties we then risk forfeiting that eternal life, in my opinion, suggests God has lied about the promise of eternal life.
Yet, as I have been noting in my previous studies, there are Christians who insist we can forfeit our eternal salvation by walking away from the Lord. By not abiding in Christ. It is my contention such notions are misguided and ultimately harmful to a theologically correct view of our relationship with God. My polemic against conditional security is argued around seven key points. I have looked at four of them in the previous three articles, I will consider the final three in this one.
V. Presents A Wrong Perspective of Adoption

One of the clear NT pictures of our relationship with God, that Paul in particular paints in his epistles, is one of being adopted. The concept of adoption, oiothesia in the Greek, is used 5 times in the NT all by Paul: Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; and Ephesians 1:5. He draws the concept from Roman law when a father adopted a son that is not his physical offspring. By this adoption, the son becomes the legal heir of the father. The son may not even look like the father, but by this legal adoption, he has all the rights and privileges of a natural born son. It would be like a Scottish family adopting a Korean son. Even though the Scottish family are red headed and ruddy complected, the Korean son has all the legal rights as if he were a native Highlander himself.

Ephesians 1:5 specifically highlights the doctrine of adoption as it pertains to our spiritual relationship with the Lord: …having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.

There are three things to note about this passage:

– Our adoption begins with the good pleasure of God’s will. It was his delightful desire to adopt us as His children.

– Our adoption is according to His predestined plan. Meaning, our adoption was in His mind in eternity past (vs. 4). It was something He had determined to accomplish.

– Our adoption is secured by Christ’s work on the Cross. Christ death legally secured our adoption on behalf of God the Father.

With these truths in mind, how then can we become unadopted? Our adoption is secured by Christ. If we can undo this adoption, doesn’t that mean there is something inadequate with His death? Moreover, was God mistaken about the pleasure of His good will? In other words, our adoption, according to Paul, is determined by God’s predetermined plan. If many who were adopted at salvation can willfully walk away from their salvation, being cut off as a branch by “not abiding” (John 15), was God mistaken about His plan to begin with? These are some serious ramifications for our understanding salvific adoption as outlined in the NT.

VI. Denies The Promise of Our Inheritance

Building off the last point on adoption, Ephesians 1:14 speaks to our inheritance, or what would be our down payment. Paul writes in 1:13, 14: In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Paul’s explains how Christians are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and that sealing is the guarantee – our down payment – of our inheritance, or what would be our eternal life. Peter refers to this inheritance as being incorruptible, or imperishable, undefiled, and never fading away. Unlike human inheritances that can be stolen, or lost, or subject to the elements, or the ebb and flow of the economy, our eternal inheritance is just that, eternal. It will never change. Nothing can act upon it to change the terms.

Because we as Christians have the Holy Spirit, we can be certain of our eternal security. The idea of “sealing” is one of a person placing his signature on a legal document. The sealing speaks of ownership. God’s ownership of His people is the sealing of the Holy Spirit given to them at their individual salvation. That “seal” gives us the promise of our eternal life. There is nothing that can undo that seal. To say a person can lose this eternal life denies the clear and explicit promise made by God as to the certainty of receiving our inheritance.

VII. Denies God’s Power to Keep

And finally, expanding on the previous two points, the idea of conditional security denies God’s power to keep His people from falling away. I would also add it denies God’s desire to keep His people from falling away.

We have noted that our inheritance, our eternal life, is most certain because of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in our individual lives. Christians are considered “sealed,” or more specifically, owned by God. The Holy Spirit’s sealing is His mark upon His possession, the Christian. That “sealing” keeps the Christian secure, utterly preventing any one else from acquiring him as a special possession and preventing him from being lost.

Jude sums up the certainty of our “keeping” well in the closing verses of his little epistle. He writes in verse 24, Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy… Jude says that God exercises the ability, or power, to keep us from stumbling. In the context of his epistle, which addresses apostasy, this is a marvelous promise. It means that God will most certainly exercise all the divine means necessary to prevent us from being lost, to be overcome with apostasy so that we abandon our faith. That is a glorious, and most certain hope, and one that cannot be denied.

The Assurance of Eternal Security (pt. 3)

I return with a third installment of my critique of conditional security, or the belief that a Christian can lose his or her salvation.

As I noted in my first post, my reason for even addressing this subject was motivated by my email interchange with an Arminian fellow who insisted that the Bible undoubtedly teaches a Christian can lose his or her salvation. He responded to my first post with an article charging that I was building up and knocking down strawman characters of Arminianism, though much of his claims were merely dogmatic assertions that really didn’t exactly prove how I was doing what he alleged.In short, my antagonist argues for a cooperative view of salvation, or what would be technically termed synergistic salvation in which sinners cooperate with a preset plan of God in order to be saved. According to him, cooperating with God really is not works because God has so ordered salvation to be synergistic.

He then asserts that I am misrepresenting the Arminian view of regeneration, defined as prevenient grace, a grace the regenerates all men to free them from the bonds of depravity to give them the opportunity to either believe or resist the gospel. The key difference he claims I am missing is that whereas Calvinism assumes the grace of regeneration is irresistible, Arminians believe it is not.

I plan to do a separate post on prevenient grace in the future sometime, but for the sake of discussion now, I have always wondered how exactly the work of Arminian regeneration plays itself out in real salvific evangelism. I have read some Arminians who say the work of Christ on the cross is what activated prevenient grace in the hearts of sinners. What exactly, then, does that mean? Does that mean all men from the time of Christ all over the world were divinely impacted by the gospel, but due to geographical limitations, say for example the Chinese, or the Goths, or the Australian Aborigines, they were the recipients of a work of prevenient grace but never had opportunity to actualize that grace by either belief or resistance because no evangelical missionary would see them for 1000 years later? I ask more for a point of clarification, not of criticism, though I do think such a criticism is warranted in relation to the purposes and plan of God.

Also, I have yet to see any meaningful exegesis on the defense of regeneration from the Arminian perspective that demonstrates the resistable aspects of grace as the Arminian claims. All the doctrinal teaching in scripture on regeneration proclaims a regeneration that isn’t resistable. In other words, those to whom regeneration comes will most certainly be saved. Roger Olson, in his book, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, devotes an entire chapter to the subject of how Arminians understand the working of divine grace but offers absolute no exegesis what soever except for a citation from an unpublished thesis that says the word draw in John 6:44 doesn’t have to mean drag or compel as the Calvinists argue it means, but could also be defined as to draw or attract which has more of the idea of resistance attached to them. But the entire section from John 6 has Jesus insisting that if the Father does draw those who otherwise will not come to Christ, they not only come, but he will lose none of them. The language here, as is every where else in the Bible where regeneration is taught, is one of irresitability.

Laying aside those things for now, let me then return to my original subject of how I believe conditional security, or the insistence a Christian can fall away from the faith, ruins the doctrines of salvation. In my previous two posts I wrote that conditional security is, 1) Contrary to the new birth, 2) Ruins the doctrine of redemption, and 3) Denies the lordship of Christ. Coming then to a fourth point,

IV. Makes the Doctrine of Sanctification Meaningless

The primary NT word for sanctification is hagiazo and it basically means to set apart. Throughout the Bible it carries the idea of being set apart for special, divine use. That which is holy or sanctified and cannot be utilized for any other purpose than what God had determined. For example in the OT, the temple utensils that were holy could not be used for anything else but the Levitical sacrifices.

The biblical data shows that sanctification can be viewed in two parts: a definitive sanctification and a progressive sanctification. These two designations must remain distinct as one considers all the relevant exegetical information in the Bible pertaining to sanctification. Probably the major misunderstanding of Christians regarding the Christian life is a result of failing to recognize the distinction between these two aspects of sanctification. Let me look at each one in turn.

Definitive Sanctification. Simply put, definitive sanctification is that work of God in which a sinner, upon his justification due to the application of Christ’s cross work to his behalf, is set apart, made holy, for the service of God. This sanctification is forensic, a declaration of a sinner’s position before God due to Christ’s righteousness being imputed to him. This sanctification is solely the work of God.

In Acts 26:17, 18, when Paul recounts his vision of Christ on the road to Damascus to Agrippa, he tells how Jesus told him,

17 I will deliver you from the people, as well as from the gentiles, to whom I now send you,
18
to open their eyes, to turn from darkness to light, and the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.

There are a couple of things to note with Christ’s words here. First, according to Jesus, it is faith in Christ which sanctifies a person, setting him apart from a previous service to the devil to now serving God. This sanctification is alone Christ’s work brought to bear upon the person. Additionally, that setting apart affects a change in the person so that now he is no longer identified with darkness and the power of Satan, but with light and the power of God. This new identification so marks out that Christian, that in nearly everyone of his epistles, Paul greets the believers in the churches he is writing by calling them saints or holy ones, what would be also termed, sanctified ones.

In Romans 6, even though Paul does not specifically use the word translated as sanctification, he certainly outlines the concept by speaking in terms of death and dying. For example, he writes in Romans 6:2 How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? And in 6:6, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. And in 6:11, Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Peter also uses similar terminology in his first epistle when he writes in 1 peter 2:24, who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness…

Our definitive sanctification brings us into a new relationship with respect to the former reign of sin our lives, and subsequently we enter into a new relationship with God, being set apart for His service by our spiritual union with Christ.

That brings us to a second understanding of sanctification,

Progressive Sanctification. Because the Spirit of God enables us to be obedient by the action of the new birth, we are no longer oriented away from God in rebellion, but now oriented toward God in worship and service. Thus, progressive sanctification involves that part of our obedience by which we submit ourselves to be righteous and no longer slaves to sinful behavior. This sanctification is consider progressive because it is a life long process of spiritual renewal we experience while we live upon the earth.

Once again, Paul addresses the principle of progressive sanctification in Romans 6, particularly verses 6-14.

6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.
9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12
Therefore do no let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.

13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

There are a handful of thoughts to glean from this passage.

First, the descriptions of the Christian being dead to sin and made alive to Christ is that definitive, forensic sanctification outlined above. A Christian being set free from the bondage of sin to now being identified with Christ has been set apart as being a servant of God. This sanctification is not done by the person, but is work created by the divine hand of God.

Second, it is important for a person to recognize that Paul is saying Christians now have the power to be obedient to God in righteousness they once lacked when they were sinners. Paul writes that the person crucified with Christ has his body of sin done away with. The phrase, done away with, is from the Greek word katargeo. The root meaning can have the idea of made inoperative or rendered powerless. When the person was a sinner, he had no desire or willingness to be obedient in righteousness. That is because he was in bondage to sin and under the influence of the devil. Any effort he may had put forth to even attempt to be righteous was both half-hearted and non-committal and ended in failure to be righteous as God required. But now that he is identified as being made dead to sin and alive to Christ, God’s divine work has negated the influence the power of his sin once held upon his life. Now his desires have changed and what ability he previously did not have to live righteously he now can utilize.

Third, Christians cannot become perfectly sinless. This was the error of John Wesley. He taught that a Christian can obtain sinlessness so that he or she will cease from sinning in the flesh during this life. This is accomplished by living a life of sustained, personal righteousness and daily exerting the effort to abide in Christ. Perfectionism, which spawned a variety of bizarre religious cults and the various modern day manifestations of Pentecostalism, is utterly foreign to scripture. Though it is true a Christian is to pursue righteousness in his personal life, he will not obtain sinlessness until he is made perfect in glorification.

Fourth, what Paul writes in Romans 6, and explains elsewhere in scripture, is that a Christian progressively grows in righteousness by a daily life of obedience. In this respect, a Christian does put forth cooperative effort with the Spirit, but the cooperation is not intended as a means to secure the Christian’s justification before God, nor as a duty to perform so as to continuously abide in Christ and prevent any possibility for apostasy and the final forfeiture of eternal life. This cooperation is an out flowing of a changed heart that now desires to pursue godliness and it is the way God has ordained to conform His children to the image of Christ.

In other passages of scripture, Paul writes of our need to renew our minds. For example, in Romans 12:2 he writes, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…, and in Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Then in Colossians 3:10, And having put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…

This renewal Paul speaks about is a spiritual renovation that takes place as we are sanctified. When a person is saved, he or she will not automatically know how to think godly about everything. They still may have a lot of baggage from the bad thinking that once saturated their minds as sinners. Their minds have to be retrained to think like Christians. For Christians, they have first been freed from the power of sin that prevented them from a genuine pursuit of God, they now desire to please God, and though they may have much sinful thinking left over from their past, their new orientation toward God causes them to resonate with the truth of God’s Word. The purpose of sanctification is to renew the Christian to think godly and to conform him to Christlikeness.

Though I would love to go into more detail, this renewing is accomplished as we submit ourselves to the work of God’s Spirit in our lives (see Ephesians :18ff.). How is that accomplished? It is accomplished when we read God’s Word, seek to understand it properly (which we can because of our regenerated minds), and apply it to our lives. As we live according to scripture, being aided by the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we are progressively renewed in sanctification.

This renewal begins with the transformation of our inner being, but encompasses our entire outward person. Returning to Romans 6, Paul describes how we are to cease from presenting our members as instruments of unrighteousness, to instruments of righteousness. Our members speak of our whole person both inwardly and outwardly. Our thought life, emotions, and attitude, as well as our behavior when we interact with the rest of the world.

So, minds that once easily led people astray into error so they would make poor choices that resulted in disastrous consequences, are now anchored in the faith directing them to exercise wisdom and discernment. A thought life once polluted with filthy, perverse images, now delights in the pure thoughts of who God is. A person who entertained himself by dreaming up sinful schemes which he replayed in the theater of his mind, is now turned to dwelling upon how to serve and please the Lord. Hands which once stole from others, now give sacrificially. Feet which were swift to run to evil are now shod to carry the preaching of the gospel across the earth. Eyes which once sought out pictures of sinful lust, now lift themselves up to look upon the Lord. Lips which uttered lies, now speak the truth. And tongues which spoke blasphemies against God and cruel slander against people, now praise God and exhort the saints in the Lord.

Now, how exactly does a belief in conditional security make sanctification meaningless? Two thoughts:

1) The language of our forensic sanctification insists upon our continuing identification with the Living Lord. The work of God in justification sets us apart – removes us, as it were – from our previous identification with the old man and sin. We are no longer under the damning influence of sin that placed us in the position of being eternally under God’s wrath. Our identification is with Christ and a gulf exists between the two kingdoms. We could no more undo our identification with Christ so as to return to our old identification with sin, as we could no more gain entrance into an identification with Christ when we were once identified with sin. Only God can do that.

2) God’s renewing process in a believer’s life has no purpose. Christians will always have a lifelong battle against sin until they are glorified at death. Each individual will experience great victory of past patterns of personal sin, but they will also experience struggles and setbacks with temptation that may trouble them all their life. The important thing to remember is that due to God’s regenerating work in their hearts, they will always desire to continue to press onward to godliness.

Conditional securists argue that any Christian who does not continue to abide faithfully in Christ is in danger of becoming apostate and being cast out by Christ. The problem, however, in light of the various exhortations to be consistently renewing our minds is the limit set by conditionalist as to how far a person can persist in habitual sin and be considered not abiding in Christ and thus apostate. Exactly how long must a person continue in unrepentant sin before he or she is considered “fallen away?” David, who was declared to be a “man after God’s on heart” by the Lord Himself, remained unrepentant as to his hand in the murder of Uriah and his adultery with Bathsheba for nearly a year or more. Maybe he will be considered a special circumstance by conditionalists, I don’t know. Also, what persistent sins can a person do that could place them in the category of apostate? Are sins of the heart, say for example, thinking lustfully on a gorgeous woman, a lesser sin than actually engaging physically with the exact same woman? Jesus never saw them as lesser or greater as far as God was concerned.

Seeing there can be many years a new Christian may struggle with patterns of sin left over from his previous life before the process of sanctification begins to replace those patterns, at what level can we offer any affirmation to him of Paul’s words to the Philippians when he wrote, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. (1:6). They were confident as a church body that if God began a work in them, it will be completed. The Christian who may struggle with sin for a long time has been set apart to be identified with Christ, just like the Philippians. As he presses on in his faith, daily being sanctified, having his mind retrained to think godly, he too should lay hold of that confidence, in spite of the set backs he may encounter which grieve his heart.