The World’s Trouble: Chapter 7

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
– Hebrews 9:27

Chapter 7

Have you ever wondered why there are so many ways, so many religions, and even so many denominations claiming to be Christian? Many claim to be the one and only way while others merely claim to be a way. I have heard some say all religions are equally valid or invalid. Some take the proliferation of religions and denominations to be a sure sign that God doesn’t exist. That would be like going to an open-air market in Mexico and seeing many different vendors selling Louis Vuitton knock-offs for cheap and concluding that Louis Vuitton doesn’t exist or there is no such thing as a genuine handbag.

Famous designers of jewelry, bags, clothes, and shoes have their products counterfeited all the time. The existence and availability of these counterfeits in no way disproves the existence or value of the genuine. Why do people counterfeit Saddleback leather bags yet no one counterfeits brown plastic Kroger grocery bags? I have yet to see someone selling knock-off plastic grocery bags out of the trunk of their car. You have to have three basic realities for counterfeits to exist.

  1. The genuine original has to exist to be copied.
  2. The genuine original has to have value.
  3. There has to be a market. In other words, people have to want or need it.

While Kroger bags satisfy the first, they fail miserably on the latter two. From this we can supply a couple of answers to the question of why so many religions/denominations exist. First, God exists and there is a true way to Him but many find something objectionable so they seek counterfeits. Why do people buy knock-off Rolex watches? Because they want the look, feel, and brand recognition but they don’t want to pay the cost for the genuine. Of course, they ultimately find out they get what they pay for when the fake doesn’t work as well or last as long.

Second, the proliferation of religions illustrate that people want something more. People find that earthly things don’t provide lasting satisfaction and they want something more. People want some way to assuage their guilt and have peace of mind. People have some sense of eternity or their soul and are concerned about the afterlife. Thus, there is an abundant market for false religions and denominations. Rather than disproving the existence of the genuine, they point to the fact there really is a way but people find something about God or His way objectionable. We need a test. We need a method for finding the true way.

When agents are trained to detect counterfeit currency, they spend time studying the counterfeits, but they spend more time studying the genuine. They are always comparing against the genuine to see if they have a false bill. They do spend time with counterfeits, learning to recognize common faults in them. No one agent is ever going to encounter every possible counterfeit bill, but he doesn’t have to because he always has the genuine to compare against.

Likewise, we can’t examine every possible false way. I have tried to acquaint you with some common ones but we are far from looking at all of them. It’s more important for us to have the true way as a standard of measure for all ways we encounter. In Chapter 5, I brought up Colossians 2:8

Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
– Colossians 2:8

Paul warned about false philosophies they would encounter and gave “after Christ” as the standard of measure. So all ways should be tested against the way Christ taught. If they do not align, then they are to be rejected. Christ is the genuine. He must be the center and ground of the way or it is false. The problem with all other ways is that they are Christless. They may present a false christ but a false christ is no christ at all. Any message, philosophy, or way that claims salvation without Jesus Christ alone is false. Do not be deceived by it. Do not follow it. Do not be taken away by it. That is what Paul was saying.

The Bible is plain: “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Shedding of blood means the death of Jesus Christ on the cross in the place of sinners. It’s simple, but it’s foolishness to some and offensive to others (1 Corinthians 1:23). It’s easy to see then how there would be counterfeits made. People want to go to Heaven but they don’t want to humble themselves, repent of their sins, and leave off everything to trust completely in Christ alone to save them (Acts 4:10-12).

Naaman the Syrian was a leper, and there was no cure for leprosy. He came to Samaria to see Elisha, the prophet of God. Elisha told him to wash seven times in the Jordan River and he would be cleansed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:10). Naaman was furious with Elisha’s message. He thought it too simple, too mundane. He expected some great happenings and showings. Finally, his servant persuaded him that if he was willing to do some great thing had Elisha requested it, why should he not rather be willing to do so simple a thing as washing in the Jordan. Naaman listened and was healed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:11-15).

If Naaman had found a false prophet, he would have been told to participate in some elaborate ritual or ceremony. Naaman would have been very glad with such a word and would have followed it straightaway. But what would have been the problem with this? It would not have healed his leprosy. In the end, the only effectual cure was the way God spoke through His prophet. Likewise, the only way of salvation is what God has provided through His Son (John 3:16-21; Acts 4:12).

From this perspective, it’s easy to see how false ways proliferate. In the rest of this book though, I want to focus on that one, true way, Jesus Christ. Why did Jesus have to die? How does His death do anything to affect our standing before God?

This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

Grace or Work

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. ~ Romans 11:6

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. ~ Romans 11:6

Is there any glory for man in salvation?

We considered that salvation is of the Lord in a previous post. The biblical sum on the subject ascribes all glory to God in the salvation of men. So, accepting that salvation is God’s work, is there any room for man’s work in the salvation of his own soul? Does he contribute? Does he get any credit?

The Bible answers that question in three key ways.

  1. God will not divide or share His glory with any other.

    Paul states three times in Ephesians 1 that God’s work in salvation is to the praise of His, God’s own, glory. In verse 3, Paul blesses God who has “blessed us with all spiritual blessings . . . in Christ.” The spiritual blessings are enumerated in verses 4-5. These include being “chosen . . . in him before the foundation of the world,” in order that “we should be holy and without blame before him in love;” and being “predestinated . . . unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself.” All these are “To the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6).

    Several blessings are further enumerated in verses 6-12. “He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” “We have redemption through his blood,” and “the forgiveness of sins.” He has “made known unto us the mystery of his will.” “We have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him.” These also are “That we should be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12).

    Furthermore, the saved have been “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance.” This is so that we will ultimately come into the full inheritance of the “purchased possession,” and this also is “unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:14).

  2. Man cannot boast of anything before God.
    Salvation is a particular display of God’s grace, mercy, and love to fallen, human sinners. Paul wrote, “For by grace are ye saved through faith . . . not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). So God does the “work” of salvation and applies that work as a gift of grace to a fallen, incapacitated sinner. Man is left without any boast before God.

    But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe:for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness:that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

    Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay:but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid:yea, we establish the law.
    – Romans 3:21-31

    God has so ordered salvation that man has nothing to boast in himself and his glorying is only rightly in the Lord. “That no flesh should glory in his presence . . . That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:29, 31).

  3. Salvation cannot simultaneously be of grace and of works.
    Words mean things and, like matter, cannot be and not-be at the same time. Genesis 1:1 declares, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” As Francis Schaeffer put it, “The God who is there.” 1 The Bible begins with a distinction—God creates. So you have God and creation; God and not-God. God is the Creator, not the created. The creation is the created and not the Creator.

    The Bible points out just such a distinction between grace and works for salvation.

    And if by grace, then is it no more of works:otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace:otherwise work is no more work.
    – Romans 11:6

    The distinction is made between salvation by works and salvation by grace. It cannot be both at the same time. To make it so does violence to the very meaning of the words—”grace is no more grace” and “work is no more work.” Paul explains this distinction in Romans 4:1-8. To work is to earn a wage, or payment. When the payment comes for work done, that payment is settling a debt. It is a sum that is owed. It is not a gift given.

    Salvation is described as an undeserved gift. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Salvation is an overwhelming gift of grace that gives us what we do not deserve and removes from us what we do deserve, namely death or judgment for sin.

So the answer is, No. There is no glory for man to take to himself in the salvation of his soul. Salvation is start-to-finish of God, and, therefore, all glory belongs to Him.

Notes:

  1. Schaeffer, F. A. (1970). The God who is there: speaking historic Christianity into the twentieth century. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

So Great Salvation

Salvation is of the LORD. ~ Jonah 2:9

Salvation is of the LORD. ~ Jonah 2:9

Who merits glory in salvation?

Salvation is the rescue and deliverance of a person from sin and condemnation by grace, through faith, unto righteousness and eternal life. Salvation was accomplished through the infinite expense of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. Every sinner who receives this salvation passes from the sin-condemnation death to the gift-of-God eternal life (John 5:24; Romans 6:23).

So, to whom does salvation belong? And, whose is the glory and praise for such an incalculably gracious gift? Jonah testified, “Salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9). The Bible supplies us with two undeniable proofs that salvation is indeed of the Lord. The Bible ascribes salvation unto the Lord in whole and in parts. If the all the parts are ascribed to the Lord, then the sum of the parts, or the whole, is ascribed unto the Lord.

The parts of salvation
What do I mean by the “parts” of salvation? I am referring to the different aspects of salvation taught in the Bible. Aspects of salvation can be divided in various ways, but for sake of our thoughts, these would include the new birth, repentance, faith, forgiveness, justification, adoption, perseverance, and glorification.

  • Regeneration, or the new birth, is the work of God solely. Man cannot effect it nor direct it. We are born of God. Without it, we will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.

    Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
    – John 3:3

    Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 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 3:7-8

    But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
    – John 1:12-13

    Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
    – James 1:18

  • Repentance is confessing, forsaking, and renouncing all our sin before God. It is turning from sin and self unto Christ alone. Repentance is a gift from God and the work of God in the soul of man.

    In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
    – 2 Timothy 2:25

    When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
    – Acts 11:18

  • Faith is believing savingly and trusting fully in the person and work of Christ alone for the full payment of our sin-debt, imputed righteousness before God, deliverance from God’s wrath, and eternal life with Jesus Christ our Lord. Faith is also a gift from God and the work of God in the soul of man.

    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
    – Ephesians 2:8-9

    All things are delivered unto me of my Father:and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
    – Matthew 11:27

    For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
    – Philippians 1:29

  • Forgiveness is the full pardon and deliverance from the condemnation justly due all our sins. We are all unquestionably guilty before God and rightly condemned to death by God’s just and holy law. Apart from full forgiveness of all transgressions of God’s holy law, we will suffer eternal punishment apart from God. Forgiveness is unquestionably from God based on the atoning work of Christ in our place. He is the judge, law-giver, and the offended by our sin.

    And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
    – Ephesians 4:32

    I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake,
    and will not remember thy sins.
    – Isaiah 43:25

  • Justification means being declared righteous before God. Justification is by grace through faith based on the perfect sacrifice of Christ for our sins and the perfect righteousness of Christ for our life. Justification is of God.

    Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness:that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
    – Romans 3:24-26

  • Adoption is being engrafted into God’s family. We are aliens by nature, the children of disobedience who are cut off from God. God adopts us into His family giving us full status as heirs and joint-heirs with His only begotten Son. Adoption is the gracious work of God.

    For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 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: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint- heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
    – Romans 8:14-17

    According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
    – Ephesians 1:4-5

  • Perseverance is the continuance in the Gospel unto the end through the gracious preservation of God. Those who are truly saved do not fall away, but persevere and endure, being faithful unto death. Perseverance is a work begun, continued, and finished by God.

    Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
    – Philippians 1:6

    Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
    – 1 Peter 1:5

    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
    – John 10:27-29

  • Glorification is the full redemption of the purchased possession where man’s soul and spirit are joined with his resurrected, perfected, immortal body to dwell with Christ for all eternity. Glorification is likewise the sole work of God.

    Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
    – Romans 8:30

    For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
    – Philippians 3:20-21

The above is a sample of how the Bible ascribes the various aspects of salvation to God. It is simple to conclude that if the parts are all ascribed to God, then it follows that the whole is then ascribed to God. Jonah testified to the truth.

If salvation is truly of the Lord, then all the glory is only to God. Paul writes as much to the church at Corinth.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
– 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

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