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Chalcedonian Creed and the Hypostatic Union

The legacy of the Apostles triumphs throughout church history with a thunderous acumen of sound doctrine from the Word of God. Truly, the Apostles who contended earnestly for the faith in their day are exemplary for the Christian in every age to guard and retain the standard of sound words from the Word of God. The fifth century Post-Nicene Christians did just that. They inherited from the Ante-Nicene and Nicene Christians that which was passed down through faithful men, namely to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once handed down to the saints” (Jude 3c). One of the most influential examples of when the early Church did contend earnestly for the faith is the Chalcedonian Creed. This evaluation is interested in three things, namely articulating the historical background that occasioned the Chalcedonian Creed, comparing the content of the Creed to the New Testament teaching on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and comparing the Creed to contemporary theological discussions.

The ancient Creed of Chalcedon was formulated in AD 451 at the Council of Chalcedon in Asia Minor and was the fourth of the eight ancient ecumenical councils.[1] Founded in BC 685, the ancient Greek city of Chalcedon was in northwest Asia Minor on the Bosporus Strait (the strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia).[2] According to church historian Philip Schaff, the Council of Chalcedon (next to the Council of Nicaea) was the most important of all the general councils.[3] The Council of Chalcedon was called by the emperor Marcianus, at the request of the Roman bishop Leo I, to put an end to the Eutychianism and Nestorianism.[4]

Named after a Constantinople monastery leader Eutyches (c. A.D. 378-454), Eutychianism was a heresy that denied the incarnate Christ had two distinct natures and taught that the divine nature absorbed the human nature of Christ to create one new super nature.[5] Nestorianism (named after Nestorius) was a heresy which taught that Christ was composed of two distinct and independent persons who work in conjunction with each other. The error asserted that a true union of divine and human would have involved God in change and suffering and resulted in the impossibility for Jesus as man to experience true human existence.[6] The emperor had first summoned the bishops to meet at Nicaea but changed the meeting place to Chalcedon because of political turmoil.[7] The Council was attended by 630 bishops and deputies, all Eastern except four legates sent by Leo I from Rome. The sessions began Oct. 8, 451, and ended Oct. 31. at the church of Saint Euphemia (named after the Christian woman Euphemia who was martyred for her faith in A.D. 303 at an arena in Chalcedon).[8] There were a total of sixteen sessions but what occurred during the fifth session is the most memorable because it was when the Christological Doctrine of Faith was formulated.

It is important to note that the ultimate authority behind the Chalcedon Creed is not the Chalcedon Creed itself but the Word of God that fueled the Creed. Therefore, one should compare the content of the Creed to the New Testament teaching on the Person of Jesus Christ. To start, the first five clauses of the Christological section of the Creed refer to Jesus as being “one and the same son[9] and “perfect in the divinity, perfect in the humanity, truly God and truly man.[10] The Word of God teaches that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (1 John 4:2). Likewise, the Word of God teaches that Jesus Christ is God in human flesh (John 1:1-4; 14). Suffice it to say, that Jesus Christ has two natures, that is, the divine nature and a human nature. Colossians 2:9 referenced both His Divine nature and His human nature, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (cf. Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 1:3). In order for Jesus to have the divine nature must mean that He is perfect and self-existent. That is why in the Gospel of John Jesus claimed to be YHWH as well as other passages of Scripture referring to Him as such (Jn 4:26; 6:20; 8:24, 28; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8; Isa 40-66).

What is more, the Chalcedon Creed reads that Jesus is “consisting of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with us according to the manhood; in all things like unto us, sin only excepted.[11] This is also clearly taught in Scripture. To begin, Christ is referred to in Romans 5 as the “Second Adam.” In order for Christ to be the Second Adam would mean that He is full humanity in every way man is except the Lord Jesus is without sin. When Adam sinned in Genesis 3 God imputed the first sin to the entire scope of humanity. The only person who did not have a sin nature, who did not inherit original sin, was Jesus Christ (cf. Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5). Unequivocally, the NT Gospel narrative accounts of the nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ articulated the doctrine of the incarnation which revealed the mystery of godliness (Matthew 1:20-21, 25; Luke 2; Isaiah 7:14).  This was also articulated in the Chalcedonian Creed when it reads, “the same was born according to the manhood, of Mary the Virgin, mother of God.”[12] At this point, the only problem is the genitival phrase “mother of God.” Clearly Mary did not cause God to come into existence but rather is to be understood as Jesus’ mother in His humanity. However, the Creed is correct biblically to identify Jesus as being “the only begotten[13] because He was the only begotten Son of God before God sent Him into the world (cf. 1 John 4:9b).

Concerning the clauses, “for us and for our salvation; who is to be acknowledged one and the same Christ; the Son, the Lord,[14] the Lord Jesus Christ is unique in that He came to take away sins through His Person and Cross work by vicariously living for and dying on the cross as a satisfactory substitute for everyone who would ever believe in Him for eternal life (Matthew 20:28; Galatians 2:20; 1 Timothy 1:16). The only way that believing sinners could be forgiven and reconciled to God is if a representative would serve as a mediator between God and man by being Himself God and man and through Divine accomplishment propitiating God’s wrath toward sin in substitution by being also human in substitution to provide and secure eternal redemption for those He came to save (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

The final section is the heart of the Creed in which no heresy can hide, namely “in two natures, without mixture, change, division, or separation; the difference of natures not being removed by their union, but rather the propriety of each nature being preserved and concurring in one person and in one ύπόστασις, so that he is not divided or separated into two persons, but the only Son, God, the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, and one and the same person.[15] The natures are not blended together but rather there is a perfect unity of the natures. This is what is meant by hypostatic union and clearly refutes the heresy called Eutychianism. What is more, the heresy called Nestorianism taught that Christ had two persons instead of two natures. This is refuted by the statement “so that he is not divided or separated into two persons.”

Today, the Chalcedonian Creed has implications for contemporary theological discussions. To start, there is a popular illustration concerning the constitution of the Lord Jesus that He is two hundred percent. However, claiming that He is two hundred percent is not explicitly worded as such in mathematical terms in the Bible, so such an illustration must be qualified and explained through the lens of the hypostatic union. Today, there are not visible schools that identify themselves as Nestorian or Eutychian. However, it is possible for one to claim that Jesus Christ is two hundred percent when all the while thinking that He has two persons instead of two natures or that the Divine nature absorbed the human nature to make up a third super nature causing Him to be two hundred percent. This is where the Chalcedonian Creed is extremely helpful. Just as Modalists can hide in incomplete definitions of the doctrine of the Trinity, so can Christological heresies hide in unqualified incomplete definitions of the doctrine of the incarnation. If one is going to use the illustration that He is two hundred percent then one must have that understanding according to what is articulated from the Word of God. Let us study and understand clearly the sound doctrines from the Word of God first and rest in the truth of Scripture and not base all of our doctrines on quick catch phrases that lead to ignorance and ambiguity when left unqualified and without a proper comprehensive biblical definition.

E.V. Powers

[1] G.L. Bray, “Councils,”New Dictionary of Theology, ed. Sinclair B. Ferguson and David F. Wright, 169- The Master Reference Collection (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, ©1988), 1.171.

[2] The American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993), 231.

[3] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 5th ed., volume III (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 351.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 375.

[6] Ibid., 374.

[7] John McClintock and James Strong, “Chalcedon,” in Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theologican, and Ecclesiastical Literature, volume II – C-D (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), 195-6.Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

Repentance

The sound doctrine of repentance is rooted in the biblical imperatives of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the universal command to all men, although it will not be universally received by all men, nor is it universally or hypothetically applied to anyone, since it is actually applied to the elect of God who respond to it by the monergistic, saving work of God in Jesus Christ, by the blood of His cross.

The ability to repent of one’s sins and repent unto God is not wrought by human hands, nor is it a construct of the human mind. It is not a preparatory work by men that renders them savable before God. Repentance is a gift from God to rightly appropriate the vicarious, penal, propitiatory, substitutionary atonement of God on behalf of the elect of God. The kindness of God is meant to lead the sinner to repentance (Romans 2:4). His kindness is encapsulated in the inherent beauty of natural revelation, and the common grace of temporal life and breath that He bestows to everyone (Romans 1:19-20).  One must be born again in order that one may repent of one’s sins and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation and the remission of sins (John 3:16-18), or one will not see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). The Greek term for repentance ‘μετανοια’ literally means to ‘change one’s mind’. The Hebrew term is shuv which means to ‘turn back’, ‘turn away from’, or ‘return’.

Throughout the entire corpus of God’s eternal Word, repentance always signifies a change of mind, but it also always includes a corresponding change of action. Any form of “repentance” that merely allows for acknowledgment of sin, without forsaking sin is false repentance. The holy apostles and prophets did not merely call for mental assent, or sorrow over sins, but a corresponding change of action that signified a life of obedience and holiness where there had once been rebellion and constant disobedience.

True repentance is demonstrated by fleeing from God’s wrath (cf. Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7), fleeing to His grace, and bearing fruits that are evidences of repentance (cf. Matthew 3:2, 7-8). One cannot claim to repent of his/her sins, while simultaneously being enslaved to sin. Although it always includes turning from sin, it equally includes turning to God (cf. Acts 3:19). The sinner does not necessarily repent because he/she has been caught in the act of sin, but because he/she is demonstrably mournful that he/she has offended a holy, omniscient, and all-powerful God. Repentance is inherently a plea to God for mercy, not based upon any merits that the individual possesses, but based upon the imputed or credited righteousness of Christ to the sinner’s account, because the sinner does not possess any inherent righteousness of his/her own.

Repentance is a gift from God and is distinguished by godly sorrow, which is according to the standard of God’s will (Gk. ελυπηθητε γαρ κατα Οεον – 2 Corinthians 7:9).[1] This sorrow is godly and produces repentance of sins unto eternal life (cf. Acts 11:18). However, there is another sorrow that is distinct from godly sorrow. This is why it is dangerous to assume the presence of mourning, tears, regret and shame are evidences of true repentance. Those who are now in the eternal flames bear unspeakable sorrow, but not because they have offended God, rather because they have been caught in their transgressions. This is the worldly sorrow that produces death. Worldly sorrow is demonstrated in the life of the betrayer Judas, who regretted his actions and hanged himself, but he did not possess a holy hatred of his actions that would have led him to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as His Savior and Lord complemented with the fruit of a changed life by the power of God.

Repentance can be sought with tears, by the ungodly, but never attained (cf. Hebrews 12:17-18). The mere presence of emotional responses toward sin do not indicate repentance and freedom from sin. Holy affections must be evident, so that godly sorrow is evident. Godly sorrow precedes and produces repentance, thus godly sorrow presumes regeneration, that is, the giving of spiritual life by God, the stirring up of one’s own disposition by the Holy Spirit of God from spiritual death to spiritual life. This results in one’s agreement with God’s eternal indictment of just punishment against that person, and thus leads to repentance of sins and turning from sin to God in Christ. Repentance is also necessary for believers who have sinned and failed to obey God’s promises, not as a common trajectory of their lives, but in moments of rebellion. Their repentance is one of returning to what they have once known, and to turn away from flirtations with apostasy away from God but toward righteous living (cf. Revelation 2:5, 3:3).

Signs of spurious repentance often include, but are not limited to: revivalism, recantation of mantras and forced repetitions of the so-called sinner’s prayer, repetitious, charismatic altar calls whereby despite the event, the life is not changed from a life of sin and rebellion, religious euphoria rooted in personalities not the Scriptures, emotional giddiness in the administration of religious duties, idol worship, sell-willed persistence in theological error, one’s self-profession of godliness at a toddler’s age – yet hatred toward God in middler years, ethnocentric pseudo-gospels, prosperity gospels, ‘love’ for Christ – but hatred and partiality toward Him and His biblical Christians, and many other forms. The common denominator in each case is its assent to a form of godliness, yet denying His power (cf. 2 Timothy 3:5).

True repentance is marked by amputation. Specifically, it is marked by the amputation that fears entering hell holistically, and would rather enter into glory mangled yet victorious over sin (cf. Matthew 18:8-9). Such modern movements, religious and irreligious, appeal to the whole: the whole man, the whole family, the whole society. True repentance cries out to that the whole must hear the call and the individual must respond to the command. The individual must surrender to Christ, cry out for His mercy, turn from sin to Him, plead with God to spare him from the wrath to come and turn to Christ in saving faith for the remission of sins, trusting in Him and His saving work alone.

But one does not get there by clinging to anything in the old man. The old man and his ways are perishing. The old man must be put off and crucified (cf. Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22-24, Col. 3:9-10). The modern religious establishment grades the old man on a curve. While claiming the way is narrow, the way is no longer Christ and His salvation, but personalities, the deconstruction and splicing of doctrine, emotionalism, book interests, conferences, programs, academia, etc. It is supposed that these are the ways of both justification and sanctification while Scriptures are a mere instrument, a handmaiden to these man-made structures. If men should try to amputate these things, then their own repentance is solicited without regard to biblical precedence for doing so. True repentance does not flee to men, because fallible, sinful men are not the chief object of our eternal offense, it flees to Christ, because true repentance is given by God and His wrath is appeased by Christ alone. Although true repentance does reconcile those who were once opposed to one another, if that repentance is rooted in the Person and cross work of Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:11-17). True repentance, accompanied by the blessed grace of God, does not lead to the next evangelical, experiential high, or theological error, rather it leads to the hunger for truth in His holy Scripture, the thirst for His righteousness, growth in discernment, renunciation of the world’s system (cf. Titus 2:11-14) and the obedience to all that He has commanded in His word, namely perfecting holiness (cf. 1 Peter 1:16). True repentance does not merely flee to the guardians of truth and hide in them, but desires to become the guardian at any cost. True repentance leads to discipleship with Christ, not philosophical fraternities of men. Those who fail to repent are storing up wrath for themselves in the day of judgment (cf. Romans 2:5).[2] Repentance and saving faith does not stave off temporal death, because the affects of sin are still evident in the fallen world and the fallen man. However, true repentance does renew the inner man and leads him to glorification with Christ, through sanctification, as the believer is being made like Christ (cf. Colossians 3:9-10; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

The failure to repent is like the affects of cancer. It is parasitic. It appears as a growth, it multiplies and attaches to its host, and then it begins to overtake and ravage the immune system, eventually overtaking the organs and killing the entire person. One may proclaim the necessity to repent to others without seeing his/her own need to repent. Pragmatism, in the form of profitability, in this hour, is the number one impediment toward repentance. That which is esteemed lucrative does not need to turn to Christ, since God’s stamp of approval, so they reason, is to provide abundant resources. This was the error of Egypt, Israel’s OT tormentors, the pseudo-religion of the Pharisees and Scribes, the Roman Empire, the pseudo-church in Rome, and the Modern Evangelical Mafiosi. It is along these lines that God Himself quiets the call to repent from His watchmen and begins to squeeze His fist together to crush those who are futile because they oppose Him.

Repentance is a clarion call. Those who do not repent, die in their sins (cf. John 8:24). They are already dead, however they will decay until their bodies are outfitted with bodies prepared for the destruction. What is keeping you from this repentance? Is the command to ‘repent’ simply that which you have proclaimed to others while not repenting of your own sins? Are your sins cleverly hidden from men through religious ceremony and religious jargon? If you will not allow yourself to be exposed now, by repenting unto life, then you will be exposed at the Great White Throne of Judgment and will be exposed before Him.

It is not only necessary to repent of the obvious debauchery in the land, but to repent of the notion that the visible church, sound as she believes she is, somehow has not amalgamated herself with the world’s modus operandi, while calling the world to repent. True metanoia comes when man has a glimpse of Christ in Scripture in light of Scripture’s indictment against man for offending God’s holiness. It is not theoretical, but intimate. True repentance forsakes even religious ambition, and takes up its cross to follow Jesus Christ alone. True repentance is not enamored with the men, now and throughout history, who have cried to their wicked generation to repent. It is enamored with the grace and gift of God that enables man to repent. It is enamored, not with the consumer driven euphoria of generic references to the cross, it is enamored with the Christ of the cross, and the risen Christ who rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father. True repentance is not enamored with the past event of one’s professed repentance, but with God who made repentance a spiritual reality before the foundation of the world, toward His elect. True repentance never points to what repentance means to you as its primary focus, but how it leads to Him, both at Calvary and the age to come. Those who truly exercise repentance are glad to leave the prospect of a well-polished descent to hell, for the maimed journey to glory and the eternal life of fellowship with the Triune God.

[1] The Greek preposition ‘κατα’ with the accusative, in most cases and in its case here, denotes standard.

[2] The Greek verb θησαυριζεις (lit. ‘you are treasuring up’) is present, active, indicative signifying a continuous action. The unbeliever who fails to repent is continuously and actively storing up wrath for himself. It is the idea of one who is making consistent deposits or investments that will inevitably yield a return. In this case, the investment is unrepentance  and consequent wrath, with the yield or return being ‘wrath’ and ‘judgment’.

-Doron Gladden

True Happiness

The framers of the Constitution once wrote:

“We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; …”

But what is life? What is liberty? What is happiness?

Is life, the mere breath that we breath allowing us the pursuit of the things that we desire most? Is freedom the absence of trial, calamity, and living as we please in harmonized autonomy? Is happiness that which makes us laugh, and the positive experiences that bring a certain giddiness to us?

Who determines whether you are pursuing life, liberty and happiness?

The framers of the constitution believed that the creation granted us intrinsic rights to pursue these things.

However, the apostle John tells us that no one has seen God except the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Lord Jesus Christ has perfectly explained Him.

Jesus Christ is God in human flesh (cf. John 1:1-4; 14). The Lord Jesus Christ has two natures, that is, His Divine nature and His human nature. Jesus is fully God and fully man. Colossians 2:9 referenced both of His Divine nature and His human nature: “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (cf. Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 1:3). Concerning His Divine nature Jesus is Self-Existent, He possess all the attributes of God for He is the same Essence as God the Father and God Holy Spirit. Concerning His Human nature, Jesus is every way that we are as a man except He is without sin (cf. John 7:18; Hebrews 2:14; 4:15; 1 John 3:5). Jesus Christ has two natures perfectly united in His one person – two natures without mixture, change, division, or separation; the difference of the natures not being removed by their union, but rather the propriety of each nature being preserved and concurring in one person and in one hypostasis, so that He is not divided or separated into two persons, but the only Son, God, the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, and one and the same person. He is the only mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5).

Therefore if we truly desire to know what the Creator defines as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we must look to what Jesus Christ says:

In Luke 6:20-23,  Jesus describes three characteristics of divine happiness for believers in His kingdom.

I. True happiness is poor

If a man is poor, it is not inherently sinful that he is. It is also equally true that if a man is wealthy, it is not always because he is immensely blessed.

Jesus is not proposing a sanctified communism. Nor is He saying that the poor in the system of Capitalism must rise up and contend against the rich.

Matthew 5:3 adds the words “in spirit.”

Those who are spiritually humbled, and as the blessed tax collector who could not bear to look to God because of the weightiness of his sin (cf. Luke 18:13), the poor in spirit esteems himself lowly in the eyes of God.

The difference here is not between economic classes, but spiritual dispositions.

Jesus is rebuking arrogant, self-righteous, presumptuous ‘worship’ of God the Father. The same false worship that the Pharisees and religious leaders were offering to God. Jesus repeated the words of Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13), when he said about them “These people praise me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:18)

If you offer vain praises to God, and profess with the loudest voice your allegiance to Him, while having no saving faith in Him, then the Beatitudes do not apply to you.

Those who are ‘poor’ inherit the kingdom. Those who are ‘rich’ (prideful, well-nourished on their self-ambition, arrogant, lofty in their own minds), they have their comfort now with misery to follow.

The ‘rich’ in spirit attempt to strut themselves into the kingdom, not realizing that the believer crawls. Citizens of the kingdom kneel, stoop, and even stagger into the kingdom, but they make it in, because of the One who sacrificed Himself for their sins.

-Luke is not supposing that if we act humble, lowly, and poor in spirit that somehow we ‘earn’ the kingdom by our own deeds. Luke is writing that those who inherit the kingdom are able to live in accordance with its standards because Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, has enabled them to do so.

Are you broken by the schemes of wicked men, as you suffer for Christ?

Are you humbled and low because of the saving, substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Are you brought low so that you can be exalted by Him?

“Yours is the kingdom!”

Notice that Jesus is not speaking to the general audience of believers and unbelievers, giving them a ‘Christian ethic’. He gazes at His disciples, saying, in essence, “Since you belong to me this is how you will live.”

II. True happiness is broken & hungry

Do you think that God chose you because you have a certain attractiveness about you? Perhaps you think he chose you because you were already full, and simply needed a little more Jesus to add to your life.

If you believe this, then you are in more agreement with those who bear the curses of excommunication from the kingdom, rather than those who bear the blessing of the sons of the Kingdom.

Jesus says, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.”

Their present state was ‘hunger’ and the result of ‘dissatisfaction’ because of their hunger. However, Jesus is not advocating salvation by organizing community soup kitchens. Although, the very act of feeding the poor and the hungry is certainly a virtuous endeavor.

Matthew 5:6 is more specific. It reads, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

The Kingdom of God is characterized by a reign of perfect righteousness, perfect justice, and perfect peace.

No kingdom on this earth can testify to being a kingdom marked by perfection. No kingdom on this earth can avoid corruption, partiality, and miscarriages in justice.
Certainly, no kingdom in this world can claim that she hungers or thirsts for righteousness. This hunger and thirst can only be given to those who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God. Only those who have saving faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ are given the ‘food’ and ‘drink’ that satisfies their malnourished souls.

This hunger is not the nourishment of a lavish, perishable feast, but the nourishment of the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

It is to drink of the water that the Samaritan woman was promised at the well (John 4:14).

It is not so with the wicked. They are filled from rotten food and their thirst quenched by contaminated waters. They are cursed, because they have settled their appetites with the poison of deception and unrighteousness.

There are those who are presently weeping, and Jesus has come to comfort them. They weep, not because they are given over to self-pity. They weep because vindication against their oppressors seems far off (6:24-26).

Those who are laughing now, in their straw thrones of unrighteousness, are comforted, filled, and nourished on perishable things. They and their paper castles will be destroyed.

However, those disciples, whom Jesus comforts here, are those who find their nourishment, comfort, and hope in Him. The two groups do not exist apart from one another, instead the unrighteous usurpers make it their aim to oppress the citizens of the kingdom.

III. True happiness is despised

-Not only is true happiness despised, but the Master who brings true happiness is despised (Isaiah 53:3; John 15:18).

While the believer is characterized by love for his enemies, and enemies of God, those who hate Christ and His disciples are characterized by hatred toward sons of God.

While Luke tells us that this hatred exists, he further explains how it is demonstrated (v. 22), how we must respond to it (v. 23), and how we are different from them (vv. 27-28).

This hatred for Jesus’ disciples is demonstrated by first, casting them out of their company.

The Greek word literally means ‘to separate’ or ‘to cast off’. These men demonstrate their hatred for you by separating you and throwing you out of their kingdom, while they themselves possess no citizenship in His kingdom. This was true of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, it is equally true today.

It would be one thing if this hatred were demonstrated by ex-communication only , but it is further practiced by insults and scorn.

-This speaks of severe insult, persecution, and abuse hurled at those who represent Jesus Christ in His kingdom. The twelve disciples, throughout their ministry in the New Testament, and other believers would experience this kind of immense hatred throughout the course of the church history.

Paul also wrote to Timothy that all who desired to live godly lives in Christ Jesus would suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).

It is not simply that they are persecuted, insulted, and ostracized; rather these things happen to those who belong to Christ because of Him.

Servants, today, should expect to be treated no differently than their master (Matthew 16:24; John 15:20).

How should the believer respond to this kind of mistreatment?

One would expect Jesus to simply pat us on our heads and tell us to just get through it. However, He tells us to act in a manner that is completely paradoxical to the way you and I would otherwise respond to those who hate us, because of our witness for Christ.

“’Be glad in that day, leap for joy.”

This invokes the imagery from Malachi 4, where after the Prophet indicts the false priests of Judah, he says that a day is coming when those who are oppressed by them will leap for joy and skip like calves leaping from the stall.” (Malachi 2:4)

When disciples are so treated, they can either choose to fear the men who oppress them or rejoice that God will take vengeance upon those who are oppressed by rebels against His kingdom.

This mistreatment is not done in isolation. The biblical Christians identify with their Lord, but they also identify with the prophets of old. Specifically in this passage, those who mistreated the disciples were direct sons of those who killed the prophets. Those, today, who still disparage the blessed Christians, are equally sons of the generations of those who killed the prophets.

Since, blood had not been shed because of this hatred, to this point in the passage, Jesus is merely referring to the deeds of those who would graduate from insults, scorn, and persecution to the consummative act of murder.

We must always test ourselves to see to which group we belong. The world loves its own. The Triune God loves His own. The two are never intermingled. May God lay our own hearts bear before Him to expose us as rebellious oppressors of His citizens or faithful disciples who belong in His kingdom.

Doron Gladden

Regeneration: The New Birth

Regeneration: The New Birth

The word παλιγγενεσία (paliggenesia) “regeneration” was used no less than twice in the New Testament (cf. Matthew 19:28; Titus 3:5). The term was comprised of the adverb πάλιν “again; once more; on the other hand; another” and γένεσις (genesis) “origin, birth, beginning.” Therefore, παλιγγενεσία has the meaning of “again origin” or affirmed as “once more birth” or could be stated “on the other hand –beginning” (all of these phrases are synonymous because they all have the same sense, namely “another birth”).  Emphatically, regeneration is another genesis – it means another birth. Regeneration being another birth means it is not a natural birth. Contrariwise, regeneration is a spiritual birth (cf. John 3:6-8). Every single person who has ever lived or will ever live has entered; or will enter this earth by means of a natural birth through the procreation from a natural father together with a natural mother. On the other hand, not every single person who has ever lived or will ever live on earth will enter the kingdom of God because the LORD Jesus Christ said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” and “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5). Regeneration means a person is born again by the Third Person of the Trinity, namely God the Holy Spirit who is the agent of the new birth and who gives spiritual life – “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63).

This article is interested in drawing out the Authorial intent from the Scriptures for the purpose of defining the sound doctrine of regeneration, stating man’s need of regeneration, identifying the source of regeneration, explaining the cause of regeneration and describing the result of regeneration. Moreover, it is this writer’s conviction because of the testimony of Scripture that regeneration precedes faith and is a monergistic work of God – that is, regeneration is solely the work of God alone – who alone has the ability to cause spiritual birth.

Man’s Need of Regeneration and Identifying the Source of Regeneration

The sound doctrine of regeneration is a powerful doctrine because it is directly and propositionally taught from Scripture. Therefore an excellent place to start with regard to stating man’s need of regeneration and identifying the source of regeneration is from one of the most explicit passages from Scripture concerning the doctrine, that is, the description of when the LORD Jesus Christ taught the Pharisee Nicodemus the meaning of the new birth (cf. John 3). In John 3, the Apostle John recorded the event in which a man named Nicodemus visited the LORD Jesus Christ at night. At this encounter, the LORD Jesus Christ contrasted two types of births. For instance, the LORD Jesus Christ made the distinction between two types of births when he said, “that which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Born of the flesh is the natural birth in which all humans experience, as mentioned above, namely, a natural birth through the procreation of a natural father together with a natural mother. John explained that the new birth is not a natural birth that everyone goes through or even a birth that is possible from the volition of man’s will but that the new birth is solely a birth from God when the apostle wrote, “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). Being born of the Spirit is a completely different birth than a natural birth. The Greek word that was used for “again” in “born again” from John 3:3, 7 means “from above.” It is the Greek word ἄνωθεν (anóthen) and was used no less than 13 times in the NT (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 1:3; John 3:3, 7, 31; 19:11, 23; Acts 26:5; Galatians 4:9; James 1:17; 3:15, 17). In James, ἄνωθεν (anóthen) was used as a reference to the new birth. What is more, ἄνωθεν (anóthen) was used to identify that it is birth from above when James wrote, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures” (James 1:17-18). Contrasting the wisdom from above (ἄνωθεν anóthen – God’s wisdom) vs the wisdom from below (i.e. the earthly, natural, and demonic wisdom not from God), James described the wisdom from above, that is from God when he wrote, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). Therefore, the Word of God teaches that the new birth is another birth. What is more, the Word of God teaches that the new birth is a heavenly birth from above. Moreover, the Word of God teaches that the new birth is spiritual birth accomplished by God. The need for man to be born again is due to the reality that man is spiritually dead in his sin. Man is spiritually blind. Man cannot see God in his natural state and man is spiritually blind with respect to the truth of God found in Christ Jesus (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:14-18; 4:3-6). What is more, man is totally depraved, that means, man is unable to spiritually draw near to God and come to God in Christ in man’s natural state (cf. Ephesians 2:1-3). Man must be born again, that is born of God where the LORD gives a person a new heart to believe upon the LORD Jesus Christ to be saved (Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27 emphasis on verse 26; Zechariah 12:10; Ephesians 2:4). This writer boldly affirms that the New Covenant is inseparably constrained to regeneration and inseparably constrained to the sound doctrine of the Atonement of the LORD Jesus Christ. The recipients of the New Covenant are the elect from both Jew and Gentile – that is, the elect from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (see Revelation 5:9).

When the apostle John wrote of those who believed in Christ the following; “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who 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), the source of the new birth was identified as of God. “But of God” is a genitive of source. John 1:12-13 does not mean that saving faith by believing in Jesus’ name is the condition for God to then cause a person to be born again because that would contradict the rest of Scripture suggesting that a person can believe in their unregenerate natural state without being spiritually alive (cf. Ephesians 2:1-10). But instead the new birth is of God and regeneration precedes faith (cf. Acts 16:14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; Ephesians 2:4-10). Faith is even a gift from God (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10). Arminians teach that a person needs to believe first and then they will be regenerated – born again. But The Bible teaches that regeneration precedes faith, it comes before faith. You must be born again in order to place faith in Christ (and faith is a gift), to see Him, we cannot exercise faith in Christ and His kingdom apart from being born again.

The Cause of Regeneration

In Ephesians 2:1-10, verse 4 is where the thought turned from verses 1-3 to verse 4 – 10. It was where the thought pivoted with the disjunctive “But God.” This contrasted God’s actions toward us vs our actions toward him in verses 1 – 3.  Θεός (God) is the subject of this long sentence in Greek because Θεός (God) is nominative masculine singular (the case that designates the subject of the sentence), and is a reference to God the Father as the subject just as He is the subject in the long Greek sentence of Ephesians 1:3-10. In the clause “being rich in mercy” – “being” is a present participle which indicated a habitual linear durative – that means, a continuous habitual action of God (repeated). It is in God’s nature and His kindness of activity to the elect that He is “being rich in mercy.” Being rich in mercy is a description of God’s character.

In the OT, it was the mercy seat that symbolized where God would sit and where the blood was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement for propitiation (cf. Leviticus 16:15-16). Mercy is not getting what you deserve. God being rich in mercy is contrasted with us being dead in trespasses against Him “even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5 a-b). “Made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5b) is a spiritual resurrection that means regeneration. In the context of Ephesians 2:1-10, verses 1-3 referred to being spiritually dead and verses 4-10 referred to being spiritually alive.

Ephesians 2:4 described God’s motive – literally “because of the great love of Him with which he loved us.” “Because of” indicated the cause of God’s mercy – namely, great love. The preposition dia with accusative here means “cause” when it is translated “because of, on account of, for the sake of” it means “cause.” So the cause of God’s mercy is the great love of Him, and love of Him means God is the source of this love. The direct object is love but not only love – “great love”.  Love means an action not a feeling and πολλὴν ἀγάπην “great love” has the Greek word for love, namely ἀγάπη which is love of action – that is, self-sacrifice (cf. John 14:15; 15:12-13). This is the way God is, namely “being rich in mercy because of the great love of Him with which He loved us.” The elect are the objects of His love, those “He chose in Christ before the foundation of the world .  . . those in love He predestined to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intension of His will” (cf. Ephesians 1:4-5). The elect are the objects of His love “even when we were dead in our transgressions, . . .” (Ephesians 2:5a). It was God who extends His grace to the elect who like the rest of humanity are undeserving unregenerate rebels, and God regenerates these elect.

When a person is naturally born into this world he or she is born dead in sin (Genesis 6:5; Romans 3:9-12; Ephesians 2:1), conceived in sin as King David put it (Psalm 51: 5), loves sin and hates God. But when a person is born again, they turn away from loving their sin and hating God – to hating their sin and loving God. This is all due to the action of God when He regenerates a person –  “made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5b). This verb in verse five (i.e. συνεζωοποίησεν “made us alive with”) is the main verb of the entire sentence in the Greek (Ephesians 2:1-10). To identify the subject is important because the subject here performs the action of the verb. The main verb is in verse 5 “He made us alive” with Christ. He is God the Father.

The Word of God teaches that regeneration is a Trinitarian act. Each person of the Trinity is involved in the grace of regeneration. The Father decreed regeneration and is the cause involved in regeneration (cf. Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 Peter 1:3). The LORD Jesus Christ and His physical resurrection from the dead is involved in regeneration (cf. 1 Peter 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”).

Regeneration is a Trinitarian act but the Holy Spirit is the agent of regeneration (cf. Ezekiel 36:25-27; John 3:5-6; Titus 3:5).The Holy Spirit is the Agent of regeneration and is the Person who spiritually quickens a person making them spiritually alive and applies the work of Christ to the person He regenerated. The imagery from Ezekiel 36:25 concerning the future national repentance of Israel in the New Covenant explained an internal cleansing when God said, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.” Likewise, in the NT Jesus alluded to Ezekiel 36:25-27 when he spoke the following to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” It is the imagery of inward washing and regeneration by the purity of God the Holy Spirit. Likewise, the Apostle Paul through inspiration by God Holy Spirit wrote about the same means of regeneration in Titus 3:5-6: “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” In the book of Acts, at the council of Jerusalem in the context of destroying the legalism of imposing circumcision on the Gentiles the Apostle Peter explained that God the Holy Spirit cleanses the heart of a person by faith when he said, “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8-9). Faith is a gift which God puts into a person (cf. Ephesians 2:8).

Regeneration is a monergistic work. Monergistic work means  it is solely the work of God alone who alone has the ability to cause spiritual birth. He alone is able to perform. Regeneration is not synergistic – that means, a joint work between the fallen human person and the Holy Spirit together. Instead, it is completely and solely the work of God alone. 1 Peter 1:3 teaches that regeneration is a monergistic work of God – God is the cause of regeneration and regeneration is by grace when the text reads, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Also, it is vital to understand that regeneration is not an ongoing action. A birth is not an ongoing process; it is an instantaneous action. The spiritual birth of a person by God is an instantaneous action, not an ongoing gradual process. At the moment of regeneration a person becomes a child of God – born into God’s family. When one is born into God’s family that birth can never be undone.

In regeneration a person is passive because it was God who caused them to be “born again.” In 1 Peter 1:23 having been born again is a perfect passive participle “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” If all persons have no prior work and say concerning their natural birth, then how much more is a person absolutely passive concerning their spiritual birth?

The Description of the Results of Regeneration

There are credible evidences that can be objectively determined from the Word of God to know if a person is in fact regenerate. Those who have been born again; who have repented unto salvation and believed the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ; whose lives have been changed by the power of God, evidence signs of life and the assurance of salvation which is the consequence of regeneration. Jesus gave an illustration of this when he said, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

treesblowingIllustratively, just as you cannot actually see the wind with your physical eyes, you can however see the effect of the wind with your physical eyes (e.g. when trees sway back and forth in the wind). So, one cannot see the action of regeneration performed by God because the act is invisible but one can undoubtedly see the effects of regeneration because the regenerated person’s life has changed by the power of God and now there is the manifestation the fruit of Spirit.

The description of the results of regeneration from the Word of God include the following:(1) The Scriptures teach that a person who has been born again loves God and others who have also been born again – namely, fellow Christians – “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him” (1 John 5:1); (2) The Scriptures teach that the person who has been born again lives a life characteristic of not practicing sin – “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9). This does not teach sinless perfection this side of the grave but it does teach that the believer lives a habitual life of not practicing sin. The participle γεγεννημένος (having been born) is a perfect participle passive nominative masculine singular – that means, “having been born of God” has the kind of action that is completed and the results continue. Pointedly, the following three words in 1 John 3:9, that is, ἁμαρτίαν  οὐ ποιεῖ “sin not practicing” has the kind of action that is defined by the present aspect and indicated an ongoing habitual lifestyle of not practicing sin! The Apostle John wrote of the cause of this, namely, “because His seed abides in him” – which indicated the seed that is placed into a person at regeneration that in other places is referred to as the Word of God (cf. Luke 8:11; 1 Peter 1:23). What is more, καὶ οὐ ἁμαρτάνειν δύναται “and he is not able to sin” also has the present aspect and indicated an ongoing habitual lifestyle of not being able to practice sin.  And the Apostle John wrote of the cause of this – that is, “because he has been born of God”; γεγέννηται (he has been born) a perfect indicative passive verb which indicated the kind of action that is completed and the results continue. Practicing sin means living in sin as a lifestyle which does not characterize the born again person.

Likewise, there are other objective evidences from the epistle of 1 John for a person to determine that they are in fact regenerate – which include, confession of sin, repentance and walking in the light (1 John 1:5-10); a life characteristic of obedience by keeping Christ’s commandments (1 John 2:3-4); not being a liar (1 John 2:4); love for other Christians (1 John 2:9-11; 5:1); hating the world system (1 John 2:15-17); perseverance in sound doctrine (1 John 2:24-25); a life characteristic of righteousness (1 John 3:10); God the Holy Spirit’s testimony (1 John 4:13; cf. Romans 8:16). What is more, the book of Hebrews taught that a person who is disciplined by God is a child of God (cf. Hebrews 12:5-8).

A Rebuke against False Teachers

Many false teachers today who dwell even among solid circles (this writer is not merely addressing the obvious false teachers of word of faith cults, Mormons, S.D.A., Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.) manufacture a pseudo-regeneration (i.e. counterfeit/fraud which is not a true regeneration). This is accomplished by false teachers who manipulate persons to pray a prayer (e.g. “the sinner’s prayer”) or perform an altar call and then congratulate those who obey them by affirming these means as acts of repentance which have brought about regeneration. Also, some teach baptismal regeneration – that is, a person must be baptized in order to be regenerated. Baptismal regeneration is error.

What is more, many manipulate little children (e.g. as young as 3, 4, 5, 6 years of age) to perform “the sinner’s prayer” and then affirm these little children as true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. These little children grow up into adolescence evidencing absolutely no fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22-23). When these little children leave their household and go off to university or the work force they “fall away” from their pseudo-confession (i.e. “the sinner’s prayer”). The reality is these little children were never truly regenerated. Some of these become regenerated in adulthood. They then testify against the false conversion template that was enforced upon them at an early age. However, those who enforced these pseudo-confessions and those who have not come out of these pseudo-confessions then persecute and revile the little children who later became regenerated. To enforce these pseudo-confession templates on little children is sin and actually in opposition to Matthew 19:14 – “But Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” If you manipulate little children to perform “the sinner’s prayer” and then affirm them as Christians because they repeated the “the sinner’s prayer” like a “call and response” jazz ensemble (e.g. “now repeat after me”) then you have actually hindered them from coming to Jesus. An example of “the sinner’s prayer” is as follows:

Dear God,

I know that I am a sinner. I accept Jesus into my heart as my personal Savior. I believe he died on the cross for sinners and was raised from the dead. Please accept my prayer.

Amen.

After this prayer (or one like it) is repeated, the one who “led the recipient to Christ” then congratulates the recipient and says, “if you truly meant it with all your heart -congratulations you are now a Christian – you are now born again.” Reciting a prayer is not a credible evidence that a person is regenerated. Instead, credible evidence that a person is regenerated is that their life has changed by the power of God objectively identified by the Word of God.

Believer’s Baptism

There are only two ordinances from the Lord Jesus Christ to His church – namely, the Lord’s Supper and Believer’s Baptism. Believer’s Baptism is symbolic of the believer’s regeneration and union with the Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, burial and resurrection from the dead (cf. Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12 emphasis added). Believer’s Baptism is an imperative command – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Baptism is an ordinance given by the Lord Jesus Christ for His church to administer and protect. Believers are commissioned to be guardians over the ordinances and administer them correctly.

Baptism is an outward expression of an inward regeneration. It symbolizes regeneration by using a physical analogy of being dunked with water for cleansing. The physical elements of water in baptism have no power to regenerate or cleanse a person spiritually on the inside (cf. 1 Peter 3:21). Instead, when a person is baptized correctly they are setting a pattern of obedience to Christ’s commands (cf. Luke 6:46; 1 John 5:3). The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Therefore, the church is to obey the Lord Jesus Christ and administer the ordinances the exact way the Word of God has instructed. It is really not that complicated.   

Baptism is to be conducted only by immersion – that is, dunking a person under water. The verb used for baptism in the New Testament is βαπτίζω (baptizó) which means to immerse or dunk – immersion under water and is from the word βάπτω (baptó) which means to dip in/to immerse (cf. Luke 16:24; John 13:26; Revelation 19:13).  The word for sprinkle is ῥαντίζω (rhantizó) and is never used in the NT to refer to baptism (cf. Hebrews 9:13, 19, 21; 10:22). Nowhere in the Bible is there an evidence of infant baptism. In order to affirm infant baptism in the Bible one must have to first insert it into the text because it is not there.

The only qualified candidates for believer’s baptism are tried and true believers. One must be a disciple of Christ. One must give credible witness that they are in fact regenerate. Those who have repented unto salvation and believed the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ; whose life has been changed by the power of God are the only qualified candidates for baptism.

Conclusion

In conclusion, regeneration is the new birth. It is a spiritual and heavenly birth from God above. Men and women in their natural state are born naturally and come into this world dead in sin – that is, original sin and total depravity. In a state of total depravity, men and women cannot see God and enter into spiritual life unless there is a supernatural miracle of regeneration of a person by God the Holy Spirit. The source of regeneration is God. The cause of regeneration is God. Those who have been born again; who have repented unto salvation and believed the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ; whose lives have been changed by the power of God – evidence signs of spiritual life and the assurance of salvation which is the consequence of regeneration. Consequently, there are credible evidences that can be objectively determined from the Word of God to know if a person is in fact regenerate (e.g. mentioned above in this article). Regeneration cannot be artificially fabricated by manipulating false conversions. Moreover, the physical water and action of believer’s baptism in and of itself does not regenerate a person but is instead an outward expression and declaration that previously an inward regeneration has taken place.  Regeneration is an undeserved countless blessing beyond measure – namely, that the Self-Existent Eternal God would thoughtfully condescend and respond to some in such a way that He would rescue the elect from spiritual deadness, as the Apostle Paul described when he wrote – “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

E.V. Powers

The Fear of Man

There is nothing more paralyzing than the fear of man. It is the height of irrationality and idol worship. Paul the apostle warned against man-pleasers (Gal. 1:10), and the wisdom of the Proverbs warned against the ensnaring quality of fear, relative to men (Prov. 29:25). For Paul, the fear of men, expressed by seeking to gain their approval, was an impediment to faithful, gospel ministry (Gal. 1:10). Christ’s servants are to minister with unmitigated courage, and uncompromising convictions. The last thing the servant of Christ must succumb to is the fear of those to whom he ministers.

The Greek term for fear, φοβος, is where we derive our English term ‘phobia’. Often those who possess certain phobias are paralyzed with fear. The idea of overcoming such fears is unthinkable to them. God has not given believers the spirit of fear, but of love, of power and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). Believers are not to be terrified by the society around them, the men and women who govern that society, unqualified usurpers and infiltrations in the church, false teachers, or any other aspect of creation. The only sanctioned fear for believers in Scripture is the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of knowledge. This fear is properly understood as reverence and awe, turning us toward the obedience of His commandments, drawing us to worship Christ, and instructing us in the ways of righteousness and truth (Psalm, 111:10; Prov. 1:7, 3:7, 9:10, 15:33).

Fear of man indiscriminately enslaves those who practice it. For example, during the ministry of Jesus Christ, in the Gospels, it is often written that those who believed the works of Jesus did not confess him for fear of being expelled from the synagogue (John 9:22, John 12:42). John the Apostle recorded that there were some, among the religious leaders who were believers of Jesus, however their fear caused them to refrain from confessing Him (John 12:42-50). The false religious system, during the time of Christ, thrived in an environment of intimidation, hero-worship, and enslavement to external things. The Pharisees, who were consummate ministers of Satan and lovers of money, ruled with iron fists. It was in this environment that the Lord Jesus Christ came to serve as the Good Shepherd (John 10), who gave His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).

Fear of man eliminates discernment, counteracts wisdom, and assails the promises of God. Because the Israelite spies were afraid of the Nephilim, they forfeited an early foray into the land of Canaan (Numbers 13). Instead of measuring the situation before them according to God’s standards, they measured their adequacy based on their comparison to the Nephilim (descendants of Anak). As a result, they reported that they were “like grasshoppers in their sight” (Numbers 13:33). Although it was wise for the Israelites to survey the obstacles before them, it was unwise to merely assume their own demise, since God had promised they would possess the land. How often do modern Christians esteem men over God? How often is this pseudo reverence given to creatures instead of the Creator who made them?

Fear of man belongs to the animals. It is a post-Noahic flood sanction, and Noahic Covenant provision. In Genesis 9:1, God said to Noah:

“The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.”

God has never sanctioned mankind’s fear of other human beings. Jesus prohibited the disciples from lording authority over the Gentiles, like the pagan rulers (Matthew 20:25; Mark 10:42, Luke 22:25). However humble Christians must submit themselves to every human institution (1 Peter 2:13); it is a show of meekness and servitude to God, not panic, social concession, or pragmatism. When human beings fear one another, they readily identify themselves as animals. This would also imply their agreement with the pseudo-sciences known as naturalistic evolution and social Darwinism. Equally, the only brute beasts that are meant to be captured, relative to men, are habitual false teachers who are raised up for the purpose of deceiving others (2 Peter 2:12), or the wolves Jesus cautioned against in the Gospels (Matthew 7:15).

The fear of man is the pinnacle of irrationality, because believers are kept secure by the triune God (Psalm 56:4, 118:5-9; Hebrews 13:6). No person in the created order possesses the sovereign power of God, therefore no person stands as ultimate judge or vindicator of men. The fear of man is dangerous because it deifies man and attempts to (impossibly) dethrone God. Deifying man is the epitome of pride and the height of blasphemy, especially since there is explicit, biblical distinctions between God and men (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29). God is the only self-existent being (Exodus 3:14; Psalm 106:48; John 8:58) who dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16) and is thus undisputed ruler over all. Those who fear men ascribe such perfections to mere mortals and bow to them as if they are worthy of such acclaim.

Any construct within orthodox Christianity that promotes the fear of man as a means of ‘godly ministry’ must be resisted, exposed and continuously rejected, whether these constructs are offered under the guise of academic prestige, discipleship fads, or even personal empires often disguised as churches. Fear of man chains the practitioner to the consciences of those whom he fears. Fear of man also eradicates fruitful, bold, and uncompromising ministry because it is impossible to please all men while simultaneously aiming to please God (Gal.1:10). The approval of men is a possible consequence of faithful ministry, but it is not the promise of faithful ministry. Naturally, faithful ministers and faithful believers often upset the order of enslaving organizations and persons.

Fear of man is the incubator of compromise and the petri dish of apostasy. The Lord Jesus Christ pronounced a curse upon those who, through enslavement to others, received their acclaim and were unanimously spoken well of by their contemporaries (Luke 6:26). This lot does not belong to those who fear the Lord. Contrastively, Jesus pronounced blessing upon his disciples when they were maligned, insulted, excluded, and persecuted for righteousness’ sake because of the one whom they follow (Matthew 5:11). The one who fears the Lord is God’s free man. He is God’s courageous man. Those who fear men are slave to every manner of corruption, both inwardly and outwardly. Fear of man is also one of the catalysts for practicing sinful partiality, which the apostle James explicitly warned against the in the Scriptures (James 2:1-13).

The fear of man also removes all discernment and, in the life of the church, functionally, eliminates the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9). The fear of man promotes elitism, hierarchy, celebrity, and inevitably authority with men, divesting the Scripture of its authority. It is not only crippling to the church, collectively, but it also cripples the individuals who serve the body. Similar to the military industrial complex, fear of man produces an evangelical industrial complex where its addresses are the result of fear mongering, and its effectiveness is measured by the subjective esteem of men, who are motivated by their fear of one another.

The antithesis to the fear of men is the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7). Men who fear the Lord, depart from iniquity, they do not rush into evil (Proverbs 16:6). Therefore, resisting the fear of man as a believer is sanctifying and promotes growth in holiness. Believers are like Christ when they fear God and do not place their fear in men. Fear of men is unsanctioned because man, as fallen creature, cannot be fully trusted to exact perfect justice and perfect righteousness. Such perfections belong to God alone in Christ, by His Spirit.

Fear of man restricts and redefines biblical evangelism, discipleship, while also assailing the imperatives of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Fear of anyone or anything, as a common trajectory, may bear evidence that one does not know the God of salvation (Psalm 27:1). Often, the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, uttered the words ‘do not be afraid’ (John 6:20; Matthew 14:21). Since Jesus Christ is God in human flesh, those who follow Him have no reason to be afraid. Jesus Christ has promised trouble in this world, but He has also promised those who have saving faith in Him will overcome the world and its troubles, since He has overcome the world (John 16:32-33). Those who fear, as signified by the Hebrew term יראה (yirah), ascribe reverence to the object of their misplaced affections. Men are never told to prostrate before other men, whether literally or figuratively, whether before world leaders, church leaders, under any circumstance. Such affection is idolatrous and in numerous places, prohibited in Scripture (Genesis 11:1-9; Exodus 20:4; Leviticus 26:1; Daniel 3:8-18; Acts 10:25, 12:12-15; Rev. 19:10, 22:9).

The biblical Christian, whether minister or laity, must not capitulate to fear and must redirect all fear toward them away from themselves to the triune God (Acts 10:25, 12:12-15). Those who truly belong to Christ do not bask in the glory of others (Luke 16:15; John 5:44). Biblical Christians must be vigilant in this area, since all spheres of life, to some degree, promote fear of man as a means to achieve one’s goals. The fear of man is not only a temptation in secular society, but it is also pervasive in the church. There is no church, ministry, business, school, or entity that is exempt from enlisting the fear of man as a barometer of efficiency. Fear of man is a tactic of the cults, and a weapon of unprincipled usurpers who often hijack pulpits, and beguile the unstable. May the Lord grant us courage, and this freedom in Him, to fear Him alone, not men. God’s freemen are among those who do not fear others. God’s freemen are slaves to righteousness and truth, not to fear and instability. Since believers receive an unshakable kingdom, and serve the living, biblical Jesus Christ, there is nothing or no one to fear. Jesus reminded His followers not to fear those who can even kill the body, but to fear the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4).

Doron Gladden

On Predestination, Double Predestination and Limited Atonement

The word προορίζω proorizó “predetermine was used no less than six times in the New Testament (cf. Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29, 30; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:5, 11). The term was comprised of the preposition (πρό) “before” and (ὁρίζω) horizó to which the English word “horizon” was derived. Therefore, προορίζω literally means “before horizons.” The word ὁρίζω as a verb means “I define, determine, appoint, decree, I separate, mark off by boundaries; I determine, appoint, designate” and was found no less than seven times in the New Testament (cf. Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 10:42; 11:29; 17:26; 31; Romans 1:4).  It is right for one to think of the preposition (πρό) “before” in juxtaposition with (ὁρίζω) not in the sphere or domain of time (i.e. chronological succession of moments measured by and constrained to a point of origin (i.e. beginning period) and a point of cessation (i.e. ending period) but rather as God’s eternal decree. Eternity is not a measurement of time. Instead, eternity is static – that is, eternity is a fixed state. From the Word of God, predeterminism or predestination is always to be understood from the perspective of God’s eternal decree. Therefore, to think God’s thoughts after Him (that must be the desire of every single Christian), the best subject to begin in the discussion on predestination is the doctrine of God inseparably connected to the Glory of God (i.e. the Person of God – namely His Self-Existence in unity and harmony with all His attributes inseparably constrained to the work of God – namely “everything that God does will remain forever” cf. Ecclesiastes 3:14). Pointedly, it is not pride for one to think God’s thoughts after Him. Instead, it is an act of humility for one to think God’s thoughts after Him, because in so doing, one focuses attention on what God thinks not what man thinks – and in turn, one aligns one’s thoughts with the Word of God. If a person claims that thinking God’s thoughts after Him is prideful or could lead to pride then that person does not want to surrender their own thoughts to God and abandon their own opinions for the Word of God (cf. Isaiah 55:7-9).

The Doctrine of God and the Decree of God to Create Humanity

To start, the paramount attribute that defines God is His Self-Existence, and because He is Self-Existent all His attributes work at maximum capacity forever. All God’s attributes are Supreme because He is the One and only Supreme Being Who eternally exists in Three distinct Persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (i.e. God is One in Three distinct Persons, each Person is fully God and there is one God – cf. 2 Timothy 2:5). Each Person of the Triune God is one in essence/substance, co-equal and God is three distinct Persons (cf. John 10:30; 1 Corinthians 8:6). This is the unity of the Divine essence in three Persons and in this one essence are Three persons, yet so that neither is there a triple God, nor is the one essence of God divided. The reader is encouraged not to read this essay any further unless the reader fully believes and is willing to defend, die for, and never depart from the sound doctrine of the Trinity – namely, the truth that God the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one God, and yet the Son is not the Father, the Holy Spirit is not the Son and the Father is not the Holy Spirit. When Jesus said in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one” He taught that He is one in essence, one in nature, one in being yet distinct in Person. Therefore, in John 10:30 Jesus made a declaration of His absolute Deity. So there are three distinct Persons in one essence, not three qualities in one and the same person.  One God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor separating the substance.

To restate, God is Self-Existent and all His attributes work at maximum capacity forever. It is important to state that God is not a robot or a machine that can be taken apart and isolated in sections. Rather, God is a unity not a unit. The Unity of God refers to His Being, one and only, inseparably constrained to all His attributes. Because of God’s attribute of unity there is no dichotomy in God between His attributes. There is unity in God between all His attributes. The Unity of God means that there is one God and that the divine nature is complete, unbroken, undivided and indivisible.

In 1445 B.C., An Angel of the LORD appeared to a man named Moses in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush, on a mountain, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai (cf. Exodus 3; Acts 7:30-36). God spoke to the man Moses from the midst of the bush. At this miraculous event, Moses inquired of God’s name. God personally revealed His name to Moses when He said, “I AM WHO I AM . . . . This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations” (Exodus 3:14b; 15b). “I AM WHO I AM” not only reveals God’s name but also who God is, namely that God is Self-Existent and therefore possesses the attribute of eternality. Because YHWH is God’s name forever and His memorial-name to all generations, Exodus 3 teaches that God is perpetual and that God attributes to Himself alone divine glory, because He is Self-Existent and possesses the attribute of eternality; and thus gives being and existence to every creature. In order for one to be Self-Existent means that one has always existed without beginning and ending. In other words, to be Self-Existent means that there was never a point in which one came into existence and there will never be a point in which one will go out of existence, that is, cease to exist. This is why the historical narrative of the burning bush on Mount Horeb is one of the most memorable historical events recorded in the Word of God because it is where God revealed to man His name and the chief attribute that describes who He is, namely, Self-Existence. Inseparably constrained to this, that fact that God revealed His name to man also indicated that God is a Personal Being and not a force.

The reason why God’s name “I AM WHO I AM” has the meaning of Self-Existence is because in the context of Exodus 3:14-15 God said, “This is My name forever.” The word “forever” in Hebrew is   עולם (o-lawm’) and means permanent, forever and ever, everlasting, all successive, eternity. Eternity is not a measurement of time. Eternity is forever. On the other hand, time is a measurement because it has a beginning and an end. According to Webster’s Dictionary time is defined as “a period during which something exists or continues: an interval comprising of a limited and continuous action, condition, or state of being: measured or measurable duration.”[1] God’s existence is immeasurable. His state of being cannot be measured.

God is the Creator (cf. Genesis 1-2). Man is the creature made in God’s Image (Genesis 1:26-28). Genesis 2:7 describes the event of God the Creator creating man when it reads, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Man as the creature, made in the Image of God, depends on his Creator God for existence. As creatures of the Self-Existent Creator God, each individual person has an immortal soul. In that sense man is eternal (with an immortal soul) but man is not self-existent (see Isaiah 48:2). There was a point in time in which man came into existence, but man will remain forever because man is a being which God created, and the Word of God says that everything God does remains forever (Ecclesiastes 3:14). God has written eternity on the hearts of all men (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The Apostle John recorded in John 14:9 how the Self–Existent Infinite God is knowable when he recorded Jesus’ conversation with Philip; “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” What is more, in the Gospel of John the Lord Jesus Christ made specific claims to deity, identifying His Divine Nature with the “I AM” of Ex 3:14-15. For example, the seven “I AM” statements in John are as follows, namely, (1) “I am the bread of life” (6:35), (2) “I am the Light of the world” (8:12), (3) “I am the door of the sheep” (10:7, cf. v 9), (4) “I am the good shepherd” (10:11; cf. v 14), (5) “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25), (6) “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6), (7) “I am the true vine” (15:1 a). Concerning Jesus Christ’s Self–Existence, commentator Lenski claimed that the grammar of John 8:58 indicated Jesus’ Aseity when he wrote,

As the aorist sets a point of beginning for the existence of Abraham, so the present tense “I am” predicates absolute existence for the person of Jesus, with no point of beginning at all. That is why Jesus does not use the imperfect ἤμην, “I was”; for this would say only that the existence of the person of Jesus antedates the time of Abraham and would leave open the question whether the person of Jesus also has a beginning like that of Abraham (only earlier) or not. What Jesus declares is that, although his earthly life covers less than fifty years, his existence as a person (ἐγώ) is constant and independent of any beginning in time as was that of Abraham…. Thus with the simplest words Jesus testifies to the divine, eternal pre-existence of his person.[2]

God is infinite. The Infinite God is comprehensible and immanent. What is more, the Infinite God is transcendent, that is, He is beyond everyone and everything – so, in that sense He cannot be fully grasped yet He is a Personal Being who is knowable and in Whom all other beings depend on Him for their existence. God is independent and self-sufficient – He depends on no other being. He is the Creator of all and He owns everything (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 24:1; Nehemiah 9:6). Isaiah 40:28 reads, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable,” and shows how all these attributes of God (Eternality, Self –Existence, Creator, Omnipresence [All present at all places – there is no place where God is not], Omnipotence [All powerful], Omniscience [All knowing – there is nothing that God does not know]) are inseparably constrained to one another – specifically God’s Self-Existence and Him as Creator. This is why God is unique because only God can be Self-Existent and Infinite, and only God can be the Creator. Only God can be the Creator because if He were to create another god – that god by definition would be a creature. Isaiah 40:28 emphasized God’s incommunicable attributes – that is, those attributes that belong to God alone. This is important because God’s Eternality and God as the Creator are emphasized together in Isaiah 40:28. Some infralapsarians teach God’s primary purpose to glorify Himself was by His attribute as Creator. However, the Glory of God is the summation of all God’s attributes and all the attributes of God work at maximum capacity forever. Therefore, to state that God’s “primary purpose” to glorify Himself was by His attribute of Creator is to compartmentalize God by isolating one of His attributes independently from His other attributes. Instead, God’s attribute of Creator was exercised in harmony with all of His other attributes.

Moreover, there is no dichotomy in God between His attributes – all His attributes work at maximum capacity forever. Isaiah 57:15 “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.’” This is important because God’s Eternality and God’s attribute of Holiness are emphasized together in Isaiah 57:15. Supralapsarians teach that God’s primary purpose to glorify Himself was by His attribute of Holiness and Wrath (Anger) through double predestination and that double predestination logically preceded God’s decree to create humanity and then permit the fall of man to bring about His plan of double predestination. However, the Glory of God is the summation of all God’s attributes and all the attributes of God work at maximum capacity forever. Therefore, to state that God’s primary purpose” to glorify Himself was His attribute of Holiness through double predestination is another way to compartmentalize God by isolating one of His attributes independently from His other attributes. Instead, God’s attribute of Holiness was exercised in harmony with all of His other attributes.

The main point this writer is making is this – to only focus on one of the attributes of God to the neglect of the others concerning the eternal decree of God is not rendering an accurate portrayal of the Being of God, the Glory of God and the Work of God – there is no dichotomy in God between His Being, attributes, and work. For the infralapsarian or the supralapsarian to claim “the primary way God glorified Himself in relation to the world was only through His attribute of Creation or only His attribute of Holiness” is to create a caricature of God that is not completely accurate because all of God’s attributes work at maximum capacity forever – and the glory of God is the summation of all His attributes. At this point, this writer absolutely stresses the absoluteness of the necessity to maintain, and be in fear of, the fullness of the sound doctrine of the Holiness of God as well as to maintain absolute fullness of the sound doctrine of God as Creator. This is absolution of Holiness and Creator – that is, God is Self-Existently Holy and Self-Existently the Creator. In no way does criticizing the supralapsarian school of the eternal decree of God diminish or minimize God’s attribute of Holiness. Instead, it is the supralapsarian scheme that diminishes God’s attribute of Holiness because it renders that particular attribute in isolation from the rest. God is absolutely forever Holy. It is the purpose of this writer to maintain the Holiness of God. The Holiness of God is the moral character of God. God’s Holiness is eternally invested with all His attributes – that is, the attributes of God are unified, interconnected, integrated, interrelated, and interdependent – namely, His Self-Existence, Self-Sufficiency, Independence (Aseity), Omni-benevolence, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Graciousness and Goodness, Holiness, Justice, Righteousness, Wrath (Anger), Transcendence , Immanence, Immutability, Impassibility, Impeccability, Incorporeality, Incomprehensibility, Infinity, Jealousy, Love, Mercy, Mystery, Oneness, Providence, Simplicity, Sovereignty, Veracity. What is more, the reader must know that a person has right thoughts about God when that person’s thoughts of God agree with what the Word of God teaches of Him – that is, when we think of His Being and attributes as the Word of God teaches. Thus thinking God’s thoughts after Him (e.g. predestination – the Eternal decree). Thinking about God rightly is to think about all of who God is concerning the unity and summation of all of God’s perfections.

Theodicy and the Decree of God to Permit the Fall of Humanity

The overall context of the book of Romans must be considered to draw out the authorial intent of one of the main passages at hand that is used by many to argue for double predestination (i.e. Romans 9:22-23 – which is discussed in length near the conclusion of this article). The overall theme of Paul’s epistle to the Romans is the righteousness of God and the righteous person shall live by faith (cf. 1:16-17). Therefore, Paul’s epistle to the Romans mainly focuses on soteriology (i.e. the study of salvation). For example, Romans 1:18-20 is about God’s charge against all men both Gentiles and Jews and as such concerns man’s need of righteousness. Romans 3:21-5:21 is about the righteousness of God in justification and Romans 6:1-8:39 is about the righteousness of God in sanctification. Romans 9 is about individual election and Romans 9-11 is about the Righteousness of God concerning Israel’s past, present and future. Most Israelites today are under God’s divine righteous judgment but in Israel’s future there they will be under the righteousness of God’s salvation of Israel (cf. Romans 11). The key word in Romans is δικαιοσύνη (righteousness) and is found no less than 34 times as a noun (cf. 1:17; 3:5, 21, 22, 25, 26; 4:3, 5, 6, 9, 11 x2, 13, 22; 5:17, 21; 6:13, 16, 18, 19, 20; 8:10; 9:30 x 3, 31; 10:3 x 3, 9:31; 10:3 x 3, 4, 5, 6, 10; 14:17). The verb form of righteousness δικαιόω (I make righteous, I defend the cause of) is found no less than 15 times in the book of Romans (cf. 2:13; 3:4, 20, 24, 26, 28, 30; 4:2, 5; 5:1, 9; 6:7; 8:30 x 2, 33). Romans is about the righteousness of God through the active obedience of Christ’s life (cf. Romans 5) and His propitiatory penal-substitutionary death on the cross for the sins of the elect (cf. 3:21-26) and His resurrection from the dead for the justification of the elect (cf. Romans 4:24-25; 10:9-10). Romans is about the imputation (i.e. charge; put to one’s account) of Christ’s personal righteousness to the account of the believing sinner. The righteousness of Christ is the basis of salvation and the requirement for salvation is faith in the personal righteousness of Christ alone to save one from the wrath of God, not works (cf. Romans 3:20-22; 30-31; 9:30-33). The believing sinner is then justified by faith alone in Christ alone and justification is the act that God performs in declaring His righteousness (i.e. the righteousness of Christ) to the account of the believing sinner, and as such the believing sinner is declared righteous before God and acquitted of all condemnation. God defends the believer’s position in Christ (e.g. “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” Romans 8:33-34). The evidence that salvation has taken place, that is the fruit of salvation, is a reflection of God’s work in a person in defending the believer’s position of righteousness in such a way that the believer defends God’s righteousness. For example, the apostle Paul (a justified person by faith in Christ) defended God throughout the entire epistle with rhetorical questions which he then answers for the purpose of defending the righteousness of God in all areas that are discussed in Romans (cf. 2:3-5; 3:5-6, 9, 27-30; 4:1-3; 5:1-21; 6:1-4, 15-16; 7:1-3, 7; 8:31-35; 9:14-15 emphasis added).

That means that the book of Romans is about Theodicy. Theodicy is a Greek term that literally means “God-just.”[3] Theo means “God” and dicy or dikē means “just.” The Greek root for just is found in the Greek word for righteousness, namely, “δίκαιος, ία, ιον.”[4] Δίκαιος is an adjective which is defined of God as, “just, righteous, a just judge” (cf. John 17:25; Rom 3:26).”[5] The same word is described of God the Son, the second member of the Trinity, namely the Lord Jesus Christ (God in human flesh), in 1 John 2:1 which reads, “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” In the Context of 1 John 2:1-2 it is Jesus who is an advocate with the Father against sin. Consequently, it is Jesus Christ who satisfies God the Father’s wrath toward sin. This propitiation is through the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.  Δίκαιος is also used to describe the excellent innocence of Jesus Christ in Lk 23:47. The Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate standard of righteousness and perfection.

The opposite of righteousness is the word “ἀδικία” (unrighteous) and it is described of fallen man in Romans 1:18. The alpha privative on “ἀδικία” indicates non- “dikē” or non- justice/righteousness. The word ἀδικία is used in 1 John 5:17a which reads, “All unrighteousness is sin”. Early in 1 John 3:4 the author defined sin when he wrote, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness”. In the next verse, the author identifies the Lord Jesus Christ as being the one who came to take away sins and the one who has no sin in Him when he writes, “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5; cf. Heb 4:15). Therefore, God is righteous and He will judge unrighteousness (i.e. sin). He cannot judge unrighteousness if He is not righteous and He is not righteous if He has any unrighteousness or created unrighteousness. To this effect, the Apostle Paul under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit made an explicit theodicy argument when he wrote, “But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world?” (Romans 3:5-6; see Isa 10:1-4). This is important because there are supralapsarians that teach God is the author of sin, in as far as He created sin for the purpose to display His glory through His attribute of wrath. One particular supralapsarian argued that God is the author of sin when he wrote, “What I’ll do is create something worthy of my wrath, something on which I can exhibit the glory of my wrath . . . I am not accusing God of sinning; I am suggesting that he created sin  . . . It was God’s desire to make his wrath known. He needed, then, something on which to be wrathful. He needed to have sinful creatures (R.C. Sproul Jr., Almighty Over All; Understanding the Sovereignty of God [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999], 52-7).”  It is blasphemous to suggest that God created sin. At least, Sproul Jr. tried to show how the lapsarian debate is connected to Theodicy. There are many supralapsarians that argue that their system does not suggest that God is the author of sin. On the other hand, it makes sense why supralapsarians try to argue that their system does not suggest that God is the author of sin because (1) they know that to suggest that God is the author of sin is blasphemous and (2) they have already compartmentalized God’s attributes so they compartmentalize doctrine and claim that theodicy is not innerconnected to the lapsarian debate. However, Sproul Jr. is honest to take supralapsarianism to its logical conclusion.

How does supralapsarianism compartmentalize God’s attributes? The supralapsarian view emphasizes that God’s primary purpose in relation to the world is to glorify himself by saving some people and damning others by displaying His attributes of Holiness and Anger (Wrath). However, in the attempt of the supralapsarian school to uphold the specific attributes of God’s Holiness and Anger (Wrath), the system actually denies the Holiness of God. For example, Psalm 5:4 reveals that the presence of evil does not abide with God, for sin is contrary to God’s nature, when it reads, “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You.” Why would God create that which is contrary to His nature? If God created sin then He approved of it, but then that would contradict Habakkuk 1:13a-b which reads, “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor.” After God created everything He said in Genesis 1:31a the following, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. . .” Moral Light has no fellowship with moral darkness (cf. James 1:17; 1 John 1:5). God could not have created sin because James 1:13 reads, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He himself does not tempt anyone.” In James 1:13, namely “μηδεὶς πειραζόμενος λεγέτω ὅτι Ἀπὸ Θεοῦ πειράζομαι ο γαρ Θεὸς ὰπειραστός εστιν κακῶν, πειράζει δὲ αὐτὸς ουδενα,” There is an alpha privative attached to the Greek word for tempted that describes that God cannot be tempted by evil. The word is ἀπείραστός and is an adjective nominative singular masculine that describes that God is not able to be tempted. The word ἀπείραστός is a hapax legomenon (i.e. a term that is recorded only once in the NT) and because it is only found once it has a unique theological significance, namely it is not a part of God’s nature to tempt. It is contrary to God’s nature to be tempted by evil. James 1:13 is found in the same context as 1:17 which reads, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” Within the same context as James 1:13 is the theological context of God described as unchangeable. This means that God is unchangeably not able to tempt anyone in light of His Self-Existence. Therefore, God could not be the author of sin related to the origin of sin or any present manifestation of sin.

Sin is not eternal. Sin could not have been created by God. Sin had a point of origin and sin will have a distinct point of cessation (i.e. end). Sin’s origin occurred in the angelic realm (see discussion below in this article). Sin’s cessation will happen at the end when the devil and his angels are put in the lake of fire, that is the eternal fire prepared for them (cf. Matthew 25:41), as well as those of mankind whose names were not written in the book of life of the Lamb having been slain from the foundation of the world (cf. Revelation 18:3; Revelation 20:15). Everyone will spend eternity in one of two places. The elect will spend eternity with Christ in Heaven because He eternally exhausted God’s wrath towards their sin when He died in their place on the cross, Christ paying the debt they owed for their sin in penal-substitution and Him being raised from the dead for their justification. The non-elect will spend eternity in Hell fully exhausting God’s wrath toward their sin and paying God back for their sin forever. No one will be sinning in Hell but rather those there will be paying God back for their sin. Therefore, sin is either destroyed and comes to an end in the second death by God or sin was destroyed by the death of Christ (God in human flesh) on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. In agreement with Scripture and with this writer, the late biblical expositor James Montgomery Boice argued against the error and complete non-sense to suggest that moral evil is eternal when he wrote,

Where does sin come from if it does not come as the Bible declares . . . . To the knowledge of this present writer, in the whole history of ideas of the human race there have been only two other answers given, and one of them is not really an answer at all while the other is inadequate. The first answer is the eternality of evil. That is, evil has existed from the very beginning of things, just as good has existed from the beginning; therefore, all life is characterized by this mixture. But this is actually no answer because, as we can easily understand, it is simply a denial of the problem. It is the denial that sin or evil had a beginning.[6]

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is critical to the discussion concerning the eternal decree and Theodicy. In Genesis 2, the LORD God put the first man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep (cf. Genesis 2:15). In Genesis 2:16-17, the LORD God gave the man a commandment with a prohibition – “The LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’” Some believe that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a figure for potentially unlimited knowledge, it being a good tree, but man was not to eat it because it would result in man obtaining human autonomy (a law unto one’s self) and as such man would know unlimited knowledge apart from God. However, man did not receive unlimited knowledge after he transgressed the commandment (cf. Genesis 3:7; 22). It is true that the nature of the serpent’s temptation in Genesis 3 was a temptation to personal autonomy because that was the nature of the first sin in the angelic world – namely personal autonomy apart from God – thus one’s attempt to dethrone God’s reign over one’s self (c.f. Isaiah 14:12-16). However, the fruit was not the fruit of Sovereignty because the man and the woman did not become like God in Omniscience but rather lost their innocence by sinning against God’s command. God could very well be mocking the serpent’s temptation in Genesis 3:22b-d when the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil . . . .” The first man and woman were in a state of innocence and they lost their innocence when Adam sinned. Man could only obtain the knowledge of good and evil from the tree through experience, not Omniscience. Only God is Omniscient and has knowledge of good and evil but never evil through committing it because God is Self-Existently perpetually morally perfect – God cannot sin. God does not sin. God has never sinned. God will never sin. Therefore, the commandment prohibition from God for the man not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has three points:

  1. It is a command from God (therefore a violation of God’s command is sin cf. 1 John 3:4).
  2. Because the command is a prohibition it represents the Creator’s predetermined will for man to respect the limitations God had set for man toward evil (this maintains that God has decreed all things to come to pass, even that it was His permissive will to allow evil to enter into the creation – yet God is not responsible for sin. Instead, sin is the violation of God’s commandment. The responsibility for sin is with the creature who disobeyed not with the Creator who set the restriction toward evil).
  3. The warning and promise of death for disobedience (“for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die”). This represented God’s will to maintain His holiness and wrath – anger, wrought harmoniously with all of His attributes, to prescribe judgment to restrain evil and ultimately destroy evil – even the death of death through the death of Christ and Christ’s subsequent resurrection from the dead to provide deliverance to some from God’s judgment on evil.

To end, the parameters established by the Creator for man to respect – that is, the commandment not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, showed God’s Sovereign will and man’s culpability to be held morally and legally responsible for transgressing the commandment (cf. Romans 5:12-14). When Adam sinned, the paradise and innocence was lost; everything changed. Mankind’s current post-fall condition did not exist when Adam was originally created.

The late five point Calvinistic systematician Louis Berkhof denied that God is the author of sin when he wrote the following,

God’s eternal decree certainly rendered the entrance of sin into the world certain, but this may not be interpreted so as to make God the cause of sin in the sense of being its responsible author . . . . In light of all of this it would be blasphemous to speak of God as the author of sin. And for that reason all those deterministic views which represent sin as a necessity inherent in the very nature of things should be rejected. They by implication make God the author of sin, and are contrary, not only to Scripture, but also to the voice of conscience, which testifies to the responsibility of man.[7]

Next, the argument that suggests that God “needed, then, something on which to be wrathful. He needed to have sinful creatures (p. 57)” denies God as necessary being – that is, the only being in which all other beings depend on Him for their existence. The reason why this denies God as necessary Being is because it makes God dependent on man to make decisions concerning His eternal decree. Therefore, to suggest that God “needed, then, something on which to be wrathful. He needed to have sinful creatures (p. 57)” is anthropocentric, that is theology that places man at the center.

High five point infralapsarian Calvinism argues that God is not the author of sin. Instead, High five point infralapsarian Calvinism argues that it was according to the standard of God’s will to allow sin to enter into the creation, thus maintaining that God is sovereign over sin and sin could not have occurred unless God decreed it so – yet He is not its culpable Creator. In other words, sin could not have entered into the creation unless God allowed sin to enter into the creation, yet God is innocent and judges fallen angelic beings and fallen man responsible. Sin is not a pre-existent eternal thing. Sin is not material. On the other hand, sin is an unprincipled, dishonorable, immoral, corrupt decision that resolves itself volitionally (i.e. the act of the will) resulting in the exercise of the will evidenced by a visible action. The Apostle John defined sin as lawlessness when he wrote the following through inspiration by God the Holy Spirit– “everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).

If God did not create sin, then where did sin come from? The Word of God teaches that sin originated in the angelic realm and then with man. The derivation of sin (i.e. origin of sin) must be qualified by a distinction between two classifications in the creative order, namely the angelic order and the order of mankind. The Word of God explains how sin originated in both of these two orders and the distinction between the subsequent consequences for each. Concerning the former order the Word of God offers insight to the origin of sin in the angelic realm. Isa 14:12-15 describes the first sin in the Angelic realm when the text reads,

How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, To the recesses of the pit.

In the overall context of Isa 14, it referred to a human king of Babylon upon whom God pronounced judgment. Within the taunt against Babylon, God moved from the physical ruler of Babylon to the spiritual ruler of Babylon who was influencing the human ruler. Likewise, in Ezekiel God pronounced judgment on the physical king of Tyre (Ezek 28:1-10) as well as the spiritual ruler who was influencing the human king of Tyre (Ezek 28:12-19). Some might argue that because of the prophetic literary genre of Isaiah and Ezekiel that the language of “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning” (Isa 14:12a-b) and “You were in Eden, the garden of God . . . You were the anointed cherub who covers” (Ezekiel 28:13 a-b; 14a) was figurative. However, in Gen 3:14-15 God pronounced judgment on the physical serpent first (v. 14) and then on the spiritual serpent who influenced the physical serpent (v. 15). All three of these examples are oracles of judgment delivered from God on an unrighteous fallen angelic being.

The unrighteous fallen angelic being judged in Gen 3:15; Isa 14:12-15; and Ezek 28:12-19 is identified as Satan the devil. Revelation 12 records the history of the dragon in which Satan is identified as follows; “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” The description of Satan as a serpent is a direct reference to Gen 3:15. The angels who fell with the devil fell because they joined with him in his rebellion. Ezekiel 28:16 explains the devil’s ability of persuasion when the text explains that, “By the abundance of your trade You were internally filled with violence, And you sinned; Therefore I have cast you as profane From the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the stones of fire.” This referred to the origin of sin, namely that the cherub who was originally blameless (cf. Ezekiel 28:15) wanted to make himself like the Most High (Isa 14:14b). Morally, he turned from righteousness to unrighteousness by volition of his will (cf. Ezekiel 28:15). Satan wanted to dethrone God and when he attempted to do so he led one third of the angels to fall (cf. Rev 12:4). Louis Berkhof offered the biblical answer to the origin of sin when he wrote the following;

Sin originated in the angelic world. The Bible teaches us that in the attempt to trace the origin of sin, we must even go back of the fall of man as described in Gen 3, and fix the attention on something that happened in the angelic world. God created a host of angels, and they were all good as they came forth from the hand of their Maker, Gen 1:31. But a fall occurred in the angelic world, in which legions of angels fell away from God. The exact time of this fall is not designated, but in John 8:44 Jesus speaks of the devil as a murderer from the beginning (kat’ arches), and John says in 1 John 3:8, that he sins from the beginning.[8]

It takes childlike faith to accept a biblical Theodicy that vindicates God. The Christian believes with a childlike faith that God is not the author of sin but rather understanding that it is Satan that is the author of sin. Childlike faith is the prerequisite to having a correct understanding of Theodicy because Jesus said the following in Luke 10:18-21 when the text reads,

And He said to them, ‘I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.  Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.’ At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, ‘I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.’

Childlike faith, not human wisdom, is the prerequisite for understanding that the origin of sin began in the angelic world because in the context of explaining the fall of Satan, Jesus gave praise to God the Father for revealing this unseen spiritual history and reality to unlearned grown adults. The people identified by Jesus as infants in Lk 10:21 are adults who have not been educated by man-made systems of higher education, those systems that seek to rationally give an answer to the problem of moral evil but fail to understand it because God has hidden it from them.

The origin of sin in the human race is recorded in Gen 3. The spiritual serpent used the physical serpent to tempt Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that God had commanded Adam not to eat from (cf. Gen 3:1-7). The serpent succeeded in deceiving the woman (2 Cor 11:3; 1 Tim 2:14). She ate the fruit, gave it to her husband with her, he ate and that was the first sin. The first Adam was our representative (Vicar-federal headship) in the Garden and because of Adam’s sin, God judged the entire human race by imputing Adam’s sin to the entire scope of humanity. To impute means to charge or credit to one’s account.[9] Imputing sin is not the same as being the author of sin. Original sin was credited to every single person’s account who has ever lived on this earth except the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the One who was to come, namely the Seed of the woman (Gen 3:15), born of a virgin and conceived by the God the Holy Spirit, and the Second Adam (Rom 5:15c-e, 16c, 17c-d, 18b, 19b, 20c, 21c).   Also, Adam was the seminal head of the entire scope of humanity. This means that Adam, being the first man, contained the entire human race in his loins or semen. Therefore, sin is very much a part of man’s status and nature (Gen 3; 6:5; 1 Kgs 8:46; 2 Chron 6:36; Ps 51:5; 58:3; Prov 20:9; Ecc 7:20; Jer 17:9; Jn 2:25; Rom 3:9-12; 23; 5:12-15b, 16a-b, 17a-b, 18a, 19a; Eph 2:1).

Augustine of Hippo argued against a false model of Theodicy known as Dualism. Dualism teaches that “good and evil are coeternal opposites, either originating in a common first principle, or eternally existing as opposite principles.”[10] Concerning the nature of God, Augustine refuted the Manichaeans when we wrote, “For sins, which do not preserve but vitiate nature are not from Him; which sins, Holy Scripture in many ways testifies, are from the will of those sinning.”[11] R.C. Sproul explained Augustine’s answer to the problem of evil when he wrote,

To avoid the ontological necessity of evil, Augustine turned to free will. God created man with a free will, in which he also enjoyed perfect liberty. Man had the faculty of choosing what he wanted. He had the ability to sin and the ability not to sin. He freely chose to sin out of his concupiscence (an inclination that leans to sin but is not sin). As a result of the first sin, man lost his liberty but not his free will. He was plunged, as a divine punishment, into a corrupt state known as original sin, losing the ability to incline himself to the things of God…Fallen man is in bondage to sin. He still has the faculty of choosing, a will free from coercion, but he now is free only to sin, because his desires are inclined only toward sin and away from God. Now, ‘the ability not to sin,’ is lost and in its place is ‘the inability not to sin.’[12]

There must be a distinction between the will of man pre-fall and post-fall. Augustine is absolutely right concerning this matter. Pre-fall man’s will was in perfect harmony with the will of God because man freely chose to live according to the only will, namely God’s will. Post-fall man’s will is in bondage to sin and freely choses sin. James Montgomery Boice explained the problem of sin as it relates to the will in fallen creatures when he wrote,

Before Satan’s fall there was only one will. It was God’s will; it was perfect. After Satan’s rebellion there were two wills—Satan’s and God’s—but, of course, only one of the two was perfect—God’s. When Adam and Eve were created there was an immediate problem as to which of the two they would follow. Satan thought he would get Adam and Eve to follow him. Although he got them to rebel against God, he did not succeed in getting them to follow his will. So, there now were four wills, each going its own way and only one of them (God’s will) remaining perfect…. Today there are billions of wills, which explains the constant conflicts in the human race. But it is still the case that only one, the will of God Almighty, is perfect and totally desirable.[13]

God is Sovereign over evil and uses it to accomplish His purposes. Concerning the way things are Post-fall, it was God who had decreed calamity (cf. Isa 45:7). However, there is a distinction between moral evil and what man calls physical evil (e.g. wars, famines, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.) Post-fall, calamity is the consequence for moral evil. Nevertheless, God uses evil to accomplish His purposes for good as is the case in Gen 50:20 where Joseph told his brothers who wickedly sold him into slavery the following; “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive”.

God will judge sin to be sure and He cannot judge sin righteously if He is the author of sin because He said in Proverbs 17:15, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD”. So, there is a great dilemma, namely this – how can wicked man be saved from the wrath of God? The answer to that question and the solution to the problem of evil is found at the cross of Christ. The crucifixion of Christ was the most heinous act of injustice in the history of the world. Concerning Jesus Christ, the only one who lived an innocent sinless life, Peter said to the Jews in Acts “you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23c). Yet the first part of the same verse read, “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23a-b). God sent His Son Jesus Christ to the Cross but He holds the lawless men responsible for His murder. In so doing, God maintained and demonstrated His righteousness (Romans 3:25) and maintained and demonstrated His love (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10) when Jesus satisfied God’s wrath toward sin in vicarious penal-substitution for everyone who would believe in Christ for eternal life (i.e. the elect). It is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone not works that man is saved from the wrath of God toward sin. God commands men to turn away from sin (Prov 3:7) but in no way is God the author of sin.

The Decree of God to Predestine/Elect Some Fallen Humans to Salvation and Eternal Life and Predestine Others to Damnation and Everlasting Punishment in Hell

The Word of God teaches that God has predestined and prepared some from humanity for eternal life (cf. Romans 9:23; Ephesians 1:5; 11). Also, the Word of God teaches that those who have not been predestined and prepared for eternal life have been prepared for eternal judgment and destruction (cf. Proverbs 16:4; Ephesians 9:22). Man will remain forever in eternity in one of two places. Consequently, each individual person will answer to their Creator when their time has finished on Earth when they die. After that, individual persons will spend eternity in either Hell or Heaven. To this effect, Holy God has written His Law on every man’s heart (Romans 2:15). As the Creator and Holy God, He has appointed man once to die and then to enter into eternity in which He will exercise His Divine right as final Judge, perfectly consistent with His divine eternal decree to sentence each individual person to spend eternity in Heaven or eternity in Hell.

There have been three major views related to the order of the eternal decree of God – namely, supralapsarianism (e.g. double predestination and limited atonement), infralapsarianism (e.g. double predestination and limited atonement) and Amyraldism (single predestination and unlimited atonement). This discussion has been formally referred to as the Order of the Divine Decrees Debate. This debate is important for many reasons. First, the correct position is drawn from the Scriptures and therefore the correct position is a Christian doctrine. Paul argued by inspiration of God the Holy Spirit that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Likewise, sound doctrine is inseparably constrained to sound living because the standard of sound teaching is fixed to the standard of godliness (cf. 1 Timothy 6:3). Second, the Christian should pursue thinking God’s thoughts after Him because the Christian has the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Also, thinking God’s thoughts after Him is for the mature and evidences that one is following the Apostle Paul’s instruction in Philippians 4:8 – because, God’s thoughts are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise. Third, God is Self-Existent and therefore you cannot compartmentalize Him by isolating His attributes as if there was a dichotomy in God between His attributes or between His Word and His Character. To this effect, you cannot compartmentalize His doctrine either through the suggestive theory that a doctrinal triage exists with primary, secondary and tertiary doctrines of importance.

The three main positions concerning the order of the Divine Decree are listed as follows:

Three Main Views:[14]

Supra-lapsarian Double Predestination/Limited Atonement

Infra-lapsarian Double Predestination/Limited Atonement

Amyraldism – Single Predestination/Unlimited Atonement

(1) The decree of God to predestine/elect some creatures to salvation and eternal life and some other creatures to damnation and everlasting punishment in hell.

(2) The decree of God to create the world and humanity in it.

(3) The decree of God to permit the Fall of humanity

(4) The decree of God to provide salvation through Christ’s atonement (limited) for the redemption of the elect.

(5) The decree of God to send God the Holy Spirit to apply salvation (the righteousness of Christ) to the elect.

(1) The decree of God to create the world and humanity in it.

(2) The decree of God to permit the Fall of humanity.

(3) The decree of God to predestine/elect some fallen humans to salvation and eternal life and predestine others to damnation and everlasting punishment in hell.

(4) The decree of God to provide salvation through Christ’s atonement (limited) for the redemption of the elect.

(5) The decree of God to send God the Holy Spirit to apply salvation (the righteousness of Christ) to the elect and leave the reprobate to their deserved fate.

(1) The decree of God to create the world and humanity in it.

(2) The decree of God to permit the Fall of humanity.

(3) Decree to provide salvation for the entire scope of humanity through Christ’s atonement (unlimited/hypothetical universalism).

(4) The decree to elect some to believe and to leave in just condemnation those who do not believe.

(5) Decree to apply salvation to those who believe.

The term lapsarian means the fall of humanity. Lapsus is the latin term for fall. Supra-lapsarianism means before lapse “fall.” Infra-lapsarianism means after lapse “fall.” Sub-lapsarianism means under lapse “fall.” Amyraldianism is absolutely incorrect because it teaches a hypothetical universalism. All three of these positions refer to God’s eternal decree, that is, all three of these positions argue that their scheme with the exact understanding of predetermineas defined above – namely, God’s willful decree from eternity before it occurred in time as understood at the foundation of the world. But only one position can be correct. There have been some that have dismissed, for example, infralapsarianism because they misunderstand that infralapsarianism teaches an eternal decree from eternity not an actual chronological sequence of events in time. Instead, infralapsarianism teaches that God decreed these things from eternity and then laid them out in time because they were predetermined by God to come to pass. A helpful analogy (although not completely analogous) is like the blueprints of a building. First, the plan is drawn out and then ordered to be constructed. Then the actual construction occurs because it has been determined. The events that were determined to occur are not from the time form but occur in time because they have been predetermined from eternity. The succession of the events of the Divine Decree happen one after another in time, yet by one single act of God all these events have been ordained from eternity. Therefore, these events in the Divine Decree are not in the mind of the Infinite God as they are in the mind of finite man. Man looks at eternity from the perspective of time, whereas God decreed time from eternity.

It is very difficult to understand or suggest a chronological sequence of events from eternity because eternity is not a measurement of time – eternity is a fixed state. Therefore, the lapsarian debate concerns a logical order of decrees, not a chronological order, and how that is connected to the fall of man (cf. Gen 3), the reprobation of man, the election of some from mankind, and the redemption of the elect from mankind (all of these events predestined before the foundation of the world). To use the metaphor of morphism, man is a finite creature under the strain and authority of time. One way the metaphor called morphism can be used is anthropomorphism – that is, attributing human qualities to someone or something. One form of anthropomorphism is from John 10 “no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” God the Father does not have human hands because He is Spirit – what the verse means is that God is Omnipotent (All powerful) and if He has the elect no one is powerful enough to take away their salvation because they cannot lose their salvation. Terminology like “before the foundation of the world” is like kairomorphism. (This writer did not merely “make up” this word to make an argument but discovered and put together two already existing Greek words to describe an already existing concept concerning its phenomenology). Kairos καιρός is the Greek word for “appointed time; opportune moment; the supreme moment”. (This writer borrowed the Greek word καιρός to demonstrate how eternity impacts events that occur in time). For finite creatures to understand succession of moments in eternity, (eternity is not a measurement of time it is a fixed state), one can use “before the foundation of the world” as a way for finite creatures to understand that which was decreed “before” time existed. The word “before” from our perspective is loaded with connotations of time, but “before” from the perspective of eternity does not have the meaning of time. The problem arises when one falls into a Chronocentric (time-centered) way of thinking – that is, thinking about eternity as if eternity is not fixed but rather a measurement of time. Another Greek word for time χρόνος (chronos) was used for the English word chronology. Supralapsarianism does not work because it is linear not circular. To demonstrate that supralapsarianism is linear, by way of example, in order for one to have thought of the first decree, that is, “the decree of God to predestine/elect some creatures to salvation and eternal life and predestine other creatures to damnation and everlasting punishment in hell” one would already had to have thought to plan to create these individuals. On the other hand, if the decree is eternal it would make more sense to suggest a logical order instead of a chronological order.

The decree of God makes more sense with infralapsarianism because it is more consistent with how the Word of God is laid out – it begins with God and ends with God. Not all circular reasoning is illogical. All circular reasoning is illogical to the person who begins with a Chronocentric (time-centered) way of thinking. As finite creatures made in the Image of our Creator we do know eternity because it is written on our hearts – “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven . . . He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11). Unfortunately, man suppresses the truth about the Existence of God and therefore the truth concerning eternity, even though it is written on their hearts and evident within them – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood though what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20). It is inconsistent with the nature of the Holy God of Justice in harmony with all of His attributes for Him to recognize as sinners men destined for eternal punishment in Hell and then actively decree the fall to take place to apply sin to carry out His plan of reprobation and also apply sin to the elect to carry out His plan of salvation for the elect. God’s Sovereignty is not abstract or arbitrary. Instead, in Ephesians 1:11, the Apostle Paul wrote through the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit that the standard of predestination is His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will – therefore, God’s eternal decree is not arbitrary (i.e. based on random choice or unexplained sudden desire) but instead it is the standard of the purpose of God who is working all things according to His counsel. God’s plan is not arbitrary but thoughtfully and eternally planned.

Double Predestination – Romans 9:22-23

The grammar in Romans 9:22-23 makes a case for double predestination and limited atonement, but does it make a case for supralapsarianism or infralapsarianism double predestination? Romans 9:22-23 teaches double predestination because there are two fixed fates for two types of people – that is, the non-elect are destined for reprobation and will suffer Divine wrath for eternity and the elect are destined for justification and as such are saved from the wrath of God. Justification is the act in which God declares His righteousness to the account of the believing sinner. Because of the grammar in Romans 9:22-23 the passage does not teach supralapsarianism. For example, the Apostle Paul maintained God’s Sovereignty over salvation and reprobation when he wrote, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires” (Romans 9:18) – And when Paul explained the fairness of the situation he wrote,

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? (Romans 9:19-21)

Then Paul asked the following question: “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” (Romans 9:22). Next, Paul wrote, “And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.” (Romans 9:23). The two categories of people namely “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” and “vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory” have different words in Greek used for “prepared.” For instance, the Greek word “prepared” from “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” out of verse 22 is κατηρτισμένα, a perfect participle passive accusative neuter plural from the verb καταρτίζω (I fit together, prepare). Because the voice of this participle is passive the subject receives the action. If the voice was active the subject performs the action. Paul used a completely different Greek word and form (i.e. a verb and not a participle) for “prepared” in verse 23 for “vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory” – namely, προητοίμασεν from the Greek verb προετοιμάζω (I prepare beforehand, predestine). The word used for “He prepared beforehand” from verse 23 is not a participle like the word “prepared” (κατηρτισμένα) from verse 22. Instead, the word used for “He prepared beforehand” from verse 23 is a verb. What is more, it is in a different tense (i.e. Aorist) and is in a completely different voice – namely, active voice. God is clearly the subject that peforms the action to the object of verse 23 because the “vessels” of verse 23 are in the accusative case  – the accusative case is the case that designates the direct object in Greek and functions to show the direction or extent or end of an action. The direct object is shown in verse 23 to be governed by the active verb “He prepared beforehand” where God is the subject, the verb is active, showing the subject performing the action on the direct object – namely, “vessels of mercy . . . for glory.” Paul maintains in Romans 9:22-23 the wrath of God, though he showed a distinction in the Greek tenses that cannot be ignored. God actively prepared vessels for glory (i.e. the elect). On the other hand, vessels are prepared for destruction, where the voice is passive or middle because these vessels are storing up wrath for themselves – “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). Paul wrote, “you are treasuring up to yourself wrath” (literally), and there “in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” The non-elect are destined for reprobation in God’s court and the sentence of the judgment of God but they prepared this themselves and God is not responsible for their sin. Instead, man is responsible for preparing himself, treasuring up wrath for himself (cf. Romans 2:5), and consequently are objects of the wrath of Almighty God. Although the Gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ goes forth and God commands all men everywhere to repent “because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31), those who are reprobate refuse to repent. Man must be born again to have the ability to repent, yet everyone is responsible to repent of their sins and turn to God. The word reprobate in the King James Version is from Romans 1:28 which reads, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper” (for ἀδόκιμος “fail to pass the test; unapproved” cf. 1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Corinthians 13:5, 6, 7; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:16; Hebrews 6:8).  The word reprobate is an adjective and was used to describe the mind of a person dead in their sin – that is, total depravity. In Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul wrote that everyone is in a state of total inability (depravity) concerning their minds “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” – and Paul wrote that to describe who believers once were before conversion just as the rest of mankind. From the entire lump God only extended His grace to some (these are known as the elect); the rest He left in their condition and did not extend either the grace of unconditional election or the propitiatory vicarious penal-substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ who is “. . . the Lamb having been slain from the founding of the world” (cf. Revelation 13:8).

Divine Election – Ephesians 1:4-6, 11

            In Ephesians 1:3-14 the Apostle Paul did not contrast reprobation and election like he did in Romans 9:22-23. Instead, in Ephesians 1:3-14 Paul wrote of the doctrine of Divine Election, not Divine Reprobation. Nevertheless, the Eternal Decree of God is not arbitrary (i.e. random; chance; uniformed; illogical; capricious). God never works in an arbitrary manner concerning choice. Instead, Ephesians 1:5 explained the standard of God’s predestination of some to election when the text reads, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” The Greek preposition κατὰ (according to) here is used with the accusative case and it means standard. Therefore, the “good pleasure” or “kind intention” of God’s will is the standard that He predestined some for divine adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself. The kind intention of His will is a genitive of source – that means, the kind intention comes from His will.  Likewise, Ephesians 1:11 explained the standard of God’s predestination of some to election when the text reads, “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” Again, the Greek preposition κατὰ (according to) was used here with the accusative case to show the standard of predestination – that is, “His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” God’s standard is His purpose and therefore is not arbitrary. Moreover, God’s “the counsel of His will” means that God’s will is not influenced by anything or anyone outside Himself. There is no outside force of “chance” dictating God’s decree. There is no necessary being other than God – therefore, God does not rely on any creature for information to make a decision. Predestination is the cause of election. Also, predestination is inseparably constrained to election as well as the sound doctrine of the atonement (cf. Ephesians 1:7 emphasis added).  And God willed to glorify Himself (God’s Glory is the summation of all His attributes) to demonstrate His grace and mercy by extending His grace and mercy on undeserving persons – these are known as the elect. The righteous, holy demands of His justice and wrath (anger) toward sin were propitiated by the cross work of Christ. Therefore, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross maintained and demonstrated God’s holiness, justice, love, grace, mercy, etc. For those whom He elected He will accomplish His purpose for them  – that is, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him . . .” (Ephesians 1:4). Election is an extension of grace and as such election is not a legal term. Election is destined to result in justification. Justification is a legal court room reality. Therefore, those who are elect will be justified (cf. Romans 8:33-34 emphasis added; 29-30).

Conclusion

            In conclusion, discussion on the divine decrees (e.g. infralapsarianism vs supralapsarianism) is absolutely a primary issue because the doctrines of Predestination, Divine Election, Theodicy, the Fall of humanity, the Atonement, etc. are all interconnected with the discussion. The person who tries to doctrinally triage these doctrines to tertiary levels of importance is compartmentalizing God’s Word and that is because they have compartmentalized God and His attributes. It is extremely important for the Christian to not compartmentalize God. Maintaining the chief attribute that defines who God is – that is, His Self-Existence, is not compartmentalizing God but instead it maintains that because God is Self-Existent all of His attributes work at maximum capacity forever. This also maintains God’s glory as the summation of all His attributes. This also maintains the unity of God – that is, all of God’s attributes are interconnected, integrated, and interrelated yet distinct without any dichotomy between any of the attributes of God. Concerning the accurate position on the divine decree, infralapsarianism is more compatible with the Word of God concerning the order of the Divine Decree from Eternity because (1) infralapsarianism is more compatible with how the Word of God is laid out; and (2) infralapsarianism maintains double predestination and limited atonement without suggesting that God is the primary source or culpable author of sin. God is completely Sovereign and He eternally decreed the destinies of every single person who has ever lived, yet He is not responsible for sin. What is more, God did not create sin for the purpose to decree sin to enter into His very good creation for the purpose to apply sin to persons so He could judge them. Instead, the non-elect are destined for reprobation and are responsible for their own sin and are treasuring up wrath for themselves in the day of wrath, because Paul wrote, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” Non-election is not a court room term. Reprobation is a court room term, and as such, a person’s legal status before God. The non-elect did not receive an extension of grace; therefore when the non-elect go before God at the great white throne judgment they will be judged according to their deeds (cf. Revelation 20:12), their names will not be found in the book of life and they will be thrown into the lake of fire (cf. Revelation 20:11-15). Legally reprobate, in the end the non-elect will be found to have never repented unto salvation and never to have believed the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The non-elect will be found to have refused God’s command to repent (this does not mean Arminian foreknowledge where God sees into the future who would and who would not repent and believe and based on that condition God then electing some and passing over others). The non-elect ultimately will have refused to repent even though “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). The Lord Jesus Christ is the Man of righteousness whom God has appointed. He is the God-Man, Second Person of the Triune God, two natures perfectly united in one Person; Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, and “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:23-24). God predetermined the Lord Jesus Christ to die on the cross in substitution for everyone who would ever trust in Christ to be saved from the wrath of God. And, God holds the godless men responsible who put Him to death. The elect are the recipients of redemption found in Christ Jesus, of the active obedience of His life, His cross work as the propitiation for their sins, and His resurrection from the dead for their justification.

E. V. Powers

For an extensive argument on the extent of the atonement (i.e. the decree of God to provide salvation through Christ’s atonement (limited) for the redemption of the elect) click on the following links from TBCRI:

https://bcri.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/did-christ-die-for-everyone-or-only-for-the-elect-an-essay-on-the-extent-of-the-atonement-by-eric-powers/

and https://bcri.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/the-extent-of-the-atonement-a-case-for-particular-redemption-in-the-johannine-literary-corpus/

 

[1] Philip Babcock Gove, “Time,” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (Springfield: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1971), 2394.

[2] R.C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1943), 670-71.

[3] Sinclair B. Ferguson and David F. Wright, New Dictionary of Theology, The Master Reference Collection (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 679.

[4] Bruce M. Metzger, Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 14.

[5] William Arndt and F Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: A Translation and Adaptation of the Fourth Revised and Augmented Edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch Zu Den Schriften Des Neuen Testaments Und der Übrigen Urchristlichen Literatur, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 195.

[6] James Montgomery Boice, Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, paperback ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006, 1998),  162.

[7] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1946), 220.

[8] Ibid., Berkhof, 221.

[9] Paul used imputation positively to explain that the righteousness of Christ has been credited to the believer’s account (Romans 4:22-25).

[10] James Mook, TH 605 Theology I; Lesson 35 (Unpublished course notes: The Master’s Seminary, 2014), 370.

[11] A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church; First Series. Vol. IV (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1980-1983), 357.

[12] R C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts That Shaped Our World (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009), 62-63.

[13] James Montgomery Boice, Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, paperback ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006, 1998), 154.

[14] Modified chart based on lists from, Michael J. Vlach, THEOLOGY III: MAN, SIN, AND SALVATION; APPENDIX 1 – The Order of the Divine Decrees Debate (Unpublished course notes: The Master’s Seminary, 2015), 261-5.

 

Glorification

The sound doctrine of glorification completes the ‘Ordo Salutis’ as it relates to the doctrine of salvation. It is the believers’ blessed hope (Titus 2:13; Romans 5:5). Glorification is a consummative reality, as believers are, at their death or return of Christ, outfitted with glorified bodies to enjoy eternal, unmitigated, and unbroken fellowship with God forever (1 Cor. 15:42-44). The Westminster Catechism expresses this reality as the ‘chief end of man’. Redeemed sinners, glorified in Christ, are brought to full reconciliation, by the work of the Holy Spirit, through grace alone, by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Therefore, glorification is a Trinitarian work of God. Since its inception points to the eternal decree, it cannot be thwarted by human, creative, demonic, or angelic scheme. It is impossible for God to lie (Titus 2:1; Hebrews 6:18), therefore it is a sealed work, and an unbreakable promise. Paul called this reality, “a hope that will not make us ashamed” (Romans 5:5).

Although it is conceptually observed by Christians as a process, and encompasses time and space, it is a monergistic work of God that has been completed before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) and therefore transcends time and space. Glorification is the eternal decree of God whereby He elects unto Himself sinners and reconciles them to Himself causing them to be pure, blameless, holy and without sin. It is to such persons that He grants imputed righteousness based upon the merits of Jesus Christ, and not of any human merit whatsoever. These merits include His perfect, sinless life, and His sacrificial death on the cross by substitutionary atonement whereby He made propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2) (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:7) and His resurrection from the dead for our justification (Romans 4:24-25). Glorification is the work whereby God the Father, by His Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit, brings the believer from justification, through sanctification, and at His coming or the death of the Christian, the believer is conformed to the perfect image of Jesus Christ, from faith to faith (2 Cor. 3:18; Romans 1:17). Reconciliation is the proper notion because every person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), however not every person will be reconciled to God (Matthew 7:13-14; Revelation 22:15). We do not become ‘Christ’, as this is false teaching of the cults and the humanists. Instead, we are made ‘like’ Him in perfecting holiness. Therefore, one distinction between God and man, is that Christ is not ‘made like’ God, He is God (John 8:58). He never sinned, and thus never possessed the intrinsic need to be sanctified (cleansed from sin) or justified, because He is the justifier and One with God the Father.

Glorification

Glorification is an eternal reality. It is called such because God is eternal and reigns in righteousness from everlasting (eternity) to everlasting (eternity) (Psalm 90:2). Glorification, like all other biblical doctrine, is wed to God’s perfections. In other words, glorification tells us who God is in the scope of time from our perspective and throughout eternity. God is not bound by time. He created time. What is revealed about this heavenly doctrine is given to us through Jesus Christ in Scripture. It was Jesus who explained the Father to us (John 1:18). John the apostle used the term εξηγασατο from the root word ‘εξηγση’ (exegesi’) from which we derive our word ‘exegesis’. The term literally means ‘to lead out’. This means that Jesus did not read meaning into the person or work of God. He was not a mere teacher, nor a philosopher who attempted to explain things about God to His contemporaries. Jesus, perfectly, explained or demonstrated the meaning of the Father. If one saw Christ, they saw the Father (John 14:7-9). Contrast with the idea of eisegesis whereby one reads meaning into an event or situation, typically from his own opinion, preference or analysis. Eisegesis carries the connotation of bias and does not consider the original intention of the author. However, exegesis considers the intention of the author. It draws out the mind of the source and conveys authorial intent. In this case, because Jesus Christ is God, He alone can perfectly convey the mind of God the Father, and the intentions of the Holy Spirit. How much more must we consider that the doctrine of glorification is best explained by the One who is God the Son. This is important to understand because Scripture tells us that we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). God has written eternity on the heart of every human being (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The creation also groans for the consummative glory of the Lord’s coming (Romans 8:22). The Revelation of Jesus Christ in the Holy Scripture revealed the last things to take place, as Jesus Christ serves as the culmination of history.

The doctrine of glorification also supposes the eradication of sin, destruction of the earth, judgment and eternal punishment of the wicked, as well as the glorious second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Glorification is a reminder that the Christian is not ‘home’ as a citizen in this fading, wicked, and evil world system (Hebrews 13:14). Instead the believer is home inasmuch as He is reconciled to God and reigning with Him in His kingdom to come. It is God’s pleasure to give the kingdom to His Christ and His joint-heirs (Luke 12:32).

Why is glorification necessary? It is not necessary in the sense that God needs anything from His creation. He is self-sustaining, self-existent, and glorious apart from men (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11). Since He is Spirit and eternal, the ‘I Am’ (Exodus 3:14; John 8:58), the necessity of glorification does not mean creatures are a primary, secondary or tertiary cause of His glory. God is glorified in Christ. His glory transcends man, is all-consuming, and is seen in the face of Jesus Christ because Christ is the exact representation of His nature (Hebrews 1:1-4). The Lord offered a glimpse of His eternal glory to a few, choice disciples at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36).

Glorification is necessary for the elect because every person born is alienated from God and culpable for sin against God, because of Adam’s sin. Every sin committed, by thought or deed, demands full punishment. Eternal punishment is necessary because the One offended is eternal, and equally as judge, He must preside over the sentence rendered against unbelieving sinners for all eternity. Therefore, man cannot enter the presence of God and gain His pleasure by personal merit or religious appearance. If anyone were to enter the presence of God based upon anything apart from the way of salvation through Christ alone, then they would be immediately judged for entering the kings court as a damned rebel. Sin is an offense or transgression against the infinitely Holy God and demands punishment. God in His mercy offered propitiation through Jesus Christ to the elect of God. Consequently, while His wrath demands justice, punishment and appeasement, He is also merciful. His mercy demands forgiveness, blessedness and eternal reconciliation with sinners. Justice and mercy is only met together in Jesus Christ. Glorification is the reality of eternal blessedness and fellowship.

A warning against heresies and false teaching is in order. Glorification does not mean that one must escape because matter (creation) is inherently evil and man is good. In fact, man is not inherently good, but wicked (Romans 3:3-10), while the creation was initially good- very good (Genesis 1:31), although cursed as a consequence for sin (Genesis 3:18). God is not reconciling good people to Himself, out of an evil material planet. He is reconciling wicked people, whom He transforms by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. God grants to those whom He draws to the Son, His righteousness and has imputed their sin to the account of His Son. The sinner is thereby imputed the righteousness of Jesus Christ, by infinite unmerited grace, as a free gift of God. This exchange is the reason by which God can be both merciful and just without compromising His holiness.

There are also those who suggest that the full glory of God will not be enjoyed by the biblical Christians in heaven. This is subtle false teaching, because the Scriptures teach that we will be like Him and we will know Him as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2). While we are being conformed to His image, on this earth, we still bear in us vestiges of sin that will be eradicated in glory. As a result, we will enjoy Him without bearing our sin nature. We will be perfect in our worship, knowledge, and fellowship. Teaching that suggests otherwise is to be completely rejected and such teachers should be rebuked as short-sighted peddlers of temporal and fading glory.

There are also those who speak of glorification as it only relates to the temporal realm. In other words, glorification is seen as humanistic triumph and tranquility in the present world. In this world we will have trouble, and yet we possess a faith that overcomes the world, because Jesus Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33). Specifically, there are those among the neo-orthodox and unintended purveyors of this dangerous teaching that suggest God’s glory is captive to man’s experience with Christ. They proclaim the glories of God as if they may be mystically and intuitively conjured. This is sometimes taught by men and women of every denomination who suggest this view is often more practical for day-to-day living. However, this is unscriptural because glorification, as we have mentioned, begins with God, not men. Man’s reconciliation is an effect. The primary cause and motivation for glorification is that God the Father is presenting to His Son a redeemed, royal priesthood that will worship Him forever. Although redeemed sinners will experience this, their experience is not the chief objective. Although glorification will be unspeakably wondrous for believers, it is the glory which He has always had that will be on display. Therefore, this glory trascends our appropiation of it in the temporal sense. This must be said as such that God is glorified in vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy.

Although glorification reminds us that we ultimately triumph in Christ (Revelation 19:15), we inherit His blessed glory after we have suffered the reproaches for being a disciple of Christ in this world (Matthew 10:22; 1 Peter 2:21). There are those, like their Corinthian predecessors, who bypass genuine triumph in favor of  triumphalism. There are those among the heretics in Word-Faith, so-called moderate Charismaticism, continuationism, and more overt forms of New-Age practice that suggest we are presently living in the reality of consummated glorification. This is false teaching and satanic to its core. Although, for believers, the reality is that we are going to be glorified because of our salvation in Christ, this promise has not been manifested. No amount of escapism, positive thinking, positive speaking, compromise, or ecumenism will reduce the reality that this world, unbelieving sinners, and the satanic hosts are all perishing and awaiting destruction. Triumphalism suggests that we are living now as we will live in the age to come. Paul rebuked this thinking in Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:8) and Thessalonica (1 Thess. 4). In Thessalonica, believers had become lazy and passive in hope for eternal glory. In Corinth, false teachers pronounced that believers already possess the glory that they awaited, while Paul, the believers with him and fellow apostles suffered for Christ (1 Cor. 4:8). False teachers went as far as suggesting that Christ had already come and thus Christians could live in the glorified state (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Some today, who teach the false prosperity gospel, and those who may teach reformed teaching but aid and abet Charismatic false teachings, find their lineage among the same false teachers of the previous age in regards to an overealized doctrine of glorification ‘now’.

Glorification equally points us to the eschatological reality that Jesus Christ is coming again to establish His blessed kingdom, trample upon the wicked, destroy the heavens and the earth, and establish a new heaven and earth whereby He will rule and reign over the nations. The one who says eschatology is not important, does a disservice to the doctrine of glorification, because it is a doctrine concerned with the last things and also the eternal state. What is more, the last things deal with eternity. Humankind will spend their existence in eternity, far more than the temporal realm. There are those who teach that they may compromise and reduce their ministries to fraternizing with errorists, as well as professing Christians who live as such while sinning against the blessed One. There are those who, of religious or non-religious persuasion, persecute biblical Christians implicitly and explicitly while running their ministries and lives like glorified autonomous kingdoms. To them this blessed doctrine does not belong because they have received their earthly reward in full from men. The standard of God’s saving work is perfecting holiness. It is not sinfulness, wickedness, partiality, compromise, or reductionism.

There are lastly those who are among the legalists and antimonians who defame the glorious doctrine of glorification. The legalist lowers the bar of God’s holiness so as to attain glorification by futile actions. The antinomian suggests that remaining in sin so that grace may abound is the way of sanctification and ultimately leads to eternal bliss in heaven, where perfection awaits (Romans 6:1-2; Romans 7). The proper understanding is that God justifies the sinner, whereby He declares the sinner not guilty based upon the life, death and resurrection of Christ. He declares the sinner cleansed and righteous, based on imputed righteousness, whereby the meritorous sinless life is charged to the account of the believing sinner, and the believing sinner’s transgressions are charged to the account of Christ, while Christ remains a perfect, sinless, substitute for transgressors. The wrath of God is satisfied in this regard, for those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus’ Christ alone. Trusting that He alone is Lord and Savior, and renouncing their sin. The one who remains in sin, has no part in the glorious kingdom to come. Among them are idolaters, fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, the covetous, drunkards, revilers, swindlers. These do not include merely acts, but thoughts. One must be born again and regenerated so as to be glorified. Although glorification is an act of God, by the sheer power and wisdom of His counsel, believers are commanded to war with sin in their flesh so as to kill sin and inherit perfection. Perfection cannot be attained in this life, yet it is pursued because the believer is indwelled by the perfect Spirit of God to aid in the war against sin, and conformity to Jesus Christ. This blessed doctrine is the only hope that Christians possess. It is the culmination of all Christian duty and the true desire of everyone who names the name of Christ. However, glorification is only a reality for those who flee wickedness and confess Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Savior to the glory of God the Father.

-Doron Gladden

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