Immutability

First and foremost, my apologies for the days I have missed. It seems that whenever you commit to something like this, you always end up having a bad month! Even with the advance posts I wrote, I ended up a few days short. I have every intention of getting you all your theology, but I’m going to spread the last handful of posts out over November. I’ll get back to doing Food Waste Friday, too. Now, onward to the next concept!

31 days bigYahweh. I am who I am. The idea of aseity is born of the divine name, and so too is the idea of immutability. God is immutable, or not susceptible to change. Indeed, He never changes; neither does anything about Him ever change. James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

There’s more evidence for this particular idea, of course. It’s a big one. Check out Numbers 23:19, one of my favorite verses. Or Hebrews 6:17-18. 2 Timothy 2:13 is also good. Malachi 3:6 is God’s own opinion on the subject.

This is a really good one for just sitting and chewing on. God doesn’t change; His unchangeability changes us. When we say things like God will draw near to us, we’re not saying that God wasn’t there and is now. He was always there we’re just now noticing. The sun didn’t lift a finger when you opened your curtain, but now the light is flooding your living room, because of the nature of light. The music didn’t get louder when you took out your earplugs, it just started affecting you.

Malachi 3:6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

2 Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.

Hebrews 6:17-18 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Published in: on October 31, 2013 at 9:22 pm  Comments (1)  

Aseity

Some teachings, like total depravity, are hard because our human pride doesn’t like them. Some are hard because they are confusing to wrap our heads around: oh, the trinity.

Some are hard because language is poopy.

Wikipedia defines aseity as the property by which a being exists in and of itself, from itself, or exists as so-and-such of and from itself. Does your head hurt? My head hurts. Can we all agree to never read that again? Good.

Webster gets it a little better: the quality or state of being self-derived or self-originated; the absolute self-sufficiency, independence, and autonomy of God.

Still, could use clarification. Sometimes, when trying to define a word, it’s easier to look at its antonyms: created, developing, dependent. Aseity is the opposite of all those things.

Thus, saying that God is aseity or has aseity (it is a noun, by the way) means that God is unchanging. He is and has always been. He is independent of all things, including Himself. He relies on nothing. This is different from His status as creator and mediator of all things; He is uncreated and needs no mediator. He has no need; there isn’t anything that exists that isn’t already His.

Acts 17:24-25  The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Psalm 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world,    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Psalm 102:25-27 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain;    they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.

Job 41:11 Who has first given to me, that I should repay him?    Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.

Malachi 3:6  “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.“

John 8:28  Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Published in: on October 27, 2013 at 8:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Glorification

31 days bigWay back in the dark ages of two weeks ago (how is it still October? I do not know) we talked about justification. Then we talked about sanctification. There is a third (and final) process to Christian development: glorification.

What’s that? At the most basic level, it is exactly what I said – the final process of Christian development. It is the realization of our salvation, the achievement of perfection in Christ, the entry into Heavenly Glory. Most people believe that it’s only realized postmortem (except the raptured; thats a different day).

Beyond that, glorification is the receiving of our perfect sainthood: to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. We have some idea what this will look like. We are now perishable, weak, natural; we will be imperishable, powerful, spiritual. This is what we are working toward when we allow God into us to change us. We put off the old and put on the new to this end.

Your reading today is 1 Corinthians 15:12-58. There are other verses on the subject of glorification and our resurrection bodies, but this is the most comprehensive Scripture on the subject. Also it’s really long. And has a lot to say. Have fun!

Published in: on October 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm  Comments (1)  

Conditional Security

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If we assume that our behavior is the fruit of our being saved, and that we are saved in spite of ourselves, why is the Bible chock-full of warnings to the believer? We are called to confirm our election. We are told to walk in Him. We are told to abide, lest He not abide in us! If our election is sure, if we will persevere in spite of ourselves, why did God give us so many reminders to behave?

I mean, there was a lot of work in getting those Scriptures to you! First somebody had to write these things down. Then, the words had to stick around until Constantine (unlike the first letter to the Corinthians!). After that, they were confirmed as divinely inspired. Finally, they had to be translated at least once again to get to the book in your hands. That is a lot of effort. And yet God used a lot of the New Testament to specifically tell us how to keep our act together.

The Arminian belief regarding apostasy is called conditional preservation of the saints, or sometimes conditional security. Because I like being able to talk, we’re going with the one that’s less of a mouthful.

Conditional security means that our faith and salvation are sure, so long as we abide. So long as we walk with Him. Nothing can take our salvation from us; yet we may take it from ourselves. Arminians don’t think believers are engaged in a divine tug-of-war. They feel believers are trying to walk a difficult road, with easier choices on all sides.

2 Chronicles 15:1-2 The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.

Luke 8:11-13 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.”

John 15:5-6 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Romans 11:19-21 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

Published in: on October 25, 2013 at 9:17 pm  Comments (1)  

Perseverance of the Saints

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Apostasy. It’s kind of a scary word. The abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief. Someone previously thought to be in Christ, believed to be a saint, walking away. Falling away, step by tiny step. Saying goodbye.

Ugh. It’s not fun to think about. We know people do “commit apostasy,” sometimes. Sounds so formal. It hurts. But doesn’t the Bible promise us eternal life? So why was that person’s “eternal life” only 6 months? A year? a decade? What about “eternal”?

There are a ton – a TON – of ideas all mashed up in apostasy. There’s sanctification and the eternal nature of salvation, false Christians and still more predestination. We’ll chat about perseverance of the saints today, the P in the Calvinist TULIP. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the Armenian idea of Conditional Security

The Calvinist stance on apostasy, called “Perseverance of the Saints”  is based in the fact that whoever believes believes in Him has eternal life. He promises that they will not perish, and cannot be snatched away. Indeed, what should separate us from the love of Christ?

So, Calvinists argue, those who are saved, are saved. If you are a member of the elect, you will show fruit. The saved are created for good works. The elect are justified and sanctified, and it will show.

If, according to the Calvinists, someone walks away from the church, they were always destined to do so. They were not elect, they were merely in church – like the Pharisees. After all, not everyone who claims to call upon the Lord will enter heaven. If you are a member of the elect, Calvinists posit, you will walk as such for most of your life.

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

John 3:14-16 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Matthew 19:29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold[a] and will inherit eternal life

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John 5:24  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Matthew 7:18-20 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

John 10:27-29 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

Ephesians 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Published in: on October 25, 2013 at 9:33 am  Comments (1)  

Prevenient Grace

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Last but not least, prevenient grace! It is everything irresistible grace isn’t. Done.

No, I’m not leaving you like that.

Prevenient grace is like common grace++. It is available to all people, regardless of saved status, but it is (resistibly) salvific. Wait, what? Let’s back up. Prevenient means preceding in time or order. Thus, prevenient grace is the grace that is available to all people before they are saved that allows them to accept Jesus. However, unlike irresistible grace, people have the ability to accept Christ or not – prevenient grace is like leading a horse to water.

Common grace, by the way, is covered under prevenient grace. While some of the stuff common grace talks about, like divine providence, aren’t included, proponents of prevenient grace believe that it is what is responsible for things like your conscience and civil law and such. Following prevenient grace to the fullness of what it has to offer is what saves a person. Listening to your conscience is considered something of a beginning to that.

Verses to check out:

Phil 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,

Jeremiah 31:3  the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love;     therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

John 16:7-11 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Ezekiel 34:11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

So. Now you know about these graces. Pray, ask for wisdom and understanding, crack open your Bible and go for it!

– Strings

Published in: on October 24, 2013 at 5:46 pm  Comments (1)  

It’s Irresistible!

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We’re back with irresistible grace, the “I” in TULIP. Irresistible grace is the idea that you start out with a person predestined by God to have faith, and thus God bestows on him grace. This grace will (not may, will) bring him to the Father. John 6:37 and 6:44, both words of Jesus, support this idea: “All the Father gives to Me, will come to Me”

Irresistible grace means that there is nothing a gal can do either way; she cannot “skip out” on becoming saved any more than she can save herself. The Spirit is doing all the work on her behalf, and she’s just along for the ride (remember, this is called monergism). Romans 9:16 and John 1:12-13 certainly suggest this; proponents of this belief will suggest that every indication we cannot be saved through works (Titus 3:5, etc) also imply this. They suggest that to submit to Christ’s authority is a work, and thus cannot be salvific.

Irresistible grace should not be confused with the doctrine of free grace, sometimes called eternal security. Free grace, which is more about sanctification than justification anyway, says that “once saved, always saved” — if you believe, you are now saved, end of story. You have been called to believe. The call to obey will come at a different time (if at all).

Behavior after salvation is immaterial. You were saved at that convention or revival or whatever it was, now you’re saved. Sounds kinda Calvinist, right? Not so fast — free grace believers think that if you’re not demonstrating fruit, that’s okay. You’re still saved. Calvinists believe that you were never saved in the first place.

Verses to read:

John 10:16 and I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Romans 8:29-30  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,according to the riches of his grace,

Deuteronomy 30:6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Published in: on October 22, 2013 at 9:51 pm  Comments (1)  

Grace, a study

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Grace is all tied up in a lot of other ideas, and anything involving salvation necessarily must involve grace. Therefore, we ought to have a pretty good idea of what grace is by now, right?

Oh, would it be that easy! Grace, at it’s core, is defined as unmerited favor. That much, everyone can agree on. From there it gets hairy. Very hairy.

There is common grace, prevenient grace, free grace, and irresistible grace, and those are just the big ones. I promise, it won’t be as hard as it sounds! It will be fun. And edifying!

We’ll stick with common grace today.

Common grace is grace available to all people, no matter what you believe about predestination, election or even Jesus. You, me, the heathens down the block, etc., all affected by common grace (hence the name). It is also not ‘salvific’ (salvation-inducing) grace: this grace is how God has (mostly) kept the world afloat, since the majority of people are to be presumed unsaved.

Common grace allows people to be “humane,” per this belief. Romans 13 suggests that God certainly has a hand in the civil authorities of man, thereby to keep the peace and establish order. Further, there is precedent for God intervening to prevent sin aside from saving grace: the pharaoh in the story of Abraham and Sarah, and David in the story of Nabal and Abigail. More directly, God has provided even the unbelievers with consciences that they may know right from wrong.

Common grace also includes “divine providence,”  the part where God made everything and made it well. Certainly there is creation; things like rain and sunshine that are for both the good and the evil. Common grace goes further. John 1:3, under the lens of common grace, suggests that things like vaccines and chemo, computers and electric light bulbs, are absolutely a part of God’s providence. He held back humanity from going completely nutso and inspired us to do awesome stuff, aside from any salvific grace that the creators of those things may have had.

So, common grace. Common to all, not saving anybody from hell, but generally preventing people from being totally awful. Potentially a thing.

Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 9:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Unlimited (Kinds of) Atonement

31 days bigA little pun for you.  So from yesterday, limited atonement is the idea that Jesus died to save people completely – his death saved them without any action on their part, and since not all people are saved, we must assume that then his death only functioned for the elect.

But what about 1 John 2:2? or John 3:16? or 1 Timothy 2:5-6? These don’t make any discrepancy about Christ’s death being only for the elect. And a lot of people have a beef with limited atonement: so-called “Four-point Calvinists” think that Limited Atonement is where you ought draw the line.

 

Okay, so what are our other options? They are legion, but they all fall under the heading of “unlimited atonement,” the idea that Christ died for all people, but only some accept that gift. I’m not going to go over every single theory that falls under the heading of unlimited atonement. There are a lot of them, and many of them are kinda the same thing.

 

Here are a few of the interesting / important ones:

 

The particularly Arminian view is governmental atonement, the idea that Heaven is a court from which God judges all men, and the punishment we earned is happening so justice can be meted out. Christ stands in the way of that punishment happening to us.

 

Ransom theory is the idea that Christ was a ransom for us. Ransom is a payment, made to an abductor, to return the abducted to their rightful place. We were kidnapped by Satan at the fall, and Satan demands payment for our return.

 

Christus Victor is a fancy latin phrase that translates “Christ is the winner!” It means that Christ crushed Satan at the cross, the powers of evil were defeated. A war happened, Christ won.

 

Substitutionary atonement (which is popular enough to have sub-categories) is the idea that Jesus died in lieu of someone or something else. Whether that’s the sheep we’d have to sacrifice or our own souls, or a little bit of both, that depends on the flavor of substitutionary atonement you’re talking.

 

Penal substitution specifically suggests that we have broken God’s law. We are standing for punishment, but Christ takes that punishment. He takes what we deserve, and the punishment is over.

 

Satisfaction theory is another form of substitutionary atonement. It means that God is not honored by man’s poor behavior, and sinners die without making it up to Him. On the other hand, Christ died while totally perfect, AND his death glorified God completely – enough to make up the debt for all the sinners. In contrast to penal substitution, adherents believe Jesus wasn’t taking our punishment so much as paying our debt, and thus restoring harmony to the world.

 

Here’s a very small list of relevant Scripture:

 

Matthew 20:28,  Mark 10:45 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many

Romans 3:24-26  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 5:12-21 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 15:28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”

1 Timothy 2:5-6 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Hebrews 9:22  Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

 

Published in: on October 20, 2013 at 7:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Atonement

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Bless the Lord, oh my soul. There are a lot of theories of atonement out there. A *lot* of them. This is going to take a bit.

First there is limited atonement, the Calvinist response. Then there are all the various possibilities when it comes to unlimited atonement. Examples: ransom theory, moral influence theory, satisfaction theory (which is related to penal substitution…)

A few days.

To begin, what is atonement? To make amends for a wrong one has committed, to apologize, to make reparations for. Reparations means to restore or repair something. So the wrong in question is sin, and the thing being restored is our relationship with God. How does that happen?

Guys, I’m holding out an Easy button for you. Yep, Christ’s death on the Cross! YAY!

So any intense theological discussion on atonement is discussing what exactly happened on that Friday on that hill.

Let’s start with limited atonement, the L in TULIP. This is basically another predestination argument, really. Did Christ die for all people, but only if they accept His blood? Or did He completely secure the salvation of those who are part of the elect? We know that not all people end up atoned for, so in which direction is atonement limited?

Those who believe in “limited atonement” think that Christ’s death only secured salvation for some people, but did so completely (as opposed to potentially securing salvation for all people). Meaning that Christ’s death absolves the elect (ahem) without any effort on their part, completely.

Per limited atonement, Christ’s death is said to have actually and completely accomplished salvation, after all, and if salvation had to be accepted, His death only potentially accomplished salvation. Further, He was sent into the world to save those the Father had given to Him.

Some scripture for you:

Romans 5:8-10  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Colossians 1:21-22 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

Titus 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

John 10:14  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

Published in: on October 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm  Comments (1)