Tuesday, April 21

Pronouns and the Cross: Romans 5 and Limited Atonement


My high school grammar teacher would be pleased that I possess such an infatuation for them--especially when it comes to defending the great doctrinal truth of substitutionary atonement. You see, did Christ really die in the place of real people--releasing them from the sentence of death? Did He face God's wrath in their stead? All conservative theologians would answer a definite and resounding yes!

Yet their enthusiasm for this same doctrine mysteriously wanes when the subject of limited atonement arises. Their "unlimited" view of the atonement (read: unlimited in hypothetical scope, limited in actual efficiency) borders on denying the real substitutionary death of Christ if, as they say, Christ died as a substitute for all people--even those currently facing God's unsatisfied wrath in hell.

When pressed for the reasoning behind their universal view, many "unlimited" proponents use the "well-show-me-a-verse-that-always-limits-the-atonement-ONLY-to-the elect" argument. This, of course, is nothing more than a not-so-well crafted deflection tactic--a tactic that would require them to renounce their view of a pretribulational rapture (most unlimited, universal atonement proponents would be pretribulationalists). Just as there is not a single verse that limits the atonement only to the elect, there is not a single verse that specifically states Christ's second coming will occur in stages, and that the rapture will occur before a seven-year tribulation period. Yet, they will defend their rapture position with great fervor and vehemency--while deriding your "limited atonement" as a purely (il)logical argument that lacks sufficient scriptural support.

This is where pronouns become huge--especially first-person plural pronouns like "we" and "us" and "our." As you remember from Language Arts class, first-person plural pronouns speak of a specific group--and are to be distinguished from third-person plural pronouns like "you (all)" and "they". Recognizing the specific intent of these oft-overlooked pronouns will make the doctrine of particular redemption come alive--especially when considered within their specific context.

For example, I was taught that Isaiah 53:6 was indisputable proof of an unlimited atonement ... and at first-glance, I would agree: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." After all, all means all all the time, right? No. In this text, the all is a qualified all. Isaiah is not stating that the Lord laid on Christ the iniquity of all people--including those in hell. He is saying that the Lord laid on Christ the iniquity of us all. Us. There it is. First-person plural. All of us. Not all in an unqualified sense, but all in a qualified, first-personal plural sense. All in a specific, limited, group sense. For a much more detailed treatment of the entire Isaiah 53 passage in regards to particular redemption, see THIS.

So this past Sunday I preached from Romans 5:1-11 on the subject of "Don't Waste Your Suffering." Never before had I seen the relationship between our justification and the purpose for our sufferings (to awaken within us a desire for glory through producing endurance, proven character, and hope).

But that wasn't all I had missed from the passage; I had missed those first-person plural pronouns I had become so infatuated with in Isaiah 53. And then it hit me--like a proverbial ton of theological bricks: those who had paved the "Romans Road" must have embraced the same particular redemption I embrace. There it was. In black and white on the page before me. I could spend the next two-hundred and fifty words explaining it to you, but I'm quite sure you are capable of picking up on the first-person plural pronouns (especially verse 8)--and their relationship to justification and Christ's death.

So here is the Apostle Paul in God's own words (first-person plural pronouns are in bold for effect ... not because I think you can't identify them!):

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 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. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Praise God for first-person plural pronouns. Because Christ died for us while we were still sinners, we have peace with God ... access to God ... and the hope of God. We are recipients of God's love (through the Spirit), and are spared God's wrath. We, who were His enemies, are not killed, but spared through Christ's life.

And smack-dab in the middle of this great text on the blessings of justification is a telling statement on Christ's death: "But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Wednesday, April 15

Christian History Fans Only, Please

With the sad news of Christian History and Biography ending publication of the printed magazine, Christianaudio.com steps in to save the day by unleashing an unbeatable value and must-have collection for any Christian historian. Here are the details:


Christian History MagazineIt was with great sadness that we received the news that Christian History and Biography Magazine was ending the print version of their magazine, announced late last year. Their outstanding publication offered well-researched and thoughtfully written articles covering a wide range of history and people.

Before they ceased publishing the magazine, Christianity Today International and christianaudio partnered together to record a few audio versions of some of the most popular of the 100 magazines published during the last 25 years. The magazines regarding Luther, The 100 Most Important Events in History, and How We Got Our Bible are just a few of the excellent titles we recorded and continue offering christianaudio customers the chance to listen to.

These magazines are wonderfully narrated and offer a great introduction to some of the most important events and people in Christian History. And, for the rest of April, we are offering all of them for the special low price of $4.98! Hurry, because this savings of nearly 70% expires on April 30, 2009 (midnight PST).
Listen Enjoy Think Grow

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Friday, April 10

Good Friday - Christ Becomes a Curse For Us!

As R.C. Sproul does so often, he brilliantly illustrates the curse that Christ bore on the cross for the sins of all who would ever believe. This video lays out very clearly the truth of the atonement and also does it in a very dramatic and illustrative way.

Ponder and meditate upon the truth of this verse as you watch this video - Galatians 3:13 - "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree")" (NKJV)

HT: Kevin DeYoung

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Wednesday, April 8

Redemption and Limited Atonement

It has been some time since we have tackled here on the blog the "800 pound gorilla" of the doctrines of grace - Limited Atonement. Since most of us start out as iron clad and died on the wool Arminians who magnify the "free-will" of man or our own "decision to ask Jesus into our heart" the whole issue of particular redemption, definite redemption or limited atonement is a difficult one to accept at first. The first thought that comes to mind is a limited God or worse yet, an unloving God who refused to make salvation possible for all of humanity.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Limited atonement actually glorifies God in salvation. It takes the doctrine of salvation from being a mere possibility (and gamble) to actually being an accomplished, finished and completed fact. I'll also go this far, you actually see that along with all of the other wonderful God-accomplished facts regarding our salvation that required God's action and procurement we find that the atonement was no different. Jesus did NOT make my salvation possible on the cross...He SECURED IT, and He secured it for all who would ever believe (the elect)!

In the small little book with an incredible amount of substantial truth on the atonement John Murray in his classic work "Redemption Accomplished and Applied" spells this out brilliantly -

"If we concentrate on the thought of redemption, we shall be able perhaps to sense more readily the impossibility of universalizing the atonement. What does redemption mean? It does not mean redeemability, that we are placed in a redeemable position. It means that Christ purchased procured redemption. This is the triumphant note of the New Testament whenever it plays on the redemptive chord. Christ redeemed us to God by his blood (Rev. 5:9). He obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb 9:12). "He gave himself for us in order that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify to himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works (Titus 2:14)......Christ did not come to put men in a redeemable position but to redeem to himself a people. We have the same result when we properly analyze the meaning of expiation, propitiation, and reconciliation. Christ did not come to make sins expiable. He came to expiate sins - "when he made purification of sins, he sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3). Christ did not come to make God reconcilable. He reconciled us to God by his own blood."
Redemption Accomplished and Applied, John Murray (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 1955) 63

So what is the atonement? Just an eternal "roll of the dice" or a secure and accomplished fact for all who would ever believe?

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They're Coming To Take Me Away ...

There's a first for everything, I guess, including being labeled a new-evangelical.

Although I must admit, I am disappointed--I would much rather be labeled an old evangelical!

The intended-to-be-inflammatory (but no offense taken) accusation comes from the keyboard of longtime reader and commenter Kent Brandenburg (HERE):

* How is SharperIron still fundamentalist? How is it that real fundamentalists still associate with SharperIron?

This is curious to me. I am not intending to offend anyone, by the way. I know I will, but I’m not intending to. Why don’t fundamentalists themselves point this out? They push and endorse a tremendous amount of new-evangelicalism on that blog. They don’t practice separation. On their blogroll they have the Southern Baptist Ben Wright, who is in Mark Dever’s church. They have the new-evangelical, Andy Naselli, the assistant to D. A. Carson, who attends a new-evangelical church. When you read the rest of their blogroll, including Joe Fleener, The World From our Window, and the Jay Adams blog now, they either constantly endorse new-evangelicals, or in the case of Jay Adams, he is one. On Joe Fleener’s blog, he had links to Psalms set to blatant rock music. I commented to point that out. He didn’t say a word to me; just deleted the comment. SharperIron is infatuated with, and I mean in the way of loving, conservative evangelicals. They rarely bash an evangelical and are always smacking fundamentalists. I sense a disdain for the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship there. How is it a fundamentalist blog?
My open question to Kent: since he is using the term new-evangelical in a pejorative sense; and since he often disagrees with the people and positions we publish here; and because he is fundamentally a fundamental fundamentalist, why does he continue to read and participate with the new-evangelical World From Our Window (perhaps he would support an official name change here)? Doesn't his participation here make him ...

I'd like to finish the last sentence, but the fundamentalist police are knocking at my church door. They are demanding to see my credentials. Perhaps I should burst out into song, "They're coming to take me away ... they're coming to take me away ... to the FUNDY FARM (see photo), where all is well."

We could make it a quartet: Joe Fleener, Andy Naselli, Jay Adams, and me.

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Tuesday, April 7

New Bauder Audio on the Church, Purity, and Unity

From Dr. Bauder's recent talks at the Illinois/Missouri Association of Regular Baptist Churches conference: HERE.

Titles of the talks:

The Flock and the Fold: Basic Church Unity | John 10

The Church as Temple:The Importance of Unity | 1 Corinthians 3

The Pure Church:Does Church Discipline Work Today? | 1 Cor. 5

The Successful Church:What Are the Measurements? | Eph. 4:13

Biblical Separation in Practice
This is the first time I have been privileged to hear Dr. Bauder live and unplugged. Needless to say, my heart was challenged and blessed. That is great news for those of us who have been a bit wary of the subject matter at the upcoming national GARBC Conference!

And Dr. Bauder may be the brightest mind in fundamental evangelicalism (or is that evangelical fundamentalism?)!

A few bonus Bauder sermons are also available HERE.

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Wednesday, April 1

Shocking Changes that Have Come About

Some things have come to light in my life today that I think I need to go public with:

1. I now believe in the free will of man being the determining factor in man's salvation.

2. I will only read, memorize, preach from and use the KJV. All other translations are perversions and the KJV is the only inspired word of God for English speaking people.

3. A Christian does not need to show any lasting fruit in order to be truly converted and regenerate.

4. I'm being allured to the Emergent movement and I'm having a hard time accepting any truth as being propositional and absolute.

5. The atonement was universal in its intent and wasn't specifically intended to be applied to the sins of the elect.

6. A Christian has two natures and can even enter into a state of being a "carnal" Christian.

7. Faith now comes before regeneration and God only reacts to our decision to receive Christ.

8. Even though the Bible says that man is totally dead in his trespasses and sins he still retains an "island of righteousness" that allows him to either choose or reject Christ based upon his own will and decision.

All this to say:

Happy April Fools Day!!!!!!!!!

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