Ordo Salutis IX: Our New Inheritance – Spirit’s Witness in Our Adoption

We have fully established that we are not fully alive despite being biologically alive. Throughout the Bible, starting in Genesis 2, God states that sin separates the soul of man from the spirit of God. And without God, we are dead.

And just being dead is not enough:

Ephesians 2:1–3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

And just when we think that Paul is being too critical or even too harsh, look at what the Apostle John has to say 1:

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.

So you see, by being born and apart from God, we are doubly both dead in our trespasses and by nature children of the wrath of God.

Paul explains this in the best way by way of comparing our original father, Adam, and the second Adam, Jesus Christ:

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.

Now I know that is a long passage, but let me put together a pros and cons list to help better see Paul’s point:

Adam

Christ

Sin came into the world through him

Righteousness came into the world through him

Death came into the world through sin

Life came into the world through him

Death spread to all men because all men have sin

Life given for many because Christ was sinless

Sin was the trespass of Adam

Grace is the free gift of Christ

Many died

Many live

Judgment brought condemnation because of trespass

Free gift brought justification despite many trespasses

Death reigned through Adam

Life reigns through Jesus Christ

Adam’s one trespass led to condemnation for all men

Christ’s one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men

Adam’s disobedience the many were made sinners

Christ’s obedience the many will be made righteous

the law came in to increase the trespass

where sin increased, grace abounded all the more

sin reigned in death because of Adam

grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ

So why so much focus on the distinction between the unbeliever and the believer?

The easy answer is because God makes that distinction quite clear in his word.

But the difficult answer lies with the beliefs of many Christians today.

                                                                                                    

A couple of years ago, I was put to the task of debating classic Calvinist Non-Calvinist views of Scripture after dinner with a friend. The debate was thoroughly enjoyable and quite full of passion.

My friend and I started shaking the word of God down to its core teachings (doctrines). I did not want to start off with hard-hitting verses on faith and regeneration (the question of which came first) until we established the what we did have in common: namely, the goodness and loveliness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To make a long story, short, I contended that we must first have a new heart in order to choose God, have faith in Christ, and obey His commands by the power of the Holy Spirit. I argued, without God, we cannot choose God. I pointed to this verse (backed by John 1:12-13)

1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

In other words:

  • If you believe in Christ, you must be born of God
  • If you love the Father, you must be born of God

So my friend said, “Exactly”. Colored me confused.

She contended that every person ever been born (which God calls “born of man”) is born of God. We ended our debate there.

God makes the clear distinction between unbelievers and believers. Calls them goats and sheep 2. Chaff and wheat 3. Weeds and wheat 4. Many of those who are on the wide road of destruction versus those who go through the narrow door of salvation 5. Those who set their mind on the flesh versus those who set their mind on the Spirit. 6

A life lived by absolutes is wholly not recommended. It is only where God makes clear distinctions between one way and the next is where we can be sure that there is no in-between.

So what can we say to all of this?

If we are saved by God, then God is our Father.

Romans 8:12–15 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

And if God is our Father, God absolutely promises we will look like His Son (and God does not break promises).

Romans 8:29 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.

Hebrews 12:3–11 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

And if God is our Father, we will not stand before Him in our own defense as though we could do so in our own self-righteousness. No! God himself bears witness with our witness that we belong to Him.

Matthew 7:21–23 “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.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

And then God is our Father, and the Holy Spirit of adoption is our witness, then it stands to reason that Christ is our Eldest Brother. If that being the case, we are then co-heirs with He whom is heir to all things.

Romans 8:17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Hebrews 1:1–2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

And to that end, you believe and trust in God, then the Father of Christ is your Father. We are His sons forevermore because a Perfect Father never loses his kids.

John 10:28–30 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, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

Notes:

  1. I do not completely ascribe the red letters as being absolutely the spoke words of Christ, even though all words are from Christ. So I take precaution to automatically crediting red words to Christ unless the author specifically said, “Jesus said”
  2. Matthew 23:33
  3. Matt 3:12
  4. Matthew 13:24-30
  5. Matthew 7:13-14
  6. Romans 8:4-8

Ordo Salutis XIII: Our New Heart – Spirit’s Power in Regeneration

When God saved us from eternity past, His saving work was not finished when Christ lived, died, buried, and rose again, as though there is nothing for him for his people.

You see, every single person born of man since Adam and Eve were born inherently not in connection with God but being apart from God both infinitely and eternally. That separation is because we have no spirit of God because our hearts were not born of God.

Sin has devastating, tearing, ripping-in-half effects. Adam and Eve felt that to a large degree but I don’t think they could possibly fathom what it would be like for their children and their children’s children and for all of the world.

But we see the state of the world today and exponentially more than our forefathers because we have every kind of information at our fingertips.

School shootings, mass genocide, abortions in the thousands per day: there seems to be no end in depravity. And just when think that our way of life on its own is a little better, we found out that our way of life and privilege is most often at the expense of someone else’s well being. You just have to open your eyes and see.

And even seeing it all has gotten to be too much for most of us. Too much sin, death, disease, depravity, and tragedy for us to handle on top of our own lives.

That is the inheritance of Adam. That is what we are cursed with.

But can we for sure say “all humans” are born this way? Surely there are some who are born good? There has got to be some hope?

Back in the Old Testament, from the time of Adam, the wickedness of humankind spread throughout the earth.

Genesis 6:5-7 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

When God spoke of Man, what did he declared? They were greatly wicked and the thoughts of their hearts were only producing evil. And God regretted ever creating mankind, the very image-bearers of Himself.

Before we continue, was Noah a man? So would he have been evil or born good apart from these wicked people?

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. 1

Does the Bible say, “But Noah was a good dude so God decided to spare him.” No, Noah was wicked just like everyone else. But the favor and grace came upon Noah for no other reason because God is good.

You might say, “But what about the next verse?” Let’s read that:

Genesis 6:9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

Now put verses 5 through 9 all together. Look at the order in relation to Noah. Noah was wicked. The thoughts of Noah’s heart produced evil continuously. God regretted ever creating Noah. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Because God gave him grace, it was then and only then Noah was declared righteous and blameless in his generation. We know it’s not that Noah was born righteous or even living a righteous life apart from God because Paul quotes a psalm of David in Romans 3:

Romans 3:9–31

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

But then some would argue that God gave us laws in order for us to be holy. But that is not the purpose of the law. The law of God was simply put in place to get you to see all of your sin and wickedness in the presence of holy and just God. Paul goes on to declare that the law was weak. In other words, the law of God is a mirror for your soul and heart but that’s all it could do. The law of God was powerless and feeble to save your soul.

You know what the real kicker is: with our hearts far from him, we are not actually obeying the laws of God. I know because it is impossible for us to obey God’s law if our hearts are far from him.

Romans 8:7–8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Because of our wicked hearts, whatever “righteous” deeds we think we are doing are just dirty rags thrown before the feet of God thinking that will be good enough to be saved by Him.

Look at what Jesus says:

Matthew 7:21–23 “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.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Wait a minute here. These people were doing what Christ told us to do: prophesy, cast out demons, and do mighty works in his name. Christ would go on to say for us not to rejoice because we can do mighty works and the spirits are subject to us but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. 2

Don’t you see? We cannot know nor love God without taking this wicked heart out and replacing it with heart from God. Nothing good comes out of a heart that was born into sin and has been sinning continuously.

Some theologians teach that faith to believe in God comes from some tiny little deposit of good that was given to all human beings. Well, I would accept that explanation a hundred times over than we are all basically good and can believe and trust in God out of our own strength. Because the latter is simply not happening. Whatever you may think, that faith produces a new heart or it’s a new heart that produces faith, something absolutely good has to start the process of faith because faith (inherently good) does not come from a wicked and depraved heart. The Bible makes that clear.

Choosing God is not like what you choose for breakfast, whom you have chosen to marry or whom you voted for in the last election. For you to believe, trust, love, and choose God, something supernatural has to occur and this is by the work of the Spirit alone by giving us a brand new heart from the Father all made possible by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ alone.  It is only then can we look upon Him with clear eyes, hear him with functioning ears, even taste him with new taste buds to know that he is good or even smell the aroma of Christ on each of us who are made fully alive by God.

When we have a new heart and His Spirit within us, it is then we can truthfully and fully be obedient to God. First, Christ fulfilled the law for each of us who believe and trust in him. Now, it’s not that we have to obey the laws of God, it is that we get to obey Him.

Don’t believe obedience requires a new heart? See what God says about it.

Ezekiel 36:24–28 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  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.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.  You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

It is only then that God removes us from death and despair; takes the blood of Christ and washes us clean from all unrighteousness 3; give us a brand new soften heart and a new spirit that causes you to walk in His statutes and being careful to obey His rules.

Because of what He has done, we now get to dwell in the house of the Lord forever 4 because we are His people and He is our God!

Notes:

  1. Genesis 6:8
  2. Luke 10:20
  3. Titus 3:3-7; 2 Corinthians 5:21
  4. Psalm 23:6

Ordo Salutis VI: Christ’s Perfect Work, We Are Justified

Many people tried to say that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are completely two different gods. Have you heard this argument? Why was God so angry? Why is Jesus so loving and kind? Was God in the Old Testament was the Father and then his Son took over in the New? I don’t understand a god that would punish people. I can only understand a god that loves.

Interesting is that the Holy Spirit took killed a husband and his wife for lying to God about the selling land and the giving of proceeds from that sale. 1

It is even more interesting to note that the Apostle John wrote in his Gospel in chapter 3 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” 2, did not finish that statement without further claiming and clarifying, “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”. 3

So quite simply by seeing the wrath of God in both Testaments, that we know that God is eternally God past, present, and future.

But what about His love, mercy, and grace? What about His gospel which Paul utterly declares to be “… the power of God in salvation for those who believe, to the Jew first and also the Greek4, to which he was not ashamed of?

To try to speak of God’s grace upon constant grace, His daily renewed mercies, and His steadfast love throughout the Bible, I believe we have to also look at his righteousness throughout the Bible.

But what is righteousness? Webster defines it as “the quality of being morally right or justifiable.” When God defines it, he takes it to that next proverbial level: “To stand upright in the presence of God.” That is to say: to be without sin, to be perfect.

Here’s the reality: we don’t know a time or place ever in our lives or in our souls that was without the effects and consequences of sin. We cannot fathom what it really means to be perfect. Can we really? Even saying something like “That dress is perfect!” or “This gift is so perfect” really doesn’t mean the same thing.

And yet, the Creator God of the universe requires us to be perfect in order to never to perish and more so than that, to be with Him forever. To be with God now and forever requires you to be free from sin—never known sin, committed any sin or never failed to do the thing you were supposed to do.

God requires you to be perfect. And in my experience, when people realize that, there are usually three reactions.

One, hubris. “Well, I guess I better roll up my sleeves and get to work. I know I can do this if I remain perfect control of myself but more so, controlling those people around me and the world around me. If everyone acts right, I can be right and my life will be perfect.”

Two, despair. “Oh my God! This is impossible. I will be crushed under this weight!”

Three, apathy. “Why even bother? This impossible. Screw God, his people and his made up laws. They are not real and made up anyways.”

And all three leads not to joy and pleasures but to destruction and death.

But God, from the moment sin was introduced into this perfect world, gave us the first tidbit of the good news as he promises Satan his own death in front of his two dying kids:

Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

That monster, Satan, came to kill, steal, and destroy. And Satan successfully came and did that. Think about this: Adam and Eve had it all. Not because they had all their needs met, and even more than never knowing sin, they had it all because they had God. But in original parents’ fatal mistake, God doesn’t respond with instant judgment. Instead, God lovingly and calmly comes into our world evident by simply strolling through the coolness of the garden looking for his two lost kids.

God calls out, “Adam, where are you? Why are you wearing those ridiculous things? Who said you were naked?”

In other words, “What’s wrong? Tell me, son. Tell me, daughter. What is wrong?”

God doesn’t respond out of by judgment alone although he alone rightfully judges. He doesn’t respond out of only his holiness by shunning his kids instantly away because we know that His holiness does not tolerate sin in his presence. God doesn’t just respond out of righteousness. No, God responds fully and truly out of everything he is–perfectly and fully.

It is out of the perfection and fullness of God’s love, desires, affections, mercy, grace, justice, righteousness, patience, peace, holiness, aseity, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, we can fully see in God’s response.

God doesn’t chastise or even condemn. (Bare with me. I will get to that in a moment.)  Instead, God responds with, “Satan, I will send Someone to make this right. You might think you have hurt him but he will crush your skull underneath his barefoot once and for all.” 5

God promises the monster that he will be destroyed and God makes this threat in front of his half-naked, scared, frightened, sin-filled kids. With Adam and Eve as his first witnesses, God promises He alone will fix what they did. Step number one was sending someone to be born of a woman, step two was for this savior to be hurt in some way and step three was that this person would smash Satan’s head to smithereens.

And when God turns to Adam and Eve, I believe that God doesn’t just instantly judge them. Why would I say this? Because after this encounter, they are still standing around on the earth. What I see is that God is simply laying out the consequences of sin in their lives and in the world.

But do not miss this next part. When you teach a Sunday school lesson, preach the word or simply reading from the Bible on this passage, pay special attention to this verse:

Genesis 3:21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Now, if you had only read the Bible for the first time in your life and chapter 3 verse 21 was the first time you have ever heard of that, that might not mean anything to you.  I mean, it’s nice that God covered their naked bodies. But as the days and lives continue on after this moment, God continues to interact, guide, speak to, and continues to reveal His glory to his people, we can go back and see what was God really doing in that instance. It is only when I read through the law and the gospels that I can reread that verse in actual truth.

That Adam and Eve sinned and they tried covering up their sins with their own self-righteousness which are as dirty garments before God. But, God responds by preaching the Gospel of his Son. Adam and Eve respond by believing the gospel. And because they believed God, God takes away their sin and self-righteousness and clothes them with His own righteousness.

Don’t believe me?

Consider the following:

Luke 15:17–24 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

What did the father do? He quickly covered his son’s own mess, shame, and guilt with the best robe; ordained his son with his own seal, and covered his kids’ dirt and poop-covered feet with peace. And then ordered for the fattened calf to be barbequed because his own son was now saved.

The father in the parable had all the means to restore his son to his own family. But how much more is the Good Father in heaven able to restore and bring the very worst and vile sinners into his own family.

God knows everything about you. He determines when you were born and where you would live 6. On top of that, He knows when you were far from him, running away from him and commiting treason against Him. He sees all of that. He knows all of that. God also knows when you appear to do good things but your heart is not in the right place. Namely, your heart is not about God. But when God saw you in your unrighteousness, he decided not to instantly judge you to instant condemnation. But even before the creation of the world, God decided to save you 7.

Just as God slew an animal to clothe his kids, the slaying of that animal did save them. Just as God proclaims his law to His people, that law could not and did not save them—it was too weak to do so. Even when God laid out the instructions to spill the blood of perfect, spotless animals in order to show his people what God must do in order to  save them, not even the animals’ dried blood that completely stain the bronze altar would not save his people 8!

No! God demanded the Perfect Sacrifice and that sacrifice had to be Man. But here’s the dilemma: no one ever born of man is perfect. No one! All who were born of Adam inherited Adam’s wicked and depraved heart. No one is righteous. No, not one. All of us have fallen way short of the glory of God. But under the law of God, the shedding of blood purified everything and without the shedding of blood, there is no removal of sin. Man has fallen into sin, committed sin even when they thought they were obeying the law of God (they were not) and only Man can atone for sin. You cannot atone for sin when you are filled with sin. God has a perfect requirement to atone for sin: it is a perfect man who lives perfectly and this same man would not ever know sin. This man could even be tempted as we are but still freed from sin. From the moment I was made in my mother’s womb, I was automatically disqualified from atoning for my own sin. My very birth was into sin and my continuous disobedience condemns me before the righteous and just God. And don’t get hung up on the word ‘continuous’ as thought I could somehow stop sinning on my own. If I had broken one of the laws of God, I have broken all of the laws of God 9.

With every single verse, chapter, and book in the Old Testament, God continuously, lovingly, and graciously preached His gospel to his people, both Jew and Gentile: “I know you are messed up. I have these laws that you need to perfectly obey in order to be with me forever. They are but the standard of which to live with me forever. Oh, I know you were going to fail. All of you will fail. And your sins will have consequences—sometimes even dire and mortal. But trust in me. No matter how many times you fail, just trust me. Maybe not in your lifetime or your kids’ lifetime or your kids’ kids lifetime but I promise you that one day I will fix everything that you have broken.

That fix was His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. God the Father sent God the Son to born as a little baby to perfect live his life perfectly obeying every single law that God gave his people. His Son was tempted but never falling short of the glory of God. But in perfect obedience to His Father by the power of His Spirit, the God and man, Jesus Christ, made a beeline to the cross in perfect obedience and with joy and gladness because what Christ was about to do is save His people from their sins. It was upon the last step on that hill of the skull where Jesus Christ would gladly give up his perfect life once and for all so that we would have the perfect life once and for all.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Notes:

  1. Acts 5:1-11
  2. John 3:16
  3. John 3:36
  4. Romans 1:16
  5. Genesis 3:15
  6. Acts 17:24-28
  7. Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:3-10
  8. Hebrews 9:11–22; Hebrews 10:3-7
  9. James 2:10

Ordo Salutis VII: Christ’s Sufficient Work, We Are Clean

This is the magnificence of the True God.

The God of the Old Testament who called down judgment on the wicked and the departed. The same God who expressed His faithfulness to His people who were faithless. The God whose steadfast love never ceased to those whom he promised would make things all things right. The infinitely powerful God who was able to always woo and pursue the hearts of his children and bring them out of death and destruction back into life everlasting. The holy God who did not destroy our original parents when they choose themselves over him. The righteous God who redeems and restores. The Lord who resets his mercies every morning. The gracious God pours his heart out like a mighty river.

What have we done? Fought against God. War against God. Blaspheme against His holy name. Sought out the destruction of all living things. We tend to think of ourselves above everything. Shall we receive this glory! Shall we behold all the praises due because of all the good works we have done, the brilliant thoughts we have thought up and how we have pushed ourselves to improve over the generation before us? How good are we! How we need to be exalted! How no harm, no foul, no evil, no bad thing should ever happen against us! If anything bad happens to us, the God is not a just god, not a good god, not a great god, not a powerful god and not a loving god. Therefore, there is no god and we chose to declare war against him as everything in this universe descends in utter chaos and our undoing.

In whatever we do and all we have done, He is mournful, sorrowful and grieved but he is not phased and he is not moved. His will still carries on from the beginning of time and he is determined, nay, absolute that His people will be with him to enjoy him for his glory alone forevermore.

This is the God who does not quit.

This is the God who does not relent.

This is the God who does not forget.

This is the God who saves.

This is the God who loves

This is the God who bled.

This is the God who died.

This is the God who gave his life up for me.

Jesus Christ stood before his blasphemous people—people who cried and rejoiced with their lips, “Hosanna in the highest!” just days before—now are ready to cry out in a murderous rage to crucify the Son of God who is God. Jesus Christ, the glorious Lord stood side-by-side a convicted murderer, Barabbas as the governor audaciously asked the people, “Who would you rather have living with you in your neighborhoods, shopping in your shops, doing business with, passing by you on the streets? Who do you want: God or a murderer?”

The rational answer is clear. Yet our sinful hearts pick the comforts of sin every time.

In the Old Testament, Aaron stood before the people of Israel and they looked up this live goat. Aaron runs through all of their sins, all of their follies, all of their iniquities and all of their transgressions. With that massive, terrible list, Aaron touches the head of the goat and pushes it through the crowds and directs the goat into the vastness of the wilderness, always lost, always running in freedom and never to be seen again. (Leviticus 16:21-22)

Barabbas was presented as the culmination of the best that humanity has to offer as our depravity and wickedness stared us straight in the face. We don’t want better. We don’t want perfection. We want more of our wicked hearts desires. We want not His holiness, His forgiveness, and His love. We want more of what this world can offer.

We pick the goat with all of our sins. We are the ones who picked Barabbas. Yet, just like the goat into the wilderness, Barabbas is forgotten from ancient history, never to be heard from again.

The only thing we have done right is sin. However, by faith alone, we can place those sins on the one who would bear it all for those who have and will come to trust in him. The only thing we have done is allowed the Son of God to be crucified. The only right thing we have said, “Crucify Him!”.

In his beatings, his whippings, his crowning of thorns, in the nails stabbing through his hands and the spear through his heart were all needed to drain our Savior of his life-giving blood. He had his people to save and He must do it perfectly:

Indeed, under the law, almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. 1

This is the only way it could be done: violently, excruciatingly, vomit-inducing, and sickly because that is what sin is to our Holy God.

He had to save his people.

He had to change his people.

He had to cleanse his people so that they can know Him:

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” 2

He will not be angry at his people forever because He loves them too much. He does not bestow his righteous and just wrath upon his people because his people cannot bear it, to lest they are destroyed and be apart from him forever. His love is as high and as great as the distance between heaven and earth, so too is the same distance our sins, wickedness, and atrocities our removed from us.

Our God is One of compassion. 3

This all culminates into His Son who died on the cross, who pour out all of his blood just like a lamb to the slaughter.

We must admit the exceeding sinfulness of our sin. We must be desperate for to someone greater than us to save us.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 4

We call upon him. We look towards him. We reach out and cry, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” God, who is merciful, gives us His Son because He is the God who actually saves.

Notes:

  1. Hebrews 9:22
  2. Jeremiah 31:34
  3. Psalm 103:6-14
  4. 1 John 1:9

Ordo Salutis VIII: Christ’s Finished Work, We Are Protected

This has been one of the most difficult chapters to write because there is so much to be packed into the doctrine of propitiation. The only way I could approach this is to start at the beginning and start at the high altitude and work our way down. To understand propitiation, we must understand God, his law, his love and his holiness.

What can incite the wrath of God? It is when we decide that we don’t need his way but we insist on own our way. Parents recognize this in their own kids. But what about our own lives. We are not talking about wanting cookies for breakfast and not getting them. We are talking about dismissing God’s words for life entirely and try to save ourselves. In that vein, the world thinks that surely because God is love, then he can simply overlook such details and give us a free pass, perhaps even grade on a curve.

You might laugh but some Christians actually think that.

Have you ever heard, perhaps in a church, bible study or even a Christian conference, “Are you saved?” to which someone has responded, “Man, I sure hope so.” Brothers and sisters, don’t be surprised! I overheard that exchange not 10 feet away and waited with bated breath to hear the punchline. But there was none. He was serious.

That exchange happened at a Pastor’s conference.

This is why we must understand His holiness. Yes, the holiness of God can big and scary but if by the Spirit alone, we can grasp and understand it, we can rest assured of His goodness and salvation.

In the beginning, in Genesis 2:15-17, God gives us just one law. Follow this one simple rule and I can take care of the rest. Let see how that unfolds:

Genesis 3:1-7 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

In other words, this is what I think Eve was thinking “Hmm, I want my way. Man, it sure does feel like God is holding out on me. If I do this thing, sure I will get what God has been keeping from me.”

What did God say would happen?

Genesis 2:15-17 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Forthwith, the wages of sin is death. 1

Did God kill them right away? No. But what cannot be denied, evident by the entire history of mankind, is that when sin came into this universe, all of the cosmos shattered and broke into a million pieces.

Because of sin, God’s wrath and judgment fall in three ways: eventual death, sudden death and a giving over to what we want. All three ways lead to separation from God.

Genesis 3:15–24
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”

And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

In other words, life is going to be hard and at the end, you are going to die.

But let us take a quick look at the sudden execution of God’s judgment:

Genesis 13:13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD.

Genesis 18:20-21 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

So based on Genesis 2 and Romans 6:23, what do you think is going to happen to the Sodom and Gomorrah? The judgment here is obvious, “Well, that is easy, they were wicked and they deserve to die.”

Let’s go to other places where it is not so obvious.

God commands. Pharaoh disobeys. Pharaoh pretends to confess his sins but as soon as the current plague disappears, he sins and hardens his heart. 2

God warned Pharoah of his judgment and wrath 3. God’s own people believed. 4

But Pharaoh did not believe. Genesis 12:29-32 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”

Judgment of the family within camp 5

Judgment of idol worshippers 6

The judgment of nations that surrounded Israel 7

Judgment of entire nations 8

I am not going to sugar coat this at all. Sometimes, the women and the children were judged. Upon hearing that, our minds instantly click and thinks, “Those are women and children, they are innocent. They have done nothing wrong. They have been not been tried and judged.”

Perhaps they were innocent in the laws of their land. But did they sin against God? Strike that—did we not all sin against God?

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God 9

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 10

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11

If this is your first time hearing this or this is your millionth time hearing this, it is not easy to hear. This is not soft chew candy. This is tough, gristly meat cooked burnt to a well-done crisp that you have to chew on for days and even then, it’s painful to swallow.

Let’s hammer this point and let us see how you, me, my kids, my future little babies, your babies, even my sainted grandma all were born into:

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

We were all born by nature children of the wrath of God. To simply put it, we were born dead.

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.

Finally, beyond sudden judgment and eventual judgment, there is a wrath that is not so obvious but it is where God simply gives us over to what we want. We keep suppressing His truth and we keep doing what we want. God simply goes, “You think your way is better, fine, go. Have it your way.”

That should scare the living daylights out of you.

So what then?

Here is the greatest news that the world has ever known or will ever know:

For those who would believe in the Son of God then all the wrath, hatred and judgment that was rightfully meant for those same sinners fall then upon the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. His perfect obedient life, called out to us by the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, as he gives his life over, nails himself to the cross and takes on the full wrath of the Father and the forsaking of the Spirit so for that those who believe in Him would never experience that.

God loves you so much. Before the creation of the world, he loved you. He looks upon all eternity and declares, “I must have you in my family. You are my son. You are my precious daughter. Yet you are running from me and you are so far from me. I cannot count on you to come back to me. You have no power to do so. Yet, I have all the power. I will send my Son and he will close that gap with his own life.” God the Father loved you so much that it pleased Him to send His Son to the cross 12. Father’s joy. Likewise, Christ loved you so much that for His glory, he saved you to Himself 13 and he did it with all humility and joy 14. How do we know this? The evidence of the Spirit of God within us who produces His fruit 15, leads us, guides us, bears witness with our spirit that we are His children 16, comforts us, reminds of us everything that God has taught 17, convicts us of sin when we do not believe but reminds us of our righteousness because of everything that God has done in us 18.

From the Lord’s furious righteous anger against sin is meant to make all things right. All things right is joy, love, and happiness forever and ever.

Jesus Christ being our sacrificial lamb (propitiation) and scapegoat (expiation) is that singular righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled. 19 In a nutshell, the law required in order for you and me to be in the presence of God, you will have to sacrifice a spotless lamb and take all the sins of the people, place them on a goat and release the goat into the wilderness never to return back again. Those rituals in the Old Testament was a foreshadow to whom Jesus Christ is and what he does. But those were just that: foreshadows. Never the real thing. The real thing is that man must shed his blood to atone for his sins. Herein lies the problem: Man is not perfect. Man cannot atone for his sin. 20

There is only One who is not only willing to save and able to save but he is the only one who has the power to save.

God came down from heaven, His Son, the Word of God and became flesh and entered into our jacked up, messed up, broken world as God but yet as a son, stepson, citizen, missionary, priest, and king. And by the word ‘king’, He did so not appear as an all-powerful warrior-king figure. He did so, humbly and mildly, as a tiny infant. He didn’t come into a wealthy family with all resources at his fingertips. He is born into a poor working-class family of an out-of-wedlock pregnant junior girl and with a stepdad. He didn’t live in a big huge metropolis where he could easily gain fame. No, he begins his life in a little rural small town and he begins his life on the run, like a fugitive, because the ruler of that time wanted him dead.

He faced the same temptations that we did, yet he did not sin.

He faced the same brokenness, heartache, sadness, loneliness, poverty, loved ones being sick, loved ones with terminal diseases, loved ones dying. He faced betrayal, distrust, fair-weather friends and faced people who would cheer for him one moment only turn around and want to murder him the next. Just like any of us but he did not sin.

He lived the life that we should have lived.

In doing so, he was the only one qualified to die the death that we should have died.

He was then taken to be stripped naked and then severely beaten, flogged and whipped to within an inch of His life. His body was so shredded to a point that you could see bones and muscle and guts underneath where there was skin as His body was covered in blood. A crown of thorns shoved upon His head, His beard yanked off His face. He was spat upon, slapped and mocked. His clothes and belongings were seized by the soldiers and bid upon in a game of craps. To top of all that, He was made to carry a wooden cross up a hill. There, upon that same, He would be nailed to that cross with spikes about 12 inches long through both wrists and one through both of his feet. They raised the cross up into a hole in the ground.

Jesus Christ is then crucified.

His body drained out of his own blood, sweat, tears, urine, and feces that gathered into a pool at the bottom of His cross. He faced the scorching heat of the day and the freezing coldness of the night. His bones never broken but just to be sure that Jesus was surely dead, a soldier stuck a spear through his ribcage straight into His heart where blood and water poured out.

It was at that moment, Jesus became every single sin ever committed by anyone who has put their faith and trust in God alone. Since the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God to every sin that is being committed today to every sin that will ever be committed to the end of time by those God calls His people. In essence, He became a murderer, a rapist, a child molester, a thief, a hacker, a liar, pornstar, extreme fundamentalist and tax evader. He became religious, bitterness, deception, gluttony, lust, laziness, idolatry and pride. Not only did He bore the weight of all of the sins for all of His people but He bore all the sins ever committed against His people.

It was in that same moment, that His only begotten Son was indeed the only True Perfect Sacrifice and that His Son had become all of our sins, God the Father unleashed His wrath upon His Son and killing Him. That wrath was meant for you and me. We were meant to die that way. But because God loves us so much, Jesus Christ stood in our place and took the full force of God’s wrath that was meant for His people. It was in the moment, God the Father and God the Spirit turned their backs and forsook God the Son because Christ was the only one who could bear the weight of the sins of His people, of those who would believe and trust Him for eternal life.

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

God made Jesus to be the bearer of all the wrath that was in store for us. Listen, if you think that the wrath of God is simply contained to fire out of the heavens that take our temporal life on earth, think less of that and think about being separated from the love of God forever. That is called hell.

But with God’s will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ knew us so intimately and loved us so dearly, gives his life up and faces the wrath of the Father and the forsaking of Triune God, and allows his body to break so that we would be with Him forever.

This work was done once. Only once. We don’t need to crucify Christ again.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit 21

For those who are in Christ, God is not out to get you. God is not out to pour his wrath on you. Will God discipline you if you try to go astray? That is to be sure. That is because He is your Father in heaven who loves you and would only do what any good Father would do but do so without shame, condemnation, abuse, torment, affliction. He would do so in perfect love, gentleness, kindness, never leaving you nor forsaking you forever. 22

But Christ, with his life and his love, protects and saves His people so that God can make all things right-standing with Himself.

Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Notes:

  1. Romans 6:23a
  2. Exodus 9:34-35, 10:16-20
  3. Exodus 11:1-10
  4. Exodus 12:1-28
  5. Numbers 11:1
  6. Leviticus 26:27-30
  7. read Ezekiel chapters 12-35
  8. Deuteronomy 29:24
  9. Romans 3:23
  10. Romans 5:12
  11. James 2:10
  12. Isaiah 53
  13. Isaiah 48:8-11
  14. Philippians 2:1-11; Hebrews 12:2
  15. Galatians 5:22-23
  16. Romans 8:14-17
  17. John 14:15-31
  18. John 16:4-15; 2 Corinthians 5:21
  19. Romans 8:1-4
  20. Hebrews 9:15-28
  21. 1 Peter 3:18
  22. Hebrews 12:6

Ordo Salutis V: God Speaks To The Dead

John 6:44-47 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

When God calls out, he is never speaking to hear himself speak. His words are never idle (Isaiah 55:11) but they have the power to give sight to the blind, for the lame to walk, to set the captives free, to save souls. In other words, to make dead people come alive. This is the gospel, this is the calling: the calling of God is drawing those to himself through the bloodshed and broken body of Jesus Christ by the power manifested in His Spirit.

This is the first instance of the calling: the breath of life.

Genesis 2:5-7 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

When God breathed his essence into our original parents, it wasn’t just simply oxygen filling our lungs, it was His Spirit. This is what made us different from all of creation and it is why Paul says that we “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit” (Romans 8:23) because God breathed his life into our bodies, giving us the very fullness of life. He was in us and we were with him.

Then the Fall came. We did not believe the truth of God’s word that gives life and sustains life. He spoke his perfect plan to us. We chose not to believe that plan and instead, exchanged it for our own plan of peace. In that fateful exchange, all of creation shattered. At that moment, we went from destiny of life and peace to a destiny of death and destruction (Romans 8:6).

Despite our folly, despite our wickedness, despite our wickedness and despite our iniquities, God still calls out the gospel to our original parents:

Genesis 3:15
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

And upon hearing God’s promise that he will do everything to make everything right, correct, perfect and peaceful again, Adam and Eve believed in God and because they believed God again, he clothed them in His provision (Genesis 3:21). And if you see any time in the Bible that one is clothed by God, it is always clothed in righteousness. (Job 29:14Psalm 132:9,Isaiah 59:17Isaiah 61:10 Cf. Luke 15:11-32Ephesians 6:14)

Let’s keep going down the list.

Romans 3:23 declares all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Genesis 6:5 starts out by God seeing the wickedness of man on the earth, not only in their actions but at the root level of their hearts and minds where all they did was think evil thoughts continuously. Verse 6, God says, “I am sorry I have ever made man and verse 7, God decrees “I am going to wipe out every breathing thing on the earth because I am so sorry I have made them.”

Yet in God’s overwhelming mercy and beautiful grace, he saves one wicked, depraved, horrible, sinful man and his family to be saved. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8) You know the rest of the story: God tells Noah, “I am going to wipe everything off the earth. I need you to build a boat. Not a canoe, not a kayak, not a clipper, I need you to build a really really big ship: an ark. Yea, I know it has never rained—don’t worry about that so much.” Noah, upon hearing the calling of God, believes and now has the power to be obedient.

One last point before the horse is truly beaten. There was this Gentile, pagan, living life like any other sinner would: not worshipping God, not seeking him, not chasing him… just living life. And God calls out to him, “Abram, I need you to leave your dad’s house and your country. I am going to guide you where you are going to go. I am going to use you, you really old man, and through your offspring, I am going to build a nation of my people.” Which wouldn’t be that big of a deal except Abram and Sara have no children. Yet, from God’s calling and by His power, Abram believed.

Four times in the New Testament by Paul and James they will simply quote Genesis 15:6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

But what is the truly awesome power of the effectual calling of God? These guys were basic living, with ears that can hear and an intellect to process such words and had the power to discern what is true or not, whether they came from God or not. Except that Paul will quote the Psalm in Romans 3:10-12 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Paul will go one step further in Ephesians 2 and states emphatically, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)

Was Paul using strong language in saying that we were basically dead? Yet God gives us the perfect analogy:

Ezekiel 37:1-14 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

Not only it is the perfect historical account of God’s breath and God’s words bringing life in Genesis, God’s calling used for salvation throughout the Bible and theologically proven by the prophecies of Ezekiel and the accounts of Paul, the Word himself, Jesus Christ, shows us this way in John 11.

John 11:1-44 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

John 11 is the clearest, boldest, truest example of our salvation. Like Lazarus, we were dead. Yet, God loved us even we could not love God because dead men cannot truly love or have the capacity to fully love. God came to us because dead men cannot walk to God. In his compassion alone, in his mercy alone and having nothing to do with our will and our exertion because dead men cannot will and exert themselves in order to save themselves (Romans 9:15-18), the Almighty God, who alone has power to create and make the dead now alive, calls out to each and every single one of us,

“Come forth! Come to the cross. Lay your sins upon me. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden by the weight of sin and iniquities, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest and peace for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Romans 8:10–11 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Ordo Salutis IV: We Are Destined For Death

“How does God determine who he will save and not save?”

If you ever speak about the doctrine of election and predestination, you are sure to get that question asked.  Numerous times have I been asked this and numerous times the answer of “his glory (Isaiah 48:11, Proverbs 25:2) and his pleasure (Isaiah 48:11 cf. Philippians 2:13)” is simply not good enough.  Furthermore, to answer that “the secret things belong to the LORD (Deuteronomy 29:29)” is merely a copout to most people.  Fair enough.

Perhaps none of us can ever answer why God saves some and damn others.  Perhaps I, as a believer and non-believer alike, don’t want to take Romans, chapters 9 through 11, at face value by making up all sort of excuses like “those chapters are concerning Israel only and not for us Gentiles” (although Paul will go on to say in Galatians 3 that because we have faith in the one seed of Abraham, that is Jesus Christ our Lord, makes all of us sons of Abraham—but I digress.) 

I can sit and pour out every single passage where the elect, election, and predestination was spoken about in the New Testament.  I can sit and point out in all the Old Testament and New Testament stories where there was not one single person who was out looking for God but instead, God found them (Romans 3:10-12).  The Bible along with every single store, television show, play, opera and movie ever always shows the greater meta-narrative: creation, fall, redemption, restoration.  Yet, when the Bible speaks of certain individuals who were saved by God, it continuously shows one thing to be true: we were apart from God, we were not seeking after him and yet God saves.

Even this to be true, you could resist and say, “The Bible doesn’t explicitly say such things.”  Alright, I will throw you that bone.  I will give you that hill for you to conquer and die on.

So then maybe it is my American upbringing has taught me (and rightfully so) that all should be treated equally and therefore, God, being a loving God, should save us all even though every single one of us has waged war against the Almighty and we have all blasphemed his holy name.

Perhaps.

So let me teach what the doctrine of Predestination really teaches.  If we cannot see it from the macro level, let me do my best, beloved reader, to explain it here on the ground level.

The path of humankind leads to destruction.

Exodus 22:20 “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the Lord alone, shall be devoted to destruction

…as oppose to:

Exodus 20:3 You shall have no other gods before me.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Jesus speaks of two paths: one doorway leading to life everlasting or the highway to hell, in Matthew 6:24.  Paul clarifies Christ’s point out in Romans 8:3-8.  

In other words, You cannot serve two masters.  You cannot go down two paths at the same time.  There is no third option.

And Exodus 22:20 speaks of it clearly: If you love and worship something other than the Creator God (Romans 8:18-32), you are headed for destruction.

Keep moving through the Old Testament.  When we get to Deuteronomy and Joshua, we see that God has commanded the Israelites to devoted entire cities to utter destruction due to God’s righteous judgment.  Again, while “innocent before proven guilty” is just and merciful among mortals, limited in knowledge and wisdom, in the eyes of God we all have sinned and fallen short of his glory (Romans 6:23) and the wages we earn for fallen short is death (Romans 6:23 cf. Genesis 2:16).

It is hard for us to imagine or understand how every single man, woman, and child can be condemned to death when we have no way of knowing if they lived good and decent lives.  What if they were helpful, kind and understanding?  What if they lived in peace and love?  What if they were basically good?  We think we are good and the Lord gets to the heart of the matter (Proverbs 16:2)  Yet, those who believe in God know that none of us are good, no, not even one (Romans 3:10-12).  We may have to undo our American upbringing when we approach the throne of God and begin to study the nature of God.  This does not mean we condemn others for judgment is still on God.  That doesn’t mean we seek out revenge for those who have harmed us because revenge is of the Lord.  That doesn’t mean we stop bringing evildoers to justice, for God makes this abundantly clear that we are to submit to the authorities placed over us for they are servants of God’s justice (Romans 13:1-7).

Yet, this is the life we live apart from God:

Matthew 7:13 “… For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

God is omniscient in that He is all knowing and sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7, Romans 8:27).  God is holy for he does not have to tolerate sin.  God is omnipotent in that He alone has the power to make all things right-standing with Him.  And in order to make everything right with Him, God is perfectly just to remove our lives from the face of the earth and judge us to live apart from Him forever.

But God, who is rich in grace, abundant in mercy and pours out his loving kindness as a flood, predestines His people to not to destruction and not to die but to peace, joy, hope, and love and to finally live!

Matthew 7:14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Our destiny lies in destruction.  To try to control our own destiny is to forsake and forget the Lord your God:

Isaiah 65:11
But you who forsake the LORD,
who forget my holy mountain, 
who set a table for Fortune
and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny,
I will destine you to the sword,
and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter,
because, when I called, you did not answer;
when I spoke, you did not listen,
but you did what was evil in my eyes

and chose what I did not delight in.”

But God saves those who he foreknew and loved before the beginning of time and before the foundations of the earth were laid and he will do everything to make them like Him.  For those who heed his call and listen to his voice when He said “Come to me” and love Him, all good and evil things in this world will work together for good.  We might be heading to destruction but God will call those whom he predestines and in turn, justify them before Himself and raise them up to be with Him forever.

Romans 8:28-30 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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.

Ordo Salutis III: For God So Loved The World

Now that we have established who we are in the sight of God, let us tackle the bigger, nay impossible question:

Who is God? Ask my son and he would immediately quote:

God is the universe’s Creator And Sustainer plus the only Savior, there is no one greater. He’s Triune, holy, omnipotent, omniscient, absolute, loving, sovereign and righteous are just a few of His attributes.
– Shai Lynne, Atonement Q&A

To be sure, God is all of those things and so much more. Beyond the authoritative Scriptures, each single attribute has had countless books and papers written describing in full detail the awesome majesty of God.

Yet, when I read the Bible, I am truly confident of who God is for God is love. The Bible overwhelmingly states this to be so. To read the Bible, surely you can walk away from knowing that God is love.

1 John 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

But what is love?

Some adults would say that “if you love me, you would give me what I want.” To which, anyone who has ever raised kids, that statement is complete insanity. Yet, most of the world views God in this light.

God did not spare the life of my loved one.

God did not ease my suffering.

God did not bless me as much as this guy.

God was not there when I needed him the most.

God did not help me when I needed it most.

My father was brutal, distance and unloving so surely God is just like my dad.

Why doesn’t God just reveal himself so that we can believe in him?

God refused to be my divine waiter and He has failed me.

You know what is the clearest example of God’s love to each of us? The fact that He has revealed that He alone is God and we are not gods. I understand it might be easy for me to say that, the one with the regenerative heart. It is easy for me to say that but really hard to live it day in and day out. If it is hard to live out, how I am different than the unrepentant?

There are examples of multiple examples in the Bible where God comes down, calls and that person then chooses every day to trust in Him. But in that I don’t think is the clearest example of God’s love.

There is also the very historical view that Jesus Christ lived the perfect life, falsely accused, illegally tried and died the most horrific death. This has been made plain to those with a little bit of education within the last 2000 years. But in that I don’t think is the clearest example of God’s love.

The one that shines brightest is the story of Moses and more specifically when God called Moses and Aaron to go and preach the gospel to the Pharaoh.

Think about it: Pharaoh equated himself to be a god. Pharaoh declared himself king and lord of the world. Pharaoh declared himself master of the creation around him. Pharaoh proclaimed himself ruler over life and death itself.

Upon the authority of God himself, Moses and Aaron became prophets and missionaries to their own country and approach the Pharaoh and vehemently declares, “You are not a god for there is only the One True God. There is no doubt that you are king and lord over Egypt but who put you there? There is the King of kings and Lord of lords and He has put you there. You were not around when the world was created so surely you cannot be the Creator? Who has stitched you together in your mom’s womb? You were not even born. Who can take your life? We as mankind will shed blood but there is the One who determines the number of our days here on earth.

Pharaoh, you are not Him.

He is the great I AM.

So let His people go!”

Did Moses really say this? No. Instead, God let his words to be few and simply showed Pharaoh he was not a god.

God hammers down the ten plagues.

Through God’s absolute control over His creation, he shows this mere mortal that there was only One True God.

God had nothing to prove to Pharaoh, Egypt, the Israelites, the Prophets or even the world.

He brings down the ten plagues because to every single child of wrath who has ever walked the earth and will ever walk the earth, God relentlessly, passionately, lovingly pursues even to all of those who have exchanged God for themselves as a god.

Romans 9:17-18 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

For His people, he has mercy. To others including Pharaoh, His love and pursuit only serve to harden their hearts.

In his righteousness, just and holiness, God has every single right to remove us from existence and as Creator, he would be perfectly right to do so.

Yet in his grace, mercy, and love, God runs after every single one of us and yells, “I love you.”

It was in God’s love that only served to harden the heart of Pharaoh.

To that very thought, do we desire God to simply leave us alone?

Never! God loves us too much to simply leave us alone.

John 3:16a “For God so loved the world…

If God truly loves the world, how does he claim to have hated Esau (Malachi 1:2-3 cf. Romans 9:13)? Is that a contradiction? Absolutely not. I am fully convinced that God loved Esau when Esau was alive on the earth. But as soon as he perished, he was judged by the Just and Holy God:

Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

For as long as your body draws breath on this earth, make no mistake: God is pursuing you. The question remains: does His pursuit harden or soften your heart towards Him?

Salvation was there for Esau. Salvation was there for you. All you have to do is trust Him.

Hebrews 9:27-28 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Ordo Salutis II: The Weight of Sin

Before we can even try to understand what God has done in Salvation, we must first truly understand our condition as human beings born on this earth. I feel compelled to at least touch on this doctrine for I believe that many Christians sometimes either forget their natural state before God saved them or they simply don’t remember being that ‘bad’ of a person before being saved. It is not that we have to dwell on our depravity, our flesh, our sin nature but to ignore or forget about it would absolutely rob our heart of joy and worship before the Lord.

To see how this all started, we have to go back to the book of beginnings, Genesis.

In Genesis 1 & 2, God reveals to us how He intended and declared all of creation to be: good. But what is good, really? This is not simply ‘good/better/best’ as Christ pointed out to the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-30, although everyone would agree that a world without bad things happening such as death, murder or disease would be a better place. However, the word ‘good’ implies something richer and more meaningful. When God declares creation to be good, he declares it to be right-standing with Himself. Since all of creation, including Adam & Eve, declared good in his sight, there was no separation between God and man. Man, at this point, was simply created into a relationship with God. God’s intention is that man and women would then be born and by the very nature of being born, we would have been born into a perfect relationship with our parents, with all humans and with God. In creating Adam & Eve, our original parents, God gave all humans a heart that continually worships non-stop. Ecclesiastes 3:11 declares that God set eternity into our hearts so that we would always long to worship and that we would seek out that worship in an ever-filling, ever-loving, ever-glorious, everlasting God that would fill our bottomless hearts forever and ever.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

So what happened.

We all know the story of the disobedience of Adam and Eve: Eve was tempted by Satan into breaking the only commandment that God gave us while Adam watched and did nothing.

But let us have the Apostle Paul explain what our original parents did and because of that, what every human has been born into doing automatically:

Romans 1:19-25 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

We have all exchanged the truth:

* All love comes from God
* All good things come from God
* God is our provision
* God is all sufficient
* the fullness of joy is in God alone
* the path of eternal life is in God alone
* true peace is in God
* there is no one greater than God

… for a lie:

* love can be fulfilled in created things
* good things can come from created things
* Created things can provide for me
* Created things will sustain me
* the fullness of joy comes from created things
* the path of eternal life is in created things
* peace can be found in what we do or in our situation
* that God cannot be the greatest

Adam & Eve exchanged the truth of God and exchanged it for something not God. We have exchanged God’s plan for perfect peace and righteousness and exchanged it for our own peace and self-righteousness.

With that horrific exchange, our universe is now broken. Sin, death, disease, suffering, torment, pain, anguish and hurt were introduced into our world through just one man.

And because our God is right-standing, holy and blameless, there is a cataclysmic divide between God and man because of sin.

It is God cannot stand the sight of sin and doesn’t want to deal with it, it is the very nature of God that doesn’t allow for the presence of sin. In the eternal realm, this is very evident in the fall of Lucifer in Isaiah 14. For the very thought of wanting the glory that rightfully belongs to God alone, Lucifer was banished from heaven into hell.

It is by nature we are idol factories.

It is by nature we are children of God’s wrath. Ephesians 2:1-3

It is by nature and choice that we war against God and continuously blaspheme his holy name.

Every single person born of a man has fallen way short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

Because of our sin nature, we cannot do good in the sight of God but we only have the ‘free will’ to continue to do sinful things. Romans 3:10-12

For our sin nature, it is quite just for our righteous, holy, and blameless God to rightfully condemn us and rightfully take our lives and we would not be in the right for us as creation to demand from the Creator, “Why!” Daniel 4:35, Jeremiah 18:1-23

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death…

For us being born, we are destined to die.

Is there any hope for our weight of sin? Who can be so powerful enough, yet able and willing enough to save me? The world cannot. It has failed and constantly fails within itself. People cannot because they’re infected with it as well. Inanimate objects? Are we even asking that question?

Then who can save me from this body of death? Christ Jesus is his name!

Ordo Salutis I: The Overflowing Love of God

To proclaim ourselves as Christians to proclaim that we believe and trust upon Christ as our Saviour and Lord. 

At that beautiful moment when God saved us, we hope and pray that each one of us are immediately surrounded by other brothers and sisters in Christ that are willing to walk alongside us in love, encouragement, teaching and exhortation.  It is my sincere hope that no newly saved person is ever alone by themselves trying to figure this thing especially when the cross of Christ has not only saved us to Himself but we have been reconciled to each other. Here at ground zero, we are given a new heart and new desires by God.  Desires to want to know more of him, to know and love Him more and more each day.

But how is it that we are actually come to salvation by God?  This is the question that the idea of the Latin term “Ordo Salutis” (or the Order of Salvation) attempts to answer.  If we have some knowledge of the Bible, the better question would no doubt be:

“What did God have to do in order to save His people to Himself?”

In order to answer this, we have to fully dive into the Scriptures to see what God has revealed about what salvation is.  We cannot rely on superstition, church history or simply what “feels good”.  We must seek out what God says about salvation.

So in this series, we are going to attempt answer questions such as, “Does the Bible teach about God electing us to salvation?”, “Are we predestined by God?”, “What is free will of man?” and “Can a person truly be saved without the outward appearance of a new heart?”.

So in this, we begin with the Golden Chain (emphasized in orange) found in this passage:

Romans 8:27-30 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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.

In verse 30, Paul did not simply throw the words “predestined”, “called”, “justified” and “glorified” at us as though their order matter not.  Paul was very careful in ordering them in the way that he did to give us the idea of what all occurred on the part of God in order to save us. 

Before we begin to take this passage apart and split into different doctrines, I want to know some of your thoughts.  Keep in mind that they are no wrong answers.  I want you to be as honest as possible because I simply want to know where you are coming from and what your perceptions are.

Here are your questions to ponder for our next lesson.  Feel free to answer in the comment section:

  1. What does predestination mean to you?
  2. Do you believe that God predestined our salvation?
  3. What is free will?

Passages to read for our next lesson:

  • Romans 8:27-30
  • Romans 3:10-12
  • Genesis 3:1-21 (What was Adam and Eve doing before God clothed them?)
  • Genesis 6:1-9 (What was Noah doing before God bestowed grace upon him?)
  • Genesis 12:1-4 (What was Abram doing before God called out to him?)
  • Isaiah 6:1-7 (What was Isaiah doing before God revealed His glory to him?)
  • Acts 7:54-8:3; 9:1-6 (What was Saul doing before God saved him?)

I am very excited to walk alongside you in this study.   I strongly encourage you to do all things, especially reading the word of God, bathed in prayer and seeking out His understanding and His will in all things.

May God bless us all in this journey.