Saved and Being Saved (Warfield)

 The Bible talks about salvation in many different places.  It also uses different tenses when it talks about the salvation of God’s people.  For example, we have been saved (Eph 2:5).  We are being saved (2 Cor. 2:15), and we will be saved (Mt. 24:13).  This language means that when God graciously rescues a person from sin, death, and hell, he doesn’t just bring the person immediately to glory.  Instead, there’s a path, or journey called the Christian life.  Here’s how B. B. Warfield put it:

What is chiefly of importance for us to bear in mind here, is that God’s plan is to save, whether the individual or the world, by process. No doubt the whole salvation of the individual sinner is already accomplished on the cross: but the sinner enters into the full enjoyment of this accomplished salvation only by stages and in the course of time. Redeemed by Christ, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, justified through faith, received into the very household of God as his sons, led by the Spirit into the flowering and fruiting activities of the new life, our salvation is still only in process and not yet complete.

We still are the prey of temptation; we still fall into sin; we still suffer sickness, sorrow, death itself. Our redeemed bodies can hope for nothing but to wear out in weakness and to break down in decay in the grave. Our redeemed souls only slowly enter into their heritage. Only when the last trump shall sound and we shall rise from our graves, and perfected souls and incorruptible bodies shall together enter into the glory prepared for God’s children, is our salvation complete.

 Benjamin B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation: Five Lectures (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1915), 129.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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Assurance, Introspection, and Religious Feelings (Hodge)

 Assurance of faith is one of the great blessings of the Christian life.  To be sure, it comes and goes, waxes and wanes.  Sometimes the Christian is certain he or she is a beloved child of God.  Other times the Christian doubts whether it is so.  But assurance is something Christians should pray for, strive for, and be thankful when they have it.  Charles Hodge has a good word on the grounds, or basis, for assurance in volume three of his Systematic Theology:

Many sincere believers are too introspective. They look too exclusively within, so that their hope is graduated [grows] by the degree of evidence of regeneration which they find in their own experience. This, except in rare cases, can never lead to the assurance of hope. We may examine our hearts with all the microscopic care prescribed by President Edwards in his work on “The Religious Affections,” and never be satisfied that we have eliminated every ground of misgiving and doubt.

The grounds of assurance are not so much within, as without us. They are, according to Scripture,

(1.) The universal and unconditional promise of God that those who come to Him in Christ, He will in no wise cast out; that whosoever will, may take of the water of life without money and without price. We are bound to be assured that God is faithful and will certainly save those who believe.

(2.) The infinite, immutable, and gratuitous love of God. In the first ten verses of the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and in the eighth chapter of that epistle from the thirty-first verse to the end, the Apostle dwells on these characteristics of the love of God, as affording an immovable foundation of the believer’s hope.

(3.) The infinite merit of the satisfaction of Christ, and the prevalence of his continued intercession. Paul, in Romans 8:34, especially emphasizes these points.

(4.) The covenant of redemption in which it is promised that all given by the Father to the Son, shall come to Him, and that none of them shall be lost.

(5.) From the witness of the Spirit, Paul says, “We … rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us. That is, the Holy Ghost assures us that we are the objects of that love which he goes on to describe as infinite, immutable, and gratuitous. (Rom. 5:3–5.) And again, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”

If, therefore, any true believer lacks the assurance of faith, the fault is in himself and not in the plan of salvation, or in the promises of God.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 107.

(This is a re-blog from December 2016.)

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Father’s Grace (Bunyan)

Saved by Grace The phrase “saved by grace” is one that is rich with meaning and comfort.  John Bunyan noted well that saying “saved by the grace of God” means “saved by the grace of the triune God.”  He then took some time to explain the grace of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in salvation.  Here’s what he said about the grace of God the Father in salvation:

1. The Father by his grace hath bound up them that shall go to heaven in an eternal decree of election; and here, indeed, as was showed at first, is the beginning of our salvation (2 Tim 1:9). And election is reckoned not the Son’s act, but the Father’s—“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:3, 4). Now this election is counted an act of grace—“So then, at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom 11:5).

2. The Father’s grace ordaineth and giveth the Son to undertake for us our redemption. The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world—“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph 1:7; 2:7; 1 John 4:14; John 3:16; 6:32, 33; 12:49).

3. The Father’s grace giveth us to Christ to be justified by his righteousness, washed in his blood, and saved by his life. This Christ mentioneth, and tells us it is his Father’s will that they should be safe-coming at the last day, and that he had kept them all the days of his life, and they shall never perish (John 6:37–39; 17:2, 12).

4. The Father’s grace giveth the kingdom of heaven to those that he hath given to Jesus Christ—“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

5. The Father’s grace provideth and layeth up in Christ, for those that he hath chosen, a sufficiency of all spiritual blessings, to be communicated to them at their need, for their preservation in the faith, and faithful perseverance through this life; “not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim 1:9; Eph 1:3, 4).

6. The Father’s grace saveth us by the blessed and effectual call that he giveth us to the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:9; Gal 1:15).

7. The Father’s grace saveth us by multiplying pardons to us, for Christ’s sake, day by day—“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7).

8. The Father’s grace saves us by exercising patience and forbearance towards us all the time of our unregeneracy (Rom 3:24).

9. The Father’s grace saveth us by holding of us fast in his hand, and by keeping of us from all the power of the enemy—“My Father,” said Christ, “that gave them me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29).

John Bunyan, Saved by Grace, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006), 343–344.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Grace Knows No Human Contribution (Murray)

Murray vol 1 John Murray’s article called “The Grace of God” is a wonderful brief summary of how Scripture talks about the sovereign grace of God in salvation (election, the atonement, justification, and sanctification).  Here are a few parts I especially appreciated:

The grace of God comes to its richest expression in redemption and salvation.  How plainly this is set forth in Paul’s well-known word, ‘By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8)!  When he says, ‘and that not of yourselves,’ he is reminding us of the true nature of grace, that its whole urge and explanation reside in God.  It may be easy to give formal assent to this text.  Every evangelical Christian will do so.  But how ready we are to shy away from its implications!  In reality we deny the truth here asserted when we introduce at any point in the whole span and process of salvation a decisive autonomy on the part of man.  If salvation at any point is contingent upon some contribution which man himself makes, then at that point it is of ourselves, and to that extent it is not of grace.  Paul’s definition ‘and that not of yourselves’ is thereby effaced and the true nature of grace is denied.

…If grace is in operation, if it has any place, it must have the whole place, it must be exclusively operative.  If we are justified to any degree by works of law, we are debtors to do the whole law (cf. Gal. 5:3) and justification must be wholly of law.  Here again we have the same principle exemplified and confirmed: grace knows no human contribution.  If of grace, then it is wholly and exclusively of grace.  Since salvation is of grace, it is all of grace.  Human autonomy is excluded at every point as decisively as at the point of justification.

Grace alone means exactly that: salvation is all, only, and exclusively of grace – grace alone!

John Murray, Collected Writings, vol 1, p. 121-122.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Faith and Submission (Hodge)

In chapter six of The Way of Life, Charles Hodge summarized some different ways the Bible speaks about justifying faith.  One of those examples is faith as submission (cf. Rom 10:3).

Another term by which faith is expressed is submitting. This is not to be understood as meaning a submission to the will of God as a sovereign ruler, a giving up all our controversy with him and resigning ourselves into his hands. All this is duty, but it is not saving faith. The submission required is submission to the revealed plan of salvation; it is the giving up all excuses for our sins, all dependence upon our own righteousness, and submitting to the righteousness which God has provided for our justification. This is what the Jews refused to do, and perished in unbelief.  This is what we must do, in order to be saved.

Men, when sensible of their guilt and danger, are perplexed and anxious about many things. But there is only one thing for them to do. They must submit to be saved as ungodly, as sinners, as entirely undeserving, solely for Christ’s sake. They must consent to allow the robe of his righteousness to be cast over all their nakedness and blood, that they may be found in him, not having their own righteousness, but the righteousness which is by faith in Jesus Christ. Then will they be prepared to join that great multitude which stand before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and palms in their hands, crying with a loud voice, ‘Salvation to our God who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us unto God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and people, and tongue, and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests.’

It is thus that the Bible answers the question, What must we do to be saved? We are told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; and to set forth the nature, the object and office of this faith, the Scriptures employ the most significant terms and illustrations, in order that we may learn to renounce ourselves and our works, and to be found in Christ depending solely upon what He has done and suffered as the ground of our acceptance with God. Those who thus believe, have passed from death unto life; they are no longer under condemnation; they have peace with God and rejoice in hope of his glory. As this faith unites them with Christ, it makes them not only partakers of his death, but of his life. The Holy Spirit, given without measure to him, is through him given unto them, and works in them the fruits of holiness, which are unto the praise and glory of God.

Charles Hodge, The Way of Life (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1841), 216–218.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

Saved by Grace!

I’m very thankful to have grown up in a solid Christian home and church that stressed the truths of Reformed theology.  From the time I was a young boy, I learned the Bible verses and confessional phrases that talk about faith alone, Christ alone, grace alone, and so forth.  I would have told you when I was young that we are not saved by works.  Some of my Sunday School and catechism books had titles like “Saved by Grace.”  This teaching of salvation by grace alone has been dear to me for a long time.  I know my good works are neither the cause nor the foundation of my salvation.  My salvation is wholly found in Christ.

I was recently reminded of this when reading the Belgic Confession of Faith articles 22-25.  In these great paragraphs, the Confession says that all things “requisite to our salvation” are found in Christ and that those who “possess Jesus Christ through faith have complete salvation in him.”  It also says that the Christian’s good works “are of no account towards our justification.”  In fact, it says, “though we do good works, we do not found our salvation upon them.”  Here’s how John Calvin similarly discussed this in his commentary on Hebrews 6:10 (God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him [NIV]).

But here a difficulty arises, because he seems to say that God is bound by the services of men: “I am persuaded,” he says, “as to your salvation, because God cannot forget your works.” He seems thus to build salvation on works, and to make God a debtor to them. And the sophists, who oppose the merits of works to the grace of God, make much of this sentence, “God is not unrighteous.” For they hence conclude that it would be unjust for him not to render for works the reward of eternal salvation. To this I briefly reply, that the Apostle does not here speak avowedly of the cause of our salvation, and that therefore no opinion can be formed from this passage as to the merits of works, nor can it be hence determined what is due to works. The Scripture shews everywhere that there is no other fountain of salvation but the gratuitous mercy of God: and that God everywhere promises reward to works, this depends on that gratuitous promise, by which he adopts us as his children, and reconciles us to himself by not imputing our sins. Reward then is reserved for works, not through merit, but through the free bounty of God alone; and yet even this free reward of works does not take place, except we be first received into favour through the kind mediation of Christ.

We hence conclude, that God does not pay us a debt, but performs what he has of himself freely promised, and thus performs it, inasmuch as he pardons us and our works; nay, he looks not so much on our works as on his own grace in our works. It is on this account that he forgets not our works, because he recognises himself and the work of his Spirit in them. And this is to be righteous, as the Apostle says, for he cannot deny himself. This passage, then, corresponds with that saying of Paul, “He who has begun in you a good work will perfect it.” (Phil. 1:6.) For what can God find in us to induce him to love us, except what he has first conferred on us? In short, the sophists are mistaken in imagining a mutual relation between God’s righteousness and the merits of our works, since God on the contrary so regards himself and his own gifts, that he carries on to the end what of his own good-will he has begun in us, without any inducement from anything we do; nay, God is righteous in recompensing works, because he is true and faithful: and he has made himself a debtor to us, not by receiving anything from us; but as Augustine says, by freely promising all things.

John Calvin and John Owen, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 142–143.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

Dear Devil, Go Eat the Dung (Luther)

In 1532 Martin Luther preached a sermon at the funeral of Duke John of Saxony.  He preached on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14.  It’s a good sermon in many ways.  One helpful part of this sermon is where Luther explained how Satan, the accuser, uses the law in a crafty way.  He first tells us that we have to be good and keep the law, but then he reminds us that we haven’t kept the law.  “And with that thought he brings one into such anxiety that one is ready to despair.”  Luther continues:

And again when occasionally I have done something good, Satan is nevertheless able to turn it around in such a way that my holiness is reduced to nothingness. Then I make haste to seize hold of the article of the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for my sins [I Cor. 15:31]; and this is precisely what Satan does not want to let into my heart. But what does go into the heart is that I have done this and not done that, that I have given alms, been good, etc., just as I can say of our beloved prince that he had a faithful heart, devoid of malice and envy.

In other words, if Satan can’t get us to despair about our many sins, he tries to get us to be proud of our obedience.  Again, Luther:

But by all means take care not to let anybody persuade you of this on your deathbed; for then the devil is not far away; he can throw in your face a little sin which reduces all such fine virtues to nothing, so that finally you come to such a pass that you say: Devil, rage as much as you please, I do not boast of my good works and virtues before our Lord God at all, nor shall I despair on account of my sins, but I comfort myself with the fact that Jesus Christ died and rose again, as the text here says.

Lo, when I believe this with my whole heart, then I have the greatest treasure, namely, the death of Christ and the power which it has wrought, and I am more concerned with that than with what I have done. Therefore, devil, begone with both my righteousness and my sin. If I have committed some sin, go eat the dung; it’s yours. I’m not worrying about it, for Jesus Christ died. St. Paul bids me comfort myself with this, that I may learn to defend myself from the devil and say: Even though I have sinned, it doesn’t matter; I will not argue with you about what evil or good I have done. There is no time to talk of that now; go away and do it some other time when I have been a bad boy, or go to the impenitent and scare them all you please. But with me, who have already been through the anguish and throes of death, you’ll find no place now. This is not the time for arguing, but for comforting myself with the words that Jesus Christ died and rose for me. Thus I am sure that God will bring me, along with other Christians, with Christ to his right hand and carry me through death and hell.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 51, p. 241.

Shane Lems