Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Election and Reprobation

Recently I read a blog entry at Vision Forum on the topic of Margaret Sanger. Click here to view it. I commented in another public forum just how despicable and evil this woman was.

A friend of mine saw my comments and gave a gentle reminder that:
When we speak of such people (in the past) with our children who did great evils, we remind them that perhaps there was never a true Christian to share the light of Christ with them.

I responded to this with a very brief explanation of the doctrine of election. My friend’s response back to me was basically that we will just have to agree to disagree. Can we “agree to disagree?” Is this such a minor issue that we can simply place our differences aside and move on, pretending that it is not an issue at all? I suppose the answer to that question depends on the depth of the friendship. In this case, I have never met my friend personally. We “met” online. Additionally, this friend is of the opposite gender of myself, and we are both married. So, that fact alone means that this friendship should remain somewhat on an “acquaintance” level, unless, of course, both of our spouses are in this friendship together, and as couples and families we get to know one another in that context. Regardless of the implications for this friendship, of which I still consider her a friend, I feel the root of the issue must be addressed. We live in an age where the majority of those who name the name of Christ are preoccupied declaring God’s mercy to the exclusion of His justice.

There are many facets to this issue. I’m only going to attempt to discuss a few. First, for whom did Christ die? Next, can we know who are the elect? Lastly, must we always give the “benefit of the doubt” to those who have passed on that they may have had a deathbed conversion?

At the heart of this issue is the question, “For whom did Christ die?” Stating it another way, “For whose sins did the Lord Jesus redeem?” John Owen declared that there are three possibilities. Christ paid for all the sins of everyone. Christ paid for all of the sins of some. Christ paid for some of the sins for all. If we declare the first statement to be true, then we hold to a doctrine of universalism, for it would mean that no one will go to Hell. If Christ paid the cost of sin, it would be unjust for anyone to go to Hell in order to pay the penalty once again. This is obviously an unscriptural doctrine. We see Jesus’ story of the rich man, for example, in Hell. The Bible is full of references to people being cast into Hell. (Matt 5:22, Matt 5:29, Matt 5:30, Matt 10:28, Matt 23:33, 2 Pet 2:9…and so on) Therefore, we know the first assertion can not be true.

As we’ll see shortly, I believe the second statement to be the truth. But first, let me show the fallacy of the last statement. If Christ paid for some of the sins of all, then there remains sin for which we must pay in order to gain entrance into Heaven. This is the heresy of purgatory, and the like.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
(Eph 2:8-9)

We are wholly unable to earn any of our salvation. It is 100% given to us by God Himself.

The last option is that Jesus Christ paid for all the sins of some. This view represents the orthodox view of Christianity. The fact is that we are all corrupt.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
(Rom 5:12)

Each and every one of us deserves eternal hellfire for our sins. God would not be unjust to give to everyone the just punishment that we all deserve. Yet, God, in His sovereign grace, has elected some unto everlasting life. This is a glorious truth! This speaks of a loving and merciful God who has compassion on sinners! There are those who say, “Wait a minute. It is unjust to choose some to the exclusion of others.” I ask you, “How so?”

Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
(Mat 20:15)

My sister and her husband just adopted a baby from Russia. Were they unjust because they didn’t adopt all the rest of the children in that Russian orphanage? No. They were gracious and merciful toward their new daughter in rescuing her out of those conditions. In no way can they be said to be unjust toward the other children just because they showed kindness to one.

Therefore, in my very futile attempts, I have presented a short case for the doctrine of election. There are volumes of literature on the subject, with the primary source being the Bible itself. If you are not convinced, read Romans 9. Read:

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
(Rom 9:18)

Read the rest of the chapter. It is very convincing.

So, the second question I will address is, Can we know who are the elect? The short answer is, As long as they are living, No! The Apostle Paul was formerly Saul who persecuted the church. The Lord came upon him mightily and thwarted Saul’s purpose. Modern examples abound. Norma McCorvey was the “Roe” in the infamous Roe v. Wade decision that has legalized the murder of over 45,000,000 babies since 1973. However, “Miss Norma,” as she became to be known was converted to Christ by a little girl who loved and prayed for her. The crux of this is that we must faithfully proclaim the Gospel to all. There are those who we may judge to be “holy” that the Lord does not know (Matt 25:41) Likewise, there may be those whom we may judge to be hell bound that experience the effectual call of the Lord Jesus Christ, like Miss Norma. We should remain faithful to proclaim this Gospel, understanding that God’s elect will hear and turn. Those vessels of wrath, will never heed the warning, and they will run headlong into destruction. Returning to our previous point for a moment, remember, that no matter how much preaching is given to a reprobate, they will choose death. When my friend wondered if Margaret Sanger had no true Christian to share the light of Christ with her, my friend is implying that somehow we, as Christians, are at fault if someone dies in their sins. It’s as if there’s an accusation saying, “If you had only been more faithful in declaring the salvation of Christ, this sinner would have repented.” Yes, we are to be faithful in declaring His Gospel. However, the glorious truth of the doctrines of grace is that it is God who calls forth His elect through these means. Therefore, when the unrepentant sinner dies in his sin, that sinner receives his just punishment.

Finally, are we to always give the dead the “benefit of the doubt” and declare that we “cannot know” the state of their soul? This sounds nice. After all, we would never wish eternal hellfire on anyone. Hell is unimaginable. I would never wish hellfire on even the vilest child molester. It is such a great punishment that no one can bear it. Yet, billions are bearing it and will continue to bear it throughout eternity. In considering the deceased, we can look at their lives. We can note the fruit that they bore while in their bodies. We can ask their family if a profession of faith was ever made. Some will die that we truly can not tell their eternal destination. The scripture tells us that wide is the gate that leads unto destruction, and narrow is the way that leads unto life. (Matt 7:13-14) So, in reality, we have a much better chance of being right if we assume that someone dies and goes to Hell than we do if we assume that they went to Heaven. So, what are the consequences of making an assumption on someone’s eternal destination? One fact can be observed: The consequences of our assumptions only affect the living among us. Whether I think someone is in Hell, or whether I think they are in Heaven, it does not change where they actually are. If I’m wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time, because I am a fallible creature. Therefore, let’s consider five possibilities on claims I may make after someone dies:

1) I claim that the person is in Heaven, and they are really in Hell.

In this case, I’m wrong. My sentiments may give the family a “warm fuzzy.” It may cause them to imitate their loved one. After all, it all worked out OK for them. So God would not treat them any worse, they reason.

2) I claim that the person is in Heaven, and they are really in Heaven.

Hopefully, I have based my claim on the fact that I knew this person to be a God fearing person whom the Lord Jesus Christ had called as one of His own. It was obvious they were one of His elect, because the fruit of their life bore it out.

3) I claim that the person is in Hell, and they are really in Hell.

I am able to teach my children that the unrepentant sinner is reaping the consequences of their actions. I am able to tell them that we all deserve Hell. However, the Lord Jesus Christ has made a way for His elect to escape that punishment. I can point to specific ways that this person’s heart was hardened by God Himself, and we can learn how to oppose these views in our lives. God’s just punishment for this sinner is bringing the fruit of repentance to those of us who can learn from their example how “not to live our lives.”

4) I claim that the person is in Hell, and they are really in Heaven.

In this case, the proverbial “death bed conversion” most likely happened. For if the conversion happened earlier in life, their fruits would have been apparent. In this case, I am wrong. Maybe I am guilty of bearing false witness? Good thing that the grace of God has forgiven me of my sins. I would not knowingly make this claim. If the fruit of this life was such that I would make such an accusation, then all the benefits I described in point #3 also apply here. For if I can’t know they made a last minute decision, then others probably don’t know that either. My claims will not alter their eternal state. So, I’ve served them no injustice by making such a claim. However, the lessons I can teach my children through their bad example in life will serve the same purpose whether or not they really ended up in hell.

5) I claim that “no one can know” their eternal destination.

This is a wishy washy answer. Sometimes it’s the best we can do because we truly have no idea. However, if we really have a good idea and yet we “hold our tongue” out of politeness or another reason, we may miss a good opportunity to share the Gospel. If someone truly had the fruits of a Christian and we know they publicly professed Christ, why would we ever want to tell anyone that “no one can know” their destination. Likewise, if the subject under discussion is Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and yes, Margaret Sanger, then we miss an opportunity to tell why a hater of God is now burning in Hell for all eternity. No, it’s not a pleasant thought. However, sometimes this needs to be spoken. Jonathan Edwards did not hold back in declaring the dangers of hellfire in his, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Neither should we, as the modern “church” is wont to do, fail to declare the realities of Hell to a generation that is heading there just as fast as they possibly can.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

One Generation Away from Extinction

The Church is one generation from extinction.

I have heard this quote many times. So, today, I did a few web searches to try and determine the source of this quote. I found web sites from various denominational sources and various doctrinal positions all attributing this quote to someone from their camp. Regardless of who said it first, there is an obvious truth encompassed here. Yet, in spite of the proliferation of this message, there are precious few who have embraced this message and are actively discipling the next generation to carry the torch. A quick glance at the sites I brought up may give a reason why. It seems that the emphasis associated with this quote is on evangelism. Now, I’m all for evangelism, but I maintain that our primary “targets” for evangelism should be those children in our own homes. Evangelism means more than just simply soliciting an altar call conversion from someone, adding a notch in your Bible, and moving on to the next hunting ground. Rather, true evangelism will lead someone to discipleship. It will involve years of study and a pouring of one’s self into that person whom God converted through your witness. Our children are our main field of evangelism. For it is through them that we can actually spend all this necessary time. It is almost impossible (though with God all things are possible) to spend this same amount of time needed to thoroughly disciple someone not in your family. Men have done it (Paul and Timothy for example). You may be called to do this. Yet, we know from Deuteronomy 6 that God requires this of fathers toward their children. Why is it then that we fail in this endeavor so often? This phenomenon is not new by any means.

And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
(Jdg 2:8-10)

Here we see a description of mighty Joshua, one of only two spies under Moses’ authority who brought back a good report on God’s ability to deliver Canaan into Israel’s hand. Joshua and Caleb were the only two of their generation allowed by God to enter the Promised Land. The “up and coming” generation that did enter the Promised Land received their instruction from Joshua. They learned to trust Jehovah God from him. Joshua taught them the Law of Moses. He instructed them concerning the Providences of God on their behalf. However, what Joshua failed to impart into this people was the absolute necessity of carrying on a multi-generational heritage. The result of this was devastating to Israel. How can we miss this?!

You may have a heart that seeks after God. You may serve him with your whole heart. Yet, if your children do not carry on your vision, your family, your church, and your country will be shattered. This is what happened with Joshua. This is what happened with Eli. This is what happened with Job. This is what happened with David. And this is what happened with our American forefathers. We are kidding ourselves if we think it can’t happen to us. We must be deliberate in passing our values on to our children. We must be explicit in explaining our doctrine and the things of God to them. If we neglect this duty, we allow them to “explore on their own” what they will believe. I believe in the Sovereignty of God. I believe that He will lead them according to His will even if we neglect our duty. However, to the extent that we are obedient in His mandate in instructing our children, I believe that God will honor our commitment and preserve our children in the way of righteousness. If my children rebel and embrace heretical teachings, it will be in spite of my instruction, not due to my neglect of it. I pray this will never happen. Yet, while praying, I will do all I can to teach them rightly. I urge you to do the same. Solid Christian fathers, committed to obeying God in their duties to raise their children according to His precepts are the only hope for our declining nation.