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Peter Meney, Doctrinal Matters

Is Grace Common?

26 Jan 2023, by

Do you believe in common grace?

To answer this question one needs to be able to define what common grace is. Unfortunately, the term means different things to different people. For some common grace describes God’s good gifts or common provisions in nature such as sunshine and rain. Some see it in terms of talents or gifts that lead to human distinction in art, sport or music. Others discern the restraining hand of God holding back human wickedness by conscience and the structures of law, order and civil government; keeping society from deteriorating into anarchy.

All things to all men

If this was the extent of common grace teaching we could be content, but it does not stop there. Recently, common grace has taken on two new functions. It seems its flexibility knows no bounds. First, it is preached from pulpits in support of universal offers of saving grace and to exemplify how God cares for everyone and wants everyone to be saved. Second, it is used by some para-church organisations to justify their existence and defend joint campaigning on moral issues with non-evangelicals.

At its heart common grace means goodness shown by God to saved and unsaved alike. It is distinguished from particular grace or saving grace, which is only given to certain individuals – the elect. It is usually divided into two parts. First, God’s grace restrains man from being as bad as he could be, given total depravity. Second, God’s grace enables men to perform worthy deeds. These ‘good works’ fall short of works meriting salvation.

Common grace is explicitly not saving grace but some say it impinges on the doctrine of salvation. Though sin deserves punishment, we are told, God is patient and longsuffering with mankind, not willing that any should perish. Consequently, though common grace does not actually save anyone, it demonstrates God’s desire and willingness to save everyone.

Common grace teachers believe God has two great works going on in the history of the world. First, the work of saving the church by special grace, second the work of improving society by common grace.

Rejecting common grace

However, we do not accept that these two works are a valid representation of God’s dealings with men. Rather we believe that God’s great purpose is singular and particular – the work of redeeming chosen sinners by the blood of Jesus Christ. God is saving His people from their sins, from death and from hell. This is the special work of the Lord Jesus and outside of Christ there is no salvation, no redemption and no grace, common or otherwise.

Common providence

Clearly people enjoy many pleasures in life, acts of charity are performed and great works accomplished. It is also true that sun and rain nurture crops without reference to election and reprobation. We are better off with government than without. Such things cannot be denied, yet we find the term ‘common grace’ unhelpful.

We do not know as God knows, and what some call ‘grace’ may be no more than the means of man’s destruction. Nations and individuals can appear, in human terms, to prosper but we should not ascribe this to…

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In Numbers chapter 15 an incident is recounted from Israel’s wilderness wandering. It concerns a man who gathered sticks on the sabbath day, and the high cost of his actions.

Today, in Britain, we have completely erased capital punishment from the list of possible sentences for wrongdoing. The ultimate act of retribution, the death penalty, is no longer available to judges even for the most heinous of crimes.

Sabbath breaking

But in Old Testament Israel this was not the case. There were numerous crimes such as murder, adultery and idolatry that earned the punishment of death. However, there were also other crimes such as disobedience towards parents, gluttony, and sabbath-breaking that equally brought down the wrath of the executioner.

In our modern culture in which we have made a god of human rights, we find such a severe sanction excessive for what might be regarded as at worst, misdemeanours.

Yet often there is a spiritual lesson in the Old Testament rules that point to the real relevance of a severe judgement by God. Take for example the story of the man arrested for gathering firewood on the sabbath day. By working on the Sabbath this man was knowingly profaning God’s appointed day of rest. This was in direct contradiction of God’s law. It demonstrated a spirit of rebellion and contempt. For picking up sticks the man was condemned to die.

Some will consider the punishment too harsh. Few today, even amongst the strictest sabbatarians, would advocate such punishment. Yet here it is, as clear as you like, at the express command of God, ‘The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.’ (v 35).

A fearful crime

Why was the crime so serious and the punishment so severe? What possible harm could the…

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Sinai is a desert; a barren, desolate, inhospitable and largely lifeless place. How suitable that God should give the law in Sinai. It is the place of death and the killing letter. Here Moses received the Ten Commandments on two tables of stone.

Today travellers to Mount Sinai reach the summit along a steep track of 3,750 so-called steps of penitence between two towering walls of solid rock. It is a fitting reminder of how Moses’ two tablets of stone have, by design, shut out the light of grace and weighed down the poor convicted soul. Making it, says Paul “the ministration of death”.

How adamant the “killing letter” of the law has proved to be by its relentless condemnation and its barren, fruitless “yoke of bondage”. There neither is, nor can be life or liberty for the Lord’s spiritual people at Mount Sinai. Those who seek for life in Sinai’s law are searching in “a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert”.

“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held”. How comforted and blessed are those who come to Christ for life and liberty, cleansing and holiness. How satisfied and filled are those who know themselves to be “not under the law, but under grace”.

The law our rule of life? Never! Sinai is the way of death. Christ is the way of life for the believer and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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Genesis 3 has a strong claim to being the saddest chapter in the Bible. With the fall of man begins every sorrow and pain. Here is the source, the genesis and origin of the hurt of every injury, the tears of every hungry child, the suffering of sickness, disease and death in every generation. Man is born to trouble, and nature is red in tooth and claw, because of the events recorded here.

More, the souls of countless men and women have been consigned to eternal separation and everlasting punishment because of Adam’s act of disobedience against God. Surely, the depth, breadth and degree of human suffering in both this life and the next that flow from the events recorded here is beyond reckoning.

But, conversely, Genesis 3 also has a claim to be the happiest chapter in the Bible for it is here that the first suggestion of God’s grace is glimpsed and the first promise of salvation is given. Robert Hawker writes, “Here we read the sad origin of sin, and its unavoidable consequences, misery and death. And here, we no less, behold the first discoveries of grace, in the promised redemption, by our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Three Curses

Satan took the form of a serpent to deceive the woman and by doing so obtained a name employed by the Apostles John and Paul. John says, “… that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world (Revelation 12:9). Do you see the scale of this act? In deceiving the first parents of all mankind the whole world was deceived. The Fall is universal. Sin and its wages death came upon all men. Says Paul, ”by the offence of one (or by one offence, one act of disobedience) judgment came upon all men to condemnation.

Note the progress of temptation. A question is set, doubt introduced, and soon men are judging God. It is a small step from disbelief to disobedience. By the woman’s act and Adam’s complicity the whole world is condemned; every race, nation and individual. We carry the seed of death, the evil nature and distorted perceptions of our fallen progenitors.

God cursed the snake for its part in the plot. Perhaps snake walked upright, or even flew. Now both serpent and Satan are cursed to slither in the dust and eat dirt. The tempter is cast down, his onetime beauty spoiled and lost forever.

And God cursed the ground. There are many beautiful sights and places upon earth yet as…

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1. Amen : These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God (Revelation 3:14). This name of our Lord Jesus speaks of the Saviour’s trustworthiness and faithfulness. All He speaks is true, all He reveals is certain and dependable, all He promises will most surely come to pass.

2. Bishop : For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls (1 Peter 2:25). That Christ is the Bishop of our never-dying souls points to His role as overseer, protector and guide of the elect of God committed into His charge in covenant purpose by God the Father, before the foundation of the world.

3. Only Potentate : Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15). Our Lord is the mighty One with whom there is no equal. How weak our trust is when we worry and fret as though Our Great King’s power was somehow diminished.

4. Dayspring : Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us (Luke 1:78). Dawn brings light, warmth and hope. The fears of the night have passed away. The promise of a new day lays before us. Light shines on our path to enable our progress. In mercy God sent His dearly beloved Son to shine into our lives and guide us into the warmth of His love.

5. Messenger of the Covenant : Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts (Malachi 3:1). Christ, the delight of His Church and Bride has come to His temple. He is both the sum of the everlasting covenant of peace and its bearer to God’s people, who dwell in Him and He in them.

6. Rabboni : Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master (John 20:16). There is meaning here beyond mere respect in the astonished exclamation of Mary. She honours her Lord as highly as words will express as the significance of His wise and successful mission of redemption dawns upon her mind.

7. Refiner : And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver … (Malachi 3:2, 3). The Lord Jesus separates men from men, good from evil and cleanses His people by taking every impurity, every imperfection, every sin from them and carrying them all Himself. And though His people be brought through fires of trial, He walks with them in the furnace.

8. Sceptre : … a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth (Numbers 24:17). A sceptre is a rod or crook carried by a king and symbolic of his shepherding care of his people. It may also suggest a pen by which a judgment is written. So the Lord Jesus Christ shepherds His little flock and records every offence against them by their enemies in this world.

9. Tried Stone : Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation (Isaiah 28:16). Our Saviour is the solid rock upon which His people are fitly built together in the church. He is tried and found sufficient for every trouble, trial and threat. When floods rise to shake the building the tried and tested stone stands firm.

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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The evangelist John was the youngest of the Lord’s apostles. In his lifetime heresies arose concerning the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. By divine inspiration John wrote his gospel to combat these heresies and carefully emphasised both the Lord’s divine and His human nature. One of the ways he accomplished this was by highlighting the different names of the Saviour. In the opening chapter of his gospel John attributes at least fifteen different names to the Lord. They are:

1. The Word (v. 1)

In the beginning of God’s purpose to save His people and because of His will to bless His church in accordance with His eternal decree of election, the eternal Word stood forth to speak in the everlasting council of the Triune God.

Here is John’s first name for the blessed Saviour. The Lord is so called for His role in speaking for and on behalf of the elect of God in the covenant of grace and council of peace. Here we behold the Saviour, the Word with God, discussing, covenanting, agreeing together the terms and responsibilities of salvation for the chosen people of God.

Isaiah reveals something of that glorious dialogue when he declares, Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me (Isaiah 6:8). These words may speak of Isaiah’s own calling but resonate with a deeper, more significant, appointment and voluntary sacrifice.

Zechariah, speaks of the living Word and confirms the counsel and advocacy that took place between the Father and the Son, Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (Zechariah 6:13).

So, also, in creation the Word spoke into existence all things out of nothing that are created. Thus when read as we often do, “and God said”, we ought to think of Jehovah the Son declaring the will and purposes of God to men. In this Christ may justifiably be called the Word. He speaks, interprets and reveals His Father’s mind. He did so in Eden, then throughout the Old Testament, and also in the days of his flesh; and now the Word speaks in heaven for His church and saints.

2. God (v. 1)

The second name John gives us is God. The eternal Word was and is God. The Word was God! This fully accords with what John has written elsewhere.

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one (1 John 5:7).

Truly and properly the Word is God, He is not merely the voice of God but God in the highest sense. He is variously called; Jehovah God, our God, your God, their God, my God, God with us, the mighty God, God over all, the great God, the living God and true God

3. The Life (v. 4)

The Word who is God is also The Life. Christ is the origin, fountainhead and source of all life. He is Himself Life. He does not receive His life from the Father but possesses essential, divine life in Himself. Furthermore, all derived life comes from The Life. All natural, spiritual and eternal life comes from Christ. All creation; whether redeemed men or reprobate men, angels or demons, the Devil himself, possess life from Him.

This is a title taken by the Lord when He describes Himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

4. The Light (v. 7)

Here is a lovely name! As all life comes from Christ so, too, does all light. And what is true for nature and visible light is also true for wisdom, knowledge and all truth. How can science be opposed to God when the Word created, the Life sustains and the Light reveals all truth? Your God is too small! Your science too shallow. Pompous people talk as though they have outwitted the One in whom all wisdom, truth and knowledge dwell. It is an old story! Fallen man is blinded by Satan and cannot naturally comprehend the light. The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not (John 1:5), and again, He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not (John 1:10).

5. The Only Begotten of the Father (v. 14)

Now John introduces us to the Son of God. Begetting is the usual description of human generation in the Bible, but here the Son is the “only begotten” of the Father. This speaks of the unique union between the Father and Son in the divine nature but also of mutual love and respect in the eternal Father-Son relationship.

6. Jesus Christ (v. 17)

In verse 17 John the Baptist and John the Evangelist both emphasise the divine calling and purpose of the Saviour. Jesus is “Saviour” or Deliverer from the Old Testament name Joshua, and Christ is “anointed”. This demonstrates that the Saviour was anointed or appointed to the great redemptive work in His role as Mediator of the covenant of grace as Prophet to, Priest for, and King over His people. The Messiah of the Old Testament dispensation is the Christ of the New Testament. The Gospel of God’s grace and truth came by Him.

7. The Lord (v. 23)

Now John reminds us that Jesus Christ is Lord! This name is often used in Scripture. It speaks of Christ’s pre-eminence and leadership and of His people following. The appointed Saviour is worthy of praise, respect, obedience and trust. Many people claim to “believe in Jesus” but we are reminded that believing on Him unto salvation is a profound and significant experience. It means acknowledging the unique Lordship of God’s anointed Saviour. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house (Acts 16:31).

But, Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:22, 23).

8. The Lamb of God (v. 29)

What a suitable name for God’s suffering servant! How innocent and harmless is the gracious Lamb of God. How useful to feed and clothe His people with spiritual blessings. How appropriate a sacrifice for sin. Christ is pictured extensively as the passover lamb and in the lambs of the daily sacrifice offered morning and evening. He was slain in type, in the morning of the world, from the foundation of the world, and in fact, in the evening of the world, when He came.

Thus are sins committed daily, washed daily in the blood of the Lamb to remove them. By continual looking by faith to Him whose blood has continual virtue, His people are cleansed from all sin.

9. The Son of God (v. 34)

Now John the Baptist testifies that the One who stands before Him is the reason and purpose for His ministry. This Jesus Christ, the essential, eternal Son of God; sent in the fulness of time, having assumed human nature, is none other than the Son of God. By divine revelation John confesses the God-man.

10. Rabbi / Master (v. 38)

The Lord is our Teacher. Two disciples of John the Baptist, Andrew and perhaps John the evangelist, observing the high admiration with which their master spoke of Jesus, bestow upon the Lord similar suitable reverence. Who knows but that one and another might discern the reverence with which we speak, graciously & carefully of the Lord. May our words and respect be employed to attract others to our Saviour.

11. Him of whom Moses in law and the Prophets did write (v. 45)

Now we are reminded we are in the presence of the long anticipated, eagerly expected Messiah. Philip tells Nathanael that this man, Jesus, is the One of whom all the Old Testament spoke. He is the seed of the woman, that should bruise the serpent’s head; the seed of Abraham, in whom all the nations of the world would be blessed; the great prophet, like unto Moses whom God would raise up and whom the people would follow. The prophets had described His virgin birth; the location in the town of Bethlehem; His sufferings, His resurrection, His ascension.

12. Jesus of Nazareth (v. 45)

And who is this Great One? Philip gives the Saviour’s usual title by which He was then known. The man is called Jesus, from the town of Nazareth. Nazareth was the town of Christ’s childhood and early life though he rarely visited after His ministry began. When He did He was not well received. On one occasion the people of the town tried to kill Him. However, He was known by this name throughout His ministry and this title was written upon cross.

Though Nathanael scorned the town, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Yet, the Saviour being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and willingly adopted the “despised” name as His own.

13. Son of Joseph (v. 45)

As was supposed. Joseph being married to His mother, Mary. Jesus spoke much of His Father in heaven but little is mentioned of Joseph. In His early ministry this identification with Joseph persisted. The miraculous events of the incarnation appear long forgotten.

14. King of Israel (v. 49)

… and Son of God. Nathanael seems a man of keen Bible awareness, and of genuine faith. He is waiting for the fulfilment of prophecy and promise. What excitement must have filled the hearts of these men. Perhaps similar to that of Simeon and Anna at the time of the Lord’s birth. Now thirty years later Christ’s true identity is being re-discovered.

Nathanael is likely referring to Psalm 2:6, 7 in so speaking of Christ, Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

Here we see Christ’s kingly role. He is a king going forth to conquer; ruling and reigning in power and authority. This is true spiritually in the church over whom Christ is the head, and also in the world where the Sovereign power of God is manifest in all the affairs of men.

15. Son of Man (v. 51)

Finally, we have Christ’s own preferred name for Himself. This speaks of the humanity of the One John has been emphatically presenting as divine. He is the God-man. The Son of God and the Son of Man, the Seed of woman.

The reference to angels ascending & descending speaks of heaven’s glories being revealed in and through Christ’s human body and nature while in the world.

Amen

There is one last point worthy of mention concerning the Lord’s quoted words in verse 51. The phrase “Verily, verily” may be translated “Amen, amen” and is used frequently by the Lord. Its great force is derived from the authority of Christ’s own great name for John elsewhere tells us it means “The faithful and true witness says …”.

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God (Revelation 3:14).

Thus these various names of the Lord Jesus Christ reveal His true nature, power, glory and purpose in salvation. They come with all the authority of divine truth upon which our trust can safely be placed. Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, our Lord and Saviour, Amen.

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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Excellence excels, and the Lord Jesus Christ excels all others. Can a man love? Christ’s love is greater. Is Satan strong? Christ’s power excels all others. Do angels minister? Christ’s ministry far exceeds the heavenly host.

1. The Lord Jesus Christ’s excellent name (Hebrews 1:4)

The Lord Jesus has many, many, names in the Bible. Consider a few. His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. And in every name Christ excels. In every office He is first. In every duty He completely satisfies. Every obligation is thoroughly fulfilled. He excels in everything. Therefore, God has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

Many take His name in vain (don’t do that). Someday every knee will bow to His, this most excellent, name.

2. The Lord Jesus Christ’s excellent power (Job 37:23)

The Lord Jesus Christ is all powerful. In spiritual matters, in heavenly matters, in every event on this earth. Daniel says, “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

The warning is clear. Do not dare to stand against Him. Sue for peace! Be reconciled! Consider your perilous state!

Luke 14:31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?

3. The Lord Jesus Christ’s excellent judgment (Job 37:23)

Judgment means both knowledge and retribution. Here is the Judge who sees all, knows all and rules with perfect justice. Job asks, “Shall not his excellency make you afraid? and his dread fall upon you?”

The excellent power and judgment of the Lord Christ ought to make sinners tremble. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

4. The Lord Jesus Christ’s excellent love (Psalm 36:7)

His love excels all others (see Isaiah 49:15). It is perfect, unconditional, everlasting love. It is active, accomplishing love. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”

What does excellent love accomplish? It brings every covenant promise to the elect children of God. “He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah” (Psalm 47:4).

5. The Lord Jesus Christ’s excellent sacrifice (Hebrews 11:4)

Abel’s sacrifice was more excellent than Cain’s because it was made in faith. He brought blood, confessed sin and looked to a redeemer. True faith looks to Christ, the excellent sacrifice. His precious blood satisfies God’s anger, cleanses from sin, and justifies the ungodly.

6. The Lord Jesus Christ’s excellent ministry (Hebrews 8:6)

Christ’s new covenant of promise is better than the old law of duty. Christ excels Moses. The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. He is an excellent Minister. He administers the new covenant, accomplishes its terms, gathers its beneficiaries, dispenses its gifts.

7. The Lord Jesus Christ’s excellent greatness (Psalm 150:2)

Every excellence in our glorious Saviour leads to His excellent greatness.

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth (Psalm 96:8, 9).

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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Three times in Romans 15 the Apostle Paul draws our attention to the character and attributes of our glorious Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ with descriptive titles to comfort and encourage the church. Our Great Redeemer is called ‘the God of patience and consolation’, ‘the God of hope’ and ‘the God of peace’ (vv. 5, 13, 33). How blessed we are that God the Holy Spirit should leave us these wonderful descriptions of the Godhead as reminders and tokens of God’s love and grace for His people.

Our blessed Saviour is both the source of these graces and the dispenser. Our Great Provider is Himself patient and teaches patience to His people. He is trustworthy and faithful and teaches His people to hope and trust in Him. He is eternally at peace with Himself; self-contained, self-sufficient, self-contented and secures peace for His people by reconciling us to Himself and speaking peace to all His seed.

The God of Patience

How patiently our Saviour endured the contradiction of sinners. How we tested and taunted Almighty God with our wickedness in the days of our opposition; shaking our fists in His face. How adamantly we withstood His whispers of love, despised His gentle pleadings, mocking His forbearance as weakness. “Despising the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God was all the time leading us to repentance.”

Each one of us deserves to be punished as rebels, and damned to eternal separation. Yet, thank God, our Beloved is the God of patience, waiting to be merciful in conversion and ever longsuffering towards us His people despite our failings, weaknesses and faults.

What an example He provides for us to follow. As we wait patiently upon Him whom we recognise now as our Great God and Saviour, He becomes to us the source of all good, the fountainhead of every perfect gift. As He suffered patiently and endured for us the full weight of God’s wrath against our sin, might we not follow our Master when called to endure the opposition of men against us? Is the servant greater than his master? The church learns patience by looking to the God of patience.

The God of Consolation

Yet here, too, is a blessed promise, for our God is also the God of consolation. Our Saviour comforts His people in their trials, consoling our troubled hearts. He draws near to us in our loneliness, uplifts us when we are downcast, nourishes our soul when we hunger after righteousness, and refreshes us when weary. He bears our griefs and carries our sorrows. He is our Jacob’s Ladder by whom ministering angels supply all our needs, granting gracious promises, bestowing gospel blessings.

Like their Saviour, the Lord’s people in this world sow in tears. Jesus wept in sympathy, by which He taught us to love one another, and in bitterest anguish and pain indicating that no trial in this world is unknown to His people. I am convinced there will be no one in the day of judgment who will be able to say with any legitimacy that the elect people of God had an easier passage in this life. But through the tribulation comes endurance, from trial comes patience, from suffering a dependence and reliance upon our God.

The God of Hope

The Lord Jesus Christ is the God of hope to the church, in whom our trust is placed and upon whom our faith is fixed. On the cross we see our redemption won. In the empty tomb victory is declared, and the ascended Christ is the pledge of eternal life. In the gospel we hear His plan of salvation expounded and the good hope of the believer is assured in trusting a good and loving Saviour.

Upon who else can we trust, upon what else place our hope? Recently, I buried a close relative. It is many years since she last had any thought for the so-called riches or pleasures of this world. In life there is no lasting hope, in death no other hope. The Lord Jesus Christ is the God of hope, and a more suitable Saviour, a more able Deliverer, we could not wish or find.

The God of Peace

The King of Peace has won the peace that passes understanding. That peace with God is possible is wonderful for sinners to know, but oh, what manner of peace it is in its nature, depth and endurance. Its blessedness is beyond our ability to describe and transcends our finite minds. It shall be known only by experience. How troubled this world appears to the child of God, but what eternal contentment, joy and union stretches out before us in glory.

The peace is beyond the understanding of natural man in his spiritual ignorance. It is beyond the understanding of angels who stand in awe as the plan of redemption unfolds and reconciliation in time and eternity between God and man is revealed in every convert of sovereign irresistible grace. It is beyond the understanding of devils for whom no peace ever will be found. And though it is beyond the understanding of the guilty sinner with his felt need of pardon and grace, it is embraced, believed and rested upon to his soul’s everlasting relief.

The Lord Jesus Christ has made peace through the blood of His cross. How wonderful the plan of redemption appears to those whose sins are washed away, who are made ready by grace for the presence of God. What a story of love and mercy is salvation by grace. God Himself has stooped to die and pay the price of His bride’s deliverance from sin.

Patience, consolation, hope and peace are blessed gifts of heavenly love from the God of all patience, consolation, hope and peace. May God grant us to know these truths in our hearts and to experience their power in our soul as He comes and ministers these attributes of His character and nature to us.

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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The Love Of God

26 Nov 2022, by

The love of God is the highest, most exalted thought ever to enter the human mind. Of all the perfect attributes of the eternal, infinite Being revealed to mankind what is more wonderful than God’s love? What greater privilege than to receive it? What fuller joy than to experience it?

The love of God amazed the prophets and thrilled the apostles. Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and David all speak of God’s love in glorious terms. Peter, John and Paul describe divine love in the finest language. All testify of its transcendent nature and unequalled blessedness. To know, to taste the love of God is to possess the fulness of divine grace and the promise of heavenly glory, for the love of God is the companion of all spiritual gifts.

The scriptures speak of God’s love in the most emphatic terms. It is great love. It is everlasting love. Love so characteristic of the very nature of God that John declares, ‘God is love’. As God is unchangeable so His love is unchangeable. Those loved by God are loved eternally and God’s eternal love is the source and vehicle of all spiritual blessings bestowed upon those loved before time.

It is distinguishing love. God’s love is individual and personal as all true love must be. General love or universal love is neither Biblical nor meaningful. God’s elective purpose and sovereign grace is grounded in His particular love.

He declares to His chosen people, ‘Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine … Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life’ (Isaiah 43:1, 4).

Furthermore, the love of God is unconditional. God does not love based on man’s goodness, faith, or obedience. His love was settled upon His people before ever they drew breath. He declares, ‘I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’. He acts towards His people in love, bestowing blessing upon blessing because He loved us.

And God’s love is effectual love. God loved His people with great love and desired they be with Him in holy union. He binds us to Himself with bands of effectual love. He settled a covenant of peace, determined a plan of salvation, performed every condition necessary to secure the redemption from sin of His dearly beloved bride. It is God’s effectual love we see demonstrated in the coming and dying of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul says, ‘God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). John says, ‘Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us’ (1 John 3:16 ). And continues, ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4:10).

In the sacrifice and death of the Lord Jesus we see the highest demonstration of God’s love. It is in Christ God’s love is seen, received and experienced. Outside of Christ there is no love of God, nor any grace, or blessing from God. Our Saviour’s atoning sacrifice declares and enables God’s love to poor fallen sinners.

Do not the people of God find this love inspiring? It is not law, duty, or obligation motivates God’s people to worship but love. We are constrained by the love of Christ. We love Him because He first loved us. We love one another as Christ has loved us.

There is a lovely little phrase at the end of Jude’s powerful epistle. He says, ‘Keep yourselves in the love of God’. These words do not imply God’s love can be lost. It cannot. But our enjoyment of God’s love ebbs and flows. God’s love does not change but His people are fickle and may lose sight of it by taking their eyes from their Saviour.

We keep ourselves in the love of God by looking unto Jesus, by attending to the gospel of peace, and by continuing in Christ’s word by which His people receive ‘the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life’.

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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Critics of sovereign grace reject that salvation is God’s gift to particular people whom He has chosen. They prefer the idea that man’s will, works and efforts in some way combine to determine who goes to heaven. For them the Biblical doctrine of election is an offence and they look for any opportunity to rob it of its force and meaning.

Such critics cannot deny that election and predestination are taught in the Bible, the doctrines stand out from the pages of holy scripture like two supporting poles for the banner of God’s love. They must therefore explain these two key subjects in such a way as incorporates free-will and man’s own decision to trust in Jesus Christ or not. One way they try to do this is by telling us that God’s choice of who will be saved is based upon His foreknowledge.

Foreknowledge and election

In scripture, election and predestination are often connected with God’s foreknowledge. Paul tells us “whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate” while Peter says that believers are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God”. These verses provide opportunity for free-will believers to claim that God’s election of sinners to salvation and their predestination to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ is contingent upon His foreknowledge in eternity of those who will come to Christ when salvation is offered to them in time.

But, we ask, is this interpretation plausible? Is foreknowledge just a crystal ball? Did God peer through the mists of time see who would believe and then predestine them to salvation? Some try to make the scenario more encompassing, telling us either that God offers everyone salvation at least once in their life, or else that God knows how they would respond had their opportunities to believe been as plentiful as other’s. God sees how they will respond to that offer, we are told, and upon that decision predestines their souls to heaven or hell.

Not only is such an interpretation utterly without Biblical foundation it also strikes at the very nature of God and the clear testimony of His word.

Four Facts of Foreknowledge

Here are four things we can say with Biblical authority about God’s foreknowledge:

1. God knows everything, if He did not He would not be God. The old writers call this God’s omniscience. Because God is eternal and unchangeable His knowledge is also eternal and unchangeable. No event or its consequence is outside of God’s knowledge. He knew from eternity not only everything He Himself intended to do but everything He would permit others to do. We are told ‘Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world’ (Acts 15:8).

2. God’s foreknowledge is not approximate or ‘rough’. It is absolute and certain. God does not play percentages. He is not overtaken by events. He does not revise His plans to accommodate unforeseen circumstances. From the beat of a butterfly’s wing to the resolutions of the United Nations, ‘Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do’ (Hebrews 4:13).

3. God does not compel people to act against their wills in order to accomplish what He foreknows will happen. It is important to remember this. The Almighty does not ‘force through’ His will against the wills of others. He does not make people do things they do not willingly choose to do. On the contrary, men and women act according to their nature, their desires and their own will as free agents. Nevertheless, in so doing they act entirely according to the purposes and decrees of God. ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings’ (Jeremiah 17:9, 10).

4. This eternal purpose and the sovereign decrees of God – sometimes simply called ‘The Will of God’ – are the beginning and end of all things. God’s eternal purpose is His own glory and what He has determined to do to accomplish it. His foreknowledge is built upon His purpose and results from it. God’s foreknowledge is arrived at not by His looking into the future but by His knowing the cause and consequence of every event, it is His knowledge of every outcome He has sovereignly determined will occur. We can see this with respect to the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter declares to the Jews, ‘Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain (Acts 2:23).

Foreknowledge is not déjà vu

Now from these points we can see that God’s foreknowledge in election and His conforming men to Christ in predestination does not arise from Him looking into the future. It is not based on prescience (a knowledge of the future), or some kind of déjà vu. It is drawn rather from His knowledge of His own eternal purpose. God foreknows the future because He knows His own mind, His own will and His settled purpose for time and eternity.

But there is another strand to God’s foreknowledge too, that is sweet and precious to the child of God. Arthur Pink points out that ‘foreknowledge’ is never used in the Bible in connection with events or actions; instead, it always has reference to persons. God foreknows people. It is persons God is said to ‘foreknow’, not the actions of those persons. This can easily be shown from the four occurrences of the word in holy scripture:

1. Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain (Acts 2:23).

Notice it is the Christ, the crucified one that is foreknown of God.

2. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called (Romans 8:29,30).

Again, it is not ‘what’ He did foreknow, but ‘whom’. It is not what God foreknew of these persons but the persons themselves which is here in view.

3. God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew (Romans 11:2).

It is God’s people who are foreknown not their works or their ‘decisions’.

4. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (1 Peter 1:2).

The previous verse identifies the elect as ‘strangers scattered’. Once again the verse refers to people, and not to their foreseen acts.

With God its personal

Thus we learn that God’s foreknowledge is a personal knowledge of specific individuals. The elect, those who are chosen, are particular individuals known to Him in eternal purpose and identified within His sovereign decrees. Far from being a simple looking forward to see how men and women will react to the gospel God’s foreknowledge of His chosen people is His everlasting love for them, His delight in them, and His acceptance of them. It is in this sense that God knows them. John Gill says,

He foreknew them from everlasting, affectionately loved them, and took infinite delight and pleasure in them; and this is the foundation of their predestination and election, of their conformity to Christ, of their calling, justification, and glorification.

The election of sinners to salvation is not conditional upon any action or belief on the part of the sinner. If salvation is based in any way upon what we do it is not of grace but of works. No sinner believes until God gives him faith (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Grace is free, unconditional and enabling! God’s choice of certain individuals in election arises not from anything in us, or anything from us, but from His own sovereign will and purpose.

Good to know

Proper appreciation of the ‘foreknowledge’ of God will serve us well both in our thanksgiving for God’s grace and goodness to us and in personal worship of God. It will also help us to more ably rebut false and dishonouring notions proposed by peddlers of free-willism. Bible commentator Arthur W. Pink says,

God not only knew the end from the beginning, but He planned, fixed, predestinated everything from the beginning. And, as cause stands to effect, so God’s purpose is the ground of His prescience. If then the reader be a real Christian, he is so because God chose him in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), and chose not because He foresaw you would believe, but chose simply because it pleased Him to choose; chose you notwithstanding your natural unbelief. This being so, all the glory and praise belongs alone to Him. You have no ground for taking any credit to yourself. You have “believed through grace” (Acts 18:27), and that, because your very election was “of grace” (Romans 11:5).

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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Does salvation depend upon God’s grace or upon man’s free will? Is it provided for all despite being accepted by only a few? Is grace supplied for everyone only to be rejected by most? Is God’s desire to save frustrated by men and women who want nothing to do with Him?

These are important questions. Grasping such key matters helps to form our understanding of God’s sovereign rule in the world. They also teach us about the state of man as a consequence of sin, the plan of salvation and the worth and effectiveness of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Going astray in our understanding of grace has huge implications for the public preaching of the gospel as well as for personal comfort and spiritual enjoyment of God’s gifts and promises in Jesus Christ.

Yet many people claiming to follow Bible teaching do go seriously wrong on these points for the simple reason that they do not believe in irresistible grace. Put another way, many churches, ministries and personal testimonies are blighted by the notion that God’s grace to men is resistible. They profess to believe in sovereign grace but act and preach as though grace finds its power not in the purpose of God but the will of man.

Is grace resistible?

Many people wish to argue that grace is resistible. They say that grace is resisted constantly by sinners. They say grace tries to find an entrance into a man’s heart but man shuts the door; grace wants to bless but man wants none of it.

The problem with such woolly thinking is that we are talking about God’s grace, the executive power of God’s sovereign will. In truth, the question may be put, “Are God’s decrees resistible?” Then the answer is clear – no more than God Himself is resistible (Isaiah 46:10,11; Daniel 4:35; Romans 9:19).

God does not try to save sinners or hope they will be saved. He does not offer salvation and wait to see who amongst the sin hardened children of men will find His offer sufficiently attractive to accept. Not at all! God saves sinners by the application of efficacious grace.

Take time to turn to the following verses of scripture and prove it for yourself: Deuteronomy 30:6; Isaiah 55:11; Ezekiel 36:26, 27; John 6:37; 6:39; 6:44, 45; Romans 8:29, 30. God chooses whom He will save and, having sent the Lord Jesus Christ to accomplished all that is necessary to secure their salvation and redeem those chosen people, He applies effective, irresistible grace to achieve His purpose by the power of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is a Triune work.

The language of grace

Consider the scriptural language of grace and see how the Holy Spirit would have us to understand the power of grace.

1. Scripture speaks of salvation as a new birth, ‘Ye must be born again’ (John 3:7). Natural birth is a process in which the newly born is completely passive. Physically we are conceived and born by the will and work of another. So spiritually, the new birth is not your will or work. It is a sovereign, irresistible act of God’s grace.

2. Scripture speaks of salvation as a new creation. Creation is an act of God, and Jesus Christ has created all things for His own pleasure (Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11). Amongst the things He has created are saints from sinners who are created anew and who by the word of Christ are a new creation. Spiritually, the Lord Jesus has created us in Himself, for any man in Christ is a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). Thus the Holy Spirit would have us know that we can no more resist grace than Adam could resist God’s breath of life in the garden (Genesis 2:7).

3. The Bible tells us about resurrection from the dead. Again the language of grace moves us beyond someone who is merely sick, deformed or incapacitated. It speaks of spiritual death and life giving grace that raises sinners from the grave. Ezekiel’s vision in the valley of the dry bones and Christ raising people from the dead reinforce this picture of irresistible grace.

Hence, the Holy Spirit has carefully chosen the words birth, creation and resurrection to describe the effects of grace and demonstrate that grace accomplishes its purpose unaided and unhindered by man. See Ephesians 2:1-10.

Objections to irresistible grace

1. The opponents of irresistible grace say the doctrine teaches that a man is saved against his will. This is quite contrary to the truth. No one is ever saved against their will. On the contrary, every sinner whom God will save craves peace with God. God ensures this by allowing the sinner to see the evil state of his heart and by sparking within the sinner a desire for forgiveness. The guilty one longs for freedom from condemnation, cleansing in Christ and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. He longs to be converted.

How does this longing come about? God brings the spiritually dead sinner to spiritual life (Ephesians 2:5). The quickened sinner, becoming sensitive to his lost state, desires forgiveness and seeks the grace of God in Christ and embraces his Saviour willingly. He is a lost sheep, a prodigal son, a storm tossed ship in a wild sea. Ask any converted believer if they are sorry to be saved and you will soon discover they are not redeemed against their will.

2. Some argue that irresistible grace makes preaching the gospel redundant. If God is going to save He will simply renew, recreate or resurrect the sinner without the need for a preacher, or a sermon, or an evident means of grace. Again, this is quite contrary to scripture. The revealed will of God is to save His people by means and that means is the preaching of the gospel. As the apostle shows, ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God’ (Romans 10:17).

3. Irresistible grace opposes the freewill of man. With this we agree, but it is not a valid objection. We need to define freewill. Because man is a fallen creature his will is enslaved to sin and subject to Satan. It cannot be described in any true sense as free but is predisposed to the pursuit of selfish and sinful ends.

Nevertheless, as has been shown above, salvation is a gift from God, unconditionally bestowed at God’s discretion, according to His elective purpose and at the time of His choosing. The acquiescence of man is neither required nor sought. God saves sinners by implanting grace in their soul, making them willing in the day of His power and gathering them in by the preaching of the gospel.

Subtle attacks on irresistible grace

Irresistible grace is attacked in the home of a friend by those who preach common grace as the sincere but ineffectual desire of God to save all sinners. By making the grace of God general and resistible, such teachers tear down and belittle the sovereignty of God despite all their protests to the contrary. Building gospel preaching on a foundation of common grace undermines the unity of the Godhead making the saving will of the Father to be at odds with the atoning work of the Son and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.

Another attack on irresistible grace comes from presenting the gospel as a universal offer of forgiveness to be accepted or rejected by man. This teaching, while accepting that Christ’s sacrifice is efficient only for some, presents it as sufficient for all. Consequently, the gospel is devalued and presented as though it is designed for the salvation of all; not as the deliberate means of gathering in the elect.

The free offer of the gospel implicitly declares that God does not achieve what He wills; that the gospel does not accomplish whereto it is sent, and grace is not strong enough to save.

God’s prophets know better. ‘So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it’ (Isaiah 55:11).

Wherever common grace is held and taught, and a free offer of salvation is preached, the result will be the diluting of sovereign grace and an unhealthy emphasis upon the will of man.

Conclusion

Irresistible grace is a central pillar of God’s saving purpose. Despite the debilitating presence of sin in man not one of the elect whom God has chosen to salvation and redeemed by the blood of Christ will fail to be eternally saved. God accomplishes this great salvation by the irresistible application of sovereign grace. In so doing the three persons of the Godhead work in perfect harmony to accomplish all the eternal purpose of the One True God.

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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Whenever the Bible doctrine of election is presented to those who reject the Bible’s teaching of God’s sovereignty in salvation you can be sure John chapter three and verse 16 will be trotted out in defence of their position. I have come to the conclusion that there are only two reasons for this.

The first reason is genuine ignorance. For many, this verse is one of the few Bible verses they know, and they simply assume that knowing the words they also know its meaning. In their ignorance of many other passages of scripture that help provide a true understanding of John 3:16 they make an attribute of their ignorance and retire content to impugn the glory of God.

The second reason is pride, or what might be called wilful (as opposed to genuine) ignorance. Men and women will clutch at any straw to avoid having to accept what they do not wish to believe. Evidence for this can be seen all around. The scientist who places his faith in evolution rather that accept the evidence for an intelligent creator is demonstrating a desire to believe anything, be it ever so fanciful, rather than acknowledge the existence of God. This is pride and wilful ignorance. Similarly, the religionist who pleads for free will and man’s choice over and against God’s omnipotence, omniscience and eternal purpose is demonstrating pride by declaring he has more confidence in his own opinion, borne of ignorance, than he has in God’s clearly revealed truth.

For those who are ignorant of other scriptures that illuminate and help to interpret John 3:16, the beloved disciple’s famous verse settles every argument against election and predestination. They quote the words as if those who believe in God’s sovereignty in salvation never encountered it before, and have no defence against it. But what defence do we require? We have no argument with John and no embarrassment regarding his statement. We believe exactly what he says to be true. But we invite those who ignorantly assume John contradicts sovereign grace to put away childish things and dig deeper into the word of God.

It is necessary therefore to challenge free will believers firmly on this matter of John 3:16 because their employment of this verse as an argument against free grace manifestly fails to deal with both the words and sense of the text. Only ignorance or pride can be tendered to explain their attitude and both these traits must be corrected if we are to glorify God, uphold the truth and do the souls of men any good. Children have to grow and develop in knowledge and sometimes we all have lessons to learn. Care must be taken to properly explain the real meaning of John 3:16 to those who are ignorant that they may learn, and to those who are proud that the word of truth may itself humble them before God’s glory.

In the opinion of free will advocates there are two main planks of opposition to free grace in John 3:16. The first is John’s use of the word ‘world’ and the second is the word ‘whosoever’. These terms, we are told, show that salvation is for everyone and is grounded in God’s love for the whole world. Furthermore, we are informed that the words expressly refute any suggestion of particular or special grace. God’s love is bestowed upon all, His grace is common to all, His mercy is extended to all. But do they?

Bible commentator and author Arthur Pink has shown that contrary to the assumption that ‘kosmos,’ and its English equivalent ‘world,’ may be simply understood to mean all people in the world, an examination of other examples of New Testament usage reveals at least seven distinct meanings. He identifies some of these passages where the term occurs and offers a definition in each case. He writes:

‘Kosmos’ is used of the Universe as a whole: Acts 17:24 – ‘God that made the world and all things therein seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth.’

‘Kosmos’ is used of the earth: John 13:1; Ephesians 1:4, etc., etc.- ‘When Jesus knew that his hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world He loved them unto the end.’ ‘Depart out of this world’ signifies, leave this earth. ‘According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.’ This expression signifies, before the earth was founded—compare Job 38:4 etc.

‘Kosmos’ is used of the world-system: John 12:31 etc. ‘Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the Prince of this world be cast out’— compare Matthew 4:8 and 1 John 5:19, R. V.

‘Kosmos’ is used of the whole human race: Romans 3:19, etc.—’Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.’

‘Kosmos’ is used of humanity minus believers: John 15:18; Romans 3:6 ‘If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.’ Believers do not ‘hate’ Christ, so that ‘the world’ here must signify the world of unbelievers in contrast from believers who love Christ. ‘God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world.’ Here is another passage where ‘the world’ cannot mean ‘you, me, and everybody,’ for believers will not be ‘judged’ by God, see John 5:24. So that here, too, it must be the world of unbelievers which is in view.

‘Kosmos’ is used of Gentiles in contrast from Jews: Romans 11:12 etc. ‘Now if the fall of them (Israel) be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them (Israel) the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their (Israel’s) fulness.’ Note how the first clause in italics is defined by the latter clause placed in italics. Here, again, ‘the world’ cannot signify all humanity for it excludes Israel!

‘Kosmos’ is used of believers only: John 1:29; 3:16, 17; 6:33; 12:47; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 2 Corinthians 5:19. We leave our readers to turn to these passages, asking them to note, carefully, exactly what is said and predicated of ‘the world’ in each place.

How, one might ask, are we to know which meaning to employ in John 3:16? Pink helps us here too. He tells us, ‘This may be ascertained by a careful study of the context, by diligently noting what is predicated of ‘the world’ in each passage, and by prayer fully consulting other parallel passages to the one being studied.’

Our free will believers have a second string to their bow. Surely, they say, there can be no disagreement regarding ‘whosoever’. Whosoever means everyone! But, it does not. We need to remind all those who quote John 3:16 against free grace that the emphasis within the verse is not upon whosoever but upon believeth. Everlasting life is given to those who believe and to none other. Contrary to this word opening salvation to all men it is actually limiting it to those who believe and only to those who believe. With this we completely agree.

Supposing a teacher tells the children in her class to raise their hand if they require a pencil. Whosoever raises their hand will be given a pencil. The pencil is not for everyone, only for those who ask for it. Only those who hear the instruction and, seeing their need of a pencil, raise their hands will obtain what they ask for.

In our verse, the word ‘whosoever’ implies particularity and distinguishes between those who believe and those who do not. Salvation comes by faith and is received by trusting in the perfect righteousness and complete sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and death. There is no way of salvation apart from Christ. By believing in Christ preached in the gospel sinners are saved and no unbelievers ever receive the benefits of that salvation.

Here then is our utterly biblical interpretation of John 3:16, consistent with sovereign grace and upholding the broad teaching of scripture without contradiction.

The first clause tells us what moved God to ‘give’ His only begotten Son, and that was His great ‘love;’ the second clause informs us for whom God ‘gave’ His Son, and that is for, ‘whosoever (or, better, ‘every one’) believeth;’ while the last clause makes known why God ‘gave’ His Son (His purpose), and that is, that everyone that believeth ‘should not perish but have everlasting life.’ That ‘the world’ in John 3:16 refers to the world of believers (God’s elect), in contradistinction from ‘the world of the ungodly’ (2 Peter 2:5), is established, unequivocally established, by a comparison of the other passages which speak of God’s ‘love.’ ‘God commendeth His love toward US’—the saints, Romans 5:8. ‘Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth’—every son, Hebrews 12:6. ‘We love Him, because He first loved US’—believers, 1 John 4:19. The wicked God ‘pities’ (see Matthew 18:33). Unto the unthankful and evil God is ‘kind’ (see Luke 6:35). The vessels of wrath He endures ‘with much long-suffering’ (see Romans 9:22). But ‘His own’ God ‘loves’!

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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Perhaps you have heard of those preachers who boast themselves to be Arminian in the pulpit and Calvinist on their knees. They make an attribute out of their ambiguous theology. Yet we fear that many who profess themselves to be free-offer Calvinists play precisely the same role as these double minded misfits without being quite so blunt.

Our free-offer brethren employ all the language of free-will teachers. They build their pulpits on reformed confessions but employ them to preach sermons that are indistinguishable from those heard in most Arminian churches any day of the week. The beauty of the distinctive, free-grace message is marred by lobbying for responses. In their eager pursuit of additions to the church they blur the distinction between a Holy Spirit conversion and a man-made decision.

The Lord was not so minded. He knew that many who professed Him as their teacher were none of His. In John 6:53, He spoke of His flesh that must be eaten and His blood that must be drunk in order to have eternal life. Many of His disciples were offended. They had come by way of the flesh, their own wills, their own efforts and knew nothing of the quickening, life giving Spirit.

Our Lord Jesus stated clearly ‘that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father’, John 6:65. Now are we to tone this ‘offensive’ language down because the natural man cannot receive such teaching? Are we instead to massage the arrogance of the sinner by assuring him that God loves him and wants to save him if he will only believe!

Free grace preachers preach Jesus Christ as the sole facilitator of salvation for His chosen people. Within the eternal Godhead our Saviour always was the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. He planned His people’s redemption. In time He came and bought it, securing it with His own blood and bestowing it through the life giving power of the Holy Ghost.

In the experience of the elect He brings salvation to fruition, ushering His people, with sovereign power, from darkness to light and from death to life. He humbles our natural pride and breaks our rebellious spirit. He brings us down to raise us up anew. Christ does this. God is at work here! For except it is given by the Father none can come to Christ, and He is the only Saviour of His people.

We challenge our free-offer brethren to be free-grace men in the pulpit and free-grace men on their knees. Perhaps then they will see more of the fulness of Christ and be satisfied to wait upon Him adding to the church such as should be saved.

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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“That’s where we differ”, said my questioner, “I believe in freewill.”

What do you mean by freewill? In one sense nothing can exist, or function, except God permits it, including man’s will. Man is not God, he is not free and self-existent. Man’s will is free only to the extent God allows. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

Yet, undoubtedly, God has allowed men a degree of freedom in their choices and decisions. He does not force us. Even the powerful, sovereign operations of God’s grace in conversion do not drive men to unwilling obedience. Rather, the elect of God, for whom salvation has been eternally purposed are made gladly willing to receive forgiveness. They are happy converts. None will enter heaven who does not wish to be there.

Conversion is the work of God as the Holy Spirit acts on the souls of men; quickening, calling, convicting and converting until grace, forgiveness and salvation are the most desirable gifts upon earth to the sinner. “Thy people shall be willing” (Psalm 110:3).

We distinguish between natural and spiritual freedom of the will. Natural liberty exists in every action and situation. We can choose to eat or not; to drink, sit, stand, or walk. The human will has liberty in natural things. We may choose to love or hate, harbour grudges or forgive offence as our pleasure takes us. We may even fulfil religious activity, pray, sing, read scripture, attend public worship, hear the gospel.

Yet, our fallen nature spoils everything. A man can appear outwardly good, and do many things which have a show of moral good, even withstanding temptation, all by natural freewill. However, that is where it ends. In spiritual matters man has neither will, nor power to act in ways pleasing or acceptable to God. He cannot recover his spiritual condition or alter his eternal destination. He has no will to live spiritually, or respond spiritually, to God. Man’s whole nature is opposed to God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual enmity and antagonism reigns in our flesh, mind, will and soul towards God and prevents us doing what is right in matters of faith, repentance, regeneration, conversion. The presence and dominion of evil means man’s will is not free to choose God but instead bound and captive to sin and Satan.

The Bible speaks of man being polluted, carnal, a slave to sin, spiritually dead, impotent to do anything that is truly or spiritually good. By the fall of Adam and our union with him, it is impossible to please God, or do spiritual good. Our freewill, for what it is worth, always leads to doing evil. Our thoughts, judgment, and affections by which the will is influenced and directed are depraved, ruined, and corrupt (Jeremiah 17:9). Nothing good originates in the human heart (James 1:17). Consequently, all spiritual activity must have its origin in God and ultimately people can act spiritually only through the enabling power of God’s grace, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Man’s freewill enables him to satisfy the lusts of the flesh but it does not, cannot, forge a relationship with God. Man has no spiritual desire or power to please God. The will slavishly serves the old man of sin.

Only when man’s will is altered in the new creation and the effect of the fall removed by grace and conversion can man know peace with God. This is the message of the gospel. The dead must be made alive, captives freed, the blind made to see, hearts opened. Until and unless this happens at the behest of Almighty God, man’s will is free only to take him down to hell.

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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It is popular in modern evangelical circles to preach that it is the duty of all men to believe in Jesus Christ as their Saviour. This teaching spawns numerous errors and is so widespread that to question it results in faithful men having their characters and ministry blackened. However, every fashion has its day and we look forward to the time when our brothers and sisters in Christ turn their back on the mongrel gospel of duty faith and return once again to the true gospel of free and sovereign grace in Jesus Christ.

Here are ten arguments with which to rattle and pierce the empty barrel of duty faith.

1. Christ did not teach duty faith

All who examine the Lord’s own ministry will quickly see that the greatest preacher who ever lived did not preach duty faith. Indeed, our Lord was very careful to properly distinguish between those who were labouring under sin, heavy laden with guilt, sick, hungry, thirsty and seeking spiritual rest, and those who were self-righteous or simply curious. To the former the Lord lovingly applied the gospel of free grace, while the latter were sent to the law of Moses.

By making this distinction our Lord showed that He did not make faith the duty of all men and women. On the contrary, when a lawyer stood up to and asked “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The Lord’s reply was “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” (Luke 10:26). When the rich young ruler came running to Jesus, asking for eternal life (Mark 10:17), the Lord did not impose on him a duty to exercise faith. Christ again turned him to the law and its proper use; the breaking up of self-righteousness pride and rendering men guilty before God.

This approach of the Master is sufficient proof that Christ did not make His gospel the rule of men’s duty. Modern duty faith preachers are failing in their duty to preach the gospel as Christ preached the gospel. If faith rather than law is made the duty of all men then faith is not properly presented to sinners, nor is the law properly applied to the self-righteous. Consequently, those who misrepresent faith and misapply the law are the true antinomians.

2. Duty faith flips on its head the Father’s plan of salvation

If the unconverted are told it is their duty to believe in Christ then it is as sure as telling them it is their duty to make themselves alive in Christ, their duty to regenerate themselves, their duty to make themselves new creations in Christ and their duty to walk in that faith which it is their duty, apparently, to possess and exercise.

This is quite contrary to the way and means of grace. A child cannot walk before he is born and a man cannot believe before he is born again. Faith is a gift bestowed upon sinners, not a duty imposed upon the self-righteous who see no need of Christ. Believing is the fruit of faith, not the instigator of faith. Duty faith turns salvation on its head by breaking into the divinely appointed model of the new birth; hearing, receiving and believing. Duty faith preachers need a good argument to overthrow the New Testament precedent for preaching provided by Christ and his apostles (Luke 10:21,22; Romans 10:20).

3. Duty faith wrests the work of regeneration from the Holy Spirit

Requiring faith from unbelievers will not receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit. It is God the Holy Spirit alone who effects the change in a sinner’s heart by which a spiritual obedience of faith can be prosecuted. To put it bluntly, within the covenant of grace it is the Holy Spirit’s duty to give faith to those for whom Christ died. It is not everyman’s duty to appropriate this task to himself.

We suspect that a duty faith preacher would be offended if upon arriving at church one Lord’s day morning he found some upstart already preaching in his pulpit. Yet they see no similarity in their doctrine dispossessing the Holy Ghost of his office. It is the glory of God to bestow free grace upon a…

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Faith is precious. The Bible tells us so. Yet, not the bare existence of faith. In that sense, faith, in and of itself, is meaningless. I doubt there is a person on the face of this earth who does not claim to have faith in something or other, even if it is simply their own opinion.

Similarly, the term ‘people of faith’ has become an all-purpose description to gather together every flavour of religion and all manner of weird and wonderful notions. Christians, Jews, Muslims and flat-earthers are part of the ‘faith community’ but they are not all going to heaven.

The Bible says the just shall live by faith and the faith by which the just live is called by Paul the faith of God’s elect. There is natural faith and there is the faith of Christ. There is faith borne of human wisdom and faith from above that is spiritual and created by God the Holy Spirit. Thus when the Lord Jesus Christ says, “Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace”, it is the faith of Christ graciously gifted, the faith of God’s elect that is in view, exercised in humble worship and reliance upon the Saviour.

James Wells, a London preacher of the nineteenth century, once said, “For myself, I believe that the substituting of mere mental and moral conversion—this mere natural faith for the faith of God’s elect—I believe that there are more souls deceived by this doctrine than by any other found in all Protestant Christendom”.

Wells is speaking of the great error of manmade religion. Hell will be populated by damned souls who earnestly followed their creed or confession, obeyed their preacher’s teachings and with his (or her) connivance imagined themselves fit for heaven. In their heads they believed, by their conduct they observed all the norms of custom and practice their church required, and yet they are not saved. What confusion will follow those words of Christ in that day, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

The faith of God’s elect is belief in the being of God, and trust in His promises as revealed to the church in the person and redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. JEHOVAH, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, has revealed Himself as “forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin” and giving eternal life to the church in Christ Jesus. Faith is giving credit to this Divine testimony, and relying upon God’s faithfulness for the fulfilment of it.

Not the glory and wonder of the promise; but the glory, wonder, and faithfulness of the Promiser is the proper object of faith. To believe, and rest in the almighty Promiser and His assurances in Christ, the Godman, is faith. “Acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” is faith.

The possession of the faith of God’s elect and the exercise of it in this world is the gift of God. “Unto you,” says Paul, “it is given to believe” (Philippians 1:29). And every truly awakened and regenerated believer finds reason, to cry out, as the apostle did to Christ, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).

{James Wells (1803-1872). A number of James Wells’ sermons and tracts can be found at www.surreytabernaclepulpit.com}

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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Duty Faith

29 Sep 2022, by

Duty-faith. Say the words again and think about them. Duty, faith. They should not even be spoken in the same sentence, far less linked together and presented as the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet preaching man’s duty to trust in Christ is said by some to be the foundation of a proper gospel ministry.

Duty is an obligation, a responsibility. Faith, on the other hand, is a gift. The two are distinctly different. Duty is about law. Faith is about grace and our new nature in Christ. Duties, when followed, produce efforts, faith, when given, produces spiritual life. Efforts do not save sinners, but grace does.

Yet we are assailed by those who make duty-faith the foundation of their preaching and the basis of their message. Why is this? Is it because they cannot bring a word from the Lord if they have nothing in their pockets for their hearers to do? Is it because they must mix the efforts of the creature with the mercy of the creator? Where does a phrase such as duty-faith come from? Not from holy scripture, that’s for sure.

Duty faith is not saving faith for it is founded on man’s own efforts to please God by doing something commendable. Nor is it spiritual faith. Spiritual faith is the gift of God by the Holy Spirit who is the source of true faith and the giver of genuine lively trust in Christ and the efficacy of His sacrifice. Duty faith tries to lay on men an obligation to believe when they cannot, and a warrant to believe what they know not.

Suppose a preacher berates his congregation: “It is your duty to trust in Christ. It is your responsibility to have faith in the sacrifice He has made.” “Do it now”, he declares, “And God will save you.” What does such a preacher mean? If the sinner does his duty, will he be saved? If the sinner does not do his duty, will he be more damned than he already is?

Now suppose that, indeed, one of this preacher’s listeners resolves to do his duty. He will obey the preacher’s call. He decides, in all sincerity, that he will do as he is told and have faith. After all, it is his duty. Can he ‘will’ faith into being? Can he, upon a decision, spark himself into spiritual life? Can he manufacture trust because this preacher tells him to? Sadly, we have become so inured to the language of free-will offers and the decisionism of the Arminians and Fullerites that many do not even flinch at such a prospect.

Where does Christ instruct a preacher to play upon the natural inability of a sinner in this way? Where are we told that it is the natural man’s duty to do what grace alone enables a sinner to do, or to be what God alone makes a believer? Quite simply, duty-faith preaching is telling the flesh to do the work of the Spirit and it has no place in a sovereign grace pulpit. Men cannot win other men to Jesus; nor can a man save himself. It is foolishness to preach legal obligation when only the power of the Holy Ghost falling upon a dead sinner can bring him to life.

The law-bound manipulations of modern preachers are a mockery of God’s great salvation. Let those who lament too-little preaching and blame everyone but themselves, consider if the problem is not those whom they wrongly call hyper-calvinists, but rather those who preach law instead of gospel and duty instead of grace. Clearly, when faith is given, we have a duty to use it, but then it is used according to the law of faith and not the law of Moses.

Properly preached, the gospel humbles sinners by exalting Christ. It does not meddle in the duties of the dead but extols free grace and the sovereign purpose of God to save sinners by the righteousness of Christ and the regenerating gift of faith.

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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The lilac envelope on the doormat had the personal touch of being homemade. It was addressed in practised calligraphy with a formal RSVP in the corner. The wedding invitation it contained was not exactly a surprise, we had heard about the engagement and sent our congratulations. But the wedding date was problematic, it was a busy time at work and a great distance to travel. Next morning we picked up a ‘with sincere regret’ card.

In the stationers an old friend beamed. He too had received an invitation and his excitement was evident. He had not expected to be asked to the wedding but was informed that arrangements were already in place. His dress-suit was ready and awaiting collection compliments of the groom. All was paid for and in the envelope was a receipt. His hotel room was booked, the account also settled. Even his travel tickets were enclosed.

Our invitation brought no tickets and no receipt. No wedding outfits were ordered, no travel arrangements made. Having decided not to attend nothing was lost, but the groom did not know this. What if we had wanted to go? What arrangements had been made for us? Where was our wedding outfit and confirmation of accommodation?

Then the penny dropped. It was never expected, nor intended, that we would attend the wedding. It was an empty invitation sent out for show. Nothing necessary for us to make the journey was arranged or supplied. The lilac envelope was for appearance only. It sounded good, it looked good, it made us feel valued and wanted, it was ingenious, but it was not sincere. What appeared as a grand invitation to attend a grand wedding was really a grand deceit. Despite the invitation, nothing was prepared, nothing was provided, nothing was supplied.

What kind of person sends such an invitation? Who would mock their friends by appearing to invite them while failing to provide what was necessary for them to attend? Certainly not a man of integrity, not an honest man. Yet today, preachers in pulpits are making just such offers and sending out such invitations, on behalf, they say, of God Himself. It is a genuine invitation, they tell us. “Come to the wedding of God’s Son”. It is a sincere offer, they say, lovingly given in the gospel to all who hear. A free offer, without condition, without restriction.

But is there with the offer an enabling to accept? Is there cleansing blood applied? Is a robe of righteousness supplied for the guilty, naked sinner? Is the ransom paid? Is the soul redeemed from the curse of the law? Has Christ carried their sin and died in their place? Is He now preparing a mansion for them? Is all that is needful most certainly supplied? No? Then it is an empty offer, a grand deceit and an insult to our sovereign God. Shame on the free-offer preacher who mocks a sinner thus.

When God invites a sinner to the wedding of His Son He provides everything required for him to come. With God’s invitation comes the gift of faith and power to accept, with His offer of mercy comes the gift of grace. He cleanses with precious blood, anoints with perfect righteousness, and by Jesus Christ opens the way of reconciliation into His holy presence. God never mocks the sinner with an insincere offer. Nor will He deceive those condemned already by offering them what can never be theirs. God’s invitations are full and gracious, never deceitful, never empty.

Peter Meney

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Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

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When free-will preachers offer salvation to all they invite an act of faith on the part of the sinner and a life changing ‘decision for Christ’. They deny the sovereign choice of God in salvation, ignore the everlasting covenant of grace and contradict the clear testimony of scripture that the elect are justified from eternity. Here are ten arguments to show such preachers that God’s chosen people are not merely saved by grace in time but accepted in Christ from everlasting.

1. Justification is an act of the eternal God

Justification is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to those who have none of their own. It is pronouncing a person righteous, according to law, as though he had never sinned. John Gill sees justification as ‘an act of God’s grace, whereby he clears his people from sin, discharges them from condemnation, and reckons and accounts them righteous for the sake of Christ’s righteousness, which he has accepted of and imputes unto them.’

Justification is an act which begins and ends in God and takes place outside of time. It is an immanent, internal act, initiated in the eternal will of God, acceptable to His grace and justice, consistent with His love, conducive to His glory. All this God ‘purposed in himself’ (Ephesians 1:9).

2. Christ our eternal Mediator

The mediatorial office of Christ requires that He be…

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Today, men talk about salvation only as something done in the experience of time with eternal consequences. But in the Bible salvation is described as something done by God in eternity past, revealed and experienced in time, and enjoyed in eternity future. Read the Word of God, marking the verb tenses used, and you will see that salvation was accomplished for God’s elect in the covenant of grace before the world began (Romans 8:28-31; 2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:3-6).

First, since it was done in eternity, it must have been done by God alone. Without our aid, cooperation, assistance, work, or even our will, God saved us. Salvation is the work of God alone. And that salvation which God gives is the salvation God performs. It is an ‘eternal salvation’.

Second, God’s holy character tells us that He must have looked upon His people as being justified and accepted in Christ from eternity. Had it not been for the…

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The Word of God everywhere speaks of grace as distinguishing, discriminating and particular. Grace is never general, common or indefinite. Here are ten clear examples of distinguishing grace.

The Everlasting Covenant

Scripture talks freely and frequently of God’s promises to particular men. God made personal covenants with Noah, Moses, Abraham and David all of which teach us about the meaning of God’s covenant promises in general, and the nature of the everlasting covenant in particular (Genesis 17:7; Hebrews 13:20).

The ‘everlasting covenant’ has several names in scripture including the ‘covenant of grace’ and the ‘covenant of peace’. It is first made known in the Garden of Eden when God reveals His plan to send a Deliverer who will bruise the serpent’s head – though not without hurt to Himself (Genesis 3:15).

The parties to the everlasting covenant are Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These three distinct persons of the Godhead have covenanted together to accomplish all the requirements of justice and grace to secure the salvation of the elect of God. God has chosen a people in eternity as a bride for His blessed Son (John 17:24), Christ has subjected Himself to the cross to deliver the elect from judgement and death (John 17:4, 5; Hebrews 10:9). Then the Holy Spirit brings the blessings of Christ’s atoning work to those for whom the Son died, calling them, sanctifying them and applying to them the gifts of the everlasting covenant (1 Peter 1:2).

Personal Election

In all its aspects the everlasting covenant is personal, particular and effectual. Those who benefit from this divine covenant are the elect of God. Election is the…

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Do you ever feel there is more to the gospel than most people make out?

Someone says,

“The gospel is easy, all you have to do is believe”.

Well that sounds easy. What do I have to believe?

“Oh, just believe that Jesus died.”

H-okay. Everyone dies – so that’s not hard to believe. Does that make me a Christian?

“Well no, you have to believe He rose again from the dead, as well”.

Okay. I can do that. Right, done.

“And that He went to heaven. And that He is coming back.”

Okay. Anything else?

“Well, you must believe in God and believe you’re a sinner.” “And you have to worship, and trust in the blood, and get baptised.” “You have to repent and pray as well, plus you should probably stop going to the pub.”

Wait! Wait! I thought you said this was easy.

More than simple faith

The truth is, the gospel is much bigger, broader, more profound, more meaningful and important than a few glib comments or a handful of trite religious suggestions. If you ever hear someone start a sentence with…

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Only a crook or a clown offers what he cannot deliver. So which one is God when freewill preachers tell us He desires everyone to be saved and freely, sincerely and genuinely offers salvation to all men and women?

Can God deliver upon such a promise? Not if there is a definite number of individuals in the election of grace. Not if there is a limitation in the number of sinners for whom the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross. Not if the quickening, regenerating, converting work of God the Holy Ghost is restricted only to those chosen in eternity and redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.

So which one is it? Is God a crook, deceiving men and women, pretending to hold out a genuine salvation fully knowing that provision for their atonement, forgiveness and reconciliation never was made and never was intended? Or is God a clown? Has He made a mistake, got the plan wrong, or perhaps just having a laugh at the sinners’ expense? Perish the thought!

If sovereign grace preachers were contending with Arminians or Wesleyans of a previous age upon this subject we should be little surprised. But amazingly, today, it is people who like to call themselves Modern Calvinists after Reformation hero John Calvin who are dusting off old heresies and fobbing them off as Biblical Christianity.

They teach that all men are potentially saved by virtue of Christ’s atonement for sin. They speak of the unlimited value of Christ’s blood and its sufficiency to…

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Forgiveness of sin is the heart of the gospel. Election is the beginning of the gospel. Eternal glory with Christ is the end of the gospel. But peace with God through sins forgiven is the beating heart of gospel grace.

When forgiveness is little valued the gospel is held in low esteem. If sin appears as a small thing, a matter of no real gravity or consequence, then the gospel will not be treasured in God’s church and God’s testimony will be diminished in the estimation of sinful men.

This is the curse of our day. Men and women have little sense of sin, no dread of judgment and no felt need for forgiveness. We call good evil and evil good, morality is stood on its head and we have become so inured to our own evil nature we don’t even notice it. Well did the Lord Jesus say “blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness”. Those unconcerned about their lack of righteousness are doubly cursed, first with a soul steeped in sin and second with a mind too dark to discern their perilous state. We are sinking slowly into hell and we are ignorant and careless of our dilemma.

Now, I do not doubt most of you who read these words will heartily agree. After all, Scripture is its own witness. “And”, writes the Apostle John, “this is the condemnation, that…

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Let us state clearly our understanding of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The gospel is the message of God’s love and saving grace to particular sinners by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Godman. Where there is no preaching of substitutionary atonement, suretyship and representation of sinners by the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no gospel.

Salvation is a completed work, accomplished upon the cross, sure and certain for every adopted child of God. If sinners are required to do something to activate, apply or secure the benefits of Christ’s work, there is no gospel and our Saviour’s dying testimony “It is finished” is bereft of all meaning.

If Christ’s work is offered conditionally to all (“Christ will if you will”) implying grace is…

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The ‘gospel’ is claimed and proclaimed by every Christian tradition and denomination and most preachers will happily tell us it means ‘good news’. Yet every denomination’s gospel differs in one way or another, so a sincere enquirer might well be left wondering, “What is the real gospel?”.

The Apostle Paul acknowledged there was another gospel, a false gospel, that really is no gospel at all. He knew the difference between grace and works, between salvation accomplished and applied freely by Jesus Christ to God’s elect, and salvation offered conditionally as a possibility to everyone.

If salvation is accomplished and applied by Jesus Christ it is God alone who saves sinners and we must acknowledge His sovereignty in salvation. If our gospel offers the possibility of salvation the question must be asked…

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To be described as being particular about things is not always a compliment. In fact it is sometimes used as a polite put down as much as to say, ‘He’s very fussy’, or ‘She’s hard to please’.

This is often the impression given when some Christians, usually Baptists, describe themselves as ‘Strict and Particular’. One can imagine someone new to the phrase wincing slightly at the expression. The picture of an austere old aunt or a disciplinarian teacher might spring to mind. Hair combed, laces tied and sitting quietly. Overly strict and very particular.

Strict

Of course the real meaning of the term is quite different and has more to do with the historical development of theology in certain churches. Congregations who practise strict communion place some kind of restriction upon who is allowed to join in church fellowship and participate at the Lord’s Table. Criteria differ from church to church but in essence all true churches ought to be sensitive about who receives the Lord’s supper and thoughtful about who may share in what is, in essence, a remembrance meal for believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Particular

Similarly, ‘particular’ has a meaning not immediately obvious in current usage. While those who are Particular might often appear ‘hard to please’ when it comes to church matters or theology (and other things too) the real meaning of the word has to do with the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary. ‘Particular’ has reference to the nature and extent of the atoning work of Jesus Christ, rather than the fastidiousness of an individual believer.

Redemption redefined

Recently some professing Christians have sought to redefine the meaning and purpose of the death of Jesus Christ. They have claimed that Jesus’ death on the cross was nothing to do with…

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The Great Divide

21 Feb 2022, by

In this world there is a great divide. There are those who have been chosen to salvation, in Christ, from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) and those who have not. There are those who have been predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) and those who have not.

There are some, in this world, for whom the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin (1 John 1:7), whose sins are pardoned and who are justified by God. There are others who will themselves forever carry their own sin and its consequences (Matthew 25:46). Every person ever born from the beginning of the world to its end, is on one side of this great divide or the other.

On one side of this divide are the redeemed, the purchase of God (Psalm 74:2). On the other side are those forever…

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Here We Stand

10 Feb 2022, by

New Focus Magazine is purposefully and plainly a sovereign grace publication. We seek with every edition to uphold, explain, promote and preach the message of God’s free grace in Christ and the absolute necessity of divine power to initiate, apply and secure the salvation of sinners. We do not look to man to save himself for we know he cannot. We do not appeal to men to save themselves for we know they cannot. We believe God’s grace alone can save a soul, and we try to say it clearly.

This means we have no time for the teaching that man has a freewill with which to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation. We do not believe God has saving love for everyone, nor a will to save everyone. We do not hold there is grace from God for everyone. The nature of our sovereign almighty God and the existence of hell and judgment preclude such ideas. We do not believe the Lord Jesus Christ died for everyone on the cross nor that His death was…

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