Thursday, January 17, 2008

Confession and Conversion

What is the relationship between an orthodox "Confession of Faith" and soteric "conversion?" Many churches throughout history have had orthodox confessions of faith, but not all churches have stressed the importance of conversion: i.e., personally turning away from sin and toward Christ, exercising faith, love, and joy in Him. For example, historic Anglicanism confessed the Thirty Nine Articles of Faith; the Lutherans held to the Book of Concord; and Presbyterianism adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith. Each of those is an orthodox confession. Interestingly, since the 1600's all three of these denominations have adjusted their doctrinal affirmations, moving further and further away from the original statements. In the 1900's, that doctrinal apostasy resulted in church splits/schisms in all three denominations and ended with the old denomination affirming heresy and the new split returning to biblical orthodoxy.

I submit that one of the reasons for the doctrinal corruption in each of these cases is a lack of emphasis on conversion in all three denominations. There is a tendency in the paedobaptistic and externalistic denominations to try to "nurture" a corporate "faith," without insisting on individual, personal faith and love to Christ, without pressing the consciences of individuals, urging them to come to Christ. The eventual result of such neglect is an unregenerate denomination, which does not love the truth of biblical confessions of faith. Arid, loveless, intellectualism inevitably jettisons biblical confessions of faith and naturally adjusts church doctrine to conform to the ideals of unbelief.

An orthodox confession of faith only remains the confession of a church when that church stresses conversion and faithfully practices church discipline because only converted people love the truth. The unconverted will do anything they can to jettison it.

Therefore, the maintenance of a regenerate church membership is necessary for lasting confessional orthodoxy.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Our Present and Future Life

I've argued that the Bible gives us two different classes of texts with respect to eternal life. One class reveals that eternal life already belongs to the believer. Another class shows that eternal life is something that is yet future. How can both of these things be true? One way of explaining the already/not yet of eternal life is quantitative. That is, we might simply say that the believer already experiences some of eternal life, but has yet to experience the fullness of eternal life. While that is true, there is a more fundamental, qualitative distinction to be made.

A Present Possession (Objective)
The biblical terms used to describe the believer's current relationship to eternal life imply possession or ownership. The believer "has eternal life" (Jn 5:24; 6:47). This possession or ownership of eternal life is something God gives to those who are His (Jn 10:28; 17:2). It is a free gift (Rom 6:23), which means it is not merited or earned by those who receive it. The possession of eternal life is granted to the elect, to those who were chosen in Him eternally, and it is granted to them at the moment they first believe (Acts 13:48). We can never earn eternal life so as to buy it for ourselves by our own works of obedience to the law (Gal 3:21). Rather, eternal life was purchased by the righteousness of Christ in His life, death, and resurrection (Rom 5:18, 21) and bestowed freely upon all in whom the Spirit works regeneration and faith.

A Present and Future Experience (Subjective)
Eternal life is something that believers experience or enjoy in the present at the moment they first believe. However, the full enjoyment and experience of eternal life is yet future and contingent upon perseverance and transformation into the likeness of Christ (which transformation is always manifest by good works). If you lose your [temporal] life, you will find [eternal] life (Matt 10:39). Those who inherit eternal life in the future are those who in this life turned from the world to Christ (Matt 19:29). Those who do righteous deeds gain access to the experience eternal life in heaven (Matt 25:46). Rom 6:22 teaches that the outcome of sanctification (i.e., perseverance) is eternal life. The Bible says that we have to fight in order to experience and enjoy eternal life: "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called" (1 Tim 6:12). Revelation 2:10 says, " Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."

An Example:
Possession. My little girl and I have a relationship. She is my daughter. She did nothing to earn her status of "daughter." She was simply born into my home freely. Nothing that she does will be able to make her "not my daughter." Her "daughter" status is utterly unconditional. She is permanently and unconditionally in relationship with me.

Experience. However, for my daughter to enjoy our relationship, she must obey me. That's because if she does not obey me, I will make sure that she doesn't enjoy our relationship. A happy daughter is an obedient daughter. But, if she disobeys, I will lovingly and graciously discipline her, removing from her the enjoyment of our relationship, so that she might enjoy it more at a later date. The enjoyment and experience of our relationship is contingent upon her works.

Similarly, God, who is eternal life, gives us Himself freely. But, for us to enjoy Him, we must become like Him and obey Him. An unregenerate man who entered into heaven would not enjoy it. Indeed it wouldn't seem like heaven at all. In order for us to experience what is truly heaven - God Himself, we must be glorified, made into the likeness of Christ, or else we would never enjoy Him.

Put differently, Christ's objective righteousness alone makes us morally or legally fit for heaven (justification). But our subjective righteousness makes us naturally or ontologically fit for heaven (sanctification).

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Possession of Eternal Life is Received by Faith Alone

Not only does the Bible teach that the experience of eternal life is "not yet" and contingent upon perseverance in good works to the end of life, but it also teaches that believers come into possession of eternal life "already" by grace alone through faith alone.

Jhn 3:15 "so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

Jhn 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Jhn 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

Jhn 5:21 "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.

Jhn 5:24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

Jhn 5:40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

Jhn 6:33 "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world."

Jhn 6:40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."

Jhn 6:47 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.

Jhn 6:51 "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh."

Jhn 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have {it} abundantly.

Jhn 10:28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

Jhn 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,

Jhn 17:2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.

Jhn 17:3 "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Jhn 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Act 11:18 When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance {that leads} to life."

Act 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they {began} rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Rom 5:18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

Rom 5:21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2Cr 3:6 who also made us adequate {as} servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Gal 3:21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.

1Ti 1:16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

Tts 3:7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to {the} hope of eternal life.

1Jo 5:11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

1Jo 5:12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

Persevering Work is Necessary for the Experience of Eternal Life

There are two classes of texts in the Scriptures with respect to eternal life. One class teaches that we must labor in good works in order to experience and enjoy eternal life. The other class teaches that eternal life is already ours. In my next post, I'll list the passages which show that eternal life is a present possession. Then, I'll explain how these two strands of biblical teaching on eternal life fit together.

Mat 10:39 "He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.

Mat 19:29 "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.

Mat 25:46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Luk 18:29-30 And He said to them, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life."

Jhn 5:28-29 "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good {deeds} to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil {deeds} to a resurrection of judgment.

Jhn 6:27 "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal."

Jhn 12:25 "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.

Jhn 12:50 "I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me."

Rom 2:7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;

Rom 6:22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

Gal 6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

1Ti 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1Ti 6:18-19 {Instruct them} to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

Tts 1:1-2 Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,

Jam 1:12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which {the Lord} has promised to those who love Him.

1Jo 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.

1Jo 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Jud 1:21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

Rev 2:10 'Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.