Romans 8:28 Pillar of Eternal Security

I have been meditating on Christ’s promises to His people that He will never leave us or forsake us (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5-6).

John 10

John 10

In my decade long life in Christ, I have learned much and grown much in my knowledge of the Bible, but nothing has comforted me and created more joy in me than the promise that I cannot lose the grace of forgiveness that God has given me.

I want to hone in on Romans 8:28. In regarding this verse of Scripture, we can see that the clear testimony of the Holy Spirit is that those He has called are never lost, but will always remain the people of Christ. Let’s soak in this joy together.

Three excellent translations of the verse:

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (NASB)

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (NKJV)

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)

The NASB draws from a slightly different ancient manuscript tradition than the NKJV and ESV. Let’s look at it first before the latter two, treating the three as a harmony, and like a jewel being turned in the light.

Lil’ Exegesis

1) NASB

“And we know that…” Paul/the Holy Spirit is giving us assurance of the knowledge of the information in this clause. For the Christian, there is no doubting what will be said hereafter.

“…God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” So then, for the Christian, we can always fall back on this sure knowledge: there is nothing outside of “all things” – and praise God, He “causes” everything that happens to “work together for good” for His people. Nothing is outside of God’s sovereign, gracious control. When there are calamities both within our lives and in the world at large, God is actively orchestrating and allowing these “all things” for the good of “those who love God,” which is another way of saying “Christians.” Continue reading

The Difference Between Christianity and Everything Else

This blog exists to usher people into human liberty, which is only available to those who embrace Christian theology. The difference between true, pure Christianity and all other religious/philosophical truth claims is grace.

Christianity is the sufficient, absolute, totally gracious gift of God through His Son Jesus Christ. Forgiveness for free. Eternal life based on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection alone.

That’s right. There is nothing of ourselves in our acceptance with God; there is no merit, no obedience, no sincerity, no sacrament, no church membership, no Bible reading that secures our forgiveness: NOTHING adds to the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ given to us by grace alone through faith alone in His gospel alone.

Sincerity in worshiping and obeying God is a gift of His grace, not our own meritorious offering to Him. There is nothing of us that He looks at to count us righteous. Nothing.

And we receive our justification, sanctification, and glorification by grace alone through faith alone. Look here at the classic standard of confessional Reformed theology.

Heidelberg Catechism Question 21

Here it is, captured in its essence (with Scriptures):

What is true faith?

A. True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, (a)

but also an assured confidence, (b)

which the Holy Ghost (c)

works by the gospel in my heart; (d)

that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, (e)

are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. (f)

(a) James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

(b) 2 Cor.4:13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

Eph.2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. Eph.2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Eph.2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Eph.3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

Gal.2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Heb.11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb.11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Heb.11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. Heb.11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: Heb.11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Heb.4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

Matt.16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Philip.1:19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Rom.4:17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

Rom.4:21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

Rom.5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Rom.1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Rom.10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Rom.10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Rom.4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, Rom.4:18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. Rom.4:19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: Rom.4:20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

Rom.3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Rom.3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

(c) Gal.5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Matt.16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

2 Cor.4:13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Eph.2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Philip.1:19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

(d) Rom.1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Rom.10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

1 Cor.1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

Acts 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

(e) Rom.1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Gal.3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

Heb.10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Heb.10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

Gal.2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

(f) Eph.2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Rom.3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Rom.5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Luke 1:77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Luke 1:78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us…

God’s Sovereign Grace Just Rocks

In late 2002 the Lord Jesus opened my heart to receive Him, and I was born again. In early 2007 the Lord Jesus opened my eyes to see that salvation is all God, and nothing of me.

Of course, I would have mouthed the credit to Him before that point, as grateful as I was, and as wretched as I was before I was saved, but I didn’t know what kind of salvation had really happened to me.

Monergism

From monergism.com –

The Century Dictionary defines it as follows:

“In theology, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration – that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration.”

I could not cooperate in my regeneration, I had no part in the choice to be saved, I take no credit for even not resisting the work of the Holy Spirit. There is one thing I take credit for in having become a true Christian: the wretched sinfulness and rebellion in my nature and actions that made my rescue necessary. That’s all I contributed.

The Holy Spirit Himself is the single, active agent in the moment of initial salvation for all who are redeemed. Our response to being born again is repentance of sin (imperfect as it is), and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (who He is and what He has done).

That’s monergism – and that’s pure, beautiful, joyous Christian truth.

Some Technical Definitions

I look forward to expressing on this site a strong love of God’s sovereign grace. To be precise, I am not a Calvinist, and I am not Reformed. To be one or both of those, one has to subscribe to the Reformed and Calvinistic confessions of faith such as the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession of Faith.

As expressed in those dynamite confessions, Calvinism includes covenant theology and the baptism of infants. Without those elements and the ecclesiology of the Reformed confessions, one is not truly Reformed.

I myself am still working through the points of covenant theology (of which I am oh so close to agreement), and the resultant wet infants of the Reformed churches. With that said, this citizen of New Jerusalem is a hearty, happy Protestant, and this site will feature much more clear delineation of the doctrines of sovereign grace as the days go on.

I believe the doctrine Christ’s Church needs to be preaching in this hour of history is that solid old monergism that broke the stranglehold of Rome over the Church 500 years ago.

Be sure to subscribe to receive an e-mail when the Citizen posts, and help me develop my thinking as I grow with you in the grace and truth of our wonderful Savior Jesus the Messiah.

I’ll leave you with some gold for your pockets.

Thanks for reading,

-Adam

“If our religion be of our own getting or making, it will perish; and the sooner it goes, the better; but if our religion is a matter of God’s giving, we know that He shall never take back what He gives, and that, if He has commenced to work in us by His grace, He will never leave it unfinished.”
C.H. Spurgeon

” …the conversion of a sinner being not owing to a man’s self determination, but to God’s determination, and eternal election, which is absolute, and depending on the sovereign Will of God, and not on the free will of man; as is evident from what has been said : and it being very evident from the Scriptures, that the eternal election of saints to the faith and holiness, is also an election of them to eternal salvation; hence their appointment to salvation must also be absolute, and not depending on their contingent, self-determining Will.”
Jonathan Edwards

“For non-reformed theologies…”at the end of the day, the security of the believer finally rests with the believer. For those in the opposite camp [Reformed], the security of the believer finally rests with God — and that, I suggest, rightly taught, draws the believer back to God himself, to trust in God, to a renewed faith that is of a piece with trusting him in the first place.”
D.A. Carson

The Bible “locates unbelief in the total inability of sinners to effect their own liberation from the bondage of the will, and … locate faith in the unconditional election, redemption, and effectual calling of the triune God alone. God gives not only sufficient grace (that is, enough grace to enable sinners to respond positively to God if they choose to do so), but efficient grace (that is, regeneration as well as faith and repentance as gifts).”
– Michael Horton The Christian Faith, pg. 562

 

How to Kill Your Christian Joy and Assurance

Want to kill your Christian joy and assurance of salvation? Believe your Christian adverbs. (Adverbs modify verbs, e.g. “slowly running.”) Become a pietist.

When we use and believe our own adverbs to describe our response to the gospel, we are in for a terrible ride. Adverbs are the lazy man’s crutch in literature – like puffs of smoke blown in the eyes to obscure the embarrassing white bones of skeletal essays.

Think of it – instead of “Napolean won victories across Europe, stretching all the way around the Mediterranean into Africa,” now the student needs a bigger word count and writes “Napolean brutally won victories across Europe, vigorously stretching his armies all the way around…” you see the point. Adverbs embellish and spruce things up. They can also beguile us when we use them to strengthen the appearance of our actions before a holy God. 

In Christian piety, when we use (and believe in our use of) adverbs to describe things like repentance, worship, confession, obedience, and others, we set ourselves up for either a staggering heart of pride, or a desolate heart of doubt.

Danger! Keep Right of Yellow Line!

On Christian adverbs, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt of Concordia University in Irvine, California, in borrowing from fellow Lutheran Norman Nagel, described them as the great enemies of the Gospel of Christ. Indeed.

Look at the issue: when was the last time, Christian, that you repented of your sins? Hopefully today – even just now. But what if I asked you when the last time was you repented “sincerely” of your sins?

We’ve just split into two camps: some of you immediately began answering back that you repent “sincerely” as much as possible, that you are a heartfelt Christian, and that you are very serious about repentance from sin. At this the rest of us look on with jealousy and awe. We applaud your sincerity and piety. You’re steering into oncoming traffic.Head on collision

Danger! Keep Left of White Line!

The others of you, like me, would have to be honest in answering, “I’m not sure the last time I repented… “sincerely.” For us in this second group, we know something of our own hearts. We know the sneaky, slithering sinfulness nested deep within our hearts – that sinfulness which corrupts our repentance. It corrupts our prayers. It corrupts our good works. It corrupts everything. And we know this – we mourn over this (Matt. 5:4).

And we are called to know this. Knowing the laxity of our repentance is freedom from pride, and dependence on Christ the Savior for His mercy. We are called to know the half-heartedness of our worship. I mean, who in their right mind actually means it when they sing to God

I will give You all my worship, I will give You all my praise, You alone, I long to worship, You alone, are worthy of my praise!

Riiiiight. You’re the first one in history to reach those heights, compadre.

We must test ourselves before God,

and when we do, we must find that we have not kept up our end of the bargain with God. He created us, gave us this earth, all its blessings, and our lives. He gives us food, air, water, and for many of us, luxuries beyond the imagination of most of the rest of humankind.

And He gave us His Son Jesus. Not just as a distant, abstract concept, but in the flesh. Jesus became a Man for YOU. He became a Man to redeem us from our sin and enmity with God. He died in our place, under the wrath of God the Father… for YOU. In YOUR place. Out of love. And He rose from the dead on that Sunday, conquering death for YOU, dear Christian – delivering the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life for ALL who merely trust in Him with repentant hearts.

And what have you done for HIM lately? (God help you if that’s a line you hear your pastor thunder out from the pulpit). Friends, the true answer is… not much. Or maybe, nothing. How does Jesus tell us to think of ourselves when we have obeyed Him?

…when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty. (Luke 17:10 HCSB)

It is pure fantasy to believe that our works of piety; our obedience to His commands, our “sincere” repentance, or any other act of response to God is anything like what it should be. God, in His infinite majesty and glory, is not actually bettered by the service of human hands!

The Smart Guys Fall for It!

The Westminster Confession of faith is a magnificent achievement of Protestant theology – forged in the academic heights of the Puritan glory days of the mid-seventeenth century. Yet look here at their language in describing the effects of election upon the saved person:

So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel. [W.C.F. VII, 6.021]

Abundant consolation… to whom? “To all that sincerely obey the gospel.” So then, who gets consolation? Nobody. Nobody, that is, who knows their own heart.

And to be fair to the Reformed, the Lutherans are guilty too. I’ve visited a conservative Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) the last couple of weekends, and sure enough, the confession and absolution in the liturgy has us reciting

I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserve Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them… [L.S.B. 184]

Really now? Am I even able to know all my sins, let alone confess them heartily, and sincerely repent? The introspective Christian will soon fall into a fearful doubting of their salvation, for these adverbs describe someone whose piety is nothing short of miraculous.

But But, Doesn’t the Bible Say…

Now some of you know your Bibles, and are thinking of certain passages that speak of our “sincere love of the brethren” (1 Pet. 1:22), and even of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 18:35 that we will not be forgiven if we do not forgive our brother… “from the heart” – or as we say, “sincerely.”

I hear these passages too, and must wrestle them in my adverb-prone, wanna-be piety. Am I forgiving my brothers “from my heart?” Probably not, or at least not all the time, perfectly, without flaw. Yes, I forgive. Yes, I love the brethren – even sincerely – but the point of these and other passages is not to call our attention to our own degree of piety and perfection in our performance. These calls to inward sincerity and even perfection are there because God can command nothing less. His pure and perfect nature necessitates His commands to us be pure and perfect – even superfluously pure.

The Ultimate Standard

As Jesus was wrapping up section one of His Sermon on the Mount, He declares “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48 NKJV). How you doing on that? The reality for the Christian is that we live in tension, falling short of the Law of God and His holy perfection, and our full, complete acceptance by Him because of Christ. There is nothing of ourselves added into our plea before God. It is not “Jesus lived and died for me, and then I did everything I could to live for you” – can I say this? HELL NO. Pun intended.

Rather than that, it is “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”

The Christian life is a massive struggle to rest. It’s a paradox, striving to rest… in the striving and works of Christ on our behalf. Striving to believe God’s Word about His Son and His gospel. The only way any of us will be counted as being perfect, just as our Father in heaven is perfect, is by having trusted in the gospel of Christ, and having therefore rested our adverb-prone piety at the foot of a bloody, splintered cross.

We are only able to begin to obey the Lord out of a place of sincere self-knowledge. I’m totally unable to forgive people sincerely – I need the grace of the Holy Spirit to enable this act, only made possible by having eyes on Jesus; His forgiveness of me, His pure love, His absolute graciousness to His people…

As go our adverbs, so go our trust and faith

The only adverbs we can believe in concerning this Christian life describe the fullness of our sinfulness and neediness, and on the other side, the perfection of God’s work on our behalf. I fully need the forgiveness of God. He sincerely forgives me for Christ’s sake.

If we begin to describe ourselves with adverbs of positive fullness (which should be reserved for describing God alone), our trust and faith is inadvertently placed in ourselves, and our assurance and joy will die with our realization of how insincere and half-hearted our repentance and faith truly are. WATCH OUT!

Repent of your adverbs describing yourself in positive fullness, friends. Trust in Christ alone for your needed standing before God. He justifies fully. He is enough.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin