Category Archives: Sovereinty of God

Perspectives In Titus: Salvation, Courtesy Of The Trinity

Titus 3 4 thru 6

When we think of our salvation, we typically attribute it to Jesus. This perspective is altogether proper, and Jesus definitely deserves all the glory and praise for His atoning work on the cross. But our study in Titus today shows us that the Father and the Holy Spirit also had a hand in saving us.

Let’s again read Titus 3:1-7 in order to keep the three verses we’ll examine today in their context.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.   ~~Titus  3:1-7 (ESV)

In verse 4, the word “but” indicates a transition from our pre-conversion state of wretchedness. Just as the Christians in First Century Crete differed from their unsaved counterparts, so we differ from the world because of the Lord showing us His mercy. Paul’s emphasis on the goodness and loving kindness of God keeps us from congratulating ourselves on our personal holiness. Consequently, as Matthew Henry makes clear, we should feel compassion for non-Christians.

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown correctly point out that here the phrase “God our Savior” refers specifically to the Father, giving us our first glimpse of the Trinity’s activity in bringing about salvation. The goodness and loving kindness of God appeared, or was manifested. The Cretan Christians didn’t conjure it up; the Lord manifested His grace because He, by nature, is good and loving. Again, the focus on His goodness steers us away from claiming any credit for His work in redeeming us.

Paul insists that God does the saving, elaborating that He did so because of His mercy rather than as a response to our good works, as verse 5 demonstrates. Remember that the Judaizers were disrupting the churches in Crete, teaching that the work of circumcision was necessary for salvation. That fact, coupled with their new behaviors, opened the door to pride. Refer to Ephesians 2:8-10 for a fuller explanation of the sequence of salvation and works. Salvation comes about according to God’s mercy, not our efforts.

The Lord accomplishes our salvation by the “washing of regeneration,” which several commentators understand as a reference to baptism. Believers Bible Commentary, however, argues that this phrase describes the cleansing from sin that results from Christ’s shed blood. This interpretation seems more consistent with the context of this passage.

Paul also attributes salvation to the “renewal of the Holy Spirit.” At regeneration, the Holy Spirit transforms us into totally new creations, as seen in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Thus the Cretan Christians differed from their unsaved counterparts only because of the Holy Spirit’s work of transformation in each of them.

The Lord pours His Holy Spirit on the Church, as evidenced at Pentecost, but also on individual members at regeneration. Furthermore, Paul says in verse 6, He isn’t stingy, but rather He pours Him out abundantly. Barnes comments that the Holy Spirit had been so generously given to the Cretan Christians in order to help them overcome their wicked manner of life, adding that this principle applies to all Christians.

Jesus Christ our Savior is the “channel and Mediator of the gift of the Holy Ghost,” say Jamieson, Fausset and Brown. Indeed, Jesus promised in John 16:7 that He would send the Holy Spirit. So while most of the New Testament rightly emphasizes Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf, here Paul points to His work of sending the Holy Spirit  to regenerate us.

Paul credits the entire Trinity with bringing Christians to salvation. In verse 4, he calls God the Father Savior. In verse 5, he teaches that the Holy Spirit regenerates and renews us. And in verse 6, he reminds us that Jesus Christ is our Savior. His exaltation of the Trinity strengthens his case that salvation comes completely from God. Next Monday we will discuss His wonderful purpose in showing us such grace.

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Saturday Sampler: October 1 — October 7

Fantasy Flowers Sampler

Fall has arrived, meaning that the time all too quickly approaches when cold New England winters will prevent John and me from going anywhere. Including church. We grieve that many able-bodied evangelicals don’t appreciate the privilege of weekly church attendance. Perhaps Scott Slayton’s post, What You Miss When You Don’t  Gather With Your Church in  One Degree to Another, can give you a different perspective on the importance of meeting with your church as often as possible.

In Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. lists Five ways to know that you are too in love with yourself. Gulp! Her insights don’t  comply with psychological principles, but they definitely agree with God’s Word. Please make this one a high priority on your reading list!

I love Rachelle Cox’s Let’s Get Real About Women’s Discipleship in Gospel-Centered Discipleship. This article puts forth some unexpected thoughts about ways women disciple each other, and I think those thoughts might encourage some of you. See what you think.

For an accurate and concise explanation of Revelation verses Illumination, please visit Unified in Truth and start using the two terms Biblically. If you still believe that the Lord gives revelation now, you may need to rethink your theology.

Some of you are probably married to elders in your church. If so, you might appreciate An open letter to elder’s wives by Andrew Gutierrez in The Cripplegate. I find it also instructive to those of us who are friends with women married to elders. Let’s not place these ladies in awkward positions.

As an introduction to a new series in her Do Not Be Surprised blog, Erin Benziger writes about The Lie of ‘Acceptable’ Sins. This series, she promises, won’t be comfortable, but it will lead us to find comfort in the Gospel of God’s grace. I’m looking forward to it, knowing that Erin writes with fidelity to the Scriptures and with reverent passion for the Lord.

For a truly intriguing discussion on a perplexing passage in Genesis, you shouldn’t miss Mercy, Hope, and The Tower of Babel by the author of A Narrow-Minded Woman. She brings out a variety of points that I’ve never noticed, making the incident much more compelling and applicable. I especially like her emphasis on the sovereignty of God.

In an article for Meet the Puritans, Joel Beeke enumerates Ten Lasting Fruits of the Reformation. Those who consider history to be boring and irrelevant should read this piece, if only so that they can see why geeks like me keep writing about the Reformation as if it actually matters.

Have you been sending positive thoughts to Las Vegas this week? In Why Your Positive Thoughts Are Not Helping Anyone, Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace explains why Christians err when they speak of sending positive thoughts. He also tells us how we can actually help hurting people.

I want to close this week’s edition of Saturday Sampler by sharing the video below of the sermon my pastor, Jeremy Garber, preached at First Baptist Church in Weymouth, MA last Sunday. The reminder to use discernment fits so seamlessly with the purposes of this blog that I believe I must include it.

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One Small Argument Against The Doctrine Of Free Will

IMG_5209Let me begin this blog post with the obvious: a single essay can’t possibly address all the variables in arguing against the popular notion of free will. As surely as I write this piece, some Catholic or Armimian will raise objections that I would need to respond to by writing a entirely separate post.

The tension between human responsibility and God’s sovereignty is huge, and writers far more capable than I have spent centuries trying to explain why the fact of human responsibility doesn’t translate into an argument that God created human beings with free will. Martin Luther wrote an entire book, The Bondage of the Will (which I quit reading halfway through because my puny mind couldn’t wrap around all Luther’s points), in an attempt to disprove the whole idea. Arminians certainly have pet verses that they use to substantiate their view, and dealing with each verse would take quite a chunk of time.

That said, the question of free will mustn’t be ignored. Arminians are not heretics for holding to this doctrine, but I believe they hold it at great risk of minimizing God’s sovereignty.

The topic of free will predictably comes up in conversations about situations like the massacre in Las Vegas. Attempts to assure people that this horrific tragedy didn’t occur apart from the Lord’s control are invariably met with protestations that the gunman exercised free will when he pulled that trigger. Apparently, the doctrine that God is sovereign even in situations like this one must be mitigated.

I guess we need to protect God’s reputation.

And yes, the Lord will hold this gunman responsible for his sin, dear readers. God’s sovereignty in no  way excuses sin…on any level!

I think of how God used Judas Iscariot to accomplish Christ’s crucifixion on the Passover. It seems a small detail, until you remember that the Passover feast symbolized the Lamb of God Who would bring His chosen people out from the bondage of sin. According to God’s plan, Christ would have to be crucified on Passover.

Of course, the Pharisees feared that, because the people loved Jesus to the extent that they greeted Him with shouts of Hosanna when He entered Jerusalem, crucifying Him at Passover would be political suicide. The Lord used Judas Iscariot to force their hand, thus ensuing that His supreme Passover Lamb would die at precisely the right moment.

Judas Iscariot, however, bore complete responsibility for betraying the Lord. He wasn’t elected to salvation, yet he knew the Truth. God holds that man responsible for his act of betrayal, most assuredly. Yet Jesus chose Judas as a disciple in order to bring about God’s perfect plan of redemption. In that very important respect, I join Martin Luther in arguing that Judas Iscariot did not have free will.

As I said earlier, there’s no way I can offer a complete refutation of the doctrine of free will in one solitary blog post. But I invite you to seriously think about God’s sovereignty in using Judas to accomplish Christ’s crucifixion. Because of Judas Iscariot’s evil behavior, salvation is now available to all who believe in Jesus Christ. Praise God that, in His sovereignty, the perceived free will of one greedy little man brought about history’s most monumental event!

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Saturday Sampler: September 24 — September 30

Cheesecake SamplerAddressing Christians in our digital age, Scott Stayton of One Degree to Another suggests strategies for Cultivating a Deep Walk with the Lord. His ideas could help us resist the distractions that our devices bring.

Jennifer saves me the trouble of commenting on the feud between President Trump and the NFL. Her marvelous essay, This is the Era of being offended, appears in her One Hired Late In The Day blog and makes the very same point that I would have made. Her perspective clearly echoes Biblical wisdom.

Here’s an interesting musing by Dan DeWitt at TheoLatte. Is Belief in the Bible Circular Reasoning? shows us how to turn a popular objection to Scripture’s authority into a way to make atheists think.

You won’t believe what Lisa Morris wrote on Conforming to the Truth until you read Learning but Never coming to the Knowledge of the Truth. If you’re signing up for lots of online Bible Studies this fall, you might take a step back to consider Lisa’s surprising perspective.

In The End Time, Elizabeth Prata defends The exclusively of Jesus as she reasons from the Scriptures. We face anger from non-Christians all the time by adhering to this doctrine, I know. And it hurts! But Elizabeth’s essay provides much needed encouragement to stay strong in this Biblical position.

Those of us who follow current events may be tempted toward anxiety. Melanie Lenow, in Watching the News Without Losing Your Mind (Or Your Faith!) for Biblical Woman, shows us how (and why) Christian women must respond differently than the world.

Check out The Death Penalty as our Only Hope by Doug Wilson on Blog & Mablog for a fascinating take on God’s mercy to people caught in the sin of homosexuality. I’ve never considered this angle of the question until reading this blog post, but I like the balance it presents.

Can I say it? Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate writes the best article on the National Anthem bruhaha that I’ve read so far. To stand or not to stand? That is not the question: asks us to think Biblically about this controversy from a couple sides, always applying Scripture as the bottom line. I encourage each of you to think carefully about Johnson’s argument  before determining how you’ll respond to this matter.

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Saturday Sampler: September 17 — September 23

Tulip Sampler 02I like reading Nick Batzig, even when he puts his finger on my sin. Servants Of Grace republishes his article, Nothing to Complain About, which certainly makes me think about my selfish attitudes. See what you think.

And in case Batzig’s blog post doesn’t humble you, Michelle Lesley writes You’re Not Awesome…and You Know It in response to those airbrushed memes all over social media that tell us how wonderful we are. Michelle has an inconvenient habit of holding things like this up to the Word of God, and then believing that God has the final say.

Julie Ganschow of Biblical Counseling for Women warns us about The Dangers of Drifting From the Spiritual Disciplines. We all need reminders like this from time time.

Do you think you’ve done pretty well at overcoming sin? Read Elizabeth Prata’s 17 minutes of continual sin in The End Time.

In his essay on the Ligonier blog, Derek Thomas explains the balance between God’s Sovereignty and Our Responsibility by showing us how Scripture synthesizes the two realities. People commonly criticize Reformed Theology for (as they see it) teaching that we’re mere robots, but this criticism ignores the fact that people in the Reformed camp believe all Scripture is God’s Word.

What lesson can we learn from the episode of Leslie A. forgetting to wear makeup to church  one Sunday? Beautifully and Naturally Changed, her article in Growing 4 Life, answers this question by challenging us to examine our motives.

Biblical Woman runs a thought-provoking piece by Candi Finch entitled How We Hear Mixed Messages From Christians and Feminists that encourages us to think consistently. A rather unexpected piece, this article reminds us to speak about others respectfully and in ways that honor God.

With astonishing candor, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day shares her reflections on Song of Solomon: my least favorite book. She explains her distaste for this book, but also helps us understand the Holy Spirit’s wisdom in putting it in His Word.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Mike Riccardi demonstrates How to Kill Your Neighbor with gossip and slander. Can you claim that you’ve never murdered anyone? Neither can I. But Mike’s article uses Scripture to guide us to repentance and help us honor God with our words. Please take time to read this one.

In her article for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Jen Oshman counsels American moms to Shatter Your Kid-Centered Kingdom. Her advice makes sense to me, but maybe it does because I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s when life revolved around more than kids’ activities.

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A Defiant Response To Irma

Like everyone else, I grieve over the devastation that Hurricane Irma continues to cause. So much loss of property, livelihood and even life! It overwhelms me every time I think about it, and you probably feel the same way.

As hard as it is to trust the sovereignty of God right now, we must remember that this hurricane season is completely under His control. What is His purpose in such catastrophic destruction? I don’t know. I don’t need to know, actually. I only need to trust that He has His purpose in all of the sorrow and anguish that Harvey and Irma have brought.

Today’s hymn may help us regain a little perspective as we reel from the impact of these storms. Please don’t think I post this with a callous attitude; I have no desire to minimize the suffering that people experience as a result of these disasters. But times like this can strengthen our faith. No matter what Irma throws at us, it can be well with our souls.

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Saturday Sampler: September 3 — September 9

Heart Sampler 01Let’s start out with a difficult, but incredibly basic, challenge: loving our enemies. In these days of robust polemics and doctrinal minutiae, we easily ignore Christ’s teaching on this matter. Thankfully The Cripplegate features Clint Archer’s bracing post, A higher standard of loving, to pull us back to the fundamentals of Christian behavior.

Also on The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge gives us Three Reasons to be Unashamed of the Gospel as he reflects on the bravery of Martin Luther and other 16th Century Reformers. History, and especially church history, has tremendous application to our lives today!

Glenn Chatfield, in The Watchman’s Bagpipes, shares some helpful information on The Importance of Genesis Chapters 1 through 11. You might be surprised by how frequently the New Testament mentions incidents that occur in these chapters.

I love seeing ways that Biblical counseling gets to the heart of a matter and then applies Scriptural principles to set a person free. Lara d’Entremont demonstrates how the Bible addresses perfectionist tendencies in Hope for Perfectionist in Progressive Sanctification. Lara’s blog, Renewed In Truth Discipleship, contains many such essays. What a Christ-centered alternative to psychological counseling!

Lara’s essay inspired Lisa Morris of Conforming To The Truth to write The Unexpected Gift of Perfectionism. She lists several Scriptures to help us climb out of this particular sin.

Continuing her new series on Do Not Be Surprised, Erin Benziger writes Unshakeable Joy in Times of Trial in order to direct us to the sovereignty of God. Admittedly, I still struggle to rejoice in hardship or persecution. You most likely do as well. But that’s precisely why we need to read Erin’s article.

If you’re like me (and I suspect you are), you probably wonder what Scripture means when it tells us wives to respect our husbands. Answering from a male perspective, Tim Challies fills Let the Wife See She Respects Her Husband with practical tips on how to obey the Lord in marriage. What a valuable article for us to read! Please don’t ignore this one.

Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day evaluates Self-Care and the Christian by holding the idea of making time for oneself instead of serving others against the teachings of God’s Word. In this age of promoting self-love, Jennifer’s call to obey the Lord is badly needed.

Sadly, the obvious about gender and sexuality is no longer regarded as obvious. Even by professing Christians. Michelle Lesley responds to this moral disintegration in her blog post, Basic Training: Homosexuality, Gender Identity, and Other Sexual Immorality. Before you think she’s pointing fingers sanctimoniously, you might want to read her entire article. All of us have committed some form of sexual sin, and all of us can experience the Lord’s forgiveness.

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