Time to Think
by Pastor Ron Snyder
1. Salvation: In Acts 16:30 the Philippian jailer asked Paul, "What must I do to be saved?" Most people think "My works (baptism, alms, keeping the commandments) earn salvation" (Mk.10:17-22). Salvation, or deliverance from sin's bondage, is not of works, but all of grace, God's unmerited favor (Rom.11:6; Eph.2:8-9). Paul, as saved man, said it right, "By the grace of God I am what I am" (I Cor.15:10) - by a Spirit-given faith union with Christ.
2. Gospel: There is only one Gospel (I Cor.15:1), but 4 accounts of the Gospel (The Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Gospel means "good news." The Gospel has 2 pillars, the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ (I Cor.15:3-4). The death of Christ is the victory over sin, and the resurrection of Christ is the victory over death (Rom.5:12). There is no salvation without belief in both pillars (I Cor.15:1-2).
3. Justification: Luther said "Justification is the doctrine by which the church stands or falls" (Gal.2:16). In the order of salvation, justification follows born again (John 3:3,5,7), and goes before sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3,7). It can be summarized in two doctrines: forgiveness of sins (Eph.1:7) and the imputation of Christ's righteousness (2 Cor.5:21). Praise God for His free grace to us in justification (Rom.3:24).
4. Forgiveness: The greatest mercy we receive from God is forgiveness of sins - God's gracious removal of a believing repentant sinner from the guilt of all his sin for Jesus' sake. Jesus alone, His blood shed on the cross, give all the glory (merit) to Him (Eph.1:7; 4:32; Heb 9:22). Forgiveness alone, not regeneration or repentance, blots out or cancels our sin (Ps.51: 1,9). God never forgets, but forgiven sin is never brought up (Ps.103:12).
5. Imputation: In justification the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us (2 Cor.5:21; Phil.3:9). Imputation means "to credit to one's account" (Gen 15:6). If I put a hundred dollars into your bank account, that's imputation. You did not do anything for the money. It was gratis, a gift, pure grace (Zech.3:1-5; Philemon v.18). "Clothed in righteousness divine, bold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own."
6. Promises: There are over eight thousand promises of God in the Bible. Promises are divine intentions for the future that are sure as to God's actions and they bring comfort to His people. "Only a God who has spoken promises to mankind can be thought of as faithful" (Maclaren; Isa 14:24; 46:9-11; 55:11; 2 Cor.1:20). "Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail," only then will we prevail.
7. Hope: Biblical hope is certain and not wishful thinking. The early church symbolized it as an anchor (Heb 6:18-20). It is based on God's certain promises and prophecies are all fulfilled in Jesus (2 Cor.1:20; John 13:19; 14:29). All fulfilled promises and prophecies proclaim the deity of Christ, our solid Rock (1 Cor.10:4; Duet.32:4; Ps.18:46). "In times like these, we need an anchor. Be sure your anchor holds and grips the solid Rock, Jesus."
8. In Christ: Regeneration is the implantation of the soul into Christ, of being united to Christ. 'In Christ' is a theme of Ephesians (27 times). Paul defines a Christian in Eph.1:1 as saints, faithful, and in Christ, by God's will. Life in Christ is threefold: legal (no condemnation, Rom.8:1), spiritual (vital, a corpse made alive; Eph 2:1-5), and eternal (permanent, never lost). Disciples, being in Christ, do not join Christ to sin (1 Cor.6:15-20).
9. Regeneration: Why must regeneration (new birth, being in Christ) precede faith? Because a spiritually dead person cannot believe; a person must have spiritual life before he can believe (Eph 2:1-5; John 3:1-8; I Cor.2:14). "Regeneration precedes faith" (R.C. Sproul) summarizes the Reformation. Otherwise, to believe is a humanistic gospel that glorifies man and his ability, not God; it destroys grace (Rom.11:6; I Cor.1:30).
10. Conversion: Regeneration is a changed heart (John 3:6; 2 Cor.4:6; Ezek.36:26) and conversion is the awareness of a changed heart. Regeneration is immediate, whereas conversion is either immediate or gradual. Genuine conversion does not begin with making a decision for Jesus or accepting Him, but with real repentance (2 Cor.7:10). It makes one a disciple of Jesus who follows His example (Eph.5:1).
11. Repentance: In the Greek, repentance is not simply a change of mind, but a grace of God in which a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed. In the Hebrew, repentance means "turn" (eighteen times in Jer.3 and vs.22- 25 is a prayer of true repentance). True repentance (contrition) is a 180 degree turn to the right, to God (I Thess. 1:9). The need is for forgiveness and the door to it is repentance (Rev. 3:19).
12. Doctrine: Doctrine is key Bible truths or what the Bible teaches. Many Christians don't like doctrine; "Just give me Jesus, that's all I need." We only know Jesus from what the Bible teaches. "All in the Bible is Christ in all" (Ryle). Doctrine is God's means to His ends - to His people becoming like Jesus (Rom 8:29). Doctrine without duty (becoming like Christ) is dead (Eph 5:1; John 13:17). Duty without doctrine is blind.
13. Life: "O taste (experience) and see that the LORD is good" (Ps. 34:8). Many today have divorced life (experience) from doctrine (what the Bible teaches). Life without doctrine is mere emotions, feelings and leads to falsehoods (2 Tim.4:3-4; Eph. 4:14). God's revelation of who He is and what He wills is foundational to real Christianity. Doctrine in the head (mind) precedes heat in the heart, which fosters true willful Christian living.
14. Love: Is there a difference between "I love you" and "I love You (Jesus)"? The first is sensual, the second originates with God (agape love, unique Christian love; I John 4:19), and is primarily an action word (I John 3:17-18). Agape love is THE mark of a Christian (John 13:34-35) and puts others' interests and welfare above our own (I John 3:14). We are to act just like Jesus did for us on the cross (John 3:16; 15:13; I John 3:16).
15. Sanctification: In Roman Catholicism sanctification precedes justification; hence salvation is falsely by works. In the biblical order of salvation, sanctification follows justification. Sanctification means increase in holiness (1 Pet.1:15-16), increase in pleasing God (2 Cor.5:9), increase in Christlikeness (1 Cor.11:1), and increase in knowledge (2 Pet.3:18). Sanctification is God's will for us (1 Thess.4:3; Phil.2:12-13).