Monday, May 30, 2016

Lesslie Newbigin, "The Logic of Election", plus a free ebook



In his book, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (1989), Reformed theologian & missionary Lesslie Newbigin includes a chapter entitled "The Logic of Election" (excerpts below) where he challenges the traditional Calvinist understanding of this doctrine.  Newbigin also addresses election in his books A Faith for this One World? (1961), and The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (1978, 2nd ed. 1995).

From
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, pages 83-84 (bold mine):
What I have called the logic of election becomes very clear in that passage of the Letter to the Romans which has often been used as a basis for false teaching about election. I refer to Romans 9 through 11. For Paul it is axiomatic that God has chosen Israel uniquely among all the nations. And yet Israel has, as a nation, rejected God's Messiah. How is this to be understood? Does it mean that God's purpose has been defeated? No. How, then, are we to understand it? First, we must understand that God retains his freedom. Election does not give us claims against God. This has always been clear, for not all descendants of Abraham are chosen. No one can find fault with God for this. Like the potter working with his clay, God has the freedom to dispose of his creation as he will.  He could make some vessels for honor and some for destruction. Paul does not say that he has done so, but only that, if he did, we would have no ground for complaint. This is where false conclusions have been drawn from Paul. The whole passage makes clear that God has not done what he might have done. He has not made some for honor and some for destruction. What he has done is to consign all men to disobedience in order that he may have mercy on all (11:32). 
How can this be so? Again we ask: what is the meaning of Israel's rejection of the Messiah? Paul's answer is an astonishing one, but it fits exactly what I call the logic of election. God, says Paul, has hardened the heart of Israel so that the gospel which they reject will--so to say--bounce off to the Gentiles. This is exactly what has happening in city after city where Paul was turned out of the synagogues and went to the Gentiles. So the apostasy of Israel has brought salvation to the Gentiles. Does this mean that Israel is lost? No! Impossible! God can never cast off his chosen people. As proof of this he has kept a remnant (as so often in the past) as pledge that Israel is not rejected. The small company of believing Jews is the pledge that Israel is not cast off. And how is it all to end? The answer is that this hardening of the heart of Israel is until the full number of Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved (11:25). In the end, therefore, it is through the Gentiles that Israel will be saved. So the logic of election is complete. I said earlier that in the biblical view there could be no salvation straight from above through the skylight, but only as we open the door to the neighbor whom God has appointed to be the bearer of salvation. It might have seemed that this was not quite true, since Israel, in the person of Abraham, received the message direct and not through any human messenger. Yes indeed, but we learn that it is not enough to be descendant of Abraham. They have no privileged status. In the end the chosen people, the elect, will have to receive salvation through the nonelect--the Gentiles. The logic of election is complete. Not just at the beginning but all the way until the end, salvation involves us with the neighbor whom God chooses to be the bearer of salvation, and there is no salvation otherwise.
Newbigin then exposes and corrects "false ideas which have gathered around the doctrine of election and which have made it unacceptable to many Christians as well as others" (p 84). These include:
  • "The idea that election is election to privileged status before God. This false belief is something against which the prophets of Israel had constantly to contend" (p 84);
  • "Where those who are chosen and called do what is commanded, they have a claim on God that others do not" (p 85), rather:
God does not choose to save some and to destroy others. (He has consigned all to disobedience in order that he may have mercy on all). His grace is free and sovereign, and there is no place for an exclusive claim on his grace, a claim by which others are excluded. (p 85-86)

  • And (pages 86-87): 
[T]here is a way in which the doctrine of election has been distorted by separating it from the doctrine of Christ. We surely go far astray if we begin from a doctrine of divine decrees based on an abstract concept of divine omnipotence (a concept which all too obviously falls into Feuerbach's description of theism as the projection of our own human ego onto the heavens). We have to take as our starting point, and as the controlling reality for all our thinking on this as on every theological topic, what God has actually done in Jesus Christ. It is in Jesus Christ that, as Paul says, we are elect from the foundation of the world. Jesus is not a latecomer into the world. He is the one in whom and through whom and for whom we and all things exist. And the things that happened when he took our human nature and came among us as a man make clear what the meaning of God's election is. It is, as Paul says in the passage we have been looking at, that God has consigned all to disobediance that he may have mercy on all. The cross of Jesus is the place where all human beings without exception are exposed as enemies of God, and the place where all human beings without exception are accepted as beloved of God, objects of his forgiving grace. No one is excluded from the scope of that prayer: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." It is for all. [...]    
To be chosen, to be elect, therefore does not mean that the elect are the saved and the rest are the lost. To be elect in Christ Jesus, and there is no other election, means to be incorporated into his mission to the world, to be the bearer of God’s saving purpose for the whole world, to be the sign and the agent and the firstfruit of his blessed kingdom which is for all. It means, therefore, as the New Testament makes abundantly clear, to take our share in his suffering, to bear the scars of the passion. It means, as Paul says elsewhere, to bear in the body the dying of Jesus so that the life of the risen Jesus may be manifest and made available for others. It means that this particular body of people who bear the name of Jesus through history, this strange and often absurd company of people so feeble, so foolish, so often fatally compromised with the world, this body with all its contingency and particularity, is the body which has the responsibility of bearing the secret of God’s reign through world history. The logic of election is all of one piece with the logic of the gospel. God’s purpose of salvation is not that we should be taken out of history and related to him in some way which bypasses the specificities and particularities of history. His purpose is that in and through history there should be brought into being that which is symbolized in the vision with which the Bible ends–the Holy City into which all the glory of the nations will finally be gathered. But–and of course this is the crux of the matter–that consummation can only lie on the other side of death and resurrection. It is the calling of the Church to bear through history to its end the secret of the lordship of the crucified.


Newbigin was Reformed but, as you can see, held a view of election which is much closer to Arminianism than 5-point Calvinism.  Dr Roger Olson has listed him among,

“revisionist Reformed” theologians who, in my estimation, have left the traditional Calvinist interpretation of God’s sovereignty behind even as they eschew the label Arminian... theologians deeply embedded in the Reformed tradition who would not want to be labeled “Arminian,” but whose theologies of God’s sovereignty are so highly modified and attenuated that calling them “Calvinist” would stretch that label to the breaking point. (link [1])



Free ebook: A Missional View of Election
I first came across Lesslie Newbigin on election in JR Woodward's free ebook A Missional View of Election: How a Robust View of Election Leads to a Holistic Gospel and Meaningful Missional Engagement, where Lesslie Newbigin's missional view of election is contrasted with the 5-point Calvinist view as represented by Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology.



Endnote
[1] In another post, Dr Olson commented:
Many modern, “moderate” Reformed theologians (i.e., theologians who self-identify as Reformed and are recognized theologians of Reformed churches) sound more Arminian than Calvinist: Lesslie Newbigin, Jürgen Moltmann, Adrio König, Alisdair Heron, Alan P. F. Sell, et al. (My apologies for “outing them” as closet Arminians! I realize they would not want to be so identified but I find their soteriologies much closer to classical Arminianism than to, say, TULIP Calvinism.). (link)
And on his interpretation of Romans 9:
But, as I said earlier, it is not only Arminians who offer exegesis of Romans 9 that conflicts with traditional Calvinist interpretations.  Lesslie Newbigin, for example (hardly an Arminian!), also explained Romans 9 in the Arminian manner (which is also how it was interpreted by ALL the church fathers before Augustine!)–as dealing with nations and service rather than individuals and their salvation. (link)


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Great Quotes: Early Anabaptist theologian Balthasar Hubmaier on Prevenient Grace



Earlier this year I began researching early Anabaptist theologian Balthasar Hubmaier (1480 – 1528).  Here is a portion of his treatise Freedom of the Will, II where he clearly affirms what would later be called the doctrine of "prevenient grace", written May 20, 1527:
Thus God speaks through Jeremiah: "We have healed Babylon but it did not become whole; we will leave it," Jer 51:9. Thus Christ also says to Jerusalem: "How often I wanted to gather you and you did not want it," Matt 23:37. Thus Paul says to the Jews: "The Word of God had first to be preached to you, but since you reject it, we now turn to the heathen," Acts 13:46. 
Therefore we confess with you, dear friends, that in those people whom God has abandoned there is no freedom of will, Heb 6:4-6, 10:38. However, we set the same freedom of the will in those people drawn, illuminated, and reborn by God, for to them the power is offered and given to become children of God in the power of his Word, 2 Pet 2; John 1:12. For although no one comes to Christ unless the Father draws him, it, nevertheless, does not follow from this speech that all those come to Christ who have been drawn by the Father, John 6:44. As also not all those accept the light to whom Christ came to enlighten, John 1:9, 11. However, it does not follow that God is without power, for it is just his revealed will that he in the beginning sends to all people his Word and after that gives them the power, freedom, and choice so that they can accept or reject the same, as has been said sufficiently above, Mark 16:15; John 1:16. (Balthasar Hubmaier, "Freedom of the Will, II" in Balthasar Hubmaier: Theologian of Anabaptism, trans & ed. Pipkin & Yoder (1989) at page 477)

Earlier in the same piece he discusses the question of why some respond in faith while others reject the gospel.  He writes:

Grace comes to us, not out of us, so that no one can boast in himself but in the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Cor 1:4. For our flesh and blood cannot reach such sonship out of their own power, John 1:12; Matt 16:17; 1 Cor 15:50. 
Since, however, this sonship is offered to all people equally, for the seed of the divine Word falls equally in four kinds of earth, it follows that we have the equal power to accept the seed and to bear fruit, John 1:12; Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15; Matt 13:3ff; Mark 4:3ff. If we do not do that, then it is not God who is guilty, or his seed, but the evil of the earth, that is, we ourselves. 
Thus Peter hears Christ, accepts his Word, and brings forth fruit, John 1:42. Herod also hears it, however, does not accept his Word, and does not bear fruit. Now that is the fault of the wickedness of Herod. 
Since, however, Peter and Herod are alike sinners and evil, the reason why his inborn evil does not harm Peter and yet harms Herod is that Herod follows his inborn evil and walks according to it, but not Peter, Eph 3; 1 Cor 15:45ff; Rom 8:5-9. 
In addition, the fact that God looks at Peter and moves him to lament his sins has to do with the mercy of God, Matt 26:75. That he does not look at Judas is the fault of the traitor who sold innocent blood for thirty pennies. He had to sentence himself and say, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood," Matt 27:4. 
Whoever is not satisfied with this answer, namely, that the mercy of God is the cause of our salvation and our wickedness is the cause of our damnation, must ask God himself, Rom 11:11-12. I was not his advisor, nor was I with him in his council. 
Whoever says that God wills sin does not know what God or sin is. For sinning is always to do or to omit something against the will of God, 1 John 2:5-6. (p 468-469)


I first heard of Hubmaier from Roger Olson, who called him an “Arminian before Arminius” in one of his posts (link).  He expands on this in The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform (1999), where he dedicates chapter 26 to discussing the Anabaptists; there, commenting on Hubmaier, Dr Olson writes:

Hubmaier’s defense of free will follows Erasmus’s in On the Freedom of the Will very closely except that the Anabaptist Reformer attributed human free will to Christ's and the Holy Spirit’s action rather than to a natural capacity that survives the Fall into sin. According to Hubmaier, by sinning Adam and Eve and all their posterity lost free will and fell into bondage to sin: “If now God the heavenly Father had not come to our help with a new and special grace through Jesus Christ, his most beloved Son, our Lord, we would all have to remain in this blindness, die and be eternally lost.” God’s revealed will for universal salvation is clear in Scripture, however, and “he...sends to all people his Word and after that gives them the power, freedom and choice so that they can accept or reject the same.” What Hubmaier was proclaiming as the basis of free will is what other theologians call prevenient grace--the resistible grace of God that calls, convicts and enables. Hubmaier also claimed that God’s election and predestination are based entirely on his foreknowledge of which individuals will respond to his grace and how. He was adamantly opposed to unconditional predestination--the monergism of Augustine, Luther, Zwingli and Calvin: “That would be perfidious God who would invite all people to a supper, offer his mercy to everyone with exalted earnestness, and would yet not want them to come, Luke 14:16ff; Matt. 22:2ff. That would be a false God who would say with the mouth, ‘Come here,’ but would think secretly in the heart, ‘Stay there.’” (p 422)

Dr Olson adds, “This is basically the same theology of salvation that the Dutch Remonstrants--followers of Jacob Arminius--later developed in the early seventeenth century.”

Further Reading:

Online:



Related Posts: 

Feb 18, 2015 ... Understanding the doctrine of prevenient grace was one of the most valuable studies for me after leaving Calvinism. Had I understood it before, ...
May 28, 2015 ... In a Q&A, when asked whether regeneration precedes faith, he answered (in part): Why not say that the Spirit of God can move him along even in his unregenerate state to an understanding...
Jul 26, 2015 ... The question is: What have non-Calvinist Baptists believed about prevenient grace(which includes the question what have they believed about ...

Monday, May 23, 2016

Great Quotes: Charles Spurgeon on the "exceedingly close agreement" of Arminianism and Calvinism



Here is an interesting quote I came across from Charles Spurgeon on the "exceedingly close agreement" of Arminianism and Calvinism. This is from his conference address "Misrepresentations of True Calvinism Cleared Away" (1861):
And then, to come to more modern times, there is the great exception—that wondrous revival under Mr Wesley in which the Wesleyan Methodists had so large a share. But permit me to say that the strength of the doctrine of Wesleyan Methodism lay in its Calvinism. The great body of the Methodists disclaimed Pelagianism in whole and in part; they contended for man’s entire depravity, the necessity of the direct agency of the Holy Spirit, and that the first step in the change proceeds not from the sinner, but from God. They denied at the time that they were Pelagians; does not the Methodist hold as firmly as ever we do, that man is saved by the operation of the Holy Spirit and only the Holy Spirit?  
And are not many of Mr. Wesley’s sermons full of that great truth—that the Holy Spirit is necessary to regeneration? Whatever mistakes he may have made, he continually preached the absolute necessity of the new birth by the Holy Spirit! And there are some other points of exceedingly close agreement; for instance, even that of human inability. It matters not how some may abuse us when we say man could not of himself repent or believe—yet the old Arminian standards said the same. True, they affirm that God has given grace to every man, but they do not dispute the fact, that apart from that grace, there was no ability in man to do that which was good in his own salvation.

Of course, by "Calvinism" he is, in this quote, referring only to the doctrine of "total depravity", the one point which is shared between Arminianism's FACTS and Calvinism's TULIP.  The context of this quote is part of a claim that Calvinism is not the enemy of revivals--basically arguing the opposite of my previous post--but to advance this claim, Spurgeon expands the definition of "Calvinism" to beyond breaking.

Regarding total depravity/inability, Spurgeon is correct. Yet many Calvinists--including myself when I was a 5-point Calvinist--believe Arminians deny total depravity!  Others acknowledge that Wesleyans hold this doctrine but have incorrectly taught that the original Arminians did not (Picirilli, infra, gives Louis Berkhoff, Systematic Theology, and Paul K Jewett, Election and Predestination, as examples).

In his book Grace, Faith, Free Will, Dr Robert Picirilli demonstrates, in agreement with Spurgeon’s comment on the “old Arminian Standards”, that “Arminius and the first Remonstrants likewise held with total depravity and its implications in respect to the need for grace” (Picirilli, 150). As Andrew Wilson explains (link):

Because the Canons of Dordt were a response to the Articles of Remonstrance, they only disagreed with them where they felt the Articles were inadequate. On this point [Article 3: total depravity], they didn’t, so they affirmed it (and, in a manner that is often true of Reformed theologians, expressed it at considerably greater length!) This means that both Calvinists and Arminians believe that man, since the Fall, has been dead in his sins and unable to save himself. It also means that even the most diehard five point Calvinists are, if you like, at least one point Arminians.


When Spurgeon, in another address, “A Defense of Calvinism”, refers to “the heresy of Arminianism” and seems to equate it with "the heresy of Rome", it appears that he did not have in mind Arminianism as we know it and would use the term; those who hold to the doctrine of total depravity and who Spurgeon considered to be, at least broadly, Calvinists. Rather, he seems to have been referring to some other group which in his day used the label "Arminian", but which had strayed from the original Arminian doctrines (it should be noted that the term "Arminian" seems to have been used as a shorthand in the English church for a number of different groups who opposed Calvinism or held to free will, including Laudianism, and Great Tew circle--perhaps correcting this confusion of terms was part of what motivated John Wesley to write his essay, "The Question, 'What Is an Arminian?' Answered by a Lover of Free Grace").

Friday, May 13, 2016

Henry A Ironside, "Substitution" in Great Words of the Gospel (1944)



Below is an excerpt from chapter 3 "Substitution", in Henry A Ironside's 1944 book Great Words of the Gospel (bold mine):

The word I now desire to bring before you is one that is not actually in the Bible. It is the word “substitution.” Although it is not in the Bible, it stands for a great truth that runs through the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. That is, the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ in infinite grace took the place of poor, lost, guilty sinners, and made it possible for a holy God to reach out in mercy and save all who would come to Him in the name of His beloved Son.

I do not have one particular text in mind, but I have been thinking of five different passages in the New Testament where we get the same expression—He “gave himself”; and I want you to think with me of these scriptures. The One who gave Himself was our Lord Jesus Christ, and I should like you to notice what it was for which He gave Himself.

In the Epistle to the Galatians, chapter 2 and verse 20, the apostle Paul writes:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Note the individuality of it. Paul, who had been a bitter persecutor of the people of God, who had been an enemy of the Cross of Christ, one day had his eyes opened, and he suddenly realized that the One who died on that cross went there for him, that He had taken his place, that it was love that led Him to go to that shameful death. From that moment the heart of Saul of Tarsus went out in adoring gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ, and until the very end of his days he found his greatest joy in trying to give some evidence, by a life of service, of his love for the One who had thus loved him.

Notice how he speaks of Him: “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” There you have the very heart of the Gospel—“Himself for me.” That is substitution. Some people tell us, because we do not find the actual word “substitution” in the Bible, that the truth of it, the fact of it is not there, and so they talk of atonement by other means than by substitution, atonement by example or atonement by reconciling love, that leads men to turn to God adoringly, simply because of the goodness that He showed in seeking them out in the person of His Son. But no, the Word of God makes it very definite. The work that took place on Calvary was a substitutionary transaction. It was the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s own blessed, eternal Son, who became man for our redemption, giving Himself on our behalf.

“The Son of God loved me, and gave himself for me.” That is the language of faith. When a poor, needy sinner looks at that Cross and sees, as it were, the blessed Saviour hanging there, he says, “He was there for me; it was my sins that put Him there; it was in order that I might be fitted for the presence of God that He went into the darkness and endured the judgment of God. He is my Substitute. The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

But it is not only for me, it is also for us. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 5 and verse 2, we read:
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.  

I am so thankful that in my thinking I do not have to limit the gift of God’s grace in the person of His Son to just some little group, as though it were just for a small elect company that Jesus died. “He gave himself for us.” I can look out over the whole wide world, whether men are saved or unsaved, and say to them on the authority of the Word of God that “He gave himself for us”—for everyone of us. Whether you be Jew or Gentile, whether you be very religious or have no time for religion, I would say to you, “The Son of God gave himself for us.” He saw us in our lost condition, and He went to Calvary’s cross in order to redeem us. That is how the Prophet Isaiah puts it. He looked on down through the centuries and by faith he saw the very scene of Calvary, and he cried out, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

I remember a number of years ago I went over to a town in Minnesota to hold some meetings. My wife and our eldest son, just a little child at the time, went with me. When we got there, a big, burly highland Scotsman met us. He said, “Now you come along with me; I am going to take you to my house. We are going to sleep you there, and then across the way at the McKenzies they will eat you.” Of course I knew he didn’t mean anything cannibalistic, and I was glad to accept the provision made. We went to his house and settled ourselves, and then went over to the McKenzies for our meal.

I remember one Sunday we left to go down to the meeting in the afternoon, and it happened that there was one daughter in the family who had not yet received the Lord Jesus Christ as her Saviour. The mother said, “Will you pray for Jean? She knows the way, but somehow she doesn’t seem to want to come. She says she is young yet and she wants to have her fling before she settles down.” Well, we did pray for her, and some way or other as I preached that afternoon in the big tent, I couldn’t help seeing Jean way in the back, eagerly listening to the message. When it was over, I thought she might be one who would move to the front when the invitation was given, but instead of that, I saw her get up and hurry away, and I felt a little bit disappointed. When I finished speaking with those who had come forward, I went on home, and when I got there I found, as I opened the front door, my wife sitting there with an open Bible and Jean beside her. My wife turned to me and said, “Come and join us. I am trying to show Jean that Christ died in our place, but some way or other she can’t seem to grasp it.” So I sat down with them and said something like this: “Jean, you know the gospel, don’t you?”

“Yes,” she said, “I think I do.”

“What is the gospel?”

“Well, it is that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures”; and my wife said, “I have been showing her Isaiah 53.” The Bible was open at that chapter so I said, “Look, you have it right here: ‘But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.’ Don’t you see, Jean? Christ died for you, He took your place, He bore God’s judgment against your sins.”

“I see what is written there,” she replied, “but somehow I can’t get hold of it for myself. It doesn’t seem to mean me.”

So we got down on our knees and prayed that the Spirit of God Himself might make the great truth of the substitutionary work of the Cross real to her; and then I said to her, “Jean, while we are here on our knees, I want you to read the Words for yourself, and we will pray that the Holy Spirit will open them up to you.” And so she read them: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

Then she said, “Yes, I see it, but I don’t seem to be able to make it my own.”

“Perhaps it would be different now if you will just read it again and change the pronoun, putting it into the first person singular. Read it like this: ‘He was wounded for my transgressions’; because you see, Jean, it really means that. He was wounded for the transgressions of all of us, yours and mine. Read it that way.” And she started to read, “He was wounded for my transgressions.” She stopped as the tears began to flow. She wiped them away and read on, “He was bruised for my iniquities,” and again she stopped; and then she read, “The chastisement of my peace was upon Him,” and then she fairly shouted, “Oh, I see it! With His stripes I am healed.” And in a moment the light had shone into her darkened heart. She saw that the Lord Jesus was. her substitute; He had taken her place. We gave thanks, and then she said that she must go and tell her “Mither.” She didn’t know that all the while her mother had been standing outside the window and had heard the whole thing. Out the front door she went and down the garden path and around to the side, and she ran right into that mother’s arms. “Oh Mither, Mither, I’m saved; by His stripes I am healed.” What joy that brought to the mother’s heart, and what a happy time of rejoicing we all had then!

You see, that is substitution. That is the very pith and marrow of the gospel.

[...]

Next we do have a special group mentioned for whom He gave Himself. In the last part of the fifth chapter of Ephesians, in the twenty-fifth verse we read:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.

When we get home to Glory, when we who have been redeemed to God by His precious blood are presented faultless in the presence of our heavenly Bridegroom, we shall look up into His face and we shall be able to say, “The Son of God loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.”

You remember the story that is told of one of the generals of Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, and the one who overthrew, in God’s providence, the mighty Babylonian Empire. One of his generals came home from a campaign and was shocked to find that in his absence his own wife had been arrested and was languishing in prison, charged with treachery against her country, and the trial was to be held that very day. The general hastened to the court of Cyrus, and the guards brought in his own beloved wife. She, poor woman, pale and anxious, tried to answer the charges brought against her, but all to no avail. Her husband, standing near, heard the stern voice of the Persian ruler pronounce the death sentence. In a moment, as they were about to drag her away to behead her, he ran forward and threw himself down at the feet of the Emperor. “Oh sire,” he cried, “not she, but me. Let me give my life for hers. Put me to death, but spare my wife.” And as Cyrus looked down upon him, he was so touched by his deep devotion and his love for his wife that his heart was softened. He remembered, too, how faithful this servant had been, and he gave command that the wife should go free. She was fully pardoned. As her husband led her out of the room, he said to her, “Did you notice the kind look in the eyes of the Emperor as he pronounced the word of pardon?” She said, “I did not see the face of the Emperor. The only face that I could see was that of the man who was willing to die for me.”

Oh, when we get home, when we see the face of the Man who did die for us, how our hearts will praise Him! How we will rejoice in His presence as we say, “The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

We need to realize that He died not only to deliver us from the judgment due to our sins, but He died for us in order that we might be delivered from the power and pollution of sins right here and now in this life. In Galatians 1:4, we have these words:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.

He gave Himself for our sins, not simply that we might have our past sins forgiven, nor that we might stand justified before Him as to the future, but in order that the power of sin might be broken in our lives, that we might no longer be subject to Satan’s authority, that we might be free men and women, living here to the glory of the Lord Jesus.

This is one of those truths that I do want to press upon you who have but recently been brought to a saving knowledge of Christ. Dear young Christian, do not be satisfied to know that you are saved from hell, blessed as that is, but oh, go on day by day to a fuller walk with God, that you may be saved from sin, and that your whole life may be lived to His praise and to His glory.

After all, somebody might raise the question, “Well, it is perfectly true that it says He gave Himself for us, and He gave Himself for the Church, and He gave Himself for our sins; but are you really sure that it applies to everybody? May He not, after all, have had just some particular elect company in view when He thus gave Himself, and if we do not belong to that company, what right have we to come to Him at all, and to expect Him to do anything for us?” For answer, will you look at the first Epistle to Timothy, chapter 2, verses 5 and 6:
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

Oh, dear friends, do not allow anything to narrow down your conception of the inclusiveness of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. “He gave Himself a ransom for all!’ Do not try to read into that what it does not say. Some people say, “Well, of course, you know we must understand the words ‘the elect’ to come in there. He gave Himself a ransom for all the elect.” Oh no, God does not need you and me to help Him out. He knows what to say, and He means what He says. When He writes, “He gave Himself a ransom for all,” He means us to understand the words exactly as they are written.

They used to tell a story about a certain professor of theology at Princeton Seminary in the days when Princeton was pretty rigid as to what they called “a limited atonement.” One day one of the students looked up and said, “Professor, just what is our stand in this seminary on the atonement?” And the teacher replied, “Well, we stand with Dr.—— ; we preach the theology of Dr.———, and he taught a limited atonement—that Christ died only for the elect.” Then said the student, “And over at New Haven, Connecticut, (at that time New Haven was a very sound seminary,) what do they teach there? What is Dr. Taylor’s theology?” The professor said, “Over there they teach that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

“Oh,” said the student, “well, I’ll accept that because that is what the Bible says. That is not just Dr. Taylor’s theology or New Haven doctrine; that is the Word of God.”

And so we say to you, whoever you may be, the Lord Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all. On Calvary’s cross He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. In other words, when He presented Himself there as a substitute for guilty humanity, He finished the work that satisfied every righteous demand of the Throne of God and met all the claims of His holy nature, so that on the basis of it, any poor sinner in all the world who comes to Christ and puts in his claim will be saved on the basis of the substitutionary work of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the doctrine of the atonement as we have it in the Bible. There is no other in this blessed Book, and so we put the question to you: have you put in your claim? There are a lot of people who know all about it, but they have never believed and acted upon it.

You remember the incident of the veteran of the Civil War who was found living in wretched poverty. The city authorities found him in such a deplorable state that they thought all they could do was to take him to the county poor farm. One of them happened to notice something on the wall. It wasn’t exactly a picture; “it looked more like a document of some kind. He took it down and looked at it, then he asked, “What is this, my friend?” The poor old man replied, “That was sent to me by Abraham Lincoln himself, and I kept it because it has his signature on it.” It turned out to be a check. I forget the amount of money, but it was really a pension check signed by the President and sent to this man years ago. Instead of cashing it, the poor man had kept it all the time, and had framed it and hung it there on the wall. In the meantime he got poorer and poorer, until he was a candidate for the county farm. They found that the government at Washington would still honor the check, although it was years old, and so they had enough to take care of the man comfortably until he died.

Oh, do not be content just to have the statement of the substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus, but come to Him for yourself, trust Him as your own Saviour. Cash in on it. He gave Himself a ransom for all.



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