Articles Published in 2007


Casting Stones

CASTING STONES

“So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”-John 8:7

 

Our message today revolves around our Lord as He displays His sovereign mercy, and grace.  Sinners love mercy.  Mercy means that we did not receive the punishment we justly deserved.  Sinners also love grace.  Grace means we have been given something that we did not earn.  Christ is full of mercy, and grace!

On this occasion, the Pharisees brought a woman before Jesus who was taken in the act of adultery.  This they did to temp Him. They were not praying for the woman.  They were not trying to help her.  They just wanted to stone her, and use the occasion to temp Jesus.  Jesus must have known who she was.  It seems that everyone did.  Her reputation was well known to the community, so well known, the Pharisees knew just where to catch her in her sinful act.  But for some reason, they felt that Jesus loved her, that she was special in some way to our Lord.  They felt that He would find some excuse to spare her.  This would give them the ammunition they needed to accuse Jesus of breaking the law for the law demanded stoning for the offense.

Now, some may be asking, “Why did Jesus love this woman when she was involved in her lewd acts of adultery?  How could Jesus love a person like that?”  This was a mystery to the Pharisees as well. Jesus ate with Publicans, and sinners.  They didn’t know something that many do not know today.  Jesus doesn’t begin to love us when we clean up our act.  He loves us in spite of our act. He loves His people with an everlasting love.  You see, my friends, we are one of two people in this story.  We are either the woman, or we are the Pharisee. 

Let us be thankful that Jesus eats with sinners.  If he didn’t, He would not eat with any of us.  He would either have to eat alone or go back to heaven.  They say there are only two kinds of sinners: those that know they are sinners, and those that do not know they are sinners.  Those Pharisees belonged to the latter class.  They felt themselves to be above the law.  They felt they had done their works, and for those works, they deserved heaven.  They envisioned their future glorious state, running around in heaven with big crowns on their heads.  They probably competed in their works, not to honor God, but to have the biggest crown. I love what one preacher said about that, “If I get to heaven and my brother does not have a crown I am going to give him mine.”  These looked down their noses at sinners, and felt they did not need God’s mercy and grace. Their works would get them there.

They set the woman down at the feet of our Lord with their stones in their hands anticipating one of two events to transpire: either they will stone Jesus’ friend, or they will find Jesus in a fault.  They will be winners either way, and will go home happy.  But Jesus ignores their accusations against the woman.  He is greater than the law.  He can ignore them because He will pay for her sin upon His cross.  The cross is ground zero for all sinners.  None are any better than others.  She was special to Him.  She was one of His elect!  We hear the words of Paul echo in our ears, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  She was one of the “us.”  The law had no power over her.

Jesus begins to do something very interesting at this point—He begins to write on the ground.  We are not told what He wrote at that moment, but it had a profound effect upon the Pharisees.  Perhaps He wrote the date that one of them had visited the woman. Perhaps He wrote something like that about each of them.  Whatever it was, they all became convicted.  Rather than throwing stones, they began to drop them, and slowly, silently, skulk away from the scene.  They sure didn’t want anyone to know that they were sinners.   

Though she was in great fear, a wonderful moment was before the woman.  It was that special moment every born again believer has experienced.  It is that moment when the law stands before us, and justly condemns us.  We are without excuse, as the verse in the old song goes, “And if my soul were sent to hell, thy righteous law approves it well.”  We are made sick of our sin.  And when this moment happens, He is there.  He probably sent the lawyers to get her. We are face to face with our Lord as we cast ourselves upon His mercy and grace.  He forgives.

Finally, Jesus asks her where her accusers were. Were there any men left to accuse her of her sin.  She answers in the negative, all had gone away.  Then she heard the words she so longed to hear, “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin nor more.”  That is grace.  She didn’t ask for it.  She didn’t do a good work for it.  She just received it freely.  Did Jesus condone her sin?  Certainly, not!  He commanded her to “Go and sin no more.” 

This story provides hope for every sinner. You may be saying, “But my sin is too great, I have gone too far.”  If that is your feeling then you are just the person Jesus came to save.  Cast yourself upon the mercy, and grace of Jesus.  Then, go, and sin no more! 

LAODICEA—The Lukewarm Church

LAODICEA—The Lukewarm Church

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)

Churches have doctrines--but they also have temperatures!  If a church is alive, Jesus is present, and He is aware of them both.  While doctrine is most important, other things factor in to our Lord’s analysis of a church’s condition.  Laodicea didn’t seem to have a problem with their doctrine.  Nor is there any mention of reprobates or unconverted people in their midst.  Yet, Jesus was just as angry with these as He was with some of the other churches mentioned.  He was ready to spew them out of His mouth.  Why, because they were lukewarm!

Now, if we love our Lord and His church, we do not want to be lukewarm.  So what does this mean?  There is an obvious allusion to something that doesn’t sit well on the palate, something like lukewarm coffee, or lukewarm tea.  These are not enjoyable or pleasant.  To swallow them makes one nauseated.  This was the spiritual condition of most of the members of Laodicea.  They made Jesus nauseated.  We say most, because Jesus later says that there were some there, a faithful few that He specially loved.  That is the way that it is in most churches, there are a faithful few who are there for every meeting, every service.  They are the backbone of the church.  These rare, spiritually minded ones are the most ardent supporters, both by presence, and with their financial support.  Were it not for these at Laodicea, all would be lukewarm, and Jesus would have spewed them out of His mouth long ago.  Let their tribe increase.  These are highly loved of Christ—any by every pastor.

Now, I could end this article at this point, and spiritual minded individuals could figure out what this lukewarmness is all about.  They would be able to give specifics.  But we believe there are those who need a few hints.  So, the preacher must be specific.  What would you see if you went to Laodicea this Sunday?

Well, to start off, there are a lot of people you would not see.   They have their name on the church roster but they are only there when it is convenient.  They have forgotten one of the ten, that Sunday is the Lord’s day, that it is a sin to ignore it.  It is that special day that Christians honor the resurrection of the One who died for their sins.  They have a lot of good excuses.  Sometimes, they are visiting relatives; their children are involved in sports; or other things that are good for the family--better than God’s house and His word.  It is a beautiful time to camp, and be in the outdoors with the family.  Or it is deer season, the moon is right to fish, the mall has a special sale, or there is a tournament their friends expect them to participate in.  They worked extra hard this week, and need some extra rest.  This list could go on forever.  But when they pray, they want Jesus front and center--immediately.  What can we say to these?  They are complacent, lukewarm, they take the church for granted, assume it will always be there for them.  They have a lackadaisical spirit.  Hopefully, that faithful few will be holding it down for them if they ever get serious.

There is yet more to see at Laodicea.  If you visit them you will see some other things that our Lord was nauseated about.  Some of these things are fairly typical, so typical that Laodicea had accepted them as the norm. They had become a tradition at Laodicea, such a tradition people would argue for them.  You see their song service.  Many people thought of that time as a gathering time rather than a part of the worship service.  When they did arrive, they just sat there as if the faithful few were singing for their entertainment.  They never opened the song book to just read the words.  Some were chattering and talking while the faithful few were trying to lift their voices on high and make a joyful sound. This brought coldness, rather than a warm prelude for the message.  When the message did come, the faithful few were opening their Bibles, taking notes, and rejoicing in truth.  Yet, many at Laodicea were just sitting there, thinking of what they were going to do when they got home to their toys.  Some were even asleep, very complacent.

Their pastor was present on Sunday morning, standing at the doorway to greet them.  The faithful few acknowledged their thankfulness to be there, encouraged the good man, and told him they had prayed for him.  But the lukewarm ones came in with their medical reports, and problems at the front door.  Though their pastor was interested in their suffering, there was a better time and place for those things.  By the time some of them finished with their medical reports, it was time to start the services, and the pastor couldn’t remember the difference between the blood thinner and the blood of Christ.  Something was evident--it was all about them, not Him!

Behind the scenes, Jesus saw a lot at Laodicea.  He looked at their checkbooks and what did He see? Why, they spent more money on cable, movie rentals, club dues, alcohol consumption, and entertainment than they did on the Lord and His house.  Their gods were well supported, and comforted.  Their time was also devoted to other gods.  They seldom read God’s word, but bowed down habitually to the N.B.A., N.F.L., the soaps, Oprah, and Fox News.  As Jesus listened to their prayers, they were all about them, seldom a word about the success of the His word, the conversion of sinners, or the brightness of His house.

Finally, Jesus saw another sad thing at Laodicea.  There was no evangelism in their hearts.  They never talked to anyone about Christ. Some of them had never brought a friend to church.  Perhaps, Jesus thought they were ashamed of Him, His truth, or His house. If their pastor preached on any of the above things, they became very angry.  They slowly began to dwindle down.  By attrition their numbers decreased.  

So, what is lukewarm?  It is not hot or zealous for the Lord.  It is not a cold ignorant state that could be brought to repentance. It is an uncaring, unconcerned, indifferent, attitude that can neither be convicted nor encouraged.  Like something lukewarm, it has no feeling.  That was the condition of Laodicea.

This church should cause us all to do some self examination for there is something in all of us that leans towards that posture.  The reason I can say that is because the world tugs at us all, even the preacher.  But I must remember, that was where I was before I confessed Christ as my savior, and became a member of the church.  I do not want to go back.  By God’s grace, I want to press onward.  Laodicea is no longer there.  How sad.  How is it with you?  Are you a lukewarm Laodicean?  If so, follow our Lord’s counsel: “be zealous therefore, and repent.”

TULIP - TOTAL DEPRAVITY

Through the centuries, some of the doctrines of God’s grace have been set forth by the acronym “TULIP”, which stands for

                                                          Total Depravity

                                                          Unconditional Election

                                                          Limited Atonement

                                                          Irresistible Grace

                                                          Perseverance of the Saints

Over the next few weeks, we want to share these glorious truths with our readers. We will start today with:

“Total Depravity”

What do we mean when we say that mankind is “totally depraved?”  Webster defines the word depravity as “corruption, perversion.”  Now, God didn’t make man that way.  Let’s not blame Him for it.  God made Adam good, and very good.  Yet, we read of Adam’s fall, his transgression that ruined him.  He became corrupt, perverted by his sin.  His sin brought death upon himself, and all of his posterity.  All of humanity, being descendants of Adam are depraved sinners.  This agrees with the biblical account of mankind.  Paul wrote, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”(Romans 4:12). Now if you can find a person who does not sin, if you can find one that will not die, you have found one that is not related to Adam.  Yet, we do not have to look far to see the consequences of Adam’s transgression.  We see death, depravity, and every moral perversion known to man all around us, a sure testimony that man is totally depraved. It amazes us that man blames God for his own perversions and atrocities.  He will shake his fist in the face of a God that he says he doesn’t believe in, and blame God for every evil act.  This is the depravity of depravity!  Man, left to himself, is at war with his own creator.  He hates God.  That is the finality of depravity.

When we say than man is totally depraved, we must also conclude that he is unable to save himself from his fallen condition.  If you saw a person drowning in the middle of the ocean you wouldn’t scream to them, “Save yourself from drowning”.  That would be preposterous.  Someone must come to his aid.  Since man can not save himself, there must be One who is mightier than sin, without sin, One that death has no hold on, who will come to the rescue.  That person is our Lord Jesus Christ.  This, thank God, is scriptural, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”(1 Corinthians 15:22).  The word “all” is representative.  Adam represented all of his seed. All of his seed fell by his sin.  Christ represented all of His seed, the elect.  All that He represented on the cross shall live with Him in glory because He lifted them from their fallen condition.  By His stripes we are healed.  

We are living in a man-centered age.  Much of the gospel that we hear today is man-centered.  Rather than representing man as the corrupt, bankrupt, guilty sinner, that he is, man is presented as basically good.  Rather than preaching that God must condescend and rescue man from his helpless estate, man is represented as just needing a little help, that there is something good within him, and if we can just fan that flame he can save himself.  But this is totally opposite of the biblical account of man.  The Bible presents man as depraved from his head to his foot, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:9-28). Some may be saying, “Now wait a minute preacher, I don’t think man is all that bad.”  That statement, by itself, is a confession of guilt.  Man, left to himself, will not, can not, see how bad he really is!  Until the Lord touches the sinner by His grace, and shows him his sinful estate, he will never seek God.  That is why this is a doctrine that represents God’s grace.  God must come first.  He finds His lost sheep, He shows them their sin, and then and only then will they seek a Savior. This is grace! –Neil Phelan, Jr., Pastor, Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, Donaldson, AR. (Visit us at  HYPERLINK "http://www.harmonypbchurch.org" www.harmonypbchurch.org

TULIP - UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION

“TULIP”

Through the centuries, some of the doctrines of God’s grace have been set forth by the acronym “TULIP”, which stands for

                                                          Total Depravity

                                                          Unconditional Election

                                                          Limited Atonement

                                                          Irresistible Grace

                                                          Perseverance of the Saints

“Unconditional Election”

Last week we gave a brief account of “Total Depravity”.  This biblical truth leaves all of humanity in a desperate situation—unable to themselves from their fallen condition.  Not only that, because of their fallen condition, they can not understand the things of God, and they will not seek after God.  Man, left to himself, is in a tragic condition--spiritually dead.  Paul has made this clear: “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.(Romans 3:11).  Now we come to the good part, God’s unconditional election!  

According to scripture, it was the purpose, and plan of the God-head to save His people from their sins, ”And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.”(Mat. 1:21). If you will notice, the angel said, “His People”, not “all people”. If God had wanted to save “all people”, we must believe He could have done just that.(See John 17:2)  “His people” represent the elect.

Romans 9:11 tells us that this choice was not made because of any foreseen good in the sinner.  Nor were any rejected because of any foreseen evil.  They were simply chosen because God loved them.  What better reason could we ask for!  “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth”(Romans 9:11). If you want to understand election, just dial 911!

As a result of God’s election, He places His spirit within His people.  He changes them.  This is done when He calls them.  He makes them new creatures.  God’s call is the result of His election. It is then, and only then, that any person can understand the things of God.  Only after God visits His people, and changes them can they believe, and appreciate the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is how we know their election, because the name of Jesus is precious to them.

Listen to Paul’s words to the Christians at Thessalonica, “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”(1 Thes 1:4-5). Paul didn’t say that the gospel made them God’s elect.  He said it identified them as the elect.  To the non-elect the gospel is only words.  But to the elect the gospel is powerful, and assuring. 

This brings us to our next point.  When did God elect His people?  Does He elect them when they make a decision for Christ?  Does He elect them when they go through a church ordinance?  Does he elect them when they become members of the church?  According to the scriptures, God chose His people before the foundation of the world, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” (Eph. 1:4).  This not only tells us when, it also tells us why.  He chose them in love.

Some seem to think the doctrine of election, though thoroughly taught in the Bible, is unfair.  We do not have the space in this limited article to answer all of the arguments.  But we can say that any person who wants to be one of God’s elect must already be one or they would be at war with Him.  The fact that they love God, and want to live with Him in glory is evidence that He has called them, changed their heart, and placed His love within them which has, in turn, given them a love for Him, “We love Him because He first loved us.”  Election puts God first. It elevates Jesus as the only savior of sinners.  It magnifies His grace to undeserving sinners!–Neil Phelan, Jr., Pastor, Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, Donaldson, AR. (Visit us at  HYPERLINK "http://www.harmonypbchurch.org" www.harmonypbchurch.org

TULIP - LIMITED ATONEMENT

 Through the centuries, some of the doctrines of God’s grace have been set forth by the acronym “TULIP”, which stands for

                                                          Total Depravity

                                                          Unconditional Election

                                                          Limited Atonement

                                                          Irresistible Grace

                                                          Perseverance of the Saints

 

“LIMITED ATONEMENT”

In our last article, we considered the doctrine of “Unconditional Election”.  By this biblical truth we learned that God chose His people out of Adam’s fallen race, not by any foreseen merit on their part, but simply because He loved them with an everlasting love.  But something else must be done for them.  Even though God loved them, and chose them, He must also cleanse them from their sins to make them fit subjects for heaven.  This work is rightly expressed by our next term, “Limited Atonement”. The sins of the elect must be atoned for.

When we say that sin has been atoned, we mean that its damning power has been cancelled or removed.  This work was carried out by Christ upon the cross.  The sin of the elect was placed upon Him there. Jesus was the scapegoat, the substitute, and He bore our sins in His own body.  This was His greatest pain.  The thorny crown, the spikes in His hands and feet, were nothing compared to the pain of sin laid upon His spotless body.  Every sinner should rejoice in the atonement of Christ.

When we use the word, “limited”, we are not saying that the atoning blood of Christ is limited in power.  We mean that it is limited in application. Or to say it succinctly, the blood of Christ is limited to the elect!  That is why this doctrine is also referred to as “particular redemption.” Christ died for a particular people referred to as the elect. 

This truth is taught throughout the scriptures. The blood offered by the high priest on the Day of Atonement was for Israel alone. The Day of Atonement was first observed the night Israel was delivered from Egyptian bondage, when they applied the blood upon their doorposts so the destroying angel would pass over them.  That blood was also for Israel alone.  But let’s hear it from another preacher.  Jesus spoke of “Limited Atonement” as He prayed to His Father in heaven.  His prayer resonates with the doctrines of Unconditional Election, and Limited Atonement.  Listen to His words: “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that they Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.”(John 17:1,2).  Jesus claims that He has power over all flesh. We must believe that He had power to give eternal life to all.  Yet, it is also clear that Jesus is going to give eternal life only to those that were “given Him”.  Words could not be plainer.

If there are any who still doubted His words, He continues in prayer in the same vein: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.”(v9).  Christ didn’t even pray for all of humanity, all the world. His prayer was limited, specific for those the Father gave Him to die for.  When we read John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotton Son”, we need to remember Jesus’ prayer. The world that Christ is referring to in John 3:16, is the world of God’s elect. The fact that they will believe in Him is the result of their election, not the cause of it.  Belief is an evidence of eternal life, the result of God’s call, not the cause of it.

“Limited Atonement” is the only doctrine that makes sense, or that is reasonable.  If Christ died for all of humanity, the sins of all of humanity must be atoned for because of the power of Christ’s blood.  Then all of humanity would be fit subjects for heaven. We know this can not be true. We must believe one of three things: either Christ paid for all the sins of all people; or Christ paid for some of the sins of all people; or Christ paid for all of the sins of some people.  Only the later can be true.  That is why we believe in “Limited Atonement.” 

TULIP: IRRESISTIBLE GRACE

“TULIP”

Through the centuries, some of the doctrines of God’s grace have been set forth by the acronym “TULIP”, which stands for

                                                          Total Depravity

                                                          Unconditional Election

                                                          Limited Atonement

                                                          Irresistible Grace

                                                          Perseverance of the Saints

“IRRESISTIBLE GRACE”

In our last article we considered the doctrine of “Limited Atonement” where we learned that Christ made atonement for the sins of a particular people spoken of in scripture as the elect.  As we considered “Unconditional Election”, we learned that this choice was not based upon human merit, but solely by God’s grace.  As we come to the next letter in our acronym, we will discover a progressive flow of thought.  Irresistible Grace has to do with the application of this salvation in the heart of the very same people.

  The application of God’s salvation involves the personal call of God to every one of His elect.  This call not only brings His people into a living relationship with their God, but it also changes them—it gives them spiritual life.  From this spiritual life many other benefits are received.  It gives them the ability to understand spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14,15); it gives them the desire to talk to their heavenly Father (Romans 8:14-16); it instills a desire for personal holiness (Matthew 5:6).  And they are given a hope of heaven from this calling (Hebrews 11:1,13-16).

This call is referred to as irresistible because it can not be turned down.  In this call, God is active, and the sinner is passive.  Jesus compares this call with the wind, “the wind bloweth where it listeth (pleases)…so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).  Man has no more control over God’s spirit than he does the wind. God sends it and it exerts its sovereign power over all flesh.  

This call is just as effective for the infant in the womb, as it is to the aged.  The biblical illustration is given of John Baptist who leaped for joy in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:44).  Joy is a fruit of the spirit. John was born again before he saw the light of day.  And we see the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him.  They were both born of the spirit by the same sovereign, irresistible voice of God.  

Many other examples are given in scripture.  When Saul of Tarsus was called, he wasn’t on his way to a citywide revival.  He hated Christ and those people who called themselves Christians.  He was seeking papers from the authorities to put them to death.  But the Lord appeared to Him and didn’t give him a choice, he gave him a change!  Jesus changed his heart.  In just a few moments his attitude changed from one of cursing Christ to asking Him, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do.”  There were no tracts being passed out on that occasion, no preachers, no soft music playing in the background, and no money passed out to save the man.  There was just a sinner and his saviour.  That is all it takes. Saul, later known as the apostle Paul, was not looking for Jesus. Jesus found him and changed him.  He performed an emergency operation on his heart. He removed the hard and stony heart and gave Saul a living heart, full of feeling and love for his Lord.

If you doubt our words, listen to Paul’s own testimony, “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace.”(Galatians 1:13-15). 

Paul taught this doctrine extensively. To Timothy he wrote, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Timothy 1:8,9).  If it is an offer the sinner must receive, it becomes a work.  We all know that there are many who do not have the mental, or even the physical opportunity to hear or receive an offer. This is God’s work alone.  You can read of this call in many other places, 1 Corinthians 1:26; Ephesians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Peter 2:9; 5:10; Jude 1:1; to name a few. These writers seem to be in complete agreement on the subject.

Some might be saying that God forces His salvation on people against their will.  But according to Paul, if the Lord left it up to man to seek Him first, none would be saved, “there is none that seeketh after God (Romans 3:11).  Yes, man is passive.  But have you ever heard anyone say, “Boy, I wish I didn’t have this salvation.  God forced it on me and I wish I didn’t have it. I really don’t want to go to heaven nor do I want to see my Savior.”  We should be thankful for God’s irresistible grace that saves His people from their sin.  

TULIP: PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS

“TULIP”

Through the centuries, some of the doctrines of God’s grace have been set forth by the acronym “TULIP”, which stands for

                                                          Total Depravity

                                                          Unconditional Election

                                                          Limited Atonement

                                                          Irresistible Grace

                                                          Perseverance of the Saints

“PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS”

Today we come to the final letter in our acronym which stands for the “Perseverance of the Saints.”  What does this mean? It simply means that those that God loved before the foundation of the world, that Christ died for, that the Spirit called, can never be lost but shall be eternally saved.  Is this a truth that can be documented by scripture?  We can be sure that it is, and is taught extensively throughout the Bible!  I will give you a few for your comfort today.  And I must say that surely, no one should be upset to know that their salvation is perfectly secure by the finished works of Jesus Christ. This is a God honoring doctrine that every saint should rejoice in!

            First, we should know that this was taught by our Lord.  Listen to His sermon on the subject: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one.”(John 10:27-30). My, how simple is that language!  Jesus said that no one could pluck even one sheep out of His or His Father’s hand.  Surely, this is good news to the sinner!             

            We have heard some advocate that a person that Christ died for could lose their eternal salvation.  This doctrine always springs from those who advocate a man-centered gospel, man’s free will. We would have to concur.  If we believed that the sinner has saved himself by his own free will, by a decision, or some act performed, we would also have to believe that they could also make another decision, or perform some other act that would damn them.  But when we see that salvation is by God’s grace, by the works of Jesus Christ, we see that Jesus would have to be dethroned before any could be lost.  It is a sad testimony to hear people say that God loves His people with an everlasting love, that Jesus came down from heaven to pay for their sins by His suffering upon the cross, and the Spirit quickened them, but He is helpless to save them from an eternal lake of fire and brimstone.  We must ask, “What kind of love is that?  What kind of payment for sin was that? And what kind of power does God really have?”  We would have to give the victory to the devil if just one of God’s sheep was eternally lost, if only one was plucked from our Lord’s loving hand.  That shall never be!

            It is true, the child of God can lose their fellowship with their Lord through sin and disobedience.  They can lose the joy of their salvation.  But they can never lose salvation itself.  David experienced this with his sin with Bathsheba.  But listen to his repentance, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” (Psalm 51:11,12). David didn’t ask the Lord to give his salvation back.  He asked the Lord to restore their fellowship, which is the joy of our salvation.

            Paul boldly announces the perseverance and security of the saints with a cadence of security texts: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?  It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:33-39). How simple!  Paul covers all the bases. No thing, no one, nothing in life, nothing in death, no angel, no creature, can separate any one of God’s little sheep from Him.  They are eternally secured by the blood of the everlasting covenant. They are “more than conquerors”.  How can they be more than conquerors?  By winning the battle and not losing one, single soldier!  Not one sheep will be left out, left behind, forgotten, or taken captive by the devil.  Surely, the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is a truth that should be believed by God’s people.  It is a doctrine that every sinner should rejoice in.  We hope you find comfort in these truths today!

A New Year's Promise

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus”- Philippians 4:19

The Philippian church was special to the apostle Paul. In this epistle he refers to them as “my brethren dearly beloved and long for, my joy and crown.” One of the reasons he loved them so much was because of their care for him.  When he was in prison they sent to his needs, a gift at the hand of Epaphroditus that he referred to as “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.”  Paul saw his God supplying his needs through the faithful members of the Philippian church, and from this, he makes them a promise. He tells them that the same God that supplied his needs through them would supply them with all of their needs.

This is a large promise, is it not, that God would supply them with all of their need?  The need of just one of the Philippians would be much, but to promise the needs of the whole church is a superabundant promise indeed.  Yet, we feel this promise goes beyond them. We believe this promise is recorded for every heir of grace, everyone that can say with Paul, “My God”.

Since we have said all of that we must now address our needs. What are they?  Let us begin by saying that there is a big difference between our wants and our needs! God has promised to supply His people with all of their needs, not their wants.  Much could be written about the wants of the human heart, but Solomon, in his wisdom has observed, “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” (Eccles. 5:10). In other words, there is no end to the wants of the human heart.  This is a constant struggle for us all.  When our heart attempts to find its happiness in worldly things, there is no end to it. Many times, we do not have what we need because we have used God’s supply to purchase what we want. God has not been unfaithful in His promise.  We have been unfaithful stewards with the supply He has blessed us with.

All of our needs can be placed in two, simple categories: spiritual and temporal.  That is simple enough.  Yet, the complicated thing about it is that we may fail to see which of these two compartments are the most important.  There is really no comparison.  Our spiritual needs far outweigh our temporal needs, yet our hearts usually run to the temporal when we think of God supplying our needs. Paul summed all of our temporal needs up with two things: food and clothing.  Listen to his words to a young preacher: “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1 Timothy 6:8). Even if we throw in a roof over our heads this is far less than what we think we need. Is this not a short list?

Now compare this with our spiritual needs.  First, we need God’s grace to know what we need.  We need God’s strength; we need His wisdom; we need to be fed spiritually; we need His peace; we need His encouragement; we need to be protected from evil; we need a place to worship; we need fellowship with the saints; we need to understand His will in our lives; we need His grace, mercy and forgiveness; we need to feel the presence of His spirit and know that our prayers have been heard.  We need healing.  This list is endless, yet my God has promised to supply all. This promise as a check from God, written on the bank of faith, that belongs to every believer. Let us believe his words and cash this check all the year long at God’s bank of faith!

-Neil Phelan, Jr., Pastor, Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, Donaldson, AR

(You can hear live audio sermons and read additional articles by Elder Phelan at the church’s website: www.harmonypbchurch.org

The Word

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”- John 1:1-5

 

How simple, yet how profound are the opening words of John’s gospel!  John uses simple words that may be understood by children, yet the depth of wisdom here displayed have caused the most devout theologians to scratch their heads in wonder and amazement. We are sure that this side of glory we may never fully comprehend the fulness of John’s words, yet we believe there are some basic conclusions that Christians may draw comfort and edification from.  Some of these truths we share with our readers today.

We know from John 1:14 that “the Word” is a divine expression of Jesus Christ for therein we read, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” The writings of men have never become flesh, but Christ was made flesh as He became the physical embodiment of all that God wanted to say to us about Himself. To say it in another way, Christ was, and is, the divine expression of God.  All of scripture was represented in Him.  Christ is the full expression of God to mankind. In Christ we behold the fulness of the Godhead, bodily.

Another conclusion that we may draw from John’s words is the eternal presence of Jesus Christ.  John wanted us to know that Jesus was coeternal with the Father.  His words, “In the beginning”, refer to the beginning of the creation of the universe.  When the universe had its beginning the Word was with God!  “Was” is certainly a past tense expression. It does not say, “In the beginning became”.  John declares that before the universe was spoken into existence, Jesus was! 

This is one of the most profound statements in the Bible concerning the deity of Jesus Christ.  Christ made this claim of Himself over and over again.  He continually declared that He was truly God, manifested in the flesh and this claim was the one claim above all claims that caused the unbelievers to crucify Him. His words to those who denied His authority and placed Abraham above Him were, “Before Abraham was, I Am.”  Those words, “I Am” they all understood.  They meant the same thing as John’s words: Jesus was coeternal with the Father: He was claiming to be God.

By these words many conclusions may be drawn.  Every believer may know that Jesus Christ is not a created being. He is, as we have said, coeternal with the Father.  From His priestly prayer, Jesus makes this claim: “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own won self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” This sheds light upon many of the false notions of the cults and the antichrists: Jesus is not an angel, for all angels are created beings and Jesus was involved in their creation (Col. 1:16) which places Him far above them; Jesus is not the brother of Satan for Satan is a fallen angel, cast down, chained and awaiting final judgement; Jesus is not just one of the prophets, for all prophets are humans. Conclusion: Jesus was God manifested in the flesh……”and the Word was God.”-To be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

“THE WORD”-Continued

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”- John 1:1-5

Last week we considered the opening words of John’s gospel focusing our attention upon the deity of Jesus Christ.  John has declared that Jesus Christ was verily God manifested in the flesh. But John does not stop there.  His words go deeper.  The “Word” that John declares to be God was “with God”: Now, how can God be with God?  The Bible tells us over and over again that there is only one God so there could not have been two Gods that were dwelling together before creation.  The only answer is that there is more than one person in the Godhead.  Christians know these as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”(1 John 5:7).  Some have discredited 1 John 5:7 claiming that it is the only place in scripture where the three persons in the Godhead are mentioned.  But John 1:1 supports this verse with clarity.  Therefore, in just a few small words, John had revealed a depth of wisdom.

            The Godhead is beyond the ability of man to fully fathom.  Yet, there is much given in scripture that we can understand about God.  We understand that even though God is one God, there are three distinct and separate persons or beings that make up the Godhead.  Each person in the Godhead has a separate and distinct office.  At creation, they counseled together to create man: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….”(Genesis 1:26a).  Concerning the work of redemption, the Bible tells us that the elect were chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son and regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  We see complete agreement in the Godhead.  Those that were chosen by God the Father in the covenant of grace before the world began were the exact same ones that Christ redeemed upon the cross. As Christ has said, “Behold I and the children which God hath given me”. (Hebrews 2:13). God the Father gave them to His Son to redeem. See John 17:2 as Christ prays to His Father concerning this work.

                We have heard some say that they refuse to believe in a God that is complicated, in a God that they can not fully comprehend or explain.  But we must ask, “What kind of a god would it be if it was a god so simple that the depraved human mind could fully understand?” 

As with our last article, this statement reveals many false doctrines concerning the person of Jesus Christ.  One is that His existence did not begin when He was born of the virgin, Mary.  He was coeternal with the Father.  This verse also declares that Christ was equal in power and authority with God the Father.  John makes another point concerning the Word: He was equally involved in the creation of all things: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”  The same three that said, “Let us make man” also said, “Let us make the whole of creation.”  Concerning Christ’s part in creation, Paul wrote this to the Colossians: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”(Col. 1:14-18). John’s words are indeed profound!

The Unspeakable Gift

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift”- 2 Corinthians 9:15

 

As Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to take up a collection for the poor saints, he could find no greater encouragement than to compare their giving to what God had given them for their redemption. He turned their attention to Christ, the unspeakable gift of God.  Paul was saying to them, “God loved you so much that He gave His only begotten Son for you.  Consider this gift as you take up your offering.”

This word, ‘unspeakable’, does not mean that we should not speak of Christ.  Quite the contrary!  We are to speak of Him often to all who will listen.  It means that this gift is too wonderful to describe.  Many poems, songs, paintings and sermons have tried the hearts of His people as they endeavored to fully depict the fullness of Christ and His salvation. They will all confess that He is unspeakable.

On May 8th, 1508, Michelangelo signed a contract to repaint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  This painting included illustrations of the twelve apostles seated on magnificent thrones.  In the corners, the artist illustrated episodes of the miraculous salvation of God’s people. These all pointed to the coming of Christ and His promise to save His people from their sins. My, what a wonder this is to behold!  Yet, as beautiful as this piece of art is, there is much, much more to paint. Even this masterpiece falls far short of fully portraying Jesus Christ, this unspeakable gift.

One of our favorite songs this holiday season is “O Holy Night”.  When this song was sang at the Arkansas Symphony the other night we thought we could see a few angels dancing on the stage lights. We especially love the part that goes, “Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices” as the song describes the angelic chorus on that night when they appeared to shepherds watching their flocks by night.  It reminds us of the scene that we all shall behold when Jesus returns, when every knee shall bow, and ever tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord!  Yet, as beautiful as the song was that night, there is much, much, more to sing. If every tongue in heaven and on earth praised Him at once they would still fall far short of the praise that is due to His matchless name. He is indeed unspeakable!

Our space is used today, and we still haven’t considered the mighty poems of Milton, the many sermons of Spurgeon, and the other great voices of the past.  Nor have we trolled the wonderful songs in our hymnals which point to the unspeakable gift of Jesus Christ.  No, we can not fully tell you today just how wonderful this gift is, but let us all be found trying to do so until He returns.  In the midst of all the hubbub of activity this Christmas season, let us all pause for just a few moments, lift our voices up to our heavenly Father, and thank Him for Christ Jesus, our unspeakable gift.

-Neil Phelan, Jr.,Pastor Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, Donaldson, AR.  

Meditations for 2008

 As we approach the New Year, we are encouraged by the psalmist’s words, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”(Psalm 90:2). At first thought, we mused over some new year’s resolutions that we might encourage ourselves and our readers to consider.  But we remembered many we have made in the past that were forgotten somewhere about January 2nd and cast our eyes to One who is more reliable for the year to come, even throughout eternity.

            Since God is from everlasting to everlasting we can be sure that He is not going anywhere in 2008.  He can not be killed.  He is not going on a vacation.  He is not going to be asleep when we call upon Him.  He is not going to evolve into something else.  Whatever we might say about God today is the same thing that could have been said about Him on the first day of creation, yea, even before He created the universe.  The psalmist does not say that He is trying to be a God or He wants to be a God.  His words are clear, He has always been God and He has not changed.

            In the midst of a changing world the Christian can find great comfort in this truth.  Though the stock market may change, God will not.  Though there may be talks of wars, disaster, famine, global warming and nuclear arms, God is in control of the universe, just as much today as He was the day He created it.

            Since God does not change, His redemptive work can never be altered.  Every person that Christ died for will spend eternity in glory with their God. If God were changeable we might doubt the eternal work of Christ.  But God has said, “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).  What a blessing to realize that no matter what we might face in 2008, or the years to come, our salvation is sure and steadfast, as sure as our Lord who brought it to us by His grace.

            God always has been and always will be a dwelling place for His people.  His people have always run to His dwelling when they have found themselves in need.  In the same 90th psalm, we read in verse 1, “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations”.  It brings a tear to the eye, when people pass by their old home-place and see it in ruins, perhaps removed forever.  They remember the many happy moments shared there by loving parents and a happy home, and realize they can never return.  But for this year, and all the years to come, our Lord will be in His dwelling place.  His family can visit every day, every moment. He does not change His mind or His place.

            We will close our thoughts today with one other attribute concerning our unchanging God: His faithfulness to His people, “Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.”(Psalm 89:33).  If you will read the verses that lead up to this statement you will find a sharp contrast.  The preceding verses speak of our unfaithfulness to Him.  We need to remember that in 2008.  Yes, we will fail.  We will fall short.  We will have doubts.  We will sin.  And we will be visited by our heavenly Father with His rod.  But thanks be to His holy name, He will not utterly take His lovingkindness from us nor will His faithfulness fail.  He will not desert us in 2008 or throughout eternity. He is my hope for 2008! Let us meditate upon His promises!


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