Friday, June 29, 2012

The Golden Chain of God’s Work in Salvation—Romans 8.28–30
Christ Fellowship Bible Church
Geoffrey R. Kirkland

Many have termed Romans 8:28-30 the golden chain of salvation as it encapsulates a number of theological truths in just a few verses. Verse 28 affirms that, for the believer who has been called according to God’s purpose and who loves God, God will in fact work all things together for good. This good is conforms to God’s sovereign purposes.

It should be stated at the outset that Romans 8.28-30 refers quite specifically to a particular group — and not to universally everyone. This is seen by the relative particle οὓς which draws back to the concluding phrase of verse 28: “those that are called according to God’s purpose.”  So it is those who are called who receive the promise that God causes all things to work together for good.

I. God Foreknew.

The first word Paul uses is προέγνω speaking of God’s foreknowledge. Does this verse refer to the truth that God knows ahead of time what will happen? Scripture reveals in many places that God does, most certainly, know (and ordain) what will happen before it occurs. But this word does not refer to this idea. The word that Paul uses here is not some cold, ruthless decision that God made long ago because he knew what would happen. Rather, the word speaks of a kind of special choosing whereby He sovereignly, unconditionally, and mercifully sets His saving love upon a particular person. This is the Hebraic way of looking at the word as found in Gen 4:1 where Adam knew his wife, Eve. God talks to the sons of Israel in Amos 3:2 through the prophet and declares that “you only have I known among all the families of the earth.” Obviously this verse is not saying that God only cognitively knew about the people of Israel. This verse teaches that out of all the people and nations on the earth, God chose to particularly and exclusively set His love upon one people, namely, Israel. The final support for this is derived from Deut 7:7-8 where Moses writes that the LORD did not set his love on Israel nor choose Israel because they were more in number than any of the other peoples … but because the LORD loved them and kept the oath which He swore to their forefathers. This is why Peter can write to the believers and say that they are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God (=that is, the saving and particular love of God set upon them) the Father (1 Pet 1:1-2). And yes, even Christ Himself was foreknown before the foundation of the world and has appeared in the last times (1 Pet 1:20). Thus, there is a particular placing of divine love upon a person that is inherently included in the theological concept of foreknowledge.

II. God Predestined.

This second link in the chain of sovereign salvation is the doctrine of predestination. Paul writes that God προώρισεν those whom He foreknew. The predestination finishes and completes what the previous foreknowledge initiated. God set his saving love upon a particular few (foreknowledge) and predestination shows to what they were appointed/predestined. Paul writes that God predestined these particular people συμμόρφους τῆς εἰκόνος τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ. That is, God set His saving love upon a few and thus appointed determinatively that they might be conformed into the image of His own dear Son, Jesus Christ. Predestination is not a cold, ruthless, mean doctrine from a mean Potentate who angrily sends some people to hell & predestines some to heaven. Rather, predestination encompasses the loving act whereby God sovereignly appoints a particular group to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ so that He may have preeminence, His grace may be magnified, and His saving power may be demonstrated. Ephesians 1:5 includes the reality that those who are predestined receive the adoption as sons into God’s own family. And this all is according to the purpose of His will (Eph 1:5b, 11).

III. God Called.

Those whom God foreknew and predestined in eternity past, he also ἐκάλεσεν. Theologians sometimes refer to this as the “effectual calling” of God whereby He sovereignly, supernaturally, unstoppably, and irresistibly draws the elect (=foreknown & predestined) sinner to saving faith when he hears the gospel. Paul writes that God is faithful and it is by His doing that saints were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:9). This calling of God occurs only by the grace of Christ (Gal 1:6). Paul was set apart for the gospel and was called by the grace of God (Gal 1:15). Believers who have been called have entered into one body of Christ (Col 3:15). Those whom God calls will enter His own Kingdom and glory (1 Thess 2:12). Second Thessalonians 2:14 says most clearly how this effectual calling takes place in the life of the particular individual. Sinners are (effectually) called through the gospel (διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου) so that they may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, those are sovereignly called and drawn to salvation by means of the hearing of the gospel message preached. Jesus Himself taught this when he said “my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27). Those who belong to Jesus Christ can hear His voice, they are known by Him and they follow Him. This is the effectual calling that happens when the foreordained sinner hears the gospel & is drawn to repentance and saving faith.

IV. God Justified.

Paul next notes that God ἐδικαίωσεν this particular person. This is the court-room act whereby God announces and pronounces that the foreknown, predestined, and called sinner is declared perfectly righteous because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9). The court-room setting for the concept of justification is clearly seen in the immediate context of Romans 8 as in verse 33 Paul asks: “who can bring a charge against God’s elect? For it is God who justifies” (see Isa 50:8 where the same Greek word is used referring to justification in the context of a person having a “legal case” with God and one who “contends” with God which denotes a clear court-room, legal context). Here we have, in Paul’s mind, a clear reference to a court-room scene whereby God declares a sinner to be righteous. Justification happens to a sinner and justification happens outside the sinner. This is to be distinguished from regeneration which happens in a sinner and it happens inside the sinner. Justification is the legal, supernatural, divinely-instituted, instantaneous, eternally-unchanging decree from the Sovereign Judge that the predestined and repentant sinner is declared righteous through the merits of Jesus Christ.

V. God Glorified.

The inevitable result and final link in this golden chain is that God ἐδόξασεν this foreknown, predestined, called, and justified person. This undoubtedly speaks of the future glory that the saved sinner will experience when Christ is revealed and the sinner beholds God face to face (cf. 1 John 3:1-3). The glory spoken of here is the same glory that refers to Christ coming in His magnificent splendor (Matt 25:31), and after He suffered on earth, the Messiah would enter His glory (Luke 24:26). This glory refers to the heavenly and divine presence that Jesus had with the Father before the words began (John 17:5). There is an eternal glory that awaits suffering believers (2 Cor 4:17). It is a glory that will endure forever and ever (Phil 4:20). It is this glory that Paul speaks of when he says that God will bring His people to glory. He has set His saving love on a particular few, He has determined that they be conformed to the image of His Son, He has sovereignly summoned them to salvation, He has supernaturally and legally declared them righteous and acquitted them of all sin, and He will safely, securely, and unchangeably see them all the way to glory.


I want to conclude with a few guiding facts that this study has revealed.

First, those whom God foreknew and predestined are the same ones who will be glorified. That is to say, God loses none—ever.

Second, all the verbs in this “golden chain” are in the 3rd singular with God as the subject. “He…” is how every verb begins. It is all the action of God and it is all His work. Salvation, truly, is of the Lord.

Third, all of the verbal forms in this section signify complete action. From the author’s viewpoint, he intends to portray the action of the verbs in summary form and as complete events. He is not so much concerned about every intricate detail as he is with showing that the event in its entirety — and in its fulness — happened.

Fourth, in addition to seeing what Paul does include one should also note what he omits. The doctrine of sanctification is omitted probably for three reasons. Sanctification is a doctrine that is synergistic—that is, a cooperative working together of the Spirit of God and the believing saint. Paul’s focus in this text is the sovereign and supernatural work of God and God alone in salvation. Another reason could be that sanctification is to be assumed when a sinner is justified (this is what Paul clearly argued in Rom 6-7). Every justified person will be sanctified. There is no regenerated person who continues to live in a sinful pattern of living. The justified man will be a sanctified man. And the final reason Paul may have neglected to mention sanctification here is because it is in 8:29 where those whom God predestines are those who are conformed into the image of His Son. Thus, it is assumed that the predestined one will be the transformed one. The one who is predestined will be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

God brought all this about so everything would resound to the praise of His glorious supremacy.

Download the pdf article here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Family Worship — Its Need, Structure, and Defense.
By Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

I want to provide a simple defense for family worship and show why it is needed so desperately in our world today. I also want to give a simple way to structure family worship so that it does not become dull, boring, rote, or legalistic.

I.  THE NEED for Family Worship

The family unit in our world is confused, conflicted, and outright rebellious against the ordained establishment of God in the Garden of Eden (Gen 1-2). Because our world has muddied the waters regarding what the family is and how a family is to function properly, family worship is needed. The call for family worship also comes from the reality that most families that go to church in our modern world do not practice family worship — nor have they any idea what it is or why it is necessary. The need for family worship exists because godly families that are structured biblically, centered on Christ’s glory, and oft-meditating on the glorious gospel are few and far between. This is, sadly, true even amongst families in the evangelical world.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My good friend, Tony Miano, and I went open-air preaching at the North Hollywood Metro station a few days ago.

Many people (and Christians) ask: is street preaching really all that effective?

Here is what Tony said over at his blog about the day & a conversation with a lady named Elizabeth:

Recently, I wrote:

"I repeatedly receive emails from Christians who are led by presumably well-trained pastors, who seem to check hermeneutics and exegesis at the door of evangelism. While I will always be there to encourage my discouraged brethren, I will never again engage theologians who allow their prejudices and fears to cause them to swap exegesis for eisegesis. I will never do it again, because of the Matts in the world.

"As long as the Lord gives me a voice and breath in my lungs, I will continue to preach the gospel in the open-air."
The Lord encouraged me again, yesterday, to not bother arguing about the relevance, propriety, and effectiveness of open-air preaching.

I spent yesterday afternoon at the North Hollywood Metro Station. I was blessed to be joined by Pastor Geoff Kirkland and his family of Christ Fellowship Bible Church, of St. Louis, MO. Together, Pastor Geoff and I preached for more than two hours.

During my last open-air, I noticed a young lady standing about 10-15 feet to my left. I could tell by the look in her eyes and her facial expressions she was intently listening. Not long before I finished preaching, I noticed the lady approach Pastor Geoff.

I stepped down from my step ladder and began to pack up, while watching Pastor Geoff's conversation from a short distance. I thought of joining the conversation, but thought it better to watch from afar. Even from a distance, I could tell something beautiful was happening.

The lady (I would later learn her name was Elizabeth), had tears rolling down her cheeks. I watched as Pastor Geoff excitedly, yet gently, showed Elizabeth passages of Scripture in his Bible. Even though her cheeks were tear-stained, she had a smile on her face...a look of joy.

Pastor Geoff asked me for a pen, which I didn't have. I offered Elizabeth a Bible. I later learned the Bible I gave her would be the first one she ever owned.

Pastor Geoff borrowed a pen from a nearby vendor. He wrote detailed directions for Elizabeth to help her find and attend Grace Community Church.

Elizabeth had to go, so we said our good-byes. I told Elizabeth we would be praying for her. Her eyes were still filled with tears; and the smile never left her face. I had a sense, by her demeanor and the look on her face, Elizabeth didn't want to leave. It seemed to me she wanted to stay and continue talking and fellowshipping with us.

When Elizabeth walked away, I asked Pastor Geoff, "Well? Don't leave me hanging! What happened?"

According to Pastor Geoff, Elizabeth approached him and, with excitement in her voice, asked, "How do I become a part of this? Who do I talk to? I want to get involved!"

Pastor Geoff asked Elizabeth the obvious and most important question: "Well. Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior."

Elizabeth, a non-practicing Roman Catholic who was disheartened by many things she experienced in the religion, said, "I don't know."

Pastor Geoff shared the law and the gospel with her. And, with as much certainty one person can have about another person's salvation, Pastor Geoff believed the Lord had brought Elizabeth to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

While visible emotion, in and of itself, is not necessarily a reliable indicator of conversion; Elizabeth's demeanor, expression, and words certainly left us with the reasonable hope that God had performed a miracle in Elizabeth's life.

Is open-air preaching effective? Ask Elizabeth.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Here is my latest article on: What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?
 What Is The Gospel Of Jesus Christ?
By: Pastor Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the message of good news that God has provided a way to deliver man from God’s eternal judgment that he rightly deserves because of his sin.

God is infinitely holy, righteous, just, and good. He is the sovereign King of heaven and earth who made everything and thus owns everything. Everything exists because of Him and for Him. He is infinitely pure and eternally holy. He cannot look upon sin — any sin — with favor. He cannot overlook a sin. Sin is lawlessness and is, therefore, a violation of God’s holy, just, and righteous Law.

Man is created in the image of God and bears the imprint of God in his being. At the same time, man has become completely corrupted by sin thoroughly. Since Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden, all his posterity — that is, every single human being who has ever been biologically born from his parents — has completely, utterly, eternally, and miserably infected the entire human population with a sin nature. This sin nature permeates man’s being in his thoughts, in his heart and mind, in his deeds, and in his very nature and character. Man is wholly corrupt and radically depraved. He does not love God, nor does he fear God. Man, in and of himself, hates God and hates all that God is.

If God is fair, just, righteous, and good, He must punish sinners — every one. For God to remain just and retain His perfect and good standard of righteousness, he must — as the Judge — fairly, rightly recompense every lawless deed that man has ever committed. Thus, all human beings because they are sinners are fully deserving of the wrath of God. If God were to justify a wicked man or overlook his offense, it would be such an unfair, abominable deed that He would forfeit His very nature of being a just, holy, good, and fair Judge. So then, God cannot forgive man. God cannot accept man. God cannot justify a wicked man. God must eternally condemn man — all men.

Yet there is one way of salvation that God established and brought about because man, in his own state, can do nothing to earn his salvation before God. God sent His Son, the God-Man Jesus Christ, to this world so that He may live a perfect life in full obedience to God His Father, the Law of God, and the righteous decrees of God. Then, God ordained that He would slaughter His own Son Jesus Christ in a cruel form of punishment (crucifixion) and there pour out the full weight of His eternal fury and vengeance upon His Son that sinners rightly deserve forever in hell. God, in his mercy and grace, sent Christ to be the propitiatory sacrifice which would turn away His anger and wrathful vengeance from the sinner. The death of Christ, then, was a substitutionary act.

Being wholly unable to respond in and of himself and totally at enmity with God Himself, man cannot respond in faith. Man is dead in his sin and cannot choose God, love God, please God, or do anything whatsoever to merit acceptance before God. God then calls the sinner to repent of his sin. To repent involves the necessary act of recognizing one’s sinfulness and eternal plight and choosing to turn from that sin in a new direction. At the same time, repentance also includes faith in Jesus Christ. One must believe in the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the wrath of God that He bore in the place of believing sinners. This repentance and faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for the sinner to be saved.

The Bible nowhere hints at confirming a person’s salvation experience because of a decision, a particular act or deed, or even a “sinner’s prayer.” Rather, the Bible everywhere speaks of a person’s works or deeds that essentially validate whether a person has been reborn. Like the wind, one cannot see the wind itself but one can see the effects of the wind. And so it is with the newly regenerated soul, one cannot see the sovereign working of God the Spirit in salvation but one will be able to see the visible fruit that the new changed heart will certainly produce. Thus, rather than one’s mind being set on the flesh it will be set on the things of God and the sinner will strive to present himself as a slave to God and offer all of his instruments as slaves of righteousness to God. The fruit of his life will be characteristic of the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. There will be a turning from and a hating of sin and a turning to Christ in joyful delight and a genuine passion for holiness and Godly behavior. As Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.”

You can download the pdf here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

One of the gravest realities in our world today is no different than how Moses described the world in the early parts of Genesis:

Genesis 6:5  Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Sin plagues our culture like a parasite that never dies. Over the last few weeks, I've had the privilege of addressing the topic of sexual purity as we at Christ Fellowship Bible Church have worked our way verse by verse through the book of 1 Thessalonians.

Coming to 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, I dealt with one of the clearest paragraphs in the NT on sexual purity. Here are the links to my three-part series.

1. Passionately Pursue Sexual Purity — part 1: 1 Thess 4:3 (What was the 1st c. Roman culture like in Thessalonika? What is Marriage? Is Sex the Issue or Is it Lust? What is Sexual Immorality [πορνεία]?)

2. Passionately Pursue Sexual Purity — part 2: 1 Thess 4.4-6a (Control Your Body! What is Lust? How Evil is Pornography & How Can One Break This Enslaving Sin? The Antidote to All Sexual Sin is the Knowledge of & Pursuit of God.)

3. Passionately Pursue Sexual Purity — part 3: 1 Thess 4.6b-8 (What Happens to Those Who Don't Repent & Change? The Vengeance of God. God Calls All His People to Sanctification. How Is This Sanctification Possible?)

Listen to this series & I pray that it may be helpful to you as you walk with God & passionately pursue sexual purity.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

If you're looking for some quick fix, an easy answer, a one-and-done solution, then you'll never really understand the nature of the fight. And if you promise easy, once-for-all victories to others, then you'll never be much help to them.

The day of 'completion' will not arrive until the day when Jesus Christ returns (Phil. 1.6). When we see him, then we will be like him perfectly (1 John 3.2). The wiping away of all tears, the taking away of every reason for sorrow, crying, and pain, will not come until God lives visibly in our midst (Rev 21.3-4). Someday, not today, all things will be made new (Rev 21.5). Much of the failure to fight well, pastor well, counsel well, arises because we don't really understand and work well with this long truth.

And later on, Powlison continues:

The Bible is always about behavior, but it is never only about behavior. God's indictment of human nature always gets below the surface, into the 'heart.' His gaze and Word expose the thoughts, intentions, desires, and fears that shape the entire way we approach life. An immoral act or fantasy--behavior--is a sin in itself. But such behavior always arises from desires and beliefs that dethrone God. Whenever I do wrong, I am loving something besides God with all my heart, soul, mind, and might. I am listening attentively to some other voice.

Then he concludes:

The war is longer, wider, deeper, more subtle than we might imagine. It is no accident, therefore, that the height, depth, length, and breadth of the love and work of Jesus is more wonderful than we understand at first. What is God after in remaking our lives? Is his purpose merely that we would just stop sinning? That we would become more involved in religious activities? Yes, stop sinning. Yes, use the means of grace. But neither is an end in itself. The point is to become more like Jesus.

From: David Powlison, "Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken" in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, p. 79, 90, 102.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Because of the plight of sinners, we as preachers must not be ashamed to beg people to repent & be reconciled to Christ (2 Cor 5).

See how Charles Spurgeon applied his text & begged sinners to repent & come to Christ:

Now, one or two lessons. A lesson to the proud. Come down, proud hearts, come down! Mercy runneth in valleys, but it goeth not to the mountain top. Come down, come down, lofty spirit! The lofty city, he layeth it low even to the ground, and then he buildeth it up. Again, a lesson to thee, poor despairing soul: I am glad to see thee in God's house this morning; it is a good sign. I care not what you came for. You heard there was a strange kind of man that preached here, perhaps. Never mind about that. You are all quite as strange as he is. It is necessary that there should be strange men to gather in other strange men. 

Now, I have a mass of people here; and if I might use a figure, I should compare you to a great heap of ashes, mingled with which are a few steel filings. Now, my sermon if it be attended with divine grace, will be a sort of magnet: it will not attract any of the ashes—they will keep just where they are—but it will draw out the steel filings. I have got a Zaccheus there; there is a Mary up there, a John down there, a Sarah, or a William, or a Thomas, there—God's chosen ones—they are steel filings in the congregation of ashes, and my gospel, the gospel of the blessed God, like a great magnet, draws them out of the heap. There they come, there they come. Why? because there was a magnetic power between the gospel and their hearts. 

AH! poor sinner, come to Jesus, believe his love, trust his mercy. If thou hast a desire to come, if thou art forcing thy way through the ashes to get to Christ, then it is because Christ is calling thee. Oh! all of you who know yourselves to be sinners—every man, woman, and child of you—yea, ye little children (for God has given me some of you to be my wages), do you feel yourselves sinners? then believe on Jesus and be saved. You have come here from curiosity, many of you. Oh! that you might be met with and saved. I am distressed for you lest you should sink into hell-fire. Oh! listen to Christ while he speaks to you. Christ says, "Come down," this morning. 

Go home and humble yourselves in the sight of God: go and confess your iniquities that you have sinned against him; go home and tell him that you are a wretch, undone without his sovereign grace; and then look to him, for rest assured he has first looked to you. You say, "Sir, oh! I am willing enough to be saved, but I am afraid he is not willing." Stay! stay! no more of that! Do you know that is part blasphemy—not quite. If you were not ignorant, I would tell you that it was part blasphemy. You cannot look to Christ before he has looked to you. If you are willing to be saved, he gave you that will. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized, and thou shalt be saved. I trust the Holy Spirit is calling you. Young man up there, young man in the window, make haste! come down! Old man, sitting in these pews, come down. Merchant in yonder aisle, make haste. Matron and youth, not knowing Christ, oh, may he look at you. Old grandmother, hear the gracious call; and thou, young lad, Christ may be looking at thee—I trust he is—and saying to thee, "Make haste, and come down, for to-day I must abide at thy house."

Note: see how Spurgeon calls the various groups of people to repent, come, believe, & hurry to Christ!  May we as preachers learn from Spurgeon and preach with such tenderness, earnestness, and urgency!

This Sunday we have the privilege of having our first baptism at Christ Fellowship Bible Church.  The Sunday evening schedule is a bit different, so please take note of the following schedule and please make it a priority to attend!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

This Saturday the Preacher’s Fellowship meets yet again at Christ Fellowship Bible Church. This small group of men meets regularly for a time of teaching on homiletics (=preaching), then a man preaches, and finally we conclude with a time of discussion on the sermon we just heard and how it could be improved.

God is raising up men who love Him, love His Word, walk in integrity, and who desire to take the meaning of Scripture and proclaim His Word clearly, boldly, persuasively, and biblically to His people!

To God be the glory!

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
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