From What Does Justification Free Us?

My apologies to the readers, and especially to Bill for waiting this long for the next post on justification. My last post dealt with where our sin problem leaves us. It leaves us with a two-fold problem. The first aspect of the problem is our guilt due to the law’s accusation. The second aspect is our sin nature, which is the fountain of all our actual sin. We could paraphrase as the hymn “Rock of Ages” does, by saying that we have sin’s guilt and sin’s power. We need something that will be of sin the double cure. That something is actually a Someone, Jesus Christ, in whom we have justification and sanctification, the former of which takes care of guilt and the latter of which takes care of sin’s power. It is of vital and central importance simultaneously to distinguish between justification and sanctification, and yet also to speak of them as inseparable.

If we were to smear the two together, we get legalism. It will mean that justification is delayed, and awaits our good works, for otherwise there is no forgiveness. This is the direction that the Roman Catholic Church took. People who confuse the two are those who are constantly telling us how good there are, and all the wonderful things they have done.

If, however, we separate justification and sanctification, then we will become antinomian. The word “antinomian” literally means “against law.” These people hate the law, and want nothing more to do with law. They are always saying things like “God is in the business of forgiving.” The hint is that therefore they can do whatever they want.

Therefore, we must walk the straight and narrow path between confusing justification and sanctification, on the one hand, and separating them, on the other hand. How does one do that? I believe that it is helpful to think of these two great benefits as being given at the same time, although distinctly, when we become united to Christ by faith. Of course, the nature of the two are different. Justification is a one-time act, while sanctification is a life-long process. But we are given the beginning of sanctification when we are united to Christ by faith, and we are given all of justification when we come to faith by God’s good gift.

Lane Keister

What is the Sabbath and should we keep it? Part I

Most Baptists consider themselves to be under grace, and not the Law.  They are not obligated to follow the Law of Moses, because it has been fulfilled in Christ.  There is some truth to this statement.  The ceremonial part of the Law has, indeed, been fulfilled in Christ.  The need for animal sacrifice and elaborate temple rituals have been made obsolete.  More than that, they are now considered pagan worship.  But there is another aspect of the Law that continues to this day – the moral law.  The moral law of God is found in the Decalogue; commonly referred to as the Ten Commandments.  Exodus 20 lists these commandments.

Exodus 20:1-17  And God spoke all these words, saying,  2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  3 “You shall have no other gods before me.  4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,  6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.  7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.  8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,  10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.  12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.  13 “You shall not murder.  14 “You shall not commit adultery.  15 “You shall not steal.  16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.  17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

The fourth commandment refers to the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was set apart as a day of rest that was to be treated as holy by the entire nation of Israel.  It was observed on Saturday, the seventh day of the week.  On the Sabbath, the people of Israel were not to work as they did the other six days of the week.  But, was the Sabbath first introduced in Exodus 20?  Was the nation of Israel the first intended audience for this commandment?  Consider this passage:

Genesis 2:1-3  Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Genesis 2 completes the creation narrative, the biblical account of God creating the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1).  God chose six days in which to create, and in Genesis 2:2 we read that He rested on the seventh day.  This rest is not similar to our rest.  When we are tired we sleep.  Our mind and our body is disengaged from the world as our body recuperates.  God cannot rest in a similar fashion, for He keeps the universe, indeed all of creation, from oblivion by His powerful hand.  God’s rest was His ceasing from the work of creation.  His work of creation is a marvelous and holy thing.  He commanded the seventh day as holy, because on it He completed His creation.  The account of Genesis 2 takes place long before Moses was given the Ten Commandments by God; long before the Sabbath became part of the Mosaic Law.

There is another passage that deserves our attention.

Exodus 16:23-30  23 he said to them, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.'”  24 So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it.  25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field.  26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.”  27 On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none.  28 And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?  29 See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.”  30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

The account of Exodus 16 also takes place before the LORD gave Moses the Ten Commandments.  The LORD gave Israel manna in the morning and quail in the evening.  It was an act of His grace.  They did not need to toil or work for it.  The manna was collected from the ground and quail just walked up in the camp.  On the seventh day, the LORD provided rest for Israel from all her labors.  The Sabbath was not mean to punish Israel, or do prevent them from enjoyment.  Instead it was a day for them to rest in the LORD.  They were to reflect upon the goodness of God, and rejoice in Him.  All of this was commanded before the Law was given in Exodus 20.  That is interesting to note because it will bear on our further study as to the disposition of the Sabbath after Christ’s death and resurrection.

The Abbreviated Bible

At a recently completed men’s retreat a few men were kidding each other about only quoting their favorite books of the bible. I was accused of only quoting Romans and Ephesians. Another brother of only referencing Ezekiel 36. It was all in good fun, but it got me to think of how profound these comments really were.

Ezekiel 36 explains the miracle of regeneration by our sovereign God.

Ezekiel 36:25-27   25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.  26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

God’s sovereignty is explained.

Ezekiel 36:22   22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went”

How often do these two subjects come up when discussing and studying scripture?  I dare say, often!

Romans and Ephesians is no different.  In Romans we learn about almost every great doctrine in the Word of God.

  1. God’s wrath against sin (Romans 1)
  2. The condemnation of the Law (Romans 2)
  3. All have sinned (Romans 3)
  4. Justification by faith alone (Romans 3-5)
  5. The believer’s victory in Christ (Romans 8 )
  6. Divine election (Romans 9)
  7. The universal call of the gospel (Romans 10)

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.  Ephesians is similar.

  1. Divine election (Ephesians 1)
  2. Sovereignty of God (Ephesians 1)
  3. The believer’s inheritance in Christ (Ephesians 1)
  4. Regeneration (Ephesians 2)
  5. Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Ephesians 2)
  6. Good works (Ephesians 2)
  7. Sanctified living (Ephesians 4)

There is much more that I can list, but hopefully you see the treasure that dwells even in small portions of scripture.

We gladly proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).  Part of that counsel is to understand the totality of scripture.  Paul wrote:

2 Timothy 3:16-17  16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Don’t be in a hurry to skim through a passage.  Let it dwell in your richly (Colossians 3:16).  There is so much there.

Bill Brown

Manna and Grace

In Exodus 16 we read about God sending manna each morning (except on the sabbath) to feed Israel. We learn this about the manna:

“When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is bread which the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded, ‘Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.” The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had little had no lack; every man gathered as he should eat. Moses said to them, “Let no man leave any of it until morning.” But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them.” Exodus 16:14-20

What an amazing picture of God’s grace. The manna was only good for the day. It spoiled if left overnight. God’s grace is sufficient for the moment. God takes care of our needs with grace that is right on time every time. God did not dump a months worth of manna on Israel, just like He doesn’t dump all the grace we need to live the Christian life at one time. But rest assured, God’s grace is inexhaustible and always available in our time of need.

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Bill Brown