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The Doctrine of Salvation 3 - THEOLOGY
The Doctrine of Salvation 3
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Let us pray. Father, we praise you that we are able to experience your freshness in our inner
spirits. We thank you that it comes as a breeze from heaven from the Holy Spirit in accordance with
the oneness between our wills and yours. Father, we thank you for that and we thank you that we can
come into a deeper and deeper oneness. Thank you Father that just as when we’re married we can come
to know each other more and more and become more and more one person, so it is with you. We can
come into a greater and deeper oneness and the peace can become more intense and more restful, and
it can expand and extend to every part of our personalities. We thank you for that Lord.
We trust you that this afternoon as we share the truths about you there will light up some new area
of peace for us and we will come into some deeper healing in regard to our personalities. Father,
most of all that you yourself would grow bigger in us; you would be glorified and would be more
manifest in us. We ask this in your name and for your sake. Amen.
Now if you look at the assignment sheet you’ll find that we’re at 4/11 and I suggested that last
time for assignment three, you would study this chapter in Berkhof’s book Summary of Christian
Doctrine pages 121 through 123 and therefore, that today we’d deal with what you’d studied which is
the whole subject of common grace. Before dealing with that subject, I promised I would mention
very quickly a possible approach to predestination because Gus asked about it and because Berkhoff
would differ with us, probably, more on this subject than perhaps on any other. Although, how you
deal with predestination in a few minutes I don’t know, but I think I can explain the approach to
Predestination is indicated in many verses in the New Testament. Predestination is the teaching
that God has arranged our lives in such a fixed way that we have to act out what he has already
arranged. In other words, he has predestined us to do and be certain kinds of people and you find
that in Ephesians 1:4-6 and its one of the easier verses to deal with. “Even as he chose us in him
before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined
us,” and I think in King James it might be, “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus
Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”
That is fairly easy to deal with because the word there is “prooridzo” and it means “predesigned” so
he “predesigned” us. So verse 5 would read, “He predesigned us in love to be his sons through Jesus
Christ.” In other words, all that verse is saying is that was God’s original intention for the
whole world. It isn’t saying he predesigned us in this room to be with him in heaven, whereas the
fellow who shot Robert Kennedy was predesigned to go to hell. It means God predesigned us all, in
love, to be his sons through Jesus Christ. It’s simply that some of us have not accepted that plan.
Now that’s one of the easier verses to deal with, but many of the verses that are called
“predestination verses” in the Bible simply fall under that category; that it was something that God
planned, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have fulfilled it. So the emphasis in verse 5 is that
he predesigned all of us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his
There are some other verses that are a little more difficult to deal with, yet I think you can make
sense of them. Romans 9:18, “So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart
of whomever he wills.” And if you had no verse in scripture such as Jesus weeping over Jerusalem
saying in Matthew 23:37, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers
her brood under her wings, and you would not.” If you had no verses like that that indicated that
Jesus wanted something to happen, but men were able to refuse his will and frustrate his will, then
you would have to take a verse like this and say that God has us just like puppets. He either says,
“I’m going to forgive him” or “I’m not going to forgive him.”
But when you’re faced with a verse like Jesus weeping over Jerusalem saying, “I would have gathered
you as a hen gathers her brood,” or when you find Jesus doing his best to get Judas to accept him
and Judas simply refusing, you have to face the fact that God has given us free will.
[Question inaudible 7:47] Matthew 23:27?
Matthew 23:37, “I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her brood but you would not.” In other
words, Jesus is saying, “My best wish for you was that you’d come to me, but you wouldn’t come.”
Now in the face of that clear evidence and other evidence of people like Judas that men can, by
their free will refuse God, you have to face the fact that verse 18 does not mean that God just
decides whom he’s going to forgive and whom he’s not going to forgive. In other words all the verse
is saying is that when a person does not obey God, then God hardens his heart or his conscience.
And you know it yourself; every time you disobey, your conscience becomes harder and harder and
becomes more seared. That ties up with Hebrews 3:12-13 where the emphasis is placed on man and his
responsibility for hardening his heart. “Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil,
unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day,
as long as it is called ‘today’, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
In other words, the emphasis there is placed on you being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. The
more you sin the more you become deceived that you’re not doing wrong at all and the more your
conscience becomes hardened. So it seems to me that verse 18 fits into the other teaching in the
Bible that your conscience is hardened as you disobey, and all God is saying is, “I will harden the
heart of those who disobey me. I will have mercy on those who obey me.”
Now you may say it’s not really necessary to say that. But loved ones, you would see the sense of
it if you knew the mess that some of the Hindus get into with the attitudes of their gods. Even the
Jews thought that God loved the holy prostitute in the temple. So there are all kinds of the
wildest immorality that gods have been made to approve of and that even the Jews used to try and
make Jehovah approve of. It was very important that God would state, “I’m going to harden the heart
of these people and I’m going to have mercy upon these people.” So my explanation for verse 18 is
that “whomever” is a class of people, it is not individuals, it is a class of peoples. “Whomever”
is either a class of disobedient people or a class of obedient people.
Now, if you go down to verse 22 I think it’s important to see the meaning of the Greek verbs there.
Romans 9:22-23, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured
with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make known the riches of
his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” At first glance it
seems that those two verses are saying what if God, who wanted to show his wrath and make known his
power, has made vessels of wrath just to be destroyed “In order to make known the riches of his
glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.”
In other words, it seems to be saying at first sight that God has made some people like Pharaoh to
be opponents of his will so that through them he could show his mercy to those who have been made to
obey his will until you begin to look at the Greek verbs. Then you find, for instance, that in “What
if God desired to show his wrath and make known his power, has endured with much patience the
vessels of wrath made for destruction,” the Greek verb there when translated “made” means “fitted
for destruction” or “fit for destruction” because it’s the only thing they’re good for. It’s what
they forced themselves into. They’ve ended up “fit only for destruction” and that’s the emphasis
there. That emphasis is backed up when you see that it says, “What if God has endured with much
patience.” I mean, it’s kind of corny if God made them evil and then he pretends he’s enduring them
with much patience, and he makes them trials to himself and then he says, “Look how good and
virtuous I am; enduring them with much patience,” when he knows fine well the poor souls couldn’t do
anything else but oppose him.
So there’s a logical contradiction there and that reinforces the suggestion that that means he’s
endured with much patience the vessels of wrath that now have made themselves fit only for
destruction. Whereas in verse 23 it’s, “In order to make known the riches of his glory for the
vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand,” the Greek verb means that he has prepared them
beforehand for Glory. He prepared us all beforehand to be vessels of mercy. In other words, that
gets back to Ephesians 1:4-6, that we were predesigned to be vessels of mercy, but some of us have
so worked in our own lives that we have become vessels of wrath that are fit only for destruction.
[Question inaudible 14:39]
In Romans 8:29-30 you can see in the Greek it’s the same “prooridzo” “For those whom he foreknew he
also predestined,” or he predesigned them, “to be conformed to the image of his son, in order that
he might be the first-borne among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and
those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.” So for us
the important words were “those whom he foreknew”; that God can foreknow what a person is going to
do with his will and that he can pre-design that person to be conformed to the image of his Son, but
the first step is with the person themselves; they can decide either to obey God or not, and then
God is able to foreknow, he’s able to read their minds, he’s able to see what they’re going to do.
Even in the same way you can get to know the kinds of things your dog does. I know, for instance,
that about six o’clock when I say “amen” at the end of a prayer, my dog gets up and is ready to go
home! So I can know that he’ll do that, and yet I’m not making him do it. Now because the Father
can do that with us, that doesn’t mean he makes us act that way.
Now for some of us it’s a real difficulty to see the difference between foreknowing and
foreordination, but loved ones there is a difference and I think that’s what comes out there in that
Romans passage. Any questions?
I’m just trying to see if this concept I was given I can [inaudible 16:39] the concept of
predestination is like a stranger was standing [inaudible 16:50] and there’s a curve coming up
[inaudible 16:58] that they were both over on the wrong side of the road and you knew what was going
to happen but it was the action of those cars individually that was going to create [inaudible
17:10] not the stranger [inaudible 17:12]
That’s excellent. Yeah, I think that’s it: I think it’s the whole truth that the Father can see
exactly where this series of actions is going to lead. He can see it and he can know it. Of
course, not only that, we would feel in a deeper way that God can foreknow that that thing is going
to happen not just because he has observed it often happening, but because he knows the way we
operate. He knows the kind of people we are.
Now loved ones, it’s not all easy and I’m not pretending to solve the problem today, but I think
there is some possible approach to it along these lines that will make sense.
[Question inaudible 20:01]
If you want to look at Romans 1:21, it does reinforce this idea that God has planned that certain
results follow from certain actions on man’s part. “For although they knew God they did not honor
him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds
were darkened.” So it was a result of them refusing to acknowledge God that certain things
happened. Verse 26 carries on the same theme, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable
In other words, he didn’t just look down at the world and say, “These people are going to be
prostitutes, these are going to be homosexuals.” He looked down and he saw, “These people are
turning against me so I’m going to withdraw my restraining grace from them,” and then he gave them
up to these things.
[Question inaudible 21:17]
2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, “And with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because,” so
you get that combination there in verse 9, “The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan
will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deceptions for
those who are to perish.” And immediately when we see that kind of phrase we wonder — who are the
ones to perish and then think its God that made them perish. But then it goes on, “Because they
refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make
them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had
pleasure in unrighteousness.” And there you get again the way the Bible points out that deception
results from disobedience, but the Bible puts it in terms of something that God sends upon people,
yet he only sends it upon them because they’ve already taken a certain attitude towards him of
When you get down to it, predestination is not such a bear if you take the verses one-by-one. I
think where people get into trouble is that they take the predestination verses and then forget
verses such as that verse in Matthew 23:37 where free will is obviously taught. It seems to me very
important to remember what we shared before; that truth is truth held intention. The truth of God,
the infinite mind of God, is trying to get over to our silly little finite minds certain truths, and
it’s a bit like the physics major who knows that in some sense you can describe light in terms of
rays and in some sense you can describe light in terms of particles; you can almost describe it
either way. But the simple freshman student thinks, “This is a contradiction.” And it seems as the
infinite mind of God is trying to get his truth into these little finite minds of ours he has to
say, “In some sense it’s this, but in some sense it’s this.” And if you really think of it, is that
not the problem that every parent has as a child gradually grows up? You tell them, “John you
shouldn’t do this.” But later on you have to modify things because in certain cases the parent
thinks, “John, you should not move without me telling you.” But yet in certain other senses, “Yes
John, I do want you to get undressed for bed without me coming up every night and telling you to get
undressed for bed.”
So we’re always faced, in ordinary natural human knowledge, with this problem of stating
contradictions that in some way manage to get the truth over.
[Question inaudible 24:30]
I think that’s it Ken. I think that the Father does it all in absolute pure justice and he
determines to what extent this man is refusing, and refusing, and refusing, until he comes to the
point where he has trampled God’s name so much in the mud that it would obviously do far more harm
to his own plan for the whole universe to keep this man’s heart soft, than it would be to harden his
heart to the point where it’s just impossible. And it seems to me in a sense its cooperation
between God and that man.
I saw it not so much as God hardening the heart, but God having to withdraw his softening grace from
the heart. See, at this moment all our hearts, because of our rebellion against God, ought to be
beyond the point of being softened at all. But God has shed abroad in us a softening grace, part of
common grace, where he keeps our hearts soft, yet he can only keep doing that up to a certain point.
There comes a point where we resist him so much that he would be overriding our free wills if he
continued to soften our hearts and I think that’s more the explanation than that God hardens the
I think there comes a time where the Father knows, in all his pure justice, that, “If I continue to
soften the heart of this person I would be contradicting my own decision to make them
self-determining individuals and creatures.”
[Question inaudible 26:31] only call you so long so he calls you and you keep refusing and keep
procrastinating [inaudible 26:49] you’re doing it [inaudible 26:56]
It will tie up with Revelation 3:20 where it’s the Spirit speaking to the churches. We use it in
regard to our individual salvation, “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man hears my voice
and open the door I will come into him and sup with him and him with me.” But God is a gentlemen
and the Holy Spirit is a gentlemen and will only come in if he is invited in and asked in. It would
tie up also with that verse early on in Genesis, I don’t know exactly where it is but it’s in the
first few chapters that says something like, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” “There
is a limit to how far my Spirit will strive because I have to respect the free will of my
[Question inaudible 18:13]
I remember thinking that when somebody said, “What about predestination, or even what about eternal
security; can you ever be lost?” I don’t want you all to agree with me, but in my own heart from
the Bible I think you can be lost. But in my own experience I’d have to testify it is incredible
how patient the Father has been with us. Yet you cannot extrapolate from your own personal
experience; you have to go to his word.
Sometimes it seems like some of us [inaudible 28:48] for a while it really leads them to a place
where they’re [inaudible 28:58]
That’s right. In that sense the hardening can be a method that God uses to bring a person to their
senses. And who knows, but when he explains everything to us in heaven he’ll show us how his wrath
was a vital way to let people know that they had gone too far. In ordinary everyday life you must
admit that that was one of the benefits of the law being hard and fast about certain crimes. It
often brought a person to see they’d gone too far and they better change what they were doing. Do
you not think one of the problems today is that people do not have the advantage of that because you
can get around the law, you can get around penalties? That someway or other you can go to jail for a
week and then get out on parole and fight the case for three years? Do you not think that one of
the most blessed things in life is to have a final moral authority, a final end stop, past which you
cannot go – like (President Harry)Truman’s statement “The buck stops here?” Isn’t it vital to have
some place beyond which you cannot be immoral?
I think it is loved ones. We all like to think that the more licentious we get, the more we like to
think it’s better to give them plenty of rope, but I think that’s dangerous. When you meet a dear
one who has completely lost the distinction between right and wrong it’s impossible to do anything
with that person. I don’t know how many of you are Catholics, but I know I used to see the great
value among Catholics was that they had a great sense of the holiness of God. And honestly, in some
ways a Catholic has an easier time coming into salvation than many of us who were brought up in
liberal protestant churches where anything goes, and we had no sense of right or wrong.
A dear one who was brought up in the Catholic Church has a great sense that they need forgiveness
and indeed, many times that’s the problem; you have such a sense of condemnation, but at least that
is a precondition of being forgiven. Whereas when you’re in that proud position where you just
don’t feel any need to be forgiven, then you have to go through the agony of the hammer of God’s law
blasting your heart into bits.
I don’t want to go too far on it but I think that’s the problem we’re having in churches. I think
we’re preaching love, love, love, and gospel, gospel, gospel to dear ones who don’t feel any need of
a gospel and don’t feel any need of God’s love. They’re just happy; they do what they want and
don’t think it matters anyway.
[Question inaudible 32:08] they aren’t really one; they don’t [inaudible 32:22] unless it changes
your life through the Holy Spirit [inaudible 32:35] and God had [inaudible 32:40].
That’s right, yes, I agree. And it seems Gus that it’s possible for that to happen because two
things are taking place. Enough Christians aren’t living Christ like lives so that it is obvious to
a person who has not received Jesus’ Spirit that they have not received Jesus’ Spirit and secondly,
that we who preach and teach the word are not preaching and teaching a high enough standard. We
lower the standard to the level where a good humanist with a strong will can live up to it by his
own power and by the help of books like I’m Okay You’re Okay, or The Power of Positive Thinking
whereas it seems to me if you preach the level of life that God promises – boy, it is an agonizing
thing for you because you keep on saying, “I cannot do it.” But it eventually drives you into the
place where you realize, “I cannot do it on my own,” and you’re driven to seek the Holy Spirit and
it seems that that is a vital thing.
But loved ones, I think I mentioned to you before, I remember the agony I faced in the Methodist
Church when I started to preach that way. They just felt, “You’re calling us all sinners.” I never
would dare to call them sinners, but they felt that they were sinners and they felt, “This isn’t
your job, your job is to reassure us and comfort us and make us feel good.” So I know that it’s
really agony to come into that.
Maybe we’ve strayed a bit from the subject, but yes I think it’s vital to see that there is someone
who will harden your heart, or withdraw his softening grace if you keep on, you can only go in that
direction so long, and the sooner we realize it the better. I don’t know about you all, but I think
I played it fast and loose as far as I could. Once the Holy Spirit filled me Andrea, then I began
to love God because of God, but I think there was a long period in my life when, if I could have
gotten into heaven with a free ticket and done what I wanted, I would have done it. I suspect we
human beings are all the same kind of chancers — we will manage it if we can.
Now I do agree with you that when the Holy Spirit takes over, then you love God and you rejoice to
do his will and you want to do it. You want to do not only what he demands of you but all those
things that are pleasing in his sight. It becomes like a good marriage because you’re anxious not
only to do what she would like you to do, but you’re anxious to do anything that would make her
happy or please her or please him. But before that point I think the other is pretty important.
[Question inaudible 36:07]
No, it seems to me that there is a progressive hardening, and that God’s word to us is the word that
he gave through Ezekiel, “Break up your fallow ground.” Fallow ground is ground that has been left
untilled, and he’s continual word is “break up your fallow ground.” Charles Finney says the way to
do this is “Bring your mind to God’s word, check his word out, and apply it to your own heart. In
what way are you ungrateful and in what way is your prayer life not real, in what way are you not
loving other people? Break up your fallow ground by bringing yourself to real repentance.” And so,
Andrea, it seems to me that even as God is withdrawing his softening grace from a person, he is
sending all kinds of messengers to them to say, “Stop this hardening that is going on.” So it seems
to me it’s a progressive hardening that the Father draws out as long as he possibly can. Then do
you not think that we make these big repentances and say, “Oh yeah, I’m going to change my way. I’m
going to change my way” and then we fall back into the same old pattern?
Do you not think that especially in regard to coming into the fullness of the Holy Spirit you become
aware that whoever is angry with his brother is guilty of the judgment and you become aware of a
thing like anger in your heart because God just comes zeroing in on you? Everything you read points
to your anger. You try to get rid of that anger and you try to stop it and each time you try it’s
like putting your feet in quick sand because you seem to go deeper and deeper in each time you
struggle. You think that is part of God trying to get home to you that you cannot get free of anger
yourself, that you have to come to a place where you die to the rights that you’re trying to defend
by your anger. And don’t you think that in that sense part of God’s hardening is part of his method
of bringing you to the point where you see the radical nature of the remedy you have to enter into?
Do you not think we’re always looking for “light healings” as one prophet, I think it was Isaiah
said, “You have healed my people lightly.” We’re always anxious for light healings.
If we’re going to find an I’m Okay You’re Okay book, or The Power of Positive Thinking book, or a
book that can get rid of unclean thoughts or get rid of anger, we’ll take that route. We’ll take
any route other than bring the self to the cross, and don’t you think the hardening that God is
working in us is in order to bring us to the heart of the problem? So loved ones I think you have
to admit that even God’s dear wrath is a weapon that he uses to bring us to himself.
Now, I think you should read the chapter on “Common Grace” and if you have any questions you should
bring them up because you remember we said that the Holy Spirit expresses himself in a specific kind
of particular grace as well as in a general or common grace. And that he expresses himself in the
general common grace through the natural life that he has created; through holding the atoms
together, through conscience, and through a desire to worship, and through the law, and that all of
that involves some of the ways the Holy Spirit expresses his work. But really, our subject is the
specific ways in which he expresses himself in regard to redemption so I don’t think that I should
put us behind in our schedule just to go back on common grace.
I think that you should read the chapter, since that isn’t specifically the subject that we’re
dealing with in the series, but rather it’s the specific work of redemption that the Holy Spirit is
involved in. So if you read the chapter and note down any questions, I’d gladly give a few minutes
to questions next time we meet to “Common Grace.”
Then next time what I’d like to get into is the mystical union. I would like you to attempt
assignment four, page 124, which would in effect check your reading on the chapter on common grace
and I would suggest that you tackle the further study questions a, b, and c, and maybe you would do
written answers on those and you could hand them in.
So that would be assignment four and it would be due next time we meet along with the further study
questions on page 124. Any questions?
[Question inaudible 41:38] on page 121 there where it says, “Christ died for the purpose of saving
only the elect [inaudible 41:50].”
I think it is important, if you’re reading the chapter again, that one of the things I would have
commented on if we had had time to go through this chapter is that yes, Berkhof believes in a
limited atonement. That is; that Jesus died only for certain people that God himself had chosen.
We believe that Jesus has died for all, and that it’s a question the people who are lost are lost
because they refuse God’s provision for them. So Sunday’s sermon will be “Accepting or Rejecting
God’s Provision.” Now Berkhof could not preach a sermon like that, I think, because he would say
that you accept or reject God’s privilege because God has made you accept or reject it.
So it’s important that you read Berkhof to realize that all the time he is talking in terms of only
the elect being saved, and that the elect were picked out by God before the world was created. I
know it’s hard for some of us to understand how he could really believe that, but I think that it’s
important to see that he’s a dear brother and has lots of other truths.
I think we should end here, so I’ll pray.
Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with
us now and evermore. Amen.
The Doctrine of Salvation 4 - THEOLOGY
Doctrine of Salvation 4
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Dear ones, shall we pray and then I’ll begin.
Lord Jesus, we thank you that you are able to give us understanding today and understanding not only
of concepts but of you yourself. Lord Jesus, we know that what you want us to sense is the heart of
God, the heart of your Father. Lord, we would ask you, by your Holy Spirit, to impart that to each
of us here in a private and personal way that we may sense that we have touched God today.
Father, we thank you for your love of us. We thank you that the more that we understand of what you
have done for us and of how you feel about us, the more fully committed to you we are and the more
your character is wrought in us. So we ask you to give us a revelation of your own self today, that
we may know you more clearly, and love you more dearly, and live with you more nearly. In Jesus’
name we pray, amen.
I’d like to go back to the simple steps that I suggested were the basis of the doctrine of salvation
when we said that God’s own purpose at the beginning was that we should receive the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the uncreated life that flows through the Father and the son. God’s will was
that we should receive that Holy Spirit, and that way we would be born of him and would be like him
inside as well as outside. That was God’s purpose.
But we refused that, and because we refused it we developed an incredibly selfish will that then
became incapable of obeying him and brought us into the whole problem of Romans 7, “The good that I
would I cannot do and the evil I want to avoid is the very thing that I do.” God’s answer to this
was to crucify us in Jesus, and because of that God made the Holy Spirit available in the world once
more. So the Holy Spirit is available to us and to anyone who wants to receive the Holy Spirit now.
To be born of the Spirit simply means to believe that this is true, and then to obey the Holy
Spirit. So those are the basic steps in salvation: believe and obey.
Now what we’re discussing is the operation of the Holy Spirit in connection with this plan of
salvation. Last time we talked a little about the general, or common, grace of the Holy Spirit.
That’s the grace that the Holy Spirit sheds abroad in the world of nature; he creates and sustains
natural life. What we are talking about particularly in the doctrine of salvation is the second
work, though it’s really the primary work of the Holy Spirit, and that is specific or special grace;
the special grace that the Holy Spirit sheds abroad and that is the grace where he creates and
sustains spiritual life.
Common grace comes to all men; God causes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust. So common
grace is expressed to all men, so all men have their bodies held together by the power of the Holy
Spirit, all men experience the seasons, but the special grace is extended only to those who are, and
this is one of the most important phrases in the New Testament — only to those who are in Christ.
Now if you would turn to Ephesians 1: 3 you will see that emphasized. “Blessed be the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the
heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be
holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ,
according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed
on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our
trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. For he has made known
to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth
in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and
things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to
the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for
the praise of his glory. In him you also, who have heard the word of truth.”
And so it continues on right through Ephesians and that is the keynote of the New Testament; that
salvation is only made real to us in Jesus, and I’d point you back to why that is so. Do you see
that God in fact put us in the ark of Jesus, the flood was coming down on us, and God put us into
the ark of Jesus and crucified us in him? So that is our position, God actually placed us all there
and that’s why we are still alive today and that’s why we are able to remain alive. That’s why God
has not flooded us out with another flood. That’s why people who are sinning in the world today
should by rights have been flooded out and destroyed by God because God said, “The wages of sin is
death.” The only reason we’re not flooded out is because God put us into Jesus and flooded us out
there. He destroyed us in Jesus, and that’s why we’re still alive today and that’s why he’s able to
make the Holy Spirit available.
So loved ones, in a very real way every blessing that we have and every experience comes because
we’re in Jesus and the more real that is in your life the more real salvation becomes to you, and
that’s what they call in theology the mystical union. There is mysticism of transcendentalism and of
eastern religions and of meditation and of cosmic consciousness that is not God’s will, but there is
a mysticism that is built into the New Testament and it is built into God’s plan for us; it’s the
mystical union of believers with Jesus their Savior. And the only way that the Holy Spirit can give
us the things of Jesus is by taking them from Jesus and making them real to us. That’s what that
verse says; that “the Holy Spirit takes the things of mine and makes them real to you” or shares
them with you. It’s the Holy Spirit that makes that mystical union possible.
Now if I could just deal with two important points. Do you see that there is, in a sense, an
objective union that exists whether we like it or not, and there is a subjective union that exists
only when we believe it by faith? There’s an objective union that exists whether we know it or not,
there’s a subjective union that exists only as a result of faith. There’s an objective union that
exists because of God’s act and there’s a subjective union that is made real because of the act of
In other words, I think it’s important for each of us to see that even before we believed in Jesus
we had been put into Jesus. In God’s eyes he had put us in Jesus. In God’s eyes, even when you
were swearing like a trooper, when you detested church, when you hated God, when you were a rebel
against everybody, God had put you into Jesus and destroyed you in Jesus and that’s the only reason
he did not destroy you the first moment you swore.
So in a real sense do you see that even though there was a time in your life and mine that we did
not know Jesus, even at that time God regarded us as being in his son. That’s incredible but he did
and it’s in that sense that even “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So it’s important
to see that there is an objective union that exists even now between God and the dealer in Las Vegas
that has just stolen $1,000 from some poor soul that took a free plane flight down there. God
regards that dealer as being in Jesus, and for that reason God is not wiping that person out, he is
giving him a chance to continue to live to receive the Holy Spirit, if the dealer is willing to
That’s important, because I think a number of us when we say that think, “Ah, then you’re saying
that everybody’s going to heaven.” No, I’m just saying that God regards us all as being in Jesus
and he’s giving us these 70 years to realize that or not, and if we don’t realize it and take
advantage of it by receiving the Holy Spirit and submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit, then we’re
going to die. Because even though we’re in Jesus in God’s eyes, we still have only temporal life
until we actually receive the Holy Spirit.
So I think it’s quite important to see that there is an objective union that exists in God’s eyes.
In other words, in a real sense, when you’re talking to somebody about Jesus you’re not telling
them, “Get up and climb into Jesus,” you’re saying to them, “Would you realize that your Creator
Father has put you into his son and has destroyed that evil that’s in you already? Now will you
believe that and will you receive his Holy Spirit to recreate his image in you?”
So it’s encouraging brothers and sisters to realize their true situation. You could go far the
other way and say, “Are you just putting us back into the Christian Scientist position that there’s
no such thing as evil and there’s no such thing as sin if you just believe the right thing?” No,
no, because if you won’t accept that you are in Jesus then the lie that you believe that you aren’t
in Jesus begins to work actual evil in you. So it produces real evil in you, it produces real
disease in you.
But the truth is loved ones, that God has put the whole world into Jesus. That’s the only reason
you can say that God has reconciled the world to himself, you see. There is that verse in 2
Corinthians 5:19, “That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their
trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” You have to really
be absolutely honest about that, so do we mean that he is saying, “In Christ God was reconciling the
world to himself and not counting the trespasses of Hitler against him?” That’s right, you see,
yes, that’s true.
God put Hitler into Jesus and destroyed all the evil that was in him there, but because Hitler would
not accept that and believe it, the lie that he believed that he was on his own and could do what he
wanted, began to work all manner of evil in Hitler and he produced actual sins and killed actual
people. But the important thing to see is that Hitler went to hell, not because God had not put him
into Jesus, but because Hitler would not take advantage of that position that God had put him in,
and would not receive the Holy Spirit that God was offering him.
The beauty of it is that it deals with this business of people saying, “I’m not as good as you”
because we are all potentially as good as each other. The issue is not that you aren’t as good, but
that you won’t believe what God has done to you in Jesus. We are all put into Jesus, but for a dear
one who won’t accept that, it is because he’s unwilling to receive the Holy Spirit that he is going
to go to hell and not because God hasn’t already saved him. In that sense, God has already thrown
the life belt over him. He almost has to duck down under the life belt to get out from under it.
And that’s why a non-Christian is actually choosing not to accept what God has done for him, you
In a sense it’s harder to be a non-Christian than to be a Christian. The whole thing is working
towards accepting what God has done for us in Jesus. That’s why Jesus said, “They will not
believe.” He emphasized the will and not just the future tense, but “they do not want to believe,
they refuse to believe.” That’s why a person will not go to heaven; because they refuse to believe
what God has already done.
Now, any questions dear ones? Do you want to push me on that a bit because it was light to me when
I eventually saw it. I think it’s good to see that there is such a thing as the objective union.
It will not save a man or a woman, but it does provide them all the wherewithal to be saved.
[Question inaudible 16:50]
Yes, I agree with you. You’re right that in a sense that you could call that part a common grace.
It gives us a 70 year respite from the destruction, but I agree with you, there’s no saving virtue
in it. What we have failed to see, often, is that the only reason why we can experience a personal
union with Jesus now, spiritually and intellectually and emotionally, is because this eternal union
has been established by God. I think we have often got into extreme subjectivity and into a kind of
unchristian, unspiritual, unscriptural mysticism because we’ve suggested that the only union is this
union where “I feel Jesus near me.” I think that gets into extreme subjectivity and then before you
know it you’re into the whole problem of “is he only near me when I feel he’s near me, or am I only
in him when I feel I’m in him.”
I think that’s why it’s so important to emphasize that the only reason we can experience him in our
subjective lives is because it has already been made real by God in the eternal realm and I do think
[Question inaudible 18:36]
Berkoff says, and I would have to break from him altogether on this – he doesn’t, I think, deal with
the mystical union in your textbook and that’s why I didn’t turn to it too much, but in the next
chapter we’ll come upon other things. But Berkoff in his chapter on mystical union would present it
this way, which is wild. He would say there is an objective union. And he would say that God has
already established the people who are going to be in this objective union, so for Berkoff objective
union means salvation. In fact, he wouldn’t quite go as far as to say that, for example, a person
like John Bunyan is going to be saved because he’s been put in this objective union whatever way he
lives in this life, but he’ll almost say that.
For Berkoff, the objective union is salvation and its salvation because he believes in this idea of
the elect; that God has already chosen those who are going to be saved and he has put them into
Jesus. In fact, he would not say, “God has put all men into Jesus.” We on the other hand, would
say that God has put all men into Jesus, because we would say that verse says, “God has reconciled
the world to himself” so that means he’s put the whole world into Jesus and destroyed it there. But
Berkoff would say, “No, he’s not put the whole world, he only put those who he knows are going to be
saved into Jesus.” So that’s one problem he would come into.
But then Scott, I think a lot of people who would take the name Armenian have fallen into this trap
where they have said, “There is no objective union.” They would say the only union you have is a
subjective one with Jesus and then that’s what gets you into the extreme problem in evangelicalism
of emphasizing the subjective feeling of Jesus’ presence. I used to do evangelistic work about nine
years ago and because I was willing to do anything and I had been an old foolish intellectual, I
knew that God had to break down all my pride. So when this dear person asked me, “Would you do
this?” I said yes, believing God wanted to break me.
So we used to deal with dear ones at the altar after an altar call, and one of the problems that I
would see would be that we would encourage the belief “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any
man hear my voice and open the door I will come into him and will sup with him and he with me.”
Then you encourage a dear one to confess and repent of his sins which is right, but then there would
be a tendency in us to say, “Do you feel Jesus has come into your heart?” And the poor soul would
kneel there and say, “Well, no I don’t feel that.” Then some churches got into the situation of
thinking that if they say the song “Just as I Am” quietly, they’ll feel it and if that didn’t work,
repeating to them the promises of God. But you almost got into a tendency to emphasize the feeling
Now of course, there’s no harm in asking a person if they believe Jesus has come into their heart,
but what you should emphasize is if they’ve confessed their sins and repented of them honestly, then
they can take a stand in that and the Holy Spirit will back them in that stand and will reinforce it
in their heart and will witness that they have been honest about their sins.
The real problem with dear ones that were not able to be sure that Jesus had come into their heart
was that they had not confessed all their sins. They had not repented of all their sins. They were
kneeling there and were trying to say, “Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart Lord
Jesus.” And they were trying to feel Jesus in their hearts, but they knew they were still arguing
with God about whether they should be honest on their income tax or not and whether that was a sin
or not and God saw that. The Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit of truth and you could see that their
confession was inadequate, so he would not give them the witness of Jesus in their own spirits you
So the tendency would be therefore, for some of us to say you had to create the union with Jesus in
your feelings or in your subjective experience. Now of course, it’s a much stronger position to say
God has created the union, God has put you into Jesus. All the Father is asking you to do is
believe that and accept all the consequences of that, you see. And of course it’s a great way to
meet Satan when Satan would say, “Oh, you’re not in Jesus,” you come back with God’s word, “God put
me into Jesus. All you can say Satan is I’m not taking advantage of my position in Jesus.” But
then that’s a dead easy thing to decide; am I or am I not?” Then you can simply answer, you see.
I think where Satan gets some of us into trouble is that he suggests you’re not really in Jesus.
Then he says, “You don’t feel it — you don’t feel his presence the way you used to feel his
presence.” And we say, “Yeah, that’s right,” because we’re laying emphasis on the subjective union.
But if we keep a stand on the objective union, we say, “Satan, go away. God put me into Jesus, you
can’t take me out. God has put me in Jesus.” And then all Satan can say is, “Yeah, but you’re not
receiving the Holy Spirit.” Then all you have to do is go to the Holy Spirit and say, “Holy Spirit
is there anything you want me to do differently?” And it takes it out of that realm of feeling and
a kind of trickery.
[Question inaudible 24:55] this is in Jesus or Jesus in you. These people asked, they said,
[inaudible 25:08] you must love yourself before you love God. That wasn’t a question because I
thought I understood I am crucified in Christ, nevertheless [inaudible 25:18] because you are in
Christ and Christ [inaudible 25:26]. That’s all we’re asking you [inaudible 25:31] love me as I
love you. So I can see [inaudible 25:38] living in Christ our sins are forgiven [inaudible 25:47].
That’s very good. That that is in Christ and that is Christ in us. And Christ is implanted in us
by the Holy Spirit in response to our believing that we are in Christ. So if we believe that we’re
in Christ and if we receive and obey the Holy Spirit, then the Holy Spirit makes Christ being in us
real to us. He forms Christ fully in us.
[Question inaudible 26:28] I doubt sometimes in my mind is that the Holy Spirit or is that my
The only way I’ve found to deal with it is to accept that the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit of
truth and that he will lead me into all truth. And I actually ask him, I say, “Holy Spirit, will
you show me? I know you may not do it just this second, but I’m asking you will you accept this as
something that I’m asking you to do? Show me over the next few days whether this is from you or
from my own self.”
I think there are a lot of us that get into dreadful subjectivity because we ignore this fact and we
turn in on ourselves instead of turning in on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes
the second, the subjective union, real. We so often thought that its we ourselves who make it real
and that’s where we get into a lot of the emotionalism I think, where we’re trying to make ourselves
feel it’s real where it’s not. There’s nothing emotional or tricky about it. It’s simply you
believe and receive and you obey the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will make this real in you.
And if this isn’t real in you it’s because you’re not believing, receiving, and obeying the Holy
When I think that I’m trying [inaudible 28:01] whether I’m doing that for something [inaudible
28:06] my motives are pure [inaudible 28:18].
That’s where I began to deal with the Holy Spirit when he began to question me about my motive life
too, and I think that’s what he continually does with all of us. He searches our hearts and tries
our hearts to see what we’re really made of, and I think it is possible to come through to honesty.
I agree with you that that’s what’s preventing the answers to our prayers; that we’re praying that
we may spend it on our selfish passions.
Now, Berkoff either under interprets the Armenian position or he over states it to the point where
it is ridiculous. So it seems to me that this is a strong position here. Now I would have to agree
with Berkoff to the extent that I think a lot of evangelicals do not pay enough attention to that
objective union. I think that’s where some of us got into difficulty with crucifixion because we
wondered if we had to crucify ourselves. And the answer of course is no, because you are already
crucified with Christ. All you have to do is allow the Holy Spirit to make that real in you. And
of course what Luther was trying to do by beating his body was to try to crucify himself. What you
end up with when you do that is, you end up in works of law; you’re trying to destroy yourself so
that your “self” can be accepted by God. But it is a kind of self-righteousness when in fact, we
have been crucified with Christ, and what we’re asking the Holy Spirit to do is to make that real in
I think that covers what he talks about there, but he does have some, what he calls,
“characteristics of the mystical union” and they’re good mainly because of the Bible references he
gives, which I think you should look up yourselves. Since you don’t have the book I would like to
go through the trouble of writing all the references down and then I would encourage you to read
them because they are excellent.
He says first of all, it is an organic union; organic in the sense that the hand is an organic part
of the rest of the body. It is an organic union and he says that Christ and the believers form one
body. And that of course, is the true version of one world that God has brought about among us and
that can be ours if we will accept it. Christ and the believers form one body. Even the union that
the antichrist will bring when he comes will be a shadow and a counterfeit of God’s provision that
he has made for us.
We have often missed the boat here because in churches we’re too nicey-nice to each other, too
polite, too indifferent to each other and too false in our love of one another. So rarely, in any
of our churches, have we ever experienced this brother/sister love whereby you know the other fella
would die for you, or the other girl would die for you if need be. That’s the kind of union that
we’re praying that the Holy Spirit will intensify among us, because that’s the kind of union that
makes life livable at all. And it’s that kind of organic union that is brought about by God in
I’ll just write these references. John 15:5, 1 Corinthians 6:15-19, Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:15-16,
5:29-30. And then this kind of organic union in Christ ministers to the believers and the
believers’ minister to Christ. So it’s a two-way experience of love. Now even those words show you
how poverty stricken most of our Christian communities are because there is so little sense that
we’re ministering to Christ, that we’re ministering love to Christ, or that Christ is ministering to
us. So often we’re concerned with running an organization or running a service, yet this is what
God’s will is for us, an organic union like that.
Of course then you begin to see each other as part of Jesus and that brings great love and great
respect. That’s why a person can come into a Christian community that is real and never have felt
so loved or respected or appreciated in their life before because there’s a respect that is unto
Christ. That’s why so many people are redeemed in a Christian community, because people are at last
looking at them as they are in Jesus and they believe the best about them which then releases the
Holy Spirit into those people.
A brother the other day who is married to one of the sisters who has begun to spend more time
working in one of the departments here in Fish said she’s just a different person these days because
of working with other brothers and sisters in Jesus’ presence. That’s a redemptive experience in a
way that no other experience can be redemptive. So of course, that’s why the answers to all our
problems are not the halfway houses, and the drug treatment centers, and even the foster homes but
the answer is a loving body of Jesus that will take care of his people.
But number two is, it’s a vital union; vital in the sense of living and alive where Christ is the
vitalizing and dominating principle. That brings such a relief to anybody that is a leader in a
body of Christ, when all the members begin to look upon Christ as the vitalizing and dominating
principle that brings such freedom. That’s why many of us are released into new talents that we
never had before, because when we’re outside Jesus, everybody is looking at us and we’re trying to
prove that we’re right, and we’re trying to prove ourselves to the world; we won’t risk anything
that we think that we may not be able to succeed at so we remain very narrow people.
But when you get into a Christian community that really loves, then all kinds of people are released
into all kinds of abilities and that’s one of the freeing experiences, you know, because no longer
do you think everybody’s looking at you because Jesus is the vitalizing and dominating principle.
And you find that in Galatians 4:19, and then Romans 8:10, and 2 Corinthians 13:5, and Galatians
4:19-20. And you can realize from some of the truths that come out of this that it’s really
worthwhile to look up those references because they are good.
Number three, it is a union mediated by the Holy Spirit which is good to remember when we all get
together in “sensitivity groups” and start to try to bring about union that way. It is not the
way. I remember those endless discussions in Methodist Churches where we tried to sort out why we
weren’t closer to each other and all you ended up with was getting further away from each other as
you analyzed the problem, because the union is mediated by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, you remember, was poured out on the day of Pentecost and immediately brought one
accord among the people. That’s why I shared last Sunday night that in prayer requests it is not
important to tell the details of a dad who is an alcoholic but simply to say, “Would you pray for my
dad who is an alcoholic?“ Because then the Holy Spirit brings a union among maybe four people to
pray exactly the right thing for that person. And then, “Where two or three are gathered together
and agree upon anything in my name I will do it.” Then God answered the prayer. But the Holy
Spirit brings the union about, not the people.
A few more verses: 1 Corinthians 6:17, 12:13, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, and Galatians 4: 19-20. And
that’s why, if you ever sense any disunion in the particular body to which you belong, pray. Pray
and ask the Holy Spirit to keep the unity of the Spirit among the brothers and sisters. That’s
really what we need to do, pray. Don’t do a whole lot of talking.
Number four is a union that implies reciprocal action. In other words, the more we exercise faith
ourselves, the more we reciprocate the action of God and that is really what is involved in
accepting God’s action. God has put us into Jesus, has united us in Christ and, we accept that
action by uniting ourselves to Christ by faith. We accept that position by a conscious act of
faith. And of course what that does is release the Holy Spirit. It’s not the faith that causes the
union, but the faith releases the Holy Spirit to intensify our union with Christ. So we united
ourselves to Christ by faith through the action of the Holy Spirit intensifying our union.
That’s why when you’re in the office and someone has said, “For Christ’s sake do this,” or, “For
Christ’s sake do that,” it’s really important to see, “Lord Jesus I’m in you and you’re in me and
you can hear this at this moment.” It’s really important to intensify this by faith day-by-day, to
begin to regard yourself and identify yourself more and more with Jesus and see yourself as part of
Jesus and see that where you go Jesus goes. The more you do that, the more you’re uniting yourself
to Jesus and the more you’re enabling the Holy Spirit to make it real to you.
It’s very tricky. I know the “for Christ’s sake” business is a form of speech and it’s just very
tricky how often you should put up with it. I know there are moments when you don’t get anywhere by
saying, “Do you know what you just said?” I understand that. But there are other times when you’re
allowing a spirit to come into you which is wrong. There are times too when our motive is not
absolutely clear; are we being quiet to be diplomatic, or are we being quiet to save ourselves and
protect ourselves from being thought square? I think you have to judge it on your own level and I’m
sure it’s not only swearing, that’s not at all it.
It seems to me that every moment we act as if we’re out of Christ we are hindering the Holy Spirit
making our union with Christ real, that’s the real importance of sin. I don’t know that God is all
worked up over the actual thing that we do, though he hates us hurting somebody else, but I don’t
know that he’s so worked up over the actual act that we do. But it’s the attitude that we have
towards Christ, because we’re acting out of Christ at that moment and every time you act out of
Christ you’re intensifying an unbelieving attitude within you which is in fact, grieving the Holy
Spirit, which is in turn making it difficult for him to make real to you your union with Jesus.
So it’s very important all through the day to act in Christ. That’s the real tragedy of Sunday
Christians; it’s not really that God is all worked up over the fact that you’re just nice on one
day, but he knows that spiritually it is making it impossible for the Holy Spirit to make Jesus’
union real to you. So it is important. That’s what would come if we act very Christ like because
we’re together here and we’re discussing the doctrine of salvation and we all want each other to
think well of us. That’s what’s so agonizing about doing that and then acting differently outside,
because God sees what you’re doing and he sees that you’re acting out of Christ. And indeed you
don’t really believe you’re in Christ because you’re acting out of him when you choose to. So the
Holy Spirit is grieved and it’s difficult for him to make the union real.
So it’s incredible, to tell the truth, the amount of union that we have with him when you think of
how we do our best to prevent it.
[Question inaudible 44:32]
I think that Ken if I ever said that I’d have to back off from it because I do think that we can
exercise faith. The Holy Spirit shows us our union with Christ and then we can accept what he has
shown us or reject it. And that’s what I mean when I say that I think we can say yes or no, and the
moment we say yes, we’re exercising faith. We’re accepting that what the Holy Spirit has shown us
is true. Oh — I know what you’re getting at now; I said I suspect that all we can do is say yes or
no to the Holy Spirit. But I’m assuming that one of the things the Holy Spirit does is show us is
that we’re in Jesus, and then we can say yes or no to that. And if we say yes then we’re in
essence exercising faith.
Berkoff goes a wee bit that way. He says, “Faith is the gift of God.” Well, that’s okay, but we
have the right to say yes or no to that gift, and I think that that’s what we do; we say yes or no
to it. There comes a moment when you’re in the office or you’re out in the street and your eyes look
where they shouldn’t look and the Holy Spirit says to you, “Would Jesus look there?” That’s a
moment of truth, and you can say yes or no to what the Holy Spirit is saying and what you do with it
will automatically affect your eyes. And then you can run it through all the other things in your
I’ll end with these last verses for you to study: John 14:23, dear ones, 15:4-5, and Galatians 2:20,
and Ephesians 3:17.
Now, shall I close? May the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the
Holy Spirit be with us now and evermore, amen.
The Doctrine of Salvation 5 - THEOLOGY
The Doctrine of Salvation 5
Class Transcript, Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Let us pray. Jesus, we forward to this time when we can look into you. Oh Father, we thank you for
the Holy Spirit. And thank you Holy Spirit. I thank you again that you reveal things to us in
accordance with our obedience and our submission. Father, thank you for that. Thank you Lord.
Thank you that if we don’t understand you it’s because we don’t obey you, not because we don’t have
a clear mind or have not read enough scripture. Thank you Father, that as we obey you, you enable
us to know you personally, and really, and vividly. Thank you Lord. So we come to you with our
minds today and we bring you our obedient hearts and we lay both on the altar and ask you to make
yourself real to us so that Jesus may be satisfied with what his death has achieved. Amen.
Dear ones, I thought I’d comment first of all on the assignments and try to clarify the answers for
all of us by reference to some of your own papers. Do you remember that the questions occurred on
page 124, and it might be good just to open the book there. Page 124 and which are the three points
emphasized by our church as to common grace? And obviously, Berkof must be talking about the
reformed church and of course they’re the points he emphasizes and we understand that we’re trying
to look at it through his eyes as far as we’re able to. And Mary for instance, has the nature of
common grace, and the general operations of the Holy Spirit, or the general blessings which God
imparts to all man.
So first of all the nature of common grace. Secondly, the means of common grace and the light of
God’s general revelation which serves to guide the conscience of the natural mind. Human
governments and public opinion are two means. So the means of common grace. Then thirdly, the
effects of common grace gives man time for repentance. All men receive numerous undeserved
blessings from God and some of you had more or less elaborated on that. But I think most of us
found that fairly simple to outline.
Then the second question how do Matthew 21:26 & 46, Mark 14:2 show the restraining influence of
public opinion? And I think you could probably have taken it from anyone. I’ve taken Don’s here
just because it had a slight slant to it. Mark 14:2, but they said, “Know on the feast day lest
here be an uproar of the people.” You remember it was the public opinion business. “One of the
ways that the Holy Spirit operates to restrain sin in the world is through public opinion. While
this is true throughout the whole world it is especially true where God’s word is known and
understood. It is in this reference that the three examples stated above appear. In each case
Jesus was under attack from the Pharisees and other members of the non-believing establishment.
Jesus spoke of these men as being of their father the devil; John 8:42 & 47. As such they, in
serving Satan, wanted to kill Jesus but the Holy Spirit, operating through the common grace
principle of public opinion, made these men fear taking action to kill Jesus.”
I would just comment the pretty obvious application that was that was what we were all afraid of in
Watergate, that we were beginning to lose the value of public opinion in a nation that even
nominally has “in God we trust on its coins”. And I think most of us understand that that’s just a
phrase that we use but most of us have felt that even though it isn’t a Christian nation, yet it’s a
nation with some kind of Christian principle underlying everything. And I think that’s what we
feared, that you remember, when old John Ehrlichman when I think old Sam, uncle Sam said, “I thought
that every man’s house was his castle,” and Ehrlichman said, “Oh, don’t you think that’s a bit old
fashioned now?” And I think all of us rose against that because we felt, “No, you’re throwing away
something that is a precious molder of our children and that is precious to restrain evil among us,”
you know. And so public opinion it can be used to the good, loved ones.
Then I think the problem question was number “c”, and I don’t think there was a great difficulty in
the first part Romans 1:24, 26, 28. It seemed to all of us that that was a pretty obvious
expression of common grace there where the consequences of sin act to express God’s common grace to
all people. So, a person is promiscuous so they experience gonorrhea or venereal disease. That is
God’s common grace that expresses itself to everybody. You worry continually, you get ulcers. That
is God expressing common grace to all men to show them that this is wrong or that this is not the
way you should live.
So I think we had no trouble with Romans 1:26, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable
passions.” The consequences of sin are common grace that God expresses to everyone. The problem
area, I think, was the second one, Hebrews 6:4-6 and maybe you’d look at it. And I think I have it
right loved ones, but some of you might see more light than I have on it. But maybe you’d turn to
the passage since it was a twisted thing for us. Hebrews 6:4-6 runs, “For it is impossible to
restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift,
and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and
the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on
their own account and hold him up to content.”
Now I think most of us would feel, “But look, if you’ve tasted the heavenly gift, if you’ve become
partakers of the Holy Spirit, if you’ve tasted the goodness of the word of God, surely those are all
expressions of special grace. That’s all part of God’s special revelation through the Bible and
surely that is not an expression of common grace.” But loved, if you try to twist over in the bed
kind of thing and try to imagine old Berkof’s viewpoint then isn’t it true that he would say that if
these people are committing apostasy then these people are not of the elect. Because one of his
beliefs is that a certain number of people are predestined to accept Jesus and these are the elect
and so they cannot commit apostasy.
So would he not say, “Here’s a group of people that have experienced these things but they’re not of
the elect and so they are not saved. So they’re ordinary unsaved sinners who will go to hell, yet
they have experienced something of the goodness of God’s word, and it has had some ameliorating
effect on their lives.” And would he not argue that a person who perhaps receives morality even
from God’s word, but does not receive the salvation of their souls, that person is experiencing
God’s word from the point of view of common grace? It is common grace to them. It acts upon them
in the same restraining way as law and government does, it does not convert them. And so is he not
trying to say that the word of God is an expression of special grace to those who believe and are
saved. But, to those who do not believe and reject, it still is a kind of restraining influence on
Now, would you like to play back to me on that because I think I’m pretty confident of that
interpretation? Now Don seemed to almost do better in the explanation of harmonizing both. He
said, “God, in operating through common grace must seek to bring all men to repentance and
salvation; 2 Peter 3:9. The above passages illustrate this by stating that God gave them up to
their own lusts only after through common grace attempting to bring them to repentance.” And all I
would push on that there Don is I think you have to elaborate a little that in this case what is
special grace to those who would believe that God’s word is in fact just common grace, you see.
So I think special grace would be God’s revelation in his word. Common grace would normally be
God’s restraining power coming through government, and police, and conscience, and even the
[Question inaudible 9:52] and particularly considering the word partakers, because that’s really a
key word I guess [inaudible 10:10].
I suppose – well, it would be – so you’re saying it’s that so it’s [inaudible 10:44]
The only way I can look at that, particularly the scriptures – well, in the first place I believe in
[inaudible 10:50]. If you accept eternal security then you have to say, “Well, then this must mean
something else.” [Inaudible 11:03] Judaist for instance, he had all the appearance [inaudible
11:07] and I suppose [inaudible 11:09].
That is kind of the position I think, that Berkof would take Don, the position that you’re taking
that that these people therefore cannot have been of the elect because he does believe in eternal
security. Just so we clarify the thing, I would not – but I’m happy – I think there are two
viewpoints on the thing, but yes Berkof would feel the same way I think and would say therefore,
that these people were never really saved. Isn’t that it?
[Question inaudible 11:41]
I think Don, that secretly, he is in favor of the Arminians and he’s trying to destroy all of you
who are Catholic. I know it. I know it. That’s why I like the fella because it comes out
especially, if we do have time to get onto to today’s business. I think he brings up the difficult
areas for his own viewpoint as well. I think he’s very fair about that. I cannot go further on
[Question inaudible 12:29]
Yes, but I think we’re in danger of misunderstanding the difference between common grace and special
grace, or the difference between general revelation which comes through conscience, nature, and
history and special revelation which comes through the Bible. I think you have to keep that
distinction clear, that this is creation and this is the Bible, and certainly all Christians
experience this up here, we experience the benefit of law, conscience, the laws of nature, the laws
of the land, it still restricts us and helps us obey God, in a sense, or to counteract the effects
of evil, or restrain the effects over evil. But this is normally the Bible and it seems to me what
you have to face there — is he’s talking about the Bible revelation here.
I think in Hebrews 6:4-6, I think it’s this one he’s talking about, you see. I don’t think you can
say normally that Hebrews 6:4-6 is an expression of this kind of common grace here because this is
composed of conscience, the nature, that is the laws of nature and history, providence and past
examples of other people. And I think that this is [inaudible 14:54] different thing and this is
the one he’s referring to in Hebrews 6:4-6. And I think the difficulty is to show is there a way in
which the special grace that comes through the Bible is only special when it effectually saves
people? Now, when it doesn’t effectually save them does it then fall into the category of common
grace in the same way that these books, the Bible as literature, you know, that reading the Bible as
literature would have the same restraining effect on a fellow who is going to steal as maybe a novel
about a fellow who is going to steal?
That was the only way I could see it falling and I think Don is saying the same thing except he’s
bringing up the difficulty in his own viewpoint that this means if they’re a partaker of the Holy
Spirit, how can you be a partaker of the Holy Spirit if you haven’t received? Truly it means at
least receiving the Holy Spirit. And truly receiving the Holy Spirit is what it means to be born of
God. And of course, your whole position on the eternal security is the person must not have been
really saved, otherwise if they were they couldn’t.
[Question inaudible 16:11]
Well, I don’t want to try to save you because I’m against you but I wondered, just as Berkof has
been fair, I wondered to be fair can you not – now I think maybe it’s a wee bit weak, but can you
not say that this is a hypothetical statement? Is that not the way dear ones, who deal with these
difficult verses from the point of view of eternal security deal with them, they say, “Yes, but
these are hypothetical instances.” For instance, the warnings that come in Hebrews, you remember,
where he [inaudible] he has other warnings in Hebrews that if you fail to enter into the rest you
know, yes in 4:7, “Again he sets a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying through David so long afterward, in
the words already quoted, ‘Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’ For if
Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later of another. So then, there remains a sabbath
rest for the people of God; for whoever enters God’s rest also ceases from his labors as God did
from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest.” That these are just warnings and
hypothetical statements, you see, that if this were ever to happen, Hebrews 6:4, “For it is
impossible to restore again to repentance those who have,” but we’re not saying anybody has, you
It’s tricky, but I wonder. But you’re saying that an alternative is to say that a partaker of the
Holy Spirit could be one who has experienced the Holy Spirit expressing the beauty of God through
nature or the restraining hand of God through love. Yeah. I’m sorry I didn’t want to steamroll
[Question inaudible 18:16]
However, maybe pushing back, do you see the distinction, Joyce, that we’re trying to make between –
because I think that’s the important thing from the point of view of the particular subject we’re
dealing with, there is a distinction between common and special grace, you see.
[Question inaudible 18:52]
But how would you tie that up with Hebrews 6?
[Question inaudible 19:42]
Yes. Well, probably what I was saying is I was taking it for granted that in Verse 5 for instance,
“And have tasted the goodness of the word of God,” I was assuming then that that is special – that
what he is describing there would normally be regarded by all of us as special grace. When we talk
about special grace we’re normally talking about that revelation of God that comes through God’s
word and through the Holy Spirit working repentance and conversion in us. And so normally, when we
read those verses we’d say, “Those are special grace.” But I think old Berkof is implying, “No, if
these people committed apostasy, then I believe in internal security and I believe they were never
really Christians in the first place.
And so what Berkof is saying here is, and that’s Don’s difficultly, the extreme sense of his words.
What Berkof thinks is being said here is it’s impossible to restore again to repentance people who
have seen some truth and reality in God’s word and have seen some of God’s restraining grace as
common grace coming through the Bible, they haven’t really entered into true conversion and
regeneration. And if you say, “Why haven’t they?” He’ll say, “Well, they’ve committed apostasy and
they couldn’t have because I don’t believe anybody can be a Christian and fall from grace. So they
obviously didn’t enter into the truth of God’s word and yet they seemed to have gotten something
from it.” And so is he not saying they’ve got from it some of the example maybe that people would
get from a good book, or from philosophy, you see?
[Question inaudible 21:53]
That’s good. I’m maybe not seeing it.
[Question inaudible 21:56]
Alright, but I’m pushing on the difficulty, the logical difficulty of what you just stated because
then the question should read, “How does Hebrews 4:4-6 prove the withdrawal of common grace?”
[Question inaudible 23:35]
Yes. Moreover, you get into some difficulties with yours because then you might say, “Well, then do
you really mean that God withdrew common grace from them? Do you mean that God really gave up on
them?” And we would probably say that God keeps on and on as long as they are willing to hear. But
still you could say, of course, “Yeah, but they’ve stopped. That’s what apostasy means, they’ve
stopped, they’ve blasphemed against the Holy Spirit and they’ve stopped.”
[Question inaudible 24:08]
Yes. But again, in respect to this question, all you’re saying is this passage proves the
withdrawal of common grace it doesn’t prove common grace. Yes. I think you have to take it from
Berkof’s viewpoint and see that for him there is a sense in which people can appear to really
understand and really take part in God’s word and yet it never really has touched their spirits and
they really never are saved. And so for them, the Bible is primarily of value as a moral book and
therefore it’s an expression of God’s common grace. I would hold that at all but I would see why
one would hold it.
[Question inaudible 25:48]
I really think loved ones, I think you know, some of you may think, “Oh we’re twisting around to see
old Berkof’s viewpoint,” but I really think it’s good. I think it’ll be good as Don shares and we
go back and forward to when we come to the eternal security viewpoint. I think it’ll be good to just
– it makes you think and I think we should all be open. I would say Don, to make you feel
comfortable, I would say more our eternal security. Well, I don’t know but I would say a number of
us have been brought up to believe in eternal security and I’m probably just a miserable Wesleyan
but I’m going to be in the minority.
Now loved ones, does anyone else have anything to share on the questions? Then I did try to – it
seems to me, I think I’ve found what I’m supposed to do with the assignments now because I thought
for a while am I supposed to tell everybody what good writers they are. I’m obviously not. My job
is to share your insights with the class. It seems to me that’s my value instead of passing all the
papers around, I’m supposed to choose the ones that have something that may be of value to you.
I can’t get out of a British habit. In Britain, that is not a bad mark, but it’s I’m with you and I
can’t get out of it. I know it’s a checkmark in American education, but it means I’m with you.
Yeah. Carol, I suggest you look at Kathy’s elaboration of the first point because the first
question, the first answer was right, but I suggest you [inaudible 27:54]. There was a
misunderstanding, Mary Jean, on the Arminian viewpoint and Berkof’s viewpoint and I don’t blame you
too much if you don’t understand my comment, I’ll readily explain it afterwards and Al [inaudible
28:13] and Marianne, and Brian.
Since we spent quite a bit on discussing it loved ones, I won’t comment on the papers any further
than that. I think that I could deal in the 15 minutes in some effective way with the subject which
is calling in general and external calling. And I think that we are all probably in the same
viewpoint here because probably though we will differ on other things, I think on that problem we
are all in the same boat. That is, we would not take Berkof’s position. I don’t know if we’re all
in the same position in regard to the elect, but I think we maybe are. And of course, it’s this
question here that I’ll explain more fully. Predestination is that some are predestined to be saved
and will be saved because God has determined it and some will not. But the elect is what we come up
against in this whole business of calling in general and external calling.
And I would just highlight the problem and the difference between – I would think, it’s the
difference between all of us and Berkof. If I say to you that, you remember the three points that
we began with, that God’s will was that we would receive the Holy Spirit, that we refuse to receive
him, as a result of that we developed a selfish will that made it impossible for us to obey God even
though we wanted to and then God put us into Jesus and crucified us with him and destroyed that
selfish will so that we could be free to obey him. As a result of that, we had the opportunity to
Now Berkof of course, would not believe that we have the opportunity to accept or reject. Berkof
would say that this I agree with. What you say here I agree with but, I tell you that this was all
done not for all but was done only for the elect. That is, it was done only for those people whom
God predestined would accept this provision that he has made. And that’s where you see, he gets
into this business of the importance of calling. Because he would say, “How are people going to
know about this and how are the elect going to be led to accept it?” Well he would say, “All people
are going to know about it through calling in general. God calls to all men and tells them about
this provision he has made. That is what calling in general and external calling is about. God
calls to all men.” But then he would say, “There is an effectual calling,” which he deals with next
day, “There is an effectual calling. That is there is a special calling that comes to the elect and
it is a calling that cannot be resisted. And so he gives to the elect and effectual calling that
they cannot help accepting.”
Now, so that you understand what Berkof is trying, I think, to defend and the attribute of God that
he derives this kind of theology from, is the emphasis on God’s sovereignty, you see. He is anxious
to show that you cannot frustrate God’s will, that God is sovereign of the universe, and God is all
powerful and he can bring about what he wants. And so Berkof wants to try to avoid the position
that whatever we want to call ourselves, or whatever I want to call myself, but people like me would
say, “Yes, you can frustrate God’s will.” Berkof would say, “No, that takes away from the
sovereignty of God.” I think our job here is to respect and see what truth there is in his view and
come to a point of truth ourselves and see that probably in his extreme emphasis there is a truth
that we need to hold onto, and maybe in my extreme emphasis, there is a truth that we ought to hold
But that’s the problem. Now, would anybody like to question me on the problem, because I think you
need to understand the problem if we’re to do this in any kind of efficient way in the few minutes
we have left. Alright loved ones, I will, if I have time, go through the different conceptions that
he talks about. It might be good to go through those first and then – well, no loved ones, I’d like
to share some of the scriptures so that you have something to study yourselves.
Berkof of course, points out that there is “calling”. Acts 16:14, and we could look it up later,
but it’s in Lydia, you know, that there is a call to her when she first hears of the provision that
God has made, and then she accepts it. So there’s a calling that I think we all would agree
precedes conversion. And then, he comes to what he talks about as “external calling”. That he puts
under calling in general then he talks about external calling. There’s a calling that comes to
everybody and that is not accepted. He gives various instances and this is I think, where he is
just very fair even though, as Don pointed out, brings up problems I think for his own viewpoint.
These are all instances which kind of, of course, if I was dirty enough to say it and I’m dirty
enough to say it, which kind of backs the argument for man’s free, will you see, “Go ye into all the
world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved
but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” And he would say here’s a general calling that goes
to everybody and yet it is implied that some will be saved and some will not and that’s an example
of external calling. Now he’s not dealing with anything but man’s freewill in this situation.
Matthew 22:2-14. I’d point out again, just to keep it in your mind, that his viewpoint is you see,
that this kind of thing would not be possible. It’s not possible for God to call somebody and
really want them to come and them not be able to come. He says, “No, God must have an external
calling that comes to many people who are not predestined to accept him.” Whereas of course, I
would say, no this is just proof that God calls all men but not all men answer.
Luke 14:16-24 is another example of God calling, some accepting, some rejecting. John 3:36, he
introduces this so you know his exact words. Other passages speak explicitly of a rejection of the
gospel: John 3:36, Act 13:46. Still others speak of the terrible sin of unbelief in a way that
clearly shows it was committed by some. Then he gives these examples, Matthew 10:15. All of which
show that some people have the gospel presented to them but they rejected it.
Now I personally would have no trouble with it, I’d just say, “Yes, they have free will. That
proves they have free will.” Now he would on the other hand say, “No, God is a sovereign God. Man
cannot frustrate God’s will so this, you see, is purely an external calling. What God does is he
gives to some an external calling and to some he gives an effectual calling.”
Now, he is a dear fellow you know, because he does bring up the issues himself. Here are some of
the problems that he comes into. He says, “Even in the present day we occasionally meet with
opposition on this point,” that is opposition in his own reformed church. “It is said that such a
general invitation and offer is inconsistent with the doctrine of predestination and of particular
atonement. Doctrines in which it is thought the preachers should take a starting point.” So he
puts the difficulty you see, “Why does God call these people at all if actually he has already
predestined some to accept and some to reject?” And he says, “Some people oppose this even inside
the reform church.” And he says, “Moreover, it is,” – well that’s his point and then he goes on to
one of the problems.
He says, “You must see that this external calling is real,” and this is what he says, “It is a
bonafide calling. The external calling is a calling in good faith. A calling that is seriously
meant.” You see, that’s the difficulty that we would all have, “Well, how can God seriously mean it
if he really knows some of these people are not going to accept it? Why does he bother wasting his
breath as it were?” “It is not an invitation coupled with the hope that it will not be accepted.”
And of course, we tend to say, “Well now, how can you say that? If God knows that these people will
not accept it why does he do it at all?” Then he goes on, “When God calls the sinner to accept
Christ by faith he earnestly desires this.” Well, I think we can kind of see that. “And when he
promises those who repent and believe eternal life, his promise is dependable.”
But yet you see in [inaudible 39:46] he would say, “But he knows they’re not going to repent and
believe.” “This follows from the very nature, from the veracity of God. It is blasphemous to think
that God would be guilty of equivocation and deception. That he would say one thing and mean
another. That he would earnestly plead with a sinner to repent and to believe unto salvation and at
the same time not desire it in any sense of the word.” Well you see, I don’t think we question
that. I think we would say, “Yes, we can see what you’re saying, that God is calling all men to
repent and he really wants them to repent and if they would repent then he would offer them
salvation.” But we say, “God knows fine well they’re not going to repent so is he not mocking them,
you see?” Well, of course, that’s the problem he gets into.
Then he comes into the objections. “One objection from what I just said about a bonafide calling,
is derived from the veracity of God. It is said that according to this doctrine he offers the
forgiveness of sins and eternal life to those for whom he has not intended these gifts.” You see,
he puts the objection himself, “It is said that here God is offering eternal life for the people for
whom he has not intended them. It need not be denied that there is a real difficulty at this point,
but this is the difficulty with which we are always confronted when we seek to harmonize the
decretive and perceptive will of God. A difficulty which even the objectors cannot solve and often
simply [inaudible 41:06]. Well dear love him. He’s just saying, “This is a difficult and I don’t
see a way out.” Of course I, as a happy free-willer would say, “Well, why not believe in free
will?” But you know, he is a wise man and obviously he has other things.
Alright, number two, “A second objection is derived from the spiritual inability of man. Man as he
is by nature cannot believe and repent and therefore it looks like mockery to ask this often. But
in connection with this objection we should remember that in the last analysis,” and dear love him,
he seems to back off there, “In the last analysis man’s inability in spiritual things is rooted in
his unwillingness to serve God.” And he seems to be saying, you know, he seems to back into free
So I think we can see loved ones, that his belief in external calling is made necessary by the fact
that he believes God has already chosen out the elect, And so, he has to start out this business
of, “Then there is in the New Testament a calling that man rejects. But that’s not possible in my
theology,” he says so he has to make a distinction between external calling and effectual calling
and that’s where the problem comes from.
Now loved ones, it’s six o’clock — that’s been hard for you because it’s a heavy subject, but does
anyone want to ask any questions that would enable me to maybe clarify [inaudible 42:34]?
[Question inaudible 42:35]
You’re right Ken. He would say that common grace is just external calling. It is the Bible coming
to people and being rejected, so it is common grace. It would be that issue that we were on in
Hebrews, that external calling is a calling that isn’t effective and therefore comes to people that
are not of the elect and yet the external calling, it’s still calling. It means the proclamation of
the truths of the gospel and that kind of thing. But it’s coming and it’s being rejected so
therefore in that case it is common grace.
So the word of God, when it comes to a person and actually saves them and they are of the elect, he
would say that’s effectual calling and that’s special grace. But when the word of God comes to a
person and they’re not of the elect and they’re not saved then that’s external calling and is an
example of common grace.
Now loved ones, I think probably all of us, probably including Don, I think all of us would believe
that we are all called and it is up to man’s freewill to decide whether he will accept or reject.
So just to help you so that we may not – we don’t end up branding us all, these things are all
different you see. I mean, one can believe in eternal security without believing in predestination
or the elect. I think we would all probably here, indeed as you see Billy Graham would be a
Calvinist and would reckon by many people to be probably, well a strong Calvinist as the word goes
here in 20th Century western civilization and yet obviously he does not believe that here is just
the elect that will accept. He again and again offers, you know, to all whosoever will may come.
Now loved ones, is there anyone who doesn’t see – we of course, have no trouble – for us calling is
essential because it’s a free will matter, you see. And if you say to us, “Well how is this
applied? How is this made known to people?” It’s made known to people by the proclamation of the
gospel and by general calling to all people and those who receive are accepted and are saved, and
those who reject are not accepted and are condemned. So for us there’s no big problem in calling
but for a person who does believe in predestination and the elect, then there is a problem and you
have to make this distinction here.
Why it’s good for us to bend around, you may say, “Oh why bother? Why bother taking us through
this?” We wouldn’t see the issue at all. I would just present it in my happy free will way and
would say, “Well obviously, how are people going to find out about Jesus’ death for them?” Well
it’s going to come through preaching and that’s what happens. We preach and those who receive by
their free wills are saved, those who reject are not.
I should keep quiet long enough for anybody to speak. If it helps you .
The Doctrine of Salvation 6 - THEOLOGY
The Doctrine of Salvation 6
Class Transcript, Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We really need to talk about regeneration itself, but if you would be patient with me, I’d like very
briefly to go back to one topic that we dealt with last day in connection with “calling”. And you
remember that [Louis] Berkhof pointed out of course, that there was an internal and an external
calling. That was his way of putting it. He made the distinction there of course, between a
calling that actually resulted in a person becoming a Christian and a calling that was refused by
We ourselves, would probably just say an external calling refers to the physical proclamation of
God’s word through KTIS [Minneapolis Christian radio station] or through a preacher and the internal
calling we would feel, was something that came into your heart. So we would I think, often say,
that two people could hear Jesus was willing to be their Savior but one person would not really hear
it and the other would really hear it and would reject it. And I think that’s the distinction we
would make between an internal calling and an external calling. Now of course, old Berkhof doesn’t
make that distinction. He says, “An internal calling means that the person has heard and received,”
and of course he’s trying to make the point that God gives to those whom he decides to save an
internal calling whereas he gives to those whom he doesn’t intend to save, an external calling.
Now he does however, loved ones, deal with this question, why does the gospel call – why is it
efficacious in some people and it’s – I’m going to have a go at it – inefficacious, but I don’t know
what the negative would be. But why is it efficacious in the case of some people and why is it not
efficacious in the case of other people? Now, why I wanted to do it with you was, he then deals
with the theologians down through history who have expressed separate viewpoints. The first one of
course is his archenemy — and I don’t know if we would find ourselves close to Pelagius either —
but of course Berkhof takes him as often a paper effigy that he can knock down fast. But he says
that Pelagius finds the explanation in the arbitrary will of man. And of course, that’s typical of
Berkof to put it that way because he does not believe in the free will of man.
This is, I think, one of the things that we would agree with Pelagius on. We would say, “Yes,
that’s why we think it’s efficacious in the case of some people and not efficacious in the case of
others.” It’s that arbitrary will of man. It’s that man decides he will receive or reject this
call that comes to him. Now, I’ll gladly go back over these dear ones, if you want to, but
obviously on the other hand says that no it’s simply due to the sovereign grace of God. The
sovereign grace of God.
In other words, God operates his grace in some people so that it cannot be resisted and in others so
it can be resisted. And that’s what determines whether a person becomes a Christian or not. In
some it cannot be resisted and in some it can be resisted. In other words, you’re getting into just
plain predestination and election. We’re dealing with, ”Why is the calling efficacious in some
people and why it is not in others?” — and Pelagius answered, “It’s due to the arbitrary will of
man.” It’s due to man’s will. He can decide whether to receive the call into himself and to accept
it or not. Augustine, on the other hand, said it was due to the sovereign grace of God. That God
gave sovereign grace to some people so that they could receive this call and receive Jesus’ Spirit
and that could not be resisted. And that’s one of the basic tenants of Augustine’s theology, grace
is irresistible, it cannot be resisted.
Now thirdly, Berkof jumps to a semi-Pelagianism. Where we would disagree with Pelagius’ general
theory — his general theory was of course, we can save ourselves by our own will power — but
where we would disagree with his general theory but perhaps agree with him here, agree that it was
due to our free will that we agreed with God’s grace, semi Pelagianism sought to avoid the denial of
free will –that is in Augustine. Old Berkof admits that Augustine did deny man’s free will, and
tries to avoid too what old Berkof would call Pelagius’ depreciation of divine grace and
semi-Pelagianism would say that there are seeds, seeds of God’s life, he would almost say, but seeds
of God’s life in man. And then the Holy Spirit would be offered to him in the call of the gospel
and he would either accept that and let that come in and join with the seeds of God’s life in man or
he would reject it.
So in other words, semi-Pelagianism tended to say, man would cooperate with the Spirit of God that
was already in him in some sense. I would just point out to you, if you don’t see it already, that
of course in Berkof’s mind, this is a more acceptable thing than this because he would say, “Well
this at least allows for the origin of salvation to be due to the seeds of God’s life in man
himself, the Holy Spirit.” Now he would of course, say that that isn’t acceptable because he would
define total depravity that we men and woman are in because we have rejected God, he would define
that as excluding any possibilities of the seed of God’s life being in man already. But still,
that’s how he would talk about semi Pelagianism.
He would say the Roman Catholic Church really kind of followed a kind of semi-Pelagianism. They
would say that it is due to the fact that there is some grace in man — and I don’t want to tie the
thing down tighter than it can be tied down — but that there is a prevenient grace. ”Venit” in
Latin is “come” and “pre” is “before” — a coming before grace. There is a prevenient grace in
every man and then the Holy Spirit comes down and appeals to that prevenient grace and man himself,
by his willpower, can allow the Holy Spirit in or not.
Now I’d ask you just at the risk of being redundant about it, I’d ask you to see the difference
between four [statements in the study] and one. One, the emphasis of Pelagius was, “No, the man
can decide himself to follow God without any work being done in his heart.” Where semi Pelagianism
says, “No, God has to do some kind of work in man’s heart, otherwise there’s nothing for the Holy
Spirit to appeal to but that man himself has the freedom to let that grow or to kill it.” And the
Roman Catholic Church tended to follow the same principle, that none of us would feel a drawing
towards God at all if the grace of God’s Holy Spirit was not in some sense working in us and that it
was up to us whether we allowed the Holy Spirit to come in and kind of fertilize that seed, or
refused to allow him to come in.
[Question inaudible 9:29]
(You better get in here Kathy so that I get my commercial in fast.) I think those of us, Catholics
and Irish Protestants, who would believe in prevenient grace would believe yes, that we would – I
think, I would interpret there is a light that lightens every man that cometh into the world. I
would interpret that as being one of the verses that indicates that because of Jesus’ death for all
mankind, there comes to all mankind something of the Holy Spirit that is drawing them towards God
all through their lives.
Now, it would be a resistible thing. I would not feel it, that it is an irresistible thing, but it
is a drawing and that without that we would not understand anything of the gospel that was preached
to us. So I can see what Berkof is saying when he says there is a total depravity in us and unless
there is something in us that God can appeal to, there can be no link up between us and God. But I
think those of us who believe in prevenient grace would believe that because of Jesus’ death on the
cross, God was able to put the prevenient grace coming before grace into us so that when the Holy
Spirit came to us we had something in us that responded and reacted. I don’t think that’s the only
way to define it at all. You could say with Eric Sauer, that we have the remains of God’s image
within us so even though we are not children of God we still have some kind of desire to be like
God. That’s why most people, when they hear a Christian described as he really is, would sense,
“Yeah, I would like to be like that.”
Most of us, even non-Christians, when we hear about the possibility of being free from bad temper
would say, “Yeah, I’d like to be like that.” So you could explain this prevenient grace simply in
terms of the remains of God’s imagine which we all have. So Sauer I think, puts it that there is a
permanent image of God that we all still retain and there is a temporary image of God that can be
erased. But Joyce, I’m sure I’m not getting his titles, but do you happen to remember Sauer in
“Dawn of World Redemption” talks about the image of God that cannot be erased?
For instance, there is in all of us, a sense that we should exercise authority. That’s what often
makes a mess of a marriage because one or other wants to exercise authority over the other person.
So there’s a desire for authority. There’s a desire for wholeness that is the basis of all
educational theories. Now, these are all part of the image of God that remains with us, the mind,
the emotions, the will, are all part of that and those are temporary. So you could say that the
prevenient grace is also expressed in the remnants of God’s image that still remains. Conscience
would be part of that.
Now if I could just outline loved ones, and then you could push me on the details and I think I
could attempt to explain them. Martin Luther, said that the gospel call came always in an
efficacious way, so it was always efficacious. That is, it always got home to a person fully what
they ought to know because it was always efficacious because it came with the Holy Spirit. And
whenever there was any real call that came to man, it was efficacious in so far as it got the
message home to man and the only reason that the result did not come about was that man put a
stumbling block in the way. In other words, old Luther was really trying to point to the fact that
it was man’s free will that prevented the seed growing up and bringing forth fruit. It was man put
a stumbling block to prevent the results that would normally follow from an efficacious call.
Now then he does John Calvin, and you can guess what he says about Calvin because it’s his own
viewpoint really. He says that God determines in which lives the Word will be efficacious. So, why
is it efficacious in some and not efficacious in others? Calvin determines in whose life it will
bring forth. So the answer is predestination and election. He predestines some people to receive
the Word and to respond to it and others are not of the elect and they are predestined by God not to
receive it. If you’d like me to read it exactly so that you understand the words he puts it in,
“According to Calvin the gospel call is not in itself effective but is made efficacious by the
operation of the Holy Spirit when he savingly applies the Word to the heart of man and it is so
applied only in the hearts and lives of the elect. Thus the salvation of man remains the work of
God from the very beginning. God by his saving grace not only enables but causes man to heed the
gospel call unto salvation.”
And then Berkhof tackles these miserable people and of course, in his old happy-go-lucky emotive way
says, “The Arminians who are not satisfied with this position but virtually turned back to the
semi-Pelagianism, the old fashioned creatures, turned back to the semi-Pelagianism of the Roman
Catholic Church.” Which is fair because I make my cracks about Berkhof. So we all do the same. We
talk in terms of where we see it from. But, Arminians took this position of semi-Pelagianism, the
heart of which loved ones, is that it is really up to man’s free will whether he accepts or rejects,
but that even the first drawing towards God is a universal gift given to all by the Holy Spirit.
The first drawing of all men is due to prevenient working of the Holy Spirit. And this, I think, is
the thing that Berkhof is trying to guard us against. I think loved ones, that you really need to
take the fella very seriously in what he is pushing for, because what he’s pushing against is raw
Raw Pelagianism is, “I’m okay. You’re okay.” Raw Pelagianism is the power of positive thinking.
Raw Pelagianism is, “You can be like God if you just exercise your will enough.” You really have to
be careful every time you get into techniques, be it [Bill Gother’s technique, or Watchman Nee’s
technique, or somebody else’s technique. Every time you get into techniques, you’re on the
borderline of Pelagianism. You’re on the borderline of saying you can do it – if you try hard
enough, you can do it with or without God’s Spirit.
Now maybe I should read what he says, “According to them, the universal proclamation of the gospel
is accompanied by universal sufficient grace.” And see, that’s what I would have said, “A light that
lightens every man, a universal sufficient grace, gracious assistance actually and universally
bestowed sufficient to enable all men if they choose to attain to the full possession of spiritual
blessings and ultimately to salvation”. Of course, he says the work of salvation is once more made
dependent on man. And of course, I would answer yes, but only partially dependent on man.
Loved ones, I think I could symbolize the thing for you in terms that I think are used at the end of
Sunday evening’s question time. It seems to me the issue is, do you have manual steering on your
automobile, or it seems to me power-assisted steering, or do you have a computer that directs the
computerized steering that directs the whole operation through a robot from some central
headquarters? And I would think – I’m purposely exaggerating it to try to show you the drift — I
would think that Berkhof’s position tends to be closer to that, you see, and Calvin. I would say
that there you have to put the Catholic Church, to a certain extent, in regard to this business of
free will, you have to put Luther, and you’d put probably the Arminians in there. You put very many
of us, I think, in there. I don’t know, we might put everybody in this room in there, but I’m not
Here you would put, “I’m okay, you’re okay.” All psychological techniques, you see. Power of
positive thinking, you’d put that in there, and I think it is very important to see what Berkhof is
trying to guard against. He’s trying to guard against a gospel that is simply encouraging people to
try harder and telling them that the reason you’re not saved is because you’re not trying hard
enough, or you’re not willing powerfully enough. And of course, we all know that that drives people
to despair. And it seems to me that it’s important for us to see that danger because only if we all
see it can God really keep us right ourselves.
I think I’ll stop so you can at least push some things.
[Question Inaudible 21:36]
I’m not saying, Joyce, that Luther would find himself along with the Catholics in regards to
salvation by works, I’m just talking about the pure theoretical doctrine of people like [inaudible
21:53] on the question of, “Why is God’s call accepted by some people and not by others?” That’s
[Question Inaudible 22:06]
Mary Jean, you understand?
[Question Inaudible 22:09]
It seems to me they would believe, and I use the word that old Berkhof used, you know, which wasn’t
fair of him, he tricked me into it also because he used the word efficacious up here. Why is it
efficacious meaning why does it in some people the call achieve the end for which it was sent, that
is save people? He used it again with Luther where he said, “It’s always efficacious.” Luther
simply means, Ken, it always comes home as true. It comes home as true. It’s up to men then to
decide whether they accept it or not, but Luther would have said that it always comes home as true.
Now, I think, first of all, I really cannot honestly be sure that Berkhof is being fair to Luther
there. I don’t know that Luther would always say that, but I think, speaking for ourselves, I think
we would say, Ken, that often a person can listen to KTIS and listen again, and again, and again,
and they do not hear the call. They hear some fella saying that they should believe in the Lord
Jesus Christ and they shall be saved and they don’t hear the call except with their ears. In other
words, I think we would say that often the call does not come home as true to people. But at the
same time, often it does come home to some people as true and they reject it. And I would think
that most, and that’s why I question old Berkhof on Luther if he’s really being fair, here are his
words so that Lutherans like Joyce can hear him: “Luther developed the idea that while the law
worked repentance, the gospel call carried with it the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is
in the Word and therefore the call is in itself always sufficient and in its intention.” That’s the
tricky thing, always efficacious in its intention, always efficacious. “The reason why this call
does not always affect the desired and intended result lies in the fact that men in many cases
places a stumble block in the way so that after all, the result is determined by the negative
attitude of man.”
Now, I think that Berkhof gives us the out there where he says that it’s always sufficient and in
its intention always efficacious. In other words, he’s trying to point out that Luther believed
that God never sent the call forward to a man without really wanting and intending it to be
accepted. Whereas he would suggest that maybe Calvin would say the call is sometimes sent to some
people and God really doesn’t intend it to be accepted by them in that case.
So that’s why, loved ones, I thought that it made it clearer if we lumped us all together just in
regards to this business of when the call is accepted and when rejected. If we lump together three,
four, five, and seven and we said that all of those people would stand more or less in the same
position, that is, we have free will to accept or reject and yet at the first drawing of all men is
due to prevenient working of the Holy Spirit. I think what Berkhof is trying to point out is that
if our spirits are dead then how can they ever receive anything from God’s Spirit unless he, in some
sense, gives a desire in our spirits for his Spirit? And I think that’s what we would try to guard
against in whatever you would like to call it, semi-Pelagianism or Arminianism. We would try to
say, “Yes, you’re right, because of the death of Christ on the cross there is a light that lightens
every man that cometh into the world.” You can define part of it as conscience, but you also have
to define part of it as that seeming desire to worship that is in all men and that [inaudible 26:44]
to God which would tie up of course, with the verse, John 6:44), “No one can come to me unless the
Father who sent me draws him.” You see, that would be a very strong verse for Berkhof and for
Calvinism and for predestination. If you don’t give some meaning to that verse then you’re left
with predestination. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
[Question inaudible 27:16]
Acts 13:48? I mean, I can’t answer it Kathy, I don’t know what the word “ordained” means. “And
when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the Word of God; and as many as were
ordained to eternal life believed.” I can’t explain it. I’ll have a shot after I see the Greek,
but I mean, at this point I don’t know, “And as many as were ordained to external life believed.”
[Question inaudible 28:11]
No, I can’t.
[Question inaudible 28:25]
Don, that came up in our doctrine of Christ. It must have been doctrine of Christ last – I don’t
know how I fit it in there – doctrine of God, no it came up in our doctrine of God that there were
obviously two views on the fact that God was able to know what had happened beforehand. Either that
there simply was a foreknowledge that God expressed, as you say in prophecy, and that kind of thing,
and also – so he could have expressed it in prophecy but that he could also express it in foreseeing
what would take place in someone’s life which I think is maybe what you were pointing to, the
possibility therefore of him looking down and seeing that this person would receive him, and
therefore, ordaining him or foreordaining him to receive him. And then there was this
predestination that did not depend on foreseeing at all what a man would do but just predestined him
[Question inaudible 30:11]
Yes, yes, that’s right I agree with that. Knowing the agony and pain that was going to come to him
if he made free will agents, if he made agents, that yes he did. I agree.
[Question inaudible 30:57]
Especially when you think of our own lives, and if you knew what your own life was going to be like,
maybe you wouldn’t be so willing to face it. But he knew not only what one life was going to be
like but all the lives throughout the universe, and yet was prepared to go through it.
[Question inaudible 31:27]
That’s why it seems to me so important that we try to break some of the very narrow self-contained
rooms that churches and theologians have got themselves into and that we here have a beautiful
opportunity. We don’t need to defend any church. We don’t need to defend any denomination or any
view. We have a beautiful opportunity to gather the riches from all viewpoints and insights, and
really appreciate the greatness of the Father. And it seems to me, sometimes as I read old Berkhof,
I think, “Ah, he’s so different from what I think that it is. It’s just terrible.” But it’s really
good because it does force us to see some of the riches — that foreknowledge that God does
foreknow. And yet you can foreknow without having made it to be so [inaudible 32:49].
[Question inaudible 32:50]
I mean, Kathy, that would in some sense, in other words it seems to me what I think we all kind of
know what Don has just said but creation takes place at this point. Well, the Father conceived of
creating us at that point and then, this is ridiculous because you’re talking about an infinite mind
that thought of it all in one moment. But then he conceived of creation at that point and he
conceived of the fall at that point, and he conceived of the cross, the lamb slain from before the
foundation of the world at that point. And then he conceived of who would be born, and who would
die, and who would accept, and who would reject at that point. And then at that point, he ordained
them to life in the light of that, or to death, and then he made the world at that point. But that
presumably be the way that you would apply that to foreknowledge. Now, that’s a possibility.
[Question inaudible 34:15]
There’s no question, Al, that what the reformers like Berkhof are fighting to preserve is that it is
all of God. It is of God. It is of his grace, and his love, and that it is not of man at all.
Unquestionably. And I think that’s what we need to be seeing, what are they trying to get out?
What are they trying to guard against? What have they to say to us about this?
[Question inaudible 35:16]
I’m trying to get into that reward syndrome that you’re talking about. I probably can only see it
this way, that here I am and here is my dad. And on my birthday he is offering me a bicycle and I
have the ability to say yes or no. And if I receive the bicycle, I’ll be able to ride around, do
all kinds of things. If I receive the Holy Spirit all kinds of things will be possible — but it
will be because of my Father’s gift to me. But I suppose that’s what I’m fighting for. I’m
fighting for that little yes or no there.
Now, if you were to say to me, “Is God rewarding your yes by giving you a bicycle?” I would say no,
he’s offered me the bicycle and I have to decide whether I will receive it or not. And if you then
say to me, “But did you not win the bicycle of your merit of giving an affirmative answer?” Most
human beings would immediately answer, “No, no. Saying yes to a gift, there’s no merit in that.
It’s maybe good sense or anything else but it’s not merit.”
I think I have trouble reducing man’s response to anything less than that. Then I don’t see where
you keep me out of God’s will. I would say God’s arbitrary will. But Berkhof would say God’s
[Question inaudible 37:22]
I would just tie it down that it’s the Holy Spirit. That God is offering us the Holy Spirit and
that we did our best to make it impossible for him to give it to us by rebelling against him and
developing a selfish will that could not have handled it. But even he has taken that selfish will
and crossed it out and he’s saying, “No. Now, I’m giving you another chance. Now your selfish will
is taken care of on the cross. Now will you accept what I have done for you and will you receive my
[Question inaudible 38:12]
Now of course, what Berkhof is saying – I don’t know what he’d say to the yes or no because it seems
to me always when he defines this, the Pelagian, or the semi-Pelagian, or the Arminian, or the
western Arminian, he’s never stating the position that I feel that I hold. He’s never stating
anything as minimum as “yes or no”. He always seems to be trying to intimate that the Arminian, or
the Pelagian, or the semi-Pelagian thinks he can do something to help it along.
[Question inaudible 38:46]
That’s right Don. That is right. That is exactly it.
[Question inaudible 39:09]
Well, he would hold to all the things that we would say about heaven and hell but he would simply –
he would say that hell therefore, in a sense, even glorifies God because it sets forth his
righteousness, and his strength and power. It almost sets forth the beauty of heaven by the
opposite of hell and he would say – he would probably answer you see, and dear love him he has some
big verses if you don’t interpret them inside the context, “Why should the pot say to the potter,
‘You have made me thus?’”
So he would even tackle – if you said, “But what if somebody says, ‘You put me into hell.’” He
would say, “Who are you old man to question God?” So he would go probably to that extreme point
that the sovereign God is free to do what he wants when he wants and who are we to question? You
could say, “Oh, but he’s an unjust God,” but he would probably respond that way, “Who are you old
man to question God?” Because old Paul, you remember, comes across that way, doesn’t he in Romans,
with the potter, you see?
That’s the thing, it seems to me, loved ones, you have to see that there are very strong verses in
scripture. A fella like Berkhof doesn’t get out on a wild limb just for the sake of it. There are
strong verses in scripture but you have to determine where is the weight of scripture? Where does
the weight of scripture lay? And of course you have to avoid taking an Eve position, “Oh that’s
contradiction to scripture.” That’s silly. You have to see you’re dealing with the infinite mind
of an infinite Creator dealing with little finite minds using a finite language. He has to, he’s
driven into contradictions to bring the whole truth home to us. So, that’s an easy out, you know,
[Question inaudible 41:19]
I know it. I’m with you. I agree. I agree. Of course, that’s why – that’s why it behooves us so
much to think carefully through what we’re thinking and saying. And I’m glad that some of these
issues have come up so that those of us who think we are Pelagians will see in what way we were not
Pelagians; those of us who think we’re Calvinists will see in what we were not Calvinists, because
I think most of us are a mixture of these things and we need to be very clear where we are.
Loved ones, honestly, I’m against the labels. I really think the labels are bad. That’s why I’m
unhappy about – I think we should look at Berkhof with an open mind and even ignore the wee bit of
labeling he does and say, “No, no, let’s get beyond it and see what is he saying is true in this
situation?” That’s why I’m reluctant to label myself, because I doubt if I am what anybody else
thinks a Wesleyan or Arminian is. I, certainly from my studies even of Berkhof over the past few
years, would be much stronger – I wonder how many of people who would say they are Wesleyans or
Arminians, would even knock it down to “yes or no”, you know? They might make it more than that. I
rather think it’s “yes or no”. I don’t think it’s any stronger than that.
But then I suppose I feel my dear friend Wesley said the same. He said, “Repentance is not a work
of man, it’s a work of God that God does in a heart that is willing to repent.” So you cannot
produce strong repentance by much crying. Repentance is a gift from God that is given to a will
that is willing to say, “yes”. He would go even before repentance. He would say, “Conviction is a
work of God’s Spirit.” And then old Wesley would probably go way, way back to prevenient grace and
say, “That even from when we were born, there are workings and movements within us that are drawing
us towards God in virtue of the fact that Jesus has died.”
[Question inaudible 44:39]
He’d hold with Watchman Nee, and Nee is a Calvinist. At least – he’s not a wild Calvinist, but he’s
certainly a Calvinist and he would go with Nee and that’s what kind of encourages me to believe that
there’s some truth in it, Al. He would say, “The will of man is a mystery. The will of man is a
mystery that the Bible never solves and Jesus himself never solves it. The will of man, the freedom
of man’s will to say yes or no is not explained.” He just seems never to go beyond the point where
he says, “They will not believe,” or, “If a man will come after me, let him.” But he never seems to
[Question inaudible 45:29]
That’s right. I think so [Audio ends abruptly 46:11]
The Doctrine of Salvation 7 - THEOLOGY
The Doctrine of Salvation 7
Transcript of a Class by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
[Prayer] Dear Father, we thank you for the truths that come home to us from studying your word
carefully and in detail. And we thank you Father, for even some of the joy that comes to our hearts
as we treasure your word, and handle it, and finger it, and almost poke it, and kick it open so we
can see what is in it. We thank you Father, that this is some of what’s involved in feeding on your
word. We trust you to enable us to discipline our minds more and more that we may do more of this
kind of research into meanings so that we can bring forth from your word things new and things old,
and can feed your people individually and corporately. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Dear ones, I would hope in the first part of this period to complete the study that we’re doing of
the scriptural terms, you remember, for the word “faith”. And I would think that maybe we could
finish that part in another 15 minutes. And in connection with those scriptural terms, you
remember, we had discussed the Old Testament terms first and then we discussed the New Testament
terms. And in discussing the New Testament terms “pistis”, or it looks like that in Greek if you’re
learning Greek, “pistis” is the word for faith and we discussed first of all, it’s meaning in
classical Greek. And you remember, one of the guidelines that I mentioned to you in this study was
that you get coming out, again and again, the intellectual element of belief in the word faith. And
alongside it you get perhaps the volitional, in a sense of will, volitional element of trust or of
obedience. And we saw that coming out in the classical uses of the word “pistis”. You remember, we
distinguished between classical Greek and New Testament Greek.
Now, believe it or not, there is another kind that is not New Testament, and that is the Greek that
is used in the Septuagint. The Septuagint was a Greek translation of the Bible done in about, I
think it was, 200 BC. Does anyone want to differ with me on that? I think it was 200 BC.
Translation of Bible about 200 BC. And so you can see that of course is Greek that is 200 years
older than New Testament Greek and yet is younger than classical Greek if you think of Homer and
Plato and the Boise writing, I suppose 400 or 500 BC, then Septuagint was 200 BC. And you get the
emphasis there of “pistis” being trust and confidence. Trust and confidence. So you begin to get
the word switching over much more from the intellectual belief that came out in classical Greek to
the New Testament meaning of trust and confidence.
Now, maybe we could jump straight to New Testament then. The New Testament term has several – well,
it’s two special meanings. The New Testament term “pistis” has two special meanings. First of all,
an intellectual belief or conviction; intellectual belief or conviction resting on the testimony of
another. And therefore, you can see of course, depending really for its authority on the integrity
of that other person. It is based on this other person, testimony of another, rather than one’s own
investigation. So that’s quite important you see, rather than one’s own investigation and you have
to face it that that is the heart of our trust in a statement such as Jesus’: “In my Father’s house
are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”
Well we have to say, “Well, we don’t know ourselves. We have not been through death to the other
side.” And so that’s one of the meanings of the word “pistis” in the New Testament, intellectual
belief or conviction resting on the testimony of another rather than one’s own investigation. Now
that kind of meaning you get in Philippians 1:27, 2 Corinthians 4:13, and you could check some of
those afterwards. And then secondly, the second meaning is a confiding trust. A confiding trust or
confidence, and you get this volitional element coming in. In Christ with a view to redemption from
sin, a confiding trust or confidence in Christ about redemption from sin and I suppose you can say
from sin and hell because it includes that assurance of a future life. And you get that coming out
in Romans 3:22 and 25, and 5:1-2.
I would just outline to you loved ones, the steps that old Berkhof suggests people come to that.
First of all, he says there is the step of a general confidence, a general confidence in Christ.
And it might be useful to notice these steps from the point of view of your own dealing with
non-Christians. A general confidence in Christ. Secondly, acceptance of his testimony based on
that trust, and then yielding to Christ and trusting him for salvation.
Why I bring that out is one of the important truths that come home to us from a study of the word
“pistis” is that you always get this business coming out that it is belief or confidence based on
the testimony of another. And so obviously, it’s very important with a non-Christian to build up
clearly in their minds a picture of Jesus and his trustworthiness. I really understand if you say,
“But aren’t there flashpoint conversions where a person knows very little about Jesus, very little
about God and the Holy Spirit has been dealing with them in a time of great guilt, or great
hopelessness or meaninglessness and they just grab by some inner instinct at Jesus?” Yes, but that
will never become a solid conversion unless they grow in their knowledge of Jesus and his
trustworthiness. And I would say that frankly, a far safer approach to leading people to Jesus is
really to talk about Jesus himself. And I honestly think that one of the reasons we used to get
into embarrassing situations in witnessing was we would try to convince a person that they were a
sinner without telling them anything about Jesus and so it became a kind of almost, “I’m better than
you are. You’re a poor sinner and I’m a Christian.” And I really think that you evade all of that
if you take the New Testament pattern seriously and build up their general confidence in Christ.
I would have to say that I would now meet many people, not as a pastor because of all the other
things we’re involved in, and I would have no difficulty in conversing in quite an unembarrassed way
about Jesus. It seems to me that is easy. That’s like discussing Julius Caesar, or discussing some
other great man and I see nothing that needs to be embarrassing about that. It’s when you push a
person too fast, and you say, “Now you must receive Jesus as the Savior.” I think in their dear
minds the main thing is they feel you’re being illogical. I think that’s the first thing.
I think you destroy your confidence in them because they think, “There’s something not right here.
They’re asking me to yield to something that I think is a dead man. There’s something not right.”
Or, they click in the old religious program and they say, “Ah, they’re giving me the old Evangelical
spiel.” And I think that that’s why people get embarrassed when you go too fast with them. But I
think if you’d go at this kind of speed, I don’t think you embarrass people and I think at any point
then they can draw back. And I certainly tend, in witnessing situations, if they push me and there
are all kinds of approaches but they say, “Oh well, I don’t see any reason why I should be a
Christian. I’m perfectly happy as a Buddhist,” or, “I’m perfectly happy as an agnostic.” And I
would say, “Yeah, you’re right. Certainly if there is no one person that is any more truthful than
the others, that’s right. If there’s nobody that knows any more about reality than Buddha or
Mohammad, then Jesus and they are all the same, then I’m with you.” That’s what I’d do.
And I would even hold it to see how they come back on that rather than tell them something they’re
not interested in knowing. And then maybe they’d say, “Yeah, well that’s the way I feel. I feel
they are all the same.” And I say, “Ah yeah, well that’s probably where I differ with you. I
frankly, think that Jesus is a different kind of person, but I mean, I can see if you don’t think he
is. Boy, I’d be the same as you.” And go gently forward until you get them into conversing about
Jesus and about what is the difference between him and others you know. And then it seems to me,
that “Son of Man” booklet is useful, or Paul Little’s “Know Why You Believe” book is useful — where
you begin to discuss Jesus’ divinity and the differences that there are between him and Buddha, or
him and Mohammad.
But I think loved ones, that that’s one of the truths that come home to you when you see the whole
emphasis on “pistis” in the New Testament; it’s intellectual belief or conviction resting in the
testimony of another rather than on one’s own investigation. Now, if you say to a person, “You
know, there’s a heaven you can go to when you die,” and they reply to you, “Well, I don’t believe
that.” Well, it’s up to you to remember and reflect that you believe it because you trust Jesus who
was through death and came back and said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” But if they
don’t know about that Jesus and they don’t have the same respect for him as you do, then why should
they believe in heaven, you see? So I urge you to build up the witness, the great witness and the
great witness is Jesus. Build up HIM, clarify who he is in their minds before you go onto discuss
what he says.
Now, are there any comments or questions loved ones?
[Question inaudible 13:56]
Now that’s interesting Gus, what you’re bringing up, because that brings up it seems to me, the
second side there because I think that’s true, many Christians even are prepared to respect Jesus’
testimony but the real moment when that becomes living trust is when they enter into the loss of a
loved one themselves. And that’s interesting, that you can often get a fellow to change from
Mohammad and Buddha onto that intellectual belief because of the testimony of another, but the only
thing that will transform it into confiding trust is if he begins to experience real guilt and a
real need of this Jesus. So that’s interesting. And of course, the Christians we meet are either
in one section or the other.
And I’m afraid, what we do often is we do not do what Paul said. He said, “Do you remember the terms
in which I preached Christ? How he was raised from the dead, how he was seen by all the apostles,
by 500 brothers?” He goes over the great facts of history, but we often don’t approach the
non-Christian like that. We approach them with, “You’re a sinner,” or, “Don’t you know you’re going
to go to hell?” Or, “Don’t you want to go to heaven?” And I think that’s our weakness. I don’t
think they know anything about those things until they know Jesus because he’s the one that told us
the details of those places.
Loved ones, if I could just then quite briefly deal with the verb [“pisteuo”]. It’s hard to keep
writing English letters.
[Question inaudible 16:10]
I would say you start with him as a historical figure, Marianne. I would say the thing that – when
you start with – now, I’m not saying in all cases because I understand fully that there are some
people who are highly intuitive and are not strictly logical in their approach to issues and they
would buy a car just because they like the color, or because they read a consumer report on the
automobiles. So I understand that, and many people are like that and at times telling them of your
own personal experience comes home to them immediately. All I’m asking is that we discern which
kind of person we’re dealing with and I’d point out that many of us get into embarrassing situations
with people who tend to be more intellectual in their approach because we tend to give our personal
experience and their reaction tends to be, “Well, that’s nice for you. That’s good. I’m glad
you’re happy and I know another person that gets happy too and he has his thing.”
And it tends to be that kind of response which is very unsatisfactory to us and then all we can do
is kind of press them forward and say, “Oh, but you should have this, too.” And they kind of feel,
“Well, why should I have it?” And it seems to me for them it’s better to give them the opportunity
to look in the shop window and see what the goods are like and examine them from a distance before
you ask them to buy them. So this is the window shopping here, I think, and the second one is the
buying and I just think it’s very important that you do it in the right order.
Now, on occasion window shopping will include looking at your experience. I tend to think that your
experience speaks through your life. I tend to think that the way you discuss the historical facts
about Jesus, and the whole love and the atmosphere of your own person, speaks to them and that that
is more powerful. That’s why I don’t want us all to try and switch the verse and the line in that
song, but ever from I first heard it I thought it’s rather a self-conscious posturing business that
we are one in the Spirit. And it’s good, it’s a nice song, but “They will know we are Christians by
our love” — it’s a wee bit, “Now, don’t you know we’re Christians by our love? Now, don’t you see
we love each other?”
Well, it seems to me that’s the kind of thing that speaks unconsciously through our own lives and so
it seems to me always stronger to see a person filled with peace talking about the historical facts
of Jesus and the reality of Jesus as God’s Son than to see a person trying to persuade another,
“Well, I’ve got a peace that’s deeper than yours.” And the other person says, “Well, my peace is
pretty deep.” And he says, “Yeah, but mine is deeper than yours. Now for instance, could you go
through…” – and it becomes a kind of unhappy kind of discussion.
So that’s why – but I know, I really do know that it’s seeing a life changed that first makes a
person stop and question. All I’m pleading is that when they question we try to get off all our own
lives which speak for themselves anyway, and we try to get onto these things. Besides, it’s very
healthy pointing them to Jesus rather than yourself.
“Pisteuo” is the verb — it just means “to believe” whereas “pistis” is the noun. So, “pisteuo” is
the verb. And it is interesting that you remember the Hebrew verbs had different meanings according
to the preposition that they took. “Pisteuo” followed by the dative case, there’s a dative case in
Greek. There’s a dative case and when it’s followed by the dative case it has the sense of
“believing ascent”. Believing ascent. You can see that ascent has the intellectual sense in it.
Now it does – when it is “believing ascent” in a thing, like God’s word, it just tends to remain
intellectual. But when it’s believing ascent in a person it includes the meaning of confidence and
trust. So you get some of that in John 4:50 and 5:47. So what we’re saying is the verb to believe,
when it’s followed by the dative case applied to a thing has just the intellectual meaning of
believing ascent. But when it’s applied to a person and a dative case, it includes the sense of
trust, trust in Jesus, trust in Christ.
Now, too, when it’s followed by the word “hoti” and it looks in Greek like “hoti” that’s the word
for “that”. You believe that a certain thing is true. It really usually means just belief that a
certain fact is true and it tends to be just intellectual. One now – you may wonder, “Well, how can
we tell which is which because we don’t understand Greek?” If you have a Greek interlinear, or look
at the Greek interlinear in the library, the Greek-English Interlinear, you can look at the English
on one side and the Greek on the other and you can guess which word is the word for believe. Well,
you’ll be able to recognize [“pisteuo”] in Greek will look like that, so you probably know a pi and
an i, and a sigma and then it will look like that so if it looks like that that’s the word believe.
And then you can tell whether it has this word following, “hoti” or not.
It has the belief that a certain fact is true and that is Romans 10:9, is a favorite verse of mine,
isn’t that right? At least it was a chorus we used to learn. Romans 10:9 and it must be confession
is made, “Because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord,” you see confess, “And believe
in your heart that God raised him from the dead,” believe that a certain fact is true. So that
tends to have the intellectual ascent, the confession is the obedient part. And then the third
meaning is when it has followed by the word “nen” which means in, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It has this meaning of a firmly fixed confidence. So you see you’re getting into this personal
trust when you say, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” a firmly fixed confidence in Christ when
it’s used with the term Christ. And you get it in Mark 1:15.
So believing in Jesus does not mean just believing that Jesus is alive, but believing him in a deep
personal way. And again, if you have it plus [“epi” 24:12] another preposition, it has the same
sense of a steady and restful repose. A steady and restful repose. And it also has the sense of a
moral, a confidence in Christ and it has a sense of a moral turning to Christ. The moral turning of
the will to Christ. And then the last one is maybe the most important of all and I’ll just take a
separate number, it’s the word “eis”. It means “into”. Believing into Christ. It occurs 49 times
in the New Testament and it is the most characteristic expression used of believing. So the way
believing is normally used is used with this preposition “eis” into, so it means “believe into
Christ” and it means an absolute transference.
This is maybe the completion of the change in the meaning of the word “pisteuo” from an intellectual
belief in classical Greek. An absolute transference of trust from ourselves to another. And that’s
the term that is most commonly used in the New Testament. It is not simply believe that a certain
thing happens but it’s a believing into Christ and it means a complete self-surrender. And it of
course, has the whole meaning of baptism. When you were baptized you were baptized into the water
and the water was there, and you went right down into it. And in going into the water, you entered
into Christ and entered into the tomb with him. And then as you came up out of the water, you came
up in resurrection with him and were raised up as a new creation and sat at the right hand of God.
And so it has all the sense of being absorbed into Jesus, of sinking into him and being lost in him
so that you lost your own identity and from then on you were known only as a Jesus person.
And that’s why we got all the christening mixed up in it because you were given a new name because
you were no longer your old person, you were no longer your old self. You lost that name and then
you were given a Christian name. That’s why we got our first names, our Christian names. And that
kind of emphasis you get in John 2:11, 3:16, 18:36, and on and on for 49 times. But that you can
see is the completion of the change from “pisteuo” as an intellectual term.
This is why you cannot preach easy believism. You cannot share easy believism, “Oh, as long as you
believe in Jesus, as long as you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, as long as you believe that
Jesus died for you.” It’s not that, it’s, “Are you ready to believe into him? Are you ready to
commit yourself into him?” Because of course, believe comes from the Anglo-Saxon to be “gelefa” and
it means in accordance with. And so it means are you willing to be in accordance with your belief?
Are you willing to believe into Jesus? Are you willing to be in accordance with that belief? Are
you willing to be in Jesus? That means are you willing for him to act all the time and for you to
be only what he wants you to be?
So really dear ones, “believe” in New Testament knows nothing of just the head. It knows only of
the head plus the will and that’s what makes a person a Christian. Our trouble of course, is today
we’ve shared a shallow interpretation of the meaning of “belief” so there are many people believe in
Jesus and they aren’t in Jesus at all. I mean, it’s the most hideous of Satan’s tricks because then
you start to try and tell them and then there’s just rebellion because they do not want to hear you
telling them they’re not Christians.
[Question inaudible 29:41]
I was going to do that now Ken. I don’t know that I’d go with it, but it’s just interesting in that
he has it and I think he does bring out – I think Berkhof is always – well, I shouldn’t say just
Berkhof when you get any good scholar who does not necessarily take the same viewpoint as yourself
— you are always most at one when you’re close to the biblical text and the exogenous of certain
words. I think this is excellent what he does and I’ve been trying to go with him a little on the
other, but maybe we could get to that.
I’d just like to do a couple of things. He then secondly goes with figurative expressions and they
are really good. Figurative expressions used to describe the activity of faith in the New Testament
and I’ll just do them briefly because it might be good if we could complete this study today:
figurative expressions for the activity of faith. “One, it is spoken of as looking to Jesus.”
Looking to Jesus. You get that in John 3:14-15 and it has the emphasis of a steadfast looking to
anyone, a deliberate fixing of the eye on the object. Deliberate — that’s the volitional element
and a certain satisfaction to which this concentration testifies. So, a deliberate fixing of the
eye of the mind on a certain object — a deliberate fixing and it includes the satisfaction that
comes from such a sight and such a view — satisfaction derived.
So, to the extent that it’s useful to say it, there you have the will involved and there you have
the emotion involved. The emphasis again is something rather more than belief. It is a looking to.
I would say it is like being in accordance with. A “looking to” implies a changing of the eyes.
I’d emphasize again to you brothers and sisters that you’ll get nowhere if you pray to God for rain,
then go out without an umbrella. You’ll get nowhere in believing in saying, “I have faith Lord. I
have faith,” and not providing for the consequences that will follow from that faith. So faith is
primarily, and this is a dangerous thing because of the mess the liberals make of it, but faith is
primarily action. Faith is saying, “I’ll believe you’ll move back the Red Sea, so I’m putting my
feet in it with a view to going right across.” Faith is action.
I would testify in my own life that I had a purely intellectual faith until I decided that faith
meant changing my life, changing definite things in my life in accordance to what God showed.
Looking to Jesus. It’s also hungering and thirsting. It’s also likened to hungering and thirsting,
and eating and the drinking. You get that emphasis in Matthew 5:6. And there you get that almost
kind of gut level experience, a feeling that something is wanting. We’re conscious of what we need
and we try to obtain it. So it’s that kind of inside thing. I don’t know how you can put it, but
it’s the consciousness of need, I suppose; consciousness of need.
No faith is real that is not enthusiastic and zealous — that kind of thing: a deep consciousness of
need and a strong endeavor to satisfy that need. And you don’t want to push it too far because it’s
not just emotion, but maybe you’d say you have the emotional element there, and then you have the
will element there. But it certainly brings something much stronger than just, “Will you believe
that this is right or that this is right?” “Well, I’ll believe that that is right.” Well that does
nothing. It’s just an intellectual believer of a person, but it’s something more gut level than
Then three, “coming to Christ and receiving him”. Coming to Christ and receiving him: there of
course, you get the whole personal element: that it is a personal encounter and relationship with
Christ. You get that in John 5:40, an action in which a man looks away from his self and his own
merits and looks to Jesus. So you cannot separate faith from its objection which is Jesus.
Ken, now I think that’s really what Berkhof, in fairness to him, tries to bring home. I’d just like
to share with you, loved ones, that Berkhof talks about four kinds of faith, and they may be more or
less true but I’ll give you it and then you can think about it. I’ll try to finish it quickly so
that you have a few moments for discussing. He talks about historical faith, acceptance of the
truths of scripture as history. I think it is fair that the word faith is used at times in that
sense. Believe that Jesus was raised from the dead according to the scriptures as history. So I
think he’s right there. John 3:2 has that kind of emphasis.
So the New Testament talks about a historical, you might call it a faith, but the scripture is true
as far as the facts of history are concerned. Then he talks about a miraculous faith and he would
talk about — Matthew 17:20 as being an example of that: a persuasion wrought in the mind that
certain miracles will be done. And that occurs in the New Testament in many places. It will be
done either on that person or by that person, and you get many references to it. Matthew is one
and Mark 16, 17, and 18 is another.
Now, I think it’s important to make that point and that’s why I kind of go with him in these types,
because I feel that it is possible to go to Kathryn Kulman’s meetings, and it is possible to be
healed and not to become a Christian. I think she would say that too. I think it is possible to –
I know one man in a congregation that I pastored in North Minneapolis about 10 years ago. He, dear
love him, was an incredible mixture. He was one of those spiritual people that came from a family
that had a great deal of contact with spiritism. I don’t know that I have as much wisdom, I think I
may have a little of it now, and I remember one of the daughters of one of the leaders in the
congregation got cancer. And this man had a vision one night that he should tell her to stand.
You’ll smile, but at that time everybody was so childish that we’d do anything, but she was to stand
at the east window of her house at two o’clock in the morning.
Without going on, she is absolutely healthy today. You know, she is well and I met her oh, about
six months ago, and she is fully well and the cancer had disappeared and had disappeared, because
the doctors had diagnosed it the previous week. But this dear brother himself was, among other
things, not willingly, because he was a theater manager who couldn’t get a job, but he was a manager
of the theater we used to meet in when it was a kind of a sex movie theater, and he himself had
difficulty controlling the old swearing.
So, there’s no question that there is a faith that can produce miracles that is not Christian faith
and that does not bring glory to Jesus, and you cannot call it Christian. And I really do think
that there’s a great deal of naivety in a lot of evangelicalism today because we tend to talk once a
person has seen a miracle, or performed a miracle, or had a miracle performed on them, we think
they’re Christian. I just don’t think that’s so. I think there are many people walking around who
are not Christian at all, and yet they have had either the faith to perform a miracle or had the
faith to receive a miracle, and so there is a miraculous faith.
Of course, there is a faith in faith. I remember my mom said, “Oh the aspirin will do you no good
unless you believe it will do you some good.” So there is undoubtedly a faith in faith which maybe
just verges on the psychic rather than the spiritual, but still it’s there. So, I think he’s right
Let me finish: temporal faith. This is I think, one of the things that Ken mentioned, a temporal
faith. Now, I’ll read this exactly as he states it so you know, “This is a persuasion of the truths
of religion which is accompanied with some promptings of the conscious and a stirring of the
affections that is not rooted in a regenerate heart.” The name is derived from Matthew 13:20-21.
Now maybe it’s fair to say that he would almost accept that definition, because he would tie it up
with this reference in Matthew 13:20. I think it’s the parable about the sower [inaudible 41:45]
and they had no root in themselves, you remember, but grew up and disappeared.
Now, I think he means that it is a faith that people seem to express, seem to believe in their
heads. They seem to have some dealing of God with their conscience and they seem to exercise at
least initially, an initial exercise of the will. Now of course, you know where he’s going with his
regenerate heart business because he’s saying that this is one of the people who aren’t elected, and
so it’s not rooted in a regenerate heart. He turns the whole thing backwards and he says, “God
looks down and has determined centuries before that this person is going to be regenerate so he
regenerates them, and that person exercises faith.” Well, we don’t believe that that’s where he
gets this — this isn’t rooted in a regenerate heart. He would say, “This is a faith that is
expressed by somebody who is not of the elect.”
Now, we would not say that. But is it not true, loved ones, that we have met people who seem to
come through to something real and yet it did not continue? And for the sake of those of us who
would believe in eternal security, they did not seem to come right through. Some of us might say,
“Well, they did come right through, but they didn’t carry on.” But I would say even – I don’t think
I would say that. I believe you can fall from grace, but I would believe there are many who seem to
come right through who haven’t really come right through. And I think whatever we believe in regard
to eternal security there, we’d all find ourselves on the one side of the fence that there are dear
ones who seem to exercise a faith that is in some way connected to a conscience. It involves some
initial exercise of the will but it is not a deep change wrought in the heart.
I frankly, would think that it is still a human work. I would say that, and I know that a Calvinist
would certainly say this, but I think I would say that it does not include a supernatural new birth.
It is not a supernatural new birth. It comes very close to it, it seems to have all the elements
of a supernatural new birth — but it isn’t.
I’ll just go quickly. The last one is – he defines as true saving faith. I would simply say that
that is where a person honestly confesses, agrees with God on everything, confesses, agrees with him
on everything that he wants him to do and truly repents. That means sets his will, stops doing the
thing that God has told him, truly receives Jesus and receives and commits his life to Jesus — and
as a result of that, God complete ,
The Doctrine of Salvation 8 - THEOLOGY
The Doctrine of Salvation 8
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
[Opening prayer] Dear Father, we thank you for light. We thank you, Father that you will give us
light in this hour. Father, we pray that you will show us more and more of your own sovereignty and
that you do things on your own by your own power apart from our help. Father, that’s why we’re here
because of your love that created us without our aid. Thank you, Lord, for the great reassurance
that brings us — that things happen that we ourselves have not caused to happen. Thank you,
Father, that it brings us more into the place that we were made to have as creatures who are
dependent on their Creator. Thank you for showing us our Father that worry and anxiety come from
our trying to be a creator instead of creature.
O Lord, we trust you that this hour we will sense more and more that you are the great mover and we
are the ones who are moved. You are the great initiator, and we are the ones who receive the
effects of your initiation. Father, we trust you that you will bring real peace to our hearts as we
enter into that truth more and more, and live by faith for your glory. Amen.
Dear ones, the subject that we deal with today is the subject of justification, and I think I could
explain it like this if I bring you back to the basic plan of salvation that God offered us the Holy
Spirit. We refused and developed a selfish will that of course made it impossible for him to
continue to offer the Holy Spirit to us, because we would have simply misused it. Then God saw our
predicament and then crucified that selfish will in Jesus.
Those are three steps, loved ones, in the way the predicament and the solution to it developed. Now
you remember that we said when we were talking about the doctrine of salvation, we were talking
about how we entered into this. Now when we talk about justification we’re saying that this is one
of the things that results from step three. And what we’re really trying to discover this afternoon
and next day is what exactly this justification is. Justification results from step three. What
we’re trying to find out today by studying the scriptural terms for justification is just what that
actually is, that justification.
Now I would like to – maybe it would make the study more relevant to you if I could outline to you
three alternatives. Maybe you could just take this down because I don’t think that I could write it
so that you could read it fast enough on that. The first alternative is that justification means
God’s treating us as right. God treats us as right. Now it always means that, but it’s the follow
up that is the alternative. Treating us as right. Justification always means that, treating us as
right, but treating us as right in being alive for 70 years to have the opportunity of receiving the
Now is that what justification means, that it’s as a result of him crucifying us in Jesus, he’s
treating us as right in being alive for 70 years to have the opportunity of receiving the Holy
Spirit? To elaborate on that you see the argument would be that God said, “The wages of sin is
death so you should all be flooded out with a flood, but instead of flooding you out again with a
flood as I did in Noah’s time, I’ve put you all in Jesus and crucified you there and I’m treating
you as right in being alive. As justified in being alive for 70 years to have the opportunity of
receiving the Holy Spirit.
Now that is one possible meaning of justification. Or, does it mean treating us as right, and I’ll
just use those ditto marks again, with him if we receive the Holy Spirit? In other words, God
crucified us in Jesus and crucified that old self, and if we respond to that by receiving the Holy
Spirit then we are justified, we are treated as right. Or, does it mean God treats us as right with
him, which would be the same as with him, because Jesus has died for our sins, and obeyed God
Now it seems to me at least those three possibilities are there. That you could say, “God said, ‘If
you receive the Holy Spirit you can live with me forever, if you don’t receive the Holy Spirit
you’ll die and I have to destroy you all.’” And then instead of destroying us he put a rainbow in
the sky, and he put us into Jesus and destroyed us there.
So we are justified, we experience justification in the sense that we are now justified in being
alive for 70 years to have the opportunity of receiving the Holy Spirit, and that’s what
justification means. It means a reprieve from the death penalty. Or, does it mean that God treats
us as right with him if we receive the Holy Spirit? That is he treats the selfish will as crucified
in Jesus, and says to you, “Now you have the power to receive the Holy Spirit if you want. If you
receive the Holy Spirit then in my eyes you’re justified, you’re made right with me.” Or, does he
mean that the death penalty has been paid for us by Jesus and therefore, he does not demand that we
pay the death penalty. But as well as that, perfect obedience has been offered for us by Jesus, and
so we are justified by that perfect obedience.
Now those are tricky questions loved ones. I don’t expect you to sort them all out but maybe you
could have some of those questions, even if all they do is create wonder in your mind or
bewilderment even, it’s better to go into the study of the scriptural terms with some thought in
your mind as to the various meanings that justification may have.
Now the scriptural terms, the Old Testament term for justification is the word “tsadoq.” Maybe it’s
better to just put it to spell it like that, ‘sadoq’ and it means to declare judicially. To declare
judicially that one’s state is in harmony with the law, or in harmony with the demands of the law.
That one’s state is in harmony with the demands of the law. Now that’s basically the meaning that
runs through the Hebrew and Greek words as well. But you get it in Exodus 23:7, to declare
judicially that one’s state is in harmony with the demands of law.
Louis Berkhof [Theologian, October 14 1873 – May 18 1957] is very adamant in pointing out that it
means to treat as righteous, not make righteous. So that you get fully the thrust of his
presentation, I would like to give his arguments. He says, “First of all, the fact that it is a
forensic term, that is, that it is a judicial thing.” What he’s trying to guard against is that
we’re not saying that God makes every sinner who believes in Jesus righteous at that moment, but
that he treats that sinner as righteous even though the sinner may not actually be righteous
himself, because he believes in Jesus, then God treats that sinner as righteous, rather than makes
Sanctification is “sanctus” in Latin, holy and “theo” to make holy. That’s to make holy where as he
says, “Justification is to treat us holy,” and he says, “The fact that it’s just a forensic judicial
term emphasizing a change in relationship, rather than a change in condition is proven, not
condition, is proven by the following facts.” And he says, “First of all the terms placed in
contrast to it are forensic, it is contrasted with condemnation.” And the word condemnation,
obviously, doesn’t mean to make bad, it means to treat as bad. Contrasted with the term
condemnation and you get that in Deuteronomy 25:1.
Secondly, from the passage, he has two other arguments but I’ll just give you the last one. From
the passage Proverbs 17:15, maybe it would give you a break just to look up that passage Proverbs
17:15. Proverbs 17:15 runs like this, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the
righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.”
Now if “justifies” there meant make righteous, then there wouldn’t be too much sense in it. Because
it would read, “He who makes righteous the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.” So Berkhof points
out the word justify, at least there, does not mean ‘make righteous’ but means ‘justify in the sense
of treat as righteous.’ So he who justifies cannot mean make righteous but must mean treat as
righteous. And that person who treats the wicked as if they’re righteous in that context is an
abomination to the Lord. So Berkhof pushes strongly, loved ones, that it means to treat as
righteous not to make righteous.
Now he does have a couple of interesting passages that you may want to look up yourself Isaiah
53:11, and Daniel 12:3, He says there it seems that the Bible is saying declare righteous but
really it means alter the condition so that the man can be considered righteous. So he still argues
that this is considered righteous, but you can look at it a little more. But I don’t think we would
disagree, I think that what he says is right that justification is to sink from sanctification.
Justification means you treat a man as righteous. He of course, would take the normal approach, you
treat them as righteous because Jesus has already died for them and so no man needs to die twice for
one sin so that man can be treated as righteous. So that’s his position.
Now maybe I could just do the New Testament terms, and then perhaps we could begin a discussion of
the doctrine. The verb is “dikaioo” and in fact, it really has two o’s, and it looks like “dikaioo”
and a long o at the end. “Dikaioo” and that means to declare a person to be just. You get that in
Matthew 12:37, and again he goes to great trouble to point out that it’s a legal term, to declare
forensically that the demands of the laws is a condition of life are fully satisfied with regard to
a person. He has a couple of other references, Acts 13:39, and Romans 5:1&9.
So he’s saying again you see, if God declares, if God justifies Joyce because she believes in Jesus,
it doesn’t mean God is making Joyce perfectly holy, and perfectly righteous, but that he’s treating
her as if she were perfectly righteous, because Jesus has died for her, and there’s a distinction
there. Then he has the adjective “dikaioos.” And for instance he points out that in classical
Greek “dikaioos” always means something about a relationship. And he uses the term “dikaioos” for
instance in classical Greek is applied to a wagon, a horse, or something else to indicate that it is
fit for its intended use. So, “dikaioos” is declaring that a person is right in the relationship
to the law.
Not that they are perfectly right you see, for instance the word “agathos” is the Greek word for
good, but it is not “agathos” it does not mean a person is good in themselves. It means they are
right in the relationship to the law. Primarily, of course, that they owe death to the law, and
Christ has paid that death for them, that would be the normal understanding.
Then thirdly, he deals with noun “dikaiosis” which is justification. “Dikaiosis which is the noun
justification. And he gives a couple of references, Romans 4:25, and 5:18. And I’ll just dictate
it several times so that you get it. It denotes the act, denotes the act of God’s declaring men
free. It denotes the act of God’s declaring men free from guilt, and acceptable to him.
The last point I’d like to make before opening into discussion, dear ones, is that he deals with the
English word, justification and points out that it does create a little problem in that it’s from
the Latin “iustitia” which is just or good and it really literally means to make just or to make
holy. But he points out that it does not in the scripture, New Testament, refer to a change in the
condition, not change in the condition of the man, but in the relationship. Or, we have sometimes
said it’s the position of the man in regard to God. Not a change of condition but a change of
position. Change of condition is brought about by sanctification, the change which God works in a
So he gives two – well, two possible meanings of the word justify. One it can mean as in James
2:21, it can mean to justify the righteous. That is just to say the righteous are worthy of
justification, and we justify them, to justify the righteous. Or it can mean and he says this is
the main term in the New Testament, to impute to us the righteousness of Christ.
Now maybe, dear ones, you have all born that well — you could just listen and I think I could state
that some of the issues that you need to begin to think about in connection with justification. It
seems to me that there’s no doubt in any of our minds that when God was faced with all of us
rebelling against him and going our own way, and refusing the Holy Spirit, he had to do something
that’s plain. He obviously signified the kind of reaction he had to take by the flood that he
brought in Noah’s day.
Now the big issue is what he actually did next, and what effect that had on our relationship with
him. Did he simply see millions of us with our own miserable little selfish wills that in turn made
it impossible for him to give us the Holy Spirit, or to risk giving us the Holy Spirit? What was
he after by destroying the thing inside us that made it impossible for him to give us the Holy
Spirit? Or, did he himself have to be satisfied in some way after having said that we ought to die?
Did he have to either kill us in Jesus, or kill Jesus in our place in order to justify himself
continuing to offer us the Holy Spirit? In which case does he feel that we are justified in his
eyes after he has carried out the death penalty on us, or are we only justified in his eyes after we
have done what he originally wanted us to do that is receive the Holy Spirit?
Now I think that Berkhof would go close at times with many Evangelicals to saying, “Whether you
receive the Holy Spirit or not in God’s eyes you’re justified because in his eyes Jesus has died in
your place and Jesus has obeyed the law in your place. Therefore God does not require that you obey
the law anymore really in order to be justified in his eyes. That really you are justified in his
eyes whether you end up obeying the law or not.”
I think that that’s close to the position that for instance Billy Graham would be in, when he would
say, “I do not obey the 10 Commandments now, and no man or women can keep the 10 Commandments.
That’s why Jesus has died for you.” I think Graham would speak for many Evangelicals when he would
say that. That Jesus died for you, he paid the death penalty for you, and he obeyed God perfectly
in his own lifetime. So, God regards his paying the death penalty and his perfect obedience to the
law as yours and God imputes that to you. That’s how God justifies you.
I would feel probably that God justifies us in Jesus in the sense that he has destroyed in Jesus our
selfish wills, and therefore God is justified in offering to us the Holy Spirit which would
otherwise be a mad thing to do because it would be tantamount to condemning his universe to
destruction by giving us such a powerful life force as the Holy Spirit. But God is justified in
giving to us the Holy Spirit. We ourselves by Jesus’ death are justified in continuing to be alive,
but we are finally only justified in God’s eyes when we receive the Holy Spirit.
Now if you pressed a man like Berkhof and said, “Do you really mean that you think we’re justified
in God’s eyes whether we receive the Holy Spirit or not?” I really think if he was pressed to the
wall, he would say, “Well, no, the proof that you are of the elect and the proof that you believe
that Jesus has died for you, is that you do receive the Holy Spirit.” But strictly speaking, loved
ones, I think he would say that the righteousness of Jesus is imputed to you independent of whether
you receive the Holy Spirit or not. Now it’s hard to say that, but I think he would press it that
far. Ok, could you press me a little please so that I could make the distinction at least clearer?
Could you mean that being justified is really being born again?
Being born of God, sorry, that’s what I mean. Yeah, let’s keep it clear of any belief of baptism of
the Holy Spirit, or fullness of the Holy Spirit. No I mean new birth, yeah, I mean regeneration.
Would it be right in saying there are several parts to the new birth?
Al, that’s good that you’re bringing this out. Loved ones, I’m not claiming for a moment that
Berkhof does not believe in regeneration but what I’m saying is that we would all split conversion
up into several parts. Regeneration, the new birth part, forgiveness of sins would be part of
conversion. Another part of conversion would be justification, another part of it would be
adoption. Now Billy Graham, Berkhof, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, all of them would believe that all
those things take place when a person is truly born of God. But I think many of them would differ
on how much justification includes. They would differ on how much it includes, and that’s where the
discussion would range.
Does justification – does God only treat us as just – does God treat us as just if we simply believe
that Jesus died for us? Or, does God treat us as just if we, in the light of that fact, know that
we can go before him and receive the Holy Spirit? And we receive the Holy Spirit. Or, does he
treat us as just only when we enter into the victorious life and begin to obey the law? I don’t
think that any of us would take that last one as an option. But the heart of it is what – in what
way does God feel we are justified? Does he feel Carol is just – in what sense is Carol justified
by believing that Jesus has died for her? What is she justified in thinking? Is she justified in
thinking that by believing that God will accept her when she comes to the end of this life? Or,
does she have to believe that and receive Jesus into her own life? Or, does she have to believe
that — receive Jesus into her own life, and then allow Jesus to live out through her life a Christ
like life? Now what justifies her in God’s eyes? I think that’s the issue really. Justification
is to treat us righteous.
There is quite a big difference in what Billy Graham, Calvin, Berkhof and Wesley believe about
justification. Can you clarify it?
Well I think – I’m sure that’s part of it Al, but I’m not – honestly I don’t have an angle here or
an axe to ground, I’m just – I know that they differ – I know that they differ on all that they
believe justification is. Maybe I could – maybe I could elaborate it a little more for instance if
I read old Berkhof further on. He says, “That justification has a negative element and a positive
element.” He says, “The negative element is the remission of sins on the ground of the atoning work
of Jesus Christ. God has destroyed Jesus, and so he doesn’t need to destroy us again. That we’re
justified in not being destroyed.” But he says also, “There’s a positive element which is based
more particularly on the act of obedience of Christ.”
Now that’s where you come into this bit, where some dear ones will say, “Well I remember a dear
brother saying to me – coming to me after service one Sunday morning and saying, ‘You know you were
talking about the need to live a Christ like life, but if I’m a Christian and believe that Jesus
died for me. It doesn’t matter what my life is like. Once I believe Jesus has died for me, God
justifies me. He imputes the righteousness of Christ to me, and it doesn’t matter what my life is
like. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a righteous life or not, God keeps imputing me to the
righteousness of Jesus.’” And I said to him, “But, do you mean that if you murdered somebody
tomorrow that you would still be regarded by God as just?’ And he says, “Yeah. Yeah, God would –
has imputed to me the righteousness of Jesus.”
Now Berkhof would be saying, “There’s also the positive element which is based more particularly on
the act of obedience of Christ. Christ has obeyed perfectly the law for me, so I don’t need to obey
it myself in order to be saved. I am saved by the perfect obedience of Christ.” That is okay until
you get a person going to the other extreme and saying, “I can disobey it as much as I want, and
still live perfect righteousness of Jesus that he’s imputed to me.”
Now then he would say, he would attack these old miserable Armenians that are his aunt Sally’s, he
would say, “According to them,” and this is where I would find myself a little more, “According to
them, justification leaves man without any claim on life eternal. It simply places him in the
position of Adam before the fall. I would tend to feel that, that Jesus dying for us lifts from us
the death penalty. No longer do we run the risk of God destroying us tomorrow, and we’re back in
the position of Adam before the fall and there’s the tree of life and now we have the opportunity to
choose it or not to choose it.
Whereas Berkhof would tend to say, “Jesus by his obedience has chosen the tree of life for us, and
whatever we do as long as we believe he has chosen it, we really don’t need to choose it ourselves.
We just need to believe in Jesus, and then that justifies us.” Now, that is okay when a dear one
has such a gratitude to Jesus and such a love for him because he has died for him, wants to live
like him, and therefore grabs him with all his heart. But it is a real problem for the person who
rather ruthlessly and coldly, and intellectually says, “I believe Jesus has died for me, and I
believe that he has obeyed God’s law perfectly for me, and therefore Jesus’ righteousness is imputed
to me. And I know I’m a rat, and I know I steal every day, and I know I hate people, but God has
imputed Jesus’ righteousness to me, even though I have none of my own.” And that’s the problem.
What I’m asking you to begin to think of is to what extent is there an imputation of righteousness
to us? See I think in some sense there is an imputation of righteousness, but to what extent?
Certainly we would all agree – well it does seem that there are verses that imply that Jesus’ death
is imputed to us. God regards Jesus’ death as our death. It seems that there is that, there’s the
imputation of Jesus’ death upon us, so that we don’t need to die that’s why we’re all alive today.
Otherwise God would see Joyce, would see one selfish act she does and just wipe her out with a local
flood. But instead of that he has put her into Jesus and destroyed her there. So obviously Jesus’
death is regarded as her death.
Now I’m pushing you all on his obedience, what about his obedience as Jesus’ obedience imputed to
So justification comes into fruition as we obey?
It seems to me it’s always on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness, but Jesus’ righteousness being
fulfilled in us. Not by our own effort, but by the Holy Spirit bringing Jesus’ righteousness into
our lives. For instance we did it – we came across it in Romans just recently. It must be
somewhere in Romans 8, and you remember I – yeah, I don’t know which verse it is.
Could it be Romans 8:4?
Romans 8:4 it’s that verse and then we can look at John, Romans 8:4, “In order that the just
requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according
to the Spirit.” And Don says, “So now yield.” It’s Romans 6:19, “I am speaking in human terms,
because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to
greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. When
you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.” And verse 22, “But now that you
have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and
its end, eternal life.”
So I have no question Al, that we can never be good enough to please God ourselves by our own power,
it is only by the righteousness of Jesus. But my question is, is it by the righteousness of Jesus
being imparted to us by the Holy Spirit as we yield to the Holy Spirit, or is it by the
righteousness of Jesus being imputed to us in some way by God in a purely judicial and forensic way?
I’m not saying that it’s impossible to believe that, I’m just saying that one of the great
weaknesses that it opens up, it’s one of Berkhof’s dear honest weakness, his famous weaknesses that
he admits are there. It opens up the possibility of “antinomianism” which is what that fellow was
falling into who came up to me after the service and said, “Yeah, even if I committed adultery,
Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to me, and I am going to be accepted by God, because he has imputed
Jesus’ righteousness to me even though I have no righteousness of my own.”
Now I would stand beside him and say, “That’s right I have no righteousness of my own either, but I
have the righteousness of Jesus being fulfilled in me through the Holy Spirit and through my
yielding to the Holy Spirit.”
What about the Bible verses that talk about forgiveness?
That’s right I think there’s no question about 1 John 1:9, if we confess our sins he was righteous
and just to forgive us our sins and he cleanses us from all unrighteousness, that he will forgive us
until 70 times seven. But it seemed to me in his attitude of course there was rather willfulness in
it, because he was kind of almost – he almost felt he was free to do this kind of thing, you know,
and that despite that the righteousness of Jesus was to be imputed to him. I think it would be a
very different situation where you fell into it and you didn’t want to fall into it, yeah.
Is there not a freedom or license we have after justification?
Yes, I think he should run up against that, but then I think that’s – it’s that kind of verse that
partly operates against this idea that there is such a thing as a legal imputation of Christ’s
righteousness simply because of a verse like that. That the implication is that – that God treats
as just those who do not use their license as a – or their new freedom as an excuse for license,
In a way, are we talking about is a relationship which respects the righteousness freely given but
only if the relationship is based on active belief?
Okay I’m with you, that maybe the fact that a person does take that kind of attitude, “Okay, I can
commit adultery tomorrow and it doesn’t matter, Jesus’ righteousness will be imputed to me,” that is
proof that he does not really believe that Jesus has died for him. My question is, would God leave
a loop hole like that? Now maybe he would. Would God leave a loop hole for him to do that kind of
thing you see? Would God set – would God mean by justify, “I impute to you the righteousness of
Jesus, irrespective of how you think about Jesus, irrespective of whether you really receive him
into yourself or not? You see, would he impute – would he allow that?
[Audio ends abruptly 45:16]
The Doctrine of Salvation 9 - THEOLOGY
The Doctrine of Salvation 9
Transcript of Class taught by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
[Prayer] Dear Father, we trust you now for Gus [student in class]. Trust you Lord Jesus to lay your
hand upon his dear spirit, and to whisper to him. “my peace I give unto you”. Lord Jesus, we trust
you that the peace that comes from you and to a spirit will come in to us whole [Inaudible
0:00:25.5] system and will bring peace and quiet there. Lord Jesus, we pray that you will let that
peace flow into his emotional life, and bring quietness so the [Inaudible 0:00:45.1] will subside.
Lord Jesus, we know that your peace is deeper than any other peace in the whole universe. We thank
you for as much of it as we have experienced in our own lives, and Lord, we pray for it now, in Gus’
life, and then we pray for more of it in our own lives. Lord Jesus, we know it is possible to have
such peace of yours in our hearts that we can come into a room and can sense “dis-peace” in
anybody’s spirit or in their body. And we can be used to bring peace there. Oh Lord, we ask you to
bring us into that peace, and bring us into that depth of our own heart. We ask you so that the
world will continually be reconciled to you, through us, for your glory. Amen.
Dear ones, if you look at the assignment sheet today you’ll see that we would be beginning the
subject of sanctification. What I would like to do for next day is to return the papers that I have
still from some of you on other subjects and return the papers that you’ve done on justification so
that we could maybe spend perhaps fifteen minutes next day just tying up justification. But I just
remind you at this point as we begin the subject of sanctification of the three points that I have
said are kind of the basis for the plan of salvation: how God offered the gift of the Holy Spirit to
us, how we refused, and in refusing, among other things, we developed that selfish will that began
to dominate us so that really, God could no longer offer the Holy Spirit to us with any safety —
and then how he found the solution for that in putting us all into Jesus on the cross, and
destroying us and our selfish will in Jesus.
And so the situation is really like Al coming to me and saying, “Would you lend me your gun?”, and
me — knowing that old Al had a temper that would just enable him to turn right around on anybody
and shoot them dead. And so I realize, look, I can’t afford to give him my gun until he gets rid of
that temper. And then I discover a pill that eliminates bad temper and I say to Al, “Okay I have
this pill and if you take this pill, it will take away your bad temper”. As a result of that, I’ll
be able to, I mean you just shouldn’t be doing it. I mean, isn’t he terrible? He is the most
indignant. He probably stood on you. You probably didn’t stand. You don’t stand on him. You’re
silly. I’m sorry. I bet you didn’t honestly…. Sure you’re a most indignant young man. When I saw
your face you had that look.
But, before you so rudely interrupted me, I was saying that it’s a bit like Al, my going to offer
him. He comes to me asking me for the loan of my gun and me saying to myself, no he has such a bad
temper. I can’t afford to lend him the gun. He’d just wreak havoc with it. And then my discovering
that there’s a pill for a bad temper, and I say to Al, “Now listen. I have a pill for bad temper.
If you come and take it, then I’ll give you my gun.” And it’s a bit like that with the Father. God
knew that our selfish will would utterly prevent us doing anything but misusing the power of the
Holy Spirit. And so, here is virtually God’s pill. God destroyed us and our selfish will in Jesus
on the cross and now God is saying to us, “Look, I have done this. I have destroyed your selfish
will in my son, Jesus. Now, if you will accept that by faith, I am willing to give you my Holy
Spirit.” And that’s really the kind of situation.
And so usually we talk about justification as the state or relationship that takes place when we
accept that God has destroyed us and our selfish will in Jesus. And we say, “I believe that Lord,
now I receive the Holy Spirit.” And this we believe is justification and the receiving of the Holy
Spirit produces the new birth or regeneration.
Now loved ones, here’s the point. God really did destroy our selfish wills in Jesus, and the working
out of that in us personally, is sanctification. I’m willing to go over that again slowly if you
want, but that’s the situation. You see that justification is us accepting that God has destroyed
us in our selfish will in Jesus, and therefore, is willing to give us the Holy Spirit. And so, we
receive the Holy Spirit. Then we experience the new birth. But then after receiving the Holy
Spirit, the Holy Spirit begins to show us that God wasn’t just pretending when he said he destroyed
your selfish will in Jesus on the cross. He really DID and he is able to make that real in your
life. And as you begin to enter into that, you experience sanctification.
So justification is God treating you as just giving you the Holy Spirit, as if you had no bad
temper, as if you were not self centered, as if you were perfectly trustworthy, as if you could
handle the power of the Holy Spirit, only wisdom and good sense, that’s treating you as just. But
sanctification is God making you just, or making you righteous, or making you holy, “sanctus” is the
word holy, but he does it loved ones, by applying what he has done in Jesus on the cross to your
life. And so sanctification is us personally experiencing increasingly the destruction of that
selfish will that took place on Calvary. Do you see the connection? It’s as if I would say to Al,
“Now I can only give you the gun if you are willing to take this pill to deal with your bad temper.”
And he takes the pill and I then say, “Okay, I’m willing to give you the gun.” And I give him the
gun, then he takes the pill and the pill begins to destroy his bad temper. That’s sanctification,
Sanctification is the actual putting into operation of what God did for us in Jesus, but he had to
do that for us in Jesus in order to be able to give us the Holy Spirit. Now once the Holy Spirit
comes in and begins to work in us, he works to make real in us what God did in Jesus for us. So
sanctification is in a sense the real fulfillment of what God did in Jesus on the cross, and of
course, that’s why I think it’s such a weak gospel to preach that God has achieved his purpose in
Jesus’ death on Calvary the moment you know your sins are forgiven. I think that’s only a part of
what God wished to achieve in Calvary. What God really wished to achieve on Calvary was the
destruction of that miserable, selfish will, so that you could not only receive the Holy Spirit, but
the Holy Spirit could work freely through you. And so, until you begin to enter in to the
experience of that in your life — really, what many of us are is, what you remember the little
diagram that Bill Bright did on the back of the campus crusade booklets — many of us are in that
position: with a little chair, you remember, and I forget how he does himself but, it’s SELF on the
throne, and the cross I think he designates as Jesus’ spirit. Jesus’ spirit is here, at the side of
lives so we’ve received the spirit but SELF is on the throne of our lives. And so the selfish will
is still in control. The Holy Spirit is in there but is unable to be used to spread Jesus’ life
throughout the world. Then you remember, Bill Bright does this other little diagram where in
sanctification of course, the Spirit of Jesus takes its place on the thrown of our lives and the
self takes its place on the periphery of our lives and really experiences that crucifixion.
Loved ones, sanctification broadly speaking then is the actual making real in our lives of what God
did for us on the cross. Justification is the being out in a relationship as if we are just,
because we have believed that God has destroyed us in Jesus, and we have received his Holy Spirit.
Sanctification is the result of all that in our lives. Now would anyone like to press me on that
because I’m game to try to make it clear. [Inaudible 0:03:32.6]
Seems to me the best is better to stick with the scriptural words, Alan. That’s why I keep using
those words in Romans 6:6, “We know that our old self was crucified with him”, and it doesn’t say
self in the sense of our metaphysical self, or our personality or all that kind of thing, but it
says, “We know that our old self was crucified with him”, and I think the Greek word is our old man,
the person we used to be, the old self-dominated person that we used to be that was crucified with
Now it seems to me it’s better to say our “selfish will” in the sense of our self-dominated
personality was crucified with Christ. I think sanctification is in two steps. I think the first
step is the realization that our selfish will was crucified with Christ, and a willingness to let
that selfish will go. In other words, I think the first step is, is realization of the principle of
crucifixion with Christ. That realization I think can only come truly by revelation if you are
really willing for that to take place in your own real life. So a realization of the principle of
crucifixion, I think, that’s a first step. That is what for me would have been a crisis experience.
And then, seems to me, there’s the second progressive step. I’m sorry loved ones I’ll just say for
me that it was a crisis experience. I don’t know that it’s crisis for everyone, but then there’s
the second step, the progressive experience of sanctification which is the extension of that death
and of course, of the consequent life, a sorry extension of death and of life through the rest of
our personalities, which is the second fulfillment, you see. It’s really the self-dominated
But it seems to me that you have to enter into the principle first, and that’s a matter of the will.
Are you willing to enter in that principle? That second step is the extension of that death and of
life throughout our personalities, and that involves our minds and our emotions particularly, but as
well our bodies, because some of us have sleepy, weary bodies that need to experience death and the
life of Jesus. Some of us have minds that are continually going in all directions. We cannot get
them to settle. We’re filled with wondering thoughts and we need to die to our right to have
wondering thoughts and to allow the life of Jesus’ mind to go through us. Some of us are very
emotional people, and therefore, to that extent at times very incapable of doing what Jesus wants us
to do. We need to allow our real death to work through our own natural emotions and allow the
emotions of Jesus to take over. Now I think that’s what we talk about as the progressive part of
This is what we would talk of if it helped you. Those of you know the seminars on Sunday mornings,
we would talk about the baptism of the Holy Spirit in connection with the crisis experience. We
would talk about walking in the Spirit in connection with the progressive experience.
[Inaudible 0:07:51.8] … okay, that’s right, I agree. I’ll just repeat that into the microphone
then. Al is saying that, shouldn’t it be a spontaneous experience? He’s referring to me who points
out that you shouldn’t just will against some sin like anger because you just willing against the
law of sin that is working in you, and you cannot overcome the law of sin. The only thing that will
overcome the law of sin is the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. And so why is it a
struggle if there should be a spontaneous experience? I think many people read me — and I think
maybe they aren’t at that position in their own lives or they don’t read him listening for, or
looking for their revelation of the Holy Spirit, and so they get into this thing, where it should
be a spontaneous thing.
So I’m just going to let Jesus’ life come through me, and they don’t really know how to do it, or
want to do it or what to do. And I think that is the problem, Al, and the reason for the struggle
is we do not know what in us is keeping Jesus’ life from flowing through us freely. In other words,
I think [Watchman] Nee uses the example of the law of gravity: a handkerchief will always fall to
the ground — that’s a law of gravity. Unless you bring another law of motion or a force into
effect, and you lift it up with your hand — and I think the law of the spirit of life in Christ
Jesus is not able to work in us because we are not fully aware in what way we are still cooperating
with the law of sin and death.
That’s why I think the first thing with a problem like, say anger, or selfishness — the first job
we have is seeking the Holy Spirit’s revelation, really counseling with them over as long as we need
to — a day, a month, a year, but preferably shorter than that — but counseling with them and
saying, “Holy Spirit, why do I get angry?” Or, “Why do I criticize other people?” And we have to
find out where we are still living in sin without really knowing it, where we have an attitude of
sin in regard to criticism without really knowing it. And gradually, if we seek the Holy Spirit, he
will show us that perhaps we criticize because we are still very, very uncertain of our own status
in this particular group that we belong to. We are still very uncertain of our status. We really
still don’t feel if we’ve really been accepted by them or if some of them are still rejecting us.
We use criticism to try to persuade ourselves that they ought to certainly accept us because we look
at the things we can see are wrong in some of them that they can’t see.
And so, I’m not saying that that will apply to all of us here but, the Holy Spirit will show us in
some way how we are making it impossible for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus to free
us from this criticism — because the criticism in its turn depends on the mountain of an attitude
of sin that is preventing God doing anything with that. And then, the Holy Spirit brings us around
to the place, “Would you be prepared to be rejected by this group? Would you be prepared to face
the fact that maybe you are the poorest person in this group? That maybe you are the most
incompetent person? That maybe you are the person that are worth least respect in this group?
Would you be prepared to join Jesus in the cross and be despised by this group as he was?”
And then it seems to me as you enter into that kind of revelation and as you submit your will in the
right way, whatever the particular way is that the Holy Spirit will show you, then that does take
place. The law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus rises. I found that in my own life the anger
was gone, the selfishness was gone. Well, I think I’ve shared often the things that God dealt with
me in my life — but one of the rights that I felt I had was to avoid awkward situations, or at
least to put them off to a more convenient time. Well I think I mentioned this to some of you
before, but one of the most exhausting, and trying, and wearisome tasks I think that a pastor faces
is marital difficulties that have gone the length of divorce and are just on the verge of divorce.
It is just an agonizing business trying to drag a marriage back from the edge of divorce. Even
marital difficulties well before divorce at least both partners are still on speaking terms and they
have not really let the hostility overcome the peace completely, but when it comes to divorce,
you’re involved with dragging people back from the edge of a cliff, and then trying to build a
After I entered into that — I mean I know it sounds corny to say but I know the morning I entered
into that. The Holy Spirit gave me just a quiet sense that he had filled me, and then the Holy
Spirit said to me, “Phone that lady”. Now this was a lady that was just on the edge of divorce, and
normally, whenever the thought came to me, “You should go and call that lady”, I would normally say,
“Well that’s stupid Holy Spirit. I mean I don’t just have to lift the phone receiver just because
you tell me to lift the phone receiver. I’m not dumb, you know. I can think about the thing for
awhile.” And I would think about it for awhile and then I would say, “Well anyway, that was
probably just a silly thought to lift the receiver that moment and I’ll wait till I see her at
church. In fact, maybe she’ll phone me just at the right moment.” and I will just keep putting the
And the amazing thing was the Holy Spirit said, “Phone that lady. Just phone her immediately and
walk right into the mess.” And for me there were other things: the anger, and the selfishness,
and the envy, and the selfish ambition — you know a lot that stuff. It was just gone. But that
was for me. It involved many things, but it was a spontaneous freeing from those things that I had
never experienced before.
So I can testify to the fact that it is a spontaneous freeing. But the mistake I think many of us
make is we think that, “This law of this spirit of life in Christ Jesus will lift the law of sin and
death away from me, whether I am willing to be freed from the law of sin and death or not.” That’s
not true. You have to be willing to be freed from the law of sin and death, and to be freed from
the law of sin you have to know where that law of sin is operating in you.
It might help, Don, or some of the others who haven’t read that chapter: if Kathy says something
and that’s critical of me, and I react and just strike out with sarcasm against her, then that’s
just one sin. But if that continually happens, then that’s a law of sin That’s taking scientific
definition of a law as a series of events that keep happening the same way all the time. Well then,
that’s a law of sin that’s working within me. And what can free you from that law? You must admit
it’s almost as if some internal mechanism in you is set up to react that way. That’s almost what
you find. You keep reacting that way. You can’t control it. You make desperate attempts with your
will to control it, but it keeps on operating.
Now, I think what the Holy Spirit has to do is show us the inner mechanism there, and ask us, “Are
you willing to be freed from that inner mechanism?” Many of us say, “Oh yes we are, but we don’t
know what it is.” So if you had said to me, “Are you willing to be freed from bad temper?” I
would have said, “Yea, yea, yea.” And if you would have pressed me and said, “Are you willing to be
freed from the inner mechanism?” I’d say, “Yea, yea.” But I didn’t know anything about what that
inner mechanism was until the Holy Spirit showed me what the inner mechanism was. It was simply
this, which I’ve shared with you before, that I use bad temper as a last resort to prevent a thing
getting out of my control. If a situation seemed to be getting out of my control I would let the
old temper rip. I knew that would kind of make other people at least frightened and then maybe the
thing would come back under my control.
And so the little clicking trigger or the first cog in that inner mechanism was that I wanted to
have control of every situation and I did not want any situation to be outside my control. I was a
school teacher at that time and that seemed particularly reasonable to me: that no situation should
be outside my control. What I didn’t see was that there was another possibility that you could
trust Jesus to control the situation, but I felt no. I had to have control of it myself. And so
for me, that was part of what I had to be willing. So that’s what I would say to get that. It
isn’t just a matter of easy believism. It isn’t just a matter of I believe that Jesus life will
spontaneously come through me and overcome my bad temper. It is rather, “Am I willing to be freed
from this law of sin?”
[Inaudible 0:08:34.9], that’s good. I don’t claim to know [Watchman Nee] through and through, but I
know “The Normal Christian Life” quite well, and I know “The Spiritual Man” which is the only book
he wrote thoroughly. I think I could fend to know it thoroughly and I think, Al. that “The Normal
Christian Life” is still a series of talks that he gave on different occasions and different
situations that people who have taken short hand and notes, then put together in the book of “The
Normal Christian Life”. Though it’s good I don’t think for instance that it’s an absolutely
full-proof presentation that he gives in that chapter that you’re talking about.
I think at times he does leave it open for some uncertainty. For instance, I have no doubt that he
believes that revelation — that’s what I’m talking about — revelation where I’m saying the Holy
Spirit has to show you. But I really do believe that he means by revelation, not just a quick
spontaneous flash, but something that comes as a result of our hungering and thirsting to know,
“Lord, show me why I keep losing my temper.” So I do think that that’s right when he says that. I
agree with you, I’m not wild about his example of, have you ever found yourself in a [Inaudible
0:01:09.5]. But I think that he’s trying to say the same things and all that. I think he just mixes
the thing up a little in that one talk that he obviously gave to some group of people where maybe he
had dealt with some of the other issues immediately before, and they didn’t take short hand notes of
But I would think that this in fact, I would one of my great confirmations would have been to find
that Nee seems to have come into some experiences as I had come into. It seemed to make sense the
things he said. [Inaudible 0:01:49.0]? Yes, it seems to me Kathy while we are seeking to come free
of the whole thing, we have to walk in the truth of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is
faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And the
truth that Jesus taught when he said to Peter, “You will forgive until seventy times seven”,
implying that his father would forgive us until seven million times seven. So we have to walk in
the truth of confession and repentance of sin — repeatedly.
Even if we’re still walking in bad temper when we die, we still have to walk in the truth of
confession and repentance. But I think what we’re seeing here is that there is a deeper deliverance
that will enable you to walk free from that bad temper and enable you to walk at least free from
this never ending confessing and repenting of the same sin.
But until we enter into that deliverance, I think you have to walk in the assurance that God will
forgive you as often as you repent. [Inaudible 0:03:11.6] Ah, that’s right. And that I was going to
say another thing to Al in connection with the phrase that he used because Charles Finney is very
good — maybe you’d remember that what you just said. But he’s very good where he says, “Many
people say, ‘Oh but I want to be free of this bad temper. I want to be free.’ And you say to them,
‘Are you willing to be free?’ And they say, ‘Yea, I’m really willing to be free. I’m really
willing.’” And Finney points out, there are two ways in which you can mean that. You can mean I’m
willing in the sense that I won’t. I desire to be — and everybody desires to be free from their
bad temper. But do you want it in the sense that you’re willing to face the consequences of being
freed from it? So many people say, “I want it,” but some of them mean I desire it very much, but I
am not willing to face the consequences. But the only kind of wanting that will enable God to give
you the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is, “I am willing to face the consequences of that” — which
may mean, “I’m willing to be despised in this group. I’m willing to be looked down upon. I’m willing
for things to be outside my control.” It’s that kind of thing.
But I’m sorry, Kathy, you said, could you just mention the phrase again and bring it back to my
mind? [Inaudible 0:04:46.1]. That’s right, where some say, “Yes”, because some people say that the
Holy Spirit will point out or somebody else will point out their anger and they’ll say, “Oh yea,
well I’ll wait for revelation about that.”
I mean it sounds wild but even if with the kind of stuff that I preach on Sunday nights, and Sunday
mornings, a dear brother came up to me — and I really think it’s almost Satan to seize a person at
that moment because he said to me something about a personal sin he had. And I said, “Well, boy.
You’d better get to the cross from the Holy Spirit just why you’re doing that. And he said, “Well,
I mean I can’t do that. I have to wait for revelation. Can you give me revelation?”
Meanwhile, I continue to lose my temper until God gives — well it seems to me — God only gives the
revelation to those who hunger and thirst after righteous with all their hearts. He’ll only give it
to people who cannot do without it. And [Inaudible 0:05:49.4] is so good. You know he says God is
a hidden God and will reveal himself only to those who seek him with all their hearts.
It seems to me revelation only comes when you see God. I remember yearning until I thought I’d go
insane, yearning to get revelation about why I was so proud and why I was so proud I tell you. And
I knew that technically it was self. I knew it was self that made me so proud. But I could not see
the hatefulness of that self, standing up on its own two little legs and being proud. And it is
like a miracle when I look back. I do know the change that comes about in your attitude, and now,
even as I say that, I’m not saying that Satan isn’t able to drag you back into it.
But it is an incredible change that comes into your attitude when the Holy Spirit shows you the
exceeding sinfulness of being proud, or the exceeding sinfulness of thinking your anything. But it
seems that that’s what’s needed, Mary. [Inaudible 0:07:01.5] It seems to me that you can’t Mary,
because one of the things that happens is when self is on the throne back there when you’re a carnal
Christian is you cannot get clear light on things because self is on the throne. The Holy Spirit is
just periphery of your life you’re not able to get clear light on things.
You get light from the Holy Spirit, “Look, here’s a sin in your life but you’re not able to do
anything about it. You strive against it and fight against it and maybe overcome it for awhile but
you fall back into it.” So you might get light about individual sins but you’re not able to get
light about the root of sin, about the heart of sin, and I think you only get that as you’re
sticking to come into this crisis experience where you’re delivered from self, and where the Holy
Spirit goes on the cross. And then after that moment, the Holy Spirit is able to give you light in
this and about other things.
But for instance, these areas here refer to personality traits that are inexpedient. I remember the
Holy Spirit showing me after I entered into some experience of crucifixion, “You had a great deal of
trust in your intellect in the old days, and a great deal of pride in your intellect. Do you know
that at times when people ask you questions you give them an unnecessary amount of intellectual
information? If the Holy Spirit said that before I probably have said to him, “Oh well, I have a
lot of other messes in my life that are far worse than that. I’ll get to that eventually.” Or I
might not have even seen the point he was making, so I would think that a person has not even the
sensitivity to see these personality traits unless they come into this experience of the Holy Spirit
taking his throne place in your life. Seems to me he’s the one gives you the light.
[Inaudible 0:09:37.3] No, it seems to me back here in the new birth, Mary, I don’t know that there’s
any reason why he can’t. Maybe, I suspect that what happens to most of us is, he does really jump
into that throne room position, But about two or three weeks after we have been walking with Jesus,
we get cocky and get a little uppity, or we look at other people and we see the way they’re being
able to do what they want and follow Jesus at the same time. And I think that’s when we slide him
off into the peripheral position, and slide self back on the throne.
So it might well be that for the first two or three weeks. The Baptist Church says, “At the most
the first two years”, but at least for a while the Holy Spirit might be on the throne. For
instance, I’ll point out to you what most of experience when we first receive Jesus into our lives:
we experience a readiness to do anything for it. Getting up for prayer was no problem, witnessing –
we’d do anything for him. But gradually we tried to accommodate him to our pattern of life, and we
tried to get back to normal, and we kind of slit him off.
But really Mary, now I don’t see why a person couldn’t simply walk on after the new birth and walk
on into this. But it seems that few of us seem to do it. I remember John Wesley saying there’s no
reason why that can’t happen, but in the 572 people he interviewed carefully in the English revival,
he didn’t find one. He found one girl who had entered in 12 hours after or something like that.
But, so, [Inaudible 0:01:31.8] Yes, that’s right. It seems to me very important to see that there
is nothing that God will not forgive us except blasphemy. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the
technical meaning of blasphemy — is speaking against the Holy Spirit by saying, “You are not the
Holy Spirit”, in other words, refusing to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, hearing the voice
of the Holy Spirit convicting us and saying, “You are not the Holy Spirit.” In other words, giving
up any distinction between right and wrong, and that’s the only unforgivable sin. Frankly, I think
whether it is right when he says, “If anybody is worried about whether they have committed the
unforgivable sin or not, then they can be sure they haven’t committed the unforgivable sin because
if they had, they wouldn’t even worry about the possibility. They would be so sure that they were
God will forgive until seventy times seven, and I think that means until seven million times seven.
But what he does want us to see is that there’s an alternative to struggling, struggling hopelessly
against individual sins. That’s like trying to break up an ice berg just by breaking up the stuff
on the surface of the water when there are nine tenths of it underneath. It’s the nine tenths of
the stuff that has to be dealt with which is the self.
Now of course, what God wants among us is such a free fellowship of people who love him and who want
to be like him. Kathy can be in a position where she’s still fighting the old temper. Marianne can
be in a position where she has come into deliverance from the old self. Don can be in the position
where he’s been delivered from the old self and the Holy Spirit is beginning to deal with him about
just personality traits that are inexpedient. Joyce can be just born of God. And yet we can all be
walking along together in joy and fellowship, and obeying God and not pointing at one person saying,
“You’re not a Christian because God isn’t dealing with you about this.” — but each one dealing with
the Holy Spirit at their particular level and yet looking upon each other as equals before God
because we are if we’re walking in the light.
If Joyce has just become a Christian last week, and is walking in all the light that she’s had, and
has never even thought about bad temper and anger yet and maybe there in her life — but if she’s
walking in all the light that she has, she is in as a beautiful position as Brian, who has maybe
been filled with the Holy Spirit and is walking in the upper reaches of intercessory prayer and all
the rest of it. It seems to me that the important thing is, are you walking up to the level of
liability God has given you?
[Inaudible 0:04:42.2] Well push him because I tried to find some word that would indicate what the
bible means when it talks about the soul, and the distinction between soul and spirit, and what the
bible talks about when it deals with “breaking of the outer man”. It seemed to me if you talked
about, after being filled with the Holy Spirit, after being crucified with Christ, you need to have
your outer man broken.
The Doctrine of Salvation 10 - THEOLOGY
The Doctrine of Salvation 10(cid:9)
Transcript of Class by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Shall we pray, dear ones? Dear Father, we thank you for the beautiful day, and we thank you for
light, and sun, and heat. Thank you Father, that you’ve provided all the conditions for physical
growth around us, and so we can be assured that you have provided all the conditions for spiritual
growth. Therefore Father, we would thank you for things like the trials in our lives, and the
burdens, and the difficulties. And we would thank you for the times you take us by green pastures
and still waters, the times that are happy and joyful. And Father, we thank you that you have
planted around us everything we need to conform us to the image of Jesus our Savior. So we thank
you Lord, that we have everything here for our physical and spiritual growth and all you ask us to
do is avail ourselves of all of them — so, we would do that.
We thank you for this opportunity to breathe in your Spirit this afternoon. Thank you Holy Spirit,
that we can breathe you in by faith this afternoon. We can receive you as life that we cannot see
or cannot touch, or smell, and yet believe that you’re coming into us and fillings us even more as
we’re talking. And Holy Spirit, that you are bringing to us the life of Jesus miraculously. And
oh, we thank you for that. Thank you that as we walk in faith, and breathe you in, in prayer so we
begin to grow stronger ourselves. And then we thank you for that good meat that we can chew on that
we find in your word, and we thank you for good food our Father. We thank you that as we breathe in
your Spirit, and as we eat the food in your word, we ourselves grow up into the fullness of the
stature of Jesus. So we trust you our Father, for a good half hour together this afternoon. Thank
you for all the times we’ve had together. Thank you Lord, for the way you’ve made things more vivid
in our own understandings. We trust you now by your Holy Spirit, to make you more vivid in our
lives to others. We ask this for your sake. Amen.
Dear ones, if you look at the assignment sheet, you’ll see that we’re on the subject of the
perseverance of the saints. And because it is, it obviously will provide some interesting
discussion. I think that there might be advantages in staying with our own textbook here that we
all have — but it’s the perseverance of the saints. I can, if you like, read Berhkof’s statement
of it in his larger book – since it does point out that it’s the very thing that I think Don or we
brought up one time you know, eternal security. And that’s really what you’re talking about. Now
I’ll try to read it slowly in Berkhof’s larger book, but it is on page 145 in the shorter text book.
Then we can get down to going back and forward on it in discussion.
He says, “The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is to the effect that they whom God has
generated and effectually called to a state of grace, can neither totally nor finally fall away from
that state, but shall certainly persevere there into the end, and be eternally saved.” So I think
maybe you ought to get clear in your mind that the perseverance of the saints as stated by a
Calvinist like Berkhof means that those who have been regenerated truly will continue in that
regenerated life until they meet Jesus face-to-face. Even if they appear to fall into sin, they may
fall into sin even temporarily, but they will never be lost, they will always come back, you see, to
Jesus. And those of course, who have fallen away would be regarded as not truly regenerated people.
I think it’s very important as I begin this, since I am the one that’s teaching the class and
therefore has a certain initiative in the thing, I think it’s very important for us to see that
obviously, this is a doctrine where there are great truths on either side. It seems to me to
behoove us this afternoon not to say, “Oh, now Don, you’re wrong for believing eternal security,”
or, “You’re wrong, Kathy, for believing and I’m right for believing,” or vice versa — but really,
to find out what truths underneath those crude doctrines that we have, what truths God is trying to
get over to us. But, I just want to give completely the statement so that we understand it from
I won’t read what he says about Augustine because I don’t think it’s too helpful. It just confuses
a little. But let me go on to, “The church of Rome with its semi pelagianism,” and you remember that
was the idea that Pelagius taught that you could save yourself by your own boot straps, but in
reality what was also emphasized by the people who were called pelagians or semi pelagians was the
right of a man to use his free will to reject God. And that would be the big difference, it seems
to me, between those who emphasize a Calvinist approach and those who would emphasize and Arminian
approach. One would emphasize strongly the sovereignty of God. The other would emphasize strongly
the free will of man.
Now note loved ones, I point it out – I say it that way, I’m not saying the Calvinist is wrong for
emphasizing the sovereignty of God. I just say that down through theology that has been the
distinction. The Calvinist has emphasized the sovereignty of God. The Arminians has emphasized the
free will of man. Now then, you have got Calvinists that are extreme and make the sovereignty of
God the only thing that matters. Similarly, you get Arminians that emphasize that free will is the
only thing that matters. What we have to find is the midway stage. “But the Church of Rome with
its semi pelagianism, including the doctrine of free will denied the doctrine of the perseverance of
the saints, and made their perseverance depending on the uncertain obedience of man.”
Now you can see that “uncertain” is an emotive word, but it’s the word that he uses, “Depending on
the uncertain obedience of man. The reformers restored this doctrine to its rightful place. The
Lutheran Church however, makes it uncertain again by making it contingent on man’s continued
activity of faith, and by assuming that true believers can fall completely from grace. It is only
in the Calvinistic churches that the doctrine is maintained in a form in which it affords absolute
assurance.” So I’ll just point out some of the important things that he is saying there. Berkhof
is always afraid of any that will over stress man’s free will, or will over emphasize the fact that
God’s activity is conditional upon man’s obedience. He will often emphasize that man has to
cooperate in what God has done, but that’s about as far as he will go in this business of allowing
that man’s activity can affect what God wishes to do.
That’s of course what he’s guarding against. What he’s guarding is the sovereignty of God. He’s
saying, “If one little man can look up to God and say, ‘I am not going to do that, even if you want
me to.’” Then Berkhof will always say, “That is beginning to diminish the sovereignty of God”.
Whereas I suppose I’m a kind of Wesleyan Arminian, but whatever I am, from my angle I would tend to
say yes, a puny little man can prevent God having his will in the world.
Now that’s something of the discussion. I’ll just quote Berkhof, even though you know that he’s a
wee bit unfair I think to the people on the opposite side at times, as I’m sure I would be to him.
“The Arminians rejected this view and made the perseverance of believers dependent on their will to
believe and on their good works.” Now of course, I would fall out with him over good works, but
certainly I’d agree they would make the perseverance of believer’s dependent on their will to
believe. Arminius himself avoided that extreme but his followers did not hesitate to maintain their
synergistic position with all his consequences. Synergistic is two things working together, man’s
free will and God’s will.
So that’s the kind of statement, loved ones, and I think that kind of states it. Now if you’d like,
go to page 145 you could see it in his actual wording there — it’s about maybe at the bottom of
that space where “perseverance of saints” is. It’s about seven lines down from the beginning of the
paragraph. “Perseverance may be defined,” and then you see the italics, “As that continuous
operation of the Holy Spirit and the believer by which the work of divine grace that has begun in
the heart is continued and brought to completion.” So it’s the operation of the Holy Spirit, you
see. We often look as perseverance of the saints, “Oh well, don’t you mean the saints are just
going to persevere and they have to persevere otherwise they won’t be saved?” No, as defined by a
Calvinist, perseverance of the saints means the perseverance of the Holy Spirit in the person in
whom he’s brought about regeneration.
“This doctrine is clearly taught in scripture.” Then he gives the references. “And it is only when
we believe in this perseverance of God that we can, in this life, attain to the assurance of
salvation,” gives the references. “Outside of reformed circles, this doctrine finds no favor. It
is said to be contradicted by scripture which warns against apostasy,” — those references.
“Exhorts believers to continue in the way of salvation,” — those references. Why warn them if
they’re not going to fall away anyway? “And even records cases of apostasy,” and then those
Now his explanation, “Such warnings and exhortations would seem to assume the possibility of falling
way and such cases would seem to prove it completely. But as a matter of fact,” — and this is I
think the position that maybe those of us would hold to eternal security would have to stand on in
regard to these verses — “But as a matter of fact, the warnings and exhortations prove only that
God works mediately and wants man to cooperate in the work of perseverance.”
Now to help you a little so that you won’t just say, “Oh he’s just using words there, ‘by working
mediately’ he means that the Holy Spirit is only able to persevere in the saints as long as the
preachers give the warnings that are given in scripture. So you see, he kind of says, much as you
remember he would say -– we would say to him, “Well listen, if God has set apart certain people to
be saved, and certain people to be lost, why bother preaching? Aren’t they going to come anyway?”
Well he would say, “Yes, but God has determined that this will come about anyway, but it will come
about through the preachers preaching.” So he would say, strictly speaking, there’s no need for the
preachers to preach. The people would come anyway but preaching is part of God’s predestined plan
Now this is what he’d say in regard to the warnings where I would come to Don and say, “Now why
these warnings in scripture about falling away, if there’s no chance to fall away?” Well, I don’t
know how Don would answer but here’s Berkhof answering one particular way. He would say, “Well they
wouldn’t fall away anyway, but God has ordained that people will give these warnings. This is part
of God’s plan, and he works mediately. He works through these warnings to ensure that the Christian
will never fall away.”
So it’s important for us to see it. I feel especially I need to sell the thing because obviously
some of us do accept eternal security here and I find myself not doing it, so I want to be fair and
sell the thing as strongly as I can. I think that that’s what he would say. The warnings are there
because it’s through those warnings that God ensures that nobody does fall away. Whereas, I will
come around from my angle and I’d say, “Oh no, now well, wait a minute. Why warn if there’s no
chance of falling away?” Well he will say, “Oh well there is no chance of falling away — but
there’s no chance of falling away because of these warnings.” I think that’s what he’d say. So God
works mediately and wants man to cooperate in the work of perseverance. There is no proof that the
Apostates mentioned were ill believers.
Now loved ones, I think I should kind of stop talking and open it out a little, and maybe what we
need to do is look at some of the verses. I can I think, quote them pretty easily because in his
full text he gives the words. Let me quote some to you and then we can look them up individually if
we need to. Here are some of the verses that would argue for eternal security or the perseverance
of the saints. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them
eternal life, and they shall never parish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father,
who hath given them unto me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the
Father’s hand.” [John 10:27-28] Now that’s one of the verses.
Now I can come back on it. I don’t know whether this is an answer to that verse. I frankly, think
we’re faced with something that’s almost as deep as predestination. There’s some truth in it and
there’s something that’s difficult. But I think Jesus wants to get something through to us
personally in this. I of course, would tend to answer, “That’s right. No one will snatch them out
of God’s hand. Satan cannot as long as they’re willing to stay in God’s hand. But, I mean anybody
can come back at me and say, “Oh my brother, your reading in there. It doesn’t say, ‘As long as
they’re willing to stay in my hand.’”
But, alright. Let me go through some of the other verses because some of them I think are strong.
Romans 11:29, “For the gifts and the call of God are not repented of.” And so one who believes in
the perseverance of the saints would say, “Now there, if God gives the gift of eternal life to
someone, God cannot repent of that. He cannot change his mind about that. He cannot withdrawal
that.” Now I don’t think it’s fair of me to answer each one because that’s stacking the deck, so
I’m not going to. I just want to quote these verses and then throw it open to you.
And here’s Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing that he who began a good work in you
will perfect it onto the day of Jesus Christ.” I should put the references down so that you can get
them, though I think he has them, loved ones. If you look at 145 and you see under the italics,
“This doctrine is clearly taught in scripture.” Now the first reference it gives is John 10:28
there and that’s, “No one shall snatch them out of my hand.” Romans 11:29, “The gifts and the
calling of God are not repented of.” Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he
who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” So there is, you see,
being confident that if he’s begun it he’ll perfect it.
2 Thessalonians 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful who shall establish you and guard you from evil one.”
You see, God will guard you, will keep you from the evil one. 2 Timothy 1:12, “For I know him,
whom I have believed and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed onto
him against that day.”
Okay loved ones, now I think I should stop there. Would anyone like to address the issue, or
question? If you want to question me a little to tie the thing down, I’ll gladly try to make it
[Question inaudible 18:26]
That’s good. I know that he does. I’ve heard him. I’ve read him before on, “If you’re born, how
can you cease to be born?” Of course, I have no problem with it because I see death all around me,
and I say you can die. I say that it’s a tricky semantic issue to take the word “born” and try to
prove, from our knowledge of being born, that you must therefore continue, because it seems life is
full of birth and death. I’m not clear on the millennial kingdom and I think I just am not
competent to speak on that. I’m just always very hesitant about the business of dividing Christians
into two groups — which that seems to be approaching a little: that some will be saved now, some
will be saved by the skin of their teeth, and some won’t be. But that could be, yes.
[Question inaudible 20:14]
The interesting thing is that Berkhof — and I’m sure old Don there will say, “Well yes,” but I
believe that too. I believe it’s a daily walk and I believe that I daily have to persevere.” I
think Gus, I would say that there would be the sense in me that I could fall away. I know it isn’t
fear of falling away that keeps me with Jesus. I know that I stay with Jesus because I love him.
But I do notice that the other – of course, this isn’t a good way to tackle doctrine from the
pragmatic point of view — but from a pragmatic point of view, it’s very easy for the other doctrine
to lead to compliancy. But, then – Don or Berkhof can answer that and say, “Yeah, but that isn’t
the truth of a doctrine.” But Don, I’m sorry I do that with my wife. I try to tell what she would
say. You should …
[Question Inaudible 21:56]
Well you know, I was looking forward to this because in several other doctrines, where we were
apparently supposed to be very opposite to one another, because we came from different backgrounds,
Jesus has shown me very healthy approaches in through the middle. And it is interesting, isn’t it,
to see that those of us who are in Jesus will probably almost all testify the same way, that we’re
amazed at the patience of God with us, and how with this Holy Spirit, he has continually drawn us
back to himself? And so, most of us I think, would testify from my experience, we must be eternally
secure because I can’t understand how otherwise I’d be in God’s arms still.
But isn’t it true that maybe there are verses of scripture that we’re supposed to, under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, to accept comfort from in that way when we’re in that position of
humble, trusting, fearer of sinning, and love of God situation? But I wonder, are there other
verses that need to be urged upon other people who are maybe in a more careless state? I’m
wondering is this – we church people seem expert at taking a truth of scripture and getting a
doctrine out of it by which we can kind of prove that we’re right. And I wonder are we missing the
whole point of God giving us verses on one side that seem to say we’re eternally secure, on the
other – I think you know of John 15, you know those branches that do not bear fruit will be gathered
and casted into the fire. And in the old, if you’re a believer in the perseverance of saints you
come forth with something of what Nee is coming forth with the millennial argument. Well it means
something about rewards — or, you come with Paul, (1 Corinthians 9:27) “… but I pommel my body and
subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
So we each come with our key verses. Isn’t it amazing how Satan so often enables us, in trying to
prove our own view point, sometimes to dilute scripture for the other person anyway? So Don comes
with his [verse], “No one shall snatch them from out of my hand”, and I — because I’m trying to
back my little falling from grace thing — take a verse that may be a great blessing to him and I
say, “Oh yeah, yeah. But wait a minute. It doesn’t mean that.” And wouldn’t it be very
interesting now if Satan is looking down upon us, and kind of laughing his head off, as we each
produce our proof texts, and we dilute the proof text for each of us. Wouldn’t it be interesting if
here, instead of sharing rich food with each other, we all go out with what we thought, “I came in
with what I thought was a great sandwich, but by the time Don is finished with it, it’s just two
slices of bread.” And he comes in with what looks like just a half chicken, and by the time I’m
finished with it, it’s just a bundle of bones — and Satan laughs his head off as we all go out
having been stripped of verses that were precious to us. And that’s why I’m searching, especially
when God has called us into a nondenominational situation, to try to find out, “Is this scripture
that should be absolutely applied in all cases, or are these not verses that have the right truth
for the right person at the right time?”
In other words, the fellow that comes up to me at the end of a service and said to me, “Oh now,
you’re going very near to teaching that we can be lost.” Well naturally I didn’t come back to him
and say, “Well that’s exactly what I believe,” because I don’t get anywhere with the fellow if I do
that and I’m no blessing at all to him. So I said, “Well you know, you do have to be careful,
don’t you, that you don’t offend God as one of his children?” And he said, “Oh yes, yes, but I
believe that I could sin. I believe that I could have murdered somebody this morning and I’d still
be a Christian.”
Now maybe through the Holy Spirit, I should be led with a fellow like that to share some of the
“falling away” warnings and the apostasy warnings. Maybe someone else comes along and says, “Well I
think I’ve made my commitment. But boy, I don’t know whether I can keep it or not.” Maybe there
Don, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, should share a verse like, “No one shall snatch them out
of my hand.” I’m wondering loved ones, is that not the way we should be approaching this thing,
rather than trying to come out with an eternal security or a falling from grace doctrine? Which for
instance, I’d push you on this, isn’t it true that we all believe that God will forgive until
seventy times seven? And yet, there are other verses in scripture such as, “My spirit shall not
always strive with man,” and verses that warn that you ought not to press the thing to far lest your
heart be hardened. So isn’t it true that if we came across somebody that was carelessly sinning
day-after-day, we would certainly not quote, “until seventy times seven.” We tend to quote the
other side. So I’m wondering, is this not something of the attitude that we should take to these
Of course, I’m game to share my proof text, but I’m wondering, is God not challenging us here to
come into something new about these things? Especially before I start coming out with – because I’d
just stopped in midstream there as I saw what I was doing. Here I was quoting Don’s proof texts and
trying to knock down each one of them as I quoted them. And it seems to me, we’re losing something
because all of us would testify to the fact that we are amazed at how patient God is being with us,
and how good he is being to us. So okay, okay. Now I will Don, I’ll bash in there if you want, but
I don’t know that mine are any better.
[Question inaudible 31:43]
Yes, that’s right. That’s right.
[Question inaudible 31:53]
I hope you will explain verse 5. Don’t ask me to.
[Question inaudible 31:18]
Okay, okay, okay.
[Question inaudible 32:22]
And that’s good. What you’re pointing to in verse 5, that old Paul did not get all taken up with,
“This person can fall from grace or he can’t fall from grace,” or even, “This person has fallen from
grace or this person hasn’t fallen from grace,” but “what can we do with this person now so that we
may be sure his spirit will be saved in the day of Jesus?” That’s really the issue. Yes, certainly
we’re in the business of being life savers.
[Question inaudible 33:48]
But Don, that’s what happens. I have been in, I won’t say a thousand bible study groups, but boy
dozens of bible study groups, where we have just ended up, it seems to me stealing from each other
precious riches that meant something to us. And it seems this other approach ties up much more with
what we believe about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides us to apply God’s word rightly. I
would say of course, just to bag Don in that, loved ones, because that’s a dreadful verse there. It
seems to me that of course what Paul is saying is, “Now this brother of ours is in such open and
downright sin that he is in real danger of committing the sin against the Holy Spirit — that is of
refusing to accept the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And he is in danger of losing the distinction
between right and wrong. Now let us discipline him by casting him formally out of the membership of
our body here, to give him pause for thought, so that he may maybe come to his senses and see, ‘Look
at my brothers, and my elders in the body have taken this action. Maybe I am going the wrong way in
my life.’” And it seems to me that’s something of what Paul means there. I don’t think he means to
cast this man into hell because obviously he doesn’t. He’s saying that the Spirit may be saying it.
I think I’m game to go into the old thing, but boy, the more you stand back and look at it, there
are verses in scripture that seem almost to imply predestination. There are verses in scripture
that seem to imply that we have free will. Is it not true that we have a miniature mind and we
have a very inadequate tool in this language to express the thoughts of the infinite mind of God?
All he can do is give us almost contradictions, and say the truth lies somewhere in the middle of
the linguistic contradiction, and the Holy Spirit will lead you to that truth in the particular
moment that you need it. I think the way I shared this with you early on — because I knew it was
an issue because most of you were Baptists and therefore eternal security people, and here I was a
lonely Methodist with my falling from grace, and you remember — I shared early on that it is
amazing that if all of us here are faced with the same situation, we’ll act practically in the same
way, whether we differ completely or not.
For instance, someone will come to Don and they will be living a life that is not the life of a
Christian at all, and he’ll say, “But you are a Christian.” And they’ll say, “Oh yes, I know I’m a
Christian.” And he’ll say, “But you’re not living the life of a Christian.” And they’ll say, “Well
I know that. Well, what should I do?” And he’ll say, “Well you’d better repent of your sins, and
you’d better give yourself anew to Jesus.” And that same person comes to me and I say not, ”You are
a Christian”, but I say, “Oh you were a Christian.” And they say, “Yes I was but I suppose well,
I’m not now.” And I say, “You’re certainly not living the life of a Christian.” And they’ll say,
“Well what should I do?” Well I’ll say, “Repent of your sins and give your life to Jesus.” And so
it’s interesting that practically in the out working of it, those of us who believe in eternal
security, and love Jesus with all our hearts, and those of us believe you can fall from grace and
love Jesus with all our hearts, will give the same direction and instruction to a person who comes
I wonder, I honestly do, if you press me and say, “Yeah, yeah, but wouldn’t you deal differently
with some Christian who came to you and wasn’t sure?” I’m not sure that we would. I think we would
both try to find out through the Holy Spirit, whether this person’s uncertainty was based on the
uncertainty of the consecration, or whether the uncertainty was based on some doubts that Satan was
putting into their minds, and accordingly we would deal with them appropriately. We would tell them
either to get their consecration straight, or we would give them some verses of assurance in
scripture. I do.
What seems dangerous to me, loved ones, is applying the wrong verse at the wrong time. That seems
to me what’s dangerous. That would tie up with what Gus was saying, “Well I feel it has to be my
daily walk,” because as you listen to him presumably you said “amen” to that. So it seems to me the
issue is not probably what we believe a Christian has to walk. We all believe he has to walk with
the same care. But the issue is applying the right word to the right person at the right time —
discerning whether a person is careless or whether he isn’t.
[Question inaudible 39:49]
I think the danger of those of us who’d hold to the perseverance of the saints is that we’ll depend
on that, we’ll rely on that rather than relying on Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And the danger with
those of us who would believe we can fall from grace is that we’ll have everybody jumping every day
and examining themselves less they fall out of the faith. And it seems to me, one way, you can get
a jittery group of nervous people who never are confident, and the other way you can get a group of
complacent and careless people who are confident when they shouldn’t be.
[Question inaudible 41:20]
Well I think so, Don. I hesitate to say we solved the problem of the ages, but I do think one of
the things that – well, I’ll tell you as a Methodist, I was brought up to believe that certain
doctrines were right. So I almost was not free to entertain the possibility of the other doctrine.
If I’d meet somebody like Don, I’d naturally just rise to it like a fish to bait, going to the old
arguments. And presumably those of you were brought up in a Calvinist Church, it is very hard to
rise above and into Jesus. But it is very hard for us in our churches to rise above our little
doctrines. And I think that’s what we have to do.
Let’s be true, too, in this. I don’t think it’s the fact that it’s a denominational church that
makes it impossible. It’s simply that we take a wrong attitude to our doctrines. It seems to me we
think our doctrines [inaudible 42:28] are absolute truth, and we have to say the bible [inaudible
42:43] is absolute truth.
[Question inaudible 42:46]
That’s right, yes. It’s a love relationship between us and Jesus. We always want to get something
to prove that we’re in that besides our existing in it and experiencing it.
[Question inaudible 43:37]
No, that’s right.
[Question inaudible 43:45]
Well that’s the appeal of Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witness. You have a club that you can club them
with. But you know, when you think how many of us have fallen into the same thing in our Christian
Churches even. Don’t you think it’s good to let the Holy Spirit and all the other churches preach
to us, too, at this moment? Don’t you think it’s really important for us to realize that we can
come into the same danger, that proud statement of the people who said, “I am of [Inaudible 44:24].
I am of Paul.” But then our proud statement, “But I am of Christ.” “So I am this denomination,
that denomination.” “But I am nondenominational.” And it’s very important that we to do not allow
ourselves to think that we are the true church.
Probably the middle way is depending on the Holy Spirit, isn’t it — not a confidence that we have
the middle way. There’s a modern poem that I don’t know that I can remember it but, “Give us in
this faltering war, the firm feet of humility.” Those were the last two verses of the stanza, “Give
us in this faltering war, the firm feet of humility.” And it seems that that’s the safe place. You
know a place of humility and a place of trust in the Holy Spirit and awareness that if we start
standing on our own feet at any moment we