Is Christianity just a myth or fairy story? “Apologetics” means dealing with the defense of the Christian faith. So is there a God and did Jesus really exist? Did Jesus rise from the dead? If so, there must be reasoned historical evidence for this that goes beyond pure belief alone. Indeed there is – and these half-hour talks present intelligent, reasoned arguments for Jesus’ existence and deity as well as why the Bible has more original manuscript authority than any other historical document.
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What is Our Purpose For Living? - APOLOGETICS
What is Our Purpose for Living? Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill Let’s imagine that in a few minute a Greyhound Bus draws up outside Coffman (a building on the University of Minnesota) and we all get into it, and we head for Interstate 94. And we’re driving along and all getting to know each other and then somebody says, “Where are we going?” And somebody else says, “There’s food back here. Let’s break out the food and have lunch.” So, we break out the food and we start eating lunch and we have a good lunch. And then somebody says, “But wait a minute, what are we all doing in this bus?” And somebody else says, “Oh, don’t bother about that let’s sing some songs and I have some games we could play.” And so we sing some songs, and we play some games, and the afternoon wears on and we’re still tearing along the highway and we bit-by-bit began to be afraid to even ask the question because gradually we feel that every time anybody suggests the question, “Where are we going,” or, “Why are we here?” We find some of the rest of us saying, “Break out the food,” or, “Sing some songs,” or, “Play some games.” And we begin to suspect that maybe nobody’s too sure where this bus is going. And you can imagine the kind of neurosis that sets in after three days. And then if you can imagine the bus ever being large enough so that actually you can carry on a normal life of propagation so that children are born into that situation, and they begin to ask, “Dad, mum, why are we in this bus? Where are we going?” And you reply, “Look, just keep on laughing, keep on laughing. Keep on cleaning the windows, keep on joking, keep on singing, don’t bother son, let’s keep on laughing.” Well, you’ve got a situation where people begin to see that the only way to get off this bus is the way those who have died get off it. They’re thrown off when they die and then that’s the kind of situation where people begin to be interested in how to commit suicide. And to us it’s unthinkable that anybody would ever be able to publish a book on how to commit suicide, let alone to think that anybody would be interested in buying such a book. And yet loved ones, that’s not far from the situation here on what Buckminster Fuller called “Spaceship Earth.” And in a way, you’d get even nearer to our situation if you imagined yourself being given a spot on one of the next shuttles, one of the next space shuttles. And we go all down to see you off and it lifts off the launching pad, and the engine seems to fire right, but after about five minutes there’s a tragedy occurs. You lose contact with ground control, and the guidance system goes, and your space shuttle starts winging its way out of the solar system and way out into limitless space. Can you think what would your concerns would be? Well, how long will this food last? And how long will the fuel last? Nobody knows where we’re going. I don’t know that anybody even knows we’re here or where we are. And you start to talk about those things with the other two or three people in the space shuttle and then one guy says, “Don’t worry about food, I have a stock of hamburgers here and I’ll tell you what we’ll do, we’ll have a little contract between us. Now, if you clean my shoes every morning I’ll supply you with a hamburger every day.” And you say, “I’m not concerned with how I’m going to get the food that’s in the space shuttle, I’m concerned with what we’re going to do when we run out of that food.” And he says to you, “Look, don’t bother about big universal questions like that. Look, let’s continue this contract. You clean my shoes every day and if I can see my face in them there’s a half hamburger bonus for you each day. Now let’s concentrate on that, and that’ll soon make you feel free and free from angst.” And you think, “The guy’s insane.” And you see that, you see, that’s madness. Do you realize that nobody probably knows where we’re going, and we don’t know where we’re going, nobody cares about us. Perhaps nobody knows that we’re here. And the other guy says, “I know you’re here and I care about you. And to show you that, and to take care of the problem you’re obviously having with your self-esteem, I’m going to run competitions between you and this other guy and I’m going to give you empty milk cartons as prizes. And you’ll become a junior achiever in this spaceship.” And you think, “This guy is crazy. Does he realize that we’re on a spaceship touring round this universe and we don’t know where it’s going and he’s talking to me about self-esteem? My self-esteem is caused because I’m not sure if anybody knows why I’m here.” And yet loved ones, that’s about where we are. The only thing is our spaceship isn’t going anywhere, it just goes round, and round another planet and it’s just been doing that for centuries. We don’t even know how all the guys in Australia avoid falling off the bottom. I mean, we say its law of gravity and we look very learned but we don’t really know what the law of gravity is because we don’t see magnets in their feet and we’re not really sure how it works. And yet, we have a dreadful tendency to say, “Keep on laughing.” That’s why an English poet wrote what is really a very pessimistic poem and I’ve quoted it before, but it still seems to me the one that best expresses our predicament. “Yonder, see the morning blink. The sun is up and up must I to wash, and dress, and eat, and drink, and look at things, and talk and think, and work, and God knows why.” That was written by Houseman, a Latin professor at Oxford 60 years ago. So mankind has always wondered why we’re alive, and he’s always sensed some meaninglessness in life. But do you realize there’s a difference in our generation. We don’t even simply suspect that life is meaningless or has no meaning; we now have given up any hope that it will have meaning. We don’t even expect it to have meaning now. And of course, there are things that are happening in our society that encourage that in us. I mean, the very thought that you can perhaps produce a baby in a test tube even though we know we can’t create the life, we actually get the life from someone’s body and we put it in the test tube. Even the very thought of a test tube baby nurtures the idea in us that personality is no longer something very personal. It’s something that scientist can create by mixing together the right ingredients. Even the whole business of gene splitting, the whole industry of gene splitting, even when we look at it with kind of amused interest, we still have a feeling, “I see if you order the right hormones together somehow you can produce the right kind of personality.” And it increases in us the sense that life is becoming pretty meaningless and that actually what we’re involved in is a great machine and we’re just little parts of that machine that are programed to do certain things, to go through our lifespan and then to cease to exist. Even things like the computer explosion makes us sense more and more we’re just little machines that go through the pattern that the universities and the parents have planned for us. The computers talk to us like human beings and yet they never seem to hear us when we talk back to them. But we’re so used now to them running our finances, and we’re so used to them dictating the way we run our jobs, and we’re so used to doing so many things in our businesses because the computer can’t do anything else but that, that it encourages in us the idea, “This life is rather like a machine and really, I’m just another little machine that is operating.” And of course, those of us who are involved in the commercial world see it so vividly. For better or for worse the commercial world divides you and me up into introverts and extroverts. We’re overachievers, we’re underachievers. We’re bright young 21 to 30s, or we’re middle aged 30s to 40s, or we’re ancient 40s to 50s and we’re divided up into these categories. And we’re encouraged, “If you want to be popular be this kind of person.” And so it’s very easy to begin to lose all sense of yourself as a person or yourself as an individual, and it’s very easy to begin to feel really you’re just a cypher. You’re just a consumer statistic that is worked upon by these people with their TV ads that appeal to our instinct to imitate, our instinct to preserve ourselves, our instinct to make ourselves important. And they seem to use these instincts of ours for self-esteem, self-preservation, imitation. They seem to use them to jerk us like puppets. And we’re aware of it ourselves. We see the TV ads and we kind of try to laugh at them and yet we’re surprised at the extent to which we’re governed by these things. And of course, it’s the same, and I say this with due respect to other educators such as I, myself have been, it’s the same with our educational system. I mean, we’re faced with this dreadful burden of producing enough nurses, enough scientists, enough engineers, and we can’t do it with such a mass society and so we resort to all kinds of devices. To the old, we call it multiple choice you know, but it’s really multiple choice guessing game. We resort to recycled examination questions that we can get if we belong to the right frat house. And we resort to grade curves that kind of encouraged that pointless competitiveness with each other and encourage us to produce the answers that they will praise, or that they will reward with the right kind of degree so that we can get the right kind of corporate job. So that again, strangely enough, we can please the right people and the right bosses, and eventually get the keys to the executive washroom and get the right kind of gold watch, and be able to retire to Florida and get the right kind of condominium and die comfortably. And so often there are many of us caught in this whole educational and commercial system that begin to wonder, “Where is the me that I started out with? Who am I at all? Is there anything inside me that is spontaneous? Is there anything left?” And the truth is that many of us, in our generation, many of us died after seven years of age when we learned that we could please our mother by eating our vegetables. And then we learned that we could please our dad by getting into little league. And then we learned that we could please our professors by getting a college letter. And then we learned that we could please our wives if we brought in this amount of money. And then we learned that we could please our children if we got this kind of position in the corporation. And many of us ceased to exist after we were seven years of age and we became little animals that responded to external stimuli the way we were meant to respond. And it could be that while so many of us are rejoicing that Orwell was really wrong about 1984, and in fact it won’t be as bad as he described it, yet in many ways maybe we just don’t see how close we have come to the whole Big Brother is watching you world, to the whole world of animal farm that is governed by two of the most powerful behavior modification techniques in the whole world. The one in the west that works by reward and the one on the east that works by fear of punishment. And so many of us, I think, in these days, are in that position where we ask questions that even Houseman, 60 years ago would never have asked, “Who am I,” or, “What am I?” I sometimes feel that there’s no me here at all. I’m just a little puppet, a little puppet, a little marionette pleasing my peers, pleasing my professors, pleasing my parents, pleasing my society, feeding into this massive machine that we have. I don’t know where the machine is going but I’ve got to fit into it somewhere. That’s what the tell me. And many of us are dead inside. We don’t have any longer any confidence in an individual life we just feel we’re like the rest, just a slight modification of the rest. Of course, we feel all the time. It’s strange, we feel all the time but there is something there, there is. I don’t know why we feel it because we’re all becoming such lookalike people but we still somehow feel that there’s something there. There is something. And it’ reminds me, you know Manley Hopkins was a modern poet and he said, “There still is the dearest freshness deep down things.” And he was implying that even when the leaves are brown, or the ground is hard in winter, there’s still if you go deep enough, is the dearest freshness deep down things. And many of us feel that. Many of us feel, we don’t know why we feel it but, we feel it, “I am different. There is a difference between me and the other 200 million in this United States. There is a difference between me and the other four billion people in this world. There is. I know I look like the rest, I know I’m being treated like the rest, I know I’m just regarded by the rest the same as them but I am different.” And of course we feel if we can kind of stimulate that into some kind of life we’ll feel it and that’s where we go you know, we go into the old drug thing and we try to make experience real and vivid. We think, “If we can experience it like Sartre (a French philosopher) said, then we’ll authentic ourselves, and if we can produce that kind of vivid experience again, then we’ll bring this self-alive. And so we try, you know, the free love or we try the drugs, or we try the heroine, or try the alcohol, or we try the occult and we try anything that will somehow liven up this eye that we think is buried deep down somewhere under all these machine responses that we’ve got used to. And of course, we find when we try any of those things we aren’t freed, our body just gets more enslaved to the drug, or enslaved to the sex, or enslaved to whatever we’re involved in and we find that we’re even more a machine. And yet it is interesting, isn’t it, that we still kind of feel, “No, but there is something. There is something.” And yet the tragedy loved ones, is that many of us never found it. I mean, it’s amazing but many, many of us never find it. And you only have to look at some of your dads, or your mums, or some of us who are farther along in life to see the kind of boredom almost in their eyes and the kind of fedupness that they have. How many of them are just glad to retire, you know, just glad to get out of the job because the whole thing has been pretty boring and meaningless for them. That’s why old Wordsworth, that English poet said, “Heaven lies about us in our infancy.” When you’re a little kid you kind of have a spontaneity about you, an individuality, you never doubt who you are, you know, you’re just delighted to be you and you’re so full of what you are. “Heaven lies about us in our infancy. At length the man perceives it die away and fade into the light of common day.” And it seems that many of us experience an increasing imprisonment of all the pressures that are upon us to be the right kind of little performing animal that IBM will reward, Honey will reward, 3M will reward, the Lion’s Club will reward, the parent’s association will reward, the children’s voting will reward. Many of us find that we’re more and more becoming what they all say. And of course, that’s where we begin to feel like suicide because you just sense why. Why this game? Why this charade? Why? I’m not getting anything out of it and I don’t see what the point and purpose is, why bother? What the bus badly needed was somebody who knew where it was going, somebody who was born outside of that bus, somebody who knew what its destination was and yet would come onto the bus and tell us. And there’s a dear man who has done that. There’s a dear man came onto this spaceship of ours about 1900 years ago and it’s thoroughly documented with historical reinforced backup. This dear man is that man Jesus. He’s been covered over with a whole lot of religion but he was really somebody who came from outer space and he actually left and disappeared into outer space and his body was never found. And he had a whole new slant on our life. He said you, yourself, each one of us here in this room are individuals. He said, “You’re exactly right in what you’re thinking. You are different. There is nobody like you.” And actually, we know that. You know that even if you’re an identical twin you know you’re actually different still from your identical twin. You have a unique combination of characteristics and attributes that nobody else in the whole world has. You are unique and different. There’s nobody in China like you, there’s nobody in Africa like you. But here’s what this man Jesus said, “There never has been anybody like you. There’s never been anybody like you. My Father made you unique. There’s only one you. There’s never been anybody like you and there never will be anybody like you. And my Father made you in his image to show forth some of his character, some of the kind of person he is.” That’s why you feel unique. That’s why you feel different. I know the abuses of democracy and the mass society try to make you feel you’re egotistical when you say you’re different but they’re not right Jesus says you are different. There’s nobody like you in the whole world. And loved ones, could I say it to you directly, there is nobody like you. There’s nobody like you. It doesn’t matter what all the commercial and educational systems try to persuade you about how you fit into some other category with a thousand others of us, there’s nobody like you in the whole world and there has never been anybody like you, and there will never be anybody like you. And Jesus said, you are here to express something of him in his Father that none of the rest of us can express. That’s why you feel different. You are valuable. You’re valuable. You’re worth everything to God and you can show something of him that none of the rest of us can and that’s why he put you on this earth. He put you here to become the picture of him that he wants you to be. You have to be willing to be it. He won’t make you. He’s a dear person our God, he won’t make you, he won’t force you. If you don’t want to be you can throw it all away, but Jesus said, “My Father has a dream for your life. He has a dream of the kind of person you can be here on this earth. He has a dream of the kind of nature of his that you can show forth in your everyday life and that’s why you’re here.” And then Jesus said to become like that he wants you to help him complete this world, he put in it animals, he put in it coal and iron ore, he put in it water and ocean, he put in it the capability of the theory of relativity but he put you here to develop a little more of it in the way he wanted. He put you here to do something. It mightn’t be something as startling as people think Einstein’s discovery was but it will be equally valuable to your Creator. He will delight if you simply wash floors the way he wants you to if you simply bring some of the numbers of this financial world into order as a finance man, or if you bring some order into the communication as a secretary, or if you bring some order into the world of knowledge as a professor or a teacher. That is what will satisfy your Creator completely and fully and he has a unique job for you to do here and a unique life to live that only you can. Of course, if you’re like me you’ll say yeah I think I can see that that fits in with the uniqueness I feel about myself. I think I can also believe what you said about this man Jesus. But I can’t find my way back. I can’t. I’ve become a machine. I mean, I don’t know if I have any new thoughts, I don’t know if I have any original thoughts. I can hardly tell what my own feelings are now I’m so programmed by this society. I believe what you say but I don’t know how to find my way back to that. I mean, the rest of them don’t want me to be that, they’re all trying to make me what they want me to be. I mean, how can I find my way back? I feel I’ve died inside. I feel I’m dead. I feel there’s no me inside. I feel this is a husk on the outside made up of stimuli and stimulated responses that are programmed by my parents, by everybody. I believe the determinist stuff the psychologists say. I believe it. I don’t want to believe it but I believe I’ve been born in such a home so I must be that kind of a person. I’ve been born in this level of society so I must live this kind of life. I don’t want to live that but I’ve tried to change and I can’t, I can’t, and I can’t. I’ve read the books and they just bring me into more games, the games people play. There doesn’t seem anybody who is interested enough in me being just what I was put here to be to actually help me. They all want to help me with their methods and their systems so that they can in some way control me. There’s only one who is so committed to you being you that he is prepared to help you to be that. There is only one person so committed to you that he is willing and able to help you to be that and that’s the person who thought of you in the first place. That’s why he thought of you. That’s why he created you unique, because he wanted you to be unique. He wanted you to live a life that is different from everybody else’s that he has in mind for you and he knows what it is, and that is the Creator who made you. And you remember last Sunday we proved, it seems to me, on an intellectual level that Jesus did destroy death and it’s just logical that if he destroyed death and overcame it that he’s alive this morning. He’s alive this morning and he is the Son of the Creator who made you and he is able to come inside you and make you alive inside again. He’s able to make your spirit alive inside so that you begin to be a person the way he made you. You begin to be able to act against all these external stimuli that are coming against you and instead of just rebelling against them in a human individualist way that just gets you into more trouble, he is able to begin to give you signals, and directions, and impressions inside to help you to start to stand up inside as a person and begin to find the way that he has for you to live. He’s able to do that, he is. That’s why so many of us here have escaped this machine that we’re part of. That’s why many of us here have ceased to be robots because we have begun to work with this Jesus who is alive here and is able to help you to be alive inside. And really, all that you need is to follow out logically on the things we have talked about so far and to believe that he must be alive. And then you do need to take the step of being prepared, as I was, years ago to appear to speak into empty space and that’s what it seemed like to me, you know. I got into my bedroom one night and I thought, “This is dumb, there’s nobody here.” But yet the logic of my intellectual studies led me to see that this man must be alive today. If he’s destroyed death he can destroy it whenever he wants and if he is who he says he is and he says that every hair of my head is numbered and that my Father knows two sparrows when they fall to the ground and that I’m of much more value than many sparrows then he knows I’m here so he must be able to hear me. And there in my bedroom I just talked to him for the first time. I didn’t even have my eyes closed I just said, “Jesus, I need to find myself. I need to come alive inside. I need to come alive. I’m dead inside; I don’t know who I am. Jesus, will you help me?” And it seemed from that moment on in my life a spirit, or a power, or a life from outside me started to act upon me and started to give me understanding that I didn’t have before, and started to give me a sense of me being a real person different from everybody else and began to give me direction for my life. And that was the beginning of my relationship with Jesus as a real person. But you do have to do it, you know. There comes a time when Einstein suggests to us that the theory of relativity is right in mathematics and then there comes a time when the other scientists have to prove it by experiment. Otherwise, finally it is not sure fact. Well it is the same with us. There comes a time when you think about this stuff and you think through it thoroughly, and then you see where the logic of your position is and then you act upon it. And that’s what I would suggest you do. It’s the logical thing to do. Either here in maybe a quiet few moments here when I stop talking, or in your own room when you get home to actually externalize what is at the moment simply a theory that you hold and actually prove it by speaking to this man Jesus and seeing if what I say is true. Let us pray. Dear God, we certainly have no trouble agreeing on most of these things that we’ve shared. So many of us wonder who we are, or what we are, or why we’re alive, or what we’re doing here. And dear God, we don’t see many other people making too much sense of it. It so often seems that we’re just telling each other to keep on laughing and keep on singing, keep on working. And it doesn’t make much sense to us. And then we have to admit that if we compare ourselves with the way we were 20 years ago we seem almost to have lost touch with ourselves. We remember vaguely the little guys and the little girls that we were when we were seven years of age and it’s hard to remember the spontaneity and the freedom, and the confidence we had in who we were. So dear Father, we certainly can agree upon those things and we believe that the logic of our position is that your son Jesus is really Jesus of Nazareth and we believe that Jesus, if you destroyed death back in 29 AD then you must be able to destroy it whenever you choose and so you must have real freedom to move in and out of physical life and in and out of this sphere here that we’re in, as you please. So Jesus, would you help us? Would you help us come alive inside? Nobody else seems too committed to it but we believe you when you said that we were made in your Father’s image and we believe that you and he are committed to us being ourselves. So Jesus, will you come in and will you make us alive inside and will you start guiding us daily as to what we should do and how we should think, and help us now to make some sense of our lives? And Jesus, we ask you if there’s something of our old personalities that have been developed so far that need to be removed, then will you somehow remove those, and somehow change us and get us back on track? We ask this in all honesty and we commit ourselves to starting to believe in you and to treat you for real. Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each one of us now and throughout this coming week. Amen.
Is There a God? - APOLOGETICS
Is There a Supreme Being? Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill For eight years, we have been meeting together on Sunday mornings to study the Christian explanation of reality. All our studies are based on certain presuppositions and we have always felt that it’s very important to regularly reexamine those presuppositions so that we are not involved in some kind of deception or illusion. That’s really what we try to do every year at the beginning of each academic quarter. We try to examine the basic presuppositions on which all our studies and all our activities together are based. And so, during the next three or four Sundays, I’d like to take each of the presuppositions and simply share with you, why we feel they are justified. The first one we will deal with today, is the answer to the question — Is there a God? Will you think about that a little yourself? Is there a God? One of my problems was that I continually answered another question even though I kept saying that I was answering the question — Is there a God? I kept trying to answer other questions. You might like to know some of those other questions that even our professors at school and our teachers answer and they claim to be answering the question — Is there a God? The first one I had trouble with was when the liberal theologians said, “What does it matter? What does it matter, whether there is or there is not? If it gives old ladies and poor psychological cripples some comfort, what does it matter whether there is a God or not?” Well, I think there are many old ladies who feel the same as I do, who do not want to live an illusion. We don’t. We are not such cripples that we need an illusion or a lie of which we are willing to be the deceived victims. So, we don’t want a God that is just an illusion. When I heard people asking the question — “Is there a God?” — I often thought, are they asking, “Is there some great ‘other’ that will give poor souls some encouragement in their life”? That’s not the question. That’s not the question at all. The question is — Is there a God? Is there a supreme being? Some of us don’t have trouble with that misconception but we have trouble with another one. We say, “Is there a miserable, gloomy, old gentleman living in heaven somewhere who tells us not to go to the theater, not to dance, and not to smoke? And when He looks down and sees any of us enjoying ourselves at all, he yells, “Cut it out!” I found that was the question I was trying to answer. I was giving the name “God” to all the distorted, depressing misconceptions of him that I had accumulated during the past years. I was saying, does such a morbid old being exist? That’s not the question we are asking. That is an emotional question but the intellectual question we are asking is, is there a supreme being, who is greater than all of us here, and who is responsible for putting us all here? You may wonder, why do some of the greatest minds in our world NOT believe in God? It’s because of this third misconception. A lot of us think we are asking, not the question — Is there a God? – but — Is there a being that I must obey? Of course, we don’t want to have anybody that we have to obey, so we answer “No”. That’s what causes many of the most intelligent men and women in our world to deny the existence of God. It’s amazing, but they do. They deny the existence of God not on intellectual reasons at all, but because they know the consequences that would follow once they admit that there is a God. And the consequences are, that they would have to obey that God. Now, you may say, “No, no — I have biology professors that are absolutely clear of that kind of foolish, childish, emotional prejudice.” Well let me read to you from one of the coldest intellectuals in our generation. That was Aldous Huxley, of the famous Huxley family. Here is his own statement, which is really an unbelievable admission, for an intellect of his stature. “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning, consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption.” Once you assume that the world has no meaning or assume that there is no God because you don’t want there to be a God, anybody can find reasons to back that up. “The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics.” That’s amazing for Huxley to say. “The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. For myself … the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation …, sexual… [and] and political.” So, be very wise and alert when you find some intellectuals denying the existence of God. Don’t be naïve and think, if they’ve tackled the question honestly and answer no, then why shouldn’t I? They have not tackled the question honestly. If a man like Huxley with his stature admits that he denies meaning in the world and denies the existence of God because he wants to be free to do what he wants in his life, then any intellectual is capable of the same mistake and the same wrong approach to the question. What do some of the “giants” say in answer to the question? What do intellectual giants like Darwin and Einstein say in answer to the question “Is there a God”? We have our thoughts, but are we in line with those who have brilliant minds? Here is Einstein’s own statement, “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior Spirit who reveals Himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds, that deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.” (Einstein’s quote is one quoted by Paul Little in his book, “Know Why You Believe”). Probably no man has understood the complexity or the beauty and the order of our world, as Einstein has. And yet he says himself, “Of one thing I am absolutely certain. This carefully designed universe is the result of the activity of a mind that is far superior to any of ours and it’s that mind that I regard as God.” What about Darwin? A lot of us think of his “Origin of the Species” for what it is — an incredible book and an incredible breakthrough in thinking. Yet, we automatically say, “Well, of course Darwin destroyed any idea of God that we ever had.” Darwin ends his book “The Origin of the Species” like this. “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one.” (Creator is a capital “C”. It’s no idea of an élan vital or an impersonal force. It’s a capital “C”.) “…having being originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one. And whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from some simpler beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved.” Of course Darwin saw the theory of evolution just as that, a theory; a hypothesis of the way the thing might have developed after the Creator created. And whether you and I are arguing for evolution or not, we ought to see that Darwin, who is regarded as the father of evolution, wrote that sentence, “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one.” In fact it doesn’t matter how far back you go. If you go to 400 B.C. and go with Plato and Socrates, you’ll find them absolutely certain that there is a God, with no doubt in their minds at all. You go further back to 4000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, and you will find that people are talking in the same terms. They are talking of a God who is real and personal. Here’s one of the most ancient engravings we have, “A man must truly proclaim the greatness of his God, and a young man must wholeheartedly obey the command of his God.” That’s from 4000 B.C. So, throughout the world’s history, in whatever place you go, among whatever people you travel, there has always been this unquestioned assumption that there is a God, there is a supreme being. And not only an unquestioned assumption that there is such a being but there has gone along with it a worship and respect of that being. Among every tribe and every nation, among all peoples there has been a general unquestioned assumption that there is a God who created the universe. We here tend to ask the question, “Why is there such a general unquestioned assumption that there is a God”? Well, honestly it takes dumb, stupid, sophisticates like us to ever question it. It really does. It takes you to be educated to reject the idea that there is a God. If you just let your mind run in the way it normally does in everyday life, and follow through the normal cause and effect thinking that the mind operates on in daily life, you are bound to come to the conclusion that there is a God. Let’s say you go outside your room door or outside your house and there at the sidewalk is a solid gold Cadillac or for those of us who don’t like that, a 650 Honda motorbike. You go outside in the morning and you see those there. Now, you know what your mind asks. It asks, “What explosion put this here?” Well, it doesn’t ask, what big bang theory is responsible for this? It doesn’t. It immediately asks, “Who put this here?” Because all of us know that explosions destroy. They don’t create and they certainly don’t create machinery like a Cadillac or like a Honda. Or do you go out and look at them and say, “A-ha! Obviously it came about through spontaneous generation…from some decomposing substance.” Then you look for the decomposing substance. Well, you know you don’t. Your mind does not ask those questions. It has to be taught to ask those questions. It actually has to be perverted to ask those questions. Your mind automatically says, “Who left the Honda here, who left the Cadillac?” Or as Inspector Clouseau would say, “The Cadillac evolved from a Volkswagen and the Honda evolved from a ten-speed Schwinn bicycle.” Well, you don’t, because you are still left with the problem, who put the bicycle there or who put the Volkswagen there? The mind knows that even if there is some evolution (and there is obviously some kind of evolution within the species at least), even if there is some evolution, even if there was ever an explosion, even if there was ever spontaneous generation, somebody had to originally create the thing from which these things evolved. If there was an explosion, who made what exploded? Somebody must have created something originally, if there was a decomposing substance. Who created the substance that decomposed? Who created the stuff that exploded? Who created the original single cell amoeba that eventually evolved? In other words, those so-called answers are not an explanation of creation at all. Normally when one sees a world like this or one sees a mountain — one responds the same way as Einstein does or the same way as the most primitive person in the whole universe would respond. One says, “Who put the mountain there, who put the world here?” Maybe you will say, why do you ask “who”? Why do you ask, who put the world here? I can see that something must have started it all somewhere, but why do we say it’s a “him” and not an “it”? Well, loved ones the same way as we draw other conclusions from everyday life. We look at what is here and we work back to the kind of force or being that would have had to create it. Let’s say you go out of your room door into the dormitory corridor and you see a bone lying on the floor. You just do not say, “That cannibal girl down the corridor or that savage counselor has been chewing up freshmen again.” You don’t. If you see a bone that looks gnawed, you know what normally produces gnawed bones. There’s a dog somewhere and that dog is out again. Or if you work it the other way, you go outside your door and find a piece of paper with a simultaneous equation on one side and part of “Paradise Lost” written on the other. You just do not say, “That stupid dog has lost his assignment again!” However, clever the dog is you know that a dog cannot produce “Paradise Lost”. A dog cannot produce simultaneous equations. And that’s why we say, who? Can you imagine a chair making you? Can you imagine even an animate object like a dog making you? We can’t. We automatically say no. Whatever made us, whether he made us in one moment, or whether he made us over a period of time, he must have been capable of putting these powers of development within us. So, he must be as personable at least, as we are. That’s why we ask “who”? The being that created us must be at least as personal as we ourselves are. If you look at this incredible world and look at three and a half billion of us different people, not two of us are the same. Not even twins are absolutely the same. Look at three and a half billion of us with different faces, with different ways of loving and being kind, with different ways of being understanding, and with different abilities to communicate with each other’s personalities. Then look at the universe itself. Its seasons are absolutely reliable, with planets that orbit so precisely, we can depend on them to be in that spot when we shoot our man to the moon. Our bodies seal themselves when they are cut, often without much care on our part. Our blood contains more than 64 different substances and travels miles and miles around our body every day and never becomes sludge, but continues to maintain itself in its present state. Consider the air pressure that is exactly right for us. All you have to do is go up in a plane to begin to experience the difference of pressure on your body and our air pressure is exactly right. Water itself is a miraculous substance that is exactly right in its boiling point and its freezing point for us to maintain our lives. When you look at a world like this, you have to conclude, some person who is at least as personable as us and as intelligent as us has designed this thing. You just do not think of it as something that happened by chance. It’s like the old illustration that the philosophers have used for generations. You are walking along the beach — you find a watch. Your mind immediately says, “There must be a watch maker.” There must be someone who is able to calculate the infinitely small distances that are connected with the manufacturer of a watch. You just don’t think of taking the watch apart, throwing it into a dishwasher, letting it turn for 15 minutes and expecting that time plus chance will produce a perfect watch again. It won’t. Time plus chance could not have produced this carefully, ordered, designed world that we have. There is another reason, which I think is strong for believing that there is a God and it is something a little different from our personableness. Have you ever thought of this? There are three and a half billion of us here in this world, who spend most of our time being self assertive, self defensive, trying to get our own way and insist on our own rights. That’s what comes naturally to us, isn’t it? The more of us that are born, the more of us that lie, the more of us that steal, the more of us that fornicate, the more of us that swear, and the more of us that fight. We spend a lot of our time fighting — personally, internationally, nationally, and socially. The bigger a city becomes, the more of a jungle it becomes. We find it far easier in our personal lives to lose our temper than to keep our temper. We find it far easier to be critical of other people than to be kind to other people. Yet we keep on saying these things are wrong. Now why? From where do we get that sense of moral obligation? You all agree it’s a nuisance to us. It brings guilt to us. It doesn’t make life easy and it isn’t easy to obey these things that we say we should do. We all say we should love each other, and yet we find it more natural to hate each other. We all say we should be unselfish towards each other and yet we find it more natural to be selfish. We all say we should build each other up and yet we find it more natural to criticize each other and tear each other down. Yet we keep on saying that those things are wrong. Now, it can’t be herd instinct because you know often you do what you believe is right against the pressures of your peers. It certainly isn’t what is convenient because often you do things that you feel you ought to do that are very inconvenient. It can’t be what pays you to do, because often it is a real disadvantage to you, to do what is right. It can’t be what you were educated to do because wherever you go in the world, unselfishness is lauded as something that a person should be. Wherever you go in the world, everyone condemns cowardice in the face of enemies. Everybody condemns anyone who lets their friends down. Wherever you go in the world, even where there is no education, you’ll find the standards are more or less the same. How could that be when none of us take to goodness naturally, and when it is a nuisance to us? Is it not because there is a being that has created us, who has standards that are higher than our natural ones and has wishes for our lives and plans for us that He is continually trying to communicate to us through our consciences? Is there a God? The circumstantial evidence points to that as the most rational and the most plausible reason for the existence of our world, for our own existence as persons, for the order and design that is evident in our universe and for the sense of moral obligation that our conscience continually communicates to us. Yes, I would say it’s the most rational explanation for all that we see around us. And it’s the one that your mind is driven to most naturally and most logically, if you simply let your mind work in an unprejudiced common sense way. Yet, all that is just circumstantial evidence, compared with the empirical evidence that is provided in this history book (the Bible). Next time I would like to try to talk about the evidence for the existence of God that is in this book and about its reliability. If you believe this moment that there is a God, you have obvious obligations and you can see them yourselves. That’s the real test. What are you going to do now if you believe there is a God who put you here? What are you going to do? Let us pray. Lord God, we see that it is difficult to avoid the calls and clams of logic and of the evidence that we see around us. Lord God, we would ask your forgiveness if we have been avoiding this issue for too long, so that we would be as free as Huxley is, to do whatever he wants. Lord, we see that is not using our minds and that we are obligated before you to use these minds and to follow them out to logical conclusions, and then to arrange our lives accordingly. So, Lord God, this coming week we intend to begin to look for you and for your voice in our consciences and to begin to respond to you and to find out why you put us here. We will do this in honesty and truth, for your sake and for our own. Amen!
Is The Bible History or a Myth? - APOLOGETICS
Is the Bible History or Myth? Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill Last Sunday we tried to talk about the question, “Is there a God”. You probably remember the conclusion we came to. The existence of a God of some kind is the most plausible and the most satisfactory explanation of the existence of our world, the existence of ourselves, the order and design of the universe and the presence in us of conscience and a sense of moral obligation to live better than we’re doing. In other words, we came to the same conclusion as that great giant of our own age, Einstein, who said, “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit, who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.” We felt, yes, Einstein is right. If you let your mind work in an ordinary cause and effect kind of logical way, the way it normally operates in everyday life, then you’ll conclude that there is a supreme being of some kind. Most of us agree with that. I think most people in the world feel deep down the same way as, of all people, even Mao Tse Tung. Most people feel even like Mao that there is somewhere a supreme being to whom we will have to give account after this life is over. Where we differ is what that supreme being is like. That’s where we have trouble. Most of us believe there is a supreme being of some kind, but in a way you must agree that’s not the big issue. Because if that supreme being is a cruel tyrant then that will greatly affect the way we live in this life. If that supreme being is a kindly father that will affect greatly the way we live in this life. So the big issue is not so much, is there a God — because it’s very hard to explain the universe apart from that. But the real question is, what is He like? What is the supreme being like? I’d ask you to look with me at some of the information that our forefathers down through the centuries have passed on to us, about their experiences of the supreme being. Here’s one that was written in 900 B.C. It’s one of the most ancient books we have. Here is part of what this person says about the supreme being. “Zeus now addressed the immortals. What illimitable thing it is that men should blame the gods and regard us as the source of their troubles when it is their own wickedness that brings them sufferings, worse than any which destiny allots them.” So that person obviously said in 900 B.C., God – Zeus — talks to some other gods and says, “Why do men blame us for all the misfortunes that they suffer?” He laments that fact. You know what your reaction is. You say, “Wait a minute, that may be one of the oldest Greek books that we have available, it may have been written in 900 B.C. but this is “The Odyssey” by Homer. Homer was not describing anything real when he wrote “The Odyssey”. It’s in fact a novel about the wanderings of Odysseus after the sack of Troy. Homer certainly has taken a basic history but he has then added to it myths and imaginary stories of all kinds. Certainly by reading Homer’s “Odyssey”, you can find out what he and his contemporaries thought the supreme being was like. You can tell what his people and his friends thought, but you can’t say that he was describing facts. All he was doing was giving his idea of what the supreme being might be like through the words of Odysseus. In other words, it’s foolishness to take what is a novel and treat it as if it is actual fact. Of course all we have here in books like Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ are the author’s own imaginary ideas of what God is like. Well let’s go to another man who is not a novelist by any means. Buddha is the recognized leader of millions of people in the world today. Buddha, in 500 B.C. had certain experiences. Those experiences are trusted by millions of people today as being authoritative accounts of what the creator of the world is like. Here in fact is the record of his first revelation in 500 B.C. when the great seer had comprehended that, “Where there is no ignorance whatever, there also the karma-formations are stopped.” Then he had achieved a correct knowledge of all there is to be known, and he stood out in the world as a Buddha. He passed through the eight stages of transcendental insight and quickly reached their highest point. From the summit of the world downwards, he could detect no self anywhere, like the fire when its fuel was burnt up. He became tranquil. He had reached perfection and he thought to himself, “This is the authentic way on which in the past, so many great seers who also knew all higher and all lower things, have traveled on to ultimate and real truth and now I have obtained it.” Now you can see what Buddha thought about the supreme being behind the universe — or can you? Well, you can’t, because he doesn’t even mention it. Buddha hardly even believed that there was a supreme being. Most of his sermons are concerned not at all with the possibility or existence of a supreme being but they are concerned with a method of transcendental meditation by which one can psychically and psychologically escape from some of the disadvantages of this present world. In fact Buddha is not concerned with the supreme being and his writings do not tell us anything about the supreme being. Buddha’s own method of salvation did not concern the supreme being at all. There is a further problem. The Buddhists do not have the same attitude to history as we have and so, it’s very hard to find out what Buddha originally said in 500 B.C. For the next 1500 years, all kinds of people added to his words and added their own meditations. In the Tibetan version of the Buddhist scriptures, you have 325 different volumes. It’s almost impossible to distinguish between what Buddha said and what all his followers over the next hundreds of years thought. Well, let’s go to a book that does not have that problem. There is a book that was formed and settled (as far as its content is concerned), shortly after the man received the revelations. That’s the Koran. Mohammad lived about 600 A.D., about 600 years after Jesus. Here is the record of Mohammad’s first revelation. According to Moslem tradition, one night in Ramadan, about the year 610, as he was asleep or in a trans, the angel Gabriel came to Mohammad and said, “Recite”. He replied, “What shall I recite?” The order was repeated three times until the angel himself said, “Recite in the name of your Lord the Creator who created man from clots of blood. Recite, your Lord is the most bounteous one, who by the pen has taught mankind things they do not know.” When he awoke, these words we are told, seem to be inscribed upon his heart. If you read the Koran, you read that Mohammad says, “The creator of the world is merciful and forgiving but he is also stern and righteous in his judgment and that he demands faith in his servant Mohammad.” But where did Mohammad get that information? Well, partly from what he knew of Christianity because it had been in the world for 600 years by that time. He got it partly from what he knew of Judaism. He refers often to Abraham and to the early Jewish fathers, because it had been in the world for three or four thousand years before Mohammad. But otherwise, he gets it from his own personal, subjective, mystical experiences. That’s where he gets his information. In other words, when Mohammad says, “The creator of the universe, I’ll tell you what he is like. He is like this and this and this”, apart from Christianity and Judaism, the only other source Mohammad has for those revelations, is his own personal, subjective, mystical experience which actually no one can contradict because no one was inside his mind but himself. But equally well, no one can confirm. Now do you see that that’s the place we’re left when we begin to look for information on the creator of our universe? You really come to a place where you’re stymied. Because all you face is Homer, the Buddhist scriptures, the Koran, the Mormon scriptures, all kinds of writings by men who are speaking only from their own personal subjective experience. In other words, it’s like asking a person, “What is the creator of the world like?” And he says, “Well, I think he is like this.” You can’t get hold of any hard evidence on him. You can’t get anybody who says, “Well, he did this and this and this and this and here it is, now you observe for yourself.” Somehow, we can’t get any information on the actions and words of our creator so that we can tell what He is like ourselves. All we do is, we face opinions of other men and women. The tragedy is they’re no different from ourselves. Mohammad was no different from the rest of us. He died like an ordinary man. He himself didn’t claim to perform any miracles at all. He didn’t claim to be in any unique way related to the creator of the universe. It’s the same with Buddha, the same with all the others like Zoroaster and Confucius. We’re facing only men’s personal opinions and ideas of what the Creator of the universe is like — until you come to this book, the Bible. I cannot express sufficiently to you how absolutely unlike all the other books, this book is. The other books are subjective accounts of men’s mystical visions. This book is a book of facts about the activities of our creator over thousands and thousands of years. That’s the difference. I don’t know if you really see it if you haven’t studied closely ancient books. You’ll have a feeling, “Well, this is one like the others.” No, this is a history book. Mohammad’s Koran is the activities of himself during his lifetime and then of his own mystical visions. This book [the Bible] is almost a year-by-year, century-by-century commentary on the actual actions and words of the creator of the universe, which of course is really the only way for one to know a person. I can tell you, “Do you know Jimmy Carter is like this and this and this?” And you can say, “Well, that’s your opinion. If I knew him as you knew him, maybe I’d feel the same way, but I don’t.” Until you see the man’s actions or hear his words for yourself, then you can tell. This is the record of those actions and words. Turn if you would to Genesis 6:13. That’s the kind of information you get. You don’t get an account of some man’s vision or some man’s opinion. You get an actual action. Genesis 6:13, “And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” Then there’s God saying in Genesis 6:17, “For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall die.'” So it’s not some little thing like, “See the stone in front of you. I’ll make it fall.” Who can ever check up on that? But these are events like, “I’ll destroy the whole earth with a flood.” We, of course, keep tripping over the confirmation that that flood took place. Our whole fossil record, (which you know is living creatures and plants that seem to be frozen in the very middle of life), is how the whole evolutionary table is built up. The very fact of fossils reinforces that whole truth that at one time in our world there was a cataclysmic catastrophe that suddenly caught an animal in the midst of swallowing some grass and we actually can see the animal at that point. It’s the kind of thing that would happen in a flood and something that came suddenly. Everywhere we go in our universe, we see the sedimentary rocks. We see the layers of rocks that were affected by a great flood. So, the amazing thing about this book is, it tells us things that our Creator did that actually we can confirm by a study of the world itself. It talks about Him leading a whole people out of Egypt through a wilderness for 40 years and then into Canaan. We see by checking up in the Egyptian records, yes they were there. There were slaves in Egypt. We see that nothing but miracles could keep a people alive for 40 years in that wilderness. Then we see that that people actually live in that land today and they practice the same laws that were given to them 3000 years ago. In other words, this God says to Moses in 1440 B.C., “Thou shalt not covet”. Then Saul loses the throne and the kingdom because he coveted spoils in a war. Then in the first century of our era, Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead because they coveted the things that they had given to Jesus’ church. So, what you find with this book is, it’s an account over thousands and thousands of years of the creator acting consistently in different situations and in ways that we can confirm by studying other contemporary histories. It’s things like this man Jesus, who said, “I am going to be executed. Then I am going to go and be with my Father and then after three days I’ll come back.” That’s not the kind of thing you say if you want to bluff people because it’s too easy to show that he did not come back. Except that all history says He did come back. And he lived for 30 or 40 days here on this earth, confirming that what he said about his Father is actually true. So loved ones, when you come to this book, you come to facts, historical facts that you can check up on and you can confirm and you can look at your Creator for yourself and see, “Oh, He’s said that to Adam. Ah, He said that to Moses. Oh, He said that to Abraham. Oh, He said that to Isaiah. Yes, I see. He keeps coming through the same way. Yes, He is that kind of God, not only He says but He does.” When He describes through Isaiah in 800 B.C. that His Son will be crucified and that they will part his garment among them, then you come 900 years later and Jesus actually is crucified and the soldiers do actually gamble for His one garment, and so, even where you have visions in this book, you have them proven out. The prophecy comes true. This is just a different kind of book. It’s a book of facts, not a book of personal subjective visions. You may say, “Well, yes, but the facts that are in this book, how do you know that they’re the facts that actually occurred?” That is a problem. You can see that because these facts occurred thousands of years ago. You can see there was lots of time for all kinds of people to write up imaginary accounts of these facts, to make up their own stories of the facts, to mutilate the facts, to pervert them. Maybe they could take an ordinary man Moses and they could make him seem to be a great leader. You can see how easy it is to do that when you consider that the original accounts of the facts were written on manuscript material that was very destructible and so the manuscripts were destroyed every 50 or 60 years and they had to be recopied. So, you can see that it’s difficult to tell whether somebody made a mistake in the copying or whether somebody changed it when they copied it. And it’s the same of course with all ancient history. It’s really a great problem. Most of us know Plato’s “Republic”. Plato wrote his “Republic” in 400 B.C. But would you believe that the first manuscript we have of Plato’s “Republic” is 900 A.D.? There were 1300 years elapsed before we have a manuscript of Plato’s “Republic”. Now, obviously there were many manuscripts before then, but the only one that exists today in our world, (all the rest have been destroyed), the only one that exists is 900 A.D. It’s the same with most of the ancient history when you go to Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” or you go to Homer’s poetry. We believe Homer’s poetry was written in 900 B.C. The first manuscript and the only manuscript we have earlier than 1000 A.D. is one at 900 A.D. So it’s about 1800 years or 2000 years after Homer wrote the poetry that we have a manuscript of it. Do you know how many manuscripts we have of Homer’s poetry altogether? Two. Two manuscripts and yet we don’t question Homer’s poetry. But you can see why even the history department of our own university regards anything up to 200 years after the event as eyewitness accounts. You can see that, because ancient history is lamentable in its documentary support. Yet of course we don’t question it. If you want to look, there is a picture of some of the typical examples in our own literature today. You can see that Caesar’s “History of the Gallic Wars” is 55 B.C. and there are only nine manuscripts. The first one is 900 years later than Caesar wrote his “Gallic Wars”. Then you see Levy’s “History” written in 20 B.C. We have only 20 manuscripts of it and the first one is 400 years after Levy wrote the history. Tacitus’s “History” was written in 100 A.D. We have only two manuscripts and the first one is 1000 years after Tacitus wrote the history. Tacitus’s “History” was written in 430 B.C. There are only eight manuscripts and the first one is 1300 years later. Plato’s “Republic” has four manuscripts. They are 1300 years after he wrote the book. Homer’s “Odyssey” was written in 900 B.C. and it has only two manuscripts. The oldest one was written 2000 years later. What about the Bible? Well, it’s just unbelievable. There it is, the “New Testament” was written from 40 to 100 A.D. We have 4000 manuscripts of it. We have 4000 different manuscripts and the unbelievable thing is, the earliest one was written 25 years after John’s Gospel was completed. But do you see there are 4000 different manuscripts? In other words, if somebody wanted to change the history of the New Testament, he had to have a very large family who could travel into all kinds of hidden, concealed caves in the deserts. These manuscripts were found in all kinds of places, right from the earliest days and he had to have all his poor sons laboriously change the history so that it all agreed. The difficulty is, when he died, he had to ensure that all his sons had children and grandchildren because these manuscripts continued to be found in all kinds of different places, written in different styles of writing at different ages from the year about 100 A.D. or 125 A.D. to about the year 1000 A.D. There are 4000 different manuscripts. Ones like the “Alexandrinus” and the “Sinaiticus” are in the British Museum. The “Alexandrinus” is a complete manuscript of the whole Bible and is 350 A.D. in age (according to Carbon 14 method which works within hundreds of year but not when you’re talking about millions of years). The style of the writing is also used to date them. The “Sinaiticus” is just opposite to it in the corridor of the British Museum. It’s 450 A.D. Nothing corresponds in other ancient history to this kind of documentation. The unbelievable thing is the manuscript that you can find in the museum in Manchester England. It is on its own completely. It’s a scrap of John’s Gospel which is exactly the same as the account of John 18:31-33 in the bigger manuscripts. It is dated by Carbon 14 and by style of writing at about 130-140 A.D. That is only about 30 or 40 years after John wrote the Gospel. You can see the importance of that. Here you have an actual piece of writing that some people looked at, which were actually contemporaries of the people who wrote the Bible. That’s the kind of manuscript evidence you have. I think some of us may say, “Well, yes that’s impressive but was the original record true?” Well, you can see that one of the important ways of checking out if it is true is if you had people who were living while these people wrote the record. In other words, today is about 15 years after Kennedy’s assassination. I think if one of you decided, we’ll write a history of Kennedy’s assassination showing how LBJ actually killed Kennedy — then there are millions of us here who would say, “No, no. It didn’t happen that way. Some of us saw it, some of us were there, and some of us know people who were there and we know that isn’t true.” The book would immediately be looked upon as a fraud. Do you see that’s the same situation you had in the first century? The records of Jesus’ life were being circulated from a 40-100 A.D. During that time there were hundreds of people alive who had actually seen these events themselves. All they had to do was say, “No, Mark wrote all that? It isn’t true. It isn’t true”. In fact, you have the opposite situation. You have people like Papias, who was born in about 60 A.D. and he writes and tells us of his conversations with the old white-haired John. He tells what he discovered in those days. He said, “The elder John used to say, ‘Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter, wrote accurately all that he remembered.'” Another man called Polycarp was born in 69 A.D. He also knew John personally and yet lived well into the second century. Polycarp would describe his intercourse with John and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord, and how he would relate their words, and whatsoever things he had heard from them about the Lord and about His miracles and about His teaching. Polycarp, having received them from eyewitnesses of the life of the word, would relate it altogether in accordance with the scriptures. In other words, when John says, “Listen, we were eyewitnesses of these things, that’s why you can trust us”, you don’t have to just take his word. You can look up other history books of men that knew John and that indicate that he lived in the first century and that he observed the things that he observed. Of course, loved ones, the interesting thing is, you don’t even have to trust just the New Testament itself. You can go to people like Tacitus. He was the foremost historian of imperial Rome and here’s what he says, “The author of the name Christians was Christ, who in the reign of Tiberius, suffered punishment under his procurator Pontius Pilate.” Another man called Tertullian, who doesn’t appear in the Bible at all, was involved with the government in their archives and he said this, “Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ’s divinity, brought the matter before the senate, with his own decision in favor of Christ. The senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his approval. Caesar held his opinion, threatening wrath against all the accusers of the Christians.” A man like Josephus, who was a Jew, (and therefore really committed against Jesus, from the point of view of Christianity) writes, “There was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as to receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principle men amongst us, had condemned him to the Cross, those that loved him at the first, did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again on the third day.” And so, all that is written by the men who knew Jesus Himself in this book, is confirmed by hundreds of other histories that were written at the same time. And maybe the greatest reason for believing them is — did they grow rich? Did they grow prosperous and famous? Did they live to a ripe old age because of what they told about this man Jesus? No. If they had been content just to say he was a good teacher, that’s what would have happened. But they insisted on saying that he was the son of God. That’s the thing that brought them onto the crucifixion hills and into the lion’s arenas. Maybe the greatest argument for believing what these men said really happened, is that they suffered for what they talked about. They suffered. They did not gain from it. They suffered for it. Now, men will die for a thing that they think may be true, but nobody will die for what they know is a lie. Many of us used to say, “Well, maybe they imagined it. Maybe they made the story up.” Yes, but you won’t die for something you make up. You’ll only die for what you know is true. In other words, if you just allow your mind to work logically, it’s very difficult to get away from the fact that this is the most reliable history book of ancient times that we possess. When you read this book, you are reading actual historical records of what our Creator has done over 4000 years of our existence. That’s why, loved ones, we believe that there is a God because we can see how He has dealt with us human beings over a period of 4000 years and we believe that He is the Father of Jesus Christ. You yourself have to decide, of course. You have to decide if, in the face of this kind of evidence, you can still reject the idea of a God. I think it’s very difficult to. But you see, the evidence is now in your hands and you must decide. What I’d like to talk about next time is, whether we can actually tell any more about this God and whether we have actually seen Him alive in our world. Let us pray. Dear God, we are overwhelmed by the completeness of the evidence that You have left for us. Lord, it’s very difficult to call black, white. It’s very difficult to reject all of ancient history in order to disprove Biblical history. Lord, we thank You. All we can do is bow before You and say that our logical mind can only accept that You are real and that You exist and therefore that You can actually see us at this moment. Lord, we intend to live acknowledging You and begin to get to know You and respect You. The grace of our Lord Jesus and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each one of us, now and evermore. Amen.
Is Jesus the Son of God? - APOLOGETICS
Is Jesus the Son of God? Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill Two weeks ago, we discussed the question, “Is there a God?” You remember we agreed with Einstein and Darwin that the existence of a person who was also intelligent and was the Supreme Being behind the universe, was the most plausible explanation and indeed the only completely satisfactory explanation for the existence of us, the existence of our world, the order and design of the universe itself, and the existence of conscience and moral sense of obligation in people who found morals themselves most unnatural. Then, last Sunday we dealt with the most striking, empirical evidence of a Creator behind the universe that our world possesses. It’s the empirical evidence presented in the last quarter of this book here, the Bible. It’s the historical record of an incredible man who said he was the only unique Son of our Creator and that he was of the same substance as the supernatural Creator of the world. We looked at the historical record of this man because he claimed to be God here on earth. So the big issue that we dealt with last Sunday was, “Is this book a particularly historical record of His life, is it really reliable? Is it history or is it myth?” You remember we saw how the men who wrote about him were actually eyewitnesses of his life and not only were they eyewitnesses but there were other people who did not come to the same conclusion as they did about him who nevertheless said exactly the same things. We found there were contemporary historians like Tacitus and Pliny, Celsius, Porphyry — men who did not believe in Christianity at all — but yet in their histories, they have recounted the same effects and the same details of this man’s life, of Jesus of Nazareth. We discovered too that there were other people who were alive while these men were circulating their accounts. There were other contemporaries of theirs who could easily contradict these events that they talked about if they were, in fact, wrong. Then we studied the transmission of these original accounts down through the centuries. We said that if you compared it with the ancient history upon which we utterly depend for knowledge of Caesar or knowledge of Homer or knowledge of Plato, there is absolutely no comparison. This book has manuscript documentary evidence that makes all other histories seem unreliable. We accept the poetry of Homer on the basis of two manuscripts, the oldest of which is 900 years after; in fact it’s 2000 years after Homer wrote his poetry. We accept Caesar’s “Gallic Wars”, which consist of nine manuscripts, the oldest of which is 900 years after Caesar wrote his history. We accept Plato’s “Republic”, which is based on only two manuscripts, the oldest one of which is 1300 years after Plato wrote “The Republic”. We have behind this incredible history (of the Bible) 4000 manuscripts and thousands more of scraps. Two whole manuscripts in the British Museum that are dated about 300 or 350 A.D. and one particular scrap that is dated as early by Carbon 14 Method as 125-130 A.D. So, if you question the authenticity or the historicity of this record, you have to reject all of history because this is so far ahead of all history, as far as proving its authenticity is concerned. So loved ones, last day we came to the conclusion that this man Jesus said the things that he is reported to have said and did the things that he is reported to have done– or if he didn’t, we can’t trust any history in our world at all, because this history is so reliably reinforced and substantiated. So the real issue is, looking at this man’s life, is he the Son of our Creator? Was he divine? The issue is not, is he “A son of God?” There are plenty of people like Jehovah’s Witnesses who will say, “We’re all sons of God and Jesus is a son of God.” But was this Jesus the unique Son of God, who knew the Creator before the world was created? Is Jesus the Son of our Maker? It’s important to ask the question because you’ll agree that we don’t say this about Zoroaster or Confucius or Mohammad or Buddha or Moses or Isaiah. We say they’re ordinary men and prophets who tell us about God. But they are not God, the Creator, come to earth. So what we’re saying is, is this Jesus the Creator, our Creator come to earth? Because if he is, that’s the clearest demonstration that not only we have a Creator but that he is a certain kind of person that we possess. Why do we say that Jesus is the Son of our Creator? Well, the first reason is — and don’t dismiss it until you’ve heard me out on it — the first reason is, He talks like the Son of our Creator would talk. Now, don’t dismiss it, because I’ll deal with the old cynical observations that certainly I would make upon that comment. He talks like the Son of our Creator would talk. He does. He was a little guy of 12 in the temple, son of a carpenter, and they lost him. His parents you remember came back to find him and they asked him what he was doing. He said, “Did you not know I’d be about my father’s business?” Well, his father’s business was carpentry but he was in the temple discussing theology with the doctors of theology there. He talked like the Son of our Creator. He talked with the authority of the Son of our Creator, that’s what they said. They said, “He teaches with authority, not like the scribes. He teaches as if he knows these things.” He made this the crucial question in his whole career. He did. He made this the central issue. He said, “Whom do men say that I am?” He didn’t go around about it. He said, “Whom do men say that I am”? And Peter said, “You’re the Son of the Blessed.” Then he said, “Blessed are you that flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My Father, who is in heaven.” In fact, his contemporaries opposed him because he said he was the Son of God. That’s why they tried to kill him. They said, “He treats God as his own father and he makes himself equal with God.” That is so, loved ones. Jesus never avoided the whole claim that he was the unique Son of our Creator and he talked that way. That’s why they executed him. Did you realize that? They didn’t execute him because of his teachings. They were prepared to accept his teachings, but they executed him because he was God’s Son. And the amazing thing is that at the very point when he could have saved himself by denying that, he didn’t. Maybe you’d look at it in Mark 14:61. It’s during the trial before the high priest. Mark 14:61-65 “But he was silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his mantle, and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?’ And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the guards received him with blows.” At the very moment when he could have escaped the whole thing by denying it, he said, “Yes, I am the Son of the Creator of this world.” He identified himself with God. He said, “I can forgive sins.” He said, “Is it easier for me to say to this man, ‘Rise and be healed’, or to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you?'” He took upon himself actions and responsibility that only the Creator of the universe could have. He said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” He said, “If you receive me, you receive him that sent me.” So he talked in those terms. Now, so do lots of people in the psyche wards, right? The psyche wards are full of such people, who think they’re Napoleon or think they’re God or think they’re God’s Son or think that they’re Savior of the universe. The world itself is filled with people like Moon (the Korean), who claim to be in some way supernatural. It’s full of Gurus, who are trying to draw attention to themselves as if they were somebody different. That’s why I’d ask you to examine this man’s life and claims in the light of the other possibilities, besides the fact that he may be the Son of God. Just examine them. You know them because we’ve talked about them before. First of all, he was a liar. That’s the first possibility. He knew he was not God’s Son but in order to lend authority to his teaching, he pretended he was God’s Son. But could I point out to you what one skeptic in Britain said? This man called John Stuart Mill was a well-known economist and philosopher and he rejected Christianity utterly. Could I read you what he said? “Above all, the most valuable part of the effect on the character which Christianity has produced by holding up in a divine person a standard of excellence and a model for imitation, is available even to the absolute unbeliever and can never more be lost to humanity. For it is Christ, rather than God, whom Christianity has held up to believers as the pattern of perfection for humanity.” Men like John Stuart Mill believed there is one supreme moral teacher in the universe and that is Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, wherever you go among philosophers, they’ll all agree with this, “He is the supreme ethical teacher that our world has ever seen. His teachings are more sublime than any others and his life is more in conformity with his teaching.” Now, how could that be? How can we say that? If this man, on the most crucial point of his teaching, is a liar? How can you? How can you say that this man, whom the whole world regards as the foremost ethical teacher in our era, how can we say that this man who taught better than anybody else, who lived closer to what he taught than anybody else, on the central issue of his own identity, lied to us? Do you see it makes foolishness of our whole system of logic? It makes foolishness of us, ourselves. If this man was a liar, he can’t have been the great ethical teacher that everybody talks about. He either lied or he was a great ethical teacher. Some people say, “Well, he was a lunatic. He was misguided. He simply thought he was God’s Son when he really wasn’t.” But do you see the problem about that? His life has none of the abnormality or imbalance that a lunatic’s life has. Indeed, most of us, except maybe some extreme skeptics, look to Jesus’ life as the balanced life. We look to His attitude to people in love and kindness and patience under pressure, as the ideal life that a human being should live. It isn’t the life of a lunatic. You remember what C.S. Lewis said, “No one has yet explained how such deep moral teaching could come from the mind of a megalomaniac.” I think that’s the difficulty you’re up against when you try to label Jesus a lunatic. None of the rest of his life expresses the imbalance or the chaos of a lunatic. It expresses the very opposite. It expresses sanity and the kind of integrated personality that all of us would like to experience. Maybe he was a legend. That is, maybe he wasn’t all that his followers said he was. Maybe he was an ordinary man who had some good qualities and then they added other bits on in order to make themselves the leader of some great religion. Do you see that a legend requires time to develop? Do you see that? Let’s say that Greg, with his new suit, dies and then we wait two, three or five years before somebody writes a book presenting him as the greatest Greek teacher that the world has ever known. Well, there are many of us here who would say, “No, he was good but he wasn’t that good!” And until we all died off, nobody could pass that kind of story on to the world. It requires time for a legend to develop. It requires time for all of the contemporaries to die who knew the man. Do you see that that time didn’t exist? It existed with Buddha. Buddha lived in 500 B.C. and the first time his writings were committed to paper or his sayings were committed to paper, was in 900 A.D., thousands of years later. But with Jesus, the letter to the Galatians was circulating in 48 A.D. That was just 19 years after Jesus died. There were many men, young men and women, 20, 25, 30, who were alive when Jesus was crucified, who were still alive when the New Testament accounts were circulating and they could simply say, “No, it didn’t happen like that. Sure he died, but He never rose from the dead. We were in Jerusalem at that time.” There was not time for a legend to develop because the historical accounts of Jesus’ life were circulating before all his contemporaries had died and they were known throughout the then known world. In other words, if Jesus was not a liar and was not a lunatic and was not a legend, then you’re left only with one possible conclusion: that he was what he said he was. Another reason we say that is that he didn’t only talk like the Son of God but he lived like the Son of God. Mohammad’s life is full of stories of vengeance. I don’t know if you know that, but if you study his life it’s full of acts of vengeance of all kinds. Confucius’ life is full of admitted faults. Jesus’ life was sinless. Now, don’t say, “He said that?” No, he didn’t. He didn’t, though he would strangely enough say to people, “Who of you condemns me of a fault or convicts me of any sin?” He would say that to people. None of us would do that but he actually said to people, “Which of you convicts me of sin?” So, he would do that. But we say he was sinless because the people who knew him said he was sinless. The people who lived with him and ate with him, they said he was spotless. Even his enemies, the centurions said, “Surely, this man was the Son of God.” Even Pilate, who was trying to find fault said, “Listen, I find no fault in this man.” It is interesting, isn’t it, that all of us, however close to God we may be, are conscious of something wrong in our lives, aren’t we? In fact, it’s interesting, Paul said that the more you get close to God, the more you realize you’re a sinner. And so all saints have admitted some sin in them that they were more conscious of than ever before. Jesus doesn’t have that. Isn’t that interesting? Yet you know that the world has not seen him as a conceited fool. Isn’t that strange? They have not seen him as a conceited, blind fool. They have seen him as one of the most perceptive, one of the most humble men that has ever lived. Yet, he was not conscious and he never admitted to any consciousness of sin in his life. His friends confirmed that by their own observations. His humanity was the kind of humanity that we would expect God to live here on earth. It really was. There’s a man called Schaff, a church historian, and he has talked about it this way. He said, “When you look at the perfect humanity of Jesus, you see the kind of humanity that we would think the Creator of the world Himself would produce. His zeal never degenerated into passion, or His constancy into obstinacy, or His benevolence into weakness, or His tenderness into sentimentality. His unworldliness was free from indifference and unsociability or undue familiarity, His self-denial from moroseness, and His temperance from austerity. He combined child-like innocence with manly strength, observing devotion to God with untiring interest in the welfare of man, tender love to the sinner, with uncompromising severity against sin, combining dignity with winning humility, fearless courage with wise caution, unyielding firmness with sweet gentleness.” It is true, isn’t it? When you think of Jesus, you think of perfect humanity. Then loved ones, it’s not only that he talked like the Son of our Creator and lived like him, but he did the kind of things that we would believe our Creator could do. He calmed storms, he just said to a lake, “Be still”, and the storm went down. He met a man who had congenital blindness and he healed the blindness. He met a widow whose loved one had died and he raised the loved one. He met Lazarus’s sisters who were crying because Lazarus had died and he raised Lazarus up from the dead. Jesus did the kinds of miracles that we would expect the Son of our Creator to do. Of course there is the foremost fact that it is impossible to get rid of. All kinds of Gurus have been able to control their breathing. All kinds of escape artists have pretended that they were buried alive and then have rose from the dead. Nobody has been in any doubt but that they did not rise from the dead. They were not dead at all. It was a trick of some kind. But no man has throughout his life, explained to his friends and followers that he was going to be killed and was going to die and was going to be dead for three days and then was going to rise from the dead and has done it. No man has done that, loved ones. No man or woman has left our earth and said they would come back when they wanted to and actually come back and persuaded everybody that they were alive and then have disappeared off the earth forever. No one has ever done that, but do you realize that the resurrection of Jesus is an incident that is better substantiated and better reinforced with evidence than any other incident in our history? I mean I am talking about history beyond 100-200 years. There is no incident in our history that is more variously and more substantially narrated and reported than the resurrection of Jesus. And no event has been subjected to so much questioning — legal questioning, historical questioning, theological questioning, and geological questioning. No event has so often been questioned, criticized and examined carefully and has come out so absolutely untouched by it, as the resurrection of Jesus. You know the arguments and I will not draw them out but there isn’t one that stands. If Jesus only swooned,(and hadn’t really died) then how, bleeding from the wound in his side and from the wounds in his hands, could he have come back into consciousness so strongly that he could appear on 13 different occasions at 13 different places, sometimes within an hour of each other even though they were miles and miles apart? How could he have done that if he had only swooned? He could never have done it. If the disciples stole his body, why then did they die for a lie? If the Romans stole the body, why didn’t they parade it through Jerusalem and say, “This man was a fraud”? Even if you examine those twin facts of the resurrection appearances and the empty tomb, there is just no way in which you can reject their historicity and their authenticity. You tackle the resurrection appearances with the whole theory of hallucinations and it falls apart, the whole theory of hallucinations falls apart. A hallucination demands that people experience it personally themselves; it’s a subjective experience. He appeared to more than 500 people at one time. A hallucination has to be experienced by a people who want to experience it, who are hoping it will happen. These people said, “Listen, we have given up. We thought that he would have been the one to redeem Israel but he is dead now and gone.” They hid themselves in the upper room. They were so convinced that he was finished with. None of the laws of hallucinations fit the appearances of Jesus. Loved ones, you’re bound by the history in this book and by almost every critical theory you can produce. For its interpretation, you’re bound to admit finally that this Jesus must have been the son of our Creator. He must have been the son of the one who made your face and your hands. That’s the only conclusion you can come to, if you allow your mind to work logically and to examine the evidence in detail. Well, you see you have to do what you want to then. Is Jesus the son of your Maker? Is he? If he is, you have some things to do. You need to realize that if he is, then he is here now today and he is alive at this moment and he knows you and he can hear you. I wouldn’t dream of stepping in on this sacred ground. You have to decide what to do then. It’s not for me to give you little theories. If you really believe he is the Son of your Creator then it’s your business what you do. But I think you agree that you do have to do something. If he can hear you now, you need to make some approach to him. Let us pray. Lord Jesus, we may not even be treating you as our Lord, so we call You Jesus and say that it looks as if you’re bound by logic to conclude that you are the person you say you are. You are the Son of our Maker, our Creator, our God. Jesus, we would ask you to kindly show us something more of yourself in our own lives somehow and teach us what we should do next in our communication with you. But Jesus, if you are the Son of our Maker then we want to know what you and your Father want us to do. We ask you to begin to show us that from this day forward. We ask it because of yourself and because we believe you’re real. Amen.
A New Start on Life - APOLOGETICS
A New Start for Your Life Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill During these first four weeks of the academic year, we’ve been discussing the first principles of the presuppositions on which we here base our weekly studies of the explanation of reality that Christianity gives. You remember that we started about four weeks ago with the question “Is there a God?” and we concluded with Darwin really and Einstein, which is fairly good company, that the existence of a Supreme Being, who is personal and intelligent, is the most plausible and indeed the only completely satisfactory explanation for our own existence and for the existence of the order and design in our universe and for the presence of our conscience in us and our sense of moral obligation. Then you remember, we studied the various human accounts of what this Creator is like and we saw that the accounts of men like Buddha and Mohammad and Zoroaster, are accounts of their own personal subjective opinions of what the Creator of the universe is like, and that there is a vast difference between the Koran and the Buddhist scriptures or the Hindu scriptures or Zoroaster or the Mormon scriptures and the Bible. The other scriptures are the accounts of the personal subjective visions of ordinary human beings like ourselves. There is no way of substantiating or confirming them unless you can get into the mind of the person himself, but that the Bible is a remarkable, historical account of the actions and the words of not only our Creator but of His own Son in our time. And they can be substantiated by confirming them, in comparison with other contemporary accounts, and by studies of archaeology and by studies of other writers outside those that are in, for instance the New Testament, but who refer to the same events and the same people. Then we discussed really the most striking and startling phenomenon of our world and that is the phenomenon of a man who was born in 6 B.C. and who said he was the only begotten son of the Creator of our world and that he knew God before the world was created. You remember we examined his life and found that it does not have the abnormality or imbalance of a lunatic. And it is a contradiction in semantics to call him a great ethical teacher and a liar and that there was not sufficient time for a legend to develop after his death, because we have written accounts that circulated within 14 or 15 years after he died. So we were bound to conclude that because of his power over sickness and disease and because of his perfect humanity and a sinless life and, above all, by this incredible power over death that he expressed in his own resurrection, that when we deal with Jesus of Nazareth, we’re dealing with the actual Son of the Creator of our universe. This Sunday is the pivotal point in your own thinking and mine. It is, because loved ones, if you believe all those things, it makes not an iota of difference to your life, really. Believing all those things need make no difference to your life. In fact, this dear book, the Bible, says that even the demons believe and shudder. Even the demons believe all those things because it is reality. It is very difficult for a logical mind faced with the intellectual evidence that we have to reject the idea that this man Jesus is more than human and that in fact he is what he says he is. He is the Son of our maker but the pivotal point in your thinking is today. It’s not WHAT you believe that makes the difference because lots of people believe that smoking causes lung cancer but as soon as they get out, they are smoking like mad. It’s not what you believe that matters, at the end of the day, it’s what you DO in the light of that belief, and I’d just point out to you the real situation. If I said to you, “I am the son of your Creator and my Father and I were close, before you were ever made, and I have been here on earth and I have left the earth and I came back here and people have seen me alive. I am the son of the Creator of the world. Don’t you see that?” Loved ones, you know in your heart that if you believe that with your whole being, there’ll be a whole response from you to me that will run along the lines of, “Well, tell me why am I here? You must know it all. Why did your Father make me? Look, my name is so and so, this is what I am doing here on earth. Now, what should I be doing? Why am I here? What did you put me here to do? What do you want me to do?” You know that would be your reaction, it certainly would be mine. If I could get one of you who could prove to me that you were the son of my maker, my whole response to you would be, “Well, listen tell me. My name is Ernest O’Neill. I’ve been here so long and I wonder what should I do? What should I be doing with my life and listen, what’s the point of all this? Listen — there are things I want to ask you about this life and about life after death. Can you tell me?” In other words loved ones, once you believe a person to be the son of the Creator of the universe, that person becomes your total authority in everything and if he doesn’t, do you see that you’re being illogical, do you see that? Actually, in order to run your life your own way, you have to be illogical. You have to say, “From the evidence, this seems to be the Creator of the world but forget it, I will run my life according to my own ideas however poor they maybe.” So I’d like to assume that some of you at least are interested in knowing what this man said about our lives and what he said was the most important thing for us to do. I’d just share it with you simply as I have been able to understand it myself. This man Jesus says to you this morning, “Look at your body. You have wrinkles. Even the youngest of you have wrinkles that you didn’t have before. Even the youngest of you probably have discovered gray hairs. It must be very obvious to you that all you are is flesh. You’re born of flesh, the way your grandparents were and your great grandparents. And you must see that that flesh is deteriorating and you must see that you’re not going to live any longer certainly than your grandparents, probably 70 or 80 years at the most.” In fact, this morning, do you know that millions of cells in your body have died since you got up this morning? Now, some have renewed but more have died than have been renewed or reborn, and that’s the first thing that this dear person has told us, that all of us here are just flesh. That is, we’re just mental life and physical life that is not going to last beyond 70 or 80 years. Then, the second thing he says is, “You know you won’t believe that. You see all the evidence for it but you don’t believe it. It’s as if you’re on a bus together, a greyhound bus that’s traveling at about 80 mph and five miles on, there is a concrete wall into which you know it’s going to crash, and yet you somehow won’t believe it and you keep on thinking that you weren’t made to go out like a light after 70 or 80 years, no it can’t be, it can’t be. There is some way in which we can avoid this,” and Jesus says, “That’s what you all think. You all live as if you’re never going to end,” and yet He says, “You are going to end. The physical and mental life that you have is not made to last forever and it’s going to deteriorate and die and that’s going to be it.” Yet he says you won’t believe it and that’s why you keep trying to parley the attributes you have of your physical and mental life into some semblance of life that goes on forever and you know it’s right, we do, you know that. I mean deep deep down, every one of us here, feels we should have stability. We feel it, don’t we? We feel there must be steadiness somewhere. I mean, we see popes come and go, we see politicians come and go, we see our own parents and our children at times, come and go, but we keep on feeling, “No, we weren’t made to come and go like this. We weren’t. There must be some security or stability or safety somewhere,” and it’s interesting, isn’t it, we all feel that. When we see the old Prudential Rock, we feel, “Yeah, we were made for something like that. There must be some kind of safety that we can get.” I mean we spend most of our lives, poor little slaves that we are; we spend most of our lives trying to bring that about, don’t we? We try to get a good education and try to bargain that into the best job we can possibly get and then we try to do something with our salary, you know the way we do. We pay it out in rent and then if we can get a little extra, we start salting it into an insurance policy and we try to build up the best insurance package we can, the best life insurance, the best fire insurance, and then if we have a little extra, we try to buy some stocks and shares and in our heart of hearts, we’re trying to somehow get beyond that ‘fiddler on the roof’ experience that most of us have. That feeling that the slightest breeze will blow us right off. And so we spend most of our lives trying to establish safety and security. We sense that we were made for that, don’t we? Then of course we’re utterly cast down and continually haunted by a Howard Hughes who seemed to do it better than all the rest of us, seemed to get more money than all the rest of us and yet died you know, in loneliness and died as a pauper really, in the conditions of a pauper. We wonder, “Well, we were made for that but how do we get it?” I think it’s the same with our feelings. We feel we were made for peace. Somehow, we were made not to worry about hitting that wall in that bus, at the end of five miles. We somehow feel, “But we’re made for peace”, and so you know, we’re always trying to get it. We’re always trying to experience peace and yet it’s interesting, isn’t it, peace itself bores us, isn’t that right? So we want peace on the one hand and we want excitement on the other, but we somehow feel there’s some way in which we can break away from the bonds of this earthly existence and get into the realm of eternity or infinity. I think that’s why we sky dive and hang glide, isn’t it? Why we go down slopes as fast as we can on skis or go around corners as fast as we can on motorbikes or cars? We somehow feel, “We were made to burst beyond these bonds that we feel,” and we sense if we could just get the atmosphere of the South sea islands and so we all dream of South sea islands or tropical shores where you’d have the serenity and the peace of Walden Pond and then on the other hand, yet have the wild excitement of the Arabian nights. And we’re always trying to do that and that’s actually why we, at times, use each other to do that, don’t we? We try to get every kind of relationship we can, every kind of experience to somehow produce that mixture of peace and excitement that we feel we were made for and yet, it’s kind of disappointing, isn’t it? I mean a soap bubble burst in your hand; you feel that would so often symbolize our experience. However many people we use, however many relationships we prostitute to get the excitement and the peace that we want, somehow we end up in loneliness and delusion and in a desolation and an emptiness that is in absolute contrast with the sense of conviviality and the sense of utter satisfaction that we feel we should get from some deep intimate experience. And yet we feel we were made for those things. It’s the same with ourselves. I had a terrible inferiority complex. So I don’t think inferiority complex gets you out of this feeling. However inferior we all feel, we all have some of the feeling of John Milton, the English poet, that we were born for some great thing, or we were born to do something that nobody else could do, or somehow we are important. It’s interesting you know, but every one of us is feeling that the person next to you is feeling the same as you. “Oh that was a terrible shock to me, because I thought I was the only guy,” and we all seem to have a feeling that, “Well, yeah, yeah, they’re clever, they’re more intelligent than I, they’re either stronger, they’re better looking, but I have something that sets me apart from them,” and usually it’s nothing but that thought that we are different from them, but we do have that feeling. We feel it’s more than a gold watch at the end. It’s more than the name on the gravestone. Someone, somewhere, somehow must have noticed that I have passed this way, somebody! And we feel we are in some way significant. There’s some way in which we do go on forever and that’s why we love that feeling. The scientists prove to us, “Oh yes, everything in the universe somehow goes on and on forever.” We like to feel that, yeah, somehow surely we can’t just go out like a light. And that’s it, and yet Bing Crosby haunts us, doesn’t he, because they don’t talk about him anymore, and Jack Benny, you don’t talk about him anymore. Eisenhower, once in a while, Howard Hughes, rarely. It’s amazing how even the most famous people seem to go out of life and that’s it. And so we’re haunted with this feeling that we should have more security and safety than we actually possess and we should have more of the feeling of an eternal life than we have and we were made for something beyond this world and yet somehow we can’t get it, and the more we try, the more we become perverted, hedonistic, egotistical, domineering, manipulating monsters who actually become so perverted that we could not be trusted with the power to live eternally even if it were given to us, because we would turn our universe over an infinity of years into a hell. Yet the amazing thing is, Jesus says, “Ponce De Leon, searched for the fountain of eternal life and your mythological history books are full of people who searched for the elixir of life that would maintain eternal youthfulness because you were actually made to live forever,” that’s what Jesus says. He says, “All those feelings you have reflect reality. You were made to live forever. My Father did actually make you to live forever but not with that mental or physical life that you have, that will never last forever. That itself has to be transformed by the life that runs through my veins,” Jesus says. “The life that was able to transform my broken wounded body on the Cross into a life and a body that could pass through walls and cover immense distances in a short time, you have to receive that life into you and that’s my Father’s will, and you all are trying to make do with the mental or physical life you have and trying to parley it or whomp it up to the nth degree through drugs and through something that will take away the terrible anxiety in your heart into an eternal life that lasts forever.” And He says, “You can’t do it. You can’t make a stone into an animal. Stone does not have life in it. However long you leave it there, it never becomes an animal and you yourselves cannot become the beings that my Father made you to become unless you receive from him the same life that runs through me.” And then Jesus has pointed out to us, “My Father was willing enough to give you that at one time but do you see that if he gave it to you now, the way you’re living, trying to get everything you need from each other and from the rest of the world and the perverted monsters that you now are, you would destroy the universe with this power to live forever.” In other words, “Your own personality now is so perverted that it doesn’t matter what power my Father would give you, you would not use it to benefit the world. You would not use it to make it what he wants it to be. You would use it to make the world your slave.” I don’t know if you have noticed that that’s true in your own life. I certainly did. I noticed that I could have little feelings of good desires and good motives and when I tried to express them in my own life, it came out wrong. I mean often, I really wanted to be patient with my loved one and I couldn’t be patient. I mean I got so used to using other people to do what I wanted that I could not be patient when they didn’t do what I wanted, and I found that my personality was so perverted and twisted that even when I wanted to do the right thing, I couldn’t do it. What this Son of God says to us is, “That’s why when I died, I took your hands with me. Your hands, if my Father gave to you the Spirit of his eternal life that runs through him and me, and he wanted your hands to do that, to give, your hands are so used to grabbing that they grab, they continue to grab and you’d actually destroy that life in you. Your eyes were given to express love and generosity and joy and love to others. Your eyes have become so irrevocably covetous and filled with desire and lust that even if my Spirit wants to express that through you, it cannot, because your eyes have become perverted. Your body, your legs, your feet, your hands, your side, every part of you, your whole personality is mystically enslaved to this world from which you have tried to get all the security and the happiness that you need and unless that is destroyed and remade completely, my Father cannot give you the life that will enable you to live forever.” And Jesus says, “When I allowed my side to have a sword put through it, I was only expressing the miracle that happened in eternity, when I allowed all of you to be put in me and destroyed and completely renewed, and that is something that my Father has done to all of you. And you are able this very moment to experience that complete change in your own life if you will accept at last, the destruction of that old in-turned, selfish, egotistic, domineering, manipulating life trying to produce its own security and stability, its own happiness, its own sense of significance. If you will accept the destruction of that in me and believe that you were destroyed in me and then will submit to my Spirit as he comes into you, that is what my Father wants you to do.” Loved ones, that’s what Jesus says, and if you’re one of those independent kind of philosophic types that I certainly was and you just want a little help, you don’t mind a little help, “I’ll do with a little help but I’ll really do it myself,” you’ll never come into reality. You won’t. Jesus is very down-to-earth. He says, “You have to be absolutely changed. That’s why I died. I didn’t die to give you people a good example of how to love others. You’ve had plenty of good examples. You don’t need good examples. You need the power to change and when I died in a cosmic miracle, God, my Creator Father, remade you and you are able to experience that now.” Really I just thought of it you know, it is like those old Firestone tires. They all have been recalled, they have, and all you have to do is go in but you do have to go in. You do have to go in and say, “Okay, I’ll trade in the old ones that you say now have become faulty or are dangerous and I’ll receive the new ones.” The whole transaction is already done, the price has been paid, the whole thing is ready but you do have to be willing to make the change and to allow it to be made true in your life, and loved ones, that’s the crux of what Jesus says. “Are you willing to accept that you are a hopelessly perverted, twisted personality? That it would be a crime for my Father to allow you to live forever in this universe? Are you willing to accept that, and are you willing to accept that you were destroyed with me on Calvary and that all your in-turned selfish life was destroyed there and are you willing now to live for me and for my Father instead of yourself?” And then secondly, “Will you submit yourself now to my Spirit as he begins to come into you?” Loved ones, that’s what Jesus, the Son of our Maker says we have to do. So if you’re sitting here and it’s kind of come home to you for the first time and you say to me, “Well, what do I need to do then?” I’d say just those two steps. One, are you willing to join Jesus on the Cross? Are you willing to have everything destroyed in you that is filled with egotism and selfishness that is filled with setting yourself up as your own God? Are you willing for that? God will show you the things that you need to be willing for, but are you willing to have that destroyed? Are you willing to admit that you’re wrong and you need to be utterly changed and you’re willing to submit to that change? Secondly, will you now this morning, by faith, receive the Spirit of eternal life that enabled Jesus to rise from the dead into your own life and begin to obey that Spirit as a real person and a friend? That’s it. But do you see it isn’t a philosophical concept. It isn’t something that you think over and you like the idea of. I am asking you, will. The “will” is the key. For the past three Sundays, we’ve been talking about the mind. Now the will is the key. Are you willing to accept the destruction of your old selfish life in Jesus and are you willing to submit your will this moment now to the Spirit that will begin to move inside you and begin to come out through your mind and give your mind a sense of what you ought to do in life and in the Creator’s plan? He will begin to touch your emotions and begin to give you the sense of joy and peace that comes from a relationship with an infinite eternal person and that Spirit that will begin to come out through your whole will and give you a sense that you are loved by your Father and you are His dear son and you are actually unique and you are dear in his eyes. That’s what Jesus, the Son of our Creator says and explains. Now, what will you do with Jesus? What is your reaction at this moment? That places you in a place of life or a place of death, this day. Let us pray. Jesus, we see that you have evidence to give us that you are the Son of our Maker that no one else has. And we do see too that if you overcame death once, you must be able to come in and out of this life as often as you want. And we do see that logically you must be alive today and you must be able to see us and Jesus, we hear your words that “all that is born of the flesh is flesh. You must be born again, born of the Spirit”. And Jesus we see that unless the old creation is destroyed, there can be no new birth or new creation. So Lord, we thank you for putting it so plainly and we thank you for showing us that your death was actually the destruction of our perversion and that you are now asking us, are we willing to live in the benefits of that death and to allow our personality to be completely renewed and recreated, and Lord we see that that’s our choice. We see you’re asking us, are we willing to die to our own selves and to our in-turned life. Lord, we see that you’re asking us this morning that if we’re willing, will we submit this moment to your Spirit, to the Spirit of the lamb who is willing to come into us, to not only enable us to live forever but most of all, to live an unselfish loving life like yours. Holy Spirit, we would want you in, we would receive you and we would begin to obey the promptings that you give us so that we may begin to become eternal as our Father planned. Just as we’re praying loved ones, it’s really important that you do what you need to do at this moment and take whatever action or attitude to Jesus that you know is right for you. I’d just encourage us as we remain with our heads bowed to do that and take a definite step this morning. It’s very easy for us I think to continue to talk about these things and do nothing. I’d just point out to you that nothing will happen unless you take a step. So often we’ve said, “We can’t think ourselves into this thing.” You have to will yourself into it by taking a new attitude to yourself and to your God and then ordering your will in harmony with that new attitude. Lord Jesus, we would ask you now to begin to run our lives, we’re asking you in faith and we ask you to begin to speak to us in ways that we can understand, so that we may have some direction in our lives and may begin to develop as your Father planned for us. We ask this in your name and because you’re alive and you’re truth and we want to live in reality. The grace of our Lord Jesus and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each one of us, now and evermore. Amen.
Why are We Alive? - APOLOGETICS
Why Are We Alive? (cid:9) Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill At the beginning of every academic year we try to deal with the basic questions of life, particularly the most basic one of all “why are we here?” “Why are we alive?” Through the year it is obvious that we as a group believe that the Christian explanation of reality is the true one. But there are reasons why we believe that. So at the beginning of every academic year we try to look at those reasons. Do you remember about three weeks ago we felt that the first question you ought to deal with when you’re dealing with the whole issue of why we’re alive is; “Is there anybody who originated the whole thing who might be able to give us some clue as to why he put us here”? We dealt there with the question “Is there a God?” You remember that we concluded with people like Einstein and Darwin that that is the most reasonable explanation for the existence of our world, of the universe, the order and design in our world and the universe and particularly the most reasonable explanation of us, personable people that we are. Particularly of the existence of our conscience within us that is always making us want to be better than we actually are. Then you remember that two weeks ago we dealt with the whole question “What is this God like if he exists”? We talked about the various sources of information on that that we have in the Greek and Roman myths in the eastern religions; Buddhism, Mohammedism, and Confucianism. We came to the conclusion that intellectually none of them had the kind of information that we have in this collection of books called the Bible — because all the other religions are based on the subject of personal opinions of a man or of a woman as to what God is like. This collection of books contains historical records of what our creator did and said over 2,000 to 4,000 years of history. We concluded that the Bible had some of the most reliable history compared with that of the ancient writings that we have in our world. Now you remember then last week we tried to deal with the incredible information that is included in the last quarter of that book. The information about a human being like ourselves who lived for about 33 or 35 years in Galilee and who kept on saying that he was alive with God the creator before the universe was made. He kept on saying that he was really the son of our maker. He was our creator living here on earth. You remember that we examined critically, I think, that claim last week. We talked about the fact that he doesn’t have the marks of derangement and imbalance in his life that maniacs or lunatics have. Indeed he is looked upon as the pattern of a balanced life. We talked about his sinlessness and the fact that he had power over nature and power over disease. You may remember, finally we talked about the incredible event of the Resurrection. So that in spite of there being many imitations of resurrection and many experiences of controlled breathing and people being buried alive and pretending that he came alive again, there is no event so substantiated as the resurrection of Jesus. It stands unchallenged after more stringent and more demanding legal and sociological and historical analysis and examination than any other event. So you remember last Sunday we said that if any man is the son of the maker of the universe it is this man Jesus. It’s reasonable to believe that this man is who he said he was. Really what I would ask you to do this Sunday is to look at him and ask what he told us about our lives and about reality. Loved ones if you conclude intellectually that he is God’s son do you see that you have no alternative but to do what he says? It’s just good common sense. So once you take that step and say he is the son of God you can’t hold back from the next step which is obviously, let me find out what he wants me to do. Because you know that’s what you’d do if I said that. If I said to you, “I am the son of our maker. I existed with the creator that made you before the universe was ever created. I know why we’re here. My father has explained it all to me” — you know you would say, “Tell me — what does your father think of me? Explain to me what should I do with my life? What’s the meaning of it all?” That’s what I’d ask us just to listen to today. Jesus’ own explanation of what life is about. I have not found any better terms than the terms that we’ve shared before. Jesus said very plainly first of all, all of you are not going to last more than 70 or at the most 80 years. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” You have a mind and you have emotions and a body. Jesus said they are not going to last beyond 70 or 80 years. You’re not going to stay alive any longer than the parents or the grandparents that gave you that mental and physical life, you’re not. Of course our reason reinforces that. You are more dead now than you were when I started this sentence. You are. There are millions of cells in you that have died even since I started that sentence. You maybe plead, “Oh, but aren’t there others being renewed?” Yes, but fewer than are dying. You come to that point in life and believe me you’re all past it, when you’re losing more than you’re gaining. You can see the signs of it in graying hair and wrinkles and in pains where you didn’t have pains before. Jesus said it’s all proof that you’re not going to last forever in your present state. Your mental and physical life is already dying. Then he said a strange thing: you just won’t believe that. That’s what he said once. He said they will not believe that; you just won’t believe that. You refused to believe it because there’s something inside you that says no, no I wasn’t made to stay here for 70 or 80 years and go out like a light, I wasn’t. I was made to last longer than that. There is something in us, isn’t it, it’s strange. That our reason opposes it but there’s something in us that feels we were made to last longer than that. We will not believe Jesus’ words that our present mental and physical life won’t last longer than that. So of course we fight against it. You know we do. We feel, no we’re made to experience, we don’t even know the word eternity. We feel it’s like that. We’re made to live forever. We’re made to experience the security of eternity. We’re made here to experience the safety and security of eternity. We’re made to experience the stability of eternity. No, somehow we’re not made to be fiddlers on a roof. Yet you know all of us feel we are. Wall Street shakes and we all shake. Iran stops exporting oil and we all run scared. We know that there’s great uncertainty in this life. We feel it ourselves. We feel it in our own waywardness and our own lack of tenacity. So you know what we do? We try to get that stability. We try to get that security. We try to take the attributes of a purely temporary mental and physical life and we try to parlay them into the attributes of life as we think it should be. So you know what happens. We get the education and we try to exchange the degree for the best job possible. Not so that we can serve humanity most of us or so that we can make the world a better place, but so that we can get more money so that we can live with some kind of stability and some kind of security. Then you know as the years pass we try to trade up our cars and our houses to somehow try to get some security into our life and some sense of stability. Then we try to get the best life insurance and medical package that we can, hoping that somehow we will be able to guard against these uncertainties that make life so shaky and uncertain. Then we try to get a good position in our jobs. We try to establish a position as to where those underneath us can’t undermine us. We try to establish our stability in relationship to our colleagues or against the interest of our rivals. So of course life becomes a very anxious process because you’re always trying to make yourself stable and secure. However far we go in that we are always haunted by that figure with the haggard face, the long hair and the beard who was carried out of that hotel room and then died on the way to the hospital. We are haunted by that character because, of all people, Howard Hughes did it better than any of us. He did it better. He owned more millions than we will probably ever own. He did more to establish security and stability and eternity here on earth than anybody could and that we will probably ever do. Yet at the end he found he couldn’t protect himself against the bacteria and the weaknesses that show us that we are only temporarily here. You know it’s the same with the whole business of happiness. Somehow we feel we were made for an eternal experience. We feel we were made for the serenity, the peace and the exhilaration of eternity. We feel that somehow we should experience that serenity and peace of Walden Pond and then it should be combined with all the wild excitement of the Arabian Nights. Somehow it should be possible to get a south sea island where we could feel all that. So we try to feel it. You know we do. We try to use experiences and try to use relationships to somehow extract from life that mixture of wild excitement and a great serenity and peace that we feel we were made for. Yet however many relationships we use, however many people we prostitute, however many experiences we try to produce, however how much we try to calm our anxiety chemically, yet at the end of it all we are left with a sense of emptiness and loneliness. Instead of the sense of conviviality and excitement and exhilaration that we think we should have, we’re left with a kind of anticlimax and you might almost say a sense of desolation instead of the happiness and excitement of eternity. It is the same with who we are. I don’t know that there’s one of us here that doesn’t feel a bit like Milton, you know, that we were born for some great thing. We do. We feel it deep down, don’t we? Every one of us. You see, you think you’re the only one that feels it. The person beside you feels it. You think you’re more individual than me but you’re not. I feel I’m more individual than you. We all feel the same. We all feel we are very different and we all have different little twists that make us special. We feel we are special and we are significant and we are important and somebody must know we’re here. Somebody must know that we passed through this vale of tears. Somebody must know what we’ve done. Somebody, somewhere, somehow must know us, ourselves. Yet we have a terrible feeling that nobody does. The gold watch on retirement day is a kind of sweet sorrow thing. We joke about it yet we have a funny feeling that’s probably all we’ll mean to those that we work with over 30 or 40 years. We are kind of surprised that however much we try to will ourselves into positions of importance, it never lasts. We try to will ourselves into a place of importance. We try to will other people to recognize us and look to us and think of us. We throw our weight around at home. We throw our weight around at the office. We exercise our authority in ways we ought not to in order to try to get somebody to notice us, somebody to realize we are somebody. Yet after it’s all done we’re kind of surprised at how quickly they’ve forgotten John Wayne. He was pretty famous. How quickly they forget Bing Crosby. How quickly they forget Jack Benny. How quickly they forget John F. Kennedy and we’re not nearly as well known as them. You wonder, well how will we become known? Loved ones, what Jesus said was don’t you see you’re trying the impossible. The life that you’ve got now is not eternal life and you’re trying to make it into eternal life by your own efforts and you can’t do it. The mental and physical life that you have is going to die and be finished and go into a grave after 70 or 80 years. That’s it. It will just be a name on a gravestone and nothing better than that. That’s all you’ll receive. What you’re trying to do is somehow to take the attributes of what is a purely temporal life and you’re trying to make them into the attributes of eternal life. You can’t get blood out of a stone because a stone is not alive. You can’t extract from a dead inanimate thing like mental and emotional life the life blood that makes life eternal. However much you try. Of course all most of us have succeeded in trying is making ourselves into monsters. That’s what we do. We pervert ourselves into egotistical hedonistic monsters that are domineering and manipulating all the time. Of course what Jesus says is, you see those feelings that you have, those aspirations, those feelings that you should have the security of an eternity? Those feelings that there is a happiness beyond what you’ve experienced? Those feelings that you have that you should be able to break out of the earth bound existence that you’re in? Those feelings are there because that’s right, that’s true. You were made to live forever. You were made to be important. You were made to be happy beyond your dreams. You were made not to have to fear whether Iran cuts off the oil or whether you lose your job. You were made for eternity. That’s what Jesus says. He says it’s a gift. It’s a gift. You have this body, this physical life. And inside it you have your psychological being, your mind and emotions and your will. Inside that again, if you can talk about inside at all in regard to this subject, you have spirit. You have a part of you that is sending up all those aspirations. That spirit is at the moment dead. That’s why you feel such emptiness. The reason you can’t feel it is that you are trying to get at it from a mental, emotional and physical level and you can’t. What Jesus said was the only way that spirit can come alive and give life to your mind and emotions and to your body so that you live forever is, if the person who made you brings that spirit of yours alive by the action and the energizing of his own eternal life. That’s the only way it will ever come about. Jesus said that’s a gift. That gift of life from my Father is something that God has to give you. When he gives you it everything comes alive inside you. Your mind and emotions begin to work right. Your body begins to operate right. You stop trying to squeeze out of people and other things life. You begin to have life inside. You begin to sense the real joy of the love of the one significant other in the whole universe. That he is your own personal Father. That he knows your name and that he has put you here for a special purpose. You begin to sense your identity in this universe. You begin to feel most of all of course that he will not see you go down in the dirt. That he will be right there every moment whatever Iran does or whatever the stock market does. Jesus said this is a gift but the Father will give it only to those of us who cannot and will not find it elsewhere. That’s what Jesus said — that you can’t serve God and mammon. That you can’t be going to establish your version of security by exercising your greed and exercising your covetousness and trying to gather around yourself all the little nuts and stocks and shares that you possibly can to hedge your bets. You can’t do that. You can’t be grabbing at every human being you want to try to have an exciting experience of exhilaration with them whatever it costs them. You can’t do that. You can’t be domineering others and be requiring them to respect you and exercising your pride and your envy and your domination over them. You can’t be getting that kind of thing from this world and also expect God to give you real eternal life. Jesus said it’s either one or the other. Many of us I know say well, I want to do that. I really do. I want to trust God as my Father for my security. I do. But when the bank balance goes down there’s a little fear goes through me. I want to trust him but I do find myself grabbing at other ways to rectify that. I do want to enjoy God. I see what a beautiful morning he’s made this morning. I want to enjoy him. He must be brighter than the sunshine. I want to know him. I do. But I find that when I can get some quick thrill or quick exhilaration or quick happiness from a human being I find there is something inside me that goes that way. Jesus said that’s right. You as you are at the moment can do nothing else but try to get eternal life from this temporal life. Your present personality has become so perverted that it can do nothing else. Why do you think I died? I didn’t die just to bribe God to overlook your sins. That’s not why I died. I died to express the miracle that my Father worked in eternity for you. He foresaw the way you would develop. He took that perverted personality of yours and he put it into me in eternity. He destroyed it there. That’s what we were both expressing on Calvary. Your old self was crucified actually with me but crucified with me indeed in eternity. You have a whole new personality from my Father’s hand that can be activated at this very moment if you believe me. This personality that comes from my Father and comes from my resurrection is able to trust God for security. This new personality is able to be satisfied with my Father’s friendship even if it is friendship from no other human being. This personality is satisfied with the importance that it receives from my Father’s attention. This personality can come alive in you this very day if you are willing to turn from seeking these things from the world. Stop trying to manufacture your own version of eternal life and I will make real in you a personality that can receive eternal life from my Father. That’s why Jesus said you really have to be born again. You have a mental and physical life that you got when you were born the first time but your spirit needs to come alive. You need to be born again. There’s a new version of you that can be born in you this day. Loved ones, that’s what Jesus says. That you ought to analyze and you ought to think and you ought to use your critical faculties. But after all that is done what is needed is a complete change in you, a complete new birth. A new person has to be created in you. Jesus said that that’s possible because of the destruction of the old person in his death and the fact that when he arose from the dead God resurrected the whole human race new and created it new. There is a personality of yours that is available to you that is able to know God as its own friend and Father. Loved ones, actually all you need to do is believe that and turn away from your version of eternal life. If you say to me, you mean no savings? No stocks and shares? No friends? Sure you know I don’t mean that. Jesus had those things. Jesus had friends. Jesus had a coat. He had shoes. Sure you need some of those things. You know fine well what we’re talking about. We’re talking about when you go beyond that and you begin to try to get your security from those things. Or you depend on your friends for your happiness. That’s where it’s wrong. Jesus says if you will stop doing that and you will do what I do which is look to my Father for the only life that I ought to have. And I was content with whatever life he gave me and didn’t ask for more than he was willing to give me. If you will do that then his Spirit will come into yours and make you alive to him. That’s why you’re here on earth. Loved ones, that’s why we’re here. If I could just say even to those who are college people — it goes quickly. It does. It’s amazing. It goes fast. It just seems yesterday that I thought I was 17 and I had gone up to the University. I thought I had all the time in the world to get this thing sorted out. That honestly seems like yesterday. So the rest of us will say the same thing. It goes very fast. Of course none of us can tell how long we have really. None of us can tell how long we have to think about these things. Then could I just say this to you? I know some of my dear friends who were thinking about it when they were 17. They are still thinking about it. It’s very interesting to see those of us who hear about it for the first time and respond immediately we come through and we live that way. But, those of us who hear about it and decide to think about it or to wait for a more convenient season, we’re still standing at the railway station in the same place 40 years later. So be wise, will you? Don’t think that you have forever. You haven’t. You have 70 or at the most 80 years. Probably now you have at the most 30 or 40 years. Who knows whether you do have 30 or 40 years? The reason you’re here and I’m here on earth is to get to know this dear maker of ours and to allow his spirit to make our spirits alive so that we can live with him forever. Let us pray. Dear Father, we thank you for Jesus, for the unbelievable pain that he was willing to bear. We thank you for your love for us. Lord we want to be real with you this morning. Father we do see that much of our attempt at imitating eternity has come to nothing in our own lives and has in a sense made us incapable even of ordinary life. Lord we see the truth that you have set before us during your lifetime. That there is only one place to receive life that goes on forever and that has a quality of eternity as well as a quantity. That is from our Maker who originally gave us this temporal life. So Father we would turn to you and we would ask you to show us what we need to turn from in order to receive your gift of a spirit and to be made alive to you and to begin to know you and begin to relate to you. Father show us where we have to stop doing certain things so that we can come alive in your Holy Spirit. We ask you our Father to work with us as we think and pray this through. We ask you most of all to make it real to us by the power of your Spirit. Lord Jesus we would welcome you in as the person that you are and as our dear friend and our Savior. We would give our lives to you now and we would expect you to give us directions each day so that we may be what you and your Father made us to be. We now commit ourselves to you Lord as you committed your life for us. We commit ours to you for your glory and for your service. Now the grace of our Lord Jesus and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each one of us now and evermore. Amen.
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 it. 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 will. 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 passions.” 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 disobedience. 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 heart. 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 creatures.” [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 our faith. 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 receive him. 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 see. 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 that’s important. [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 side. 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 see. 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 selfish nature? 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 Spirit. 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 us. 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 Jesus. 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 life. 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 them. 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 creation. [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 “Attacas.” [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 know. 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 you. [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 accept. 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 onto. 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 will. 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 the person. 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 Pelagianism. 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 sure. 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 all. [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 directly. [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 sovereign will. [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 Holy Spirit?” [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, the conflict. [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 give up. [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?” (John 14:2) 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 that. 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 there. 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 Holy Spirit. 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 perfectly. 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 him righteous. 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 person. 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 us? 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, yeah. 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]