Contend for the Faith

“Contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints.”
(Jude 3)

As part of our Adult Sunday School study on the Book of Jude, I shared with the class that when we are called to contend for our faith, it is necessary that we know what it is we actually believe.  As a class we brainstormed some “Essentials of the Faith,” but as homework I suggested that each member write a brief statement of faith as well.  Below is my statement.  I admit it is not a complete statement, and I’m sure I’ve shared it before, but I wanted to share it again.

I know that I am a broken man, a sinner, who, left to his own ways, would continue to sin, rejecting God, His commands, and even His grace, mercy and love.

I know that God, who is holy, sovereign, and glorious in His majesty, is worthy of my praise, worship, honor, and obedience.  In my sin, I do not honor God, and I fully deserve God’s wrath; and He is righteous and just in His judgment against me.  Yet God is rich in mercy and steadfast in His love, and He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for me.

Jesus was everything I was supposed to be and was not.  He was without sin, living completely devoted to God, and completely loving His brothers and sisters.  Even more, He took my sin, my guilt, my shame, my judgment, and He died on the cross in my place.  Three days later, He rose from the dead, and now He lives and reigns with God, praying for me and for all who follow Him.

Through the grace of God and the love of Christ, I now live in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit teaches me through the inspired word of scripture how to live a life in response to God’s grace, mercy, and love.  I am called to become Christlike, and can only do this by the Spirit working within me.  I am called to be a faithful disciple, to follow Christ, to learn from Him, to receive his blessing, and to proclaim His gospel.

I did not choose Christ, he has chosen me.

I did not love God, he loved me.

I did not come to God, he came to me.

Everything I do from this point forward ought to be a response of thanksgiving and praise for all that He has done.

I believe that the Church is the body of Christ in the world today when the word of God is faithfully taught and preached, when the sacraments of baptism and communion are properly administered, and when, in love, we disciple and encourage one another in our maturing Christian journey.

I believe the world, now more than ever, needs to know the blessing of knowing Jesus as savior and lord – may it know this through me.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Doxological Theology

“Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!
(Psalm 66:1–2)

I have heard it said, and I completely agree, that all theology should lead to doxology.  That is, every conversation about God, who He is, what He has done, should ultimately inspire us to praise.  The more we know about God, the more we will want to fall on our knees and praise Him.  Allow me to illustrate…

Last Sunday I began our Adult Sunday School Class on the book of Jude.  As Jude opens his letter, he addresses the epistle to “those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept in Jesus Christ” (Jude 2).  As we unpacked this threefold phrase (called, beloved, kept), I asked the class to turn to Romans 8:29-30 – what is commonly referred to as the Golden Chain of Salvation.

In these two verses we find one of the most succinct explanations of God’s work of Salvation in all of Scripture.  These two verses have inspired volumes and tomes to try to describe God’s great work of grace and mercy in our salvation.  There will be no attempt to speak exhaustively on it here: but note what the apostle teaches:

For those whom he foreknew… This word draws upon the OT word “know” to emphasize that God had a personal, covenantal affection for His people.  God wasn’t randomly picking names out of a hat, but those whom He knew from the beginning of time…

He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…  God has crafted our destiny, and our destiny is to be conformed to the image of His Son, to be like Christ.  Many reject the notion of predestination as God for-ordaining our every move.  I don’t think that’s what Paul is saying.  That’s not what predestination means.  I don’t think that God orchestrates our every move, as though we are marionettes on a string.  I do, however, affirm that God’s sovereign will and His plan for all creation will be fully realized, and in the end we will see how, for those who love God, all things have worked together for good, that is, the good and glorious goal of our being conformed to the image of Christ.

And those whom he predestined he also called…  God calls His children, by the testimony of the Word (preached, read, etc.) and by the inward working of the Holy Spirit.  When we are lost in sin, dead to the things of God, alienated from His kingdom, God calls us out of darkness and into the light.  God calls us out of death and into life.  God calls us out of sin and into righteousness.  God calls us out of the dominion of sin and into the kingdom of Christ.  This call comes through the outward preaching and teaching of the Word, the proclamation of the Gospel, and is received by the inward working of the Holy Spirit.  The reason you responded to the call is not because you are wiser than the others, but because the Spirit changed your heart.

Those whom we called he also justified…  The Westminster Confession says it best: God justified, “not by infusing righteousness…, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.”

Those whom he justified he also glorified…  Those who have been known by God, predestined by God, called by God, and justified by God, will ultimately also be glorified by God as well.  Paul speaks of this assurance of God’s work with such confidence that he puts it in the past tense.  God will complete what He has started, and as Paul finishes the 8th chapter of Romans, we are assured that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Okay, I said this would not be an exhaustive study on Romans 8:29-30, so let me get back to my original point.  As I said at the beginning, all theology should lead to doxology, to praise, and this Golden Chain of Salvation clearly demonstrates how that happens.

Notice as you read through Romans 8:29-30, there is not one mention of our work, of our choice, of our responsibility.  Our salvation is the one work of God.  Yes, there is the gracious response to all that God is done.  When the Spirit makes us alive to God, we answer the call, embrace the grace, and grow in righteous obedience to the Word of God.  But all of this is a response to the primary, foundational, sine qua non gracious work of God.

Because our salvation is the work of God, it is therefore sure and secure.  I don’t have to worry that I might let God down (that’s actually a given), that I might rebel and fall away from my salvation.  I am kept in Christ, it is His sovereign grace, His calling, His justifying – it is His work.  He will not let me go.

As I was teaching this to the Sunday School class, one class member stopped me and said, “Can I just say, ‘Hallelujah!’”  Absolutely; that’s the point of it all.  All our theological musings, all our confessional statements, every word upon the Word should lead us, ultimately, to give glory to God.

All theology should produce a humble and gracious response of love.  If you study this Golden Chain, or the 5 Points of Calvinism, or any other theology for that matter, and come away with an air of superiority and self-righteousness, you have completely missed the point.  If your theology leads you to sit in judgment of others who are lost in sin rather than compelling you to demonstrate for all to see the very grace, mercy, and love of God that delivered you from sin and death, then your theology is of no use to you, to the world, and does not bring God glory. The theology of the church does not exist to puff up the pride of man, but to exalt and glorify God.

We are His creation.  Salvation is His gift.  It is all His work.  All glory and honor belong to Him.

Sola Deo Gloria!