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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Genuine or Deceived || The Purpose

None of these thoughts are original with me. I recently heard John Piper share about five elements of the gospel. I'm also most of the way through God is the Gospel (also by Piper), both of which factor into my speaking for this week, as well as these posts. Like most things, I would encourage you to check out Piper, as he will say it better than I can.

Genuine or Deceived: The Motive

While some people will acknowledge the historic validity of the cross, the meaning behind it can be just as critical. There are many different theories as to what the cross accomplished, and there are many different things that it did accomplish. However, the central purpose must be penal substitutionary atonement. (Three big words in a row for me! Read this article to see exactly what it is. Excellent, excellent article.)

It is not nearly enough to know the facts of the crucifixion and resurrection...for the demons were eyewitnesses to the events and know these facts. Likewise, it is not enough to believe these historic elements of the crucifixion to be true, for the demons know them to be true and shudder.

On Way of the Master Radio I noticed a surprising number of people who could be shown they are a sinner (through some work), and even realize their need for forgiveness. However, when asked why God should be able to forgive them, they had no answer. How many people know they sin (any honest self aware person should) and yet have no concept why God can forgive them? They either have a warped view of sin (thinking it is not that bad) or a warped view of God (thinking He can simply turn His head and pretend it never happened). Either one leads to a warped view of the cross (for what in the world was happening there if God's wrath could be satisfied some other way).

While a person may not use terms like "penal substitution," "atonement," or "imputed righteousness," they must atleast have an understanding of these elements--that on the Christ their sin penalty is taken away and Christ's perfect life is credited to them.

Again, the motive of discerning a person's understanding is not to play "doctrinal trump cards." This should never be a self righteous exercise to assess whether a person knows as much as us. However, we should be asking people the question of Why did Christ die? to search their heart in these issues. A person can believe that Christ died and rose again. They can even believe that He did it for them. But if they don't see that God's justice and mercy met on the cross, His wrath against sin paid for by His Son, and His righteousness graciously applied to our account, then they don't actually understand the gospel. We must be willing to come along side that person who talks of Jesus, and speaks of the cross, but has no understanding of its massive work, and encourage them to truly understand the gospel. Not for our sake of winning an argument, but for the sake of their soul.


  • At 12:40 PM, Blogger TheReformedThinker said…

    Excellent post...allows for me to ask a question I have been wrestling with.

    If, as you say and I am inclined to agree, that those components must be understood in order for one to be saved, then when was I - or you - saved? You and I grew up together, both from Christian homes, both made "professions" at early ages, both were involved in youth and church. But, did we really understand what Christ did for us and what our sin did to Him??? I really don't think so. I didn't come to an understanding of that until my eyes were opened to the doctrines of grace a few years ago. So at what point is conversion real. Must people when asked will say that they were saved at young age (at least still in school), but I can almost gaurantee you that the majority had no idea about sin, atonement, imputation of righteousness, etc...not, as you say, that you have to know those words, but they didn't even think about those concepts as a child.

    So the question is does God take that decision as a child and accept that as repentence or did he wait until I was 28 before he did that. I am actualy inclined now to lean that it was not until I was 28, but then again I can remember witness to friends/family as a teenager with Gods desire to reach sinners in my heart.

    The reason I ask is because of the love of the church and family. If you really take a step back and think about it, the majority of the people in the church do not grasp what you just wrote. They believed they sin and Jesus is the Savior and took away sins, but they really don't get what that truly means for us. Therefore, could it be that our greatest (and most difficult)evangelistic opportunity is within the church?


  • At 6:51 AM, Anonymous pritchett4 said…

    Good question about "when is a person saved?" Seems to me that Jesus was speaking to this issue when he said, "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all." (Mark 10:15 - NASB). I do believe that I was saved in 3rd grade when I understood I was a sinner in need of a Savior and Jesus paid my debt. I certainly didn't comprehend the deep theological implications of salvation (which are good to know), but responded in child-like faith.

  • At 7:33 AM, Blogger RevPharoah said…

    I've had to face this question in two difficult settings. One in working with children, the second in dealing with mental illness and retardation.
    I've come to the conclusion that a six year old faith is sufficient to save a six year old, but not a sixteen year old. Childhood faith that saves develops into a mature faith over time.
    I believe the amount of doctrine that must be understood for salvation is minimal, but there is a longer list of doctrines which, once they are understood, cannot be rejected. A six year old can accept (though probably not understand) that Jesus is God, but probably isn't up to a detailed explanation of the virgin birth. However, once the cognitive process develop and some maturity occurs, it is appropriate to explore that doctrine more fully. If the doctrine is rejected at that point, it does have soteriological implications.

  • At 8:14 AM, Blogger TheReformedThinker said…

    Thanks for the comments...so maybe then the belief/rejection or lack of desire to even try to understand them - are indications of the true, or untrue, salvation experience.


  • At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree with revpharoah. When a young child trust Jesus, he does just that, TRUST Jesus. Probably more than we adults. But as we grow, we need to continue to 'grow up' in Christ. (Ephesians 4:12-16) We do not totally understand ALL that God has done for us when we first trust Him. (I know I didn't even at age 24 when I trusted Him) Now, I knew that Christ had taken my place in punishment for my sin, but at THAT time, knew little else of the magnitue of His death on the cross. We just realize that we need Him and are lost without Him. It is like an onion that has many layers and we just keep going deeper and deeper. That's what God wants us to do... to know Him better and have a deeper relationship with Him over the years. And HIM revealing to us more and more of Him through studying His Word! I am not sure that expecting someone who has just come to Christ to even be able to express all that you are suggesting is really the right way to look at it.lg

  • At 11:06 AM, Blogger TheReformedThinker said…

    I think you are correct anonymous. Perhaps you don't need all that knowledge for conversion, but I do think that lack of it and lack of desire for it, years down the road may suggest that the conversion was not real... just as you said that God wants us to get to know him at a deeper and deeper level. If one does not desire that growth, it could be an indication of non-conversion.

    Thanks again to everyone for helping with this question...and sorry Danny for taking over you blog for a day for my own selfish reasons.


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