The Presbyterian Church defends this “clear-cut distinction between God’s power and ours” as this book clearly demonstrates.
Sadly, however, it appears that the great mass of Christianity is “ignorant in the nature, extent and limits of what (sinners) can and must do in relationship to God….” And they are “equally ignorant and uncertain of the nature, extent and limits of what God can and will do in (them).”
As Luther said, “If we know nothing of these things, we shall know nothing whatsoever of Christianity….” And such is surely the case. In the world today, our pews and our pulpits are filled with people who are certain they are children of God. They have been assured by some well intentioned but misguided Christian that if they would simply walk an aisle, pray a prayer, feel sorrow, get baptized, join a church or do some other religious work, that God would be pleased to accept this act of faith and evangelical obedience and grant them eternal salvation. But this is not so.
God is the author of salvation, not man. Walking an aisle or praying a prayer may, in itself, be no more effective than counting beads, to the salvation of the soul. Is it wrong to walk an aisle or pray to God or feel sorrow for sin? Certainly not! It is simply wrong to think that this produces regeneration. Regeneration, the new birth, is what engenders a desire to sincerely pray to God in repentance and faith. It is not repentance and faith that produce regeneration, but regeneration that produce repentance and faith. That in a nutshell is what Luther is saying.
If walking an aisle or praying a prayer are not incidents and facts that a person can reference to be sure of his or her salvation, then what is? It is this: when a person comes to a point in his or her life when through the prior work of God in engendering repentance and faith, that person can honestly say by God’s grace, “I am trusting Christ and He alone for the salvation of my soul.” Then that person has a reasoned Biblical confidence that he or she is a child of God.
Many people that pray and walk an aisle go to hell. No one that trusts Christ for the salvation of his or her soul does so. It is trust or faith in Christ that is the evidence of the prior work of God in regenerating the soul. Prayer and a public profession of faith may and should result from this regeneration, but they never produce it. Now you might say to yourself, “But this is not that great a difference in what I already believe. It is almost a play on words. When I became a believer, I didn’t know the difference between regeneration and refrigeration, but God saved me anyhow. What is the difference?” There is only one difference, notwithstanding your (or our) understanding of theological terms when we trusted Christ; the fact is “we trusted Christ!” Be this I am saying, many trust the act of religious obedience, not Christ Himself. “I walked that aisle, I prayed that prayer, I got baptized, and I joined the church (I put my nickel in the Gospel slot machine and pulled the handle.) I did what I was told needed to be done, therefore I’m going to heaven!” This attitude is inevitably found in tandem with a life foreign to the holiness of Christ. A person, who has truly come to faith in Christ, evidences this faith in their daily life by obedience to the Savior. Christ made this very point saying,
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15
He is both Savior and Lord, not just Savior. A person who denies the Lordship of Christ cannot be counted among the family of Christ. So, the Scripture encourages us to carefully examine ourselves and our faith, to ensure that we are truly “in Christ.”
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-unless, of course, you fail the test? 2 Corinthians 13:5.
And this was said to “church members!”
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This completes our study of Presbyterian and Reformed Theology. It is an immensely important subject. It is important because the very heart of the Gospel is found in its message. Perhaps no man has stated the importance of this topic better than Martin Luther, who said-
Indeed, let me tell you, this is the hinge on which our discussion turns, the crucial issue between us…. If we know nothing of these things, we shall know nothing whatsoever of Christianity, and shall be worse than the heathen! … For if I am ignorant in the nature, extent and limits of what I can and must do in relationship to God, I shall be equally ignorant and uncertain of the nature, extent and limits of what God can and will do in me …. Now, if I am ignorant of the works and powers of God, I am ignorant of God himself; and if I do not know God, I cannot worship, praise, give thanks or serve Him, for I do not know how much I should attribute to myself and how much to Him. We
Reformed Theology: Summing It Up
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