OPPOSING ONESELF (Part 3)
2Ti 2:24-25 (24) And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, (25) In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretian a few years ago was uncharitably reproached for his habit of speaking out of the corner of his mouth (a trait owing to a facial paralysis). His response went something like, "Better that I should speak out of one side of my mouth than be like my opponent who speaks out of both sides of his mouth." Spiritually, many Christians are regrettably like the Prime Minister's opponent, affirming and denying the very same thing or affirming two opposing things (though usually doing so unwittingly). We iterate that is not a mark of intellect to knowingly hold two diametrically opposed positions as both being true but more likely a mark of lunacy, and we concur with the Holy Spirit that indeed, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (Jam 1:8). The truth, rightly divided (2Ti 2:15) will be consistent and, when understood, will "banish to Bedlam" doctrinal self-contradictions, thus rendering in us a "sound mind" (2Ti 1:7). This world does not need Christian double-speak to conclude that Christians are of unsound minds; they conclude that anyway---even of the soundest (Joh 10:20 c/w Acts 26:24). Why justify their opinion? Interestingly the word "cretin" which denotes idiocy or mental defect is, according to some authorities, a derogatory twist on "Christian." Better that we should have a consistent doctrine and be "Chretien-ous Christians" than to affirm contradicting doctrines and be "cretinous Christians." Many Christians subscribe to the notion that an unregenerate sinner need only place his faith in Jesus in order to obtain eternal life. Church, revival or crusade meetings almost invariably will conclude with such an appeal. While the choir sings one last verse of "Just As I Am" for the eighth time, with every head bowed and every eye closed, in gentle but solemn tones the preacher pleads: "Oh, sinner---think not that you can escape hellfire by your own goodness. You'll never get to heaven by earning it with good works. If you want eternal life, there's nothing you can do. All you have to do is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ..." Well, which is correct? Is there nothing the poor sinner can do or is there something the poor sinner can do? If eternal life really is based upon something one does, then why is belief singled out as the silver bullet of salvation? Why not baptism (for there is a salvation in baptism, Acts 2:38-40; 1Pe 3:21)? Why not seafaring (for we read of salvation only being in the boat, Acts 27:31)? Why not pregnancy (for Paul says women are saved in childbearing, 1Ti 2:15)? These are also things that can be done which yield salvation! This is all very confusing and "God is not the author of confusion" (1Co 14:33). It is not the Holy Spirit but a deceiving spirit that authors such a double-minded appeal as our hypothetical preacher offers. In the foregoing example, the preacher is correct that there is nothing an unregenerate sinner who is only a fleshly man (he has not the Spirit of God within) can do to earn his way out of condemnation and into heaven. That salvation is "not by works of righteousness which we have done..." (Tit 3:5). He is also correct that faith or belief is indeed something that men are exhorted to do. Of faith, Jesus said to the Jews that it was something they "ought to have done..." (Mat 23:23) and Paul's recommendation to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ was in response to a jailor's question, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30-31). But putting these two facts together and making belief the means to eternal life is akin to a doctor stuffing food into a cadaver because he sees the positive effects food has on himself. The way to handle this apparent dilemma is not by ignoring it, nor by relegating it to the realm of inscrutability, nor by resorting to spiritual, linguistic or logical "smoke and mirrors" to obscure the obvious. The Rosetta Stone which solves all is by realizing that 1) men are by nature dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-3) and in that condition are unable to believe the gospel (1Co 1:18; 1Co 2:14), 2) that men must be first born of God from out of their natural unregenerate state in order to believe (Joh 1:12-13; Joh 8:47; Joh 10:26-27), having been previously ordained unto eternal life (Acts 13:48), 3) Christ by Himself purged the sins of those His Father gave to Him (the elect) for the sake of their eternal salvation and glory (Joh 17:2-4 c/w Heb 1:3; Heb 9:15), 4) there is another salvation beside eternal glory that God's elect may experience by receiving gospel labors (2Ti 2:10) which is conversion, not regeneration, and 5) the work of the gospel is therefore to locate, stimulate, separate and educate the regenerate, not to make sheep out of goats. Making eternal life dependent on an unregenerate sinner's belief (something he must do) is only a continuation of the defunct and abolished Law Covenant, the nature of which was "do and live" (Rom 10:5). The New Covenant and work of grace in the soul is "NOT according to the [first] covenant..." (Heb 8:9); it is NOT "do and live." If anything, it is "live and do." Life precedes activity, the work of grace in the soul must precede the working of the gospel upon the heart, and the latter does not cause the former---it but evidences the former: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (Joh 5:24).