Tag Archives: Gospel of Grace

All My Sin Has Been Paid For – Why Not Live Anyway I Please?

Some people say that the good news of the gospel is…too good.

Ever since the Apostle Paul preached, this gospel has been under attack with an old chestnut that goes something like this: “If salvation is a free gift, then let’s live any way we choose!” Or as Paul himself said in Romans 6:1, shall we “continue in sin that grace may abound”? There is a certain logic to it, no? If Christ has paid for sin, past, present and future, why not do as you please?

Well, here’s why: because when someone truly believes the gospel, they receive the Holy Spirit, which means that they receive a new heart (Ezekiel 36:36). This new heart enables them to truly understanding that Christ has died in their place for their sin. When someone truly “gets” that sacrifice by the power of the Spirit, their heart melts…and they change.

Saving Private Ryan

The movie Saving Private Ryan provides a good illustration. Here, in the aftermath of D-Day, Tom Hanks plays John Miller, an army captain who is assigned a mission to go into all of war-torn France and find one lone private – James Frances Ryan. The brass want Private Ryan brought out of the war because all of his brothers have been killed in combat, and his mother is to receive 3 horrific telegrams in one day; they don’t want her to eventually receive a fourth. Action ensues, and, as it happens, at the end of the movie, every man assigned to find Ryan has been killed in the search, except for one. And when this last man, Captain Miller himself, lays dying, he brings the surviving Ryan near and says, “Earn this.”

The movie closes decades later with an elderly Private Ryan coming to the Normandy cemetery to see Miller’s grave. He turns to his wife and asks her to confirm that he has lived a good life, that he is indeed a good man. She confirms it, and he stands at attention and salute’s Miller’s grave.

It’s a powerful movie moment and carries a life-changing truth: When someone sacrifices his life for you, and you are “in touch” with it, you can never be the same.

Now, leaving aside the idea that we might be able to “earn” what Christ has done for us – we can’t – what we take away from this is that everyone who truly believes Christ has been hanged on a tree for them, seeks to live for Him. By the power of the Spirit, they become full of what Paul called “conviction”:

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction… 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 (ESV)

Paul said that he knew the Thessalonians were chosen by God (that is, true Christians) because they, by the power of the Spirit, lived lives of conviction, that is, purposeful, sober-minded, God-centered lives. And so, when you see someone behaving however they please, living totally for self, and yet claiming to be a Christian, you have reason to scratch your head and wonder if they are the real thing. Now, we can’t know for sure and it’s not up to us anyway, but we do know this: when the gospel comes, I mean when it really comes to someone, that person can never say, “Great, I can sin all I want now.”

Any more, that is, than Private Ryan could kick dirt on Captain Miller’s grave.

For Monday, August 17th: 1 Thessalonians 2


Posted by on August 14, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Is Baptism Necessary For Salvation?

It was probably 10 years ago that I got a call from another pastor in town (since moved away) inviting me to lunch.  He and I had never really connected, so I gladly accepted.  As we sat down at Culvers one early afternoon, he didn’t take too long to get to his point.  He had come to visit Edgewood recently and had liked what I had to say…mostly.

“I appreciate how you tell people how to go to heaven,” he began.  “But…I think you’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing (Yeah, that’s what he said). You’re not telling them the full truth.”

Fascinating. What did he mean? Well, I soon found out. He was upset that I wasn’t telling people that they needed to be baptized in order to be saved. In his tradition, he had come to appreciate grace (Amen!), hence he was glad I was explaining the gospel, but he had also come to believe in the necessity of baptism for salvation. Since I didn’t share his conviction, I guess you can call me wolf pastor.

This particular aspect of theology, called baptismal regeneration, is only held by some who name the name of Christ, but it has always struck me as downright weird. (How’s that for a theological argument?) Later this pastor’s church would take out an ad in a local newspaper for a “community baptism”. How strange. In fairness, they promised instruction in advance, but it was almost as if they felt they could get people dunked and ensure their place in heaven. And how misleading…I wonder how many lost people in the community saw that ad, realized what the church was trying to do, and thought, “I guess I’m good…I’ve been baptized.” Yikes…extremely confusing.

The Apostle Paul, however, was not confused about the subject. His seemingly offhand thoughts on baptism in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 are almost comical…

…were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 (ESV)

It’s not a full orbed theological argument on the subject of baptism, but it’s darn close. First, Paul can’t remember whether he baptized anyone, so it’s clearly not an issue that is in the forefront of his mind. But more than that, he says quite succinctly that he was not sent to baptize.  And finally, as if all that weren’t enough, if baptism were required for salvation, Paul would never have said “I thank God that I baptized none of you except…”

That said, baptism is important.  It is a command of the Lord (Matthew 28:19, 20), and it gloriously envisions the gospel, not only in picturing the washing away of sins, but also in immersion, as the believer is buried with Him in baptism, and raised with Him in newness of life (Romans 6:4). So if you haven’t been baptized since believing in Jesus, you should be. It’s an obedience issue…but it is not a matter of salvation, and those who say it is are confusing the gospel of grace. And that’s a really, really bad thing to do.

Makes you wonder who the real wolf is…

For Wednesday, May 5th: 1 Corinthians 2


Posted by on May 5, 2015 in Uncategorized


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