Charles Spurgeon on Human Inability


by Charles Spurgeon, 1858

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”–John 6:44.

Coming to Christ” is a very common phrase in Holy Scripture. It is used to express those acts of the soul wherein, leaving at once our self-righteousness, and our sins, we fly unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive his righteousness to be our covering, and his blood to be our atonement. Coming to Christ, then, embraces in it repentance, self-negation, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and it sums within itself all those things which are the necessary attendants of these great states of heart, such as the belief of the truth, earnestness of prayer to God, the submission of the soul to the precepts of God’s gospel, and all those things which accompany the dawn of salvation in the soul. Coming to Christ is just the one essential thing for a sinner’s salvation. He that cometh not to Christ, do what he may, or think what he may, is yet in “the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity.” Coming to Christ is the very first effect of regeneration. No sooner is the soul quickened than it at once discovers its lost estate, is horrified thereat, looks out for a refuge, and believing Christ to be a suitable one, flies to him and reposes in him. Where there is not this coming to Christ, it is certain that there is as yet no quickening; where there is no quickening, the soul is dead in trespasses and sins, and being dead it cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. We have before us now an announcement very startling, some say very obnoxious. Coming to Christ, though described by some people as being the very easiest thing in all the world, is in our text declared to be a thing utterly and entirely impossible to any man, unless the Father shall draw him to Christ. It shall be our business, then, to enlarge upon this declaration. We doubt not that it will always be offensive to carnal nature, but, nevertheless, the offending of human nature is sometimes the first step towards bringing it to bow itself before God. And if this be the effect of a painful process, we can forget the pain and rejoice in the glorious consequences.

I shall endeavour this morning, first of all, to notice man’s inability, wherein it consists. Secondly, the Father’s drawings–what these are, and how they are exerted upon the soul. And then I shall conclude by noticing a sweet consolation which may be derived from this seemingly barren and terrible text.

I. First, then,


The text says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Wherein does this inability lie?

First, it does not lie in any physical defect. If in coming to Christ, moving the body or walking with the feet should be of any assistance, certainly man has all physical power to come to Christ in that sense. I remember to have heard a very foolish Antinomian declare, that he did not believe any man had the power to walk to the house of God unless the Father drew him. Now the man was plainly foolish, because he must have seen that as long as a man was alive and had legs, it was as easy for him to walk to the house of God as to the house of Satan. If coming to Christ includes the utterance of a prayer, man has no physical defect in that respect, if he be not dumb, he can say a prayer as easily as he can utter blasphemy. It is as easy for a man to sing one of the songs of Zion as to sing a profane and libidinous song. There is no lack of physical power in coming to Christ. All that can be wanted with regard to the bodily strength man most assuredly has, and any part of salvation which consists in that is totally and entirely in the power of man without any assistance from the Spirit of God.

Nor, again, does this inability lie in any mental lack. I can believe this Bible to be true just as easily as I can believe any other book to be true. So far as believing on Christ is an act of the mind, I am just as able to believe on Christ as I am able to believe on anybody else. Let his statement be but true, it is idle to tell me I cannot believe it. I can believe the statement that Christ makes as well as I can believe the statement of any other person. There is no deficiency of faculty in the mind: it is as capable of appreciating as a mere mental act the guilt of sin, as it is of appreciating the guilt of assassination. It is just as possible for me to exercise the mental idea of seeking God, as it is to exercise the thought of ambition. I have all the mental strength and power that can possibly be needed, so far as mental power is needed in salvation at all. Nay, there is not any man so ignorant that he can plead a lack of intellect as an excuse for rejecting the gospel. The defect, then, does not lie either in the body, or, what we are bound to call, speaking theologically, the mind. It is not any lack or deficiency there, although it is the vitiation of the mind, the corruption or the ruin of it, which, after all, is the very essence of man’s inability.

Permit me to show you wherein this inability of man really does lie. It lies deep in his nature. Through the fall, and through our own sin, the nature of man has become so debased, and depraved, and corrupt, that it is impossible for him to come to Christ without the assistance of God the Holy Spirit. Now, in trying to exhibit how the nature of man thus renders him unable to come to Christ, you must allow me just to take this figure. You see a sheep; how willingly it feeds upon the herbage! You never knew a sheep sigh after carrion; it could not live on lion’s food. Now bring me a wolf; and you ask me whether a wolf cannot eat grass, whether it cannot be just as docile and as domesticated as the sheep. I answer, no; because its nature is contrary thereunto. You say, “Well, it has ears and legs; can it not hear the shepherd’s voice, and follow him whithersoever he leadeth it?” I answer, certainly; there is no physical cause why it cannot do so, but its nature forbids, and therefore I say it cannot do so. Can it not be tamed? Cannot its ferocity be removed? Probably it may so far be subdued that it may become apparently tame; but there will always be a marked distinction between it and the sheep, because there is a distinction in nature. Now, the reason why man cannot come to Christ, is not because he cannot come, so far as his body or his mere power of mind is concerned, but because his nature is so corrupt that he has neither the will nor the power to come to Christ unless drawn by the Spirit.

But let me give you a better illustration. You see a mother with her babe in her arms. You put a knife into her hand, and tell her to stab that babe to the heart. She replies, and very truthfully, “I cannot.” Now, so far as her bodily power is concerned, she can, if she pleases; there is the knife, and there is the child. The child cannot resist, and she has quite sufficient strength in her hand immediately to stab it to its heart. But she is quite correct when she says she cannot do it. As a mere act of the mind, it is quite possible she might think of such a thing as killing the child, and yet she says she cannot think of such a thing; and she does not say falsely, for her nature as a mother forbids her doing a thing from which her soul revolts. Simply because she is that child’s parent she feels she cannot kill it. It is even so with a sinner. Coming to Christ is so obnoxious to human nature that, although, so far as physical and mental forces are concerned, (and these have but a very narrow sphere in salvation) men could come if they would: it is strictly correct to say that they cannot and will not unless the Father who hath sent Christ doth draw them. Let us enter a little more deeply into the subject, and try to show you wherein this inability of man consists, in its more minute particulars.

1. First, it lies in the obstinacy of the human will. “Oh!” saith the Arminian, “men may be saved if they will.” We reply, “My dear sir, we all believe that; but it is just the if they will that is the difficulty. We assert that no man will come to Christ unless he be drawn; nay, we do not assert it, but Christ himself declares it–“Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;’ and as long as that “ye will not come’ stands on record in Holy Scripture, we shall not be brought to believe in any doctrine of the freedom of the human will.” It is strange how people, when talking about free-will, talk of things which they do not at all understand. “Now,” says one, “I believe men can be saved if they will.” My dear sir, that is not the question at all. The question is, are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful. supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained towards Christ. You reply, that men sometimes are willing, without the help of the Holy Spirit. I answer–Did you ever meet with any person who was? Scores and hundreds, nay, thousands of Christians have I conversed with, of different opinions, young and old, but it has never been my lot to meet with one who could affirm that he came to Christ of himself, without being drawn. The universal confession of all true believers is this–“I know that unless Jesus Christ had sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God, I would to this very hour have been wandering far from him, at a distance from him, and loving that distance well.” With common consent, all believers affirm the truth, that men will not come to Christ till the Father who hath sent Christ doth draw them.

2. Again, not only is the will obstinate, but the understanding is darkened. Of that we have abundant Scriptural proof. I am not now making mere assertions, but stating doctrines authoritatively taught in the Holy Scriptures, and known in the conscience of every Christian man–that the understanding of man is so dark, that he cannot by any means understand the things of God until his understanding has been opened. Man is by nature blind within. The cross of Christ, so laden with glories, and glittering with attractions, never attracts him, because he is blind and cannot see its beauties. Talk to him of the wonders of the creation, show to him the many-coloured arch that spans the sky, let him behold the glories of a landscape, he is well able to see all these things; but talk to him of the wonders of the covenant of grace, speak to him of the security of the believer in Christ, tell him of the beauties of the person of the Redeemer, he is quite deaf to all your description; you are as one that playeth a goodly tune, it is true; but he regards not, he is deaf, he has no comprehension. Or, to return to the verse which we so specially marked in our reading, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned;” and inasmuch as he is a natural man, it is not in his power to discern the things of God. “Well,” says one, “I think I have arrived at a very tolerable judgment in matters of theology; I think I understand almost every point.” True, that you may do in the letter of it; but in the spirit of it, in the true reception thereof into the soul, and in the actual understanding of it, it is impossible for you to have attained, unless you have been drawn by the Spirit. For as long as that Scripture stands true, that carnal men cannot receive spiritual things, it must be true that you have not received them, unless you have been renewed and made a spiritual man in Christ Jesus. The will, then, and the understanding, are two great doors, both blocked up against our coming to Christ, and until these are opened by the sweet influences of the Divine Spirit, they must be for ever closed to anything like coming to Christ.

3. Again, the affections, which constitute a very great part of man, are depraved. Man, as he is, before he receives the grace of God, loves anything and everything above spiritual things. If ye want proof of this, look around you. There needs no monument to the depravity of the human affections. Cast your eyes everywhere–there is not a street, nor a house, nay, nor a heart, which doth not bear upon it sad evidence of this dreadful truth. Why is it that men are not found on the Sabbath Day universally flocking to the house of God? Why are we not more constantly found reading our Bibles? How is it that prayer is a duty almost universally neglected? Why is it that Christ Jesus is so little beloved? Why are even his professed followers so cold in their affections to him? Whence arise these things? Assuredly, dear brethren, we can trace them to no other source than this, the corruption and vitiation of the affections. We love that which we ought to hate, and we hate that which we ought to love. It is but human nature, fallen human nature, that man should love this present life better than the life to come. It is but the effect of the fall, that man should love sin better than righteousness, and the ways of this world better than the ways of God. And again, we repeat it, until these affections be renewed, and turned into a fresh channel by the gracious drawings of the Father, it is not possible for any man to love the Lord Jesus Christ.

4. Yet once more–conscience, too, has been overpowered by the fall. I believe there is no more egregious mistake made by divines, than when they tell people that conscience is the vicegerent of God within the soul, and that it is one of those powers which retains its ancient dignity, and stands erect amidst the fall of its compeers. My brethren, when man fell in the garden, manhood fell entirely; there was not one single pillar in the temple of manhood that stood erect. It is true, conscience was not destroyed. The pillar was not shattered; it fell, and it fell in one piece, and there it lies along, the mightiest remnant of God’s once perfect work in man. But that conscience is fallen, I am sure. Look at men. Who among them is the possessor of a “good conscience toward God,” but the regenerated man? Do you imagine that if men’s consciences always spoke loudly and clearly to them, they would live in the daily commission of acts, which are as opposed to the right as darkness to light? No, beloved; conscience can tell me that I am a sinner, but conscience cannot make me feel that I am one. Conscience may tell me that such-and-such a thing is wrong, but how wrong it is conscience itself does not know. Did any man s conscience, unenlightened by the Spirit, ever tell him that his sins deserved damnation? Or if conscience did do that, did it ever lead any man to feel an abhorrence of sin as sin? In fact, did conscience ever bring a man to such a self-renunciation, that he did totally abhor himself and all his works and come to Christ? No, conscience, although it is not dead, is ruined, its power is impaired, it hath not that clearness of eye and that strength of hand, and that thunder of voice, which it had before the fall; but hath ceased to a great degree, to exert its supremacy in the town of Mansoul. Then, beloved, it becomes necessary for this very reason, because conscience is depraved, that the Holy Spirit should step in, to show us our need of a Saviour, and draw us to the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Still,” says one, “as far as you have hitherto gone, it appears to me that you consider that the reason why men do not come to Christ is that they will not, rather than they cannot.” True, most true. I believe the greatest reason of man’s inability is the obstinacy of his will. That once overcome, I think the great stone is rolled away from the sepulchre, and the hardest part of the battle is already won. But allow me to go a little further. My text does not say, “No man will come,” but it says, “No man can come.” Now, many interpreters believe that the can here, is but a strong expression conveying no more meaning than the word will. I feel assured that this is not correct. There is in man, not only unwillingness to be saved, but there is a spiritual powerlessness to come to Christ; and this I will prove to every Christian at any rate. Beloved, I speak to you who have already been quickened by the divine grace, does not your experience teach you that there are times when you have a will to serve God, and yet have not the power? Have you not sometimes been obliged to say that you have wished to believe. but you have had to pray, Lord, help mine unbelief?” Because, although willing enough to receive God’s testimony, your own carnal nature was too strong for you, and you felt you needed supernatural help. Are you able to go into your room at any hour you choose, and to fall upon your knees and say, “Now, it is my will that I should be very earnest in prayer, and that I should draw near unto God ?” I ask, do you find your power equal to your will? You could say, even at the bar of God himself, that you are sure you are not mistaken in your willingness; you are willing to be wrapt up in devotion, it is your will that your soul should not wander from a pure contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ, but you find that you cannot do that, even when you are willing, without the help of the Spirit. Now, if the quickened child of God finds a spiritual inability, how much more the sinner who is dead in trespasses and sin? If even the advanced Christian, after thirty or forty years, finds himself sometimes willing and yet powerless–if such be his experience,–does it not seem more than likely that the poor sinner who has not yet believed, should find a need of strength as well as a want of will?

But, again, there is another argument. If the sinner has strength to come to Christ, I should like to know how we are to understand those continual descriptions of the sinner’s state which we meet with in God’s holy Word? Now, a sinner is said to be dead in trespasses and sins. Will you affirm that death implies nothing more than the absence of a will? Surely a corpse is quite as unable as unwilling. Or again, do not all men see that there is a distinction between will and power: might not that corpse be sufficiently quickened to get a will, and yet be so powerless that it could not lift as much as its hand or foot? Have we never seen cases in which persons have been just sufficiently re-animated to give evidence of life, and have yet been so near death that they could not have performed the slightest action? Is there not a clear difference between the giving or the will and the giving of power? It is quite certain, however, that where the will is given, the power will follow. Make a man willing, and he shall be made powerful; for when God gives the will, he does not tantalize man by giving him to wish for that which he is unable to do; nevertheless he makes such a division between the will and the power, that it shall be seen that both things are quite distinct gifts of the Lord God.

Then I must ask one more question: if all that were needed to make a man willing, do you not at once degrade the Holy Spirit? Are we not in the habit of giving all the glory of salvation wrought in us to God the Spirit? But now, if all that God the Spirit does for me is to make me willing to do these things for myself, am I not in a great measure a sharer with the Holy Spirit in the glory? and may I not boldly stand up and say, “It is true the Spirit gave me the will to do it, but still I did it myself, and therein will I glory; for if I did these things myself without assistance from on high, I will not cast my crown at his feet; it is my own crown, I earned it, and I will keep it.” Inasmuch as the Holy Spirit is evermore in Scripture set forth as the person who worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure, we hold it to be a legitimate inference that he must do something more for us than the mere making of us willing, and that therefore there must be another thing besides want of will in a sinner–there must be absolute and actual want of power.

Now, before I leave this statement, let me address myself to you for a moment. I am often charged with preaching doctrines that may do a great deal of hurt. Well, I shall not deny the charge, for I am not careful to answer in this matter. I have my witnesses here present to prove that the things which I have preached have done a great deal of hurt, but they have not done hurt either to morality or to God’s Church; the hurt has been on the side of Satan. There are not ones or twos but many hundreds who this morning rejoice that they have been brought near to God; from having been profane Sabbath-breakers, drunkards, or worldly persons, they have been brought to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ; and if this be any hurt may God of his infinite mercy send us a thousand times as much. But further, what truth is there in the world which will not hurt a man who chooses to make hurt of it? You who preach general redemption, are very fond of proclaiming the great truth of God’s mercy to the last moment. But how dare you preach that? Many people make hurt of it by putting off the day of grace, and thinking that the last hour may do as well as the first. Why, if we never preached anything which man could misuse, and abuse, we must hold our tongues for ever.

Still says one, “Well then, if I cannot save myself, and cannot come to Christ, I must sit still and do nothing.” If men do say so, on their own heads shall be their doom. We have very plainly told you that there are many things you can do. To be found continually in the house of God is in your power; to study the Word of God with diligence is in your power; to renounce your outward sin, to forsake the vices in which you indulge, to make your life honest, sober, and righteous, is in your power. For this you need no help from the Holy Spirit; all this you can do yourself; but to come to Christ truly is not in your power, until you are renewed by the Holy Ghost. But mark you, your want of power is no excuse, seeing that you have no desire to come, and are living in wilful rebellion against God. Your want of power lies mainly in the obstinacy of nature. Suppose a liar says that it is not in his power to speak the truth, that he has been a liar so long, that he cannot leave it off; is that an excuse for him? Suppose a man who has long indulged in lust should tell you that he finds his lusts have so girt about him like a great iron net that he cannot get rid of them, would you take that as an excuse? Truly it is none at all. If a drunkard has become so foully a drunkard, that he finds it impossible to pass a public–house without stepping in, do you therefore excuse him? No, because his inability to reform, lies in his nature, which he has no desire to restrain or conquer. The thing that is done, and the thing that causes the thing that is done, being both from the root of sin, are two evils which cannot excuse each other, What though the Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots? It is because you have learned to do evil that you cannot now learn to do well; and instead, therefore, of letting you sit down to excuse yourselves, let me put a thunderbolt beneath the seat of your sloth, that you may be startled by it and aroused. Remember, that to sit still is to be damned to all eternity. Oh! that God the Holy Spirit might make use of this truth in a very different manner! Before I have done I trust I shall be enabled to show you how it is that this truth, which apparently condemns men and shuts them out, is, after all, the great truth, which has been blessed to the conversion of men.

II. Our second point is


“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” How then does the Father draw men? Arminian divines generally say that God draws men by the preaching of the gospel. Very true; the preaching of the gospel is the instrument of drawing men, but there must be some thing more than this. Let me ask to whom did Christ address these words? Why, to the people of Capernaum, where he had often preached, where he had uttered mournfully and plaintively the woes of the law and the invitations of the gospel. In that city he had done many mighty works and worked many miracles. In fact, such teaching and such miraculous attestation had he given to them, that he declared that Tyre and Sidon would have repented long ago in sack-cloth and ashes, if they had been blessed with such privileges. Now, if the preaching of Christ himself did not avail to the enabling these men to come to Christ, it cannot be possible that all that was intended by the drawing of the Father was simply preaching. No, brethren, you must note again, he does not say no man can come except the minister draw him, but except the Father draw him.

Now there is such a thing as being drawn by the gospel, and drawn by the minister, without being drawn by God. Clearly, it is a divine drawing that is meant, a drawing by the Most High God–the First Person of the most glorious Trinity sending out the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, to induce men to come to Christ. Another person turns round and says with a sneer, “Then do you think that Christ drags men to himself, seeing that they are unwilling!” I remember meeting once with a man who said to me, Sir, you preach that Christ takes people by the hair of their heads and drags them to himself” I asked him whether he could refer to the date of the sermon wherein I preached that extraordinary doctrine, for if he could, I should be very much obliged. However, he could not. But said I, while Christ does not drag people to himself by the hair of their heads, I believe that, he draws them by the heart quite as powerfully as your caricature would suggest. Mark that in the Father’s drawing there is no compulsion whatever; Christ never compelled any man to come to him against his will. If a man be unwilling to be saved, Christ does not save him against his will. How, then, does the Holy Spirit draw him? Why, by making him willing. It is true he does not use “moral suasion;” he knows a nearer method of reaching the heart. He goes to the secret fountain of the heart, and he knows how, by some mysterious operation, to turn the will in an opposite direction, so that, as Ralph Erskine paradoxically puts it, the man is saved “with full consent against his will;” that is, against his old will he is saved. But he is saved with full consent, for he is made willing in the day of God’s power. Do not imagine that any man will go to heaven kicking and struggling all the way against the hand that draws him. Do not conceive that any man will be plunged in the bath of a Saviour’s blood while he is striving to run away from the Saviour. Oh, no. It is quite true that first of all man is unwilling to be saved. When the Holy Spirit hath put his influence into the heart, the text is fulfilled–“draw me and I will run after thee.” We follow on while he draws us, glad to obey the voice which once we had despised. But the gist of the matter lies in the turning of the will. How that is done no flesh knoweth; it is one of those mysteries that is clearly perceived as a fact, but the cause of which no tongue can tell, and no heart can guess.

The apparent way, however, in which the Holy Spirit operates, we can tell you. The first thing the Holy Spirit does when he comes into a man’s heart is this: he finds him with a very good opinion of himself: and there is nothing which prevents a man coming to Christ like a good opinion of himself. Why, says man, “I don’t want to come to Christ. I have as good a righteousness as anybody can desire. I feel I can walk into heaven on my own rights.” The Holy Spirit lays bare his heart, lets him see the loathsome cancer that is there eating away his life, uncovers to him all the blackness and defilement of that sink of hell, the human heart, and then the man stands aghast. “I never thought I was like this. Oh! those sins I thought were little, have swelled out to an immense stature. What I thought was a mole-hill has grown into a mountain; it was but the hyssop on the wall before, but now it has become a cedar of Lebanon. Oh,” saith the man within himself, “I will try and reform; I will do good deeds enough to wash these black deeds out.” Then comes the Holy Spirit and shows him that he cannot do this, takes away all his fancied power and strength, so that the man falls down on his knees in agony, and cries, “Oh! once I thought I could save myself by my good works, but now I find that

“Could my tears for ever flow,
Could my zeal no respite know
All for sin could not atone,
Thou must save and thou alone,
‘”Then the heart sinks, and the man is ready to despair. And saith he, “I never can be saved. Nothing can save me.” Then, comes the Holy Spirit and shows the sinner the cross of Christ, gives him eyes anointed with heavenly eye-salve, and says, “Look to yonder cross. that Man died to save sinners; you feel that you are a sinner; he died to save you.” And he enables the heart to believe, and to come to Christ. And when it comes to Christ, by this sweet drawing of the Spirit, it finds “a peace with God which passeth all understanding, which keeps his heart and mind through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now, you will plainly perceive that all this may be done without any compulsion. Man is as much drawn willingly, as if he were not drawn at all; and he comes to Christ with full consent, with as full a consent as if no secret influence had ever been exercised in his heart. But that influence must be exercised, or else there never has been and there never will be, any man who either can or will come to the Lord Jesus Christ.

III. And, now, we gather up our ends, and conclude by trying to make a practical application of the doctrine; and we trust a comfortable one. “Well,” says one, “if what this man preaches be true, what is to become of my religion? for do you know I have been a long while trying, and I do not like to hear you say a man cannot save himself. I believe he can, and I mean to persevere; but if I am to believe what you say, I must give it all up and begin again.” My dear friends, it will be a very happy thing if you do. Do not think that I shall be at all alarmed if you do so. Remember, what you are doing is building your house upon the sand, and it is but an act of charity if I can shake it a little for you. Let me assure you, in God’s name, if your religion has no better foundation than your own strength, it will not stand you at the bar of God. Nothing will last to eternity, but that which came from eternity. Unless the everlasting God has done a good work in your heart, all you may have done must be unravelled at the last day of account. It is all in vain for you to be a church-goer or chapel-goer, a good keeper of the Sabbath, an observer of your prayers: it is all in vain for you to be honest to your neighbours and reputable in your conversation; if you hope to be saved by these things, it is all in vain for you to trust in them. Go on; be as honest as you like, keep the Sabbath perpetually, be as holy as you can. I would not dissuade you from these things. God forbid; grow in them, but oh, do not trust in them, for if you rely upon these things you will find they will fail you when most you need them. And if there be anything else that you have found yourself able to do unassisted by divine grace, the sooner you can get rid of the hope that has been engendered by it the better for you, for it is a foul delusion to rely upon anything that flesh can do. A spiritual heaven must be inhabited by spiritual men, and preparation for it must be wrought by the Spirit of God.

“Well,” cries another, “I have been sitting under a ministry where I have been told that I could, at my own option, repent and believe, and the consequence is that I have been putting it off from day to day. I thought I could come one day as well as another; that I had only to say, “Lord, have mercy upon me,’ and believe, and then I should be saved. Now you have taken all this hope away for me, sir; I feel amazement and horror taking hold upon me.” Again, I say, “My dear friend, I am very glad of it. This was the effect which I hoped to produce. I pray that you may feel this a great deal more. When you have no hope of saving yourself, I shall have hope that God has begun to save you. As soon as you say “Oh, I cannot come to Christ. Lord, draw me, help me,’ I shall rejoice over you. He who has got a will, though he has not power, has grace begun in his heart, and God will not leave him until the work is finished.”

But, careless sinner, learn that thy salvation now hangs in God’s hand. Oh, remember thou art entirely in the hand of God. Thou hast sinned against him, and if he wills to damn thee, damned thou art. Thou canst not resist his will nor thwart his purpose. Thou hast deserved his wrath, and if he chooses to pour the full shower of that wrath upon thy head, thou canst do nothing to avert it. If, on the other hand, he chooses to save thee, he is able to save thee to the very uttermost. But thou liest as much in his hand as the summer’s moth beneath thine own finger. He is the God whom thou art grieving every day. Doth it not make thee tremble to think that thy eternal destiny now hangs upon the will of him whom thou hast angered and incensed? Dost not this make thy knees knock together, and thy blood curdle? If it does so I rejoice, inasmuch as this may be the first effect of the Spirit’s drawing in thy soul. Oh, tremble to think that the God whom thou hast angered, is the God upon whom thy salvation or thy condemnation entirely depends. Tremble and “kiss the Son lest he be angry and ye perish from the way while his wrath is kindled but a little.”

Now, the comfortable reflection is this:–Some of you this morning are conscious that you are coming to Christ. Have you not begun to weep the penitential tear? Did not your closet witness your prayerful preparation for the hearing of the Word of God? And during the service of this morning, has not your heart said within you, “Lord, save me, or I perish, for save myself I cannot?” And could you not now stand up in your seat, and sing.

“Oh, sovereign grace my heart subdue;
I would be led in triumph, too,
A willing captive of my Lord,
To sing the triumph of his Word.”
And have I not myself heard you say in your heart–“Jesus, Jesus, my whole trust Is in thee: I know that no righteousness of my own can save me, but only thou, O Christ–sink or swim, I cast myself on thee?” Oh, my brother, thou art drawn by the Father, for thou couldst not have come unless he had drawn thee. Sweet thought! And if he has drawn thee, dost thou know what is the delightful inference? Let me repeat one text, and may that comfort thee: “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Yes, my poor weeping brother, inasmuch as thou art now coming to Christ, God has drawn thee; and inasmuch as he has drawn thee, it is a proof that he has loved thee from before the foundation of the world. Let thy heart leap within thee, thou art one of his. Thy name was written on the Saviour’s hands when they were nailed to the accursed tree. Thy name glitters on the breast-plate of the great High Priest to-day; ay, and it was there before the day-star knew its place, or planets ran their round. Rejoice in the Lord ye that have come to Christ, and shout for joy all ye that have been drawn of the Father. For this is your proof, your solemn testimony, that you from among men have been chosen in eternal election, and that you shall be kept by the power of God, through faith, unto the salvation which is ready to be revealed.

Charles Spurgeon, Human Inability

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A Checklist for Christians!

   The  Christian’s  Checklist!

For Evaluating Your Personal Conduct (not others)

Check Mark

1. Is It Right?
    1st John 5:17

  • “All unrighteousness is sin…”

2. Will This Bring Me Near Some Temptation?
    Rom. 13:14

  • “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

3. Does This Give Place To The Devil?
    Eph. 4:27

  • “Neither give place to the devil.”

4. Is there anything in scripture contrary to it?
    Isa. 8:20

  • “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

5. Am I trusting God or depending in my own strength?
    Prov. 3:5-6

  • “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

6. Is it doubtful?
    Rom. 14:23

  • “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

7. Will it cause someone to stumble?
    Rom. 14:21

  • “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.”

8. Does it appear evil to anyone?
    1st Thess. 5:22

  • “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

9. Would the Lord Jesus Christ do this?
    1st Pet. 2:21

  • “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:”

    Rom. 8:29

  • “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

10. Will it please God?
    John 8:29

  • “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.”

11. Am I trying to impress others with my spirituality?
    Acts 5:1-11

  • “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price,”

12. Do I hope somebody notices me?
    Gal. 5:26

  • “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”

13. Does it edify?
    1st Cor. 14:26

  • “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.”

14. Am I being selfish?
    Phil. 2:3-4

  • “Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

15. Am I denying the flesh?
    Luke 14:26

  • “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

    Luke 9:23

  • “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

16. Am I putting Christ first?
    Col. 1:18

  • “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”

17. Is it expedient?
    1st Cor. 10:23

  • “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.”

18. Will it bring glory to God?
    1st Cor. 10:31

  • “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

19. Am I deceiving myself or being deceived?
    1st Cor. 3:18

  • “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.”

20. Do I know better?
    1st Cor. 8:10

  • “For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols.”

21. Am I searching for an excuse to justify what I want to do?
    Luke 16:15

  • “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

22. Do I have to hide it from anyone? Sneak around?
    2nd Cor. 4:2

  • “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

23. Did I handle the word of God deceitfully?
    2nd Cor. 4:2

  • “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

24. Will this in anyway defile God’s body?
    1st Cor. 3:17

  • “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. 1Cor. 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”

25. Can I sincerely thank God for it?
    1st Thess. 5:18

  • “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

26. Can I do this in Jesus’ name?
    Col. 3:17

  • “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

27. Can I go all the way with it?
    Col. 3:23

  • “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Eccl. 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

28. Have I prayed about it?

  • Ps. 66:18 “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: Phil. 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

28. Am I breaking one commandment in order to keep another?
    Jer. 48:10

  • “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.”

29. Would I like to be doing this when Jesus Christ returns?
    1st John 2:28

  • “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

    1st John 3:1

  • “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”

30. How will it appear at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
    Rom. 14:10-12

  • “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

    1st Cor. 3:11-15

  • “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

Compiled by Chris Olson

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From Eternal Life MInistries

What Is a Biblical Christian?
by Albert N. Martin

There are many matters concerning which total ignorance and complete indifference are neither tragic nor fatal. I am sure that there are few of us who can explain all the processes by which a brown cow eats green grass and gives white milk—but we can still enjoy the milk! Many of us are totally ignorant of Einstein’s theory of relativity, and if we were pressed to explain it we would really be in difficulty. And not only are we ignorant of Einstein’s theory but most of us are quite indifferent; yet our ignorance and indifference are neither tragic nor fatal. There are some matters, however, concerning which ignorance and indifference are both tragic and fatal. One such matter is the answer to the question, “What is a biblical Christian?” In other words, according to the Scriptures, when does a man, woman, boy or girl have the right to the name “Christian”? [more]

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Biblical Encouragement from Grace Gems

Christ’s Comfort for Weary Pilgrims!
A treasury of our best devotional gems

“Christ is all!” Colossians 3:11

“From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another!” John 1:16

Carry all your concerns to Him — in the arms of faith!

(James Smith, “The Pastor’s Morning Visit”)

“Casting all your care upon Him — because He cares for you!” 1 Peter 5:7

The Lord knows all His people — all their needs, and all their trials.

He thinks upon them — to bless, deliver and supply them.

He keeps His eye upon them — in all places, at all times, and under all circumstances.

He has them in His hand — and will not loosen His hold.

He looks upon them always as His own ‘treasured possession’ . . .
the objects of His eternal love,
the purchase of His Son’s blood,
the temples of His Holy Spirit.

They are precious in His sight!

He knows they are weak and fearful — and that they have many enemies. He teaches them to cast themselves and all their cares into His hands! And He has given them His promise — that He will care for them.

It is a Father’s care which He exercises. It is a wise, holy, tender, and constant care. Therefore all will be well with you — only trust Him.

Believe that He cares for you this day. Carry all your concerns to Him — in the arms of faith! Leave all with Him, persuaded that He will manage all by His infinite wisdom, and bring all to a good outcome by His omnipotent power.

Cast all your cares upon Him — as fast as they come in.

Do not worry about anything.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will support you! He will never allow the righteous to be shaken!” Psalm 55:22

My Shepherd!

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Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled… John 14

Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

Troubled Hearts

by Dr. Brian Allison

One fundamental characteristic of human experience is that of a troubled heart. Is your heart troubled–a heart that is disturbed? Maybe this past week you were betrayed by a colleague or a friend. Maybe recently you had a fight with a loved one. Maybe your health is deteriorating and the prognosis is bleak. Recently, I spoke to a young married man who had undergone corrective surgery which turned out to be unsuccessful. He must have surgery again. He is unemployed and has various family difficulties. It was clear that he had a troubled heart. How is your heart right now? Well, Jesus has some comforting words specifically designed for troubled hearts. He encouraged His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled; [you] believe in God, believe also in Me” (Jn. 14:1).

Separation produces troubled hearts

Jesus made this statement to His disciples as He was delivering His final discourse to them, prior to His crucifixion. Here we have words of instruction, as well as encouragement. Now, there are a number of possible reasons why the disciples had troubled hearts at this time. They may have had troubled hearts because Jesus had previously predicted His betrayal by one of them–“When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.’ The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking” (Jn. 13:21f.). Or, maybe the disciples were troubled because of Jesus’ announcement of His imminent departure from the world–“When therefore he [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, ‘…Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You shall seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, I now say to you also, “Where I am going, you cannot come”‘” (Jn. 13:31,33). Or, a third reason for the disciples’ troubled hearts may have been Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial of Him, which may have implicated all the disciples–“Simon Peter said to [Jesus], ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you shall follow later.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a cock shall not crow, until you deny Me three times'” (Jn. 13:36-38).

Now, it seems, especially in light of what follows the statement referring to troubled hearts, that the probable reason for the disciples troubled hearts is Jesus’ announcement of His departure from this world; and so Jesus further disclosed, in response to the reaction to His announcement, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:2,3). Jesus states here the goal of His departure–He must go and prepare dwelling places for His disciples; as well as the purpose of His departure–He would come and take them to Himself and transport them to heaven in order that they would be with Him forever.

So, Jesus uttered comforting words to His troubled disciples, which, no doubt, the disciples needed to hear on such an occasion. To use contemporary language, the disciples experienced separation anxiety, having heard these stinging words of Jesus’ departure. That’s a painful experience–the pain of separation. In 1979, about 2 years after we were married, my wife and I decided that I should pursue further education in the States, and that (for practical reasons) I would have to go alone. So, I went to the States, and she went overseas to Scotland to be with her family. That was a difficult experience. We both experienced the anxiety of separation. One night I bolted up out of my sleep, having had a nightmare, and dashed down the hall to make a long distance call. Further, during our separation, my wife kept secret that she was desperately ill while overseas. Her doctor in Scotland insisted that she not return to Scotland without her husband–the anxiety of separation.

So, the disciples experienced separation anxiety. Jesus was their leader. They had accompanied Him for over 3 years. They had committed themselves to this man. They had sacrificed all in order to follow Him. As one commentator has stated, “They had burned their boats and had blown up their bridges to follow Him.” Jesus was now leaving them behind. How would you feel? When a beloved and well-respected leader leaves his people, there is the pain of separation.

Jesus experienced a troubled heart

So, feeling the weight of anticipated separation, the disciples were troubled; and Jesus, filled with compassion, and sensitive to their needs, spoke tender words to them–“Let not your heart be troubled.” This term ‘trouble’ simply means to be upset, to be disturbed; or, if I can put it this way, it means to be churned up inside. It is the absence of calm and steadiness. You can have a troubled heart and yet not be worried or fretful. A family member may be very ill. Because of your attachment to him or her, you may feel very upset and bothered, wanting him or her to recover. Love demands such an emotional response. Yet, believing in the sovereignty of God, and entrusting that loved one to Him, worry or fret need not be your experience. You, in faith, should know that God will accomplish His will and do what is best.

A troubled heart is that state of mind to which peace answers. For instance, John 14:27 reads that Jesus assured His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. [As a result] Let not your heart be troubled [the same term], nor let it be fearful.” Now, interestingly, in the Gospel of John, this term is found 6 times, with 3 of the references describing Jesus’ experience. For instance, we read, “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled” (Jn. 11:33); again, Jesus said, “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (Jn. 12:27); and again, “When Jesus had said this, he became troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me'” (Jn. 13:21). Underscoring the integrity of Jesus’ humanness, John recorded that Jesus Himself was troubled. He was churned up, inwardly disturbed. The Son of God, the Lord of glory, the King of kings had a troubled heart. If I could put it another way: Jesus lacked total inner calm and peace. You say: impossible! My friend, let your reason bow to the written infallible Word of God. Don’t let any theology mute and cancel out the recorded truth of the Bible: Jesus had a troubled heart. I find this truth peculiarly comforting and consoling.

Accordingly, a critical point is this: a troubled heart does not necessarily mean that you are sinning or that you have a sinful disposition. There are those who teach that if you experience anxiety or feel fear then you are sinning. Remember, Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was in anguish of soul. He was overcome with anxiety. Jesus has felt the depth of emotional pain. He can thus understand and sympathize with us in our pain, when we too have troubled hearts. That is comforting. And so, with compassion, Jesus exhorted his disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled.”

John 14:1a may better be translated ‘stop being troubled’ or ‘cease from being troubled’. Thus, what is presupposed is that the disciples were in a troubled state, that is, emotional disturbance had set in. Now, Jesus is not simply requesting that they cease from being troubled, but He lovingly exhorted them to cease from being troubled. He thus placed some measure of responsibility on them to address and correct their troubled state. Jesus encouraged them to harness and handle their emotions, and that is what He calls us to do also. Thus, Jesus implies that we can have some measure of control over our emotions, and not allow them to run amuck. I know that some of you may not believe that. You may say, “But it’s my emotions. I just can’t get a handle on them. I can’t help but act this way.” My friend, that is not completely true. You can decide your behaviour. It is a ‘cop out’ to complain, “Well, I blow my stack; I can’t help it. You know that’s just the way I am; it’s my temperament.” Granted, temperament is a factor in determining behaviour, but we need not be slaves to our temperaments and emotions. The grace of God can even overcome the weaknesses of our temperaments, though it may not be easy. It is possible to get a hold of ourselves, and not be out of control or frantic. Do you have a troubled heart? Are you churned up inside, lacking a sense of calm and steadiness? Did you have a confrontational meeting with the boss? Did you receive a bad medical report? Did someone betray you? Was your mate unfaithful to you? Jesus calls you to peace.

Belief in Christ quells a troubled heart

So, Jesus encouraged the disciples to harness their emotions, to get hold of themselves. He thus proceeded to give direction on how they might do that. He did not simply leave them with the exhortation, but He gave them some instruction on how they could conquer their troubled hearts. He implored, “You believe in God, believe also in Me” (14:1b). Jesus instructed that belief in God should provide the grounds or basis for believing also in Him. He said, in effect, “Because it is a fact that you believe in God, then because I am His Son, I want you also to believe in Me.” The disciples believed in God, but the pressing current matter was whether they really believed in Christ. One of the themes in the Gospel of John is the necessity of belief in Jesus; and here Jesus endeavoured to encourage and strengthen the faith of His disciples. With this exhortation, Jesus implied His oneness with the Father. We have here implied Christ’s divinity. To believe in Christ is to believe in God. Our belief in God necessitates belief in His Son.

So, Jesus calls His people to believe in Him. Throughout this Gospel, He endeavoured to provoke faith in Himself. For example, we read, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent'” (Jn. 6:29). Now, interestingly, prior to Jesus’ utterance of John 14:1, the disciples had already expressed faith in Him. In John 6:69 we read, “Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God’.” And yet Jesus later exhorted them to believe in Him because the exigency of the situation mandated an affirmation of faith. Here is an important principle: in distressful times and during perplexing situations, your faith may wane. I am not saying that your faith will inevitably wane. There are those who have prepared themselves for that dark hour that comes upon all of us. But for some, in that distressful or perplexing hour, your faith may wane; and you will need to hear the exhortation to believe in Christ as the source of hope and the means of deliverance. Is your faith waning? Does your faith need to be strengthened so that you can lay hold of the promises and know His peace?

Belief must acquiesce in the words of Christ

Belief is the answer to a troubled heart. There is no deep psychotherapy here. Quite often the troubled heart reveals an unbelieving heart. Your troubled heart may be the result of doubting the goodness and faithfulness of God in the hour of trial. Faith is the answer to our anxiety and fear. As one Bible commentator writes, “The call to put away fear, is the call to put faith in God.” And Jesus here invites faith in Himself because belief in His person is the basis for belief in His words. In so far as you believe in Jesus, you will believe in His words. To put faith in the person of Christ should lead you to rest in the words of Christ; and if you do not believe in Him, then you will not rest in His words; and His words are that which communicate comfort, peace, and joy in the hour of need.

Accordingly, notice the connection between Christ’s words and His peace. He assured, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). It will be Christ’s words that will give you peace and calm during your hour of darkness. Through His words you will learn to rest and trust in Him. And so, having invited His disciples to believe in Him, Christ shared comforting words. He assured, “In my Father’s house [i.e., in heaven] are many dwelling places [i.e., there is room enough for all who will come]; for I go to prepare a place for you” (Jn. 14:2). Christ further promised to return personally and take them to Himself and take them to heaven. Again, with the imminent departure of Christ, these are the words which the disciples needed to hear.

Now my Christian friend, these may not be the particular words of comfort which you need to hear right now in order to help your troubled heart, but if you are going to receive peace and comfort, then you too will need to hear some comforting words. Hence, you should meditate on His words with full faith. A troubled heart becomes a trusting heart through Christ’s comforting words, which results in a peaceful heart.

Recently, I had a troubled heart, as I came aside and examined my own heart in the light of God’s presence and Word; and I discovered that I was not where I want to be spiritually. God, in His goodness and mercy, was pleased to reveal more of the iniquity and evil that lurk within; and my heart was troubled. While I was meditating, the Lord directed me to 1 Samuel 10:9–“God changed his [Saul’s] heart.” If God can change one heart, then He can change another. With this verse, my troubled heart was comforted. He desires to comfort your troubled heart too. He is abundantly able to meet your need. Won’t you trust and rest in Him?

Reformed Pastor Brian Allison attended the University of Western Ontario, and matriculated with a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy, a M.Div. from Toronto Baptist Seminary (as valedictorian), and with a M.A. (Theology) from Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. He finished off his formal education by securing a D.Min. (Counseling) from Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA.

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Questions for Amillennials

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Roman Catholicism vs. The Bible. Which Do You Believe?

Research: Roman Catholicism

The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) claims to be the one true Church as established by Jesus and His apostles. However, an examination of the doctrines upheld and taught by the RCC demonstrates that it stands in contrast with – and even in opposition to – biblical Christianity. Though not exhaustive, the following overview analyzes and compares some of the core tenets of the Roman Catholic tradition with Scripture.

The Council of Trent

Perhaps one of the most important events in the history of the Roman Catholic Church is the Council of Trent (1545–1563). This gathering sought to counter and respond to the Protestant Reformation. It was at this ecumenical meeting that Rome ultimately anathematized, or condemned, the biblical doctrine of justification:

Canon 9: If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.1

Canon 14: If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema.2

Canon 24: If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema.3

Canon 30: If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.4

Canon 33: If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Christ Jesus, let him be anathema.5

The Christian will recognize that these condemnations of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone stand in direct contradiction to Scripture and amount to an anathema upon the Gospel itself. Romans 3:20–28, 4:3, 5:1, Galatians 3:1–3, Ephesians 2:8–9 and Colossians 2:13–14 are just a few of the numerous passages that address the various condemnations which Rome set forth at the Council of Trent.

At a glance

Roman Catholicism Biblical Christianity
Salvation “The process of salvation for the Catholic means a Catholic must have faith in Christ and the Roman Catholic Church, participate in the sacraments, take the Eucharist, keep the commandments, perform penance, and do indulgences in order to attain, maintain, and regain salvation as well as reduce the punishment due to him for the sins of which he has already been forgiven.”6“The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. ‘Sacramental grace’ is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior.”7 As the perfect sacrifice for the sins of men, Christ’s death and resurrection provided salvation for all who would believe. Salvation is the forgiveness of sins and the saving from the wrath and condemnation of God.Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9).

Salvation is a free gift from God to those who believe (trust) in Him (Rom. 1:16; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9).

Salvation cannot be earned (Rom. 11:6).

Eucharist Teaches transubstantiation: the idea that at the Mass the bread and the wine are transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ (also known as ‘The Real Presence’):The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”8

Because these elements are the presence of Christ Himself, they are worshiped: “In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. ‘The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.’”9

It is claimed that the Mass is a representation of Christ’s sacrifice. The Catholic Catechism calls this sacrament a “divine sacrifice”10, a “single sacrifice” with Christ’s that is “truly propitiatory”11 and capable of making restitution for sins.12

This sacrament is practiced for those who have already died: “The Eucharistic sacrifice is also offered for the faithful departed who “have died in Christ but are not yet wholly purified,” so that they may be able to enter into the light and peace of Christ.”13

The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is celebrated in remembrance of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in obedience to His words (Lk. 22:19–20; 1 Cor. 11:23–26).Jesus Christ was sacrificed only once for the forgiveness of sins of all those who will believe (Heb. 7:26–27, 9:28, 10:10–12). This single sacrifice was sufficient to save for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14).

The sacrifice of Christ on the cross is what makes propitiation for the sins of His people (Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2).

If a man dies without Christ, there are no works that can be done, either for himself in Purgatory or by those still alive on Earth, that can gain him entry “into the light and peace of Christ” (Heb. 9:27).

Mary Mary was born free from original sin and preserved as such throughout her life: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”“The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as ‘free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.’ By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.”14

Teaches the perpetual virginity of Mary: “The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.”and so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the ‘Ever-virgin’.”15

Teaches that, now in Heaven, Mary continues to act as a mediator for the Church: “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation …. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”16

Scripture clearly teaches that “in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22) and that no man is righteous or without sin (Rom. 3:10–18), with the exception of Christ Himself. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:10).” Thus, Mary, like all mankind, was a sinner.Scripture indicates that the Lord Jesus had brothers and sisters (Matt. 1:24–25, 12:46–47, 13:55; Mark 6:2–3; John 2:12; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:4–5; Gal. 1:19).

The only One who acts as a mediator between man and God is Jesus Christ. He alone is the high priest (Heb. 5:5, 6) who offered His own blood as an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of those who would believe (Heb. 9:14–15, 10:14).

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Tim. 2:5–6)

Scripture Equates Scripture and man-made tradition: “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal.” Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own ‘always, to the close of the age’.”17

“As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, ‘does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.’”18

“‘Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God’ (DV 10) in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.”19

Includes the Apocryphal books as part of the inspired canon (considered as part of the Old Testament): “This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and 27 for the New: The Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi.”20

The Bible supports tradition only when it affirms what God has already revealed in His Word and through the teaching of the Apostles (2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6; 1 Cor. 11:2).

When man’s tradition contradicts Scripture (as many of the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church do), then it must be rejected (Mark 7:8–9, Col. 2:8).

“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. (2 Tim. 3:15–17, Gal. 1:8–9, 2 Thess. 2:2) Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: (John 6:45, 1 Cor 2:9–12) and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed. (1 Cor. 11:13–14, 1 Cor. 14:26, 40) which are always to be observed (1 Cor. 11:13).”21

Purgatory Teaches that some men must undergo additional purification after death before being able to enter the kingdom of Heaven:

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. the tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.”22

The idea that men must atone for their own sins, whether in life or death, runs contrary to the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone, and denies the full efficacy of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. Christ’s sacrifice achieved the salvation of all who will believe, apart from any work or merit of their own doing.Purgatory is not a Scriptural concept. Scripture does speak quite clearly, however, about the two possible destinations after one’s death: Heaven or Hell (Matt. 25:31–34).
Indulgences “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.” 
”An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.”Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.”23

“Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for themselves and also for the souls in Purgatory.”24

The teaching of indulgences negates the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross. Christ alone has born the punishment for the sins of those who will believe (Rom. 5:1, 9; Eph. 2:8; Isa. 53:4–6).
Penance A sacrament of reconciliation for sins committed after baptism. Necessary to re-establish a right relationship with God: “Penance is a liturgical action. the elements of the celebration are ordinarily these: a greeting and blessing from the priest, reading the word of God to illuminate the conscience and elicit contrition, and an exhortation to repentance; the confession, which acknowledges sins and makes them known to the priest; the imposition and acceptance of a penance; the priest’s absolution; a prayer of thanksgiving and praise and dismissal with the blessing of the priest.”25 The deeds of men are as filthy rags before God (Isa. 64:6), and thus the Christian can only be reconciled to God by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:24, 5:1, 11:6; Eph. 2:8).
The Papacy Built upon a misinterpretation of Matt. 16:18, the RCC asserts that the pope is Christ’s representative on earth and the visible successor of Peter:

“Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Christ, the “living Stone”, thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.”26

When the pope speaks “ex cathedra,” he “defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable.”27

The perfect life, death and resurrection of Christ was accomplished in full so that man would no longer require another mortal mediator between himself and God. Sinful man, through Jesus Christ alone, can now approach the throne of God (Heb. 10:19–22, 4:16).

Please see the list of ‘Further Reading’ below for additional discussion of the interpretation of Matt. 16:18.

Further Reading

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