Monday, September 28, 2009

KNOWING GOD'S WILL Proverbs 3:5-6

This Week's Study: Week #5: The Assurance of Guidance

Focal Verse: Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

Join us this week at Hebron Baptist Church for the final message in our "Foundations" series.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Monday, September 21, 2009

FOUNDATIONS: Lessons On Assurance Continues!

This Week's Study: Week #4: Assurance of Forgiveness

Focal Verse: 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Join us each week at Hebron Baptist Church as we study God's life-changing Word together.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

Romans 1:18-25 Sermon Follow-Up
Several weeks ago I merely scratched the surface of the topic of general revelation in my message from Romans chapter one. The following article (from the excellent work of Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 171-174) goes into much more detail on this subject. Erickson details how general revelation makes all people guilty before God. Particularly interesting are Erickson’s thoughts concerning general revelation and the possibility of salvation for those who have never heard the full Gospel. To the question, “What about those who have never heard?” Erickson provides an insightful look into the nature of salvation using the Old Testament as a model for understanding.

General Revelation and Human Responsibility
All Are Guilty before God
But what of the judgment of man, spoken of by Paul in Romans 1 and 2? If it is just for God to condemn man, and if man can become guilty without having known God’s special revelation, does that mean that man without special revelation can do what will enable him to avoid the condemnation of God? In Romans 2:14 Paul says; “when Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.” Is Paul suggesting that they could have fulfilled the requirements of the law? But that is not possible even for those who have the law (see Gal. 3:10-11 as well as Rom. 3). Paul also makes clear in Galatians 3:23-24 that the law was not a means of justifying us, but a to make us aware of our sin and to lead us to faith by bringing us to Christ.

Now the internal law which the unbeliever has performs much the same function as does the law which the Jew has. From the revelation in nature (Rom. 1), man ought to conclude that there exists a powerful eternal God. And from the revelation within (Rom. 2), man should realize that he does not live up to the standard. While the content of the moral code will vary in different cultural situations, everyone has an inner compulsion that there is something to which he ought to adhere. And everyone should reach the conclusion that he is not fulfilling that standard. In other words, the knowledge of God which all men have, if they do not suppress it, should bring them to the conclusion that they are guilty in relationship to God.

What about Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel?
What if someone then were to throw himself upon the mercy of God, not knowing upon what basis that mercy was provided? Would he not in a sense be in the same situation as the Old Testament believers? The doctrine of Christ and his atoning work had not been fully revealed to these people Yet they knew that there was provision for the forgiveness of sins, and that they could not be accepted on the merits of any works of their own. They had the form of the gospel without its full content. And they were saved. Now if the god known in nature is the same as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (as Paul seems to assert in Acts 17:23), then it would seem that a person who comes to a belief in a single powerful God, who despairs of any works-righteousness to please this holy God, and who throws himself upon the mercy of this good God, would be accepted as were the Old Testament believers. The basis of acceptance would be the work of Jesus Christ, even though the person involved is not conscious that this is how provision has been made for his salvation. We should note that the basis of salvation was apparently the same in the Old Testament as in the New. Salvation has always been appropriated by faith (Gal. 3:6-9); this salvation rests upon Christ’s deliverance of us from the law (vv. 10-14, 19-29). Nothing has been changed in that respect.

What inference are we to draw, then, from Paul’s statement in Romans 2:1-16? Is it conceivable that one can be saved by faith without having the special revelation? Paul seems to be laying open this theoretical possibility. Yet it is merely a theoretical possibility. It is highly questionable how many, if any, actually experience salvation without having special revelation. Paul suggests in Romans 3 that no one does. And in chapter 10 he urges the necessity of preaching the gospel (the special revelation) so that men may believe. Thus it is apparent that in failing to respond to the light of general revelation which they have, men are fully responsible, for they have truly known God, but have willfully suppressed that truth. Thus in effect the general revelation serves, as does the law, merely to make guilty, not to make righteous.

Implications of General Revelation
1. There is a common ground or a point of contact between the believer and the nonbeliever, or between the gospel and the thinking of the unbeliever. All persons have a knowledge of God. Although it may be suppressed to the extent of being unconscious or unrecognizable, it is nonetheless there, and there will be areas of sensitivity to which the message may be effectively directed as a starting point. These areas of sensitivity will vary from one person to another, but they will be there. There are features of the creation to which the believer may point, features which will enable the unbeliever to recognize something of the truth of the message. It is therefore neither necessary nor desirable to fire the message at the hearer in an indiscriminate fashion.

2. There is possibility of some knowledge of divine truth outside the special revelation. We may understand more about the specially revealed truth by examining the general revelation. We understand in more complete detail the greatness of God, we comprehend more fully the image of God in man, when we attend to the general revelation. This should be considered a supplement to, not a substitute for, special revelation. Sin’s distortion of man’s understanding of the general revelation is greater the closer one gets to the relationship between God and man. Thus, sin produces relatively little obscuring effect upon the understanding of matters of physics, but a great deal with respect to matters of psychology and sociology. Yet it is at those places where the potential for distortion is greatest that the most complete understanding is possible.

3. God is just in condemning those who have never heard the gospel in the full and formal sense. No one is completely without opportunity. All have known God; if they have not effectually perceived him, it is because they have suppressed the truth. Thus all are responsible. This increases the motivation of missionary endeavor; for no one is innocent. All need to believe in God’s offer of grace, and the message needs to be taken to them.

4. General revelation serves to explain the worldwide phenomenon of religion and religions. All persons are religious, because all have a type of knowledge of God. From this indistinct and perhaps even unrecognizable revelation have been constructed religions which unfortunately are distortions of the true biblical religion.

5. Since both creation and the gospel are intelligible and coherent revelations of God, there is harmony between the two, and mutual reinforcement of one by the other. The biblical revelation is not totally distinct from what is known of the natural realm.

6. Genuine knowledge and genuine morality in unbelieving (as well as believing) man are not his own accomplishment. Truth arrived at apart from special revelation is still God’s truth. Knowledge and morality are not so much discovery as they are “uncovery” of the truth God has structured into his entire universe, both physical and moral.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

FOUNDATIONS: Lessons On Assurance Continues!

This Week's Study: Assurance of Answered Prayer

Focal Verse: John 16:24, "Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete."

Join us each week at Hebron Baptist Church as we study God's life-changing Word together.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe