Monthly Archives: June 2014

Freedom — Part 2: Personal Examples

By Guest Writer, Allison Hunter-Frederick

Encountering prejudice
One of the pivotal moments for me happened back when I attended a college in the Southern States. While the laws which forbade interracial marriage no longer existed, the societal norms which opposed it still did exist in certain circles. Enough that interracial dating felt like an issue, one that made anyone involved in it or witnessing it to feel uncomfortable. Worse, when this prejudice was carried to greater extremes, one would even hear questions about whether blacks should work with or otherwise interact with whites. Suddenly, I began to understand the Civil Rights movement was about more than history. The movement helped ensure the rights to freedom existed legally, even when society wasn’t always ready to fully embrace it.

Prejudice: their problem or ours?
Of course, the Southern States were a fair distance from Newfoundland. Despite my attending college there, perhaps it was still a case of events happening elsewhere. In fact, when I tried talking about it with some of my peers in my home province, they dismissed my concerns: “We have black friends. No one is prejudiced here.” Could this be true? Was Newfoundland really free from prejudice?

When my dad decided to marry a woman from the Philippines, I heard criticisms about interracial marriage. No one actually went so far as to call it wrong, but some did question his wisdom in marrying someone of another color. That bothered me, because it represented the smoldering of societal pressure. And societal pressure can often be as strong as the legal restrictions that government can put on freedom.

And let’s not forget that Newfoundland no longer has any of its own natives. While disease certainly played a factor in the extermination of the Beothuck, so too did harassment and outright murder. Once again, I could dismiss this travesty as being part of history and thus far removed from me. Except when I asked adults about why they had reservations, the answers included disparaging remarks about alcoholism, drug abuse, and laziness. Prejudice lay on my own doorstep too and it limited the freedom of anyone who wasn’t considered equal.

Reverse discrimination
Not long after I returned from college in the united States, I enrolled in a desktop publishing program at our town’s community college. Girls and guys worked right along next to each other. To my knowledge, none of us ever thought anything different about one another because of our gender–except if one of us were inclined to pursue a romance with a classmate. After graduation all of that changed, however, for reasons which might surprise you. I still remember the outrage and confusion I felt as I sat next to the top two students in our class. Everyone recognized them as that. But they were being turned down for jobs in their field. No because they were women. But because they were men.

You see, the government was offering incentives to employers who offered women jobs. No doubt, it was in the name of rectifying wrings done against women. While I can appreciate the spirit behind the law, I still felt outraged and confused. Our class consisted of a mix of genders. We should have all gotten an equal chance at jobs. Yet all the jobs were going to the women in the class, not because of our skills, but because of our gender. Sometimes equality laws are the only ways in which change happens, and so there is an important place for them, but yet that day as I heard the news I wanted desperately to know that the job I next obtained would be based solely on my skills. That felt like the truest freedom to me.

Denominational schools
The third example of a personal experience which I’ll share involves denominational schools. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this part of Newfoundland’s history, until 1997, my province operated separate denominational schools for Roman Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Pentecostals. There was also an integrated system which oversaw the schooling for children of families in other mainstream Protestant denominations. All of these schools received grants from the provincial government for the operation.

Denominational schools came most under fire in the 1990s, when the provincial government decided a public school system would be more economical. Every Newfoundlander had an opinion about the rightness or wrongness of this action. Some felt the government shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with education. Ironically, this was a reason both for and against denominational schools. Government interference meant that the Christian teachers were obliged to teach evolution and sex education. Yet if Newfoundland lost its denominational schools, how long would it take before we also lost the right to assemble together in worship, carry Bibles, and pray in school? Some parents wished to keep their children, at least in their earliest years, sheltered from the negative influences of the secular world. Other adults felt that it was high time for Christian youth to face the challenges of living out their faith in a less sheltered environment.

Ultimately, I landed on the side of those who wrote letters to the Royal Commission of Education with the hopes of convincing them that denomination education was best. After all, I had appreciated knowing that my teachers and even the majority of my peers adhered to beliefs similar to mine. I treasured getting to write about my faith in our school publications. I even liked going to assemblies which at times resembled church. By the time I became an adult, I’d worked through many issues with my faith within the comforting walls of a school where being Christian was the norm. I wanted that for my siblings, but it was not to be.

To this day, I don’t know what the best answer was. Obviously, the Newfoundland government had to think first about financial concerns. I know that other tough decisions have been made over the years such as merging various small towns together, which eliminated their unique identities but at the same time decreased their operation costs. Although I understand why the government had to close schools, sadly, the result is children no longer have a denominational school.

Begun in Part 1: The Meaning of Freedom and completed in Part 3: Freedom Today

Perseverance – Part 2: Assurance of Salvation

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).

A few days ago my family and I read and discussed “Assurance of Salvation” from The Full Life Study Bible, New International Version (edited by Donald C. Stamps and J. Wesley Adams. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1992; page 1982). However since then between the grade 12 graduation activities of my younger daughter, Shekinah, and the windup of the visit to us by my older daughter and her husband, Allison and Andy, I’ve been too high emotionally to settle down and report here on what we read.

In the article Donald Stamps identifies nine ways set out by 1 John for us to know that we are in a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. Here I’ll list the nine ways and for each give a Bible passage cited by Stamps in support of it.

1. We have assurance of eternal life if we “believe in the name of the Son of God,” Jesus Christ (1 John 5:13, quoted above).

2. We have assurance of eternal life if we are sincerely trying to keep Christ’s commandments. “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him” (1 John 2:3-5).

3. We have assurance of salvation if we love the Father and the Son rather than the world. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

4. We have assurance of salvation if we habitually practice righteousness rather than sin. “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him” (1 John 2:29; see also 3:7-10).

5. We have assurance of salvation if we love our Christian brothers and sisters. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers” (1 John 3:14).

6. we have assurance of salvation if we are conscious of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. “By this we know that he [God] abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (1 John 3:24).

7. We have assurance of salvation if we strive to live as Jesus did. “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6).

8. We have assurance of salvation if we continue to hold to the message of Jesus Christ and the New Testament apostles. “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24).

9. We have assurance of salvation if we long and hope for Jesus Christ’s return. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

In our family reading of the article we discussed if one or all of the ways had to be true for a person to have assurance of salvation. I’d be interested in hearing in a comment on this post what you think.

Freedom — Part 1: The Meaning of Freedom

By Guest Writer, Allison Hunter-Frederick

Concept of freedom has changed
In 1992, when Canada celebrated its 125th birthday, I wrote an article about how I valued my freedom but also how my understanding of that concept had changed over the years. The term “freedom” has grown from being an ideal which I take for granted to one which I have come to realize is complex. What the government imposes as laws might go against what a large part of society might believe. The exercising of one group’s beliefs can infringe upon another’s. For these reasons, freedom could involve a cost, even in those countries which hold dearest the value of freedom. Hence, both when I grew up in Canada and now as I make my home in the United States, I find myself having to figure out what freedom really means.

Childhood freedom – Remembrance Day
If I backtrack to my childhood, freedom simply amounted to something I wrote about for Remembrance Day contests. Remembrance Day has been observed in Commonwealth countries such as Canada since the end of World Way I to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. The poppies which bloomed across the battlefield of Flanders in World War I have long been a familiar emblem of Canada’s memorial day due to the poem “In Flanders Fields”. The brilliant red color of those flowers symbolize the blood spilled in World War I and has been a common subject for many children’s poems and essays.

Freedom to be me
Yet despite how often I entered those contests, I don’t know if I really understood anything back then about freedom beyond what I heard in history lessons. Yes, I as a female coudl attend school right along with boys. I could also aspire to such lofty visions as becoming an author, teacher, naturalist, or veterinarian. Nothing could stop me from becoming whatever I wanted to be–even the Prime Minister. Yes, I as a Christian could attend a denominational school. There, I could talk about God, Bible stories, and doctrines, just as freely in school as I could in church. No one persecuted me for faith. Yes, I as a student could debate in an open school forum a contentious issue such as Newfoundland’s seal hunt. No one ever told me which side to take either. That was a matter of my own conscience. Then as now, I had freedom, but at that time those freedoms simply felt like a way of life. I didn’t really connect all those precious freedoms to my composed words about the joys of being Canadian or the values which made some people sacrifice themselves in war.

Children don’t feel free
Moreover, as a teenager, I personally did not even feel free. After all, for six hours a day and five days a week, I listened to grown-ups lecturing me about such diverse subjects as plots and photosynthesis, while I longed for the 3:00 bell when I could go to the mall to hang out with friends, go to the library to pick up books, or go home to watch television. And what part did equality play when, if I didn’t look as pretty as the top girl on the sports team, I wouldn’t get asked out by the best-looking boy in the class? In my adolescent years, what mattered most were things like getting accepted by a good university, having a friend to talk with, and buying a cute outfit. The fact that I could attend university, frequent the mall with friends without worrying about curfews or bombs, and spend a weekly allowance on luxuries were freedoms I very much took for granted. So much so that I didn’t truly grasp how much freedom I had.

Learning about the cost of freedom
As I grew older, I became more aware of the history of the feminist movement, including that of the suffrage movement and the fact that women first earned the right to vote in Canada between 1850 and 1940. I also learned of martyrs, including those of modern-day Christians who faced imprisonment and perhaps death for smuggling Bibles into a country or holding religious meetings in their house. And I began to listen more frequently to the news, which constantly brings to one’s doorstep the hardships faced by citizens in other countries, and so heard of atrocities like the Tiananmen square massacre. Yet because these events were removed from me due to being part of history or happening elsewhere, I couldn’t really do much to react to them. Except to slowly start to appreciate how much the freedom I took for granted had cost, and was still costing, others to have.

Continued in Part 2: Personal Examples and Part 3: Freedom Today

Perseverance – Part 1: The Believer’s Security

In view of the Biblical teaching that the security of the believer depends on a living relationship with Christ Jesus (John 15:6), in view of the Bible’s call to a life of holiness (1 Peter 1:16; Hebrews 12:14); in view of the clear teaching that a man may have his part taken out of the Book of Life (Revelation 22:19); and in view of the fact that one who believes for a while can fall away (Luke 8:13); The General Council of the Assemblies of God disapproves of the unconditional security position which holds that it is impossible for a person once saved to be lost (Assemblies of God bylaws, Article VIII, Section 1; quoted at The Security of the Believer).

For the past ten months my family and I have been reading from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) in our after-breakfast Bible reading. Currently we’re reading what he says about the doctrine of salvation. We’ve already read what he says about election, the Gospel call, conversion, regeneration, justification, adoption, and sanctification. We’re now considering perseverance or eternal security. After doing so we’ll read what Grudem says about death and glorification.

In my May 24 “The Order of Salvation” post, I said that instead of reading what Grudem says about perseverance or eternal security in “Chapter 40: The Perseverance of the Saints (Remaining a Christian)” we’d read an article from The Full Life Study Bible, New International Version (edited by Donald C. Stamps and J. Wesley Adams. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1992), “Assurance of Salvation” (page 1982). However before we read it, we read an Assemblies of God position paper on the believer’s security, “The Security of the Believer.” Here I’ll share from it. In my next post I’ll share from “Assurance of Salvation.”

The reason for our reading “The Security of the Believer” and “Assurance of Salvation” instead of Grudem’s “Chapter 40: The Perseverance of the Saints (Remaining a Christian)” is that, like the Assemblies of God (see the quotation with which I opened this post), the denomination which my family and I are members of disapproves of “the extreme so-called Eternal Security teaching” (General Constitution and By-Laws, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador, June 1998, page 62) presented by Grudem.

“The Security of the Believer” opens with the quotation with which I opened this post. It goes on to explain the position taken in the quotation under four headings:
1. Salvation is available for every man.
2. Salvation is received and kept by faith.
3. Continued sin will adversely affect the believer’s faith.
4. The believer’s salvation is forfeited by rejecting Christ.

Here I’ll just provide for each of the four statements a few Biblical passages supporting the statement. For explanations of the statements see The Security of the Believer. Feel free to post comments here on them, remembering the policy of Open Theism expressed in its About: “when I created Open Theism, I observed that it was not intended for advanced discussion of open theism or for arguments between supporters and opponents of open theism, other sites being available for both of those activities. The same is true regarding the other topics considered in Open Theism. Thus I will approve the publication of only those comments that are made in a non-technical and friendly manner.”

Salvation is available for every man.
– “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16; ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).
– “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Romans 10:11-13; the quotations are from Isaiah 28:16 and Joel 2:32).
– “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Salvation is received and kept by faith.
– “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).
– “Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9).
– “My righteous one shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38, quoting from Habakkuk 2:4).

Continued sin will adversely affect the believer’s faith.
– “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:12-14).
– “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
– “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (1 John 3:8).

The believer’s salvation is forfeited by rejecting Christ.
– “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).
– “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4-6).
– “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first” (2 Peter 2:20).

“The Security of the Believer” concludes by observing that although the Bible recognizes the possibility of forfeiting one’s salvation, it offers hope for those who do (and all others) in such passages as Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (quoting Joel 2:32).

Sanctification – Part 2: God’s and Our Roles

Sanctification is growth in holiness and likeness to Christ. My family and I are currently studying it guided by Wayne Grudem’s chapter on it in his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). In my first post on it I shared from what we read in Grudem about its three stages and noted how my church’s view of it differs from Grudem’s view. In this post I’ll share from what we read in Grudem about God’s and our roles in sanctification, how it affects the whole person, and motives for obeying God.

God’s Role in Sanctification

Recognizing that sanctification is primarily a work of God, Paul told the Thessalonians, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely” (2 Thessalonians 5:23, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV). Each of the three Persons of the Godhead is involved.

Two roles of God the Father in sanctification are equipping us to play our role in it and disciplining us as children. The former is referred to in Hebrews 13:20-21, “Now may the God of peace…equip you with everything good that you may do his will” (Hebrews 13:20-21), and the latter is described in Hebrews 12:5-11.

Two roles of God the Son in sanctification are earning our salvation for us and being an example to us. The former is referred to in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “[Christ] became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,” and the latter in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

However it is God the Holy Spirit who works within us to sanctify us. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul encouraged them to “walk by the Spirit” and to be “led by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16,18) and went on to describe the character traits that Christians display as they grow in sanctification as “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Our Role in Sanctification

Our role in sanctification is both passive, depending on God to sanctify us, and active, striving to increase our sanctification. The passive role that we play in sanctification is seen in Romans 6:13, “Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” And the active role that we play in it is seen in Philippians 2:12-13, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

The New Testament doesn’t suggest any shortcuts by which we can grow in sanctification but just encourages us to follow the traditional means of Bible reading and meditation, prayer, worship, witnessing, Christian fellowship, and self-discipline. Grudem gives references for each. Ask in a comment on this post if you’d like me to provide them.

An old hymn emphasizes the importance of both our passive dependence on God to sanctify us and our active striving for holiness by saying, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Sanctification Affects the Whole Person

Sanctification affects our intellect and knowledge. “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge, after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10).

It affects our emotions. We will increasingly display such emotions as “love, joy, peace” (Galations 5:22).

It affects our spirit, our nonphysical part. “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

It affects our physical body. See 2 Corinthians 7:1 above.

Motives for Obeying God

Certainly the key motive for obeying God is to show our love to Him. Jesus told the twelve, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” and “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:15,21).

However the Bible gives many other motives for obeying Him, Grudem’s listing these and citing Bible passages for them (ask in a comment on this post if you’d like me to provide them):

(2) the need to keep a clear conscience before God… (3) the desire to be a “vessel for noble use” and have increased effectiveness in the work of the kingdom… (4) the desire to see unbelievers come to Christ through oberving our lives… (5) the desire to receive present blessings from God on our lives and ministries… (6) the desire to avoid God’s displeasure and discipline on our lives… (7) the desire to seek greater heavenly reward… (8) the desire for a deeper walk with God… (9) the desire that angels would glorify God for our obedience… (10) the desire for peace… and (11) the desire to do what God commands, simply because his commands are right, and we delight in doing what is right (pages 757-58).

Sanctification – Part 1: Its Three Stages

Sanctification is growth in holiness and likeness to Christ. My family and I are currently studying it guided by Wayne Grudem’s chapter on it in his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). Here I’ll share from what we’ve read in Grudem about its three stages and I’ll note how my church’s view of sanctification differs from Grudem’s view.

The Three Stages of Sanctification

Sanctification has a definite beginning when we are born again. Bible passages indicating this include:
– “He [God] saved us…by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).
– “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9).

Sanctification increases throughout our Christian lives. Bible passages indicating this include:
– “Just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (Romans 6:19).
– “We all…are being transformed into the same image [the image of God] from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Sanctification is completed at death for our souls and when Jesus returns for our bodies. Bible passages indicating this include:
– “You have come to Mount Zion…to the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Hebrews 12:22-23; souls).
– “From it [heaven] we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).

My Church’s View of Sanctification

I attend a church that is part of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador (PAONL), which includes this item in its “Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths”:

Entire sanctification is the will of God for all believers, and should be earnestly pursued by walking in obedience to God’s Word (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15,16; 1 Thessalonians 5:23,24; 1 John 2:6). In experience, this is both instantaneous and progressive. It is wrought out in the life of the believer by his appropriation of the power of Christ’s blood and risen life through the person of the Holy Spirit, as set forth in the Word of God. (General Constitution and By-Laws, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador, June 1998, page 7)

To understand what the item means by “instantaneous” and “progressive” sanctification, I reread Stanley M. Horton’s “The Pentecostal Perspective” in Five Views on Sanctification (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1987).

About instantaneous sanctification Horton says, “By Christ’s sacrifice, sinful persons are put into perfect relationship with God. We are sanctified, dedicated, consecrated, set apart for God and for His worship and service. As we walk with Jesus in simple faith, we are made partakers of the fruit of His obedience. We are set free to do God’s will” (page 116). Among the Bible passages that he cites are:
– “Because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
– “By that will [the will of God accomplished in Christ] we have been sanctified through the offering of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

Horton begins his consideration of progressive sanctification by citing several Bible passages that show that it is needed, such as Paul’s addressing the Corinthians as “people of the flesh [and] infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1) and his many exhortations to grow in grace including “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires…be renewed in the spirit of your minds…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteosness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Horton then describes continuous sanctification in much the same way as I describe it in the first half of this post and in my next post.

Although I appreciate from Horton’s account of the debate over holiness which took place among early Pentecostals why the PAONL refers to “instantaneous” and “progressive” sanctification in the item which I quoted above from its “Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths,” I find it easier to include “instantaneous” sanctification in justification and to limit sanctification to “progressive” sanctification, as Grudem does. Thus I’m limiting our family reading about sanctification to what Grudem says about it. However I welcome here comments favouring the PAONL position as well as those favouring Grudem’s view.


4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV.)

Adoption is an act of God in which He makes us members of His family. In the past few days my family and I have been considering in our after-breakfast Bible reading what Wayne Grudem says about it in his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). Here I’ll share some of what we read.

Some passages in the Bible referring to adoption besides the passage with which I opened this post, Galatians 4:4-7, are:
– “But to all who did receive him [the true light, Jesus Christ], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
– “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:14-17).
– “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Galatians 3:26).
– “See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

Although we are God’s children now (“Beloved, we are God’s children now,” John 3:2), there is a sense in which we do not receive all the benefits of adoption until Christ returns and we receive our resurrection bodies, as Paul observes in Romans 8:23, “Not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption of sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

After considering the Biblical evidence for adoption, Grudem explains how adoption follows conversion and is distinct from regeneration and justification. He affirms that John 1:12 and Galatians 3:26, both of which I’ve quoted above, “make it clear that adoption follows conversion and is God’s response to our faith” (page 738). And he observes that God could have made us spiritually alive (regeneration) and forgiven our sins and made us legally righteous before Him (justification) without making us His children, concluding, “It is important to realize this because it helps us to recognize how great are our privileges in adoption” (page 739).

What are our privileges in adoption? Grudem identifies the following:
– We are able to speak to God and to relate to Him as a Father.
– As our Father God not only takes care of our needs but also gives us good gifts, including the Holy Spirit, and an inheritance in Heaven. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matthew 7:11; see also Luke 11:13) and “He has caused us to be born again … to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
– As His children we can receive daily forgiveness for our sins which disrupt our relationship with Him. “Our Father in heaven … forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:9,12).
– We can be led by the Holy Spirit. See Romans 8:14, quoted above.
– God disciplines us as His children. “[When He disciplines you] God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? … he disciplines us for our own good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:7,10).
– God allows us to share in Christ’s suffering and glory. See Romans 8:17, quoted above.
– We have a family relationship with other Christians. They are our “brothers” and “sisters.”

As usual we discussed the questions for personal application provided at the end of the chapter by Grudem. This time there were six of us taking part in the discussion, my daughter and son-in-law (Allison and Andy) being with us on their annual visit from Nebraska. Here I’ll refer to just one thing that came out in our discussion of those questions. Before reading the chapter, we’d associated with our being born again (regeneration) some of the privileges that Grudem associates with adoption. However we now can see how they, except possibly sharing in Christ’s suffering and glory, come with our becoming children of God rather than automatically being ours because of our being born again.


Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:27-28, KJV; all Biblical quotations are from the KJV.)

What is justification? Wayne Grudem, whose Systematic Theology my family and I are reading in our after-breakfast Bible reading, defines it as having two elements, the first’s involving God’s forgiving our sins and imputing Christ’s righteousness to us and the second’s involving God’s declaring us righteous in His sight. He considers the two elements in reverse order. I’ll share some of what he says here.

Some passages from the Bible which show that “justify” can have the meaning “to declare righteous” are:
– “If there be a controversy between men, and they come into judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked” (Deuteronomy 25:1). Clearly “justify” means “declare to be not guilty” just as “condemn” means “declare to be guilty.”
– “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15). Again “justifieth” and “condemneth” clearly mean respectively “declares to be not guilty” and “declares to be guilty.”
– “And all the people that heard him [Jesus], and the publicans, justified God, being batized with the baptism of John” (Luke 7:29). God’s already being righteous, obviously the people declared, not made, Him righteous.
– “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?” (Romans 8:33-34.) Since “justifieth” is contrasted with “condemneth,” which means “declares guilty,” it must mean “declares not guilty.”

Some passages from the Bible which indicate that God’s declaring us righteous in His sight involves His declaring our sins to be forgiven and His declaring Christ’s righteousness to be imputed to us are:
– “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity” (Psalm 32:1-2, quoted in Romans 4:7-8; sins forgiven).
– “There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1; sins forgiven).
– “He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10; righteousness imputed).
– “The righteousness of God is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ [literally, through faith in Jesus Christ] unto all and upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:21-22; righteousness imputed).

God’s declaring us righteous comes to us entirely by God’s grace, without any merit in us, and is received by faith.Some passages in the Bible which assert this are:
– “By deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:20,22-23; grace).
– “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9; grace).
– “[God is] the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26; faith).
– “A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ [literally, through faith in Jesus Christ], even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ [literally, by faith in Christ], and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16; faith).

Martin Luther’s recognition and proclamation of justification by faith alone sparked the Protestant Reformation. However the Roman Catholic Church still holds that salvation depends on acceptance of its teachings and adherence to its practices as well as on faith in Jesus Christ, and even some Protestants hold that it depends on good works as well as on faith. Grudem affirms that “a right understanding of justification [namely, what I’ve described above] is absolutely crucial to the whole Christian faith” and describes the basing of salvation on good works as a “false gospel” (page 722; see pages 728-29 for a description of traditional Roman Catholicism).

But what about James 2:24, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith alone”? The context reveals that James is addressing the teaching that a simple profession of faith is enough and that it doesn’t matter how a person lives as long as he or she makes that profession. He argues that a true faith will manifest itself in love towards our neighbours and other good works. Calvin comments on the verse, “A man is not justified by faith alone–that is, only by a bare and empty awareness of God. He is justified by works–that is, his righteousness is known and approved by his works” (A Harmony of the Gospels…Volume III and The Epistles of James and Jude, translated by A. W. Morrison, Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1972, page 286). He concludes, “We agree that good works are required of righteousness, but we do not allow them the power of conferring it, since at God’s tribunal they must draw back (page 287). Both Grudem (pages 731-32) and I agree.

Grudem concludes his consideration of justification by pointing out two practical implications of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. It “enables us to offer genuine hope to unbelievers who know that they could never make themselves righteous before God” and “gives us confidence that God will never make us pay the penalty for sins that have been forgiven on Christ’s merits” (page 732).


Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:3-8, KJV; all other Biblical quotations are from the ESV.)

Regeneration is the act by which God gives us a new and better spiritual life and, as in the above passage, is generally referred to as being born again. It follows the Gospel call and conversion and is accompanied by justification and adoption. For the past few days my family and I have been considering it in our after-breakfast Bible reading time guided by Chapter 34, “Regeneration,” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994).

Regeneration fulfils the promise that God made to Israel through Ezekiel, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). However, as suggested by John 3:8 (see the quotation with which I opened this post), how God does this is a mystery to us.

In most cases when adults become Christians, there is a clearly recognizable time when the person is regenerated. “The results can usually be seen at once–a heartfelt trusting in Christ for salvation, an assurance of sins forgiven, a desire to read the Bible and pray…, a delight in worship, a desire for Christian fellowship, a sincere desire to be obedient to God’s Word in Scripture, and a desire to tell others about Christ” (Grudem, page 701). However we can’t always identify when regeneration occurs. For example, children growing up in a Christian home may not display a radical change from sinner to saint.

Nevertheless that regeneration has occurred can be seen by its results, which include:
– A person who has been regenerated lives a life free of continual sin. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9).
– A person who has been regenerated is enabled to overcome the pressures and temptations of the world that would keep him or her from obeying God’s commandments. “His [God’s] commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:3-4).
– A person who has been regenerated is protected from Satan. “Everyone who has been born of God does not keep sinning, but he who was born of God [Jesus Christ] protects him, and the evil one [Satan] does not touch him” (1 John 5:18).
– A person who has been regenerated manifests the fruit of the Spirit–“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 6:22-23).


In my family’s after-breakfast reading of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994), we’re currently reading about salvation. In the past few days we considered Chapter 35, “Conversion (Repentance and Faith),” and I’ll share here some of what we read from it. We preceded our reading of it with reading about common grace, election, and the Gospel call; and we plan to go on to read about regeneration, justification,
adoption, sanctification, perseverance, death, and glorification.

Conversion, the turning from sin to Jesus, includes two elements–turning from sin or repentance and turning to Christ or faith. The two occur together, and I’ll follow Grudem in considering faith first and then repentance.

Saving faith includes more than knowledge or even agreement with the facts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It also includes trust in him for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God. This is shown by John’s saying “whosoever believeth in him” rather than “believeth him” in a passage memorized by me and probably most of you as a child, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (3:16, KJV; all other Biblical quotations in this post will be from the ESV). Moreover, according to Leon Morris, “believeth in him” could be translated “believeth into him,” indicating that faith “is an activity that takes people right out of themselves and makes them one with Christ” (The Gospel according to John, revised edition, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1995, pages 296-97).

Repentance includes more than sorrow for one’s sins. It also includes a decision to forsake them. This is shown by Paul’s telling the Corinthians that he rejoiced because a letter from him (now lost) had grieved them, “not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting … for godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Grudem argues that repentance also includes a decision to walk in obedience to Jesus Christ. However I understand that to be an aspect of faith rather than of repentance.

Often only faith or repentance is referred to as being necessary for coming to Jesus for salvation. Examples include John 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 quoted above and:
– “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31; Paul and Silas to the Philippian jailor).
– “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
– “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19; Peter to those who gathered after the healing of the lame man).
– “God exalted him [Jesus] at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31; Peter and the apostles when questioned before the Sanhedrin).

However repentance and faith are both involved in conversion, as is shown by Paul’s describing his ministry to the Ephesian elders in his meeting with them on his final journey to Jerusalem as “testifying both to Jews and Gentiles of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Neither comes first; they come together. “When we turn to Jesus for salvation from our sins, we are simultaneously turning away from the sins that we are asking Christ to save us from” (Grudem, page 714; my italics).

Although I have been considering faith and repentance as the two aspects of conversion, they are not confined to it. They should continue throughout our Christian life. This is shown by Jesus’ telling his disciples to pray, “Forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:4), implying that they should continue to exercise repentance, and Paul’s asserting, “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20).

My family and I concluded our consideration of the chapter by discussing its application questions (page 718). In our discussion we shared about our first coming to Jesus, the roles that faith and repentance and faith played in our doing so, and the roles that they play in our present lives. I encourage you to think about those subjects regarding yourself after reading this post.

Grudem closes the chapter with Charlotte Eliott’s hymn, “Just As I Am” (1835):

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about,
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind.
Yes, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.