Thursday, October 5, 2017

"Error" Part IV

2Ti 4:3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
2Ti 4:4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Tit 1:9  Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Tit 2:1  But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:

So far in our previous posts we have looked at the understanding of the Church concerning the nature of God, the Holy Spirit, and the being of Christ, as well as how the church defined Christianity in its proper elements of faith. It has been made clear that God and Christ are not Superman with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man. Nor is  the Holy Spirit  some mystical force like X-ray vision and super hearing, but is altogether "Other" than ourselves, infinite in every scope of our imagination. The Council of Chalcedon says it well giving this definition in 451 A.D.

(Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.)

Now we need to take a look and examine how the church understood the scriptures concerning the nature of man. This becomes a bit more controversial, for it is in our nature to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Therefore, it is difficult for us to acknowledge the scriptures sometimes when they are revealing our state of corruption and the extent of it. We like to think there is some good in us, something pleasing to God; something that would cause him to seek us out. We like to think that there is some spark of righteousness in us, enough that will enable us to desire if we so choose to move toward God and seek him. Somehow we think God is waiting for us to seek him out, being moved by this ever dwindling goodness we possess.

 That is not the way the church conceived the nature of man.

Rom 3:10  As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 
Rom 3:11  There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
Rom 3:12  They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

In 529 AD the church addressed this issue in The Canons of the Council of Orange. We cannot look at all 25 Canons, but I would recommend reading them carefully and prayerfully.

CANON 1. If anyone denies that it is the whole man, that is, both body and soul, that was "changed for the worse" through the offense of Adam's sin, but believes that the freedom of the soul remains unimpaired and that only the body is subject to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and contradicts the scripture which says, "The soul that sins shall die" (Ezek. 18:20); and, "Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey?" (Rom. 6:16); and, "For whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved" (2 Pet. 2:19).

CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam's sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12).

As you can see from these first two canons, the church understood that the full nature of man has been corrupted leaving him in a compete fallen state. This lends itself to the doctrine known as Total Depravity, the entire man being affected.

CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me" (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).

CANON 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, "The will is prepared by the Lord" (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).

Canons three and four addresses the state of our will in seeking God. Based upon instruction given to us in Scripture, the Church understood that the human will was wholly corrupted and apart from an act of Grace would never of itself move toward or seek after God. The Church understood unregenerate man as dead in his sins with no response toward God. God Himself would have to give life that the will would be revived to seek after God.

CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism -- if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, "For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, "Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5).

Sometimes we sing a song where one stanza says, "I have decided to follow Jesus." Also at times when speaking about converts to Christ we speak of them as having decisions. It is true that people make decisions and decide to follow Jesus. But there is a danger of thinking somehow we were the initiators of that decision.

You can clearly see in the statements above from the Church council in 529 AD, it is understood that any decision we would come to in following Christ would solely be a work of God by the Holy Spirit bringing life to our deadness and turning our will toward Him. This is spoken of in Scripture as Election. It is God's Sovereign Work in saving His people.

CANON 8. If anyone maintains that some are able to come to the grace of baptism by mercy but others through free will, which has manifestly been corrupted in all those who have been born after the transgression of the first man, it is proof that he has no place in the true faith. For he denies that the free will of all men has been weakened through the sin of the first man, or at least holds that it has been affected in such a way that they have still the ability to seek the mystery of eternal salvation by themselves without the revelation of God. The Lord himself shows how contradictory this is by declaring that no one is able to come to him "unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44), as he also says to Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17), and as the Apostle says, "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).

At times there is much debate concerning the free will of man, Canon number eight is a clear statement from the Church in 529 AD concerning its understanding of man's free will. The will is corrupted, it is free only in the sense that it chooses as it pleases. But being left in its corruption it will never choose to place faith in Christ. Luther would describe in his writing "Bondage of the Will" the will is bound by its own corruption from the fall. The only way for man to come to Salvation is for God to so act upon his will by His marvelous Grace.  He becomes alive to God and sees his Glory and Beauty. This brings him to an understanding of his need for salvation and so working in the man, that he becomes of a broken spirit. He then is free to righteousness and willingly able to come in faith to receive. This is sometimes referred to as Irresistible Grace. We all should consider, the Church believed if you did not hold these understandings, it was proof that you had no place in the true faith.

They could say that, because to weaken it in any way would place man as Sovereign over his Salvation and not God. It would hand to man a way to Salvation other than by Grace alone. It would make Grace a reward for the man's act of faith in believing, which as the Apostle Paul said, would make Grace no more Grace. Grace would then be reckoned of debt. Some would still attempt to call it Grace, but it would be Grace plus man's one righteous act of human faith. This is the same as the Judaizers who said you must also keep the law of Moses. It was Grace plus Moses; now its Grace plus our decision. There is much resistance to Sovereign Grace in Election.  It's man's nature to want control of his own destiny, but God is Sovereign over all. If you love Him, praise Him for His Mercy and Grace upon you. If you do not believe in Him, pray that He will grant you repentance. For whosoever believeth shall be saved.

We will take another step forward in the next post,

May the Grace of God be upon you,


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