The above is the latest of my sermons to be published on my podcast, this is an exposition on 1 Peter 2:4 – 8, there are more sermons available on http://norfolkman.podomatic.com
• who would be “in Him,” that is, in His Son, Jesus Christ.
• who would be “holy and without blame.”
• who would live “before Him in love”—forever and ever.
This means a most wonderful thing; God wants us to be with Him. God does not want us separated from Him, gripped by sin and shame, sorrow and pain, death and hell. God wants us to live forever and ever with Him. In fact, note that God has determined that some will live with Him and Christ. He has “chosen us”—chosen believers—to live with Him. No amount of rebellion and rejection, cursing and denial of Him will stop His purpose and plan. God will have a people who will live with Him, and He will continue to choose us until He has the number He has purposed.
Now, note the great blessing of God: that we should be holy and without blame before Him.
2. The word “blameless” means to be free from sin, dirt, and filth; to be above reproach and without blemish; to be without fault and defilement.
Simply stated, the great blessing of God is perfection; God has chosen the believer to be perfect. But note: the believer’s perfection is in Christ and in Christ alone. No man—not even a believer—can live a perfect and sinless life. No man is righteous or ever will be. Jesus Christ is the only Person who has ever lived a sinless and perfect life; therefore, He is the only Person who has the right to live with God. Our only hope of ever living with God is to believe in Jesus Christ—believe so much that God will take our faith and count it as the righteousness of Christ. This is the glorious gospel: God loves us so much that He has accepted us in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He has taken our faith in Christ and counted it as the righteousness of Christ. Therefore, we are acceptable to God because we trust in Christ and in His righteousness—accepted as being perfect in the perfection of Jesus Christ.
“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.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:1 – 10
s dear Dr. Hawker said concerning this, there is a chapter in every word and a sermon in every letter. How it opens with a “Behold!” because it is such a striking portion of sacred Scripture, that the Holy Ghost would have us pay particular attention to it. “Behold!” says he, “read other Scriptures if you like, with a glance, but stop here. I have put up a way-mark to tell you there is something eminently worthy of attention buried beneath these words.” “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us.” Consider who we were, and who we are now; ay, and what we feel ourselves to be even when divine grace is powerful in us. And yet, beloved, we are called “the sons of God.” It is said that when one of the learned heathens was translating this, he stopped and said, “No; it cannot be; let it be written ‘Subjects,’ not ‘Sons,’ for it is impossible we should be called ‘the sons of God.’ ” What a high relationship is that of a son to his father! What privileges a son has from his father! What liberties a son may take with his father! and oh! what obedience the son owes to his father, and what love the father feels towards the son! But all that, and more than that, we now have through Christ. “Behold!” ye angels! stop, ye seraphs! here is a thing more wonderful than heaven with its walls of jasper. Behold, universe! open thine eyes, O world. “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.” Well, we are content to go with him in his humiliation, for we are to be exalted with him.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” That is easy to read; but it is not so easy to feel. “Now are we the sons of God.” How is it with your heart this morning? Are you in the lowest depths of sorrow and suffering? “Now are youa son of God.” Does corruption rise within your spirit, and grace seem like a poor spark trampled under foot? “Beloved, now are you a son of God.” Does your faith almost fail you? and are your graces like a candle well nigh blown out by the wind! Fear not, beloved; it is not your graces, it is not your frames, it is not your feelings, on which you are to live: you must live simply by naked faith on Christ. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” With all these things against us, with the foot of the devil on our neck, and the sword in his hand ready to slay us—beloved now in the very depths of our sorrow, wherever we may be—now, as much in the valley as on the mountain, as much in the dungeon as in the palace, as much when broken on the wheel of suffering as when exalted on the wings of triumph—”beloved, now are we the sons of God.” “Ah!” but you say, “see how I am arrayed! my graces are not bright; my righteousness does not shine with apparent glory.” But read the next: “It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” We are not so much like him now, but we have some more refining process to undergo, and death itself, that best of all friends, is yet to wash us clean. “We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”“And every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law for sin is the transgression of the law.“And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.” Believer, read these words in two senses. He was manifested to take away thy sins that thou hast committed; and that he accomplished, when “the just for the unjust,” he sustained the penalties of them. And he was manifested to take away the power of thy sins; that is to say, to conquer thy reigning lusts, to take away thine evil imaginations, to purify thee, and make thee like himself. Well, beloved, what a mercy it is that some one was manifested to take away our sins from us! for some of us have been striving a long, long while, to conquer our sins, and we cannot do it. We thought we had driven them out, but they had “chariots of iron,” and we could not overcome them; they lived “in the hill country,” and we could not get near them. As often as we worsted them in one battle, they came upon us thick and strong, like an army of locusts; when heaps and heaps had been destroyed they seemed as thick as ever. Ah! but there is a thought—they shall all be taken away. “Ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins;” and so he will. The time will come when you and I shall stand without spot or blemish before the throne of God: for they are “without fault before the throne of God” at this moment, and so shall we be ere long.“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.”
This plain, simple verse, has been twisted by some who believe in the doctrine of perfection, and they have made it declare that it is possible for some to abide in Christ, and therefore not to sin. But you will remark that it does not say, that some that abide in Christ do not sin; but it says that none who abide in Christ sin. “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not.” Therefore this passage is not to be applied to a few who attain to what is called by our Arminian friends the fourth degree—perfection; but it appertains to all believers; and of every soul in Christ it may be said, that he sinneth not. In reading the Bible, we read it simply as we would read another book. We ought not to read it as a preacher his text, with the intention of making something out of every word; but we should read it as we find it written: “Whosoever abideth in Christ sinneth not.” Now we are sure that cannot mean that he does not sin at all, but it means that sins not habitually, he sins not designedly, he sins not finally, so as to perish. The Bible often calls a man righteous; but that does not mean that he is perfectly righteous. It calls a man a sinner, but it does not imply that he may not have done some good deeds in his life; it means that that is the man’s general character. So with the man who abides in Christ: his general character is not that he is a sinner, but that he is a saint—he sinneth not openly wilfully before men. In his own heart, he has much to confess, but his life before his fellow creatures is such a one that it can be said of him: “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not; but whosoever sinneth [the sins of this world. in which the multitude indulge] hath not seen him, neither known him.”
“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.”
That is the sign of it. Works are the fruits of grace. “He is righteous,”—not in himself; for mark how graces come in here—”He is righteous, even as HE is righteous.” It will not allow our righteousness to be our own, but it brings us to Christ again. “He that doeth righteousness is righteous,” not according to his own works, but “even as HE is righteous.” Good works prove that I have perfect righteousness in Christ; they do not help the righteousness of Christ, nor yet in any way make me righteous. Good works are of no use whatever in the matter of justification: they only use they are, is, that they are for our comfort, for the benefit of others, and for the glory of God. “He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil.”
“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.“In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”
It were well if we always remembered that practical godliness is the soul of godliness; that it is not talking religion, but walking religion which proves a man to be sincere; it is not having a religious tongue, but a religious heart; it is not a religious mouth, but a religious foot. The best evidence is the salvation of the soul. Avaunt! talkative; go thy way, thou mere professing formalist! Your ways lead down to hell, and your end shall be destruction; for “He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he mighty destroy the works of the devil.”
The seriousness and extent of Arminian thinking can be a point of contention at times. It is not unheard of that in Reformed circles critical comments about Arminianism are met with blank stares, a degree of indifference, or even a degree of hostility. The hostility may arise as it is felt that the criticism is unjust, extreme, inaccurate, or, even if it is correct, unnecessary as despite the differences those holding to Arminian theology are still Christians.
In recent reading I came across some remarks concerning Arminianism which showed both the seriousness and extent of Arminian thinking and how it is incompatible with the Reformed faith which, after all, is the Scriptural faith. In essence, in Arminianism we have a different gospel (see 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-8), a gospel which denies salvation is the complete gift of the sovereign God who graciously justifies sinners through faith alone.
Just to refresh your memory, Arminian thinking, so soundly renounced in the Canons of Dort, denies God’s sovereign eternal election unto salvation. While affirming God’s grace, Arminianism claims that God merely offers salvation and it is up to man who decides to accept or reject the gospel. One author summed up Arminian thinking as follows,”….God was made dependent on free-will-equipped-men for whom He politely had to wait, looking to see whether the man would be so kind as to believe”(1).
Though the Reformers of the early 16th Century did not have to contend with Arminianism as such, since Arminianism arose late in the 16th century and early in the 17th century, they did have to contend with its theological cousin, Semi-Pelagianism. Semi-Pelagianism teaches that man is spiritually sick. As such he does need the help of God’s grace in order to get better. However, it is up to man to take the spiritual medicine which God offers. God must have man’s co-operation. In theological terms this was called “synergism”. You can see the similarity to the Arminian position. The Reformers responded to this by stressing the sovereign grace of God, as heard in the cry “Sola gratia”. God calls those dead in sin to new life (see Eph. 2:1-10). The Reformers stressed the helplessness of man in sin and the sovereignty of God in grace. This was a point of unity between the Reformers despite differences about other issues. (2) In the Book “The Bondage of the Will” this was the point that Luther argued with Erasmus.
We should note then that Arminianism is a reincarnation of Semi-Pelagianism with its emphasis on man’s freedom. This explains why the churches acted so resolutely with respect to Arminianism. They saw it as a serious threat to the gospel and condemned it “as being in principle a return to Rome (because in effect it turned faith into ameritorious work) and a betrayal of the Reformation (because it denied the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, which was the deepest religious and theological principle of the Reformer’s thought). Arminianism was,indeed, in Reformed eyes a renunciation of New Testament Christianity in favour of New Testament Judaism; for to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle from relying on oneself for works, and the one is as unchristian and anti-Christian as the other.”(3)
The Reformed faith thus teaches the helplessness of man in salvation. Arminianism, in typical Semi-Pelagian style, teaches self-help religion. It is sovereign God versus sovereign man. It is indeed the different gospel which Paul warned about. It is appealing because it extols the dignity of man. It is a lie because man is dead in sin, totally helpless.
While the aforementioned points show the seriousness of the Arminian teaching and how it stands in contrast to true Reformation theology, to what extent is it found today? One author stated that”Arminianism … has had American evangelicalism in a stranglehold since the days of Charles Finney.”(4) Charles Finney (1792-1875) was a revivalist preacher who was very influential with his revival techniques. Another author states that 86 percent of American evangelicals hold to the Arminian position as comes out in their agreement with the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” (5)This comes out very clearly in the writings of the well known Billy Graham who has even written a religious self-help manual titled “How To be Born Again” in which the various steps to salvation are clearly spelled out..(6)
The apostle Paul fought with great vigour against the”different gospel”. In that gospel they will speak of Christ and use words like grace, election, faith, regeneration, etc. Yet, it is not the gospel of sovereign grace received through faith but of grace received on the ground of one’s faith. The earlier mentioned reference linking Rome and Arminianism is worth drawing to your attention again.Actually,there is a common denominator in all false religion in that it ascribes ability and free will to man by which he can effect his own salvation if he so wishes. It displays the arrogance of sinful man,even more so when he dresses lies with words of the gospel. That makes the enemy all the more difficult to detect as he works in his subtle way. We can all the more understand Paul’s warning about Satan disguising himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).
Personally I don’t enjoy having to harp on the point of the Arminian danger. I fear, however, that it is necessary because it is not realized how serious and extensive a threat it is. The true church glories in the gospel of sovereign grace where God rescues dead sinners and grants them the righteousness of Christ through faith. Let me conclude quoting in full Paul’s words in Gal. 1:6-9,
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed”.
1. K. Schilder, Extra-Scriptural Binding – A New Danger (In American Secession Theologians on Covenant and Baptism & Extra-Scriptural Binding). (Neerlandia: Inheritance Publications, 1996. p. 131.)
2. J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston, “Historical and Theological Introduction,” in Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston (Cambridge: James Clarke/Westwood, N.J.:Revell,1957, pp. 57-58)
3. Ibid. p. 59
4. R.C. Sproul, Grace Unknown. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997) p.180
5. M. Horton, In the Face of God. (Word Publishing, 1996) AppendixCURE (Christians United for Reformation).
6. To give just two examples, Graham writes “The context of John 3 teaches that the new birth is something that God does for man when man is willing to yield to God”, and “He gives the Holy Spirit to draw you to the cross, but even after all this, it is your decision whether to accept God’s free pardon or to continue in your lost condition.” (B. Graham, How To Be Born Again. Originally published 1977. Quoted from the 1989 edition by Word Publishers, pages 150, 162)
(This article was penned by Rev. E. Kampen and downloaded from Spindle Works.com)