The Gospel Truth 12: The Process of Salvation

This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series The Gospel Truth (Vlog)

(This is a continuation of The Gospel Truth video blog series.  This post assumes the prerequisite watching of earlier videos in the series.  Click the link above to watch the entire series up to this week’s installment.)

Many theological debates concerning the nature of salvation can actually be solved by a simple acknowledgement that the scriptures depict “salvation” as more than a singular moment in time.  In fact, the scriptures teach salvation as something which is (or can be) past tense, present ongoing tense and yet future tense – all-the-while affirming earlier tenses.

How can such be?  Simply put, salvation is presented in scripture as three related but distinct transformational progressions:

  • Justification is the salvation from the penalty of sin; the act of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ into the account of the sinner.  This is what many would refer to as “the moment of” salvation.
  • Sanctification is an ongoing work of redemption which renders the sinner (on an expanding basis) free from the power of sin.  This  “continuing work” of salvation in the earthly realm is generally known as “discipleship,” or the process of being transformed into the likeness of Christ.
  • Glorification is the final work of redemption which propels the sinner into an eternally glorified (physical and spiritual) state which is free from the presence of sin forever.  This is best understood as “the finished work” of salvation; the full restoration of body and soul, preserved eternally in an incorruptible state.

While the term “salvation” applies to each of these realities, the understanding of a procedural salvation – in terms of its unfolding fruition in the life of the sinner – helps to explain many heartily argued  points of contention in soteriology.

Today’s video blog examines the process of salvation through these three distinct but related transformations and explains how one may be considered “saved” today, “being saved” today and yet “to be saved” fully at a later time.

The Gospel Truth: Pt. 12 – The Process of Salvation from Jeff Kluttz on Vimeo.

The Gospel Truth Pt. 6 (vlog) – Jesus: the Fulfillment of the Law

This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series The Gospel Truth (Vlog)

(This is a continuation of The Gospel Truth video blog series.  This post assumes the prerequisite watching of earlier videos in the series.  Click the link above to watch the entire series up to this week’s installment.)

I’ve often said that “the gospel is simple enough for a five year old to receive but complex enough for a lifetime of study.”  For many, the simplicity of the gospel message – that Christ died for the remission of sins – leaves them with probing questions as to the why and how of it all.  Why did Jesus have to die?  How was it exactly that his death satisfied God’s wrath and brought justification to sinful man?

The past few weeks of this series have sought to lay the groundwork for this answer by examining the unfolding of redemptive history; a roadmap of atonement that God developed from the Garden of Eden to the coming of the Christ.  The redemptive picture fleshed out in the Law of Moses, however, was only a foreshadowing of what was to come.  For, in Christ’s own words, he “did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.”  (Mat 5:17)  What the law and the prophets had written as a promissory note, Christ paid in full – with blood.

The Gospel Truth Pt. 6 – Jesus: the Fulfillment of the Law from Jeff Kluttz on Vimeo.

Gospel Truth: The Wrath of God Toward Sin (Vlog Series)

This entry is part 2 of 12 in the series The Gospel Truth (Vlog)

A popular message today attempts to discredit the notion that God has wrath toward sin.  The proponents of this message claim that because God is love, and everything God does is motivated by love, that God cannot have wrath. 

Today’s post in the Vlog series “Gospel Truth” will examine a host of scriptures which clearly and articulately demonstrate that God’s wrath not only exists toward sin, but that such wrath is the epitome of God’s justice and love.

The Gospel Truth: Pt. 2 – God’s Wrath Towards Sin from Jeff Kluttz on Vimeo.

The Gospel Truth: Man is Sinful (Vlog Series)

This entry is part 1 of 12 in the series The Gospel Truth (Vlog)

New Vlog Series, Updating Weekly:  The Gospel Truth

See the entire series as it is added at our Video Teaching Series page.

The gospel message is a unique one in scripture.  Never is it open to individual interpretation or denominational packaging.  The message of the gospel is so important and well defined, in fact, that Paul noted 

Galatians 1:8 (ESV)
8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

Ironically, we live in a day when the “gospel-lite” message frequently preached is one which is devoid of its substance.  In particular, sin is now off the menu. 

The liberal emergent types do not discuss sin.  The gospel to them is about what we are going to do – not what we’ve done.  Many Word of Faith types eliminate sin from their estranged gospel as well.  Joel Osteen proudly exclaims “we don’t talk about sin at our church” while Robert Schuller notes that one of “the biggest mistakes” churches make today is insisting on pointing out everyone’s sin.

So, today the question is asked – and answered: is there a gospel message at all without the mention of sin?  Or is the fact that man is sinful the very issue of the gospel message?

The Gospel Truth: Pt. 1 – Man is Sinful from Jeff Kluttz on Vimeo.

The Elements of the Gospel: Faith

This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

(This post is a continuation of the Pastoral Soteriology Series.  It assumes pre-requisite reading of earlier posts, and will be followed by additional posts.)

While grace is the overriding precondition of the gospel, scripture unyieldingly asserts that faith is the necessary component by which salvation is applied to the sinner’s account.  Ephesians 2:8 notes both elements quite clearly, asserting, “it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith.”  Likewise, Hebrews 11:6 notes that “without faith it is impossible to please God,” demanding that God’s acceptance of man in some way hinges on the existence of essential faith.  While faith in no way trumps grace – nor can it exist outside of grace – it is nonetheless a required component of the gospel which cannot be subverted.  One simply cannot be saved without faith. Continue reading

The Necessary-Satisfaction Theory of Atonement

This entry is part 7 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

Continuing our examination of numerous atonement theories which have circulated the church throughout history, it must be observed that thus far in this series there has not been revealed a tremendous amount of success in the packaging of such systems into understandable, yet valid theological thought.

The Recapitulation Theory misses the vicarious nature of Jesus’ death altogether.  The Ransom Theory essentially glorifies Satan as the one who was to be appeased for the wages of sin.  The Moral Example Theory is little more than a warmed over “good ol’ boys get in” mentality and the Mystical Theory relegates God to one of the plethora of pagan gods of yore; being reached via essential practices rather than his own initiative which is accomplished by grace through faith.  Furthermore, most of these theories place robust emphasis on man’s role in salvation; asserting that Christ’s work on the cross provided a means for man to complete the work of redemption rather than Christ completing the work himself. Continue reading

The Mystical Theory of Atonement

This entry is part 6 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

(A continuation of the series, A Pastoral Soteriology.)

Continuing the historical foray into the waters of poorly constructed atonement theories leads us to what can only be understood as a truly heretical contribution known as the “Mystical Theory” of atonement.  This theory has been contributed to by many philosophers and pseudo-theologians over the years.  Central among them was Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), who utterly denied any aspect of a vicarious atoning work of Christ.

Before diving into the nuts and bolts (loose as they are) of this theory, the nature of mysticism should first be defined clearly.  By definition, that which is “mystic” is that which is “of the nature of or pertaining to mysteries known only to the initiated.”  (“mystic.” Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 06 Jul. 2009.)  Thus, if you are a participant in a mystic encounter can you “hear” from God.  Such mysteries transcend ordinary human knowledge, by direct communication with the divine. 

To be perfectly clear, a mystical element does indeed exist in the life of legitimate believers in Jesus Christ.  Strictly speaking, any direct impartation of information from God to man is mystical by definition.  If a man hears from God in his spirit, then he has participated in a legitimate mystical encounter.  The Holy Spirit utters truths which are only revealed to the initiated- those who belong to him- through his own impartation.

John 14:26 (NIV)
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

It must be clearly pointed out, however, that this legitimately mystical aspect of our walk with the Lord is the result of atonement, not the source of it.  It must also be pointed out that such genuine mystical practices are taught in scripture to be subject to biblical testing, so that men are not misled.

With this understood, the mystical encounter defined by the Mystical Atonement Theory is not akin to the normal fellowship between the believer and the Holy Spirit.  Rather, this theory presupposes a mystical union which is more akin to the panentheistic and demonic doctrines of Zen Buddhism and other predominantly “eastern” originated mystic practices. 

The Mystical Theory shares one facet of its substance with the Moral Example Theory in that it presumes that the work of redemption stems from Christ’s influence rather than his substitutionary sacrifice.  In this belief system, Christ’s incarnation is of more importance than his death on the cross.  The idea is that Christ’s incarnation brought divinity to the human realm.  By Christ entering the human sphere at his advent, he elevated man to his own divine plane, making access to God achievable.  Salvation is attained through man’s entry into this open portal of access. 

Additionally, according to this theory, Christ – being human in nature – possessed all of the inherent corruption and sinful tendencies of man, yet without allowing such predisposition to lead him into actually engaging in sin.  He was in effect, one who successfully navigated the inborn sin nature, yet without succumbing to it.  At the moment of Christ’s death, then, he officially conquered and eradicated his original sin nature, thus completing his victory over sin.

As this theory has evolved into its modern form, a panentheistic (all is in God) element has been more clearly defined.   In essence, it is understood by many today that “God became man so that man could become God.”  The redeemed are elevated to the status of “God-men” through participation in the divine nature which Christ opened up to them.  Man is no longer subservient to God, but participants with him while sharing his attributes.  Those holding to this view today indicate that man’s real issue is not with his sin, but with his inability to connect to his “god-consciousness” and be thus freed from his human limitations.

(Please excuse me while I go throw up and take a shower.) 

There are simply too many issues with this theory to take them all to task in a singular post.  More is wrong with the theory than is right.  In fact, nothing at all is right with it. 

To begin with, Christ did not have a propensity to sin.  He was not born with a sin nature.  Rather, his nature was utterly contrary to sin from his advent by merit of his being the God who defines what sin is.  Perhaps oversimplified, one functional definition of sin is “disobedience to God.”  How can one be disobedient to his own nature?  Christ was God incarnate.  To that end, sin was not his propensity, but the exact antithesis of his will. 

Indeed, scripture does note that Christ was tempted:

Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.

However, to be tempted does not equate with one having a sinful propensity.  Jesus himself stated,

John 14:30-31 (NIV)
30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

And, the very same author of Hebrews notes,

Hebrews 7:26 (NIV)
26 Such a high priest meets our need–one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

While being tempted on this earth, perhaps for the benefit of man’s recognition of his righteousness, scripture teaches entirely contrary to the idea that Christ had an inclination toward sin.

Secondly, the Bible unwaveringly attests to the work of redemption as having been carried out on the cross rather than through Jesus’ completion of a sinless human life.  While the sinless attribute of Christ’s life was essential, redemption came not from the fact that the Son of God never sinned.  Redemption came from the fact that He who never sinned offered himself on a cross as payment for those who had sinned.  As Paul notes,

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

And Isaiah prophesied,

Isaiah 53:6 (NIV)
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Certainly Jesus’ sinless life was a requirement of his ability to atone for the sins of man, but it was not the functional substance of that work.  The actual application of his righteousness to sinner’s account came from his death on the cross.  Paul notes,

Colossians 1:19-20 (NIV)
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Make no mistake, redemption was attained through Jesus’ death on the cross.  Had he only lived a righteous life- and had not died for man’s sins- there would be no salvation for man.  God’s wrath against sin would remain.

This ultimately leads to the next major failure of this heritical theory, which is the annoying tendency of humanistic philosophies to attempt to relegate the atonement to something which enables man to overcome his sin through properly guided human efforts.  According to this theory, sin is not atoned for by Christ at all.  Rather, Christ grants man an opportunity to somehow “rise above” his sin by his mystical union with the deity.  (How can one purport to define an “atonement theory” for which there is no atonement??)  If Christ’s death were not vicarious – in man’s place – how then is man to pay for the sins committed before his magical elevation?  Does not the scripture say,

 Romans 3:25 (NIV)
25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–

Even if man were enabled (through mystical union with Christ) to utterly conquer his sinful nature from the moment of conversion throughout the remainder of his life, who pays for the sins he committed prior to that magical encounter?  If one becomes righteous through a mystical communion with God after a life of sin, does his previous sin no longer count against him?  This theory makes no provision for such payment.  Yet, even proponents of this seriously flawed theory recognize and admit that man is infected with a sinful nature from birth.  How does a mystical elevation eliminate the sins of one’s previous existence if Christ’s death was not substitutionary in nature?

These issues alone identify the Mystical Theory as an utterly unbiblical – and ineffective- remedy for man’s problem of sin.  Yet, one cannot possibly give this theory a serious theological once-over without also pointing out the gross error of its message of mystical elevation.  The underlying postulate of such will ultimately lead back to a panentheistic view of God.  If taken to its logical conclusion, all who are redeemed – according to this theory – become participants in the overarching fellowship that is God.  Such false elevation promises in this theory relegate man back to his most base sinful tendency: the desire to be (his own) God.

There was, and will only ever be ONE God-man.  He was and is the person of Jesus Christ.  The atonement is not a means to elevate man to God’s level of consciousness, insight or authority.  it certainly was not the means by which God would share his glory with His creation.  Such aspirations, in no uncertain terms, are a demonic pursuit.

Isaiah 14:12-14 (NIV)
12 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Most faithful readers of would quickly have relegated this flawed theory to the heresy that it is.  One may even wonder why time was taken to write against such an obviously erroneous postulate.  Sadly, the answer to that question is that it is very necessary in the body of Christ to reveal the error of this particular theory; for it is being reconstituted, rebranded and diligently served before our very eyes as daily table fare of several modern neo-Christian movements.

The Word of Faith movement is seriously committed to the idea that man becomes a “little God” through the atonement.  They do not subscribe to the Mystical Theory, per ‘se, but the god-man element of this theory fits perfectly into the theology of Hinn, Hagin, Copeland, Crouch and the rest of the high-roller preachers club.  The mystical elevation of man according to their (false) gospel includes man’s full power over the very elements of nature through his properly utilized “word of faith.” 

More frightening is the Emergent movement, perhaps the fastest growing subculture in the church today, which seems to have a literal disdain for valid atonement theory.  From the outside, Emergent congregations seem merely a post-modern “trendy-church” model by which the next generation may be reached.  From the inside, their mentors and un-official leaders are teaching doctrines which are actually defining the cutting edge of Mystical Atonement Theory.  They teach that atonement is not substitutional in nature.  They whole-heartedly affirm and teach a mysticism which is consistent with the views of the Mystical Theory.  As panentheism will tend to lead to, they have furthermore attempted to erase the lines between Christianity and other world religions, claiming that Christ is anything but exclusive in his work of atonement. 

The Mystical Theory of Atonement is one which will unconditionally lead to an apostasy which misrepresents God’s character, purpose and glory.  As obviously flawed as it is, this theory is being adopted at alarming rates – right from within the church itself. 

May the reader be inspired to contend for the faith that was once and for all entrusted to the saints.  We have been warned in scripture that apostasy will come.  We have been challenged to accurately handle the Word of truth. 

2 Timothy 4:3 (NIV)
3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

More False Atonement Doctrine: The Moral-Example Theory

This entry is part 5 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

(A continuation of the series, A Pastoral Soteriology.)

Jesus noted, “wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it (Mat 7:13).  To that end, it should be no surprise that there are so many erroneous theological theories in relation to each properly determined and biblical one.  Continuing the pursuit of a good and valid atonement theory, today’s post once again yields only a failed attempt which resembles nothing more than man recasting God in his own image.

The Moral-Example Theory

The moral example theory was proposed by Pelagius (354-420 AD), himself an opponent of the concept of original sin, believing that sin was a matter of choice rather than an ingrained and universal affliction.  Pelagius further believed that it was possible for man to live a sinless life within himself.  His atonement “theory” certainly did not fall far from the tree. Continue reading

Unsound Theories of Atonement

This entry is part 4 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

(A continuation of the series, A Pastoral Soteriology.)

Understanding that sin carries the penalty of death, separation and God’s extended wrath toward the sinner brings one to the natural yearning to understand the nature of the provision God has made for the restoration of man from this condition.  Obviously, this series is concerned with such illumination; God has made atonement available.  The details concerning God’s provision of atonement is both something so simple that a child can grasp it, yet so complicated than a man can spend his entire life attempting to systematize it fully.  The child can understand that “Jesus died for my sins,” yet the theologian may spend years trying to fully understand how exactly the provision of Christ was applied to the account of the sinner. Continue reading

The Wrath of God

This entry is part 3 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

The Wrath of God

It is very popular among certain soft-spoken pseudo-theologians today to downplay and “preach away” the existence of God’s wrath toward man’s sin.  Placating today’s whiny “I’m okay, you’re okay” cultural sentiments, they express anti-biblical platitudes which decry that “a loving God” would simply not reveal his anger toward mankind whom he loves.  Indeed, many are perfectly contented with the idea that God is incapable of genuine wrath; claiming that it is outside of his perfect nature to be prone to jealousy and anger.  “Rock star” preachers, such as Rob Bell, gain standing ovations from such gross misrepresentations of biblical theology, such as Bell’s “The God’s Are Not Angry” sermonette tour.  Ending with the phrase “God is not angry because God is love” is a certain crowd pleaser at such gigs. 

Others, such as popular emergent author, Alan Jones, declare that penal substitution is a “vile doctrine” (Reimagining Christianity, p. 168) and that anger is inconsistent with love as a characteristic of God.  The position of this warped understanding of the gospel is based upon the sentimental and philosophical perception that love and anger are somehow mutually exclusive qualities.  Noting that “God is love” and that everything God does is “inspired by love,” they contend that God is incapable of exhibiting wrath because wrath is not motivated by love.  These men must not have children.  Continue reading

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