“Remove the filthy garments from him.” -My Testimony of Salvation

“Remove the filthy garments from him.” -My Testimony of Salvation

Over the last seven months, my wife and I went through our local church’s membership process. I have intentionally put aside writing for these last several months as we were not members and thus not technically under the oversite of the elders until they examined our professions of faith. The membership class was long and rigorous but it was a phenomenally rich time of fellowship, edification, and growth for both of us. During that time I began to give deep, serious thought to my conversion. I am thankful for the length of the membership class because it provided much needed time for self-examination. Upon much prayer, reflection, and introspection, I came to the conviction that I should be baptized this year as a believer even though I was previously baptized as an infant in the Roman Catholic Church, and at age 13 upon a profession of faith in a General Baptist Church. The following post comprises my testimony of salvation.

I was raised in a quasi-Christian home. My mother was saved, my father was not, but we attended Church faithfully and I grew up attending all sorts of Christian programs and ministries. I advanced in those programs beyond many of my own age, and thanks to a church program called Awana I had hundreds of Bible verses memorized by the age of 13. I was a highly involved student in the youth group at my church, and I was known as an all-around “nice guy” at my public high school. I made a profession of faith and was baptized at age 13 but in retrospect, I know for a fact that I was not truly converted at the time. It was not until my junior year in college that I believe I was truly converted. Up until that point, my testimony largely revolved around what I did and did not do, rather than what Christ did for me. I believed I was saved because of a prayer I prayed years prior and I justified my hidden sins by comparing them to what everyone was doing around me. I figured if I was not living in total hedonism then my sins were not THAT bad. In essence, I was like the Pharisee in the temple who cried out “thank God I am not like other men” (Luke 18:11). I was publicly proud and believed myself to be “holy” yet inwardly I was rotten and corrupt. In short, I was a whitewashed tomb. In private and hidden from public view, I was engaged in all sorts of immoral activity. I was addicted to pornography, cursed incessantly, had regular outbursts of anger, and I loved sensuality, fighting, brawling, and gambling. I consistently broke the Sabbath with no regard for God’s law, and though I attended church, I never really prayed or read the Bible on my own in a devotional manner. If I did open a Bible, it was merely an academic pursuit in order to gain more knowledge so I could hold my own in debates amongst my fellow peers.

In 2011, I decided to attend a Christian Bible college after high school as I did not want to get caught up in a partying lifestyle. At this time I was becoming very convicted about many of my hidden sins. I thought a Christian atmosphere would rub off on me and I would be able to fix my corruption with morality. I came onto that college campus oozing with pride and self-righteousness due to how much head knowledge I possessed and how little my college-age peers knew. During my freshman year, I went so far as to write a paper denouncing the doctrine of election as a blasphemous and evil heresy. I was spiritually blinded by pride, dead in my sins, and hostile to God in every way.  About four years later in the Summer-Fall of 2015, (and after much pain in my personal life due to various family and personal incidents), I enrolled in an elective class on the book of Zechariah.  It was an intriguing book to me that I had never read or really understood. When I got to Zechariah 3 (the story of Joshua standing before the throne of God) I realized I was in all actuality, not a righteous person at all but a wretched sinner who had nothing to offer God. At that point I realized my head knowledge was worthless, my baptism and being raised in the church was worthless, my outward appearance of righteousness was worthless, and I was truly depraved and unworthy of the grace of God. Prior to this, I had opposed the doctrine of election severely. I believed it was myself who chose God and made the “correct decision” that so many of my other friends had failed to make. I overlooked all my inner corruption and truly believed I was better than my friends because of a decision I had made for God and a prayer I had said years prior. Zechariah 3 stopped me dead in my tracks and it was here that I realized salvation is ALL of God. Jonathan Edwards is once claimed to have said, “we contribute nothing to our salvation except the sin that makes it necessary.” God showed me that salvation was all of the Lord imputing HIS righteousness to me and that I had nothing to offer Him except the filthy rags of my sin. Zechariah 3:3-5 says,

“Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the Lord was standing by” (Zech. 3:3-5, NASB).

     I believe the time of my conversion was some time in the fall of 2015. It was during this period of time that God began to work in me and gave me the gift of saving faith. I began to trust by faith in Christ’s work and righteousness, and I began to truly repent of my sin by turning from it and putting it to death. This was all a work of God whereby He opened my eyes to understand His word, took out my heart of stone, and gave me a heart of flesh. It had nothing to do with my good works or efforts whatsoever.

     Some things immediately changed in my life during that time. I stopped gambling, cursing, and fighting. Other sins such as pornography and anger were gradually broken and removed through much discipline and sanctification by the Lord. This list is by no means a compendium of my sins. While the Lord graciously saved me from the bondage to and love of my sin, there still remains in me vestiges of my old man.  I have been freed from my slavery to sin and I now long for the day when I will be freed from the very presence of sin. I love this quote by John Newton and it represents so well where I stand by the grace of God today:

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am”.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 wonderfully says,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11, NASB).

Over the last two years, the Lord began to replace my evil desires and sinful urges with a love for His word, a zeal for evangelism and a desire to preach the gospel. Today, while I am not what I one day hope to be in glory, I am also not what I once was apart from Christ. I have been washed, and sanctified, and justified by Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. It is truly no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.  In April 2018, I was baptized as a believer in Jesus Christ out of obedience to his word and as a public sign that I have truly passed out of death and into new life with Christ. Question 97 of The Baptist Catechism defines baptism thusly:

Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament instituted by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized a sign of his fellowship with Him, in His death, burrial, and resurrection; of his being engrafted into Him; of remission of sins; and of his giving up himself unto God through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.”

I thank God for not dealing with me according to my sins but according to His loving kindness. I once was dead in sin and deceived by my pride but God… being rich in His mercy saved me. Praise be to God for His mercy and grace!


The Atonement- For Whom Did Christ Die?

The Atonement- For Whom Did Christ Die?

If we believe in a substitutionary atonement (which we must to be within the bounds of orthodoxy) then it stands to reason that we must ask the question “in whose place did Christ die”? In order to answer this primary question we then must ask two clarifying questions: 1) what was the Father’s purpose in sending His son to this earth and 2) what did Christ’s death accomplish. Acts 2:23-24 tells us that it was the definite plan and foreknowledge of God for Jesus to be delivered up to be crucified. John 12:27 shows us that Jesus very purpose was to die a sacrificial death and there had been countless times before this where he spoke of his impending death and resurrection to his disciples. Matthew 20:28 tells us that Jesus came not to be served but to serve and to give his life for the many. Scripture largely points to Christ’s death as being the very purpose he was on this earth. I believe John 10 is perhaps the most explicit scripture that points to this defining purpose. It also answers the question that many people have regarding who Jesus was referring to in Matthew 20:28 when he tells his disciples that his purpose is to give his life for many. Titus 2:14 says that Christ gave himself up for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works and Acts 20:28 tells us that God purchased the church with His own blood. John 10:14-18 says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” The charge and authority given here by the father to the son is to lay down his life as a substitutionary sacrifice for sinners and to take his life back up again on his own accord. In John 10:15 and Titus 2:14, Jesus tells us explicitly who he is laying his life down for and it is us (his elect sheep and possession). Matthew 25:32-33 distinguishes between the sheep who will be saved and the goats who will be eternally condemned and Jesus nowhere tells us that his death was for the goats as well as the sheep. In fact, John 6:37 says that the only ones who are saved are the ones whom the Father gives to the Son. Fast forward to Jesus’ high priestly prayer in the garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion and we can plainly see in scripture that Christ’s purpose was to lay his life down for those whom His father would give him. John 17:9 says, “”I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom you have given Me; for they are yours.” Here we find the answer to the first “clarifying” question (what was the father’s purpose in sending His son to this earth?) being to save sinners and not just all sinners indiscriminately but rather the elect sheep whom the Father would give to the son.

Many critics of this view (and I have debated this with many of them) will point to John 3:16 and insist that Jesus died to make salvation available to everyone without exception. They will also normally point to 1 John 2:2 which states that “he is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” The proponents of this “unlimited” view of the atonement, state that Christ’s death opened the door for reconciliation with God, but that reconciliation is not secured until the person accepts it through faith. I believe this is categorically wrong and the results of such thinking are twofold: either 1) God and Christ failed to accomplish what God’s word intended Christ’s death to accomplish or 2) all men will be saved and reconciled to God. I will argue that if the answer to our primary question (in whose place did Christ die) is that Christ died to make salvation available to all men, but this atonement is only applied to those who accept it, then the substitution is a consequence rather than a purpose. It is also not truly substitutionary because Jesus is not really dying for anyone in particular but instead to make salvation a possibility. This view of the atonement then defies the scripture given to support Jesus own words in telling us that he laid down his life for his possession which is his sheep, not the goats. It is my belief that Jesus did not die solely to make salvation a possibility for all men, but rather an absolute certainty for his elect. If one followed the unlimited view of atonement through, it would inevitably lead to the faulty conclusion that salvation was made possible for everyone but it was secured definitely for no one. This completely contradicts the intent of the Father sending the son (to lay down his life for his sheep and redeem and purify a people to himself as a possession). In response to the argument I have heard referring to 1 John, I will say that although this verse appears to prove their point, it goes beyond their point to prove universalism. Romans 8 tells us that those who are in Christ are no longer under the condemnation of God. Why is this? It is because our sins have been removed and Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us. If, as the unlimited proponents argue, Christ is the propitiation for all men including the unsaved, then their sins are covered and they are no longer condemned but rather would be saved. The implications here for the unlimited view are not good. If the sins of the unsaved are propitiated, then God would be unjust in judging them by sending them to hell. One could also make the argument that the usage of the word “world” in this instance does not refer to all men in the world indiscriminately but rather the global church who were scattered across the whole world that would be gathered into one kingdom (see John 11:52 and Revelations 5:9-10). This leaves us with only two options: either all men’s sins are conditionally covered contingent upon faith or only the sins of the elect are covered completely. The argument here must stop because no man’s sin can ever be conditionally covered. They are either covered or they are not. They are either a slave to sin which leads to death, or they are a slave to God which leads to life, but no man can serve two masters. The answer then to the second “clarifying” question (what did Christ’s death accomplish?) is that Christ’s death was the propitiation only for the elect, otherwise all men’s sin would be covered, no one would be under the wrath of God, and all men would be saved.

In conclusion, the atonement is no small thing. It is incredibly powerful and beautiful and it should cause the regenerate to rejoice at the sovereign grace of God. Make no mistake, limited atonement does not limit the effect of the atonement nor the purpose or its sufficiency but rather magnifies the purpose and effect. The limited atonement view rightly believes that the atonement is sufficient for all men but efficacious only to the elect. I believe that the unlimited view of atonement is demeaning to the worth, value, and purpose of the atonement. At the beginning it was pointed out that the crucifixion of Jesus was the pre-determined plan of God before the foundation of the world. To deny that God had a definite purpose in what He was doing in the atonement or to deny that it was accomplishing anything in particular is, in my opinion, dreadful! Yet this is what the unlimited view of atonement does. It says that the atonement is not efficacious until man applies his faith. It says that Christ has opened the door for reconciliation to be a possibility to all who believe, but that reconciliation is indefinite. To answer our primary question of “in whose place did Christ die”, the limited or as I prefer to call it definite atonement view, states that Christ accomplished his Father’s will by laying down his life sacrificially and by so doing definitely secured the salvation of the elect sheep given to him by the father. In this view the atonement is complete and not indefinite. I believe the unlimited view takes glory from God and gives it to man because it is man’s faith that applies the atonement to himself while the definite atonement view gives ultimate glory to God because all salvation is of Him and by Him alone. The unlimited view says the atonement is available but only efficacious when the will of man is joined with it and the definite view says the atonement has been accepted by God and applied to the elect. The unlimited view stresses the importance of man in applying the atonement through his faith and the definite view stresses the foreordained sovereignty of God in all things. In one sense there remains work yet to be done and on the other hand the work has already been done! I firmly argue that Christ did not die a pointless death. He did not die to merely bring men into a savable state, but rather he died to actually save them. There was intent and purpose in the atonement and this intent and purpose was fully and definitely accomplished.

“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” -John 17:9-10

Link to a lengthier paper I wrote on this subject –> https://www.academia.edu/26731840/The_Atonement_Examination_of_the_Doctrine_and_Assesment_of_the_Limited_and_Unlimited_Views