Doctrinal Thoughts

“Doctrinal Thoughts,” as posts or articles at Preaching Christ Crucified, are teachings, commentaries, and expositions from the Bible; that is, taking the Bible’s text from a particular passage of scripture and expounding upon that passage.

The posts and articles included in this category are written from a perspective that some may consider Reformed or Calvinistic. The posts and articles are typically, but not necessarily, written from a Particular Baptist point of view.

For additional understanding as to my beliefs and perspectives with regard to doctrine, here is a brief summary of my statement of faith:

I am in general agreement with the early English Baptist confessions, such as the 1st London Baptist Confession of Faith (1644/1646) and 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (1677/1689), as well as the early American Baptist confessions, such as the Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742) and the New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833).

Additionally, by God’s grace, in matters of faith I strive to be Reformed in theology but not exclusive; Calvinistic in bibliology but not fatalistic; evangelistic in soteriology but not pragmatic; amillennial in eschatology but not dogmatic; puritanical in praxeology but not legalistic.

Perfect Logic of Sovereign Grace

“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”Romans 8:11-13 

Preaching Christ CrucifiedDo you remember what we read some time back in Romans 6:4? Paul said, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” This verse speaks of our being dead to sin because, in salvation, we have been buried in the likeness of Christ’s burial. Then Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” This speaks of that which takes place because of the reality of regeneration (being a new creation in Christ), referring to our spiritual resurrection as being like unto Christ’s resurrection from the dead; because, before God saved us, we were dead in trespasses and sins, but in Christ we have been raised to newness of life. The apostle continues to shed light on the blessedness of that resurrection in Romans 8

“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11). If we have been saved by God’s grace, then it is certain that we have the third Person of the Trinity living in us, as we read in Romans 8:9, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” The power that is in you and me through God’s saving grace is the very power of God Himself, the indwelling Holy Spirit. As the resurrection was the sign and seal of the certainty of God’s provision for atonement in the death of His only Son upon Calvary’s tree, likewise is our resurrection unto newness of life the sign and seal of the certainty of our salvation by a good and gracious God. 

SIDE NOTE:  This text presents to us a proof text for the doctrine of the Trinity, because this verse tells us that the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead; whereas in John 2:19-21, Jesus said that He would raise Himself from the dead; and also, Ephesians 1:17-20 attributes the resurrection to the Father. 

Yet, let us take a look at the next verse and follow the perfect logic of God here: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh” (Romans 8:12). “Therefore…” because of what Christ has done in condemning sin in the flesh through His crucifixion (Romans 8:3), because we have been set free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2), and since we are no longer condemned because we are in Christ (Romans 8:1), we are not indebted to the flesh to live according to (after) the flesh. Why? Because we have the very Person of the Holy Spirit, with all the resurrection power of God, dwelling in us; equipping us; enabling us; empowering us… to do what? to mortify, that is, to kill the deeds of the body through the power of the Holy Spirit, according to Romans 8:13

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” 

Now, there are three things that we can say concerning this verse: 

Number 1It draws for us a contrasting comparison between the flesh and the Spirit; a life lived according to the flesh, which is an unsaved unregenerate life that ultimately ends in eternal death, whereas a life lived according to the Spirit, which is a life saved by God’s grace and ultimately receives eternal life. The word “shall,” used twice here in English, expresses the future tense of the original Greek. 

Number 2Yet, it clearly brings instruction for the believer as we see the word “For.” It is saying to us, “For this reason…” It is speaking to believers who are not debtors to the flesh (Romans 8:12), who are “quickened” (being made alive) in our mortal bodies by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. In a very real sense, the deeds of carnality bring death to us, especially as it deadens the very power that should be controlling us and enabling us. John Owen wrote,

“The indulgence of one sin opens the door to further sins. The indulgence of one sin diverts the soul from the use of those means by which all other sins should be resisted.” 

Number 3We do not have the authority to mortify the sinful deeds of the flesh in and of ourselves: we are not our own because we have been purchased with a price through Christ’s precious blood (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); and though we are empowered by God’s Spirit (Romans 8:11), we are debtors to God (Romans 8:12), and therefore, even to put to death the deeds that are in my mortal flesh requires the authorization from God: and we have that right from what has been authorized by God in Romans 8:13

Now, to carry out that authorization, we must surrender to God’s power.

LEAVE YOUR COMMENT. Let us know your thoughts.

Listen to the sermon preached on this text, Romans 8:11-17,Surrendering to the Spirit,” on January 3, 2010 at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church.

Read the previous article in this series, “Surrendering to the Spirit” (Romans 8:11-17).

Surrendering to the Spirit

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God…”Romans 8:14 

Preaching Christ CrucifiedOne of the truths that we understand from the first ten verses of Romans 8 is that the Christian life means that once we are saved, the general direction of our lives is toward godliness because we desire to draw nearer to God; our general direction in life is toward holiness because God is holy; our general direction in life a desire for righteousness to be worked out in our lives because of the justice-ness God has worked in us through Christ Jesus, our Lord: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17). 

This “general direction” of godliness, holiness, and righteousness in the Christian’s life is the reality of the salvation that God has wrought in the sinner by His sovereign grace. This is what it means to “walk after the Spirit” and this is why there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 

We also closed our last article with some instruction on “walking in the Spirit” as a specific commandment to combat the lust of the flesh. What follows in this portion, and in the sections of this chapter to come, is the groundwork that allows the very practical truths of Romans 12-16 to take shape in our lives so that we may be conformed to the image of Christ. 

Surrendering to the Spirit means applying discipleship principles to our lives for a fuller life, a richer life in Christ Jesus, and by this, the eternal benefits of the inheritance to come are manifested in the mortal flesh we inhabit now. 

The Christian life must be one of abandon first before it becomes one of activity; it must be more of denying first before it can become one of doing. Before we can take up our cross and follow Jesus, we must first, deny self. Before we can earnestly contend for the faith, we must be much more acquainted first with “surrendering to the Spirit.” We will look at what this means through Romans 8:11-17 in three main points: (1) Perfect Logic of Sovereign Grace; (2) Precious Adoption as Children of God; and (3) Powerful Privilege as Joint-Heirs with Christ.

LEAVE YOUR COMMENT. Let us know your thoughts.

Listen to the sermon preached on this text, Romans 8:1-10,Surrendering to the Spirit,” on January 3, 2010 at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church.

Read the previous article in this series, “Special Assistance for Pilgrims” (Romans 8:9, 10).

Special Assistance for Pilgrims

“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.”Romans 8:5, 6

Preaching Christ CrucifiedThe Christian who walks after the Spirit is an expression that describes the general course of direction for one who is saved. This spiritual walk means a desire for holiness for Christ and righteousness in Christ because of the believer’s desire to please God. Does that mean we never sin? All the text we have read since Romans 6 would have been ridiculous in exhorting us to newness of life if salvation meant that all sin was eliminated from our lives when once we’ve been regenerated. These two doctrines, (1) absolute perfection; and (2) unrestrained, unrepentant sin in the Christian’s life, are both lies of the darkness of this age. How do we combat sin as we walk according to the Spirit? The answer to that is to walk in the Spirit, according to Galatians 5:16, 

“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” 

I have used the term, “in the flesh” at times, referring to those who are Christians. But you might say, “Wait a minute, Brother Jon. We’ve read in our study of Romans that those who are “in the flesh” (Romans 8:8) are unbelievers that cannot please God because Romans 8:9 says that Christian believers are “not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.” That’s true, but the Greek phrase in Galatians 5:16, “in the Spirit” is a different phrase from that which is found in Romans 8:10.  Additionally, the context found in Galatians 5 is different from that found in Romans 8. 

To “walk after the Spirit” (Romans 8:5) expresses a General Position of the believer’s state; to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16) addresses a Specific Application for the believer’s situation or circumstance. Walking after the Spirit is doctrinal: expressing an overall truth; to walk in the Spirit is practical: addressing a command to carry out the truth. 

The context of Galatians 5:16 is found in the preceding verses, Galatians 5:14-15, 

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” 

When we remember the context of the letter to Galatia, Jews from Jerusalem crept in and began teaching that the Gentile believers were pretty good, but they needed to add one thing to their faith: circumcision. In correcting this, Paul warned them not to wound and ruin one another (Galatians 5:15). How do you do this?  The answer was given in the very next verse, Galatians 5:16

“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” 

Walking after the Spirit is the evidence of the truth of what God has done in Christ. Walking in the Spirit is obedience to the truth because of what God has done and is doing thorugh Christ. Therefore, at times, when it is mentioned that a Christian is “in the flesh” (at least when I say it), I’m referring to a case of disobedience to God in not subjecting himself to the Spirit according to God’s Word. Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:1— 

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” 

This is just one other text to support what I’ve just mentioned. 1 Corinthians 3:1 seems to be a key verse for those who advocate this false “carnal Christian” doctrine. Using this verse as a proof text to justify that a Christian can still be as carnal as one who willfully sins without repentance as unbelievers do is to remove this verse from its context. 

First, the entire letter is written to believers that Paul had spent one and a half years teaching; yet, they had developed contentious divisions while he was away (1 Corinthians 1:11-13). Paul reminds them of the centrality of their salvation (1 Corinthians 1:18-2:13); presents how the natural unbelieving man thinks (1 Corinthians 2:14); and contrasts that with the sanctified mind of the Corinthian believer, whom he addresses (1 Corinthians 2:16b). Therefore in 1 Corinthians 3:1, Paul essentially says to them, “In this divisive area of your life, I must address it first carnally (hey, it’s sin); then, to you as babes (once you’ve recognized it, turn, repent).” This is what is written, in 1 Corinthians 3:2-3 to capture the whole context of what was said in 1 Corinthians 3:1— 

“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” 

“But how do you walk in the spirit, Brother Jon? I realize that walking after the Spirit is what God has done to me and in me, but how do you walk in Spirit?” Paul has already somewhat explained it within our text: the power to obey God’s Word, to surrender to God’s will, and to trust in His way is enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit through the truth of God’s Word. In the last article I quoted John 14:16-17; and it would serve us well to look at the text again: 

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” 

Jesus called the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Comforter is translated “Helper” in the NKJV, the NASB, and the ESV. This is our ASSISTANCE! The Holy Spirit in the same text is called the Spirit of Truth. When the Holy Spirit AWAKENS us to the truth of the offense of sin as an affront to the holiness of God, He also ASSISTS us by making us ALIVE to that truth

Interestingly, the rest of Romans 8 will be God’s instruction for living according to this spiritual truth, and may be expressed in this general outline: Surrendering to the Spirit (Romans 8:11-17); Hoping in the Spirit (Romans 8:18-27); Trusting Upon the Spirit (Romans 8:28-30); and Victory by the Spirit (Romans 8:31-39).

LEAVE YOUR COMMENT. Let us know your thoughts.

Listen to the sermon preached on this text, Romans 8:1-10,Walking After the Spirit,” on December 20, 2009 at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church.

Read the previous article in this series, “Christian Reality in Christ” (Romans 8:9, 10).

Christian Reality in Christ

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.  And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Romans 8:9, 10 

Preaching Christ Crucified“But ye are not in the flesh…” tells us that in contrast to what we have seen of those whose minds are set upon carnal things, and though we have a nature we were born with that is certainly flesh and full of fallen humanity (Romans 7:14), we are saved by God’s grace; He is growing us in grace by His grace, building us up in faith, and sanctifying us for His good pleasure. Since those who are “in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8), the apostle tells us that we actually do please God. How so? 

He gives his answer right away when he tells us that we “are in the Spirit, if… the Spirit of God” does indeed dwell in us. This is the Spirit of regeneration according to the Lord’s promise: “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17). The world doesn’t know the Holy Spirit because the unbelieving world is “in the flesh.”  After Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to take up permanent residence right inside every believing Christian saved by God’s grace. The apostle explains here in Romans 8:9, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Another name for the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of Christ,” and if any man does not have this indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, he’s not even saved, he is in the flesh as any other person in the unbelieving world that cannot receive the Spirit of truth, does not see the Spirit of truth, nor does he know the Spirit of truth

In Romans 8:10 the apostle draws a parallel distinction between that which we have seen as the difference between the unbeliever who walks according to the flesh and the believer according to the Spirit: “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” The Christian must see the distinct difference between sinful deeds that still desire to spring forth in this mortal body and the reality of righteousness because of life in the Spirit.

LEAVE YOUR COMMENT. Let us know your thoughts.

Listen to the sermon preached on this text, Romans 8:1-10,Walking After the Spirit,” on December 20, 2009 at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church.

Read the previous article in this series, “Carnality Offensive to Christ” (Romans 8:6-8).

Carnality Offensive to Christ

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:6-8 

Preaching Christ CrucifiedIn the first clause of Romans 8:6 we are told that “to be carnally minded is death;” that is, having the reason, understanding and affections set upon those natural things has no life in it whatsoever. Certainly, of those who are unsaved, who are only natural and have nothing of the Holy Spirit in them until the day they die, shall suffer eternal death and will be cast away from the favor of God forever. The second clause of Romans 8:6 gives the stark contrast to death: life and peace. 

The first thing that we should note is that we, who are saved, have life. Not only do we have eternal life in Christ, whereas once we were dead in sins (Ephesians 2:5), but we are now alive unto Christ. We are awakened to the truth of what He has done: that Christ has died so that we might have life; that Christ made an open show of sin through His sufferings upon the cross, and therefore, we rejoice in the life He gave us and recoil at sin as being so offensive that it required God to become a Man so that sin could be dealt with. 

Second, as we are awakened to truth by life in Christ, we are also awakened to the truth that we have peace with God. The next verse presents the truth that explains this: 

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). The carnal, fleshly, natural, unsaved person, who has his mind set upon carnal things, whose reason, understanding, affections and inclinations are upon SELF, is the enemy of God; and that man’s reprobate being, with all his wicked inclinations are at war against God’s will. The law of God exposes the carnal man’s sin for what it is, but cannot bring him under subjection to the law, because it is the Spirit that gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). 

Therefore, we, who have been saved, have peace with God, as it is written in Romans 5:1

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

The reality of our justification by God’s grace is manifested in our sanctification, having peace with God, when we were once His enemies; and the evidence of that is that our minds are being renewed by His Word; and walking after the Spirit, we have, by God’s continuing grace, our minds set upon spiritual things. Our thoughts and desires grow in obedience to God, lining up with God’s will revealed in His law, and not warring against it or being at enmity with it. So, the apostle caps it off with the truth of our next verse: 

“So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). The soul that walks according to the Spirit is awakened to the truth that the things of the flesh are not pleasing to God, and this truth is monumental. For those who are unsaved and “in the flesh” are not only unpleasing to God, but basically unaware of the truth that they are displeasing to God. Sure, some unbeliever might say, “I know this is wrong;” or “I know that God doesn’t like this;” but it’s just an academic acknowledgement; the reality of its gravity and seriousness is not there, nor can it be, because that soul is dead to spiritual things. That I can actually please God is a truth that comes by supernatural revelation, and that, by the Spirit of God to the ones He has saved and regenerated. Are all the saved made immediately aware of this? Sometimes, because of the brightness and holiness of Christ’s righteousness, the understanding of my being pleasing to God may be subdued, overshadowed, or overlooked. Yet, with every believer that has been saved by God’s grace, I believe that there is an awakening, at least to some measure or another, that God takes real delight in His creation, and His creatures in particular. And when we grasp that incredible truth of God’s delight in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, then it becomes an utterly awesome thought to consider: that God receives pleasure from those souls in whom He has redeemed. Why? because our redeemed lives magnify and glorify Christ!

LEAVE YOUR COMMENT. Let us know your thoughts.

Listen to the sermon preached on this text, Romans 8:1-10,Walking After the Spirit,” on December 20, 2009 at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church.

Read the previous article in this series, “Which Way to Walk” (Romans 8:5).

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