an expository sermon on Titus 2 preached by Pastor Jordan Atkinson on November 1, 2020
Living in the United States in the 21st century, we are blessed with a plethora of theological resources. The Bible, the gospel, and the things of God have never been so accessible as they are now in our society. Below are some of the books that have been most helpful for my understanding of salvation, which is the subject of Article IV of The Baptist Faith and Message.
Conversion by Michael Lawrence
Faith Alone by Thomas R. Schreiner
Finally Alive by John Piper (available as a free PDF download online)
It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement by Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence
Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray
What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
The Baptist Faith and Message concludes Article IV by describing sanctification and glorification: “Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.” As the Bible teaches, The Baptist Faith and Message affirms that sanctification is both objective and progressive and that glorification is the culmination of sanctification.
The New Testament often speaks about sanctification in objective terms. Though it is most common for us to think about sanctification in its progressive sense (see below), the New Testament just as often speaks of sanctification objectively. Sanctification is not only something that we do over time, but something that God does to us at the moment of conversion. Consider Paul’s statement:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Paul is contrasting the Corinthians’ past lifestyle as unbelievers and their present reality as Christians. Some of the Corinthian Christians were formerly fornicators, idolaters, and thieves. But Paul says they are now Christians; they are those who at some point in the past were “washed,” which Paul elsewhere uses as a metaphor for regeneration (Titus 3:5), and justified, which we know happens at conversion when a person trusts in Christ for salvation (Rom 3:21-26). Likewise, being sanctified in 1 Corinthians 6:11 is a conversion experience. When the Holy Spirit regenerates a person so that they immediately repent and believe the gospel, the Holy Spirit likewise sanctifies that person. He sets them apart to God as holy.
Furthermore, when Christ came into the world, He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will,” in fulfillment of Psalm 40:8 (Heb 10:9). The author of Hebrews then draws out an implication of this quotation: “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10). The sanctification present in this verse is not progressive but punctiliar. It takes place not over time but at one moment. Jesus’s obedience to the will of God, even unto death on the cross, set us apart to God as holy. That sanctification that He accomplished at the cross gets applied to us at conversion.
But Hebrews 10 goes on to affirm progressive sanctification, as well. By his self-sacrifice, Jesus “has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb 10:14). We are set apart to God as holy when we are born again. But we become increasingly holy (or should, as Christians) over the course of the rest of our lives on earth as Christians. As our statement of faith says, we “progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in [us].”
God’s “divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3). The Holy Spirit is at work in us as Christians. Nevertheless, we actively work out our salvation as God is actively at work within us (Phil 2:12-13). So Peter goes on to command us: “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Pet 1:5-7).
And Paul agrees with Peter. As Christians, we are freed from the domination of the flesh, and we are constrained instead by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9-10). This reality gives us hope of eternal resurrection (Rom 8:11). As those indwelled by the Spirit, we are indebted to Him, not our flesh (Rom 8:12). And we have the great promise: “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:13).
The End of Sanctification
Continuing in Romans 8, Paul shows that the end or goal of sanctification is glorification. God set us apart as holy at regeneration, He empowers us to be increasingly holy for the rest of our lives on earth, and He will make us perfectly holy in body as well as in spirit at the Second Coming of Christ. We have been redeemed, but we still “wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23). At death, we depart to be with the Lord spiritually in heaven (Phil 1:21; 2 Cor 5:8). At death, our spirits are set free from sinning, but our bodies lie “asleep” in the grave. However, at the resurrection, we will receive glorified bodies, and we will never again sin, either in spirit or body.
The apostle John makes this connection between present sanctification and future glorification clear: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). In heaven, we will have glorified bodies, free from sin. If we are living for that eternal reality, then we will progressively purify ourselves more and more as we live our lives on earth.
The early church pastor-theologian Augustine had a biblically-faithful rubric for thinking through people’s relationship to sin:
- Adam and Eve before the Fall: able not to sin, able to sin
- Unsaved people after the Fall: not able not to sin
- Saved people after the Fall: able not to sin
- Glorified people in eternity: not able to sin
In terms of redemptive history, we Christians find ourselves in a state similar to Adam and Eve but better, for we have the indwelling Holy Spirit who is empowering us to gain victory over sin in this life. In the new heavens and new earth, we will find ourselves in the best position of all: fully free from the presence of sin, unable to sin at all, whether in feeling, thought, word, or deed. Surely this hope will make us cry out with John, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).
In many ways, The Baptist Faith and Message progresses along a natural presentation of the gospel. We learn from Scripture that God has created us, but we have all rebelled against Him, and we thus earn His eternal condemnation. The good news is that God graciously saves people from sin, which is the subject of Article IV of Friendship’s statement of faith. “Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.”
Salvation as Redemption
The Baptist Faith and Message first describes salvation in terms of redemption. To redeem something is to buy it back. The price of redemption is a ransom. In contemporary culture, we are most familiar with redemption and ransom payments in hostage situations. But Jesus spoke of His own death as “a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). As a ransom, Jesus died to pay the price we owed to God for our sin. He took God’s wrath in our place. As Isaiah had prophesied, “it was the will of the LORD to crush him; He has put him to grief,” and Jesus’s death was “an offering for guilt” (Isa 53:10). We have “redemption … in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). And Jesus, who offered Himself as the God-man, gives us “an eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12). Salvation as redemption, then, encompasses all aspects of salvation that we experience from conversion to eternity: “regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification.” (Each of these aspects of salvation will be the subject of future blog posts.)
The Baptist Faith and Message rightly affirms that salvation is “redemption of the whole man.” Jesus died not only to save our souls but also to save our bodies. Salvation will ultimately and perfectly be experienced in the new heavens and new earth, where we Christians will have new, resurrection bodies, like Jesus’s own resurrection body (1 John 3:2). Our statement of faith thus stands in solidarity with the church throughout history. Early church theologians Irenaeus, Athanasius, and Gregory of Nazianzus all taught, “Only that which is assumed is redeemed [or healed].” Since Jesus was fully man, as well as fully God, we ourselves are wholly redeemed in salvation.
Salvation Offered to All
The Baptist Faith and Message also rightly says that salvation should be “offered freely to all.” The Gospel of Matthew concludes,
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20
We call this text the Great Commission, and the commission truly is great in its scope. Jesus tells His disciples to “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus is the Redeemer not only of Israel but also of people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9). Earlier in Matthew, Jesus had taught that gospel preachers should be indiscriminate with regard to the people whom they evangelize (Matt 13:1-9, 18-23). Even if people will reject the gospel immediately or fall away later (whether in a time of persecution or of prosperity), Christians should tell the good news of Jesus to everyone.
Paul develops this theology of the universal offer of salvation in his magnum opus, Romans. The main point of Romans is that “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). The good news of the gospel is that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” (Rom 10:13), as they confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead (Rom 10:9-10). But those who call on Him must believe in Him, and to believe in Him they must hear of Him, and to hear of Him someone must preach Him to them (Rom 10:14). Paul’s own ambition was “to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named” (Rom 15:20). So it is vital for us Christians to tell the gospel to everyone we can.
For someone to experience the redemption of salvation, though, he must “accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.” Jesus’s death on the cross is the only basis on which anyone is saved. He obtained eternal redemption for believers by His own blood (Acts 20:28; Eph 1:7). Jesus’s atoning death was not potential but actual. He accomplished redemption at the cross, and that redemption is applied without distinction to everyone who believes.
The universal offer of the gospel, then, is based on an exclusive claim: Christ alone gives salvation. He claimed as much in His life (John 10:25–28; 14:6). Peter confessed this truth, as well (Acts 4:8–12). Christ alone saves, but those He saves, He saves eternally.
Salvation truly is the redemption of the whole man. We are wholly redeemed because Jesus the God-Man offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sin on the cross. By His own blood, He redeemed believers from their sin. All who trust in Jesus for salvation are indeed saved by Him. So we Christians are to proclaim this exclusive salvation to everyone we possibly can. We have no way of knowing who will believe and who will reject the gospel. We have no way of knowing if someone after rejecting the gospel for years will later believe in Christ for salvation, possibly even after we have died! We joyfully hold all these biblical truths together. Praise God for the grace He has shown us in saving us from our sins! We’ll continue considering His saving grace over the next many blog posts.
Having discussed the person of Christ, the Baptist Faith and Message includes a paragraph on the work of Christ: “He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.” This discussion of the work of Christ extends from the past, to the present, into the future.
The Work of Christ in His First Coming
In his first coming, Jesus’ work centered on accomplishing the redemption of his people from sin. Jesus did this by living a life of perfect obedience and dying in our place on the cross. The Baptist Faith and Message affirms what theologians call the active and passive obedience of Christ. The active obedience of Christ is “His personal obedience.” This is a positive way of putting the doctrine stated negatively in the previous blog post (Christ’s sinlessness). Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (Matt 5:17). “He is and does all that they predicted” (Charles Quarles, The Sermon on the Mount [Nashville: B&H Academic, 2011], 93). Jesus obeyed the Sabbath, even though the scribes and Pharisees objected to his actions (Matt 12:1-14). He affirmed the law of the tithe (Matt 23:23-24). Jesus perfectly obeyed the law.
Jesus’ death is referred to his passive obedience, even though he was no less active in going to his death than when he was obeying God’s commands. He submitted himself to the punishment of the law that everyone else deserved but that he didn’t deserve. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). He accomplished redemption at the cross, and we receive this redemption “through faith” (Gal 3:14). “Christ crucified” is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:22-24). Because Jesus died on the cross in our place, he “became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30).
We know that Jesus’ death accomplished redemption because God raised him from the dead. All four Gospels record Jesus’ resurrection. Paul affirms that Jesus appeared after his resurrection to Peter, his disciples, hundreds of Christians, and James his brother (1 Cor 15:3-7). John records that Jesus still had scars from the nails and spear that pierced him (John 20:19-29). He also tells us that Jesus ate, which indicates that his was a bodily resurrection (John 21:4-14). Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, he ascended to heaven (Acts 1:3-11).
The Work of Christ Now
Now, Jesus is “exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man.” He remains the God-Man. Paul explains that it is precisely because Jesus humbled himself to death on a cross that God has highly exalted him to this position where he has the name above all others (Phil 2:6-11). Jesus told his disciples before the ascension, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). He is the one Mediator between God and humanity (1 Tim 2:5-6). As Mediator, he intercedes for us his people (Heb 7:23-25).
Jesus also now puts into effect the reconciliation between God and man that he accomplished at the cross. Now, God reconciles us to himself through Christ (2 Cor 5:18). He accomplished this reconciliation at the cross (2 Cor 5:19). He applies that reconciliation to people throughout history through the preaching of Jesus’ death and resurrection by Christians. All Christians have this ministry of reconciliation, of proclaiming to others that you can be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice for your sin.
Finally, Jesus “now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.” Jesus prayed that Christians would be “in” him and the Father (John 17:21). He also prayed that he would be “in them” (John 17:23, 26). Jesus now is present in the lives of all Christians in the person of the Holy Spirit, as will be discussed in future blog posts about the Holy Spirit.
The Work of Christ in His Second Coming
At his second coming, Jesus will accomplish two purposes: “to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission.” John foresaw Jesus accomplish each of these things in the vision the Lord gave him:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”Revelation 20:11-21:8
The work of Christ as the incarnate Son of God extends from his first coming, through the present, to his second coming. Eternal judgment and eternal salvation will be consummated at the end of the age under the auspices of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us Christians praise our Lord Jesus for his obedient life, sacrificial death, triumphant resurrection, present intercession for us, and promised return! As we await his sure return, let us live faithful lives to him for his glory!
an expository sermon on Genesis 6:1-8 preached by Pastor Jordan Atkinson on June 30, 2019