FREE WILL–WHAT IS IT?

(c) Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

(I know that I covered this once before.)

This is a true story. Decades ago I was called by a lady who was offended at some of my teaching. When I asked her what it was, she said you don’t believe in “free will”? I answered, “So we can be on the same page, what is free will?” She said, “Well, free means you can do what you like.” I responded that everyone believed that. She tried again: “You don’t believe that the lost can believe in Christ, that regardless of what they want, if they are not elect, they can’t believe.” I pointed out that her statement was a half-truth. It is true that the lost cannot believe in Jesus, but they also do what they like. They don’t want to believe in Jesus.

I tried to clarify the difference between “wanting” to believe and being “able” to believe, which she did not get. Then I said, “Let’s approach it this way. Is the converted person free from the control of the world?” She correctly answered No. Then I asked, “Is the unconverted person free from his indwelling sin, his sinful heart,” to which again she answered correctly, No. Finally, I challenged, “Is the unconverted person free from the control of the devil?” Again her answer was correct, No. Then what is the lost person’s will free from. She paused and proclaimed, “Their will is free from God,” at which point I almost dropped the phone. I politely said, “If the lost are under the control of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and God can’t help, then how does anyone become a Christian?”

POINT: Everyone uses the words “free will”, but no one knows what it means or the implication. Our choices are ours, but they are not free from outside or inside control. We can never come to Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life without trusting in Him, and we’ll never trust without His powerful grace that overcomes the controls. Here is the problem: WE LOVE THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL; we hate God. Who will deliver us?

The Triune God is our ONLY hope: The Father chose us to be in Christ BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD to His glory (Eph. 1:4-6); the Son AT A POINT IN TIME shed His divine blood for us for forgiveness of sins to His glory (Eph. 1:7-12); The Holy Spirit brought us to faith AT THE POINT OF OUR CONVERSION (Eph. 1:13-14), to His glory. TO HIS GLORY is repeated each time a person of the Holy Trinity did His work. Three works: the Father chose His elect before time; the Son redeemed His elect 2,000 years ago in time; the Holy Spirit applies the merits of Jesus’ work to us in our lives in our personal experience. GLORY BE TO THE FATHER AND TO THE SON AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.

Crisis Regarding Christ

© by The Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.,  2017

Some years ago a preacher visited my church. After the Sunday School class, during which I was teaching on various “Christian” cults, he said, “In my church we have no creed but Christ.” I responded, “Which Christ? The one of the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the word-faith movement, or of the ancient creeds?” Today we have a crisis regarding Christ because we no longer value truth.

The historic Church has always assumed that there was truth and error, not just opinions. It was zealous to maintain the truth about the Son as revealed in Holy Scripture. It was not tolerant (the politically correct word today) of error concerning Christ, though they could be tolerant of other things. It came together on several occasions in ecumenical councils to proclaim the Gospel, the truth about Christ, writing doctrinal statements that were considered binding on all Christians. We have creeds that summarize those councils, such as the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. (The Athanasian Creed is my favorite.)

The Church realized that faith was only as good as its object, and the object of faith (Christ) only as good as the content about Him. And from that day to now, those councils, especially the Council of Chalcedon, have been considered by all branches of Christendom—Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodoxy—to be the epitome of orthodoxy regarding the person of Christ. During the greatest revival in the history of the Church, the Reformation, the Reformers did not challenge Chalcedon’s teaching that Christ was fully God, fully man yet sinless, one person, and no mixture of the two natures of divinity and humanity (John 1:1-3, 14; 5:28; 10:30; Col. 1:15ff; 2:9; Heb. 1:1ff; etc). That was bedrock.

Unfortunately, today is different. The ambiance of this age is ripe for heresy since personal opinion is considered to be more important than truth, especially truth from the past. The Church has become obsessed with making people feel comfortable, not with truth. (Indeed, some preachers build large congregations by not preaching on sin or other “controversial” matters.) The Church has devolved into a radical egalitarianism, and truth has been reduced to its lowest common denominator. Now each individual—with or without his Bible—will decide for himself what truth is.

In contrast to the heresies, the early fathers understood that Christology was at the heart of redemption, that who Christ was determined whether man was redeemed or not. Their constant watchword was “what is not assumed [in the incarnation] is not redeemed.” Thus, if Christ had not assumed full humanity (sin excepted), we would have no redemption.

This worked the other way also. The early Church fathers recognized that if Christ had not been fully God and functioning fully as God (contra word-faith leaders who deny that the Son of God used His divine attributes on earth), there could be no reconciliation of God and man, Christ would have had no infinite merit to what He had done, but only the work of a man. At the Council of Ephesus, therefore, the fathers clearly stated in A.D. 431: “If any man shall say that the one Lord Jesus Christ was glorified by the Holy Spirit, so that He used through Him a power not His own and from Him received power against unclean spirits and power to work miracles before men and shall not rather confess that it was His own Spirit through which He worked these divine signs; let him be anathema” (emphasis added).

Anything less than one who functioned fully as man and fully as God in one Person could not die for our sins. He had to be man to die. He had to be God to give infinite value to His work. He had to be one person to bring God and man together, bringing the acts of God and man together as one act. The two natures of God and man could not be mingled, making Him less than God or more than man. If Christ had not been God or had not functioned as God while on earth, we would have the acts of a man and of the Holy Spirit through Him—separate acts of two persons—but that would have been no different than the prophets of old who had the Holy Spirit in them. No, Christ functioned fully as man and as God in one person, thus uniting His work of redemption as one work of the God-man.

Today we have many heresies. There are those who deny the deity of Christ altogether. There are others who deny that the Son functioned as God while on earth. Indeed, in the word-faith teaching, man can be a god and create his/her own providence by audible words. In the separation of God and man in Christ, there is no reconciliation of man with God since there is no real union of God and man in one person. Thus, salvation is eliminated. If Christ is only a creature, or only functioned as a creature, God is not revealed, but a wholly unknown being. Thus, God is eliminated.

If there was ever a need for a second Reformation, it is today, and this Reformation must begin where the first one did: with the Church’s stand for truth and with the Christ of the Councils and of the Bible. We must not invent a new “Jesus” for each succeeding generation, but proclaim the old, revealed Jesus, who never changes (Heb. 13:8). The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church that proclaims Christ as the Son of God! AMEN. Ω

The Modern Crisis

(c) Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

In the Reformation of the 1500s, both sides believed the Bible to be God’s infallible word, both held to the Holy Trinity (one God in three equal person, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and both taught that Christ was fully God, perfect man, one person, and no mixture of the natures of deity and humanity. Today the crisis is worse as even “Christian” people wonder if the Bible is God’s word, if the Trinity is really all that important, and if Christ was only a good man or something less than God.

There are two ways to be heretical: formally in belief and practically in one’s immorality, and our age is given to both.  In formal heresy, there are many in mainline denominations who take delight in denying the historic faith as expressed in such timeless statements as the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, which all branches of Christianity have held (Protestant, Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholic). They deny that Christ is the only way to God; indeed, they deny that He is God. They deny the Holy Trinity. They pretend that all religions are the same, which means that none of them mean anything, an insult to all claims to know God.

But one can also be heretical in morality, such as the sexual promiscuity that is rampant today in so many circles. One may be right in his beliefs, but if his morality is contrary to God’s holy commandments, and especially if he/she declares such openly, then he/she is heretical.

There is no hope for anyone unless they repent, which means that they confess they are wrong, take God’s view on both belief and practice, and bow to His Lordship. There is not enough room in this universe for two lawgivers: God and man, which is what man wants, his own pretended autonomy.  The serpent’s lie to Adam and Eve was that they could be their own lawgiver, determining for themselves what was right and wrong. We know the consequences when our first parents believed such. Indeed, even in the New Testament many centuries later, God has stated that there is only one lawgiver: the Triune God (James 4:12). He, and He alone, determines what we should believe and what is true morality.

But when our culture dreams up beliefs or ethics out of his/her mind instead of listening to God, they have created a god after their own image to worship, and just coincidentally, one who will approve their latest fad in belief and ethics. The only way one can know anything about God is if He tells us, not when we dream up things that He must approve. If fact, the only way we can know anyone is if that person reveals himself to us. I once worked (unknowingly) with a con man who was my boss, who had us fooled that he was a fine Christian, but he was stealing from our clients. He knew Christian language and could fake a few very nice prayers.

Was it the great St. Augustine who said that God created man in His own image, and man has been returning the favor ever since? People thousands of years ago made physical idols to worship, and we make mental idols. In both cases, a new god is created after the heart of sinful mankind. Paul the Apostle noted such in his own day in Romans 1:18-24.

Yes, the great crisis today is Who is God, Who is Christ, and What shall we do with our sins? The Modern answer is that God and Christ are whatever we make them to be, and there is no sin except by our definition. I often hear politicians say “God bless you,” and I immediately ask myself “which God”? They usually just mean for us to fill in the blanks as to which God and how He will bless us. That way they can sound Christian, which is still politically expedient, for now, but they don’t commit themselves to any truth.

It is time that the true people of God stop listing to such heresies in belief and in morality, and leave ungodly churches that promote such. Moreover, if a parish will not stand openly for the faith and for God’s Ten Commandments, one must leave, for the Lord stated that the one who is not for Him is against Him (Luke 11:23). Go to a church that is in line with the history of the Church and still believes Holy Scripture. God’s principles are more important than the property! AMEN.