This Week's Focus Passage

Matthew 1:21 ‘For it is he that shall save his people from their sins.’

Matthew 1:21 ‘For it is he that shall save his people from their sins.’

The entire pericope actually begins with an angel’s appearance unto Joseph, at vs. 20, where we do well to listen to all that was spoken unto Joseph, the betrothed of Mary: Butwhen he thought on these things [being minded to put her away], behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.

It seems well in many ways to begin a new year at the beginning of the Gospel (which actually began before the foundation of the world) of Jesus Christ, but of course the book of Matthew begins with the genealogy of the Savior of the World, and swiftly leads us unto the announcement of His incarnation to Mary and Joseph. The well-known announcement speaks of the reason of His coming into the world, namely, to save His people; and to save them from their sins.

It is to be feared that there are many, too many, professing Christians that very much desire to be saved from the punishment that their sins deserve; they wish to be saved from the guilt of their sins, but they do not really want to be saved from their sins. In other words, they wish to be freed from guilt; freed from punishment, but not truly freed from their sins. They would hang on to them if they could. This is actually, and sadly, what is largely behind what is called by many, the ‘Lordship Controversy.’ Now, to be sure, it is not the motive of all that may be attracted to subscribe to the teaching that an individual may have Jesus immediately as Savior, and sometime later, or never, have Him as their Lord. There may well be a number, even a large number that are convinced that they are defending the Biblical teaching that we are saved by grace and not works. This teaching is, of course, absolutely true and wonderful. Nonetheless, as James has pointed out, the faith that apprehends that salvation is not based upon works is not itself without works. Show me your faith by your works, James exhorts. Indeed, Paul has clearly informed us in his epistle to those in Ephesus, that we have been saved, not through any works of ours, but through the works of God and, further, that we are His workmanship, created [or new created] in Christ Jesus [through His blood] for good works which God afore prepared that we should walk in them. It might well also be expressed in such enigmatic language as this: we are saved by works; however, not by any of our own works, but solely by the works of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no demand upon us to protect the grace of God by the corruption; the synergism, of bringing our own imagined merits into the equation. If we are not saved solely and entirely by the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, then we are not saved at all.

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun. This heresy has been taught virtually from the beginning. ‘What must we do, that we may work the works of God? was a question asked by some among the multitude that came to Capernaum seeking Jesus.

He responded to them, saying, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. (John 6:28, 29) This basic understanding was most recently popularized under the teaching of the ‘Carnal Christian Theory.’ This proposition also taught that one could have Christ as their Savior without having Him as their Lord. Historically, it appears that it was concocted as a defense for the Invitation System. Charles Finney is usually considered the ‘inventor’ of this device; perhaps innovator would be a better choice of words. This is the practice in its beginning which calls hearers in an assembly of attendees after the presentation of a message, hopefully the Gospel, to ‘come forward,’ thus indicating a desire for salvation. This method had been the practice of unnumbered preachers ever since. Usually, there is announcement made of an impending ‘revival,’ whether it be a ‘tent meeting’ or not. The date of the said ‘revival’ is declared and folk gather to hear ‘revival’ messages, at the conclusion of which folk are called, challenged, exhorted (whatever term one wishes to employ) to come to the front. Promise has been given that there will be someone at the front for them to speak with about their concerns. This ‘someone’ has been instructed, or trained, as to how to ‘lead this respondent to Christ.’ Generally, it is affirmed that the respondent wishes to be saved from his sins, whereupon appeal is made for them to ‘ask Jesus to come into their hearts.’ If they respond positively to this appeal, they are invariably told that they are Christians. Unsurprisingly, statistics (even admitted by such a paramount evangelist as Billy Graham) over many years have shown that of the perhaps thousands that have been saved, only a relatively small number were among those that continued in the faith and demonstrated true conversion. (Yes, some were brought to Christ—not by the invitation system, but in spite of it).

So the inevitable question was raised by many, ‘What about all those that came forward, asked Jesus to come into their hearts, and then never showed their faces in a church setting again?’ The reasonable conclusion would be to suggest that they had never truly believed, but then what happens to our ‘revival’ system; what happens to our ‘invitation system’? And rather than admit the folly of imagining that man could regenerate anyone’s heart, refuge was sought, and found, in the teaching of the ‘Carnal Christian’ theory. This theory that an individual may ask Jesus to ‘come into his heart’ and be saved without any work of the Holy Spirit was then propagated, and has continued to our own day; now being called the anti-Lordship doctrine.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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