Monday, February 27, 2017

Sovereignty vs. Freedom—Part III



The next set of scriptures that John MacArthur quotes in support of his theology is from John Chapter 6. This is what he says:

“Turn to chapter 6 of John and I am going to show you the consistency...and by the way, these aren’t separated by being in a different book, written by a different author, these are in the same conversations in the same context. In John 6 verse 37...well, let’s go to verse 35. In verse 35 Jesus says, ‘I am the bread of life, he who comes to Me will not hunger. He who believes in Me will never thirst, but I say to you, that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. If you believed, you wouldn’t hunger. If you believed, you wouldn’t thirst. If you believed, you would have life, but you don’t believe.’ Human responsibility, human will.”

Agreed, it implies human responsibility. He continues:

“Then you come to verse 37, ‘All the Father gives Me will come to Me and the one who comes to Me, I’ll certainly not cast out and I’ve come down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me, and this is the will of Him who sent Me that of all that He has given Me, I lose none but raise him up on the last day.’

“Wow! So salvation belongs only to those whom the Father gives to Christ.”

Sure; except that the “predestination” he is looking for is still not implied. He continues:

“Look at verse 44, ‘No one comes to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.’ So nobody is going to come to Christ if they’re not drawn by the Father, sovereign power. Nobody comes to Christ unless they’re given to Christ by the Father. That’s divine sovereignty.”

If by “divine sovereignty” he means that the Father draws people to Christ unconditionally, without any merit on their part, no such thing is suggested or implied in that verse. He continues:

“Jesus says, ‘I came not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me and His will is that of all that He has given Me, they would come and I would lose none of them.’ So that’s divine sovereignty. The Father chooses, the Father draws, the Father gives to the Son, the Son receives, the Son keeps, the Son raises. Divine sovereignty. And yet, verse 35, ‘He who believes in Me will never thirst and yet You’ve seen Me and you do not believe.’ That is human responsibility.

“Look at verse 47, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.’ Verse 57, ‘As the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me takes Me in, he also will live because of Me.’”

All of his implied suggestions with regard to the above references are baseless and unjustified. There is nothing in those verses that suggest that God the Father “gives” people to Christ, or “draws” them to Christ unconditionally; or by some kind of “sovereign act” without any regard to the person’s merit or worthiness. Nothing like that is implied by those scriptures. That is what he likes to read into it, but it is not there. I have already discussed John 6:44, 65 with respect to the doctrine of “unconditional election” in another post titled “Limited vs. Universal Atonement,” therefore it is not necessary to discuss it here. But his insistence that God’s divine sovereignty must necessarily cancel out human freedom, or that the two are incompatible and irreconcilable is not true. I have shown in the first post in this series how they can be reconciled. He then continues:

“On the one hand, nobody comes unless the Father draws him. Nobody comes unless the Father drawing him gives him to Christ and yet whoever believes can come, whoever doesn’t believe is lost. At the end of the chapter, near the end of the chapter in verse 63, it says, ‘It is the Spirit who gives life.’ We’ve already seen that. Of course, it’s a spiritual work down from above. It’s the Spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. It’s a spiritual work. It’s divine. It’s from heaven. It’s from above. But verse 64, ‘But there are some of you who don’t believe.’ And then verse 65, ‘For this reason I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it’s been granted him from the Father.’

“How do you harmonize these? I don’t know. Nobody’s coming unless it’s from the Father. Nobody’s coming unless drawn by the Father. Nobody’s coming unless given by the Father to the Son. And yet He says, ‘Whoever believes can come.’”

Of course they can be harmonized. See here for how they can be harmonized. His inability to harmonize them arises from his bias towards, and entanglement in Calvinistic and “Reformed” false theology of predestination, “faith alone,” and TULIP. In his mind everything needs to be resolved in those terms. He can’t get away from it. He can’t “think out of the box”. His mind is trapped in that box, and he can’t get out of it. Once one starts thinking out of that box, harmonization is not difficult to achieve.

The remainder of his sermon will be discussed in a subsequent post.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sovereignty vs. Freedom—Part II



The next set of scriptures John MacArthur quotes in support of his theology is from John chapter 3 as follows:

John 3:

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

For which he offers following explanation (highlights added):

“Turn to John 3 and Jesus is having a conversation with Nicodemus who is a leader and a ruler of the Jews, a Pharisee. He’s a teacher, someone who ostensibly knows the Word of God and biblical theology, Old Testament theology. But he’s burdened because he wants to enter the Kingdom of God and in spite of his religiosity he’s not satisfied that he has attained that, that he has entered the Kingdom of God. So Jesus speaks to him in John 3:3 and says, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born from above, anothen, born again, or born from above,’ but let’s look at it as born from above which is an alternative translation since that’s what the rest of the passage seems to emphasize. ‘Unless one is born from above, he can’t see the Kingdom of God.’

“And what is He saying to Nicodemus? ‘Nicodemus, you’re working really hard to get into the Kingdom of God. But I want to tell you something. You don’t get in there from here, it comes from above. If you’re going to be regenerated, it has to come down from above. You can’t achieve it.’ And, of course, we understand that, right? Because the Jews were trying to work their way into the Kingdom and the message of Jesus is, ‘You can’t do it that way, it comes down from above. Nicodemus, if you want to enter the Kingdom, you have to be born from above.’ And Nicodemus picks up on the paradigm, understands Jesus is talking in an analogy and says, ‘How can a man be born when he’s old? How can...how can that happen? Look, I didn’t contribute to my first birth, nobody does, and how am I going to make myself be born again? How am I going to do that? How can I enter a second time into my mother’s womb and be born?’ He’s talking in metaphoric language, he gets the picture. Jesus is saying, ‘You need a new birth. You need a wholesale overhaul. You need to be regenerated from above. And his question is, “How can I do that?” And the answer is, “You can’t...you can’t because...verse 6...that which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. You need a spiritual birth and that doesn’t come from the flesh. So you can’t generate a spiritual birth. You can’t regenerate yourself. It’s not anything you can do. You must be...verse 7...born from above.’

“So here’s this man coming and saying, ‘I want to enter the Kingdom of God.’ And Jesus’ answer to him is, ‘Look, this calls for such a dramatic, total regeneration that it can only happen from above. The flesh can’t do it, you can’t do it.

“Now this is very instructive, isn’t it, in terms of how we do evangelism? When somebody comes to you and says, ‘I want to enter the Kingdom of God,’ what would you say? You’d probably say, ‘Well, first of all, pray this prayer.’ Really? ‘Say these words, repeat after me.’ I hear that all the time. Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus didn’t say, ‘Here are the three steps, four steps.’ Jesus said, ‘Look, you have to recognize that this is something you can’t do. This is a divine work that comes down from above and constitutes a total regeneration, new life, and you can’t produce it because flesh can only produce...what?...flesh. You need a spiritual birth from heaven.’

“And then in verse 8, a most amazing statement, ‘The wind blows,’ and He moves the analogy from the analogy of birth to wind. ‘The wind blows where it wishes, you hear the sound of it, you don’t know where it comes from, you don’t know where it’s going.’ We all know that, right? The wind comes and there it is. We feel it. We see its effect. We don’t know where it’s coming from, we don’t know where it’s going. We can’t initiate it, and we can’t stop it. It operates under power way beyond us. ‘So is everyone born of the Spirit.’

“What’s He saying? This is a divine miracle that comes down from heaven. This is not something you can generate. This is not something you can produce. This is not something you can manufacture. This is a spiritual thing, a work of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit comes to whom He will when He wills. That’s such a powerful answer. You’re talking about a divine miracle that comes down from above.

“Just to seal that, go down to verse 27...27, same chapter. John the Baptist answered and said, he obviously got the message, ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from...what?...heaven.’

“So the message here from Nicodemus is, you want to enter the Kingdom? That’s a divine miracle. That’s something the Spirit does to whom He wills when He wills. He comes and He goes and you see the reality of His arrival but you don’t know where or when. It’s a divine miracle.”

He has seriously erred in his analysis of those verses. The highlighted bits are entirely his interpolations. They cannot be inferred from the scriptures he is commenting on. What he is basically saying is that the “birth of the Spirit” is a miracle performed by God, therefore there is nothing one can do to qualify to receive it. That is not a logical deduction from the given scriptures. The conclusion does not logically follow from the given premise. Just because the birth of the Spirit is a miracle, it does not logically follow that there is nothing one needs to do to qualify to receive it. There is nothing in the scriptural passage that is calculated to lead one to that conclusion.

His interpretation of the analogy of the “wind” is also misconstrued. The purpose of the analogy of the “wind” is not to explain how someone is “born again,” but the state and condition of someone who is born again. It means that you can’t tell if someone is “born again” by just looking at him. It is a change that takes place within the soul, and not visible in the outward appearance.

The key to understanding passage correctly is actually in verse 5, which he has conveniently ignored:

John 3:

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

This verse is the key to understanding the whole passage. The question is, what is meant by being “born of water”? That verse states that two kinds of “births” are required for one to enter the kingdom of heaven: birth of water and birth of the Spirit. One of them alone is not sufficient. Understanding the first correctly is the key to understanding the second. Historically being “born of water” has been understood by Christians to mean water baptism. Both scripture as well early Christian literature attest to that. First, in scripture water baptism is depicted symbolically as a sign of regeneration and rebirth:

Romans 6:

3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 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.

Colossians 2:

12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

Titus 3:

5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration [in baptism], and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

The allusions to “death” and “birth,” and a “renewing” of life through baptism are obvious; and the early Christians unanimously understood it in that way:

Justin Martyr:

“As many as are persuaded and believe that what we [Christians] teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, and instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we pray and fast with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father . . . and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit [Matt. 28:19], they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, ‘Unless you are born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:3]” (First Apology 61 [A.D. 151]).

Irenaeus:

“‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’” (Fragment 34 [A.D. 190]).

Tertullian:

“[N]o one can attain salvation without baptism, especially in view of the declaration of the Lord, who says, ‘Unless a man shall be born of water, he shall not have life’” (Baptism 12:1 [A.D. 203]).

Hippolytus:

“The Father of immortality sent the immortal Son and Word into the world, who came to man in order to wash him with water and the Spirit; and he, begetting us again to incorruption of soul and body, breathed into us the Spirit of life, and endued us with an incorruptible panoply. If, therefore, man has become immortal, he will also be God. And if he is made God by water and the Holy Spirit after the regeneration of the laver he is found to be also joint-heir with Christ after the resurrection from the dead. Wherefore I preach to this effect: Come, all ye kindreds of the nations, to the immortality of the baptism” (Discourse on the Holy Theophany 8 [A.D. 217]).

The Recognitions of Clement:

“But you will perhaps say, ‘What does the baptism of water contribute toward the worship of God?’ In the first place, because that which has pleased God is fulfilled. In the second place, because when you are regenerated and born again of water and of God, the frailty of your former birth, which you have through men, is cut off, and so . . . you shall be able to attain salvation; but otherwise it is impossible. For thus has the true prophet [Jesus] testified to us with an oath: ‘Verily, I say to you, that unless a man is born again of water . . . he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’” (The Recognitions of Clement 6:9 [A.D. 221]).

Testimonies Concerning the Jews:

“That unless a man have been baptized and born again, he cannot attain unto the kingdom of God. In the Gospel according to John: ‘Except a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ [John 3:5]. . . . Also in the same place: ‘Unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye shall not have life in you’ [John 6:53]. That it is of small account to be baptized and to receive the Eucharist, unless one profit by it both in deeds and works” (Testimonies Concerning the Jews 3:2:25–26 [A.D. 240]).

Cyprian of Carthage:

“[When] they receive also the baptism of the Church . . . then finally can they be fully sanctified and be the sons of God . . . since it is written, ‘Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’” (Letters 71[72]:1 [A.D. 253]).

Council of Carthage VII:

“And in the gospel our Lord Jesus Christ spoke with his divine voice, saying, ‘Except a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’ . . . Unless therefore they receive saving baptism in the Catholic Church, which is one, they cannot be saved, but will be condemned with the carnal in the judgment of the Lord Christ” (Seventh Carthage [A.D. 256]).

Cyril of Jerusalem:

“Since man is of a twofold nature, composed of body and soul, the purification also is twofold: the corporeal for the corporeal and the incorporeal for the incorporeal. The water cleanses the body, and the Spirit seals the soul. . . . When you go down into the water, then, regard not simply the water, but look for salvation through the power of the Spirit. For without both you cannot attain to perfection. It is not I who says this, but the Lord Jesus Christ, who has the power in this matter. And he says, ‘Unless a man be born again,’ and he adds the words ‘of water and of the Spirit,’ ‘he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’ He that is baptized with water, but is not found worthy of the Spirit, does not receive the grace in perfection. Nor, if a man be virtuous in his deeds, but does not receive the seal by means of the water, shall he enter the kingdom of heaven. A bold saying, but not mine; for it is Jesus who has declared it” (Catechetical Lectures 3:4 [A.D. 350]).

Athanasius:

“[A]s we are all from earth and die in Adam, so being regenerated from above of water and Spirit, in the Christ we are all quickened” (Four Discourses Against the Arians 3:26[33] [A.D. 360]).

Basil the Great:

“This then is what it means to be ‘born again of water and Spirit’: Just as our dying is effected in the water [Rom. 6:3; Col. 2:12–13], our living is wrought through the Spirit. In three immersions and an equal number of invocations the great mystery of baptism is completed in such a way that the type of death may be shown figuratively, and that by the handing on of divine knowledge the souls of the baptized may be illuminated. If, therefore, there is any grace in the water, it is not from the nature of water, but from the Spirit’s presence there” (The Holy Spirit 15:35 [A.D. 375]).

Ambrose of Milan:

“Although we are baptized with water and the Spirit, the latter is much superior to the former, and is not therefore to be separated from the Father and the Son. There are, however, many who, because we are baptized with water and the Spirit, think that there is no difference in the offices of water and the Spirit, and therefore think that they do not differ in nature. Nor do they observe that we are buried in the element of water that we may rise again renewed by the Spirit. For in the water is the representation of death, in the Spirit is the pledge of life, that the body of sin may die through the water, which encloses the body as it were in a kind of tomb, that we, by the power of the Spirit, may be renewed from the death of sin, being born again in God” (The Holy Spirit 1:6 [75–76] [A.D. 381]).

“The Church was redeemed at the price of Christ’s blood. Jew or Greek, it makes no difference; but if he has believed, he must circumcise himself from his sins [in baptism (Col. 2:11–12)] so that he can be saved . . . for no one ascends into the kingdom of heaven except through the sacrament of baptism.

. . . ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’” (Abraham 2:11:79–84 [A.D. 387]).

“You have read, therefore, that the three witnesses in baptism are one: water, blood, and the Spirit (1 John 5:8): And if you withdraw any one of these, the sacrament of baptism is not valid. For what is the water without the cross of Christ? A common element with no sacramental effect. Nor on the other hand is there any mystery of regeneration without water, for ‘unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’” (The Mysteries 4:20 [A.D. 390]).

Gregory of Nyssa:

“[In] the birth by water and the Spirit, [Jesus] himself led the way in this birth, drawing down upon the water, by his own baptism, the Holy Spirit; so that in all things he became the firstborn of those who are spiritually born again, and gave the name of brethren to those who partook in a birth like to his own by water and the Spirit” (Against Eunomius 2:8 [A.D. 382]).

John Chrysostom:

“[N]o one can enter into the kingdom of heaven except he be regenerated through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink his blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious? These [priests] truly are they who are entrusted with the pangs of spiritual travail and the birth which comes through baptism: by their means we put on Christ, and are buried with the Son of God, and become members of that blessed head [the Mystical Body of Christ]” (The Priesthood 3:5–6 [A.D. 387]).

Gregory of Nazianzus:

“Such is the grace and power of baptism; not an overwhelming of the world as of old, but a purification of the sins of each individual, and a complete cleansing from all the bruises and stains of sin. And since we are double-made, I mean of body and soul, and the one part is visible, the other invisible, so the cleansing also is twofold, by water and the Spirit; the one received visibly in the body, the other concurring with it invisibly and apart from the body; the one typical, the other real and cleansing the depths” (Oration on Holy Baptism 7–8 [A.D. 388]).

The Apostolic Constitutions:

“Be ye likewise contented with one baptism alone, that which is into the death of the Lord [Rom. 6:3; Col. 2:12–13]. . . . [H]e that out of contempt will not be baptized shall be condemned as an unbeliever and shall be reproached as ungrateful and foolish. For the Lord says, ‘Except a man be baptized of water and of the Spirit, he shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ And again, ‘He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believes not shall be damned’” [Mark 16:16] (Apostolic Constitutions 6:3:15 [A.D. 400]).

Augustine:

“It is this one Spirit who makes it possible for an infant to be regenerated . . . when that infant is brought to baptism; and it is through this one Spirit that the infant so presented is reborn. For it is not written, ‘Unless a man be born again by the will of his parents’ or ‘by the faith of those presenting him or ministering to him,’ but, ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit.’ The water, therefore, manifesting exteriorly the sacrament of grace, and the Spirit effecting interiorly the benefit of grace, both regenerate in one Christ that man who was generated in Adam” (Letters 98:2 [A.D. 412]).

That is a formidable list of early Christian divines. These quotes span nearly three centuries of early Christian teachings, starting with Justin Martyr in AD 151, and ending with St. Augustine in AD 419. No Early Church Father ever taught that being “born of water” in John 3:5 means anything other than water baptism. Am I now supposed to disregard all of that (plus the scriptures cited), and believe the “Reformed” theologians of today? I don’t think so. Modern Protestant theologians have jumped through all kinds of strange hoops to deny the obvious reference to water baptism in John 3:5, because to acknowledge it would wreck their theology. Now that we have come to a clearer understanding of what it means to be “born of water,” however, we are in a better position to explore what it means to be “born of the Spirit”. John the Baptist has gives us the clue:

Matthew 3:

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

Luke 3:

16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:

That clarifies what Jesus means in John 3:5 by being “born again” or “born of the Spirit”. It means the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, which only Jesus can give. That is all that is meant in John 3:5 by being “born again,” or “born of the Spirit”. It means the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost as taught by John the Baptist and nothing more. It has absolutely no other meaning. The only difference is that in John 3:1–12 Jesus tries to provide Nicodemus with some kind of “theological exposition” as to what it entails to receive that baptism of “fire and the Holy Ghost”. Other than that he is talking about exactly the same thing, no difference.

The next question is, how do we receive this spiritual gift, and are there any preconditions? In the New Testament, the “baptism of fire and Holy Ghost” is nearly always bestowed by the laying on of hands of those who were able to give it, such as the Apostles. There are only two exceptions to this rule mentioned in the New Testament. The first was the reception of the Holy Ghost by the Apostles and disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost. No “laying on of hands” was observed on that occasion. The second was the conversion of Cornelius. Both of these were exceptional cases. In the case of the Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus had already been baptized, and were given the promise of the Holy Ghost by Jesus himself, both before as well as after his resurrection. The day of Pentecost was the fulfilment of that promise. And on that occasion I suppose we could say that they received the “laying on of hands” figuratively by Jesus himself, although not in a physical sense. In the case of Cornelius, that also was an exceptional case. Cornelius was the first Gentile to be converted and be baptized. Up to that time the Jews believed that the gospel was intended only for the Jews. It was not meant for the Gentiles. The Lord performed this extraordinary miracle in order to convince Peter and the Jews who accompanied him that the Gentiles were as good as the Jews as far as the promises of the gospel was concerned. Apart from these two exceptional cases, the gift of the Holy Ghost (or being “born again”) was always given by the laying on of hands.

The next question is, were there any preconditions to receiving that gift? Was there something that man needed to do in order to qualify for receiving it? The answer is yes, there was. The preconditions for receiving the baptism of fire and Holy Ghost was the same as the preconditions for receiving the baptism of water. The preconditions were (1) faith, (2) repentance, and (3) application. First you had to believe. Then you had to repent. Then you had to apply for it. Nobody tied your hands and feet, and baptized you against your will. You had to seek it, desire it, request it, and apply for it. The same criteria applied to the baptism of “fire and the Holy Ghost”. The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost was always given following water baptism—Cornelius being the only exception, for the reasons already explained. There is no such thing as being “born again” without receiving the above sacraments. Those who claim that they have been “born again” without the above procedures are deluding themselves. They are living under the deadly illusion created for them by the Calvinistic and “Reformed” theologians of today.

So that destroys the first plank of John MacArthur’s argument, that being “born again” is something that just happens to us by the will of God, without us playing any role to qualify or prepare to receive it. Nothing is further from the truth. And nothing of the kind is suggested or implied in John 3:1–12. The fact that the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (or being “born again”) is indeed a “miracle” performed by the Lord does not mean that there are no qualifying preconditions attached. John MacArthur then continues his narrative as follows (highlights added):

“Now you would conclude from that that this is the doctrine of divine sovereignty, would you not? The Spirit comes when He wants, on whom He wants. That’s a divine sovereign act. Comes from above, gives life to whom He wills when He wills. You can’t manufacture it, you can’t make it happen. You can only receive the heavenly gift, divine sovereignty.

Sure we can’t “manufacture it” or “make it happen”. But it doesn’t come without our preparedness or worthiness to receive it either. It requires faith, repentance, and application. That is what the scriptures teach. Then he continues:

“And yet look at verse 15..verse 15, ‘Whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.’

“Huh...really! Whoever believes will in Him have eternal life? That sounds like human will, doesn’t it? Sounds like human responsibility. This is in the same conversation. Do you understand this? I’m not going to relieve your pain, I’m just going to make you feel less pain if you just understand these two things go together.

“You say, ‘But how do you harmonize them?’ The same way the Bible does. They’re both realities, they co-exist, they go side-by-side without an explanation. Whoever believes. ‘God so loved the world...verse 16...that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes will not perish but have eternal life.’ Verse 18, ‘He who believes in Him is not judged. He who does not believe has been judged already.’ Verse 36, ‘He who believes in the Son has eternal life.’

“So what do we say about this passage? If you’re going to enter the Kingdom of God, it’s a divine sovereign work from heaven done by the Holy Spirit to whom He wills when He wills. And it is also true that whoever believes will have eternal life. That’s what the Bible says.”

Erroneous exegesis all the way through! The apparent paradox between God’s sovereignty and Man’s freedom was already explained in Part I, therefore no additional comments here are required. But his references to other verses in John chapter 3, notably verses 15, 16, 18, and 36 require further comment. The verses which he has missed while (mis-) interpreting those are these:

John 3:

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

In these verses Jesus explains how and why some people “come to the light” (i.e. to Jesus), and some don’t. It is because their deeds are evil. Those whose deeds are good will come to him, believe in him, trust him, become his disciples. Those whose deeds are already evil don’t—unless they decide to repent of their evil deeds. This is diametrically the opposite of what “Reformed” theology teaches—which explains why they prefer to keep quiet about it. Those come to Jesus whose deeds are already good. If their deeds are already evil, they won’t be interested. That is what Jesus is saying. I wonder what the “Reformed” answer to that will be.

The remainder of his sermon will be discussed in a subsequent post.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sovereignty vs. Freedom―Part I



The question of how to reconcile the total sovereignty of God and man’s freedom has been one of the most intractable theological problems that Christian theologians have had to deal with. The scriptures teach that God is totally sovereign over his creation, meaning that he has complete control, authority, and governance over the whole of creation. Nothing happens “by chance” that he is not aware of and cannot control. If that was not the case, we would have no guarantee that a stray comet would not hit the earth by chance, and wipe out all life on earth, before God knew anything about or be able to stop it. He is either fully sovereign, 100% sovereign, or else not sovereign at all. To be aware of every rogue comet in the universe, he must be aware of every rogue molecule as well, otherwise there is no guarantee that a rogue molecule will not snowball into a rogue comet. His sovereignty and control over his creation must be absolute. There are many scriptures that point to the total sovereignty of God. Here are some references:

Job 42:

2 I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.

Psalms 115:

3 But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.

Psalms 135:

6 Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.

Proverbs 16:

9 A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.

Isaiah 14:

24 The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:
• • •
27 For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?

Isaiah 46:

9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

Daniel 4:

35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

Acts 15:

18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

This, however, would appear at first sight to come into conflict with the concept of human freedom. How can God be totally sovereign, and in total control of the universe; and man at the same time be totally free to do that he wants? What if the two “wills” conflict with each other? What if man wants to, or decides to do something that would lead to something that is ultimately inimical to God’s purpose or will? Either man is not free, or God is not totally sovereign. How do we reconcile the two? How can man be totally free, and God be totally sovereign at the same time? There are many lectures, sermons, and articles on the Internet in which various theologians, notably Reformed and Evangelical theologians, have wrestled with this issue, but without much success. I have chosen the above sermon by John MacArthur to comment on partly because he gets to the point better than most of the others do; and partly because a written transcript of it was available on their website, which saved me the trouble of having to transcribe any of it from the video myself.

The answer to that question is actually a lot simpler than they think. The answer is that while man is free to do what he wants (and be accountable for it), his freedom is limited by three factors: (1) by his knowledge, (2) by his power, and (3) by his presence, or sphere of influence. Whereas God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent; man is not. Man is extremely limited (compared to God) in all of those areas of influence. To draw an analogy, I have a friend who has a large aquarium in his house, full of exotic and colorful tropical fishes. He provides them with everything they need to live happily and comfortably in that environment. The fishes in his aquarium are totally “free” to do whatever they want. But how much “freedom” do they really have compared to the fishes in the ocean? There is no comparison. The fishes in his aquarium don’t even know that there is an ocean out there where they could be a lot freer and happier. And my friend has full control over his aquarium. He can do what he wants with them. If one of the fishes turned nasty started beating up the other fishes, he can do something about it. It is not a perfect analogy for human freedom vs. God’s sovereignty, but it serves to illustrate a point.

While man is free to do as he wills, he is not free to determine what the ultimate outcome of his actions will be. That is in the hands of God. I have the freedom to go downtown and mug an old lady if I wanted to. I could even imagine and predict what the immediate outcome of that might be. But I have no control over what the ultimate and overall outcome of it might be. I can’t do anything that might inadvertently frustrate God’s plan and outcome in the long run. There is no action I can take that is not already known to God in advance, and that he cannot therefore plan for so that my actions will not frustrate his ultimate plans, whatever they may be. One of the most important elements of God’s omniscience is his perfect foreknowledge of the future. He knows the end from the beginning, and therefore he can plan and make contingency arrangements so that my actions, freely taken by me as far as I am concerned, do not frustrate his ultimate plan. That is how man can be perfectly free (within the sphere of influence that God has placed him), without at the same time encroaching on God’s total sovereignty. And God has appointed a day judgement and restitution in which everything will then be restored to the way it should be as though nothing had happened to frustrate it. In the Book of Mormon the word “resurrection” is made synonymous with “restoration”. It is a time when everything will be “restored” to the way it should be according to the will of God, so that nothing untowards will have happened in the meantime by the free actions of man that would frustrate God’s plan. Only man will have been fully accountable for his actions, and will receive a just reward for them, either good or bad. And God will be perfectly sovereign overall. John MacArthur has expressed the theological dilemma in these words:

“When you believe in the divine sovereignty of God, as Scripture lays it out, you face the problem of how does human will fit into that? If God has ordained everything, if God has prewritten history, if God is in charge of everything, if God purposes and fulfills His purposes, then just exactly how do we fit in? How does human will fit in? Or, in fact, does God divine decree eliminate human will? If God has planned it all, purposed it all, defined it all, predetermined it all, predestined it all, then does human will play any part? And what about human responsibility?”

Except that that is an incorrect way of expressing it. That is the Reformed/Calvinistic way of expressing it, which is all wrong. God has not “prewritten” history, nor “predetermined” or “predestined” it. Man is perfectly free to act according to his will within the limitations outlined above. But God being omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, determines what the outcome will be without infringing on man’s freewill.

God sees all of future history like a movie; and he has determined how the movie will ultimately end. But that does not mean that he has predetermined and predestined exactly how every act and every scene in that movie will be played out. Man by his own freewill makes the contribution to it that his circumstance make it possible for him to do. His actions are not predestined or predetermined. Just because God is able to see it like a movie, it does not mean that man has no control over his own actions. What is does mean is that God is in overall control, and determines what the outcome will be. Knowing the end from the beginning, he is able to put in motion a chain of events so that man’s free actions will not frustrate God’s ultimate purpose and plan. That ultimate goal will receive its final consummation when the final “restitution of all things” will have taken place.

For the remainder of this post I am going to quote selectively from John MacArthur’s sermon, and point out the theological as well as scriptural errors he has made. In his sermon he quotes a number of passages from the Bible, and draws inferences from them. His first quote is from the tenth chapter of Isaiah, and how God uses the aggressive nature of the Assyrians to punish Israel for their sins. The first obvious mistake he has made is that he has seriously misunderstood chapter 10 of Isaiah. The Assyrians never conquered Jerusalem. They conquered the northern kingdom of Samaria, and a few Jewish cities as well in the south; but they were never able to conquer Jerusalem (Zion). In fact, the “woe” that God pronounces on Assyria is precisely because of their arrogance and pride in wanting to destroy Jerusalem as well, which God is not going to allow. Here are the verses that he has missed:

Isaiah 10:

24 Therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, O my people that dwellest in Zion [Jerusalem], be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt.
25 For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction.
26 And the Lord of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt.
27 And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.

That is what actually happened. The Assyrian armies came and encircled the city of Jerusalem, insulted the Jews who stood on the walls of the city, wrote a letter to king Hezekiah, insulted the Jews and blasphemed against Jehovah, and threatened the Jews with all manner of retribution. Then Hezekiah went and prayed to the Lord in the temple the following prayer:

2 Kings 19:

14 And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.
15 And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said, O Lord God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth.
16 Lord, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, Lord, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God.
17 Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands,
18 And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.
19 Now therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only.

That prayer was answered by the Lord through Isaiah in these words:

2 Kings 19:

20 Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.
21 This is the word that the Lord hath spoken concerning him; The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.
22 Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.
23 By thy messengers thou hast reproached the Lord, and hast said, With the multitude of my chariots I am come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon, and will cut down the tall cedar trees thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the lodgings of his borders, and into the forest of his Carmel.
24 I have digged and drunk strange waters, and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of besieged places.
25 Hast thou not heard long ago how I have done it, and of ancient times that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps.
26 Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.
27 But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.
28 Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.
29 And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such things as grow of themselves, and in the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruits thereof.
30 And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.
31 For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this.
32 Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it.
33 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord.
34 For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.
35 And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.
37 And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.

See also Isaiah chapter 37. So John MacArthur demonstrates a very shallow understanding of Isaiah, as well as of Jewish history. But returning now to the main subject of reconciling God’s sovereignty with man’s freedom, the conclusions that he draws from the Assyrian invasion of Jerusalem are equally erroneous. After embarking on a lengthy and convoluted narrative, he comes to the following conclusion:

“On the one hand, Assyria is an instrument under the divine sovereign decree and power of God, doing what God has ordained it to do. On the other hand, fully culpable, fully guilty and to be judged for the very acts that they did.

“Now if you’re looking in there for an explanation for how that goes together? There isn’t one. It just does...it just does. Scripture doesn’t say anymore. There are no qualifiers, caveats, explanations.”

I am afraid he is wrong about that. There is an explanation. It is the one I gave at the the beginning of this post. I explained at the beginning of this post how man can be fully accountable and free in his actions, without impinging on God’s sovereignty; and how God can be fully sovereign, while man retaining his full freedom of action as well as his accountability. That is because they operate at different levels of power and influence. Assyria does freely whatever he wants and chooses to do as he wills it. The fact that God knows in advance what Assyria intends to do and will do, and has other aims to achieve by it that Assyria itself knows nothing about; and that God makes use of Assyria’s aggressive intentions to accomplish what God wants to be achieved by it, rather than what Assyria thinks he is achieving by it, does not mean that Assyria’s actions were not freely made, or that Assyria was “predestined” to do what they did. There is no contradiction between the two. Both Assyria’s freewill and God’s sovereignty can exist side by side, because they operate at different levels of power and influence. God can be fully sovereign, while man retaining his full freedom and accountability at the same time. Man operates at the “aquarium” level, so to speak, while God operates at the “ocean” level (which engulfs the aquarium). Assyria can operate with complete freedom and autonomy (and accountability) within the limited sphere in which God has placed it; while God is totally sovereign and in control of everything at the same time. That is how man can retain his freedom, and God his sovereignty at the same time. I will end this post here, and continue a discussion of the remainder of his sermon in a subsequent post.

Monday, February 13, 2017

More on Carson Sproul Discussion



Returning to the interview of DA Carson by RC Sproul, which I had commented on and discussed in an earlier post, there are other issues raised in that discussion that is worth examining. While speaking of the rules of correct biblical exegesis, DA Carson gives the following example of how people sometimes misinterpret scripture:

“I have been here in Ligonier teaching a course on Hebrews, and we end up in chapter 13 with ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever;’ and I have heard people tell me, for example, during the days of his flesh Jesus never ultimately refused to heal anybody who approached him. ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever;’ therefore he must necessarily heal today. But then of course you could equally say, Jesus Christ was mortal; ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever;’ therefore he is still mortal. ... But in this particular case ... the first response ought to be, where is that clause found? what precedes it, what succeeds it? ... the immediate context first, then the book context, and then the canonical context. And in that particular context it says, remember those who had spiritual authority over you, remember the outcome of their lives; ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever’. In the context of the whole argument of Hebrews, I am persuaded that it means, you ought to be imitating these godly people who persevered to the end, and died well precisely because Jesus helped them all the way to the end, and shaped them with gospel that is articulated in the book; and the Jesus that did it for them will do it for you too. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is not making some ontological statement about physicality of Jesus or something.”

I see several problems with that exegesis. Firstly, it is not quite accurate to say that Jesus never refused to heal anybody who approached him. Jesus only healed those who had faith. I suppose it could be argued that no one would have “approached him” if they did not already have faith. But still, he struggled with those who did not have enough faith―and could not heal those who had no faith:

Matthew 9:

27 And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.
28 And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.
29 Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.

Mark 6:

5 And he could there do no mighty work [miracles], save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
6 And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.

Mark 9:

23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

He only healed the Canaanite woman’s daughter (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30) after she had manifested extraordinary faith. So it is not entirely accurate to say that Jesus always healed anybody who approached him. Not only those who wanted to be healed needed to have faith, but also those who wanted to heal others needed to have faith. For example, when his disciples could not heal a sick child, he informed them that it had been because of their lack of faith (Matt. 17:19–20).

But returning to the main topic of how to correctly interpret Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever;” he does not appear to be following his own rules very well. If we look at the immediate context, we find that in the preceding and succeeding verses several different concepts or doctrines are very briefly taught which are not related to each other. Verses 1, 2, and 3 touch on three different concepts that are only loosely interrelated. Verse 4 teaches a very different doctrine from verses 1, 2, and 3, to which it is not related. Verses 5 and 6 teach a different doctrine still, unrelated to the preceding or succeeding verses. And each of the verses 7, 8, and 9 teach entirety separate doctrines which are not related to each other, or to the preceding or succeeding verses. Thus verse 8 stands entirely on its own, and is not directly related to the preceding or succeeding verses. There is nothing in the immediate context that provides us with a clue for its interpretation. We have to look for that in wider context. Here are some clues from the New Testament:

Revelation 1:

4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;
• • •
8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
• • •
11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
• • •
17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

James 1:

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

And from the Old Testament we have the following:

Numbers 23:

19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

Psalms 102:

25 Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands.
26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:
27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

Malachi 3:

6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

All of these verses point to the immutable nature of God. God is an unchangable being. His character and attributes will always remain the same and do not change. He will always remain compassionate, kind, and merciful. He will always be omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He will always be just. He will always be “no respecter of persons”. He will always be good. He will never be unmerciful or unkind. He will never be unfair. He will never be cruel or unjust. He will never lose his divine power. That is what Hebrews 13:8 is saying in a nutshell. An obvious corollary to that of course is that he will always respond to faith in the same way that he has always done. He is just as willing to heal the sick who approach him in faith today as he has always done. Nothing has changed from that point of view. And his promise to his future disciples was:

Mark 16:

16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

These promises are just as good today as they have ever been. Nothing has changed. Jesus is still “the same yesterday, today, and forever”. He is just as willing and able to heal the sick, raise the dead, and perform miracles today as he has ever been. If he doesn’t, it is for the same reason that he sometimes didn’t during his mortal ministry. It was because of their lack of faith. So DA Carson has seriously erred in his exegesis of Hebrews 13:8. He has a thing or two to learn from the Mormons! The Mormons are lucky of course; that is an unfair comparison. Mormons have a lot more scripture than he does. That is why they can wipe the floor with with Evangelical and Reformed theologians as far as biblical exegesis is concerned. Here are some additional thoughts on the subject from the Book of Mormon for those who might be interested (punctuation revised):

Mormon 9:

7 And again, I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues;
8 Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them.
9 For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?
10 And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.
11 But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles; even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.
12 Behold he created Adam, and by Adam came the fall of man; and because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son; and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man.
• • •
15 And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.
16 Behold, are not the things that God hath wrought marvelous in our eyes? Yea, and who can comprehend the marvelous works of God?
17 Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought?
18 And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty miracles? And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles.
19 And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles, and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not, if so he would cease to be God. And he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.
20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.
21 Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.
22 For behold, thus said Jesus Christ, the Son of God, unto his disciples who should tarry; yea, and also to all his disciples in the hearing of the multitude: Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature;
23 And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
24 And these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them. They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover;
25 And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth.
26 And now behold, who can stand against the works of the Lord? Who can deny his sayings? Who will rise up against the almighty power of the Lord? Who will despise the works of the Lord? Who will despise the children of Christ? Behold, all ye who are despisers of the works of the Lord, for ye shall wonder and perish.
27 O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord; and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing; and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.
28 Be wise in the days of your probation. Strip yourselves of all uncleanness. Ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts; but ask with a firmness unshaken that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God.

Moroni 7:

33 And Christ hath said, If ye will have faith in me, ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.
34 And he hath said, Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me that ye may be saved.
35 And now my beloved brethren, if this be the case, that these things are true which I have spoken unto you―and God will show unto you, with power and great glory at the last day that they are true―and if they are true, has the day of miracles ceased?
36 Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?
37 Behold I say unto you, Nay. For it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men. Wherefore if these things have ceased, wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.
38 For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also, and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.