You are asked by the next person you meet to define eternal life. What do you say? Take a moment to think about your answer.
What does Jesus say? “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
Whether or not they’ll admit it, everyone knows that God exists. But many do not know Him. And if they perish apart from knowing God, eternal death, not eternal life, awaits. We must spread the gospel, encouraging as many people as possible to trust in Jesus Christ and to know the saving grace of God. And our work doesn’t stop there—because knowing the one true God doesn’t stop with the forgiveness of sins. In fact, we won’t stop growing in the inexhaustible knowledge of God even in heaven. Eternal life begins at the moment of conversion. We will keep on learning about our God forever.
Let us commit ourselves to helping at least one more person this week better understand who God is through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Take a moment to think about who you will tell.
Helping people know who God is—that’s what we do every day at Ligonier Ministries. We like to say that we do three things at Ligonier: theology, theology, and theology. Why? Because theology is how we know who God is.
With God’s help, your support enables the creation and spread of the kind of teaching that sees evangelism and discipleship grow and flourish. Knowledgeable, articulate Christians flooding the culture will in turn help churches stand against every argument and opinion “raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Your gift of any amount will equip many believers to share God’s truth wherever the Lord has placed them.
One of Dr. Sproul’s heroes of the faith was J. Gresham Machen. Machen said, “Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith.” Some Christians downplay doctrine. But you and I know that trustworthy theological teaching is desperately needed. What we say (and believe) about God and Jesus Christ makes an eternal difference. Just like Machen and R.C., you and I must be on guard to stand firm against faith-destroying liberalism and smooth-talking progressive Christianity (Rom. 16:17–20). Eternal life and eternal death hang in the balance.
You can do even more than telling just one person who God is and what He has done for sinners. Together, we can help trustworthy teaching reach millions.
Right now, Ligonier is reaching more than thirteen million people around the world, but with seven billion souls on this planet, there is much ministry to do. Moreover, people are seeking out our teaching at an unprecedented pace, so we know we must respond to this need now.
Here are just two of many strategic projects that are intended to substantially increase our ability to teach more people about God:
- While in the past Ligonier relied on radio broadcasts, now the internet gives us the opportunity to reach more people than we ever dreamed possible through audio and video resources. Therefore, we have carefully planned a large-scale expansion of our internet outreach through Ligonier.org, our family of apps, and many other digital outreaches. With your help, this substantial project is just now getting underway. Over the next two years, we will be rebuilding our web platforms to better serve you and together reach many millions more people per year, not just in English but in other languages as well.
- Second, you can help expand our video recording studio. This will dramatically increase the amount of teaching we can record and at the same time reduce our production costs. Our broadcasting output will increase manifold. Construction is starting, and we do not want to delay.
Would you make an investment in the work of Ligonier this month, and in so doing, make an investment in the kingdom of God?
From India to Indiana, we hear every week from people asking for the kind of teaching that Ligonier produces. There is a theological famine, and, by God’s grace, we intend to boldly proclaim, teach, and defend God’s holiness in all its fullness. It is the need of the hour.
These two projects will dramatically increase our ability to serve all ages and stages of the Christian life. Boys and girls, men and women, students and families, churches and schools—all will benefit from your support of these new initiatives.
Your role and ours in serving God’s kingdom is a gracious partnership. Together, we lift up God’s glory above everything else so that hearts will be won, minds will be renewed, and lives will be changed.
Your gift this month will help keep these projects and many others on track. We do not want to slow down because we know the vital mission that has been entrusted to us. Thank you for praying. Thank you for giving.
Offer expires July 31, 2019. U.S. and Canada only. Please allow up to six weeks for delivery after your gift is processed.
The church did not create the canon but rather reacted to what was already there. You might say it was like a thermometer that reliably responded to God’s Word. In this brief clip, Michael Kruger uses a helpful analogy from everyday life to demonstrate the Protestant view of the canon. Learn more in his new teaching series, The New Testament Canon, available now from the Ligonier store.
When I say the church is a reliable guide to canonicity, we're not saying that because we think the church is infallible. We're not saying that because we think the church creates the canon or constitutes the canon. No, not at all. We're saying that simply because we think the church with the Spirit in it is going to reliably react to what God is doing is these books. It's going to respond to what God has already done.
Sort of as an analogy of this, I think that's really helpful, is the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. Okay? The difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. The difference between those two things really captures the difference between the Protestant view of the church and the Roman Catholic view of the church. See, the Roman Catholic view of the church is that it creates the canon. It makes the canon what it is. The Protestant view of the church is, no, the church simply responds to the canon. It responds to what's already there, right? And it reliably responds because of the Spirit's help, so we can look to the church as a guide, but it doesn't create the canon.
And a thermostat and thermometer are the same, same idea. Let's imagine you're in your house, and you go into the hallway, and you look at that little box on the wall, right? It's got two numbers on it. One is a thermometer that tells you what the temperature actually is, and then one's a thermostat. That's what you want the temperature to be, right? Think about the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. A thermometer simply responds or reacts to the temperature in the room. A thermostat, in contrast, tries to control and create and cause the temperature in the room, right? One responds to temperature; one causes temperature. That is the difference between our view of the canon and the Roman Catholic view of the canon.
Our view of the canon is that the church merely reacts to what is already objectively there, just like a thermometer responds to temperature. It's reliable. I could look at a thermometer, and that can tell me what temperature's in the room. Why, because the thermometer created the temperature? No. It just reacts to it. That's exactly what we're arguing here. Why is it that the consensus of the church is a reliable guide? Because God's at work in her.
We may live in a culture that believes everyone will be saved, that we are "justified by death" and all you need to do to go to heaven is die, but God's Word certainly doesn't give us the luxury of believing that. Any quick and honest reading of the New Testament shows that the Apostles were convinced that nobody can go to heaven unless they believe in Christ alone for their salvation (John 14:6; Rom. 10:9–10).
Historically, evangelical Christians have largely agreed on this point. Where they have differed has been on the matter of the security of salvation. People who would otherwise agree that only those who trust in Jesus will be saved have disagreed on whether anyone who truly believes in Christ can lose his salvation.
Theologically speaking, what we are talking about here is the concept of apostasy. This term comes from a Greek word that means "to stand away from." When we talk about those who have become apostate or have committed apostasy, we're talking about those who have fallen from the faith or at least from the profession of faith in Christ that they once made.
Many believers have held that yes, true Christians can lose their salvation because there are several New Testament texts that seem to indicate that this can happen. I'm thinking, for example, of Paul's words in 1 Timothy 1:18–20:
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
Here, in the midst of instructions and admonitions related to Timothy's life and ministry, Paul warns Timothy to keep the faith and to keep a good conscience, and to be reminded of those who didn't. The Apostle refers to those who made "shipwreck of their faith," men whom he "handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme." This second point is a reference to Paul's excommunication of these men, and the whole passage combines a sober warning with concrete examples of those who fell away grievously from their Christian profession.
There is no question that professing believers can fall and fall radically. We think of men like Peter, for example, who denied Christ. But the fact that he was restored shows that not every professing believer who falls has fallen past the point of no return. At this point, we should distinguish a serious and radical fall from a total and final fall. Reformed theologians have noted that the Bible is full of examples of true believers who fall into gross sin and even protracted periods of impenitence. So, Christians do fall and they fall radically. What could be more serious than Peter's public denial of Jesus Christ?
But the question is, are these people who are guilty of a real fall irretrievably fallen and eternally lost, or is this fall a temporary condition that will, in the final analysis, be remedied by their restoration? In the case of a person such as Peter, we see that his fall was remedied by his repentance. However, what about those who fall away finally? Were they ever truly believers in the first place?
Our answer to this question has to be no. First John 2:19 speaks of the false teachers who went out from the church as never having truly been part of the church. John describes the apostasy of people who had made a profession of faith but who never really were converted. Moreover, we know that God glorifies all whom He justifies (Rom. 8:29–30). If a person has true saving faith and is justified, God will preserve that person.
In the meantime, however, if the person who has fallen is still alive, how do we know if he is a full apostate? One thing none of us can do is read the heart of other people. When I see a person who has made a profession of faith and later repudiates it, I don't know whether he is a truly regenerate person who's in the midst of a serious, radical fall but who will at some point in the future certainly be restored; or whether he is a person who was never really converted, whose profession of faith was false from the start.
This question of whether a person can lose his salvation is not an abstract question. It touches us at the very core of our Christian lives, not only with regard to our concerns for our own perseverance, but also with regard to our concern for our family and friends, particularly those who seemed, for all outward appearances, to have made a genuine profession of faith. We thought their profession was credible, we embraced them as brothers or sisters, only to find out that they repudiated that faith.
What do you do, practically, in a situation like that? First, you pray, and then, you wait. We don't know the final outcome of the situation, and I'm sure there are going to be surprises when we get to heaven. We're going to be surprised to see people there who we didn't think would be, and we're going to be surprised that we don't see people there who we were sure would be there, because we simply don't know the internal status of a human heart or of a human soul. Only God can see that soul, change that soul, and preserve that soul.
This post was originally published in Tabletalkmagazine.
The Canons of Dort were written four hundred years ago, but they remain just as relevant today. Both then and now, the gospel truths rediscovered during the Reformation have come under assault. Composed in response to these attacks, the canons present the biblical gospel with brilliant clarity, laying out what have become known as “the five points of Calvinism” and preserving the theology of the Reformers.
Sadly, many in the global church do not have the benefit of studying this treasured resource, for it remains unavailable in many languages. That’s why we’re so pleased to announce that Ligonier Ministries has just released what we believe to be the first-ever Arabic translation of the Canons of Dort, available for free at ar.Ligonier.org. Millions of Arabic-speaking Christians can now read, reflect on, and be refreshed by these God-glorifying truths in their native language. We trust that the Lord will use this resource to deepen their faith as they discover His amazing grace for helpless sinners. Please share it with your Arabic-speaking friends and neighbors.
Want to learn more about the canons? W. Robert Godfrey’s new book, Saving the Reformation, provides a detailed history and pastoral translation in English. You can also watch his interview from our 2019 National Conference and read additional information on our blog:
Thank you to all those who have donated to support Ligonier’s Arabic outreach. Your gifts are fueling many more translation projects and bringing sound biblical and theological teaching to Arabic-speaking people worldwide. By God’s grace, your generosity is advancing His kingdom. We are grateful for you.
Missionaries of the nineteenth century include well-known men and women, such as William Carey (1761–1834), the British missionary, Particular Baptist minister, translator, and social reformer who spent decades serving in India; Adoniram Judson (1788–1850), the American Congregationalist and later Baptist missionary who served in Burma for thirty-seven years; Hudson Taylor (1832–1905), the British missionary to China for more than fifty years and founder of the China Inland Mission (1865); Lottie Moon (1840–1912), the Southern Baptist missionary to China with the Foreign Mission Board who spent nearly forty years of her life working in China; and Amy Carmichael (1867–1951), Presbyterian evangelical missionary for the Anglican Church Missionary Society to India who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur, serving India for fifty-five years. Their commitment to the gospel, missions work, and the countries they served is moving, and it has motivated many to follow in their footsteps.
The official blog of Ligonier Ministries, founded by theologian Dr. R.C. Sproul in 1971 to help Christians know what they believe, why the believe it, how to live it, and how to share it.