"To testify the gospel of the grace of God." Acts 20:24
**PUBLISHED AS A MISSION PROJECT OF PILGRIMS HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH**
NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH CERTAINTIES
By Wayne Camp
TEXT: Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Let me again remind the reader that, in this series of studies that I have called New Testament Church Certainties, my reference to New Testament Churches has to do with churches existing during New Testament times. These churches of New Testament times held to some very specific things. We saw last time that it is abundantly evident that the first NT church on this earth was established during the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. We also saw that the church of the NT was a local and visible church; the universal invisible concept of the church is foreign to the Greek word used and to the contextual teaching where the word ekklesia is used. The overwhelming evidence is that these churches were taught of local, visible churches and knew nothing of the "church universal," visible or invisible. These concepts must await the origin of the Roman Catholic church and the Protestant Reformation to be read into the New Testament.
In this study and some to follow, I am going to show that these churches held to what is commonly known as the doctrines of grace and erroneously called the five points of Calvinism. These doctrines were taught and believed long before Calvin was ever born. And, they were taught and believed long before Augustine ever set them forth. These are New Testament doctrines taught and believed by New Testament churches.
THE CHURCHES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT TIMES HELD TO THE DOCTRINE OF THE TOTAL DEPRAVITY AND INABILITY OF THE NATURAL MAN
Perhaps we should discuss the matter briefly before setting forth the evidence. Many will claim they hold to the doctrine of total hereditary depravity while denying the doctrine of total inability. One reason for this is a misunderstanding of what is meant by total inability. The other reason is that some claim to believe the doctrine of total depravity, when, in fact, they do not.
By total inability we do not mean that a person is not able to think a religious thought. He may even have a zeal for God but not know God and Jesus Christ. The religious Jews had a zeal for God but it was not according to knowledge. They were lost, in spite of their zeal for God. Total inability means that one who is unregenerate has no ability to come to Christ, to believe on Christ, or to know God and Christ.
In this message I will show that these churches of the New Testament were taught the doctrine of total inability and total depravity. They believed the doctrine for many of them walked in truth. Other doctrines they believed also support the proposition that they held to this basic, fundamental doctrine of total depravity and inability.
THEY WERE THOROGHLY TAUGHT THE DOCTRINE OF TOTAL HEREDITARY DEPRAVITY BY THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
Jesus taught them that no one could see nor enter the kingdom of God except God regenerate him. John 3:3-5 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. 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? 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 necessity, this absolute necessity of the new birth obviously indicates that men are born in a state of sinfulness in their original birth, their fleshly birth. The word cannot in this passage has reference to ability. The Greek word is dunatai (dunatai) with a negative prefixed to it. Without the negative it means "to be able, to have power to do." The word is a form of the Greek word dunamai (dunamai). Without the negative it is used of God's ability to raise up children to Abraham from stones (Luke 3:8). With the negative Jesus used the word when he said, "If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). A thorough study of this word shows clearly that Jesus referred to mans inability to enter or even see (comprehend) the kingdom of God without regeneration. The inability of Nicodemus to see the kingdom of God is evidence by his question, "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?" (John 3:4).
Jesus further taught them that no one had the ability to come to Christ but must be drawn to Christ by the Father. John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. There is more in this verse than a man merely being unwilling to come to Christ. Man is incapable of willing to come to Christ unless drawn to Christ by the Holy Spirit. The Greek word we just discussed in used here to denote the lack of ability. No one has the ability to come to Christ unless drawn by the Father. And (v-65) no man is able to come to Christ unless God gives him the ability to do so.
Jesus also spoke of mans natural inability to hear his word. John 8:43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. This reminds me of what is recorded of Lydia in the book of Acts. Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. God had to open the heart of Lydia so that she was able to attend to the things spoken by Paul. Jesus says to these folks that they could not hear his word. Their hearts had not been opened. And, contrary to what is erroneously taught on Revelation 3:21, he is not knocking at the door of the heart of the unregenerate begging them to open their heart. If one is ever able to hear the word and believe God must open his heart for him.
Jesus also set forth the inability of men to believe, establishing the fact that God must give faith if any are to believe. All men do not have faith. 2 Thessalonians 3:2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. Faith is a gift of God. Philippians 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. Having established that men do not naturally have faith, and that faith is a gift of God, let us notice that Jesus extends this inability of unregenerate men to faith. John 12:39-40 Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, 40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. Man is, by nature, spiritually blind. This gives him the inability to discern spiritual truth, truth which must be understood if he is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The seeing eye, the hearing ear, and the understanding heart are gifts of God given in regeneration. No man has them naturally. And, no man can believe on Christ or understand spiritual matters essential to salvation, unless God regenerates him. Again, it is evident that Jesus taught the first church of the New Testament the doctrine of total inability and total depravity.
That the first New Testament church believed this is evident from the teaching of the Apostles on this matter and related doctrines. It is incontrovertible. It is irrefutable. They were taught and believed mans total inability in the first church ever established on this earth, the church organized by Christ himself and taught by Christ himself in person.
PAUL TAUGHT THE CHURCHES OF NEW TESTAMENT TIMES THE DOCTRINE OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY AND TOTAL INABILITY
Paul, who wrote epistles to a number of New Testament churches and preachers, and who established other churches and grounded them in the faith, certainly taught them the doctrine of total depravity. He also taught young preachers such as Timothy and Titus. He taught them these doctrines and admonished them in his epistles to give attendance to and teach these doctrines.
He taught that the carnal mind is enmity against God and does not have the ability to subject itself to the law of God. Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. The Greek word we have previously studied (dunamai) comes into play again. Paul sets forth three things in this verse that establish the doctrine of total depravity and total inability. First, he tells the church at Rome that the carnal mind, the mind of the unregenerate, is enmity against God. Note that he does not merely say it is at enmity with God. He declares that it is the very embodiment of enmity; it is enmity against God. Its very essence and nature is enmity against God. Scripture says, "God is love." Scripture also says, "The carnal mind is enmity."
Second, Paul tells them that the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God. Man, in his unregenerate state will never subject himself to the law of God. The carnal mind has a natural hatred of the law of God. Even those who try to submit themselves to that law and go about to establish their own righteousness by the law show their enmity. They miss the whole message of the law which points them to Christ. But, Paul does not stop there. He tells us third that the carnal mind does not have the ability to be subject to God's holy law. Note his words, "neither indeed can be." There is our word again, the word can, which has reference to ability. In the negative, as it is used here, it speaks of inability. The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither, indeed, does it have the ability to be subject to the law of God. The totally depraved man is totally incapable of subjecting himself to the law of God because of his carnal mind which is enmity against God. He is incapacitated. He is disabled. He has no ability to be subject to the law of God unless God renews his mind and gives him a new heart, a heart to know God. Jeremiah 24:7 And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD.
In the same chapter, next verse, Paul taught that an unregenerate man is incapable of doing that which pleases God. Romans 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. A sinner coming to Christ pleases God but the natural man cannot do that. Believing on Christ is pleasing to God but the natural man cannot do that. Repenting toward God is pleasing to God but the natural man cannot do that. Keeping the law of God pleases God but the natural man cannot do that. Jesus said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). They that are in the flesh; they who have not experienced the new birth are in the flesh; and they cannot please God. They do not have the ability to please God. That is a New Testament Church certainty. The New Testament church in Rome was taught that by an inspired apostle by the name of Paul.
Paul also taught that the unregenerate person is spiritually dead. Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. We have seen that Jesus indicated that the unregenerate are spiritually blind and deaf and void of spiritual understanding. Now we see that the cause of this is that they are spiritually dead, dead in trespasses and sins. They are dead as for as spiritual matters are concerned.
When a man experiences physical death, he loses all of his ability. He cannot breath, he cannot see, he cannot hear, he cannot do anything. I was reading just recently about the death of Vincent Foster. The temperature was pretty high and flies were prevalent. Though his blood was still warm, the agent said the flies were crawling all over his face. I thought, "He could not even brush the flies away because he was dead." He had lost all ability to do anything physical because he was dead physically.
Men are by nature spiritually dead. They are dead to the spiritual things of God; the spiritual truth of God. They may respond to deceitful spirits; under the influence of these false and lying spirits, they may even make a profession of faith in Christ. They may express certain spiritual desires and make declarations that make it appear they are saved, as did Judas. But, unless God regenerates them, they are still spiritually dead, regardless of how spiritually alive them may seem to be. They have not the ability nor will to come to Christ. They have not the ability nor will to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. They have not the ability nor will to repent toward God. They are dead. And, it is a certainty that the church at Ephesus knew this for Paul wrote to them and affirmed it.
Paul taught that the unregenerate walk according to the course of this world under the power of Satan and are, by nature, children of wrath. Ephesians 2:2-3 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. Notice that the regenerate, saved members of the church at Ephesus were, before their regeneration, in the same state as the reprobate. We who are saved walked according to the course of this world. We who are saved walked in subjection to Satan, the prince and the power of the air. We who are saved were by nature children of wrath, even as others. It sounds very certain that Paul was teaching this New Testament church in Ephesus the doctrine of mans total depravity.
Now, let us travel to another New Testament church. It is located in the city of Colosse. This was a great church, an exemplary church. Paul taught this church that before regeneration and conversion, all, including the elect, are in the kingdom of darkness. Colossians 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son. The first thing that is obvious from this passage is that all men, by nature, are in the kingdom of darkness. They are not born in the kingdom of God's dear Son, then, when they first reject Christ, cast into the kingdom of darkness where they remain until translated out. Men are by nature children of wrath in the kingdom of darkness because they are naturally blind and dead to true spiritual things.
The second thing is that God must translate one out of this kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his Son if he is to leave that awful kingdom for the blessed kingdom of the Son. He cannot translate himself. Enoch was translated that he should not see death, but God had to do the translating. Try translating yourself as Enoch was translated and see if it happens. No! Man does not have the ability to do it. Nor, with his carnal mind that is enmity against God, does he have the inclination to translate himself into the kingdom of God's dear Son. The very fact that Paul taught that God is the one who translated us out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son is the positive way of teaching a negative truth to this church. We cannot translate ourselves; God must translate us.
JOHN TAUGHT THE DOCTRINE OF THE TOTAL DEPRAVITY AND THE TOTAL INABILITY OF UNREGENERATE MEN
John is sometimes called "the disciple of love" because of his apparent mellowness of spirit and all that he wrote about love in the Scriptures. But, John also taught the doctrine of total depravity. He taught that there is nothing that runs in the blood that causes one to be regenerated, contrary to the Jews notion that they did not need to be regenerated because they were blood descendants of Abraham. John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
He taught that men are not born of the will of the flesh, indicating that the natural, unregenerate man neither could, nor would ever will his own regeneration. John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. May I remind you again that the first birth is a birth that is of the flesh (Jn. 3:6). There is nothing good in the flesh (Rom. 7:18). It is therefore all bad, no good! Since there is no good in the flesh, and since the will to come to Christ in faith is something good, one wonders why so many who are otherwise pretty sound in the faith, believe that man has it within himself to will the new birth for himself. The new birth is not of the will of the flesh. Nothing in the flesh will cause one to will to come to Christ.
John also taught that there is no man capable of willing the new birth for a person, neither the person, nor a friend or loved one. John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. I know parents who, if they could, would will the new birth for their children. I know grandparents, who, if they could, would will the new birth for their grandchildren. I would will the new birth for many if it were my prerogative to do so. But, I have no license to regenerate. Neither do any men. It is not a product of the will of man. Man cannot and does not will the new birth for himself. That is the prerogative of God. It is totally out of the limits of any mans ability or will. It is of God, as John asserts. It is he who wills the new birth for any and all who are regenerated. In short, John wrote that the only one who can will and accomplish the new birth is God. John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Other scribes of the Word of God could be cited and additional references from these already cited could be given. But, these will suffice to show that the churches of the New Testament period were definitely taught the doctrine of total depravity. They were taught it by the Lord Jesus Christ and by those whom he taught. This seems to be one doctrine to which they firmly held for none are ever rebuked for denying it. Errors on other matters were corrected but this doctrine was only affirmed and affirmed and affirmed. It is basic. It is fundamental. It is the real battle ground. If you truly believe this doctrine, the doctrines of unconditional election, perseverance and preservation, particular redemption, and effectual call will pose no problem for you. The real battle ground is total hereditary depravity. Do you believe it? Does your church believe it? Does your preacher preach it? Do you preach it if you are a preacher?
New Testament preachers preached it. And, you can be certain of this New Testament church certainty, the churches of the New Testament believed and taught this doctrine of total inability and total depravity. That is for certain a New Testament Church Certainty!
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Last updated on Friday, March 04, 2011