Saturday, February 25, 2017

Our Salvation Is All of God, and Nothing of Us: The Gospel According to Moses

Moses said something to Israel that the American Pelagian hates to hear (Deuteronomy 30:6): "The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live."

This is spoken to the elect among the Israelites (and now among Gentiles, too). For all of us, and for no others, God promises to give us a new heart, and also promises the blessing of covenant succession. That is, as Peter also says, "the promise is to you and to your children" (Acts 2:39). These promises are part of why Presbyterians baptize our children.

But what does He promise? First, a new heart. We see this described more fully in Ezekiel 36:26-27: "I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." Compare also Philippians 2:13. What was wrong with the old heart? "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). This is the condition that theologians call "total depravity," that is, a nature so corrupted by sin that our every spiritual inclination is to love sin and hate God. In the elect, God promises to remove that corrupt spiritual heart and replace it with a new heart that loves Him and desires to serve Him. Not perfectly in this life, but progressively, and perfectly in the new life to come.

Second, He promises that this new heart, out of the love that it now has for God, will love Him completely. This is what He commands in Deuteronomy 6:5: "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." This is the same command that Jesus quotes and calls "the first and greatest commandment" (Matthew 22:38). This demonstrates the falsity of the Arminian claim that God cannot command from us what we cannot do of ourselves. Because we cannot. However, He can command us to do what He does in us (Isaiah 26:12)! As Augustine said, "Lord, give what You command and command what You will."

What a blessing to know that, in my spiritual helplessness, God did not abandon me. Rather, He worked in me what He required to be done for my salvation, purchased by Christ on the cross, and applied to me through faith, which, too, is His gift (Ephesians 2:8-9).

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