Tag Archives: Conversion

The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification – Direction 11: Believing on Christ in a Right Manner

[This is the 11th of a 14 part highlight of Walter Marshall’s book, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification.]

“Direction 11: Endeavour diligently to perform the great work of believing on Christ, in a right manner, without any delay; and then also continue and increase in your most holy faith; that so your enjoyment of Christ, union and fellowship with him, and all holiness by him, may be begun, continued, and increased in you.”

It is as this point in his book that Marshall made a shift from doctrine to practice. Prior to this point he focused on “the powerful and effectual means of a holy practice.” With this eleventh direction he aimed to lead his reader to “the actual exercise and improvement” of such holy practice, the sum of which is “that faith in Christ is the duty with which a holy life is to begin, and by which the foundation of all other holy duties is laid in the soul.”

Marshall has much to say to this present generation about the nature of the gospel itself, particularly as it pertains to what it means to come to faith in Christ. When answering the question posed in John 6:28-29 (“What must we do that we work the works of God?”), the good news of the old gospel which Marshall fleshes out contrasts sharply with the good news of the new gospel presented by many today. The new gospel says, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. Such “good news” presumes to know the hidden counsel of God, the things which are not revealed. The good news of the old gospel tells us the truth about ourselves and God, and promises salvation to all who come to Christ as beggars who are bereft of any sense of self-righteousness. And it is critical that sinners come to the end of their self-righteousness, or else they will never perceive a need for faith in Christ at all.

To this end, Marshall identified several defects in the first act of faith, that is, in “the right belief in the truth of the gospel of Christ.” Here they are in brief:

  • You must believe, with a full persuasion, that you are a child of wrath by nature, as well as others; fallen from God by the sin of the first Adam; dead in trespasses and sins; subject to the curse of the law of God, and to the power of Satan, and to insupportable misery to all ternity; and that you cannot possibly procure your reconciliation with God, or any spiritual life and strength to do any good work, by any endeavouring to get salvation according to the terms of the legal covenant; and that you cannot find any way to escape out of this sinful and miserable condition, by your own reasoning and understanding, without supernatural revelation, nor be freed from it, except by that infinite power that raiseth the dead.
  • You are to believe assuredly, that there is no way to be saved, without receiving all the saving benefits of Christ; his Spirit as well as his merits, sanctification as well as remission of sins by faith.
  • You are to be fully persuaded of the all-sufficiency of Christ for the salvation of yourself, and of all that believe on him; that his blood cleanseth from all sin (1 John 1:7).
  • You are to be fully persuaded of the truth of the general free promise, in your own particular case, that if you believe on Christ sincerely, you shall have everlasting life, as well as any other in the world, without performing any condition of works to procure and interest in Christ; for the promise is universal, ‘Whosoever believeth on him, shall not be ashamed’ (Rom. 9:33), without exception.
  • You are to believe assuredly, that it is the will of God you should believe in Christ, and have eternal life by him, as well as any other; and that your believing is a duty very acceptable to God; and that he will help you, as well as any other, in this work, because he calleth and commandeth you, by the gospel, to believe in Christ.
  • Add to all these, a full persuasion of the incomparable glorious excellency of Christ, and of the way of salvation by him.

When dealing with the third potential defect (above), Marshall held out sweet cordials for souls struggling to accept Christ’s all-sufficiency:

“Many, that have fallen into great sins, are ruined for ever, because they do not account the grace of Christ sufficient for their pardon and sanctification; when they think they are gone, and past all hope of recovery; that ‘their sins are upon them, and they pine away in them, how shall they live?’ (Ezek. 33:10). This despair works secretly in many souls, without much trouble and horror, and maketh them careless of their souls and true religion. The devil fills some with horrid, filthy, blasphemous thoughts, on purpose, that they may think their sins too great to be forgiven; though commonly such thoughts, are the least of the sins of those that are pestered with them, and rather the devil’s sin than theirs, because they are hurried into them sore against their wills: . . . ”

            “There are others that despair of ever getting any victory over their lusts, because they have formerly made many vows and resolutions, and have used many vigorous endeavours against them in vain, — Such are to persuade themselves, that the grace of Christ is sufficient for them, when all other means have failed; . . . Those that despair, by reason of the greatness of their guilt and corruption, do greatly dishonor and undervalue the grace of God, his infinite mercy, and the infinite merits of Christ’s blood, and power of his Spirit, and deserve to perish with Cain and Judas. Abundance of people, that give themselves to all licentiousness, in this wicked generation, lie under secret despair; which maketh them so desperate in swearing, blaspheming, whoring, drunkenness, and all manner of wickedness. – How horrid and heinous soever our sins and corruptions have been, we should learn to account them a small matter in comparison to the grace of Christ, who is God as well as man, and offered up himself, by the eternal Spirit, as a sacrifice of infinite value, for our salvation; and can create us anew as easily as he created the world by a word speaking.”

Rather than any should hurl insults upon the character of God via thoughts of being beyond His ability to save, let us become well acquainted with the all-sufficiency of our great High Priest:

“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:23-25, ESV)


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The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification – Direction 7: Just As I Am

[This is the 7th of a 14 part highlight of Walter Marshall’s book, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification.]

“Direction 7: We are not to imagine that our hearts and lives must be changed from sin to holiness in any measure, before we may safely venture to trust on Christ for the sure enjoyment of himself, and his salvation.”

Direction 7 brings to mind the words Charlotte Elliott penned for a well-known hymn:

“Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bidd’st me come to thee O Lamb of God I come, I come.”

This is exactly how everyone must come to Christ for salvation: warts and all. But due to a fervent love for self-righteousness, fallen man prefers to make himself presentable first, which is impossible since nothing clean can come from that this is unclean. What’s more, as Marshall noted:

“Christ would have the vilest sinners come to him for salvation immediately, without delaying the time to prepare themselves for him. When the wicked jailer enquired, ‘What he must do to be saved?’ Paul directed him forthwith to believe on Christ, with a promise, that in so doing he should be saved; and straightway, he and all his were baptized (Acts 16:30, 33).”

Marshall listed several things some expect to find within themselves before coming to faith in Christ (putting the cart before the horse):

  1. “They think it necessary to repent before they believe on Christ for their salvation, because repentance is absolutely necessary to salvation.”
  2. “Regeneration also is necessary to salvation (John 3:3); and therefore, many would find it wrought in themselves, before they trust on Christ for salvation.”
  3. “They account it necessary to receive Christ as their Lord and Lawgiver, by a sincere resignation of themselves to his government and a resolution to obey his law, before they receive him as their Saviour.”
  4. “It seems to them evident, that some good works are necessary, before we can trust on Christ safely for the forgiveness of sins.”

Ironically, all such attempts at self-improvement before coming to Christ are an affront to Him, whereas coming as we are is not so, because it involves a correct assessment of our helpless condition:

 “He loved us in our most loathsome sinful pollution, so as to die for us; and much more will he love us in it, so as to receive us when we come to him for the purchased salvation. He hath given full satisfaction to the justice of God for sinners, that they might have all righteousness and holiness, and all salvation only by fellowship with him through faith. Therefore, it is no affront to Christ, or slighting and condemning the justice and holiness of God, to come to Christ, while we are polluted sinners; but rather it is an affronting and contemning the saving-grace, merit, and fullness of Christ, if we endeavor to make ourselves righteous and holy before we receive Christ himself, and all righteousness and holiness in him by faith.”

Believers do well to remember the need to come to Christ perpetually “just as we are” as well, for we will always need forgiveness of sins as long as we are in these unglorified bodies. The Lord’s Supper serves as a vivid reminder from our Lord about our ongoing need of an alien righteousness, that is, a righteousness outside of ourselves.  To Him be the glory!



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Week 17 of 50 in the Institutes: The Walking Dead

I need to say at the outset here that I am not a Walking Dead fan.  I’m just borrowing the title for today’s blog.  In fact, I have not even watched a single episode of the series, nor do I intend to (real life is has enough zombies as it is.)  Those who have watched the show tell me that the title phrase refers to those who are not yet zombies, but eventually will be, because it’s just a matter of time before they are overrun by the zombie hordes.

Reading 2.16.2 in this upcoming week’s assignment reminded me of the “walking dead” described by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:1-3.  Paul provides a 3-D view of unbelievers, describing them as: 1) dead in trespasses and sins (v. 1); 2) dominated by the world, the flesh, and Satan (v. 2), and 3) doomed, as children of wrath (v. 3).  The sad thing is that unbelievers are not aware of their deadness, the domination they are under, nor the ultimate doom that is their destiny, apart from Christ.

And this is what makes the gospel is so hard for people to grasp in the twenty-first century.  The idea that man is truly culpable (blameworthy) for his sinful state is a tough pill to swallow in our postmodern society in the West.  It is an idea so radical, that it takes a supernatural work of God to convince sinners of their miserable and helpless condition and to bring them to that indispensable crisis of conscience which is integral to repentance and faith (the wicket gate giving entrance to the narrow road which leads to the Celestial City).

Too much of the time, moderns prefer a sponsor for their salvation, rather than the Savior.  A sponsor makes salvation possible.  The Savior makes it certain.  And therein lies all the difference between self-service, man-centered salvation, and biblical, Christ-exalting, God-glorifying salvation.  The Savior came to do what man had no hope or desire of doing for himself.

We see this clearly in the point of transition in Ephesians 2:4.  Chapter 2 of Ephesians begins with a direct object: “you”. The subject doesn’t come until verse 4, “But God”.  To show how each aspect of man’s condition apart from Christ is more than offset in salvation, Paul makes a contrast, in 3-E perspective, if you will. Where there was death, there is enlivening (made alive with Christ, v. 4 ).  In the place of domination, there is elevation (raised with Christ, v. 5a).  Where there was doom, now there is exaltation (seated with Christ in the heavenly places, v. 5b).  And the source of all of this change is God.

And, wonder of wonders, he uses the foolishness of preaching to turn the “walking dead” into children of light, when the word God and Spirit of God together work faith and repentance in the heart.

To God be the glory, for He alone has done great things.

Links to Reformation 21 blogs through the Institutes:

Apr. 27:  2.14.5 – 2.14.8

Apr. 28:  2.15.1 – 2.15.4

Apr. 29:  2.15.5 – 2.16.2

Apr. 30:  2.16.3 – 2.16.6

May 1:  2.16.7 – 2.16.11

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