Have you ever stopped and pondered what a magnificent thing this corporate worship is?  Corporate worship is the gathering together of God’s people to dialogue with God.  We sing His praises and pray to Him.  He speaks to us and enlivens and enlarges our faith.

Worship is a conversation with God.  Now stop right there a moment.  How could such a thing take place?  Remember, when Adam sinned He was kicked out of the Garden of Eden.  He was excluded from the presence of God’s goodness and benevolence and deserved nothing but the full punishment for his sin.

We are hundreds or thousands of generations removed from Adam, and are we any better than Adam?  No.  Absolutely not. Listen to what Paul wrote in Romans 3:11-18. 

“None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.  12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. 13 Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips. 14 Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.  15 Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.  18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 

Since that is the estate or condition in which every single one of us entered into this life, since we are descendants of Adam, how could we enter into this conversation with God where He is glorified and we are blessed?  The answer is only by His grace.

Marshall’s 7th point is this:  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.

Some people have argued that while grace is indeed a free gift, God only offers that free gift to those who have made themselves ready for it.  Against this false view of good works, that they make us ready to receive grace, Marshall gives 5 reasons why it is impossible for works to make us fit receptacles of God’s grace.

1) If we make good works a prerequisite of salvation, then we must also make ourselves accountable to the covenant of works.  Even though this was the topic of chapter 6, the same arguments apply here.  Regardless of whether good works earn us salvation, or just earn us an upgraded stature, the result is the same – condemnation under the works of the law.

2) Not only is a change of heart or lives not necessary for salvation according to the gospel, neither is it required in the Word of God.  Should God require of us a change in order to receive grace, God would be requiring something impossible of us.  God would be putting the cart before the horse.

3)  Faith “renounces all dependence upon any condition, which we can perform, to procure a right to Christ, or to make ourselves acceptable to Him.”  The only wedding garment that will adorn Christ’s Bride is the one that He provides.  And because it is a garment that only Christ has woven, only Christ gets the glory for the beauty of His bride.

4)  Some people also argue that some sort of good works, namely forgiving others, makes us fit to receive grace.  However, the only righteous ground from which we can forgive others is the ground upon which we have received forgiveness from Christ.  We can only forgive as we have been forgiven.  Therefore, to forgive as a means of procuring grace, is to be compelled against our will, and this will only drive us into despair, hypocrisy, or slavish obedience—hardly the loving forgiveness that God expects from sanctified children.

5) Miscellaneous qualifications that people purpose to make us worthy recipients of grace.

The summary of the issue is this:

If we make the presumption that we must somehow be different than the vile sinner that we are, before we can come to Christ, we will never be able to come to Christ.  If we presume that we must somehow earn grace by our good works, according to the very nature of grace, we will never receive it.  The reason for this is simple.  The very things that would change us from sin to holiness are things that proceed out of faith, not things that precede faith.

It would be like telling a corpse on the operating table, “You have to reach over and grab that syringe full of life and inject yourself and then you will come to life.”  Such a thing is absurd.  In the same way, it is contrary to the gospel to say we have to begin changing our sinfulness before we can put our faith in Jesus.

There are a number of things that are necessary for salvation that people often elevate to being prerequisites for salvation.  But Marshall argues that these things, while necessary for salvation, are the fruits of faith and not the causes.  There are 3 such things listed: Repentance, Regeneration, and Lordship of Christ.

Marshall defines faith as “the uniting grace whereby Christ dwells in us, and we in him.”  Thus faith is the instrument that united us to Christ and therefore the instrument by which all the blessing of Christ flow to us.  Our ability to repent –to confess and turn from our sin—only happens as Christ enables us to see and be repulsed by our sin as offensive to God.  Therefore it must flow from faith. 

Likewise, submission to Christ as Lord only happens as Christ enables us to see Christ as not only the Creator of the universe, but also the benevolent Creator.  It is only those who have been called by his grace, and have returned His love, that find comfort in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Marshall’s use of regeneration as a fruit of faith has caused me some consternation, after all, isn’t this the classic argument from Arminians that we must exercise faith before we are born again?  To this I can only conclude (since Marshall has shot down this position a number of times, including in the very focus of this chapter) that Marshall is in fact arguing against those that say regeneration is somehow isolated from our experience of faith.

Faith is not only trust in Christ, but it is also the ability to trust in Christ, and as such it concomitant with regeneration-that is, they must go hand-in-hand. 

The relationship between faith and regeneration has been the subject of many deep and heated debates.  It is one of the core disagreements between Calvinists and Arminians.  What makes this relationship between faith and regeneration difficult to grasp is the fact that regeneration is invisible.  We do not see regeneration take place.  We know it does (or assume it does) based upon the attending visible evidences, one of which is the expression of faith.

An illustration of this difficulty in understanding this relationship is John the Baptist.  When was He regenerated?  In Luke 1:44 Elizabeth says, “The baby in my womb leaped for joy.”  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and therefore is only truly found in those who are regenerated.  Thus, we see the evidence of regeneration, even though we don’t actually see a dividing line of before and after.

For Marshall to correct in arguing against the isolation of regeneration from faith, we would have to assume that John the Baptist also somehow expressed faith in Christ.  I believe this same verse, Luke 1:44, does that.  For when did John leap for Joy?  It was when he became aware that he was in the presence of Jesus Christ.  Elizabeth said, “When the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”

Here is evidence that John the Baptist found his pleasure in Christ even before he was born and therefore, this is evidence of faith. 

So in regard to Marshall, I believe he is correct in saying that regeneration is necessary to salvation.  And because regeneration is wrought in us at the same time we are united to Christ by faith, no one can argue that because they haven’t been reborn they can’t trust Christ as Savior.  Our regeneration cannot be separated from faith –though they are theologically distinct—yet at the same time our knowledge of our regeneration is only accessible by our experience of faith.  Therefore, it is our knowledge and wonderment at the fact of our regeneration that is the fruit of faith.

And so to return to the very subject with which we began.  If only we, as professed believers, would express our faith in the same way as John the Baptist in the womb, and did so more often than we do, if only we would jump for joy at the presence of Christ, then, we would find every night to be a night for corporate worship at the feet of our savior Jesus Christ.  And, we would find Christ and the benefits of the gospel to be our enjoyment.

Comments closed.