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Believing Unbelievers

By Curtis Pugh
of Poteau, Oklahoma


            That God's true sons and daughters genuinely believe is a glad and glorious fact.  “Without faith it is impossible to please Him,” is another truth from God's Word.  The other side of that statement is that with faith it is possible to please God!  That ought to set all sorts of joyful thoughts soaring through the minds of believers.  To be able to please the God of all grace who loved us thoroughly depraved sinners: is this idea of pleasing God not the heart's desire of all God's saints?  Faith is that sustaining connection which, along with repentance, God has “granted” to those whom He saved.  In the days of the apostles there is recorded for us a most instructive incident.  The group within the Jerusalem congregation that favored law-keeping confronted Peter because of his actions.  This pro-law group was called by Luke “they that were of the circumcision” in Acts 11:2.   These contended with Peter for his having gone into the home of a gentile named Cornelius.  Such an act was not forbidden in the Old Testament, but was contrary to the rules of their tradition.  After Peter rehearsed in their hearing what God had done, we read: “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life,” (Acts 11:18).  This was something new!  The idea that God would save gentiles apart from Jewish circumcision and law-keeping was unheard of!  It is important that we understand that “repentance unto life” is something that is “granted!”  It is not “up for grabs.”  Later Peter would write, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3-4).  We cite both verse 3 and 4 here to show that the phrase “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” does not refer to natural things that God gives us such as food and clothing.  Rather the “all things” here refers to spiritual things.  God “grants” repentance and bestows “all things that pertain unto life and godliness.”  How? “through the knowledge of him that called us to glory and virtue” - that is how!  Translators struggle with the  Greek word “knowledge” for in that language there are different kinds of knowledge.  The highly competent Greek scholar W. E Vine says the word knowledge here expresses “a greater participation by the 'knower' in the object 'known.'”  Did you notice the word “participation” in his comment?  This kind of knowledge is not mere head knowledge: it is the knowledge of experience or “participation.”  To have this kind of knowledge of God a person must have had an experience of grace.  They must have had in essence “a Damascus road experience!”  They must have had all their religious “props” knocked from under them.  They must have come to see that they were hopeless and helpless unless God would intervene on their behalf.  They must take their rightful place before God as filthy, ugly sinners devoid of anything which would commend them to God.  They must enter Bunyan's “Slough of Despond” that the Bible calls “godly sorrow.”  As spiritually dead sinners they must be recipients of God's gift of spiritual life.  They must be recipients of the “all things” that God bestows upon His sheep.  Oh that Baptists in America could see that God's gift of these “all things” includes saving faith!  Oh that they understood that their pitiful little repetition of “the sinner's prayer” is not some kind of mechanical trigger that trips God's salvation spring causing Him to look with favor upon them and save them because they prayed. 

            Recently there came into my hands a small religious tract. It was printed on both sides of a business card.  The following is the quotation exactly as it appears: “PLEASE PLEASE Don't Die Without (Jesus) With or without Jesus, Eternity is Forever.  If you have already Accepted Jesus (Great) (Over-->) If you haven't please Don't wait, Jesus died for you.  He loves you so much, all you have to do is pray The Sinner's Prayer PRAY Dear Jesus, I am a sinner.  I am sorry, forgive me of my sins.  Jesus cleanse me with your blood that your shed on the cross.  Come into my heart right now and be my Lord.”  This quotation is supplied to the reader as proof of what we contend: i.e. that the gospel has been perverted by today's Arminians – even Baptist Arminians. The essential elements of the gospel comprise the good news: the message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as God's sacrifice. (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Instead of preaching the gospel and leaving the results in God's hands, men have  done a terrible thing.  They have changed the gospel of the free grace of God into a works religion.  They have added a requirement of human effort or works to the gospel.  They will deny doing such a thing, but that is what they have done.  When they wrongly assure lost people that God loves them, they do a thing no New Testament era preacher ever did in the Bible.  They say that Jesus died for all those whom they address.  This is another thing no New Testament era preacher ever did in the Bible.  They say that praying “the sinner's prayer” is the way a sinner gets God to act and save them.  This, too, is something no New Testament era preacher ever did in the Bible.  Of course they deny that repeating the magical formula is works for salvation.  But the Bible speaks of praying as laboring (Colossians 4:12) and as serving (Luke 2:37).  Oh dear friends, prayer is so much more than just repeating words!  But these Arminian men and women, full of self confidence, think that anyone can repeat a few words and be assured of their eternal salvation based upon the fact that they did something – especially if they were sincere.  Of course they can never know if they were “sincere enough:” a thing that haunts many of them.  They deny that faith is a gift of God sovereignly bestowed.  Their whole religion is based upon the lie that the natural or unsaved man can do something to please God.  They think that their homemade faith can please God.  That this is a lie is clearly shown by Paul in Romans 8:8 where the Holy Ghost through him wrote, “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”  Multiplied thousands of people in our own country believe this lie about the ability of lost people to come to Christ and obtain salvation without Divine intervention.  They deny the truth spoken by the Lord Jesus who said, “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 6:44).  They believe that if they can persuade a lost person to “pray The Sinner's Prayer” as this tract says, or “make a decision” or otherwise “exercise their free will,” the sinner has come to Christ.  God is therefore obligated to save that person.  And regrettably, it is American “missionaries” - Baptists of many sorts – who have spread this lie around the world. 

            What is the result of this lie?  We have a multitude of people in many countries around the world who have been “evangelized” with this false gospel.  They are, as our title says, “Believing Unbelievers.”  That is, they are professing believers.  They are intellectual believers.  But they have  never had an experience of grace.  They have no inkling what an experience of grace is.  Their hard hearts have never been broken: their blind eyes have never been healed: they have done religious things expecting their efforts to be rewarded.  They have been told that they are saved because they have done something.  No doubt at some time in their lives they were told that God loved them and wanted to save them.  They were persuaded this weak God who desires to save everybody, but cannot, would save them if only they would let Him.  All they had to do was pray the magical sinner's prayer and heaven would be their eternal home.  This they believed with their minds only.  Their heads have believed, but their hearts have not for God did not operate on them.  The existence of such people as we have called “Believing Unbelievers” is not new.  They are as old as Christianity.  They existed in the days when our Lord Jesus Christ walked upon the earth among His little congregation.  In John 6:64-69 we read about some of these folk.  Consider this incident where the Lord Jesus said to many of His disciples, “But there are some of you that believe not.  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.  And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.  From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.  Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?  Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”  There are important things to be learned from this brief account.  (1) Here we see once again the the Lord Jesus was omniscient; (2) we see also the our Lord always spoke the truth even if it cost Him popularity; (3) we see that men hate and reject the idea that they cannot save themselves by making a choice to come to Christ; (4) and we see in contrast to these people the faith of true disciple as shown in Peter's statement.  Here is another instance when the Lord Jesus preached the sovereignty of God in salvation with the results that “many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”  Sometime after this  incident the Lord Jesus would say, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31).  Continuing in God's Word is the mark of a genuine disciple!  Let us look at the incident where the Messiah spoke those words.  In John 8:31-37 we read as follows: “As he spake these words, many believed on him.  Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?  Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.  And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.  I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.”  In the context preceding these verses Jesus had spoken to His hearers of His Father who had sent Him and of His relationship with God.  As as result “many believed on him.”  That they “believed” without understanding is clear from John 827.  There it is recorded that “They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.” 

            Jesus spoke of the freedom that knowing the truth brings.  He was speaking to them of freedom from the slavery to sin into which all men are born.  He said, “whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.”  Their spiritual blindness and dishonesty is seen in that they denied ever being in bondage.  Their claim is the most absurd and bold-faced lie conceivable!  At that very moment they and all Israel were under the iron heel of Rome.  Their nation had experienced captivity in Babylon in the days of Daniel and other prophets.  Their fathers had slaved some four hundred years in Egypt before God used Moses to deliver them from bondage.  And yet these “disciples” - “believers” - denied their own nation's history, their own present condition and proclaimed their own so-called freedom.  But they were not free.  Is there not a parallel here?  Does  not the Arminian crowd proclaim the (supposed) freedom of each person to “choose Christ” or to reject Him?  Free will has been defined as “the ability to make choices without any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition.”  Is this not the claim of today's Arminians?  Do they not deny that all men are born slaves to sin because of their inherited sin nature?  Do they not deny that every part of man was evilly affected by the fall?  They claim “free will” really exists as if the will of man was not affected by the fall – as if it is somehow separate and unaffected by man's sinful nature.  Whether they say it or not, whenever they proclaim vocally or in print that “all you have to do is pray The Sinner's Prayer” or meet some other requirement, they are basing their words upon a lie.  That lie is the false idea that men and women yet in their sins have the ability to please God.  They think that to believe on Christ, or come to Christ, or accept Christ, choose Christ or have faith in Christ by human effort and apart from Divine intervention, is pleasing and acceptable to God.  The Jews said, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man.”   Today's Arminian – be he Baptist or Protestant in name – by his actions and in his thoughts says, “we human beings have freedom of our wills and can do as we please about Christ.”  They deny that they have within them a sin nature.  They have never been made to see their awful condition.  Their eyes are blind to their spiritual deadness.  They are dead men who do not know they are dead!  They have never grieved over their sinful condition in what the Bible calls “godly sorrow” - that kind of sorrow that “worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of,” (2 Corinthians 7:10).  The words “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” mean little or nothing to them.  Why?  Because they are spiritually dead and bound by their inherent sin nature and have never experienced either spiritual life or freedom.  Life is something in which a dead man does not participate.  Freedom to a person born in slavery is only a thing to be imagined.  Neither a man born dead in sins nor a man born in slavery knows  by participation anything of life in the one instance or of freedom in the other example.  A man born in slavery has never participated in freedom.  Similarly, a man born dead  in sins has never participated in life on a spiritual plane.  And so our Lord Jesus Christ said to these “disciples,” “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.” 

            The modern Arminian believes that he or she is saved.  They believe this because they have become Christ's “disciple” by means of praying “the sinner's prayer.”  What do we mean by the term “modern Arminian” as we use it?  Basically, an “Arminian” as we use the term today is one who does not believe in the total inability of a lost person to come to Christ in a saving way.  He thinks that every man, woman, boy and girl has the ability to be saved by their being sorry for their sins and doing something about it – praying a prayer, being baptized, confessing with his mouth, etc., etc.  That is their foundational doctrine.  Their confidence is in their ability.  Their faith is in their “doing something about it.”  Those of us who believe that God is sovereign and that He saves whom He wants to save whenever He wants to save them sail in a small boat upon the sea of Arminianism.  We say this because of the immense popularity of the Arminian view today in contrast to the small number of people who believe in Gods absolute sovereignty.  We find that we must be diligent in bailing to keep the seas of Arminian ideas from filling our little boat.  Those who have been made free by the sovereignly bestowed grace of God walk among men and women who are bound with invisible chains of ignorance of the truth, blindness, hardness and confidence in their flesh.  We live in a morgue populated for the most part with spiritually dead persons whose eyes are blind and their hearts hardened.  Those who are “disciples indeed” - those truly born again – live in the midst of “disciples” who have converted themselves.  Have they not?  They walk in the light of the sparks of the fire they have kindled (see Isaiah 50:11).  They have “made a decision,” or “exercised their wills,” or “chosen Christ,” or some such thing and think this saves them.   They are “believing unbelievers” in many instances we fear.   Lost men and women just do not understand that freedom from sin and its penalty must come from Christ who said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”  They think that their “sinner's prayer” will make them free or somehow kick-start God so He will make them free.  It has repeatedly been said that all men are naturally born Arminians.  Yea, verily!  And those Arminians who continue to reject the truth of God's sovereignty usually attack those who bear witness to that truth.  This is exactly what happened to our Lord Jesus.  He knew what was simmering on the back burner of the hearts of these very Jews.  He said to them, “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.”  Remember, Jesus spoke these words to some of His “disciples.”  We think they were “believing unbelievers!”  We do not doubt their sincerity.  What we doubt is their salvation.  So it is we have called these folk “Believing Unbelievers.”  We fear for many that believe on Christ, but are not “disciples indeed” - they are not genuine disciples.  They think they have birthed themselves into God's family by praying “the sinner's prayer.”  They think that the exercise of their so-called free wills has bought them favor with God.  They dare not put these ideas into words because they profess to believe that salvation is by grace.  Rooted in their false notion of human ability, they know nothing of seeing themselves as hopeless and helpless sinners.  That they are sinners to one degree or another they will admit.  That they are hopeless and helpless they will not admit at all.  They have no real concept of the necessity of God doing the saving.  When someone speaks the truth to them regarding such things as human inability, the need of Holy Spirit regeneration or the new birth, these modern Arminians look at such speakers “like a calf looking at a new gate.”   Are not all men welcome to enter God's spiritual superstore and freely choose whether or not they want to go to Heaven?  Is it  not up to the (ordained) salesmen in that great superstore to persuade men that making a decision for Christ is better than going to hell?  Does not God offer grace at a greatly discounted price to all men and women?  Can they not accept God's grace or trample upon it – whichever they wish?  Has not God fixed it so that it is up to spiritually dead sinners whether or not they make a decision for Christ?  And if they make such a decision are they not therefore qualified to receive grace?  Is not salvation the possession of all “disciples?”  What about the “many” who “believed” upon Christ, but whom He said “ye seek to kill me?”  Think about these questions in the light of the verses and passages cited in this article.  Can you escape the fact that there really are “believing unbelievers” who are not true disciples?

            Are you a “disciple indeed?”  Is your faith “the faith of God's elect?”  Are you one who has experienced the grace of God that produces “godly sorrow [that] worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of?”  We remind the reader of words from the old Baptist hymn which says, “O beware of trust ill-grounded; ’Tis but fancied faith at most, To be cured, and not be wounded; To be saved before you’re lost.”  We urge and beseech you not to trust in anything you have done nor in your sincerity.  You must experience the grace of God in order to be saved.  “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”


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Denham Springs, LA 70726

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