A more excellent ministry: A response to Dr. Ken Boa (part 3)

Reminder if you’ve forgotten: you can read Dr. Boa’s paper in full here.

There is a greater issue that must be addressed in light of all this, and is the larger reason why I felt this response was necessary: this is an issue of how we, as believers, view Christ’s work on the cross.  As Dr. James White writes in his book The Potter’s Freedom:

[T]he ransom that Christ gives in His self-sacrifice is either a saving ransom or a non-saving one.  If it is actual and really made in behalf of all men, then inevitably all men would be saved.  But we again see that it is far more consistent to recognize that the same meaning for “all men” and “all” flows through the entire passage [referring to 1 Timothy 2:4], and when we look at the inarguably clear statements of Scripture regarding the actual intention and result of Christ’s cross-work, we will see that there is no other consistent means of interpreting these words….[1]

The doctrine of justification by faith is one that requires an understanding of the nature of Christ’s work on the cross.  The book of Hebrews discusses this at length, and while I won’t walk through the multiple chapters of argumentation here, I want to discuss some key texts and encourage my readers to read the whole book for themselves, to see the majestic work of salvation accomplished perfectly for God’s people in Jesus Christ.

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
    on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
    and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.–Hebrews 8:6-13

The writer of Hebrews quotes from the prophet Jeremiah in discussing the difference between the old covenant, which God established through Moses and in which He created a system which the author identifies as “a copy and shadow of the heavenly things,” and the nature of the new covenant which was promised by God through the prophet, and is now administered through Jesus Christ.  The Lord talks about the nature of this covenant as being one administered by Him in transforming the hearts of His people.  It is one that is unbreakable, because the law of God will no longer be external but something that is a part of them.  The important takeaway here is that for those who partake of the new covenant, there is no covenant breaking because it is not dependent upon us, but upon God who is showing mercy.

My question for Dr. Boa on this point would be, if there is a mystery regarding an unfulfilled desire by God to save every human, a desire that clashes, for whatever reason, with God’s actual work to save his particular purpose, and the function of salvation is one of God transforming the hearts of His people as revealed here and elsewhere in Scripture, on what grounds is such a mystery proclaimed?  I’ve responded to his two attempted prooftexts on this, can he exegete the Scriptures further to explain this?

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.–Hebrews 10:11-14

The author contrasts the priests in the temple standing and working constantly as they offer sacrifices with Jesus, who sits at the right hand of the Father at the completion of His perfect work of atonement.  The author spends time earlier in the chapter pointing out that no sin is forgiven by the blood of an animal, but that they are a sign of the work set before the Messiah.  God, through Christ, has set aside the record of sins of His people completely.

And note the closing of the thought: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”  Who are those being sanctified?  Are all people throughout the world being sanctified–and if so, does that mean that all are saved?  It seems clear that Dr. Boa is not a universalist of any stripe, so we come back to the same problem we started with: did Jesus actually accomplish anything on the cross, or, as Dr. Norm Geisler has put it, did it simply “make all men savable?”  Did Jesus die for a first-round draft pick to be named later, or did He truly know His people and their sins when He went to the cross?  And more importantly: which of these is truly reassuring to a believer?

What we have here is a contrast between the monergistic idea that salvation is a personal thing, between God and the people who He knows intimately, and who in fact He made for the purpose of showing them mercy, and the synergistic idea that salvation is impersonal, where God may have some sort of crystal ball-esque knowledge of who is going to be saved, but has nothing to do with actually defining the makeup of that group beyond a set of standards.  Hence, the issue reformed believers take with the “easy believism,” “say these words and you’re in the kingdom” style of preaching that is so often a part of American evangelicalism: if the Gospel is something you can choose or not to follow by your own wisdom, then it can be reduced down to as base a component as can be imagined (a statement of faith in Jesus, however ill-defined that concept is) and we can build whatever we want on that foundation.  I don’t believe this is what Dr. Boa is in favor of, but I write this in the hopes of calling him to recognizing an inconsistency in his position, and to pursuing a position that is in full accordance with the Scriptures.

This is also why I take issue with Dr. Boa’s attempt to put himself in the middle on this issue.  I don’t see how such a position is possible: as I started this post with, either you believe that Jesus accomplished what He intended to on the cross, or He did not.  If he is going to claim a middle ground, he has a lot of scriptural work to do to establish the existence of such a position.

Coming in part 4: Extremism

[1]White, J., & Geisler, N. (2000). The Potter’s Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s Chosen but Free (Kindle ed., p. 143). Amityville, NY: Calvary Press Publ.


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