2 Corinthians 5:16
In 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul declares that all who are born of God are constrained, motivated, and ruled by the love of Christ. The love of Christ rules in our hearts, he tells us in verse 15, because we have been born again. We have been born again because Christ died for us. His death as our Substitute obtained and guaranteed our new birth. And, being born of God, we live, not unto ourselves, but unto Christ, who died for us and rose again. Then, in verse 16, the inspired writer tells us that our knowledge of Christ is not a carnal apprehension of the intellect, but the gift and revelation of God the Holy Spirit. — “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.”
Be sure you understand what the Spirit of God tells us here. Our knowledge of Christ is not a carnal apprehension of the intellect, but the gift and revelation of God the Holy Spirit. Being born again by the omnipotent grace and irresistible mercy of God the Holy Spirit, all who are taught of God, know Christ after the Spirit, and not after the flesh.
In the 1600s John Owen wrote, “Of all the poison which at this day is diffused in the minds of men, corrupting them from the mystery of the gospel, there is no part that is more pernicious than this one perverse imagination, that to ‘believe in Christ’ is nothing at all but to ‘believe the doctrine of the gospel!’” Yet, that horrible heresy is taught and promoted by many today.
Will worshipping Arminians have long taught that faith in Christ is nothing but and act of the will, mental assent to the historic facts of the gospel. When I was a seven year old boy, I was conned into a profession of faith by will worshipping fundamentalists, who told me that salvation would be mine if I would simply believe “God’s plan of salvation.” Giving assent to what I was told, a “soul-winner” put his arms around me, with tears in his eyes, and announced, “Praise the Lord, son, you’re saved! You are born again.” But I didn’t know God from a gourd.
Such deception is common among fundamentalists. But today there are some who claim to believe the gospel, or what we refer to as the doctrines of grace, who teach the same heresy, utterly denying the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ. Theirs is a much more subtle and dangerous heresy.
They tell us that faith in Christ is nothing but agreement with “God’s testimony.” They laugh at what the apostle Paul calls “the mystery of the faith,” asserting that there is nothing mysterious about it. Being too deceptive to openly assert what their doctrine is, they continue to use terms like “regeneration,” “the new birth,” “effectual calling,” “the new nature,” “the new man,” and “Christ in you.” Yet, everything they teach denies the work of God the Holy Spirit in chosen redeemed sinners, teaching that salvation is arrived at by acquired knowledge, not by divine regeneration, by an act of the will, not by the revelation of grace. This philosophy of vain deceit denies the necessity of the new birth, denies that the believer is given a new nature by the Spirit of God, denies that righteousness is imparted to us, and that we are made partakers of the divine nature in regeneration. These modern Gnostics speak of God’s saving grace as nothing but a “principle” (an accepted philosophical rule).
They look upon those of us who believe God’s revelation of himself in his Word and trust Christ as our Wisdom, as well as our Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption, as poor, ignorant people, without spiritual understanding. Just this week, one of these deceivers described that which the Scriptures call a God given light shining “in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” “a mystical, religious experience that takes place in ecstatic ignorance”!
Deceivers are never honest men! The liberals of the mid 1900s, at first, were not manly enough to openly state that they did not believe in blood atonement, regeneration, and the resurrection. They made it a point to use such words frequently. But, with their “enlightened” understanding, they gave those clearly defined biblical terms new definitions.
That is exactly what is happening in our day. Many, who talk much about faith in Christ and imagine that no one possesses it except those who bow to their shrines, openly assert that, “Mental assent itself is equal to faith.” That is Gnosticism in its very essence. That is freewillism of the most deceptive form. It is the assertion that salvation is nothing but a man’s decision to agree with irrefutable facts!
That which they have arrived at by their imaginary “brilliance of intellect” the Holy Spirit calls knowing “Christ after the flesh,” by mere carnal reason. They are people with religious knowledge, who are totally void of grace and spiritual life, groping in the darkness of their invented light.
Most people presume that knowledge is the basis of faith. But the Scriptures assert exactly the opposite. Hebrews 11:3 declares, “Through faith we understand.” Through faith we see, perceive, and comprehend all things spiritual. And this faith, which gives spiritual understanding, is the result of the new birth, without which no man can see the kingdom of God (John 3:5-7). Faith in Christ is the basis of spiritual knowledge and understanding. Spiritual knowledge is the result of faith in Christ. As I heard Bro. Henry Mahan say so many times, “You don’t get to Christ by doctrine. You get to doctrine by Christ.” Saving knowledge is not what you know, but who (John 17:3).