Overseer's Message


 

March 28, 2019

Greetings fellow labourers in the IFCA:

     I trust that my communique finds you in good health and actively involved in advancing the Kingdom of our gracious God. What a privilege God has afforded us to be co-workers together with Him (1 Cor 3:9; 2Cor 6:1) in His Kingdom. Connie and I are blessed to report that we are experiencing God’s blessings on every front. We are capitalizing on every opportunity granted to us to declare the truth, encourage the believers, and edify the credential holders with whom we make contact. We are grateful both to the Lord and to each of you for the ministry appointments we are given. It is marvelous and encouraging to witness God’s blessings and favour at each different location. May He continue to smile down on every work and endeavor we have been granted!

What a joy it has been to experience the beginning of the spring season here in Greenville (Transfer), PA. With the change to daylight savings time and the brighter sunshiny days, one can sense that spring is ushering in new life and warmer days, hallelujah! Of course, this makes for a much more pleasant driving experience as we travel around our country. We really had a few rather harrowing experiences while traveling through blizzard conditions on our way to some of our appointments, but thanks be to God, we arrived safely each time. It won’t be long now until our Youth will be gathering in Johnstown, PA for Apex. Connie and I are looking forward to see what God has planned for our vibrant and fast-maturing young men and women. I trust that all our Youth groups are doing all they can, with full support of their leadership, to be present at Apex at the end of May. God bless you all!

   

     By the time this communique reaches you, it won’t be but a few days until you have the information and registration forms for convention 2019 in your hands. Please make every effort to be pro-active about registering and preparing yourselves for attendance at convention in Syracuse, NY. We are anticipating a great time of blessing and intimate encounters both with the Lord and each other. We solicit your prayers that the convention will be a great time of renewal and specific direction and input from the Lord. Remember too, that the hotel has been gracious enough to grant extended days before and after the convention at the same negotiated price, please take advantage of that! Once again, we look forward to seeing you all there from the 7th to the 9th of August 2019. Also, please keep Missions Overseer Dale Russo in your prayers as he is overseas at present, visiting and ministering among some of our mission’s workers. He will be returning to the U.S. on the 8th of April.

    

     Now, let us take a few moments to look at the Word together. I promised to complete the balance of the thoughts we were examining in Eph 2:8, 9. We completed the statement from verse 8, “For by grace are ye saved through faith;..” So, let us pick up the next phrase, “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God-;” this statement by Paul has been much debated throughout the ages. The debate has centered around what Paul means by the word “that”, v8 “and that not of yourselves,…”; What is “the gift of God” that Paul refers to? Many scholars are persuaded that Paul is referring to “faith” as the “that” that is “God’s gift”. So that we affirm that even the instrumental cause of salvation, “faith”, is “the gift of God”. However, this position is often associated with predestination theology. Other scholars reject this view due to the fact that in the Greek text the word “that” is in the neuter gender here, while the word “faith” is in the feminine gender! Therefore, if Paul were making reference to “faith” when he said “that not of yourselves” he would have used the feminine gender. In line with the position of other scholars, the alternative is to explain “that” either as referring to “salvation” or as both “salvation and faith” as the “gift of God”. The Apostle affirms unequivocally, “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God”. Many scholars are persuaded, including myself, that both “salvation” and “faith” are being referred to. Therefore, “salvation” and “saving faith” are both divine operations. No person can take pride in their position as a believer. We can only rejoice in humility for what has been accomplished in us and for us. Salvation in its entirety is the marvelous and gracious free gift of God. Professor Noel Brooks says, “all of the marvelous features of this great salvation, even the power to believe and trust in Christ, are the gift of God; all the facets of divine grace”.

    

     In theological terms, there are three different alternative ways to view “saving faith”. One such way is is called “Pelagianism” taught by Pelagian in the forth century and condemned as heresy at the council of Ephesus around 432 A.D. (5th century). His teaching was that faith is a natural faculty inherent in the human race from Adam, unimpaired, needing only to be exercised by man. Another way is known as the “Calvinistic way”. In this view man cannot believe until he has been regenerated. There are variations in this concept, but essentially, a certain number of people have been predestinated to be saved early in life they are sovereignly and secretly regenerated, thus planting in them, and in them alone, the capacity of saving faith. At some moment in the future, they hear the Gospel and the latent faith awakens and responds. Then, there is also the “Arminian-Wesleyan way”. Arminius held that the powers of free will are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by divine grace, but it has no powers whatsoever except such as are excited by divine grace. For Christ has said, “without me ye can do nothing”. Jn 15:5. John Wesley emphasized the concept of “prevenient grace”, or grace which precedes (goes before) salvation, convincing man of sin, moving him to repentance and enabling him exercise saving faith. In Wesley’s sermon on Eph 2:8, called “salvation by faith”, he posits, “of yourself cometh neither your faith nor your salvation. ‘It is the gift of God’, the free, undeserved gift; the faith through which ye are saved, as well as the salvation which He of His own good pleasure, His mere favour, annexes thereto. That ye believe, is one instance of His grace; that, believing, ye are saved, another”. (Wesley’s works, vol 5, p13). Both Wesley and Calvin taught, the total depravity and inability of fallen man, and his complete dependence upon the saving grace of God, but whereas Calvin taught that grace is sovereign, extending only to the elect, Wesley insisted that prevenient grace is free to all men in various ways. So, in the universal gospel invitation, there is included in it (along with it) prevenient grace enabling the hearer to respond in faith. What humans do with that grace extended will decide their eternal destiny. “Not of works, lest any man should boast”. (v9). In this statement we have a reiterating of what Paul taught in Rom 3:27; 4: 1-5; 1 Cor 1:29-31; and Gal 6:14. In accordance with what the apostle shows in Rom 11;6, grace and works as a way of salvation are mutually exclusive. If sinners could save themselves by works, they would forever be boasting of their great achievement. Their very salvation would reek with stinking sinful pride. But boasting is completely excluded by grace. With the typical firmness of Paul’s writing, he excludes every possibility of self-achieved salvation. Any kind of human self-effort is comprehensively ruled out by the terse expression “not of works”.

    

     Well, we haven’t gotten to v10 yet, maybe next time, God willing! I trust that this letter will be a blessing to you all. Be assured of our prayers on behalf of your family and work. Please keep us informed regarding the great things God is doing in your lives and ministry. We give thanks for each one of you and the faithfulness you exhibit in your lives. May the Lord continue to anoint you in all your endeavors. Keep on looking up, Jesus is coming back soon.

Yours in His service,

 

Michael Player

General Overseer