Psalm 16:5

The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.

God's Warth is Coming... Are You Ready?

You had better listen to the words of Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, shall enter, but he that does the will of my father in heaven.” If ye by the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live. If you live after the flesh, you’ll die! The cross does not give us a minor shift or two with regard to a few of our ethical and religious values. The cross radically disrupts the very center and citadel of your life from self to Christ. And if the cross has not done that, YOU’RE NOT A CHRISTIAN! My Friend face it, young rogue, you’re not a Christian until the cross has radically disrupted the very center and citadel of your life! And brought you from a life of commitment to serve self…What are the focal points of the reign of your self? If you’ve gone to the cross in union with Christ, it’s been shattered!"
- Al Martin

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sovereign Grace Part 7

In my last post, I was ready to explain how Limited Atonement effects the gospel. Why is this all so important and why did I say in the title of my last post that Limited Atonement destroys the gospel? It is important because of what Paul says is the good news  we preach. It is important because it is about the heart of God. It is important because it determines how we pray for the lost (assuming we are consistent with our theology, most aren't consistent. Arminians pray for the salvation of their friends, family, and the lost world, all the while denying that God will actually sovereignly intervene and answer their prayer. Calvinists go out and tell people to believe on Jesus to be saved while professing that unsaved - unregenerate - people can't believe until God first saves - regenerates - them.)

What is the gospel? 1 Cor. 15:1-4:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
The gospel which one must believe in order to be saved is not that Christ died for sinners in general. Rather the gospel one must believe is particular. He died, Paul said, for our sins. This was the good news by which the people were saved. If Calvinism is true, I cannot preach a personal gospel because I cannot guarantee that such a personal gospel is true. If I tell a man that Christ died for his sins, that he rose again the third day, and that if he should believe and trust in His death and resurrection he should be saved, and the man is non-elect, then I have born a false witness. Christ did not die for that man, though I just claimed he did. Thus, I must not say that Christ died for him, but that Christ died for the elect's sins. You say, "I have never heard anyone say that! You are setting up a straw man!" "Rather than saying 'Christ died for you', which has no biblical warrant, we proclaim instead that 'Christ died and rose again for all those who would believe (John 3:16).'" -  [Emphasis original] There is now nothing particular for this man to appropriate for himself. He cannot say, "Oh this is good news that Christ died for my sins in my place and there is now righteousness for me in Him." I have removed from the lost the personal gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is vitally important to understand the justice of God at this point in the discussion. We are not saved by the death of Christ merely because God decided to use a radical means to show His love. Rather, the Scripture teaches that it was the only way for man to be saved. It would be impossible for God to save man without Christ dying. The option is either man dies or Christ dies, there was no plan be. God could not have just determined to save men and been done with it. Christ had to die for every last sin which a man committed for him to be saveable. And the reason for this is the justice of God.
Rom. 3:25-26:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 
Matt. 26:39:
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
Consider this then in its implications. Any man for whom Christ did not die in completeness is unsaveable. We are not talking about unsaveable because the man cannot believe on His own, but unsaveable because God cannot save him. He is no different than a demon for whom Chirst did not die. there is no salvation there, Christ is not an available savior and if he believed, he would go straight to hell anyways. When he rejects Christ, he does not reject eternal life because there was no eternal life to be had. In other words, just as there is no gospel for a demon, for Christ did not die for them, there is no gospel for any man for whom Christ did not die and any person who preaches good news to such a person would be a liar. As Monergism admitted, it must therefore make the gospel no gospel at all because they don't know if the gospel is true or not for the unsaved person they are speaking with. No consistent Calvinist will preach the gospel of Salvation in 1 Cor. 15:1-4 (which was preached to unsaved people and by which they were saved) because Calvinism will not allow that. Again, from Monergism, "Most assuredly my view is that the plain gospel is to be preached to all sinners ---- that Jesus bore the wrath of God on behalf of ANY who are willing to come and embrace the Savior." That, my friends, is not found in the writings of Holy Scripture. It is not the plain gospel.

We have seen up to this point that Limited Atonement changes the gospel. But that is not all. It determines how we pray for the lost. Consider the atonement in light of our prayers as Paul deals with the subject in 1 Tim. 2:1-6:
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
Paul commands prayer for all men. Why? Because God desires that all men be saved. How do we know that God has this desire? Christ gave himself a ransom for all. Thus our prayers, if they are to be after the heart of God, must be informed by the truth of the desire of God for the salvation of all, and His death for all. In Calvinism, God does not die for the non-elect, but merely damns them to hell. He does not desire their salvation, or else He would have died for them and then they would be saved.Thus the clavinist must change this passage. We pray not for all men, but all sorts of men. Christ does not desire the salvation of all men, but the salvation of all sorts of men. Christ did not give himself a ransom for al lmen, but a ransom for all sorts of men. Consider:
Fifth, we do not mean to suggest that passages such as 1 Timothy 2:4 (God "... desires all men to be saved ...") or 2 Peter 3:9 (the Lord is "... not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance ...") teach that God wants all men to be saved.  While we certainly agree that God's preceptive will is pleased with human faith, obedience and repentance, and that God's anger is aroused by man's unbelief, disobedience and unrepentance—nevertheless, exegetically, neither of these verses will bear a universal interpretation.
1 Timothy 2:4 says that, because God "desires for all men to be saved", Christ therefore "gave Himself as a ransom for all".  Unless you are willing either to deny Particular Redemption, or to ignore the context of 1 Timothy 2:4, there is no sensible way to exegete the passage to mean that God desires the salvation of the non-elect.
The Greek word translated "all" frequently means "all sorts of" or "all categories of" rather than all without exception.  In context, Paul clearly has in mind all ranks of men (see verses 1 and 2, where he gives as an example of "all men" kings and "all who are in authority"), and all nations of men (see verse 7, where he affirms that he is "a teacher of the Gentiles").  1 Timothy 2:4 teaches us that God has chosen men of all ranks and nations of men. This gives us encouragement to take the gospel to all men, regardless of their status or nationality, confident that God has His elect people among all classes of men.
Likewise, 2 Peter 3:9 is set in the context of God's patience toward "you"—"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."  In context, Peter draws a profound contrast between "you" believers and certain mockers who would come in the last days, whom Peter repeatedly refers to as "they" and "their" (vss. 3-7).  He affirms that the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, for the day of judgment and destruction of these ungodly men (vs. 7).  In contrast, he says that the Lord "is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance."  His patience is not for the sake of all men, but for all of you.  It certainly is not for the sake of those ungodly men for whom the heavens and earth are reserved for judgment and destruction. - Removing the Doctrinal Obstacles to Calvinistic Evangelism, Mitch Cervinka
Thus we find that Calvinism effects even the way we pray. It effects the way we interpret the command to pray. Consider the last paragraph above. He argues that God's patience is not for all men, but the elect only. Is that what the Scripture teaches?
And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds. - Rom. 2:3-6
Paul maintains that the patience of God and the goodness of God in reference to the non-elect is meant to lead them to repentance, but their rejection of it stores up for them wrath against the day of wrath. Again, we find in Ezekiel:
Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye. - Eze. 18:30-32
Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? - Eze. 33:11 
While Calvinism refuses to accept a view of God in which He desires that the wicked repent and live, a biblical view of the atonement allows and embraces such a view, while recognizing the particular redemptive love that God placed on those who were not destined to wrath but to obtain eternal life (1 Thess. 5:9).

In conclusion, Limited Atonement is not supportable by the whole of Scripture, it fails to understand the purposes of the death of Christ, it changes the gospel from a personal one to one which is so impersonal that it has no good news to offer, it denies the heart of God for lost sinners which would cause Christ to weep over the lost and say He would have gathered them but they would not come, and it changes our vary prayers and attitude for the non-elect from what God commands of us.

My friends, weep over the lost who are dying and going to hell. Did not Christ do the same? If God loved the non-elect such that even though they would die in their sins, He still gave His son of them, how much more fervent should our prayers and preaching be than it currently is? Oh that the love of God would be poured out upon the church and that being full of the Spirit we would preach the good news of personal redemption to a lost and dying world!

End of Part 7. In part 8, I will look briefly at Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance and Preservation of the Saints. I believe that shall be my last post on this subject, but seeing as I haven't begun my work on it, it may stretch to two posts.

Sovereign Grace Part 6 - Limited Atonement and the Destruction of the Gospel

In my last post, I left off with the question of how we can have one set of verses which are clearly presenting a death for all men, and at the same time, have a set of verses that have Christ dying a particular death for the elect. How can there be such general statements and specific statements at the same time? Well, the first thing we have to do is say goodbye to the systems of thought about the atonement which we are accustomed to using as grids of interpretation. Then lets go back and see if there are any differences between the generalized statements and the particular statements. From there we may be able to figure out how Christ died both generally and particularly at the same time. It all has to do with purpose. 

Let's consider one more passage for a moment: 1 Peter 3:18, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." The first thing we need to see is that the death of Christ is inherently tied to purpose and not effect. What on earth do I mean by that? The death of Christ had a purpose and it effected the purpose, but it did not in and of itself effect the end goal of the purpose. Notice how it describes the death of Christ in this passage (we shall note that this is a common theme): Christ suffered for sins that He might do certain things. The death did not negate the need for further action by God, rather it enabled the further action. We see then that the death of Christ had the particular purpose of enabling Christ to do what needed to be done. We see this over and over throughout teh Scriptures in reference to Christ's work on the cross. Consider Rom. 3:25-26:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
There are several purposes set forth in which God enabled something to be done by the death of Christ, but which the death did not in and of itself immediately do. God set forth Christ to be a propitiation of sins, yet this propitiation is through faith, thus we are not born forgiven, as would be the case if the death of Christ in and of itself effected the forgiveness of sins, but rather we receive the propitiation at faith. then God by the blood of Christ propitiates our sins. Further, the purpose of the death of Christ was to make available the righteousness of Christ for the remission of sins that are past, yet again, we are are not born righteous. We are justified and declared righteous at conversion,. Thus the death of Christ was once again an enabler. It provided God with the means of justification so that at the point of faith, God could by the righteousness of Christ remit the sins and justify the believer. Finally, the death of Christ enabled God to be just and the justifier of the believer. Again, the death did not immediately justify us. Instead, it enabled God to justify us. The action of God was still required after Christ died. The death of Christ was not an end in and of itself.

Remember the definition of Arminianism from Monergism in the previous post?  
This point of view is in opposition to what is commonly called “unlimited atonement,” which teaches that the intention of Christ's death was to provide redemption for everyone in the same way without exception; but the efficacy of his redemptive act is limited in its power to ensure everyone's final salvation.
We can see from the above passages that the death of Christ is not limited in its efficacy or power but it fully accomplishes its purposes for every man, even though he died for all men and not just the elect. The claim by Monergism that Calvinism makes Christ death efficacious as opposed to a non-particular view not being fully efficacious is found to be wrong by just looking at one passage mentioned in my last post. 2 Cor. 5:14-15 says that Christ died for all, and therefore all are dead, and that He died for all that they which live should not live for themselves but for Him who died for them. Note that the text does not say that He died for all that all should live, but merely He died for all, that they which of the all live, should live for Him. In this we see that the death of Christ was then efficacious in that its purpose was wholly accomplished. The Calvinist view of what is required to happen for the death of Christ to be efficacious is fundamentally flawed, and that flaw stems from a misunderstanding of the purpose of Christ's death. The general purpose of the death of Christ for every man who ever lived was to enable God to save them. He loved the world and gave His son that whosoever believes should not parish. This is death for every man to enable God to save them should they believe. The gospel offer of salvation, whosoever will may come, is thus valid for the non-elect as well as elect, Christ is the Savior provided by God for all men (recall that He is the Savior of all, specially of those who believe, thus non-elect are included in the "all men"), He is the available propitiation for the sins of the world. Those who reject Him truly judge themselves unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:46), the non-elect will not come to Him that they may have life (John 5:40), and the clincher of the deal is that Christ would have saved them if they had come:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! - Mat. 23:37 
Keep this in mind for a little later. The general enabling of the death of Christ is absolutely vital. If you don't maintain it when preaching the gospel, you will change the gospel to no gospel. But for now, let's consider more deeply this idea of purpose in reference to Christ's death for the sheep. Notice the general vs. particular statements in John 3:16 and Titus 2:13-14
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
This is so important for understanding why Christ died for a non-elect man and why He died for an elect man and why He could say so clearly that He died for all and yet be so clear He particularly died for the sheep, of whom non-believers had no part. Christ died for all that whosoever believed should be saved. General and general. There is no particular language here. The non-elect receive the end of the death of Christ in that there is a good news offered and a real offer of everlasting life to reject and they receive grace in this life. Christ did not die to redeem them. He died to enable their redemption (very big difference). The death of Christ is 100% effectual in reference to the non-elect. For the elect however, that is a totally different story and that is what the Arminians missed.

For the elect, the statement is particular, and the purpose is particular. He died in order that He might redeem them particularly and make of them a peculiar people. The former purpose ended with the enabling. The later purpose ends with salvation, sanctification, and glorification. Thus Christ death had different purposes for different people and thus we find both a general and particular atonement. The Arminians grabbed ahold of the former and the Calvinist the later, both calling the other view heresy ("Arminianism is the first cousin to Romanism. It is a damnable heresy." - Man’s Need of Salvation: Total Depravity and Man’s Inability, Brian Schwertley. "Calvinism is a false religious system that offers a spiritual foundation of sinking sand to the unsaved. Tragically, together with the related systems of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, it features prominently among the growing ranks of nominal Christians." - Calvinism a Heretical Doctrine, Prof. Johan Malan). 

End of Post 6. It seems I keep running out of room, so in post 7, I will do my best to demonstrate how Limited Atonement is so destructive to the gospel.

Foreign Aid - Politically Correct Lingo for Treason

Found an old newspaper clipping in a box. Love this:

Sovereign Grace Part 5 - Limited Atonement and the Destruction of the Gospel

Central to the Calvinist system is the idea that Christ died only for the elect. This doctrine is expressed in the terminology, Limited Atonement.
In common parlance, however, it is a term used to describe the Calvinistic belief that Christ's atonement was fully effective to accomplish its design of redemption for all those for whom it was intended; but its intention was limited to the elect. This point of view is in opposition to what is commonly called “unlimited atonement,” which teaches that the intention of Christ's death was to provide redemption for everyone in the same way without exception; but the efficacy of his redemptive act is limited in its power to ensure everyone's final salvation. Christ's death, in other words, provided everything necessary for anyone's salvation besides the one conditional element of faith; but this faith was not provided by his death for anyone at all. -
This definition places before us two possible views of the atonement, of which I take neither. The atonement is an amazing subject. Books have been written about it that are much more indepth than I could ever dream of going. I merely wish in this post to lay a small foundation for the idea that Christ died for all of mankind and not for merely the elect. I will seek to show that the very gospel we preach requires that to be the case if it is to be the gospel, and that if held consistently, Calvinists will not preach the gospel Paul preached, but rather a modified version which is not the true gospel.

For whom did Christ die? It is usually best to take Scripture at face value unless there is serious reason to maintain that the face value reading may be a misunderstanding of what God was saying (being justified by works in the book of James for example). Therefore, my initial answer to this question will simply be to provide those passages of Scripture which declare the extent of the body of people for whom Christ died. From there I will branch into why the face value reading is the correct reading.
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. - 2 Cor. 5:14-15
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. - 1 Tim. 2:5-6
For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.  - 1 Tim. 4:10
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. - 1 John 2:2 
And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. - 1 John 4:14 
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. - Heb. 2:9
Now, these passages present the Limited approach with a real problem straight off the bat. All of the verses put the death of Christ in a universal context. Two of them do this in such a way as to not allow redefinition of the terms: 1 Tim. 4:10 and 1 John 2:2 which refer to the elect and non-elect explicitely, and declare that that which is true for the elect is also true for the non-elect. However the death of Christ is interpreted, it made Him the Savior of not just the elect, but also the non-elect. And it made Him the propitiation not just for the believer's sins, but also the propitiation for the sins of the non-elect. Don't shoot me, that's what the text says. We'll get to what that means in a little bit. Last, but not least, we have the great discourse in John 3:14-21 which settles this question once for all in that it does not allow the word world to mean anything but world as the Calvinists are want to make it.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
This passage uses the word world five times and it becomes clear what it means in this passage. In this particular place, the love of God is generalized and the promise of salvation is generalized. God loved the world so that whosoever believed could be saved. This world which God loved is obviously the world of mankind in this context and into this world the son came not to condemn, but that it (the whole world all inclusive) might be saved. Not will be, but might be. This world contains two groups mentioned in the next verse, those who believe and are saved and those who do not believe and are damned. Clearly, the world is not just the world of the elect as none of them can be, in the end, lost. Christ who is light has come into this world of mankind whom God loved and for whom He gave His Son and the men of the world loved the darkness rather than the light! This last use of the word world cannot be made to mean the world of the elect. It is an all inclusive world that includes those men that will forever reject Him for their deeds are evil.

We see then from these passages that Christ died for all, he is a ransom for all, He is the Savior of all, He is the propitiation for all, He is the Savior of the World, He tasted death for every man, and he was given for the world that whosoever believes in Him should be saved. What these passages tell us is that Christ made the salvation of all men possible by taking on Himself the sins of the world. Yes, the sins of every man, woman, and child who ever lived were laid upon Christ and He bore the wrath of God for them all that the world through Him might be saved. It is at this point that both Arminians and Calvinists go astray. The Calvinist rejects this flat out saying that Christ died for His sheep to make a peculiar people for Himself - a true statement that we will get to in a minute - and he in no way died for the world making a possible salvation and not a guaranteed one. They say Christ died particularly for the sins of His people and for none else or else Christ death was ineffectual and he died in vain. Worse, say they, it would be a cosmic double jeopardy in which God accepts Christ's payment and then still casts the sinner into hell for the vary sins Christ died for. The Arminians, on the other hand, leave it right here and say that God did not guarantee to Himself a particular people and thus Christ died in the same way for all.

Let's take a look first at the Calvinist claim that Christ died for a particular people. I think the clearest passage of a limited application of the death of Christ is found in John 10:15-16, 26-27:
As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
This is rather clear. I lay down my life for the sheep. The sheep hear My voice. Those who do not believe do not believe because they are not of My sheep. So we have a clear case here of Christ dieing a particular death for this body of His sheep and the non-elect are particularly excluded in the same discourse from that body. We are left with a particular atonement. Next we have Titus 2:13-14,
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
This passage obviously is limited in its scope. The us is the saved, peculiar people. So once again we have a particular redemption that is about a specific people and not all men generally. This presents the Arminian with a real problem in the same way that the first set of passages presented a problem for the Calvinist. What do we do with this?

End of Part 5. In Part 6, I will answer the last question and make my case for a general particular atonement. (OK, I admit I don't have a good title for what I believe, but for now, that will have to do.) 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sovereign Grace Part 4 - The New Birth

In the previous post, I gave a quote by Spurgeon in which he maintained that faith is always the result of the new birth. In the first part of this post, I would like to examine this claim briefly from John chapter 1.
Does regeneration precede faith? The answer to the question is "yes," but before explaining why this is so, the terms “regeneration” and “conversion” should be explained briefly.

Regeneration means that one has been born again or born from above (John 3:3, 5, 7, 8). The new birth is the work of God, so that all those who are born again are “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Or, as 1 Peter 1:3 says, it is God who “caused us to be born again to a living hope.” The means God uses to grant such new life is the gospel, for believers “have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23; cf. Jas. 1:18). Regeneration or being born again is a supernatural birth. Just as we cannot do anything to be born physically—it just happens to us!—so too we cannot do anything to cause our spiritual rebirth. - Daniel Spratlin
I believe the Bible teaches us clearly that regeneration (or the new birth) precedes (comes before) faith. In other words, while in a state of spiritual death, God makes His elect people spiritually alive (regenerating them); then they exercise faith, and then they are justified. - John Samson 
[Quick note: As I showed in the last post, you cannot be made alive in logical sequence prior to justification. Justification is what makes you alive. Calvinism, for it to be true, requires justification prior to life and faith.]

In this section, I will maintain that the new birth is what makes us a child of God (although this act is also called adoption), and that we are born by the will of God in response to us receiving Christ (yes, I know that it is not calvinistic to say that we receive Christ, but that is what the Bible says).
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13
In this beautiful text which reveals the super-abounding love of God for His people (1 John 3:1), we see the coloration between a number of theological terms: the act of receiving Christ is equated with believing on Him. To become the son of God is equated with being born of God. Now the later is logically required. Can I be born of God and not be the son of God? Can He not be my Father? We become the sons of God because we were born of Him and this text shows that to be true. 

Also, we see an order laid forth. It does not say that we were born of God, then believed, then were made the sons of God (logical fallacy would be the result), but rather that we believe/receive Christ, then are born of the will of God and become His sons. Thus the hardline Calvinist argument that one must be born again in order to believe on Christ, is hereby shown unscriptural.

I have seen and heard multiple Calvinists make the argument that if one is saved because he choose to believe in the Lord, then he in the end saved himself because salvation then was conditioned on his choice or faith. This is a faulty argument in more ways than one, but just from a scriptural standpoint, this text says that as many as believe are given the power to become the sons of God, and yet they were not born of their own will, but of the will of God. It is fully scriptural to say, Thy faith hath saved you, go in peace (Luke 7:50), and at the same time say that you were not born (saved) of the will of man, but of God. 

In conclusion then, on the first point of Calvinism, we find that it has some truth and some error. Man on his own cannot believe. John 6:44, "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." Man is dead in his sins, not sick. Man is so radically depraved that every deed he does is inherently corrupt. Salvation is Monergistic in the sense that men are born not of their own will, but of God's. No man ever determined his own salvation, and even his very faith is the work of God: "Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." John 6:29. But the Calvinist errors in his understanding of spiritual death, spiritual life, justification and regeneration, as well as in issues of what God can do in a dead sinners heart without first regenerating him. In this error, the gospel of salvation by faith is in theory rejected for a possibly noble, though mightily errored, radical view of monergistic salvation. They fail to see that salvation can be all of God and by His will alone, yet still require faith as the condition and avenue of eternal life.

Unconditional Election

I agree with this point. John 6:37, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."

Rom. 9:11, 15-16, "(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."

Point concluded.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sovereign Grace Part 3 - Saved by Faith? Calvinism Says No!

In the last post, I made the argument that Calvinistic Total Depravity, while correct in it's strictest and smallest definition, actually misdefines spiritual death and teaches that just like a corpse cannot see or hear before being raised from the dead, so spiritually dead men cannot see or hear without being regenerated (born again, raised to new life). R. C. Sproul put it this way:
In contrast to all forms of Semi-Pelagianism, Augustianian and Reformed theology teaches that the grace of regeneration is a monergistic work that is done by God alone because it is a work only God can do. It is a work accomplished on us and in us by which our very natures are changed. It is at once a divine act of re-creation and of liberation. By re-creation we are quickened to spiritual life, or raised from the state of spiritual death. 

Regeneration is not a joint venture. We do not cooperate in it because we will not cooperate in spiritual matters while we are still dead in our sins. Our hearts are totally disinclined and indisposed to the things of God. We love darkness and will not have God in our thinking. The desires of our hearts are enslaved to sin. We will never choose Christ until or unless we are liberated from that slavery. In short, we are morally unable to exercise faith until and unless we are first regenerated. 

This is why the axiom of Reformed theology is that regeneration precedes faith. Rebirth is a necessary pre-condition for faith. Faith is not possible for spiritually dead creatures. Therefore, we contend that apart from spiritual rebirth there can be no faith. - Dead Men Walking
In this post then, I want to look at two things: can the spiritually dead see and hear the gospel before life is granted, and is the above actually a denial of the very essence of the gospel of salvation by faith in Christ?

First question, can the dead be made to see and hear the truth of the gospel (and brought to saving faith) without being brought to a place of spiritual life first? I want to answer this question both directly and indirectly with the Scriptures. First, directly: John 5:25, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." There is no question about it. The dead hear and they that hear live. Quoting Isaiah, "For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." Acts 28:27 The healing (by his stripes we are healed), occurs after they see, hear, and understand, and are converted (that is they repented from themselves and turned to God).

So said, the direct testimony being given, I will now take the indirect path in two directions - first, by maintaining that there can be no life apart from faith and that therefore dead men must be able to be given by the Spirit of God eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to believe prior to faith in order that they might be made alive, and second, that justification (forgiveness of sins, declaration of righteousness) is required before a man can be alive in Christ and being that justification is by faith, spiritually dead are capable of faith when acted upon by the Spirit of God.

There can be no life prior to faith: John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Believe and you have life, but without faith, you will not ever have life and are under the wrath of God. John 20:31, "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." Believing you have life, not having life you believe. John 6:53, 57, "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." We live by faith. except you eat Christ, you can have no life. Therefore, dead men must be able to be given faith and repentance to come to Christ and believing in Him, given life.

Justification is by faith: Remember the definition I gave of spiritual death? It is the separation of man from God because of sin. We were dead in our trespasses and sins Paul said in Eph. 2:1. The only way to be alive then is to be brought from the place of being in our sins and separated from God, to being dead to sin (1 Peter 2:24) and reconciled to God (Col. 1:21). In other words, our sins which separated us from Christ must be forgiven and we must be brought into union with Christ. "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;" Col. 2:13 If the reformed view of regeneration is correct, then justification, the forgiveness of sins and the declaration of righteousness, must occur prior to and without context to faith in Jesus Christ. There can be no life for the man still in his trespasses and sins and separated from the righteousness which is in Christ Jesus (John 5:12). He has had no forgiveness and the wrath of God still abides on Him. He is separated from God and has no life in Christ. Yet they say that a man cannot have faith before he is made alive. Therefore he cannot have faith till he be forgiven and therefore he is forgiven, he is justified without reference to faith in Jesus Christ.

What then does the Scripture teach? As you will see from the following passages, the entire testimony of Scripture stands in opposition to this Calvinistic doctrine of regeneration prior to faith. Acts 10:43, "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Faith most assuredly comes prior to forgiveness of sins.  "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." Acts 13:38-39. All that believe are justified (forgiven/declared righteous)... Rom 3:24-28, "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." Christ is the propitiation through faith in His blood. No propitiation occurs apart from it. God justifies those who believe, and no one else. Man is justified, forgiven, declared righteous by faith.  Rom. 5:1-2, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Justification, reconciliation - peace - with God, life in Christ, access to saving grace in Christ Jesus, is granted through faith! The work of the minister of Jesus Christ is revealed in the the order given to the Apostle Paul: Act 26:18, "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." Their eyes must be opened, they must be turned from Satan to God that they may receive the forgiveness of sins by faith.

Second Question (referenced nearer the beginning of this post) Does Calvinism actually deny the essence of the gospel message of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ? What is the problem then that we see with Calvinistic TD? It requires that man be saved in order to have faith. Salvation they actually believe is all of God in such a way that man is saved without faith in Jesus Christ. The entire message of the Gospel, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, is thrown out the window when they require that a man be raised again to life in Christ before he may believe on Him. I love Spurgeon, but he got this wrong too: "Faith in the living God and his Son Jesus Christ is always the result of the new birth, and can never exist except in the regenerate. Whoever has faith is a saved man." The new birth, regeneration, eternal life, salvation, justification, these are all wrapped up in each other. If we are we are saved by faith, we are forgiven by faith, we are justified by faith, we are reconciled by faith, we are given eternal life by faith. No aspect of salvation occurs before faith, only the opening of the heart and mind to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the moving of the heart in repentance occurs prior to faith, by the act of the spirit of God in the heart of the dead sinner.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved! Preach my dear friends with boldness, for by the foolishness of preaching God will save those who believe.

End of Part Three.

In part four, I would like to examine the new birth and faith in Christ as revealed in John 1, and then move on to Unconditional Election (which will be a lot shorter than this point was as I actually agree with it). 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sovereign Grace Part 2

{I shall be the first to admit that I am not much of a writer, my flow of thought is not always the most orderly (shotgun approach you might say, I try to keep a tight pattern, but sometimes it is a bit scattered), and I have a tendency to make incomplete arguments by failing to make clear the many assumptions that often go into a particular position. So, my apologies if this set of posts flops in any or all of the above... Also, this really needs to be much more extensive than a blog is conducive to, so I apologize for being so brief in my use of Scripture, supporting quotes, etc.}

Before I begin a more in-depth look at the five points, I wanted to hit on a particular claim which I have heard and seen on several occasions:

5PC is the gospel, anything else is a false gospel. "Charles Spurgeon rightly stated that 'Calvinism is nothing more than a nickname for Biblical Christianity.'" - Dr. C. Matthew McMahon. Monergism Books has the following on their website: "Come learn what the great Baptist preacher C.H. Spurgeon meant when he said, '…to deny Calvinism is to deny the gospel of Jesus Christ.'" See further I must make it clear that this series of posts is not attacking the gospel of Christ as defined by the Apostle Paul: "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved...For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." Paul says that the gospel of Jesus Christ which saved sinners is the good news about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not TULIP. TULIP is not the gospel, but rather a system of theology providing a model of how God saves people. Not one of the five points is included in the gospel message, i.e., we are not saved by believing in the doctrine of depravity, though one must believe he is a condemned sinner who can do nothing to save himself in order to come to Christ; we are not saved by believing in election, though election determined the people of God; we are not saved by believing in limited atonement, this is not even true; we are not saved by believing in irresistible grace, though it is that grace which works mightily unto repentance and saving faith; and we are not saved by believing in the perseverance of the saints, though true saints will persevere unto the end. While some aspects are biblical doctrine then, they are biblical doctrine, not the gospel of Jesus Christ. One does not have to be a 5PC to believe the good news of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.   

In actuality, 5PC requires, if one is consistent with it, that we not preach the gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul taught. It actually turns salvation by faith completely on its head, renders faith unnecessary for salvation, and makes it impossible to preach the gospel. I will deal with those issues as we go on, but it must be clear that TULIP and the gospel two different things and a rejection of the first is not an inherent rejection of the other.  

So on to the five points:

Total Depravity

Defined: "When we speak of man's depravity we mean man's natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man....In summary, total depravity means that our rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sin, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment." - John Piper "Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto." - Westminster Confession

On the surface, I agree with this point. Man is totally, or radically, depraved, in and of himself. He is the arch enemy of God by birth, and nothing in man will ever change that. But that surface definition is not all that this point is actually said to teach. The doctrine is expanded in its application and implication to the point that the gospel is turned upside down.

The doctrine of calvinistic Total Depravity (TD) teaches that man is dead in his sins and that being so dead, cannot have faith in Christ till he be made alive. (In this, the doctrine of irresistible grace and total depravity come together in the Calvinist scheme, but that is for a later post.) In other words, the idea of death in TD is the same as physical death, just in the spiritual realm. A spiritually dead man is a spiritual corpse, and as a corpse can do nothing till it be raised to life, so a spiritually dead man can do nothing till he be raised to life. "The doctrines of total depravity and spiritual inability are foundational to one’s understanding of the nature of Christ’s redemptive work. If men are dead in sin, helpless, spiritually blind and cannot believe in Christ; then the salvation of sinners of necessity involves much more than Christ dying for all men and then waiting passively to see who will accept His gift. If unsaved men are unable to choose or to will any spiritual good, then apart from a spiritual rebirth, no man would choose Christ...But, we ask, can the Arminian position be true biblically or even logically if men are spiritually dead and don’t simply need a gentle push or a little medicine? What if men need a spiritual heart transplant, a spiritual resurrection, a quickening? The diagnosis determines the nature of the remedy. A biblical understanding of man’s state after the fall ought to cure us of the sinful and somewhat blasphemous notion that a thrice holy God has associated Himself with sinful depraved man as only a minor partial cause of a sinner’s salvation. The fact that the natural man is a spiritual corpse without any ability to seek God or take even one step toward Jesus means: that regeneration must precede and not follow saving faith...The apostle also teaches that spiritual death is the universal state of all men apart from Christ. According to God’s infallible Word the state of spiritual death can only be remedied by a direct act of God upon the human heart, a spiritual quickening. This fact is totally at odds with the common modern evangelical notion that unregenerate man has the ability to choose Christ. According to Paul regeneration must precede saving faith. Paul, under divine inspiration, used the word “dead” for a reason. There is no middle ground between being alive and being dead. Unregenerate men are not just sick, handicapped or impaired but dead....Obviously, a man who is spiritually dead can no more see spiritual truth or choose Christ than a rotting corpse can play tennis or debate philosophy." - Man’s Need of Salvation: Total Depravity and Man’s Inability, Brian Schwertley

The error here is subtle: man left to himself is just as this describes, but the application is wrong because death is improperly defined. When a man dies physically, his spirit is separated from his body (Ecc. 12:7). His body is inert, incapable of anything at all, good or bad, and becomes dust. Spiritual death is not so, but similar. Christ alone is life (John 11:25, 14:6), and apart from him, you cannot have life. Therefore, when man has sin on his account and he is separated from God (Is. 59:2), he is separated from life and is therefore dead. The spiritually dead man who dies is eternally separated from life at the judgment and thus dies the second death. What is not the same with physical death, however, is that the spirit of man is not a corpse, but rather an eternal living entity. Death is merely the separation from God, not inertness. The spirit in hell is as much alive as the spirit in heaven, but it is spiritually dead. The spiritually dead spirit may commit much evil, unlike the physical corpse, may worship demons and Satan, etc. By being separated from God however, it was made by sin the enemy of God, and only by God intervening can the spirit respond and understand the things of God (they are spiritually discerned). Hang with me now. What this means is that the spirit apart from God's involvement is wholly set against God and cannot see or hear the things of God. Christ said, "He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." John 8:47. But since the spirit is not a corpse, does the claim that the only way for a man to see and hear the gospel is for him to be regenerated?  (The Lord Jesus Christ taught that the human nature is so thoroughly ruined and corrupted by the fall that the Holy Spirit must first radically change it before a person can understand and embrace spiritual truths. - Brian Schwertley)

As we will see in part three, Christ taught that the Spirit of God can make the spiritually dead hear and see before they are regenerated and that this is fundamental to the gospel. Only hostility is an option if God is not involved, but God has the ability to open the unregenerate heart to see and hear that it might live again. 

5 Point Calvinism or Sovereign Grace? Can There Be a Difference?

I believe in Sovereign Grace, but I'm not a Calvinist and, over the course of the last few weeks, it seems as though the subject of 5 Point Calvinism has come up repeatedly in relation to preaching the gospel. Seeing the the gospel, the good news of the death of Christ, His burial, and His resurrection to the right hand of God is the central message of the Christian faith, I have decided to see if I could put together a couple short posts on the subject.

Before I begin, I want to be clear about a couple things. First, I love my 5 Point brothers and sisters in Christ and I love my Free Will friends in Christ. So long as you preach the good news of salvation by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, I will gladly stand with either side in the preaching of the gospel. While I will take a strong stand from the Scriptures on these points, it does not change my my willingness to associate with people on both sides and in the middle on these issues. Second, I am not writing to pick a fight, but rather to encourage my 5 Point brothers in Christ to grasp hold of what I believe to be a more biblical understanding of the gospel and therefore to become zealous for its proclamation. Now, I don't mean to say that there are not 5 Pointers that are zealous for the gospel, but that consistent Calvinism (not Hyper Calvinism) hinders the gospel, changes the gospel, and deadens zeal for the salvation of sinners. While most 5 Pointers are not wholly consistent with their professed belief, many suffer from various amounts of the above. I want this series to promote love, good works, and a heart for lost souls among the brethren, not start a fight. Third, I write with the desire that the Lamb that was slain would receive the reward of His suffering - and He has ordained that that reward should be gained through the foolishness of preaching. Oh that there should be more laborers who would go forth with the gospel of Christ, weeping and bearing precious seed. If by any means I can, through biblical exposition of the Word, motivate men to preach without fear and without shame the cross of Christ, I should be overjoyed.

OK, on to business: Can one believe in Sovereign Grace - a grace which through the power of God brings to saving faith a people chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world - and not be a 5 Point Calvinist? Most Calvinists would say no, the points are an indivisible unit which stand or fall together. ("These five points that we have studied really comprise one unified system of Biblical doctrine. Each point necessarily follows the other. They stand or fall together." - Pastor Zack Guess) If God saves man (monergism), then 5 Point Calvinism (5PC) is true. The only other option they say is that man saves himself (synergism) and that is the Free Will (FW) position according to them seeing that salvation is conditioned upon the man believing in this view. My contention is that the FW position is not of necessity synergistic (the cooperation of man in God in saving man) and that a monergistic (God saves without the cooperation of man) view is not of necessity 5PC. I'm not here to argue Arminianism, but to support that claim here is a quote from an Arminian website: "The Arminian perspective is that God saves man. It is God’s power that effects salvation. Man is able to resist God. So even though God desires all men to be saved, he does not force salvation; this also means he does not change their will so that they may desire salvation, even though God woos men, and can limit man’s actions...Arminians also believe that God saves men by an act of his grace. Yes, this may be because of our faith, but that is only because God has set the condition of faith. Thus man cannot save himself of his own accord. And if man wished to be saved and God declined to offer salvation then men would remain unsaved. Man does not have the power to save anyone including himself. This is not because salvation is logically impossible, it is clearly intrinsically possible as God can save people. But man lacks the capacity to save. The inability for man to save himself is a true limitation." - Arminianism and synergism, 

End of post one.... More later.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pyrotechnics Backyard Style

Start with a fire....

Then add a few household ingredients....


(No gasoline was used in this display. One ingredient is commonly found on people's counters, tables, shelves, and/or fireplace mantles and the other is a standard part of your medicine cabinet.)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Home on the Range

Psalm 90:1-2,
 "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God."
Psalm 121:1-2,
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.

Oh, give me a home
Where the mountain goats roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
Where seldom is heard
A discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day

Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

Some more clues as to the location of the picture in my last post (picture credit goes to my parents):

 School built in the late 1800's
 Cattle Country
100 years ago...
Ok, maybe not. This is Amish Country!
An Old Ranch
Bighorn Rams
Beautiful Views
Miles of Ranch Land
Horse Country
Natural Rock Climbers

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Destination: Hometown

If the Lord should so will, I want to live here someday:

(Obtained from Google Earth)
Can you guess where?

Sunset in North Carolina

Taken while driving to Indiana on Thursday.

Contradiction in Terms

Spied this church in Raleigh, NC a few weeks ago:

Open Door Chapel....

And on the front door:

Hmmm... :-)

Monday, August 6, 2012

A New Record...

Greetings in the name of Christ from Goshen, IN.

My longest straight through drive was from San Antonio to Raleigh back in 2010. I was alone and driving a old RV that had a hard time going over 55. The distance was around 1400 miles and it took me about 36 hours.

On Thursday, I set a new record: I left Wake Forest, North Carolina at 7:30 PM after a full day of work. I made my first stop near Bellefontaine, OH... 9 hours/530 miles later (my car can drive about 550 miles on a full tank, highway miles). So while it wasn't my longest straight through drive, it was definitely the longest nonstop leg I have ever done. My trip ended a couple hours later here in Goshen, IN for a total overnight trip of just over 700 miles.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Snapped with my cell phone on the way home from work today. 
A severe storm was just ahead with a goodly amount of lightning and rain.