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

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). 

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