Support us with your Logos purchase

Tag: General Theology

Regeneration and the New Birth

Regeneration and the New Birth

In Jn 3:1-8, Jesus discusses one of the foundational doctrines (i.e., teachings, foundational principles, basis of belief) of the Christian faith: regeneration (Tit 3:5), or spiritual birth. Without being “born again” in a spiritual sense, a person cannot become part of God’s kingdom. This means that a person’s life must be spiritually renewed in order to be spiritually saved and to receive God’s gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. The following are important facts about spiritual birth and renewal.

  1. Regeneration, or spiritual birth, is an inward re-creating of a person spiritually–a life transformation (total change or remaking of the person’s attitude, thinking, and actions) that occurs from the inside out (Ro 12:2; Eph 4:23-24). It is a work of the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:6; Tit 3:5; and through this work of transformation, God passes on his gift of eternal life. It marks the beginning of a new and personal relationship with God for those who yield their lives to Christ (Jn 3:16; 2Pe 1:4; 1Jn 5:11). Spiritual birth is the way a person becomes a child of God (Jn 1:12; Ro 8:16-17; Gal 3:26) and a “new creation” (2Co 5:17; Col 3:9-10). A person who is born again spiritually will no longer conform or live according to the character and influence of the ungodly beliefs, behaviors, and lifestyles of the world (Ro 12:2). Instead, he or she is “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24;

  2. Spiritual birth is necessary because all people, apart from Christ, are sinful by nature (i.e., separated from and in opposition to God) from birth. On our own, we are not capable of having a close personal relationship with God. Without the life-transforming power of his Holy Spirit, we could not continue to obey and please God (Ps 51:5; Jer 17:9; Ro 8:7-8; 1Co 2:14; Eph 2:3.

  1. Spiritual birth happens to those who repent of sin (i.e., admit their sin and turn from their own way), turn to God (Mt 3:2) and yield control of their lives to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord–the Forgiver of their sins and Leader of their lives (see Jn 1:12, note). The beginning of this experience of spiritual salvation involves “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Tit 3:5). Though spiritual birth is an immediate experience that takes place as soon as a person truly repents and accepts God’s forgiveness, God continually renews and transforms a Christian’s mind (Ro 12:2) and inner being (Eph 4:23). This spiritual renewal is an ongoing, “day-by-day” process (2Co 4:16;)

  1. Spiritual birth involves a transition, or complete change, from an old life of sin (i.e., going our own way, which is a path of rebellion against God) to a new life of obedience to Jesus Christ (2Co 5:17; Gal 6:15; Eph 4:23-24; Col 3:10). This means that there should be noticeable changes in a Christian’s attitude and lifestyle (see 1Pe 4:1-2). Those who are truly born again are set free from slavery to sin so they can fulfill God’s purpose for their lives (see Jn 8:36, note; Ro 6:14-23). They receive a renewed attitude and desire to obey God and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit (Ro 8:13-14). By depending on him, they do what is right by God’s standards (1Jn 2:29), they love others in words and actions (1Jn 4:7), they avoid things that defy and displease God (1Jn 3:9; 5:18) and they do not set their affections on temporary, worldly things (1Jn 2:15-16).

  2. Those who are born again spiritually cannot continue to sin (i.e., go their own way, ignore, or defy God’s commands and standards; see 1Jn 3:9, note). They cannot remain in a right personal relationship with God unless they earnestly pursue God’s purposes and carefully avoid evil (1Jn 1:5-7). This is possible only by relying on God’s grace (i.e., his undeserved favor, mercy, and empowerment; see 1Jn 2:3-11, 15-17, 24-29; 3:6-24; 4:7-8, 20; 5:1), by maintaining a strong and growing relationship with Christ (see Jn 15:4, note) and by depending on the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit (Ro 8:2-14). For further comments on the character traits that should be evident in a spiritually born-again person.

 NATURE AND THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT.

  1. It does not matter how spiritual a person may talk, seem or claim to be, if he or she lives by principles that are immoral and follows the ways of the world, the person’s conduct shows that there is no spiritual life within and that he or she is instead living like a child of the devil (1Jn 3:6-10).

  2. Just as a person can be “born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:8) by trusting God and receiving his gifts of forgiveness and eternal life, he or she can also forfeit, or lose, that life by making foolish, selfish and ungodly choices and by refusing to trust God. As a result, he or she will miss out on the life God offers and will die spiritually. God’s Word warns, “if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die” (Ro 8:13). Even as believers, if we continue the path of sin and refuse to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance (which he gives mainly through God’s Word and our conscience), we can put out the light of God’s life in our soul and lose our place in God’s kingdom (cf. Mt 12:31-32; 1Co 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Heb 6:4-6; 1Jn 5:16.

  3. The new birth that comes only through God’s Spirit cannot be compared equally with physical birth because God’s relationship with his followers is a spiritual matter rather than an act of the flesh or human effort (Jn 3:6). This also means that while the physical tie of a father and child can never be completely reversed or lost, the Father/child relationship that God desires with us is voluntary; and we can choose to walk away or deny it during our time on earth (see Ro 8:13, note). Our relationship with God and eternal life with him are conditional and depend on our ongoing faith in Christ that is shown by lives of obedience and genuine love for him (Ro 8:12-14; 2Ti 2:12).

     In summary, spiritual birth, or regeneration, brings: spiritual cleansing (Jn 3:5; Tit 3:5); the indwelling of God’s Spirit (Ro 8:9; 2Co 1:22); transformation into a “new creation” in Christ (2Co 5:17); adoption as God’s spiritual child (Jn 1:12-13; Ro 8:16; Gal 3:26; 4:4-6); the Holy Spirit’s guidance and understanding of spiritual things (Jn 16:13-15; 1Co 2:9-16; 1Jn 2:27); the ability to live right by God’s standards and to develop his character traits (Gal 5:16-23; 1Jn 2:29; 5:1-2); victory over sin (1Jn 3:9; 5:4, 18); and an eternal inheritance with Christ (Ro 8:17; Gal 4:7; 1Pe 1:3-4).

 

Excerpted from the Life in the Spirit Study Bible c. 2008 by Life Publishers International in association with Zondervan

What is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel?

The Gospel

 

God created the world and made us to be in loving relationship with him. Though created good, human nature became fatally flawed, and we are now all out of step with God. In Bible language, we are sinners, guilty before God and separated from him.

The good news of the Gospel is that God took loving action in Jesus Christ to save us from this dire situation. The key facts of this divine remedy are these: God the Father sent his eternal Son into this world to reconcile us to himself, to free us to love and serve him, and to prepare us to share his glory in the life to come. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit, lived a perfect life, died for our sins, and rose bodily from the dead to restore us to God. Given authority by his Father, Jesus now rules in heaven as King over all things, advancing God’s kingdom throughout the world. In the fullness of time, Jesus will return to establish his kingdom in its glory on earth, and all things will be renewed.

Reigning in heaven over all things, Jesus Christ continues to draw sinners to himself. He enables us by his Holy Spirit to turn wholeheartedly from our sinful and self-centered ways (repentance), and to entrust ourselves to him to live in union and communion with him (faith). In spiritual terms, sin is the way of death, and fellowship with Christ is the way of life.

Turning to Christ

Turning to Christ brings us into fellowship with God. Baptism, which is the rite of entry into the Church’s fellowship, marks the beginning of this new life in Christ. The apostle Peter, proclaiming the Gospel, said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Through faith, repentance, and Baptism we are spiritually united to Jesus and become children of God the Father. Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” ( John 14:6). As we come to the Father through Jesus Christ, God the Holy Spirit enlightens our minds and hearts to know him, and we are born again spiritu- ally to new life. To continue to live faithfully as Christians, we must rely upon the power and gifts which the Holy Spirit gives to God’s people.

When the disciple Thomas encountered the risen Jesus, he acknowledged him by saying, “My Lord and my God!” ( John 20:28). To be a Christian you must, like Thomas, wholeheartedly submit to the living Christ as your Lord and God. Knowing the Lord Jesus means personally believing in him, surrendering your life to him through repentance and Baptism, and living as one of his joyful followers.

A clear way to make this commitment of faith and repentance is to offer to God a prayer in which you

  • confess your sins to God, being as specific as possible, and repent by turning from them;
  • thank God for his mercy and forgiveness given to you in Jesus Christ;
  • promise to follow and obey Jesus as your Lord;
  • ask the Holy Spirit to help you be faithful to Jesus as yo grow into spiritual maturity.
    One example of such a prayer is the following:Almighty Father, I confess that I have sinned against you in my thoughts, words, and actions (especially __________). I am truly sorry and humbly repent. Thank you for forgiving my sins through the death of your Son, Jesus. I turn to you and give you my life. Fill and strengthen me with your Holy Spirit to love you, to follow Jesus as my Lord in the fellowship of his Church, and to become more like him each day. Amen. 
  •  
Excerpted from “To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism”
Copyright © 2020 by The Anglican Church in North America
Published by Crossway
Is Arminianism Heretical? (An analysis and guest post from James Quiggle)

Is Arminianism Heretical? (An analysis and guest post from James Quiggle)

Many Calvinsts are quick to damn those who hold to Arminianism as heretics, but are they really? In this fascinating essay, Visiting Professor James Quiggle, a frequent and beloved guest, here, endevors to answer this question with technical precision and Christian charity.

Is Arminianism Heretical?

I understand Calvinism and Arminian soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). I am qualified to render an opinion on Arminianism as to heretical or not. If the details of theology are not your thing, keep reading anyway. We also need to look at some history.

Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) developed his soteriological views in opposition to the supralapsarianism order of God’s decrees (respecting salvation) which were developed by John Calvin (1509–1564) and others, of what today is known as high Calvinism.

In the supralapsarian order of God’s decrees (respecting salvation) an election to both salvation and to reprobation is the first decree. The supra- order is: decree to elect to salvation and reprobation (damnation); decree to create; decree to permit the fall; decree to send Christ to redeem those elected to salvation; decree to send the Holy Spirit to effect salvation.

Here is the significance: in the supralapsarian order no human being was seen by God as a sinner when God elected some to be saved and some to be damned. The supralapsarian order is based solely on God’s sovereignty, at a time in the order of God’s decrees when no human being was seen by God as a sinner. The Arminian view of soteriology was developed to oppose the supralapsarian view that non-sinners were elected to reprobation (eternal damnation).

The “Five points of Arminianism” were developed a few years after Arminius’ death by his followers, as a means to systematically express their disagreement with the, at that time, prevailing supralapsarian view. The Synod of Dort and its Canons (doctrines) were a direct response to the Arminian five points. Is it important? The Synod thought so, they took seven months (Nov 1618 – May 1619), and 154 open-to-the-public sessions (and many side conferences), to discuss the issues.

The “Five Points of Calvinism” were developed *after* the Synod, based on their Canons. The ideas were in the Canons, but not stated in five points. Those five points *do not* express supralapsarianism, but express an order of God’s decrees that came to be known as infralapsarianism. (Both the Arminian five points and the Canons of the Synod of Dort are available online.) (BTW, the earliest known, documented use of the acronym TULIP was 1905.)

The word “lapsarian” means “after the lapse.” The “lapse” is the fall of humankind into sin. The word “supra” means “above, before.” “Supralapsarian” means “before the lapse, i.e., God elected some to salvation and others to damnation before the fall into sin. The word “infra” means “below, after.” Infralapsarian means “after the lapse,” i.e., God elected some to salvation after the fall into sin. There is no election to reprobation in infralapsarianism.

The infralapsarian order of God’s decrees is this: decree to create; decree to permit the fall; decree to elect some to salvation (no election to reprobation); decree to provide a redeemer for the elect; decree to send the Holy Spirit to effect salvation.

There is third order in Calvinistic soteriology, the sublapsarian order: decree to create; decree to permit the fall; decree to provide a redeemer; decree to elect some to salvation; decree to send the Holy Spirit to effect salvation.

Supra- sees no person as a sinner when God decreed his election. The significance of infra- and sub- is God saw all persons as sinners before he elected some to salvation, and left others are they were, as non-elect sinners. The difference between infra- and sub-, is when God decreed to provide a redeemer in relation to the decree of election. In infra- the redeemer is provided after election. In sub- the redeemer is provided before election.

Many Calvinists’ opposed the supra- election to reprobation, is why the infra- and sublapsarian views were developed. Is the difference between sub- and infra- important? Yes, in infra- the benefits of Christ’s propitiation of God for sin are directed only toward the elect. In sub- the benefits extend to all humankind: mercy and common grace to all human beings; salvation to the elect. As the Synod of Dort stated: Christ’s propitiation was sufficient for all, efficient to salvation for the elect.

Calvinistic ”Unconditional Election” is sometimes described as “God elected on the basis of his free grace.” No, “free grace,” aka, sovereign grace, is the consequence of election, not the basis of election. Here is genuinely biblical Unconditional Election: God chose some to salvation for no reason explained in the Scripture—we don’t know why.

The unconditional election of some to salvation but not others was not based on any merit or lack of merit in the person, thus not based on foresight of who would or who would not believe. God chose for reasons known only to God that suited his purpose in creating. The choice was neither arbitrary nor unjust: God viewed all persons as sinners before electing some to salvation, choosing to leave others as they were. Election does not prejudice God against the non-elect; they could be saved if they would come to God with faith in God and his testimony as to the way of salvation. They are not saved because they desire their sin more than a relationship with God.

The Arminian “Conditional Election” was not specifically written to oppose sovereign grace, but to oppose the supralapsarian election to reprobation. The Arminian view of election is known as “foresight election”: God foreknew who would believe and then elected those people to salvation. The Arminianism “Conditional Election,” naturally opposes supralapsarian election to salvation and election to reprobation. But Arminian “Conditional Election” also opposes the infralapsarian, sublapsarian, and biblical views of unconditional election.

Arminian soteriology does believe salvation is by God’s grace, but they differ from Calvinism in how that grace is applied. In Calvinistic salvation God’s prevenient grace (Ephesians 2:8) is applied to specific individuals whom God elected to receive that grace. That prevenient grace is efficacious to save: every sinner receiving God’s efficacious grace will infallibly believe.

In Arminian salvation, God’s prevenient grace (Ephesians 2:8) is applied indiscriminately to everyone. That prevenient grace makes it possible for anyone to choose to believe. In Calvinistic soteriology, prevenient grace is necessary because sin makes the sinner unable to believe to salvation. In Arminian soteriology, prevenient grace makes salvation possible for all, sin does not make the sinner unable to believe, so anyone can believe, or not believe, as he or she chooses.

With that historical and theological background, I can now accurately state the thing in common between any system of Calvinistic soteriology (supra-, infra-, sub-) and Arminian soteriology. In both Calvinism and Arminian views of salvation, Christ propitiated God for sin, God elected, and God must give prevenient grace (Ephesians 2:8) for a sinner to be saved. Thus both soteriologies agree sinners are able to be saved. But both differ significantly in the details of how a person is saved.

If, **which it is not**, the differences between Calvinism and Arminian soteriology were the only defining quality between heretical and not heretical, then the Arminian soteriology is not the biblical soteriology. But, and this is important, neither is the high Calvinism supralapsarianism. Both are wrong for different reasons. In Calvinistic supralapsarianism God is a monster who arbitrarily elects to damnation people who have not sinned. In Arminian soteriology God is not the sovereign God who initiates salvation but the helpless God who responds to the choices of his creature.

What is biblical soteriology?

Unsaved sinners have Total Inability to initiate their salvation, because the sin attribute dominates every aspect of human nature;

God, for reasons not stated in the Scripture, chose to give some sinners his gift of Prevenient Grace, Ephesians 2:8, thereby effecting the means to their salvation; there is no corresponding election to reprobation;

God’s gift of prevenient grace is Efficacious Grace: it infallibly accomplishes the end for which it was given, which is the salvation of the chosen sinner;

Christ’s all-sufficient Propitiation of God (aka: atonement) for all human sin has benefits to all humankind (mercy, common grace), but is efficient to salvation only toward those whom God chose to receive its merit by his Efficacious Grace, through the person’s faith in God and God’s testimony; this is known as Limited Redemption;

All those whom God has saved will Persevere in the faith by faith to the end of life and beyond, because each is and will be endlessly maintained by the merit of Christ’s propitiation through God’s Efficacious Grace.

Or: Free Will Dominated by Sin; Christ’s All-sufficient Propitiation; Limited Redemption by Election; Enlivened by Efficacious Grace; Faith that Receives Salvation; Perseverance in the Faith by the Faith to the End.

Is the Arminian view of salvation heretical? No, but just barely. Arminian soteriology teaches God elected some to salvation, that salvation occurs because Christ propitiated God for sin, and God gives prevenient grace to salvation. The Scripture opposes other aspects of Arminian soteriology. But any soteriology that teaches salvation of the sinner through the forgiveness of sins based on the propitiation of Christ, which Arminianism does, cannot be judged wholly heretical.

Why is Election Unconditional (Guest Post by the Rev. Lasaro Flores)

Why is Election Unconditional (Guest Post by the Rev. Lasaro Flores)

We welcome a new visiting professor in this article. The Reverend Lasaro Flores, a dear friend of Pastor Matt presents us with a biblical look at why God’s Election of Sinners to Salvation is and MUST be unconditional…

 

Of course, in this article I’m dealing with God’s Election of sinners for Salvation. Both doctrines are involved, and include, God’s Grace. In Romans 11:5 it is called “the election of grace.” It goes without saying that Salvation is “by grace” (Ephesians 2:5,8). As most Christians accept that “grace” has the meaning of ‘unmerited and undeserved favor;’ therefore, on connecting “grace” with Election and Salvation, it simply means that God “elects” and “saves” us FREELY by His Grace! Therefore, BOTH are UNCONDITIONAL!!! If this is not true, then, it would mean that our Election and Salvation would depend on us sinners doing something “conditionally” in order for God to Elect and to Save us! In that case, we would have to throw out God’s Grace (and I say this reverently), out the window!

FIRST, here I would like to deal with Why Is Salvation Unconditional? Well, simply because we sinners are saved by God’s Grace; and NOT by anything that we do as a “condition” by which God has to save us. Ephesians 2:5,8 makes it very clear that we are “saved by grace.” Therefore, we can say without any doubt whatsoever that “we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved” (Acts 15:11); “for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11); and here “has appeared to all men” simply means God’s “so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3) has ‘shine upon, that is, become (literally) visible or (figuratively) known’ to all human beings wherever the Gospel is proclaimed, and is heard by anyone. But we have to say that absolutely NOT every sinner in the world “hears” the Gospel; and therefore, they die “having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12); and without the Grace of God they remain in the same state into eternity. Furthermore, it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Note that our salvation is ALL of God’s doing, that is, God saving us because it pleases Him! HALLELUJAH!

Therefore, since God’s Grace means that He ‘freely saves us by doing us the favor of saving us even though we don’t deserve to be saved,’ it is UNCONDITIONAL from FIRST to LAST, in that God “who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9). How much more does this proves that our Salvation is UNCONDITIONAL in that we didn’t even exist when it was “given”to us; but it was “reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4) for that particular moment in which He would save us UNCONDITIONALLY “by His Grace!!!” Therefore,to deny that our Salvation IS NOT by God’s Grace ALONE through Faith ALONE in the Lord Jesus Christ ALONE, and His Redemption provided by Him, is to say that God CANNOT, or is UNABLE save the “first” of sinners; but has to depend on the sinner for God to save him!

SECONDLY, let us consider with Why Is Election Unconditional? Note that it is stated God “has chosen us in Him (i.e. in Christ) BEFORE the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him, in love having predestinated us into the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He has made us accepted in the Beloved, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:4-5). Here we see Election and Salvation connected together in Christ Jesus to ALL that are Unconditionally Chosen in Christ in that God does it ALL Unconditionally; in other words, there are no “conditions” for us to fulfill and accomplish, in that it is ALL done by “the God of ALL grace” (1 Peter 5:10) as He pleases!!! Amen.

THIRDLY, it folows then, that, we are to be grateful that God has chosen us to be saved. The apostle Paul reminds the believers of the church of Thessalonica that “we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning CHOSEN YOU TO SALVATION through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: into which He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). The word here “chosen” is different than the one on Ephesians 1:4, which means ‘to select.’ Here it is ‘to take one for oneself, that is, prefer.’ Oh, how that should humble us to know that God chose us to be saved because He DETERMINED to take us for Himself, that is, preferred to choose us for salvation simply because it pleased Him to do so UNCONDITIONALLY!

FOURTHLY, our Election to Salvation was NOT dependent on anything of ourselves, or from ourselves: IT WAS ALL IN CHRIST JESUS HIMSELF IN WHOM WE ARE CHOSEN TO BE SAVED!!! What does this mean? God didn’t look to us, or “depend” on us, in order to be Elected or Saved! In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ IS the Elect of God (Isaiah 42:1): “Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine Elect, in whom My soul delights; I have put My Spirit upon Him: He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles” (cp. 1 Peter 2:4,6). As the Lord Jesus Christ IS the Elect of God from Eternity, and so in Him God chose ALL of His Elect (Ephesians 1:4) to “be holy and without blame before Him” in that God has made ALL the Elect “in Christ Jesus,” to be “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Amen.

FIFTHLY, in closing let me say this: Election and Salvation IS NOT APART from “testifying the Gospel of the Grace of God” (Acts 20:24); and so the ALL of the Elect will be saved by the means of hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They have to hear that Christ Jesus died for sinners on the Cross and resurrected bodily from the Grave. They have to hear that is demanded “Repentance toward God, and Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21); as He Himself declares: “Repent you, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). So, in asking: “What must I do be saved?” (Acts 16:30); the Scriptural response will be: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and YOU shall be saved…” (v.31); and ALL by Grace ALONE through Faith ALONE in the Lord Jesus Christ ALONE: ALL to the Glory of God ALONE!!! HALLELUJAH!!! Amen.

A Look at the Ordo Salutis (Guest Post)

A Look at the Ordo Salutis (Guest Post)

Our favorite visiting professor, James Quiggle, has once again brought us a very thought-provoking and interesting lesson. Below he takes us on a look at the ordo salutis…

The phrase “Ordo Salutis” is Latin for “order of salvation.” The Ordo Salutis is a theological construct attempting to place the works of God in salvation into a rational sequence of events.

The Ordo Salutis as generally accepted has two variations.

Election — Calling — Regeneration — Salvation — Justification — Adoption — Sanctification — Perseverance — Glorification.

Election — Calling – Salvation — Regeneration — Justification — Adoption — Sanctification — Perseverance — Glorification.

The difference in the variation is just this: does regeneration precede salvation, or does salvation precede regeneration.

Salvation is the result of the exercise of faith. Regeneration is typically viewed as the changes in human nature caused by the Holy Spirit as a result of salvation. The regeneration of human nature might be defined as the attributes of human nature, which were jumbled and wrongly prioritized by the sin attribute, are normalized, which is to say, godliness is restored to human nature through the godly attributes of holiness, righteousness, love, mercy, etc. The believer is given new wants and new desires. His/her human nature is re-prioritized toward God.

The difference in the two Ordo Salutis above is an effort to answer the question, “What is the origin of saving faith?” Now, without question, the ultimate origin of saving faith is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8. But some believe saving faith is the result of regeneration, while others believe regeneration is the result of saving faith.

Let me set aside the finer details (the ongoing debate) of those two points of view, and say there is some truth in each. There is an undeniable, and unalterable, and therefore inevitable principle that both views acknowledge, but neither view specifically answers. That principle is expressed in several locations in the New Testament, but stated clearly at 1 Corinthians 2:14. The principle is: the unsaved person cannot understand spiritual things.

That being the case, how does the unsaved person come to a necessary understanding of sin, the Savior, and salvation? The gospel in its simplest form is, “I am a sinner, the risen Jesus Christ is my Savior”: my sin, Jesus the Savior, my salvation from sin. But those spiritual concepts are “foolishness” to the unsaved person. He/she is incapable of understanding. Yes, the Holy Spirit brings conviction of those three necessary concepts, but he does not work in a spiritual vacuum. The sinner is unable to understand. The thing needed is the ability to perceive spiritual things.

In the here and now of the mortal unsaved life, the penalty of unforgiven sin is separation from the spiritual life of God, which is to say, spiritually “dead.” Spiritually dead means the ability to perceive spiritual things is in the unsaved person grossly dulled, “dead” in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1. Of course, the unsaved soul is not spiritually unresponsive; that is not what spiritually dead means. To be spiritually dead is 1) to lack the ability to understand spiritual things, and therefore 2) unremitting rejection of spiritual things as foolishness. In the context of salvation, the unsaved person is unable to discern the things the Holy Spirit teaches as necessary to believe for salvation.

How may that understanding be gained? Through the ability to perceive (understand) spiritual things. I believe spiritual perception is a faculty of human nature, an ability designed into the human soul by God. Sin renders that faculty grossly dulled, unable to comprehend spiritual things; hence 1 Corinthians 2:14. In the unsaved sinner the soul’s faculty of spiritual perception is “dead.”

What, then, must take place so the sinner is able to understand? My answer is the soul’s faculty of spiritual perception must be made alive for there to be understanding of spiritual things. How is this done? We return to the Ordo Sautis.

I think the regeneration that precedes salvation is partial (not a particularly good word, but the best I can do). I believe the gift of God (Eph 2:8) enlivens the soul’s faculty of spiritual perception so the spiritual issues of sin, the Savior, and salvation may be understood, and saving faith exercised. Then after the exercise of saving faith, the entire human nature is regenerated.

With that understanding, I see the Ordo Salutis as:

— Election

— Calling (through the Gift of God which enlivens the soul’s faculty of spiritual perception)

— Salvation

— Positional Justification

— Positional Sanctification

— Regeneration (of the entire human nature)

— Adoption (as son and heir)

— Perseverance (Experiential Sanctification)

— Glorification.

I have put the elements of the Ordo Salutis in what I believe to be a more reasonable order. Regardless of the order of salvation, the believer is saved to be a new creation in Christ Jesus.

Five Point Calvinism?? An Answer and an Apologetic (Guest Post)

Five Point Calvinism?? An Answer and an Apologetic (Guest Post)

That which is referred to as Calvinism, generally, and “5-point Calvinism,” specifically, is much misunderstood and maligned even moreso by those who mean well but lack a proper understanding of what we believe. To help us with that we are, once again, blessed to have received instruction from that dear friend and eminent theologian, James Quiggle. What folllows is his instrucion…

Every now and then I am asked if I am a “5-point Calvinist,” or a “4-point Calvinist,” or “Just what kind of Calvinist are you?!?”

Those questions reflect a misapprehension about Calvinism, even among Calvinists. The misapprehension is that Calvinism is a neither more nor less than a system of soteriology (doctrine of salvation). That, of course, is not true.

Calvinism was a revival of Augustinianism (Augustine of Hippo, d. AD 430). You are affirming the Calvinistic system of doctrine if you believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures, saved by grace through faith, the sovereignty of God, the three offices of the Christ (prophet, priest, king), the deity of Jesus Christ, and the deity, personality, and ministries of the Holy Spirit (conviction, salvation, teacher, administrator of the NT church, etc.). Calvin is, in fact, the person who defined for the NT church the person and work of the Holy Spirit as we understand that doctrine today.

But I digress.

Unfortunately, the entire Calvinistic system of theology has become defined by an acronym, the TULIP (explained below), developed from the Cannons of the Synod of Dort to express a Calvinistic view of soteriology. The Synod of Dort was a year-long examination of the soteriology of Jacobus Arminius. Both Arminius (1560–1609) and Calvin (1509–1564) were dead by the time of the Synod (1618–1619), so the theological conflict was debated by the followers of both systems of theology using the Bible and their respective writings. The decision of the Synod was published in a document known as the Canons of the Synod of Dort (available at many web sites). The Arminian view of soteriology was declared false, the biblical arguments of Calvinism were declared the true understanding of biblical soteriology.

But the TULIP does not accurately reflect Calvinistic soteriology as defined by the Canons of the Synod of Dort. Let us first examine the TULIP, albeit briefly. These may not be the definitions you have heard or read.

T — Total Depravity. This means every aspect of human nature—physical, moral, spiritual—is negatively affected by the sin attribute in human nature, with the result an unsaved human being is always in rebellion against God. The effect of the sin attribute on the spiritual aspect of human nature is to make the soul’s faculty of spiritual perception grossly dulled, to the extent the sinner is unable to comprehend spiritual matters, but instead rejects them, and as a result is unable to initiate saving faith.

U — Unconditional Election. This means God chose (election, Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2), for reasons not stated and therefore unknown, to give some human beings his gift of grace-faith-salvation (Ephesians 2:8), in order to redeem them from their sinful state of existence. And it means God chose to take no action, positive or negative, toward human beings he had not elected. God’s choices were not based on any intrinsic or foreseen merit in those whom he chose to elect to salvation, for when the decree of election was given, God saw all human beings as sinners, all completely undeserving of redemption.

L — I will explain this below.

I — Irresistible Grace. This means the grace God gives to an individual sinner through his gift of grace-faith-salvation (Ephesians 2:8) will enliven the sinner’s faculty of spiritual perception, so that the sinner who has received God’s gift will comprehend the spiritual issues of sin, the Savior, and salvation, with the result the sinner willingly chooses to exercise saving faith in God’s testimony as to the way/means of salvation. God’s gift of grace and faith always results in salvation.

P — Perseverance of the Saved. This means the saved person will continue in the faith by faith all the way through life and death, when (after death) he/she will receive the grace of indefectibility. Perseverance is often mischaracterized by another acronym, OSAS, Once Saved Always Saved, resulting in silly hypothetical questions from skeptics. Perseverance is not OSAS. Perseverance is both the continuance of faith and the continued practice of the faith. God gives the grace of perseverance to the believer, and the believer uses the grace of perseverance to mold his/her life of faith to continue in the faith by means of faith all the way through life and death.

Looking now to the 5-point/4-point issue. The “L” in the TULIP represents “Limited Atonement.” This is where the TULIP strays from the Canons of Dort. Limited atonement refers to Christ’s act of propitiation on the cross and his subsequent resurrection. It will be helpful to define Christ’s atonement-propitiation.

Propitiation. The satisfaction Christ made to God for sin by dying on the cross as the sin-bearer, 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10, for the crime of sin committed by human beings, suffering in their place and on their behalf. Christ’s propitiation fully satisfied God’s holiness and justice for the crime of sin. Christ’s propitiation was of infinite merit, because his Person is of infinite worth. Christ accomplished the propitiation of God for sin by enduring spiritual and physical death on the cross. Christ endured spiritual death when he was separated from fellowship with God (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”), and physical death when he separated his soul from his body (“[B]owing his head, he gave up his spirit.”)

But in the TULIP acronym, Christ’s propitiation, the “L,” has different meaning: Christ’s death on the cross to redeem the elect. This is often stated in the question, “For whom, did Christ die?” The TULIP answer is, only for the elect. But that is a significant departure from the Canons of Dort on which the TULIP is based.

The divines of the Synod of Dort were of two camps on the issue of Christ’s propitiation. Some believed in limited efficacy (only the elect are redeemed) and some believed in unlimited sufficiency (all the sins of the whole word are paid for). The Synod resolved this issue, as they did with all the issues, biblically. Both sides recognized the Scripture teaches both views. The Synod therefore taught both the universal sufficiency of the propitiation (atonement) and the limited effectiveness of the propitiation to save only the elect.

The Synod stated, Second Head of Doctrine, Article III, “The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.” Thus, the gospel is offered “to all persons promiscuously [indiscriminately] and without distinction” (Article V). That many die unsaved is not due to “any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves.” Thus, an Unlimited Atonement/Propitiation.

The Synod then stated, Second Head of Doctrine, Article VIII, “For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.” Thus, a Limited Redemption, sometimes known as Particular Redemption.

The “L” in the TULIP should have been “Limited Redemption,” not “Limited Atonement. Why did those who created the TULIP (not the divines of Dort) distort the teachings of the Synod? Because of a peculiar habit of the Puritans, perpetuated by Reformed Theology.

The Puritans had a bad habit of replacing the cause with the effect. The difference between election and predestination gives an example. The Puritans, and Reformed theology, always name election as predestination. But these are different decrees of God with different effects. Definitions.

Election. The choice of a sovereign God (Ephesians 1:4), 1) to give the gift of grace-faith-salvation to effect the salvation of some sinners (Ephesians 2:8), and 2) to take no action, positive or negative, to either effect or deny salvation to other sinners (Romans 10:13; Revelation 22:17). The decree of election includes all means necessary to effectuate salvation in those elected.

Predestination. God’s decree to conform the believer to be like Christ according to certain aspects of Christ’s spiritual character and physical form (Romans 8:29–30; 1 John 3:2), and to place the believer in the legal position of God’s son and heir (Ephesians 1:5, 11), so that the believer has an inheritance from God and is God’s heritage.

More simply, election is a decree concerning sinners, predestination is a decree concerning the saved. Election is the cause, predestination the effect. Election-salvation is the cause of the effect predestination: to be like Christ. But the Reformed theology goes straight to the effect and names election as predestination.

So too Christ’s propitiation and the sinner’s redemption. Christ’s propitiation completely satisfied God’s justice for the crime of human sin. Then, God’s justice having been satisfied, the infinite merit of the propitiation is applied by God according to his decree of election via his gift of grace-faith-salvation. Propitiation is the cause, redemption the effect. But the Reformed theology goes straight to the effect and names Christ’s propitiation/atonement as redemption. Thus the confusion caused by the TULIP, and Reformed soteriology.

When the Canons of Dort are faithfully expressed, then one’s soteriology must acknowledge unlimited atonement/propitiation and limited redemption. But because Reformed theology distorts the atonement/propitiation to be redemption, they reject unlimited atonement, calling it universal salvation.

Unlimited Atonement (propitiation), is not universal salvation, because the direct purpose of the atonement was not redemption but judicial satisfaction toward God for the crime of sin.

For an atonement (propitiation) to be redemptive it must be applied by faith to the sinner’s demerit (his or her sin). That is clear from every Old Testament sacrifice for sin. On the first Passover in Egypt, the merit of the lamb’s blood was sufficient for every household, but must be applied to each household to be effective for that particular household, Exodus 12:13. The blood of the sin offering, collected at the moment the animal was killed, was sufficient to atone for sin, but must be applied, Leviticus 5:5–7, to be efficient for forgiveness. The blood on the day of atonement was sufficient for all, but must be applied to the Ark of the Covenant to be efficient to forgive sins.

The direct purpose of Christ’s atonement-propitiation was toward God. The merit of Christ’s propitiation of God for the sins of the whole world, 1 John 2:2, is sufficient for all, so that the call of the gospel and the duty to believe may be legitimately offered to all and required of all.

The effect or result of the propitiation is the application of its merit toward sinners. That merit is specifically applied via God’s gift of grace-faith-salvation (the salvation principle, “saved by grace through faith”) as determined by God’s decree of election, in order to effect the redemption (salvation) of those whom God has chosen to salvation. Without application there is no redemption.

The unlimited merit of Christ’s propitiation could be applied save any non-elect person: “whoever believes,” as the Scripture states. God takes no action, pro or con, toward the non-elect, but leaves them in their sinful state. The non-elect are unable to initiate saving faith because unable without God’s gift to overcome the rebellion and disobedience engendered by the sin attribute in human nature. If they could believe, God would act savingly toward them, but they always choose to disbelieve, because that is the nature of the sinner.

Unlimited Atonement (Propitiation), Synod of Dort, Canon 2, Article 3, does not teach universal salvation: the merit of the propitiation must be individually applied through faith. Canon 2, Article 8, Limited Redemption, does not teach Christ died only for a particular group, but that the merit of his propitiation is applied only to the elect.

Thus: Unlimited Atonement/Propitiation, Limited (Particular) Redemption.

Returning now to the original question, “What is a 5-point Calvinist?” To be a five point Calvinist one must affirm all five points of the T, U, L, I, P. A four point Calvinist is someone who does not agree with Limited Atonement/Propitiation. A 4-pointer affirms T, U, I, P.

But, and it is a BIG objection, the 5-pointer, as discussed above, rejects the statement of the Canons of Dort concerning the unlimited sufficiency of the atonement, focusing only on the redemptive effect of the propitiation, not the limitless merit of the propitiation. This is, in part, due to Reformed theology’s definition of the purpose of God in the world: to redeem sinners. If God’s purpose in the world is redemption, then one must devise a theology that accounts for so many sinners not being redeemed. The Reformed theology solution is to limit the sufficiency of Christ’s propitiation to the redemption of the elect alone.

The 5-point Calvinist is a distortion of Scripture, and the 4-point Calvinist is a straw-man designed to support the untenable 5-point position. The dual perspective of Christ’s propitiation as “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” is the true Calvinist soteriology. This is the perspective of the Scripture. The dual perspective accounts for the universal call to believe, Romans 10:13, “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved,” and “Revelation 22:17, “Whoever desires let him take of the water of life freely.” The dual perspective accounts for the limited redemption effected by God’s choice. Ephesians 1:4, “God chose us in Christ before the creation of the universe,” and 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “God from the beginning chose you for salvation,” and 1 Peter 1:2, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

The “L” in the TULIP is too entrenched by centuries of false teaching to be changed. But if I could change it, that “L” would represent “Limited Redemption,” in agreement with the Canons of the Synod of Dort.

What is Dispensationalism (guest post from James Quiggle)

What is Dispensationalism (guest post from James Quiggle)

Dispensationalism views the world as a household run by God. Every household is run in a particular way, which we might call an “economy.”

From time to time God changes his economy—the way in which he runs his household—as human civilization develops. Those different economies are called “dispensations.” For example, we can see God ran his previous economy, the dispensation of the Mosaic Law, different than the way he runs his present economy, the dispensation of the NT church.

Dispensationalism as a theology is defined by three basic beliefs.

  1. The consistent application of the Literal hermeneutic (method of interpretation) to every Scripture and every doctrine. (In contrast, Reformed theology does not apply the Literal hermeneutic to eschatology—end times prophecy—but interprets by allegory or spiritualizing.)
  2. The NT church is not a new Israel, but a different people group in God’s plans. Dispensationalism believes God has a continuing plan for national ethic Israel and a different (but in some ways related) continuing plan for the NT church. (In contrast, Reformed theology believes the NT church has become the new Israel and God has transferred to the NT church all the promises he made to national ethic Israel, most now to be fulfilled spiritually, not literally.)
  3. The purpose of God in the world is his own glory. In contrast, Reformed theology, while it believes in God’s glory, believes God’s purpose in the world is salvation. Dispensationalism believes God gets glory not only from salvation but also from his justice on unsaved sinners, and how God leads his saved people in the world to victory over sin.

That is the basic outline.

Doctrine of Scripture

Doctrine of Scripture

THE SCRIPTURES INSPIRED

The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.

  • 2 Timothy 3:15-17, 1 Thessalonians 2:13 2 Peter 1:21

Matt Slick: “Verbal plenary inspiration means that every word found in the Bible is given to us by God(verbal), everything in the Bible is authoritative (plenary), and every word is also divinely directed (inspired). But, this does not mean that everything referenced in the Bible is also morally proper. For example, the Bible might record someone’s lie or a murder even though lying and murder are not approved of in Scripture. But the recording of the events is under the direction of God and is accurate.

The verbal plenary inspiration applies to the original manuscripts, also known as the autographs. It was the originals that were penned by the prophets and apostles that were given by God, authoritative, and  divinely directed. Presently we have copies of the original manuscripts but the copies are not perfect, though close to it. So, we have copies of inspired documents and for all intents and purposes the copies are inspired.

  • “The older phrase “plenary inspiration” meant that all the words of Scripture are God’s words (the word plenary means “full”), a fact that I affirm in this chapter without using the phrase.”
  • “Inspiration, plenary The “full” (plenary) inspiration of the Scriptures, in the sense that the whole Bible is inspired, not simply portions of it.
  • “inspiration, verbal theory of The view that God through the Holy Spirit directly guided the exact words recorded by the biblical writers as they wrote the Scriptures.”

Verbal plenary inspiration stands in opposition to partial inspiration which limits the inspired quality of the Bible in various ways whether it be restricting inspiration to doctrinal matters, or one author was inspired where another was not, or there are mistakes in historical events and geographical locations but the main thoughts are correct.”

 

THE SCRIPTURES INERRANT

If all Scripture is breathed out by God (theopneustos) then as a logical consequence, it must also be inerrant. Since God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), He would cease to be God if He breathed out errors and contradictions, even in the smallest part. So long as we give theopneustos its real meaning, we shall not find it hard to understand the full inerrancy of the Bible.

3 Things Inerrancy does not mean (from Answers in Genesis)

  • Inerrancy doesn’t mean everything in the Bible is true. We have the record of men lying (e.g., Joshua 9) and even the words of the devil himself. But we can be sure these are accurate records of what took place.
  • Inerrancy doesn’t mean apparent contradictions are not in the text, but these can be resolved. At times different words may be used in recounting what appears to be the same incident. For example, Matthew 3:11refers to John the Baptist carrying the sandals of the Messiah, whereas John 1:27 refers to him untying John preached over a period of time, and he would repeat himself; like any preacher he would use different ways of expressing the same thing.
  • Inerrancy doesn’t mean every extant copy is inerrant. It is important to understand that the doctrine of inerrancy only applies to the original manuscripts.

 

 

SOLA SCRIPTURA

The Bible and only the Bible is our all sufficient rule of faith and practice. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture.

 

“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.” —Westminster Confession of Faith

 

 

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for allowing their traditions to have equal weight to the TaNaKh

 

Mark 7:6-9 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

Jesus told them, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites in Scripture: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is pointless, because their teachings are rules made by humans. “You abandon the commandments of God to follow human traditions.” He added, “You have no trouble rejecting the commandments of God in order to keep your own traditions!

 

Paul commends the Bereans for testing all teachings against the Scriptures

 

Acts 17:10-11 New King James Version (NKJV)

10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

 

Paul directs the church in Corinth not to go beyond what is written

 

1 Corinthians 4:6 English Standard Version (ESV)

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.

 

 

TOTA SCRIPTURA

 

Tota Scriptura emphasizes that the Bible is to be taken as a whole. The complete canonis God’s Word, and we cannot pick and choose what parts of it to accept and what parts to reject. In Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesian believers, he said, “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26–27, ESV). Note that Paul had discharged his duty before God by preaching the “whole counsel of God”; in other words, Paul preached tota Scriptura.

 

Some false teachers suggest that only the “red-letter words” (those spoken directly by Jesus Himself) are truly inspired. Others reject Paul’s epistles or throw out the book of Revelation or ignore the Old Testament. Still others divide the passages that deal with matters of faith from those that deal with matters of history or science—the Bible is accurate, they say, when it speaks of faith, but in matters of history or science it cannot be trusted. The problem with all of these views, besides the fact that they contradict the principle of tota Scriptura, is they set up man as the judge of God’s Word. Who exactly gets to decide what parts of the Bible are right or wrong? If we move away from tota Scriptura, we can all take scissors to the Bible and come up with our own text, relying on our own wisdom (or feelings or intuition or whatever).

 

Circling back to Inerrancy for a moment…

 

Inerrancy Governs Our Confidence in the Truth of the Gospel

If the Scripture is unreliable, can we offer the world a reliable gospel? How can we be sure of truth on any issue if we are suspicious of errors anywhere in the Bible? A pilot will ground his aircraft even on suspicion of the most minor fault, because he is aware that one fault destroys confidence in the complete machine. If the history contained in the Bible is wrong, how can we be sure the doctrine or moral teaching is correct?

The heart of the Christian message is history. The Incarnation (God becoming a man) was demonstrated by the Virgin Birth of Christ. Redemption (the price paid for our rebellion) was obtained by the death of Christ on the Cross. Reconciliation (the privilege of the sinner becoming a friend of God) was gained through the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. If these recorded events are not true, how do we know the theology behind them is true?

Inerrancy Governs Our Faith in the Value of Christ

We cannot have a reliable Savior without a reliable Scripture. If, as many suggest, the stories in the Gospels are not historically true and the recorded words of Christ are only occasionally His, how do we know what we can trust about Christ? Must we rely upon the conflicting interpretations of a host of critical scholars before we know what Christ was like or what He taught? If the Gospel stories are merely the result of the wishful thinking of the church in the second or third centuries, or even the personal views of the Gospel writers, then our faith no longer rests upon Jesus but upon the opinions of men. Who would trust an unreliable Savior for their eternal salvation?

Inerrancy Governs Our Response to the Conclusions of Science

If we believe the Bible contains errors, then we will be quick to accept scientific theories that appear to prove the Bible wrong. In other words, we will allow the conclusions of science to dictate the accuracy of the Word of God. When we doubt the Bible’s inerrancy, we have to invent new principles for interpreting Scripture that for convenience turn history into poetry and facts into myths. This means people must ask how reliable a given passage is when they turn to it. Only then will they be able to decide what to make of it. On the other hand, if we believe in inerrancy, we will test by Scripture the hasty theories that often come to us in the name of science.

Inerrancy Governs Our Attitude to the Preaching of Scripture

A denial of biblical inerrancy always leads to a loss of confidence in Scripture both in the pulpit and in the pew. It was not the growth of education and science that emptied churches, nor was it the result of two world wars. Instead, it was the cold deadness of theological liberalism. If the Bible’s history is doubtful and its words are open to dispute, then people understandably lose confidence in it. People want authority. They want to know what God has said.

Inerrancy Governs Our Belief in the Trustworthy Character of God

Almost all theologians agree Scripture is in some measure God’s revelation to the human race. But to allow that it contains error implies God has mishandled inspiration and has allowed His people to be deceived for centuries until modern scholars disentangled the confusion. In short, the Maker muddled the instructions.

 

Divine Worship as Judgment Begins

Divine Worship as Judgment Begins

Text: Revelation 4

Several visions of the heavenly throne-room occur in Revelation, usually preceding punitive actions on earth implying divine sovereignty over all earthly events, for events in heaven determine events in the world (7.9–17; 8.1–5; 11.15–19; 14.2–3; 15.2–8; 19.1–10; 21.3–8; see also 1 Kings 22.19–23; Job 1.6–12; 2.1–6).

 

Overview

This chapter is all about praise to God, the Creator of all. In the first vision, John sees the one God enthroned over the whole universe, praised as the Creator of all. This scene provides the setting for the remainder of the book. Faith in one God is at the core of both the Jewish and the Christian faiths (Deut 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-34; Rom 3:30; Gal 3:20; Jas 2:19).

In chapters 4 and 5 we get a glimpse into the Divine Throne Room as YHWH prepares to judge a Christ rejecting world.

Revelation 4

4:1 Come up here. This is not a veiled reference to the rapture of the church, but a command for John to be temporarily transported to heaven “in the Spirit” to receive revelation about future events. The Rapture has occurred somewhere between chapters 3 and 4. We note that it is not mentioned again until chapter 19 and God is specifically calling John into the Throne Room of Heaven to see:

what must take place after these things. According to the outline given in Chapter one and verse 19, this begins the third and final section of the book, describing the events that will follow the church age. We need to be absolutely clear here, the events which are described in chapter four and following do not concern the Church. This is the time of Jacobs Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) and is for the purification of national Israel.

4:2 throne. This is not necessarily a piece of furniture; it is, however a symbol of sovereign rule and Divine authority (7:15; 11:19; 16:17, 18; Isa 6:1). The Throne is the focus of chapter 4, occurring 13 times, 11 times referring to God’s throne.

4:3 It is unlikely that this is a description of God Himself. More likely what John is describing are the colors he sees as the Lord’s Crown reflects His radiant majesty. jasper. John later describes this stone as “crystal-clear” (21:11). He is probably referring to a diamond, which refracts all the colors of the spectrum in wondrous brilliance. A jasper/diamond would amplify the brilliance of Divine Majesty

sardius. A fiery bright ruby stone named for the city near which it was found (The sardius stone was commonly found near the city of Sardis).

emerald. A cool, emerald-green hue dominates the multi-colored rainbow surrounding God’s throne (cf. Ezekiel 1:28). From the time of Noah, the rainbow became a sign of God’s faithfulness to His Word, His promises, and His Noahic covenant (Genesis 9:12-17).

4:4 twenty-four elders. Their joint rule with Christ, their white garments, and their golden crowns all seem to indicate that these 24 represent the redeemed (verses 9-11; 5:5-14; 7:11-17; 11:16-18; 14:3; 19:4). The question is which redeemed? These Elders cannot be Israel, since the nation is not yet saved, glorified, and coronated. That is still to come at this point in the events of the end. Their resurrection and glory will come at the end of the 7-year tribulation time (Daniel 12:1-3). Tribulation saints aren’t yet saved (7:9, 10). Only one group will be complete and glorified at that point—the church. Here elders represent the church, which sings the song of redemption (5:8-10). They are the overcomers who have their crowns and live in the place prepared for them, where they have gone with Jesus (John 14:1-4). We need, also, to remember that the term elder is used to describe the Sanhedrin, which these are not, and it is also the title of the leaders of the Church. Since the Elder (presbuteros) stands before God to represent the flock, it is logical that the elders mentioned here are analogous to the Church.

4:5 lightning… thunder. Not the fury of nature, but the firestorm of righteous fury about to come from an awesome, powerful God upon a sinful world (8:5; 11:19; 16:18). Much like a storm that blows up on a lake, this is sudden and severe. It will seem like a surprise to the unredeemed world but to God it will not be a surprise but will come at exactly the time He plans for it.

seven Spirits of God. The Holy Spirit in His full perfection.

4:6 sea of glass. There is no sea in heaven (21:1), but the crystal pavement that serves as the floor of God’s throne stretches out like a great, glistening sea (Exodus 24:10; Ezekiel 1:22).

four living creatures. Lit. “four living ones or beings.” These are the most likely cherubim (sing., cherub), those angels frequently referred to in the OT in connection with God’s presence, power, and holiness (Ezekiel 1). Although John’s description is not identical to Ezekiel’s, they are obviously both referring to the same supernatural and indescribable beings (Psalm 80:1; 99:1; Ezekiel 1:4-25

full of eyes. The description of them as being full of eyes is reminiscent of the seraphim in Isaiah chapter 6. However, while these 4 Living Creatures could be seraphim it is more likely they are cherubim. The eyes are metaphoric in nature; although they are not omniscient—an attribute reserved for God alone—these angels have a comprehensive knowledge and perception. Nothing escapes their scrutiny, hence a description of being full of eyes.

4:7 first… like a lion. In what is obviously intended as symbolic language, John compares these 4 beings with 4 of God’s earthly creations. Ezekiel indicates that every cherub has these 4 attributes. The likeness to a lion symbolizes strength and power.

second… like a calf. The image of a calf demonstrates that these beings render humble service to God.

third… face like that of a man. Their likeness to man shows they are rational beings.

fourth… like a flying eagle. The cherubim fulfill their service to God with the swiftness of eagles’ wings.

4:8 full of eyes. See v. 6

Holy, holy, holy. Often God is extolled for His holiness in this 3-fold form, because it is the summation of all that He is—His most salient attribute (Isa 6:3). Here, again, is why I bring up the possibility that the 4 Living Creatures are seraphim. As in Isaiah, these angels call out holy, holy, holy in what is most likely an antiphonal chorus.

who was and who is and who is to come 

This is the eternal nature of who God is. He always has been (Psalm 90:2), He is I AM (Exodus 3:14), and He always will be (eis tus aionos tau aiono) (Revelation 22)

4:10 cast their crowns. Aware that God alone is responsible for the rewards they have received, they divest themselves of all honor and cast it at the feet of their King.

4:11 You created all things. It is the Creator God who set out to redeem His creation.

Heaven’s response to the person of God and to everything He does is praise. The Church joins in that worship. We join in because He is not just our King, He is our Redeemer and for that, we praise Him

Freed By Grace

Freed By Grace

Lately I have noticed that a number of my Calvinist friends are anathematizing Arminians for teaching something that they do not actually teach. Before I continue, I want to make clear that I am Calvinist, all five points but I am also a former adherent to Arminianism and I am currently a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians. Why would I, a self admitted Calvinist, be there? Discussion; it is hard to understand someone’s point of view if you will not talk to them and so I pursue friendships with Arminians of both stripes, Evangelical and Wesleyan. I digress…

Many of my brethren go off on tangents regarding things they think Arminians teach that are not actually to be found in Arminian doctrine. In this case, they claim that Arminians teach that man has a free will to choose Christ. This is not quite correct. As a point of reference, when I refer to Arminian Soteriology, I will be referencing the document, the FACTS of Salvation (http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-facts-of-salvation-a-summary-of-arminian-theologythe-biblical-doctrines-of-grace/) , by the excellent theologian Brian Abasciano. Permit me a rather large quote from Brian,

“We speak of the will of man being freed by grace to emphasize that people do not have a naturally free will when it comes to believing in Jesus, but that God must graciously take action to free our wills if we are going to be able to believe in his Son whom he sent for the salvation of all. When our wills are freed, we can either accept God’s saving grace in faith or reject it to our own ruin. In other words, God’s saving grace is resistible, which is to say that he dispenses his calling, drawing, and convicting grace (which would bring us to salvation if responded to with faith) in such a way that we may reject it. We become free to believe in Jesus and free to reject him. The resistibility of God’s saving grace is clearly shown in Scripture, as some of the passages already mentioned testify. Indeed, the Bible is sadly filled with examples of people spurning the grace of God offered to them. In Isaiah 5:1-7, God actually indicates that he could not have done anything more to get Israel to produce good fruit. But if irresistible grace is something that God dispenses, then he could have easily provided that and infallibly brought Israel to bear good fruit. Many passages in the Old Testament talk about how God extended his grace to Israel over and over again but they repeatedly resisted and rejected him (e.g., 2 Kgs 17:7-23; Jer 25:3-11; 26:1-9; 35:1-19). 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 mentions that God’s persistent reaching out to his people, which was rejected, was motivated by compassion for them. But this could only be if the grace he extended them enabled them to repent and avoid his judgment yet was resistible since they did indeed resist it and suffered God’s judgment. Nehemiah 9 presents a striking example of Old Testament testimony to God continually reaching out to Israel with his grace that was met with resistance and rejection. We do not have space to review the entire passage (but the reader is encouraged to do so), but will quote some key elements and draw attention to some important points. Nehemiah 9:20a says, “You [God] gave your good Spirit to instruct them [Israel]” and is followed by an extensive catalogue of gracious divine actions toward Israel in vv. 9:20b-25. Then 9:26-31 says,

26 Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. 27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. 29 And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey.30 Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

The text affirms that God gave his Spirit to instruct Israel (9:20a) and that God sent his prophets and warned Israel for the purpose of turning them back to him. God purposed his actions to turn Israel back to him/his Law, yet they rebelled. This shows God allowing his purpose to not come to pass because of allowing human beings a choice of whether to yield to his grace or not. Intriguingly, the word translated “bore” in Neh 9:30 uses a Hebrew word that usually means something like “draw, drag, pull” and gets translated in the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by the early church with the same word used in John 6:44a (“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”). A better translation of Neh 9:30 would be, “Many years you drew them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear.” The text speaks of a resistible divine drawing that seeks to bring people to the Lord in repentance. Stephen also furnished a good example of the resistibility of grace when he said to his fellow Jews, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it” (Acts 7:51-53). Luke 7:30 tells us that “the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves.” And Jesus, who spoke to people for the purpose of saving them (John 5:34), yet found that they refused to come to him to have life (John 5:40), and who came to turn every Jew from their sin (Acts 3:26; see the treatment of this text under “Atonement for All” above), yet clearly found that not every Jew believed in him, lamented over his people’s unwillingness to receive his grace, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34; see further Ezek 24:13; Matt 23:37; Rom 2:4-5; Zech 7:11-14; Heb 10:29; 12:15; Jude 4; 2 Cor 6:1-2; Ps 78:40-42).

Arminians differ among themselves about some of the details of how God’s prevenient grace works, probably because Scripture itself does not give a detailed description. Some Arminians believe that God continually enables all people to believe at all times as a benefit of the atonement. Others believe that God only bestows the ability to believe in Christ to people at select times according to his good pleasure and wisdom. Still others believe that prevenient grace generally accompanies any of God’s specific movements toward people, rendering them able to respond positively to such movements as God would have them. But all Arminians agree that people are incapable of believing in Jesus apart from the intervention of God’s grace and that God does bestow his grace that draws toward salvation on all morally responsible people. With respect to the gospel, seventeenth century Arminian Bishop, Laurence Womack, well said, “on all those to whom the word of faith is preached, the Holy Spirit bestows, or is ready to bestow, so much grace as is sufficient, in fitting degrees, to bring on their conversion.”

The concept of “freed will” raises a broader question of whether human beings have free will generally, apart from the realm of pleasing the Lord and doing spiritual good (again, people are not free in this area unless God empowers them). The Arminian answer is yes. People have free will in all sorts of things. By this we mean that when people are free with respect to an action, then they can at least either do the action or refrain from doing it. People often have genuine choices and are therefore correspondingly able to make choices. When free, the specific choice someone makes has not been efficiently predetermined or necessitated by anyone or anything other than the person himself. In fact, if the person’s action has been rendered necessary by someone else, and the person cannot avoid doing the action, then he has no choice in the matter and he is not free in it. And if he does not have a choice, then neither can it properly be said that he chooses. But Scripture very clearly indicates that people have choices and make choices about many things (e.g., Deut 23:16; 30:19; Josh 24:15; 2 Sam 24:12; 1 Kings 18:23, 25; 1 Chron 21:10; Acts 15:22, 25; Phil 1:22). Moreover, it explicitly speaks of human free will (Exod 35:29; 36:3; Lev 7:16; 22:18, 21, 23; 23:38; Num 15:3; 29:39; Deut 12:6, 17; 16:10; 2 Chron 31:14; 35:8; Ezra 1:4, 6; 3:5; 7:16; 8:28; Ps 119:108; Ezek 46:12; Amos 4:5; 2 Cor 8:3; Philemon 1:14; cf. 1 Cor 7:37) and attests to human beings violating God’s will, showing that he does not predetermine their will or actions in sin. Furthermore, the fact that God holds people accountable for their choices and actions implies that those choices and actions were free. Nevertheless, it is important to note that Arminians do not believe in unlimited free will. There are many things in which we are not free. We cannot choose to fly by flapping our arms for example. Nor do we deny that our free actions are influenced by all sorts of causes. But when we are free, those causes are resistible and we have a genuine choice in what we do and are not caused necessarily to act in a certain way by God or anyone or anything other than ourselves.

Finally, the concept of freed will also implies that God has ultimate and absolute free will. For it is God who supernaturally frees the will of sinners by his grace to believe in Christ, which is a matter of God’s own free will and sovereignty. God is omnipotent and sovereign, having the power and authority to do anything he wants and being unconstrained in his own actions and will by anything outside of himself and his own judgment (Gen 18:14; Exod 3:14; Job 41:11; Ps 50:10-12; Isaiah 40:13-14; Jer 32:17, 27; Matt 19:26; Luke 1:37; Acts 17:24-25; Rom 11:34-36; Eph 3:20; 2 Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8; 4:11). Nothing can happen unless he either does it or allows it. He is the Almighty Creator and God of the universe to whom we owe all love, worship, glory, honor, thanks, praise, and obedience. Therefore, it is good for us to remember that behind human freed will stands the One who frees the will, and that this is a matter of his glorious, free, and sovereign grace, totally unmerited on our part, and provided to us by the love and mercy of God. Praise his holy name!”

In candor, I do not find in needful to elaborate on what our learned commentator has written. Instead, I would like to summarize/paraphrase:

  • Both the Calvinist and the Arminian believe that man is under Total Depravity (T in TULIP and T in FACTS)
  • Both would believe that it is in act of God’s grace that allows man to come to Christ.
  • Our Arminian brethren believe that the Holy Spirit has freed the individual’s will to respond to the Gospel Call
  • We disagree on whether or not grace is resistible but we do not disagree that it is God who elects and the Holy Spirit who administers the act of grace.
  • Calvinists and Arminians agree that nothing can happen unless God either does it or allows it.
  • We agree that God is the Almighty Creator and God of the universe to whom we owe all love, worship, glory, honor, thanks, praise, and obedience.
  • Like Calvinists, all Arminians agree that people are incapable of believing in Jesus apart from the intervention of God’s grace and that God does bestow his grace that draws toward salvation on all morally responsible people

There are points of Arminian doctrine that I vehemently disagree with, perhaps even to the point of calling them heterodox but I am loath to call them heretical. The charge of heresy is the most serious charge that can be leveled because true heresy damns the soul eternally and I do not find that the Arminian position on salvation meets the level of damnable heresy, I just disagree with it.

 

At the end of the day, there will be Arminians in Heaven and I hope to get close enough to the Throne of Grace to meet Tozer and some of his brethren. If we forget that Arminians also have a place in Heaven, we insult the very One who died to redeem them unto Himself.

 

Until next time, grace to you.