Support us with your Logos purchase

Tag: Salvation

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

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.

What is Election? (guest post)

What is Election? (guest post)

The following is provided by our dear friend, the eminent theologian and most learned scholar, James Quiggle…

Some may not know what election is, others many not understand, and many may have heard only a distorted view of election. Here is a brief explanation. First a definition.

Election. The choice of a sovereign God, 1) to give the gift of grace-faith-salvation to effect the salvation of some sinners, and 2) to take no action, positive or negative, to either effect or deny salvation to other sinners. The decree of election includes all means necessary to effectuate salvation in those elected. [Quiggle, “Dictionary of Doctrinal Words,” s. v. “Election (1)”]

The Greek word translated “he chose” in Ephesians 1:4 (most versions) is eklégō [Zodhiates, s. v. “1586”]. The word means “to select, to choose,” and is translated choose, chose, chosen, or elect in twenty-two verses. This word, as used by the Greeks and Romans, and as used by the New Testament writers, does not necessarily imply an adverse or negative action toward those not chosen. Nor, as used by the New Testament writers in regard to election to salvation, does this word imply something meritorious in those chosen, or something undesirable in those not chosen. When used with regard to salvation, eklégō simply means God made a choice. [Quiggle, “God’s Choices,” 17.]

God, before he created anything, saw all human beings as sinners. In the foreordaining acts of God to sovereignly make a universe according to his purpose in creating, God created a sinless human being, Adam. God chose to allow Adam to choose his path in life. The choices available to Adam were continued submission and obedience to God’s authority, Genesis 2:17, or rebellion against God. Adam chose rebellion, Genesis 3:6. The principle of rebellion against God is known as “sin.” Adam’s disobedience to God’s commandment added the principle of rebellion, sin, to his human nature, permanently changing Adam from sinless to sinner.

Adam was the seminal and legal representative of his descendants: his sin became their sin. Seminally his sin became their sin because Adam’s sin changed his human nature, adding the principle of rebellion against God. When Adam procreated, his sinful nature was inherited by his descendants, Genesis 5:3. Thus, Romans 5:12, sin entered the world through one man’s sin and spread to all human beings, so that all in Adam die, 1 Corinthians 15:22. Legally, Adam was the representative of his race, the legal head because the seminal head. The judicial guilt of Adam’s sin was imputed to his descendants. (Just as the righteousness of Christ is imputed to those who are his “descendants,” not physically, but those who believe on him for salvation.)

God, then, in the process of his foreordaining choices, saw all human beings—the descendants of Adam— as sinners because of Adam’s sin. God sovereignly chose to save some sinners, justly leaving the rest as he found them. God never says why he made an electing choice, nor the reasons for the choice, nor the reasons for his particular choices (which individuals he would elect). God, with all his attributes acting in union and harmony, chose to establish a covenant relationship with some sinners, and bring them into that covenant through salvation. God made a decision of his will, not an emotional decision. God’s decision toward the non-elect to leave them as he found them, in their sin, was also not an emotional decision, but a decision of his will that, like the decision to elect some, would fulfill his purpose in creating.

God’s love and mercy in election was his decision to seek the best good for some sinners, without expectation of recompense or reciprocity, and without consideration of their merit (they had none) or demerit, 1 John 4:10. He made this decision without favoritism toward the elect. Those God elected were chosen in love and mercy (Ephesians 1:4; 2:4) to be saved, sanctified, and adopted, to the praise of his glory. That same love does not prevent any non-elect from choosing to come to God through faith in God’s testimony concerning salvation to believe and be saved.

Because election does not prejudice God against the non-elect, God would, in fact, act savingly toward any non-elect if they did choose to seek him and come to him for salvation. But their desire for their sin persuades them to make the choice to reject God. Sin is an attribute of fallen human nature, a principle or attribute of evil that motivates human beings to rebel against God, disobey his commandments, and seek a path in life apart from God. Sin has authority (dominion, rule) over the sinner, not as some invincible overlord, but as an innate part of human nature constructively working with all the other attributes of human nature to persuasively incline the will to choose an act of sinning. The evil attribute sin influences every other attribute with the inclination to sin, and in that sense sin can be said to dominate the will. The sinner freely chooses sinning because his will is of itself always inclined to choose sinning, and as being rebellious and disobedient toward God never desires to change its inclination to choose sinning to rebel against God, disobey his commandments, and seek a path in life apart from God.

The propitiation (atonement) Christ made on the cross for sin completely satisfied God’s justice for the crime of sin, all sin, 1 John 2:2; Romans 3:25. Propitiation (atonement) powers redemption, but propitiation is not redemption. Propitiation is directed toward God to satisfy God’s justice for the crime of sin. God’s justice being satisfied, God could act righteously to redeem sinners according to his sovereign choices.

God, for reasons suitable to his purpose in creating, reasons known only to himself, acted sovereignly to choose to redeem some sinners (election, Ephesians 1:4) by applying the merit of Christ’s propitiation, through his gift of grace-faith-salvation (Ephesians 2:8) to their spiritual need, thereby regenerating their soul, leading to the sinner’s exercise of faith, and the forgiveness of sins. Election guarantees the salvation of the elect, but neither helps nor hinders the non-elect, who could be saved, if they would freely choose to be saved. But the desire of the non-elect for their sin is so powerful they do not choose to be saved. Thus the necessity of God’s gift of grace-faith-salvation to effect faith and salvation in the sinner.

An illustration of election. The river of sinful humankind is justly racing toward the waterfall of death emptying into the lake of eternal fire; God reaches into the river and saves many; he prevents no one from swimming to the safety of the heavenly shore; he puts his saved people on the shore encouraging all to believe on Christ and be saved; he saves all that come to him by faith in his testimony of salvation.

A complete explanation of foreordination and election may be found in my book, “God’s Choices, the Doctrines of Foreordination, Election, and Predestination.”

The 4-fold Gospel (A.B.Simpson)

The 4-fold Gospel (A.B.Simpson)

Perhaps one of my favorite articles by A.B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, is the 4-fold Gospel. This article looks at 4 ministries of Jesus found in the 4 Gospels: Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, Soon Coming King.

 

The link below is provided by permission of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. As with them, I pray it blesses you.

 

The 4-Fold Gospel PDF

Arminianism- The F.A.C.T.S.

Arminianism- The F.A.C.T.S.

Many of my Calivnist Brethren, in their zeal to defend Scriptural Truth, often  and unfortunately mischaracterize the soteriology of the Arminians.

 

While I do disagree with them, as a Calvinist my own self, I emphatically oppose characterizing Arminians as heretics. In the link below, Dr. Brian Abasciano lays out Arminian Soteriology on behalf of the Society of Evangelical Arminians.

 

The F.A.C.T.S.

Sin, Confession, Repentance

Sin, Confession, Repentance

It seeems that many churches have forgotten sin and that redemption therefrom requires repentance and confession. It is vital that we recall, the true remedy to society’s ills is to repent, that is turn toward Christ and embrace Him as Lord and confess our sin and need for redemption.  So we present this Reference Guide as a reminder.

 

SIN

  • Sin has consequences (Genesis 3:1-19)

  • God must punish sin (Exodus 32:34)

  • Our consciences can identify sin (2 Samuel 24:10-15)

  • We should humbly confess our sins to God (Ezra 9:5-15)

  • We should ask God to forgive our sins (Psalm 51:1-10)

  • Stay away from people who lead you to sin (Proverbs 1:10-19)

  • Sin begins in the mind (Matthew 5:27-28)

  • All people have sinned (Romans 3:23)

  • Sin leads to eternal death (Romans 6:23)

  • Jesus takes the penalty of our sin on himself (Romans 8:1-2)

  • Sin begins with temptation (James 1:15)

  • We can sin by avoiding something we should do (James 4:17)

  • God is willing to forgive our sins (1 John 1:8-9)

CONFESSION OF SIN

  • Sin must be confessed (Leviticus 5:5)

  • God will restore those who turn away from evil (2 Chronicles 7:14)

  • Remorse accompanies confessing sin (Ezra 10:1)

  • God forgives confessed sins (Psalm 32:5)

  • Do not try to hide sin (Proverbs 28:13)

  • Confession of sin accompanies a changed lifestyle (2 Timothy 2:19)

  • God purifies those who confess their sin (1 John 1:9)

 

REPENTANCE

  • Repentance of sin opens the way for a relationship with God (Luke 3:7-8)

  • Unless we repent of our sins, we will perish (Luke 13:3-5)

  • Angels rejoice when a sinner repents (Luke 15:7)

  • Forgive those who repent of wrongs done to you (Luke 17:4)

  • Repentance is essential for the Holy Spirit to work (Acts 2:38)

  • God can use difficulties to encourage us to repent (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

  • God would like everyone to repent and believe (2 Peter 3:9)

 

 

Adapted from NLTse Bible Verse Finder. Tyndale House Publishers. 2013

1 John 2:2 and Calvinism

1 John 2:2 and Calvinism

While discussing Calvinism with a colleague, 1 John 2:2 came up.

Here is the text of the verse before we consider…

 “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

It has been said that this verse poses a problem for Calvinism but I disagree. The text clearly demonstrates that anyone who wants to can be saved. What it does not address is the question of who wants to be saved.

We tend to overthink matters and thereby complicate things. Does Scripture teach Divine Election?  Yes. Does the Scripture teach that man is responsible for his sin? Yes. Does the Scripture teach that only the Elect are saved? Yes. Does the Scripture teach us who comprises the Elect? NO!! Therein lies the problem with being too rigid in certain systems. God does not make a habit of revealing anything more than we need to know. Therefore we get in trouble if we go further than He has revealed and presume to know that which is not our business.

1 John 2:2 is not a problem for Calvinists any more than it is a proof of Arminianism. It is simply a fact laid out in Scripture. Here is the fact: The penal substitutionary atoning death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is absolutely sufficient for anyone that wants to be saved. This particular verse does not speak to who it is that would want to be saved and there need not be any controversy over the verse. In fact the only reason there is a controversy is that humand create one where one need not exist.

The Books of Life (Sermon Notes)

The Books of Life (Sermon Notes)

What is the Book of Life? Is it different from the Lamb’s Book of Life? The Bible mentions being blotted out of the Book of Life, does this mean I can lose my salvation.

These are important questions. 1st, there is more than one Book of Life mentioned in the Bible and they are different. There is one from which your name can be blotted out but it is not the Lamb’s Book of Life. Let’s look.

Several places in Scripture refer to God’s “book” (Exodus 32:32; Psalm 56:8; 69:28; Daniel 7:10; 12:1; Revelation 13:8; 20:15). In His infinite knowledge, God does not need a written record in order to keep track of human deeds. However, when He speaks to us, He often uses metaphor or parable to help us understand (Mark 4:33). As Malachi presented God’s words to the people, they would have understood what a book of remembrance represented. The kings of Persia kept such books, records of those who had rendered service to the king, that those servants might be rewarded. The book of Esther contains a good example of this (Esther 6:1–3).

 

There was an Old Testament “book of life.”

There are a couple Old Testament references to Books of Life. There is a Theocratic Book of Life AND a Book of the Living.

In the OT one of the “books of life” was a register of the citizens of the theocratic community of Israel. To have one’s name written in this book of life implied the privilege of participation in the temporal blessings of the theocracy, while to be erased or blotted out of this book meant exclusion from those blessings. In other words, this book had reference to the rights of citizenship for the Jewish people (cf. Ex. 32:32; Ps. 69:28; Isa. 4:3).

“So Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin – but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.’ But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book’” (Exod. 32:31-33).

There is also a Book of the Living. Psalm 69:28: “Let them [David’s enemies] be blotted out of the book of the living.” This “book of the living” should not be confused with the Lamb’s Book of Life. David is referring to earthly, physical life, not eternal life in heaven.

 

It is entirely possible that the books mention by Moses and David are the same book but they certainly appear to be different and I tend to think that they are.

God has several  “books” and it is clear that not all of them are the Lamb’s book of life.

The concept of a “book” was also used to portray God’s all-inclusive decree; that is to say the very days of one’s life are ordained and written in God’s “book” before one of them occurs:

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps. 139:16).

But this does not appear to be the same as the Lamb’s Book of Life .

Further there is a Book of Remembrance which was written down in the sight of God. Malachi 3:16 “ Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.” This book may be looking forward to the Lamb’s Book of Life or it may be the book itself (Fearing the Lord and honoring His Name being part of our salvation). In either case, it will most certainly be one of the books which are opened at both judgments, the Bema Seat and the Great White Throne.

 

There is also the notion of “books” of judgment in which are recorded men’s deeds. They serve as that by which or from which one shall be judged:

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done” (Rev. 20:12; cf. Dan. 7:10).

Again, however, this is not the same thing as believers having their names inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world. In the case of the Great White Throne, the books are the record of the deeds of the damned. Having not come to Christ for salvation, there is no chance of acquittal of the charge of sin and therefore these books give evidence of the justice of their damnation.

The Lamb’s book of life lists those who have been (and are to be) saved.

This particular book is what Spurgeon referred to as the Roll Call of the Elect.

On most occasions where the Lamb’s book of life is mentioned it refers to the register of those who have been chosen for salvation from eternity past. It is not temporal or earthly blessings that are in view, but participation in the eternal kingdom of God as recipients of eternal life. For example:

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb. 12:22-23).

“But nothing unclean will ever enter it [the New Jerusalem on the New Earth], nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).

Heaven is the most exclusive of all exclusive clubs. It isn’t really a club but that is certainly a metaphor which is easily understandable. Spurgeon’s moniker is quite apropos. This book is what is in view in the hymns “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” and “A New Name in Glory.” We rightfully celebrate that our names our written down. The Lamb’s Book of Life is the proof that we have the privilege to inherit Christ forever.

Only the elect are written in this book.

It would appear from several texts that not all are written in this book, but only the elect. This is a very sobering reality. While we are not given a lot of information on how election works, it is clear from Scripture that the names in the book were written down before the foundation of the world (a euphemism for creation).

Earth Dwellers:

In Revelation, the terminology of “earth dwellers” or “those that dwell on the earth” is a standard designation for non-believers. These are the ones who “worship” the Beast (Rev. 13:8a). They are the ones “whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 13:8b).

To paraphrase Steven Lawson, your repentance and obedience to Christ does not cause your name to be written down, it reveals that is always has been written down.

It would appear that to be one whose name has been written down before the foundation of the world is simply another way of saying that he/she is elect (see Eph. 1:4).

You don’t believe in Jesus in order to have your name written, but because your name has been written.

People often ask: “What must one do to have his/her name written down in the Lamb’s book of life? Can someone whose name is not now written in the book do something, such as believe in Jesus, so that his/her name will be written in the book?” The answer to the first question is, nothing. The answer to the second question is, No. Names are inscribed in the book of life before the foundation of the world. This is by God’s sovereign and altogether gracious choice.  This is not to say that the Book of Life does not affect our temporal existence. You don’t believe in Jesus in order that your name will be written in the book. You believe in Jesus because your name has already been written down in the book. Each person will arrive at the point in time when God had already known that they will repent. At that moment, the Lamb’s Book of Life will bear its fruit, repentance.

The major thing to know, here, is that we have no clue, not one scintilla of an idea as to who’s name is written down. Therefore we can properly say, “Whomever wishes to come, come to Christ and be received.” No matter your position on Electing Grace, conditional or unconditional, the message is the same, “Whosoever will, let them come.” There will never be a time when we can look at a person and know that they are on the roster of the redeemed so we offer the Gospel to anyone who will receive Christ.

God has always known who would be written in the book. How that works out remains to us a mystery. Is grace irresistible and so we come or are we freed by grace and come of our own volition? Personally, it think it is both. I think the Holy Spirit frees us from the burden of sin and in so doing, Christ becomes so irresistible that we simply must have Him. Because our names are written, we want what is ours by Divine Grace, Christ Himself, our portion and treasure.

 

God has not chosen to reveal to us the names written in the Lamb’s book of life.

It is none of our business. We are not free to speculate about it. What he has revealed is the responsibility of each individual to repent and believe the gospel. If a person does not believe the gospel, he has no one to blame but himself. If he does believe the gospel, he has no one to praise but God. I realize that this is quite possibly the most challenging doctrine in the Scripture.

Quoting Spurgeon on the just damnation of the sinner: “Why is it that a man remains ungodly and does not fear God? It is because he says, “I like this drink, I like this pleasure, I like this sabbath-breaking, better than I do the things of God.” No man is saved by his own free-will, but every man is damned by it that is damned. He does it of his own will; no one constrains him. You know, sinner, that when you go away from here, and put down the cries of conscience, that you do it yourself. You know that, when after a sermon you say, “I do not care about believing in Christ,” you say it yourself—You are quite conscious of it, and if not conscious of it, it is notwithstanding a dreadful fact, that the reason why you are what you are, is because you will to be what you are. It is your own will that keeps you where you are, the blame lies at your own door, your being still in a state of sin is voluntary. You are a captive, but you are a voluntary captive. You will never be willing to get free until God makes you willing. But you are willing to be a bond slave. There is no disguising the fact, that man loves sin, loves evil, and does not love God. You know, though heaven is preached to you through the blood of Christ, and though hell is threatened to you as the result of your sins, that still you cleave to your iniquities; you will not leave them, and will not fly to Christ. And when you are cast away, at last it will be said of you, “you have lost your birthright.” But you sold it yourself. You know that the ball-room suits you better than the house of God: you know that the pot-house suits you better than the prayer-meeting; you know you trust yourself rather than trust Christ; you know you prefer the joys of the present time to the joys of the future. It is your own choice—keep it. Your damnation is your own election, not God’s; you richly deserve it.

 

None of us deserves to have his/her name written down in God’s book. We all deserve eternal damnation. The only explanation for why a hell-deserving sinner has his/her name written down in the Lamb’s book of life before the foundation of the world is because God is gracious and merciful and wishes to provide his Son with a Bride that will enjoy his glorious presence and love for eternity. Had God chosen not to inscribe anyone’s name in his book, he would have done no one an injustice.

 

What about names being blotted out?

Is it possible for someone whose name is written down to have it erased or removed? Some say yes based on Revelation 3:5 – “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.”

These point to a  particular custom in ancient Athens according to which the names of condemned criminals were erased from civic registers before their execution. The Greek word translated “to erase” (exaleiphein), “was the technical term for such degradation” . They are suggesting that  Jesus is saying that it is possible for a sinning, unrepentant Christian (such as were many at Sardis) to fail to overcome or conquer and thereby to forfeit their place in the book of life. Their names, already inscribed in the book, will be erased, signifying the loss of their salvation.

As insightful as this may be, it is NOT what is in view. In the message to the Church at Sardis, Jesus is not referring to the Lamb’s Book of Life. He is referring to the book of the living. Essentially, Jesus is saying that you will not be killed in divine judgment.

It is a logical absurdity, easily refuted by John 10:28, to suggest that a name could be blotted out from the Lamb’s Book of Life. Simply put, if eternal life can be lost, it was not eternal in the first place.

 

Several factors lead me to conclude that John does not envision the possibility of a true Christian forfeiting salvation.

We should begin by noting that all of the other promises to the “conqueror/overcomer” are coined in positive terms with no threat (implied or explicit) of losing a salvation once gained (see 2:7,11,17,26-27; 3:12,21). This isn’t to suggest that Christians can’t backslide and sin badly. The rebukes in these seven letters indicate otherwise. Nevertheless, the evidence of the reality of true saving faith is perseverance (i.e., “overcoming”; cf. 1 John 2:19).

If it is asked why this promise is couched in negative terms, the answer is obvious: Jesus couldn’t say “I will write his name in the book of life” because the names of the “overcomers” (i.e., the elect) were already written in the book from eternity past (see Rev. 13:8; 17:8). There is no indication in Scripture, least of all in Revelation, of additional names being inscribed in the book as a reward for faithfulness or perseverance. Rather, faithfulness and perseverance are the evidence or fruit of having had one’s name written in the book. Those who worship the “beast” do so precisely because their names were not written in the book in eternity past (13:8; 17:8).

The Resurrection and the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit are the sign and seal of our names being written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

 

Jesus is the firstborn from the dead; He is the firstfruits of the resurrection to life. (Revelation 1:4 1 Corinthians 15:23)Top of Form

Bottom of Form

 

The title “firstborn of the dead” for Jesus is of great theological importance, especially with Easter in the background. The Greek word for “firstborn” that John uses is prōtotokos, a word that literally refers to birth order—the first child born. This is a concept of great significance in the Old Testament, where the firstborn son inherited his father’s place as head of the family, receiving the father’s blessing and a double portion of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17). After the Passover in Egypt, God told his people that every firstborn child was set aside as his own (Exodus 13:2), and the nation of Israel as a whole was referred to as God’s “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22).

Because of the biblical significance attached to the concept, the word “firstborn” acquired a metaphorical sense and came to also refer to the special status of the firstborn as the preeminent son and heir. In the New Testament, Jesus is shown to be the “new Israel,” the culmination and fulfillment of God’s promise to bless all the nations through the offspring of Abraham (Galatians 3:7). Jesus fulfills the intended role of Israel as God’s faithful firstborn son in his perfect life and sacrificial death, and he is vindicated by God in his glorious resurrection.

 

Other references to Jesus as prototokos:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)

He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:18)

When he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (Hebrews 1:6)

“[The prophets and Moses said] that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:23)

 

In fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:20)

 

G.K. Beale explains,

John views Jesus as the ideal Davidic king on an escalated eschatological level, whose death and resurrection have resulted in his eternal kingship and in the kingship of his beloved children . . . . “Firstborn” refers to the high, privileged position that Christ has as a result of the resurrection from the dead . . . . Christ has gained such a sovereign position over the cosmos, not in the sense that he is recognized as the first-created being of all creation or as the origin of creation, but in the sense that he is the inaugurator of the new creation by means of his resurrection.

 

Because Christ was first to rise from the dead, He is the guarantee that we, who are written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life will rise as well. Some will rise at the Rapture. Others will rise at the resurrection before the millennial kingdom.

 

We conclude with John 6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

The everyone, in this verse, are those who are written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life.