Tag: Salvation

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.

 

 

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.

A Brief Intro to Prevenient Grace

A Brief Intro to Prevenient Grace

In response to some things I have seen on social media lately, I want to address Prevenient Grace. We will deal with three primary questions: What is Prevenient Grace? Is Prevenient Grace a biblical idea? Is Prevenient Grace distinctly an Arminian doctrine?

Let’s begin with a definition of Prevenient Grace. We will quote the definition found at Theopedia.

“Prevenient grace refers to the grace of God in a person’s life that precedes conversion (or salvation). The word “prevenient,” considered an archaic term today, was common in the King James English and simply means to “go before” or “precede.” Likewise, it is sometimes called “preventing” grace (from prevenient) with the same meaning.

  • In Reformed Theology, it is the particular grace which precedes human decision — a salvific grace prior to, and without reference to, anything we have done.
  • In Arminianism and Wesleyanism, it is a grace that offsets the noetic effects of the Fall, restores man’s free will, and thus enables every person to choose to come to Christ or not. There are two forms of this view:
    • Universal prevenient grace — This grace is extended to every person.
    • Individualistic prevenient grace — This grace is only extended to those who come under the intelligent hearing of the gospel, and not to every person.

We can see, already, that Prevenient Grace is a doctrinal position of both Calvinists (Reformed Theology) and our Arminian brethren. Permit me to expand for a moment on the Calvinist side of things: Prevenient Grace is, literally, grace that is preceding, but preceding what? This is actually the grace that we refer to as being irresistible. God, in an act of preceding grace, elects, calls, and regenerates those whom He has chosen.”

 

In Arminian Soteriology, Prevenient Grace is referred to in the F of the F.A.C.T.S of salvation. The Arminian Theologian would say that we are freed by the Grace of God to respond with an act of our own volition and “choose” to respond to the Gospel call.

 

The sad irony is that most of my teaching brethren do not know their theology well enough to realize that the two perspectives are so closely related that they are most likely two halves of the same sandwich…

 

In both Calvinism and Arminianism, saving grace is 100% a choice and act of God. In both cases Prevenient Grace precedes regeneration and justification. The major question, and point of disagreement, is the effect of Prevenient Grace on the will i.e. does Prevenient Grace restore man’s free will and thus allow said grace to be resisted or is Prevenient Grace irresistible as the Calvinist teaches.

 

As a Calvinist, I do not believe grace can be resisted. Since it is antecedent to salvation and a corollary of election, Prevenient Grace cannot be resisted.

 

Prevenient Grace is entirely Biblical and it is not a distinctly Arminian doctrine. For further study, I would refer you to the Foundations of Doctrine Series.

Master Outline 14: Salvation

Master Outline 14: Salvation

Outline Fourteen: Salvation

GOD’S PLAN OF SALVATION

 

There are seven facts revealed in God’s plan of salvation, and as you study them, keep in mind that this is God’s plan-not man’s-it is God’s. There is no other plan that can save your lost soul and make you a child of God (Acts 4:12).

 

All roads may lead to Rome, but all religions do not lead to God and salvation. There is only one way, and that is God’s way; and God’s way is a person, and that person is His Son the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

 

God’s salvation is threefold: First, Christ appeared on this earth to save you from the penalty of sin, by putting away your sin by the sacrifice of Himself on the Cross (Heb. 9:26). Second, He appeared in heaven, in the presence of God, after His resurrection, to save you from the power of sin (Heb. 9:24 and 1 John 2:1, 2).  Third, He will appear again on this earth, the second time, as “Lord of lords and King of kings” to save you from the very presence of sin (Heb. 9:28).  Now come to the seven facts of salvation with an open mind and a receptive heart, that God may bring salvation to your soul!

 

1)              It is a fact that God loves you (John 3:16) 16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Notes: It is an eternal fact the God loves you with and everlasting love that cannot be fathomed; it is so boundless that it can only be known by faith.

The little word “so” in John 3:16 is most expressive. It gives you some concept of the magnitude of God’s love. God so loved you, that He gave His only begotten Son, to be made sin for you, that you might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

Jesus Christ was made that which God hates: sin-that you might become that which God loves: righteousness. Because God so loves you, you can exchange your sins for His righteousness. Could you ask for greater evidence of love? Calvary is proof that God loves, and longs to save you.

Before going to the next fact, admit to yourself that: “God loves me!”

 

2)              It is a fact that you are a sinner (Rom. 3:23).  23) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

 

Notes: What is sin?

        Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).

        Sin is unbelief; it calls God a liar (1 John 5:10).

        Sin is active rebellion against God (1 Sam. 15:23 OT).

        Sin is passive rebellion against God (Is. 1:2 OT).

        All unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17).

 

God, who cannot lie, said: “All have sinned.” “All” includes you! You have sinned against God by thought, word, and deed. You have committed sins of commission and sins of omission. In the sight of God, you are a lost sinner.

 

Before going to the next fact, admit to yourself that: “I am a lost sinner, because I have sinned.”

 

3)              It is s fact that you are now dead in sin (Rom. 6:23) 23) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Notes: You have already confessed and admitted that you are a sinner. Now God would have you know that “… the wages of sin is death.” You are dead in sin until you accept Christ as personal Savior. The Apostle Paul said, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).  To be saved is to be made spiritually alive in Christ.

What is death?

 

(1)   Death is spiritual separation. Your sins have separated you from God; you are dead in your sins.

(2)   Death is physical separation. It separated the spirit and soul from the body.

(3)   Death is eternal separation. If you remain lost in your sins, you will stand before God at the great white throne judgment. And there your sins will separate you from the mercy of God forever; this is Hades (Rev. 20:11-15).

 

You know that God loves you, and that you are a sinner-dead in sins. Before going to the next fact, admit to yourself: “I am dead in sins.”

 

4)              It is a fact that Christ died for you (Rom. 5:6-8 ) 6) For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Notes: He died for those who are unlike God; this includes you! “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21)

Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like sliver or gold …but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18, 19).

 

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Cor. 15:3).

 

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3).

 

In light of these wonderful Scriptures, will you now thank God for His great love in sending His Son to bear your sins in His own body on the cross, and admit to yourself that: “Christ died on Calvary for me!”

 

5)              It is a fact that you can be saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:30, 31) 30)  And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31) So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

 

Notes: The Philippian jailor asked Paul and Silas: “Sirs, what must I do to be Saved?” The answer was quick in response, and positive in content: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” Paul and Silas preached the gospel to the jailer and those in his house; they believed and were saved.

 

What is this gospel that saves when believed?

 

First, it is: “that Christ died for your sins.”

Second, it is: “that He was buried.”

 

Third, it is: “that He was raised on the third day” (1 Cor. 15:3, 4).

 

Jesus Christ the God-man died for you, was buried for you, and rose form the dead for you; and is now at the right hand of the Father interceding for you (1 John 2:1).

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel is the power of God for salvation only when you believe. Your faith in Jesus Christ releases the power of God that saves your soul.

 

The man born blind received physical sight by a miracle; but, spiritual sight came when Jesus asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Lord, I believe” (John 9:35-38).  Salvation came to Thomas when he believed and confessed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:24-29).

 

When you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom. 10:9, 10).

 

Accept Him now by faith, and pray this prayer: “Lord Jesus, I know You love me, because You died on the cross bearing my sins. Thank You, Lord, for revealing to me my lost, sinful condition. I confess that I am a sinner, dead in sin, and cannot save myself. I do now by faith, gladly accept You as my personal Savior, and thank You, Lord, for eternal salvation. Amen!”

 

6)             It is a fact that you can be saved and know it (1 John 5:10-13) 10) He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. 11) And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12) He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13) These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

 

Notes: “… that you may know that you have eternal life… “(1 John 5:13). Upon the authority of God’s Word, you can be saved and know it. Your faith in God’s infallible Word is your assurance of salvation. “He who believes in the Son has (present tense) eternal life” (John 3:36).

 

The Bible is a book of certainties. It strengthens convictions, and establishes beliefs. God would have you know:

 

(1)   That you are now a child of God (1 John 3:2).

(2)   That you have been made the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21 and Rom. 10:1-4).

(3)   That you are now a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

(4)   That you are now a son and heir of God (Gal. 4:7). Could you have greater assurance than is found in God’s infallible Word? “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35).

 

7)              It is a fact that you are now a child of God and you are to obey Him (Acts 5:29) 29) But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.

 

Notes: “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). You now belong to Jesus Christ. He is your Lord and Master, and “no one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24). Determine now to obey your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, in all things:

 

(1) Unite with a New Testament church. “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

(2) Follow Him in the ordinance of baptism (Acts 2:41).

(3) Join a Sunday school class (Bible Study), and study the Word with God’s children (2 Tim. 2:25).

(4) Attend the worship services of your church (Heb. 10:25).  You need the preaching of God’s Word and Christian fellowship.

(5) Be a faithful steward (1 Cor. 4:2).  All that you are and have belong to God. “… you are not your own. For you are bought with a price …” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).  As a faithful steward, you pay God His tithe (Mal. 3:10 OT). The tithe is one-tenth of your income, and it is the Lord’s (Lev. 27:30 OT).

(6) Make time in your daily life to pray and read God’s word, that you may grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.