Archive for January, 2013


Arminian Presuppositions # 11 & 12 Refuted

Since these last two presuppostions are closely related, I have chosen to consider them together.
Arminian Presuppostion #11–Choice and “free will” are synonymous. If a person acts freely and voluntarily, he must have “free will.”

One of the difficulties in all theological discussion is the definition of terms. Though Arminians speak a great deal about “free will,” it is often difficult to get them to define what they mean by their use of the term. They seem to believe the only thing necessary to prove “free will” is a call for sinners to make a choice. It seems for them, choice and “free will” are synonymous.

I don’t like denying that sinners have free will for fear some will think I am denying they act freely and voluntarily in what they choose. If that is all the Arminians mean by the term, I would certainly agree. Do sinners have a choice as to whether they come to the light or reject it? Absolutely!

In reality, that is aside from the real issue. The real issue is not whether sinners may choose what they desire, but whether they can choose contrary to their desires. That sinners are free to choose eternal life if they wish does not mean they are able to choose life. They are able to choose whatever they want; they simply can’t want to choose what they ought.

When we deny “free will,” we are not suggesting they have no ability to choose. We are merely arguing they are not able to choose to do what they do not want. John Calvin wrote,

In this way, then, man is said to have free will, not because he has a free choice of good and evil, but because he acts voluntarily, and not by compulsion. This is perfectly true: but why should so small a matter have been dignified with so proud a title? An admirable freedom! That man is not forced to be the servant of sin, while he is, however, a voluntary slave; his will being bound by the fetters of sin. I abominate mere verbal disputes, by which the Church is harassed to no purpose; but I think we ought religiously to eschew terms which imply some absurdity, especially in subjects where error is of pernicious consequence. How few are there who, when they hear free will attributed to man, do not immediately imagine that he is the master of his mind and will in such a sense, that he can of himself incline himself either to good or evil? It may be said that such dangers are removed by carefully expounding the meaning to the people. But such is the proneness of the human mind to go astray, that it will more quickly draw error from one little word, than truth from a lengthened discourse.
Calvin, Institutes, book II, Chapter 2 # 7

If by “free will,” they mean sinners are equally able to choose good or evil, then we absolutely disagree. They cannot choose that for which they have absolutely no desire and to which they are complete averse. They cannot choose the light because they hate it (see John 3:20).

When we deny that sinners have free will, we simply mean the will is not an independent entity within the person that is unaffected by the his nature. In this sense, not even God’s will is free. Though he acts freely and chooses to do whatever he wishes, he cannot choose to do what is contrary to his holy character.

Arminian Presupposition #12. If God has predetermined anything that will occur, then he must “force” people to act against their wills.

People always do what we want to do most. We may wish to watch a movie or play a video game instead of studying microbiology unless the consideration that we might spend the rest of our lives asking the important question, “Do you want fries with that?” interposes itself into that decision. At that point, our desire to study may become greater than our desire to entertain ourselves. Either way, we are choosing according to our highest inclination and desire. If presented with the choice of amputating a limb or losing our lives, it is likely we will choose to lose the limb. In both these situations, we are choosing according to our highest inclination.

When Judas betrayed Jesus, he did exactly what he wanted to do, even though Jesus said, in regard to that betrayal, “The son of man goes as was predestined for him. . . .” Because sinners do what we want to do, we are responsible for our actions. If we were forced to act against our wills, we would not be accountable.

Often people have the idea the issue between Calvinists and Arminians is whether God chooses sinners or sinners choose God, or whether God seeks sinners or sinners seek God. In reality, this is not the question at all. We do not need to choose between these two alternatives since both are true. If you are a believer, it is because there was a time in your life that you freely chose to seek Jesus Christ as he is offered in the gospel. You chose him to be the new master of your life. You sought him and found him because you sought for him with all your heart. The real issue is how this seeking and choosing began. Is it the sinner who first seeks God or God who first seeks the sinner? The consistent answer of Scripture is that God is the great initiator in the sinner’s salvation. He never forces sinners to come to Christ. Instead, he causes us to be willing by giving us a new heart. Consider the words of the following hymn,

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
No, I was found of thee.

Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea;
‘Twas not so much that I on thee took hold,
As thou, dear Lord, on me.

I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole
Of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee;
For thou wert long beforehand with my soul,
Always thou lovedst me.



Arminian Presuppostion #10 Refuted

Arminian Presuppostion #10. Some of these who press the “free will” doctrine seem to believe, along with the Pelagians, sinners do not have Adam’s guilt imputed, or even his nature transmitted to them.

Perhaps it would be helpful to explain the primary differences between Calvinists, Arminians and Pelagians. At the risk of oversimplification, the basic differences are these: Though both traditional Arminians and Calvinists agree that sinners are born totally depraved due to Adam’s transgression and that prevenient [preceding] grace is necessary to grant them ability to believe, they disagree on two points relative to this grace. 1. Arminians believe this preceding grace is granted to every sinner; Calvinists believe it is granted only to those whom the Father has chosen. 2. “Prevenient grace” as conceived by the Arminians is necessarily ineffectual in and of itself. Otherwise, all who received it would come to faith in Christ. It can only be effectual if sinners cooperate. If they choose to remain intransigent in their rebellion against God, this “grace” will always be ineffectual. For the Calvinists, preceding grace is always effectual.
Pelagians believe the only effect Adam’s sin has had on the race is from his bad example. In their view, every person is born in the same condition as that in which Adam and Eve were created. In their view, sinners are sinners because they sin. Calvinists believe we sin because we are sinners.
Some of those we have identified as “Arminians” seem to have joined the ranks of the Pelagians. Apparently, they have decided it is unfair of God to impute Adam’s guilt or transmit his nature to his posterity. After all, why should God hold us accountable for something Adam did?

At the outset let me state as gently as possible that the issue is not whether this seems fair to people but whether it is taught in the Word of God. What Augustine and Calvin thought about this subject is of no greater importance than the opinions of the “Church Fathers.” It is always better to find out what the “Grandfathers” taught. The following are some issues we need to consider in seeking to discover the relationship between Adam and his offspring:
1. Do the Scriptures address the issue of imputation?
2. Is there any evidence that Adam’s sin has been imputed to his offspring?
3. If his sin has been imputed, how has this occurred? This question concerns whether Adam was the “seminal” head of the race or the “federal” or “representative” head of the race.
Let’s try to answer these questions one by one.

1. Do the Scriptures address the issue of imputation?

There is no question the concept of imputation is firmly grounded in the Scriptures. The locus classicus regarding imputation is Romans 5:12-19. In that passage it is important that we pay attention to the words “the one man” and “the many.” It is not one acting for “many” but one acting for “the many.” This is the language of representation. Let me illustrate. When one high school is competing with another in a basketball game, every student in the school does not go onto the court and actually participate in the contest. Instead, the best players in the school who wish to participate are chosen to represent the entire student body. They act as the representatives of “the many.” If they win the game, every student in the school can go home and honestly say to their parents, “We Won!!!” If their representatives lose the game, though they may be tempted to say, “They lost,” the reality they must report is that the entire school lost because their carefully chosen and eminently qualified representatives, acting in their place, lost the game. In this case, the five acted for “the many.”
The word in Scripture translated “imputed” is an accounting term. It is used of putting something to another’s account whether the thing accounted is reality or not. When God declares ungodly people just, he is putting something to their account that does not truly belong to them. When he charged Jesus with the sins of his people, he accounted or imputed something to him that did not belong to him. God accounts believers to have died with Christ to the reigning power of sin.
The reality is, there could be no good news about salvation apart from imputation. If we were called to judgment before our infinitely holy and unwaveringly righteous God and were required to stand there on the basis of our own merits, the only thing God could put to our account is our miserable failure and stubborn rebellion against him.

2. Is there any evidence Adam’s sin has been imputed to his offspring?

It is impossible to understand the teaching of the New Testament Scriptures apart from understanding the concept of representation and imputation. One of the most prominent unifying themes in the New Testament Scriptures is the believer’s union with Christ. As a result of this union, believers are complete in him. All the spiritual benefits and blessings of the New Covenant belong to us by imputation. God has credited to believers all the accomplishments and virtues of our head and representative. Our final salvation does not depend on what we have done, are doing or shall ever do. It depends on our union with Christ, our head and representative. It was to emphasize this essential truth that the Apostle Paul wrote Romans 5:12-19.
In Romans 5:1, he had begun an entirely new section in this great epistle. In chapters one through three, he had demonstrated every sinner’s need for justification before God. Then he had very clearly explained the nature, basis and results of that divine declaration. In chapter four, he illustrated God’s method of justification from the experiences of David and Abraham. Now in 5:1 he begins to show that all whom God has declared righteous in his sight are certain to be glorified.
As an aside, one reason people sometimes misunderstand the New Testament’s teaching about election unto salvation is their misunderstanding of the nature of salvation itself. Someone recently asked me if it bothered me that the Bible never states that God chose anyone to go to heaven. I answered that it didn’t bother me at all, since heaven and hell are not the main issues in salvation. Please understand that justification is not salvation. It is only one part of salvation. Salvation is not primarily about forgiveness but about being restored to the image of him who created us.

Paul’s argument is that since we have been justified and have a standing in grace, we have every reason to rejoice in the favorable and confident assurance [hope] that we will certainly be glorified “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. In the remainder of this chapter he expands on three reasons we can thus rejoice. First, he explains that we have a new relationship with God (5:1-11), Second, we have a new representative before God (5:12-19), Third, we are under a new reign (5:20-21).

We now have a new relationship with God. Whereas, before we were the objects of his wrath, we now have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ (5:1). Because we now have this new relationship, we are assured God has intended the most painful of life’s trials and the most intense of its pressures to confirm us in this hope and conform us to his image. By his Spirit, he overflows our hearts with the knowledge of his love for us—a love that has been demonstrated beyond a doubt in the sacrifice of His Son for us while still we were still his enemies. Paul then argues if God has given us the greatest gift possible while we were still enemies, how much more will he save us [bring us to glory] now that we are his friends.

The portion of this passage that most directly concerns the question we are considering is 5:12-19. Paul does not gratuitously introduce the subject of Adam’s sin and its results. His purpose is to show that just as Adam’s sin guaranteed the condemnation of all whom he represented, Christ’s obedience guaranteed the justification of all he represented. Though the possibility exists that Paul is talking about the righteousness believers will possess when we are glorified, the contrast with “condemnation” would point us in the direction of a judicial righteousness.
Paul offers the universality of death as clear evidence that Adam’s transgression or trespass has been imputed to his posterity. His argument is as follows—The penalty for sin is death. God had said to Adam and Eve, “In the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” Sin is not imputed, or charged to a person’s account where there is no law (5:13). That is, sin is not charged to a person and therefore there is no penalty apart from transgression of Law, or a clearly defined law. This type of sin cannot be committed in the absence of Law. The character of Adam’s sin went beyond a mere missing of the mark; it was an act of deliberate “transgression” of a clearly defined boundary. Adam’s sin was an act of deliberate disobedience to a clear command of God.

In verse fourteen, Paul writes about “those who had not sinned in a way similar to Adam’s transgression.” Please note, he uses a word for sin that refers to a deliberate stepping over of a clearly defined boundary. It has been rather common to identify these as infants and mentally challenged persons etc. who do not have the mental facility necessary to commit deliberate acts of transgression. Since they are incapable of such deliberate acts, there must be an explanation for the reign of death even over them. If death is the penalty for sin, and penalty implies guilt, why did such persons still die since they had not incurred personal guilt by deliberate acts of transgression against clearly revealed commandments? The answer would seem to be inescapable—death is universal because all sinned “in Adam.” In 1 Cor. 15: 22, Paul wrote, “as in Adam, all die. . .”
This interpretation makes good sense apart from Paul’s reference to that period “between Adam and Moses.” Between Adam and Moses [that is before God gave the Law to Israel] sin was in existence, but sin is not put to a person’s account apart from Law. If infants etc. were in view, why would Paul focus our attention on this particular time period? If his reference is to those Gentiles who lived between the fall and the giving of the Mosaic covenant, the same argument would apply as was posited of infants. The difficulty with this view, is that Paul, has elsewhere assigned personal guilt to those who had no codified expression of God’s law.

What is clear is that Paul argues that the universality of death indicates the universality of sin. Death passed through the entire race because all sinned. Additionally, it is clear that this sin resulted from the one sin of the one man, Adam. At the very least, Paul teaches us here that we have inherited a nature from Adam that insures that we all become actual sinners.

It is essential we understand the statement Paul makes concerning the “typical” relationship between Adam and Christ. He writes that Adam was the tupos of the coming one, i.e., Christ. The old fashioned typewriter got its name because of the impression it left on a piece of paper that corresponded to the image on the key that was struck. The basic idea of a biblical “type” is that it draws an intentional, necessary, theological correspondence between itself and the person, institution, place, or act that it foreshadowed. It is not necessary that a type correspond in every detail to the antitype it prefigures. Instead, types, like parables, are intended to indicate one point of necessary correspondence. The question we need to ask is on what point of correspondence between Adam and Christ does Paul wish us focus? In verses fifteen through seventeen, he focuses on the points of dissimilarity between Adam and Christ.

In verse eighteen, he continues the “just as”/”even so” comparison he began and then immediately interrupted in verse twelve. He now repeats the first part of that comparison “just as,” and moves to the second part of the comparison, “even so.” It seems inescapable that the essential point of correspondence is that of representation, “the one” acting for “the many.” It is important to understand that the term “justification for all” cannot be construed as an offer of justification any more than “condemnation for all” can be construed as an offer. One is as real as the other. How, then, are we to explain the universal terms the Apostle employs? Unless we are prepared to posit a Universalist position, i.e, that all without exception will eventually be justified, we can only explain these phrases in terms of representative headship. The “all” represented by Adam and the “all” represented by Christ are not coextensive. Douglas Moo has wisely commented concerning Paul’s point in this entire passage

This point is that there can be an assurance of justification and life, on the one side, that is just as strong and certain as the assurance of condemnation on the other. Paul wants to show, not how Christ has made available righteousness and life for all, but how Christ has secured the benefits of that righteousness for all who belong to him [Italics his] (Romans, Moo, vol 1, p. 356).

The Pelagian doctrine is that Adam’s posterity is only affected by his bad example. Every individual is born in the same state as that in which Adam and Eve were created. This position faces what, in my view, are insurmountable objections.
A. It does nothing to explain the universality of sin and death. Why would infants who never had opportunity to sin personally and deliberately die in infancy?
B. It does not explain those texts of Scripture that clearly state we are sinners “by nature.” In want sense does Adam’s bad example convey such a nature to us? King David speaks of being “brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin.” (see Psa. 51:5). Obviously, his prenatal fetus could not have been detrimentally affected by Adam’s bad example.
C. There are those who have never heard of Adam and are ignorant of his bad behavior. How could they be affected by his example. Yet, all without exception have sinned.
D. Given the typology we have discussed, we would have to argue, based on that correspondence, that justification that leads to life comes through following Jesus’ good example, and not by his redemptive representation of his people.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that they are right. Let’s assume we were all born innocent, in God’s image, and because in God’s image, inclined to holiness and righteousness. In spite of this, every one of us without a single exception has chosen willfully and culpably to rebel against God. “All have sinned!” If God perfectly foresaw what we would do when confronted with the opportunity to sin, and did nothing to prevent such a fall, apart from our having the sheer pleasure of personally damning ourselves, how much different is that from imputing the sin of Adam to us in the first place?

3. If we sinned in Adam, how has this occurred? This question concerns whether Adam was the “seminal” head of the race or the “federal” or “representative” head of the race.

Even those who believe in representative headship do not deny that we were “really” in Adam when he sinned. When Adam sinned, he was the human race. Just as Levi was in the loins of Abraham when the latter paid tithes to Melchizedek, so we were all in the loins of Adam when he rebelled against God. Still, that does not mean we were actually acting with him in partaking of the forbidden fruit. The writer’s point in Hebrews seven is that Abraham, as the progenitor of the Hebrew race, was greater than Levi. Melchizedek’s superiority to Abraham is seen in the latter’s receiving blessing from Melchizedek and paying tithes to him. If Abraham is greater than Levi and Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, then Melchizedek is greater than Levi. In other words, the point is not that Levi was actually there paying tithes, but that one who was greater than he paid tithes and thus showed himself inferior to Melchizedek.

Paul also tells us we, according to divine reckoning and due to our union with Christ, died to the reigning power of sin in the death of Christ. Does that mean we were actually on the cross with him, suffering the same pains and shame he suffered? No! But it is so because God has accounted it to be so. In the same way, Adam stood as our representative because God decreed that he would stand for us and act for us. Even if we adopt the “realistic” instead of the “representative” view, we do not obviate the reality that we were not personally in the garden willfully rebelling against God.


Discussion with Paul Dohse–Enemy of the Cross

A few days ago, I emailed Paul Dohse Sr. the following question:

Would you, or a member of your group, please comment on whether you believe a person´s “righteousness” in sanctification ever rises to the level of perfection that it merits God´s declaration of justification? This is really the issue.

He posted the following as an “answer”:

After a great deal of prodding, I persuaded him to post my response to his misrepresentation of my position. The following is what I wrote:


Since it is my email you are discussing, I don’t think I should be excluded from the discussion. I can tell you exactly what I intended. As I think we can all agree, it was a question, not a statement. Questions are intended to gather information, not impart information. I used quotation marks because I was responding to statements that were being made, based on John’s First Epistle, about believers being righteous. Since you have refused to post my comments, I resorted to email. For that reason, the question and hence the word “righteousness” was out of context with the discussion. I wanted to know if she or anyone else on your blog perceives the believer’s personal righteousness as a justifying righteousness. As you know, there is an ongoing debate not only with the RC’s but also with the “New Perspective on Paul,” regarding “righteousness.” Is the basis of justification an imputed righteousness or an imparted grace that enables our obedience in righteousness that becomes the basis of our justification. The latter would be “progressive justification.” My question is whether this righteousness we possess in sanctification can ever bear the weight of God’s righteous requirements.

Please let me answer some of the charges you have made about my beliefs:

1. In keeping with classic Reformed thought, I do think believers possess a personal righteousness that is produced by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Contrary to what one of your commentators has charged, we hold that the Holy Spirit indwells and leads the believer into obedient behavior.

2. As I have stated to you on numerous occasions, I believe justification is a declaration that occurs at the point of initial faith and that it does not “progress” in any sense of that word. It is, however, perpetual. Believers STAND in this grace of justification as well as in every other aspect of grace. It does not need to be maintained by Christ’s present obedience. Jesus is no longer in an obedient relationship. His obedience belonged to his state of humiliation, not to his current state of exaltation. The only work he carries on now is the APPLICATION of his once for all finished work. That finished work of redemption maintains our standing before God. Not only was he crucified but he is the crucified one. When Paul speaks of preaching Christ crucified, he uses the perfect tense. That tense speaks of an action that was completed at a point in the past with results continuing into the present. I stand justified before God because Jesus stands crucified before God. The reason the Law cannot condemn me is because I am united to him who fulfilled its last demand. It can exact nothing from me, because it collected everything from him.

3. Nothing I can do in sanctification can or needs to complete anything having to do with justification.

4. There is no reason to reject either a finished declaration of righteousness at the point of initial faith or an open manifestation of that righteousness when Jesus returns. One idea does not exclude the other. Relative to our adoption, another judicial declaration, we are heirs of God in the present, yet we earnestly await the full manifestation of that heirship and sonship when Jesus returns. Thus, Paul wrote that we “wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). One idea does not exclude the other.

5. What we do in sanctification does not determine whether we will be justified in a future judgment. It does indicate whether or not we have been justified in the first place. You, yourself, believe our obedience in sanctification gives us ground for assurance that we have been justified. Not everyone who has professed faith in Christ has been justified.
The evidence a person’s faith is real is his obedience to Christ. A person who has not been justified through faith in the here and now will certainly not be declared righteous in a future judgment.

6. I do not believe “perfection must be maintained in sanctification for the purpose of meriting God’s declaration in a final judgment.” Perfection has been and is being maintained for every believer because we are united to him who is perfectly righteous and holy. If my perfection in sanctification were the basis of my justification, I would be doomed.

7. I do not believe –“We must have a righteousness in sanctification that “rises” to the level of perfection in order to “merit” God’s declaration. And therefore, the old self did not die with Christ, and the works of the old man are therefore held against us.” That is exactly the opposite of what I believe. That is Roman Catholic doctrine.

8. The Reformed construct does not eliminate our works of obedience on sanctification. I believe we are called on to obey. The issue is whether a person trusts in those works of obedience as the basis of his right standing before God. The Galatian problem was the tendency of the Galatian “believers” depend on something other than Jesus Christ ALONE for their justification before God and for the evidence of their heirship. They had begun well, but they were in the process of turning away from Christ and the gospel. If their turning away became complete, they would be lost. Christ would profit them nothing. True believers do not turn away. A person who trusts anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ ALONE has never trusted Jesus Christ at all.

If I were to offer a criticism of the Reformed, it would be that, at times, in seeking for evidence of saving faith in their works of obedience they begin to trust their “evidences” instead of trusting Christ. We must understand that “evidences” are never perfect; only Christ is.

9. We do not live “by faith alone” in sanctification. We do live alone by faith. Any walk that is not by faith is a sinful life. Nothing we do is acceptable to God apart from faith. It is “faith that works by love.” We don’t simply “learn and do.” We learn and do “by faith.” We “trust and obey.”

10. Paul, you wrote, “Works must be added to our Christian life by faith alone. How in the world would you do that? This would seem to lead to all kinds of complicated introspection and fear that we are working by faith alone, and not “in our own efforts.” [Perhaps you meant, fear that we are not working by faith alone but “in our own efforts.”]
As I stated, we do not believe in sanctification “by faith alone.” There is nothing wrong with introspection from time to time. If there is no reason for it, it can be a distraction from Christ. We can know if we are walking by faith simply by asking the question, “Am I trusting my feelings, my evidences, my obedience etc., or am I trusting Christ alone?” We do not finish the Christian life differently than we began it. It is a matter of faith in Christ from start to finish. We must live and obey “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. . . .”

After referring last night to my post as “Reformed trash,” he posted the following response this morning.

paulspassingthoughts said, on January 21, 2013 at 8:06 am

I can just about poke your lengthy treatise and get doublespeak and the ever-so-slight twisting of words here and there to posit deception. Example: “6. I do not believe “perfection must be maintained in sanctification for the purpose of meriting God’s declaration in a final judgment.” Perfection has been and is being maintained for every believer because we are united to him who is perfectly righteous and holy. If my perfection in sanctification were the basis of my justification, I would be doomed.”

First, you say that perfection doesn’t have to be maintained, then you explain how it is, but imply that it’s not a maintaining because of our union with God and that’s what maintains it. The perfection that doesn’t need to be maintained. It’s like MacArthur saying that we should never separate justification and sanctification, but if we don’t it would be progressive justification. You, like all authentic Calvinists, can’t grasp that there is NO standard in justification and where there is no law there is no sin.

Randy, you are a vile, false teaching snake in the grass and I don’t want you trying to comment here anymore, and I don’t want you emailing me.

Type away if you will, but your correspondence will be ignored. Like all authentic Calvinists, you are a troll, stalker, and control freak. Why don’t you go and be an elder at MacArthur’s church. They have their own in-house police force and everything. People who ask too many questions are escorted to their vehicles and told not to come back. You would be right at home. Go where your need can be fulfilled, but it will no longer be fulfilled here.


This was my response by email.


Let me get this straight. You think people in charge at MacArthur´s Church are controlling because they physically remove hecklers who ¨ask too many questions,¨ and yet you ban me when all I want to do is try to keep you honest. As I have stated often, I don´t mind if you disagree with my views, I just want you to represent them accurately.

Re: your contention that there is no longer any law to be satisfied, you need to remember Paul wrote, ¨To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law¨ (1 Cor. 9:21). The Law as Jewish covenant has indeed been fulfilled, but that does not mean God no longer holds sinners accountable to obey his holy law. The only reason believers need not fear the law´s curse is that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. We are not justified apart from any keeping of the law, but apart from our personal keeping of the law. How else do you deal with Paul´s phrase, ¨the doers of the Law will be justified?¨ It seems to me, that clearly identifies the basis on which sinners are to be declared righteous in God´s sight.

When Paul wrote, Romans 3:21, his meaning was not that righteousness was apart from the law, but that this righteousness of God i.e., his method of putting sinners right with himself in fulfillment of his covenant, is revealed apart from the law.

Your entire argument is based on a false premise.


Arminian Presupposition # 9 Refuted

Arminian Proposition #9–Some sinners are, by nature, worse than others.

As is clear from the statements Arminians make, they believe some sinners are, by nature, worse than others. One hears them speak of “really bad sinners,” as if there were some other kind. The whole idea that all are granted equal grace, but some respond favorably and others unfavorably implies some virtue and malleability in the former and recalcitrance in the latter. Though the original Arminians seemed much closer to biblical truth that those of our day, they stated in the first Article of the Remonstrance, “. . . .God has determined. . .to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath.” From my reading of Scripture, I had the impression that all sinners are by nature incorrigible and unbelieving.

It seems the issue at hand, then, is whether or not all are, by nature, incorrigible and unbelieving. I want to be clear I am not suggesting all act as badly as they are capable of acting or even as badly as others around them are acting. Additionally, I am not suggesting sinners cannot perform actions that are good and laudable in the sight of others. Some sinners live moral and upright lives. The apostle Paul was able to claim, under divine inspiration, that “as to righteousness under the Law, [he was] blameless” (Phil. 3:6). That does not mean, of course, that he was inwardly conformed to the righteous requirements of the Law. It simply means that from outward observation, no one was able to lay anything to his charge.

The argument I am making is that all sinners are the same by nature and by birth. Among the many errors in the reasoning of the Pharisee who accompanied the tax collector to the temple to pray, perhaps the greatest is seen in his statement, “I thank you that I am not as other men. . . .” (Luke 18:11). He clearly erred in making a difference [in terms of sinful nature] between himself and the tax collector.

It is a humbling matter to understand we are, at heart, no different from the vilest sinner who ever lived. If we have not acted as badly as we could have, it is owing completely to the restraining grace of God. When the apostle Paul described God’s work as the sovereign potter, he spoke of both vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor as originating from the same lump of clay. “Of the same lump, he has made one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor” (Rom. 9:21). Additionally, he describes the pre-conversion experience of believers in Ephesus as follows, “we. . . .were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3). That phrase “like the rest of mankind,” is an important one. It tells us not only that we owe all we have and any differences that might exist between us and unbelievers to the sovereign and distinguishing grace of God. It also teaches us that every individual who exists is, by nature, exactly like every other individual that exists. We are all by nature children of wrath.

Paul makes it quite clear in his indictment of the human race that there is no difference [that is between Jew and Gentile], because “all sinned and are falling short of the glory of God” Rom. 3:23).

It is on this basis we believe Christ’s redemptive work, though designed to effectually redeem the elect and them only, is abundantly sufficient for the redemption of all if they would but trust God’s promises. Since all are equally sinners by nature and guilty before God, in accomplishing what one sinner needed to reconcile him to God, Jesus accomplished what every sinner needed. Since that redemptive work is infinitely valuable, it is abundantly sufficient to redeem all mankind.

When Paul instructs the Ephesians in proper conduct as believers, he does not write “You must not conduct yourselves as some of those really bad Gentiles do.” He describes them all as living in the same way. “You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do. . . .” (Eph. 4:17). In this passage, he provides an excellent description of what we mean by the term “total depravity.” Every facet of the sinner’s personality has been radically affected by sin. The intellect has been affected–“in the futility of their minds, they are darkened in their understanding” (17b-18a). The emotions have been affected–“alienated from the life of God [spiritually dead] because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous,” (18b-19a). The will has been affected–“They have given themselves up. . . .” (19b). This is an act of the will.

When we argue that sinners have no “free will,” we do not mean they are not at liberty to choose whatever they wish. Instead, we mean, by sinful nature, we are not free to choose what we ought to choose because sin has alienated us from God.

Unless we believe King David was an exception to the rule, we are all brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin (See Psa. 51:5). We are all born with the same sinful nature. We do not need instruction in iniquity. It is not bad example that causes our waywardness. As it is the nature of sheep to wander out of the way, it is our nature to seek our way as opposed to God’s way–“ALL we like sheep [because it is our nature to do so], have gone astray. Every one of us [there are no exceptions] has turned to his own way. . . .” (Isa. 53:6).


What Calvinists Believe about ¨Progressive Justification.¨

For the sake of context, I want to tell you just a bit about my religious upbringing. I grew up in an INDEPENDENT, Fundamental, Baptist home. As I was growing up, my heroes were men such as Jack Hyles and John R. Rice. I had memorized well the Romans Road and the Sinner’s prayer. Once a sinner had “prayed to receive Jesus,” I knew how to give him assurance of his salvation, based on his decision. I would tell him/her they were secure for eternity no matter what they did and that if they ever doubted their salvation they were “calling God a liar,” since he had said, “Whoever has the Son has life.” Surely, they had the Son since they had just invited him into their hearts. I never considered the possibility that their decision may not have been faith at all.

I would have fought anyone over the doctrine of “Once saved, always saved.” What I hadn’t yet realized is that you have to be once saved to be always saved. Faith in Christ is not a mere decision we make and move on. It is a life long commitment to follow him and obey him. It is also a life long commitment to forsake all hope of righteousness based on our following and our obedience.

I have said that to say this–I am not ignorant of this sort of mind-set. I have been there, and had great difficulty working my way out of it. I finally came to grips with the fact that the same Bible that teaches the absolute certainty of the true believer’s final glorification, also teaches the absolute necessity of the believer’s perseverance in faith to the end.

Many of those addressed in the NT Scriptures who were in trouble in their walk, were having difficulties because they were in danger of turning to some ground of hope other than Jesus Christ. Some are trying to make the issue about the necessity for obedience in the Christian life. This is not the issue. There is no question that believers are called on to obey. The issue is whether a person can truly trust Christ fully and depend on some other ground of hope, even to a slight degree, at the same time. Nor is the issue whether believers can merit or maintain their justification in the process of sanctification. It would not only be impossible to do so but absolutely unnecessary to do so. The genuine believer is as justified before God the first moment he believes as he will ever be.

I have been a Calvinists for almost 45 years and have never heard or read another Calvinist who used the term ¨progressive justification¨ except in contrast to our doctrine of justification. For example, A.A. Hodge wrote concerning the points of difference between Protestants and Romanists on the subject of justification, “As to the nature and office of faith. We say that it is the instrument; they the beginning and root of justification. 4th. They say that justification is progressive. 5th. That it may be lost by mortal sin and regained and increased through the sacrament of Penance, and completed in Purgatory.” (Outlines of Theology, p. 511).

I would only require a little thought to understand that Calvinists cannot believe in progressive justification. Consider the following:

1. We believe God justifies the ungodly (See Rom. 4:5). If we could in any way progress beyond the state of being ungodly and became as righteous in God’s sight as he requires for our full justification, we would no longer be candidates for such a declaration.

2. We believe justification before God is based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. This is a righteousness that is wholly outside us. We can have no contribution to it. We do nothing to produce it and could do nothing to render it more perfect.

3. The moment we trust God’s promise to save us through Christ redemptive work, God declares us as spotlessly righteous in his sight as is Christ himself.

4. Since we did nothing to merit the justified state in which we now stand as believers, nothing we do now can increase or diminish our right standing before God. Our standing before God has nothing whatsoever to do with our works of obedience either before or after conversion.

We do believe not every professing Christian has been justified. Our works of obedience and the confessed ground of our confidence before God after our initial profession evince the state of our souls before God. The true believer speaks of current confidence in Christ for the justification of his soul, not of some decision he made years ago. A person who truly trusts in Christ is a person who will continue to trust him to the end of his life. Does the true believer have to try to muster up enough faith so that he won’t be lost if he stops believing. No. If God has ever granted him faith, he [God] will continue to produce that faith to the end.

There are certain miscreants who seem intent on spreading their prevarications about Calvinistic beliefs. It matters not how often they are confronted with their lies, they continue to scatter them like handfuls of bad seed. God will reward such enemies of the gospel for their hatred for and distortion of his good news.


Arminian Presuppostion #8 Refuted

8. The terms “called” and “calling” refer to the general and universal invitation of the gospel.

There is no question but that there is a general and universal call of the gospel. It is a sincere and bonafide offer of salvation in Christ and all who respond positively to this call in faith and repentance will assuredly be saved. It is this call Jesus spoke of in Matt. 22:14 when he said, “. . . .for many are called, but few are chosen.” The problem is, this call is always ineffectual unless it is accompanied by God’s internal and effectual call. We refer to this call as “effectual” because it effectively brings sinners into union with Christ. Paul wrote, “God is faithful, by whom you were called in to the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”(1 Cor. 1:9). Believers have been called into partnership with Jesus Christ. This is clearly not true of everyone who is invited by the gospel. In keeping with this, he wrote in verse thirty of the same chapter, “Because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus. . . .” In other words, the fact that we are in Christ is the result of God’s activity and not ours.

It seems likely “calling” in Pauline literature refers to the same work of God as “drawing” does in John’s gospel. In both calling and drawing, it is clear it is God, the Father who calls/draws. In both, the result is faith in Christ. Apart from calling or drawing, sinners cannot or will not come to Christ. Jesus said, “No one can(is able to) come to me unless the Father who has sent me should draw him, and I will raise him up again at the last day.” In this same context (v. 37), Jesus has told his hearers that all the Father is giving him (he uses the present tense to indicate action that is going on) will come to him and that he will never by any means reject those who come. This should be distinguished from what he teaches in verse thirty-nine where he speaks of those the Father has given him with the continuing result that he still has them. This was an action completed in the past. The latter donation speaks of God’s decree before the world was. In accordance with that decree, the Father is, by drawing them to Jesus, giving them to him. Jesus tells us that all he “draws” in this way will come to him. “Every person therefore having heard and having learned of the Father comes to me” (45b). In other words, this drawing is an effectual drawing.

This teaching clearly accords with what the apostle Paul wrote about “calling.” A careful examination of the New Testament Epistles will reveal there is not a single occurrence of the words, “called,” “call,” or “calling” in which it refers to the universal call of the gospel. The New Testament writers consistently used it to refer to that effectual call by which God the Father unites his chosen people to Christ. So much is this the case that at times they refer to believers as “the called ones,” for example, see Rom. 1:6 and 8:28.

I would like you to consider two passages in which it is clear that “calling” cannot refer to the external call or invitation of the gospel. They are Romans 8:30 and 1 Cor. 1: 22-24.

In the first of these we encounter what some of the old writers referred as “God’s golden chain of redemption.” This chain began to be forged by God in eternity past and stretches into eternity future. It should be clear that every link of this chain has reference to the same people. Those who are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ are the same as those who are glorified.

The first link of this “golden chain” is God’s predetermination of the elects’ full conformity to the image of his Son. He determined to restore his image in his redeemed people even before that image was lost in the early days of human existence. Then, Paul informs us that those, only those, but all of those he thus predestined, he also called. It is important that we understand the identification of the ones called with those he predestined. If God’s predestinating activity means anything, it assures us that all he has planned will certainly occur. Everyone of those God predestined will be glorified or conformed to Christ’s image. Each link of this chain concerns the same group of people. He does not write, “Some of those he predestined, he also called” or “some of those he called, he also justified,” or “some of those he justified, he also glorified.” The entire purpose of this argument, which he began to pursue in chapter five, is that those whom God has justified, may “rejoice in hope [the confident and settled assurance] of the glory of God [again becoming reflectors of his glory by bearing his image, i.e., glorification]. His specific argument in this immediate context is that God’s eternal purpose guarantees the believer’s glorification.

Since this is true, it is impossible that “calling” in this verse refers to the universal call, i.e., invitation, of the gospel. If that were the case, everyone invited by the gospel would be included in those God predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son–“whom he predestined THEM he also called.” Additionally, we would have to argue that everyone who has been invited by the gospel is also justified–“whom he called, THEM he also justified.” This clearly cannot be the case. We must conclude that “called” in this verse refers to God’s activity that effects faith in those who are outwardly invited by the gospel. Otherwise, they could not be justified.

In 1 Cor. 1: 22-24, Paul describes the prevailing attitude and recalcitrant rebellion of those to whom he preaches the gospel. He informs us that the Jews to whom he preaches go on requiring a sign and the Greeks to whom he preaches go on seeking wisdom or philosophy. Instead of tickling their ears or trying to produce signs to authenticate his message, he goes on proclaiming to them the naked, unvarnished truth that God’s anointed one has been crucified on a Roman cross and now stands as the crucified one. Then he describes the reaction of both Jews and Greeks to this message. As far as the Jews are concerned this is an offensive message. The idea that their expected Messiah would die as a vile criminal by crucifixion was more than they could tolerate. Left to themselves, they routinely rejected this message. To the Greeks, this message was moronic. They, too, roundly rejected it.

When we read these words, one of our assumptions in the case of both Jews and Greeks must be that they had heard the gospel. They could not regard it as an offense and foolishness if they had not heard it, could they? To state the matter differently, both the Jews and Greeks to whom Paul proclaimed the message of Christ had been CALLED, i.e., invited, by the outward call of the gospel. But, in contrast to those who persistently rejected this outward call Paul wrote, “BUT TO THOSE WHO ARE CALLED, BOTH JEWS AND GREEKS, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. What effected such a change? How is it that Christ and the message of his crucifixion which before was offensive and foolish is now power and wisdom? The answer can only be God’s internal and effectual call.

If we insist that the call must refer to the external invitation of the gospel, we would have to believe the passage teaches something like the following: Both Jews and Greeks persistently reject the gospel invitation every time they hear it, but to those who are invited by the gospel, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is now God’s power and wisdom. That is pure nonsense!


Arminian Presuppostion#7 Refuted

Arminian Presupposition #7. The Holy Spirit convicts all sinners in the same way, and it is this conviction that causes some sinners to believe the gospel.

Perhaps it will surprise you to know there is but one reference to the Spirit’s work of “conviction” in the New Testament Scriptures (John 16:8-11). It may be helpful in dealing with this Arminian presuppostion to consider these verses in some detail. There are several issues we need to investigate in regard to the Holy Spirit’s work in the sinner’s conversion. First, we should investigate the phrase “The Holy Spirit convicts.” Second, we should consider the contention that the Spirit convicts “ALL sinners.” Third, we should consider the idea that the Spirit convicts all sinners “in the same way.” And finally, we need to examine the idea that it is this work of conviction causes some sinners to believe the gospel, while others successfully resist his best efforts.

What does the Bible mean when it says “He will convict the world of sin?” We have been led to believe the Spirit’s work of conviction involves making people feel guilty for their sins so they will leave their sins and believe in Christ. We are told of people who are “under conviction,” which means they are feeling guilty. Sinners may and should feel guilty under this ministry of the Spirit, but the action itself is not the eliciting of feelings of guilt, but the pressing of the evidence on the sinner’s consciousness.

The reality is, “conviction” is about guilt, not about feeling guilty. I am not denying that a feeling of guilt may follow. I am simply saying that it is the proof of guilt not the feeling of sense of guilt that should follow that is in view. Whether the sense of guilt follows or not, the Spirit has done his work in pressing the evidence on the sinner’s conscience. Sinners who remain unregenerate will continue to “resist” [to fall against, or throw oneself against] the Spirit. In this sense the Spirit can be and always is resisted.

The word translated “convict” concerns demonstrating guiltiness. It is the same word Jesus used when he asked, “Which of you convinces me of sin” (John 8:46)? He did not mean to say, “which one of you can make me feel guilty of sin.” Instead, he meant which of you can present convincing proof that I am guilty of sin. The word means “to convince with proofs.” The Spirit’s work is not to make sinners feel guilty but to prove them guilty. A prosecuting attorney does not care whether the accused feels guilty or not. His job is to prove him guilty before the court. The Spirit’s work is to act as a prosecuting attorney. In conjunction with gospel proclamation, his work is to press the evidence of the sinner’s guilt, to convince with proofs. Whenever “the world” is confronted by the gospel, it is brought to a position in which it can no longer gainsay the evidence. It must either come to the light or reject it. As the Paraclete bears witness concerning Jesus, through the witness of the Christian community, the world is brought face to face with stark reality concerning its guilt and the consequent judgment. This work of the Spirit is quite specific. He will convince the world with proofs regarding three issues–sin, righteousness and judgment. The particular sin concerning which the Spirit prosecutes sinners is the crowning sin of Christ rejection. This is a continuation of Jesus’ earthly ministry. His ministry was always an “in your face” confrontation concerning the natural person’s failure to love God and hostility toward God. In the previous chapter he had informed his disciples that because they were not of the world, the world would hate them. He, then, told them the world would hate them because it hated him first and that it hated him because it hated the one who sent him. Proper gospel proclamation coupled with the Spirit’s ministry of pressing convincing proofs of the sinner’s guilt on his conscience will leave sinners no quarter in which to conceal themselves. Jesus said, sinners continue in their guilt and condemnation because “they do not believe on me.” Thus, the sin in view is a sin against clear revelation. This is in keeping not only with Jesus’ teaching during his earthly ministry but also with the clear theme of light vs. darkness in John’s gospel. He wrote, “This is the condemnation that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. . . .”(John 3:19). Those Jesus calls “the world” always react in the same way toward him. The same is true of the Spirit’s ministry when he testifies [or causes believers to testify] of Jesus in the proclamation of the gospel. Stephen said to the Jews to whom he was preaching, “. . .you stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51). “Always” it the key word in this sentence. Sinners in a state of nature will ALWAYS be guilty of the sin of Christ rejection.

Additionally, the Spirit will produce convincing evidence concerning righteousness. “Of righteousness because I go to the Father and you see me no more.” The evidence of Jesus’ righteousness is that he has gone to the Father and they see him no more. Only a righteous one could enter the Father’s presence and be accepted. This also offers a contrast to their imagined righteousness. Official Judaism had treated Jesus as a sinner, a lunatic, a demon-possessed person, but never as the righteous one he was in reality. The Spirit will press home the evidence that Jesus is all he claimed to be.

Finally, the Spirit will produce convincing evidence of coming judgment. That Jesus is exalted to the throne gives indisputable evidence that the ruler of this world has been judged [stands condemned]. Jesus’ triumph over the wicked one in his death, not only provides convincing proof of their judgment concerning him, but also of their impending condemnation.

I find it interesting that in Peter’s Spirit inspired sermon on the day of Pentecost, his message included these three elements. Of sin–“you have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain”(v. 23). Of righteousness–resurrection and ascension–“God raised him up (v. 24). Of judgment–Jesus is enthroned, “Sit at my right hand, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES YOUR FOOTSTOOL” (v.35).

As we consider John’s teaching on these facets of the Spirit’s ministry it should become clear to us that this ministry is not carried on apart from the gospel witness. Since this is the case, there are certain conclusions that must follow:

1. Only if everyone in “the world” hears the gospel can every member of the human race be the subjects of this work of the Spirit. John apparently used the word “world” to indicate either the wicked and ungodly character of those whom the Spirit convicts in this way or that his ministry would be to people of every nation. It is possible it was a combination of these meanings. What is certain is that the Spirit does not “convict” every member of the human race.

2. If the Spirit does not convict “all,” he certainly does not convict all in the same way. However, there is no way of knowing with what variation of fervency the Spirit prosecutes those he convicts. My belief would be that the Spirit convicts all in the same manner.

3. Finally, in regard to the idea that “This work of conviction causes some sinners to believe the gospel, while others successfully resist his best efforts,” it seems to me the Scripture is clear. The Spirit’s work of “conviction,” in and of itself, is not successful in bringing sinners to faith any more than the gospel has the power, in itself, to bring sinners to faith. Consider Stephen’s words again–“. . .you always resist the Holy Spirit . . . .” The gospel is always foolishness to those who are perishing. What sinners need is not proof of guilt alone. What we need is a radial change of nature. The Spirit’s work of “conviction,” although essential and important, is not the only work God performs in bring his elect to himself through faith in Christ. It is God’s effectual call that unites sinners to Christ and ushers us into the blessings of the new covenant and the new creation to which it belongs. This work he performs in accordance with his eternal purpose.

Though I am not sure exactly what they meant by the following statement, even the Remonstrants admitted that faith is impossible apart from regeneration. They wrote,

Saving Faith.—Man in his fallen state is unable to accomplish any thing really and truly good, and therefore also unable to attain to saving faith, unless he be regenerated and renewed by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit (John xv. 5). (Third Article of the Remonstrance of the Arminians).


Quote from John Brown on Galatians on Union with Christ.

Christ died, and in him I died; Christ revived and in him I revived. I am a dead man with regard to the law, but I am a living man in regard to Christ. The law has killed me, and by doing so, it has set me free from itself. I have no more to do with the law. The life I have now is not the life of a man under the law, but the life of a man delivered from the law; having died and risen again with Christ Jesus, Christ’s righteousness justifies me, Christ’s spirit animates me. My relations to God are his relations. The influences under which I live are the influences under which he lives. Christ’s views are my views; Christ’s feelings are my feelings. He is the soul of my soul, the life of my life. My state, my sentiments, my feelings, my conduct are all Christian (Brown, Galatians, p. 97).


Arminian Presupposition #6 Refuted

Arminian Presupposition #6. If God has truly chosen who will be saved and determined that they will certainly believe the gospel, there is no need to preach the gospel to anyone.

This presupposition is also shared by Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists. From it, the Arminian would argue there is a need to preach the gospel to everyone, therefore, election cannot be true. The Hyper-Calvinist would argue that since election is true, there is no need to preach the gospel. For him, all the elect will be saved whether they believe or not. Others would argue that if our doctrine is true, there is no need to pray. The error of both is their failure to understand that the same God who has ordained the end of all things has also ordained the means by which God’s decree are to be accomplished.

We are bound to get into trouble theologically if we put a “therefore” where God has put a period. Is it certain all the elect will be saved? Yes! Is it certain no one will be saved apart from the use of the means God has ordained? Yes! Consider what Paul wrote, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

I have no right to reject either the truth that God’s decrees are certain to be fulfilled or that we must be diligent in the use of the means God has ordained to fulfill those decrees. Both are clearly taught in Scripture.

Part of the difficulty results from a confusion of plan, accomplishment and application. Simply because something is planned, even if that plan is certain to be accomplished, does not obviate the need to implement the plan. If the most talented and detail oriented architect in the world designed the most fabulous dwelling ever conceived, no one could live in that house apart from a construction crew coming along and actually building the house. When the house is completed, someone can move into it. It makes no difference how elaborate the plan may be, no one can move into it. God’s blueprint is so perfect that it is without need of alteration, but it needs to be implemented in his works of creation and providence. Predestination is God’s blueprint; Christ’s work of redemption corresponds to the building of the house. Moving into the house is God’s work of application. The blueprint is neither the house nor what occurs on moving day.

God works all things according to his purpose. God’s purpose is not his providence. We must keep those aspects of God’s activity separate. Additionally, our responsibility is not determined by what God has decreed, but by what God has declared. One of the old writers stated it this way–“God’s decree and his acts of providence are to be the Christian’s diary, not his Bible.” We are not to be guided by God’s decree moving forward, but we can rejoice in it looking backward. It is God’s revealed will that must determine our duty, not what he has decreed. One reason we cannot expect to be guided by God’s predestined plan is we cannot know what God has decreed until after an event occurs, unless that plan has been revealed in the Bible. If it occurs, I can be sure God planned it to occur. Until the actual occurrence of an event, I must be guided by his will revealed in the Scriptures.

How do I know to whom I should preach the gospel? Am I able to peer into God’s book of life to learn whom he has chosen? Must I be certain a sinner has been awakened before I can invite him to come to Christ? Of course, the answer is clearly revealed in the Bible. I am to proclaim God’s good news to every creature under heaven and invite whosoever wishes to come and take of the water of life freely.


Arminian Presuppostion #5 Refuted

Arminian Presuppostion #5. Sinners are not condemned because of sin, but only because of unbelief.

In his book, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, John Owen posited only three possibilities regarding the design and extent of Christ’s death. He died for:

1. All the sins of all men, or

2. Some of the sins of all men, or

3. All the sins of some men.

Assuming Christ’s death was, as the Scriptures uniformly represent it to have been, an accomplishment and not a mere provision, he could not have died for all the sins of all men else all would be saved, and the Scriptures clearly teach us that will not be the case. If he died for some of the sins of all men, then there are some sins remaining for which the sinner himself must atone. In such a case, no one would be saved since sinners cannot make atonement for their own sins. If he died for all the sins of some men, namely, the elect, then all for whom he died would be effectively redeemed.

The presupposition we are considering here is based on the assumption that Jesus’ intention in sacrificing himself was either to save all sinners or to make all sinners savable by satisfying God’s wrath for all their sins. If he satisfied for all their sins, the question remains, why are they not all saved? The answer of the Arminians and their Amyraldian friends is that Christ’s work of redemption was universal, but is limited in its application to only those who believe the gospel. In the case of the Amyraldians, that application was guaranteed by God’s decree of election. According to both these views, the work of Christ was a mere provision, and not an accomplishment. That, incidently, is the real issue that separates Calvinists and Arminians, not the sufficiency of Christ’s death. It follows, then, that the issue between the sinner and God is no longer sins, but only the sinner’s refusal to believe the gospel.

There are several questions I feel compelled to ask in regard to this presupposition:

1. What is it that sinners must reject in order to be condemned? If it is the gospel sinners must reject to become condemned, we would do them a favor by withholding the gospel from them.

2. Do sinners become condemned when they are confronted with a divine self-disclosure and reject it, or were they already condemned? There was an evangelist named Oliver Green from Greenville, S.C. who popularized the phrase, “It is no longer the sin question; it is now the Son question.” He based his view on John 3:18, “. . .whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” The implication of this teaching is that sinners are condemned by an act of Christ rejection. What he failed to take into account is that it is the sin question that makes the Son question necessary. What the text actually teaches is not that an act of rejecting Christ condemns sinners but that a sinner continues in a state of condemnation (perfect tense–he already stands condemned) because he continues in a state of unbelief. Sinners are already condemned because of sin apart from any exposure to the gospel. Through faith in Christ, believers are justified because they are united to him who came under condemnation and satisfied all God’s righteous demands. If sinners already stand condemned apart from exposure to the gospel, what is it that condemns them if not their sins?

If you will permit me an illustration–Suppose with me there is an inmate on death row who has been found guilty of numerous crimes by a jury of his peers. He has exhausted all his appeals and is scheduled for execution within hours. Now suppose the governor of the state in which he is imprisoned grants him a full pardon. If he accepts the pardon, he will no longer be under condemnation, but will be a free man. The problem is, there are a couple of issues preventing his acceptance of the pardon. The governor is his bitter enemy whom he does not trust and fears he has an ulterior motive in granting his pardon. Additionally, he is afraid his acceptance of the pardon will be an implicit admission of his guilt. As unreasonable as it sounds, the man refuses the governor’s pardon and goes to his death by execution. Here is the question–Since he has refused the pardon, is he now no longer under condemnation for and being executed for his original crimes but only for refusing the pardon? No, he already stood condemned for those crimes. Nothing changed when he refused the pardon. He simply remained under the sentence the court imposed on him for his crimes.

In the same way, those who refuse the free offer of the gospel, though now under an aggravated condemnation for rejecting even greater light, continue in the same state of condemnation they were in prior to rejecting the gospel.

3. If, as the Arminian believes, God foresaw the faith of those who would become believers and chose [decreed] to save them on that basis, why would Jesus give himself, contrary to the Father’s decree, to satisfy God’s righteous demands and propitiate his wrath for those he knew would perish in unbelief. Did God intend what he did not decree? Even if we granted that the Arminian is correct in his belief that election is based on foreseen faith, we would still be left with a decree of election. The only difference is that in the Calvinistic system God knows what he has decreed and in the Arminian system God decrees what he knows or foresees. Either way, the outcome is determined beforehand. If God knows something will happen before it occurs, is it not certain to occur? Did Jesus really give himself to provide something he knew full well was contrary to the Father’s decree?

4. Since unbelief is a sin, and sinners can perish as a result of it, is it not a sin for which Jesus did not make satisfaction? In that case, he could not have died for all the sins of all sinners. Does the sinner make satisfaction for it by believing, and, if so, does not his faith become a meritorious act? Unbelief is not a one time act but a state of existence. A simple act of faith cannot atone for a lifetime of unbelief.

5. If sinners do no perish because of their sins, how is it that “The wrath of God is being revealed [present tense] from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness? (Rom. 1:18). If Jesus satisfied God’s wrath for all the sins of all sinners, how can that wrath be being revealed against sinners now? Either Jesus satisfied it or he didn’t.

6. If sinners do not perish because of their sins, how could the apostle Paul write,

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience (Eph. 5:3-6)?

He wrote that “because of these things the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience.” He did not write that because of unbelief the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience. What are the things for which God’s wrath falls on the sons of disobedience? They are “sexual immorality and all impurity, covetousness, filthiness and foolish talking and crude joking, idolatry.

I fail to see how one could escape the conclusion that God’s wrath comes on sinners because of their sins. Disobedience and unbelief are simply symptoms of our depravity.