Archive for the 'Doctrines of Grace Forum' Category

28
May
18

For We are His Handiwork–Ephesians 2:10

If there is any question in anyone’s mind about Paul’s meaning in verses eight and nine, what he has written in verse ten makes it abundantly clear. First, notice that the purpose clause “in order that no one should boast” and the words “we are his handiwork/created work” are connected by “for, or because [γὰρ].” Paul is citing the reason that no one should boast and he places “of Him [αὐτοῦ]” in the emphatic position—“of him, we are the created work” to underscore the fact that our union with Christ in the new creation is his doing and not ours. This clearly accords with Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 1:29-31 where he wrote, “In order that no human being should boast in his presence, but it is of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus. . .in order that just as it is written, ‘he that boasts, let him boast in the Lord.’”

If the synergistic view were correct, none of what is written in these passages would be true. According to synergism, God’s choice of sinners has been determined, not by his sovereign good pleasure but by his foresight of their free will decision. The Son has not secured the eternal redemption of any sinner in particular but has merely given sinners the potential for salvation if they will let Jesus save them. Jesus “draws” every sinner and the Father enables them to believe by giving all of them prevenient grace. He does absolutely nothing to distinguish between one sinner and another. If any sinner is saved, it is solely because he [or she] has cooperated with God’s best efforts and has thus distinguished himself from other sinners who have had equal opportunities but did not improve on them.

It is inconceivable, on the supposition that this view of soteriology is correct, that Paul could have written, “But it is of him that you are in Christ Jesus” since it would be of the sinner’s doing that is in Christ and not of his doing. If in all his best efforts to bring sinners to himself, efforts exerted toward all sinners equally, many will perish for eternity, one cannot accurately state that his most noble exertions have been effective in uniting any sinner to Christ. If there is no distinction in God’s efforts to save sinners, the factor or factors that distinguish one sinner from another must be in the sinner.

If God has done all he has intended to do to effect the sinner’s salvation once he has granted universal but ineffectual “grace” and has left the outcome to the sinner’s free will decision, the best one could say is that God has responded to the sinner’s decision and has united him to Christ in response to his faith, but in that case the reason for our union with him would be of our doing and not of him.

Paul is clear. We should not boast since it is God who has made us what we are spiritually. In creating us spiritually, he has performed a supernatural work that we could never have performed. Again, we should notice that the focus is entirely on God’s activity and not on ours.

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28
May
18

If God is For Us

 

In Romans 8:31, Paul asks his readers to begin to draw encouraging conclusions and he does so by asking a series of rhetorical questions intended to lead them to rejoice in the absolute certainty of their final glorification. It should not escape our attention that he does so, not by asking them to focus on a decision they have made but on the salvific work of the Triune God.

In that verse, Paul asks his readers to begin to draw encouraging conclusions and he does so by asking a series of rhetorical questions intended to lead them to rejoice in the absolute certainty of their final glorification.

It is to the first series of questions that I would like to draw your attention and then leave you with a question. Paul asks, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Then, as evidence that God is for believers, he writes concerning this God, “He that did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all [In the context he is clearly referring to all those who have been foreknown, predestined, called according to his purpose and justified by his grace through faith in Christ.]” then asks, “How shall he not along with him [the greatest gift he could give] freely give us all things [all the lesser gifts that belong to salvation including glorification].” His point is that if God is for us and if Jesus gave his life for the purpose of securing our redemption, our glorification is certain. In whatever sense God “gave Him up for us all,” He also “gives (the same people) all things.” After all, the “will he not also along with him freely give us all things?” is clearly rhetorical and expects an emphatic “Yes,” not an “I will…If you decide.”

I am amazed at the number of professing Christian people who will quite unabashedly state that Jesus did not save anyone by his death. Additionally, they will be quick to add that it was their faith that saved them. If one should ask them about the origin of that faith, they never seem to even question the idea that God has given a measure of faith to everyone without exception, then it is up to us to decide for or against Jesus. Apparently, the idea of God giving a measure of faith to every person is taken from a gross misrepresentation of Romans 12:3 that speaks of God granting to each believer a measure of faith for the exercise of the gift God has given them. There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that has granted to sinners universally the ability to believe.

It is difficult to blame these people because they are merely parroting what they have been told from “Evangelical” pulpits. In fact, I think they are rather astute in drawing the conclusion from what they have heard that Jesus did not save anyone by his death. If he accomplished no more for those who would believe than for those who will perish for eternity, his death, in itself, did not save anyone. If his death did not save everyone it was intended to redeem, it could not have, in itself, saved anyone it was intended to redeem.

We often hear the analogy of a ship being dispatched for the rescue of shipwreck victims who are in danger of drowning. To effect this rescue, the captain of the ship instructs his crew to throw a life ring into the water. He must not do anything more because if he did, he might violate the free will of the perishing. Apparently, since he has not determined to save any of these victims but merely to give them the potential for salvation by tossing the life ring, it is conceivable they will all perish because he clearly cares more about the preservation of their free will than about their rescue. If any are rescued, it will be solely because they made the right decision and grabbed the life ring. The life ring is nothing but the means of rescue. The true savior is the victim who is willing to use the means provided to get himself to safety.

This is far different from the image the Bible paints for us. In the biblical picture, the victims are murderous and pillaging pirates who have attacked the very ship that is being sent for their rescue. They are hostile toward the captain and his crew and would rather perish than dine at his table. At his own peril, the captain’s son dives into the frigid water, overcomes their hostility and brings them to safety. Had they been left to the ability of their wills, their doom would have been certain.

The question I would like you to ponder is this. Assuming for the sake of argument that synergists are correct in their views, would one not have to assume that God is for every person without exception and that he gave his Son to make salvation possible for every sinner without exception? Would we not have to conclude that God gave up his Son in that sense for every sinner? And if that is the case, how can one escape the conclusion that God has pledged himself to grant “all things” that belong to salvation including glorification to every sinner without exception?

28
Mar
18

The Real Issue in Gospel Preaching

 

 

One of the great problems with modern “evangelism” is that it attempts to deal with the wrong issue. The question with which most evangelistic conversations seem to begin is “Do you want to go to heaven when you die?” Then, the “mark” is told that Jesus died for everyone without exception, and if they will just believe that he died for them, they can go to heaven when they die.  Aside from the fact that no apostolic preacher ever made such statements in early New Testament evangelism, there are several fatal flaws in this approach.

 

The first problem is that it ignores the sinner’s ignorance of the nature and character of God. This is one reason the “drive by” approach to evangelism is faulty.  True evangelism cannot take place in a theological vacuum. To assure sinners that God loves them when they have no concept of that God’s character and attributes will be a futile exercise. When they learn who God is and what he demands, they may not wish to be with him in heaven for one minute, much less for eternity.

 

Additionally, it ignores the true nature of the sinner’s condition in sin and rebellion against God. I recently heard an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor explain what he called the gospel. When he spoke about the universality of sin, he said this, “You have to know that you are a sinner because you have done bad things like everyone else.”  Such statements glaze over the true problem. The psalmist understood and stated the true problem when he wrote, “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works” (Psalms 14:1). The remedy God’s redemptive work accomplishes reaches beyond the sinner’s abominable works to the sinner’s corrupt nature.  Since all the unregenerate sinner’s actions result from his corrupt nature, it is not merely that he has done wrong things but that everything he has done has been displeasing to God since all his actions have sprung from the heart of a corrupt rebel. The Scriptures tell us the prayers of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord and the plowing of the wicked is sin.  God’s redemptive plan intends to remedy not only the sinner’s guilt but his corruption.

 

Paul understood very clearly the commission Jesus had given him.  This is what he said Jesus had sent him to do. Jesus sent him to the Jews and Gentiles “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive the forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified through faith in me [Christ]  ( See Acts 26:16-20). Does this not indicate that unless sinners are turned from darkness to light, there will be no forgiveness of sins and no spiritual inheritance?

 

Please understand this does not mean sinners must quit all their sins before Jesus will accept them. What it means is that they must understand they are so corrupt that they will never be able to break the bonds of sin’s dominion by their own efforts. If they are to be saved from their bondage and corruption, only Christ can save them. They must bring their sins to Jesus that he might break those bonds. It is the promise that they will be fully pardoned and justified when they turn to God, that gives them confidence to approach him.

 

There is not the slightest hint in the New Testament Scriptures that it is God’s purpose to exonerate sinners of their guilt but leave them in the  state of sinful corruption out of which those sins have flowed.

 

If you are interested in reading in greater detail about this issue, I would urge you to read my book, “Authentic Evangelism and Its Counterfeit.”  It is available at http://www.amazon.com/author/randyseiver.

24
Mar
18

The Nature of God’s Saving Work

God’s ultimate purpose in the work of salvation as in the works of creation and providence is the manifestation of his own glory but the end of his work of salvation itself  is the restoration of what Adam lost when he sinned in the garden. The reason the apostle Paul was so excited about preaching the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles was that he knew the gospel was God’s prescription for dealing with the problems of the sinful human condition that the fall had caused.
God’s method of putting sinners right with himself is the only one that can adequately deal with the sinner’s deep need. Paul tells us that God’s redemptive work is necessary because God’s wrath is being revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress his truth in unrighteousness.
When he speaks about God’s wrath, we are not to understand him to be talking about God losing control in a fit of rage but about God’s settled indignation against sin and sinners. It is the only reaction an infinitely holy God can have toward sin and sinners.
There are two basic problems that sin has caused and that God has purposed the gospel to correct. The first is that sinners are ungodly and the second is that sinners are unrighteous. Ungodliness concerns a wrong relationship with God, a failure to obey the first great commandment, and unrighteousness concerns a wrong relationship with other people, a failure to obey the second great commandment. Every problem we encounter in our relationship with other people is a direct reflection of our failure to love God as we ought. Though it is not true that all our human relationship issues will automatically be remedied if we love God as we ought, it is true that we have no basis for repairing human relationships until we are rightly related to God and love him as he has commanded.
It is also important that we notice that the gospel is not only about pardon or even primarily about pardon. Justification is a means to an end. People who sense their guilt do not approach God in worship. People who feel their guilt do not love God. This is why justification must occur at the beginning of a person’s spiritual life and not at the end. God does not declare sinners righteous after a lifetime of learning to obey him, love him and worship him. We would never love him, worship him and obey him as long as we continued under a burden of guilt. The writer of the Book of Hebrews made this point quite well when based his exhortation to come with confidence before the throne of grace on the great truth that we have a Great Priest who has passed through the visible heavens and now appears as intercessor for his believing people in the very presence of God.
Not only is it true that God’s saving work is intended to remedy the breach between both God and our fellow man, but it is also intended to remedy two great problems that sin has caused. Much of modern day evangelism has concentrated exclusively on one of those problems alone. The message is usually couched in terms of God forgiving us so we can go to heaven when we die but says very little about remedying our corruption and restoring our fellowship with God so that we can glorify him, be thankful to him, and worship him supremely.
In Romans chapter one, verses twenty-one through twenty-three, Paul has outlined the problems God intends to correct through his saving work. Although they knew God as he has revealed himself in the creation around them, they did not glorify him as God and they were not thankful to him. Because their foolish hearts were darkened, they opted to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. It is God’s intention in redeeming sinners to restore our ability to reflect his glorious attributes and worship him out of profound gratitude.
We must not forget that in Jesus’ parable about the lost son, the Father received him back into his fellowship both safe and sound (Luke 15:27). A message that concentrates only on the sinner’s safety if a half gospel. August Toplady expressed this idea well when he wrote, “Let the water and the blood/From your wounded side which flowed/Be of sin the double cure/Save from wrath and make me pure.”
J. C. Ryle wrote,
He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonoring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Savior. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by his atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness” but their “sanctification.” (I Cor. 1:30).
08
Feb
18

Loved to the Uttermost

Have you ever noticed that the same chapter in which Jesus told Peter he was going to betray him before the night was over, begins by telling us that Jesus, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end or to the uttermost? [see Jn. 13:1] As we continue to read the Fourth Gospel, we find that Peter’s actions were very similar to the actions of Judas. John wrote regarding both these men that they stood with Jesus’ enemies [see Jn. 18:5, 18]. The reality is that every time we sin, we stand with Jesus’ enemies and demonstrate our remaining hostility toward God.
The difference in these two men is seen not in their sin [Sin has the same character in the regenerate that it does in the unregenerate]. The difference is seen in their response to their sin [Judas went out and hanged himself; Peter went out and wept bitterly] and in Peter’s restoration].
The point we must understand is that Jesus did not love Peter because of the latter’s steadfastness or because he foresaw his repentance. He did not love him any more because he saw what he would become [by grace] or any less because he knew of his miserable failures. In fact, he did not love Peter because of Peter at all. He could love Peter, and the rest of us faltering and failing sinners, because the cause of his love is not anything in us, but everything in himself.
Charles Hodge wrote,
If he [God] loved us because we loved him, he would love us only so long as we love him, and on that condition; and then our salvation would depend on the constancy of our treacherous hearts. But as God loved us as sinners, as Christ died for us as ungodly, our salvation depends, as the apostle argues, not on our loveliness, but on the constancy of the love of God.
12
Jan
18

Reason’s Obituary

I just listened to a few minutes of a Youtube video in which the speaker was arguing against the idea that God has chosen a people for himself and predestined those people and those alone to inherit everlasting life. After listening to what this man had to say, I concluded that the ability to reason must have died. If a person could stand behind a pulpit and  teach such bilge and no one listening to his absolutely erroneous arguments called him to account, there is little hope.  
 
His “argument” was that God has predestined everyone to everlasting life but only who choose to be saved are actually saved. His contention, based on Romans 8:30, was that if we can discover who is called, then we will know who has been predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. He then read several verses that made reference to the universal call of the gospel. I saw several problems with his argument that were so obvious that anyone thinking person should recognize immediately. Let me just list a few of his errors:
 
1. He has ignored the fact that the “calling” Paul speaks of in this verse is according to God’s purpose and that being called according to that purpose is his description of believers alone. It is true of those who love God, but of them alone (Romans 8:28).
 
2. He has ignored the fact that “called” is used in two distinct ways in the New Testament. It is used of the sincere, universal call of the gospel and it is used of that internal call by which God unites his chosen people to Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). Paul wrote, “but to those who are called, Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). One need only ask himself if everyone who is invited by the gospel message (“called” in that sense) regards Christ as God’s wisdom and God’s power.
 
3. He argues that if we can show who are the called, we will know who has been predestined, but he has ignored the fact that he would, in that way, limit God’s predestinating decree to those alone who have heard or will hear the gospel.
 
4. He argues that if we can show who are the called, we will know who has been predestined, but he has ignored the other side of that link in the chain. There is an inseparable link between all the links in this golden chain, so that Paul’s argument boils down to this—God will glorify all those he has purposed to save. The chain spans God’s entire work of redemption from his purpose in eternity past to glorification to his act of glorifying his people in eternity future. Everyone who is predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ will be glorified. What this gentleman has overlooked is that not only can we show who has been predestined by learning who has been called, but we can show who has been called by showing who has been justified. Paul wrote, “those he called, he also justified” (Rom. 8:30). According to this man’s argument, everyone who is called [invited] by the gospel will be justified. I suspect that is not a conclusion he would wish his hearers to draw.R
11
Nov
17

Dohse/Seiver debate on Justification

See my opening statement in two parts at:

 

As soon as Paul makes his opening statement, I will post a link to it.