Posts Tagged ‘Arminianism

17
Aug
12

Clear Gospel Preaching.

The more I read what people, ostensibly people who have read the Bible, say about others who seek to be faithful in their proclamation of the Word of God, the more I wonder if a “simple gospel presentation” is possible. In reality, God’s good news is a somewhat complicated message that demands quite a lot of definition. I have recently read comments from opponents of “Lordship salvation” that accuse LS preachers of preaching works for justification before God. Consider the following statement, for example.

“‘Lordship Salvation’ is the false doctrine whereby God offers a lost sinner the promise of eternal life in exchange for a lost sinner’s promise of future works. It is thereby an exchange of promises, or a bilateral contract.”

Clear Gospel Campaign

It appears these folks believe those who teach that a person must bow to Jesus as Lord at the point of conversion are teaching that the sinner’s strikes a deal with God in which he promises to be obedient the rest of his life in exchange for a declaration of righteousness before his judgment bar. I am not quite sure how to square that statement with a statement from John MacArthur about justification before God. He wrote,

Because Christians are justified by faith alone, their standing before God is not in any way related to personal merit. Good works and practical holiness do not provide the grounds for acceptance with God. God receives as righteous those who believe, not because of any good thing He sees in them — not even because of His own sanctifying work in their lives — but solely on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, which is reckoned to their account. “To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). That is justification.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it would be possible to give a clearer statement on justification by grace alone, through faith alone, and based on Christ’s righteousness alone. So I am left to wonder, are these people just deliberately twisting people’s statements and lying about their views? Are they so biblically ignorant they can’t understand what these writers and speakers are saying, are they just mentally deficient or have they heard something at some point that gave the impression that the sinner must offer some promise of good works in order to earn God’s eternal approval? I think it is significant that certain blogs refuse to allow people who actually hold these views to clarify or defend their positions. I have found so many outright lies and distortions on one of these blogs that I am not sure I would even know where to start in trying to correct all their misconceptions.

On the other hand, I must confess I have heard some who were so concerned to prevent the gospel message from giving any license to antinomianism that they almost preached a works gospel [there is an oxymoron if I have ever heard one].

I am convinced it is impossible to proclaim the gospel briefly and clearly to those who have no previous biblical instruction. How do we talk to someone about a God about whom they are completely ignorant? How do we talk to someone about sin when they have no concept of what sin is? For this reason, I believe in educational evangelism rather than hit and run evangelism. If we are careful in our instruction, perhaps we can obviate some of the misconceptions people have about God’s plan of salvation.

In an effort to clarify what I believe the gospel is, what the nature of faith is, what the nature of assurance is etc., I want to make a series of statements that I believe to be true about these issues. I urge you to respond to these statements so that we might open a dialogue about the gospel. I don’t mind if you disagree. What I ask is that you be respectful and support all your views with contextually relevant biblical arguments. I don’t want you to hear my opinions and I frankly don’t care about yours. If you can’t back it up with Scripture, don’t post it.

OK here’s the list:

1. Jesus died to save us from our sins, not to leave us in our sins.

2. All those Jesus died to justify, died with him to the reigning power of sin.

3. God does not swap our obedience for eternal life.

4. No true believer is indifferent to the issue of pleasing God. Paul wrote, “It is God who works in you, both to desire and to do what pleases him.” Should we not assume that this describes God’s work in all true believers? If God works in all believers and his work produces a desire to please God, would we not have to conclude that all believers desire to please God?

5. No believer, even the most sanctified believer, can produce an obedience that merits God’s declaration of justification.

6. Justification before God is based solely on the imputed obedience of Christ.

7. In repentance, the sinner offers nothing as a ground or part of the ground of his justification before God.

8. Assurance of salvation [please see my post about three fold assurance] in terms of the assurance of hope, is based on certain marks that will invariably be present in the life of God’s true people. Otherwise, what could the apostle John mean by his “Hereby do we know that we know him” statements?

9. Being a believer and being a disciple are the same.

10. If you have no desire to follow Jesus, you have never become a Christian.

11. Those who have professed faith in Christ may need to examine the reality of their faith from time to time. Some have made false professions. Paul told Titus, “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him. . . .”

12. Usually, if not always, people in the biblical record who are exhorted to examine themselves have been acting or believing in such a way as to call into question the reality of their faith (e.g., 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 4:20).

13. We should spend more time gazing at Christ than we do gazing at ourselves.

14. We should never allow anyone to make us feel guilty unless we are guilty.

15. If we persist in a life of rebellion against God, we have no evidence that we have ever been born of God.

16. The weakest believer who truly trusts God’s promise to save him for Jesus’ sake, is equally righteous in God’s sight as the godliest saint who has ever lived.

17. The believer’s right standing before God results completely from God’s work of redemption outside of him. Nothing God does in him or that he does as a result of God’s work in him contributes to the basis of his justification.

18. Repentance and faith form no part of the basis of the believer’s justification before God.

19. Repentance is a change of mind that manifests itself in a change of behavior.

20. Neither faith nor repentance is the sinner’s offering to God. Both are God’s gift to the sinner.

31
Jul
12

Points of agreement with “the Southern Baptist understanding of god’s plan of salvation.”

Yesterday, I posted an article about a recent statement by a group of Southern Baptists concerning God’s plan of salvation. You can find this statement at http://sbctoday.com/2012/05/30/an-introduction-to-“a-statement-of-the-traditional-southern-baptist-understanding-of-god’s-plan-of-salvation”

I want to make it clear I have nothing against these men personally nor do I doubt their sincerity. I truly think they believe what they have written. I am truly sorry that I cannot say with Dr. Mohler that I have respect for them, but the reality is, I just don’t. I am of course assuming these men have been seminary trained. If they are merely a group of theologically untrained men, I can cut them a bit more slack. If, on the other hand, they are seminary trained, or worse yet, trainers of aspiring pastors and theologians, their statement is inexcusable. Before they wrote, they should have at least acquainted themselves with the real issues that divide “free grace believers” from “free will believers.” Unfortunately, they seem to be no better acquainted with the issues than they are with the Scriptures.

I purpose to write a series of brief articles about each of their “Affirmations and Denials” over the next few days. But, first I thought it would be helpful to point out the areas in their statement with which we agree. When I say “we” I am speaking of those who believe God is in absolute control in the matter of the sinner’s salvation. I don’t profess to speak for all in this group. Some of them will, no doubt, disagree with some of my statements. The one matter on which we are all in agreement is that “Salvation is of the Lord.”

1. Regarding Article One: The Gospel–We agree that the gospel is for any person who wishes to be right with God in God’s way not in his way. The same Bible that informs us that God has a chosen people whom he infallibly intends to save, also informs us that “whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” There are no limitations to the free offer of the gospel.

We also deny with them that “only a select few are capable of responding to the gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.” We deny this on at least three grounds: 1. We don’t believe any in a state of sinful nature are capable of responding to the gospel, few or otherwise, 2. We believe those whom God enables to respond favorably to the gospel are a multitude that no man can number. Where did any Calvinist ever write that the elect of God are few in number? 3. Though some Calvinists believe God decreed to elect and reprobate before he decreed to create, that is not necessary to the Calvinistic position. The reality is, God does not consign anyone to an eternity in hell who does not freely choose to reject God’s revelation of himself, wherever he finds that revelation. There will be no one in heaven who deserves to be there, and there will be no one in hell who doesn’t deserve to be there. If anyone finds himself in hell for eternity, you can be certain he is there, not because God has predestined to send him there contrary to what he otherwise would have chosen, but because he has persisted in his wicked rebellion against the Sovereign who rules heaven and earth.

2. Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

We, of course, affirm with them that “because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin.”

With them, we also deny that “ While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing [we would substitute “the Father’s drawing” since the Father is the one who is said to call or draw] through the Gospel.”

Article Three: The Atonement of Christ

We would affirm with them that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person. The issue is not the availability of Christ’s penal substitution. The reality is that if every sinner believed the gospel, every sinner would be saved by Christ death. This issue is God’s design in sending his Son to die as a penal substitute. Is he a real substitute or only an available substitute?

We deny with them that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith.

Article Four: The Grace of God

We affirm with them [though we would add a great deal more] that grace is God’s generous decision to take all the initiative in providing atonement, in free offering the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.

We deny with them that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith. We also deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.

Article Five: The Regeneration of the Sinner

We affirm with them that the moment a sinner believes is the moment he enters into eternal life.

Article Six: The Election to Salvation

Lamentably, I can agree with almost nothing they have written here. Election does not refer to a plan but to people. God has indeed planned to have a people but he has assured the realization of that plan by choosing for himself certain favored sinners whom he intended to give to Christ that he might redeem them and call effectually, according to his purpose (see– Romans 8:28).

Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God

Although I can affirm with them what they have affirmed, I don’t believe, in the light of their other statements, they can truly affirm the following statement. “God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.” That is precisely the issue on which we disagree. Is man and his free will decision sovereign in the matter of salvation or is God sovereign. In other words, who is in control. We affirm that God is in control. Ultimately, they affirm that the matter depends on the sinner’s “free will.”

We deny with them that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ. If God is a holy sovereign, the only consideration that can “require” him to do anything is his holy character. Additionally, God never needs to “cause” any person’s rejection of faith in Christ. Sinners reject Christ by nature.

Article Eight: The free will of man

We can discuss whether sinners are free agents and responsible before God or not, but we cannot discuss a concept that is alien to the Scriptures. Do sinners have the ability to make responsible choices? Of course they do. Do they have the ability to choose what they have absolutely no desire for? Not in a million years. That is the issue.

We would, however, deny with them that “the decision of faith is an act of God, rather than a response of the person.” It is not God who believes but the sinner. We have never denied that when sinners come to Christ, we do so freely and willingly. Faith is the sinner’s response to God’s work of regeneration. God opens our hearts; we believe the gospel.

Article Nine: The Security of the Believer

Though we would affirm all they affirm and deny all they deny under this head, they have missed the issue that usually divides Southern Baptist from those who believe the Bible. What they really seem to believe is if a person walks the aisle and registers his decision, it doesn’t make any difference how he lives from then on, the possibility of apostasy does not exist. The biblical doctrine is that all God’s elect, redeemed and called people are more than conquerors through him who love us. That is, all God’s true people will persevere in faith and obedience to the end. In other words, we not only believe in the preservation of the saints, we believe in the perseverance of the saints.

Article Ten: The Great Commission

We affirm and deny everything they affirm and deny under this point.

I hope this has been helpful in defining the debate. There are still formidable issues to be discussed, but perhaps if we can lay these “straw man” issues to rest, we can make greater progress in discussing issues that divide us. In my next post, intend to identify those issues in this statement that cannot be reconciled in any universe. The reality is that they are tenets of two different religions. One is monergistic, i.e., God acts alone in saving sinners. the other is synergistic, sinners cooperate with God in obtaining their salvation. God provides the grace and they provide the faith. Please feel free to comment.