Posts Tagged ‘Effectual Calling

17
Jun
17

THE MIGHTY SAVIOR!

Have you ever noticed that when Synergists [Apparently, these people are ashamed to be called Arminians, and who could blame them?] try to illustrate God’s method of salvation with their lame “life-guard/life boat” analogy, they always talk about the rescuer “throwing a rope to the perishing.” God forbid that the “savior” should become too involved with the rescue. It seems to be beyond their conceptual ability to visualize a Savior who has actually dived into the water, taken the perishing in hand, and rescued them in spite of all their resistance and rebellion. But that is precisely the way the Scriptures represent Christ’s redeeming work. “Because the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also took part of the same that, through death, he might destroy him who had the power of death. . ., AND DELIVER THEM who though fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Our rescuer actually came to the place where we were perishing, took us in hand and effectually brought us to safety.

Jesus is not a potential savior who makes salvation a mere possibility for sinners who will persist in their rebellion and perish in their sins. Instead, he is the one who speaks in righteousness, MIGHTY TO SAVE.

04
Feb
16

CALVINISTIC EVANGELISM–CHAPTER FIFTEEN–PREVENIENT GRACE OR EFFECTUAL CALLING?

Many have posited what they call the doctrine of prevenient grace which, according to their view, universally grants the power of “libertarian free will.” Many in our day who posit a synergistic view of conversion are not even aware of the concept of prevenient grace but believe sinners possess the ability in themselves to respond positively to what they call “Holy Spirit conviction.”  Others who would use the term do not seem clear about what they mean by it or how prevenient grace works.  The more intelligent of them will actually attempt to define what they mean by “free will” as enabled by prevenient grace. They define it as “a person’s ability to choose other than he has chosen.” If I choose to eat chicken, I have equal ability to choose to eat steak. I have no issue with the idea that God has granted people freedom of choice. Even the vilest sinner is free to choose to leave his sins and follow Christ if he wishes. If he should choose that option, he would do so because he had chosen to do so freely and apart from external constraint. God sets life and death before sinners and calls on them to choose between these two options. The question of the sinner’s ability to choose anything he wants is not at issue here. Everyone agrees on that point. What is at issue is whether a sinner possesses either the innate ability or the ability granted by prevenient but ineffectual grace to choose that for which he absolutely no desire and to which everything in his being is absolutely averse. If I am able to choose to eat steak, does that mean I have equal ability to choose to dine at the local sewage treatment plant? The issue is not whether we are free to choose what we want. The issue is whether we have the ability to desire what we ought to desire. Can we choose what we abhor?

 

Those who tout prevenient grace are quick to resort to “mystery” when anyone begins to press them on the particulars of that doctrine.  For example, if we should ask them why the Scriptures never say a word about an ineffectual preceding grace, they will tell us this doctrine must be drawn from inference. Apparently they reason that if God has expressed his sincere desire for the salvation of sinners, he must give everyone a chance. How and when all this happens is a “mystery.” That is their way of saying they have no idea at point the ability to believe is actually but ineffectually granted and we should be ashamed of ourselves for being so bold as to actually ask them to defend their indefensible view. With the understanding that those who believe in salvific monergism also believe in prevenient grace, I would like to pose a few “philosophical” questions about their position.

 

  1. If the will is free to choose other than it has chosen, would that not suggest that it is as inclined to choose what it does not want as it is to choose what it does want? Would that not suggest that, according to this view, the sinner is in a state of absolute neutrality? In this case, his reason or reasons for what he has done or chosen would be the same as would have been his reason or reasons for choosing to do what he did not choose.

 

  1. Unless some sinners have virtues others lack, if God grants prevenient grace equally and universally, what is it that for some tips the scale toward God and leaves others in their state of neutrality? If sinners are all born in the same state of depravity and prevenient grace elevates all of them to the same state of neutrality or “libertarian free will,” it seems to me there are only two choices: A. Some sinners must naturally possess a virtue or purpose of heart that others do not possess, or B. There must be some external influence in addition to prevenient grace that tips the scale one way or the other. Clearly such an influence could not come from God without violating the sanctity of the human will.

 

  1. Since those who believe in ineffectual* prevenient grace, affirm with the monergists that sinners are born in a state of sinful depravity or inability, when, in their view, is this power of free will granted?

 

  1. If prevenient grace is granted at birth, why are the wicked described as going astray as soon as they are born? If you should answer that this passage is not speaking about every person but only about “the wicked,” are you not arguing that some are born in a state of total depravity and others are born in a less depraved state? Or perhaps you are arguing that as soon as they are born they consciously choose to be wicked.

 

  1. If prevenient grace is granted in God’s universal revelation of himself as he is clearly seen in his works of creation, why is it that the apostle Paul does not say, “some sinners suppress the truth about God they see in creation, while others freely receive it, rejoice in it, thank God for it, and glorify him because of it?”

 

  1. If prevenient grace that grants “free will” to sinners is conferred in God’s universal grants of benevolence to his creatures, why did Paul describe the hearts of those who had received the benefits of God’s goodness as “hard and impenitent?” (see Rom. 2: 5). That doesn’t quite sound like neutrality does it?

 

  1. Perhaps you would argue that prevenient grace is universally granted through the preaching of the gospel. Would that not mean that those who do not hear the gospel do not receive this grace? Additionally, why is it that even those who have been confronted with the clear light of the gospel are not neutral about it.  John tells us in regard to the clearest revelation God has ever given of himself, “This is the condemnation that light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. And everyone who does wicked things hates the light, and does not come to the light lest his works should be exposed”(John 3:19-20). That some come to the light is not at issue here.  Of course some come to the light and embrace Christ in faith. The question is not if some believe but why some believe. The New Testament Scriptures make it clear that those who have heard the gospel clearly and faithfully proclaimed in its fullness continue to regard that message as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). It does not appear that gospel preaching is in and of itself accompanied by prevenient grace?

 

  1. Perhaps you will suggest that God grants prevenient grace in Holy Spirit “conviction.” The problem is that the reproving work of the Spirit seems to be integrally related to the preaching of the gospel. It is not that he presses on sinners who have never heard the gospel, the sin of rejecting Christ as he is offered in the gospel and only in the gospel. If that is true, prevenient grace could not be granted universally in the Spirit’s work of reproof unless the gospel is proclaimed universally. If the gospel is not preached to every individual on earth, the prevenient grace of the Spirit’s reproof could not be universal. Additionally, their proof-text in Acts 7:51 does not merely tell us that sinners resist [the word means to fall against or to hurl oneself against] the Holy Spirit as he presses the evidence of the gospel against them. It tells us they ALWAYS resist.

 

Wesley wrote concerning prevenient grace,

 

Yet this is no excuse for those who continue in sin, and lay the blame upon their Maker, by saying, ‘It is God only that must quicken us; for we cannot quicken our own souls.’ For allowing that all the souls of men are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing there is no man that is in a state of mere nature; there is no man, unless he has quenched the Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man living is entirely destitute of what is vulgarly called natural conscience. But this is not natural; It is more properly termed, preventing grace.”(Wesley, 1986, 6:512) He continues saying, “Every one has some measure of that light, some faint glimmering ray, which, sooner or later, more or less, enlightens every man that cometh into the world. And every one, unless he be one of the small number whose conscience is seared as with a hot iron, feels more or less uneasy when he acts contrary to the light of his own conscience. So that no man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace which he hath. Therefore, inasmuch as God works in you, you are now able to work out your own salvation. (Wesley. 1986, 6:512).

 

There are several insights we can gain from Wesley’s statement. First, it is clear that he is concerned that no one blame his sin on the fact that God has not granted him enabling grace. This grows out of the classic Arminian presupposition that responsibility implies ability. It is the belief that God cannot hold a person responsible unless he also gives that person ability. We can show this to be false by appealing to Romans 8:7. God clearly holds sinners responsible for obeying his law, but Paul tells us that those who are in the flesh CANNOT do so. Wesley tries to answer his inability/responsibility dilemma by saying that every man has some measure of the grace of God. The monergist would argue that every sinner is responsible for his own sin whether he has been given grace or not. That God who gives grace is to be praised when he restrains us from sin relieves us of none of the blame if he does not restrain us. The sin is ours alone.

 

Second, what Wesley called “prevenient grace,” we would call “common grace,” which at times is restraining grace. The consistent witness of Scripture is that in spite of God’s common grace and restraining mercy, sinners continue to presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead them to repentance. But in spite of all this kindness, the hearts of sinners remain hard and impenitent. All God’s patience apart from his effectual grace does nothing to soften his hard heart and produce repentance.

 

Third, even he did not seem to see this “prevenient grace” as having been granted equally to all since he wrote, “. . .which sooner or later, more or less (italics mine) enlightens every man that cometh into the world.” Additionally, he apparently believed some sinners had escaped the benefits of prevenient grace since he wrote, “And every one, unless he be one of the small number whose conscience is seared as with a hot iron (Italics mine), feels more or less uneasy when he acts contrary to the light of his own conscience.” One would have thought that prevenient grace would have granted free will to these as well.

 

One would think that if God loves every sinner equally and in the same way, he would have granted this grace equally to all. It seems likely that John, in 1:9 of his gospel, had in mind the enlightenment of people from every nation through the proclamation of the gospel of Christ as opposed to the enlightenment of every individual who has ever been born whether he has heard the gospel or not. Whatever the meaning of that verse, there is not the slightest hint that John had in mind that this enlightenment restored free will to the sinner. That concept must be read into the text; it cannot be drawn out of it. It is important to remember that sinners need more than light; we must have sight. This God’s common grace does not grant. What Wesley called “prevenient grace” only gives light. What monergists call prevenient grace gives both light and sight.

 

Fourth, this statement of Wesley’s implies that God has given to every sinner sufficient grace to enable him to avoid sin. He offers this as the reason why there “is no excuse for those who continue in sin, and lay the blame upon their Maker.” His clear implication is that if God had not granted this prevenient grace to all, his creatures could rightly blame him if they continued in sin. One wonders why one needs the grace of regeneration if prevenient grace has enabled all to put away their sins and rest on Christ. It would seem logical if sinners have been enabled by prevenient grace to obey one command of God, they should be able by prevenient grace to obey every command of God. Where is the evidence that all the universal blessings of God’s common grace put together have caused one sinner to put away his hostility toward God and rest on God’s promise of mercy? The effect of a mind controlled by the flesh is hostility toward God (see Romans 8:7), and our minds continue to be controlled by the flesh until he by his free grace replaces our stony hearts with hearts of flesh.

Fifth, it is biblically impossible to argue that God has granted equal revelation of himself to all. Even common sense should tell us that that a blind man does not enjoy the same revelation of God’s glory in the night sky as a sighted individual does. Some are born into Christian homes and hear the gospel taught regularly; others are born into an environment of pagan darkness. It seems incontrovertible that he grants greater grace and privilege to some than he does to others (see for example Matt. 11:20-24). If God loves everyone equally and in the same way, why does he not grant to everyone the same light and opportunity? Is this inequality in God’s dealings with different individuals a random occurrence or has he previously determined to grant greater light to some than he does to others? We are often told that God would be unfair if he called and enabled some to believe according to his purpose and not others.  Why does this charge not equally apply to the fact that he has granted greater revelation and privilege to some than to others?

Sixth, tt is often suggested as a proof of ineffectual prevenient grace that there are those in the Gospels and in the book of Acts who showed evidence of a desire to know God in a saving way prior to coming to faith in Christ. If only they had improved on this grace and used their freed will properly, they would have been saved. We do not deny that there are those who show interest in the kingdom and may even come to a temporary faith and receive the gospel with joy, but this is no evidence of any more than a self-serving desire to enjoy God’s blessings in one’s own way. Those who showed evidence of a desire to be right with God on his terms and not on theirs ultimately came to genuine and lasting faith in Christ. We do not deny that God’s Spirit awakens sinners to their need and to the glories of the gospel prior to the consummating act of effectual calling.  He may woo some for an extended period of time before he at last converts them. Additionally, we do not deny that some may feel their guilt and fear their condemnation as the Spirit presses the evidence of their sin and doom on them. These may or may not come to conversion. Still, this is no evidence that prevenient grace has granted them the power of free will.

 

*[I use the term ineffectual prevenient grace to distinguish it from that preceding grace that actually unites sinners to Christ].

 

Effectual Calling

One issue about which synergists and monergists agree is that sinners in a state of sinful corruption are unable to come to faith in Christ apart from divine enablement. The difference between their beliefs concerns whether that “grace” is effectual in bringing sinners into union with Christ or not. Those who believe in ineffectual prevenient grace ultimately have to confess that such grace leaves the issue in the sinner’s hands. As I will show, nothing short of effectual grace could removes the sinner’s disposition to resist all God’s overtures of grace and turn recalcitrant rebels into grateful worshippers. This enabling grace is what we refer to as effectual calling.

“Without Me You Can Do Nothing” (John 15:1-5)

As I begin to write this I am painfully aware of the plethora of opinions concerning the correct interpretation of this passage. It has been used as support for views along a broad continuum. In my view, this is not true because Jesus lacked clarity in his teaching, but because there is a universal tendency to read one’s theology into biblical texts. I would not dare to suggest that I am immune to that tendency. With that consciousness, I would like to offer a few remarks about Jesus’ teaching in this passage.

 

In my view, one of the more important considerations in the interpretation of any passage concerns the issue the writer or speaker is discussing. If we fail to understand the question being discussed, it is almost inevitable that we will misinterpret the answer. For example, if we believe Jesus is answering the question, “How can I leap from the carnal Christian life to a life of fruit bearing?” we are going to understand the passage differently than we would if we believe he is showing it is possible for a believer to lose his salvation. Or, perhaps the issue is something else altogether.

 

It seems to me the key to understanding this passage is to understand Jesus’ “I am” statement with which the passage begins. To understand that statement it is crucial that we comprehend the way in which he and John used the words “true” and “truth” in the fourth Gospel. They did not use these terms in contrast to that which is false or in error but in contrast to that which is typical. For example, when John wrote “. . . the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17), there is not the slightest suggestion that John means what Moses wrote was false or in error. Instead, John means Jesus brought the fulfillment of what Moses wrote. In the same way, Jesus said he was the true bread who came down from heaven. He was not suggesting the manna God gave Israel in the desert was not real bread. When he said I am the true bread, he meant he was the fulfillment of that of which the manna was but a fleeting and fading shadow. Just as Israel was sustained physically by feeding on manna, so believers are sustained spiritually as we go on feeding on Jesus by faith. When he says we must worship God in truth, Jesus does not mean we are to worship according to the Scriptures, though it should be clear to anyone that worship that is contrary to Scripture will not be acceptable to God. He means that the time has come when his people will no longer worship God according to the types and shadows of the Mosaic system. They must now worship God according to the reality of fulfillment.

 

Now the question is this. If Jesus is the true vine, who was the typical vine and what is his reason for introducing this teaching to his disciples? There are several passages in both Testaments that put the answer to the first question beyond doubt. Consider Isaiah 5; Psalm 80: 8ff; Matt. 21: 33; Luke 20: 9ff; Mark 12. It is clear the vine was the nation of Israel. God not only planted this chosen vine on a fruitful hill, but he clearly had a right to expect fruit from this vine. He built a wine press in his vineyard because he had a right to expect fruit from his vine. Yet, when the time of harvest arrived, the vine brought forth sour grapes.

 

What Jesus is saying is that he is the true Israel who, by his perfect obedience to God’s covenant, has produced the fruit God had the right to expect from Israel but did not receive. Additionally, he is saying that not only has he produced good grapes [the fruit of obedience] but also that in union with him his disciples would also produce fruit that is pleasing to God. They were not to trust their physical heritage to enable them to produce fruit. They, like Nicodemus, needed to be born again. They needed to be called into union [fellowship) with Jesus Christ. Only in union with the true vine would they be able to produce any fruit at all, much less “much fruit.”

 

Their duty was very simple. It was not that they were to try to produce fruit, but that, through faith, they were to remain in union with him. For most people “abiding” is a word they can only say in a hushed and holy tone. For them it is some sort of mystical, ethereal experience that is reserved for only the most holy. In reality, abiding [the word simply means to remain] must be the experience of every child of God. Jesus is teaching us there is never a time when it will be safe for us to give up our confident reliance on him. Genuine faith is persevering faith. There are those like Judas who have never had a vital union with Jesus. These are to be cast into the fire and burned.

 

Now, I have said all that to say this. The context is all about union with Christ. When Jesus says, “. . .for without me you can do nothing” (A.V.), he does not mean without my help you can do nothing, although that is certainly true. He means that just as a branch cannot produce any fruit if it is severed from the vine, you cannot bear fruit if severed from me. Apart from me you can do nothing. In other words, he is saying that the person who is not in union with him cannot produce a single work of obedience to God and is incapable of pleasing God in any way. I quote now from the Five Articles of the Remonstrance, Article 3, “That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is).”

 

To me, that would mean that as long as a person is in union with Adam and not in union with Christ he has no ability to produce any obedience that is pleasing to God. That inability “to do anything that is truly good” would include the sinner’s inability to believe the gospel. Now, mind you, this is not the statement of a rabid Calvinist, but of the original Arminians.

 

My question is a simple one. When and under what circumstances does Jesus teach us we are able to produce fruit (including faith) that is pleasing to God? It seems to me the only answer one can give to this question is that we can only “do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is)” if we are united to Christ.

 

Now the question remains, how does a person come into union with Christ? The Scriptures do not leave us to wonder about the answer to that question. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship [participation] of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). Throughout the chapter Paul writes about God’s call as that which distinguishes believers from unbelievers. It separates those who continue to view the message of Christ as foolishness and a stumbling block from those to whom Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God. Paul’s use of the word “call” cannot be a reference to the outward proclamation of the gospel—the universal call. Those Jews and Greeks who went on regarding the message of Christ as a stumbling block and folly are the very ones who had been called outwardly by the preaching of the gospel. It would make absolutely no sense to say “These who have heard the outward call of the gospel continue to consider this message as a stumbling block and foolishness, but to those who have heard the outward call of the gospel, Christ is the wisdom and power of God. Instead, there is a clear contrast in these verses between those who have heard the message of the gospel and those who have also been “called.” It is God’s call that distinguishes between those who believe and those who continue in their rebellion.

 

In agreement with this, Paul wrote in verses twenty-nine and thirty, “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness, and sanctification and redemption,”

 

It must not escape our attention that Paul did not write that it is by your cooperation with the universal prevenient grace of God that you are in Christ, or by your libertarian free will you have distinguished yourself from the rest of mankind who continue in unbelief though they have been given equal grace with you. Paul seems to have had no difficulty expressing himself. I am fairly certain he could have formed such a sentence had he wished to do so.

 

Charles Hodge wrote,

 

It is to be referred to him [God] alone that ye are in Christ. Your conversion or saving union with Christ is not due to yourselves; it is not because you are wiser, or better, or more diligent than others that you are thus distinguished. This which is the turning point in theology, and therefore in religion, is here most explicitly asserted. And it is not only asserted, but it is declared to be the purpose of God to make it apparent, and to force all men to acknowledge it. He so dispenses his grace as to make men see with regard to others, and to acknowledge with regard to themselves, that the fact that they are in Christ, or true Christians, is due to him and not to themselves (Hodge, n.d.,46).

 

Nothing but union with Christ delivers from sin’s bondage. Paul’s argument in Romans six is that believers are no longer under sin’s reign, because we have been united with Christ in both his death and resurrection. He wrote, “We know that our old self [all that we were in union with Adam] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (v. 6). It doesn’t seem to me that bondage under the dominion of sin is a very good way to describe libertarian free will. In truth, it is not until God calls us into union with his Son that he breaks sin’s tyranny and enables us to receive Christ gladly and freely as he is offered in the gospel. “Apart from him, you can do nothing.”

 

Two Types of Calling

There is no question but that there is a general and universal call of the gospel. It is a sincere and bona fide 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 internal call as “effectual” because it effectively brings sinners into partnership (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). 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 (see–1 Cor. 1:30). John Flavel wrote,

. . .the external voice is evermore ineffectual when it is not animated by that internal spiritual voice. It was marvelous to see the walls of Jericho falling to the ground at the sound of ram’s horns. There was certainly more than the force of an external blast to produce such an effect: but more marvelous it is, to see at the sound of the gospel not only weapons of iniquity falling out of sinners hands, but the very enmity itself falling out of their hearts. Here you see is a voice within a voice, an internal efficacy in the external sound, without which the gospel makes no saving impression (Flavel, 1689, 218).

Unless the Father Draw Him (John 6:37-44).

It seems likely that “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 that 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.”

“Calling” in the New Testament Epistles

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.

Romans 8:30

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. Every one 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, apart from faith, they could not be justified.

1 Corinthians 1: 22-24

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.

 

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20
Sep
15

YouTube Video–Salvation by Force?

03
Jan
14

Effectual Calling–Romans 8:28-30

There is no question but that there is a general and universal call of the gospel. It is a sincere and bona fide 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 internal call as “effectual” because it effectively brings sinners into partnership (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). 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 (see–1 Cor. 1:30).

“Drawing” in John’s Gospel

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.”

“Calling” in the New Testament Epistles

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.

Romans 8:30

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. Every one 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, apart from faith, they could not be justified.

1 Cor. 1: 22-24

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.

15
Jan
13

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!

05
Jan
13

Arminian Presuppositions

More often than not in theological discussions people argue over their conclusions instead of taking time to examine their presuppositions. I recently spent some time in a forum in which several Arminians [they don’t like to be labeled that way even though that is what they are, at best] and Calvinists were engaged in an intense discussion regarding the theological order of faith and regeneration. Of course, as is usual in such discussions, there were a number of theological rabbits that ran across the trail, causing the participants to lose their focus and run off in all directions at once. As the battle continued, I observed a number of beliefs on which the Arminians seemed to base their conclusions on the issue. There is no doubt we Calvinists also have certain presuppositions on which we base our conclusions. What we must all do is be certain to test our presuppositions in the light of Scripture before we use them as the foundation of our belief system. The following were some of the presuppositions I observed in the course of that discussion:

1. God loves all sinners equally and in the same way. God doesn’t show favoritism in any way.

2. The terms, “world” and “all” always refer to every single member of the human race without exception.

3. God would not be fair unless he at least gave everyone a chance to hear the gospel and believe. He owes everyone an opportunity. If God has chosen some and passed over others, then God is not being fair or acting fairly.

4. God would never command or invite sinners to do anything they are unable to do. If God calls sinners to believe the gospel, sinners must have the ability to believe it.

5. Sinners are not condemned because of sin, but only because of unbelief. Based on this presupposition, they believe if Jesus didn’t provide salvation for all, God would have no basis on which to judge sinners.

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.

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

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

9. Some sinners are worse, by nature, than others.

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

11. Choice and “free will” are synonymous. If a person acts freely and voluntarily, he must have “free will.”

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

It is altogether likely I have omitted some of their presuppositions in this list. If you can add to the list, please let me know. My assumptions concerning these presuppositions are based on plain statements the proponents of “free will” have made during debate. If you feel I have represented this position unfairly, please let me know and we can discuss the issue.

My intention over the next few days and perhaps weeks is to examine these presuppositions in the light of Scripture. I invite you to engage in the discussion. If you can produce verses of Scripture in their proper context to show these presuppositions are true, I would love to discuss those Scriptures with you.

Please follow the rules for commenting here and please don’t expect me to respect your opinions any more that I would expect you to respect mine.

21
Nov
11

¿Qué Hace que funcione el evangelio?

We have just published ¿Qué Hace que funcione el evangelio?  por Randy Seiver. (paperback 76 pages).  This is the Spanish translation of What Makes the Gospel Work?  The blurb on the back cover reads, “The Bible says that the gospel is good news for the world because it is the power of God for salvation.  It is more important than ever that the chruch of Jesus Christ speak to the world with perfect clarity about the most important message of life.

“This book explains why the gospel is good news for some while for others it continues to be nothing more than a fairy tale.  It seeks to answer the question, do some believe because they are better than, more spiritual than or naturally more receptive than others. or should we attribute this to the grace of God alone?  What Makes the Gospel Work? is a worthwhile study concerning the work of salvation that is all of God and not of ourselves.”

“La Biblia dice que el evangelio es buenas nuevas para el mundo, porque es el poder de Dios para salvación.  Es más importante  que nunca que la iglesia de Jesucristo hable con perfecta claridad sobre el mensaje más importante de la vida.

Este libro explica por qué el evangelio es pare algunos buenas nuevas y para otros , sigue siendo mada más que un cuento de hadas.  Intenta contestar la pregunta; ¿Creen algunos porque son mejores que otros o más espirituales o más naturalmente receptivos? o ¿Se le debe más bien a la gracia de Dios sola?  ¿Qué hace que funcione le evangelio?  es un estudio valioso sobre la obra de la salvación, la cual es de Dios solo y no de nosotros.”

We have published What Makes the Gospel Work?  in English at http://www.new-covenant-theology.org.  If you would like to purchase copies of it in Spanish, we are making them available for $3.95+shipping. We will offer a discount for quanties of 10 or more.  All the money received from the sale of this book will be used for the translation and publication of other materials in Spanish.  You may order by email at rseiver1@hotmail. com.