Posts Tagged ‘Gospel

08
Aug
19

Authentic Evangelism/The Message/The Gracious Commitment

08
Aug
19

Authentic Evangelism/The Message/The Gospel Call

01
May
19

What the Traditionalists in the Southern Baptist Should Have Written

Several years ago a group of leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention, spooked by the specter of a rising tide of Calvinism within the ranks of the SBC and under the direction of Dr. Eric Hankin, contrived a document they called “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” When one reads the preamble to this document, at least two things become obvious.  The first is that those who wrote the document and those who later signed it are painfully ignorant of Calvinistic doctrine, and the second is that they wrote it for the purpose of counteracting the dreaded plague of Calvinism in their cherished denomination.  This is what they stated in the preamble—“ The precipitating issue for this statement is the rise of a movement called “New Calvinism” among Southern Baptists. This movement is committed to advancing in the churches an exclusively Calvinistic understanding of salvation, characterized by an aggressive insistence on the “Doctrines of Grace” (“TULIP”), and to the goal of making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation.”

If that is an accurate assessment of their purpose, one would have expected that the concepts they affirmed would have been teachings that Calvinists deny and the ideas they denied, would have been teachings that Calvinists would affirm.  Interestingly, this was not the case in many of their affirmations and denials. Consider, for example, the following statements from their preamble to which any true Calvinist would say a hearty AMEN!

They wrote,

“Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology is grounded in the conviction that every person can and must be saved by a personal and free decision to respond to the Gospel by trusting in Christ Jesus alone as Savior and Lord.”  And, “Baptists have been well-served by a straightforward soteriology rooted in the fact that Christ is willing and able to save any and every sinner.”

If their goal was to pee on a tire to mark their territory, I suppose they have accomplished what they wished to accomplish. If their goal was to open an honest and meaningful dialogue between themselves and Calvinists, they could not have failed more miserably.

I have reproduced here what they affirmed and denied in their declaration and what they should have affirmed and denied if they wished to address the real issues that separate them from soteriological monergists, A.K.A. Calvinists.  I am not suggesting that everyone who signed the document had sufficient theological understanding to fathom the depths of the issues under consideration. I am not suggesting that everyone who signed the document necessarily embraced all the implications I have suggested that their doctrine entails.  What I am boldly stating is that it is the issues under the heading “What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied” which Calvinists are concerned to address and not the “straw man” implications suggested by many of their affirmations and denials.  In large part, the issues that divide us are seen in the contrast between what they should have affirmed and what they should have denied.  Generally speaking, what they should have affirmed from their point of view is what Calvinists deny, and what they should have denied is what Calvinists have affirmed. These are the real issues we should be discussing if ever we are to find unity concerning these essential doctrines.

Consider the contrast between what they affirmed and denied and what they should have affirmed and denied.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article One: The Gospel

We affirm that the Gospel is the good news that God has made a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for any person. This is in keeping with God’s desire for every person to be saved.

We deny that only a select few are capable of responding to the Gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article One: The Gospel

We affirm that the gospel is the good news that God has made a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for every person on the condition of their free will decision but has not secured the salvation of any person in particular. This is in keeping with God’s desire for every person to be saved, a desire that is subjugated to the sinner’s free will decision.

We deny that anyone is incapable of responding positively to the gospel or that God has decreed to permit anyone to remain in their sins and perish.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

We affirm 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. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. 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 through the Gospel.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

What they affirm is unequivocally contrary to what Calvinists affirm.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any [every] person’s autonomous will.

We deny that any person is saved apart from an autonomous free will response to the Father’s ineffectual persuasion.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Three: The Atonement of Christ

We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.

We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith. We deny that God imposes or withholds this atonement without respect to an act of the person’s free will. We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Three: The Atonement of Christ

We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ [that does not actually substitute for any sinner in particular] is nothing but a mere provision that, in itself, did not secure the salvation of any sinner. Though there is provision for the salvation of any sinner who decides to let Jesus’ save him, Jesus’ death was not actually and objectively intended to save any sinner in particular. The sole factor that determines who will be saved and who will be lost is the sinner’s autonomous decision and has nothing to do with God’s design and intention at all.

We deny that this atonement was intended objectively to secure the salvation of any sinner in particular or that God had any specific design in sending his Son apart from making a mere provision. Furthermore, we deny that any sinner will have this provision applied to him apart from the decision of his autonomous will. We deny that Jesus actually accomplished the eternal redemption of any sinner in particular since he objectively accomplished no more in his redemptive work for those who will make their autonomous free will decision to let him save them than he did for those who will finally be lost.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Four: The Grace of God

We affirm that grace is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely 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 that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith or that it cannot be resisted. We deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Four: The Grace of God

We affirm that the grace of God is not intended to secure the salvation of any favored sinner so that God actually brings salvation to any person based on his prior intention, but has determined to permit millions of sinners to perish in unbelief rather than to violate their autonomous will. We affirm that though the sinner’s autonomous will decision cannot, in itself, merit a right standing before God, that decision that is determined by his greater humility, pliability, spirituality, intelligence, etc., is the sole factor that distinguishes him from other sinners. He and he alone is the one who makes himself to differ from other sinners.

We deny that God’s gracious efforts to save sinners are effectual in any sense but depend completely on the sinner’s autonomous decision to cooperate with God’s ineffectual efforts. We deny that God distinguishes between sinners on any ground other than the sinner’s autonomous decision.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Five: The Regeneration of the Sinner

We affirm that any person who responds to the Gospel with repentance and faith is born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is a new creation in Christ and enters, at the moment he believes, into eternal life.

We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Five: The Regeneration of the Sinner

We affirm that regeneration is completely unnecessary in regard to bringing sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. The wooing of the Holy Spirit is never effectual in bringing sinners to Christ. There is no real reason for God to change a person’s heart and disposition since those who respond to the gospel are already humble and pliable and willingly respond to the gospel when wooed by the Holy Spirit.

We deny that any person’s regeneration is effected by the work of the Spirit removing his disposition to resist the free overtures of the gospel in response to which he is responsible to repent and believe.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Six: The Election to Salvation

We affirm that, in reference to salvation, election speaks of God’s eternal, gracious, and certain plan in Christ to have a people who are His by repentance and faith.

We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain people for salvation and others for condemnation.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Six:  Election to Salvation

We affirm that election to salvation is an invention of Calvinists and Arminians that did not occur at all. We do not believe that God had a gracious plan to save any sinner in particular but only chose a plan according to which he would save any sinner who was sufficiently humble and pliable by nature to make the right decision. We affirm that it is possible that God would never have a people of his own since the outcome depends fully on the sinner’s autonomous will decision and not on any plan that Calvinists and Arminians have imagined that he may have had.

We deny that God has any control whatsoever in regard to the salvation of sinners.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God

We affirm God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.

We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God

We affirm that though we believe God has knowledge of all that will occur, he has sovereignly relinquished all control of the universe to the sinner’s autonomous will decision, and would rather see millions of sinners perish in their sins than to remove their stony hearts and grant them a new disposition that would cause them to willingly comply with the demands of the gospel.

We deny that God’s sovereignty over all things means that he has the right to deal with his creatures as he has seen fit. We deny that he has the right to pass over guilty rebels and leave them to their just destruction and choose to redeem others who are equally guilty and bring them effectually to salvation.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Eight: The Free Will of Man

We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options), which must be exercised in accepting or rejecting God’s gracious call to salvation by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.

We deny that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person. We deny that there is an “effectual call” for certain people that is different from a “general call” to any person who hears and understands the Gospel.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Eight: The Free Will of Man

We affirm that, as an expression of his Sovereignty, God granted an autonomy to sinners that cancels out his own autonomy. It is the sinner’s autonomous will that determines all that occurs in human existence. We affirm that since sinners have responsibility to make proper choices and the ability to make improper choices, they must also have the ability to make proper choices. [We could add “Since we are completely ignorant of what Calvinists truly believe, we do not realize that no Calvinist would ever deny that sinners have the ability to choose between two options”].

We deny that God has any part in actually enabling sinners to believe. Whatever assistance he may give to any, he gives to all so that it is nothing but sinners’ autonomous decisions that determines their salvation.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Nine: The Security of the Believer

We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity. This process begins with justification, whereby the sinner is immediately acquitted of all sin and granted peace with God; continues in sanctification, whereby the saved are progressively conformed to the image of Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit; and concludes in glorification, whereby the saint enjoys life with Christ in heaven forever.

We deny that this Holy Spirit-sealed relationship can ever be broken. We deny even the possibility of apostasy.

What They Should Have Affirmed and Denied

Article Nine: The Security of the Believer

We affirm that God’s purpose and promise to keep and save any believer completely, waits for and depends on the sinner’s autonomous decision to believe. Prior to this decision, God has no purpose for any sinner in particular. Once the sinner responds to the gospel in repentance and faith, God responds to his decision and determines to save him completely.

We deny that there are false professors whose profession and outward conformity to Christian standards may be no different from that of true believers who are in real danger of certain apostasy since they were never truly converted.

What They Affirmed and Denied

Article Ten: The Great Commission

We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth. We affirm that the proclamation of the Gospel is God’s means of bringing any person to salvation.

We deny that salvation is possible outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What They Should Have Understood Apart from a Profound Ignorance of Calvinism on Their Part

Article Ten: The Great Commission

Unless one believes in the salvation of infants and the mentally challenged, Calvinists would agree with the last article.

The following are the issues that Calvinists and SBC Traditionalists need to discuss:

The issue in Article 1 that divides Calvinists and non-Calvinists is not the free and universal offer of the gospel but whether God has determined to make the gospel effectual in bringing a chosen people to himself, or has done all he intends to do and has left the issue in the sinner’s hands to determine the outcome by the exercise of his autonomous will.

The issue in the denial of Article 2 is not whether sinners are able to freely choose between two or more options but whether sinners are able apart from divine enabling to choose to love and trust the God against whom they are hostile.

The issue in Article 3 is not whether the redemptive work of Christ is of sufficient value to save every sinner who will repent and believe but whether it was God’s intention merely to provide the possibility of salvation for sinners who would do their part and receive the gospel, or infallibly accomplish redemption for a multitude that no one can number to whom he would effectually apply that redeeming work by bringing them to faith and repentance.

The issue in Article 4 is not whether God has made a gracious and abundant provision for every sinner who will repent but whether his saving work is a mere provision or a saving accomplishment. Additionally, the issue is whether some sinners are more prone to salvation because of their humility, pliability etc.

The issue in Article 5 is not whether sinners are regenerated prior to or apart from hearing the gospel, but whether sinners in a state of pervasive corruption will ever respond rightly to the gospel unless God removes their disposition to resist its demands.

The issue in Article 6 is whether God or the sinner is the final arbiter in the sinner’s salvation. Did God choose a people or a plan and leave the success of that plan to the sinner’s autonomous choice.

The issue in Article 7 is whether God is sovereign over any sinner’s salvation at all, not whether his sovereignty requires him to cause any sinner’s rejection of faith in Christ. Ultimately, the issue is whether God has the right to rule his creation as he desires.

The issue in Article 8 is not whether sinners are able to choose between options but whether they have the ability to choose that for which they have absolutely no desire and to which their entire beings are absolutely averse.

The issue in Article 9 is not whether true believers are secure for eternity but apostasy is a possibility for those who have professed faith in Christ. The evidence of true conversion is a persevering faith.

The issue in Article 10 is that the document implies that Calvinists do not believe in a free and universal proclamation of the gospel and that they believe a person can be saved apart from a belief in the gospel.

25
Apr
19

Atonement: A Response to Leighton Flowers Misrepresentation.

 
Atonement: A Response To Leighton Flowers’ Misrepresentation. By Randy Seiver
08
Feb
19

SALVATION APART FROM WORKS?

Why the Question?

It is not uncommon to hear or read comments from those who adhere to the “free grace” view to the effect that “Lordship” teachers advocate salvation based on human works. To them, it is clear that those who believe some level of obedience to Christ is certain to follow genuine conversion simply add the necessity of good works for salvation to the back end of the Christian experience.

The question this raises is whether it is biblically accurate to state that salvation is apart from works. Do those who insist that Christ must be received in all his offices as God’s Anointed One believe that salvation is based, even in part, on the believer’s works of obedience to him? As we have seen, the answer is an unqualified No! That should be clear to anyone who makes the effort to investigate their views carefully. Yet, to anyone who understands the issues, such a declaration does not answer the question posed here. The issue is not whether a person’s works either before or after conversion form any part of the foundation for his justification before God but whether the faith and repentance God produces in his chosen people are sterile so that they produce no fruit for sanctification? The Scriptures are unequivocal in their answer to this question. Though justification before God is altogether apart from works, God’s overall work of salvation is not apart from works at all. Justification by faith alone is only one facet of God’s overall salvific work.

One must be careful when talking about God’s saving work to be precise about the aspect of that work to which he is referring. It has become all too common, even among people who have been trained in evangelical institutions, to refer to salvation in such a way as to confuse one work of God with another. Many give little effort to an examination of biblical contexts to discover in which sense a writer is using the word “salvation.” It is exceedingly important to distinguish between justification and sanctification in discussions such as this one. Justification does not involve a sinner’s good works at all; sanctification does.

One of the errors of “free-grace” advocates is to apply what the New Testament Scriptures teach about justification to sanctification. Perhaps it will be helpful to the reader if we reproduce the comments of J. C. Ryle about the differences between justification and sanctification. He wrote,

(a) Justification is the reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble degree.

(b) The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent, and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, but mingled with much infirmity and imperfection.

(c) In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful. In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labour.

(d) Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.

(e) Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.

(f) Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God’s sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.

(g) Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness [fitness] for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.

(h) Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men (Ryle, 1952).

Is salvation apart from works? It should be clear that the answer depends on whether one is talking about justification or sanctification. Does justification before God require any works of obedience on the part of repenting sinners? Not at all. In fact, any attempt to offer God any obedience at all as the ground of our acceptance before him amounts to an act of unbelief and rebellion against him.

Does sanctification, of necessity, involve the believer’s works of obedience to Christ? Absolutely, since that is the very nature of sanctification itself. The Scriptures everywhere forbid us to trust ourselves, but they never forbid us to exert ourselves in the pursuit of holiness. Paul was clearly speaking accurately when he told King Agrippa that he preached to sinners “that they should repent and turn to God and do [practice] works that are commensurate [the word Greek word means to be worthy or to weigh the same thing] with repentance” (see Acts 26:20). Was he adding works to faith as the basis of justification? Of course, not! He could not be clearer in his teaching about justification by grace alone and through faith alone. Still, it should be clear that he expected those who had professed repentance to act in accordance with that profession by practicing works of obedience to God. Though these works of obedience can have nothing to do with meriting a righteous standing before God, they are nonetheless a necessary evidence of the reality of conversion. Salvation would not be salvation without them. A presumed salvation that produces no change in a person’s life is not the salvation about which the apostles preached.

Works of obedience to Christ have no merit for justification but their evidentiary value in demonstrating the reality of God’s work in a person’s heart should not be disputed. As Spurgeon quaintly stated the issue, “What is down in the well is going to come up in the bucket.”

A Pivotal Passage

It is likely that there is no more important passage in the New Testament Scriptures dealing with this issue than James two, verses fourteen and following. Some have even imagined that some discord existed between Paul and James since Paul clearly taught that justification before God is through faith alone, yet James asked, “Can faith save him?”

How can one reasonably reconcile these two teachings? The answer is Paul and James are answering two different questions. We would not expect the same answer to the question, “What are the effects of water?” as we would to the question, “What is the chemical composition of water?” Both are about water but the answers would be decidedly different because the questions are different. Paul was answering one question, and James was answering another question altogether. The question Paul was answering concerned the manner in which God declares sinner’s righteous in his sight. Does God declared sinners righteous in his sight based on their works of obedience to the Law or through faith alone, in Christ alone?  His answer was unequivocal. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified through faith and apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:28).

The question James was answering concerned the nature of genuine faith. It concerned what kind of faith is effectual in uniting sinners to Christ. Pay attention to his introductory question. “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him” (James 2:14)? In the original text, the word “faith” is preceded by the definite article and refers to the kind of faith he has just mentioned, i.e., a faith that is not accompanied by works.  His question is not, “Can faith saved him?” but “Can that [kind of] faith [a faith that does not produce works] save him?” His answer is an unequivocal “no!”

When he later writes about Abraham being justified by his works in his offering of his son (see verse 21), he is writing about an event that occurred years after God had declared him righteous in his sight through faith in his promise. James was not speaking about that initial event but about Abraham’s faith being vindicated by his obedience. It is the nature of genuine faith to vindicate itself by producing obedience.

Concerning James’ teaching in these verses, Thomas Manton has written the following helpful comment,

 

In this whole discourse the apostle shows not what justifies but who is justified; not what faith does, but what faith is. The context does not show that faith without works does not justify, but that assent without works is not faith.

 

James vs. Paul?

 

The only question that remains is whether James and Paul were actually in disagreement on this issue. Although I could appeal to several passages that show their complete agreement on the issue, I will confine myself to one verse in Galatians five where Paul was writing about what now has value before God. In verse six he wrote, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” The faith he describes is a working faith. The word translated “working” refers to active, energetic and effective accomplishment. It should be clear that he knew nothing of a mere profession that produced no loving obedience to God. Genuine faith is active, energetic and effective in producing its effects in believers.

 

Conclusion

 

After a careful examination of these issues, it seems it would be impossible to conclude that salvation in the broad view is apart from works. Though we must stridently assert that God declares sinners righteous in his sight apart from a scintilla of obedience on the part of the sinner, we must nonetheless assert with equal stridency that a mere mental assent to propositional truth that produces no loving obedience to God is not the faith through which God declares sinners righteous in his sight.

 

13
Jan
19

God’s Message to You #2

The Problem of Pardon

If you have read in the Sacred Scriptures, about the pardon God freely promises to sinners who repent and believe, you might be wondering how the God who reveals himself in those Scriptures can make such a promise. If you have read those Scriptures carefully, you know that God has revealed himself as a holy and righteous judge who will never declare the guilty to be righteous. For example, In Exodus 34:7 He describes himself as the one who will by no means clear the guilty”. And yet, the apostle Paul calls him the God “who justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5), and David described the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works (see Romans 4:6-7) when he wrote, “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity” (Psalms 32:2).

The Bible does not teach that God infuses grace to sinners to enable them to become sufficiently righteous in themselves for God to declare them righteous. What these Scriptures are teaching is that God declares them righteous when they can claim no righteousness of their own.  He justifies [declares righteous] the ungodly. Paul wrote that sinners are “justified freely [this word means without cause, i.e., there is no cause in the sinner] by his grace” (Romans 3:24). This presents a great problem. How can God be righteous and at the same time declare guilty sinners who believe his promise to be righteous in his sight?

God’s Solution to the Problem

This is the problem that the redemptive work of Christ has solved. Notice that Romans 3:24 states that this free justification is “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” What the apostle was teaching in Romans 3 is that God has satisfied his own demands in the sacrifice of his Son. He wrote, “. . .whom God has exhibited publicly as a propitiation in his blood [sacrificial death] through faith, to declare his righteousness. . .that he might be just and at the same time, the justifier of those who believe [put their trust] in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26).

The gospel tells us of a great exchange. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul wrote, “For he [God] has made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”  He did not mean that Jesus actually became a sinner or that we actually become righteous as the basis of our justification. What he meant is that God has treated Jesus as if he were a sinner so that he might treat us as if we were righteous. He not only took the believer’s punishment for sin; he took the believer’s guilt. God judicially abandoned Jesus on the cross, so that believers might be judicially accepted in his presence. Concerning this great exchange, Isaiah wrote concerning his redemptive work for all who will trust God’s promise of pardon,

He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5-6).

God is calling you now to trust his promise of pardon. This same Jesus who was crucified, has risen from the grave as evidence that the Father has been satisfied with his redemptive sacrifice. He now sits enthroned as the full embodiment of all his redemptive accomplishments. He has full power and authority to rescue and restore all who come to the Father through him. You need no other merit or righteousness but his merit and righteousness. The Scripture says, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts. 4:12)   He is ready and willing to save you not only from the guilt and penalty of your sins but from the oppressive power of your sins. All he requires of you is that you trust him to save you. This is his promise to sinners—“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).

 

El Mensaje de Dios Para Usted # 2

El problema del perdón

Si has leído en las Sagradas Escrituras, sobre el perdón que Dios promete libremente a los pecadores que se arrepienten y creen, te estarás preguntando cómo el Dios que se revela a sí mismo en esas Escrituras puede hacer tal promesa. Si has leído esas Escrituras con cuidado, sabes que Dios se ha revelado a sí mismo como un juez santo y justo que nunca declarará al culpable como justo. Por ejemplo, En Éxodo 34: 7 se describe un así mismo como el que “de ningún modo tendrá por inocente al malvado”. Y, sin embargo, el apóstol Pablo lo llama el Dios “que justifica al impío” (Romanos 4: 5), y David describió la bendición del hombre a quien Dios imputa la justicia aparte de las obras (ver Romanos 4: 6-7) cuando él escribió: “Bienaventurado el hombre a quien el SEÑOR no imputa la iniquidad” (Salmos 32: 2).

La Biblia no enseña que Dios infunde gracia a los pecadores para permitirles llegar a ser lo suficientemente justos en sí mismos para que Dios los declare justos. Lo que estas Escrituras enseñan es que Dios los declara justos cuando no pueden reclamar ninguna justicia propia. Él justifica [declara justo] al impío. Pablo escribió que los pecadores son “justificados gratuitamente [esta palabra significa “sin causa,” es decir, no hay causa en el pecador] por su gracia” (Romanos 3:24). Esto presenta un gran problema. ¿Cómo puede Dios ser justo y al mismo tiempo declarar que el pecador que cree en su promesa es justo ante sus ojos?

La solución de Dios al problema

Este es el problema que la obra redentora de Cristo ha resuelto. Note que Romanos 3:24 declara que esta libre justificación es “por la redención que es en Cristo Jesús”. Lo que el apóstol estaba enseñando en Romanos 3 es que Dios ha satisfecho sus propias demandas en el sacrificio de su Hijo. El escribió, “. . . a quien Dios ha exhibido públicamente como una propiciación en su sangre [muerte sacrificial] a través de la fe, para declarar su justicia. . .que Él pueda ser justo y al mismo tiempo, Él que justifica a los que creen [confían] en Jesús “(Romanos 3: 25-26).

El evangelio nos habla de un gran intercambio. En 2 Corintios 5:21, Pablo escribió: “Al que no conoció pecado, [Dios] lo hizo pecado por nosotros, para que fuéramos hecho justicia de Dios en Él” No quiso decir que Jesús realmente se convirtió en un pecador o que en verdad nos volvemos justos como la base de nuestra justificación. Lo que quiso decir es que Dios ha tratado a Jesús como si fuera un pecador para que nos trate como si fuéramos justos. Él no solo tomó el castigo del creyente por el pecado; tomó la culpa del creyente. Dios judicialmente abandonó a Jesús en la cruz, para que los creyentes puedan ser aceptados judicialmente en su presencia. Con respecto a este gran intercambio, Isaías escribió acerca de su obra redentora para todos los que confiarán en la promesa de perdón de Dios,

Él fue herido por nuestras transgresiones; él fue molido por nuestras iniquidades; el castigo por nuestra paz cayó sobre él, y por sus llagas hemos sido sanados. Todos nosotros nos descarriamos como ovejas; nos apartamos, cada uno, en su propio camino; pero el SEÑOR hizo que cayera sobre Él la iniquidad de todos nosotros (Isaías 53: 5-6).

Dios te está llamando ahora a confiar en su promesa de perdón. Este mismo Jesús que fue crucificado, se ha levantado de la tumba como evidencia de que el Padre ha estado satisfecho con su sacrificio redentor. Ahora se sienta entronizado como la encarnación completa de todos sus logros redentores. Él tiene todo el poder y la autoridad para rescatar y restaurar a todos los que vienen al Padre a través de él. No necesitas ningún otro mérito o justicia sino su mérito y justicia. La Escritura dice: “En ningún otro hay salvación, porque no hay otro nombre bajo el cielo dado a los hombres en el cual podamos ser salvos” (Hechos 4:12) Él está listo y dispuesto a salvarte no solo de la culpa y de la pena de tus pecados, pero del poder opresivo de tus pecados. Todo lo que él requiere de ti es que confíes en él para salvarte. Esta es su promesa a los pecadores: “Vengan a mí, todos los que están cansados cargados, y Yo los haré descansar. Tomen mi yugo sobre ustedes y aprendan de mí, que soy manso y humilde de corazón, y hallarán descanso para sus almas “(Mateo 11: 28-29).

13
Jan
19

God’s Message to You #1

The God who created the universe and who governs that universe according to his perfect plan has chosen to reveal himself to you. He has done this in two ways. He has revealed himself in the things he has made, and he has revealed himself in the Bible. In this tract and in those that will follow, I would like to share with you what God wants you to know.

God’s Purpose

The first thing you need to understand is that your life is not without purpose. God made you and everything in the creation around you for himself. His purpose in making you was to make himself known. One way or another, his purpose will be realized in you. You will either live to magnify God’s grace and mercy or you will live to demonstrate his righteousness in condemning you for your treasonous rebellion against him. God has designed you in such a way that you can never live life the way he intended unless you consciously aim at reflecting his glory to those around you. He did not intend for you to be the center of your own universe. If you are beautiful, he intended your beauty to reflect his beauty. If you are intelligent, he intended your intelligence to reflect his intelligence. You are kind, in intended your kindness to reflect his kindness. If you are using anything God has given you to promote your own self-interests, you are failing to do that for which God made you.

The Problem

Our greatest problem in life is that we are broken. The Bible describes us as pieces of broken pottery. What was once a magnificent creation as it came from the hand of the sovereign potter, now lies in ruins.  When God created our first parents in the Garden of Eden, he made them in his own image. In Psalms Eight, the psalmist tells us that God crowned them with “glory and honor and set them over the works of his hands.” As long as they continued in their integrity, they were perfect reflectors of his glory. God had given them everything the heart could wish. Adam and Eve could have lived forever and been perfectly content with God had provided.

The problem is that God left Adam to the power of free will and Adam chose to rebel against him. In doing so, he plunged his entire race [That includes all of us], into a state of guilt and sinful corruption. He acted as all of us would have acted had we been left to ourselves as Adam was. Additionally, we have all freely chosen to follow in his footsteps and rebel against God.

In Roman 1:18, Paul describes the problem between God and sinners as follows: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” When we read about God’s wrath we must not think about an anger that is boiling over. God does not act in fits of uncontrolled anger. The “wrath” of God the apostle wrote about is a settled indignation against sin and sinners that is the only reaction God can have to that which is contrary to his holy nature. This wrath may be revealed in different ways and in different degrees but the reaction itself never changes.

The apostle cites two reasons God is wrathful toward sinners and these reasons are related to his universal law. The first reason is related to the sinner’s ungodliness or impiety. This is your greatest problem. It is the problem from which all other problems flow. He is talking about your failure to fulfil the purpose for which God created you. Jesus said the greatest commandment in the law is the mandate to love God. Since that is true, the greatest sin we can commit must be our refusal to love God with our entire being. The other reason God is wrathful toward you is that you are unrighteous. This relates specifically to God’s second great commandment, “You shall love you neighbor as yourself.” It follows that if we do not love God as we should, we will not love those who are made in God’s image.

The result of our failure to love God is that we have suppressed his truth wherever he has revealed himself. Paul’s argument in this indictment is that you are without a legal defense because you have acted contrary to everything you know to be true about God. Only God’s redeeming work can remedy this condition, and it is his intention in saving sinners to do exactly that. The message of God’s salvation is about more than forgiving you so you can go to heaven when you die. Though it certainly includes that, it concerns far more than that. It is about God preparing you to live in a way that reflects his glory to those around you.

You have refused to love and glorify God. You have failed to gratefully acknowledge his kindness to you in allowing you to live on his earth and breath his air. You have worshipped other gods instead of worshipping him. You have exchanged his truth for a lie, and, ultimately, you have decided that he is not worth knowing. Instead of responding to his acts of kindness toward you by leaving your way and returning to his way, you have persisted in your stubborn rebellion against him and have treasured up even more wrath for yourself in the day of his judgment.

God’s intention in saving sinners is to turn God-haters into God-lovers. Ultimately, he intends to restore all his redeemed people to a place of glory and honor in which we will seek his glory above all else. His saving work brings us to the place that we focus on him as our highest good and our most precious treasure.

God is calling you right now to turn from every idol to which you have looked for happiness apart from him. He is calling you to leave every refuge in which you have made yourself comfortable apart from him. He is calling you to leave your sinful way and return to his way. His promise to you is that if you will return to him, he will fully pardon you. Isaiah wrote,

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Isa. 55:6-7).

 

El Mensaje de Dios a Usted #1

El Dios que creó el universo y que gobierna ese universo según su plan perfecto ha elegido revelarse a ti. Lo ha hecho de dos maneras. Se ha revelado en las cosas que ha hecho, y se ha revelado en la Biblia. En este tratado y en los que seguirán, me gustaría compartir con usted lo que Dios quiere que sepa.

El Propósito de Dios

Lo primero que necesita entender es que su vida no es sin propósito. Dios lo hizo a usted ya todo en la creación alrededor de usted para sí mismo. Su propósito al hacerle era hacerse conocer. De una manera u otra, Su propósito se realizará en ud. Usted vivirá para magnificar la gracia y la misericordia de Dios o vivirá para demostrar Su justicia al condenarle por su rebelión traidora contra Él. Dios te ha diseñado de tal manera que nunca puedes vivir la vida de la manera en que Él pretendía, a menos que usted vive conscientemente apuntas a reflejar Su gloria a aquellos que te rodean. Él no tenía la intención de que fueras el centro de tu propio universo. Si eres hermoso, él pretendía que tu belleza reflejara Su belleza. Si eres inteligente, él pretende que su inteligencia refleje Su inteligencia. Si eres amable, Él intentó que su amabilidad reflejara Su bondad. Si estás usando algo que Dios te ha dado para promover sus propios intereses, estás fallando en hacer aquello por lo que Dios le hizo.

El problema

Nuestro mayor problema en la vida es que estamos rotos. La Biblia nos describe como piezas de cerámica rota. Lo que una vez fue una creación magnífica como vino de la mano del alfarero soberano ahora está en ruinas. Cuando Dios creó a nuestros primeros padres en el Jardín del Edén, los hizo a su propia imagen. En salmos ocho, el salmista nos dice que Dios los coronó con “gloria y honor y los puso sobre las obras de sus manos”. Mientras ellos continuaran en su integridad, eran perfectos reflectores de Su gloria. Dios les había dado todo lo que el corazón pudiera desear. Adán y Eva podrían haber vivido para siempre y estado perfectamente contentos con lo que Dios había proporcionado.

El problema es que Dios dejó a Adán al poder del libre albedrío y escogió rebelarse contra El. Al hacerlo, hundió a toda su raza en un estado de culpa y corrupción pecaminosa. Actuó como todos nosotros habríamos actuado si nos hubieran dejado a nosotros mismos como lo fue Adán. Además, todos hemos elegido libremente seguir sus pasos y rebelarnos contra Dios.

En Romanos 1:18, Pablo describe el problema entre Dios y los pecadores de la siguiente manera: “Porque la ira de Dios se revela desde el cielo contra toda impiedad e injusticia de los hombres, quienes por su iniquidad suprimen la verdad.” Cuando leemos acerca de la ira de Dios no debemos pensar en un enojo que está explotando. Dios no actúa en ataques de ira incontrolada. La “ira” de Dios sobre la que el apóstol escribió es una indignación establecida contra el pecado y los pecadores que es la única reacción que Dios puede tener a lo que es contrario a su santa naturaleza. Esta ira puede ser revelada de diferentes maneras y en diferentes grados, pero la reacción en sí nunca cambia.

El apóstol cita dos razones por las que Dios está llena de indignación contra los pecadores y estas razones están relacionadas con su ley universal. La primera razón está relacionada con la impiedad o la falta de conformidad del pecador a la imagen de Dios. Este es su mayor problema. Es el problema del cual fluyen todos los demás problemas. Él está hablando de su fracaso en cumplir el propósito por el cual Dios  creó a ud. Jesús dijo que el mandamiento más grande de la ley es el mandato de amar a Dios. Dado que esto es cierto, el mayor pecado que podemos cometer debe ser nuestra negativa a amar a Dios con todo nuestro ser. La otra razón por la que Dios se enoja contra usted es que usted es injusto. Esto se relaciona específicamente con el segundo gran mandamiento de Dios: “Amarás al prójimo como a ti mismo”. De aquí se deduce que si no amamos a Dios como debemos, no amaremos a aquellos que son hechos a imagen de Dios.

El resultado de nuestro fracaso en amar a Dios es que hemos suprimido su verdad dondequiera que se haya revelado a sí mismo. El argumento de Pablo en esta acusación es que usted está sin una defensa legal porque ha actuado en contra de todo lo que sabe que es verdad acerca de Dios. Sólo la obra redentora de Dios puede remediar esta condición, y Su intención en salvar a los pecadores es para que hagan exactamente eso. El mensaje de la salvación de Dios es más que perdonarte para que puedas ir al cielo cuando mueras. Aunque ciertamente incluye eso, se refiere mucho más que eso. Se trata de que Dios prepare a usted para vivir de una manera que refleje Su gloria a aquellos que rodean a usted.

Te has negado a amar y glorificar a Dios. Usted ha fallado en reconocer con gratitud su bondad hacia usted al permitirle vivir en su tierra y respirar su aire. Has adorado a otros dioses en lugar de adorarle. Usted ha cambiado su verdad por una mentira, y, en última instancia, ha decidido que no vale la pena saberlo. En lugar de responder a sus actos de bondad hacia usted, abandonando su camino y regresando a su camino, ha persistido en su obstinada rebelión contra él y ha atesorado aún más ira para sí mismo en el día de su juicio.

La intención de Dios al salvar a los pecadores es convertir a los que odian a Dios en amantes de Dios. En última instancia, él tiene la intención de restaurar a todos sus redimidos a un lugar de gloria y honor en el que vamos a buscar su gloria por encima de todo. Su obra salvadora nos lleva al lugar en que nos concentramos en Él como nuestro sumo bien  y nuestro tesoro más precioso.

La promesa de Dios

 Dios está llamando a usted ahora para que se desvíes de cada ídolo al que has buscado la felicidad aparte de -Él. Él  está llamando a usted  que dejes todo refugio en el que te hayas apartado de Él. Él está llamando a usted que abandonar su camino pecaminoso ya volver a Su camino. Su promesa a usted es que si regresará a Él, Él le perdonará completamente. Isaías escribió:

Buscad al SEÑOR mientras sea hallado; llamadle mientras está cerca; dejó el malvado su camino, y el hombre inicuo sus pensamientos; que vuelva a Jehová, para que tenga misericordia de él y de nuestro Dios, porque él perdonará abundantemente (Isaías 55: 6-7).

 

 

 

 

12
Jul
18

BATTLEGROUND PASSAGES

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FFN97GY/ref=sr_1_1… Art Galleries

“Battleground Passages,” An Exposition of Pivotal Passages in the Monergist-Synergist Debate, by Randy Seiver is now available at Amazon Kindle.
This book offers a contextual and exegetical consideration of major passages over which Calvinists and non-Calvinists have disagreed. The author offers a fresh perspective on passages that have often been misused by those on both sides of the issue. If you truly wish to understand the issues in this controversy over the nature of God’s saving work, you cannot afford to neglect this book.

25
Aug
17

Issues in Romans Nine

It is common for Arminians and other Synergists to accuse Calvinists of taking verses in Romans 9 out of context and using them to prove a doctrine they were never intended to support. This is quite common among Dispensationalists who imagine that God is pursuing two separate programs for two separate peoples. For this reason, they imagine that because Paul is addressing an issue that concerns ethnic Israelites, the doctrine he sets forth must have no application to the Church and to spiritual salvation at all.

Now, it is true that Israel is not the church and the church is not Israel in the sense that Israel as a nation was a body of believers washed in the blood of the Lamb. One does not enter the community of New Covenant in the same way that people became a part of the Old Covenant community. What we must understand is that because the nation of Israel stood as type or prefiguration of the Church, the same principles that applied to that nation in a typical sense are now applicable to the Church in a spiritual sense. None of the blessings the members of Christ’s body now receive were granted to the Israelites, as mere natural descendants of Abraham, in the same sense as they are now granted to believers in Christ. They were chosen, redeemed, called, adopted, granted inheritance etc., but none of those blessings are spiritual or eternal in nature.I

My approach to this passage will necessarily depart from both the classic Reformed view and from the classic Dispensationalist understanding of Israel and the Church. The Reformed view is that the Church is the visible Kingdom of God that is, by design, comprised of believers and unbelievers [i.e., believers and their infant children] in the same way that Israel was the visible Church in the Old Testament. The Dispensational view, as already mentioned, is that God is pursuing two perpetually distinct purposes for two perpetually and perhaps eternally distinct peoples. But we must understand that God has not planted a separate olive tree called “the Church” that is separate and distinct from the good olive tree that is rooted in covenant promises. Instead, he has grafted Gentile believers into “the Righteous Branch” of the good olive tree through faith in Christ, so that they have become heirs of the spiritual promises made to Abraham. According to the Dispensational view, Romans chapters nine through eleven can have little if any significance for anyone other than natural Israelites.

My view is that natural Israel stood as a type or prefiguration of the true people of God [I am using the word “true” here in the same way John and Jesus used the it, i.e., to denote the fulfillment as opposed to the type and shadow. Consider as an example, “I am the TRUE bread.” Jesus did not mean that the manna in the desert was not REAL bread, but that he was the fulfillment of the type]. It helps to understand that the study of typology is simply a matter of recognizing that there are repeated patterns in God’s dealings with his creation.

Some time ago I posted an article titled “Thoughts on Romans 9-11” which I intend to repost at the end of this article since I believe it is important to understand the issues involved in the entire context. What I would like to do here is simply consider this important chapter in its context in an attempt to discern whether Calvinists are truly guilty of misusing it to illegitimately support their doctrine of God’s sovereignty in the matter of the sinner’s salvation.

Romans Nine Is About Spiritual Salvation

My first observation is that the entirety of Romans nine though eleven concerns spiritual salvation. There is not a single word in the entire passage, if properly understood, that concerns the reestablishment of Israel as a political entity, the restoration of the land to that nation, etc. It should be clear to any thinking person that Paul would not be willing to be accursed from Christ for such mundane reasons. It was for the spiritual and eternal salvation of his people that he was concerned. We must remember that after types or prefigurations are fulfilled, they cease to exist. Paul understood that “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to promise.” The issue here was salvation through union with Christ. This becomes clear as we near the end of the chapter and move into chapter ten. In verse twenty-three Paul wrote about the “vessels of mercy which he [God] had prepared beforehand for glory.” Since this is set over against “destruction,” it must be a reference to spiritual salvation. In verse twenty-seven he wrote, “the remnant will be SAVED.” In verses thirty-thirty-two he wrote specifically about the attainment of righteousness through faith, another clear reference to spiritual deliverance. If any question remains about the subject of this pericope, it should be laid to rest once for all by Paul’s opening statement in chapter ten, “Brethren, my prayer to God and heart’s desire for Israel is that they may be saved.” Finally, Paul closes his argument with the conclusion, “and thus, all Israel shall be SAVED.”

The Apostle’s Argument in This Chapter

We must first understand that this entire section is intended to answer a single issue. That issue concerns the promises God made to Israel during the Old Covenant period. It seems that Paul has anticipated an objection about what he had written in the foregoing chapters. This was the objection. When we consider what has happened to Israel, “his own people” to whom he came, does it not appear that the promises of God have fallen to the ground without fulfillment? His initial answer to that objection was, “but it is not that the Word of God has taken no effect.”

The remainder of chapter nine is concerned to address two issues relative to that objection:

  1. The first issue is the identity of the ultimate recipients of God’s promises to Israel.
  2. The second issue is whether those who were the recipients of these promises were to receive the blessings promised as a matter of right or by sovereign disposition.

These two issues are related in that, due to their physical ancestry, the Jewish people of the first century had developed a sense of entitlement. One can see this attitude reflected in such statements as we find in John 8:33 “We are Abraham’s descendants and were never in bondage to any man.” Paul’s argument in this passage is reminiscent of John the Baptist’s words to the Pharisees and Sadducees when they came to him for baptism–“Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Therefore, bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Matt. 3:7-9). Paul’ s two-fold argument is that his brethren according to the flesh are entitled to no spiritual blessing by virtue of their physical lineage. The inheritance is not of bloods [bloodline], and the reception of spiritual blessing is a matter of sovereign disposition.

The Identity of “Israel”

Paul began to speak to the first of these issues in verse six of this chapter, “. . .for they are not all Israel who are of Israel.” This understanding must control our thinking concerning everything else Paul wrote in this entire passage. When he speaks of “Israel” he is not referring to all the physical seed. Toward the end of the chapter, Paul introduces a theme that recurs throughout the passage, i.e.,  it is not to the nation as a whole that the promises are made but to the elect remnant (see 11:5) within the nation. The physical promises [e.g. the promise that they would be blessed in the land as a result of their obedience to the covenant] that God made to members of the nation, based on covenant fulfillment, [promises of living and being blessed in the land of promise] find their fulfillment in Christ, the consummate Israelite, and in those united to him by faith (cf. Exo. 19:5-6, 1 Pet. 2:9-10). True believers in Christ have entered into the inheritance of which the land was a type. God did not promise eternal, spiritual blessings to any of Abraham’s natural offspring except Christ.

There can be no question that the supernatural character of Isaac’s birth stood as a type of the believer’s supernatural birth. The true seed, the true heirs are children of promise as was Isaac (see Gal. 4:28). The point Paul was making is that God’s promises to Israel have not fallen to the ground without fulfillment at all since those promises belong to those who are born supernaturally as was Isaac. Surely, this is what Jesus had in mind when he told Nicodemus that he needed to be born from above. Though one could enter the material kingdom of Israel by physical birth, one can only enter Christ’s kingdom by supernatural, spiritual birth. That which is born of flesh belongs to the realm of flesh and has no ability to function in the spiritual realm.

In the same way, Paul intended the recounting of God’s choice of Jacob over Esau to illustrate that God’s promises to Abraham were not intended for all the physical seed but for those sovereignly chosen by God and blessed contrary to the natural order. The fact that the reference to Jacob and Esau in Malachi extends to their descendants does nothing to diminish Paul’s argument in this passage. The principle remains the same; God’s blessings are granted according to promise and not according to physical descent and are determined by God’s elective purpose. This does not in any way suggest that every descendant of Jacob was an heir of God’s spiritual blessings. That is simply not the case. What it does suggest is that just as God’s love for Jacob and the physical and material blessings he granted to the nation of Israel were determined by God’s electing love, so the spiritual blessings that flow to the antitypical Israel are determined by the sovereign will of God. Additionally, Paul showed that God’s choice is not only made apart from merit but contrary to merit. Jacob was not the most likely candidate to father a holy nation. It is quite true that in this context these principles have primary application to Paul’s brethren according to the flesh, but, as he stated in verses twenty-three and twenty-four, they are no less applicable to those God calls from among the Gentiles.

The Basis of Blessing

The second of these issues rises out of Paul’s explication of the first. Paul wants his natural brothers to understand that they have no rightful claim to God’s blessings since those blessings are sovereignly granted and not a matter of right. If they are blessed it will be due to God’s sovereign mercy granted contrary to merit, and not because they are entitled to his blessing.

This truth could not have been elucidated more clearly than Paul has expressed it in verses eleven through thirteen of this chapter. He wrote, “(for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of him who calls), it was said to her, ‘the elder shall serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau I have hated.’” At the very least, one would have to conclude from the Malachi passage from which Paul has quoted that God did not love Jacob and Esau equally and it the same way.

It should be clear to any reader that Paul’s intention was to show that the salvation of his brethren according to the flesh has been determined by the same sovereign principle as that enunciated in these verses. It they are saved, it will not be because they deserve God’s favor but because he has sovereignly decreed to show them mercy.

Some, e.g., Norman Geisler, have had the temerity to suggest that God foresaw the actions of the nations that came from these two individuals and chose them on that basis. There are two basic and, one would think, obvious objections to that view. The first is that it absolutely contradicts Paul’s clear statement in verse eleven, “before the children were born, and had not done any good or evil, THAT the purpose of God according to election might stand. . .”. The second reason his assumption cannot stand is that it would obviate the need for Paul’s entire argument in the following verses.

Two Common Objections to Sovereign Election

There are two objections that are commonly brought against the doctrine of divine sovereignty in the salvation of sinners. Paul introduces both these questions in Roman’s chapter nine. It is impossible to say whether these are objections that had been introduced by real detractors or if he introduced them for the sake of making a point. One is that if sovereign election is true, it would make God unfair–“What shall we say then, is there unrighteousness with God?”. The other is that if the bestowal of mercy is not of him who wills or of him who runs but of God’s who shows mercy, and if God grants mercy to whomsoever he will show mercy and hardens whomsoever he wills, how can he hold his creatures responsible? –“Why does he still find fault, for who has resisted his will?” The will about which the apostle has written must be God’s will of decree since we have all resisted his revealed will from time to time.  If all that occurs has been decreed by God, how can he hold people responsible for our actions?

Both these question could have been answered very simply with one statement.  All Paul needed to explain is that God has left the issue of our salvation to libertarian free will.  If only he had explained that God’s choice of certain sinners was based on the faith and perseverance that he foresaw in them, neither of these questions would have arisen. Their very presence is the evidence that God’s foresight of certain sinners’ faith could not have been the basis for his choice. What better place could there have been for Paul to give such an explanation? Yet, there is not the slightest hint that God’s choice was determined by the sinner’s free will choice. Instead, he doubled down on his insistence that salvation depended on the will of the sovereign potter.  There are two important truths he offers to help his readers understand the true doctrine of God’s saving activity.  One concerned the proper relationship between God and his creatures. He asked, “Who are you, the creature, to question the Creator?”  As you consider this issue, you need to remember that there is only one true God and that God isn’t you. You aren’t in control, God is. The second answer to these questions concerns the nature of that “lump” out of which God forms one vessel for honor and another for dishonor.  Notice that he refers to the vessels of honor as “vessels of mercy.” That tells us that these vessels did not deserve God’s favor any more than did the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction.  God being righteous [fair] would have condemned the entire sinful lump.  How can God hold sinners responsible for our sins when we are simply fulfilling his decree? Because when we sin we are doing what we desire most. We are acting according to the sinful nature that we share with the rest of mankind.

The Nature of Salvation Itself

One reason people wish to argue that Roman’s nine is not about the sinner’s salvation but about some future work God intends to perform in restoring Israel as a nation grows out of their inadequate view of salvation itself. If we persist in defining salvation in terms of heaven and hell, we will not only continue to misinterpret passages such as Romans nine but will miss the entire biblical teaching about the nature of salvation itself. I am willing to concede, and I am sure others are as well, that Paul does not speak a word in Romans nine about some sinners being chosen to go to heaven when they die and others being left to perish in hell. That is clearly not the issue. But that does not mean this passage does not concern the sinner’s salvation or the teaching that salvation is granted to sinners by the sovereign good pleasure of God alone.

Not once in the entire inspired record of first century gospel preaching do we have an example of any preacher asking sinners if they wanted to escape hell and be assured that they will go to heaven when they died. The reason we find no such example is that such was never the issue in the salvation of sinners. Jesus framed the issue succinctly when in his intercessory prayer recorded in John seventeen he said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (v. 3). He immediately follows these words with “I have glorified you on the earth. I have finished the work which you have given me to do” (v.4) from which one could argue that eternal life is principally concerned with the manifestation of God’s glory [the sum of his glorious attributes].

It is my belief that much of the controversy that persists between Monergists and Synergists exists because the latter view salvation in such a superficial manner. Often they speak of salvation as “simply reaching out and accepting the free gift,” or to put it in the terms they like to use, “taking the life ring that has been thrown to the sinner [indeed, to all sinners equally].” Among the many biblical issues that this simplistic approach completely ignores is the universal hostility of sinners to the rescuer. If being on the lifeboat requires being in the presence of the lifeguard, they would prefer to drown.  Additionally, this view reduces Jesus to a mere means to an end. All the focus is on the sinner. Once the rescue is accomplished, the life ring can be hung out of view and ignored. All the life ring represents is the possibility of salvation, not salvation itself. We would agree that unregenerate sinners are able to walk down a church aisle, sign a card, repeat a prayer, and submit to “baptism.” What we do not believe is that such actions constitute genuine salvation from sin.

The assumption of some seems to be that since Paul does not speak of heaven or hell in Romans nine, the passage must not concern the salvation of sinners, but this simply reflects a faulty understanding of the nature of salvation itself. The primary purpose of God’s salvific activity is not to establish the eternal destiny of sinners, but to restore in sinners the ability to reflect his glory. Please understand that I am not denying that there are two distinct and different destinations for the saved and the lost. I am simply denying that establishing that destiny is the primary consideration in the salvation of sinners. I would challenge you to examine those biblical passages that state the purpose of Christ’s redeeming work to either verify or falsify my contention here. Let me simply suggest three verses for your consideration—Ephesians 5:25-27; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24-25. As you consider these verses, note well the purpose clauses introduced by the words “that” or “in order that.”

The modern church has become so absorbed with the idea that Jesus died to forgive our sins so we can go to heaven when we die, that we have forgotten that salvation is not principally about the forgiveness of sins. Justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, based on the promises of Scripture alone is certainly a key doctrine that we must not surrender for a moment, but being declared right with God is not the ultimate end of his salvific purposes. In reality, it is a means to an end. Before we can approach God with any kind of confidence, we need to know that he has cancelled our guilt and that he has declared us righteous in his sight. Justification is necessary because people burdened with a sense of unpardoned guilt do not love, glorify and enjoy God.

We must remember that God’s redemptive plan is concerned not only with saving sinners from his wrath but also with purifying them so that they will be able to glorify him. Remember Paul’s words, “That we should be to the praise of his glory. . .” God is concerned not only with our guilt but also with our sinful hearts that are hostile toward him in a state of nature.

Unlike his remedy for our guilt that is wholly outside of us, his remedy for our spiritual blindness, hostility, pollution in sin, and deadness toward him must be internal. To use one of Paul’s metaphors, “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness has shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor.4:6).

Paul has framed salvation in terms of glory just as Jesus did. When he was praying to the Father about finishing the work he had given him to do his words were, “I have glorified you on the earth. . .I have manifested your name to the men whom you have given me out of the world” (John 17:5-6). One of the primary differences between soteriological synergists and monergists is in their view of God’s purpose in saving a people for himself. It should not escape our notice that in its statement on the decree of God concerning the salvation of his people, the Westminster Confession of Faith begin with these words, “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory. . .” The Scripture reveals no higher motive for God’s creative, providential and salvific activity than this. This must be our starting point in all our thinking about His purpose in the world.

God’s Sovereign Bestowal of Mercy

It is as Paul begins to answer the first objection to his doctrine that his argument begins to turn from an articulation of general principles regarding God’s sovereign disposition of his favors to an application of those principles in the sovereign bestowal of saving mercy.

As we have seen, Paul does not even hint that God maintains the integrity of His righteous kingdom by merely rubber stamping decisions he foresaw his creatures would make. He has tersely dismissed the idea that God could be unrighteous in anything that he has done with the words, “Certainly not!” or “God forbid!”  Literally he wrote, “May it never be!”(μη γένοιτο). Then, he proceeded to show that God is himself the standard of righteousness who has the absolute right to dispense his mercy to whomsoever he will. He owes mercy to none. If it were a debt, it would cease to be mercy. So then, he concludes, it [the showing of mercy and compassion] is not of him who wills [it is not based on human decision] or of him who runs [it is not by human exertion] but it is of God who shows mercy (see verse sixteen).

In the verses that follow, Paul illustrated this truth from the life of two men.  One was the Pharaoh of Egypt; the other was the leader of God’s people, Israel. God treated these two men very differently but showed no injustice to either of them. In hardening the Pharaoh’s heart, God made him no more evil or rebellious at heart than he was by nature. He simply removed his gracious restraints and permitted him to be himself. He did nothing to him that he did not deserve.

In treating Moses as he did, he gave him nothing that he did deserve. The verse that Paul quoted in Romans nine, fifteen is found in the context of Moses’ request to see Yahweh’s glory (see Exo. 33:19). Remember here what we have written about the nature of God’s saving activity. Salvation is ultimately a matter of God’s self-disclosure. It is a manifestation of his glory. When John summed up his and his companions’ experience with the eternal Word, in what words does he express that experience? He wrote, “and the Word became flesh and tabernacled [pitched his tent] among us, and we gazed on his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth [compare “full of grace and truth” with “abounding in goodness [lovingkindness] and truth [covenant faithfulness]” in Exodus 34:6.

What is it that Paul tells us the unconverted are unable to see when the gospel is preached to them because the god of this world has blinded their minds? He answers, it is “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (see 2 Cor. 4:4). I believe we think of salvation rightly only when we think of it in terms of the manifestation of God’s glory as it now stands revealed to us in Christ.

Paul clenched the case we are making when he wrote in verses twenty-three and twenty-four, “and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom he called, not of the Jews only but also of the Gentiles.” We must understand the word “called” here not in the sense of a mere invitation but in the sense in which Paul has used it in chapter eight, verse thirty where he wrote, “. . .those he called, he also justified.” He is referring to that divine activity by which believers are called into union with Christ (see 1 Cor. 1:9),

It should be clear to any but those who have deliberately closed their eyes to God’s truth that Paul was writing about God’s saving mercy in revealing his glory to Moses. The point that he would have his readers take away from what he has written is that the bestowal of his favor was altogether of sovereign mercy. It is not that the Pharaoh deserved condemnation and Moses deserved a manifestation of God’s glory. No, Paul writes, “It is not of him who wills or of him who runs, but of God who show mercy.”

We should not forget that in the case of both the Pharaoh and Moses there was a manifestation of God’s glory. In the case of the one, it was a manifestation of his glorious justice but also of his power. God showed his power in the case of the Pharaoh not only in his destruction but also in his patient endurance of Pharaoh’s recalcitrant rebellion. Time after time God gave him opportunity to repent and let his people go, but Pharaoh hardened his heart. God demonstrated his longsuffering in giving him space to repent. In the case of Moses, God made known his glorious attributes and all by his sovereign mercy.

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Thoughts on Romans 9-11

  1. One should understand everything in the entire section in terms of the issue Paul is addressing and not import other issues that are not mentioned.

The issue is the spiritual salvation of Israelites and whether God’s promises to them have fallen to the ground without fulfillment. Paul begins the section by expressing that his prayer to God and his heart’s desire is that Israel might be “saved.” There is no justification for the assumption that the Israelites for whom he expresses concern are on a separate and different trajectory from Gentile believers. There is nothing in the entire context about Israel being restored as a nation, the establishment of an earthly, Jewish kingdom, the nation’s restoration to the land etc.

  1. One should understand “Israel” in the entire passage according to Paul’s definition caveat in 9:6-7, “they are not all Israel who are of Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring.” There is an “Israel” that is not Israel and Paul refers to this group of unbelievers in this section, but it is to the true Israel God’s ultimate spiritual promises were made, not to the natural offspring of Jacob.
  2. The entire issue hinges on God’s sovereign decree. God will have mercy on those he will save not because of debt but because of grace (9:10-25). Not even all who are of the promised seed, Isaac, are heirs of the promise.
  3. Paul further narrows the focus of God’s saving grace to that remnant within Jacob’s (Israel’s) offspring who are called. Here we must understand “called” not as an invitation but as an effectual divine action that unites the called ones to Christ (9:23-29). Those “called” are the vessels which he “prepared beforehand for glory.” This agrees with Paul’s previous statement in chapter eight that “those he predestined for future glory [being conformed to the image of Christ or glorified], he also called. (8: 29-30).”
  4. Paul lays the burden of responsibility directly at the feet of Jacob’s offspring who had rejected “God’s righteousness” [I understand the term “God’s righteousness” in Romans to refer to his method of putting sinners right with himself in faithfulness to his covenant promises] and insisted on going about to establish their own method of self-justification (9:30-10:21). God presents himself as an ever willing and able Savior for all who will call on his name.
  5. When Paul answers the question “Has God cast away his people?” (11:1), his answer is conditioned and delineated by the definition he has already given of “his people.” There is no question he refers to those who are the physical descendants of Abraham, but the reality is God has cast many of them away. The burden of his question at this point seems to be whether God has completely abandoned all Abraham’s physical descendants because of the unbelief of the majority of them. Paul’s answer is that though God has cast away unbelieving Israel, he has not cast away those whom he “foreknew” (according to the law of first mention, “foreknew” should be interpreted in light of Romans 8:29). Paul himself is an ethnic Hebrew of the tribe of Benjamin yet he has not been cast off. Even now there is a remnant according to the election of grace. (See 11:5-7).
  6. The blessings God will grant restored Israelites are the same as those now enjoyed by believing Gentiles. Paul’s concern is to “save some of them,” not to see a Davidic dynasty established under Christ’s Messianic rule and a fulfillment of land promises (see–10:1, 13; 11:14, 26-27, 30-32). Note: the mercy now granted to the Gentiles is parallel to the mercy God may show to believing Israelites. The mercy he has shown us is the forgiveness of our sins and in parallel must refer to the same kind of mercy granted to believing Israelites.
  7. The blessings Gentile believers now enjoy result from Israel’s unbelief. The inclusion of the Gentiles was to have the effect of making the Israelites jealous so that some of them might be saved. Verses 11 through 15 of chapter eleven give us important insight into the way the New Testament writers used the word translated “world.” It should be obvious that “world” in these verses does not refer to every person without exception since every unbelieving ethnic Israelite is excluded from it. Their exclusion has resulted in the reconciliation of the “world,” i.e., believing Jews and Gentiles.
  8. It seems clear the root of the “good olive tree” refers to the covenant promises made to Abraham. The good olive tree grows out of that root. It is important that we remember there were natural branches of that tree that should have produced good fruit but did not. Ishmael and his descendants were branches of the tree as were Isaac and his descendants. Isaac was the heir produced by faith, the child of promise; Ishmael was the child of the flesh, a child of unbelief. Still, both benefited physically and materially from their paternal relationship with Abraham.

The family tree on Isaac’s side of the family continued to branch until the ultimate offspring to whom the promises were made was born. He was the true offspring who was the ultimate heir of the Abrahamic promise. All the promises of God find their fulfillment in him. None of the branches of the olive tree were fruitful as the mere natural offspring of Abraham. Abraham was “the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised” (Rom. 4: 12). What Paul was saying is that physical descent from Abraham is of no value at all in terms of the spiritual inheritance. To be a son of Abraham in the spiritual sense, one must walk in the footsteps of the faith of Abraham.

Natural birth is no advantage in the spiritual realm. The reason the natural branches were broken off was unbelief–rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. They thought they could receive the inheritance apart from the heir, merely because they were Abraham’s natural offspring. Gentile believers have become “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19), because, through faith, we have been united to the Christ, the seed of Abraham. Assuming God intends to graft believing Israelites back into the good olive tree, it will be a grafting into Christ, a natural branch of the tree, by faith. It is in him that God has made believing Israelites and believing Gentiles one. He has made us one with the true Israel by grafting us into Jesus who is the true Israel. Jesus and those united to him by faith are the true seed of Abraham. We are not a replacement for Israel; we are the fulfillment of Israel and the promises made to them.

  1. This passage does not necessarily teach a future salvation of ethnic Israelites, though I would lean toward that position. It is possible Paul is stating that the full number of the elect remnant within ethnic Israel will come to faith before the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. “In this way, all Israel will be saved” (11:26). There are several considerations that might lead one to this conclusion:
  2. Throughout the entire section, Paul has focused on passages that speak of the salvation of a “remnant.”
  3. He speaks about God grafting them in again more as a possibility than as a certainty, “And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again” (v. 23).
  4. He writes, “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (11:25). It is possible he means this hardness will never come to an end. In 1 Sam 15:35 we read, “And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.” This does not mean that Samuel came to see Saul on the day of his death, but that he never came to see him again. In the same way, Paul could be saying that this partial blindness will never come to an end until the full number of the elect from among the Gentiles have been saved and the full number of the remnant of ethnic Israel and the full number of elect Gentiles will occur at the same time.
  5. The focus of verses 26-27 is on the redeemer coming to or out of Zion to establish the new covenant by his redemptive work, not on the redeemer coming out of heaven to apply that accomplishment. That is, he is speaking about the basis on which this salvation about which he speaks has been accomplished, not about the time at which it will be applied. It is the certainty that all of these who have been redeemed from sin will be saved that is in view, not the occasion on which it will be accomplished.

I have mentioned these issues not to argue for them but to show that in such areas as this, dogmatism is probably unwarranted. What is clear is that there is not a word in the entire text about restoring Israel as a nation. One must read this idea into the passage since the passage says absolutely nothing about it.

  1. The part of the olive tree into which members of ethnic Israel will be grafted is not merely a natural branch but also the spiritual branch, namely, Christ. Paul’s concern is not with those promises that granted the natural seed of Abraham physical, material, and nationalistic blessings, but with spiritual and eternal blessings. They will not be grafted into Jacob; they will be grafted into Christ and thus become the “true Israel.”
    12. In 11:28-32, Paul’s focus is on God granting mercy to sinners, not on God granting nationhood to Israel. In other words, Paul clearly saw the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel in their spiritual salvation “But it is not as though the Word of God has failed, for. . .” (9:6) “all Israel will be saved” (11:26).
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16

Can Sinners Called by Grace Resist If They Want To?

We read in Mark 3:13, “Jesus went up into the hills and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.” It should be clear to anyone who reads this text that coming to Jesus is an act that results from Jesus’ desire and not from theirs and that such a call is effectual in its nature. He called and they came.

Often, our non-Calvinists friends like to amuse themselves by asking whether sinners who are called by God’s grace are able to resist that call if they want to and remain in their sins. This is their banal and misguided attempt to derail the Calvinistic doctrine that has regrettably been called “Irresistible grace.”It seems the burden of their question is whether sinners are forced to act like preprogrammed robots who are unable to choose what we desire.

In reality, they are asking the wrong question. The issue is not whether sinners could resist grace if they wanted to; the issue is whether any sinner to whom God has manifested his glory [the sum of his glorious attributes] in the face of Jesus Christ, would desire to resist him. Those whose stony hearts have been made pliable by God’s grace are not forced against their wills to become followers of Christ. Instead, in effectual grace, God has graciously removed the sinner’s persistent and pervasive disposition to resist his offers of mercy in Christ. The issue is that those whom God calls no longer want to resist him.