Posts Tagged ‘unconditional Election


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.


Fifteen Tenets of Classic Calvinism

As I have stated before, there are several points of Calvinism or of the Reformed tradition with which I cannot agree. Many of the views held by the Reformers were simply relics of the Roman system that, in my view, have no foundation in the Scriptures. Still, the Reformers held to many precious truths to which today’s church would do well to return. The following tenets of Calvinism relate to God’s purpose and grace in the salvation of sinners. I have stated them in an effort to clarify what Calvinists actually believe in contrast to the many misrepresentations of Calvinistic doctrine. I hope you will find them helpful. 1. God’s purpose in creation and in providence is the manifestation of his glory, i.e., the sum of his glorious attributes. Concerning God’s decreed purpose the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” (WSC Q. 7). Isaiah wrote, “who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them, TO MAKE FOR HIMSELF AN EVERLASTING NAME” (Isaiah 63:12). “The Lord has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom” ( Prov. 16:4–NKJV). 2. Nothing occurs in time that God has not purposed in eternity. He “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). This means if an event occurs, God planned that event beforehand. 3. God has sovereign control over every facet of the universe. This control extends to occurrences and human actions that seem to be the most insignificant, chaotic, and contrary to his revealed will. Nahum 1:3 informs us “He has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm.” There is no quarter to which this control does not extend.

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?” (Dan. 4:35).

4. Within the sphere of God’s sovereign control, people act freely. God never forces them to act contrary to their inmost desires. Consequently, God holds us responsible for all our actions. In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter said, ““Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death” (Acts 2:23). Those who crucified Jesus did so freely, willingly, and culpably, yet their actions were in accordance with the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God. 5. God views mankind in union with one of two representative heads. A person is either “In Adam” or “In Christ.” All who are born by ordinary generation are conceived and born in sin. We do not become sinners when we sin; we sin because we are sinners by nature “The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psa. 58:3). Additionally, Adam’s guilt is imputed to all who are in him by physical birth. In effectual calling, God brings his chosen people to faith in Christ and unites us to him (see-1 Cor. 1:9). In Christ, the believer inherits all that Jesus accomplished as his representative. 6. Sinners, in union with Adam, are “totally depraved.” By this we do not mean sinners act as badly as they are capable of acting, but that every facet of their personalities, the intellect, the emotions, the will and the conscience, has been radically affected by sin (see, for example, Eph. 4:17-19). Because of this depravity, sinners are unable to choose that for which they have absolutely no desire and to which they are totally averse. It is not that they are mentally, physically or psychologically disabled so that they are unable to understand the facts of the gospel. Instead, they are spiritually disabled. They cannot embrace Christ as he is presented in the gospel because they will not do so. “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts” (Psa 10:4). If God left sinners to themselves, no one would ever choose to leave his sin and believe the gospel. 7. Although God foresees everything that will occur, his choices and decrees are not based on that foresight. He does not decree what he foresees but foresees what he has decreed. Although God has foreseen the faith of all who will ever believe, that foreseen faith was not the basis of God’s choice. The result of God’s decree and his action in accordance with that decree [faith] cannot also be the basis or the cause of that decree. That is to say, if no sinner would have come to faith apart from God’s intervention in accordance with his eternal decree, faith would have been non-existent and could not have been the basis of God’s choice. Foreknowledge is God’s intimate and loving knowledge of his chosen people beforehand. Please note that Romans 8:29 stated that “Whom” God foreknew, he predestinated. . . .” not “WHAT he foresaw, he predestined.” 8. God has chosen individual sinners and given them to Christ that he might redeem them and bring them to glory, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth (see 2 Thess. 2:13). The only reason for this choice God has revealed is his sovereign good pleasure (see- Eph. 1:5). He made this choice not only apart from any lack of merit in the sinner but contrary to the demerit of the sinner. Election is a gracious choice.

Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work (Rom. 11:5-6).

Please note, this verse does not merely teach that salvation is by grace but that election is by grace. That is to say that not only were sinners undeserving of God’s choice, but we were ill-deserving of it. 9. The redemptive work of Christ objectively accomplished the eternal salvation of all his elect people. Although the abundant sufficiency of Christ’s redemptive work is not an issue, since most agree that his death is abundantly sufficient to save everyone if they should believe the gospel, its design is limited to the redemption of those the Father has given to the Son. The real issue is whether Christ’s death merely made redemption possible for all sinners or actually accomplished salvation for all the elect ones. We believe Christ effectively accomplished salvation for all he intended to redeem. 10. God, the Father, effectually calls those he has chosen into fellowship or union with his Son. This work of God is also called “drawing.” This call is according to his eternal purpose or predestined design. Paul wrote to Timothy,

. . .according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, . . . (2 Tim. 1:8b-9).

The elect are “called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Apart from this inward call, it is impossible for sinners to come to Christ (See John 6:44), yet everyone who receives this call will be justified (see Romans 8:30). There is not a single use of the word translated “call” or “called” in the Epistles of the New Testament that refers to a mere external call of the gospel. 11. God has promised that not only will he preserve or keep from falling every true believer in Christ, but also that every true believer will persevere in believing until the end. It is the character of true believers in Christ to go on hearing his voice and go on following him. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews wrote, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39). God’s people are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8: 37). It should be clear, then, that those who draw back and fail to obey Christ’s voice were never among his chosen ones. 12. Justification is God’s declaration that ungodly sinners (see-Rom. 4:5) are righteous in his sight, based on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to their account, and received by faith alone. It is an act of God’s free grace alone in which we receive a standing before God that has nothing to do with our personal righteousness or obedience to God’s law. It is based totally on the obedience of our substitute. Our righteous standing before God can neither be increased nor diminished by anything we may do. 13. Regeneration is the implantation of a new governing principle in the human spirit. It is a fulfillment of the New Covenant promises found in Ezekiel 36,

Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them (25-27).

It is altogether possible that the term “regeneration” would, in the New Testament Scriptures, be better rendered “the regeneration” in reference to the time in which these blessings would find their fulfillment. For example, Titus five would then refer to the times of restitution of all things in which God’s people would be washed and renewed. In any case, this work of God in which he removes the stony heart from our flesh and replaces it with a heart of flesh accomplishes two needed operations for the sinner. First, we need to be cleansed from our past sins (“washing,”) then we need to be renewed and prepared for future service (“the renewing of the Holy Spirit”). This work, in and of itself, does not enable us to be all that we need to be in our Christian walk. For this reason, God also promises to put his Spirit within us and cause us to walk in his statutes. Jesus told his disciples that without him, or severed from him who is the true vine, they could do nothing. What we must remember is that as believers we are not without him. We are united to him by faith and he has given us his Spirit who continually prompts us to desire to obey God and then enables us to do so (see-Phil 2: 13). 14. We may understand sanctification in two senses, definitive or decisive sanctification and progressive sanctification. The initial application of Christ’s redeeming work, specifically his death with Christ to the reigning power of sin (see–Romans 6: 1-11), involves the believer’s radical break with sin’s reign. This is definitive sanctification. It is more than just a positional matter that carries with it no potential for change. Instead, it is the basis for every act of obedience that follows. Progressive sanctification is God’s gracious work in believers, flowing from the redemptive work of Christ, in which he renews his image in us and enables us to account ourselves truly dead to sin and alive to God, based on our union with Christ in the objective accomplishments of his death, burial, and resurrection. The goal of sanctification is the elimination of all sin, internal as well as external, from our lives. In performing his work, God the Spirit progressively conforms us to Christ’s image and enables more and more to present our members as instruments of righteousness unto God, put to death the deeds of the body, put off our former lifestyle and approve the perfect will of God revealed in the Scriptures. Although this work will never be completed as long as we are in this mortal body, we must never be content to stop short of that perfection that is its goal. 15. Glorification is God’s work in which he will perfectly conform believers to the image of Christ, the incarnate Son, renew their bodies to be like Christ’s glorious body, rid them of the last vestiges of sin, and reveal them for what they truly are, i.e., the sons of God. He will glorify believers together when Jesus returns in his glory to be glorified with his saints.


Points of disagreement with “A southern baptist understanding of God’s plan of Salvation.”

Yesterday, I identified areas in which I would agree with the Southern Baptists who wrote the statement about SB’s understanding of God’s plan of salvation. Now, I want to identify those points on which there can be no agreement.

The first major area in which we disagree concerns Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man. Though I would affirm everything they affirm apart from the word “alone.” Their denial that Adam’s guilt is imputed to all his posterity is absolutely contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture. I would like to follow this up with an exposition of Romans 5:12 ff, but for now, suffice it to say that if the good news that Christ’s righteousness is put to our account is to stand, we must embrace the truth that God has imputed Adam’s guilt to all who are in him.

The second area of irreconcilable difference concerns the design of Christ’s death. Their statement is “We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.” My question would be, What did Christ intend to accomplish by his death for those who will perish for eternity? If he died to redeem them, why aren’t they redeemed? If he died to make all people savable, why would he do so if it was never the purpose of the Father to apply his death to them? Was his death sufficient to save the entire race if that had been the purpose of the Father? Absolutely! Did he intend to save people who were already perishing when he died? Did he intend to save people he knew would never believe? That would seem to imply that God is out of touch with reality.

The third area of disagreement concerns the nature of God’s work of grace in the human soul. I suspect that part of the problem here is the unfortunate phrasing that has been applied to effectual calling. The term “irresistible grace” may give the impression that sinners never resist the gospel or the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Acts 7:51 is the lone proof-text used to show that grace is not irresistible. What that text proves is that, by nature, sinners ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit. The question is, if sinners ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit, how is it that anyone ever comes to believe the gospel? The verse says nothing about the ability of God’s grace to overcome the sinner’s natural aversion to God and the gospel. It says volumes about the sinner’s rebellion against God and his recalcitrant refusal to submit to the demands of the gospel. Only effectual grace can overcome the natural depravity of the sinner’s heart.

A fourth area of disagreement is the order of regeneration and faith. Are we regenerated because we believe, or do we believe because we have been regenerated? This discussion leads us to the issue of depravity. Is it total, i.e., affecting the sinner in every part of his personality, or partial, affecting only certain aspects of the sinner’s personality but leaving his will unaffected?
Arminians have historically believed that sinners are totally depraved, but that God has granted
“Prevenient [or preceding] grace” to every person, thus restoring the ability to choose Christ and the gospel. The problem for them is that there is not a shred of biblical evidence for such a doctrine. We believe sinners cannot believe the gospel unless and until God gives us a new spirit, a heart of flesh, and puts his Spirit in us. In close connection with this issue is the issue of calling. Are these guys right when they state that there is no such thing as “effectual calling” and that “calling” in Scripture always refers to the outward preaching of the gospel? If they truly believe that, they must also believe that everyone who hears the gospel call is justified. The apostle Paul wrote, “. . .whom he called, them he also justified. . . .”

A fifth area of disagreement, if disagreement it can be called is the framer’s complete failure to deal with the many clear statements of Scripture that use the terms, “election,” “elect,” “chosen,” etc. They don’t even suggest, as do real Arminians, that God’s choice was based on what he foresaw the sinner would choose. They just seem to ignore the concept altogether. These terms have a meaning. When the Bible declares that God has chosen us believers it can’t just mean God chose a plan. The Bible says God chose people. These guys need to deal with that.

Finally, we need to discuss what we mean by “free will.” Do we mean by that term that sinners are able to choose something to which they are totally and absolutely averse? Perhaps we can come to agreement concerning this term if all we mean by it is that human beings have the ability to make choices and that we are responsible for the choices we make. This is what we mean by “free agency.” God does not force us to make the decisions we make; we make them freely and are completely responsible for them. The issue concerns whether the sinner possesses the ability to choose that which is contrary to the deepest desire of his heart and soul.

In the posts that follow, I want to consider these differences in greater detail and set forth the biblical teaching on these issues. Please feel free to comment.