The Origin of Hatred

It doesn’t take much to impress a crowd in today’s America. Secularism is a truly vacuous cult. This is on full display in a former President’s anthropomorphic blunder becoming an avalanche down the social media mountain side.

Obama, in response to all of the Charlottesville chaos, Tweeted this:

tweet

A hackneyed rallying cry captioned under a multi-ethnic photographic is apparently the only means to comity today. But what needs to be recognized is the public response to this Tweet exposes that it is religious in nature. This is a secular bible verse, and all of the disciples have come to the alter to pay homage.

But while they do their show-and-dance, the Christian, who knows those gods are false (Psalm 96:5), does not need to take a second glance at this to see how patently flawed the theology is.

It is logically untenable, the idea that hatred for skin color and religion is not innate or natural. If these emotions and behaviors are not natural, but learned, who was the first ever racist? If Obama’s Disney movie anthropology is true, that men are born wonderful, moral, perfect little critters, then who put the racist behavior into the genealogy? If everyone was perfect, then no one ever learned hatred. Logically, someone had to come up with racism or bigotry all on their own.

More importantly, Obama’s secular interpretation of man is unbiblical thoroughly.

The first sin of the Garden was not based on skin color in any way. We do not even know the color of Adam and Eve. Apparently, Moses was not yet indoctrinated enough in the Social Justice paradigm to know how vital that information is. However, the Serpent in the garden did hate these people, and more importantly, he hated the God they worshipped.

In Genesis, before any corrupt society could indoctrinate hate, religious bigotry steps on the scene. And the serpent does something worse than a terrorist attack like murdering innocent protesters with a car, for this sin gave birth to the nature of man which would do use a cat to murder. This was the terrorist attack to initiate all terrorist attacks. The serpent tempted man, and man fell.

From this, man inherited, and continues to pass on, a sinful nature. Man is in fact so evil and flawed that pleasing God is completely out of our capacity (Romans 8: 7-9). We are dead in sin and by very nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2: 1-4).

This means we are perfectly capable of hatred all on our own. Mankind is a hateful breed. It is who we are. We can only inherit from our forefather Adam what Adam is prepared to give us: rebellion. Hatred is not a learned, societal condition; hatred is a human condition. Hatred, jealousy, bitterness, and anger are as natural to the heart of a man as breathing is to his lungs. Hatred is who we are, hatred is what we do. Every society of men has demonstrated this.

Children are capable of cutting in line, not sharing their toys, hitting their friends, and disobeying mom and dad long before it is ever modeled to them.

The problem for all the secular zealots is that the view of the world from their temple is skewed and inaccurate, their anthropology is simply wrong.

What is the end-game here? What is the motivation behind this worldview running rampant? What’s in it for Obama and those on his team to have such a misguided and positive view of man? It’s obvious, if hatred is something learned, then hatred can be something unlearned. If hatred is something conditioned, then we can be reconditioned, and Jesus is not needed for any of those steps. We get to bypass the cross, both Jesus’ and our own. Mankind gets to take the perilous detour around Calvary, the only place where hatred, racism, and bigotry can truly die.

The end game is to dethrone Christ Jesus and replace Him with the god of government. This is an impotent, careless, selfish, reckless, fickle, and insatiable idol, but it isn’t Jesus, and for the secularists that is what matters. And since it isn’t Jesus, we don’t need repentance; we don’t need faith.

Instead, we need tax-payer funded rehabilitation. We need social conditioning courses. We need sensitivity training. We need education, but the last thing we need is a new birth.

To wrongly diagnose an issue is death. When the symptoms are improperly diagnosed, the medicine prescribed will not work. Thus, the secular view of man will never prescribe what we need. Error begets error. We will continue in constant hatred for one another until we properly diagnose the problem.

What mankind needs is not “to love each other bro.” True love for fellow man is something our hearts are not even capable of. What we need is rescue. We need new hearts; we need to be born again as new creatures, with new desires. We need to be forgiven. We need to be changed.

When hatred is properly defined as an issue of the heart, we suddenly need forgiveness and transformation of a spiritual kind. And this is something only the Gospel provides.

Jesus can do what no idol and no government can accomplish. Jesus can forgive us, Jesus can redeem us, Jesus can change us. Jesus can save us.

A man can shake his head and glare at the racism of those buffoons organized in the neo-Nazi rallies, but he better keep his glare fixed on them, steadfast and unwavering, for every moment stuck on them is a time not spent in self-reflection, staring at his own heart, remembering his own history.

Rebuke the violent thugs of Antifa all you want, but at the end of the day, what are you going to do with your heart? Who is going to pay for all of your sin?

What Nazi’s need is salvation. What Antifa needs is reconciliation. And what each and every person, who are guilty of a lifetime of hatred, bigotry, lust, envy, lies, gossip, selfishness, and malice, what they need is redemption.

We do not need education, government, or sentimental love. We need Jesus.

There is room at the foot of the cross for Nazi’s. They can join hands with all colors, tribes and tongues there. Knees of every color will bow; every tribe and nationality will be present and accounted for at Jesus’ feet. All racists can find healing and forgiveness at the place where sin died and hell lost its victory.

There is even room there for the self-righteous, secular American who thinks hatred is everyone else’s problem but his own. There is room for you too. Your sins can be washed white as snow. Come, drink from the Fountain.

Why I Believe in Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the Saints

This is the final post of the T.U.L.I.P. series. The final letter stands for Perseverance of the Saints (PS). Sometimes referred to as Eternal Security, PS teaches that a person who has genuinely been saved cannot lose that salvation. Those who are saved have eternal life; it is not something they still may not receive.

This doctrine is very much a necessary consequence of all the others that preceded it, especially Unconditional Election. If God elects a particular people, then PS must be true. I do maintain that necessary deductions are a legitimate means of coming to biblical truth. As the Westminster Confession of Faith confirms,

“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men” (Emphasis mine).

Likewise, the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)  also confirms this to be true in a much more subtle way,

“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men” (Emphasis mine).

Thus, for me, all of the points leading up to this final post serve as proof of this doctrine. Not just as proof texts, but as thorough and biblical presentations of salvation. However, there are many clear biblical texts we will turn to for additional support which isolate and teach this particular doctrine.

A Convenient Inconsistency

It must first be said that if there is a permitted category for the 4-point Calvinists (those who deny Limited Atonement), then there are many Arminians who perhaps could be thought of as 1-point Calvinists. As PS is believed by many who reject Calvinism.

I am happy to share that agreement with so many Arminians. Although I never want to argue someone out of a truthful position, I find this wildly inconsistent with a denial of the other letters of the acronym. To believe a person cannot lose their salvation seems to be at odds with the fundamental core of Arminian theology as it pertains to soteriology (salvation). In other words, Arminians who accept the “P” are essentially only Arminians until a person is saved, and then they suddenly become Calvinists.

If a person has the free, autonomous will to either reject or accept Christ, and this free-will is essential to the person’s very nature and ability to “truly love,” why does this will suddenly disappear once a decision is made? Why does a person lose their free-will once they become a believer?

It seems to me that the consistent picture would be that we either have a free, autonomous will or we do not. And if we do, then that means at any point during our walk with Christ we must be free to reject Him.

So, while I am glad many Arminians believe in this doctrine, I would encourage them to come all the way home with it!

A Trinitarian Salvation: The Holy Spirit

A person’s salvation is entirely Trinitarian. The Father predestines, calls, and draws (Ephesians 1, Romans 8, John 6), Jesus secures and accomplishes (Hebrews 9-10; Romans 3-4), and the Spirit is the one Who reveals (1 Corinthians 2) and, He is the one who maintains, or perseveres. All Members of the Trinity are necessary and due of glory in the salvation of a sinner. However, this doctrine is specifically focusing on the work of the Spirit. We are saved because the Spirit of God is effectual.

Ephesians 1: 11-15,
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The verse begins by speaking of an inheritance which has not yet been obtained (14) as if it is obtained already. Obviously, Paul’s understanding of the Christians is that their heavenly inheritance is so guaranteed we can speak of it as if we have it already. That could hardly be the rhetoric of Paul if in fact our inheritance is not guaranteed.

However, Paul get’s even more explicit by teaching that Gospel believers are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of [our inheritance].”

The Holy Spirit is given, by the Father, to Gospel-believing people. That act seals them unto God, and until they acquire possession of the guaranteed personal inheritance.

The sealing of the Spirit, grammatically and contextually, cannot be separated from the acquiring of the inheritance. Because of the Spirit, God’s people will receive heaven.

This is consistent with Paul elsewhere when he writes,

“And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1: 21-22).

Not only does Paul mention the “sealing” of the Father on believers again, but he also again teaches Christians that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit guarantees our salvation.

The one new information this text contains is the phrase “as a guarantee” is often times translated as “a down-payment.”

In other words, the Holy Spirit is God’s down payment to us. What does this mean? The same thing a down-payment means today! It assures another party you have the means to provide what you have promised to provide. God promises our salvation, and the Holy Spirit is His means of assuring us it will happen.

What happens to the person who does not  provide what they promise? They lose their down payment. So in other words, to say a believer can lose their salvation, not only means that the Holy Spirit can fail to do the job the Father sent Him for, but it also incidentally implies the Spirit will be lost with the Christian. If a Christian loses their salvation, God loses His down payment.

Thanks to the Holy Spirit of God, believers are secured. God then receives all the credit for salvation,for as John MacArthur famously said,

“If you could lose your salvation, you would.”

A Trinitarian Salvation: The Son

The Holy Spirit is not alone in being charged by the Father to keep Christians secure. Jesus Himself is said to persevere and keep His sheep from falling away.

John 6: 35-40,
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.‘”

Jesus, speaking to a hungry Jewish crowd, tells them of the Father’s will He has come to accomplish. And that will is to lose none of those whom the Father gives Him.

The classic rhetoric that “Jesus cannot lose us, but we can walk away,” is not in harmony with the very purpose of Jesus. The Father gave Jesus a group to raise up. If only a portion of that group is raised, the mission still failed, regardless of the excuse.

Jesus’ job was to actually save and actually raise to heaven a particular people given to Him. Thus, unless Jesus can fail to accomplish His Father’s will (He cannot), then all the elect are guaranteed a resurrection with Christ.

After the Jews grumble about Jesus’ claims to deity, He tells them this again:

John 6:44,
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Jesus does not present the raising of those drawn as a possibility or a hope; it is a guarantee.

Further Proof Texts

Jesus’ mighty role in guaranteeing the salvation of His people is often noted in the New Testament epistles as well. For example, the writer of Hebrews describes Jesus as being “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Our faith cannot be lost because we are not the ones perfecting it.

Paul is certainly a fan of this doctrine. He teaches it in Philippians 1:6,

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Paul stresses that the work of salvation is entirely of God from beginning to end. It cannot be lost because Jesus is the one bringing it to completion, not the person being saved.

Paul not only believed this doctrine, he cherished it. That is why he prayed it over his church in Thessalonica, and by extension, prays it over all believers everywhere,

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

This is such a clear text. Paul’s understanding is that the same God who calls us (Irresistible Grace) is also the God who sanctifies us perfectly, and keeps us blameless until the second coming of Christ. Not only this, but Paul says that God will surely do this. Paul knows this is a guarantee, and he establishes that guarantee on the faithfulness of God. Therefore, it can be concluded, that in Paul’s thinking, if God does not maintain us and preserve our salvation, then it is His own faithfulness which is then called into question. This is exactly why PS is a doctrine which glorifies God. For one no longer has room to boast once PS is established. The reason we get to heaven is because of the faithfulness of God, not our own ability to work and maintain the salvation God gives us. That is borderline works-salvation, which is exactly why Paul uses the argument against the Galatian church who had adopted such a thing,

Galatians 3:3,
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

The Famous Chapter

Perhaps, in light of all the evidence, the most famous and well-known text on this subject from the Apostle Paul is found at Romans 8: 31-39,

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The love God has for His elect cannot be separated or changed. Nothing can sever that relationship.

Although the text seems self-explanatory, it would be wise to deal with the objections.

First and foremost, the love of this text is not God’s general love for all people. It is often said that this is dealing only with God’s love for all people, but not a person’s salvation. For one, the text explicitly defines those receiving love as those whom God “gave up His son” for, as those who are “justified,” as those who cannot be condemned, as those who Christ is “interceding for.” This is clearly for believers only, not all people, especially since the love is described in verse 39 is as being “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Unbelievers are not positioned in Him to receive that kind of love.

Along with that, Paul would not long after this describe Esau as one God did not love like Jacob, but hate (Romans 9: 13). Moments after this text, Jacob is said to be loved and Esau hated. This means that Paul is talking about a kind of love that some people are excluded from, and the text bears out the details.

Second, it also cannot be said that this is referring only to external forces but not internal forces. Many have argued that this text teaches that nothing outside of a person can take away their salvation, but said person can forfeit it on their own free-will.

For one, the external forces are intended to be read as those things which influence our wills. Second, our personal and internal will are part of the “any other created thing” portion of the text. If you are a created thing, you cannot separate yourself from the saving love of Christ, for no created thing can do that.

This doctrine is thoroughly and repeatedly established in a variety of ways throughout Scripture. And, the doctrine is also the only way to give full and complete glory to God on the day of judgement.

Those Who Have Fallen Away…

What is likely on the mind of many readers are the texts in the Bible which speak of people falling away. Rather than go through every single possible text, I would like to present one general response I have for all of them.

1 John 2: 18-19,
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (Emphasis mine).

In this text, John makes explicit the notion that those who were falling away from the faith were professors only, not genuine Christians. This is not an arbitrary rescuing device, but an explicit doctrine.

John is under the impression that those who left would have remained provided they were truly saved. In John’s mind, what keeps someone in the church, what prevents them from being an antichrist, is their salvation.

Even those Christians who believe a person can lose his salvation must believe that not everyone who falls away has. Everyone must now make room in their theology for people who fall away, but were never saved, and the reformed position is that every falling away text can be consistently interpreted this way.

This understanding is consistent with the writer of Hebrews when he writes this:

Hebrews 3: 12-14,
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

The author of this text does two important things. He first explicitly states that it is not justified believers who fall away, but those with “evil, unbelieving hearts” that fall away. Those who fall away fell because they were actually unbelievers.

The author also here qualifies the address of “brothers” by recognizing that those who do not hold firm to the end were not actually sharing in Christ.

The Reformed position does not deny that people fall away, that people walk away from the Christian faith. That happens all of the time. The argument is that these people were not saved.

True Belief VS Professed Belief

And this is not the first time the apostle John brings his audience to see that people can profess the faith but not really believe. He gives this account of Jesus,

John 2: 23-25
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.
 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

These people professed belief, but Jesus knew it was not authentic. It was not real.

As a matter of fact, the entire book of James is dedicated to refuting a kind of faith that cannot save, a dead faith.

James 2: 14-17,
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Not all faith is created equal. Anyone can be baptized. Anyone can claim the faith. That does not make them born-again.

Only an authentic faith, a sincere faith as Paul tells Timothy, can save. And that faith, because of the power and faithfulness of God, when given to the sinner, will never be taken away.

God will not fail to save His beloved people.

For a deeper look into this issue, listen to Christian apologist Dr. James White discuss it here:

Why I Believe in Irresistible Grace

The next stop in our TULIP series is the “I” of TULIP, Irresistible Grace.

The general concept of this doctrine essentially is that when God desires someone to be saved, He will save them.

Although God has an elect people, a people who are elected before the foundations of the earth, the elect are not born believing, justified Christians. They are elect, but they are unbelievers by birth, children of wrath as Paul describes.

At some point in time, the elect of God must exercise faith in God in order to be justified, and when God provides the grace to do so, this is irresistible. The elect of God cannot resist saving grace. To do so would thereby make God either a liar or incompetent.

If God said before time “Billy” will be saved, and He elects Billy unto salvation, and then Billy resists God’s call, is never saved, and goes to hell, then what is left of our image of God? One possibility is that God lied. God said something would happen, and it did not.

Or perhaps God is not lying, but was just genuinely mistaken. This would make Him incompetent seeing that His understanding of Billy was false. If incompetent, then we must now also deny His omniscience. He did not know all things since He was mistaken about Billy’s future. If He not omniscient, He is then also impotent. We must deny His omnipotence since He was not able to accomplish what He declared He would do. Thus, irresistible Grace is the logical and necessary outcome of a sovereign God who elects a people from before time unto salvation.

But onward to the texts we must go.

Drawn by the Father

John 6 makes yet another heroic appearance and becomes an important text once again (it will make yet another appearance in the final installment). Jesus’ same message to the Jews in this chapter about salvation is crucial to understanding this doctrine.

John 6: 44,
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:44 first presents Total Depravity. Man is not able to come to Christ. However, the verse ends with the Perseverance of the Saints, as that same person who could not come to Christ, has come to Christ, and has been taken to heaven. So, what happened? How did the person who could not come to Christ, end up coming to Christ unto salvation? The text provides the means:  “…unless the Father who sent me draws him…”

The drawing of the Father is what brings a person to Christ. And we know this drawing cannot be resisted, and the Father fail in His efforts, because Jesus says the one who is drawn will also be raised!

Thus, Jesus teaches that the Father’s drawing of men to the Son is so effectual that Jesus will raise up those who are drawn unto Himself. That is an irresistible move of God in order to save His people. Theologian John Murray articulates it this way,

“When a sinner comes to Christ in the commitment of faith, when the rebellious will is renewed and tears of penitence begin to flow, it is because a mysterious transaction has been taking place between the persons of the Godhead. The Father has been making a presentation, a donation to his own Son. So perish the thought that coming to Christ finds its explanation in the autonomous determinations of the human will. It finds its cause in the sovereign will of God the Father. He has placed upon this person the constraint by which he has been captivated by the glory of the Redeemer and invests in him all his interests. Christ is made wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Here is grace surpassing; and it is grace insurmountable.”

Effectual Calling

Many in the reformed community find the “I” of TULIP in want of a new name. Many feel the concept of resisting grace is too broad, for one can resist grace depending on how we define grace and how we define resist. As a matter of fact, the idea that grace can be resisted provides the necessary grounds for Irresistible Grace, as Murray demonstrates,

“When we speak of irresistible grace, therefore, it is not to assert that all grace is irresistible, nor is it to deny the numberless respects in which grace is resisted and resisted to the culmination of resistance in everlasting doom. In fact the truth of and necessity for irresistible grace may be most cogently demonstrated in the premise of resistible grace. The enmity of the human heart is most virulent at the point of the supreme revelation of God’s glory. So deep-seated and persistent is the contradiction that the Saviour as the embodiment of grace is rejected. It is when we recognize this that the need for irresistible grace is perceived.”

Many would then prefer to call this doctrine “Effectual Calling” (I suggest Inevitable Conversion so as to keep the acronym intact).

That title fits well with the Apostle Paul, another suspect indicted on the charge of teaching the sovereignty of God.

Romans 8: 28-30,
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

In this text, often called the Golden Chain of Redemption, Paul teaches an unbreakable, logical chain of a person’s salvation. Each link in this chain is inseparable from the last. Thus, what takes place in between the justification and glorification of the foreknown and predestined?

In other words, God elected a people, and eventually that people will be justified by faith and glorified in heaven. But how does the elect make the jump from just being elect to actually being saved? The link in the chain calls it the “call” of God. The elect are called, and then justified.

The calling of God is an irresistible call which guarantees the justification of His people.

Born Again by God

Paul is not alone in this teaching. Peter addresses it as well in his first letter,

1 Peter 1: 3-5,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Peter directly attributes the born-again status necessary for salvation as being caused by God. It is a divine work in the believer, with no indication that the believer is powerful enough to thwart God’s attempts to save.

Jesus Himself credits the new birth to the work of God as well,

John 3: 3-8,
“Jesus answered [Nicodemus], ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’  Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”

Crijn_Hendricksz

To Jesus, being born again is synonymous with being born of the Spirit, the Spirit who goes and does what He wishes like the wind. That Spirit gives sinners new life. To resist that is to be more powerful than the Holy Spirit.

 

The Crux of the Matter

The question of Irresistible Grace ultimately comes down to an understanding of both God and man. If we deny Total Depravity, and believe that man is capable of accepting Christ without the work of God, then we do not need Irresistible Grace. If we begin with an understanding of God that He is not interested in actually accomplishing what He desires, then there is no room for this doctrine.

The crux of the issue for me is that I believe God actually accomplishes what He desires. He does not leave it up to men in the hopes they carry out His will. As the Psalmist says, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that pleases Him” (Ps. 115: 3), and like Job cries out, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42: 2), I believe the Lord will accomplish His gracious purposes.

This means if God wants to save you, my reader, He will. This means no sinner is capable of overcoming the attempt of the Lord to change his heart and justify his soul. He will not fail to save anyone whom He so desires, and it is a sad affair that, to so many, this has become bad news.

For further study, listen to R.C. Sproul Jr. discuss Irresistible Grace:

  • Note: I have always been extremely hesitant to write about my Calvinism. Not because of any persecution complex or victim-hood mentality, but I am hesitant because I serve an assembly of the Lord that has many people, staff included, who are not Calvinists. I never want my brothers and sisters in the Lord within the local assembly I too am a member of and Shepherd over to feel ostracized by my writing. Note that the ideas expressed here do not necessarily reflect the congregation I am a pastor over or my fellow teachers and authorities there.

 

Government Bigger than Your Uterus

A much anticipated event just occurred at the annual Politicon gathering. Political commentators Ben Shapiro and Cenk Uyger debated each other for the first time.

Both analysts are very well admired within their respective political wings, and very disliked among the other. Both have very influential platforms, and so the debate was lively, with around 3,000 people in attendance.

As these Politicon debates typically go, whenever one debater makes an argument, those in attendance who agree waste a lot of time shouting, demonstrating they cannot control their most basic human emotions. It has gotten to a point where, like immature parents at high school athletic events, out-cheering the other side becomes the next best thing to winning.

cenkPolitically, Mr. Uygur is very far Left (making Shapiro the Right wing opponent). During the debate, Cenk was attempting to make the point that the “big government vs. small government” caricature of the liberal, conservative dialogue is a false dichotomy. His claim is that there are some issues where liberals want big government, there are certain issues where conservatives want big government, and so it goes with small government as well.  While making the attempt to justify this point, Cenk began naming a few political issues that republicans apparently desire to have big government for. One of them was abortion.

“Republicans say, ‘We don’t like big government, but we like to be inside your uterus.'”

This is common rhetoric among the pro-abortion ilk, and it of course incited wild and hysterical applause from the pro-death portion of the audience. The implication being that anyone who wants limited government is hypocritical if they want abortion outlawed, since it would require a massive federal government to legislate for all women.

Although I have dealt with this argument before, as long as it continues to be spewed, Christians must continue to respond. Laying aside Cenk’s well-spoken and rhetorically stimulating argument about big and small government tendencies among the two major American political parties, I would like to address the more specific assumption of the government’s role as it relates to the euphemism known as “abortion.” Does it require a “big” government to outlaw abortion? Is forbidding abortion an accurate description of an overreaching government, or is it the bare minimum requirement for any government, no matter how small? The answer is certainly the latter.

Limited Government

Consistent with nearly every other pro-abortion argument, this claim simply ignores the obvious and revealed reality that abortion is killing an innocent, living child. This argument only succeeds in anything while it operates within a scenario where the uterus of the woman is empty. If that were the case, then the government should, as the pro-abortion crowd phrases it, “stay out of her uterus.”

A small government certainly would never have the kind of authority to mandate and legislate what a woman does with her uterus. A limited government would not have the clearance to demand every woman must have three children, nor would it be able to demand she may only have up to three children. Women can have as many children as they would like, including none.

The government would not be permitted to demand each and every woman receive at least two pap smears a year. Women should be allowed to pursue that whenever they please.

Without getting into unnecessary and (potentially) vulgar examples, the argument holds: limited government should be smaller than a women’s uterus.

However, that is not the issue here at all. The second an innocent, baby finds him or herself in the uterus, any meaningful understanding of government would require the protection of that innocent little baby.

While women and their doctor’s engage in financial exchanges for services like slaughtering those babies, sucking their brains out with vacuums, poisoning them, burning them, snipping their spinal cords, crushing their skulls, or dismembering them limb for limb, any government of any size has the obligation, under God, to do whatever it can to prevent those ruthless murders from happening. (In America, our government subsidizes it.)

It has always been the government’s prerogative to protect innocent human beings from being murdered. Laws, police forces, and judicial systems exist because all governments, big and small, recognize their right to stop the innocent from being murdered. And that is why, in the case of abortion, it is necessary to have a government bigger than your uterus.

That innocent baby inside that uterus did not ask to be there, and did not commit any crime. Any government that would not seek not to protect that child is no government at all; that is actually anarchy.

Houses and Uteruses

The government has no right to come into my house whenever its representatives want. It’s my house; it’s my private property.

However, if I kidnapped a child, and many witnesses saw it, and I drove that child to my house, and many witnesses followed me, and I tied that child to a chair in the middle of the living room where all can see through the window, then when the police finally show up, the above principle would no longer exist. I expect (and hope) the hinges on my hypothetical front door would be broken off in their efforts to rightfully save that child. And that is not Marxism.

Likewise, during an abortion, we know with certainty a child is being murdered. We know that in 100% of all abortions the outcome is a dead child. Thus, all of those private rights and private ownership arguments do not mean anything because the life of an innocent child is at stake.

Were a kidnapper to steal a child home, he loses his rights once had in regards to his house. Likewise, if a woman tries to murder the innocent baby in her uterus, she has forfeited the rights she previously maintained in regards to her bodily freedom. If there is a baby in that uterus, it is absolutely the government’s business. And that is stated clearly in the bill of rights; that is no big government mantra.

The Irony of It All

The most difficult portion to swallow was the obvious contradiction of Cenk’s position. While making an argument for universal medicare in his opening statement, Cenk actually argued that healthcare must be universal because…

“If you don”t have good healthcare you die. I view it as not something capitalism should deal with…but something that is about equality of opportunity. And you cannot have equality of opportunity if you’re dead.”

I would like to personally thank Cenk Uygur for making a great anti-abortion argument.

Abortion is not about “women’s rights,” it is about human rights. Therefore, abortion is not for the free-market to solve, or for democracy to deal with in a vote. The government has the obligation to protect every single person’s right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

The 50 million people Cenk and other pro-abortion advocates are so cheerfully glad are dead were stripped of all three of those inalienable, Divinely-endowed rights the government is bound to defend.

Abortion is something the government should legislate against; it is the government’s business. After all, as Cenk said, you cannot have equality if you’re dead.

Why I Believe In Limited Atonement

This is the third blog in my T.U.L.I.P. series. I am only briefly skimming the very controversial and complicated doctrines of the reformed acronym. My intention is that they would serve as an introduction, not that they would be the presentations to end all debates. However, I do believe the doctrines expressed in the acronym are thoroughly and clearly biblical, and would like to lay out a semblance of a case for them.

Limited Atonement

crossThe “L” in T.U.L.I.P. stands for Limited Atonement. Limited Atonement (if you’re new to this discussion then brace yourself) is the doctrine that Jesus did not die for every single person in human history. The doctrine teaches that the atonement Christ accomplished on the cross was limited in scope. In other words, Jesus died for His bride, for His elect, for His Church, not for every single human individual.

There is so much to say about this doctrine that is outside the scope of this blog. Thousands of pages have been written on both sides of the debate over this. I do not plan on addressing every issue, every related text, or solving any disputes.

I wanted to provide a cursory explanation of why I maintain, what even many Calvinists are allegedly leaving.

A Doctrine Without a Text

Dr. James White is a hero of my faith. His apologetic ministry has blessed the Christian church immensely. On one of his radio/online podcasts, called The Dividing Line, he addressed this issue.

He once played and responded to Dr. David Allen, who said something haunting to me personally. Dr. Allen called Limited Atonement “a doctrine in search of a text.”

I have always believed in Limited Atonement. It has great explanatory powers, it is logically far more sufficient when dealing with the accomplishment of the cross, and it flows logically from and to the other letters within the important acronym.

I had, in the past, felt that Dr. Allen was right. I used to feel that all I had to support this doctrine was logic and deduction. Although these are completely valid ways to prove and come to conclusions about theology, on something this crucial and controversial I want more than that. I want text.

When dealing with all of the other doctrines within the T.U.L.I.P. acronym, I always felt prepared to immediately turn to texts that I believe clearly teach the doctrines. I was always ready to go to Romans 8 and John 6 to prove that man is totally depraved, and does not have a will free enough to choose Christ. I have always been excited to walk through Ephesians 1 and Romans 9 to demonstrate the concept of election so many of the reformers held to. I have always felt that all of the above passages also fully demonstrate that the grace of God in salvation is irresistible in changing and drawing the sinner to Christ. And on top of all of that, I have many verses memorized that speak to the Holy Spirit securing and persevering the faith of the elect.

I now know do that Limited Atonement is a doctrine with a text. In fact, it has quite a few in support of it.

The Shepherd and His Sheep

The most convincing proof-text I can come to is from John 10. In this chapter, Jesus is refuting the Pharisees, and teaching precious New Testament Flock_of_sheepsoteriology, Himself being the center of man’s salvation (which is why they try to stone Him at the end for blasphemy).

Jesus is teaching about His salvation through His famous analogy of shepherds and sheep. He says in verses 11-18,

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

The emphasis is mine. Jesus is dealing directly with the issue of the atonement here. He is talking about laying His life down, and who He is laying it down for. And He identifies that group in a limited capacity: His sheep.

Not only this, but Jesus further delineates this group when He tells the Pharisees why it is they reject Him as being the Messiah,

 “…but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (26-27).

Here Jesus explicitly excludes the Pharisees from being among the group He died for. He died for the sheep, of whom the Pharisees are not. Thus, it seems like all Christians need to at least exclude this group from the atonement!

However, Jesus also reveals that His sheep will eventually hear Him, follow Him, and be known by Him. Thus, anyone who dies in unbelief was never a sheep to begin with, and anyone not a sheep, was not included among those Jesus died for.

This is a strong text in my estimation, however, I believe there is a text even more persuasive.

Jesus Our High Priest

HP

Far from being a doctrine in search a text, Limited Atonement is most thoroughly understood, not through the power of a proof-text, but through an understanding of the High Priestly role of Jesus and His fulfillment of the Priesthood authority established in the Old Testament.

The atonement cannot be separated from the high priestly duties of Christ Jesus, which is exactly what an unlimited atonement does.

If Jesus died for every single person, then this means one of two things: He lives as every single person’s mediator, or atonement is not a function of His high priestly duties.

The former certainly cannot be true. If Jesus is everyone’s mediator, then I would hope universalism is true. For in what way is Jesus the mediator of the reprobate?

For all those people in hell, how did Jesus fail in His mediation? Either the Father simply rejected His mediation, causing a great break in the Holy Trinity, or Jesus simply was not able to be an effective mediator. Certainly Jesus is not and never was mediating on behalf of the lost, lest we believe Jesus can fail in His mediation duties.

And, if Jesus can fail, what terror and dread then must fall upon us? We have no hope of salvation. For we can die, in faith, and still be rejected by the Father if Jesus’ mediation is not ultimately accepted in every case. The idea of Jesus being a failed mediator is too absurd to accept on any biblical or philosophical level.

This seems that the only solution is to therefore try and separate Jesus’ atonement from His mediation. In other words, Jesus can atone for someone’s sins, but not be serving as their mediator. However, this simply cannot be done.

Hebrews 5: 1, “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”

The above text directly links the role of the high priest with the act of atonement on behalf of his people. It is part of the high priestly job description. Thus, if Jesus is to fulfill the role, His offering and sacrifice for sins is a crucial element to his intercessory role.

The author of Hebrews elaborates on this in chapter 9.

Hebrews 9: 11-26, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Emphasis mine).

Again, the author of Hebrews makes clear the act of atonement is the cornerstone action of Jesus’ role as high priest; it is His defining function.

Thus, the strongest argument for limited atonement is the concept laid out in the book of Hebrews that the act of atonement is part of Jesus’ role as a High Priest and Mediator. Therefore, anyone whom Jesus is atoning for, He is also the Mediator for.

And if Jesus is the Mediator and High Priest for all those damned, then we are left to conclude He is an insufficient mediator who is not able to guarantee to cleanse and purify those whom He represents. The Father rejects His mediation on behalf of billions of people. What hope and confidence then do you have that the Father will accept His mediation on your behalf? Jesus has tried and failed with millions of souls, why do you suppose He will be successful with you? So, it seems that Limited Atonement is the hope of the salvation itself. Jesus came and actually saved His people. He saves those whom He intercedes for, and He does not fail in His intercessory work.

Limited Atonement is far from a doctrine in search of a text. It has found an entire chapter of Scripture dedicated to it.

For a further and much more edifying discussion of Limited Atonement, listen to the brilliant, anonymous internet theologian & apologist, Turretinfan:

Why I Believe in Unconditional Election

I have always been extremely hesitant to write about my Reformed theology. Not because of any persecution complex or victim-hood mentality, but I am hesitant because I serve an assembly of the Lord which has many people, staff included, who are not Calvinists. I never want my brothers and sisters in the Lord, within the local assembly I too am a member of to feel ostracized by my writing. Please note then that the ideas expressed here do not necessarily reflect the congregation I am a pastor over or my fellow teachers and authorities there. 

This is the second installment of my T.U.L.I.P. series. I am only briefly skimming the very controversial and complicated doctrines of the reformed acronym. My intention is that they would serve as an introduction, not that they would be the presentations to end all debates. However, I do believe the doctrines expressed in the acronym are thoroughly and clearly biblical, and would like to lay out a semblance of a case for them.

Unconditional Election

Unconditional: An Important Qualification

The term unconditional election is important. It is not fair to my brothers in Christ to say this debate is about election. The debate is not about who believes in predestination and who believes in election. The bible uses those terms with clarity in all reliable translations. One thing is settled: the Bible teaches predestination/election. The question really becomes then, what does election mean?

The emphasis that election is unconditional is crucial. For the options really are in this dichotomy: Did God elect a people based on a foreseen merit? Or, did God elect a people unconditionally, meaning it had nothing whatsoever to do with them or their works?

This is such an important concept. Most people who approach the “Calvinist vs. Arminian” debate are essentially asking this question: Did God elect believers to believe and be saved apart from them, and did He not elect others to be saved?

I do believe the Bible teaches that people who believe unto salvation were elected by God to do so, and those that do not believe are not and never were elected by God. Thus, my position would be this:

Before creation, God elected a particular people unto salvation. He also elected the means by which they would be saved: faith in His Son. Thus, the elect of God will believe, and will be saved. The non-elect will not believe, and will not be saved.

All points of TULIP are inseparably tethered. If what was last argued, that man does not have a condition which allows him to believe, then election is a necessity. However, the Bible certainly teaches the doctrine of unconditional election What are the primary texts in Scripture that lead me to this conclusion? Although I believe there are many passages throughout both Testaments that teach this, I offer four in defense.

Ephesians 1: 3-12,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

This is a long passage, but each portion is important. First, the passage makes clear that those who are saved are chosen by God, before they existed, to be holy and blameless.

In other words, God chose certain people to be saved (holy and blameless) and this was not based on a condition in them, for they did not even exist yet (before the foundation of the world). The word “chose” is the same concept as election. A person is saved because God chose to save that person, it is not the other way around.

The passage also explicitly uses the term predestination, and teaches that believers were predestined in love for adoption. Again, this is clearly salvific terminology. If a person can be adopted as a son of God, become perfectly holy and blameless, and still go to hell, then quite frankly no one has a clue what salvation is or what it means. To be adopted, holy, and blameless, to be in Christ and to receive redemption by His blood is salvation. And people who experiences those blessings experience them because God chose and predestined them to before they existed.

What Does Election Accomplish?

The constant response to Ephesians 1 from non-Calvinists is that the election of God took place on the basis of a foreseen faith. In other words, God looked down the corridors of time and saw who would believe and elected them on that basis (conditional election).

The biblical and philosophical problems with this claim are numerous. However, I offer two textual responses. First, Paul explicitly states that the election was made before creation. This would be meaningless if it is not intended to communicate that it was not based on our behavior. In other words, why does it matter whether election took place before creation? God could just as well elect a person after they exercise faith. Mentioning the election process as being logically prior to creation is meant to imply the decision God actively made was not a response to us, but on the contrary, our faith is a response to Him.

Second, this renders the action of election useless and redundant. What exactly did election accomplish? Election did not bring about faith, but instead was a response to faith. If faith is what secures salvation, and election was something that proceeds faith, then election accomplishes nothing. It does not cause faith nor salvation. So, what does it do? Election is an active verb. However, without the Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture, it’s hard to imagine what that action is actually accomplishing.

Why Were Some Chosen and Not Others?

So often I hear non-Calvinists ask me “Why are some chosen and others not?” Even as saved people, it’s hard to reconcile God choosing us, knowing the kind of miserable sinners we were.

The first thing I would say to this is that the question itself is still presupposing conditional election. Were I to provide a reason for God’s election, one stemming from the person himself, then it would cease to be unconditional election. The questioner is essentially asking “What are the conditions for God’s unconditional election?”

However, the Bible does not state that election is arbitrary. Unconditional election is not synonymous for flippant-election, or haphazard-election. Ephesians 1: 6-7 says,  “[God] predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

The emphasis is mine. The Scriptures give a direct, explicit answer to this so often asked question. Why did God choose those whom He did? Because to elect these people was in accordance with His will, and most sufficiently brought praise to the glory of His grace. Any other means would not praise His grace appropriately.

If that answer is not sufficient, if you still desire more, then I again offer two opinions: You are likely still presupposing conditional election, and your issue is truly with Paul. He answered the question explicitly.

Another passage I would turn to would be Romans 8: 28-30,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

This passage is another passage of Scripture explicitly dealing with God’s sovereignty and control over a person’s salvation. God foreknew the elect, again teaching clearly that the elect were predestined apart from them, before they existed. It also says those foreknown were predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. That’s important for two reasons: first of all, to be conformed to Christs image is clearly a salvific term. To say those conformed to Christ’s image can still deserve to go to Hell is to say Christ deserves to go to Hell. There is no greater thing for a person than to be like Christ. It is the greatest, most miraculous blessing a human being can be given.

Second, this verse teaches that the act of predestination accomplishes something. In other words, the elect are conformed to Christ’s image because God elected them. It cannot be the other way around. The predestination of God accomplishes the conforming of the elect.

Verse 30, famously referred to as the “golden chain of redemption”, is the unbreakablechain chain of events occurring in the life of the believer. The elect are predestined (an active accomplishment), called, justified and glorified. What’s important about this chain is that God is the one accomplishing all of these things; salvation is of the Lord.

This is why the reformed tradition boasts of being the truly exclusive soteriological camp which can consistently say, “all glory is due God for salvation.” For we believe that every part of my salvation is ultimately (through human means) God’s doing. He predestined, called, and justified me, and it is He who will glorify me.

The last portion of Scripture I would appeal to would be the ever famous Romans 9: 1-24,

“I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

This long passage of Scripture is an unbelievably in-depth explanation of God’s sovereignty over salvation.

Time does not permit an in depth study, but allow for brief commentary.

The section begins with Paul expressing his deep anguish for the Jewish people and their mass disregard for their Messiah, Jesus the Christ (1-5).

Paul then anticipates the objection that will inevitably arise from his Jewish adversaries: the Old Testament promised God would save and justify all of Israel. Thus, either Paul is true, or the Word of God is, but they cannot both be true.

Paul answers this by claiming that when the Old Testament promised the salvation of Israel, it was referring to a spiritual Israel, not physical Israel (6-8).

This is important because it establishes that salvation of people is the context at hand, which makes sense since it was clearly the context of chapter 8, and is also clearly the context of chapter 10. Thus, an awkward break of context is not to be imposed on this chapter. Salvation is what is being discussed, and Paul is correcting the Jewish understanding of salvation. It is not given to those of a physical descendance, but to those of the promise.

Paul then defends his position by bringing up explicit Old Testament examples to prove his point, he turns his reader’s attention to Jacob and Esau. Paul quotes from the Scriptures about these two being twins, both born to Isaac, yet God loved Jacob and hated Esau.

Pointing to twins was a brilliant move. For one, we are now no longer permitted to accredit the salvation of one to human circumstances like upbringing or personalities. They had nearly identical D.N.A., and the same parents. However, what is most important is that they are both descendants of Isaac. If the Jewish understanding were true, then they both are Israel: they both have the same blood. However, God rejected Esau. So Paul’s point to the Jews is brilliant. If they think that salvation is a physical election, then how do they account for Esau being hated by God? After all, he too is a descendent of Abraham and Isaac! He is as Jewish as it gets. Paul’s point that being a spiritual Jew is the key to salvation, rather than a physical Jew is proved by the O.T. itself.

However, what is important for our purposes is the view of salvation Paul juxtaposes with the Jewish error. And Paul presents God electing a particular people as being the true alternative to the Jewish misunderstanding.

Paul makes the crucial point that God’s choice to hate Esau and make him serve Jacob (11-12) happened “before they were born and had done anything good or bad” (11). Just like Ephesians 1, the choice was made apart from them, by God. Jacob’s election was unconditional; he could not have done anything to earn it, he had not yet been born.

Paul even ventures to tell us why God would do it this way: “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls” (11). Election is the only means of salvation where God gets all credit and glory. Any other system leaves some remaining room for boasting. However, if salvation is determined before we are born, and is based on God’s call, not our efforts, then God receives all due glory.

Thus, ask yourself, why are you saved and others are not? Apart from unconditional election, the climactic distinction is in you. You were smarter, or better, or spiritually stronger, you name it. Only according to unconditional election can any person honestly say the only difference between the saved and the lost is grace.

If God is trying equally hard to save everyone, and not everyone is saved, then there is a distinction between the saved and unsaved which is wholly separated from God’s grace, and was also instrumental in determining the eternal destiny reached. Thus, a very important and large part of salvation is completely dependent on man, not God. So what is it about you that is so much better than the lost that you responded appropriately to the Gospel and they did not? What is it you will boast about on judgment day?

Paul’s Adversaries

Time and room again does not allow for an in-depth response to every objection to Romans 9 and Ephesians 1. I would like to address a few.

One common response to Romans 9 is that the passage is dealing with the nations that Jacob and Esau represented, not with individual salvation.

This has been dealt with above already. That would demand a wild and arbitrary break in the flow of thought and argument as Romans 8 and Romans 10 are both dealing with individual salvation. However, the easiest way to disprove this is to let Paul tell us how he is interpreting these Old Testament characters.

Tissot_Pharaoh_and_His_Dead_SonWe can know Paul is dealing with them individually and not nationally through many means. One, he appeals to other figures like Moses and Pharaoh, Isaac and Rebekah. Do they represent nations too?

However, what is most important are the anticipatory objections Paul raises. Paul gives us these objections and they serve as check-points along our interpretative trail-hike. These trail markers keep us on track with Paul.

The first objection Paul anticipates is this, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” (14).

The first thing Paul anticipates is the common objection, “that is not fair!” This is often the very first thing Calvinists hear when explaining Calvinism, and Arminians almost never hear this objection.

How does Paul answer this objection? God says to Moses that He will have compassion on whomever He pleases. And then Paul tells us, “So then it depends not on human will or effort but on God who has mercy…So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills” (16, 18).

Again, the O.T. is clear that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, not the nation of Egypt. We are dealing with individuals, not nations. Secondly, Paul is speaking like a black-coffee Calvinist here. He explicitly says that salvation does not depend on human will, but rather on God. He tells us that God is actually free to harden people away from salvation!

Do you have room in your theology for those two verses?

The next one Paul anticipates is, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” (20).

Paul knows his opposition will hear him and respond with the question of divine sovereignty and how it relates to human accountability. They want to know why God would judge someone when they were, at the end of the day, only doing what His will demanded. Why would God find fault in a person for carrying out what God willed in that person?

Why Judge Those Whom Were Not Elect?

We Calvinists hear this all the time. The primary objection to Calvinism is the idea that it is unfair for God to elect some and not others, and that it does not make sense to judge someone for sin when they had no option not to. This is the exact objection raised in verse 20.

It seems Calvinism takes its seat among good company. When we teach Calvinism, we hear the same objections Paul did; objections Arminians never hear. What does that say about who is teaching Paul’s message?

However, how do any of these objections mesh with the idea that this passage is about national service rather than personal salvation? If this were just about nations serving nations in slavery, then Paul would have answered the objector a different way. He would have explained how God gave men a free-will and based His election on that free-will, rewarding those who in and of themselves found the strength to repent. However, Paul answers this way, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”

JC

And therefore, I ask one final question: is this answer sufficient for you? When we ask the question, “why would God judge the non-elect?” and the answer “who are you, as a mere human, to question God?” is not sufficient for us, then our issue is truly with Scripture and with Paul. It is not with a modern theological position named off of a 16th century Reformer.

For a further discussion on biblical election, listen to pastor Douglas Wilson discuss it here:

 

Why I Believe in Total Depravity

I have always been extremely hesitant to write about Calvinism. Not because of any persecution complex or victim-hood mentality, but I am hesitant because I serve an assembly of the Lord that has many people, staff included, who are not Calvinists. I never want my brothers and sisters in the Lord within the local assembly, which I too am a member of, to feel ostracized by my Calvinist beliefs and writing. Please note that the ideas expressed here do not necessarily reflect the congregation I am a pastor over or my fellow teachers and authorities there. 

This is the first blog of my T.U.L.I.P. series. I am only briefly skimming the very controversial and robust doctrines of the reformed acronym. My intention is that these blogs will serve as an introduction to the doctrines, not that they would be the presentations to end all debates. However, I do believe the doctrines expressed in the acronym are thoroughly and clearly biblical, and would like to lay out a semblance of a case for them.

Total Depravity

The “T” in the T.U.L.I.P. stands for total depravity. This to me, is the crux of the debate. If this doctrine is true, the other ones must be. It carries that much weight.

To discuss what is important about this issue, we must clarify what separates the camps. Total DepTD heartravity deals with the sinful nature of man, but the debate lies in how severe sin has effected man.

In other words, the issue is not “is man sinful?” All Christians agree man is sinful. The issue is not original sin. All Christians (C.S. Lewis excluded) should and do affirm the headship of Adam, and the sin imputed to mankind through his transgression (Romans 5; Psalm 51).

However, the debate here is how our sinful nature affects our will, especially in regards to salvation. That is where the roads diverge. To help clarify this, it is probably best to think of the “T” as meaning Total Inability, not Total Depravity.

Total Inability is helpful, because those of us who accept the T, believe that man is incapable, in his natural state, of making the choice to love God and surrender to Christ. In other words, I do not believe in “Free-Will.”

The Biblical Nature of Man

Growing up, I always heard Christians regularly ascribing free-will to men. We assume this and talk about it so much, it has become Gospel truth. Free-will is a doctrine we take for granted, and cling to with white knuckles, but the problem is that when I put this to the test, it was not the picture of the will of man the Bible painted.

The will of man that I see in Scripture, is not free, but in fact very limited. As I began to study the nature of man, I saw Scripture replete with passages, not about man’s abilities, but man’s inabilities.

To borrow the famous title of Luther’s renowned work, the problem with man is not the freedom of the will, but the bondage of the will. Mankind does not have a free will, mankind has an enslaved will.

There are three passages I will build the case on.

Coming to Christ?

John 6: 44,

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Jesus, in the ever famous sixth chapter of John, when dealing directly with how man is to be saved, informs us that we are in fact unable to come to Jesus. That is not something we have the capacity to do. Our wills are not free to come to Christ. To accept Christ is outside of man’s abilities.

However, the reason people do come to Christ, the text says, is because the Father “draws” them. That word in Greek is often times used to describe fisherman dragging nets of fish on to a boat.

An outside action of God is necessary to bring a person to Christ. Without that divine act, man cannot come to Christ. This is a very logical, textual reason to believe that God must save us apart from our will (although He uses the will), and He must draw us unto Himself, because we cannot come to Him. That is why Paul says that salvation “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9: 16).

Unable to Please God

Romans 8: 6-9,

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

This text is without a doubt the most convincing portion of Scripture for the doctrine at hand. The categories are made clear. A person whose mind is on the flesh is described as one without Spirit, not belonging to Christ. That description fits every son and daughter of Adam. On the contrary, those who set their mind on the Spirit are those belonging to Christ, who are in-dwelled by the Spirit.

Thus, this text is comparing non-Christians with believers. And what does it say about natural, unbelieving man? Yet again, man is unable to do the things of God.

The text explicitly, in plainest terms says that sinful man is more than just unwilling to submit to God, he cannot. That is a strict, clear, inability. Our wills outside of Christ are not free, they are bound. We are not capable of coming to Christ, we are not able to submit to Him, and pleasing Him is impossible for us to accomplish.

Certainly, faith in Christ is part of God’s Law (Acts 17: 30), and certainly nothing pleases God more than when a person is saved through faith in His Son. However, we cannot please God.

Dead in Sin

The above two texts have far more explanatory power in understanding Paul’s description of men in Ephesians 2: 1-3,

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

The key term being “dead.” What does it mean to be dead in our sins? The word dead is a very powerful word. Outside of Total Depravity, the only option is to assume being dead in sins means having a proclivity to sin. But that hardly fits the severity of the word.

16110443_1171754212942982_6183286046059397120_nLazarus was dead. And that is why he could do nothing until Jesus resurrected him. Likewise, our spirits can do nothing good, including faith in Christ, until our wills are brought to life (regeneration). Until then, we are dead, we are imprisoned; not free. We are totally depraved.

Free-Will Or No Will?

I find most people reject this notion, not so much because of the text, but because of philosophical presuppositions. We assume that there are only two possible options: free-will, or no-will. But that is not what the Bible teaches, and therefore I am not presenting that.

We do not have “Free-will,” but that does not imply we are not morally culpable for our decisions, nor does it mean we do not have a spirit that makes un-coerced decisions.

Time does not permit to explain this view of man’s will in detail (the books No Place for Sovereignty and The Potter’s Freedom accomplish this task excellently). However, I can briefly prove the concept of a “middle ground will” through a bipartisan analogy:

All Christians agree that in heaven, at the final consummation, the Saints of God in glory will not be able to sin. We cannot sin and ruin all God has accomplished, and force God to start back again from square one.

However, while we all agree we will not have the ability to sin (which is a code phrase for not having a totally free will), we also agree we will not be coerced robots, not making any personal, meaningful decisions. We will still love God and love people and engage with one another in God’s worship freely, even though we will have a limited will, one incapable of sin.

Thus, everyone already has a category for men in which they do not have will that is free, yet, men are still moral creatures, accountable for their personal choices.

The doctrine of Total Depravity teaches the same thing, only on the other end of the spectrum. In heaven, glorified man cannot sin. Natural man on earth, cannot not sin.

However, the category is the same. Natural man does not have a free will. Natural man has a will that is consistent with natural man’s nature: sinful.

downloadNo one forces a lion to eat the Zebra rather than the grass. But the lion, while making a free choice to hunt the Zebra, has no other option because of its carnivorous nature.

Man has a sinful nature, and thus cannot make decisions outside of it. However, like those in heaven, natural man still makes personal, meaningful decisions, and is accountable for them, although natural man’s will is not free to make any decision.

For example, they cannot come to Christ. But glory be to God, salvation is of the Lord.

For further discussion on Total Depravity, listen to pastor Jeff Durbin discuss it here: