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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Free From What? by J.W. Hendryx | Main | Quote on Justification by Faith Alone »

    The Message of the Cross by Pastor John Samson

    "Is it true that everyone on earth is drawn to the cross?" Many assume so. They base this on John 12:32 which says, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." But as I explained here, I don't believe that this interpretation is a plausible one.

    So what does the scripture specifically say about the message of the cross? 1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

    The cross is actually foolishness to Gentiles and a stumbling block to Jews. That's pretty clear isn't it?

    Question: So who views the cross as something other than foolishness or a stumbling block?

    Answer: "...those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) ..." who see Christ as the wisdom and power of God.

    What is also clear from this passage in 1 Cor. 1:22-24 is that Paul knew what it was that the Jews and Greeks wanted. He knew that the Jews wanted miraculous signs and the Greeks wanted wisdom. Did he therefore adjust his message accordingly?

    Hardly!

    Knowing what it was that the two ethnic groups wanted, he wrote, "but we preach Christ crucified." In all reality, Christ was THE sign of all signs, and Christ is THE personification of all wisdom, but only the elect would ever understand that.

    Paul did not go door to door around Corinth to ask what the people most wanted to see or hear about. He didn't need to. He already knew what the Corinthians wanted all along. However, Paul's ministry was not founded upon what the latest surveys indicated itching ears wanted to hear. He knew, before he ever opened his mouth, that his message, the message of the cross, would be completely offensive to everyone except the called. He went into Corinth preaching the message of the cross to all, but he knew ahead of time, that only the elect would enjoy hearing it! That's quite a thought isn't it?

    Brothers and sisters, let Paul's words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, remind us that it is God who determines what it is we preach, not rebel sinners! Let us also trust the ministry of the Spirit to make the word of Christ come alive in the hearts and minds of Christ's sheep, and not worry so much about those who will be offended at the message we bring. Better that men be offended, than the One who has called us to preach Christ and Him crucified.

    Posted by John Samson on February 27, 2006 06:36 PM

    Comments

    I agree with your points. Rhetoric could have been employed, the world consulted, and opinions set as foundations, but it wasn't so.

    God's ways are not our ways. His plan of salvation completly eliminates our ability to boast because He calls His people in His timing His way.

    Most attacks on the Doctrines of Grace I have seen lately have been from those who claim to be in the middle. They say they are neither Calvinistic or Arminian. However, their Gospel presentations are geared to offend no one.

    The cross is an offense to everyone but the elect. The Gospel divides and cleanses, but it does not bring people together who have to have things their own way.

    Great Post!

    Mike Ratliff

    Mike:

    Have you ever noticed that those who claim to be neither Calvinists nor Arminains "but somewhere in the middle" are always, without exception, some form of synergist?

    You either believe that the Holy Spirit effectually and infalliby brings a person to faith through regenration or you believe man's will or act effects regeneration.

    The real debate is not really so much between Calvinism and Arminianism but monergism and synergism. Synergism covers a wider gamut of theological positions and I find it much more effective for definition.

    I recently read someone who was quoted as saying "I'm neither Calvinist nor Arminian. I'm Baptist." Given that the man had a Ph.D. and has written several books, I can only hope it was a slip of the pen! I too find monergism vs. synergism to be a better classification, and it frees you from arguing over tiny details like "Is Arminianism *technically* Semi-Pelagianism." It cuts to the core of the Gospel...is salvation a work of God or of man?

    Great post!

    Thanks Bill,

    Of course, for someone to say "I'm neither Calvinist nor Arminian. I'm Baptist," it is equivalent to saying, "I'm neither a Texan nor a Floridian. I'm American."

    There are many Calvinist and Arminian Baptists, and certainly the great heritage of the Baptist Church is a strong Calvinistic one, as evidenced by great men of God like Charles Spurgeon, and by documents such as the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689.

    Regarding the categories of monergism v. synergism, and where Semi Pelagianism and Arminianism fits, some time back, I wrote a short article which some may find to be helpful at http://www.reformationtheology.com/2005/11/the_fall_its_consequences_by_p.php#more

    Every blessing,

    John Samson

    John H.

    Yes, absolutely they are synergistic.

    I too believe that the real battle is between monergism and synergism. Thanks for making that point.

    I will meditate on that one for a awhile. I am sure I will restructure some of my responses along these lines because those who claim no allegience to Arminism or Calvinism are still not adhering to the authentic gospel that the Doctrines of Grace represent.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    I am curious about your definition of Gentile. Is a Gentile a non-Jew, or is there a different definition? If a Gentile is a non-Jew, then the audience was “all” men as there are only two classifications of men.

    Also, is the drawing of God, the same as the effectual calling? In John 6:44, Jesus states that a man must be drawn by the Father to come unto Him, however Jesus did not say this was the “only” thing that had to happen to a man before he could come to Christ. We were already told in John 3 that a man “must” be born again. So, is it possible for a man to be drawn to Christ, absent the effectual calling and never monergistically regenerated? Jesus’ parable in Matthew 22 shows a man without wedding clothes at the wedding feast, but he is later banished and punished. To this, Jesus concludes, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Here the distinction is made between the called and the chosen. Does that make room for a difference between the drawn and the called?

    Could John 12 be referring to a “general” drawing of all men in contrast to drawing of the elect? Is God justifying Himself in damning the reprobate by issuing this “general” drawing to all men, in the same way that Jesus’ parables were judgment against the reprobate? So He said, "To know the secrets of the kingdom of God has been granted to you, but to the rest it is in parables, so that Looking they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” (Luke 8:10)

    I appreciate the point you are trying to make, I am simply wondering about the definitions of ‘Gentile’ and ‘drawing’.

    Yours in Him,
    Matthew

    Hi Matthew,

    Perhaps it would be best if I interact with your comments below.

    You write: "I am curious about your definition of Gentile. Is a Gentile a non-Jew, or is there a different definition? If a Gentile is a non-Jew, then the audience was “all” men as there are only two classifications of men."

    Yes, all Gentiles are non-Jews. In my short article, I was refering to God's people (His elect) amongst both Jews and Gentiles, a concept found elsewhere in John's writings (see John 11:52). Forgive me if I did not make that point as clear as I could have done.

    You write: "Also, is the drawing of God, the same as the effectual calling?"

    I believe so, yes.

    You write: "In John 6:44, Jesus states that a man must be drawn by the Father to come unto Him, however Jesus did not say this was the “only” thing that had to happen to a man before he could come to Christ."

    But we need to remember that all those who are drawn in this way are also raised up to eternal life, according to Jesus' words in John 6:44.

    You write: "We were already told in John 3 that a man “must” be born again. So, is it possible for a man to be drawn to Christ, absent the effectual calling and never monergistically regenerated?"

    I don't believe so, no - not in the sense that Jesus uses the word draw in John 6:44... where all who are drawn are raised up to eternal life.

    You write: "Jesus’ parable in Matthew 22 shows a man without wedding clothes at the wedding feast, but he is later banished and punished. To this, Jesus concludes, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Here the distinction is made between the called and the chosen. Does that make room for a difference between the drawn and the called?"

    Theologians have long distinguished between the general call of the Gospel (which we pray and work so that multitudes hear) and the effectual call of God that as the term suggests effectually brings someone to Christ. Not everyone who receives the general call (hears the preaching of the Gospel) responds to the Gospel, but those who hear the Gospel and also receive the effectual call, are effectively brought to faith. For example in Romans 8:29, 30 - all who are called are also justified. That is not true of those who merely hear the preaching of the Gospel, but the call here is 100% effective - all who hear this call are justified, which I believe can only refer to what we call the effectual call of God.

    Understanding this distinction between the general and the effectual call, the Matthew 22 scripture you refer to is then easily understood. The call here refers to the general call.. Many are called but few are chosen.

    I hope that helps to clarify things a little for you.

    John Samson

    This is for John H.

    After your response to my comment above I did some hard thinking and scripture research. I ended up writing a post on my blog called "There is only one gospel". It addresses the monergistic vs synergistic gospels. I would really like to get your opinion of it if you have time.

    Here is the link: http://walkingthewalkbyfaith.blogspot.com/2006/03/there-is-only-one-gospel.html

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    Mike:

    Since I do not have a "Blogger" account I will just respond to you by email. I believe it is an excellent post Mike and I am in agreement with you and think there is great clarity to your thought.

    Did someone actually say to you that "the gospel is inherently unknowable". I fear such a person is deeply conflicted and needs our prayer. Such a statement is radically in contradiction to everything revealed to us in Scripture as your essay so aptly points out.

    Overall I truly like the essay and think you deliver it with great punch, I do have a couple of questions that give me pause, however. You said, "Their false gospels teach that God created only the possibility of salvation for all men because Christ’s work on the cross did not guarantee the salvation of anyone."

    Although you do not say it explicitly, I left the essay thinking that you are claiming that all synergists are preaching outright "false gospels" to the degree that anyone who listens to and believe such teaching are probably damned. Not sure you meant it to come off this way, but these thoughts do cross my mind as your possible intent when I read though your essay.

    I would perhaps personally follow a different track with them by allowing for the possibility that a synergist may have inconsistencies in his beliefs. I would do this by prefacing any comment to them by saying that they "in danger of" leading people to trust in something other than Christ alone. But, wouldn't you agree, that most of these people still would insist that they trust in CHRIST ALONE for salvation PLUS OR MINUS NOTHING. So perhaps it is not our place to make final judgment about their current status before God. This is because we can only show how their belief logically leads to trusting in self and so YES...we should strictly warn them, especially those who claim you can lose salvation since this undermines the gospel by maintaining that Christ's work is insufficient to save completely (since in this case it would mean that Christians must maintain our justification before God - indeed a heresy)

    Consider this: if God were to judge us based on how consistent we all were then I do not think any of us would stand. Agreed? Each time we sin we are, in effect, worshipping idols and trusting in something other than Christ. If we did not allow for inconsistency then where is grace? Since this is the case I believe it is critical to rememeber that it is the grace of Jesus Christ, not our consistency in our doctrine or actions that saves us. Perfect understanding of doctrine saves us no more than works. This would be salvation by perfect gnosis.

    If someone says they believe in Christ alone, even if inconsistent with that profession, I usually try to give them the benefit of the doubt. I think many synergists would make the confession that 'Christ alone saves, not our works'. Our job, I believe, is to show them that this profession is inconsistent with some things they believe.

    Inconsistencies exist in us all but Christ's grace is greater than our boasts of perfect doctrine so many may be saved who do not understand the full implications of monergism. The very fact that we believe that salvation is by grace alone should remind us (who are Calvinists) that this means Christ saves in spite of ourselves, our inconsistent doctrine and our sin. If a synergist believes in Christ then perhaps God has done a work of grace in them and yet they may lack the adequacy of understanding that all this entails.

    You said >>>>The faith that we exercise in belief is the faith that is a gift of God. It is not our faith.

    Just a technical thought. God gave us the gift of physical eyes. Does this mean that the ability to see is not our own seeing and are not our eyes? No. I don't think so. We give glory to God for the gift of the eyes that we use. Likewise God changes the disposition of our heart by giving us new hearts but it is we who exercise our own faith even though it is a gift. God gets the glory for the circumcised heart.

    you said >>>>What does the gospel taught by the Apostle Paul actually say in response to that? We have already seen that the gospel he preached and taught excludes the possibility of boasting. The synergistic gospel, by its very nature, provides for the possibility of boasting. Think about it. If people are saved because it was their decision then they can boast because they made the right decision, but lost people did not. However, the monergistic gospel eliminates that possibility because it is God’s work alone. It is by His grace through the faith He gives to those He saves.

    This is all true, but the synergist does not consciously believe or think he is boasting. He believes he is trusting in Christ alone, without any other hope in the world. Are Calvinists completley free of boasting? Don't we often boast of our superior doctrinal knowledge? The danger of this is every bit as real, I think.

    As for your essay, It otherwise hits the nail right on the mark as far as clarity of a consistent gospel ..

    Solus Christus
    John

    Thank you John H.!

    After reading your breakdown of my "thoughts," I do see your point clearly. Interestingly, after I posted it I had some concerns in those areas, but they weren't as crystallized as yours. I appreciate that very much.

    Yes, I had a comment on one of my comments on another blog where a person did say, "the gospel is inherently unknowable" In fac, that was the "conversation" that prompted my original comment to the post on your blog. At the time it really concerned me. I have never heard or read anything before stating that thought in "clear text" before. However, I think a large number of believers do think that way.

    John, your ministry as been a great blessing to me. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and breaking it down like that. Thank you for not "pulling any punches" as well. What you wrote means a lot to me. I will go back and clarify those points.

    Thanks!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    John H

    Just to clarify, a person can believe salvation is monergistic without being a Calvinist. I basically believe the points of Calvinism with the exception of Limited Atonement. So, if one were to label me I would not be a Calvinist per se. But, I whole heartedly believe in God's sovereignty in salvation and in the bondage of the human will.

    To God be all the Glory and to us none of the boasting,

    Alan

    Alan R Wuest

    That is an interesting comment you make but I find it strikingly inconsistent.

    Here's why. It is not possible to embrace irresistable grace, as you claim to believe, and somehow also reject limited atonement because they are the same thing. Consider the following:

    You claim to believe that regeneration is monergistic, and you believe in the biblical doctrine of irresistable grace. Where do you think that irresistable grace comes from? I hope your answer is "FROM CHRIST!!!" Because that is the only answer.

    In fact all spiritual blessings find their source in Christ (Eph 1:3) The blessings of monergistic regeneration and irresistable grace included. And since you claim to believe in irresistable grace, then you believe that only the elect are given this blessing from Christ, correct?

    THEREFORE, Christ died in a way for the elect that He did not for the non-elect...that is redemptively. He died to procure this effectual grace for His own and he does not grant it to others. All redemptive blessings including this one comes from Christ....that is, the application of irresistable grace by the Holy Spirit from the work of Christ in his death and resurrection.

    Unless you believe we can have a "Christless" irresistable grace, you have no choice but to believe in particular redemption (limited atonement). You see, irresistable grace and limited atonement are actually talking about the same thing, but they are simply viewed from different perspectives. Limited atonement is none other than the other side of the same coin. If you believe irresistable grace, you ALREADY believe in limited atonement. You cannot have one without the other unless one is to be hopelessly contradictory.

    You would fail to try to convince anyone that irresistable grace is not a redemptive blessing from Christ. Therefore this amyraldian/dispensational belief in so-called 4-point calvinism contradicts itself. You already believe in limited atonement without knowing it.


    "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"
    1 Pet 1:3



    John,

    Let me first say how much I appreciate your website and the treasury of information contained on it.

    To the subject, I believe God is sovereign in salvation and man is responsbile in rejection. If you ask me why I believe and someone else doesn't, I will say because God had mercy on me. Why didn't he have mercy on the person who doesn't. Because that person rejected it. But, I would still be rejecting if God didn't have mercy on me. These are two truths that can not be reconciled by the finite human mind.

    " "You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. " Acts 7:51 So, in the case of the unbeliever the grace is resisted. In the case of the believer the grace is irresistable.

    How can that be? I do not know, but God's Word says it so I believe it.

    And yes irresistable grace is a redemptive blessing from Christ.

    Alan

    You said>>> irresistable grace is a redemptive blessing from Christ.

    Then you believe that Christ died in a way for the elect that he did not for the non-elect, for the non-elect are never given this blessing. Irresitable means that all who get this blessing infallibly come to Christ or you could not call it irresistable.

    Like you we all believe man is responsible in rejecting Christ. In fact all persons would run the other way if left to themselves. But those who rejected Christ did not reject or resist what we call irresistable grace. They only rejected the command to believe the gospel and the common workings of the Spirit that are short of salvation.

    Whenever we preach the gospel to people they are resisting the Holy Spirit as per the verse you pointed out in Acts. But the Spirit can and does make His grace irresistable as in John 6:63-65 & 37 at a time of His choosing.

    These verses just mentioned teach that no one believes the gospel unless God grants it and all to whom God grants it will believe. A syllogism which Jesus uses to demonstrate that all persons God chooses to save will infallibly be saved. all "those who he called, were justified" (Rom 8:30)

    John 6:37 and 65 is a universal positive and and universal negative which leaves no room for any kind of grace which man resists.

    If you think that he can, please exegete John 6:65 & 37 and show us how it can mean anthing other than a grace which God accomplishes that which it set out to do.

    I would challnge you to consider the question why one unregenerate person believes the gospel and not another, if both persons have equal grace. Is one smarter or more spiritually sensitive, is one more humble by nature? No, faith is not produced from our unregenerated human nature. That is why your last comment leads me to believe that perhaps you have not understood the term 'monergism'.

    You say you believe it. But monergism means that regeneration is the work of God (alone) without any cooperation of man. By definition monergism refers to regeneration. That is, regeneration precedes faith for we must be spiritual to understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14; 1 John 5:1).

    The Lutheran view, which you seem to be espousing, is still at the core synergistic. When grace is offered to all men in your system, ultimately what makes men to differ regearing their faith, the grace of God or the will of man. If the grace of God, why don't all persons come to Christ? So you are still promoting a belief where faith is the product of our unregenerated human nature. If so then it is not grace but something in one man that is not in the other which makes men to differ. But the gospel declares that it is the grace of God which makes men to differ, plus or minus nothing. What do you have that you did not receive?


    Shalom

    John,

    You have rightly stated my views are close to the Lutheran view of the doctrine of election.

    I have nothing that I did not recieve. It is a paradox. If you are saved it is all God's fault and had nothing to do with you or me. If someone is not saved it is because they rejected salvation.

    I believe we must submit our reason to God in cases such as understanding doctrines such as election. Another doctrine which we can apprehend but not comprehend would be the Trinity.

    "33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! " Romans 11:33

    The are certain things we can only understand to a point then we have to let God be God.

    And yes, I do understand what monergism is and means and I believe wholeheartedly that the Bible teaches it.

    "So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. " Romans 9:16

    Luther wrote the "Bondage of the Will". I think he understood monergistic salvation. Lutherans as a whole reject synergism in all its forms. I am not purely Lutheran either because I believe in the perserverance of the saints and differ on other areas. But labels can be distracting from the issues. We should probably stick to those.

    Again, I appreciate your zeal for the sovereignty of God in salvation.

    In Him,

    Alan

    Alan,

    Hi, this comment may come as a surprise to you, but I have once been taught special doctrine by you and have recently come to learn that your beleifs are fallible. To say that if a person does not reject Christ's gift of salvation that he is saved or "elected" as you have taught, can you say that is true.

    Now I won't sit here and quote scripture but you as well as I know that there are several books to include Hebrews and James where the writers speak to beleivers who have "fallen". You say that if you have truly "not rejected" Christ or in other words accepted Him, that you cannot fall. Perseverence of the Saints, Eternal Security, Fire-Proof, whatever you may call it. You teach this as if it were true, but to my understanding we can come to a point where even if we have accepted Christ, (by His prompting), we can also reject Him. So to say that one can reject His gift even after their salvation is to you... a lie. But you can, it is scriptural, and you need to look beyond your church's doctrinal beliefs and see for yourself what the word says.

    Please, understand where I am coming from.

    Thank you,

    Max

    Maxwell,

    So as I understand your position then, you believe that the initial work of salvation Christ's but that thereafter you yourself must maintain your just standing before God? There is a verse in the book of Galatians just for you:

    "After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" Gal 3:3.

    This is the very heresy that Paul warns the Galatians to flee. Either Jesus Christ is your Savior or, as you would have it, just someone to help us save ourselves.

    John

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