"...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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  • « "The Long Winter of Our Discontentment"- Pastor Charles R. Biggs | Main | Studies in John (Lesson 11: The Last Supper) »

    Genuine Relationship or Machines

    A visitor recently made a comment, one that is a common argument among Arminians and other synergists. Thought I would share with you the question and my response:

    Assertion against Calvinism The Bible, from front to back, is about God desiring a genuine relationship with those he has made in his image. This relationship takes place through influence and response, not cause and effect (as in your system). Your system will always reduce men to mere machines that can only act when acted upon, or can only move when moved.

    Response: This is quite an incorrect understanding of what we believe. God saves us by mercy alone, and there is nothing mechanical or automated about it. Here's why:

    First it is important to note. God's law reveals to us, not our ability, but our inability ("though the law comes knowldge of sin" Rom 3:20) So Jesus, in mercy, does for us what we could not do for ourselves. Pays the debt we ourselves are unable to lift a finger to repay. The gospel says, "WHILE we were still HELPLESS, Christ died for us." And "while we were yet dead in sin, God quickened us." If He didn't act first to give us life, in mercy, we would not have been able to respond, even more importantly, would not. Our entire edifice was rotten to the core so if any were to have hope God would have to intervene to resurrect our spiritually dead souls. So it isn't about machines (or cause and effect), it is about God's mercy doing something for us that we could not do ourselves.

    As an example to help express how this works, take a a friend who is drowning. Do you merely hold out your hand for him and ONLY help if he first helps himself by reaching to you? Is that what makes it personal and a relationship? What kind of love is that? No, you jump in the water to make certain he is saved from drowning. True love gets the job done. A relationship of love (a genuine relationship) is there EVEN when the friend is unable to respond and is in mortal danger. But the kind of love you appear to believe is that God loves everyone in a generic sense but really has a conditional love for these persons based on what they do. This is not unconditional love.

    We would agree that God does indeed give us conditions. But it is Christ who fulfills them on our behalf. Yes we must pay our debts in full, but thanks be to God, Christ is our paymaster. Our response is only possible because of the grace we have in Christ, apart from which we would have no hope whatsoever. Unless you are willing to acknowledge that we have no hope save in Christ's mercy ALONE, then your understanding of the gospel, I would argue, is only partial.

    "God knoweth we have nothing of ourselves, therefore in the covenant of grace he requireth no more than he giveth, and giveth what he requireth, and accepteth what he giveth." -Richard Sibbes: From The Bruised Reed

    See My essay To Cut off the Sinner from All Hope in Himself

    Posted by John on March 7, 2007 06:26 PM


    Hey there! Great article! That's sort of the way I always put it, except I used an example of a father and his child. The child was playing outside with a ball and the ball goes out into the street. Of course, the kid runs after it and whaddya know! A semi is coming right at him. Now, either the Father can alert the kid and hope the kid will get out in time, or he can actually run out to the kid and pull him from danger. The kid's too wrapped up with getting the ball, so he won't notice the semi in time. What should the father do?

    The father represents God, the kid represents sinners, the ball represents sin, and the semi represents God's wrath. But this is all the nutshell.

    Anyway, thanks for this article. I'll have to be sure to link to it when someone says that.

    And, no offense, but you might want to spell check and update this. There were just a few mistakes.


    In reading through Luke, I discovered that twice (10:25, 18:18) Jesus is asked, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

    In the first passage, Jesus turns the question back on the lawyer who asks it. The lawyer replies with the Old Testament commands to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself (cf. Mt. 22:34-40). Jesus affirms his answer: "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." The lawyer then tries to narrow the meaning of neighbor. So Jesus tells the unforgettable parable of the compassionate Samaritan, who proved to be a neighbor to a bleeding roadside victim.

    In Luke 18, Jesus responds to the same question, this time from the man we know as the rich young ruler, by quoting the second table of the Decalogue, forbidding adultery, murder, theft, and false witness, and mandating honor towards parents. His questioner says that he has kept these commandments, and Jesus proceeds to call on him to "sell all … and distribute to the poor." Jesus assures him, "You will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." The "extremely rich" ruler won't do this, and Jesus goes on to teach his disciples about how hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God.

    On the two occasions in Luke when Jesus was asked about the criteria for admission to eternity, he offered a fourfold answer: love God with all that you are, love your neighbour (like the Samaritan loved his neighbour), do God's will by obeying his moral commands, and be willing, if he asks, to drop everything and leave it behind in order to follow him.

    In many churches, we often hear the leader or pastor direct people to "invite Jesus into your heart as your personal Saviour," an act undertaken using a formula called the "sinner's prayer."

    Or we hear them say simply say, "Believe in Jesus, and you will be saved." As a reformed person, I agree with your understanding of God quickening us.

    There appear to be hidden assumptions behind the "prayer of salvation" which would easily support a reformed position, albeit unawares to the new Christian just regenerated, however, I wonder about the quotes in Luke. I see no robots here, I see no quickening, I see glimpses of duty not quickening. Am I correct?


    Good question. With regard to the two stories you pulled from the text, an important associated concept to rememeber is that "the law is for the proud and the gospel for the broken hearted."

    In both instances above Jesus uses the law to show, not their ability, but their inability. Indeed if someone were to obey the law perfectly they would not need a savior for they would be pleasing to God always. Only Jesus fulfulled the law in this way and that is why we trust in Him. He fulfilled the law on our behalf. Not only died for our sins but fulfilled all righteousness that we might partake.

    So after jesus exposes the young man's covetousness, since he went away sad after hearing he must sell his possessions, Jesus says, it is more difficult for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom. The disciples rightly say, who then can be saved. Jesus says, with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

    In other words, repentance and faith (required of the man) is impossible but with God this is possible. i.e God's grace is necessary ... man's will alone is too weak.


    great stuff! And a good response.

    It is so serious yet we must keep a sense of humor in it, these distinctions between the purpose of the LAW and the purpose of the Gospel.

    I am not clear on who brought out the idea of being a THEOLOGIAN OF GLORY, and when, but I am clear the idea was found in Scripture and the Apostle Paul too:

    1Th 2:5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed--God is witness.
    1Th 2:6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.

    I have been greatly sharpened by the sense of my error with regard to being a theologian of glory, wanting recognition and praise to the stupid depth of worship! yikes!

    Being a Theologian of the Cross kills that and as you say so clearly hereon, the law's purpose is to show me sadly by my failure to keep it, my inability to keep it!

    That's why verses about MERCY grow louder and louder everytime now I read them or hear them spoken about.

    For instance:

    Jud 1:1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
    Jud 1:2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
    Jud 1:3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
    Jud 1:4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

    OH YES, THAT'S ME!!!! I find by my inability to keep the law that it is much easier to PERVERT THE GRACE OF OUR GOD INTO SENSUALITY AND DENY OUR ONLY MASTER AND LORD, JESUS CHRIST!!!!

    That's what a Theologian of Glory is reduced too!

    On the other hand, the only way I can come to Christ and His Theology of the Cross is by the WORK OF GOD ON ME:::> Jud 1:2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

    Oh yes Lord, multiply, multiply, multiply Your MERCY, PEACE AND LOVE ON ME TOO!!!!


    Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
    Eph 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--
    Eph 2:6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
    Eph 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

    Oh yes Lord, so be it, amen and amen!!

    Thank you for the short article, I find it very helpful. God Bless!


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