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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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  • « The Daily Scroll | Main | Should we use altar calls in our evangelism? »

    If Divine Election is True then What Need is There to Preach the Gospel?

    Visitor:

    If your position is [on divine election] correct, then why the Great Commission "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" Matthew 28:19 and "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" Romans 10:9. These are just a few of the numerous verses that point to our responsibility. Does God call us to evangelism and discipleship as a practical joke? If already predestined, then what's the point? Free will exists because God allows it. God is in control and knows our every move, but the responsibility for belief and sin falls squarely on our shoulders. Without choice, it is impossible for love to exist.

    Since a Calvinist believes salvation is wholly God's work without any partnership with man, he or she approaches evangelism nonaggressively. Calvinism teaches there is nothing whatsoever a person can do to become saved—we can't "decide for Christ" or "receive Christ" enabling a person to "become a Christian." To do this would give man a part in salvation. Calvinists believe salvation is from God and God alone. To make salvation hinge on an individual's "accepting Christ" or "receiving Christ" makes salvation partially a human endeavor. A true Calvinist believes that nothing whatsoever a person does or is contributes anything at all to salvation. Salvation is God's work alone and we play no part in it—not even receiving salvation counts.

    Response: Well, first of all, the doctrine of predestination does not save anyone, Christ does. Furthermore, according to Calvinism, and more importantly, according to the Bible, a person must put their faith in Jesus Christ if they are to be saved.

    I believe you may be confusing the concepts of justification with regeneration. All Calvinists have historically believed that it is vital that the gospel must be preached and received in order for a person to be saved. The Reformers called this the ministry of Word and Spirit. No one will ever be justified (or made right with God) without receiving Christ ... that is why I have personally been a committed missionary for 10 years.

    The issue comes down to this: is anyone naturally willing to accept the humbling terms of the gospel (1 Cor 2:14; Rom 3:11, 12, 8;7). Any true gospel preaching is done "with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven" (1 Peter 1:12). Otherwise it comes to men only in word, with no saving effect at all. The Apostle Paul, when speaking to the elect at the church of the Thessalonians said, "for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Where the Holy Spirit is active, convicting men of sin, righteousness and judgment, the gospel is spoken with power. Illumination and regeneration alone can open the eyes of our spiritual understanding and raise us from spiritual death so that we might have a new desire and thus take heed to the gospel when preached. In other words, the word of God does not work "ex opere operato," (automatically) rather, it is the work of the Holy Spirit sovereignly dispensing grace (John 3:8), quickening the heart THROUGH THE WORD to bring forth life. So the written word is not the material of the spiritual new birth, but rather its means or medium. "The word is not the begetting principle itself, but only that by which it works: the vehicle of the mysterious germinating power". It is because the Spirit of God accompanies it that the word carries in it the germ of life. The life is in God, yet it is communicated to us through the word.

    In light of this, consider: If man had a free will, as you claim, he would have no need of the Holy Spirit. He could simply come to Christ in his own natural powers. But all Christians acknowledge that no one can say Jesus is Lord apart from the Spirit. And as soon as any Christian admits that he cannot come to Christ apart from the Holy Spirit, he implicitly acknowledges that man has no free will, but that all are in bonage to the corruption of nature.

    It is very important to remember that election/predestination is only God's blueprint for what He intends to accomplish on earth through Christ. Predestination has no saving value in itself. Salvation, rather, is accomplished through the redemptive work of Christ applied to His people by the Spirit through means (prayer, preaching) to accomplish His end. So all true Calvinists believe that God uses means to gather His elect, and the means is the gospel. No gospel, no salvation.

    Indeed we agree that the responsibility to believe rests on our shoulders. Problem is, not one person will believe the gospel apart from the work of the Spirit opening our blind eyes, unplugging our deaf ears and turning our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. John 3:19 says that men love darkness and will not come into the light. Only as God's Spirit overcomes our innate hostility and places within us a new heart do we then embrace Christ.

    You speak of free will? May I ask, free from what? From sin? No the Bible declares that the natural man's affections and will are in bondage to sin and will not believe the gospel until Christ sets him free through the work of the Holy Spirit applying the benefits of Christ.

    Repentance and faith can only be exercised by a soul after, and in immediate consequence of, its regeneration by the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:1, 10; Acts 16:14b; Acts 13:48; John 10:24-26; Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 6:37; John 1:13; 1 Cor. 4:7; 1 Cor. 15:10; Jas. 1:17; John 3:27; 1 Pet 1:3). God regenerates, and we, in the exercise of the new gracious ability given, repent. God disarms the opposition of the human heart, subduing the hostility of the carnal mind, and with irresistible power (John 6:37, 63-65), draws His chosen ones to Christ. The gospel confesses "We love him because He first loved us." Whereas before we had no desire for God, but now God's regenerating grace gives us the desire, willingness and delight in His person and commands that infallibly gives rise to faith. Faith and works are both the evidences of the new birth, not the cause of it. This is clearly indicated in the following text from the Scripture:

    "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God...Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony [of God] in himself...And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life."(1 John 5:1, 10, 20)
    So according to this text one first requires spiritual understanding prior to believing and knowing the Lord. The verb tense of 5:1 makes this undeniable, putting belief squarely as the result of the new birth. Ask yourself, was this understanding ever given to someone who would reject the gospel, according to this passage? The text says, we were "given understanding SO THAT WE MAY KNOW HIM who is true..." The text says that those given this understanding infallibly come to know Christ.

    A real world demonstration of this is recorded in the book of Acts when Paul is preaching and a woman named Lydia, "... was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul."(Acts 16:14) This should remove all doubt as to the biblical nature of this doctrine.

    Earlier, when the apostles were preaching to the Gentiles we find another clear illustration of this:

    "When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." Acts 13:48
    This passage is a perfect example of the point I am making. The gospel is being preached to the Gentiles but only those appointed to eternal life believed. Both election and the preaching of the gospel (applied by the work of the Spirit) are necessary to produce this result. And since God uses means to accomplish our redemption, this is directly contrary to your claim that Calvinist doctrine would make us unconcerned about the need for evangelism. Furthermore, if the Arminian position is true you would have to eliminate or ignore this passage.

    No Calvinist has ever taught that God works to save people apart from the word of God, missionaries and preachers (see John 10) and that we Christians can just nonchalantly wait for God to save people apart from the concurrent use of means. We believe God not only ordained the end but the means as well. The end is salvation and reconciliation with God and the means are prayer and preaching of the gospel. I can bring you a truckload of evidence that this is the historic position of all Calvinists if you require it ... The Holy Spirit applies the means (the gospel) to the heart of His people. Those dead in sin (Eph 2:1,5,8), play no part in their own new birth (Rom 3:11, 12; 8:7). Once the sinner is restored with a new sense, given spiritual understanding and holy affections through Word and Spirit, the soul's new disposition immediately plays an active roll in conversion (repentance and faith). Thus, man does not cooperate in his regeneration (new birth) but rather, infallibly responds in faith to the gospel as the Holy Spirit changes our hearts' disposition (John 3:6-8; 19-21). Faith is, therefore, not something produced by our unregenerated human nature. The fallen sinner has no moral ability or inclination to believe prior to the new birth. Instead, the Holy Spirit must open one's ears and circumcise their hearts to the preaching of the gospel if one would desire to hear and believe.

    Calvinist Paul Mizzi, speaking on this important issue, says,

    ""Predestination in no way hinders the zeal of the evangelist; rather the contrary. For as we know that God foreknows his own (though we have no idea who they might be) we can be sure that those (and only those) will finally believe and turn to Christ. For their sake the church is willing to preach the gospel far and wide. "For many are called but few are chosen.” The call goes out to all and sundry, but the fact that many continue in unbelief is to be traced to their corruption and sinfulness. "For men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light..." ...As Calvinists present Christ to a fallen world they do not do so believing that people have power within themselves to turn to Christ. They do so because they believe in the power of the Spirit to resurrect dead bones and make them live (Ezekiel.). Their faith is in the power of God, not in the goodness of men...Men are unable to believe: "How can you believe who receive honour from one another and not the honour that comes from the only God?" (free translation). "Therefore I said unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father" (John 6:65). "A man can receive nothing, except it be given unto him from heaven" (John 3:27; cf. 1 Corinthians 4:7)...Because of original sin and all it entails, men are unable and unwilling to believe; but God can make them willing to believe. For what is impossible for men is possible with God!"

    A question you should ask yourself is, if the Holy Spirit is working in all persons equally, why do some people respond to the gospel and not others? What makes them to differ? Are some people more naturally responsive to spiritual things? Why the desire for Christ in some and not others? Where did it come from? It is either Jesus that makes us differ or it is some leftover remnant in autonomous natural man. It seems pretty obvious that to assert it is ultimately up to man ... is to make God's grace penultimate and man's faith ultimate so that man can boast over another who does not have faith. Only as we recognize that we exercise faith because of God's mercy do we give him all the glory (Rom 9:16). What we cannot and will not do for ourselves Christ does for us.


    Related Articles

    Word, Spirit, Gospel
    & Their Relation to Our Conversion
    The Nature, Causes and Means of Regeneration by John Owen (A major theologian - historic 5-point Calvinist here clearly shows that the word of God is the means, medium and instrument used by the Holy Spirit to quicken souls, when preached by men.)
    On the Two Great Instruments in the Conversion of Sinners by Thomas Reade, 1837
    The Holy Spirit In the Ministry of the Word by Pastor Bob Burridge
    But Spiritual Discernment is Wholly Lost Until we are Regenerated by John Calvin
    Biblical Regeneration and Affectional Theology
    by John Hendryx
    Two Views of Regeneration
    by John Hendryx (Comparison Chart)

    Reformed Theology and Missions
    The Sovereignty of God and World Missions by J.Hendryx
    Why commitment to the Doctrines of Grace makes me more effective in "World A" by anonymous missionary
    Does God Desire All Persons to be Saved?
    by John Hendryx

    Depravity
    How Do We Account For the Apparent "Good" That Comes From Those Who Have Not Been Regenerated? by John Hendryx
    Human Inability by C.H. Spurgeon
    What Non Calvinists Should Know About Calvinist Beliefs by Colin Maxwell

    Foreknowledge
    Doesn’t God Choose us Based on Foreseen Faith? by John Hendryx
    The Inconsistency of Arminians on Election & Foreknowledge by WithChrist.org

    "Only when God shines in us by the Holy Spirit is there any profit from the Word. Thus the inward calling, which alone is effectual and peculiar to the elect, is distinguished from the outward voice of men. "

    - John Calvin, Commentary on Romans and Thessalonians on Romans 10:16, p 232

    Posted by John on October 6, 2008 01:20 PM

    Comments

    I don't know that one could pack more "Calvinist straw men" into two paragraphs (those from "Visitor") if one tried.

    Good response, but I truly wonder if it will even be read by "Visitor".

    Hi Jerry

    thanks for the comments. I do not usually post these answers (or debates) in the hope of changing the mind of those who are fairly emotionally attached to their position. They are, rather, for the people who are in still the exploring stage and are looking for reasonable and biblical answers.

    I must not have read carefully enough. I do disagree with the implication that God decides who will or will not get saved. I believe in the purity of free will "choose you this day". This would otherwise be a ridiculous attempt at an illusion of choice and a great injustice. The Living Word has the ability to illuminate without "regenerating" the conscience of the unbeliever ("taste and see") and desires that none should perish. One thing God is not sovereign from is Himself, that is, His own divine nature, He cannot act contra-wise to the essential desire to provide for the salvation of all and strive to see it out, pleading with us all. This is where Calvinism will always go wrong. He will not be one thing and do another, however, He prepares for the outcomes of OUR choices, whether for good or evil. I promise you God does not always control me, He commands one thing, I may do another. I demonstrate choice every moment of every day. Having said that, He HAS "hard wired" the consequences of MY choices. -Tom

    Tom

    you said >>>>I believe in the purity of free will "choose you this day". This would otherwise be a ridiculous attempt at an illusion of choice and a great injustice.

    The Scripture says, "This is the command, to believe that Jesus is the Son of God."(1 John) God also commands us to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbor as ourself. Does His command to do so equal our ability to do so? May I ask, do you obey these commands from God? If you are honest you will answer no, not by a long shot. Is asking us to obey commands that we cannot keep also then "a ridiculous attempt at an illusion of choice and a great injustice" by God?

    God commands us to perfectly obey the ten commandments? Yet He knows very well that you cannot. This is because the law has a different purpose that simply his hope that we will obey it - The Scripture says its purpose is to expose our sin. Look at Ro.3:20 which says "...through the law comes knowledge of sin."

    God therefore commands many things we are unable to do, apart from his grace, including obey the gospel. So God's commands are not there to show our ability but our inability that we might lose all hope in ourselves.

    You say "This is where Calvinism will always go wrong." You are way too sure of yourself before hearing the other side. This is not only Calvinism but salvation by GRACE ALONE is the main reason for the Protestant Reformation which came out of Sola Scriptura? Luther spoke of exactly the same things. Here are some quotes from his bondage of the will:

    "the commandments are not given inappropriately or pointlessly; but in order that through them the proud, blind man may learn the plague of his impotence, should he try to do as he is commanded." pg. 160

    "The passages of Scripture you cite are imperative; and they prove and establish nothing about the ability of man, but only lay down what is and what not to be done." pg 161

    "Does it follow from: 'turn ye' that therefore you can turn? Does it follow from "'Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart' (Deut 6.5) that therefore you can love with all your heart? What do arguments of this kind prove,
    but the 'free-will' does not need the grace of God, but can do all things by its own power...But it does not follow from this that man is converted by his own power, nor do the words say so; they simply say: "if thou wilt turn,
    telling man what he should do. When he knows it, and sees that he cannot do it, he will ask whence he may find ability to do it..." 164

    And again: "He came unto his own, and His own received Him not. (v. 11)"The law indicates the impotence of man and the saving power of God..."if any man will come after me': 'he that wills to save his life'; 'if ye love me'; 'if ye shall continue'. In sum, as I have said-let every occurrence of the conjunction 'if', and all imperative verbs, be collected together (so we may help the Diatribe...) [indicating that all commands to believe or follow Christ are conditional, not stating man's ability]

    "...'if thou art willing' is a verb in the subjunctive mood, which asserts nothing...a conditional statement asserts nothing indicatively." "if thou art willing", "if thou hear", "if thou do" declare, not man's ability, but his duty. pg 157

    it is a gift of grace itself that we believe and obey God's commands. Can you do this apart from the Holy Spirit?

    Yep. John said it all right there in John 3:27: "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven." Therefore, there's probably people who thought they received salvation, but in actuality they never did. That right there is a scary thought indeed. God have mercy on our souls.

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