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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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  • « Risking the Truth: Handling Error in the Church - NEW!!! | Main | Quotes from Risking the Truth »

    May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering..

    Posted by John Samson on June 27, 2009 10:56 PM

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    I am a Christian who is just now starting to understand Calvanism and Reformed Theology. When I told my aunt (who has been a spiritual mentor to me) that I was exploring Reformed Theology, she sent me the following email that she sent to a Presbyterian friend. I was wondering if you could give me your thoughts on her explanation:

    Carla

    I don't expect either of us will change our theology because of this email, but I feel compelled to explain what I see in the Scriptures - especially after throwing out (the proper terminology is RENOUNCING) so many of my core beliefs here lately, by the grace of God of course! So on that note, here goes:

    Here's what Jonathan Edwards wrote that prompted this study:

    "God's electing a certain definite number is a manifestation of His glory. It shows the glory of His divine sovereignty. God is declaring His absolute sovereignty over His creation. He is showing us just how far that sovereignty extends. In purposely choosing some and passing on others, He shows that His majesty and power are unparalled. Those who do not see glory and dominion in election simply do not understand God. They are not aware of His greatness, and do not understand grace.
    Grace is defined in election. God chose His people to happiness and glory long before they were born. He chose them out of the mass of fallen mankind. He loved them before they knew Him. He chose them when they did not deserve to be chosen. That is grace!
    The doctrine of election shows that if those who received God's grace had earnestly sought it, it was God's grace that caused them to seek it. It shows that even their faith itself is the gift of God, and their persevering in a way of holiness unto glory is also the fruit of electing love.
    Believer's love of God is the fruit of and because of God's love to them. The giving of Christ, the preaching of the gospel, and the appointing of ordinances are all fruits of the grace of election. All the grace that is shown to mankind, either in this world or in the world to come, is comprised of the electing love of God."

    Sidenote: It was interesting for me to notice the very thing that Jonathan points to as a manifestation of God's glory (God selecting a certain, definite number of individuals for salvation) is the very doctrine that Charismatics consider to be slanderous to His name. (When it is considered at all that is....you don't hear too much about predestination or election or any doctrines like that in the circles we've traveled in....)

    Do I agree with Jonathan Edwards? Yes on every single point but one - and I don't come by that perspective lightly, because as you know I am willing and even eager to change my beliefs. I no longer want to read the word through the filters of tradition or the doctrines of demons or men. What I used to hold fast to has ultimately worked against me, so I don't believe that I'm simply being obstinate here. However, it is important for me to question this - if not to change your views, but rather to establish mine:


    First, the doctrine of election: I wholeheartedly agree with everything Jonathan said, in that God's glory and absolute sovereignty over creation is demonstrated through election. Through election God shows that His majesty and power are unparalled. Grace itself is defined by election, because through this truth we see that God's purpose is not thwarted by mere men, but gloriously fulfilled - not in spite of rebellion, but through rebellion.

    If that doesn't make a show openly of the futility of men and influence of demons, to reveal the absolute glory and majesty and power of God in His plan of redemption, then I don't know what does.

    However, concerning election in Romans 9, 10, and 11, Paul is not answering the question of why some individuals come to the Lord and others do not when he explains the doctrine of election by grace. First and foremost Paul is reaffirming God's covenant promise to Israel through the fathers. Even though the nation of Israel has rejected the gospel for now, in His foreknowledge God chose (elected) Israel for Himself, making His covenant with them through Abraham, knowing they would reject Christ at the first.......so that His perfect plan of redemption would be accomplished throughout all the world for both Gentiles and Jew. ("And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand saying 'In you all the nations shall be blessed.'")

    As Paul magnified his ministry to the Gentiles, the question would have been raised "Has God forgotten about His people the Jews? Has God retracted His promise to the fathers?" Paul's answer confirms that God's covenant promise is being fulfilled in an unfathomable way....by His election (or choosing) of those who would reject Him. Election isn't about individuals - it is about God choosing an unbelieving, rebellious nation as His own, to bring unto Himself the nations who would never seek Him otherwise, and ultimately restore to Himself the very people who actively rejected Him. THIS is the Biblical doctrine of election.... As Isaiah said "I was found by those who did not seek Me, I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me." But to Israel He says: "All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people."

    Paul pointed to himself as an example of the remnant that would be saved....but God won't stop with a remnant. Eventually "all of Israel will be saved"...again, not every individual who is a physical descendant of Abraham....but referring to the Jewish nation.

    "He came to His own and they did not receive Him."

    "Concerning the gospel they (unbelieving Jews) are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they (still unbelieving Jews) are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable."

    And that God's grand plan of election would usher in those who didn't seek Him and ultimately those who rejected Him, is absolutely astounding. God takes even the fallen Adamic nature of man and makes that work to accomplish His ultimate purpose: That ALL men be saved and come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. "For as you (believing Gentiles) were once disobedient to God, yet now have obtained mercy through their (unbelieving Jews) disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you (believing Gentiles) they (unbelieving Jews) also may obtain mercy."

    Through such a plan, God retracts nothing of His gifts or calling, His perfect plan is upheld and accomplished - and it is by grace so none may boast and all (Jews and Gentiles) may partake of His salvation.

    Without returning to the false doctrine of free will, it is the old adage, 'You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink." There are those whose hearts will yield through repentance (repenting of sin AND from "good" but dead works), breaking that Adamic heart of stone so that the word of faith can be planted, and there are those who will resist the Holy Spirit, contrary to the will and purposes of God. (Jesus gives us the portrait of this in the parable of the sower, Mark 4)

    Even so, those who resist will not overthrow God's plan of redemption for anyone but themselves.

    God showed forth His wrath and made His power known by pouring out His wrath upon vessels prepared for destruction....by example Paul reminds us that God promoted an evil man to a position of worldly authority and power, just so He could demonstrate this facet of Himself - His righteousness, His justice, His holy hatred of and wrath against sin, to a rebellious, wicked, ungodly world.

    As Paul wrote in the first part of Romans "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men."

    Paul also writes that God made known the riches of His glory to the vessels of mercy, prepared beforehand for glory. Thereby demonstrating His mercy, His goodness, His compassion, His eagerness to forgive, deliver, and heal.

    When you think about it, isn't that the greatest paradox? When the Scriptures say that truth and mercy have met together, and righteousness and peace have kissed (Psalm 85:10), aren't those typically exclusive of each other in a fallen, rebellious wicked world that must answer to a Holy, Righteous, Just God? How does God extend mercy and reconciliation to the ungodly through salvation, AND foreordain a Just Man to be condemned and numbered with the transgressors.... and still not be an abomination to Himself - as He has said: "He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord." (Proverbs 17:15)

    Here is the answer: "In mercy and truth, atonement is made for iniquity." (Proverbs 16:6) It is Jesus Christ being our propitiation - set forth as a mercy seat by taking God's wrath unto Himself on our behalf. His sacrifice alone reconciles the Holy Justice with Justification of the ungodly who believe in Christ. I believe the cup that Jesus agonized over in the garden, the same cup that He asked if it were possible could be passed from Him is this: The cup of God's wrath and fury that He promised to pour out against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Yes, there is a wrath to come in the end times when God purges ALL iniquity and creates a new heaven and a new earth, but for now there is the Atonement and an offer of release and redemption through the punishment Jesus bore on our behalf.

    After all, the summation of the gospel of reconciliation is this: "But NOW the righteousness of God apart from the law (works) is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just AND the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus Christ....Him who justifies the ungodly." (Romans 3:21-26, 4:5-8)

    This is the great conundrum that Paul is addressing in Romans: How can God be righteous, holy, and just, and still forgive and redeem unrighteous, unholy, unjust men? (Think how we would feel if an appointed judge sentenced a serial killer to death (and rightly so), but then that judge put forth his own young son - innocent of any crime and trusting in the goodness of his father - to undergo that execution in the murderer's place!!! And then to add insult to the injury of our indignation....that same judge would adopt the now-released killer as his own son and bring him into his own house! Why our sense of justice and fair play could hardly stand it!

    If something like that hit the news, don't you think the WORLD would be up in arms over such a seemingly unjust, unholy act? Yet isn't that exactly the heart of the gospel message? We're not all guilty of murder, but we were all born with the same unrighteous, dead, murderous nature.....for God to forgive and justify any of us is nothing short of a miracle, and "Amazing Grace" indeed, when we truly stop to think about it.

    No wonder the Scriptures say it pleased God to bring to nothing the wisdom of the world by the foolishness of the preached message: the gospel is the most absurd thing in the world to our reasoning minds.

    So for ANYONE to believe such a message, it can ONLY be by the power of God and the drawing and revelation of His Holy Spirit. This is no gospel of mental ascension.....it is the fire, power, mercy and unfathomable compassion of a Holy, Righteous God! "Mercy and truth have kissed, righteousness and peace have met together."

    No man can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him, and no one can come to the Father unless he comes through Jesus Christ. Even though I no longer believe in free will, there is still a response from the heart that can be yielded to or resisted. (Yes, I know that sounds like a contradiction), but here is a difference between a mental "free will" response and a genuine response from the heart:

    Free will is an illusion (Romans 7) and a work of man. It is in our minds (not our hearts or mouth where faith is) and therefore is salvation by mental ascension only; it makes US the ones who initiate our own salvation when we decide to accept Him, it makes God the one who responds to OUR call, instead of the other way around, and it puts us in the position of having to be legalistic in order to show forth "fruits of repentance" because we're trying to prove a salvation that never occurred. (In other words, salvation by free will puts us in the position of have to teach goats how to behave like sheep).

    But remember we are still talking about election.

    What Propitiation does for individuals who respond from their heart to the preached gospel, Election does for God's Sovereign purpose for the nations. Jonathan mentions individual election, but again - in Romans 9, 10, and 11 Paul is addressing God's grand plan of salvation as it pertains to Israel and the Gentiles. Even though there will be men who reject the gospel (not in their "free will", but in the hardness of impenitent hearts that resist His Holy Spirit), God's Sovereign purpose and plan WILL be accomplished and fulfilled. He shows forth His glory by choosing a nation that He knew beforehand would deliberately reject Him (even as they clamor for Him in their own self-righteousness and works), to open the door of salvation to all other nations (Gentiles) who were not even seeking Him or asking for Him.

    Israel's rejection of the gospel was not pre-appointed, it was known beforehand, and even used of God to accomplish His ultimate purpose and will - to make the gospel and the gift of salvation available. to all.

    When He says "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will harden whom I will harden", we see from the Scriptures that God wills that ALL men come to repentance, ALL men come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and ALL men turn from their wickedness unto His mercy. We also see that He hardens and sends strong delusion to those who already harden their own hearts, and have preferred the lie to the truth.

    So even in the rejection and wickedness of men and nations, God shows forth His glory and Sovereignty by accomplishing His perfect plan in spite of their rebellion, making a show of them openly as He did through Pharoah, and again through satan and the works of lawless men when Jesus was judged, crucified, and then resurrected from the dead.

    THERE is the glory and majesty of God in the face of frail, perishing, wicked men: Man is able to limit his personal experience of God by resisting the Spirit and rejecting God in his heart, but the glory and the Sovereignty and the purposes of God will be fulfilled regardless.........no man is great enough to overcome God or stand in the way of His overall purpose..........and this purpose is realized through Divine Election and salvation through faith in the name of Christ in fulfilling and extending to us God's perfect grace.

    Wow, the above comment was quite possibly the longest in the history of the blogosphere. ;)

    Hi Ashley,

    To answer your question, I think Romans 9:6 refutes the idea that God is only talking about Israel. He is talking in broader terms about election of individuals in Romans 8:28-30, and then is dealing with why not all Israel have recognized the Messiah but answers this by saying that God's word/promise has not failed in any way at all, because the promise was not made to all ethnic Israel (all physical descendants), but only to the true Israel, which were the elect within the nation.

    Romans 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;

    Again - God's word has not failed in any way because God's promises always hold true for the true Israel. However, not all of what we see as ethnic Israel is the true Israel, according to God. "They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel."

    God's saving promises are made only to the true Israel; and Paul is declaring that these promises have never failed - all the elect of Israel has come in to the fold. He then illustrates it further in Romans 9 by showing God chose Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau - individual election not national...

    Full article here: http://www.reformationstudycenter.com/Romans9.html

    I would also point you to two articles that show this teaching in context - part 1 here: http://www.reformationstudycenter.com/Rom9White-1.html

    part 2 here: http://www.reformationstudycenter.com/Rom9White-2.html

    Hope that's a help.
    John

    I grew up in a PCA home and love reformed theology.....

    But do you guys really think God wants us bickering about the finer points of theology on the Internet or witnessing and showing our good works to the lost souls around us?

    I am just amazed how much Reformed can talk about theology while neglecting to both (a) do good in the world around them and (b) witness to the lost

    Dear Andrew,

    Really? You know for sure we neglect these things? Or do you just postulate and speculate in ignorance?

    It is hard to hand food out to people on a blog, or witness to non Christians who are not reading this. The web site is the place to discuss finer points of theology. That's the whole point of it - to help God's people take a close look at the Scriptures. Its important to get the gospel right, even while getting it out. You assume we have no interest in living it out or getting it out. On what basis sir?

    Question - where else do you think we should discuss the essence of the gospel except a site like the one you criticize?

    John

    Election is true as it is written in Gods word , but every human being on earth is elected , but not all choose to accept the free gift God wishes and has indeed bestowed upon them .
    As Scipture clealy says in 1st Peter God is willing that none should perish but that all should come to repentance .

    Thomas,

    You say "every human being on earth is elected." Really? I dont believe that idea wil stand up to even a cursory glance through scripture.

    Dr. J. I. Packer gives what I believe to be a biblical definition of Divine election when he writes: "The verb "elect" means to select, or choose out. The biblical doctrine of election is that before the Creation, God selected out of the human race, foreseen as fallen, those whom he would redeem, bring to faith, justify and glorify in and through Jesus Christ. This divine choice is an expression of free and sovereign grace, for it is unconstrained and unconditional, not merited by anything in those who are its subjects. God owes sinners no mercy of any kind, only condemnation; so it is a wonder, and matter of endless praise, that he should choose to save any of us; and doubly so, when his choice involved the giving of his own Son to suffer as sin-bearer for the elect."

    The word "election" therefore means to choose or to select, and conveys the idea that those of us who are believers are so, not by accident, but because God chose us. When we speak of Divine election we are saying, quite simply, that God chose a certain group and called them out from the world to be His own special people.

    In the Old Testament, His chosen people were Israel (although there were some isolated Gentiles who were chosen to be included in redemption). God said to Israel, "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt." (Deut. 7:7, 8).

    In a similar way, Deuteronomy 10: 14, 15 says, "Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. "Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day."

    God's love was directed toward Israel in a way in which it was not directed toward the other nations. When Israel is contrasted with the other nations around them, there is no mention whatsoever of a distinguishing feature within Israel. In other words, there was absolutely nothing in the way of personal or national merit within Israel that caused God to be more inclined to set His love and favor upon them rather than the other nations. The only distinguishing feature mentioned in this passage and in all of scripture, is the electing love of God. He chose to set His love on them.

    Obviously, not everyone in the world were a part of Israel and therefore not everyone was chosen. When He Sovereignly chose Israel to be His covenant people, He was choosing not to deal with the Hittites or the Amalekites in the exact same way. This immediately raises all kinds of questions, which in fact, we will find that the Bible answers. Yet I believe that this concept needs to be the foundation for anyone seeking to understand this doctrine; namely, that God has chosen a people for Himself, on whom He has set His redemptive love and favor.

    2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 declares, "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."

    2 Peter 3:9, though often quoted (usually out of context, as you do here), is a verse that actually confirms election rather than denies it. See question 10 here: http://www.reformationstudycenter.com/ElectionQandA.html

    What are your teachings on Birth Control, and do you feel the Bible Condemns it in every manner for God's People. I'm non-denominational, as I believe Jesus taught.

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