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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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    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

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  • « Two Levels of Human Sin | Main | The Marks of a True Church »

    "Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live?"

    Question: How can you reject free will. Does not Moses say to the Israelites "Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live?" (Deut 30:19)

    Response: Yes it is indeed true that God commands the Israelites to "choose life", But when read in the context of the whole chapter, Moses reveals that the power to obey this command comes from regenerating grace:

    "And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live." (Deut 30:6)

    In other words, God commands people to obey, but he also supplies all the grace needed to do so. The command to believe does not itself contain the power to do so. God commanding obedience (what we ought to do) does not mean a person can do this apart from grace. God must set them free from innate love of sin and natural hostility to God, if they have any hope of moving toward Him. Left to ourselves we are too proud to let go of our self-complacency and self-righteousness and so we will never rightly understand our woeful, guilty, and lost condition, unless God grants it.

    So why did not all Israel believe? Because not all were children of promise. Some God left to their own boasted free will, letting them do what they wanted. In Romans 9: 6-8 it says of Israel:

    "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."

    This means that spiritual circumcision was not given to all physical descendants of Abraham but to the children of promise in their midst. The rest were commanded but refused to obey. Some get mercy but the rest get justice.

    In 2 Chronicles 30:6-12 we also are given a glimpse of what takes place behind the scenes of how it is that some people believe the gospel while others do not:

    So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the Lord God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. 8 Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. 9 For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”

    10 So the couriers went from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them. 11 However, some men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the Lord.

    Why did some believe? According to this passage, it is because God had mercy on them and gave them a heart to follow God's command to repent. Notice that the rest scorned and mocked God's word.

    May the Lord grant us all eyes to see this truth.

    Posted by John on February 29, 2012 01:10 PM

    Comments

    There is something I would like to add to the points I made above...

    In the Divine economy men are responsible to believe the gospel, but are morally impotent to do so (when drawing from their own native resources). This inability (due to our intimate solidarity with Adam's sin) is something we are culpable for, much like owing a debt we cannot repay. So God has every right to call us all to account to 'repay our debt', so to speak, even though fallen man does not have the resources to do so. The Church has a privilege and an obligation to call all men to repent and believe the gospel (an imperative) but, left to themselves, no one believes. But God, in his great mercy, still has mercy on many, opening their hearts to the gospel that that might believe.

    To this sometimes a synergist often quotes "whosoever will may come" to which we reply that this quote does not teach an indicative of what we are able to do, but rather, teaches what we 'ought' to do. As Martin Luther said, "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..." Luther BW,164

    John H.

    John,

    Romans 9 is covenantal, not a discussion about the mechanics of an individual election to heaven and hell. This is made clear by the context of chap's 9-11 and also the source quotes by Paul from the OT. Malachi 1 (Romans 9 quotes it) reveals that Jacob and Esau are nations....people groups.
    Genesis 25:23 is also quoted in Romans 9 and Rebecca is told:
    “And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.”

    Jacob's name is changed to Israel after he wrestles with God, and later Moses is sent back to Pharaoh with an interesting declaration by God: Exodus 4:22
    Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son"
    Israel is called firstborn. This is God's purpose according to election playing out as described in Romans. The nation of Israel, God's firstborn through promise according to election, (whose election had nothing to do with what unborn Jacob and Esau had done), is going to be thrust from Egypt through hardened Pharoah so that they will proceed to the land of promise where messiah will come. Pharoah is a vessel of wrath for God's covenantal purposes here but later Israel will themselves be the hardened vessels of wrath for the nations to receive mercy.

    The discussion in Romans is about God’s freedom to do the unthinkable….blow the door of salvation open to the nations of the world through Christ in spite of Israel the firstborn's right to the covenant! All are under sin, yet all can now come into the New Covenant through Christ.
    Later in chap 11 you see that after grafting in, branches were broken off through unbelief but are able to be grafted in again. Kindness if they continue in his kindness, but cut off after being grafted in! Chap 11:23-28 says that even the hardended ones will be re-grafted and though they are enemies of God for the sake of the Gentiles they are still beloved IN REGARDS TO THE ELECTION! v.28
    This is covenantal language about God's freedom to bring salvation to the Gentiles through fallen Jews and then salvation to the Jews through jealousy of the mercy the Gentiles receive. Nothing thwarts God's covenantal purposes here, but this isn't about personal election to damnation and salvation.

    Secondly and quickly....Your second Chronicles passage is about couriers from Hezekiah pronouncing his edict to come to Jerusalem for Passover. This should not be equated with their election to salvation either.

    Canadian,

    A call to obedience or repentance, if such commands are to be heeded, are always preceded by grace. The truth demonstrated in 3 Chronicles 30 is that the grace of God is needed for people to obey. Others will continue to remain hardened. If this is the case for regenerate believers how much more the unregenerate? Did you notice that none of those who disobeyed were "given a heart to obey". Given your view, they could have done it anyway, without God's grace.

    Likewise to affirm, as you do, that God's call to "choose life" was not necessarily preceded by a work of grace in their hearts (Deut 30:6) is evidence of a distorted gospel and perhaps a hardened heart on your part in the face of such overwhelming biblical evidence which demonstrates otherwise. I pray the Lord open your blind eyes, unplug your deaf ears and turn your heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Give glory to God, salvation is by Christ alone.

    It is "nice" how you have this all worked out so you can avoid the biblical teaching that salvation by Christ alone. But Jesus teaches that no one can believe in him unless God grants it. (John 6:65)

    Your aversion to grace demonstrates you to be preaching a false gospel. There is nothing more central to Christianity than a salvation by Christ alone, and your denial of, which you have demonstrated on many posts, is the doctrine of men and not God.

    Your interpretation of Rom 9 is also full of holes. But even if we were to give your your interpretation of Romans 9, it still would demonstrate that God has grace one some and not others. Groups are full of individuals. Israel was given grace and the descendants of Esau were not. Both of these groups are filled with individuals some of whom received it and others whom God withheld it from. This still would fly in the face of your "free-will in opposition to free-grace" theology. .In the same way, God saves the church out of the world. Rev 5:9 says of Jesus "...by your blood you ransomed people for God FROM every tribe and language and people and nation." It does not say he ransomed every tribe but people OUT OF every tribe. So even if your view of Israel were true, it demonstrates ONLY that what we have said is true about grace..

    If this were found only in Rom 9 then someone might give your theology a chance, but the truth of salvation by Christ alone is so pervasive in the Bible, that your posts are simply kicking against the goads.

    Please give it a rest.

    You insist on placing a dualism on me and scripture of free will in opposition to grace. You unwittingly support the monothelite heresy, though John and I warn you in love.
    I keep repeating that grace is necessary and that we cannot save ourselves, but because it doesn't fit into a 450 year old Western paradigm which you have adopted, you continue to tell me that I don't believe in Grace. I am not Pelagian, yet you did not respond to my pointing out that the Reformed anthropology is Pelagian, except switching nature for grace.
    I will give it a rest, as you wish. My intent was not to stir up trouble in pride, but to challenge you to see if these novel doctrines, which I held as a 5 point Reformed Baptist for many years, could stand up to the Chalcedonian Christology you claim to espouse. Salvation is in Christ alone. Forgive me a sinner.

    Canadian,

    "450 years old?" C'mon ..... Both the words of the Bible itself (1000s of years old) and Christian history after the closing of the canon demonstrate that your statement is false.

    Not only does the Bible declare it but early Christians did as well, including the quote at the top of the page of this blog from the Council of Orange (529 AD) "...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).

    Even before that Augustine drew the same conclusions from the Bible. Among the many things he said, here are just a few:

    "In some places God requires newness of heart [Ezek 18:31]. But elsewhere he testifies that it is given by him [Ezek. 11:19; 36:26]. But what God promises we ourselves do not do through choice or nature; but he himself does through grace."- Augustine

    "To will is of nature, but to will aright is of grace." - Augustine

    "The nature of the Divine goodness is not only to open to those who knock. but also to cause them to knock and ask."- Augustine

    "Without the Spirit man's will is not free, since it has been laid under by shackling and conquering desires." - Augustine

    The question is not whether you like Augustine or his statements but rather to show you beyond further question that this doctrine is clearly over 450 years old. This demonstrates that your history as well as your theology are made on a fantasy world to fit your semi-pelagian scheme but has little to do with historical realities or the real world we live in. Ironic that you even use the term Pelagian, which comes from a controversy over the very same issue in the early church. So your ideas have been refuted decisively from both the Bible and history. I would encourage you to therefore discontinue saying and promoting things about history and the Bible that have been proven and demonstrated to be false.

    Your idea of the meaning of "grace" does not go beyond an offer. It does not do anything for the person to change their heart. So why do you pray for unbelievers then? It would be absurd if God can do nothing more than persuade form the outside. This is nothing more than we do when we preach the gospel or persuade men. No we pray because only God can help them. So it is clear you believe in only the necessity of Christ but you refuse to acknowledge that He alone is enough to supply everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe, which is declared widely through all through Scripture.

    If regenerating grace depends on our will or cooperation then it is no longer grace (John 1:13, 3:6 & 6:63) but instead it is the humanistic philosophy of the present age which declares that 'God helps those who help themselves.

    Orange was a local western council and was not Reformed. For Orange, Regeneration is baptismal, not monergistic. No one is to believe that God foreordains anyone to evil upon pain of Orange's anathema. Justification is not by faith alone in Orange or Augustine.

    Canadian,

    It is quite wrong for you to suppose that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, was THE crucial question in the minds of such theologians of the Reformation such as Martin Luther, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. That is not what this whole post is about. This doctrine was important to the Reformers ONLY because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, MORE VITAL, question that Augustine dealt with extensively, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, NOT ONLY justifying them for Christ's sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith.(MH) If you read enough Augustine as I have you will clearly see that this concept heavily weighed on his heart.

    The reality of Orange and Augustine, is that they all discussed at length salvation BY GRACE ALONE -- which IS THE REFORMATION DOCTRINE. Being inconsistent here does not mean His assertion that salvation is by grace ALONE was not clearly there. We are all inconsistent in places. The Reformation merely gave the church the time to finally have Augustine's own doctrine of grace triumph over his inherited doctrine of the church. And it is this very doctrine of grace from Augustine which has been the constantly pursued effort of Roman Catholicism to neutralize, including many within their own ranks.

    It was clear that Augustine's doctrine of grace worked out from Scripture represented the core of his being and as such you cannot deny that it is Augustine who gave us the Reformation.

    So your answer does not refute that fact that Augustine believed that "what God promises we ourselves do not do through choice or nature; but he himself does through grace."

    Further, the very quote I supplied to you from Orange is monergistic. You would have to do major gymnastics with language to claim otherwise. The whole counsel was about whether the work of God in regeneration monergistic (God alone) or synergistic (a cooperation of man and God) ? The Council of Orange condemned the Semi-Pelagian doctrine that fallen creatures, although sinful, have enough good to make them them morally competent enough to take hold of the command to believe the gospel of the grace of God through an act of their unregenerate natural will. Orange upheld Augustine's view that the will is evil by corruption and becomes good only by a correction of grace. It answered the question: "what makes men to ultimately differ, the grace God or the will of man?"

    SDG
    JWH