"You Always Resist the Holy Spirit"
RESISTING THE HOLY SPIRIT?
I have often heard Acts 7:51 as a so-called proof text against the biblical doctrine irresistible grace. It reads, "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit..." But this is a profound failure of exegesis that has quite conveniently overlooked the whole first part of the verse. This is because it is the nature of those who are "uncircumcised in heart and ears" to resist the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They have no ears to hear or heart to understand. Circumcision of heart and ears, which can alone be done by the Spirit of God, is the act we speak of that disarms their resistance. Circumcision of heart is another way in the Bible to describe the Spirit's work of regeneration, and obviously no man can regenerate or resurrect himself.
Universal Redemption Must be Denied by Jonathan Edwards
Universal redemption must be denied in the very sense of Calvinists themselves, whether predestination is acknowledged or no, if we acknowledge that Christ knows all things. For if Christ certainly knows all things to come, he certainly knew, when he died, that there were such and such men that would never be the better for his death. And therefore, it was impossible that he should die with an intent to make them (particular persons) happy. For it is a right-down contradiction [to say that] he died with an intent to make them happy, when at the same time he knew they would not be happy-Predestination or no predestination, it is all one for that. This is all that Calvinists mean when they say that Christ did not die for all, that he did not die intending and designing that such and such particular persons should be the better for it; and that is evident to a demonstration. Now Arminians, when [they] say that Christ died for all, cannot mean, with any sense, that he died for all any otherwise than to give all an opportunity to be saved; and that, Calvinists themselves never denied. He did die for all in this sense; ’tis past all contradiction.
-Jonathan Edwards , The “Miscellanies”: (Entry Nos. a–z, aa–zz, 1–500) (WJE Online Vol. 13) , Ed. Harry S. Stout, page 1 74
A Concise Exegetical Defense of "Particular Redemption" in the Gospel of John
Here is a concise exegetical defense of "particular redemption" in the Gospel of John. Please follow the train of thought to the end.
Jesus said, "All that the Father gives me will come to me" (John 6:37) - From this text we understand that all that the Father gives to the Son will believe in him. It does not read "some" of those given by the Father will believe but reads "all" of those the Father has given the Son will believe. Note that it also teaches that the giving to the Son precedes their believing in Him. Lets make some other connections here ....
Please notice how this text relates directly to a passage by the same author in John 17, the High Priestly prayer. Jesus uses the same language of "those the Father has given me" when he says "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours" (John 17:9) So He makes a clear distinction of those He prays for and those He does not before going to the cross for them .... and of these same people in verse 19 Jesus prays "And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth." That is incredible ... He sanctifies Himself so "those the Father has given Him" will also be sanctified ... and in verse 24 he establishes that he further is speaking not only of the immediate disciples but of others who the Father has "given him" who hear their word. This exegetically demonstrates the truth of particular redemption, especially since Jesus is praying for all those the Father has given him just prior to going to the cross to sanctify them.
16 Rules of Biblical Interpretation
Jesus, in the preamble to quoting a verse from the Old Testament said, “…have you not read what was spoken to you by God…” (Matt. 22:31). He then went on to quote a verse from the book of Genesis. Think about that for a moment. Jesus believed (and held people accountable for doing so) that when someone read a verse from the Old Testament, they were reading something spoken to them by God. That is a very high view of Scripture, to be sure.
The testimony of Jesus and of the Bible is that “All Scripture is God breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16). Therefore, when we open up a page in our Bibles, we are treading upon holy ground. The Bible, although a book, is also unlike any other book. It is not simply a book giving facts about God. The Bible is a book written by God. Certainly, human writers were involved, but the text of Scripture is inspired or breathed out by God Himself. Just having this concept in place would greatly help us in our Bible studies.
What do I mean by that?
Well, many people view the interpretation of God’s Word as “no big deal” really. To them it is nothing more important than the reading of any other book, at least in their methodology.
The Jews would wash their hands before touching the sacred scrolls, because these scrolls were seen as Divinely inspired. Though we do not need to become superstitious about the physical book called the Bible, so as to wash our hands before picking up or opening the book, the text of the Scripture is the very word of God Himself. We should approach the Word of God humbly, and with the utmost reverence and respect.
And that leads us to talk about how we interpret the Bible. When we recognize that we are handling the very truth of God, we should not be quick to come to conclusions about what it means. That is because if the Bible is God’s holy word, we should seek to gain the correct meaning before we attempt to speak for God.
I can’t think of a more holy assignment that to be called to preach or teach the Word of God to the souls of men. I feel the weight and privilege of this calling immensely. Scripture in fact tells us “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1) It is actually a scary business, and its meant to be. Therefore, before someone stands in a pulpit to preach or teach the Word of God, he needs to make sure he has interpreted the text correctly. The preacher’s job is not to merely entertain the crowd or to tell a few stories that will connect with the audience.
Please don’t misunderstand me. God gives no prizes to boring preachers who can’t connect with people! But we must always remember that the goal of preaching is the honor and glory of God in accurately proclaiming the word of truth. It is a serious and holy thing to be responsible to proclaim God’s truth and it should never be done lightly, whether we are heard by thousands, or simply by one precious human soul.
But what is true for the preacher is also true for every Christian. When we sit down and start reading the Bible for ourselves we need to remember that though there may be a thousand applications of Scripture, there is only ONE correct interpretation – the one the Holy Spirit meant when He inspired the sacred words of the Bible. We should be prepared to do some serious study to seek to understand what the Holy Spirit was and is communicating to us.
And that leads me to talk about how we interpret the Bible. When we recognize that we are handling the very truth of God, we should not be quick to come to conclusions about what it means. That is because if the Bible is God’s holy word, we should seek to gain the correct meaning before we attempt to speak for God. Handling the word of God is a priceless duty and delight, not a trivial passion or pursuit.
We would never consider someone qualified to practice as a medical physician after reading just one paper containing a dozen or so rules on being a good doctor. Though knowing these rules would be helpful, I’m sure we would agree that there’s far more that is needed. Certainly, before a Medical Board would certify a person as competent to practice medicine they would need to know far more than a few rules for good health. In the same way, there’s so much more that could and should be said about how to study the Bible. Yet, with this qualifier, here are some simple rules of interpretation (hermeneutics) which should at least get us started. May God use these brief words to encourage you as you search out the truths of God’s word, for His glory:
1. Consider the Author – who wrote the book? - what was his background, language, culture, vocation, concerns, education, circumstance, what stage of life?
Does Hebrews 6 Teach that a Christian Can Lose His Salvation?
There are those who teach that Hebrews chapter six is a clear statement that Christians can fall away from the faith and thereby lose their salvation. The purpose of this short reflection is not only to show this to be a erroneous interpretation, but also that the persons making such assertions are in danger of making the very error which the passage is warning about. Lets take a look at the passage together:
"....it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.: - Hebrews 6: 4-8
Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God
JS - I would like to introduce you to the beautiful hymn "Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God" written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend and sung by Kristyn Getty. The violin solo at the beginning is “Gabriel’s Oboe” by Ennio Morricone, from the soundtrack to the movie “The Mission” and the melody itself is heavily influenced by J.S. Bach. Also included is a reading of The Lorica (Breastplate), a prayer of protection traditionally attributed to Saint Patrick of Ireland.
Keith Getty explains, "the lyric of 'Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God' is as much an explanation of what Scripture states the Holy Spirit does as it is a prayer for our utter dependence on the Holy Spirit in our lives. The first verse is a petition for inward renewal as we are confronted with the living and written Word of God. The second verse is a prayer that the outward fruit of our lives will reflect Christ in every action. The final verse is then a prayer for the church around us, that the Spirit will 'show your power once again on earth; cause your church to hunger for your ways.' As we worked to find an appropriate climax to the song, we were continually reminded through our studies that the Holy Spirit works to make us less and exalt Christ. So rather than making the third verse a huge finish, we turn in the sixth line and express, “lead me on the road to sacrifice.”
Holy Spirit, living Breath of God,
Breathe new life into my willing soul.
Bring the presence of the risen Lord
To renew my heart and make me whole.
Cause Your Word to come alive in me;
Give me faith for what I cannot see;
Give me passion for Your purity.
Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.
Holy Spirit, come abide within;
May Your joy be seen in all I do—
Love enough to cover ev’ry sin
In each thought and deed and attitude,
Kindness to the greatest and the least,
Gentleness that sows the path of peace.
Turn my striving into works of grace.
Breath of God, show Christ in all I do.
Holy Spirit, from creation’s birth,
Giving life to all that God has made,
Show your power once again on earth;
Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways.
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise.
Lead us on the road of sacrifice
That in unity the face of Christ
Will be clear for all the world to see.
A Synergist Mistakenly says 'Amen' to Spurgeon
Is the Spirit's work of irresistible grace (John 6:63, 65, 37) a matter of forcing someone to believe? And must love be freely chosen to be genuine? This related Spurgeon quote comes from his sermon entitled "Human Inability" with an interesting short discussion with an Arminian which follows...
Spurgeon once said, "Oh!" saith the Arminian, "men may be saved if they will." We reply, "My dear sir, we all believe that; but it is just the if they will that is the difficulty. We assert that no man will come to Christ unless he be drawn; nay, we do not assert it, but Christ himself declares it--"Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;' and as long as that "ye will not come' stands on record in Holy Scripture, we shall not be brought to believe in any doctrine of the freedom of the human will." It is strange how people, when talking about free-will, talk of things which they do not at all understand. "Now," says one, "I believe men can be saved if they will." My dear sir, that is not the question at all. The question is, are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful. supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained towards Christ. You reply, that men sometimes are willing, without the help of the Holy Spirit. I answer--Did you ever meet with any person who was? Scores and hundreds, nay, thousands of Christians have I conversed with, of different opinions, young and old, but it has never been my lot to meet with one who could affirm that he came to Christ of himself, without being drawn. The universal confession of all true believers is this--"I know that unless Jesus Christ had sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God, I would to this very hour have been wandering far from him, at a distance from him, and loving that distance well." With common consent, all believers affirm the truth, that men will not come to Christ till the Father who hath sent Christ doth draw them.
Visitor: arminians say amen to this.
Response: Not exactly... while Arminians do believe in the necessity prevenient grace, but they would reject Spurgeon's calling the Holy Spirit's influence "irresistible" ... meaning they would reject that Christ provided EVERYTHING we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe. Arminians as well as all synergists affirm that the saving work of the Spirit is ultimately resistible or ineffectual and that faith springs as a choice generated from our unregenerated human nature. But Christ says "the Spirit quickens and the flesh counts for nothing" (John 6:63). That means our flesh or unregenerate nature does not and cannot have faith.. Only as God grants it do we have faith (John 6:65) and ALL TO WHOM HE GRANTS HAVE IT (John 6:37)
Visitor: Sorry, I missed the irresistible word- Of course you are right regarding Arminians, we believe that God will not force a person to believe. Even though His desire is that all men should repent He will not force them. Thank you for pointing this out.
Response: If a toddler disobeyed and ran out into the street into oncoming traffic, which parent shows love to their child? The one who stands at the edge and calls out for their child to get out of the way and does nothing more? ( i.e. requires them to meet a condition or else they would not lift another finger to help?) Or the parent who, regardless of what the child wants at the moment, runs out into the street at the risk of his own life, scoops up the child and makes certain their child is safe?
In every day life we consider the first parent selfish and the second to be showing love. Yet the second parent could be accused of forcing the child. How is it love then? BECAUSE we understand that parents know better than their children what is good for them.
So in the end, the Arminian conception of only loving if one meets a condition is really not love at all. What kind of parent would force a child to meet a condition before he would help him save his life. How much more God? So the arminian idea of love is simply bunk. Not only is it unbiblical, but in every day life we would never think of love in such terms.
When God gave you physical life, was he forcing you to be born? He gave you eyes to see, ears to hear? Given your logic giving you physical birth, a body, eyes, ears and the like would also be force and therefore unloving. You see, such a view like yours, makes no sense at all. When God gives us NEW eyes to I do not believe it would be accurate to call this force, it is mercy.
Why do we sing so much about the cross of Christ?
I thought this was profound: From the WorshipGod 2009 conference, C.J. Mahaney talks about the need for Christ's death on the cross to be central in corporate worship. - JS
The Mountain of God
In broad terms, one could summarize every religion under the sun (except one) as God being at the summit of the mountain, with man languishing at the bottom. Yet by means of following the tenets of the faith man seeks to climb the mountain to one day meet God, face to face.
Of course, the requirements differ from one religion to the next, but each action man takes, allows him to ascend further and further up the mountain.
The one exception to all this in our world is the Christian gospel, where God, on top of the mountain, by His own love initiative comes down to the valley below (in the Incarnation) and finds only dead corpses there, breathes the breath of life into many of these God hating rebels, giving them new hearts that would see and bask in His beauty, and He carries each one of them on His shoulders, safely up to the top of the mountain, that they may enjoy His vast riches for ever.
There are more details to be sure, not the least of which is the sinless life of the Son of God and His substitutionary death for sinners on the cross, as well as His triumphal resurrection. These gospel facts are center stage in the history of redemption. However, the basic analogy holds true.
The religions of the world tell their advocates that if they will adhere strictly to the tenets, they can climb the mountain of God. Christianity says, we could never make it up there, nor would we even wish to do so, for by nature, we hate the God on top of the mountain. Therefore, God came down, and by His own power, opened up our eyes and brought life out of death and raised us up to be with Him.
Here then we see the two basic types of religion in our world today; the religion of ascension (man climbing up) vs. the Gospel of descension (God climbed down); a religion of do, do, do vs. the Gospel of done, done, done!
Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Predestination destroys legalism
Predestination destroys legalism. If salvation is by Christ alone, it leaves no room for boasting or trusting in ourselves, even a little. It strips us bare and forces us to abandon all hope in our efforts or rules ... man-made rules non-predestinarians tend to make to demonstrate they are more worthy than others of God's grace (an oxymoron). The Scripture declares: "It is because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:30-31)
This is not to say that Reformed people cannot be legalistic. Human beings find any way possible to do so, Reformed included. It means to say, rather, that if UNDERSTOOD CORRECTLY the doctrine of Grace ALONE in Christ ALONE will have the real effect of stripping us of legalism etc. Again only God's grace can do so. This likewise was not an attempt to show Reformed superiority but the effect of a true understanding of the Bible will have on someone who beholds the majesty of God and is struck down by the fact that God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.
After I wrote this, I had the following discussion ensue which I believe worth posting
Objections to Divine Election
I have just finished being interviewed by Scott Oakland, host of the weekly ReformedCast.com podcast on the subject of God's Sovereignty in Election.
If you are interested in either hearing or downloading the 45 minute program, you can do so at this link. - JS