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NGJ BIBLE STUDY (Victoria Day)

COMMENTARY ON THE DOCTRINE OF GOD’S ELECTION

Most people who know my beliefs would call me a Calvinist or that I have “Calvinist leanings.”  This is partially true, but I disdain the label because it was not Calvin who first recognized the truth of God’s elective process.  It is better to take the stand that Charles Haddon Spurgeon took on the issue:

“There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer—I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views.”

It is a shame that Calvinists are now being ridiculed, even as heretics, by those who exalt the “free will” of men, but to be fair, the shoe was on the other foot a little more than a century ago and even today.  When we go too far one way or the other and divide over doctrine, we need to find our way back to the road of grace.  I admit, it took me a while to learn that lesson, but the lesson was well learned.  We need not villainize either side on this issue because there are so many variables.  It doesn’t take a Bible scholar to understand grace.  This issue, though some would like to make it one, is not an essential of the faith.  I know I was saved while still in spiritual infancy and I am confident that I’m in the faith now.  I also know that there are many fine “Arminian leaning” brothers and sisters in Christ who will be sharing the Lord’s table with me in eternity.

The issues and passions run deep and the Calvinist/Arminian debate is a heated one.  Maybe it’s because Christians have the need to feel secure in what they see in Scripture and vollying their beliefs back and forth comforts them.

I used to know no other way but man-centered, free-will doctrine, until a Christian professor challenged me to look at scripture for myself and prove him wrong.  For a year I struggled  but finally had to concede defeat. The scriptural study I undertook to discredit Calvinism became the reason I turned in my Arminian badge of honor.  I saw. God chose His own.   He chose Paul from the womb.   He chose His elect from the “foundation of the world” and He chose us, we didn’t choose Him.   Scripture all pointed to election and appointment to eternal life because God chose. I had never seen it before, but now, God’s Sovereignty and grace overwhelmed me. The whole of Romans eight and nine brought my will (lowercase w) into subordination to God’s great Will. Now, even today, after having studied the matter in-depth for years, I still run across evidence of salvific election that I have overlooked:

“For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1Co 1:22-24 NASB)

This is clearly stating that there are three groups of people – two that are lost and one, made up of both, that is saved – one new man, called out, or appointed, from among the lost.

G2822

κλητός  klētos klay-tos’

From the same as G2821; invited, that is, appointed, or (specifically) a saint: – called.

I won’t go into the entire range of fiery darts that come the way of Calvinists, but I will touch on one of them.

Calvinists and Arminians both have difficulty with the doctrine of  “Limited Atonement” or reprobation.  In other words, “How can a loving God appoint only some to eternal life, but others to hell?”  I deviate here from the standard Calvinist teaching.

If we, as mankind, fell from His grace in the Garden of Eden and the world thereafter was filled with sin, then man had condemned himself by breaking the laws of God. All mankind would then be headed for the fire. Sin prevailed on the earth to the point that God destroyed all but one family that He chose for Himself.  Scripture teaches that God has chosen His elect out of the world by His grace because of His great mercy.  That’s enough for me.

George Whitefield, in a letter of rebuke to his friend Charles Wesley, explains it eloquently:

“But passing by this, as also your equivocal definition of the word grace, and your false definition of the word free, and that I may be as short as possible, I frankly acknowledge: I believe the doctrine of reprobation, in this view, that God intends to give saving grace, through Jesus Christ, only to a certain number, and that the rest of mankind, after the fall of Adam, being justly left of God to continue in sin, will at last suffer that eternal death which is its proper wages.” George Whitefield to Charles Wesley regarding Wesley’s sermon, Free Grace (Dec. 24, 1740).

In the final analysis, God’s mercy and grace saved all whom He has appointed to eternal life and in the final analysis, that’s all we need to know.  Thank you Jesus.

 

  ~~~~~~♦~~~~~~

 

THE “T” IN TULIP

TOTAL DEPRAVITY

Labels, anachronisms.  They really upset some people unnecessarily.  The words Calvinist or Arminian seems to bring out the least charitable reaction. Recently a brother on a Christian forum claimed that there was no scriptural evidence for the depravity of man.  Immediately many verses came to mind and this article was born.

But all labels aside, Calvin’s theology is based on Scripture, some that I will cite in this article.

Let’s take a look at the ‘T’ in T.U.L.I.P. from a common sense perspective.  It is important to understand what “total depravity” means as some in opposition accuse it to be unscriptural.  We’ll begin with the most powerful example of why men are not “good” and work our way down.  Why in the eyes of the world they are, and why the Word of God says they are not.

“And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19 NASB)

No one is good but God alone.  God said it; I believe it; that settles it.  If we claim that man is anything but a sinner then Christ died needlessly.  What audacity to think that we could claim goodness when even Jesus, the sinless One, in His humanity, did not.

DID JESUS CALL MEN GOOD?

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11 NASB)

“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25 NASB)

The above verse is interesting on two points.  He recognized “what was in man” and he was not entrusting Himself to those even who believed in His name!  This was before the New Covenant was established and before the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers.   However, the Apostle Paul tells us in the present tense:

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” (Romans 7:18 NASB)

What does this verse mean other than men are totally depraved, which simply means they have no righteousness within themselves in the flesh, but in the Spirit?  Well…that’s the key to righteousness, isn’t it?

Can God declare us righteous?  Yes.  Can we declare ourselves righteous?  No.  Without Christ, even the good works we do are like “filthy rags” to God.

“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6 NASB)

Although the above verse applies to Israel, it also applies to fallen man in general and points to the only remedy for our sins.  Isaiah 53 tells us:

“All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.”  (Isaiah 53:6 NASB)

That being said, can men do good although they are unsaved?  Of course.  They can be kind, generous, loving.  Does the good they do have eternal value?  Not unless it’s done through the Righteous One, Jesus.

CAN MAN SAVE HIMSELF?

Another part of the TD doctrine is that because of man’s depravity, he is unable to save himself.  This makes sense because according to the following verse, it would be impossible.

“Now we [believers] have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-14 NASB)

Questions to ponder:

What is a “natural man?”

How can one who “doesn’t accept the things of the Spirit” be saved?

Aren’t we all ‘natural men’ before salvation?

Whether you are a Calvinist or an Arminian or somewhere in between, if you don’t submit to the truth of what God says about man, you will not understand the righteousness of Christ.  God alone is good.  Where does it leave us?  Well, for one thing, if you have experienced the goodness of God through the salvation of Christ, you are now a new man with a new heart and the righteousness you have before God is not your own, but His.

God sees your FAITH as righteousness and sees you as His child because of the righteousness of His Son.

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Nathan Zuniga permalink
    September 26, 2011 7:11 pm

    This is a great article on some of the doctrines of grace. Pentecostals and arminians would do well to learn from it.

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