Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

The Proclamation of the Gospel and Faith

In John 3:14-17 we read the following:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

What is clear in this passages of Scripture is that 1) the necessity of the proclamation of the gospel and then 2) that whoever believes has eternal life.  These two points go hand in hand.

For Arminians and Calvinists, the necessity of preaching the gospel is not debated except by hyper-Calvinists who would argue (and rather consistently in my opinion with their view of God’s divine determinism) that God will save His elect no matter what. Even if the Church should sit, God would still save His elect.  Many other Calvinists and all Arminians hold that we must preach the gospel for people to be saved.  The Great Commission of Jesus Christ requires us to be active in preaching the gospel (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8).  Paul the Apostle makes it clear in Romans 10:14-17 that we must preach the gospel for people to hear, know, and have faith in Jesus.

The second point is my main focus here.  Notice that Jesus says in John 3:14 that the preaching of the gospel leads to belief in Him which leads to eternal life.  You’ll notice that Jesus says nothing here about irresistible grace.  He says nothing about regeneration before people can believe.  He says that we preach the cross (v.14) and whoever believes in Him may have eternal life (v.15).  This is the Arminian position: preach Christ and He saves sinners who believe.  Our position is that Jesus died for all people (v.16) and whoever comes to Him for salvation can be saved (v.17).  Notice in verse 17 that Jesus says that the world “might” be saved through Him.  He doesn’t make the salvation of the world automatic or universal salvation but He places a condition upon this salvation mainly faith in Him.

The Calvinist position is that faith comes after regeneration.  This is assumed based on the Calvinist teaching of total depravity and unconditional election.  If God has, from eternity pasty, chosen whom He will save and whom He will condemn then it logically follows that God will draw His elect unto Himself since Christ died to secure their salvation alone.  But the elect will not know that they are the elect unless they persevere unto the end otherwise they are false converts.  The truly elect will continue in the faith (1 John 2:19) unless they were not truly chosen by God and were false converts (1 Corinthians 15:2).  God regenerates His elect (some hold even in the womb) before they exercise faith in Jesus Christ because they are incapable of hearing and responding to the gospel unless God first causes them to be born again before faith.  As R.C. Sproul writes, “We are born again to believe.”

The problem is that such a view is foreign to Scripture.  One must, in this case, take Calvinism and enforce it upon the Bible rather than letting Scripture speak for itself through clear exegesis.  For instance, here in John 3:14-17.  It is clear that we must preach Christ and He saves those who believe (vv.14-15).  If there were ever a time for our Lord to show us that we must be born again to believe, it would be here.  But He doesn’t.  He simply says that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.  If a person must be born again to believe, they would have eternal life (John 6:40).  To be born again is to be in the kingdom (John 3:3-5).  Yet are we to believe that Jesus is telling us here in John 3:15 that the born again will believe in Him and may have eternal life?  It doesn’t follow the text.  It is clear from a cursory reading of this text that salvation comes through hearing the gospel and that whoever believes in Jesus may have eternal life.

This is the Bible position and the Arminian position as well.  We hold that we are justified through faith (Romans 5:1) and not unto faith.  Salvation is by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and is the gracious work of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-7).

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/23/2012 at 10:26 AM

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