Arminian Today

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Why the Doctrine of Inability is Vital

Arminius wrote this about the effects of the Fall upon humanity:

The proper and immediate effect of this sin was the offending of the Deity. For since the form of sin is “the transgression of the law,” (1 John iii, 4,) it primarily and immediately strikes against the legislator himself, (Gen. iii, 11,) and this with the offending of one whose express will it was that his law should not be offended. From this violation of his law, God conceives just displeasure, which is the second effect of sin. (iii, 16-19, 23, 24.) But to anger succeeds infliction of punishment, which was in this instance two-fold.

(1.) A liability to two deaths. (ii, 17; Rom. vi, 23.)

(2.) The withdrawing of that primitive righteousness and holiness, which, because they are the effects of the Holy Spirit dwelling in man, ought not to have remained in him after he had fallen from the favour of God, and had incurred the Divine displeasure. (Luke xix, 26.) For this Spirit is a seal of God’s favour and good will. (Rom. viii, 14, 15; 1 Cor. ii, 12.)

Arminius went on to write this about the effect of Adam’s sin upon his posterity:

The whole of this sin, however, is not peculiar to our first parents, but is common to the entire race and to all their posterity, who, at the time when this sin was committed, were in their loins, and who have since descended from them by the natural mode of propagation, according to the primitive benediction. For in Adam “all have sinned.” (Rom. v, 12.) Wherefore, whatever punishment was brought down upon our first parents, has likewise pervaded and yet pursues all their posterity. So that all men “are by nature the children of wrath,” (Ephes. ii, 3,) obnoxious to condemnation, and to temporal as well as to eternal death; they are also devoid of that original righteousness and holiness. (Rom. v, 12, 18, 19.) With these evils they would remain oppressed forever, unless they were liberated by Christ Jesus; to whom be glory forever.

Early Methodist theologian Richard Watson wrote about the early Remonstrants and their view regarding the sin of Adam:

The doctrine of the Remonstrants is, “That God, to the glory of his abundant goodness, having decreed to make man after his own image, and to give him an easy and most equal law, and add thereunto a threatening of death to the transgressors thereof, and foreseeing that Adam would wilfully transgress the same, and thereby make himself and his posterity liable to condemnation; though God was, notwithstanding, mercifully affected toward man, yet, out of respect to his justice and truth, he would not give way to his mercy to save man till his justice should be satisfied, and his serious hatred of sin and love of righteousness should be made known.” The condemnation here spoken of, as affecting Adam and his posterity, is to be understood of more than the death of the body, as being opposed to the salvation procured by the sacrifice of Christ; and, with respect to the moral human nature since the fall, the third of exhibited at the synod of Dort, states, that the Remonstrants “hold that a man hath not faith of himself, nor from the power of his own free will, will, see seeing that, while he is in the state of sin, he cannot of himself, nor by himself, think, will, or do any saving good.”

Arminius wrote about his differences from that of the Pelagians when he wrote:

Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word “grace,” I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.

I confess that the mind of a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins. And I add to this — that teacher obtains my highest approbation who ascribes as much as possible to divine grace, provided he so pleads the cause of grace, as not to inflict an injury on the justice of God, and not to take away the free will to that which is evil.

Notice the position of both Arminius and Richard Watson, that mankind is bound in sin.  Apart from the grace of God and the intervention of His grace, none could be saved.

This is a vital doctrine.  I fear that much of the pragmatism in the modern church today (especially the seeker church models) come from a faulty view of the utter sinfulness of mankind.  Our gospel is often adapted from our view that man is the subject of the gospel when in fact it is God who is the subject of the gospel.  Our gospel message should not even begin with sin.  It should begin with God just as Paul the Apostle did in Romans 1.  Notice that all of Romans 1 is focused mainly on one issue: God.  Paul even writes in Romans 1:1 that the gospel is the gospel of God.  After all, salvation is needed from God.  It is His laws that we have violated and broken and it is His wrath that burns against sin (Romans 1:18).

When we fail to see that man is dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) and that we need the work of the Holy Spirit to draw sinners to the Savior (John 6:44; 16:8-11; Titus 3:5-7), we begin to see man as the center of our gospel.  We begin to adapt the church and our preaching and our music and our ministries to point to man as the center.  What man wants, we give.  What they want to hear, we preach.  What will get them into the church, we offer.  We fail to make God the center and we fail to exalt His holiness as the our focus.  We fail to show people that they are utterly sinful and must repent.  We fail to preach the Lord Jesus Christ as our propitiation before a holy God (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).  Instead of preaching the wrath of a holy God against our sins, we gloss over sin as mistakes and as moral failures and bad choices instead of who we are by nature.  This leads to preaching that focuses on the people and pleads with them to turn by their own free will away from sin toward God.

The gospel is lost in this process.  Gone is the exaltation of the glory of God.  Gone is the exaltation of the holiness of God.  Gone is the sinfulness of sin.  Instead, we have a “gospel” that appeals to the flesh.  This modern gospel offers you your best life now, that God will never judge you, that He loves you without conditions, and that we all make mistakes (Romans 3:23).  Mankind becomes the focus of our preaching and we use whatever methods to keep them happy and focused.

We must preach the vital truth that we are sinful and cannot earn salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We must preach the truth of Isaiah 64:6.  We must preach that our hearts are not pure but wicked before God (Jeremiah 17:9).  We must preach the glory of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) and allow the Lord to save sinners by His grace (Romans 10:13-17).  Our job as witnesses for Christ and He will draw the lost to Himself and save them for His glory (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  We are not the factor in men’s salvation.  God is (John 1:12-13).  Let us exalt Him and not men.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/18/2013 at 10:00 AM

3 Responses

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  1. Could the source and location of these references be provided? Thanks.

    troyacrider

    08/30/2013 at 4:23 PM


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