Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

I’m Reformed

What does Reformed mean?  According to dictionary.reference.com it means:

amended by removal of faults, abuses, etc.

Calvinists often use the term for their branch of theology.  Reformed theology.  The idea is to focus the person back to the Reformation.  In this way, Calvinists often perceive themselves as not just children of the Protestant Reformation but in fact they see themselves as the protectors of the Reformation.  Of course, Lutherans would disagree as would many other Protestants including Arminians.

Arminius was a Reformer.  His theology was clearly Protestant.  Arminius had no love for the Roman Catholic Church despite some who want to believe that Arminius was a secret Catholic or at least he shared sympathy for their theology.  This is clearly not the case.  Arminius differed with Catholicism in many ways especially in the area of justification.  Here Arminius aligned himself clearly with the Protestants as he wrote:

From the premises thus laid down according to the Scriptures, we conclude, that justification, when used for the act of a Judge, is either purely the imputation of righteousness through mercy from the throne of grace in Christ the propitiation made to a sinner, but who is a believer; (Rom. i, 16, 17; Gal. iii, 6, 7;) or that man is justified before God, of debt, according to the rigor of justice without any forgiveness. (Rom. 3, 4.) Because the Papists deny the latter, they ought to concede the former. And this is such a truth, that, how high soever may be the endowments of any one of the Saints in faith, hope and charity, and however numerous and excellent the works of faith, hope and charity may be which he has performed, he will receive no sentence of justification from God the Judge, unless He quit the tribunal of his severe justice and ascend the throne of grace, and from it pronounce a sentence of absolution in his favour, and unless the Lord of his mercy and pity graciously account for righteousness the whole of that good with which the saint appears before Him. For, woe to a life of the utmost innocency, if it be judged without mercy. (Psalm xxxii, 1, 2, 5, 6; cxliii, 2; 1 John i, 7-10; 1 Cor. iv, 4.) This is a confession which even the Papists seem to make when they assert, that the works of the Saints cannot stand before the judgment of God unless they be sprinkled with the blood of Christ.

Arminius loved the catholic church but by this he meant the universal church.  He writes again:

The catholic church is the company of all believers, called out from every language, tribe, people, nation and calling, who have been, are now, and will be, called by the saving vocation of God from a state of corruption to the dignity of the children of God, through the word of the covenant of grace, and engrafted into Christ, as living members to their head through true faith, to the praise of the glory of the grace of God. From this, it appears that the catholic church differs from particular churches in nothing which appertains to the substance of a church, but solely in her amplitude.

And how does one get into this catholic church?  Arminius answers:

The efficient cause of the church, that both produces her by regeneration and preserves her by daily education, and that perfects her by an immediate union of her to himself, is God the Father, in his well beloved Son Jesus Christ, by the Spirit of Christ who is the Redeemer and the Head of the church. (2 Tim. i, 9; 1 Pet. i, 12.) We view the gospel as the instrument, that is, “the incorruptible seed by which the church is born again.” (1 Pet. i, 23, 25.)

When it comes to Arminius’ disagreements with the Calvinists of his day (and bear in mind that Arminius was a student of Reformed theology having studied under Beza in Geneva and was assigned by the Calvinists of his day to debate the Anabaptists), Arminius differed over the issue of creeds.  Arminius believed that creeds and councils and catechisms can err.  He wrote:

The authority of councils is not absolute, but dependent on the authority of God; for this reason, no one is simply bound to assent to those things which have been decreed in a council, unless those persons be present, as members, who cannot err, and who have the undoubted marks and testimonies of the Holy Spirit to this fact. But every one may, nay, he is bound, to examine, by the word of God, those things which have been concluded in the council; and if he finds them to be agreeable to the divine word, then he may approve of them; but if they are not, then he may express his disapprobation. Yet he must be cautious not easily to reject that which has been determined by the unanimous consent of so many pious and learned men; but he ought diligently to consider, whether it has the Scriptures pronouncing in favour of it with sufficient clearness; and when this is the case, he may yield his assent, in the Lord, to their unanimous agreement.

The cry of the Reformation had been: “Reformed and always reforming.”  The Reformation students understood that the church might err yet again as the Roman Catholics had erred.  Arminius understood this point, writing:

It is also allowable for a later ecumenical or general council to call in doubt that which had been decreed by a preceding general council, because it is possible even for general councils to err; nor yet does it follow from these premises that the catholic church errs; that is, that all the faithful universally err.

Apostasy can come to even the best of people.  Why?  Because they are humans (Romans 3:10-18).  People often make mistakes.  This is why Reformation is needed.  There is no denying that the Lord will always have His faithful bride (2 Timothy 2:19).  I see nothing in Scripture to suggest a complete apostasy from the faith but people do err.  We must be careful to examine all things by the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  We are called to test the spirits (1 John 4:1) and this only happens when we take the inerrant and infallible Word of God and test all teachings.

In this sense, I am Reformed.  I am not a Calvinist but I believe that the disciple of Jesus often needs reforming.  Our minds can wander.  Our hearts can grow cold (Revelation 2:4). We can become worldly minded.  The disciple should strive to know God and know His Word (John 17:3; Romans 12:1-2).  The disciple should be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to reform us not just in our theology but in our hearts and actions.  We are new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17) let us then live like it (Ephesians 4:17-24; 5:8-21).  The Holy Spirit is always desiring to reform us and make us more like Christ.

Arminius desired this as well.  He desired the church to always be reforming.  We must not grow satisfied with merely having sound doctrine.  We must not be satisfied with merely saying we are not Roman Catholics.  We must go hard after Jesus.  We should strive to love Him more and more, to worship Him who sits on the throne.  We should hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6) knowing that our satisfaction will be found in Jesus our head.

My prayer is to be more like Jesus.  I am so tired of me.  I am tired of trying to reform my ways when my heart is the issue.  I pray that the Lord Jesus will be glorified through me and that He would be Lord of my life completely in every way.  I want to exalt Jesus and not myself.  I want to see Jesus glorified among His saints.

Grant this all Lord Jesus!

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