Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Archive for the ‘Holiness’ Category

When Do We Know They Are Not One of Us?

1 John 2:19 is a cornerstone passage for those who hold to unconditional eternal security and even those who hold to perseverance of the saints.  This verse is said to teach that those who go out from us (from Christians) proves they were never said to begin with.  I differ with this view in that I see 1 John 2:19 in context speaking about false apostles or in this case antichrists who claimed to be apostles like John but their teachings proved they were not apostles.  They went out from among us (apostles) but they were not of us (apostles); for if they had been of us (apostles), they would have continued with us (apostles).  But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us (apostles).

My question here is when do we know they are not one of us from the eternal security view?  At what point can we declare, “Never saved to begin with?”  I have even heard many exponents of eternal security teach that a person might be living in sin and the Lord will either discipline them to bring them back to Christ (Hebrews 12:3-11) or He will even allow them to die before they completely apostatize (1 Corinthians 5:4-5; 11:29-31).  I have heard eternal security teachers teach that a person living in sin can still be saved and so we are not to judge someone harshly.  They point to the examples of David or Samson as proof that a saint can live in gross sin and still be a child of God.

I have often said that eternal security leads to antinomianism.  How can it not?  The idea that we must be holy is not a true teaching among eternal security teachers.  Yes they preach holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16) but they often make statements contrary to holiness teaching such as “we all sin every day” and they view Romans 7 as the highest form of Christian living.  Further, they teach that sin has no effect on the believer so they ignore the Bible’s call to forsake sin (1 John 2:1-2).  They instead teach that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus even though we are warned over and over again not to get a hard heart, not to go back to living in sin, not to forsake Christ.  We are called to perseverance but these teachers teach preservation of the sinner.

This is not a perfection teaching.  I am not advocating that Christians are sinless or that we can obtain sinless perfection though some in the past have advocated such a position.  The Trinitarian hero Athanasius of Alexandria held to perfection.  He taught that saints of God in the Bible had obtained such a state such as Job or Noah.  While I am not advocating that position, I simply point out that Athanasius is viewed as a hero today despite his teaching on perfectionism.  I believe that Christians do sin.  I know.  I sin.  I don’t wake up and seek sinning.  I don’t want to sin.  I don’t try to sin.  But I have sinned.  I am thankful for 1 John 1:9 (which would be pointless if sin has no power over the disciple of Christ).

My point here is not to rail on eternal security.  I know godly people who believe in this doctrine.  I have also known people who used the doctrine for their own flesh.  I have known men who justified pornography by claiming eternal security.  I have known men who committed adultery by claiming eternal security.  I have seen churches ignore church discipline because its possible that the sinning person is truly saved and just needs the Lord’s discipline to come back to faith.  I have seen people “walk the isle” and say “the sinner’s prayer” and be told that they are saved and bound for heaven and are now eternally secure no matter what.  I have heard preachers tell people that they can even become an atheist and God will drag them into heaven kicking and screaming that they don’t want to go.

My point here is to simply ask the probing question, “When is someone deemed never saved to begin with?”  The lines seem blurred.  You could read Revelation 21:7-8 and ask a person who holds to eternal security if these people are not going to heaven and they will likely say, “No they are not.”  “But what about saints who do these things?  Are they still saved or are they never saved to begin with?”  “Well that is tough.  Only God knows a persons heart.  We can’t judge them.  We must leave that to God.”  “So are these people who do the things in Revelation 21:8 saved?”  “No.”  “But you just said that people who do these things might be saved?”  “Well yes we can but we shouldn’t and if we do, it might show that we are not saved to begin with.”  “Can you do these things if you wanted to?” “Yes I could I suppose.”  “Would that make you lost?”  “No because I am eternally secure!”  “Well would that prove you are not saved to begin with?”  “No I am eternally secure!”  “But what about others who do these things, why are they not eternally secure?”  “They possibly are!  God knows!”  “But you said that Revelation 21:8 are lost since they go to hell.”  “Yes they are but Christians can do these things too.”  “Should Christians do them?”  “No” “Why does it matter if they are eternally secure as you claim?”  “Because if a person does them they might not be truly saved.”  “But what about their eternal security? It doesn’t sound very eternal nor secure?”  “Those who are saved will persevere until the end for God keeps them but if they don’t persevere, they were never saved to begin with.” “And if a person does the things in Revelation 21:8 are they proving they are not saved to begin with if they claim to be a disciple?”  “Well only God knows.”

Do you see the circle of eternal security?  It doesn’t produce the assurance of one’s salvation.  I have often argued that if a person is seeking Christ, we have no fear (1 John 4:18).  Jesus said that if we abide in His teachings, we are His disciples (John 8:31-32).  As disciples, we have no fear (Romans 8:38-39).  Those who abide in Christ know that He is their high priest, their salvation, their security (2 Peter 1:10-11).  I fear the Lord because He is holy God (Romans 11:20-22).  I stand in awe of His grace toward me (Romans 6:1-4).  His grace teaches me to hate my sin (Titus 2:11-12).  God’s grace doesn’t give me a license for sinning (Jude 4).

True security is found in persevering in Christ.  True security is not found in teaching people that sin has no power over them.  We must teach the people of God to hate their sins, forsake their sins, confess their sins, and examine themselves (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).  Holiness is the heart of God (Hebrews 12:14).  We are holy in Christ and being made holy though Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14).

May the Lord help us all to hate our sins, forsake our sins, kill our sins, and confess our sins.  Our sovereign Father is faithful to help us (1 Corinthians 10:13) and He is faithful to forgive us when we sin (1 John 1:9).  May we run daily to the Lord Jesus and remain faithful to Him always.

Jesus our Faithful Mediator

While teaching on the Levitical priesthood, I was struck by the standard that God set for the Levites.  The Lord said in Deuteronomy 18:13:

You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.

This was God’s standard not just for the Levites but for the children of Israel.  The Israelites were God’s chosen people, the ones whom He had delivered out of by Egypt by His strong arm and by His love (Deuteronomy 9:4-5).  It was God who reached out to deliver the children of Israel and it was by God’s standard the Israelites were to abide.

In Psalm 24:3-4 we read:

3  Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4  He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.

God is holy and He requires perfection in order to be in His holy presence.  One does not merely come into the presence of God without holiness (Leviticus 10:1-3).  We must abide by the principles of God’s law to come into His presence and God requires perfection!

Who can obtain this?  Who can be blameless, holy, without sin?  I know that there are some today who teach that we can be sinless and that we can live perfect lives but I have never obtained that in my own strength.  When I start to think that I have arrived, I merely read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and see if I am close to loving like Jesus loves.  When I start to think I am doing okay, I read the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39 and question if I love God like that our my neighbor as myself.  When I start to believe that I am conquering all known sin in my life, I read Galatians 5:22-23 and examine my own fruit to see if the fruit of the Spirit is showing in me.  I often fall short (Romans 3:23).  Way short!

I have no doubt that God’s standard is perfection.  This is why the cross is so wonderful.  Jesus paid for my sins (Galatians 1:4).  Jesus shed His blood for my forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7).  Jesus did what I could never do and He lived a perfect life and then went to the cross as my substitute to die for my sins (Isaiah 53:4-7; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Jesus willingly laid down His life for my sins (John 10:14-18).  Jesus shed His blood for the fact that I cannot please God in my flesh (Romans 8:7-8).  I am dead in my sins in my flesh (Ephesians 2:1-3) meaning that nothing I can do is going to obtain God’s perfection (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Salvation is the work of God’s grace through the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice (Titus 3:5-7).  That is true grace!

Jesus then is my mediator before a holy God.  I am not saved by a church.  I am not saved by rituals.  I am not saved by my works.  I am saved by the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is my everything (1 Corinthians 1:30)!  Jesus is my Lamb (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7) and He is the One who prays for me before the Father (Hebrews 7:25).  Jesus is called the mediator of the new covenant (Hebrews 7:22; 9:15).  Jesus’ sacrifice is once and for all (Hebrews 10:10).  We don’t need, as Catholics do and so many others, to go to God through priests or rituals or our church but we come into the presence of God through Christ by His grace (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The blood of Jesus is able to purify us from dead works (Hebrews 9:14).  Since Christ is our Lamb, we need not offer any sacrifices whether the blood of bulls and goats (Hebrews 10:4) or any religious sacrifices (Hebrews 10:18).  We can now enter into the holy presence of God because of Jesus our mediator (Hebrews 10:19-22).

All worship then belongs to Jesus!  All glory belongs to Jesus!  The only sacrifices the disciple of Jesus brings now is the sacrifice of praise unto God (Hebrews 13:15).  Our entire focus is on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).  Jesus is our faithful high priest who intercedes for the saints of God (Hebrews 8:1-2).

The Law reveals our sins (Romans 7:7).  The Law is good and holy (1 Timothy 1:8).  The law shows us our sins (Galatians 3:23-24 NKJV).  The law reveals our depravity before God by condemning us in our sins (1 Timothy 1:8-11).  But the law could never save.  It is not meant to save.  The law only condemns.  The cross saves.  The cross shows us the great love of God for lost sinners who have broken His laws (John 3:16-17).  The cross is the perfect demonstration of God’s love and His righteousness (Romans 3:22-27; 5:8-9).  I am so thankful that Jesus went to the cross for my sins!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/07/2015 at 12:35 PM

The Point of 1 John 1:9

Modern Evangelicalism teaches that God forgives us of all our sins both past, present, and future.  How often have I heard evangelical pastors proclaiming that forgiveness from God means that He forgives us of all our sins both now and forevermore. Yet some of them would be quick to preach holiness, to preach that one must persevere in the faith, and that we must confess our sins.  A few will teach a radical view of eternal security (or “once saved, always saved”) to the point that even confessing of sin is not really necessary.  The rise of the hyper-grace movement over the past twenty years flows from this viewpoint.

My question then is what is the point of 1 John 1:9?  Hyper-grace teachers teach that the point of 1 John 1:9 is for unbelievers. They argue that 1 John 1:9 has nothing to do with New Testament followers of Christ.  The context, however, destroys such a view.  Notice John’s usage of “we” and “our” and “us” in 1 John 1 below:

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The context is clear that John is not jumping from believers to unbelievers in the context.  John is writing to believers.

So let me go back to my point again: what is the point of 1 John 1:9?  If Jesus has secured our salvation and if He has died for all our sins both past, present, and future, what is the point of 1 John 1:9?

Calvinism teaches that Christ died only for the elect.  The elect’s sin were placed on Christ while He was on the cross.  Therefore, the cross secures the forgiveness of the sins of the elect.  Some Calvinists are inconsistent on this point however and teach that a person is lost, dead in their sins, and on their way to hell apart from the grace of God intervening in their lives and drawing them to salvation.  All Calvinists that I know of have a testimony of Christ saving them.  They all acknowledge that at some point in their life, the Lord opened their eyes to His grace and He caused them to be born again unto faith.

More consistent Calvinists teach that all the elect are born justified before God.  Some teach eternal justification where God looks through time and He has chosen His elect and because of His sovereignty, He knows the elect even in eternity past and thus all the elect were seen as forgiven in the mind of God through Christ Jesus.  Either way, in Calvinism, the elect have their sins forgiven in Christ and thus all their sins were in Christ when He shed His blood and thus they are justified forevermore because of the work of Christ.  Calvinists then can teach that all their sins are forgiven in Christ.

The problem then becomes the issue of holiness or even 1 John 1:9.  What is the point of 1 John 1:9 if in fact Christ has shed His blood for the elect’s sin already?  Some Calvinists simply teach that holiness is like prayer or evangelism: we simply do it because God has commanded us to do so and as His elect, we will obey Him completely.  Others teach that holiness is necessary and part of the perseverance of the saints.  Thus holiness and 1 John 1:9 are practices of perseverance.

From a biblical viewpoint, 1 John 1:9 is clear that we must confess our sins to be forgiven of them.  This plays into the very words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 6:12.  We confess our sins to be forgiven.  This would imply that the provision for our forgiveness is set: the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  However, we must confess our sins before God through the Lord Jesus to be forgiven.  This is the clear understanding of 1 John 1:9.  Even Calvinists acknowledge this in part.  Even John MacArthur in the MacArthur Study Bible (NASB) says that confession of sin is part of being a true Christian.  The mindset of the Christian is that we are sinners in need of a Savior because of our sins.

What then happens if 1 John 1:9 is not obeyed?  MacArthur would likely say that such a person would demonstrate they were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19).  Others would say that nothing happens since Christ paid for our sins already on the cross.  However one looks at this, if you hold that Christ died for all our sins both past, present, and future then you would have to water down the clear meaning of 1 John 1:9.  In reality, if the Calvinist understanding of definite atonement is to be assumed, 1 John 1:9 does little to nothing for the elect.

In Arminianism, we hold that Christ died for the sins of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2).  Forgiveness is based on faith in the Lord Jesus and His saving work (Romans 10:9-10).  The blood of Jesus even bought the forgiveness of false teachers though they did not trust in Him alone to secure their forgiveness (2 Peter 2:1).  Forgiveness of our sins must be through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 13:38-39).  Our forgiveness comes through Christ alone (Romans 3:22-25).  When Peter preached in Acts 2 the first gospel sermon, he didn’t preach “eternal justification” nor did he preach that their sins were already forgiven by simply trusting that Jesus had paid the price but he called them to repentance (Acts 2:38).  The message of the gospel is Jesus-focused, Jesus-filled, Jesus-centered and Jesus alone saves by His grace.  However, we must call people to repent and forsake their sins and place their saving faith in the Lord Jesus alone to save them.  The work of salvation: conviction, regeneration, being born again, etc. are the work of the Holy Spirit as He works to glorify the risen Savior (John 16:8-11).

When it comes to 1 John 1:9 in Arminianism, the Christian must obey.  The Christian must confess their sins when the Spirit of God convicts them and they must repent (2 Corinthians 7:10).  God’s kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  1 John 1:9 is what happens after we have had our sins washed away with Christ (Romans 6:1-4).  When a person repents, their past and present sins are forgiven but their future sins remain in the future.  Their future sins must be repented of just as their past sins were (1 John 2:1).  The disciple of Jesus is thus forgiven of their sins (Ephesians 1:7) as we walk in the light of Christ and His saving work (1 John 1:7).  We must repent lest we fall into sin and perish (James 1:12-15; 5:19-20; 2 Peter 2:20-22; 3:17).

in Revelation 2, Jesus saw the sins of the people in Ephesus (Revelation 2:5).  Jesus Himself called them to repentance as He did others in Revelation 2-3.  How could the Lord Jesus do this if He didn’t see their sins or if their future sins were already forgiven?  Why didn’t Jesus just tell them they were covered by His righteousness and they were forever forgiven?  Yet Jesus called them to repent.  In fact, He promised them things for their overcoming (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26-28).

1 John 1:9 is a wonderful gift from God.  What a delight to confess my sins to the Lord.  King David cried the blessings of being forgiven (Psalm 32:1-2) that comes through confession of our sins (Psalm 32:5).  The godly realize this (Psalm 32:6).  We who know the grace of God in truth (Titus 2:12), know that God is willing to forgive sinners who come before Him confessing their sins.  I rejoice when I confess my sins knowing that God has forgiven me through the work of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the One who has secured my salvation and I trust in Him to pray for me before the Father (Hebrews 7:25).

Don’t Be Holy In Theory Only

I think that most disciples of Christ acknowledge that God calls His people to holiness.  1 Peter 1:15-16 is clear enough that we understand that God calls me to holiness.  Psalm 24:3-4 is also clear that the only one that can approach the holy throne of God is those who have clean hands and a pure heart.  Jesus blessed those who are pure in heart by saying that they would see God (Matthew 5:8).  The Bible also calls us to follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and His example was one of perfection (1 Peter 2:21-22).  Paul said wrote that the Corinthians were to follow his example as he followed the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

So in theory we know that God calls to holiness.  We know that the people of God are to flee from sin (Romans 6).  We know that we are to set our affections on Christ above (Colossians 3:1-4).  We are to strive for holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).  We read passages such as 1 Peter 2:11-12 and agree that they are good and right.

Yet theory is not practice.  To simply hold to a theory of holiness is not enough.  Strange how I have met “holiness” people who are not holy.  I have met people who ascribed to a theology of holiness yet were not living holy lives.  They looked, acted, loved, adored, and were striving for the same things as the worldly-minded church.  They wanted to sip their latte and shake their head to some “worship” music but they didn’t want to be holy.  They wanted to read their study Bible but never practice what the Bible says.  They wanted to “share their testimony” with the lost but didn’t even have the strength to exhort sinners to flee the wrath to come.  They want to have a theory of holiness in which they say that Christ is their holiness and He is their salvation without actually repenting of their sins and being holy themselves.  They talk about holiness in some circles but then they sit at their computer screen or movie screen and fill their minds with filth, compromise, and worldliness.

Oh to be holy!  Oh for a people of holiness to rise up and preach the gospel!  Oh for saints to truly be saints (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  I am so thankful for Jesus shedding His blood for my sins (Galatians 1:4).  I rejoice in Isaiah 53:11, that I am justified before God because of the work of the Lord Jesus.  Nothing can take from His work and nothing can add to His work (Galatians 1:6-9).  Truly Jesus is my salvation (John 19:30; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

However, this doesn’t negate holiness.  Holiness is still required.  Just as God called His people to holiness in the Old Testament (Leviticus 11:44-45), so He calls His people to holiness in the New Testament (1 Peter 1:15-16).  The blessing of the gospel is that holiness is now accomplished not by my keeping the laws of the Old Testament but by keeping the law of Christ (Galatians 5:24-25).  We now are empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:16-17) to be holy.  We have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20; 6:14).  We are to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).  The wages of sin remains death (Romans 6:23) and we are to flee from sin (Galatians 6:7-8).  The one who lives for their flesh will die (Romans 8:12-13).

The call then must be repent of our sins!  We must bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).  We must turn from our wicked ways (Ezekiel 18:30-31).  We must call sinners to repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31).  We must reveal to sinners the greatness of God in His giving of His Son for our sins (Romans 2:4).  We must call sinners to repent and take up their cross and follow Jesus (Luke 14:25-35).  We must call the people of God back to holiness not just in theory but in practice.  Theory is useless with the practice of holiness (1 John 2:3-6).  We must warn the saints of God to flee from sin (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and to be holy (1 John 3:6-10).

I pray to God that He would empower us to holiness (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  Oh for holiness to be preached in the power of the Holy Spirit!

Brief Thoughts on the Gospel Centered Movement

The gospel centered movement has been refreshing in many ways.  I have longed to hear the Church preaching the gospel and standing for the gospel.  The word “gospel” has become popular again among Christians and I am grateful for that.  I rejoice that many books and even songs are now coming out that focus on the gospel.  The gospel has become a point that we are now agreeing is essential and is what the Church must be built upon.

That said, I do see some problems beginning to arise in the popular gospel centered movement.  We would be best to avoid these areas as we preach the gospel to the lost and I believe we should keep in mind that we are to preach the full council of the Word of God and not merely what we like.  Let me give you three main problems I now see with the gospel centered movement as it presently is taking shape.

1.  Antinomianism.

Antinomianism means “no law.”  This is becoming a major theme among gospel centered preaching.  The problem is that many want to focus all on the gospel without the law.  We need both.  The law shows us our sins (Romans 7:7) and Paul said the law was good (1 Timothy 1:8).  The law prepares the heart for the grace of God as revealed in the gospel (Galatians 3:23-24).

Furthermore, those who preach all gospel seem to not care about personal holiness (a point I will make later).  The focus is always: gospel, gospel, gospel.  But the New Testament is equally clear that God has called His people to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16).  The gospel does not mean that we can now live in sin and be proud.  The gospel is all about Jesus setting us free from the power of sin (John 8:31-38).  The gospel is all about grace that leads to holiness (Titus 2:11-12).  We need to preach the fear of God (Proverbs 1:7) and that discipline is good and flows from the gospel (James 2:14-26).

2.  Lack of Holiness Preaching With Warnings.

Gospel centered preaching can become so full of grace that we fail to warn people to forsake sin (1 Corinthians 15:34) and to repentance (Matthew 3:8).  We can fail to preach biblical holiness (Hebrews 12:14) and that God sent His Son to save us from His wrath and from our sins.  We must also warn people to abide in Christ (Acts 14:22-23).  We must preach the so-called “warning passages” such as Romans 11:20-22 or 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:21 or 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.  We must preach Galatians 5:1-4 or Galatians 6:7-9 and many more.  Certainly preach the grace and forgiveness of the Lord but also warn people to flee sin and to keep our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).

3.  Too Much Focus on Self and Freedom.

Todd Friel points out that many gospel centered blogs now feature blogs on beer and wine.  While I am not saying that one drink condemns a soul,  I do believe that many are taking their freedom in Christ too far.  There are many disciples who have forsaken all alcohol and we must keep this in mind in our freedom (Romans 14:13).

While I am grateful that God has given me freedom in Christ, this freedom is to serve Him (Romans 13:10).  Galatians 5:13 says that we are not to use our freedom for our flesh.  God has redeemed us to glorify Himself (Ephesians 1:6).  2 Timothy 1:9 says that God saved us and called us to a holy life.  God didn’t call me merely to the gospel so that I could be free to do what I like.  God saved me by His grace for His glory and for a holy life that I might serve Him (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Conclusion

I am thankful for the gospel.  It is the gospel that saved me and kept me all these years (James 1:21).  The gospel is precious to me.  Recently I was praying and I begin to thank God for the preciousness of the gospel like a pearl of great value (Matthew 13:45-46).  The gospel is wonderful and the thought that Christ gave His life for mine is a wonder in of itself (Galatians 2:20).  I rejoice that Jesus died, rose again, and now sits at God’s right hand till His enemies be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1).  I pray that the gospel will go forth.

But I also pray that the warnings I have stated will become part of our preaching.  The gospel is precious but the gospel is about Jesus saving me from both the wrath of God and from my sins.  Romans 6:1-4 is clear that those who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death and His resurrection.  We now can walk in the newness of life.  Sanctification is not optional.  Sanctification flows from salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

How Should Arminians Respond to Attacks?

It is not uncommon for me to be attacked for my Arminianism.  I have been called a liberal, to holding man-centered theology, to not loving God, to not loving God’s grace, to denying God’s sovereignty, to believing that I earn my salvation, to hating God, to denying the gospel.  Often these attacks come from Calvinists and many of them are perhaps in their “cage stage” but they honestly believe that Calvinism is the pure gospel, that Calvinism is just what Jesus and His Apostles preached (I am not kidding there).  They love all things Calvinistic and any attacks on Calvinism are viewed as attacks on God Himself.

Now to be fair, this is not the case with all Calvinists.  I know many godly Calvinists who love the Lord and know that Calvinism is not the gospel nor the major issue.  I have sat with many Calvinist brethren in great fellowship.  One only needs to think of the great friendship of John Wesley and George Whitefield to know that people can be Arminians and Calvinists while being brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Nothing in the New Testament suggests that we have to be nothing more than disciples of Jesus (John 13:34-35) to love one another.  Love is one of the greatest evidences of our salvation (1 John 4:19-20).

So how do we respond to those who attack us?  Here is my response in brief.

1.  Answer With Love and Grace.

While I have had some say that I am lost because of my Arminianism, we should answer all people with love.  While they may despise me, I don’t despise them.  Love should flow from the disciple who has been forgiven (Matthew 6:12, 14-15).  Proverbs 15:1 reads, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  We should heed these wise words and answer with love and grace.  None of us are perfect in our knowledge and we all are seeking to know God through this glass (1 Corinthians 13:12).

2.  Answer Biblically.  

I have read many debates and they often turn to philosophy instead of Scripture.  Scripture is the final authority (and I pray that all agree on that fact).  Scripture alone speaks the truth for God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Scripture is what sanctifies us (John 17:17).  Scripture is our sword (Ephesians 6:17) but let us use our swords not out of hatred but love and grace.  Again, we are not perfect in our knowledge and all can learn from one another.  I would be the first to admit to a Calvinist that I don’t know all things perfectly but I love Jesus Christ and long to know Him truthfully (Philippians 3:8-11).  I pray that all of us would love the Word of God and long to know the truth of God from His holy Word.

3.  Be Godly.

It’s better to be godly than to be right (Hebrews 12:14-15).

4.  Never View Your Attacker As A Vile Enemy.

See the person as a person.  They may despise you, they may hate you, they may desire to kill you but see them as people made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).  Recently I heard the story of a family being attacked by Muslims for their faith.  The mother told the children that if men ever came to their home to always answer them with, “God loves you and we forgive you.”  This family did face their Muslim attackers and had to endure their own beheadings but they did so with those words, “God loves you and we forgive you.”

While Calvinists are not our vile enemies, all people need to see that we are full of love. We love because of the love of God (John 3:16).  Our theology flows from the love of God (Romans 5:8-9).  We read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and we see the heart of God all in the text.  This same love should flow from us toward others.  We love people because they are people.  We long to see them saved because they are made in the image of God.

5.  Be Christ-centered In Your Talking.

Christ is the center of all things.  Christ is the center of the Bible.  Christ is the center of all creation (Colossians 1:15-20).  Christ should be the center of our biblical interpretation.  In other words, election doesn’t begin with man but with Christ.  Salvation doesn’t begin with man but with Christ.  Christ is the focus and He is the One that we should worship and adore (Revelation 5:9-10, 12).

The focus should not then be on our favorite preachers or Bible teachers.  The focus is not on Arminius or Calvin or Wesley or Spurgeon.  The focus should be on Christ and remain on Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5).  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:23 that we preach Christ and Him crucified.  I pray I would do that.  I don’t want anyone (including me) to receive the glory that is due to Christ alone.

Conclusion

I pray that God would grant us peace among brethren.  We are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:26-27) and not into men.  Arminius nor Calvin will ever save a sinner.  Only Christ saves (Acts 4:12).  The focus of our theology must not be on Arminius or Calvin but Christ.  Christ is the only one who is worthy to be praised and adored and imitated.

May the Lord help both Arminians and Calvinists be godly in our talking.  May the Lord be the One that we worship and serve.

Practicing Righteousness

If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
– 1 John 2:29 (NASB)

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
– 1 John 3:7 (NASB)

By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
– 1 John 3:10 (NASB)

I do believe in the doctrine of imputation.  I have read the works of some who disagree.  They hold that the Bible never says anywhere that we are “imputed with Christ’s righteousness.”  They hold that the Bible declares us to be righteous by virtue of being in Christ by faith but they hold that the Bible never says that the righteousness of Christ is ever imputed to us.  Even the passages that are appealed to for the doctrine of imputation such as 2 Corinthians 5:21 or Philippians 3:9 do not say that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us.

However, to me this is simply semantics.  While the Bible never uses the phrase “imputed with Christ’s righteousness,” the doctrine is based on not just the New Testament but the Old Testament as well.  For example, in the famous story of the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt in Exodus 12, the blood of the Passover lamb would serve as a substitute for God’s judgment against the Egyptians.  The Israelites were protected by the blood.  The blood served as a sin offering substitute by which the Israelites’ sins were imputed to the lamb and the lamb bore them on their behalf.  This looked forward to God’s perfect sacrifice of His own Lamb (John 1:29).  The Lamb of God would take away the sins of the world and would bear the sins of the people of God.  God’s Lamb would be our perfect sacrifice to take away our sins (1 Peter 1:18-19; 2:22-24).  Jesus’ blood now cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7) and His blood is our defense before a holy God.

Hebrews 9:11-22 reads:

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Jesus then is our substitute before God.  He bore our sins on the cross.  His blood alone is able to cleanse us from sin (Romans 5:9).  Jesus’ blood not only cleanses us from all sin but He is our mediator before God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Jesus Christ is our salvation.  He is our everything before God.  We have nothing apart from Him (John 15:5).  He is our salvation, our redemption, our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30).  Our boasting must be in Him alone (1 Corinthians 1:31)!  In Jesus we have “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:22).

Just as the Old Testament sacrifices were imputed with the sins of the Israelites, so the New Testament saint had their sins imputed upon Christ our Lord and He bore our sins.  Thus all He accomplished for our forgiveness is now imputed toward us.

This, however, should not ignore the passages that speak of practicing righteousness.  To merely claim Christ’s righteousness apart from pursuing holiness is not biblical.  Full salvation looks to Christ alone for salvation but we also look to Christ alone to sanctify us.  We are holy in Christ but are also being made holy.  Hebrews 10:14 reads:

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We look to Christ Jesus to help us not just to be forgiven of our sins but to be made holy before Him.  Jesus came to bear our sins and to give us complete victory over our sins (Matthew 1:21).  We don’t have to be slaves to sin (John 8:34-36).  Those who are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:1-4) are no longer slaves to sin but are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:5-23).  Through the Lord Jesus we are able to live a holy life (1 John 2:1-2).  We don’t have to live a life of defeat in sin.  We can be set free by His grace from sin and its domain (Titus 2:12-14).  Our hearts are cleansed by faith (Acts 15:9) and the Lord wants to continue that deep work of cleansing in us (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

My earnest prayer has been for the Lord to give disciples full victory that we have in Christ.  We don’t have to be slaves to sin.  We can be slaves of righteousness.  If we are not slaves of righteousness, John the Apostle says that we are not righteous at all.  The doctrine of Christ’s imputation should never be used as a basis for sinning.  If that is the heart of the person living in sin, they know nothing of the grace of God.  While I acknowledge that true saints of God can (and will) sin, this is not the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 John 2:1).  May our hearts be to live a life of holiness, pleasing to the Lord (Colossians 1:9-10).

%d bloggers like this: