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John Wesley on Speaking about Calvinist

The advice that John Wesley offers at the end of his tract, What Is An Arminian?, is worth reading and following.  Wesley wrote:

One word more: Is it not the duty of every Arminian Preacher, First, never, in public or in private, to use the word Calvinist as a term of reproach; seeing it is neither better nor worse than calling names? — a practice no more consistent with good sense or good manners, than it is with Christianity. Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly of it? And is it not equally the duty of every Calvinist Preacher, First, never in public or in private, in preaching or in conversation, to use the word Arminian as a term of reproach? Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly thereof; and that the more earnestly and diligently, if they have been accustomed so to do? perhaps encouraged therein by his own example!

May we love our brothers and sisters who disagree with us (John 13:34-35).  Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).  Loving God is the greatest commandment and loving our neighbor as ourselves is second (Matthew 22:36-39).

My prayer is that we Arminians would love our Calvinist brothers and sisters.  May they see our love for them and may it not be in word but in deed.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/04/2016 at 6:22 PM

Being Careful With the Love of God

The love of God is a biblical truth.  I adore the God of the Bible because He has revealed Himself as loving and good.  Psalm 145:8 says that God is abounding in steadfast love.  1 John 4:8 says that God is love.  Some believe that love is an attribute of God.  However, I agree with others such as A.W. Tower who said that love flows from God and is part of His personage.  Love then is not an attribute of God but is freely given by Him toward His creation.  Truth is said to be a part of God but we would not say that truth is an attribute of God nor should we say this about God’s love.  God loves because He chooses to love.  God has demonstrated His love toward us sinners by the giving of His Son (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

I do think that we can make too much about the love of God.  Of course, I rejoice that God is love.  I rejoice that God has sent His Son to die for our sins and to rise again on the third day where the Son now sits at the Father’s right hand till His enemies be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1).  I rejoice that the Christian message is one of love as we point to the cross as the greatest example of true love (Galatians 2:20).  I rejoice that God has revealed His great love for us sinners (1 John 4:10).  This love should flow from God into our lives and we in turn are to love others (1 John 4:11).  Jesus said that loving others was the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22:39).  Jesus said that His disciples would be marked by loving others (John 13:34-35).  He told His disciples in Matthew 5:43-48 that we were to be perfect in love as our Father is.  John Wesley defined this love as “perfected love that flows from the God of love.”  Wesley said that this type of love can only be found in the grace of God and His Spirit working within us to perfect this love.  Perfect in love then was Wesley’s preferred term for entire sanctification (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

The love of God drips from the pages of the Bible.  We see God’s love demonstrated toward Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:14-15, 21).   We see God’s love in the calling out of the Israelites from Egypt into the promised land.  God Himself even says that it was His love that motivated Him to choose Israel and not because of the Israelites themselves (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).  It was the love of God that called the prophets in the Old Testament to call His people to repentance (see Hosea as an example).  It was the love of God that motivated Him to promise the Messiah and then to send His one and only Son to earth (Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:23; John 1:1, 14, 17).  Jesus was God manifested in the flesh (John 1:14) and He fully revealed God to us (John 14:9).  Jesus never said He was the Father nor did He say He was the Spirit but instead He fully revealed the fullness of God to us (Colossians 2:9).  Jesus is the exact representation of God (Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:3).  What do we see when we see Jesus?  We see Him “doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38).  We see Jesus coming not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  We see Jesus coming to call sinners to repentance (Luke 19:10).  We see Jesus telling the Pharisees that God goes looking for the one sheep out of the ninety-nine who turns and is lost (Luke 15:1-7).

There is no doubt that God is love.  There is no doubt that Jesus has revealed the love of God.  There is no doubt that Jesus shows us that God is good and that He desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:5-6; 2 Peter 3:9).  There is no doubt that the love of God flows throughout the Bible.

But I do want to place a warning.  Just a fire across the bow if you will.  Again, I am one of those who gladly preaches the love of God.  I gladly preach Arminianism because I see that the love of God is limited in Calvinism.  In fact, I don’t see a loving God when I study Calvinism but instead I see the overwhelming issue being either the sovereignty of God (in this case the all-power of God in Calvinism) or the glory of God (wherein God must determine all things lest He share His glory).  The love of God is seen as a part of God’s sovereignty either in choosing the elect by arbitrary means rather than love but in some form of love nonetheless or the love of God is seen as part of His glory.  Calvinism diminishes the love of God by failing to proclaim the truth of the unlimited atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Oh yes, His atonement is infinite in value and could atone for the sins of the world but instead the sovereign God has chosen that He will place His love only on the elect.  To me, this doesn’t match either the biblical view of God as loving and good nor does it fit with the parables of Jesus such as found in Luke 10:25-37.

Let me fire this shot though across the bow.  This is a friendly shot to us Arminians.  I do believe in the love of God but let us not exalt the love of God above other truths about God.  For example, God’s wrath or God’s justice or His holiness.  The open theist, in my estimation and I know I have some brothers and sisters who read this blog who are open theists, elevate the love of God above all other truth about God.  The same might could be said about the conditional immortality holders (whom I likewise regard as brethren in the kingdom).  Others want to lift up the transcendence of God.  Some want to exalt the power of God (my charismatic brethren might fall here).

My point is that we must seek balance.  There is no doubt that God is love.  There is no doubt also that God is holy.  There is no doubt that God is sovereign.  There is no doubt that God is powerful and He does hear our cries and can demonstrate His power.  Yet we tend to uplift the truth about God that we love the most.  Arminians might be guilty of doing this with God’s love.  Calvinists might be guilty of exalting the sovereignty of God (or actually the omnipotence of God).  I pray that we would simply make sure that when we preach that we don’t make a god in our image.  This is what cults do.  Their gods are figured out but our God is beyond our understanding.  God has revealed Himself in the Bible but not exhaustively.

I pray that we preach to sinners both the love of God (that He has demonstrated His love toward sinners through the cross) and the wrath of God against sin (Romans 1:18).  Both are true.  God loves but God also hates.  God cannot tolerate sin in His presence so let us preach the truth of His holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Let us preach that God desires the sinner to come to repentance but let us also preach that all who reject His love remain under His just wrath (John 3:36).

I rejoice in the love of God, the goodness of God, the grace of God.  I also preach the biblical truths of His holiness, His justice, His sovereignty, His transcendence, His wrath.  May we be balanced in our preaching.

Calm Thoughts on Arminianism and Calvinism

“Why are you an Arminian?”  Seems like a straight forward question.  A friend posted this to me recently and I wanted to provide a clear, calm answer as to why I am an Arminian.  By the way, my friend is not a Calvinist.  He is probably an Arminian but he wants to be one of those who call themselves “just a Christian” or worst, “Calminian.”  In reality, he is an Arminian but he wants to avoid debates so he avoids the tag.  I did this for years before just admitting that I am an Arminian though I don’t always agree with Arminius on every issue.

My calm reply to the question of why I am an Arminian would be because I believe that God is love (1 John 4:8).  The love of God for humans is what drives me to reject Calvinism the most.  Yes I see Arminianism in Scripture but I see the love of God manifested most in His Son.  I see the Lord Jesus giving His life for all people (John 3:16) and all who come to Him can be saved (John 1:12-13; 4:13-14; 5:24; 6:40; 7:38; 8:51; 20:31).  Jesus is the Savior of the world (John 1:29; 4:42; 1 John 2:2; 4:14).  God has demonstrated His own love toward people by sending His Son to die for our sins (Romans 5:8) and all who are in Christ Jesus are forgiven and redeemed (Ephesians 1:7).  Jesus shed His blood so that all can be saved through faith in Him but only those who appropriate His sacrifice are saved (Romans 3:21-26).

This overwhelming theme in Scripture, that God is love, is what drives me to preach the gospel.  The love of God is what motivates me to prayer.  The love of God is what drives me to study theology.  I want to know this God.  I want to love this God in return.  I want to point others to the cross so that they too can repent of their sins and be baptized into Christ for their eternal salvation.

When I calmly consider Calvinism, I don’t see this theme.  I see the issue for Calvinism being the sovereignty of God. I affirm the sovereignty of God but I believe that God created a world in which people are made in His image and given freedom to either choose to worship and love God or reject Him.  Adam and Eve rejected God why their own free will.  Calvinism pictures God as loving His elect only.  I know that some Calvinist theologians have wrestled with how God loves the world and they seem to try to teach that God does love the world in some sense but He doesn’t really love the world.  He more or less tolerates the world.  As part of God’s absolute sovereignty, He has created all people as either elect or non-elect.  The non-elect have no choice in their election.  They were created for the wrath of God (Romans 9:21-24; a fact that R.C. Sproul affirms though he admits he does not like it).  So before time began, God looked down through eternity and He chose to create, to send His Son for the elect, He chose the elect, and in time, Christ Jesus died for the elect and only for the elect.  How do you know if you are elect?  None really knows.  Some reason that if you believe in Christ, you are elect but if you turn from following Christ, you were never elected to begin with.  Some, such as Jonathan Edwards, reason that some are given a temporary assurance of their salvation though they are not elect.  Either way, if you fail to persevere (which I agree with), you are not elect.

Arminianism, on the other hand, presents a God who loves and He gives genuine freedom to people.  He created Adam and Eve with the freedom to be tempted and to fall into sin because He creates people who willing choose to love Him.  He does not force people to love Him (or as R.C. Sproul teaches from John 6:44, that God drags them to salvation).  He gives us the gospel, teaches us through His Word how to come to Him for salvation, and then He tells His Church to preach this gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:47).  I am elected because I am in Christ.  Christ, and not my election, are the basis for my eternal salvation (Colossians 3:1-4).  Christ is the chosen one (Ephesians 1:3-4) and in Him, we are His chosen (1 Timothy 4:10; Revelation 17:14).

In conclusion, the reality is that I am an Arminian not because I reject the sovereignty of God nor is it the issue of the freedom of the will.  It is the love of God.  God’s love was so manifested in His Son (Luke 19:10) and Paul the Apostle tells us in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus is the image of the invisible God and that Jesus came to make peace by His own blood (Colossians 1:20).  I am thankful for this truth, that Jesus saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and I am a sinner in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23).  Jesus came to save me.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/01/2013 at 7:09 PM

Do I Pursue Peace?

Hebrews 12:14 jumped off the page the other day at me.  I have read this verse many times before and I have often quoted this verse about holiness but the first part was what hooked me.  The verse reads in the NASB:

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

I will admit that I do not like arguments.  My wife and I struggle with this because she wants to argue and I don’t.  I don’t enjoy getting upset at someone or yelling at someone.  She was reading a book the other day on marriage and it said that a married couple should argue now and then to clear the air of ill feelings and thoughts.  The lack of arguing can lead to bitterness and not to peace.

When it comes to theological debates,  I have never been much one to want to debate.  I can relax with a Calvinist brother who loves the Lord and is seeking His face as I can around an Arminian.  I don’t stay on edge waiting to debate another true brother.  It’s just not my personality.  I may disagree with a brother over an issue around Arminianism and Calvinism but I am the type of guy to let it go.  After all, Proverbs 17:28 (NASB) says,

Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise;
When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.

But is silence pursuing peace?  At times, I can still walk away angry at a person for their views that differ with mine.  I am not pursuing peace with that person.  I am allowing bitterness to begin to creep in (Hebrews 12:15).

How do we pursue peace with others?

1.  Talk out our differences but do so in love.  My wife and I don’t argue but a good talk now and then about our differences is good.  I am by no means a perfect husband nor is she a perfect wife but we must extend grace toward each other and our sins.  I want to be at peace with my wife so that my prayers are not hindered (1 Peter 3:7).  Bitterness hinders our prayer lives!  When people discuss their differences in a spirit of love and friendship and not a divisive spirit, much can be learned and accomplished.  I pray that this type of debate would happen more in the Church over non-salvation issues such as Arminianism and Calvinism or spiritual gifts.  Let us talk (and even passionately hold to our views) but love the other person in the process.

2.  Look for avenues of peace with others.  There is much that I agree with with my Calvinist brothers and sisters.  While I disagree with them over various issues, I believe that they are truly saved and love Jesus just as I do.  Heaven will be filled with people from both camps.  Perhaps we were both wrong.  Either way, I want to avoid making the things I disagree with a person over the main issue.  There is much I love about my Calvinist brethren and I pray that they would love things about me.  I want to pursue peace and not war with those whom I disagree.

3.  Pray for the other person.  I have e-mailed people who write hateful things to me before over Arminianism as to whether they actually pray for me.  I have never received a reply.  I suppose they don’t.  But if my theology is so bad that I am not a Christian, should they not just send me a hateful e-mail but also pray for me?  Do you pray for your enemies as Jesus taught us (Matthew 5:43-44)?  We must leave judgment to God alone regarding our enemies (2 Thessalonians 1:6).  Do you pray for those whom you disagree even theologically?  For example, do you pray for Joel Osteen?

4.  Focus on peace and not war.  Our battle, for the child of God, is a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12).  Our enemies are demonic and not disciples of Jesus whom we disagree with over the rapture of the Church.  Too often we make war against our fellows soldiers of Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).  We don’t pursue peace with our brethren but instead we look for ways to make war.  We sit and watch them and listen to their sermons and once they say something we disagree with, we spring our traps and jump on them.  But this should not be the case.  We should be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19 NASB).  We should be careful to not bless God and curse others (James 3:9-10).

5.  Allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.  If the person you struggle with regarding peace is a disciple of Jesus, leave room for the Holy Spirit to do His work in their lives.  We are not the Holy Spirit.  We are not called to be the Holy Spirit.  His work is to make us more like Jesus in all we say or do.  This is a progressive work.  None of us are perfect (James 3:2).  We all need God’s grace to be saved and to stay saved.  The Holy Spirit helps us by convicting us of sin but thankfully He does this one sin at a time.  If He revealed all our sins at the moment of salvation, we would crumple in defeat and would be so downcast that we would likely give up.  The Spirit comes and He gently deals with our sins and He is able to help us to defeat sin in our lives.  His work is conviction (John 16:8-11) and He does an excellent job at doing this in the life of the true disciple of Jesus.  But we must allow the Holy Spirit to do His work not just in us but other disciples as well.  Leave room for the Spirit to act and don’t assume you are His agent for sanctification.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/20/2013 at 10:00 AM

Loving Others

One key point I want to make about evangelism is the need to love others.  I fear that, at times, some disciples can merely view evangelism as “pleasing God” without any thought to actually loving the people we engage with the gospel.  People need to be loved.  Whether they are the God-haters we encounter to those who merely are religious but lost, people need to be loved. As an Arminian, I believe that God has demonstrated His love toward humans by sending His Son to die for them (John 3:16).  I believe that it was the love of God that caused Him to not destroy Adam and Eve when they sinned but instead He provided a covering for them in Genesis 3:21.  It was God’s love as well that cursed the enemy in Genesis 3:15 and promised a Redeemer in Christ our Lord.

It was love that was manifested in Luke 2 with the birth of Jesus.  Jesus was the embodiment of love.  Acts 10:38 says this about Jesus:

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Notice that Jesus went about doing good.  Jesus loved people.  I have no doubt about that.

Sadly, we often show that we don’t love people when we just want to earn God’s favor merely by speaking to them about the gospel.  I agree that people need to hear the gospel to be saved (Romans 10:14-17).  I agree that we are to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).  But let us go forth with our hearts burning with a zeal for Jesus and a love for others.  Love is what should motivate us to share the good news of Christ.  Love is why we don’t want people to die in their sins.  We love people enough that we want to get into their lives and share the gospel with them.

I am all for confrontational evangelism but I pray that we don’t come across as merely angry at sinners and not loving them.  Let them hear the love of God in our voices and see it in our actions.  May we not scream at people, wish them to hell, or attack others.  May we preach the Lord Jesus Christ and warn people of the wrath to come through tears.  

Jesus said in Mark 12:31 that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Do we obey this?  Do we love others?  Do we do good to others to show them that we love them with Christ’s love (Galatians 6:10)?  I worry that I don’t.  I don’t want to just pass out gospel tracts and preach the gospel in the streets with anger or with some focus on just “pleasing God” without also loving others.  1 Corinthians 13 is clear that we can do religious deeds without love but what is the point.  Love is the greatest gift (1 Corinthians 13:13).  Do sinners know that I love them?  

May God help us to preach the gospel but also to love people and not just with our words but with our actions.  1 John 3:16-18 are powerful verses about this truth:

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

May God forgive me for not loving others.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/10/2013 at 2:11 PM

Loving our Enemies Doesn’t Mean Don’t Evangelize Them

Many confuse the words of Jesus in Luke 6:27-36 by believing that to truly love our enemies means that we accept them in their sins.  This is not the case.  Notice the text (NKJV):

27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

32 “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

Mercy can clearly be extended even while we call people to repent.  And further, is not repentance to life a gift from God?  When we call people to repent, that is a good thing!  It is like a doctor giving a sick man medicine but in our case we are giving the word of life to those who are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).  Repentance is not a negative event.  It is a wonderful event where the Spirit of God convicts of sin (John 16:8-11) and He opens the heart of the sinner to see the beauty of God’s grace given to us in Christ Jesus.  Grace is truly grace when the Spirit reveals our sins to us.

To truly love our enemies, we must preach the gospel to them!  True love does not hide truth from another.  True love reveals truth even if it hurts.  Our goal is pure: to see the sinner reconciled to God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14, 18-21).  This can not happen unless someone preaches the gospel to the lost sinner (Romans 10:14-17).  This is not going to occur simply because you smile at the person and tell them you love them.  It is not going to happen simply because you do a random act of kindness for another person.  It is not going to happen simply because you buy them groceries.  Repentance must be preached just as Jesus commanded (Luke 24:47) and the example of the Apostles shows us (Acts 2:38; 3:19-20; 17:30-31; 26:20).

I remember a lady telling me once that open air evangelism doesn’t show people the love of Christ.  She complained that loving relationships are the best way to show people the love of Christ or doing acts of kindness but not proclaiming the gospel boldly to them.  My answer is this: what kind of doctor would I be if I never gave patients their true conditions along with a remedy for their diseases?  I would not be viewed as a good doctor or a loving doctor who just let his patients die while I held back the cure for their illness.  In fact, I would lose my license to practice medicine if I didn’t give people what they needed to make them better.

How can we Christians hold back the truth of God from the lost?  How can we allow people to blindly go to hell all the while we know the truth that can set them free but we hold back the truth from them?  What kind of love is that?  We say we love our enemies but I don’t see that being a very godly love that doesn’t warn sinners that their fate is an eternal hell without the gospel.  If we love our enemies, let us preach the truth to them.  In the end, all that matters is the gospel (John 5:24-25).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/29/2013 at 5:16 PM

Posted in Evangelism, Love

Tagged with ,

The Ground for Israel’s Election

I was reading Deuteronomy 7:6-8 this morning and I noticed what was the ground for God’s sovereign choosing of Israel.  Notice the text (NKJV):

6 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. 7 The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

The New Geneva Study Bible adds the following note about verse 8.

The election of Israel as a holy nation set apart for God (vv.6-7) was grounded, not in any merit or intrinsic goodness of Israel, but in God’s love and in His faithfulness to the covenant promises made to the patriarchs (Deuteronomy 6:10).  God’s election of the church is based on His oath to Jesus, the son of Abraham, the Son of God (Psalm 110:4; John 17:6).

I fully agree.  It was the love of God that motivated Him to bring His people out of bondage (Exodus 2:24-25).  God had swore to Abraham to give him the land of promise (Genesis 17:7-8).  God’s promise to His people was based on His love for them and He demonstrated that love by delivering His people out of Egypt (Joshua 24:1-13).  But the basis for His election of Israel is clear: it was not they who chose Yahweh but rather He chose them because of His great love for them.

What great love is this?  That God would choose to save even one person amazes me.  I became a disciple of Jesus in 1992 and over the years I have not always been faithful.  I have sinned against Him.  I have violated His laws and transgressed His commands.  But I am amazed that He still loves me and does not cast me aside (John 6:37).  He would be just to destroy me for breaking His commands but He is faithful and just to forgive me when I cry out to Him just as the Israelites did (Psalm 107:6).  God called His people to obey Him (Deuteronomy 7:9-11) but He was ever loving and good toward them despite their failures.  That amazes me.  His love amazes me.

The basis for my election and your election is not you.  It is God.  It is His love that motivated Him to save you.  God does not choose us because He sees us striving to enter into His rest in our own free will power.  He loves us and saves us even while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:6-8).  It was His love that motivated Him to send His Son to die for our sins (John 3:16).  Scripture even tells us that God is love (1 John 4:16) and we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  No doubt it was also God’s holiness that motivates Him to send His Son but over and over again we see that it was God’s love that was manifested in the giving of His Son.

This destroys pride.  We are not chosen because we hold to a certain form of theology or, like Israel, because there is intrinsic goodness in us but because of the love of God.  God reached down and saved us by His grace (Ephesians 2:4).  It was God who first sent His Son, drew you unto Himself through the cross (John 12:32) and He saves you not because of your worth or your goodness or your prayers but because of His great saving love.

What love is this!

 

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/25/2012 at 10:30 AM

Posted in Election, Love

Tagged with ,

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