Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Conviction of Sin

The Promised Spirit Through Faith

So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
– Galatians 3:14

The Calvinist view is that a person is dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) and therefore the Spirit must regenerate the dead sinner so that they can hear the gospel, believe, and be saved.  Many appeal to the story of Lazarus in John 11 as an example of regeneration.  Calvinists also appeal to John 3:3 saying that one must be born again to believe and enter the kingdom.

Here in Galatians 3:14 the Calvinist view has a problem.  Paul the Apostle clearly states that we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.  The Spirit comes through faith.  The Spirit does not come before faith.  This is a problem text for Calvinists.

The Arminian understanding is that all who believe will be saved (John 3:15).  Our view is that the Spirit works through the preaching of the gospel to bring forth faith but He can be resisted and He does not force the person to believe (a point that Calvinists would agree with in regard to force).  John 6:44 is used by both Arminians and Calvinists concerning this work of the Spirit.  The Spirit opens the heart of the sinner to hear the gospel and He enables those who believe to be saved.  The work of regeneration is entirely His work (Titus 3:5-7).  But the belief, while certainly a work of grace, is done by the believer themselves.

The Arminian order of salvation then would be that the Spirit is given to those who believe (Acts 11:17; 15:9).  We are justified before God through faith (Romans 5:1) and at the moment of regeneration, we receive the promised Spirit (Romans 5:5).  There is simply no way around this.

While Charles Spurgeon was no doubt a Calvinist, I do agree with him here:

“If I am to preach the faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.”

Spurgeon battled hyper-Calvinists in his day because Spurgeon rightly preached that all could and should come and be saved while he also believed in unconditional election.  Spurgeon was inconsistent in his theology but for that I am thankful.

One final point.  Calvinists acknowledge that the Spirit convicts people of their sins before salvation (John 16:8-11).  Even if we grant that the Spirit only convicts those who are elect, how can He convict those who are dead?  The Calvinists would have to preach that the Spirit regenerates before conviction instead of before faith.  What is the point of the Spirit’s convicting work toward dead sinners if the dead sinner must be regenerated to believe the gospel?

The Arminian understanding of the convicting work is consistent with our teaching on prevenient (or enabling) grace.  The Spirit convicts the sinner through the gospel (1 Timothy 1:8-11).  The Spirit takes the law of God and He shows the sinner their sin (Romans 3:19-20; 7:7).  The sinner must believe to be saved (Acts 16:30-31) but the Spirit woos the sinner under the guilt of their sin and He regenerates the sinner who believes the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

Hating Sin

Within the heart of every disciple of Jesus should be an intense hatred for sin.  We despise not just the sins that we sin in the world but we detest even more so the sin that we sin in us.  We hate the sin of pride, the sin of hypocrisy that we sin in us.  We long to be like Jesus in all that we say and do (1 John 2:6) but we see that we are often far from that perfect standard (Matthew 5:48).

And I believe this is a great assurance that we are truly saved.  This hatred for sin.  There is no denying that the Bible forbids us from dwelling in sin (1 John 3:4-10).  Paul the Apostle teaches us in Romans 6 that having been baptized into Christ Jesus, we are now free from sin and its power.  We are free to be slaves of righteousness.

However, I still see sin in my life.  I don’t mean that I wake up and commit sin.  I hate sin.  But I still find the Holy Spirit placing His gentle hand upon me and revealing to me my own arrogance, my own pride, my own self-righteousness and my sins of the tongue (James 3:1-12).  There are seasons it seems where the Spirit will give me that assurance that I am focused on Christ and He truly is my reward but then there are times where the Holy Spirit reveals to me my sins.  I have learned to love those times.  I have learned that the Holy Spirit is doing this out of love for me and not out of condemnation (Romans 8:1).  I remember that Hebrews 12:5-6 and I keep coming back to that text as the Spirit opens my wicked heart up to show me what I need to repent of.

Repentance is an ongoing process.  I have been a disciple of Jesus for over 20 years and I find that He is still working on me.  The Spirit of God is still in the process of making me more like Christ.  I don’t doubt that I am much different from when I first repented.  I have come a long ways.  Yet I still have far to go.  I might not struggle with what I struggled with as a 17-year-old when I was baptized into Christ but I am still far from what I want to be.

We live in a sinful fallen world.  We live in a world with sin all around us.  Satan uses these tools to attract the world to its destruction.  For the disciple of Christ, we hate this world (1 John 2:15-17).  We long to be clothed in perfect righteousness where we will not struggle with sin.  We long to forever with our Lord and away from this sinful world.  Yet we remain here and we have to fight against sin.  We do this not by our own will power but in the power of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17) and through the hope that we have in the gospel.  Our salvation is based on the work of Jesus Christ and what He has done (John 19:30; Ephesians 1:7).  Our salvation is based not on our works but upon the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).  This does not take away our personal responsibility before God but empowers us toward holiness (Titus 2:12).  Holiness flows from grace (Ephesians 2:10).

I pray that all disciples of Jesus will hate sin.  I pray that we all would long to be like Christ in all that we are (Ephesians 5:1-2).  God calls us to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16) and this is accomplished one step at a time.  Along the way, I trust the Lord to be faithful to His promises and sanctify me (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Letting the Word Convict Us

Acts 23 has an interesting situation in it with Paul the Apostle.  First, read the text in Acts 23:1-5 (NASB):

Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” 2 The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?” 4 But the bystanders said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

The wicked high priest, Ananias, who would be murdered by the Jews in AD 66, ordered Paul to be struck.  The Greek here implies that Paul was not merely slapped on the face but was beaten.  This roused the anger of Paul in verse 3.  This is in sharp contrast to the Lord Jesus (John 18:23; 1 Peter 2:21-23) and even the words of Paul that he wrote in Romans 12:19-21.  Yet here Paul acts as I would and perhaps as you would.  I admit that this act would have made me mad and I suppose that I too would have done what Paul did in verse 3 but I would, if allowed, done more.  I would have wanted to pound all those opposed to me in that room and especially Ananias.

What is interesting about this text is that Paul corrects himself because of the Word of God in verse 5.  I find that amazing.  That is what makes Paul unique.  While he was wrong to react as he did in verse 3 (though again I admit that I too would have said that and more!), Paul submitted to the authority of the Word of God in verse 5.  Despite Ananias’ wickedness, Paul submitted to Exodus 22:28 (which he quoted).  Not only had Paul hid the Word in his heart but he submitted fully to its truth.

I long for that type of obedience to the Word of God.  I want to know the Word and have it in my heart so that I can recite it and submit to it.  I want the Word to correct my thinking, my ways, my words, my actions.  I want to know the Word so strongly that I want to be corrected by the Word when I do sin.  Paul did this here. He quickly submitted himself to the Word of God and let the Word have its reign over his life and over his actions.

A couple of explanations are given for verse 5.  One is that Paul could not see that this was Ananias the high priest because he had a seeing problem (Galatians 4:15).  Other commentators say that Paul had not been to Jerusalem in some time and he simply did not know or recognize Ananias in person.  Either way, his actions were not like the actions of Jesus here.  Yet Paul submitted to the authority of the Word of God (and the Old Testament in this case!).

Help me Lord to be that way.  I need to be a man who submits to the Word.  I don’t want to just read the Word nor just study the Word but I want to submit to the Word and allow it to correct my ways (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/19/2014 at 9:37 PM

Why We Sin

We sin because we want to sin.  Satan does not make us sin.  God does not make us sin.  We sin because we want to sin.  James 1:12-15 is clear on this:

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Notice verse 14.  We are enticed by our own desires.  Our desires of the flesh want to rebel against God and His Word (1 John 3:4).  Our flesh wants to be Romans 1:18-32.  Our flesh wants to ignore the commands of the Lord and live for ourselves.  We deceive ourselves and think that our obeying our flesh will produce joy and happiness and contentment but it only produces death (Romans 6:23).

In our day it is common to want our sins to be legalized.  Whether it be sexual sins or drugs, we believe that if the government will just make it legal in the eyes of the law of men then this will sooth our guilty conscience and we will have peace in our sins.  This will never be!  God has given us a conscience to warn us that we are in rebellion against Him.  Every person on the face of the earth has a conscience from God and every single person, apart from the grace of God, knows that we have violated His just laws and have rebelled against Him just as Adam and Eve did in Genesis 3.  We know that we are guilty before a holy God and we know that we are doing things worthy of death but we believe that we should have a “right” to our sins and no one should tell us that we are sinning (not even God Himself).  This will not bring peace.

Peace will only come when we repent.  Romans 5:1 assures us of this peace through Jesus Christ.  Jesus died to take away our sins (1 Peter 3:18).  He shed His own blood in our place (Isaiah 53:5-6) and through His blood alone can we find peace with God (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 2:8-9).  His blood alone is able to wash away all our sins (Isaiah 1:16; Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:7).  We must repent before a holy God which is turning away from sin toward God (Matthew 3:8; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10).  Repentance is the will of God (2 Peter 3:9).  Turning from sin is the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 5:23-24; 1 John 2:1-2).  By His grace alone are we able to turn away from our sins (Titus 2:11-12).  Our flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7) but by the power of the Holy Spirit we can turn away from sin and repent (John 16:8-11).

I despise sin!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/14/2014 at 8:43 PM

Adam Clarke on the Usage of the Law in Evangelism

“Wherefore then serveth the law?” Of what real use can it be in the economy of salvation? I answer, it serves the most important purposes: 1. Its purity and strictness show us its origin:– it came from God. All religious institutions, merely human, though pretended from heaven, show their origin by extravagant demands in some cases, and by sinful concessions in others. In the law of God nothing of this appears, and therefore we see it a transcript of the divine nature. 2. It shows us the perfection of the original state of man; for as that law was suited to his state, and the law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good, so was his nature: it is, therefore, a comment on those words, “God made man in his own image, and in his own likeness.” 3. It serves to show the nature of sin: the real obliquity of a crooked line can only be ascertained by laying a straight one to it. Thus, the fall of man, and the depth of that fall, are ascertained by the law. 4. It serves to convict man of sin, righteousness, and judgment: it shows him the deplorable state into which he is fallen, and the great danger to which he is exposed. 5. It serves as a schoolmaster, (or leader of children to school,) to convince us of the absolute necessity and value of the gospel; for that pure and moral law must be written upon the hearts of believers; and its precepts, both in letter and spirit, become the rule of their lives.

By the law is the knowledge of sin; for how can the finer deviations from a straight line be ascertained without the application of a known straight edge? Without this rule of right, sin can only be known in a sort of general way; the innumerable deviations from positive rectitude can only be known by the application of the righteous statutes of which the law is composed. And it was necessary that this law should be given, that the true nature of sin might be seen, and that men might be the better prepared to receive the gospel; finding that this law worketh only wrath, that is, denounces punishment, forasmuch as all have sinned. Now, it is wisely ordered of God, that wherever the gospel goes, there the law goes also; entering everywhere, that sin may be seen to abound, and that men may be led to despair of salvation in any other way, or on any other terms, than those proposed in the gospel of Christ. Thus the sinner becomes a true penitent, and is glad, seeing the curse of the law hanging over his soul, to flee for refuge to the hope set before him in the gospel.

Law is only the means of disclosing this sinful propensity, not of producing it; as a bright beam of the sun introduced into a room shows millions of motes which appear to be dancing in it in all directions. But these were not introduced by the light, they were there before, only there was not light enough to make them manifest; so the evil propensity was there before, but there was not light sufficient to discover it.

It was one design of the law to show the abominable and destructive nature of sin, as well as to be a rule of life. It would be almost impossible for a man to have that just notion of the demerit of sin, so as to produce repentance, or to see the nature and necessity of the death of Christ, if the law were not applied to his conscience by the light of the Holy Spirit; it is then alone that he sees himself to be carnal and sold under sin; and that the law and the commandment are holy, just, and good. And let it be observed that the law did not answer this end merely among the Jews in the days of the apostle; it is just as necessary to the Gentiles to the present hour. Nor do we find that true repentance takes place where the moral law is not preached and enforced. Those who preach only the gospel to sinners, at best, only heal the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly. The law, therefore, is the grand instrument in the hands of a faithful minister to alarm and awaken sinners; and he may safely show that every sinner is under the law, and consequently under the curse, who has not fled for refuge to the hope held out by the gospel: for in this sense also “Jesus Christ is the end of the law for justification to them that believe.”

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/20/2012 at 4:49 PM

Critiquing the Church: Bear This In Mind

I am all for calling the Church to repent.  Jesus did this as well in Revelation 2-3 when He called the seven churches to repent.  The New Testament epistles are basically calling the Church to sound doctrine, to avoid sin, and to rebuke and exhort.  A case in point is 1 Corinthians where Paul corrected many aspects of the Corinthian church that was corrupt in many areas.

With that in mind, let me state two things about those who feel that its their duty to call the Church at large to repentance.  I am familiar with “watchdog” ministries that seek to point out any and every heresy that they can find.  I agree with them in most aspects.  My only drawback is that from their writings it seems that the Church is doing nothing right.  Some of them will point to the churches of John MacArthur or even John Piper but for the most part, they spend their days critiquing the Church here and there and everywhere.  We do need them.  Don’t get me wrong.

But we must keep two things in mind.  First, even the New Testament Church needed correction.  The epistles demonstrate this.  From 1 Corinthians to James, the Church needed correction.  They were not perfect (Romans 3:23).  The only perfect one is Jesus who died for our sins (1 Peter 2:22).  All the Apostles and all the saints recorded in the New Testament were sinners saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Timothy 1:15).  They did not abide in sin (1 John 3:6-9) but they still lived in the flesh and needed correction from the Lord (Hebrews 12:4-11).

Secondly, I believe correction should be done in gentleness and respect (2 Timothy 2:24-26).  We are to rebuke (2 Timothy 4:2) but let us do so with a spirit of love and not hatred.  Many of the seeker churches pastors, I believe, do love God.  Some are in it for the money.  Some for the power.  Some for the fame.  But I do pray that some of them love God and just want to touch as many lives for the kingdom as possible.  I don’t agree with much of the seeker church but I do pray that the leaders love God and fear Him.  I do fear that they don’t listen to watchdog ministries and they tend to pat each other on the back but we all need correction.

I do believe we all need correction from time to time.  Oh how many times have I opened the Word of God only to have His Spirit correct me.  I was reading the book of Joel just two days ago and the Lord used the words of Joel to correct me.  I want to be close to Lord as I can be and I know that sin will separate me if I don’t allow His Spirit to convict me (Isaiah 59:2).  Praise God that His Spirit does convict (John 16:8-11)!  I need it.

We do need watchdog ministries.  I simply ask that they not be disrespectful or appear as “holier than thou” when dealing with people whom they disagree.  We Arminians and my Calvinist brethren could all do well to heed these words as well.

LIsten to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.
– Proverbs 19:20 (NASB) 

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/02/2012 at 11:54 AM

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