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Posts Tagged ‘Faith

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).

God’s Sovereign Choice

“You Arminians deny the sovereignty of God and you want all the credit for your salvation.  You want man to play his part so that God doesn’t get all the glory.”

These are common arguments that some Calvinists use when arguing for unconditional election.  Calvinists argue that only in Calvinism is God truly glorified in the saving of sinners.  How is this so?  The Calvinist argues that God saves sinners based on His own divine choice.  God is purely arbitrary in His choosing.  He doesn’t acknowledge anything in man nor is His choice based on their faith.  The choosing of God is based only on His own choice.  If asked why God chooses to save so few or why He chooses to save even the Calvinist themselves, the Calvinist will likely answer, “Deuteronomy 29:29.”

But what if God placed His election upon a condition?  What if God said that He would save those who believe?  Does not God have the sovereign right to say how He would save?  And furthermore, how does this rob God of His glory if in fact it is God Himself who has said in His Word that He would save people who meet His conditions?  Is God still not gracious in His giving of salvation that is so rich and free?

The Bible is clear that God saves those who believe.  See John 3:15, 16, 36; 4:14; 5:24, 40; 6:47; 6:50-58; 20:31; Romans 3:21-30; 4:3-5; 4:9, 11, 13, 16; 4:20-24; 5:1, 2; 9:30-33; 10:4; 10:9-13; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 15:1-2; Galatians 2:15-16; 3:2-9; 3:11; 3:14, 22, 24; 3:26-28; Ephesians 1:13; 2:8; Philippians 3:9; Hebrews 3:6, 14; 3:18-19; 4:2-3; 6:12; 1 John 2:23-25; 5:10-13, 20.  Hebrews 11:6 is clear that without faith is impossible to please God and the one who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.  Faith is the condition that God places upon salvation.  Faith opens the door for our eternal salvation.  The work of salvation is gracious and without the aid of the Holy Spirit none could be saved (John 6:44; Acts 16:14-15; 1 Corinthians 2:14).  The Spirit is the one who regenerates the sinner who believes (Titus 3:5-7).  The work of salvation is the grace of God (Romans 11:6).

Romans 5:1 tells us that we are justified through faith.  Notice we are not justified unto faith.  We are justified by faith.  Romans 4 is clear that faith is not a work that obtains salvation for in Romans 4 Paul the Apostle contrasts faith with works.  James 2:14-26 shows us that saving faith works.

God’s sovereign choice is that He will save those who believe.  This is for all people.  Jesus came to shed His blood for all (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2) but only those who appropriate His saving work by faith are redeemed (1 Timothy 4:10).  Those who reject the Son will not see life (John 3:18).  Jesus alone is the one mediator for all men before God (1 Timothy 2:5-6) because the will of God is for none to perish but for all to reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  God is clear in Ezekiel 18:32 that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but how can this be if in fact God has already chosen even before a person sins?

The wonderful truth of the gospel is that God will save sinners who come to Him through faith in His Son (John 6:47).  Peter preached in Acts 2:21 that everyone (all) who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  This promise is for all (Acts 2:38-39).  Romans 10:13 reminds us the same: that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.  God is the gracious one that saves sinners.  God is the one that we point to, that we preach, that we exalt for sinners to come to faith and be saved.

The Gift of Faith in Ephesians 2:8-9

We read in the New Testament from Paul the Apostle:

In Romans 3:20 Paul says that justification is not of works.
In Romans 3:27 Paul says that justification is not of works.
In Romans 3:28 Paul says that justification is apart from works.
In Romans 4:2,6 Paul says that justification is not of works.
In Romans 9:11 Paul says that election is not of works.
In Romans 9:32 Paul says that righteousness is not of works.
In Romans 11:6 Paul says that election is not of works.
In Galatians 2:16 Paul says that justification is not of works.
In 2 Timothy 1:9 Paul says that God’s salvation and calling are not according to works.
In Titus 3:5 Paul says that salvation is not of works.

Yet are we then to conclude that Paul is not teaching us that salvation is not of works in Ephesians 2:8-9 but rather he is telling us that faith is the gift of God?  It seems clear from reading Paul in the above passages that he is telling us that salvation is a gift from God.  To say that a person must have faith in Christ to be saved and then teach that even that faith must be a gift from God lest it becomes “works salvation” would not line up with Paul’s usage in the New Testament.  He not once above states that faith is a work.  In fact, Paul makes faith contrasted to works (Romans 4:4-5).  We are to believe the gospel and God does not believe for us.  Through faith we are justified before God (Romans 5:1) and are saved (Titus 3:5-7).  Through faith we receive the promised Spirit (Galatians 3:2) and are then born again (John 1:12-13).  This act is not works but simply laying hold of what Jesus has already purchased for us with His shed blood (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

HT: Middletown Bible Church.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/28/2012 at 11:39 AM

Is Our Faith Just in Faith?

I have been reading through the Book of Mormon once again and I was curious about how LDS members would answer the question regarding archeology and the Book of Mormon.  I went to the Internet and found an LDS site that answers various questions.  Under the questions about archeology and the Book of Mormon was this answer:

I don’t know if you’ll read this, but I’ve had the same feelings you have had in the past. For some reason God made it so we have to go by faith. Theres no evidence that the flood really happened. There’s really no evidence that Jesus was resurrected. It’s just requires faith. We grow our faith through prayer, reading of scriptures and obeying the commandments. If we don’t do these things then our faith dies. Doesn’t matter what denomination you are you have to nourish it.

Now the purpose of my post is not to attack Mormonism per se but to ask the question, “Is our faith just in faith?”  Is there not an abundant of evidence for our faith?

Peter the Apostle wrote this is in 2 Peter 2:16-21:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Notice that Peter says that our faith should not be upon experience.  In verse 16 he writes that the message was not based on subjective experiences or myths.  The gospel is not a passed down story.  It is based on eye-witness encounters and by the Old Testament Scriptures that prophesied the Lord Jesus.

C.S. Lewis once said,

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

It is sad but true that many today claim faith in something but they base it on nothing.  It is true that without faith we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6) but this is not blind faith.  We are never told by the Lord in the Bible to abandon reason and just believe in Him.  We are told to believe in Him but He gives us evidence for that belief.  Whether it be creation itself that testifies that there is a God (Psalm 19:1-6) to the Word of God itself (2 Timothy 3:16-17), God has given us proofs to go by.  Nowhere in the New Testament are we instructed to blindly accept Christ or His claims.  Nowhere in the New Testament are we told to pray about whether the Bible is truthful or not or whether Christ really rose from the dead.

Lastly, in reply to this Mormon’s answer, I would argue that there is evidence for the flood and there is evidence for the resurrection.  In regard to the resurrection of Christ, we have no pictures but we believe we have an empty tomb and we know that we have the witness of the Apostles in the Gospels as Peter stated in 2 Peter 1:16.  The eye witnesses saw the empty tomb and they saw the risen Lord (Acts 2:32).  As Paul the Apostle would later state before Festus in Acts 26:26 that these things were not done in a corner.  These things were known and the Apostles gladly preached Jesus’ resurrection to the point of their deaths.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/06/2012 at 7:49 AM

The Receiving of the Spirit by Faith

Dr. Robert Picirilli, in his excellent book Grace, Faith, Free Willbuilds a strong case for justification by faith with an emphasis on regeneration coming after faith.  Calvinists such as Dr. R.C. Sproul contends that because of the nature of total depravity, God must regenerate the person in order for them to be able to believe the gospel.  In the Calvinistic understanding of salvation, regeneration proceeds faith but in the Arminian understanding, faith precedes regeneration.  Which is biblical?

On pages 170-175 Picrilli builds his case for regeneration coming from faith.  One of the points that I enjoyed was his argument that we receive the gift of the Spirit by faith.

In Galatians 3:2 Paul writes, “This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”  (NASB) and then again in verse 5 he writes, “Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”  (NASB).  In Galatians 3:14, Paul further writes, “So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”  

Picirilli’s contention is that the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential to salvation or regeneration (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:5-7).  Paul wrote in Romans 8:9 that if anyone does not have the Spirit of God, they are not of Him.  Picirilli points out that the gift of the Spirit is equaled to salvation in the New Testament (Acts 2:38-39).  It is the promise of Jesus (John 7:37-39).  In this new covenant, the Spirit of God is given to all who believe in Jesus for salvation (Galatians 4:4-6).  The Holy Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13) and He seals us (Ephesians 1:13).  Specifically notice in Ephesians 1:13 the wording, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (NASB).  Notice the order here in Ephesians 1:13: hearing (Romans 10:14-17), believing (Romans 1:16-17; 3:22-24), sealing with the Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22).  Notice that the gift of the Spirit was only given after believing the gospel.

In Acts 11:17 Peter is building his case for the Gentiles to be included into the faith and he states that the Gentiles had received the gift of the Spirit just as the Jews had.  Luke records, “If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (NASB).  The ESV says, “when we believed” but the NASB, I believe, is correct to translate the word as in the past tense or “after believing.”  Either way, the point is clear that the Gentiles and Jews both received the Spirit after believing the gospel (Acts 2:33, 38-39; 10:44-48).

Picirilli is strong here then to assert that we receive the Spirit of God after believing the gospel and not before.  The Calvinist teaching that we receive the Spirit before faith is based not on Scripture but upon a presupposition that because of the nature of depravity, God Himself must cause belief to come by giving of the Spirit before saving faith.

One final point.  In Romans 5:1 Paul states that we are justified through faith in Jesus Christ.  He then states in verse 5 he states that the love of God is poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  The question is, if the Spirit is given before regeneration unto justification, then why does Paul put the Spirit here in verse 5 and not back in verse 1?  The word “poured” (ESV) also points back to Acts 2:33 where Peter talks about the outpouring of the Spirit given on the day of Pentecost.  Peter says in Acts 2:38 that the Spirit is given after faith (implied), repentance, and baptism.  Colossians 2:12 says that we are raised with Christ through baptism through faith.  Faith here is the key to receiving the Spirit.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/23/2012 at 10:00 AM

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