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Posts Tagged ‘Justification by Faith

The Arminian Affirmation of the Atonement

The Bible is clear that Jesus died for sinners.  No one denies this.  Both Arminians and Calvinists acknowledge that Jesus shed His blood for the souls of lost sinners.  Matthew 1:21 is clear that Jesus came to save His people from their sins.  The key question in this debate over the atonement is whether the atonement is for all sinners period.  Many Calvinists insist that the atonement is indeed for all people on some level.  For example, Dr. John MacArthur believes that the atonement provides benefits for all people while only having the power to save the elect.  MacArthur goes on to state, “Jesus Christ made a sufficient sacrifice to cover every sin of every one who believes (John 3:16-18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 4:10; 1 John 2:2.”

I do not disagree.  MacArthur states the following on 1 John 2:2 and the “whole world”:

This is a generic term, referring not to every single individual, but to mankind in general.  Christ actually paid the penalty only for those who would repent and believe.  A number of Scriptures indicate that Christ died for the world (John 1:29; 3:16; 6:51; 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 2:9).  Most of the world will be eternally condemned to hell to pay for their own sins, so they could not have been paid for by Christ.  The passages that speak of Christ’s dying for the whole world must be understood to refer to mankind in general (as in Titus 2:11).  “World” indicates the sphere, the beings toward whom God seeks reconciliation and has provided propitiation.  God has mitigated his wrath on sinners temporarily, by letting them live and enjoy earthly life (1 Timothy 4:10).  In that sense, Christ has provided a brief, temporary propitiation for the whole world.  But he actually satisfied fully the wrath of God eternally only for the elect who believe.  Christ’s death in itself had unlimited and infinite value because he is Holy God.  Thus his sacrifice was sufficient to pay the penalty for all the sins of all whom God brings to faith.  But the actual satisfaction and atonement was made only for those who believe (John 10:11, 15; 17:9, 20; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32, 37; Ephesians 5:25).  The pardon for sin is offered to the whole world, but received only by those who believe (1 John 4:9, 14; John 5:24).  There is no other way to be reconciled to God.

A few thoughts here about this.  First, I appreciate Dr. MacArthur much.  He preaches salvation to all.  He never fails to call all to repent and believe the gospel.  In this sense, he follows in the steps of men such as George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon in calling all sinners to repentance.  He is no hyper-Calvinist in this regard.  There has probably never been a man who has done more for expository preaching than John MacArthur.  Having personally met him, I found him to be gracious and kind.  So by no means do I present my case against him as an enemy.  I come as a brother.

Now the Arminian can read the above words from MacArthur and agree with most of what he wrote.  I agree that Christ died for the elect.  I agree that Christ died for His sheep.  I agree that Christ died for His Church.  I agree that Christ died for Paul the Apostle (Galatians 2:20).  I agree that Christ died for us (Galatians 1:4).  But I also go one step further and believe that Christ died for all.  I agree that no one is saved apart from being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  I agree that one has to believe to be saved (John 5:24; Acts 16:30-31).  I agree that repentance is necessary for eternal life (Acts 2:38).  But I also believe that all can be saved and there is no limit on this number.

I agree that the world is opposed to God (1 John 2:15-17).  Ironically, MacArthur never limits “world” in 1 John but here in 1 John 2:2.  The world is indeed sinful, God-hating, rejecting the truth of the gospel.  I agree.  But what we find in the gospel is God calling out to the whole world to repent and be saved.  God, who is the one that the world hates, is calling to His enemies to come and be reconciled through faith (Isaiah 1:18).  This is the message of the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47).

You’ll notice in MacArthur’s statement above also that he wants to make sure that we understand that he believes the atonement is powerful enough to cover the sins of the world if God wanted it to.  He doesn’t use those words but it seems implied by this reader.  He wants us to see how powerful and vast the work of Christ is.  I would agree.  In the cross, we do find God the Son dying for the world and shedding His precious blood for the lost.  If God wanted to, He could indeed reconciled the world through the powerful blood of Jesus.  I have no doubt.  Instead, God calls to lost sinners through His love that He demonstrated on the cross (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-9).  This is not a forced love.  This is not a forced relationship.  This is a loving relationship where the repenting sinner comes to God through His Son to be saved (Romans 2:4).  This is a genuine relationship that God initiated and not man (Ephesians 2:4-6; 1 John 4:10).  But this message, this good news is for the whole world (Luke 2:10-11; 1 John 4:14).

It is true that the atonement is only effective for those who believe.  Christ died for His enemies and He even prayed for His enemies at the cross (Luke 23:34).  MacArthur even acknowledges that Christ is praying for His enemies at this passage and adds:

Some of the fruit of this prayer can be in the salvation of thousands of people in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:41).

Notice he adds in his note that “some of the fruit” and not all.  If it is true that Christ is dying only for the elect, why pray for the world?  Why pray for the sinners who are killing Him?  Many Calvinists point to John 17:9 as proof that Jesus does not pray for the world but only for the elect.  Yet MacArthur acknowledges that Luke 23:34 is for the lost.  He also is clear that God heard His prayer and saved some of those who perhaps killed Jesus at Pentecost in Acts 2:41.

Let us be clear here though.  None were saved by Jesus praying for them in Luke 23:34.  They had to appropriate the work of Christ just as we all do through faith.  That Jesus shed His blood saves no one.  Even Calvinists agree with this while insisting that the sins of the elect were placed on the Son.  All agree that we are saved by faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).  And even if we allow for Calvinists to believe that faith is a gift given by God to His elect, we must still acknowledge that the wrath of God is against us till we believe.

This would mean two things.  First, those who are in cast into hell are cast into hell because they rejected the sacrifice of the Son of God for their sins.  Do we have passages of Scripture that speak of Christ dying for their sins while they rejected His sacrifice?  Yes e do.  Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Peter 2:1.  In context all these Scriptures speak of those whom Christ died who may not share in eternal life.  Even MacArthur does acknowledge that 2 Peter 2:1 is referring to false teachers who claimed Christ and so Peter mocks them by saying that they refuse to submit to the Lordship of Christ whom they claimed bought them.

What is clear is that people who go to hell go to hell because of their rejection of God and His truth.  The person is to blame and not God who gave His Son for their reconciliation.  Calvinism would place the blame on God.  God chose to reject sinners even before time began and even if you allow for the sinner’s punishability for their sins, they are sinning because God has predetermined that they be sinners in the first place by His own sovereign will (Romans 9:22-23).  If I were a Calvinist, at this point I would preach hard annihilation since the sinner is in hell tormented day and night forever because God willed that they never be saved in the first place.  Annihilation is at least charitable toward sinners who are being tormented for God’s glory in the first place in the Calvinist view.

Secondly, the application of the atonement is through faith.  Even MacArthur doesn’t preach the doctrine of eternal justification.  Consistent Calvinists such as John Gill see the truth that the elect are born sinless.  How else can it be?  If God placed the sins of the elect on Christ and He ensures that the elect will believe by His own sovereign choice from eternity past, who can one argue that God ever sees the sins of the elect?  If Christ died for my sins at the cross and God placed my sins on Him at the cross, when was the wrath of God against my sins appeased?  Gill would answer the cross.  MacArthur would answer the cross but add that I must receive it by faith.  And I would answer: Yes and this is biblical Arminianism!

Romans 3:21-26 in the ESV is beautiful (with my emphasis):

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Faith is the design of God to come into a saving relationship with Himself.  This is the sovereign will of God.  This is the sovereign decree of God.  All who repent and believe will be saved.  There is no limit to the sacrifice of the Son of God.  I have heard many Calvinists preaching like Arminians to the lost by preaching that Christ shed His blood so that they might be saved.  They call out to lost sinners to repent and believe the gospel (as if sinners could actually do this by their command).  They call to sinners to turn from their sins and be saved through faith in Christ.  And I agree!  In fact, I believe that every person whom the Calvinist evangelist is preaching to can be saved and there is no limit to the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).  If God can have mercy on me, He can have mercy on my lost neighbors and co-workers who despise Him at this time (1 Timothy 1:15; 4:10).

As Paul the Apostle wrote above in Romans 3:24, this salvation is a gift to be received by faith.  The sinner does not earn this salvation.  There is nothing we could add to the work of Christ to be saved.  In fact, what a wicked thing to do to add to the cross of Christ by saying that we must also do our part to be saved.  We are justified though faith alone in Christ alone by His grace alone (Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:15-16; 3:13-14).  This is true of us as children of God as well as the lost sinners we are preaching to.  Salvation is the gracious work of God (John 1:12-13; Titus 2:11-14; 3:5-7).  We are saved by the work of Christ alone.

Thankfully both Calvinists and Arminians preach that truth.  Some Calvinists try to assert that we Arminians preach that we can save ourselves or we preach a works-righteousness system but this is not the truth.  Arminius wrote:

“I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood.”

Adam Clarke wrote:

The doctrine of justification by faith is one of the grandest displays of the mercy of God to mankind. It is so very plain that all may comprehend it; and so free that all may attain it. What more simple than this-Thou art a sinner, in consequence condemned to perdition, and utterly unable to save thy own soul. All are in the same state with thyself, and no man can give a ransom for the soul of his neighbor. God, in his mercy, has provided a Saviour for thee. As thy life was forfeited to death because of thy transgressions, Jesus Christ has redeemed thy life by giving up his own; he died in thy stead, and has made atonement to God for thy transgression; and offers thee the pardon he has thus purchased, on the simple condition that thou believe that his death is a sufficient sacrifice, ransom, and oblation for thy sin; and that thou bring it, as such, by confident faith to the throne of God, and plead it in thy own behalf there. When thou dost so, thy faith in that sacrifice shall be imputed to thee for righteousness; that is, it shall be the means of receiving that salvation which Christ has bought by his blood.

And I end with John Wesley:

But there is an undeniable difference between the Calvinists and Arminians, with regard to the three other questions. Here they divide; the former believe absolute, the latter only conditional, predestination. The Calvinists hold, (1.) God has absolutely decreed, from all eternity, to save such and such persons, and no others; and that Christ died for these, and none else. The Arminians hold, God has decreed, from all eternity, touching all that have the written word, “He that believeth shall be saved: He that believeth not, shall be condemned:” And in order to this, “Christ died for all, all that were dead in trespasses and sins;” that is, for every child of Adam, since “in Adam all died.”

If Works Could Save

I am thankful to God that salvation is accomplished through the Lord Jesus Christ.  I am thankful that I do not “help” God though my efforts to be saved.  It is the Lord Jesus and Him alone who receives the glory for my salvation.  He purchased me.  He died for me.  He shed His blood for my forgiveness.  My peace with God comes through His work alone and not my works.  This is the biblical way of salvation: that salvation is through faith in the Lord Jesus and not my own works or my own righteousness (John 1:29; 5:24; 6:29; 15:1-11; Acts 13:38-39; Romans 3:22-27; 4:5; 5:1-11; 11:5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 15:1-3; Galatians 3:1-5; 5:1-4; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:1-9; Philippians 1:6; 2:12-16; Colossians 1:10-14; 2:12-13; etc).

Yet what if works could decide salvation?  What if works were the way that God saved sinners?  The problem would be two-fold.  First, who decides what good works save?  Does Bible study save?  Does prayer save?  Does being sinless save?  Does evangelism save?  Does going to church save?  Does taking the Lord’s supper save?  And how often must I do these good works?  Do I do them each day?  Does God expect me to do them only once a week or once a month?  And which one is the most important of the good works?  Does prayer take a priority over say Bible study or evangelism?  And what if I enjoy evangelism more than giving money to the poor?  What if I enjoy praying more than Bible study?  Is that sinful?

The second problem is human pride.  Can you imagine the boating we would do if we prayed more than this man or that woman?  Can you imagine the pride from those who evangelize more than others? Can you imagine the pride from those who are able to attend every church meeting (which I am not able to a lot)?  There would be so much pride from our flesh for what we are doing to save ourselves from God’s holy wrath.

This is why I am so thankful that Jesus did the work.  When He uttered those words, “It is finished” (John 19:30), what was finished?  The saving work of God.  God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Salvation must be appropriated but is done.  The work for us is to believe the gospel (John 6:29).  Salvation by faith takes away our pride and destroys our confidence in our own good works to save us.  We must cast ourselves upon the Lord Jesus alone to save us (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).  We cannot save ourselves by our flesh but in Jesus alone.  This goes against our pride and our self-righteousness but it is the only way of God (Matthew 7:13-14, 21-27).  Our faith is credited to Him as righteousness (Romans 4:3).  This makes us mad but it is God’s only way of salvation.

Let us then keep our eyes on Jesus for He alone saves us by His grace (Hebrews 12:1-2).  May He be the one that we praise and rejoice in for He alone saved us by His grace (Revelation 5:12).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/28/2014 at 5:59 PM

There Is No Boasting of Salvation Before God

Romans 3:27-28 reads:

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

There is no boasting before God of our salvation.  We are saved by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the finished work of the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 10:10) who died for our sins (1 Peter 3:18).  Jesus is the One who has purchased our salvation (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 1:5).  Our work is to place our total faith in the Lord Jesus and His blood to save us and keep us (John 6:29).

People despise this doctrine.  They want to believe that their works or their goodness or their disciplines all bring about God’s approval.  They fail to see that they have violated God’s law and thus are guilty of breaking all His law (James 2:10; 1 John 3:4).  Those who break the law must be punished or God is not holy and good.  If God is indeed holy and good then He must execute His justice against those who violate His law.  The Bible says that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).  Our sins are bringing the just wrath of God otherwise He is not a good God because He ignores His own law.

People want to make God into their own images.  They want a user-friendly god who doesn’t burn with wrath against sin.  They want a god who is not holy and set apart.  They want a god who hears our prayers no matter what the conditions of our heart may be (Isaiah 59:2).  They want a god who never judges.  They want a loving god who is not pure and holy.  This is not the God of the Bible but our own gods that we have created and will perish with us.  The true God who created all things (and of whom our consciences bear witness) is a holy God.  He is a loving and good God but He is just.

Scripture is clear that God is just (see Exodus 34:6-7; Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Chronicles 12:6; Nehemiah 9:33; Job 34:17-30; Psalm 33:5, 13-15; 36:6; 45:6; 58:11; 96:13; 97:2; 140:12; Isaiah 30:18; 61:8; Ezekiel 18:4; Zephaniah 3:5; Acts 17:31; Romans 3:25-26; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 John 1:9; Revelation 16:5-6).  Because God is just, He must punish sin.

God has punished sin in His Son (Isaiah 53:4-6).  The Lord Jesus and the Lord Jesus alone is our substitute for sin (Hebrews 9:22).  Either we are in the Son and have life or we have death upon us (John 3:18, 36; 5:24-25).  When we die, we will stand before a holy and just God who will judge us based upon His law.  All of us will be found guilty (Romans 3:23).  Yet those who have a mediator before God will be saved (1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 7:20-28; 9:11-28).  Jesus’ blood alone is able to wash away our sins before a holy God (Ephesians 1:7).  His death on the cross took our sins (Matthew 26:28) and His resurrection proves that God has accepted the perfect sacrifice of the Son (Romans 4:24-25).  Thus we must confess both His death and His resurrection for our salvation (Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

This work of Christ takes away our self-confidence and our prideful boasting that we see in religion.  The moral person will not get to heaven by their own morality.  The religious person will not get to heaven by their religious works.  The only way to heaven is through the Lord Jesus (John 14:6).  He alone is our Savior.  We have no salvation apart from Him (Romans 10:14-17).  This is why we disciples of Jesus labor to see the gospel go forth into all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).  We know that there is no salvation apart from faith in Christ and there is no hope apart from faith in Christ.  Because of the justice of God, none will escape God’s just wrath against sin apart from faith in Jesus (Romans 5:8-11).  Religion says “do this and you’ll be reconciled perhaps with God” but the Lord Jesus alone is the way to God.  Our faith is not in facts about Him nor in plans about Him but in Him, the Person of the Lord Jesus.  He is a risen and living Savior.  He is still able to save those who come to Him in true faith trusting in His grace alone to save them and for Him to be the mediator for them before God.  I pray that many will repent.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/20/2013 at 11:09 AM

The Irony of Preaching Justification by Faith

I use to believe that human beings would gladly love to hear that God saves us by His grace through faith in Christ Jesus.  I thought that that was indeed very good news to us fallen humans who have nothing to offer a holy God for our salvation or for our forgiveness.  I was convinced that the Church needed to preach this good news and the world would gladly hear the gospel message, repent of their sins, and embrace the Lordship of Christ over their lives.

How wrong I was.

The truth of Romans 1:18-32 and especially in verses 18 and 25 continue to ring true the more I am involved with evangelism.  People do not love God.  They do not love the truth of God.  They despise God and His laws and they refuse to have Him reign over them.  Each person seems to want to be the master of their own fate, the captain of their souls.  They want to do it their way.  They want to love and cherish and worship their sins rather than the one true God.  The idea of justification by faith is offensive to those wrapped in their sins and who believe that they can earn their own salvation.  I even had one guy tell me, “When the day of judgement comes, I will stand and take it like a man.”  I told him he would not stand and take it like a man but would tremble in fear and seek to run away from the awful presence of a holy and just God (Hebrews 10:31).

People love darkness rather than light (John 3:19-21).  The NIV reads:

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

People do not desire the truth of God.  They want their sin and their open rebellion against God.

Yet this should not cause us not to preach the gospel to the lost.  Scripture says that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20).  Paul the Apostle, despite intense persecution, saw the glory of God revealed in the gospel as he faithfully preached the Word (Acts 18:1-11).  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, makes it clear that the success of evangelism lies not in our methods or our dress or our style but in the faithfulness of God.  God is the one who saves sinners for His own glory and honor (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).  Jesus makes it clear in John 6:44 that none can come to the Father unless the Father draws them.  This same Greek word for draw here in John 6:44 is found in John 12:32.  When we lift up Jesus in truth, He saves sinners.  Our duty is to simply preach Jesus to the lost.  God will save sinners (1 Corinthians 1:21).

Preaching justification by faith does not often bring people joy but hatred.  Religious people want to believe that it is God’s grace plus their works that obtain salvation.  They want to add to the work of Christ.  Few surrender to the teaching that salvation is wrought completely by God.  Most want to believe it is faith in Jesus plus our works that keep us saved or at least help God along.  This is simply not true.  God saves us and keeps us by His grace through faith.  Salvation from beginning to end is by grace through faith (2 Corinthians 1:24).  We are not to add to the work of Christ through some false belief that it is our works, our obedience to the law that keeps us right with God.  What keeps me saved is grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus, and not even my faith, is my salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  Jesus is my faithful high priest before the Father (Hebrews 7:25).  Jesus’ blood forgives me of my sins (Acts 13:38-39) and His blood is what helps me remain pure before God (1 John 1:7).  The work of Christ is my total salvation.  I bring nothing to the table to offer a holy God.  Jesus alone is the very One who has redeemed me by His grace (Mark 10:45).

The religious, the sin lover, the unbeliever – these are the ones who despise the most the truth of justification by faith.  The gospel is offensive to our human pride (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).  We may acknowledge the giving of God’s Son for our salvation but few really believe that Jesus is our total salvation.  Many semi-Pelagians abound who believe that God does His part and we do ours.  No!  The work of salvation is all of God (Acts 15:11).  Jesus alone is the One that we must cast our total faith in to save us from the wrath of God (Romans 5:8-9).  As 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10 (NASB) reads,

8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.

I pray that you and I would be among those who marvel at the work of Christ and long for Him to be glorified among His saints!  I long to see His salvation not just come but to be preached by the Church of Christ throughout the nations (Mark 16:15).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/21/2013 at 11:06 AM

Arminius on the Justification of Man Before God

The Arminian must strive to defend and preach the biblical truth of justification by faith.  This is the heart of the biblical teaching on salvation through faith in Christ alone.  Our justification before God, as Arminius writes, is not a matter of works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7) but is by grace through faith.  Both Arminians and Calvinists agree in this core doctrine.


I am not conscious to myself, of having taught or entertained any other sentiments concerning the justification of man before God, than those which are held unanimously by the Reformed and Protestant Churches, and which are in complete agreement with their expressed opinions.

There was lately a short controversy in relation to this subject, between John Piscator, Professor of Divinity in the University of Herborn in Nassau, and the French Churches. It consisted in the determination of these two questions:

(1.) “is the obedience or righteousness of Christ, which is imputed to believers and in which consists their righteousness before God, is this only the passive obedience of Christ?” which was Piscator’s opinion. Or

(2.) “is it not, in addition to this, that active righteousness of Christ which he exhibited to the law of God in the whole course of his life, and that holiness in which he was conceived?” Which was the opinion of the French Churches. But I never durst mingle myself with the dispute, or undertake to decide it; for I thought it possible for the Professors of the same religion to hold different opinions on this point from others of their brethren, without any breach of Christian peace or the unity of faith. Similar peaceful thoughts appear to have been indulged by both the adverse parties in this dispute; for they exercised a friendly toleration towards each other, and did not make that a reason for mutually renouncing their fraternal concord. But concerning such an amicable plan of adjusting differences, certain individuals in our own country are of a different judgment.

A question has been raised from these words of the Apostle Paul: “Faith is imputed for righteousness.” (Rom. 4) The inquiry was,

(1.) Whether those expressions ought to be properly understood, “so that faith itself, as an act performed according to the command of the gospel, is imputed before God for or unto righteousness — and that of grace; since it is not the righteousness of the law.”

(2.) Whether they ought to be figuratively and improperly understood, “that the righteousness of Christ, being apprehended by faith, is imputed to us for righteousness.” Or

(3.) Whether it is to be understood “that the righteousness, for which, or unto which, faith is imputed, is the instrumental operation of faith;” which is asserted by some persons. In the theses on justification, which were disputed under me when I was moderator, I have adopted the former of these opinions not in a rigid manner, but simply, as I have likewise done in another passage which I wrote in a particular letter. It is on this ground that I am accounted to hold and to teach unsound opinions concerning the justification of man before God. But how unfounded such a supposition is, will be very evident at a proper season, and in a mutual conference. For the present, I will only briefly say, “I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood.” Whatever interpretation may be put upon these expressions, none of our Divines blames Calvin or considers him to be heterodox on this point; yet my opinion is not so widely different from his as to prevent me from employing the signature of my own hand in subscribing to those things which he has delivered on this subject, in the third book of his Institutes; this I am prepared to do at any time, and to give them my full approval. Most noble and potent Lords, these are the principal articles, respecting which I have judged it necessary to declare my opinion before this august meeting, in obedience to your commands.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/21/2013 at 9:29 AM

Evangelism and the Arminian/Calvinist Debate

Can Arminians and Calvinists unite to preach the gospel to the lost?  My answer: yes!  And why you ask?  Simple: we both believe that salvation is a divine work of God wherein the enslaved person must, by grace and by the work of the Spirit of God, repent of their sins and be saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His work upon the cross.  Once a person repents, we can disagree to whether they were chosen from eternity past or became the elect of God by grace through faith but either way, we should rejoice that the sinner repented and believed the gospel.

I have seen quotes from some Calvinists who seem to believe that we Arminians would argue for free will and that a person, any person, all persons, can just believe when they want to and be saved.  That is not true.  We Arminians agree with our Calvinist brothers and sisters that people are slaves to sin and by nature hate God.  We agree that apart from the grace of God and the convicting and drawing work of the Holy Spirit, none could be saved.  Arminius stated:

This is my opinion concerning the free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform the true good, according to the commandment delivered to him. Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace. But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace.

If Arminius believed that a person can be saved by mere free will, he certainly did not express this in his sentiments.  Arminius further stated about divine grace:

In reference to Divine Grace, I believe, 1. It is a gratuitous affection by which God is kindly affected towards a miserable sinner, and according to which he, in the first place, gives his Son, “that whosoever believers in him might have eternal life,” and, afterwards, he justifies him in Christ Jesus and for his sake, and adopts him into the right of sons, unto salvation. 2. It is an infusion (both into the human understanding and into the will and affections,) of all those gifts of the Holy Spirit which appertain to the regeneration and renewing of man — such as faith, hope, charity, &c.; for, without these gracious gifts, man is not sufficient to think, will, or do any thing that is good. 3. It is that perpetual assistance and continued aid of the Holy Spirit, according to which He acts upon and excites to good the man who has been already renewed, by infusing into him salutary cogitations, and by inspiring him with good desires, that he may thus actually will whatever is good; and according to which God may then will and work together with man, that man may perform whatever he wills.

Arminius said about the free will of mankind:

In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man.

Arminians then believe, with our Calvinist brethren, that apart from the aid of the Spirit of God through grace, none can be saved.  When we preach salvation to the lost, we preach the same as Calvinists do, that God calls people to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30-31) but we agree with our Calvinist friends that salvation is the work of God and not mankind (Romans 1:16-17).  The Lord alone saves sinners for His own glory and honor (Ephesians 1:4-13).  Salvation is not accomplished by the will of mankind (John 1:12-13) but by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We deny that works either save us 0r keep us saved (Titus 3:5-7) though works flow from our state of salvation in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-26).

To further separate us from the Pelagians, let us read this from Arminius:

Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word “grace,” I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.

So let us preach the gospel to all (Mark 16:15) knowing that God is the One who saves sinners by His enabling grace.

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